Saturday, December 31, 2011

"The One Year Bible" by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and the rest of them!

Around this time last year I found out that my sister, Tracy, and my momma had been reading The One Year Bible for years, and I thought "Why are they keeping secrets?" Me being me, I instantly downloaded The One Year Bible and have been spending about fifteen minutes a day reading The Word for the past year.

Tracy and Momma

Today, on an airplane, I read the last part of the Bible. Being that I was on the plane with nothing else to do but think, that's exactly what I did.

I thought a lot about commitment and how many people start things like reading The One Year Bible and never finish. There were some days that I did not read for whatever reason, but I would make sure that I always got back on track with my readings. I may get off track with eating right, being kind, exercising, teaching great lessons, but THANK GOD for new days, new years, and new opportunities to start over and get it right.

The bible ended with scriptures about the virtuous woman, and I thought what a befitting ending. I really pondered on Proverbs 31:17 when it stated that "the virtuous woman is energetic and strong, a hard worker." This made me think about how important it is for us to take care of our bodies in order to be virtuous. Proverbs 31: 16 states that the virtuous woman "She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard." This passage made me smile because a virtuous woman can and will buy things of her own and do something productive with her earnings that will benefit her family. I thought, the virtuous woman sounds like Superwoman, but I delighted myself in knowing that all of the things that are required of the virtuous woman are possible with God.

I thought a lot about how much I have grown this past year, and I credit much of my growth to the reading of The Word. It's one thing to hear people quote The Bible, but its another thing to know it for yourself. And there's a whole bunch to know.

I really like for things to start and end, and I was pretty excited about finishing The One Year Bible and moving on to something else. However, Tracy convinced me, that this time around, I would see things that I did not see before. So, tomorrow, I will be starting from day one of the One Year Bible.....let's see how it goes this time.

People, this year, let's try and focus on commitment and seeing things through to the end!

"We Fall Down, but We Get Up!"

Happy New Year!!!!!!!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Eleven Minutes" by Paulo Coelho

 (This post has adult content. Just warning you.)
Paulo Coelho: What a man! What a man!

I really feel that Paulo Coelho should be a household name. A few years back, my first introduction to him was through his novel The Alchemist. The Alchemist is absolutely fabulous. If you are on any type of journey or need to take a life journey, I highly recommend this book. My students tell me that every book is my favorite, but The Alchemist is really at the top of my list.

After reading the Alchemist, I realized that this man has a lot to say, and I wanted to hear it. I read several of his other books, and I really do love all of his books. However, the one that really struck a cord with me as much as The Alchemist was Eleven Minutes. 

I had to share Eleven Minutes with two of my friends that I knew would get it: My dear friend Dr. Semple and one of my most well-read friends who enriches my life every time that I talk to him, Tjuan Smith. Tjuan and I both came to the conclusion that this novel is not for the faint at heart, and we only recommend it to people who are ready...............

By the way, I must give a shout out to T. Smith. Tjuan Smith lives in Chicago and is a graduate of Tuskegee University. (The Pride of The Swift Growing South.) He is a great listener, good friend, conscientious, and a Certified Project Manager and Six Sigma Black Belt for the TLS Global Consulting Group. (You see, I really have awesome friends.)

T. Smith

Back to Eleven Minutes! Recently, Eleven Minutes was on my mind, so I reread it, and it was even more captivating this read than on the first read. Paulo Coelho is THE MAN!!!!

This is one of those books that moved me so much until all that I could do was sit and think after I finished it. I was not so sure what I should be thinking, but I knew that I needed to think and go back and read my many highlighted passages.

The main character Maria is lured into a life while searching for adventure, money and/or a husband, and she had to make a decision: "I can choose to be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It's all a question of how I view life."  She eventually meets a man whom she loves, and he loves her, and she discovers that love is a sense of being with someone without actually possessing him: True Freedom. (This was so liberating to me: loving without possessing.) 

I'm going to let this book speak for itself:
"Although my aim is to understand love, and although I suffer to think of the people to whom I gave my heart, I see that those who touched my heart failed to arouse my body, and that those who aroused my body failed to touch my heart."     

 "If you live your life intensely, you experience pleasure all of the time and don't feel the need for sex. When you have sex, it's out of the sense of abundance, because the glass of wine is so full it overflows naturally, because it is inevitable, because at that moment, and only at the moment, you have allowed yourself to lose control."

 "If I must be faithful to someone or something, then I have, first of all, to be faithful to myself."

"Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever, finally come to realize that nothing really belongs to them."

