Sunday, September 29, 2013

Oh, How I Hate To See You Go.....

September is coming to an end, and I really hate to see it go.....

I have so many things to look forward to: my birthday, a 12K Race, a Century and Great Pumpkin bike ride, Tuskegee's homecoming, Thanksgiving, Christmas...., BUT I really hate to see September go; It was soooo good to me!

School started back, and I feel highly favored to be able to talk about books and authors all day and get paid to do it. This year, I am teaching a new grade, 10th grade, and 10th grade's focus is world literature. So, I get to teach almost any book under the sun, and I feel so blessed to work in a school that has a book room that is full of some of the most awesome books, and I also have parents who are willing to buy books for their children. (I feel overwhelmingly blessed when I think about this, and I never take this blessing for granted.)

Also, the DC area has great weather and is always flooded with lots of activities in September: there was this traveling party that is called Grit and Biscuits, and it was a party where I left wet from sweating. We danced and laughed and had a darn good time; there was the Morehouse/Howard football game that attracts tons of people; there was the Adams Morgan day festival that is such a diverse event... I love it; there was this awesome play about Mahalia Jackson and Dr. King at the National Poetry Gallery. The woman who played Mahalia Jackson could sing her butt off; there was The Congressional Black Caucus which ain't nothing but a good time; there was the 'H' street festival that is starting to be a very huge festival and a whole lot of fun; there was The National Book Festival that completely set my heart on fire; there was The Clarendon Day 10K race, and Beth, my running partner, and I did the d@#m thing; also, a few museum that usually charge, were free one day this month, and I went to a few museums that I've been wanting to visit.

However, the highlight of September was a group, cycling ride that was put on by the biking group, the Potomac Peddlers. This ride was complete with food, a band, great rest stops, good people, and breath taking views. The scenery was a reminder that God is EVERYWHERE.

Also, ain't nothing like riding with people whom you call friend, and a few friends who I invited, showed up, and this made me soooo glad. Once, I knew that they were all there, I knew that everything was going to be ALL RIGHT.....

My People, I really hate to see September go, but there is so much to look forward to....

Happy Sunday!!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

I think I'm Getting Stronger

A co-worker and I were talking back and forth through email. I was telling him that the hill ride that we do quite often never seems to get easier, and he wrote something like this: "THE HILLS ARE NOT SUPPOSE TO GET EASIER; YOU ARE SUPPOSE TO GET STRONGER!" 

What an aha moment!!!!

Man, I have thought about this statement every since he stated it......

You know how we may do something that is difficult over and over, and we may tend to think that the task is getting easier, BUT we are ACTUALLY getting stronger...I LOVE THIS!!!

Sometimes, we can't change people, things, or our situations, but we can change OURSELVES!

I will never approach those hills, and a lot of other things, the same way again...

I work with some smart people!

Monday, September 23, 2013

One Of The Many Things That Can Make A Teacher Really Happy....

Mini Whiteboard

I have really been wanting some of those mini whiteboards.....

Another teacher told me that she uses mini-whiteboards to review for test. She will ask a question and the students will write their answers on the mini whiteboard. She can quickly check for understanding and add a bit of friendly competition to the classroom. So, you know that I borrowed her mini whiteboards and gave this idea a try, and I fell in love with the mini whiteboard.

Oh, the instructional possibilities with the mini whiteboard!

Well, today I was in Staples to get a battery for my odometer, I have a lot of long bike rides coming up and I need my odometer, and I actually thought about the mini whiteboard.

The mini whiteboard was sitting in the middle of the floor, in the sales bin, being sold for a WHOLE dollar. I joyfully bought as many as I needed, and the bonus is that I work in a school that will reimburse me for this purchase. (Grateful!)

Oh, the joy of stumbling upon a needed school bargain...

A school supply bargain is definitely one of the many things that can make a teacher really happy.

It's Monday, and I am happy; I got my mini whiteboards!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

If You Love Books and Authors....

then you may want to consider making it your business to attend the annual National Book Festival in DC!

The National Book Festival is always held in September on the National Mall. Upon arriving on the mall, there are sooooo many tents. Under the tents, there are authors talking about books, there are children coloring and talking about books, there are books that are for sale, and there are LOTS of authors signing their books... This wonderful festival is all about books and authors.

