Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sweet Home Alabama

Being that I was born and raised in Alabama, I’ve been feeling some type of urgency to do something about this Senate race in Alabama, and I just didn’t know what to do. Then it hit me, I can use my small platform and write.

When the news first broke about Roy Moore having inappropriate contact with underage girls, I nervously read all of the stories. I did not know what to think, but I just know that it is never all right for a grown man to rob a young girl of her innocence.

The stories continued to unfold, and then when asked when was the last time that he thought America was ‘great’ and according to CNN and other media outlets Moore stated: "I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another.... Our families were strong, our country had a direction.” 

Then I started to read even more disturbing things about Moore, and I feel like I want to go to Alabama on Tuesday and go door to door, and take everybody to the polls. We’ve got to stand for the moral integrity of the state of Alabama and our country.

I know there are rural, remote areas where people may not have a car and the polling places are far away, but I desperately want these folks to be heard and vote for the integrity of Alabama and our Country. I know there are people who may not have voted in quite a long time, and they may be a little afraid or intimidated to vote, but I want those folks to speak up for the integrity of Alabama and our country.

Yesterday, in one of my desperate moments, I reminded my eighty-three year old mother to vote.

“Jack, you don’t have to tell me to vote. I was pregnant with Tricia and the bottom of my stomach was hurting, but I still went and did what I needed to do to get qualified to vote.” (Now, my sister whom she was pregnant with is currently fifty-three year olds.)  "I’ve been voting every sense.” She went on to explained to “get qualified to vote” she had to fill out some paperwork, and someone had to vouch that she was who she said she was.

“Filling out that paperwork felt like taking a test to me.”

Mom told many more stories about voting, and I anxiously listened and asked tons of questions. Y’all, I wanted to know every single detail.

Still feeling like I needed to do something about this Senate race in Alabama, I stated: “Mom, will you call your sister and nieces and nephews and remind them to vote?”

We hung, and I felt better!

Today, I read that Senator Corey Booker was at Tuskegee University encouraging students to vote in the upcoming Senate election, and my mind started racing. Yes, there are lots of Black colleges in Alabama and if those students who can vote, would vote, perhaps their voices could make a difference. I picked up the phone to call my niece who is currently a student at Tuskegee to remind her to vote if she can, and I wanted to ask her to remind all of her friends to do the same. However, I put the phone down. (I’m not sure if she has changed her voter registration from her home state of Texas to Alabama?) 

My folks in Alabama, I am not sure where you stand on this issue, but I really want you guys to stand for the integrity of Alabama and our country. I do not want to ask folks to do things that I have not done, like drive an old person to the polls. But, please check on your neighbors, talk about the issues, and do whatever it takes to get them to stand for the integrity of Alabama and our Country.

Our country is going through changes, and we all know that change is hard and many of us resist it, because it is hard. But, today we have to face the fear of change and be heard and recognized. I was telling some people that it seems like our country is experiencing a birth, and I believe that if as many of us as possible would search our consciousness and act on it, I believe that what our country gives birth to will be great.

Y’all, it is a great time to be alive, and we cannot be on the sidelines; we need to participate....

Alabama... please show the world that our country's arch is bent toward justice!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Just Because...

Image result for image for thoughts

Lots of rambling...(You’ve been warned!)

Last Wednesday, I was able to sleep an hour later. I slept until 6:30 actually and that felt soooo good. I had Step Up To Writing training, and I thought we would learn more about Step Up To Writing, but instead we learned more about how to train people. However, I went with the flow. It was good to sit back and learn and not have to lead. I enjoyed every moment of allowing the leader to lead.


I got an email while in the training that pretty much made my day. It was about being on a literacy panel this coming summer. You know sometimes it feels like God stops talking to me, and then something like this email happens. I am sure God was like “Girl, I ain’t forgot about you; You of little faith!" I am still growing in this area.


After the training, I did an easy ride on my bicycle, washed my hair, cooked, and ate. I answered a few emails and sent a few text, wrote, and went to bed. Rest is not overrated. I felt so much better after having quite a chill day.


