Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Top Three Things That Are On My Mind!

There are lots of things on my mind today, but I decided to narrow my list down to the top three:

Hill Climbing!

I am an aspiring hill killer. Yea, I want to slay hills on my bike. Whenever I see a big hill, especially during a race, it's like my brain completely panics, and I don't know what to do at all. It's really crazy. I can ride and ride strong, so what in the world happens?

I have talked to millions and millions of people, watched videos, and read blogs, thinking that there is a secret to killing hills that I just don't know. So far, I have not been able to uncover that secret trick. However, the search to uncover this magic trick continues.

I feel sort of like Santiago from The Alchemist, seeking that hidden treasure that is surely already inside of me.

I am sure that one day soon, I will be climbing a hill, and the secret to riding them will be revealed.

If you need me, you can find me on a hill, frantically searching for that hidden treasure.


I just love having things to look forward to. Yea, I am very conscious about staying in the moment, but I also love excitedly anticipating NEXT.

A few weeks back, I found out that I would be presenting on Teaching Diverse Novels at the AP conference, and I have been going over, in my brain, my presentation. I have been envisioning myself standing before thousands, and this is an exaggeration, transferring my love for diverse novels to every person under the sound of my voice. My people, just thinking about the possibility of reaching teachers, who will reach students, makes my heart sooooo glad.

Also, do you remember me telling you that I applied to two summer programs? Well, I got an email yesterday stating that I was accepted to the program of my choice; I'll be at Colgate University in NY studying abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. EXCITED!!!

I instantly accepted the offer, and then I sent an email asking the director of the program about cycling possibilities, and lo and behold, he knows some cyclists and is going to connect me with them so that I can get my cycle on while in NY.


So, I will be studying a topic that I love and riding my bike all over Hamilton, NY.

I am looking forward to my summer community whom I can read, study, and cycle with.


My Village!

A few nights back, I attended a program at The National Archives on The Women of the Civil Rights Movement.  A women stood up and asked a question, and I don't remember the question, but I definitely remember the answer, and it was something like this: "What makes you (woman) think that you have to do things all by yourself. Being this Strong Black Woman is killing us. Call on your village."

This statement really stuck out to me, and I am so grateful that I have a village of people who are in my corner, and when I embark on almost anything like cycle racing, applying to a summer program, presenting at a conference, dating, having courageous conversations, I heavily lean on my village for love, support, encouragement, and whatever else that I may need to help me along the way.

I need my village!!!

What's on your mind, My People?

Happy Tuesday.....

Monday, March 30, 2015

Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

Let me just say that this is not a horrible book at all, but it is not the type of book that I like to read often. It doesn't give the reader a lot to think about like Song of Solomon, The Alchemist, The Book of Negroes etc. However, this is one of those books to read when you just want to read a good story without a lot of thought. This is one of those books that I may read when I am on vacation and really need a mental break.

This book is set in a small, close nit community, and all of the characters, and there are a lot of them, live in this town and are connected. I love the sense of community, and I loved the feeling that I got reading about this community.

There are three main families that are focused on, and they all have something going on that can be a part of living: adultery, a child whose life was lost to soon, and SECRETS!

This novel is definitely suspenseful, and I was anxiously reading to find out what would happen next. I even tried to get a few of my book club members to tell me what happened to these characters. They would not tell me, but they assured me that Liane tied the book up nicely, and she did.

At the end of the novel, Liane drives home the point that "there are so many secrets about our lives that we'll never know" and our lives are connected. She cleverly drives these points home by giving us different scenarios that are connected to the characters.

One day, not sure why, but I started watching this reality TV show about this family with a whole bunch of children. Before I knew it, I had watched about five episodes. I was fully entertained, and it was suspenseful, but I really didn't learn anything. That is how I feel about Husband's Secret, I was entertained but did not grow a lot from reading it.

If you want to read a good book and not think to much, then this is the book for you!

Now, I'm going to start reading The Galaxy Game by Karen Lord.

This is the day......