My love for books and authors is strong, and every time that I attend this festival, I can't contain my joy... I run, and laugh, and talk. Today, my coworker and friend, Rosa, who loves books and authors as much as I do, and I had a complete ball. We patiently waited in an extremely long line to get our books signed by none other than Khaled Hosseini, the author of The Kite Runner. Then we hurried along to another tent to hear Hosseini talk about his books and his life... Oh how fascinating.

Of course while Rosa held our place in the autograph line, I scurried around to get autographs from other authors and to take as many picture as I could....

Joyce Carol Oates
Khalid Hosseini
William P. Jones
Juan Felipe Herrera
Alfredo Corchado

As I was walking to my car feeling completely happy and satisfied, I heard music, and I had to follow it RIGHT? Well, on Pennsylvania Avenue, a huge festival was going on to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, and you know that I had to partake....

I LOVE where I live!!

Ok, back to the Book Festival.....

It is like the Grammy's or the Oscar's...All of the major writers are in attendance.

If you love books and authors, then you must put The National Book Festival on your calender!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Walking is some Bull@SW@... Just Playing!

My Garmin, but the time was wrong; It was actually 5:58

So, yesterday I worked out with the greatest trainer in the world at 2pm. After the workout, I went home to cook, write a blog, and to do other things that I needed to do. Around 5:30, I sent a text to a friend to see if she wanted to go for a walk; why not do something for my health? Well, my friend was catching the train home from work and would not get home in time to walk before the sun went down. So, I got my music and headed out the door.

Normally, when I go for a walk, I don't take my Garmin watch that keeps up with my time, distance, calories etc, but since it was charged and ready, I thought why not.

I walked, sang, danced, and really enjoyed the weather and my neighborhood. When I got back to my house, I was not sweating, and I do not remember my heart rate going up at all. When I looked at my watch, I had walked 2.75 miles in 55 minutes, and I had only burned a measly 251 calories. (251 calories?? What the heck??)

My brain started to think that in 55 minutes, I could have run for about 5 miles and burned over 600 calories. I sent my sister a text that stated "walking is some bull#$#@."

Now, I don't believe that walking is some bull#@$# shit AT ALL. Listen when I say that I believe in the value of walking. I felt mentally clear when I got back home and my body was tired, but when I workout, I want to burn more than 251 calories...

My people, I got issues!!!

What are your thoughts about walking, and burning calories, and time to think.....

Happy Hump Day....

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes

My students and I were completing a 2012 Advanced Placement (AP) exam for practice, and we were examining a passage from the novel Under the Feet of Jesus. I absolutely loved the language, the literary elements, and the message of the passage, and I knew that I must read the entire novel, and I did.

This past weekend, I did something that I have NEVER done before; I went to the beach in September. I know for some people, going to the beach in September is absolutely normal, but it's not for me. I am still training myself that school does not mean that summer is over. The weather, in September, in the DC area, is quite fabulous, and it is perfect for going to the beach. So.... I went to beach. (Sometimes, we must think and act outside of these boxes that we have created for ourselves.)

While laying on the beach, I finished reading Under the Feet of Jesus, and I was moved to speechless... Yep... after I finished reading this book, I couldn't find words to express how I felt about this book...It was completely captivating.....

This novel is about an Mexican-American migrant family. The main character, Estrella is "coming of age," and Viramontes uses Estrella's love for Alejo to show the growth of Estrella.

Estrella's family is working as hard as they can as migrant workers, but they must battle against poor wages, terrible living conditions, and no health care. There is no way that a person can read this book and not think about love, and growth, and family, and privilege, and the lack of privilege, and the health care system, and on and on and on...... However, Viramontes tells this story in the most beautiful fashion and with the most beautiful, careful use of words that will leave an imprint on my mind forever.

I believe that this book will become a classic and will be read by many people for years to come...This is a story that must be told!

Please read this book....

Helena Maria Viramontes

My next read is Sold by Patricia McCormick...Join Me!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Daisy Miller by Henry James

What an enchanting story!!

At the beginning of each school year, I give my 12th grade, AP, English students, a list of books that are not required readings, but books that I think are worth reading. This year, we went through the list, and we circled all of the books that we have read. I challenged the students to join me in reading at least five books from this list by the end of the school year, and it must be books that we have never read before. Many said that they do not have the time, and a few said that they would take me up on the challenge.

