Monday, April 16, 2018

Here we are in NOLA



By some miracle, KK and I escaped the winter hellscape of Minneapolis and landed in New Orleans where we're participating in a Global Symposium for independent school professionals.

I have to say, it was sort of surreal taxiing down the ice-encrusted runway on Sunday in Minneapolis. I kept thinking we'd turn back toward the terminal. The snow kept falling. The previous day's flights had been widely canceled. We'd have to bag our talk about global competence and trot it out another time in another venue.

But no! Miraculously we de-iced, we took off, and we landed. We made our way to the French Quarter and checked into the Sheraton. Truth be told, we had a heck of a lot of work to do on our talk, so we haven't seen as many sites as we might have liked. But here's what we have done:

  • Had a Pimm's cup in a corner café.
  • Walked into the smallest bookstore I've ever seen.
  • Enjoyed some street performers, including some sweet electric violinists.
  • Strolled down Royal and Chartres and Decatur
  • Ate blue crab rolls, barbequed shrimp, pralines, red beans and rice, sweet potato gnocchi, praline bread pudding, and beignets.
Also, did you know that Starbucks now has matcha lattés? We had some in the hotel before we finished writing and practicing our talk. Later, we practiced and edited the talk some more. Some nice Catholic school teachers from Memphis told us about how they went dancing while drinking hurricanes. That sounded nice, but we've been in bed watching pay-per-view movies (Molly's Game and I, Tonya) by 8 both nights. We've had to get up early to write and practice the talk.

As I've mentioned before, people have different ways of having fun. I'm happy we made it here to NOLA. It's been worth it for sure, and tomorrow we'll do the talk. I'm pretty sure it'll be good enough.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Drop Me Off Down the Block

Not too long ago, the kids and I went to watch a friend of Shef's play in a high-level, high-stakes hockey game. It was really fun, and I especially liked how they blasted clips of classic songs like 1989's "Move This" by Technotronic before face-offs.

I got to thinking, I should take the kids to more school sporting events. We could wear our colors and root for the teams! Sounds wholesome and screen-free! I shared my epiphany with Shef, who is now fourteen years old.

"Hey," I said, "wouldn't it be fun to go to more school sporting events?"

"No," he said. The answer came swiftly and with zero hesitation.

"No?" I asked, surprised. "You don't want to watch your friends play lacrosse and stuff?"

"No," he clarified, "I just don't want to be seen with you in public."

Just like that! All matter-of-fact!

I think the inclination is probably exacerbated because I'm a teacher at the school, in addition to also being a regularly ignominious parent. Having a teacher mom is literally the worst thing ever for an eighth-grader, Shef says. I can't help that it's my job, though, and I also can't help that I'm so embarrassing. I feel I could be even more embarrassing if I didn't already put so much effort into my behavior. Shef doesn't know how lucky he is. One little slip and he could be the laughing stock of the entire school.

Friday, March 30, 2018

It's Over

This is Mac, the only snowboarder in the family.

We're at the end of our vacation. It's certainly been eventful. Our family has skied here in Vail, Colorado, ten of the last eleven spring breaks. So far, no one in our foursome has needed any type of medical attention on this annual trek. 

This year, Shef brought a pal to keep him company on the treacherous and adventurous runs none of the rest of us will do. Well, his poor friend and bosom companion first developed altitude sickness and then broke his wrist. Can you even believe that?! To make matters worse, the wrist required surgery. Really bad luck for our treasured visitor! His parents must wonder what the heck we're up to out here, but I swear, it's not a regular thing.

In other news unrelated to traumatic injury, I signed with a literary agent. It feels rather surreal just typing that. In case you don't know, if you want to have a book traditionally (rather than self-) published, you need to have a literary agent who sells your manuscript to an editor at a publishing house. 

You get a literary agent by writing and sending a query letter. The goal of the letter is to inspire agents to request more pages of your book to read. If an agent reads your book and loves it, she might offer to represent you. In case you're interested in the data, here it is: I sent twelve queries in the past three months, tweaking the letter and the first pages of my book a little over time. Of those twelve, four agents requested more pages. And two of those offered to represent me. I picked one dream agent, Joanna MacKenzie at Nelson Literary, last Friday on my 40th birthday.

