Tuesday, April 26, 2016

It’s Our 5th Year Anniversary....


Five years ago, the life of a person who was in my circle took a turn for the worse, and it just so happened that many people whom I had not seen in awhile ended up at the hospital for support of this young man whose life was hanging in the balance.

It was apparent that a few of these people whom I have not seen in awhile had been working out. Their bodies and spirits reflected that they had been taking some awfully good care of their inner bodies.

There is no way that I can not see this type of change in someone and not acknowledge it, and of course they told me about their health journey with this wonderful personal trainer named Berhane.

At this time I was religiously going to the gym, running lots of miles, and I thought my diet was pretty good. So, when they suggested that I try Berhane, I was reluctant; I already had a plan. However, Berhane ended up coming to the hospital, and I was completely drawn into his quiet, caring personality. However, what I loved about him the most is that he was not trying to convince me that I needed to work out with me. He confidently spoke about his services, and after talking to him, I knew that I had to at least try him once.

My first workout with him was hard and eye-opening; I was definitely not in the shape that I thought I was. However, he did not make me feel bad about that fact, but he let me know that I could improve. In the beginning I was doing his workouts with all of my heart, but it took me a little longer to get on board with my diet. Being a happy hour girl, I loved my drinks and what I thought was good food on the weekends. What I didn’t know is that my eating habits on the weekends were completely destroying my workouts. (Working out does not make up for bad eating habits!) Finally, I got the full revelation that diet and exercise go hand in hand, and the rest is history!


I have been training with Berhane every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday for the last five years, and I hope to be training with him for quite a long while into the future...

What I know for sure is:

Our health is our wealth, and it ain't a destination; it’s a journey. I remember thinking that when I reached a certain size, or at the end of the first year, then the second year, I could relax. However, Berhane quickly reminded that relaxing would have me ending up right back where I was before: high body fat, slightly high cholesterol, fatigued etc.

My people, I have to be vigilant, making sure that I work out and be conscious about every single thing that I put in my mouth. There is no ideal number on the scale at all, but there is an ideal lifestyle that we can strive for, and that is one that puts our health first.

When I first started training with Berhane, I just wanted to lose weight, but he reminded me over and over again that “If I take care of the inside of my body, the outside would take care of itself.” Now for most of us, we love the outward appearance; what folks can see when we have our clothes on and when we do not. However, I have learned that the outside of our bodies are a direct reflection of the inside. When our insides are hydrated, nourished with good foods, and worked with quite a bit of intensity, the reward is that the outside of our bodies reflect the healthiness of the inside of our bodies.


These last five years have been better than I can even articulate. You know, just knowing where I will be on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursdays at 4 brings me a lot of comfort and reduces the anxiety of when to fit in the workouts. I plan most of my meals, and guys this ain't something that I like to do, but it sure does help me to monitor what I eat.

In addition to working out with Berhane where we mostly focus on me having a lean body with more muscle than fat through strength training and diet, I make sure that I do lots of cardio, and I just happened to have found a cardio activity that I absolutely love, cycling, and I cycle five or six days a week even during the winter.

My people, it’s been five years, and I promise, I wouldn't believe it if I did not have four previous anniversary blogs that are reminders that it really has been five, good years. These five years have been fun and rewarding, and I can not even imagine a life where I did not did put my health first.

If you are reading this blog and you are on a health journey, keep on keeping on. However, if you need to take your journey to another level, switch it up, or even get started, remember, it is never to late to work on your health. I can guarantee you that once you make taking care of your health apart of what you do, you will have a better life overall.

Oh, how I am loving this journey.....

It's been five years, and I am just getting started!!

Anniversary One Blog
Anniversary Two Blog
Anniversary Three Blog
Anniversary Four Blog

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck


"For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he!"
Proverbs 23:7King James Version (KJV)

My people, this book is a game changer.....

In this book, Carol discusses her research on the mind. Carol breaks down our beliefs into two categories: fixed vs. growth mindset, and we can go back and forth between the two mindsets.

People with a growth mindset believes that their qualities and abilities can be cultivated; they can change with effort. People with the growth mindset do not have to always be seen as the smartest person or the best at everything; this mindset values learning, failing, and learning from the failure.

