Read Harder 2017

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If you missed the 2016 challenge, you’re in luck. A brand new year brings with it a brand new list of topics for you to choose from Bookriot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge. This year’s list of topics doesn’t challenge me as much as last year’s list, but I’m excited to jump into some books I might have procrastinated reading.

There’s still plenty of time to join me. Like last year, I’ll share my list at the end of the year. Hopefully, it will be completely full!

What books challenge you?



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And the Winner Is. . .


Last fall, a friend encouraged me to send off my work to a contest I’d found. I’ve entered other contests, and I’ve even been a finalist for a couple. But in December, the organizers of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award called to tell me I had won!

The prize is $1000 and a trip to Pittsburgh to read with Allison Hedge Coke, the judge who picked the winning poem. Even though it happened almost two months ago, I can still hardly believe it!

What have you won lately?

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Get Up, Stand Up

The boys and I spent our MLK day off designing and creating our posters for the Women’s Rally here in town tomorrow. After hours of work, our signs are finally completed!!! We’re excited to join other people in supporting the vast interests contained in the Women’s March on Washington. It’s amazing to see the wide range of groups band together to demonstrate solidarity with each other’s causes.

My decision to join the Women’s Rally wasn’t a light decision. I realized after my eight-year-old sons were upset with the outcome of the election—where a candidate was chosen who they say, “is so mean to women and name calls people when he doesn’t agree with them”—that I had to teach them peaceful ways to express their disapproval.

You may be reading this thinking I’m not supporting the government, or I’m being unreasonable, or possibly the worst insult to you—I’m acting un-American, but the First Amendment shows otherwise: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Bill of Rights gives us this important freedom, and I’m using my right to protest as an act of love for my country, an act of love for my friends and family, and an act of love for those targeted by hate.


If you’re in town on Saturday, come join us. If you’re not, there are bound to be other rallies and marches in your neck of the woods.

What causes will you support tomorrow and into the future?

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Recently, Governor Martinez decided that in order to balance the budget, she would cut the salaries of teachers and state workers. She doesn’t call it a pay cut; she calls it “pension pay swap,” but it’s clearly a pay cut. She stated the budget will send “a clear and strong message: it’s up to state government to tighten its belt, not New Mexico families.” Does she not realize these are the middle class workers of New Mexico? That the loss of salary will hurt a large percentage of New Mexico families?

This is worrisome in a state where under her “leadership” we’ve fallen to the bottom of the nation in education—which is not a reflection on teachers. It’s a reflection of poor decision making by implementing PARCC, which doesn’t actually assist students, but fills the coffers of corporations. How many other corporations have taken the money our school districts could have used to improve their schools, to buy textbooks, to add educational assistants, and numerous other ideas? If we want teachers to stay in the state, we should be increasing teacher salaries, not cutting them.

For example, we’re 2nd in the United States for teacher turnover rate. In my district alone, there are 219 job openings as of this morning—it’s half way through the year! Many of our brightest upcoming educators are either leaving the profession (50% don’t teach past 5 years—a common statistic) or are leaving to teach in other states.

When I worked on my National Boards, I attended an informational meeting. About eight of us were grouped together, and almost all of the other teachers were in their late 20’s. The leader asked us to explain to our group why we wanted to earn the National Boards. Here were some of the most dedicated teachers, wanting to improve their skills, working long hours on an arduous program. 6 out of the 8 said they planned to move out of the state for higher paying jobs and didn’t want to hassle with the new state’s paperwork and possible coursework.

If we cut salaries, we’ll see even more teachers leave the state, which leaves unmanageable classroom sizes for the teachers who stay. It means students are put last, again, and teachers will eventually be blamed for why the ridiculous test scores haven’t improved.

It’s not right, especially when corporations are getting tax breaks so their owners can own an even bigger mansion, can have even more amazing vacation homes, and can send their children to fancy private schools that only have 12 students per class.

Call the governor’s office today at 505-476-2200 and tell her that cutting teacher salaries is not the way a responsible Governor balances the budget.

Who have you called today?


*quote taken from Santa Fe New Mexican


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Read Harder 2016 Recap!