So, I guess in relation to my post title today, it's over, but it's really just beginning. Except for Shef's friend's wrist situation. I hope his pain and suffering are indeed reaching a natural, peaceful conclusion.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Vacation Status Report



Skiing:

I love the free feeling of whizzing down the mountain, stopping frequently for breaks and 100% controlling my speed. I'd say my ski level is stagnant compared to other years. Why try to get better at a dangerous sport at 40? Seems like not such a great idea, especially when I can just, like, have fun and look sort of like I know what I'm doing. Or at least look like I'm not a danger to others.

Altitude Sickness:

It appears that one person in our party might have some mild to moderate altitude sickness. It's better not to google this, but instead to consult a mountain medical professional. That's on the docket for today. Luckily, in the limited medical research I did do, professionals say that altitude sickness generally resolves in short order. We should be on the other side of this in no time.

Reading:

I've got two perfect vacation titles on the go. One is The Widow by Fiona Barton. I love a good psychological thriller, especially on vacay. In this one, there's this feeble woman named Jean who married a veritable asshole who may also be a criminal. The blurbs all tell me I'm in it with an unreliable narrator, so things could turn any second.

The second book is America's Next Reality Star by Laura Heffernan. It's about Jen. She's suddenly jobless, boyfriendless, and broke. Why not go on a reality television show about puzzles and problem-solving? As you can imagine, the pages are flying by here. Reality television has long been my kryptonite.

That's about it. I'm hoping the second of these three items resolves today. Don't you?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The Reality

I'm sad to say I haven't made too much headway on my lengthy spring-break to-do list.

Alas.

But to tell the truth -- and I'm being 100% honest here -- I don't much care. I did other really exciting things. My 40th birthday was the most memorable and frankly the best birthday I can remember.

As I was writing that, I scanned back over other birthdays, and it's true that I do have lasting memories of 23. I had a fancy dinner at a sushi restaurant with Dan, several of my friends, and my mom. At the table, Dan said fondly, "And now you're 24."

"No, I'm not," I said. "I'm 23."

He insisted I was 24, but I knew for a fact that wasn't the case. I knew it especially because we were celebrating my golden birthday. Also, I was sure my birthday was March 23rd, as it has been every other year.

"Are you serious?!" Dan finally exclaimed. Everyone laughed pretty hard, and then the sushi was excellent.

In any case, all of the things on my aforementioned to-do list will still be there when I'm finished vacationing.

In the meantime, I plan to be goal-oriented about downhill skiing. I'm going to take lots of runs and not get hurt. I'm going to write on my blog a few times. I'm going to be pleasant and cheerful in interactions with my family members. I might think about other writing, too. Anything is possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Spring Break To-Do

There's a lot happening over here, but most important, it's Spring Break. I've got a to-do list as long as my arm, including an eye appointment and painting the trim in the upstairs hallway. And, obviously, other stuff because that little list is only as long as my fingernail.

Among the items, there's also this blog that I've been neglecting. I'm really wanting to get back to it with charming anecdotes and musings on the writing life.

Here are three potentially entertaining tidbits:

  • I was once again a dance captain in the middle school teacher talent show act. A student emailed me afterward to tell me what a good dancer I am. I'm pretty sure, but not positive, the email was written without irony.
  • In the Mac zone, we've traded hockey parenting for lacrosse parenting. It's time for box lacrosse. Lacrosse is, I think, the most violent sport known to humankind. During the games, I find myself yelling things like, "WHACK HIM!" and there's sometimes blood.
  • I'm working out a synopsis for my next book. Before I get to the whole thing--even the whole synopsis-- I'm pretty sure there's an impending round of new edits on the old book. Isn't it funny that it seems old even though it still hasn't seen the light of day? Here's what I think to myself: the more rounds of edits I do, the fewer there still are to go. I think that's true no matter what. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Psoriasis Update. It's been awhile.

It hasn't seemed so hard to get through this particular Minnesota winter. It's been cold and snowy, yes. I felt typically overwhelmed by work, certainly.

But even in February, I wasn't too cranky with students.  I never took to my bed in exhaustion and despair. Well, except once last Friday night after parent-teacher conferences, I was slightly weepy. The conferences themselves went well, but I just got too tired.