Well, I have already read my first book from this list, and I proudly let them know. Yep, teachers like to boast too....

Just like Of Mice and Men, Daisy Miller is a novella, it is longer than a short story and shorter than a novel. James writes this novella in a manner that makes the reader anxious to read the next page.

He introduces this character named Winterbourne, who is an American who traveled from Geneva to Switzerland to stay with his sick aunt. While in Switzerland, he runs into an American family who is also visiting Switzerland. The family includes a brother and sister, Randolph and Daisy, and their mother, Ms. Daisy. Mr. Miller has died and left his family lots of money, and they spend most of their time traveling.

Winterbourne is completely smitten with Daisy even though she is unlike European women; she is spontaneous and uncultivated. Because Daisy's free-spirit is viewed as a negative quality in Europe, Winterbourne's aunt, Mrs. Costello, does not approve of Daisy at all.

Daisy and her family leave for Rome and Winterbourne follows them there and is quickly told that Daisy has been openly dating quite a few men, and she is the talk of the town. People try and warn Daisy that she is hurting her reputation, and she pays them no mind.

One night, Winterbourne sees her out with a guy, and he is concerned that she will get malaria, and he urges her to go home. Sure enough, Daisy gets malaria and dies.

Reading this novella, I thought a lot about freedom, and you guys know how I value freedom. Daisy, exercised freedom and decided that no matter what was proper in European, she would stick to her American ways. However, we all know that freedom must be used responsibly, and there is a high price to pay when it is not. Freedom used irresponsibly, cost Daisy her life.

This is a short read that I thoroughly enjoyed, and I think that you may also...Try It!

My next read is titled Under the Feet of Jesus by Helena Maria Viramontes. An excerpt from this book was featured on the 2012 AP literature exam. I loved the excerpt so much until I figured that I might as well read the entire story.....

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Are We All SECRETLY Looking for a quick fix????

I, who has been working out with the greatest trainer in the world, consistently, for over two years, know that there is no quick fix to losing weight and being healthy. I also know that there is no formula for meeting the man of my dreams, having incredible sex all of the time, and living happily ever after, and I also know that there is no one route to finding out why I am here on this earth and living the abundant life that God wants me to live.

Knowing these things still does not keep me from reading articles like "10 foods that will make you lose belly fat," or "How to get the love of your life?"

So, today, I saw this articled "How To Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps," and I just could not resist reading this article.

The article was definitely not what I expected, but it was exactly what I needed to hear today. After reading this article and thinking about why I read it, I had to ask myself "If We Are All SECRETLY looking for a quick fix?.... (Things that make me say hmmmmmm!)

Here is that article in it's entirety, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did......

How to Get Flat Abs, Have Amazing Sex and Rule the World in 8 Easy Steps.


The covers of most men’s and women’s magazines have similar headlines: get great abs and have amazing sex.

From the looks of it, these two issues have been recycled over and over (with some other stereotypically gender relevant articles thrown in) on every Men’s Health, Maxim, Cosmo and Glamour cover since the dawn of time. In fact, I’d bet that if we could get a better translation of cave drawings, they would read something like “Grok get flat belly; make girl Grok moan with joy.”
And we keep buying them. We keep buying this lie that these things will make us happy. I’ve had washboard abs (past-tense) and I’ve had some pretty phenomenal sex. Neither one made me a better person; neither one completed me or made my life more fulfilling.
We chase this idea of “I will be happy when…”
I will be happy when I have a new car. I will be happy when I get married. I will be happy when I get a better job. I will be happy when I lose five pounds. What if instead we choose to be happy—right now?
If you can read this, your life is pretty awesome.
Setting aside our first world problems and pettiness, if you are online reading this, you have both electricity and wifi or access to them. Odds are you are in a shelter of some sort, or on a smart phone (and then kudos to you for reading this on the go). Life might bump and bruise us, it may not always go the way we plan and I know I get frustrated with mine, but here’s the thing

You are alive.

