Is the sun shining? Yes ma’am, it sure is…

Yes, this started as a culinary, mom and daughter blog… but at the moment, I am using this as a life journey blog with culinary sprinkled in. As cooking and my daughters are a HUGE part of my life.

I had never seen myself as a writer or reader. I know, I know, find the right book and then you’re a reader. There is truth to that. In life, we spend time doing things that we value or give us some benefit.  Reading was never an escape for me as a kid. I definitely could have used ways to escape life, but reading was not what I chose.  As an adult, work, family and other responsibilities got in my way.  Some people choose to exercise as an escape. I had no such strategies.

Today, my kids are older, 17 and 14. There’s a lot more time on my hands and less reasons to find escape routes. But now, I find time to read. Reading to gain clarity about the world around me. Reading to be enlightened about my spiritual journey and reading to become a better educator, mom, wife, daughter, human being.  So, because I am not a reader, I choose carefully. I choose books that I know I will finish. Even when I lose my concentration, I convince myself to finish. This past summer, I read.

The first book I picked up again,  after a couple of years was Hacking Leadership by Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo. I began my journey into (learning about) educational leadership a year ago. No books prepares you for all the nuances of a job. No book prepared me for teaching, I just had to do it. However, books give us language to pull from. This book also was simple, simple language and clean organization. It doesn’t need to be filled with educational jargon to be educationally sound. I like the practical advice and the overwhelming emphasis on PEOPLE and RELATIONSHIPS. It will be a book I go back to, often.

Then I read, On Your Mark by Thomas Guskey. In a recent educational leadership course, I met Jonah Schenker. He was debonair and dashing but most importantly, really full of heart. He is one of the leaders at Ulster BOCES and was Principal of PTECH. The way he described his work, his students, made me want to work with him. He guided us to Thomas Guskey’s work on assessment and grading. My 20 years of teaching has brought to  place of true introspection and making good choices that affect all my students positively. Guskey asks us to look at grades and the value of them. Educators give grades as “feedback” to increase student achievement. But do grades do that at all? Education is a big institution as are governments and religions. It’s hard to break down years of systemic practices.  But with one teacher at a time, change can occur. Guskey asks us to reflect on our practice and then act on it.

Launch, by Juiliani and Spencer allowed me to think about design thinking in my science classroom and has me planning some cool project ideas for my high school science classes next year.  LAUNCH is an acronym for the process and provides practical ways to boost creativity.

The One thing is a book I had to read for a class but stuck with me. We are ALL pulled in so many directions. Let’s focus on ONE THING at a time so that is done well. It allows you to be present and engaged in whatever it is that you are doing. It was liberating in many ways.

The last two books were books that had nothing to do with “work”. It had to with the most important work though…WORK on ourselves. I chose these books because working on yourself from the inside is so important. Doing work on ourselves from the inside allows us to shine brighter on the outside. IMG_5479

I bought the audiobook, From Tears to triumph by Marianne Williamson. I came across Marianne by watching Super Soul Sunday on the OWN network by Oprah Winfrey. Oprah, as I am sure for many has led me to people and places that have only allowed me to live my fuller more authentic life. Listening this book narrated by Marianne, gave me strength beyond belief. She beautifully weaves and connects the threads of the major religions together. She helps us understand the religions but more so the purpose of our own lives and understand God on a very deep intimate level. Marianne is frank, honest and extremely vulnerable in this book. Marianne who is deeply affected by the book, A course in miracles ( another book I have that I intend to read) helps us navigate his journey on Earth by getting in touch with our highest selves and shedding our ego.  Ego being the most dangerous thing on this Earth. This book is a must read…a must listen!

Finally, I read The sun does shine   and that too, because of Oprah. I taught forensics for several years and always felt uncomfortable by teaching it. The percentage of error and the number of wrongful incarcerations was too much for me to bear and then to teach it to be a science.  I stopped teaching Forensic science for a year now and that alone has been freeing. But I picked up this book because of the message of hope that it conveyed. This book will anger you at the injustices and lack of empathy and compassion in our justice system. But it will also ignite a sense of justice and compassion in you that you never experienced. Bryan Stevenson, a stellar human being whose life’s work is to free the innocent. Stevenson’s organization, Equal Justice Initiative furthers his work. This book speaks about Stevenson’s good work but mostly speaks of Hinton’s time on death row. It speaks of a friendship that all humans deserve to have. To have that experience and to survive to write about it alone is no small feat and is a testament to Anthony Ray Hinton’s spirit. However, he exposes his humanity as he writes about his days of despair and hope and the ups and downs, reminding us that we are human too. No matter how spiritual we think we are or how Godly we are, we can lose hope. But you must pull yourself back up out of that despair.

“You can’t threaten to kill someone everyday year after year and not harm them, not traumatize them, not break them in ways that are really profound.”- Bryan Stevenson. Statistically, 1 out of 10 humans on death row are innocent. Hinton spent 30 years on death row for a crime he never committed. He listened to and watched 54 people walk to get executed, mere feet from his cell. But, he remained hopeful.  Read it, and experience hope like you never did before.

So what did this book and Anthony Ray Hinton teach me? There is ALWAYS hope. There are angels that come to rescue you,  but you must look for them, ask for them, and ALWAYS persevere until…

 

 

 

 

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16071 Sunsets later…

IMG_3235October 18 marked 44 revolutions around the Sun for me. It’s been such a ride. This past week,  2 of my favorite people in the world who also happen to be my colleagues were discussing, just this with me. Life is such a journey, ups, downs, twists and turns. It’s hard work. That whole stupid saying, ” You won’t work a day in your life, if you love the work you do.” BS! It’s still work, hard work, but you still love it. Marriage, life, kids, jobs…it’s still work. I love what I do, but it’s still work. I love my family, but it’s still work. I love cooking but it’s still work. When we use sayings like that, it gets people feeling like they are not following their true purpose in life. Following one’s purpose REQUIRES WORK.

16071 sunrises and sunsets later, maybe 15000 sunsets later, I realize what my highest calling is. To JUST BE KIND AND COMPASSIONATE. If I do that in all that I do, then anything I do seems fulfilling. Showing a vulnerable side of myself to my students has helped me become a better teacher. Showing that side to my own children and husband has helped me become a better mother and wife.

How does one get to this point? I don’t know. We all have heard that life is a journey. It truly is. When you become your authentic self, the right people are gravitated towards you, allowing you to flourish in your authenticity. It’s hard to say what comes first, the right person coming into your life allowing you to radiate in your uniqueness or your uniqueness attracting the right people into your life. Chicken or the egg debate still remains.

Finding the right friend who appreciates your truth and allows you to bask in that truth, be it ugly or pretty is what it took me to find  and BE my true self.  Having the right people that surround you allowing  you to take risks that test your true potential. Starting this blog with my daughter felt like a challenge. Professional risks I am taking are because of the friends that  expand my thinking about myself and my reality.  I am grateful for these sunrises and sunsets that  allow me to know that I can always start a new tomorrow and tomorrow the sun will rise yet again. Thanks for sharing this journey with me.