I just love GOD, I mean, I really love God. He knows me better than I know myself and is always on time. I mean he is always on time... Like always on time. I have been working on stuff, and he has been showing out. Oh, how I love Jesus. Not because he first loved me, but because I don’t want to think about not loving him.


I bought an electric trainer. For those who don’t know, an electric trainer is a way for me to do my cycling workouts on the inside connected to a computer. This trainer helps to make my workouts more efficient. I actually look forward to the workouts now. You know, when I finish, and I see my average speed, I kinda feel like a badass. AND, I love that feeling.


I’ve been thinking about Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and all of the other men who have been sexually harassing and raping women. I’ve also have been thinking about women, including myself, and our society. We got tons of work to do...  I was talking to a lady who told me that at her daughter’s orientation for college, they talked to the young ladies about looking out for each other and staying together to keep from being sexually assaulted or raped. I was thinking “Are they protecting themselves from their young, men classmates?” I wonder if the young men were being told to never have sex with a woman without her consent? Y’all, as a society, we got work to do.

Thirty minutes,

I’ve been writing almost every night, and it is amazing the amount of writing that can happen in thirty minutes. It is also amazing how we can start habits and continue them if we are committed. I am actually starting to look forward to sitting down each night and calming my thoughts, engaging my entire body, and writing.


Is Friday..... AND I am thrilled!

What have y’all been up to?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Evicted by Matthew Desmond

I finished Evicted by Matthew Desmond today, and I must say that I cried many tears while reading this book. After a few pages, I would have to take a break and think. This book has me thinking about so many things that really, really have not been on my mind. You know how people say out of sight, out of mind. Well.....

In Evitcted, Desmond puts names with these stories and humanize these people. I found myself really pulling for Lamar, Scott, Patricia, Chelesa, Arleen, and Natasha. Desmond helps us to see those cycles of evictions and how difficult they are to escape.

I want to believe that I am empathic, but I think that we can never, ever have enough empathy. I have never really given a lot of thought to people being evicted chronically. Folks who just do not get enough money monthly to pay their rent and bills and are chronically late on rent and are always facing the threat of an eviction.

Now, when I first started teaching, my money was tight. I remember coming home to eviction notices or my phone being cut off. So, I am not new to money problems at all. But y’all, there are folks caught up in these eviction cycles, and there just does not seem to be away out except perhaps some "Fairy Jenny" comes along and bless these folks with a lot of money.

What breaks my heart the most is the kids. Kids who have to go from house to house and school to school. Kids who can’t do homework because of their condition. This book helped me to see how a kid can get to the tenth grade and be on a third grade level.

Y’all, life is really hard and complicated for some folks... Like really hard and complicated!

Reading Evicted, I thought about my own life, and with just a very changes, like my Dad leaving or dying, I know my life would have been much different.

Grace and Mercy, Grace and Mercy, Grace and Mercy.......


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Finding Your Voice

Since school started, I have been grappling with how to approach writing; I know that the formulated writing that I taught in the past is a thing of the past. I know that it is important for students to get their thoughts out and find their voices.

So, today, I walked in and told them just that. I told them that I want them to not worry about grammar, especially if they are English as a second language students. I wanted them to focus on getting their thoughts out. I told them about me setting my timer every single night for thirty minutes, and I have been writing during those thirty minutes. I told them that I know it’s hard, and I know it can make a person feel extremely vulnerable, but I encouraged them to talk to each other, think about what’s on their minds and in the world, and write.

They started writing, and one stated “I have so much on mind all of the time, but now I can’t get anything out.” Another student stated “This is hard.” However, they continued to write. Through google classroom, I could see what each individual student was writing, and I observed some making list, a few were writing stories, and one was even writing about how school is the worse place for a child to be; there is never any time to have fun and laugh.

Their anxiety was running high worrying about when was the paper due. I had to reassure them that they did not have to worry about getting finished; they can work on this piece until they felt that they were finished. I never thought about how I had been pressuring students about the final project instead of putting more emphasis on the process.