People with a fixed mindset believes that we have all of the abilities that we will ever have and the abilities are fixed; we can’t change our qualities or abilities. These people do not want people to see them fail, they feel that they must always show their good side, and do not value effort.

To a person with a fixed mindset a failure is the end of the world, but to a person with a growth mindset, failure means an opportunity to learn, and that person will try and try and try over and over.

Carol gives the example of Michael Jordan having to literally work and work to become Michael Jordan; he had to cultivate his basketball skills. The famous Picasso painted horribly for years until he practiced and practiced and practiced and became the Picasso that we know today. Darwin’s work on The Original of Species took years of teamwork and half a lifetime of dedication before it came to fruition. Most folks ain't a natural at anything; but Oh the value of hard work and dedication.

Now, let me tell you how this book applies to me... I believe and know for a fact that we can change our intelligence and almost every area of our lives if we believe that we can and work at it. We can study and become better at math, writing, reading, and even at the arts. We can become more considerate, compassionate etc. I believe that every student, person, and myself can become better in every single area of our lives. I must believe this in order to be a teacher right? (I surely hope that all people who work with children believe that people can improve.)

However, with cycling, I was beginning to believe that I could not get better. Now, I’ve come a long way from where I started and that improvement came from just riding as often as I could. I LOVE CYCLING!  However, competitive cycling took me completely out of my comfort zone and was stealing my joy of cycling, because I was not seeing improvements right away. (fixed mindset!) I am not a natural athlete at all. So, for me to be a competitive cyclist, I have to work my butt off and then enter races and get dropped. (Dropped means that the other cyclist leave you behind!) I was and was not enjoying the journey. I enjoyed the camaraderie of racing but did not enjoy being last. However, I just couldn't give up.

My first year of racing I did not know anything about cycling workouts or what to do to get better, and my team did not offer any support at all. So, of course, my first year of racing I was getting dropped and was always the last person to finish each race. Can I tell you that I cried, felt embarrassed, had self-doubt and everything else that you can name? However, I kept going back, because I enjoyed it, but I had no idea what to do to be competitive. During my second year of racing, I still did not know anything about cycling workouts, and I was getting my butt ran in the ground. Finally, I started hearing people talk about workouts, and I decided to hire a coach. Also, I switched to a more supportive cycling team.

Now, I have a cycling coach, and he works my butt off. But, because of my first two years of unsuccessful racing, I am having to work on my mindset. Yep, I am having to work on mindset. I was beginning to believe that I could not get better, and it did not help that I changed racing teams and on my first ride with them I struggled and struggled bad. I was not focusing on the fact that I was learning from my team and my new teammates were super supportive and helpful. I was focusing on the fact that I probably looked like a failure to my new team...(fixed mindset!) Of course, I went home and called my coach and blamed him. We almost parted ways, but we didn't thankfully. (He did not give up on me.)

Now, when I put my cycling life in the grand scheme of things, I am a pretty good cyclist; however, to ride with the big boys, I am going to have to train, train, train and give up riding for fun all of the time. I must do the workouts so that I can enjoy the rides that I do for pleasure and enjoy competing. Also, I must be prepared for failures along the way. (Growth Mindset.. Failing ain’t easy for me.) 

I have been doing every single one of my workouts and praying that I am getting stronger.... Now, do you hear that doubt? (Fixed mindset.) My people, you know and I know that I am getting stronger. (Growth Mindset.)

Two weeks ago I had my first race of this season, and because I had convinced myself that I am not good with climbing because of being dropped on hills quite often, (fixed mindset), the small incline that was on the race course was mentally freaking me out... I was not focusing on my improvements from all the workouts that I had been doing to get stronger, and of course, I got dropped on the very first lap.

I cried and felt crazy and talked to my coach who was surprised that I had gotten dropped so quickly, and he talked to me about my mindset. He state that “You must believe that you belong in the race.” And, before he stated this, I did not realize that I may have been having those thoughts.

Of course, I belong in the race, because I have being working hard like the other racers to be in the race. After much thought, I am convinced that my fixed mindset caused me to get dropped in that first race, not my abilities.

