Thursday, January 28, 2016

No Wasted Time For Me!

I haven’t been to work since last Thursday because of the snow storm, and I ain’t complaining at all.....

Now, if you know me at all, I don’t believe in wasted time. No. Not at All!

I believe in cherishing every moment, because moments are gifts, and that is one of the reason why I gave up TV. Yep, I gave up TV... There were no shows that I watched religiously, but if I had downtime, I would watch whatever was on TV. If someone asked me what I had watched maybe an hour later, I wouldn’t remember.... So, to me, that must have been wasted time. Now, I spend that TV time listening to music and inspirational talks, reading, cleaning my house, or sitting quietly with my thoughts.

So, on this God given break, I decided to cherish every single moment....

After the storm, I decided to survey my neighborhood by foot, and it felt so good to be out and about on an incredibly, sunny day. I just happened to run into one of my neighbors who was also feeling the need to move around, and so we happily walked to THE CVS. I bought a few things and left her at CVS while I continued to walk in my neighborhood. I just loved seeing so many people out and about walking and some people were digging their cars out. I finally made it back home happy and content.

I’ve done my workouts just about everyday except Monday; my body needed a break.

I read In Darkness by Nick Lake and wrote a blog about that incredible book. I started reading Ruby by Cynthia Bond, and this book is stirring so many emotions. I am only over one hundred pages in, and I don’t want to judge this book too quickly, but right now, Cynthia Bond is a master storyteller. This book reminds me so much of Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison; one of my all time favorite books in the entire World.

I have done things that I have been putting off like cleaning my bicycle and the inside of my refrigerator. I helped a friend work on some of his goals, I finished and submitted some work for presentations that I will be doing this summer, and I have been diligently working on my career by sending out tons of emails and reading, reading, and reading, and reaching out to people for help. I have even planned, in my mind, how I am going to end this semester with my students, and I sent emails to the students to let them know what to expect. 

My cousin, Demarus, sent me a recording of Toni Morrison’s interview on NPR, and I thought that I could not love Toni Morrison more, BUT I DO! Toni talked about the fact that she did not start writing until she was forty, and this was confirmation that it’s never too late to actualize our dreams.

However, one of the highlights of this break was visiting a fellow Skegee friend to take her some of that Skegee love that always helps with healing:

Now, I do believe in downtime and downtime probably looks differently for every single person. Downtime to me is feeding my mind with lots of reading and thinking. So, although I have been quite busy during my God given break, I have also had quite a bit of downtime. 

There was no way that I could have all of this time off and not make the most of it. When I finally do go back to work, which will not be until Monday, which will be a teacher workday, I will go back rejuvenated, happy, and feeling accomplished. I hope the kids are ready, because the teacher will be on 100!

No Wasted Time For Me!

Happy, Happy, Happy Thursday

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

In Darkness by Nick Lake

So, during this blizzard, I needed something to read, and I checked my nook, and In Darkness had been downloaded. Not sure when I downloaded it, but I am happy that I did.

This fictional novel is set in Haiti, and it goes back and forth between, Shorty, a boy of fifteen who is trapped in a building after the Haitian earthquake of 2010 and Toussaint l’Ouverture, the eighteenth-century slave who led Haiti to freedom from the French. The spirit of Toussaint will not die, and it comes back as Dread Wilme, a popular community leader in Haiti who was killed by the UN, and then it comes back as Shorty.

Shorty’s life story is told from the 1st person point-of-view, and he relays his story as if he is talking to the reader. I felt like I was being let in on a secret, and this drew me in to Shorty’s story right away: “I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help.” From Shorty, we hear a lot about his life and the life of many of the other people in his town of Site Soley.

Then, the reader is taken to the life of Toussaint, and he is shown as just a common man who acted through his fears to successfully lead ‘his people’ to freedom. I left this book wanting to know more about Toussaint, and you know I did some reading about him. And, according to my readings, Lake was quite accurate in portraying the history of Toussaint and Haiti.