I remember giving students two or three class periods to write an essay, and I would give them this outline, and tell them to write. I would hate reading paper after paper that read just like the paper that came before it. I would think “Where are the students voices?” I never thought about the fact that it was the way that I was approaching the writing.

Today, I nervously gave them my blog address and asked them to read my blog about writing. I asked them could they hear my voice, and they all agreed that they could. We talked about what I did to make my voice heard. I told them how I write from the heart, and I try and write with authority by not using “I think” or “I believe.” I told them how I give my thoughts, but I try and validate my thoughts through giving real life examples. They seem to get it, and they were writing.

Writing is hard, and I don’t want to ever forget. When I see my students struggling; I want to be able to empathize with them, and that is why I have been setting that timer and writing even when I do not feel like it.

Like right now, I have about eleven minutes to go, and I want to stop. I want to go the bathroom, and check my email, and look at Facebook, and do a whole bunch of other stuff to distract from the writing, and I noticed that is what my students were doing. Before the thirty minutes were up, I started hearing chatter, and folks started looking at their phones, and folks started to ask to go to the bathroom. I had to tell them to do what I have to do and that is sit with the discomfort and write, even if what they are writing is not making any sense at all. Just Write.

Eight minutes to go, and I want to quit, but I can’t. I feel like I have stated all that I want to say, but there is always more.... Oh yea, I can take these last seven minutes to look over what I have already written. Yes, that’s what I can do.

Y’all, you see my tactics to avoid the discomfort of writing, so I know exactly how my students feel.

I have changed my approach to writing with my students, and I am including myself in the process.

I’ll come back to this to let you know how it goes.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Ebbing and Flowing

So, it’s the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and it’s time to go back to work. Not feeling like going back to work at all; I was really enjoying waking up and doing a whole lot of nothing...

Since school started, which was the beginning of September, I have been doing a lot of preparing for my consulting gigs and also reading and preparing to teach my classes. I’ve been doing a whole lot of brain work, and that has been quite rewarding yet time consuming.

However, after returning home from my last trip of 2017, I was a little uncomfortable with all of the free time that I had all of a sudden. I would go to the gym at four and basically have the rest of the day free; I did not need to use my brain very much. I was going to bed early, I mean really early, I am talking about 7:30pm, and I would lie their and read and think and read and think and eventfully fall asleep. I thought a lot about the idea that at the end of the day, no matter how busy we are, we are always left with ourselves, and time keeps right on moving on.

I contacted my cycling coach and let him know that I was ready to start my winter training, I committed to start writing every single day, and of course I read every evening. I also thought that I could use some of this down time to sit with myself and explore my thoughts and feelings.

During the month of October when I traveled to five different places, I had to constantly remind myself to not get overwhelmed by the travel or the work; this too shall pass, and it did. Now, I am left with me, and it’s an adjustment.

I’ve made the conscious decision to reach out to people, because quality time is my number one love language, and it always does my heart good. From now until Christmas break, I will go to the gym three days a week, cycle at least four or five days a week, write, read, go to culturally events in the city, and spend as much time as I can with folks whom I care a lot about.

It’s like I am coming off some kind of high, and I’ve got to get back to my normalcy.

I’ve been wondering what do other people do with their free time, especially the weekends? Do they go to outdoor markets, museums, bookstores, malls, or do they stay home and talk to their family members or friends, watch TV, or maybe even clean up a bit.

It may the colder winter impacting me, but I use to love to go to outdoor markets, then a museum, then to a coffee shop, then go home all in one day. But now, I’d rather spend time at home, in my favorite chair, relaxing.

Life keeps moving, and I keep changing and evolving, and time keeps right on moving on....

There are dreams that I have and things that I still hope and wish for, but time just keep on marching on.

Sometimes I laugh as hard as I can, but other times I feel sad and I cry and sometimes not cry. And, time keeps on marching on.

Life happens and it happens consistently, and time keeps on moving on....

I’m 'ebbing and flowing,' and time keeps right on moving on....

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Well - Read


I was reading another literary blog that I absolutely love, and she was discussing being Well-Read. This got me to thinking about what does it mean to be Well-Read?