So about those eight tips…
1. Stop believing your bullshit.
All that stuff you tell yourself about how you are a commitment-phobe or a coward or lazy or not creative or unlucky? Stop it. It’s bullshit, and deep down you know it. We are all insecure 14-year-olds at heart. We’re all scared. We all have dreams inside of us that we’ve tucked away because somewhere along the line we tacked on those ideas about who we are that buried that essential brilliant, child-like sense of wonder. The more we stick to these scripts about who we are, the longer we live a fraction of the life we could be living. Let it go. Be who you are beneath the bullshit.
2. Be happy now.
Not because “The Secret” says so. Not because of some shiny happy Oprah crap. But because we can choose to appreciate what is in our lives instead of being angry or regretful about what we lack. It’s a small, significant shift in perspective. It’s easier to look at what’s wrong or missing in our lives and believe that is the big picture—but it isn’t. We can choose to let the beautiful parts set the tone.
3. Look at the stars.
It won’t fix the economy. It won’t stop wars. It won’t give you flat abs, or better sex or even help you figure out your relationship and what you want to do with your life. But it’s important. It helps you remember that you and your problems are both infinitesimally small, and conversely, that you are a piece of an amazing and vast universe. I do it daily; it helps.
4. Let people in.
Truly. Tell people that you trust when you need help, or you’re depressed—or you’re happy and you want to share it with them. Acknowledge that you care about them, and let yourself feel it. Instead of doing that other thing we sometimes do, which is to play it cool and pretend we only care as much as the other person has admitted to caring, and only open up half-way. Go all in—it’s worth it.
5. Stop with the crazy making.
I got to a friend’s doorstep the other day, slightly breathless and nearly in tears after getting a little lost, physically and existentially. She asked what was wrong and I started to explain and then stopped myself and admitted: I’m being stupid and have decided to invent lots of problems in my head. Life is full of obstacles; we don’t need to create extra ones. A great corollary to this one is from The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz : Don’t take things personally. Most of the time, other people’s choices and attitudes have absolutely nothing to do with you. Unless you’ve been behaving like a jerk, in which case…
6. Learn to apologize.
Not the ridiculous, self-deprecating apologizing for who you are and for existing that some people seem to do (what’s up with that, anyway?). The ability to sincerely apologize—without ever interjecting the word “but”—is an essential skill for living around other human beings. If you are going to be around other people, eventually you will to apologize. It’s an important practice.
7. Practice gratitude.
Practice it out loud to the people around you. Practice it silently when you bless your food. Practice it often. Gratitude is not a first world only virtue. I saw a photo recently, of a girl in abject poverty, surrounded by filth and destruction. Her face was completely lit up with joy and gratitude as she played with a hula hoop she’d been given. Gratitude is what makes what we have enough. Gratitude is the most basic way to connect with that sense of being an integral part of the vastness of the universe; as I mentioned with looking up at the stars, it’s that sense of wonder and humility, contrasted with celebrating our connection to all of life.
8. Be kind.
Kurt Vonnegut said it best (though admittedly, and somewhat ashamedly—I am not a Vonnegut fan):

There’s only one rule that I know of, babies—”God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

Kindness costs us nothing and pays exponential dividends. I can’t save the whole world. I can’t bring peace to Syria. I can’t fix the environment or the healthcare system, and from the looks of it, I may end up burning my dinner.
But I can be kind.
If the biggest thing we do in life is to extend love and kindness to even one other human being, we have changed the world for the better.
That’s a hell of a lot more important than flat abs in my book.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What Would You Do?

I know that it could not just be me who know people who comment about everything and everybody....."Why does she have that outfit on?" "Why does she wear her hair like that?" "Why are they dancing like that?" "Why would they put that sign right there?"....blah, blah, blah, blah!!!

Now there are times when we see something or someone, and we can't help but say something. For instance, when Whitney Houston would come out in public looking like something just wasn't right, many of us had something to say:

"Bobby got her on crack." "She looks a hot mess." "She is destroying her gift."......

We are all probably guilty of making comments about people and things...However, when it is habitual ...IT DRIVES ME CRAZY!

In my all time favorite book, The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle talks about the idea of trying not to judge everything. Like, just eating dinner and not thinking about whether or not it is good, or maybe looking at a person and not judging them at all. This is called just letting everything and everyone BE. I consciously try and practice this, and it makes life so much more enjoyable.

