Time to Breathe

My One Little Word for 2019 is Breathe. I have not been living by it lately. Yesterday, while packing for a weekend trip, finalizing details for a school board candidate forum which took place last night, attempting to listen/talk with my son about his life plans, and get dinner on the table, ALL at the same time, I began to lose my breathe.

Just thinking about it exhausts me.

Thankfully today is a new day. I’ve arrived in Denver for the NEA Leadership Summit, bright and early. Rather than hustling to my destination, I’m taking time to lounge in the beautiful Union Station, cafe au lait and a breakfast empanada wait on the brass table beside me. Before departing, I’ll read, sip, people watch.

The day ahead should be lovely. I have time to explore, visit the art museum, and hopefully rally at the state capitol with my sisters and brothers from Denver and around the country.

Denver has a fresh coat of snow, the mountains in the distance are shining majestically, and I’ll definitely be breathing it all in.

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Time to Breathe

Knock on Wood?

On Monday, I sympathized with a co-worker,
sure that my nasal rinses were the reason.

I haven’t had a cold all year! I shared.
It was true. Where does knock on wood come from?

Tuesday commenced with a little ear popping in the morning.
Strange?

And then a burning in my sinuses.
Was my rinse too warm?

That afternoon, unexpected phlegm.
Disgusting, I know. My apologies.

Knowing my body hears everything I say,
I didn’t dare say the word I was thinking.

Cold.

But overnight, there was no denying it.
Damn.

And today, misery.
I trudged through the day, feeling foggy, wishing for my bed.

Tonight, I’ll tuck myself in early
and hope this is the 24 hour variety.

Tomorrow, I’ll learn about that idiom-
Or is it superstition?

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Knock on Wood?

Beyond Rightdoing and Wrongdoing

Today, I learned from the hilarious, smart, and energetic Jeff Anderson (@writeguyjeff) about his latest book, Patterns of Power, written along with Whitney La Rocca. It’s about unlocking the patterns of language for our readers and writers through inquiry, imitation, and authentic application.

He began the morning by irritating us. “Everybody stand up! And queue the eyeroll…” He started the music, complete with grammar related voiceovers, and then he made us clap! The nerve; starting our day with music and laughter.

Over the course of the day, he engaged us in new learning, always with a playful spirit, and tons of laughter.  It’s a pretty revolutionary idea, that grammar can be enjoyable and empowering. I have teachers in the district who have been dabbling with this process and the lessons, and I’m excited to share this idea more widely during some Pop-Up PD that I’ll soon be offering. If you haven’t explored this work, I encourage you to do so.

Last summer, when I bought the book, I was struck by a quote Jeff includes in the beginning of the book, because I already had it written on a post-it inside my desk drawer as a reminder to myself.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” ~Rumi

Jeff explains that besides being raised in Austin, he includes this quote to explain this new way of thinking. “Instead of showing young writers the mistakes to avoid, we argue for illuminating the patterns of language that mold meaning and have powerful effects on readers…” (p. 1). Beyond the work of inauthentic grammar practice without teaching, without attention to meaning or craft, is a way to teach students to discover their power as writers in the way they craft sentences.

Today, I was grateful for the new learning, the time spent outside of school with colleagues and friends, and also for the reminder that when it comes to right and wrong… the power is in observation and awareness and in making mistakes, handling them like humans, and in the learning that follows.

sol

 

Beyond Rightdoing and Wrongdoing

Kid Lit Reads Louisiana’s Way Home

Louisiana's Way HomeOur Kid Lit book study group met today to talk about Kate DiCamillo’s newest book, Louisiana’s Way Home. It is a beautiful book: sweet, sad, and also magical. In true DiCamillo style, this story is full of rich characters and beautiful language.

I typically agonize over choosing our monthly title, but this one was easy. Early reviewers sung its praises, and since Kate is an author we trust, it was an easy choice. Just as it’s difficult to choose our book, it’s also torture waiting to hear what my colleagues think.

Here are some tidbits of our conversation:

We talked about the trend of sadness in literature these days. We remembered how last year, Matt de la Pena and Kate exchanged letters in Time magazine about how honest writers could be in children’s books. DiCamillo has written some of the most tender moments I’ve ever witnessed in a children’s book. I guarantee you will cry, but I also guarantee you’ll not be sorry that you did.

