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People in my neighborhood – The Recyclers

2 Mar

I held the back door open and set one foot on the top step. As Lucy hopped down, I heard rustling behind me. Someone was going through our recycling bins.

As Lucy took a moment to sniff – the air, the dirt, the rose bushes – I looked to see who it was.

“Good morning,” the female voice called to me. “How are you?”

“Great,” I replied. “And glad it isn’t raining.”

She laughed as Lucy and I walked past her. She was familiar to us. I don’t know her name but she is one of a number of regulars who collect cans from recycling bins in the neighborhood. She, like several others, come around with shopping carts, laden with can filled bags. There is a fellow who used to come around with a cart, but has since purchased an old, brown Ford Econoline van. He is not as chatty as this recycler. He is not as quiet as the elderly gentleman who comes around on his bicycle, bags hanging from every possible place. He never says a word, but I can tell by the look in his eye that he is terrified of dogs – even Lucy.

As Lucy and I walk past the recycler and descend the back steps to the street, I see the cart.

“Sorry about the cart,” the recycler says.

“No problem,” I reply, “Lucy is small and can get around anything!”

We walked South down the street. As Lucy stood staring off into space – something she does more and more lately – I heard the wheels of the shopping cart head North.

 

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First Book of 2020

2 Jan

I’ve not been writing as many book blogs as I used to. With my term on the 2021 YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction about to begin, I don’t know how many book posts I will manage this year. While I am still on vacation, though, I can tell you about the first book I finished in 2020.

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Publisher’s Summary: The true story of a
couple who lost everything and embarked on a transformative journey walking the South West Coast Path in England

I put the book on old, months ago and I’d forgotten what had appealed to me to make me place the hold in the first place.  Recalling so little, I assumed it was a work of fiction. I wasn’t very far in when I began to realize that I was wrong. This was a memoir of real events and I popped open Google maps to follow the journey.

In many ways, The Salt Path was a perfect first book of a new decade. It is a book that inspires the reader, showing the transformational possibility of perseverance through hardship. Despite the dire situation in which Raynor and Moth find themselves, the book includes a lot of humor along with self-reflection and commentary about how the treatment of homeless people. It also includes some beautiful descriptions of the landscape along the route.

A powerful start to my reading year.

Conference week booktalks 10/8-12

12 Oct

Because of conferences, I only had Kids three days this week.

Monday

Running on the Roof of the World  by Jess Butterworth

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Tuesday

Those Who Run in the Sky by Akiaq Johnston

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Wednesday

Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

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Driving like a 6th grader

9 Oct

The move from elementary to middle school can be confusing. One of the things I love most about teaching 6th grade is showing the students how to navigate a new way of going to school. In the first week, many students are confused and have that “deer in the headlights” glazed look. Little by little, that look fades and is replaced by each students’ normal mien.

My new car has me feeling like a sixth grader in the first week of school.

The last car I bought was a 2005 Toyota Corolla. I now own a 2019 Subaru Crosstrek.  Boy, have cars changed since! It’s not just the high-tech things that have given me that “deer in the headlights” glazed look. I reach my hand out to adjust my mirrors and find open air. I had to pull over two minutes from home yesterday to read the manual and learn how to defog the windshield.

The Subaru  dealership has an interesting way to help out. When I took possession of the car, I got a quick lesson in how to sync my phone and work a few buttons. I was shown the slimmest of the four (!!!) manuals and encouraged to read it. And, I was told that, in about a week, after I’d had a chance to figure things out on my own, I’d get an appointment with a new car specialist who will help me figure out the aspects of my new car that I haven’t yet. He sent me an email yesterday telling me I should keep a journal to jot down any questions I have.

I think I made a good decision!

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Taking Action

1 Oct

This weekend, I read a book that simultaneously saddened me and provided a roadmap to healing. It was a sort of bibliotherapy after a tough news week.

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Publisher’s Summary: When everything has been taken from you, what else is there to do but run?

So that’s what Annabelle does—she runs from Seattle to Washington, DC, through mountain passes and suburban landscapes, from long lonely roads to college towns. She’s not ready to think about the why yet, just the how—muscles burning, heart pumping, feet pounding the earth. But no matter how hard she tries, she can’t outrun the tragedy from the past year, or the person—The Taker—that haunts her.