"Humans can withstand a week without water, two weeks without food, many years of homelessness but not loneliness. It is the worst of all tortures, the worst of all sufferings."

"In love, no one can harm anyone else; we are each of us responsible for our own feelings and cannot blame someone else for what we feel."

"All my life, I thought of love as some kind of voluntary enslavement… Freedom only exists when love is present. The person who gives him or herself wholly, the person who feels freest, is the person who loves the most."

"The great aim of every human being is to understand the meaning of total love. Love is not to be found in someone else, but in ourselves; we simply awaken it. But in order to do that, we need the other person. The universe only makes sense when we have someone to share our feelings with."

"Really important meetings are planned by the souls long before the bodies see each other."
If the above quotes spoke to your heart, read this book and do it soon. I promise that you will think about a lot of things differently.

Every book is not my favorite book, but this one is surely high on my list.

By the way, it contains adult content and children should stray away!!!

"The Warmth of Other Suns" by Isabel Wilkerson's

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson was recommended to me several times by several different people. Also, when President Obama went on vacation last summer, this is one of the books that he took with him. Being that I think that The President is fine, handsome, serious, athletic, has a  great smile and walk, everything that I would want in a husband extremely intelligent and well-read, you know that I had to read this book. (Sorry about the mistake.)

President Obama
When I finished reading this book, all I could say was "My People! My People!" as stated by Zora Neale Hurston in her autobiography Dust Tracks on A Road. Zora stated "My People! My People!" to express her disappointment with her people, but I am screaming "My People! My People!" with the excitement of how soft, strong and tough my people are. So, if my people are soft, strong and tough, then you know that I must be the same. (I am doing a really crazy, silly dance in my mind right now.)

In this novel, Wilkerson traces the lives of three African Americans who left the South during The Great Migration: Ida Mae Gladney who left Mississippi and migrated to Chicago, George Starling who left Florida and migrated to Harlem, and Robert Foster who left Louisiana and migrated to California.

Now, Wilkerson tells the three individuals' stories and the history of The Great Migration in a way that is both upclose and personal. I had no idea that the South tried its best to keeps Blacks there, because they did not want to lose their labor force. So, when many Blacks left the South, they had to sneak, take as little as possible with them and risk losing their lives. (Why would the South treat us like shit badly, expect us to work hard without making enough money to survive and expect us to stay and take it? The Double minded South. Oh my!!! I grew up in rural Alabama, but come on "The Dirty South," you should have known that people who survived the middle passage could leave or stay and beat the "The Dirty South: "Soft, Strong and Tough.)

Let me go off topic for a minute! If you think that people who left were soft, strong and tough, let's think about the people who stayed. WOW! My paternal and maternal grandparents and most of my family stayed in the South and managed to own land, educate their children, establish a sense of community, and live pretty good lives. My family and so many others beat "The Dirty South."

Back to the migrants! My heart was sadden when I thought of people having to leave their homes with almost nothing, but my heart rejoiced when I thought about the idea that they left with nothing but acquired so much: houses, cars, jobs, careers, friends, education for their children etc. "My people! My People!"

The common thread that runs through the lives of all three people in this novel is that they were determined to make it "By Any Means Necessary" as stated by Malcolm X.

Knowledge is power, and this book made me feel very powerful, and it made me want to continue to run this race called life and win victoriously.

All praises to the young, gifted, and talented Isabel Wilkerson, who, acted on the call, and brought to the world, the stories of everyday people during the Great Migration. (By the way, she is a graduate of Howard University. HBCU all day, Baby!)

Isabel Wilkerson
 Please, please, Yes, I"m begging, read this book and share the Knowledge...........

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How quickly We Forget!!!

Do you remember me writing in another post that "Summers Make it So Worth It," and I was writing about teaching.

Well, now it's almost time for our Christmas Break, and I can barely remember the feeling that I felt when I wrote that post. In that post, I was excited that school was ending, and I was thinking about embarking upon a summer with a lot of unstructured time; I was feeling light and happy.

Now, let's go back to today. I am really enjoying this school year. I have read several novels, short stories, and poems with my students. I have done Socratic seminars, read lots of essays, thesis statements, homework, etc, and I must say that I am ready for a break. We're almost half way through the school year, and I can not remember what it felt like to do whatever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do it.

Glorious Summer!

I love being a teacher, but I must admit that it is ALL consuming. Yea, I get off at 1:30 every other day, and I have long breaks during the day, but when I am on; I am on.