Lake wrote this book for Young Adult Readers, and I think that this is a perfect book to be taught in schools to diversify the curriculum. This novel infuses lots of hip-hop that I think that children will appreciate; this book is relevant. Also, a teacher can use this text to go into the history of Haiti and what makes a hero. This book could also be a perfect springboard to talk about the Haitian earthquake of 2010, and of course, this book is full of passages that would be great for close readings. I became quite excited thinking about the writings that this book could inspire. 

If you love history and a great story, then this is the book for you....

A few more snow days off, and I will tackle Ruby by Cynthia Bond!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

I know that there was tons of controversy surrounding the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set A Watchman, BUT selfishly, I am so happy that it was released. Harper Lee is a good writer who gives her readers a lot to think about. I believe that all of our talents are connected to enhancing the lives of others, and in return our lives are enhanced. I believe that none of us should take any of our talents to the grave with us; we should deplete every last one of them before we leave this earth if possible. Not sure why she did not publish this book years ago, but I want to believe that the praise and glory that she would have gotten from this book may have given her the fuel to write tons and tons of books! Yea, there would have been haters, but haters can fuel us to greatness as well.

This book drew me right in with Scout, Harper Lee’s character from To Kill A Mockingbird, returning home to Maycomb county. There were so many things that felt familiar and made me feel warm such as the smells of the deep South, that warm, small town feeling, and the idea that at home you can drop all pretense and just REST for just a little while. However, just like Scout’s experience, sometimes home ain’t all that we romanticize it to be.

When Scout returned home not much appeared to have changed, but she quickly learned new things about her town and her father that were unsettling; they were fighting integration. However, with the way that Lee writes about this time in history in the deep South, mid 1950’s, I could clearly see both sides, and I thought a lot about Booker T. Washington and his philosophy of “Cast down your buckets where you are.”

Scout thought about her father, Atticus, and to her and her brother, Jim, Atticus was a super hero, and now she has to deal with the fact that Atticus is not a super hero, but he is definitely human. Now, isn’t that life? I remember hearing someone that I looked up to say something that I thought was completely hurtful about another person, and I had to deal with the idea that even our heroes are not perfect, and this is what Scout seems to be dealing with in this book. After I heard this person say something that showed me that she was human, I can still hear those words in my head even though its been over fifteen years. However, I try and cast down the hurt and focus on the idea that this person is human and needs grace and so do I.

The cleverness of Lee’s writing is that she makes the reader think, and I thought a lot about integration, hearing and trying to see things from a different perspective, what defines a heroes etc.

Recently, my mom and I drove through Monroeville, Alabama, the hometown of Lee and inspiration for her novels, and I couldn’t help but to think about Lee’s two book, and Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson which talks about a guy who was falsely accused of a murder in Monroeville, and he was sent to death row for thirty years before he was finally released. I rode through Monroeville wondering if things have changed at all....

Now, I absolutely love Lee’s first novel To Kill A Mockingbird, and I taught it for many years with my whole heart, and I love Go Set A Watchman just as much. I can’t wait to teach it and help other teachers to teach it as well.....

Happy, Happy, Happy that this gift, Go Set A Watchman, was finally given to the world!!

My People, consider not going to the grave with your gifts still inside of you; we need them...

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown

Claude Brown

Claude Brown, author of Manchild in the Promised Land, is an incredible person.....

Any person who decides to change his life and stick to it, is an incredible person!

Manchild in the Promised Land is fictional but based on Claude’s life. According to Claude, starting at a very young age living in Harlem, NY, he almost never went to school, he was in and out of juvenile facilities, and dabbled with drugs and prostitutes. However, after encounters with a few people who told him that they believed in him, in his teens he decided to leave home, go back to school, stop doing drugs, and he learned to play the piano. REMARKABLE!!!

