Monday Booktalks

I am happy to say that today I am starting book talks in 8th grade reading classes. Some of the books are housed in school library and the others are from my personal collection. I started with books  and authors that I love. Also, several authors have many books to their name.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is an author that everyone needs to know. This book was recommended to me first by my son. I have read quite a bit of Gaiman’s work and love every word.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

This is the soccer version of Crossover which is about basketball. This book is told through prose and is unusual. Great for reluctant readers who can be turned off by too many words on a page.

Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by: Jordan Sonnenblick

I read this book a couple years ago because of a recommendation from a friend who lives in Tennessee. It is a great story that pulls on the heartstrings about family and siblings. Plus the title is irresistible.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

There is only one copy of The Graveyard Book in the library and I wanted another class to be exposed to Neil Gaiman’s work.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg
A nonfiction selection about how people died. Always an interesting topic especially for middle schoolers.
Dark Matter by: Blake Crouch
I loved this book. It is science fiction, a thriller, and a love story all in one. This title was particularly popular. There is a waiting list for it now!
Ready Player One by: Ernest Cline
My students who love gaming will love this book. There are 80’s references in the story line so the students were warned. I am not sure if that will hinder their enjoyment.
I Kill The Mockingbird by Paul Acampora
This book is a young Hoosier nominee. It is a book about books which I love.
Nothing But the Truth by AVI
I met AVI a couple of years ago at the Indiana Reading Association conference. This book is about a student refusing to be silent during the star spangled banner.
The Westing Game Ellen Raskin
This is an older title and wonderful. There are lots of characters so I warned the kids before reading it. This title is full of adventure, mystery, and money!
a Snicker of Magic Natalie Lloyd
I love this book ! When it first came out I told everyone I could about it. I bought extra copies and gave them to other teachers.
Reception to the titles was positive. All of the books were checked out from each class so soon I hope to get some feedback from the kids and have more recommendations for them next week.
Happy Reading!

Brains and the Rule of Three

Brainpickings  is one of my favorite websites and newsletter. I subscribe and enjoy the weekly articles which I have found it to contain some of the most intelligent and interesting content on the web. It is a great source to link to other worthwhile reading.

I find my way to my new obsessions in curious ways sometimes. Let me explain how this sequence of new obsession occurred:

  1. While listening to Tsh’s podcast this week she quoted Parker Palmer, an author I had never heard of before. I enjoyed the quote and made sure to check the shownotes to copy it down correctly.
  2. While I was searching for something else I also found a blogpost from Modern Mrs Darcy about Palmer’s books.
  3. This blogpost led me to the articles on Brainpickings about Palmer.


When a topic or a name pops up in front of me 3 times or more I figure I am supposed to pay attention. It seems that Palmer’s writing is exactly what I need right now. The quote that Tsh shared (#4 below) is a thought that is much more eloquently expressed in Palmer’s words then it has been in my own head. It is however what I have been contemplating and reflecting on all this week.

Palmer’s book is requested at the public library ( I am trying to cut down on the book buying…will let you know how THAT goes…) and I am looking forward to growing as  a person as I read his work.

Here are some ideas I have gleaned so far:

  1. I need to honor my shadow and my light. I also need to honor these characteristics in others.
  2. Wholeness is the goal – not perfection.
  3. I need to exercise my heart with joy and pains. Self protection all the time does not lead to an interesting life.
  4. “Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you.”

Happy Reading!

Sharing My Reading Life

As an educator, whether I am working with students that are 5 years old or 50 years old I have learned that new learning is new learning. The reaction is always the same. There is frustration and sometimes choice words and then there is the breakthrough. When teaching new material is your profession you also learn something yourself about how to be a trustworthy facilitator. Which is why I have the personal mantra, “I will never ask you to do anything that I am not willing to do or have already done.” I don’t believe in busy work for students. It is a waste of time and creative energy for everyone.

I believe that books find people. If someone doesn’t like to read they just haven’t found the right book. It thrills me when I can find that book for someone. My dream list of jobs surrounding books is vast. One of these dream jobs is Bibliotherapist. Powerful words to someone are, “I saw this book and thought of you.”

When I was a TAP Master Teacher it was my responsibility to conduct weekly professional development for my teachers based on school and teacher needs. One of the goals was always increasing reading skills of our students. One of the best ways to get students to read is to have great books available and lots of them. There is an element of sharing in this reading life I have found that carries an enthusiasm which is contagious. A teacher needs to share their own reading life with their students to show them it is important . Also providing time to read for students and teaching them to make their own choices in reading materials.