Since that first race, I have been determined to enjoy every workout and every ride. I am looking forward to riding with folks who are stronger than me so that I can learn and grow. I have decided to no longer feel bad about getting dropped, but acknowledge that getting dropped is part of the growing experience and having a growth mindset. Now, don't think that it will be easy to change my mindset, but just because it won't be easy, it does not mean that I will not do it.

I am going to continue to do my workouts, ride for fun, and compete...

World, Look Out.... Here I come!

My people, read this book and challenge yourself!!


Monday, April 18, 2016

The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore


One of my students did a presentation on this book, and she suggested that I read it, and I did.

This is one of those books that I have put on my “recommend to everybody” list, because it brings up a very important question that we could probably ponder forever and never, ever come up with a single answer: “Why do some people ‘make it’ and some people don’t? Notice that I put “make it” in quotation marks, because that is another idea that we could probably ponder forever and ever and ever......

Both Wes Moores started their lives in similar neighborhoods, were raised by single mothers, and were subjected to failing schools early on. However, one went to college and one is in prison for life. How in the world did this happen? In the very beginning of the book, Wes states that “This book is meant to show that our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step in the right one.” (Hmmmmmmm!!)f

After reading this book, I fully understood the story of the Wes Moore who made it; his story is similar to mine... My folks found a way to instill the importance of school, I went to ok schools and had ok grades, my parents made a way out of no way for me to attend college, and that was that. Yea, I could have been a teenage mother, could have dropped out of school, or could have done a whole bunch of other stuff that could have sent my life on a different course. However, thanks to parents who were very clear about what I was and was not going to do, siblings who went before me and paved the way, and “tentative steps in the right direction," I ended up going to college. So, I am wondering what does expectations, especially our parents’ expectations, have to do with how we feel about ourselves and the decisions that we make?

However, the story of the Wes Moore that ended up in prison for life is the story that has been haunting me every since I read it.... I have been trying to understand why he didn't go to school regularly, didn’t use condoms, sold and used drugs, participated in crimes etc?

I've been thinking about the cutting of Pell Grants to pay for college that caused the imprisoned Wes Moore’s mom to have to drop out of college, I've been thinking about equity vs. equality when it comes to public school funding, I've been thinking about teenage pregnancy and is there anything that we can do to reduce that number, I've been thinking about public housing, I've been thinking about the decision making process, I've been thinking about fate! - All of the things that seem to have impacted Moore’s life. I am not sure if these things added up to play a part in Moore being in prison for life, or was it simply that Moore did not have anyone to believe in him, he did not believe in himself, or did he just take “a single stumble down the wrong path." (I wish I had an answer?) 

If we somehow managed to go back and fix every single issue in the incarcerated Wes Moore’s life, would he be in prison for life? 

The Wes Moores’ stories are all about race and racism, and we must add these stories to the many other stories to continue the discussions to identify and combat systematic racism. I heard Bryan Stevenson, the author of Just Mercy, speak, and he stated that “We are taught to stay away from tough neighborhoods, but that is where we are needed the most.”

My people, I wish I had some solutions to offer people like the Wes Moore who ended up in prison, but sadly, I just don't have any right now.

Read this book, and let’s talk!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


Last night, I finished reading The Crossover, and My People, this book is a page turner....

First of all, this book is written for young adult readers, and it is written in verse. If you are around kids, you know how much they love poetry especially when the language is accessible and the topic is relatable. So, most students, even those who are a little older than young adult, will love this book.

I just love how Kwame uses words. He uses the words’ position to give visual meaning, and you must read this novel to find out how the title, The Crossover, is cleverly used as a pun. The language is simple enough yet complex enough to catch and hold the reader’s attention right from the very beginning. Kwame also beautifully uses verse to develop each individual character’s voice, the storyline which is infused with sports and sports terminology which Kwame carefully explains, and many themes which students will appreciate such as overcoming obstacles, coming of age, the complex dynamics of relationships, love, family etc.