I proudly flaunt my Well-Read Black girl t-shirt, and now, after reading that post, I have been doing some really serious thinking about what it means to be Well-Read?

I use to think that being well-read meant that a person had read and had some level of  understanding of the classics such as at least two or three plays by Shakespeare, The Scarlett Letter, Catcher in the Rye, Jane Eyre, and a whole bunch of other books written a LONG time ago by a whole bunch of dead white people. I remember feeling guilty, because I was an English teacher and had not read Waldon by Henry David Thoreau. So, I attempted to read it. I am happy that I read it, but I must admit that I skimmed most of it, and I didn’t understand or enjoy most of it. However, I could check that book off my list, and join the Well-Read club. (Whatever!)

However, I know tons of folks who read a whole lot, and many of them have never, ever read any of those books that I thought made folks Well-Read. However, those same folks can talk about books that I have never, ever heard of  and have me making my reading list even longer. So, what makes a person Well-Read?

I have totally let go of the idea that folks have to read the books in the 'literary canon' in order to Well-Read. I even gave my students and myself permission to decide upon our very own literary canon and include all of the books that speak to our hearts. I wrote about that here.

I am thinking that being Well-Read may have something to do with the number of books that a person reads a year? So, what would be a magic number? Twenty or thirty? But, what if that person only read science-fiction books, or books by only White writers, or books by only Black writers... You get my point?

Now, I prefer fiction books written by folks of color; however, I will read just about any book under the sun. Folks tell me to try books, and if they about talk the books with a lot of love, then I will definitely read them. For instance, last summer I was at Texas Christian College, and this teacher mentioned the Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. You should have seen the joy on her face when she talked about it. She even sent me an email to ask if I had read it. So, you know what I did, I read that book and loved it. I must admit that I did not think highly of Jodi Picoult as a writer. Not sure why, but I thought her books were fluffy books, and I had no desire to read them. But, I sure did love every single word of The Storyteller. Like I said before, I will read just about anything.

For the past two years, I have read tons of Young Adult (YA) novels, and those YA authors are bringing IT. Those YA writers are writing and writing courageously. I am not sure about other folks students, but my students are eating those books up, and they are sparking some of those conversations and writings that causes my students and me to dig deep within.

I do consider myself to be Well-Read, and I am still not quite sure what that means. However, what I do know is that I read all of the time: books, newspapers, articles, my students' writings etc. When I really want to explore my feelings and thoughts, I turn to books. When I want to know more about the world in which I live, I turn to books. When I want to know more about human nature, I turn to books. So........

What y’all think about being Well-Read?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Love Letter to African American Writers.....

My book club!
This morning I got up and cooked my breakfast and made my coffee and sat in my favorite reading spot to read Rivers Solomon’s An Unkindness of Ghost. This book is soooo captivating, and after I read for awhile, I needed to google Rivers Solomon and this awesome book.

Though her website, I found out that Rivers Solomon is an African American who is from the United States but currently resides in Cambridge, UK. This book is a "science fiction meditation on intergenerational trauma, race, and identity, where a woman traces the connection between the mysterious death of her ship’s sovereign and the disappearance of her mother a quarter-century earlier.”

Y’all this book is sho’ nuff captivating....

The setting of this book is on a ship and the people are divided by class with the darker people being at the bottom of the ship and treated quite badly, even beaten. The ship is taking people from a destroyed earth to a ‘promised land.’ Reading this book, I was reminded of the stories about slavery and periods after slavery where Black women were raped and impregnated by White men and suffered other atrocities. This is a slavery story, but with a science fiction spin... CLEVER!

I love how Rivers is retelling the story of slavery through the genre of science fiction... CLEVER! These stories matter, and must be told over and over again even through the genre of science fiction.

I appreciate you and this story Rivers Solomon! (What a great name: Rivers Solomon!)

I could go on and on about Jesmyn Ward and how she honors the stories of our Mississippi Brothers and Sisters in this book and in all of her books. Jesmyn honors stories that need to be told and told over and over again. Folks need to know about Parchman Farm which was a state penitentiary in Mississippi where many Black folks were killed, even children. This books caused me think about manhood, and drug abuse, and children, and love, and OUR stories.... They matter and must be told.