Now, I didn’t enjoy this book, but I did appreciate it. The entire book, over 300 pages, was all about life on the streets in Harlem and the people that Sonny, the main character, met along the way. However, I read about Claude before I started this book, and I was so sure that he would tell how he ended up going and graduating from Howard University and later attending Law school at Stanford and Rutgers. However, that did not happen.

Most of the people who highly recommended this book to me were men who read this book when they were in their early teens, and I do understand how this book would be appealing to teen boys; Sonny was a daring brother.

So, to this end, this is one of those books that sells lots and lots each year, and therefore, I think that it is one to read if you like to be in the know about African American literature. However, I think the audience that would enjoy this book the most would be early teen boys.

Not my kind of book, but I am happy that I read it!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Writers in 2015...

I intentionally met so many writers in 2015....

I totally value being in the present of writers and hearing them talk about their books and how the books came to full fruition.

Here are images of some of the writers whom I met in 2015:

 Pursue the things that bring you joy!

Friday, January 1, 2016

2015 Was A Good Year!

I am highly encouraging anyone who reads this blog to write down ALL of the things that you want to achieve in 2016, and keep the list near. I will guarantee you that if you write this list; you will be more inclined to work towards those goals. And, right now, you may not know all of the things that you want for your life, sometimes our minds can not imagine what God has in store for us, but you can still write something like more joy, peace, prosperity, help more people etc, and the way to achieve the goals will come. It’s kind of like how I teach; I think about the big goals that I want the students to learn, and then I go back and work the process to achieve those goals.

2015 was such a good year.... I mean a really good year. I planned quite a few things like a trip to Selma, a literary trip to Trinidad, a three week long stay in Upstate NY, and the opportunity to present at the Advanced Placement conference. However, with some of the other awesome things that occurred this year, I just allowed myself to be open and to go wherever I was led.

SURRENDER.... I am a doer, and I like to get stuff done. If a goal is within my power, I won’t stop until I achieve it. However, I have had to learn to surrender. God has been dealing with me about trusting him more and allowing him to do what he do: It ain’t about my way but his way! For a doer, this has been a true test, but I am learning to SURRENDER, do my part, allow God to do the rest.... AND ACCEPT ALL OF THE THINGS THAT HE HAS FOR ME!!

My people, I am strongly encouraging you to pursue the things that you love. If you love books like I do, I am encouraging you to take that impromptu trip to a book festival; If you love great restaurants, I am encouraging to make a list of the ones you have always wanted to go to and go. There is never enough time or money right? Don’t use those excuses EVER!

AND, consider keeping a journal so that you can keep up with how blessed you are.....

Here is my year 2015 in pictures:

Greatest trainer in the world!
Road tripping with my mom!
Mom turned 80!
Together for mom’s 80th birthday!
Beach time and plenty of Baldwin!
Lots of cycling!
Impromptu book trip to Brooklyn, NY
Brooklyn Book Festival!
Spent lots of time working on my career!
Anniversary of the Million Man March!
I can never get enough of hearing people talk about pursuing their dreams!
What a pleasure to meet The Bryan Stevenson
Tuskegee’s Homecoming is always good for my soul!

Skegee Family
Good folks who add to my life!
Mom cooking Christmas dinner!
I have learned to surround myself with GOOD folks!
Sister time!
Oldest sister and her husband retirement party!
Visit to the Equal Justice Initaitive 
I make sure that I do the things that interest me!
My dear friend Greg turned 50 this year!
My uncle turned 80!
Selma 50 with my people!
Selma 50th
Love me some writers!
Book festival in Trinidad!

Ain’t to many things like an autographed book!
Meeting writers and inspiration!

My book club!
Co-workers, friends, and cyclist!
Niagara Falls
Niagara Falls!
Niagara Falls
Underground Railroad and the Abolitionist movement!
First statue erected for an African American in the US!
Harlem Book Festival
After my presentation in Austin!

Delta Sigma Theta Convention in Houston

My words were published in the International Literacy Association’s magazine

Going into 2016 with high expectations!!!

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