Followed by Grandpa Ed in his RV and backed by her brother and two friends (her self-appointed publicity team), Annabelle becomes a reluctant activist as people connect her journey to the trauma from her past. Her cross-country run gains media attention and she is cheered on as she crosses state borders, and is even thrown a block party and given gifts. The support would be nice, if Annabelle could escape the guilt and the shame from what happened back home. They say it isn’t her fault, but she can’t feel the truth of that.

Through welcome and unwelcome distractions, she just keeps running, to the destination that awaits her. There, she’ll finally face what lies behind her—the miles and love and loss…and what is to come.

There all sorts of ways to overcome trauma. This week we saw Dr. Christine Blasey Ford confront hers, again, publicly. Annabelle doesn’t want to be seen, and she can help readers begin to understand the guilt and shame that survivors feel. As she attempts to come to terms with the trauma she survived, Annabelle becomes a focal point and a rallying cry and she finds her voice.

Tibet or not Tibet

26 Sep

In an interesting twist of reading life coincidences, I started two books set in Tibet this week. It was an unplanned coincidence.

At school, I am reading Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth. In the car, I am listening to Lands of  Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road by Kate Harris. The former is set  almost exclusively in Tibet. The latter opens in Tibet and returns to it near the end after traveling the Silk Road. At least I believe that to be true. I haven’t finished either yet.

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Publisher’s Summary: Join 12-year-old Tash and her best friend Sam in a story of adventure, survival and hope, set in the vivid Himalayan landscape of Tibet and India. Filled with friendship, love and courage, this young girl’s thrilling journey to save her parents is an ideal read for children aged 9-12.

There are two words that are banned in Tibet. Two words that can get you locked in prison without a second thought. I watch the soldiers tramping away and call the words after them. ‘Dalai Lama.’

Tash has to follow many rules to survive in Tibet, a country occupied by Chinese soldiers. But when a man sets himself on fire in protest and soldiers seize Tash’s parents, she and her best friend Sam must break the rules. They are determined to escape Tibet – and seek the help of the Dalai Lama himself in India.

And so, with a backpack of Tash’s father’s mysterious papers and two trusty yaks by their side, their extraordinary journey across the mountains begins.

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Publisher’s Summary: As a teenager, Kate Harris realized that the career she craved—to be an explorer, equal parts swashbuckler and metaphysician—had gone extinct. From what she could tell of the world from small-town Ontario, the likes of Marco Polo and Magellan had mapped the whole earth; there was nothing left to be discovered. Looking beyond this planet, she decided to become a scientist and go to Mars.

In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris set off by bicycle down the fabled Silk Road with her childhood friend Mel. Pedaling mile upon mile in some of the remotest places on earth, she realized that an explorer, in any day and age, is the kind of person who refuses to live between the lines. Forget charting maps, naming peaks: what she yearned for was the feeling of soaring completely out of bounds. The farther she traveled, the closer she came to a world as wild as she felt within.

Lands of Lost Borders is the chronicle of Harris’s odyssey and an exploration of the importance of breaking the boundaries we set ourselves; an examination of the stories borders tell, and the restrictions they place on nature and humanity; and a meditation on the existential need to explore—the essential longing to discover what in the universe we are doing here.

Like Rebecca Solnit and Pico Iyer, Kate Harris offers a travel account at once exuberant and reflective, wry and rapturous. Lands of Lost Borders explores the nature of limits and the wildness of the self that can never fully be mapped. Weaving adventure and philosophy with the history of science and exploration, Lands of Lost Borders celebrates our connection as humans to the natural world, and ultimately to each other—a belonging that transcends any fences or stories that may divide us.

OFFF and on

25 Sep

Rain Friday night did not bode well for Saturday morning. But the sun made a valiant effort and rain turned to light showers as the sun rose. By the time I was ready to get in the car to drive to the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival, the sun was beginning to shine through the clouds and my heart was aglow.

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The clouds dissipated as I drove the 30 miles south of Portland to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby, Oregon. I had a finite amount of cash and a camera- when the cash ran out, I knew it would be time to go home.

I started out by walking through the vendor displays to get a sense of what was there – everything from yarn and soap, to baskets and fleece.

Once oriented to the vendors, I ventured to the real stars of the festival: the animals. <y first stop was the bunny barn. Okay, the sign said RABBITS, but angoras are just so darned cute! And fluffy!