Jesmyn, I know that you make your people really proud!

Image result for image for electric arches

Electric Arches by Eve Ewing was "Well Read Black Girl" book selection for the month of September. I downloaded it and decided to start reading it on a flight to Boston. Well, it’s written in verse, and therefore, I read it two times on that plane ride. It is so Black and Beautiful until as soon as my plane landed, I rented a car, looked for a bookstore on google, and drove straight over there to get this book in book form. Yes, I needed this book in my hands and in my house.

There are pieces called “When I Talk About When I Talk about Black Jesus,” and “On Prince,” and “Ode to Luster’s Pink Oil.” Y’all, this girl honors and loves us with this writing, and I appreciate every single word of Blackness.

Eve Ewing, my sister, I appreciate you!

Image result for image for when i was the greatest by jason reynolds

When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds honors and I mean really honors the stories of inner city folks. PERIOD. Their stories MATTER......

Jason does a great job of developing just about all the characters. However the four main characters are school age children: Needles who has Tourette syndrome, Noodle the brother of Needles who is angry, Ali the best friend to Noodle, and Ali’s little sister Jazz who I believe is between seven and ten. I fell in love with these kids. Children like the children in this book are in schools all across this country, and I wonder if they are being honored and respected in school or being treated as troubled kids and rendered invisible..... I want to sit down in a room with some educators and administrators and do case studies on students like: Needle, Noodles, Ali and Jazz. (Say their names; their names matter.)

As much as I love those kids, there is a man in the story with no legs who teaches the kids how to box, and y’all I have mad love for him. Now, most of us have been in the inner cities and have seen the men on the streets with no legs? I have seen them tons of times, but I think I was looking at them but not looking at them. After the way that Jason writes about this dude with such dignity, love, and respect, I will never, ever walk pass another man or woman with no legs, in a wheelchair, on the streets or anywhere for that matter, and not look him/her in the eyes and fully acknowledging him.

Jason, nothing but LOVE for you brother!

Now, I am not new to African American writers, I have been in book clubs sense I finished graduate school, that was a LONG time ago, where we exclusively read books by African Americans. So, my love and appreciate go WAY back....

However, Thanksgiving, is the perfect day to show a little gratitude for African American writers who have been holding it down for a long time: Jacqueline Woodson, J. California Cooper, bell hooks, Octavia Butler, Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, Eric Jerome Dickey, Terry McMillan, Tina McElroy Ansa, Randall Robinson, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Gaines and soooo many more who have been courageously telling our stories... THEY MATTER!

Thankful, Thankful, Thankful........

What are y’all Thankful for today?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Writing Y’all!

Jesmyn Ward

During my workout I was telling my trainer, Berhane, that I was going to start my indoor, winter, cycling training. I told of how I was dreading training on the inside. Berhane stated something like, “It seems that when something is good for us and we stop doing it, it is difficult for us to go back to it, but it seems that we can easily go back to things that are not good for us.”

I thought about what he said, and I had to agree with him... why does it seems like it is difficult to get back in the habit of doing things that are good for us?

Colston Whitehead

For instance, I started writing this blog about seven years ago, and I look back at a year like 2013 where I wrote two hundred and nineteen blogs. I remember making a conscious decision to write, write, and write. I needed it.... I was reading incredible books, and not many of the people whom I know were reading the same books as me, so I started writing my thoughts.

You know how love works? The more I wrote, the more I wanted to write, and I started to fall madly  in love with it. I kept that pace up for quite awhile, but in 2016, I wrote thirty-one blogs, and so far in 2017, I have written only twelve blogs, and I have to really have to ask myself why?

Life started to happen, and I started focusing on how to advance my career. I started working with a publisher, and I wrote a few pieces for the International Literacy Association, and then.... You know how it goes. I got out of the habit of writing, and it started to become something that I did only when there was something truly pressing on my heart. I would think about writing, and I would write in my journal in the mornings, but the writing would be mostly list and phrases with a few sentences here and there.