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Racing Season 2, Race #1: Jeff Cup - A Road Race


Jeff Cup was a thirty mile road race held in the beautiful countryside of Charlottesville, Virginia.

My teammate, Tina, and I got to the race site early, registered, talked to our other teammates, and warmed up a bit.

There were twenty-three other women in my field, and I recognized quite a few of the women from previous races. We exchanged pleasantries, and finally it was time for us to start racing.

My people, I started off strong and felt good, but eventually, that hilly course completely wore me out. However, I was determined to finish, and I did.

Here are a few of my takeaways from this race:
  1. I need to work on cadence.
  2. I need to ride hills over and over again.
  3. I will master the art of riding hills at race pace.
My people, I am looking forward to seeing how my second race season unfolds.

I hope that you did something today that totally got you out of your comfort zone and challenged you.

Happy Sunday!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

AP Conference 2015: Teaching Diverse Novels

I received an email and in the heading it stated: The 2015 AP Annual Conference Program Is Available.

I instantly opened the email and scrolled through the sessions, and my session was there:

Teaching Diverse Novels

Location: ACC--Lvl.4, Rm. 17A
Session Subject: English Literature and Composition
I will use the novels Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and Annie John by Jamaica Kincaid to demonstrate how AP English teachers can use these novels to explore characterization, coming of age, the use of symbols, and culture in order to get a deeper meaning from these and other culturally diverse novels. Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid both use culture and symbols in order to develop characters and drive the plot of the novel, and to tell coming of age stories. With both novels, I will show creative ways that a teacher may use these novels to teach about different cultures and how an author uses "place" in order to develop a plot. 
  • Jacqueline Stallworth, Washington-Lee High School, Arlington, VA

When I saw my name and the description that I wrote, I instantly became excited. I have presented at the AP conference before, but I presented with a colleague, but this time, I will be ALL BY MYSELF!!!

It's really happening: I am presenting at the AP Conference.

This is one of many things that I am excited about today!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Adultery by Paulo Coelho

I am a huge fan of Paulo Coelho, and when I heard that he had written a new book, I had to try it...

This book is about a lady named Linda who is in her thirties, she has "a wonderful husband who is madly in love with her, and he is one of the three hundred richest people in Switzerland.... She has two children who are her reason for getting up....She is a highly regarded journalist at a respectable newspaper that can be found in almost all of the news kiosks in Geneva." However, she wakes up one day and ask herself: "Is this it?"

Coelho goes on to tell us that Linda "feels that she is wasting the best years of her life in a pattern that will be repeated over and over until I die; and sheer panic at facing the unknown, however exciting and adventurous that might be."

As I was reading this novel, I thought about the idea of living a life with someone, or even by myself, where I would do the same things over and over again without spontaneity or passion; I think that I would go crazy....... 

He paints a picture of her life being perfect but something is missing; however, I instantly thought that passion is missing from her life. He does not tell us about anything that Linda loves passionately outside of her family: swimming, fishing, reading, hiking etc. It appears that Linda has not found that passion that gets her out of the bed everyday. 

Paulo helps the reader to understand what is going on with Linda by referencing works such as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Louis Stevenson, Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, The Greek Myth of Eros and Psyche, the story of David and Bathsheba from The Bible, and he quotes from the book of Corinthians from The Bible. If you are unfamiliar with these pieces, then it may seem as if Coelho is rambling, but if you know these pieces, you will recognize how Coelho cleverly uses these pieces to fully develop this story line and give us a deeper understanding as to how Linda was feeling. 

Linda goes on to take the risks that she needs to take, and Coelho ends this novel with the idea that "our goal in life is to learn to love.... love is a constant process." And, can I add that I think that we must learn to fall in love over and over again with hobbies, people, life, places etc., in order to having a fulfilling life.

This book was challenging and stimulating, and its just the kind of book that I love; it made me think...... 

If you want to think about life and love from a different perspective, on a whole 'nother level, read Adultery by Paulo Coelho.