The rabbit on the right was getting a blowout as I entered the barn. He was a good sport through the whole thing and his handler was clearly enjoying herself.

The festival featured lots of animal judging and 4-Hers abounded. I was feeling a bit peckish so bought a nice slice of pear walnut bread from a 4-H stand and enjoyed it while I watched some goat judging.

Feeling restored, I did some yarn shopping. There were yarn people from all over Oregon, and from as far away as California and Utah. And then I was off to the sheep and goat barn. I laughed a lot at their funny faces.

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A little more shopping, then I visited the llamas and alpacas.

My final purchase was some lovely goat cheese, which I carefully packed into my bag, nestling it amongst the skeins of yarn.

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As I drove out of town,  the sun was shining. Just after I hit the Interstate, drops of rain began to fall. Within 5 minutes, it was a downpour and the temperature had dropped 10 degrees. I had timed my day perfectly.

Thank you, Universe!

11 Sep

I may have mentioned my deal with the universe, the one where, if the Universe let me stay in 6th grade, I would go to Outdoor School this year and not grumble about it.

There were many reasons why I didn’t go last year. one of them had to do with compensation. Teachers had to be away from home for three nights, with no financial compensation and I was going to be out-of-pocket for Lucy’s boarding fees. All teachers were given was an additional personal day.

Yesterday, at my union meeting I found out that we are going to be remunerated for those three nights at a rate that made me cheer.

I have several months yet to think up the woodsy name I will put on my wood cookie nametag.

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Look out Outdoor School. Here I come!

Darius is great

10 Sep

This weekend, I read Darius the Great Is Not Okay by Adib Khorram.

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It was a perfect read for a weekend. I got lost on Darius’ world of bullying in an American high school and getting to know his extended family in Iran.

Publisher’s Summary: Darius Kellner speaks better Klingon than Farsi, and he knows more about Hobbit social cues than Persian ones. He’s a Fractional Persian—half, his mom’s side—and his first-ever trip to Iran is about to change his life.

Darius has never really fit in at home, and he’s sure things are going to be the same in Iran. His clinical depression doesn’t exactly help matters, and trying to explain his medication to his grandparents only makes things harder. Then Darius meets Sohrab, the boy next door, and everything changes. Soon, they’re spending their days together, playing soccer, eating faludeh, and talking for hours on a secret rooftop overlooking the city’s skyline. Sohrab calls him Darioush—the original Persian version of his name—and Darius has never felt more like himself than he does now that he’s Darioush to Sohrab.

There is so much I like about this book. First, of course, is Darius. He felt very real. In his afterward, Khorram talks about living with depression that is a very real part of a person’s everyday life, but is well-managed, and he has portrayed that extremely well in Darius. It isn’t an issue book about depression, but it really points out the realities of people who live with depression in a way I have never seen before.

Next is Yazd. The city of Darius’ family is a really a character in the book. I am the kind of nerdy reader who Googles as she reads. I looked up all the places Darius visited so I could understand what he was seeing.

Finally, there is Sohrab. What a beautiful friend. We should all strive to be as good a friend as he is.

Darius the Great is Not Okay lingered with me after I finished reading it – and that is a sign of a really good read.

Gesundheit

4 Sep

On the second day of school, I collected the communal supplies – tissues, wipes glue, notebook paper – and planned to put them away at the end of the day Thursday. I was hoping that leaving the tissue boxes on the back table might lead to a few more arriving. Instead, it led to something else.

Thursday afternoon, we were in the midst of our informational writing sample. The students were super focused and working silently.  I was keeping busy, alternating between  puttering on a project and walking around, monitoring their progress. I looked up to see a student get out of his seat, sniffling. Ignoring the open tissue box sitting on my desk he walked straight to the pile of tissue boxes and tore one open. He took a tissue, blew his nose, left the box on the table, and returned to his seat.

This struck me as funny. Although I was glad he felt at home, I’d never had a student take such initiative before. I normally place several tissue boxes around the room in strategic locations. I guess because it was the beginning of the year, I’d forgotten to do so.The only open box was on my desk.

Did he see that box? I have no idea. Clearly the boxes on the back table were the ones that caught his eye. The lack of tissue boxes around the room caught my attention. When I finally put them away after school, I was sure to leave four boxes out. I opened them and placed them around the room, which was now, truly ready.

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