Ernest Gaines

This past weekend, I spent four days with some amazing writers at the National Council of Teachers of English conference. These folks lead tons and tons of sessions on writing, and I thought about the idea that I must start to write regularly so that I can empathize more with my students on their writing journeys.

I read an article where Jesmyn Ward, The National Book Award Winner for Sing Unburied Sing, stated that she gets up around four in the morning and writes before she wakes her kids to get them ready for school. Kelly Gallanger, the writer of lots of books, and he also teaches high school part-time, also stated that he writes early in the morning before he starts his day. And, I was told that, Jason Reynolds, the author who has written a whole lot of books in the last three years and seems to be EVERYWHERE, writes five pages a day. So, what is my excuse?

Writing just like a whole bunch of other stuff is really, really HARD until it becomes a habit. I mean for me it takes my entire body to write a blog or an essay; I mean my whole body. I can’t write with anything on in my house: no TV, no music, no background noise; it must be completely silent in order for to write. Then, I have to calm my thoughts and put my entire brain into the process. I think that is why I pulled back some; it takes my whole body and many days I have felt that I have not had that much to give.

I have a few things in the my pipeline that are going to requirement some serious writing, and I know that if I do not get back in the habit of writing, doing that serious writing is going to be quite painful, so I WILL WRITE and write often.

For the past two nights I have set my timer and have written for thirty minutes, and it felt good.

I’m back.......

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Like-Minded People.....

With Glory, the founder of Well-Read Black Girl

Y’all, I absolutely love people, and I really hope that I show the people in my life that I value them. Now, I don’t share all of the same common interest with people who are important to me and that is OKAY!  There are things like book festivals, cycling clubs, knitting clubs, scrapbook clubs etc. so that people with common interest can get together and do what they love.

I love me some book festivals, and I would not dare invite a friend along who does not love to hear writers speak, or do not like to talk about books, or do not like to just look at books. Nope, I would not invite a dear, close friend who does not enjoy these things.

You never want to drag someone along who doesn’t share your love for your particular interest, and then there goes your good time. I know when I attend a book event or festival, there will be like-minded people whom I can excitedly stand with in long lines and talk about our love for books and writers.

Now, September in the Northeast is BOOK FESTIVAL SEASON......

Ernest Gaines reading his very own words!

I started the first weekend in September at the National Book Festival in DC where I got to hear The Ernest Gaines, Roxane Gay, Jesmyn Ward, Angie Thomas, and J.D. Vance speak. On top of that, I was excited to have all types of conversations with like-minded folks about books. Y’all, my SOUL was jumping for joy and so were my arms that were carrying a few books that I just had to have!

J.D Vance: Hillbilly Elegy
Jesmyn Ward: Sing UnBuried Sing!
Roxane Gay: Bad Feminist
Angie Thomas: The Hate You Give!

The following weekend, the group Well-Read Black Girl had their inaugural writing event in Brooklyn, and I got on a bus and headed that way. It was like a Sisters' Homecoming; a space for Black Girls to be Black Girls uninterrupted. I mean, the natural hair was all over the place, and there was a lot of hugging, chatting, and laughing going on. I can not even began to explain the joy of being around a whole bunch of my sisters who read and many were aspiring writers. It was incredible to be in the space where accomplished writers like Jacqueline Woodson and Tayari Jones were mentoring and encouraging aspiring writers. I left Brooklyn with more books, feeling fulfilled, and ready to carry on.

My Sisters! 
Renee Watson:Piecing Me Together
Ibi Zoboi: American Street
Jacqueline Woodson: Another Brooklyn

The following weekend I got back on a bus and headed back to Brooklyn for the Brooklyn Book Festival. The Brooklyn Book Festival is completely delightful. I mean, like really, really delightful. It is held in a quaint neighborhood, and the author speaking events are held in places like churches and huge outside meeting places. So, the atmosphere was good. I had the chance to hear the Pulitzer Prize Winner Colson Whitehead and lots of other writers who gave me a whole lot to think about. I left with even more books that are also stacked in my house patiently waiting to be touched.