During my weekly presentations, I started to include a slide of what I was reading that week. I wanted my teachers to share their reading life with their students so of course I needed to do the same. I often would be reading a fiction, a non-fiction, and an education book. Ishared why I was reading those books, where I had heard of them, and why I thought they would make me a better learner. There was accountability on my part to get the reading done for the week because I knew that slide was coming the following Thursday! These books opened up conversations with my teachers in a professional capacity and on a more personal level. People started to recommend titles to me based on what they saw me reading.

The students would come to my office and request books all the time. I had more books than the whole school. The charter school I was working for had built the program without a library. If you want kids to read they need books. As Kelly Gallagher says, (I am paraphrasing here) teaching kids to read with no books is like teaching kids to swim without a pool. I was happy to lend them all books and talk about what books they would like.

I almost always have a book with me, usually more than one. If you ask me about it, and sometimes without prompting, I will talk to you about it. If I see you reading a book that I loved I will talk to you about it too. You have been warned.

I pay attention to what other people are reading. In my job now I will often walk through the cafeteria and see what books the students are reading. If I have read it I will ask a question. If it looks interesting I will ask a question about whether they enjoy it and why. Even if I am not talking to all the students at that lunch table they are all listening to the conversation. I have one 7th grader that is my “book buddy” at the moment. She recommends books to me and I recommend them back. We talk about books all the time. It is our book club of 2 at the moment!

I post what I am reading on my office door. This is much the same idea of the slide in the presentation. Just when I think no one notices I will get a question or a comment.

I talk about books ALL THE TIME. If I heard a great book podcast I will share with others around me. I want to stay informed about what is good and interesting because you just never know when you need a good book.

I have many books displayed as well. You cannot help but notice them as they overrun my office.

Reading enriches and inspires me to think differently about the world. I hope that my enthusiasm will help someone else find something extraordinary they will love too. The extra bonus is I might get a recommendation out of it too!

Happy Reading!


Christmas Break Reading

Christmas break started on Wednesday, December 21st for me this year. There was a flurry of list items to prepare for Christmas . My husband and I hosted Christmas Day this year so several middle of the night cooking sessions ended up on the list! In between visits and cooking and eating I have found quite a bit of time for reading some great books. Also, the KINDLE deals have been amazing. Lots of books that are on the TBR list, award winners, and titles that are frequently talked about on the podcasts I listen to weekly. My sapience accumulates from my life of reading and won’t stop until I die.

I abandoned A Tree Grows in Brooklyn for the moment. It apparently isn’t the right time for me to read it. I will come back to it eventually I believe.

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi

This book is strange in a great way. It is strange in the same way that THE HIKE was for me. Not quite as bananapants (I am borrowing Liberty’s word here…) as the Hike but weird enough to be interesting. Basically, it is about the relationship between Mr. Fox, his wife Daphne and his muse Mary. Apparently it is based on a fairy tale that I am not familiar with from my reading about the book. It almost reads like short stories with a common thread but I didn’t feel it was that strong that the individual chapters could stand on their own.

Notes from A Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World by Tsh Oxenreider

This book was great. Short chapters full of a lot of great things to think about. Tsh and her family have lived overseas. I listen to her podcast every week and it is wonderful.

News of the World Paulette Jiles

A book club pick for January brought me to this book. I reserved a copy from the library, it came in,  and I finished it in one day. The story between the captain and Johanna is heartwarming. some of the historic pieces I honestly did not find as interesting as I feel I should have. I was reading along and wanted to mark some sentences to come back to them but couldn’t stop reading. The ending was surprising to me.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore Robin Sloan

I heard about this book a long time ago and I believe I downloaded it free as a promotion from an Independent bookstore site. I remember it appearing on my kindle “accidently”. I had heard great reviews about the book, but had not picked it up for some reason. (H is for Hawk is another one of the books in that category.)

This book was AMAZING! I read it in a day also. It was magical and full of secret societies and secret reading rooms and just fun! There were modern elements with Google and ideas about how we process information and how we limit ourselves and the groups we are to not be open to new ideas.

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This was a BOTM pick from August I believe. I chose it because Liberty was the judge and on the ALL THE BOOKS Book Riot podcast she said she flew through it. I did read it in about a day because I did want to know what happened. The people in this book were really despicable for multiple reasons. In The Nest I thought the characters were despicable too , but found the characters more developed and interesting. The writing was ok in TCND. The story was ok. I cannot think of anyone within my reading circles that I would specifically recommend it to however.

