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
Post-apocalyptic/dystopian
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

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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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A Little Good News

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I’m excited to announce that my poem “Twin Birth” will be published in Literary Mama next spring! It seems like forever away, but I’ll be sure to send you a link once it’s up on their site!
What good news did you receive recently?

 

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For the Love of the Game

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I love watching the Olympics! There’s something thrilling in seeing people compete at their very best, sometimes finding victory and other times disappointment. I think of all the years these athletes have worked for one moment—the ups and downs, the sweat and tears, the encouragement and obstacles. While their battles unfold publicly across all media, most of us have our own less dramatic, more mundane “events” we’ve spent years working on.

Lately I’ve created a group of poems to send out into the world to try to publish this fall. One of the biggest mental obstacles to writing is rejection. Recently I came across a quote by Philip Larkin. He said, “Supposing no one played tennis because they wouldn’t make Wimbledon? First and foremost, writing poems should be a pleasure.”

We could substitute “Wimbledon” for “Olympics” quite easily, and you could substitute “writing poems” for just about anything, too. Thinking of all the people who play tennis, and basketball, and beach volleyball just for the sheer joy of it made me less anxious to send out those envelopes with poems tucked inside.

The joy of our actions should be enough, no matter what endeavor we’re attempting.

What work brings you joy?

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The Last Bell

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Yesterday was the last day of school, and while I was wildly excited to hear the final bell of the year, I’m always a little sad. No other job, it seems to me, has such distinct beginnings and endings. Three years ago, little 6th graders flooded the building with trepidation, excitement, and wonder. The other day, 8th grade promotion marked the passage of time; we celebrated these young adults ready (or not) for high school, leaving the hallways empty.

And then—these students who we’ve spent hours and hours with, who we’ve watched make good and not-so-good decisions, who we’ve laughed so hard with we’ll tell stories years later—are gone, fading into the sea of people we’ve known in our lives. As a colleague wrote in a post, they take little pieces of us with them, but we do the same, which takes the sting out of finishing another year. Plus, after some much needed rest, those fresh faces with nervous and curious expressions in the fall will look all the better.

How do you mark time in your work?

 

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Creating Cairns

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I took this picture in Vancouver, British Columbia on our honeymoon trip almost fourteen years ago. Along a coastal walking trail, there were several cairns like this one, rocks balancing on top of other rocks, seemingly defying the natural consequence of gravity.

Over the past few months, I’ve felt like someone trying to create these cairns, as though I’m trying to balance everything in my life—work, family life, writing life—without letting anything fall into the water. And I can tell you, I’m not doing well. The rock of this blog fell in the water a while ago. So now, I’m wading back out to try to place it somewhere back on the pile. It may take a few tries to keep it all in balance, but hopefully you’ll be around to see the beauty in the different attempts.

What are you trying to balance?

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