On any given day I answer lots of emails, grade tons of papers, decide who should go to the bathroom, give lunch detentions, counsel, make decisions about grades, seating assignments, what to copy, how to convey a new concept etc. I do all of these things with grace and ease, but darn, I really do need a mental break.

Next week, I am going to Atlanta to visit my mom, and I am going to really try not to think about school, even though when we get back it will be almost time for second quarter exams, and I will be extremely busy getting students to remember what we did before the break. But, over the break, I am going to workout, read, spend time with people whom I value, and do WHATEVER, and I mean whatever I want to do. What I am looking forward to the most are naps during the day.

I think that the mind is designed to move on and focus on the right now, because the feelings that I get in the summers can not be conjured right now.....

Just thinking............How quickly we forget!

However, look at what showed up in my room when I needed it the most to remind me of how great RIGHT NOW is:

Students dressed as Santa and Elves!

What a Great Reminder!!!!!!!

Enjoy your holidays.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Part 4: What are you passionate about?

Fellowshipping at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure!

I am passionate about fellowshipping!
(Fellowshipping is two or more people getting together to do whatever.)

I love people and being with people, and I truly believe that PEOPLE MAKE THE WORLD GO ROUND. 

Now, don't let my love of being with people by no means lead you to believe that I do not highly value time alone. I do! I love coming home to a quiet house where I can do whatever I want to do with no regards for anybody. When the time comes for me to adjust to living with someone, I'm sure I'll make the adjustments. But for now, I love my time alone, but I also love fellowshipping.

I love a loud restaurant or bar with people who are happy if only for the moment. I love sporting events because there are lots of people gathered together for one purpose: to watch a game and be merry. I love outdoor street festivals, because I love the energy of the crowds. I love the Essence Festival in New Orleans because of how packed Bourbon street gets with people who have one purpose: to have a good time. I think you get my point; I love crowds.

On the other hand, I love a good house party with twenty people who are quite familiar with each other laughing, talking, and being merry. There is nothing like meeting friends out at a restaurant, bar, play, museum or someone's house just because we want to. However, my favorite thing to do is to meet someone out without any purpose in mind but to enjoy. My friend, Toya, and I will catch the train into DC and literally walk all over DC. No real purpose, but we have lots of great conversations, laughs, and normally end up in some really cool spots.

Toya and I randomly out the night that President Obama was elected  President.

While I'm on the subject of Toya, she is the kind of friend whom I can call or text, and she can be ready RIGHT NOW! A conversation between us normally goes something like this:

"Hey, where are you?"

"I'm headed to DC."

"Hey, I'm around the corner."

"Do you want to meet at Busboy and Poet's in about 30 minutes?"


Thirty minutes later we are at Busboy and Poet's laughing and talking.

In this world, there are millions and millions of people to spend time with. So, there is no reason for anyone to be alone unless he/she wants too and alone is always an option. For every one person who does not want to spend time with you, there are probably ten who do. When I was in graduate school, a professor Dr. Jay, whom I highly respect, would always tell us: "Spend time with people who want to spend time with you."  I live by this, and it is a piece of the puzzle that makes my life complete.

Is there anyone out there who loves fellowshipping as much as I do?

Me and some of my Tuskegee friends fellowshipping
with the group "Dead Presidents."

I must leave you with this song: People Make the World Go Round by the Stylistics.

Be about the business of living your passion!!!!

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 3
Read Part 5
Read Part 6 
Read Part 7
Read Part 8

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Food for Thought

Last night I went to a reception that was hosted by Transafrica and African Diaspora for Change. Leaving the reception, I was given this card, and I felt compelled to share it. It's blurry, but I think that you will get the point.

Join me in trying to live consciously everyday!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

There was a time when I would not read a book more than once. I'm not sure why I felt this way, but I am so grateful that I am a person who is willing to change.

Everytime that I read a book, I normally see something that I did  not see before or sometimes I completely change my thoughts about a book like I did with The Kite Runner.

The first time that I read The Kite Runner, I read it for enjoyment. I was not planning to teach this novel or do any type of deep analysis with it, so it served its purpose. The second time that I read it, I was reading it teach it to a class, and on this read, I really did not like it. I felt that the second part was totally unrealistic and that the ending was written so that he could turn this book into a movie. I was totally disappointed.

However, I finished reading it for the third time yesterday in preparation to teach it, and this time, I absolutely loved it. I loved the language that the author uses. I loved that many of the phrases that he used in the beginning of the book were used later in the book to reinforce or make a point. Also, this time, I was much more forgiving of the main character, Amir, and I realized that it is easy to judge other people, but we all have secrets of our own.