By the way, I'll be reading The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty in preparation for my upcoming book club meeting.

Happy Monday, My People!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Good Night by Nikki Giovanni

Remember that little book of poetry that I absolutely love?

Well, here is another wonderful poem from that book...

"Good Night"
           Nikki Giovanni             
It is late
I stand
In front of your desk
Saying something inane
You fiddle with papers
Not looking at anything
Works is over yet
We stay 

I smile
You are, after all, very cute

We leave the building 
Like it doesn't matter

There is a beautiful moon 
We say Good Night

I unhurriedly stroll to my car 
Humming some 1950s love song

I speed-limit home
Walk my dog
Give fresh water to the birdbaths
Eat my dinner
Choose my clothes for tomorrow
Set the timer
Slide between my bamboo sheets
And dream
Of you 

Nikki has a way with words.....

Try this awesome little book!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Arlington Reads 2015: Jesmyn Ward and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Super excited that these two authors are visiting Arlington, Virginia very soon....

Here are links to books by Jesmyn Ward that I have reviewed:

Where the Lines Bleed
Salvage the Bones

And, here are links to books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that I have reviewed:

Purple Hibiscus
Half of a Yellow Sun

Consider reading something by these ladies and meeting me at Central Library in Arlington, Virginia.

Writer's Rock!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

One of my student's recommended that I read this book, and of course I had to give it a try....

Lies We Tell Ourselves is about the integration of schools, and we get to hear from two narrators: A Black girl, Sarah, who is integrating a White school and a White Girl, Linda, who was against the integration of the same school.

Now, many of you have seen the pictures of Black children being escorted into schools that they were integrating:

Ruby Bridges integrating a school in the South

However, I never really thought about what happened to the children once they were inside of those schools.

According to Robin's website, she did a lot of research and paints a very vivid image of what could have happened once some of those schools doors were closed. My people, I see the children who integrated schools so differently now; my respect could not be greater.

Sarah, one of the protagonist, and the other Black students who were integrating the schools in his fictitious town in Virginia, endured horrible treatment, everyday and all day at these schools and were put into remedial classes so that they would not slow down the White children.

I did not read a summary of this novel before I read it, so I was completely caught off guard by the modern twist in this story. I am strongly encouraging you to not do a lot of research on this story before you start to read it. (I think you will enjoy this book so much more without knowing the twist.)

Robin does a good job of giving closure to this story, but she also sends a clear message that the struggle would continue in that small town.

This is a book that is quite painful to read; I hate the thought of children enduring such harsh treatment just to attend school, but I think that it is a book that should be read and read over and over again, because this is a part of the American story that needs to be told.

A good book should always make us want to read more books, and this one does exactly that. After reading this book, I am interested in reading some first hand accounts of children who integrated schools. So, I will be on a hunt to track down some of those stories.

Consider putting this one high on your reading list.

My next read is Adultery by Paulo Coelho!

Until the next time!

Saturday, March 14, 2015

This Little Book Right Here: Bicycle Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni

Nikki Giovanni is hands down one of my favorite poets of all times.

She writes about things such as love and family, and she uses eloquent, simple language and rhyme schemes which always evoke some type of emotion from me.

I picked up this wonderful little book of poetry, Bicycles Love Poems, a few months back, and My People, it is delightful from the first page until the last.

Here is one of my favorite poems from this very special book of poetry:

I Am A Mirror
Nikki Giovanni

I am a mirror

I reflect the grace 
  Of my mother

The tenacity
Of my grandmother

The patience
Of my grandfather

The sweat
Of my great-grandfather

The hope
Of my great-great-grandfather

The songs
Of my ancestors

The Prayers
Of those on the auction block

The bravery
Of those in the middle passage

I reflect the strengths
of my people
And for that alone

I am loved

This little book of poetry is totally delightful.... Try it if you dare!

Friday, March 13, 2015


Kindness #1

It was a normal day of school when a student asked if he could come during my planning period to make up an essay that he missed the previous week.