One of the hardest moments of the whole season came this week when, after a five-day stretch of temperatures in the high 30s and low 40s, the weather forecasters doomed and gloomed over a potential 8-inch snow dump. I felt bummed about the news, but then the schools got all hyped up before a single flake fell and called a snow day. After all that, we only got about five inches.

Also, and this part helps a lot, I started a new medication for my psoriasis. It's a shot that I have to give myself--a needle to the stomach. I'm not totally psyched about this, but I can do it. And the results?

It's been about five weeks since I started the medicine, and I have almost no spots on any place. The only thing is that if I drink alcohol or eat anything with food dye, I'll get some streaky things on my cheek and specks under my eyes. But even if that happens, the spots everywhere else keep fading. 

It's a miracle like the ones you've seen on the television commercials. Instead of the spots intensifying all through these dark months, they're going away. I won't spend all summer on the strictest diet known to humankind and exposing my skin to sunlight on a meticulous timetable. I won't have to explain to strangers that I haven't been chewed by rabid mosquitos or preemptively tell new friends, "It's not contagious."

They should probably sign me up for the promotional drug commercial. I'm ready to give my testimonial and share my before-and-after calf photos.

And I'm ready for the snow to melt now and spring to start. Probably only a month to go.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The February Blues

I usually write at least one blog post about teaching in February. Here we are in the last week of the month, however, and I've neglected to write about the perils of schools at this time of year.

It's a brutal combo, the lack of light, the ongoing winter, the crankiness of everyone in the building. Add in a mass school shooting and the president's asisnine suggestion that I pack heat while kneeling next to students during writing conferences, and it's enough to make us weep.

Just in case you're still wondering whether it's a good idea for teachers to carry weapons, I'll tell you definitively, it's not. Smart people who know about these things are documenting the reasons why, reasons like even the NYPD has only an 18% hit rate in active shooter situations.

Another reason that's inordinately clear to me personally is my responsibility to create warm, productive, and predictable relationships with kids. I can't do that with a constant threat of violence on my hip. Plus, where would I put it when I'm sitting on the floor, huddled together with an eleven year-old over his new poem?

No, no, and no.

I'm hoping the light gets better. Put some sunshine on the situation. Get a clue.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Annals of Medicine: Oregano Oil to the Resuce



I skipped #5amWritersClub today for the first time in a long, long time because I feel I'm battling an epic illness. I'm calling it epic because I've seen kids go down with it at school, and it looks ugly. To be fair, there are several strains of epicness going around. They all seem dire, and I keep getting emails from people that say things like, "Maybe I'll be back tomorrow, but maybe not."

So, yesterday when I came home with a bad headache and pains in my legs, I quickly rolled oregano oil all over the soles of my feet and took a power nap. I doused my feet again before bed, and again this morning when I woke up.

You might be feeling skeptical about the healing powers of oregano oil, and I used to be with you. But, no longer. Now, I'm totally convinced that if you rub diluted oregano oil on your feet every four hours while suffering from symptoms, those symptoms will be shorter lived and less severe. 

My family doesn't quite believe me, but they don't protest all that much when I ask them to take off their socks. I think we all know deep down that if you do the oregano thing, you won't become as sick as you might have. There are scientific reasons, but do we really care? I mean, in case you do, it's because oregano is high in phenols or something, which are anti-bacterial. It also has thymol and anti-oxidants. 

But, regardless of all of that, you can actually get a little roller bottle of diluted oregano oil at your local co-op for less than ten dollars, which is better than missing work and feeling awful.

Oregano oil to the feet! I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Always Be Prepared

On Tuesday morning, I took Mac to the orthodontist's office. This is where we all smile politely at each other, the staff inflicts pain on my children, and I pay eleven-thousand dollars for them to do it.

Despite the nature of our relationship with the orthodontist, Mac and I were pretty content in the waiting room, just playing a game on my phone called Yazy. It's Yahtzee without the copyright, and I was winning.

Anyway, a kid came out of the torture chamber and tapped his dad, sitting across from us, on the shoulder.

"All done?" said the dad.

"Yep," said the kid. He grimaced a little bit, teeth flashing metal.

The dad stood up and something clattered to the floor. Neither he nor the kid noticed.

"Sir," I said, without looking, "you've dropped something." I stood up to grab it for him, planning to hand it up. But when I lunged toward it, I realized it was a huge knife.

