Thursday, April 26, 2018

Introducing the Appalachian Literacy Initiative

First let me tell you a story.

Ten years ago I was asked to do a week of school visits in a town near mine, in upper east Tennessee. I was not so much in demand for school visits in those days, and my fee for the week was about what my daily fee is now. Even still, one school asked if I could do a half-day instead, because they very much wanted me to come but couldn't afford the whole day. We messed around with the schedule and I agreed to do two half-days at schools close enough where this was feasible, though the one who'd asked for the half-day in the first place was pretty far out into the country, in a neighboring county. Rural Appalachia. I hate the stereotypes but some of them are rooted in truth.

For this school I dealt with the principal, which was odd--I usually deal primarily with the librarian. Come to find out, this school, grades preK-8, didn't have a trained librarian. They had a part-time teacher's aid with a high-school education who sat in the library three mornings a week, put on a video, and glowered at kids who tried to check out books, because then she'd have to reshelve them, and that was work. I am not kidding.

The library itself was half of the space behind what had once been a theater on the side of the gym, blocked off with plywood. When you climbed the steps to the former stage the first thing you saw was a Pepsi machine. To get to the library you had to walk past the Pepsi machine and through the teacher's lounge. Ancient, dusty books were crammed willy-nilly into ancient, leaning shelves. It felt like despair.

The principal was new and dynamic and trying desperately to change things. She'd gotten a local hardware store to sponsor my half-day visit. When I looked at her proposed schedule I'd realized she hadn't set aside time for booksigning. I suggested adding some. She said, "Oh, honey, these kids aren't going to buy any books."

I took a deep breath. I said that I would arrive with a box of books under the condition that they be given out to the students entirely at random. No books-only-for-good-kids. She agreed.

The kids went nuts. They acted like those books, which were mostly remaindered copies of some of my old titles, were solid gold. One girl ran with hers to the principal's office and put it there for safekeeping, until the end of the day.

The principal, shame-faced, showed me their library. I was horrified. That night I said, "Something has to be done."

My husband said, "It's not your job."

I said, "I know it's not, but it looks like I'm the only one prepared to do it."

So I did. That was my first book project. My son and his best friend earned all the service hours needed for their confirmations that summer by taking boxes of books I weeded from those shelves and carting them to the dumpster behind the school. I solicited donations. I bought new books. I wrapped them in protective covers and categorized them and rearranged the whole damn library and got rid of the Pepsi machine. There were science books and creative nonfiction and easy readers and a lovely selection of middle grade novels. I was so proud of that space when we were done.

I don't know if it made much difference. The principal was thrilled. The teachers, when they returned to school, were astonished.

The school is closed now--budget cuts a couple of years back.

I can still see that library as it was--they had a book on the shelves from the 1950s explaining, "Why We Have Different Races." They had all those old, outdated, racist "Childhood of Early Americans" biographies. They had books about accepting Jesus as your Savior. (I'm all for Jesus, but not on the bookshelves of a public school.)

These were the only books those kids had. There wasn't a public library within 20 miles. There wasn't a bookstore within 30. Every single child in that school was poor. No one was buying new books on

I could drive through Appalachia today and find a hundred schools just like that one. I was shocked ten years ago; I wouldn't be now. If you're reading this I hope you read the guest post I put up on Tuesday, by Donalyn Miller, about why access to books is so crucial to children. If you didn't read it, please go back and read it now.

On Tuesday we held the first board meeting of a new nonprofit I'm directing. It's called Appalachian Literacy Initiative. We're partnering with Parnassus Bookstore to give low-income schoolchildren in Appalachia the chance to pick out several brand-new high-quality books a year. We're incorporated in the state of Tennessee, and, now that we've had our first board meeting, are ready to apply for nonprofit status. When we receive that it will be backdated to the date we incorporated, March 13, 2018, so donations will be tax-deductible. If you feel so moved, contact me. For now I've put up a gofundme page for initial donations, though we'll mostly be fundraising through different venues.

Thanks for reading. These striking teachers? They really do have something to strike about. Decent educations are a moral imperative. So is access to decent books.

Monday, April 23, 2018

It's Not Complicated: a guess post by Donalyn Miller from Nerdy Book Club


I have been blogging, writing, and talking about children’s independent reading lives for over ten years—starting with my first Ask the Mentor column for Education Week Teacher in 2007. I am not the first or the last educator to take on this topic. Scores of literacy leaders, like Daniel FaderRudine Sims-BishopStephen KrashenTeri LesesneAlfred TatumRichard AllingtonLaura RobbNancie Atwell, and many more have been fighting for the reading lives of young people their entire careers—long before I came along. The work will continue long after me—led by folks like Pernille RippCornelius MinorKimberly ParkerSara Ahmed, and Tricia Ebarvia.

Literacy still matters, but the literacy opportunities we provide children have to change. We have to change. The children cannot wait while we figure it out. I know more about the conditions that engage (or fail to engage) children with reading today than I did in 2007. I will continue to evolve in my understanding as I go forward. I don’t have all of the answers, but I am a seeker. Teachers must remain students of our profession for our whole careers. We hold on to what we know as long as it serves kids, and not one minute longer. Our two greatest skills remain kid-watching and reflective practice. Who are my students? What do my students show me they know and need? What have I tried that worked? What have I tried that didn’t? What am I going to do about it?