It is now January 2, 2017 and I have to return to work tomorrow. I am in the middle of READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline. It is a book I find interesting especially with all the 80’s references, but it is not going to end up on my favorites list.

Overall, I am pleased with my reading life over the holiday break and am looking forward to great books and reading in 2017!


Welcome 2017!

After attending an ISRA (Indiana State Reading Association) conference a couple years ago, I discovered the idea of choosing one word for the year. I have been choosing a word for the year ever since. Last year’s word was INTENTION. Everything I did I tried to do on purpose. Last year I struggled with finding the right word. SAVOR was another choice that I almost went with but intention kept being placed in front of me.

After much consideration I chose 2017’s word: INSPIRE. The co-word is CREATE. The plan is to inspire through my creations. I have some goals and some steps to achieve them.

I encourage you to choose a word for the year. Write it down and carry it in your wallet. Put it on a Post-it note on your mirror in the bathroom or somewhere at work for you to see. Let it be a reminder of your wishes for the year.




I have been working on my manifesto for a long while now. I even read a book about it last year called The Motivation Manifesto by: Brendan Burchard. It is a “living document” as a former boss used to call paperwork which has the expectation for constant updates. The one in my notebook is prettier with each section drawn in its own block.

  • Reading is the gateway.
  • Coffee is necessary.
  • Think fast. Talk slow.
  • Love over fear.
  • Trust your first instinct.
  • Laugh.
  • Radiate love.
  • Keep only what you love ( people and objects)
  • You can only bitch so long – do something or shut up.
  • Question relentlessly.
  • Be grateful.
  • You don’t have to explain yourself.
  • Read about the people you want to emulate.
  • Don’t ask of other what you are unwilling to do or haven’t already done.
  • Be the light.
  • W.A.I.T (Why Am I Talking??)
  • Inspire.
  • Live fierce. Study deeply.
  • Find your tribe.
  • Intention.
  • If all else fails…READ!



What I Always Recommend

Today is a snow day! Well, really it is a frigid windchill day, but I will take it!

There are a few “go-to” books which I constantly recommend to people who ask for a title. In person I cannot help but gush about some of these authors and their amazing works. It will not be as animated as you read this post!

The Night Circus by: Erin Morgenstern

This book is magical and I discovered it from Modern Mrs. Darcy and her blog. I read it quickly. It is one I would like to reread because the language was beautiful. I also would like to create a dinner party in the spirit of the ones in the book. I originally checked it out from the library, but recently purchased my own copy. There will be many annotations made during the second reading.

The Alchemist Paulo Coehlo

This book came into my life when I most needed it. Reading it was life changing for my attitude and perception. There are many underlying ideas that strike me in this text.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

I am a sucker for a book with time travel. Many lives are lived in this book by Ursula who comes back again and again changing the events of her life. In one version, she even shoots Hitler!

The Light of the World: A Memoir by: Elizabeth Alexander

A memoir with recipes! What could be better? I fell into this book and enjoyed reading it. Originally chosen for a book club read. The group was never able to get together to discuss it however. I still hope we can someday. I have the notes on my Kindle copy.

How to Live a Good Life: Soulful Stories, Surprising Science, and Practical Wisdom by: Jonathon Fields

This is the first book I have ever pre-ordered. I was obsessed with it coming out and it has not disappointed me. It is set within the confines of 3 buckets that lead to a good life according to the author. Each section of the book has a chapter that talks about a specific activity to fill your buckets. There was a lot of cross over for me from other ideas I have read about.

Gentleman in Moscow by: Amor Towles

This book I anticipated coming out with great fever! It was a Book of the Month Selection and I enjoyed the language, the stories, and the characters. A Count is confined to a hotel for his punishment and builds a life that many would be envious of. Delightful!

The One in a Million Boy by Monica Woods

This book is about  a little boy who dies and how through the memories of others his father truly learns who his son was. There are times where reading about the boy made me think of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory. It is a book about relationships, love, and moving forward even when we don’t want to. A must read!

I just finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and was not disappointed in this National Book Award winner. It is worth reading.Do not be scared away by the idea that it is “heavy”.

I started Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi and like it so far. I am also in the middle of Tsh Oxenreider’s book Notes from A Blue Bike on the Kindle. She has a great podcast to tune into with a recent new format.

Until next time… Happy Reading!



What I Read Recently

There are so many great books that have come out this fall that I am having a hard time keeping up. There are so many to read in fact I keep starting books and get impatient and then start another one!