During my planning period, he crossed my mind, but he did not show up. However, I got an email from him that stated that "he fumbled." He forgot to come, and wanted to know if he could write the paper the following day.

Now, I am very particular about students doing things in a timely fashion, but I've learned to not sweat the small stuff; children will be children.

I sent him a note that said something like, "No problem, see you tomorrow."

I didn't check my emails anymore until the next day, but he sent me an email to ask how much sugar and cream do I like in my coffee, and he brought me coffee and sat it on my desk.

This made grading that late paper so much better...

Kindness #2

I have a student who has seizures.

He has had two seizures in the classroom so the students, my co-teacher, and I sort of know what to look for that indicates that this student is going to have a seizure.

One day, a student saw the sign of the seizure, and he lightly tapped my co-teacher, and we were able to get help right away.

He quietly noticed and took action!

Kindness #3

The bells sounds and the students are in the classroom and in rolls my student who is currently in a wheel chair.

We have a routine that we do when he comes into the classroom; someone will get up and move the desks so that he has room for his wheelchair and a place to write.

Now, when he rolls in, without me having to say one word, the students seamlessly do our routine so that this student can be comfortable and in his rightful place.

Train up a child in the way that he should go.....


In schools and the world, there are so many things that happen daily that are not good at all, but I have decided that I love the good things and will focus on them and allow them to grow.

Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Selma 50th, Air force One, Five Black Reporters

This article about President Obama inviting five Black Reporters aboard Air Force One to ask questions made my heart glad...

Read the article Here.

We're living in some good times!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Selma 50th

Photo courtesy of The White House

When I first started to hear about the celebrations for the anniversary of the famous Selma to Montgomery march, I was not sure about going. However, it did not take me long to make up my mind. Yea, I would have to take off from work, but you know that I decided a long time ago to not allow my job to control me. So, I booked a flight and the rest is history....

Great nephew, mom, and me waiting in the security line!

We got up early to head over to Selma from Mongomery and that distance is about 54 miles. On that drive, I thought about the Civil Rights Giants making that journey that must have been completing exhausting, physically and emotionally, but I sure hope it was empowering. I would love to hear the conversations that took place on that journey; I sure hope that they laughed a bit....

Arriving in Selma and seeing a sea of people, caused my heart to flutter. We patiently waited in the security line and made it through the gates just as The President was starting his speech:
"Fifty years from Bloody Sunday, our march is not yet finished, but we’re getting closer. Two hundred and thirty-nine years after this nation’s founding our union is not yet perfect, but we are getting closer. Our job’s easier because somebody already got us through that first mile. Somebody already got us over that bridge. When it feels the road is too hard, when the torch we’ve been passed feels too heavy, we will remember these early travelers, and draw strength from their example, and hold firmly the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on [the] wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not be faint.”  (Read the entire speech here!)
After the speech, there was nothing like seeing the Presidential Motorcade and The President of The United States crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

After the speech, there was a huge street festival with tons of food, vendors, and even a concert. You know that I love crowds, and this did my heart good.

Ran into the mom of a childhood friend!
Later that night a few of my friends dropped by my nephew's house, and we just happened to get our hands on FREE tickets to see Patti LaBelle in concert. Now, you know that we had been up all day walking, standing, and fellowshipping, BUT how could we pass up a Patti LaBelle Concert?  We figured that this was part of the whole Selma 50 experience.

Patti LaBelle

The day that the President spoke, people were not allowed to cross that famous bridge, but you know that a whole bunch of people and I got up Sunday morning, to go back to Selma, to climb that bridge to pay homage to people who I thought I could not love more, but after this weekend, I do love them more....

I know that Dr. King, Congressman John Lewis and all of the other Civil Rights Giants did not think that they were doing something that would draw thousand to Selma, including The President of the United States. However, they persevered, endured beatings, dogs, and fires hoses... and left an imprint on American History!!! (The following photos were taken from the great world wide web!)

After this incredible weekend, I recommitted myself to soar on wings like an eagle, run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint."