For instance, I was in Wholefoods on Sunday, and there was this older lady with a huge butt. I'm not talking about a big butt, but she had a HUGE butt. Yea, I looked at her butt, but I refused to let myself say one word. I just looked at her butt, looked at it again, and kept on waiting for my omelet to be prepared. Why would I waste my time worrying or talking about that lady's butt when I have lots of things going on in my life that I need to focus on and work on?

Really, take one entire day and try not to judge anything or anybody, just let things and people BE and see how much more peaceful your day will be. 

When I'm talking to someone who seems to have something to say about everybody and everything, in my mind, I am saying things like "Why do you care about the dress that she has on?" or "People can wear their hair anyway that they want to."  Eventually, the negativity dampens my mood, and I am literally ready to cover my ears and run away:

So, there are two questions on my mind when this happens: Why do some people feel the need to make comments about everything and everybody, and what should people do who are subjected to this negativity.....

I have lots of theories as to why people feel the need to judge everything and everybody...They are trying to find something to talk about, they are unhappy with themselves, maybe they were raised in a negative household and are unaware that they do it, and my theories go on and on and on......

However, maybe we should ask people who do this WHY?

My second question is what should people do who are subjected to this. And, I have some theories about this as well....Maybe we could say "Why do you care about that?" or we could smile and not say anything, or maybe we could counter the negativity with something positive. These are the only solutions that I have come up with, and I am not sure if they are solutions.

Normally, I will limit my contact what that person; I won't hang out with him/her much, and I make sure that my conversations with him/her are short and sweet.

Please, help me with this.. What do you do in this situation?

Friday, September 6, 2013

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

School is back in, and my thinking cap is back on.

Over the summer, I was in a relaxed state of mind, and I found it very difficult to do any type of really deep, analytic thinking. My brain desperately needed a break.

Now, I have put my thinking cap back on, and my desire to read is great. Yesterday, I sat outside of Wholefoods, one of my favorite places on my street, and I finished reading Of Mice and Men. As soon as I was finished, I wanted to read something else...I'M BACK!!!!

Of Mice and Men falls in the novella category, which means that is longer than a short story but shorter than a novel, and it is a mind blowing read. It deals with mental illness, racism, what a person will do for love, dreams etc.

George and Lennie, are the main characters, and they are chasing their dreams. As I was reading this, I was thinking about the power of dreaming, and how dreaming helps many of us to move forward, and it sure helped George and Lennie. At the commemorative March on Washington, Al Sharpton stated that dreaming is for people who do not like reality, and I have thought a lot about this statement since the March, and I thought about Al's statement as I read Of Mice and Men.

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow. 

I will be teaching this novella to my 10th grade students this year. I can't wait to hear their thoughts about this very interesting book.

Read and fall in love with Of Mice and Men.

My next read is Daisy Miller by Henry James, Join Me!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

CDC and Heart Disease and Stokes.....

While watching the news, I learned about this study that was done by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). I was horrified to learn that about 200,000 people died unnecessary deaths last year, and I had to share this article with you...

I want to scream from the roof top that we MUST exercise regularly, eat things that are good for our bodies, stop smoking, and limit our alcohol consumption, or I want to lovingly spread the word that we should consider exercising regularly, eating things that are good for our bodies, not smoking, and limiting our alcohol consumption.

We really need to  take care of our bodies, because they are gifts from God.....

I had a conversation with a friend who believes that we should eat whatever we want to in moderation, and I soooo disagree with that. Why would we put a moderate amount of trash in our bodies. We would never put a moderate amount of trash on or in anything else that we value? However, I am making a huge assumption that people value their bodies.....

I am not sure what works for you in terms of your body, but I do hope that you think about it consciously.

People, we have the power to change our lives!!!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Be Kind....

I've been thinking a lot about grace lately, and how grace can cause us to be kind....

I've been thinking about the idea that many of us do not show others the grace that we want others to show us, and therefore, we come across as unkind.

I have found that when I focus only on my feelings, wants, needs, that's when I show less grace and tend to be less kind.

Recently, there was an incident where I was focusing only on myself with no regards to what was going on with the other person, and yep, I was unkind.

When I thought about it, the words were already said and could not be taken back, and sometimes grace is sufficient, and can right a wrong, but sometimes it is not.

People, join me in focusing on selflessness and kindness!

This is the day....rejoice and be glad.
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