We talked about genre. Our benchmark assessments ask students What genre is this book?  We wondered if that would be a fair question to ask with this one. Most thought at first that it would be considered realistic fiction, but… there are definitely elements of magic & fantasy present throughout the story. We decided that we should ask Kate this question.

Finally, we talked about our students. We wondered, could they relate to Louisiana? Would they understand her language, would they love her like we do? This book begs to be read aloud and Louisiana’s voice begs to be heard. And yes, I believe students will definitely relate to the wondering of Who am I?

I recommend it, and would love to hear what you think about our wonderings. Happy (sad) reading! For more about the book, visit Kate’s website.

sol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kid Lit Reads Louisiana’s Way Home

In Search of Accomplices

1032416766-change_-_james_baldwin-640405-300x253.jpgI’ve spent some time this year exploring my identity. I’ve learned that to be an educator who believes in equity, I must examine myself first. Uncover unconscious biases, for we all have them. This work has not been all that enjoyable, and as I lead others in my district to do the same, I’ve become painfully aware that not all in education share my beliefs that we must dismantle the inequities around us.

This week, I shared with a mostly administrative team, these words of wisdom from James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” Still, none of them were willing to face the problem at hand. I felt like giving up. As I learned recently from Cornelius Minor, I’m not looking for allies, I’m looking for accomplices.

Today, though, surrounded by other activist friends, I’ve been reminded to persist. We have been assembling every week for about a month now, organizing to elect two school board members who believe in public education. We are ready to march, literally, and will begin campaigning in earnest this week. We are accomplices. Doers. There may be too few of us in this small town, but I have to believe that we’ll have an affect.

With other change makers by my side, I can be the example my students deserve.

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In Search of Accomplices

A Place of Her Own

 

On November 20, 2018, I helped my little sister buy a new house. She’d been living in an apartment for over 4 years with her 3 girls, after splitting with her ex. It was a fixer-upper, a foreclosure, with serious issues. Since closing, we have spent every single weekend, not to mention many weeknights, working like crazy to get it ready.

Last night they spent their first night in their new home. It’s not done, but it’s livable. I painted the bathroom, while my husband, Chad, worked on  plumbing until my sister called quitting time. We went out for dinner and came back just to drop them off.

As I waited in my car for Chad to turn on the water, I watched them through the still uncovered windows. Stalker, maybe. I did take photos!

What a sight. My sister, who has worked so hard to make this place a home, was surrounded by her beautiful girls, getting ready for their first night in new bedrooms. As they hurried around, I realized that this sight made all our work worthwhile.

Soon my sister will own the house on her own, but I am so happy we leaped into this adventure with her. It may be cliche, but there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for my sister.

A Place of Her Own

Girl Farmer

 

tractor with trailer under cloudy skies during dayIt’s been 6 years since my husband and I purchased our 10-acre property, which I was determined would become a little farm. Then, and still now, a farmer rented the field to grow his crops. That first year, I ran out the door, arms flailing, when I saw him drive out to our field, pulling a tank of something toxic behind his tractor.

“No way!” I declared, bound to have our field certified organic. He patronized me, told me how silly I was, that Roundup is proven safe… his cows eat it and are fine. I stood my ground, he planted alfalfa, and 5 years later, my field is growing beautiful, certified organic, corn.

It was my husband’s reaction, though, that really stuck to me. He laughed when I told him this story, and said, what are you going to do with the field? You’re not a farmer!

Since then, I have grown a massive garden, I keep bees, I take care of our chickens, I raise and have helped birth babies from my own goats, I have milked them, and made my own cheese.

And yet, those words, you’re not a farmer have stuck to me. Now certainly, he didn’t mean them with malice, and I knew that, but they did create a challenge for me.

Yesterday, I decided that yes, I am a farmer. A strong, female farmer. It was difficult, but I managed to wrestle my shyest goat in order to get a collar on her for the vet visit. Yes, she dragged me from one side of the goat pen to the other, but I didn’t let go, and not only did I get that collar on her, I also was able to get it off of her later- by myself.

On the same day, it was me who tearfully picked up a still-warm, but dead chicken from the corner of the coop.

Calling myself farmer has been a dream in the making, and though it was low moments that made me realize it, I’ve arrived.

Day 1, 2019sol

 

Girl Farmer