The Colson Whitehead: The Underground

I spent my last weekend in September in Baltimore at the Baltimore Book Festival where I got to hear two of my very favorite writers: Chimananda Adichie and Jason Reynolds. A friend who lives in New Jersey and has read a few of Jason Reynolds’ book, met me at the festival, and we had a delightful day of listening to writers and looking at books. This time, I only picked up one book which has joined the others, waiting patiently for its turn to get a little attention.

Renee Watson: Piecing Me Together 
Leland Melvin: Chasing Space 
Jason Reynolds: Miles Morales

Chimamanda Adichie

If you have a hobby or a something that you love immensely, and your ride or die friends may not share the same interest, just SHOW UP and reap the benefits: sharing love with Like-Minded people!

Friday, September 29, 2017

Perfect Reading Spaces.....

So, you know that I love to read, and for me, my reading space is extremely important.

Now, is there a such thing as a perfect reading place? Yes, I do believe so, but it is unique for every individual person just like reading preferences. When I have a choice, my perfect reading spaces are definitely dependent upon why I am reading and the time of year.

If I am reading to produce a product, then I like places that put me in work mode. Places where I can relax and think, but not get too relaxed. So, I normally prefer a desk with chairs in a very comfy environment. I would really enjoy spaces like this that are neat and crisp and surrounded by books, or spaces like this that has a desk and where I can do some serious producing. Or spaces like this with the most splendid desk and chair. Instead, I do my real work here:

My kitchen table/desk...

While I am on the topic of table/dining spaces, we all know that kitchens and dining areas can provide the perfect space for working or reading for pleasure. When I grow up, I would love spaces that look like this with a palpable table and a view of the great outdoors, or a space like this with a durable, practical table, or a space like this where I can read for pleasure and perhaps share ideas with others.

Here are some other great dining room furniture options from Arhaus that could double as at home work space.

If I am reading for pleasure during the summer, I like to be out in The Great Outdoors where I can merge my two loves: nature and reading. My perfect reading space looks like this space surrounded by trees with a sofa where I can relax and lose myself in words. Or this space with a soothing, high back sofa where I can put my feet up, or this space with the most wonderful rocking chairs on a great porch. Who doesn’t love a porch with rocking chairs? But instead, I make the most of one of the most beautiful courtyards on my street:

My Very Own Balcony....

When I read for pleasure during the winter, I need a place that is cozy, but still gives me a view of The Great Outdoors. I love spaces like this with this plush sectional that would go perfectly with a warm blanket or this space with another pleasing sectional surrounded by bookshelves, or this space with a oversized chair surrounded by the most gorgeous, sturdy bookshelf. However, I do my winter reading in this space that was created by one of my neighbors:

My very own reading nook....

All of my Perfect Reading Spaces that are on my wish list are from Arhaus Furniture Store.

My Dear Readers, what are some of your Perfect Reading Spaces?

Monday, September 4, 2017

Summer Reading List 2017

Jason Reynolds (SWOON)

Today, Labor Day, marks the end of summer....

This summer, I traveled to seven different places, and only one of the trips was for pleasure. However, from the time that school ended which was June 23rd until today, labor day, I read almost fourteen books. (One of the books I could not finish.)

Reading is a habit that I have developed, and you know how hard it is to break habits. I do read for pleasure, but I also read with the idea of what books can I introduce to my students and fellow educators. Being a high school teacher and a literature consultant, I need to make sure that I read all of the time so that I can rattle books off the top of my head when it’s needed. So, I make the time.

Now, the time is not always in big chunks. Mostly, I fit it in when I can: waiting for an appointment, on a plane, while waiting on my food in a restaurant etc. You feeling me? You don’t need a lot of time to read; you can fit it in whenever you can.

I love to read, because it causes me to focus and think. Yes, it helps me to focus. Whenever my thoughts are out of control, I sit down with a book, and my thoughts settle down. When I read a book like Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi, with lots of characters and a complex plot, I can only focus on that book, and oh, how I love, at times, to be transported to another time and place.