This morning, most of the the students stated that they loved The Kite Runner, but they felt the language used and the lack of depth would keep this novel from being a classic.

I totally understand what they meant, but I also realize that everyone does not want to do DEEP analysis as they are reading; some people just want a good story, and that is exactly what The Kite Runner is. But, I must add that this novel is an avenue to learn about the Afghan culture, to see what happened to the country once war was waged on it, and to see how life was for people who left and stayed in Afghanistan after the war started etc.

So, it is a good read, but so much more.......

Khaled Hosseini

Friday, December 9, 2011

Part 3: What are you passionate about?

Me in the midst of a ridiculously difficult workout
that I absolutely love!

I am passionate about my health! Period

The best trainer in the entire world, Berhane, always says: "Take care of the inside of your body and the outside will take care of itself."

When I first starting training with Berhane, I was sort of eating right and working out. I thought that I could eat whatever I wanted and "get fine." I was very concern about the outside of my body and was not as concerned about the inside of my body. However, after processing and implementing "taking care of the inside of my body and the outside will take care of itself," my body started to change.

Me in July! Not so bad right but.......

Me in December. HOT!
Here are some things that I make sure I do:
1. I workout five to seven days a week, and I am not talking about reading while on the stairmaster or treadmill. I'm talking about working out to that point where I break into a sweat. After a workout, I normally look like I have been in a shower.
2.  I am conscious about everything that I put in my body. I need my insides to be healthy and clean. I eat lots of green, leafy vegetables, beans, squash, hummus, peanut butter with apples etc, almost nothing processed. I make sure that I watch my sugar intake. I use to eat Kashi cereal until I realized that they have a lot of sugar, healthy sugar, but it is still sugar. I do slip up from time to time, but know that I am even conscious about my slip ups. I make them GOOD.
3. I only drink alcohol every now and then, and I am a happy hour girl, but now I do those same happy hours, but I have water with a lime, and no one knows that I am not drinking alcohol. I have just as much fun, and I can even run the next morning. Why? Because I did not put alcohol in my body the night before.
4. And, I read, read, read about health....... Knowledge is power, and most of the time when people know better; they do better, or at least I do.

Here are some things that I never or almost never do :)
1. I never eat fast food! It makes me feel like crap, and I will not do anything that makes me feel bad.
2. I almost never use artificial sweeteners. Almost never because when I really desire a cup of coffee, I will have it with two splenda and two creams, but I am determined to eventually stop this habit for good.
3. I never, ever go an entire week without working out. I even workout while on vacation. It is so great to go to a new place and see it while biking or hiking. Working out is one of my passions, and I love to do it, and I do it often.
One of my favorite bloggers is Erika Kendall who writes the Blog Black Girls Guide to Weight Lost. Erika always tells it like it is whether you like or not. Personally, I always want to know the hard, cold truth, and the truth normally sends me into action.

Here is one of my favorite quotes from Erika:
I don’t care how many miles you run each day, how many pounds of weight you lift or how chiseled your muscles are. You cannot live a fully healthy life if you ingest chemicals to survive. You are cheating your insides – screw what you look like on the outside – if you don’t care for them as much as you care for your abs, your booty, your legs or whatever else you adore. Period.
Excerpted from The Case Against Diet Soda (And Aspartame… And Splenda.. And….) | A Black Girl's Guide To Weight Loss
So, my people, my health is another thing that I am passionate about.

Healthy forever..........

Discover your passion and be passionate about it :)

Me with my "I'll whip your a@# look! lol

Me and Berhane, the greatest trainer in the world!
If you are in the DC area, you must try him.

Read Part 1
Read Part 2
Read Part 4
Read Part 5
Read Part 6 
Read Part 7
Read Part 8

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Lord of the Flies" by William Golding

Over the past four years, I have read Lord of the Flies over sixteen times. I know, I know, I know, but I read it with each of my classes, and every time I read, I discover something new.

Students' depictions of characters from Lord of the Flies
Golding is one of the few authors who actually tells us why he wrote his novel and why the characters are all boys. His answers are so simple, and when I heard them, all I could do was laugh.

Golding stated that he wrote this book, because he was talking to his wife, and he told her that he should write a book about some boys on an island to show how they would really behave, instead of doing like most author who portray them as little saints. His wife stated that she thought that was a good idea. So, he wrote Lord of the Flies.

He stated that he wrote about boys because he was once a little boy, a brother, father, and he has never been sister, a mother, or a grandmother. He also stated that he wrote the novel with all male characters because he felt that little boys behave more like scaled down society than girls.