This is not one of those "I had it tough, but I made it kind of books.” This is a book where the mother is an assistant principal, the dad is an ex-professional basketball player, and the twins, Jordan (JB) and Josh (Filthy McNasty), are twelve year old boys who are the stars of their middle school basketball team, but they still have common middle school problems. I was completely drawn into the authenticity of this family where we are shown the image of a strong African American father figure who has close bonds with his sons and wife.

I have desperately been trying to think of ways that I can use this more of a middle school book in my 10th grade classes: as a read aloud, as an independent reading that rotates throughout the class, as a group reading assignment where the kids read to each other. Also, I’ve thought about the possibility of using some of the quotes that are meant to teach lessons as writing prompts. However, if you are a middle school teacher, you can google The Crossover, and all types of things will come up, including teaching ideas. You can take those ideas, modify them, and make them your own. I’m thinking that I can also modify some of those plans to teach this novel to high school students as well.

Regardless of age or race, I think that almost any person can enjoy and even relate to this book!

Kwame Alexander will reach so many students, even reluctant readers, with this book.

I know exactly why this book won The Newbery Medal and The Coretta Scott King Award; IT’S GREAT!


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Becoming a Resonant Leader by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnston


Y’all know that I will read just about anything, and last month, my book club decided to read Becoming a Resonant Leader. I bought the book digitally, and I thought that I would highlight some important parts and go back and read those important parts whenever I needed them.

I started reading this book, and it was not what I thought it would be AT ALL... Becoming a Resonant Leader is a workbook, and this workbook is all about asking a person to think about his life. This book asks questions such as “Think of the people who have helped you the most in your career? What leaders have inspired you? Am I in touch with others? What am I currently doing in my life that works? What do you tend to do when you are under pressure? List twenty-seven things that you want to do before you die?"

Now, you know that I believe that the universe sends use just what we need when we need it, and this book showed up right on time.

At first I was passively reading this book, but the more I read it, the more that I wanted to do the exercises. However, reading this book digitally did not suffice; I needed to complete the exercises. So, I bought this book again in book form in order to do the life work. (It really is a workbook with space to complete the work.)

My people, if you want or need help reflecting on your life, then this is the book for you.

Wasn’t looking for it, but I am happy that it showed up!

Book Club members!




Friday, March 11, 2016

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Eddie S. Glaude Jr. and me!

Democracy in Black came my way several times, but to be honest, when I looked at the cover, I thought that it might read like a textbook, and I gave it second thoughts.

However, I received an email stating that Dr. Glaude would be in DC, and y’all know I can’t pass up many opportunities to hear authors talk about their books and race. So, I went to the talk.

I was instantly drawn into Dr. Glaude’s passion; I got the overwhelming feeling that he loves my folks and his folks and our folks, and I just had to read this book.

To start off with, Democracy in Black definitely does not read like a textbook at all. It actually reads like a novel, and he drew me in with his conversational approach to the events that took place in Ferguson surrounding the death of Michael Brown. I hope that there is not one person who reads this blog who has not heard of Michael Brown. (Google Michael Brown!)
‘Something happened in Ferguson that day that transformed  these young women and transfixed the nation. As one of them said, “You just felt something different in the air.” As if the fog was lifting a bit.'
And, you know what? I feel something different in the air, and it’s paining me to the core, but at the same time, I feel a deep sense of hope. Dr. Glaude states “Our choice now, as we leave behind the confidence men and their false hopes, is either to wake up and give everything to ‘achieve our country’ or to remain asleep as America burns.” Oh, this fondly reminded me of The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and it gave me the courage to run on.

One of the ideas that is presented in this book that I have been wrestling with is the idea that Democracy means White and to see this truth in words made me think about our school systems that seem to perpetuate this idea by a teacher having to justify teaching works by Toni Morrison, James Baldwin etc, and it is readily accepted that Shakespeare, William Faulker, and Jane Austen are the staples of any school’s curriculum. This perpetuates the idea that Democracy is White and definitely creates a value gap. Also, I thought about Coates' idea from Between the World and Me of race being a social construct that creates a huge White group collectively with all of the power and influence, and everybody else scrambling to get some of that power.