I also love reading because it gives me insight into people, and I just love folks' stories. My empathy meter is to the roof, and that’s mainly because of books.

For my summer reading, I decided to attempt to read all five books that were on Bill Gates’s recommendations for summer reading. I finished two of the books, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance and A Full Life by Jimmy Carter, before school got out. However, the other three were part of my summer reading. The other books that I read this summer mostly came from people’s recommendations.

Here is my summer reading list:

1. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah. (Bill Gates’ list) I can’t even began to explain how this book spoke to my heart, and gave me a lot to think about such as systematic racism and how it seems to exist everywhere. You know, I thought about the idea that some folks just need a helping hand. I will definitely be sharing this one with my students. This would be great to use in a Coming of Age Unit or Identity Unit.

2. The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal. (Bill Gate’s list) This books is a fictional look at what could happen to families when they are faced with the decision of organ donation. One family’s tragedy can end up being another family’s joy. This is a story that will be with me for awhile.

3. Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari. (Bill Gate’s list) I tried... I tried... I really tried, but I just could not finish this book. Wordy and DEEP. However, I did get a few things from this books such as we keep trying to change the students by giving them medications, but why don’t we change the schools.

4. My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me by Jennifer Teege. I am so happy that Jennifer wrote this book. Such a great look at a woman grappling with her issues by looking into her past. I know that I am still coming of age, and it’s good to know that I am not the only grown woman who is coming of age.

5. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult. At an Advance Placement Institute, a participate mentioned this book to me, and you should have seen the joy on her face when she talked about it. When I returned home from the Institute, she sent me an email to remind me to read the book, and I am happy that I did. This book tells a very complex story of what could have happened during the holocaust, and she brings the story to the present day. I can see doing a unit on Genocide and including this book and My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me along with some other books.

6. Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson. I picked up this book at the International Literacy Conference this summer, AND it was ALL OVER twitter. So, I read it, and it is incredible. This book is about a girl who is faced with the challenge of being courageous. I absolutely love the message of facing our issues instead of turning away from them.

7. Some Possible Solutions by Helen Philips. So, I was in St. Louis, and I finished the book that I was reading on the plane ride to St. Louis, and my digital reader was dead, and I forgot the charger. Y’all, I must have something to read at all times. So, I found a quaint bookstore in a very swanky neighborhood. I told the bookseller that I would like to read his favorite book, and he picked up this book. Great, collection of short stories that I thoroughly enjoyed.

8. Reading In the Wild by Donalyn Miller. My fellow, literature teachers, READ THIS BOOK! One of my many teaching bibles for sure.

9. Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Several people told me to read this book, and it is wonderful. Such a great book to teach empathy and strength. I have copies in my classroom, and I am going to use it to remind my students and myself to always, always, go with radical kindness.

10. Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds. Y’all know that I love Jason Reynolds and his writings. This book does not disappoint. I did not know that there was a Black/Hispanic spider man.... There are going to be some super excited children of color excited about this one.  LOVE, LOVE this book!

11. Solo by Kwame Alexander. Kwame did it again. This is an incredible book that is written in verse like many of Kwame's books. The protagonist is RICH and Black and lovable. I was deeply moved by this charming story.

12. What We Lose by Zinzi Clemmons. This book was Well-Read Black Girl book club selection for August. This book deals with grief in the most beautiful way. I love the writing style and the storyline.... completely, beautiful story.

13. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Y’all this book is everything that you could possible ask for in a good story: suspense, love, endurance, love, suffering, love, LOVE! I love this book soooooo much. Cleverly written and every character is delightful!

14. Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven. At the end the school year, one of my students gave me this book with the most moving letter. I purposefully read this book right before school started so that I could talk to her about it. It is a beautiful story that reminded me that teenagers need a whole lot of Grace and Mercy.

What a wonderful summer full of wonderful books.....

Soon and very soon, I will be starting the 10 to 40 book challenge with my students. I am encouraging them, myself, and you to read between 10 to 40 books between September and June.

Join us if you dare!

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