Books I have recently read, loved and recommend:

The Mothers By Brit Bennett

A great book that was available as a Book of the Month selection. I kept hearing about it on book podcasts I listen to and was able to snag it from the library. Great story and interesting characters.

The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood

Recommended to me by my school librarian I flew through this book. There are a few sections that I questioned why the author chose to lead the story in that direction but very enjoyable. It is about a book club which is in my wheelhouse. Also a book that connects food to the books in the book is a wonderful bonus!

The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein

I have read several of Gabby’s books. They are very spiritual but relevant to my life. Her books seem to come into my life when I most need them. I actually first heard about her on Oprah but it took me a while to pick up one of her books. She shares a lot of personal experiences and connects how to change your thinking for the positive.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Another Book of the Month selection was a delight to read. It was recommended by a loved podcast and trusted blogger Anne Bogel. The characters are lovable. There are funny parts, parts that are whimsical, and some that are sad. Very well written in addition to the other reasons I love this book.




Toast Poem

Overpriced toast your mom didn’t make you

Don’t care if its artisan rustic bread with special small batch butter

Cinnamon toast made by Oma

Hot chocolate – creamy with skin I didn’t like

Coffee now with my toast

No coconut or grapefruit juice

What world do we live in where toast is a comfort food we want someone else to make us?


Perfect mix of white sugar and Korinjie cinnamon

mixed with a metal spoon

sprinkled on the melted butter

tip the toast

sprinkles dusting the plate

lick my fingers and get all the remnants

This Is 40.

I attended the International Reading Conference in New Orleans and heard Kelly Gallagher speak where he mentioned a writing assignment that inspired me to come home and craft my own version. This piece was originally written in March of 2016,  but has been edited and revised several times.


March 7, 2016

This is 40.

Forty is the time that I feel I am old enough to be who I am. Forty is the time I feel that I have earned the right with the amount of time I have been on this Earth to truly show who I am as person, no matter what role I am in. I do not need to apologize for my knowledge and my constant quest for it. I have been teaching for 19 years and do not have to be told I am an old soul. I have been in education long enough to know what I know…and to know who to go to when I do not. I have mentors in my life for professional and personal development.


This is my 40.


I am small enough in physical size that I can wear children’s sized clothes, although I usually do not. I do not advertise this fact, but people ask me. I am petite. I prefer to wear dresses and high heels. I run at least 40 miles a week, but am still insecure about my body and how it looks. There is never a time that I am thin enough. I practice and teach yoga.


I am at the age that I answer a request with NO and no longer feel the need to explain myself.

I am confident in who I am and what I know, but am wise enough that I am not afraid to admit something I do not know and am willing to learn.

I know who I am and I do not need other peoples’ approval.

I often get carded when I try to order a beer….still. Everytime I go to the casino I get pulled into the line to get carded too.

I require and want  less material objects,  but always need more books. There is little distinction between the need for books for me,my family, or for my students.

I alway carry cash.

I have been in situations where I have made choices I did not think I would make.

I have been given ultimatums and regretted the hurried situations and decision I made. I learn from my experiences and am reflective as much as possible. I have dealt with new experiences and procedures and I never wanted to know how they worked. I am the person I am today because of these decisions and experiences.

I made a big life decision that most would not have had the courage to do and have been told as much. I analyzed my situation; was not happy, and decided to change it.

This is 40.

I know who my friends are…and who are not.

I am at the age that I dress for the job I have, because I have the job I want.

I am more likely to sit and hold my tongue, rather than react. Think fast, speak slow and carefully is my new motto.

Even though I am comfortable with who I am, 40 seems the wrong number to me.

I have vivid memories that I relive constantly.

The perception of what is most important to me has been a paradigm shift.

I drop educational researchers names like I know them.

My laugh is so loud I have been yelled at by a troubled man on a public train. I have been found in Chicago’s McCormick place just by the distinctness of my laugh.

People who know my resume and talk to me are most often thrown by the tattoos I have.

This is 40. This is me. NOW.

Others have  perceptions of me are that I don’t sleep.

They think I live and breathe my job.

They think I always have my nose in a book. (Which is true…my nose is in 3 at one time.)

They think I run all the time.

They are shocked when the things they find out about me surprise them immensely and suddenly. The words uttered are :“I didn’t know that about you” I once heard that phrase 5 times on a cab ride to the airport.

This is 40. This is me. I will not apologize for it.