Racial habits..."Rather, inequality comes from habits we exercise daily-habits that are not revealed in racial slurs or blatant acts of discrimination, but in the choices we make and the lives we live, even when those ideas seem to have little to do with race.” When I read this, I wanted to cry tears of pain and at the same time tears of joy.... It’s the decisions that we are making everyday that creates inequality.... If you are an educator in The United States of America, you see this every single day. Things like allowing school buses to be late every day and most of the children who ride the buses just happen to be children of color, overcrowding of classrooms that just happen to be the classroom of children who have the most needs and most often these children are children of color. Or, Detroit public schools running out of money, and the world ain’t upset. I wonder if people are not upset because of our perceptions of schools and school districts where most of the students just happen to be Black. I do believe that we can make different decisions, yet most often, we are not, because it’s part of our racial habits.

White Fear....The idea that White people’s fear of Black people causes police to beat my people. That fear causes White people and Black people to hold their purses tightly when they see suspicious looking Black people. The idea that if Black people show any form of anger, it causes White people to be afraid....However, with the art that is being created today, the books that are being written, the explosive social media, people are being forced to listen and face their fears. Yea, we know by the number of people who attend Trump’s KKK, oops, rallies, many are responding to these bold, loud, courageous Black voices with fear and the fear is manifesting itself as hate. However, Dr. Glaude mentions that the flip slide of White anger is Black distrust... And, I could go on and on about this topic!!

In this book Dr. Glaude explains that in a small town in Mississippi, Dr. King could not get out of the bed; he was depressed. The image of Dr. King being weary with depression has been on my mind every since reading about it. Dr. Glaude explains that maybe Dr. King had succumbed to "marrow weariness....He had underestimated how deeply White supremacy was in the habits of American life.” I can whole heartedly understand Dr. King weariness.... Looking at what’s going on in this country today; I totally understand his thoughts and the weariness! But, oh my heart goes out to Dr. King who eventually got out of that bed and continued to fight the ‘good fight.'

Now, Dr. Glaude touches on many other ideas in this book such as the ideas of saving our historically Black colleges, churches, magazines, newspapers etc., because we “still are institutionally at risk.” I absolutely love the quote that Dr. Glaude used by James Baldwin to explain the need: “What will happen to all that beauty?” He also touches on the idea that we do not need one leader; we can all be leaders.

What I love about this book the most is that Dr. Glaude offers solutions....”If we are aware of their presence (habits) in our lives, we can change them." After reading this book, my people, I clearly see everything that he is saying; I’m wide awake.

I am sooooo grateful to Dr. Glaude for courageously writing this book and adding to the many stories on race and racism that MUST be told.

My people, I know that there are many of you who may want to put your head under your pillow and stay there until the world is fixed, and I also want to do that at times, but we NEED you... Yes, we NEED courageous you in order to make this United States of America a better place. AND, reading Democracy in Black just may be the fuel that you need to “run on to see what the end is gonna be.”









Sunday, February 14, 2016

An Island Life You: Stories of the Barrio by Judith Ortiz Cofer


I am very fortunate to work in a school that has a book room full of wonderful books, and quite a few of the books are written by authors of colors and have characters of color.

This school year a colleague and I thought it would be a great idea to start a book club with our colleagues in the English department to read some diverse novels from our book room in order to help in the efforts to diversity the curriculum.

This month we read An Island Like Me which is a collection of short stories that are set in Puerto Rico, and I must say that I enjoyed every last one of these stories. They told universal stories that are true of human nature, and I think that almost any student between the eighth and ninth grade would truly appreciate these stories. The clever element of these stories is that some of the same characters show up in different stories, and the reader is able to see the growth of the characters.

Here are a few ways that we thought that this books could be used in the classroom:

  • Choice unit with House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Neighborhood project: Students can reflect/create their neighborhoods in response to the book
  • Use some of the stories as part of a bigger thematic unit
  • Assign each student a different story and then have some sort of jigsaw conversation

If you are looking for an awesome book to be taught to diversify your curriculum, then this is the book for you!

We can and will continue the work that needs to be done so that all students can see themselves in the curriculum...

Two blogs in one day....Yay Me!!
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