It is good to read history, but sometimes it's important to live it!!!

Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates

Black Girl/White Girl by Joyce Carol Oates had me captivated from the first few pages....

The first few pages stated that a girl named Minette "did not die a natural death nor did Minette die an easy death." And, I was curious to know more.

Joyce gives us much needed background on Minette, a Black Girl, and Generva Meade, a White Girl, who were college roommates in a Southern Pennsylvania college in the 70s.

We see Minette whose father is a Black minister in DC and her mother appears to be 'the good pastor's wife.'  Minette is at this prestigious girl's college on a scholarship.

Generva's father is a radical activist lawyer who works with Vietnam protesters, the Black Panthers, and other radical groups. Her mother is portrayed as unsure of herself with emotional issues. Generva is a descendant of Quakers who founded the school where she attended, and of course, she does not have to pay tuition.

After Joyce introduces us to the characters, then she shows us that Minette is a very unhappy girl who appears to be doing racial threats to herself in order to isolate herself from the other students. And, Generva has seen quite a bit in her life with her father participating in activism, and it weighs on her.

The story builds us up to Minette's death and also unravels Generva's father's past which directly impacts Generva's life.

At the end of the book, I felt quite satisfied, but I left wanting to know more about what happened to make Minette so unhappy.

With this book, I thought a lot about race and place, and their impact on our lives...

Awesome book that I highly recommend!!

Happy Monday, and Happy Reading!

My next read is a student's recommendation: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Ordinary People Who Did Big Things!

Today feels likes the night before Christmas; not sure what to expect but you know to expect something good.

I picked up my mom, my favorite road traveling companion, and we made our way to Montgomery in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the famous Selma march.

On the road, moma did most of the talking, and she talked a bit about Dr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and what she was doing during that time:

"I was home with my children; Cynthia was ten and Dot was eight, and I had the rest of the children."

"Dr. King was the first man to inspire me. Even if I was washing clothes and he came on TV, I would stop to listen."

I listened and thought and thought and thought, and was happy to share this time with my moma.

We made it to Montgomery to meet up with my nephew and his family, and we all made a pre-trip to SELMA to participate in a conversation on race. The honorable Maxine Waters was on the panel and other dignitaries. The discussion was in a small auditorium, at a small college in Selma, Concordia University, with regular people "Who Matter."

What I love about going to a huge march and march related events in small towns like Selma is that everything is small and there are a lot of ordinary people who are in the spotlight. We talked to a few people who live in Selma who were excited to talk to us about the march and to give us driving directions. I am so happy that it is their moment.

The movement would not have been possible without the people of Selma who were willing to get behind Dr. King.
Ordinary People Who Did Big Things!

Can't wait to get to Selma today....

Thursday, March 5, 2015

My Current Situation: Snow Day!

View from my balcony!

The decision to close the schools was made last night, and I started to make my To-Do-List.....

To Do List:

Make arrangement for the upcoming AP conference
Ride the trainer
Pack for trip to Montgomery tomorrow

I didn't nap or ride the trainer, BUT...I'm ok with that!

Snow Days are the best!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Good Soil!

Former student and me!

Children are always Good Soil.....

I remember working in our garden with my Dad and my sister Tracy. I can lovingly remember that Alabama soil. It was dark, thick, and malleable. If handled with special care, that soil could produce food over and over again, and children are the same way. If handled with care, they will yield good crop over and over.

I recently reconnected with a former student that I taught around twelve years ago, and she mentioned that she and I did not have the best relationship, but she also remembered that  we share the same birthday, and that we are both the ninth child in our families. (Swoon!)

I am in a hair transition stage, and that's another blog for another day, and I came across this former student's Facebook page. She braids hair, and I had been entertaining getting my hair braided. I sent her a message, and she pinned me down to a date and reassured me that "It'll be fine; I promise."

This former student braided my hair, and our relationship was no longer teacher and student, but a familiar relationship between a stylist and her unsure client.