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At the beginning of 2016, I started the Read Harder Challenge. It gave a series of different categories to get you out of your reading rut. I started out great but waned toward the end.

I’m surprised by the categories I didn’t get to like a book with only 100 pages or a book about feminism. And even though many of these books weren’t what I’d normally pick up, I would recommend them all, especially George. If you struggle at all about issues with transgender rights, this book will make the difficulties transgendered kids face crystal clear.

• A book about Horror: Frankenstein
Nonfiction about Science:
Collection of Essays:
• Read a book out loud to someone: Gingerbread Baby
• A middle grade novel: Gabby Lost and Found
• Biography: Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different
Published year you were born
• Audio book that won Audie: What I Know for Sure
• Book over 500 pages: Goldfinch
Book under 100 pages
• A transgendered author: George
• Set in the Middle East: I am Malala
Author from Southeast Asia
Historical fiction before 1900
• 1st book in series by person of color: Circuit
non-superhero comic in last 3 years
• book that has a movie: Blindness
nonfiction about feminism
• book about religion: Gilead
• book about politics: Citizen
• food memoir: Life from Scratch
• A play: A Raisin in the Sun
• Main character with mental illness: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Don’t fret if you missed the 2016 challenge! Soon, I’ll post the 2017 list!

What do you plan to read in the next year?

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Candlelight in the Window (Redux)

Five years ago I started this blog, and I admit my own negligence in keeping up regularly.  I decided to go back to the original post that started it all to inspire me to keep going. Here’s to a peaceful and uneventful 2017.

On New Year’s Eve, my mother always lit a candle for good luck in the coming year. She’d leave it lit until the candle extinguished itself. Before we went to bed, she’d place the bayberry candle  into the sink to avoid a fire during the night. In the morning, the wax would be frozen in long tracks down the sides of the silver candlestick like the colorful icing on a wedding cake.

Some say people separated during the holidays should leave a lit candle at the window to lure their loved one home.The gesture seems hopeful. It reminds me of high school when my sister and I would drive home on gravel roads, the darkness a cocoon engulfing us. With few houses along the prairie, we could make out the lights inside our farmhouse from miles away. There, we hoped our mother had supper waiting for us on the stove. Isn’t that what most of us want, a light from a loved one waiting for us, welcoming us when we reach home?

When I light my candle tonight, I’ll wish for lots of luck on my New Year’s resolution–keeping this blog up and running. May 2017 find you a little wiser, a little more forgiving, a little more eager to embrace change, and may a light be waiting for you when you reach your destination.


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Giving Thanks


Back in September, a family friend, Tomas, who is from the Acoma Pueblo, invited us to visit him for their feast day. Acoma Pueblo stands at the top of a three hundred sixty-seven foot sandstone bluff. Pueblo people estimate they’ve lived in the area for over two thousand years, and Acoma Pueblo is considered the oldest continuously inhabited community in North America.

I took the boys out of school early, and we drove to the Pueblo to watch the dancers. They dressed in traditional attire and different groups of dancers—young and old—gathered in the plaza and danced to the rhythm of the drums, which vibrated throughout the Pueblo. Tomas invited us for lunch, and we ate watermelon, frito pie, and cake.

The boys witnessed how his family lives without electricity or running water still today. They met his extended family of brothers and cousins and other relatives. They saw the small room where several members of his family spend the night sleeping on the floor. There is no shame in this; it’s how life is navigated and embraced.

As we were about to leave, Tomas showed us the church that stands on top of the sacred site of the people’s original homes, which were destroyed by the Spanish. It’s a humbling experience to have a Native person tell you to your face how your ancestors killed their ancestors, set fire to their homes, committed countless other atrocities, and forever changed how their people would live in the world.

This Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for Tomas’s friendship and his generosity in letting us peek inside his life on the Pueblo. I’m grateful for the Water Protectors in North Dakota fighting for all of our right to clean, safe drinking water. And, I’m thankful the boys will grow up knowing Natives are real people—not pictures in history books—with struggles and joys, who continue their traditions and maintain their culture.

What makes you thankful today?


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