However, people who teach this novel tell students that Golding was in WWII and that he saw good people doing evil things. Seeing these evil things made him realize that we all have the capacity to be evil, and this is what he wanted to portray with this novel. Go figure!!!!!

With my students, I discuss the themes of loss of innocence, the human capacity for evil, the individual,  and the need for power.

Image from The Movie Lord of the Flies!

This year, I really thought a lot about the human capacity for evil. Do we ALL really have the capacity to do great evil? I really want to believe that most people do not, but........

Last week, I decided that I would replace my old Nook with a new Nook for a very simple reason; I wanted to be able to view all of my notes and highlights at one time. Ok, Ok, ok, but the new one was only $79.

Back to the story. So, all of my books instantly went to my new Nook once I registered it. I have been reading The One Year Bible where I am given passages of the Bible to read, everyday, for an entire year. I opened The One Year Bible on my new Nook, and lo and behold, the dates were not there. It downloaded incorrectly. I got on the phone to Nook support to try and straighten this out during my planning period, and I was on the phone for forty-five minutes, and the problem still did not get solved. I called again after work, and I really sounded like somebody that I did not recognize: "I am not going to be on this phone for forty-five minutes," "You better fixed this problem," blah, blah, blah? The problem still did not get solved.

In the mix of all of this, I realized that there was an ink pen mark on my new blue cover. I really got angry, even though, I somehow had made that mark myself.

My new Nook cover with the ink pen mark!

I called Nook support as I was on the way to Barnes and Nobel; somebody was going to fix this problem. I got into the store and I talked to the lady who worked in the Nook department, and I was going crazy: " I want my book fixed," "I want a new cover," etc. The lady who worked in Barnes and Nobel and I both were on the phone with Nook support..

Finally, I was told that they were going to give me a refund for the original book, and I should download and purchase the One Year Bible again.

At this point, I just couldn't stop myself even though the problem was solved. Now, I was concerned about that ink pen mark. I was told that they could not replace my damaged Nook cover. Why did she say that? I asked to see the manager, who was not there, and I said a whole bunch of other stuff. (Really!)

When I finally got in my car, I sat and Lord of the Flies came to my mine; do humans really have the capacity for great evil? I had to laugh at myself.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Literary Canon

The literary canon can be described as a group of books that helped to shape American culture.

I can not remember any of the books that I read in high school, but I do remember that I loved to read the books that were assigned by my teachers. I am wondering if I don't remember the books because we did not read any by African American authors, and I could not see myself in the text; the teachers did not teach the novels in a way that would make them memorable; or I have been out of high school for so long until I just can't remember that far back.

When I was in undergraduate and graduate school, we use to have lots of discussions about the literary canon and whether or not there were particular books that all students should read and exactly what should be read if there was a such a thing as a literary canon.

Being young and not having much experience with teaching and the vast literary world, I didn't know what my thoughts were on this topic in graduate or undergraduate school, but I did feel that the literary canon, if there was a such a thing, should not only include dead, white men: Hemingway, Dickens, Shakespeare, Fitzgerald etc., there are lots of other writers who helped to shape the American culture.

Today, I have a lot more experience with literature and teaching, and I do feel that there are certain books that all students should read before they leave high school. However, I feel that some of the books in the canon should change to reflects the time. For instance, The Kite Runner is a story by a man from Afghanistan who writes about a boy and his family who lives in Afghanistan. This book looks at war and the impact that it had on the people of Afghanistan. Due to the war that the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, and the Afgan North Alliance waged on Afghanistan, I do believe that this is a relevant book that should be read today; however, it may not be relevant 20, 30 or 40 years from now.

Even though there are books that I feel are time period relevant, there are other books that I feel are timeless and should be read by all high school students: To Kill A Mockingbird, Their Eyes Were Watching God, Romeo and Juliet, Absolute True Diary by a Part-Time Indian, anything by Charles Dickens etc.

However, this is one of the problems with the literary canon; if you get 100 teachers of English together and ask them the top 10 books that all students should read before they leave high school, I believe that it would be almost impossible to get them to come to a consensus. I know that there are certain books that I want all students to enjoy and learn from, but there are other teachers who have list of books that are very different from mine.

Today, with my seniors, I mentioned Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and To Kill a Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee, and only a few students had read these two books. Oh my!!!!

What are you thoughts on the literary canon, and do you think that there are books that all students should read before they leave high school?

By the way, do you remember any books that you read in high school, or am I the only person who can't remember that far back?
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