A long, sharp knife! Like a hunting knife!

I paused.

"Oh," said the dad, and then realizing, "oh, geez!" He grabbed the knife and collapsed it and shoved it back into his pocket. I looked at his shoes. He didn't thank me for pointing out that he'd dropped a dangerous weapon in the lobby of the orthodontist's office.

I glanced over at him a few more times as we walked back toward the work stations. He seemed both sheepish and angry, like I might report to the over-friendly receptionist that he was packing. I didn't tattle, but I thought about it. Doesn't the orthodontist's office ban weapons? Why would that guy need the very sharp knife? Perhaps he was planning on negotiating a new payment plan?

It's not that I don't understand the impulse. But, violence is never the way.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A (Short!) Break in My Characteristic Sunny Optimism.

Forget the new project for a moment, I'm in agony here over the old one.

Before I tell about the agony, I just want to say that regardless of whatever happens, I already did the thing I've always wanted to do. Which is, I wrote a book. I've got a whole story. And, if I feel like it, I can leave the whole thing there. Done and check. Bucket-list item totally kicked.

It helped me the other day to remind myself of this reality. "I actually finished this, and I don't have to do anything with it ever again to make that more true."

But, of course, that's not me. I'll revise it and perfect it and take more feeback and get it as close to 100% right and perfect as it can be. Nothing's ever just finished. I both like and despise this enduring personal quality.

But anyway, I'm starting to understand why some writers refuse to let anyone they know IRL get eyes on their manuscripts. I've had some readers - my freelance editor and my critique group, and then some friends and family.

Here's what's happening: Everyone has different ideas about how to make it better. There's no consensus in the existing feedback from people who've read it front to back. Other people haven't finished it, and I just want to say: "Ok, you don't like it. That's awkard, but it's fine. Just stop reading, and let's move forward. Maybe my next book will be better!"

I sometimes do say this, and the friend is like, "Oh no, no! I like it! I mean, you did it! You wrote a book! I'm sorry, I'm totally going to finish it!" And that just makes me feel worse. Like forcing their way through the pages is a chore they have to complete out of loyalty to me. It's like the slow clap you might muster for the last-place finisher in a fun run. The ol', "Isn't is wonderful that she's out here?"

To be honest, I just want to cry a little. Put the book down. Go back to playing violin at a 7th-grade level. Remember my hobby before was playing violin? Although, at this point, it would take me a year or so to catch back up to the 7th-graders. It'd be me and the 4th graders in group lessons, and that might feel worse than being a mediocre wannabe novelist.

At least - at least! - I'm pretty good at my day job. We've always got middle school teaching to fall back on.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Writerly Wednesday: New Project Jitters



Well, I'm in an awkward stage with my own writing. I've "finished" my book. I'm calling it DETENTION these days, and "finished" really just means that I'm waiting for feedback and inspiration on how to change it for the zillionth time. I've have done some finagling in the first chapter in the last couple of weeks, and I think I'm finally moving in the right direction with those critical first pages. 

Of course, I sent the first draft of that new chapter to my sister and my mom before I'd really polished it. My sister said it was "choppy," and my mom wrote back with an entirely different idea for the opening. They were both right, so I tried it again. 

I'm pretty sure it's better now, but really, it could also be that I'm making the whole thing worse. No one actually knows at this point.

So, anyway, in times of limbo, it seems the only real thing to do let the first chapter in DETENTION rest and begin a new project. Everyone says this is the way to go. While you're waiting for critiques or querying agents or, if all goes well with those first two steps, out on submission to editors, you should write a new story.

Lucky for me, I have a new idea. I think I'm ready to outline it. Remember what I said about not retro-fitting a villain this time? I'm serious about that. The outline is coming first. I'm going to re-listen to a fabulous podcast called How Story Works and make sure Alice (remember Alice from #novelsnip? She's coming back, but she's becoming funny) hits all the marks. I think this'll make the whole process smoother - the drafting, the work with a developmental editor, the exchanging with the critique group, the copious revisions after all of that.

Maybe I can shrink the process from just over two years to just under? I'm excited to see.



Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Suffering in Silence

You might not have realized that I've been really working on my coping skills these last few weeks. It's been hard, and I've been soldiering on with very little sympathy.