When I taught this student, it was in one of the worse yet most rewarding teaching situations. That school had non-effective administrators and horrible working conditions but some of the greatest students that I have ever taught and some of the most gifted and talented teachers that I have ever worked with. 

Based on the patience and respect that this former student displayed as she braided my hair, even if the teaching and learning environments were not ideal, quite a few of the seeds and the soil managed to flourish.

 Having my hair braided by my former student had the feel of reaping a good harvest.

Teaching is one of those careers where a person may not always feel valued or appreciated, but I always remind myself that this job is about my growth and the soil in which I plant my seeds.

Former student from that same school who is a Spelman College and Columbia University Graduate: Good Soil!

Children are Good Soil!

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

Reading The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, I thought a lot about my trip to Ghana last summer. For awhile I had been wanting to see those slave castles, and it finally happened.

At a slave castle in Ghana

The Book of Negroes is the story of a fictitious African woman named Aminata Diallo who was captured in West African at the age of eleven and sent to what we now know as the United States to be turned into a slave. The novels starts with Aminata as an old lady working with abolitionist telling her incredible story of survival.

Lawrence does a great job of helping the reader to visualize what may have happened on a ship that carried precious people who would later be turned into slaves.

When I was inside of those castles in Ghana, and I think that it is quite ironic that they are called castles, my mind could not even began to wrap around the idea of human beings being kept in such small quarters until it was time for them to be forcibly shipped out of their country and their lives changed forever.

The inside of a slave castle

I didn't think about what those ships must have smelled like, and that is one of the many things that struck me about this book... Lawrence talked about the smell of the ships and how people could smell the ships from very far away. Not sure why, but this really left an imprint on my mind and magnified the horrors of enslaving human beings.

The Door of No Return

When we hear of slavery in the states, we often hear or read about slavery in the southern states, but in this novel, Lawrence takes us to South Carolina, New York, Novia Scotia, Sierra Leone, and England through the eyes of Aminata. We also get to see glimpses of what may have happened during the American Revolutionary War.

Entrance to the river where Africans took bathes
before they were taken to slave ships.

The most fascinating thing about this novel is that The Book of Negroes is an actual historical document that is an archive of freed African American slaves who requested permission to leave the United States in order to settle in Nova Scotia. According to Lawrence, parts of the Book of Negroes can be found in the Novia Scotia Public Archives, the National Archives of the United States, and in the National Archives in Kew, England. (I'll be making my way over to the National Archives of the US soon.)

Memorial inside of s slave castle.

When I finished this novel, I felt joy that many of my people went through the horrors of slavery and survived.... I AM STILL HERE!

My people, read this book and learn.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alive and Energized!

I never lie to myself; if I tell myself that I am going to do something, I do it.

I joined a challenge to post a blog every day during the month of February, and I did just that. I even posted an extra blog just because I could. I enjoyed giving my blog daily attention, and my love for connecting to people through this blog intensified. (I'm quite excited about this!)

I was at a cycling conference in Columbus, Ohio a few years back, and one of the panelist was a doctor who stated that our bodies do not respond well to inactivity. My People, I must add that I do not believe that our lives respond well to inactivity either.

During February, I was purposefully active, and it was totally liberating!

I posted a blog every day, attended two book club meetings, a Super Bowl party, a book talk and signing, a lecture series on Alice Walker, a talk and museum tour, and on top of that, I read for pleasure just about every day, completed two application for summer programs, exercised with my trainer three days a week, rode my bike five days most weeks, taught great lessons, and prepared most of my meals myself.

And, I am not tired; I actually feel alive and energized... My life responds quite well to activity.

Here is a look at some of my February activities:

Delta Sigma Theta Book Club
Super Bowl Party
Natalie Baszile book talk and signing
Bike Ride
Brunch with cycling teammates
Curator of the National African Art Museum

New friend Darcy!
African American Book Lovers Book Club
Tressa and me...meeting up just because!

My soul and life are glad!

I guess you thought that after February I would stop posting for awhile, but you can't get rid of me that easily.

This is the Day.........

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