Here's the story: two (TWO) of my closest pals at work have been out on leave. Robin has been gone for nine weeks already. First, she was waiting for her baby to be born, and now she's taking care of said baby. You know Robin and I actually teach a class together. We're co-teachers. So, now she's not here, and I'm still here. Plus, she's funny and nice, and she's my friend.

And not only that, Chadd, my neighbor down the hall and frequent hallway duty companion, also had a baby and went on paternity leave. He was gone for six (SIX) whole weeks. No hallway jokes, no talking about our novels in progress, no stealing each other's door stops and tape dispensers. Once again, he was gone, and I was still here.

Here's the deal, I totally support family leave. In fact, I wish we had more paid time available for workers to take care of their babies.

But (BUT) what about my loneliness and isolation?

Overall, I'm pretty proud of how I've handled this. I haven't even cried one time. However, today when Chadd came waltzing back into the building, I felt very happy. Fulfilled. Like things were once again right.

There might have been a group hug. They'll be an even bigger one when Robin gets back in two weeks. All together.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Status Update

What's happening now is I'm trying to write a synopsis of the novel. It's a 500-word description of everything that happens, focusing on the seven anchor scenes or the Hero's Journey or whatever.

Let me just say that next time I try to write a novel (I hope I'm going to do it again), I'll write this dastardly little document first. There will be one main character (not two, like I have now), and that main character will zip through her story, hitting every blasted one of these seven anchor scenes. It will be completely satisfying, and the whole thing will work.

There will be high stakes that I plot ahead of time. I won't find myself, for instance, standing in the gym with a colleague during recess duty trying to identify the villain after I've already written a hundred pages.

Because retro-fitting that villain was hard.

Writing the synopsis is also hard, okay?
The little paragraphs are dis-jointy.
It feels like I should have two different synopses.
I found another template that I think would work better for multiple characters.
Maybe I should start the synopsis over?
The doubt is creeping in while I write, like, one sentence per hour.
But doubtLESS, I'll have to re-write that one sentence a million times.

Luckily, this situation led me to the comfort of my blog. Maybe the blog will revive now that the novel is mostly done? That would please me. I hope that's what happens.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Best of 2017: Audio


This is it for book lists of 2017! The other book lists from this year and previous years are HERE. I listened to 14 audiobooks this year, fewer than I typically hear. I think the reason for that is my increasing interest in podcasts. In any case, I'm picking three audiobooks that shine in that format. Here they are in alphabetical order by author.


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, narrated by Dominic Hoffman.
This is a collection of interconnected stories beginning with two half-sisters in 18th-century Ghana, unknown to one another and with vastly different fates. Each story moves a generation ahead from the boarding of the slave ships on the Gold Coast to present-day America. It's a hugely ambitious exploration of the legacy of slavery and perceptions of blackness. I'll be thinking about this for a long, long time. And, I'm amazed that the author was 26 years old. I'm having a few qualms about recommending the audiobook because it is hard to track the characters through these stories; however, I did like Hoffman's matter-of-fact delivery and the richness of his voice. There's a family tree on Wikipedia that would solve the character problem.


Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, read by the author.
These are engaging and sobering stories of The Daily Show host's growing up in South Africa during and after apartheid. Topics range from petty larceny to church-going to Noah's complicated relationship with his white father. Noah's mother becomes the throughline here, with the book beginning and ending with tributes to her strength.  I always love a book read by the author, and Noah's narration is excellent - funny, heartfelt, and brisk. It's also helpful to hear the stories, as so many words appear in various languages of South Africa - Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans - all of which he speaks. 




The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney, narrated by Mia Barron
Several of my friends have told me they didn't like this book, but I found it to be rather addicting. I had to know what happened to each of the characters, minor and major, as soon as possible. I'm really curious about how Sweeney put this together. There's so much backstory and "telling," but still the plot really moves. All loose ends resolved at the end in surprising ways. Barron's narration felt non-judgemental and curious in its own right. 

Here are the other audiobooks I listened to this year:
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, narrated by Scott Brick. An excellent choice for a family road trip.
  • A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan, narrated by Julia Whelan. This was on my list of favorite fiction this year, and Julia Whelan has narrated several books I've enjoyed.
  • I Found You by Lisa Jewell, narrated by Helen Duff. I loved this mystery, but there was something off about the recording. Read it on paper.
  • Admission by Jean Hanff Korelitz, narrated by Colleen Werthmann. I like the premise, but it's just too long.
  • Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall. I had to listen on 1.5 speed to get through it. There's just too much going on.
  • The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty, narrated by Heather Wilds. I love listening to Moriarty's books. This one centers on a quirky family, their secrets, and finding personal peace.
  • Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel, narrated by Carly Robins. A delightful story about a young woman's accidental foray into private school admissions. Funny, poignant, filled with (sadly) realistic portrayals of top-tier parents.
  • Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, narrated by Julia Whelan. I loved this Sliding Doors-style dual love story in which we're left to ponder whether life is "meant to be" or "what we make it."
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, narrated by Bahni Turpin. On my favorite YA list. A really impressive novel of activism and coming-of-age.
  • The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware, narrated by Imogen Church. A total trip. The audio kept me sublimely entertained while I painted my son's bedroom.
  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin, narrated by Karen White. The narration enhances the humor, especially of Rachel, one of four protagonists.
And that's it for book lists of 2017! I'm planning another post about my reading goals for 2018. I've got them, that's for sure!





Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Best of 2017: Nonfiction


I read 16 works of nonfiction this year. I'm pretty picky about nonfiction, so they were all pretty darn good. I do have five favorites, listed here in alphabetical order.


Back and Forth: Using an Editor's Mindset to Improve Student Writing by Lee Heffernan
I usually don't include professional texts for teachers in my list, but this year I can't help it because this book is a fave for sure. It's a book about how to position yourself as a teacher in writer's workshop for maximum engagement, revision, success, and pride in writing. Along the way, there are relatable tips for forging an excellent classroom community and a sense of authenticity. I love this book. If you're a literacy educator at any level, you will too.


You'll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein
Hilarious and on-the-nose essays from the writer and producer of The Amy Schumer Show. Topics range from the questionable fashion choices of middle school to the curious phenomenon of never feeling quite good enough. I felt like Klein was my pal, just another 40-something (Okay, I'm ALMOST 40) who wants to both do their best and also be cool.




What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
I loved this funny, charming, and true meditation on running and writing. Murakami captures how I feel about these two pursuits and also about most of the other things I do: it's a mix of compulsion and curiosity. There's always the next thing, and it's both a pleasure and responsibility to carry on. Shef read this one, too, and he also liked it.



Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
This is a collection of deeply affecting poetry, so yes, I'm cheating in the genre department. Rankine writes short poems depicting everyday moments in the speaker's life as a black woman. The aggression she bears piles up and each page feels heavier. Longer poems had my white jaw dropping, but they shouldn't have. I should be more aware and active.



Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
I loved this examination of habits - formation, motivation, keeping, breaking, catching, encouraging, enjoying. The conversational style appealed to me, and I also learned a lot about myself. Most stunning and obvious: not everyone is like me. In fact, most people aren't.

And here are the other ten titles! Need a different book list? HERE you go!


  • Blind Spot: The Hidden Biases of Good People - by Mahzarin Benaji and Anthony Greenwald
  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher - Carrie Fisher's fast, funny memoir about living a crazy life while trying her best. 
  • On Your Mark: Challenging the Conventions of Grading and Reporting by Thomas Guskey - It turns out I'm not doing everything right when it comes to assigning grades. Lots to think about.
  • Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham - A middle-grade graphic novel about girl friendships.
  • Running with the Buffaloes by Chris Lear - I loved this inside look at a successful college running team, its iconic coach, and a deserving national champ.
  • Whereas by Layli Long Soldier - Long Soldier morphs clauses of treaties and conveys through wordplay, syntax, and metaphor her own experiences of displacement.
  • The Journey of Crazy Horse: A Lakota History by Joseph Marshall This is a wonderful compilation of stories and collective memories about the Oglala Lakota leader and legend.
  • Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall - I liked parts of this book quite a lot, but overall, there was just too much going on.
  • Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton - Sometimes, I felt annoyed because it seemed manipulative, and sometimes I cried because I found it so honest and moving.
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah - Engaging and sobering stories of The Daily Show Host's growing up in South Africa during and after apartheid.
  • The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin - I tore through this detailed guide to her Four Tendencies framework - a study of how people respond to expectations.