Here’s one thing I know for certain changes reading for kids.

Everybody knows. We (as a society) just don’t care enough.

It’s all about access.

Access to books increases children’s future prospects and has a significant influence on the level of education they will attaintheir productivitytheir health, and their quality of life. Buy the books and give them to the kids. It’s not complicated. Why are we making this so hard? It’s frustrating. It’s defeating at times. In one of the richest countries on Earth, we cannot provide all of our children with the books they need. Before you protest about how much it will cost, figure out the cost of not doing it and get back to me. We can provide all of the books children need for summer reading for less than $200 a child (Allington and McGill-Franzen, 2013). The cost to Society for failing to graduate students with strong literacy skills and an orientation towards reading cannot be fully quantified. As author Jennifer Nielsen asked in a recent speech, “Do we understand the societal implications of failing to help kids find the magic of reading? Reading fosters empathy for others.”

I know getting books into kids’ hands isn’t flashy or ground breaking. It’s not new. We’ve been talking about it forever. Unfortunately, we have never successfully provided consistent book access to all children. While we scramble to implement one-to-one laptop programs, we never figured out how to get a paperback into every kid’s hand. Ensuring that all of our children have access to books 365 days a year may not get you in the local paper or earn you superintendent of the year, but it is one act that communicates you care about what kids really need to succeed personally and academically.

Ask yourself:

Who has book access in your community and who doesn’t?

What role does differential book access play in perpetuating systemic, discriminatory educational and social structures?

Who does it benefit to deny meaningful literacy opportunities to some children and not others?

Many of our children live in book deserts without meaningful, consistent access to books at school or home. Children in urban and rural communities—disproportionally children from historically marginalized groups—suffer the worst. They don’t have consistent, quality access to books at school or home, and the gap between the haves and the have-nots widens every day.

A child from a middle income home may have as many as ten access points in their lives where they can find a NEW book to read, including classroom and school libraries, public libraries, brick and mortar bookstores, Amazon one-click ordering, book fairs and subscription services. Children who do not have these resources may have only one or two places they can find a book to read— predominately their school and public libraries. This means that the book access we offer children in school and public library collections must be as varied, relevant, current, and engaging as possible. For many children, this is the only book access in their lives and it has to count.

We also have to consider barriers that prevent all children from access to the books they need and want to read. For many of the children we serve, there are tangible obstacles preventing equitable book access.

Some actions that will increase book access for all children (a starter list):

Determine the factors that might prevent families from using the public library. For many families, access to the public library isn’t “free.” Barriers such as limited services, residency requirements, or location can hinder equitable access. Is your library closed some nights or weekend days? What identification does your library system require to get a library card? What fees and dues are charged? Where is the library located? How hard is it to reach on foot or by public transportation?

Re-evaluate your school and community library fine programs. Last year, the New York Public Library system discovered that blocking check out privileges for patrons who owed $15 or more in fines prevented 20% of NYC children who had library cards from checking out any books. President of the New York Public Library, Anthony W. Marx, knows that poor children lose their book access more often under such policies, “No one is suggesting that people — including children — should not be held responsible for bringing books back. People talk about the moral hazard. But there’s also a moral hazard in teaching poor kids that they will lose privileges to read, and that kids who can afford fines will not.” As a result of these findings, the New York Public Library system announced a fine forgiveness reset for all children under the age of 18 who owed library fines.

Advocate for librarians. Access to librarians increases children’s test scores, closes the achievement gap, and improves writing skills (Lance, 2012). If your librarian is also a technology support specialist or course instructor, they need clerical help to focus more time on reading advisory and less time on paperwork. School Library Journal recently provided these suggestions for fighting library cuts and advocating for librarians. Find more information supporting the effectiveness of school librarians by accessing Scholastic’s School Libraries Work! research brief.

Develop summer reading programs that increase access and book ownership. The best school-based summer reading programs that exist physically put books into the hands of children before they leave for the summer. Book donation initiatives and long-term checkouts from school and classroom libraries guarantee that all children have access to books for summer reading. According to Allington and McGill-Franzen’s research, “…providing self-selected books for summer reading produced as much or more reading growth as attending summer school! For the poorest children the effect of our summer book distribution was twice as large as attending summer school (2013).” Don’t assume that subscribing all students to online databases and computer-based reading programs provides every child access to texts over the summer. Not all children have wi-fi or access to a computer or device at home.

Get rid of reading incentive programs that demotivate children from reading long term or develop internal motivation to read. The research is ubiquitous—incentivizing reading has long-term negative effects on fostering children’s internal motivation to read. I recommend reading and discussing No More Reading for Junk: Best Practices for Motivating Readers by Barbara A. Marinak and Linda Gambrell (Heinemann, 2016) and Alfie Kohn’s Punished by Rewards for more information about the negative consequences of reading incentive programs. Furthermore, summer reading programs that demand children log pages and minutes do little to motivate readers and don’t provide any evidence that reading with comprehension really took place.

Purchase and donate new books whenever possible. Every child should own at least a few new books. When children’s book access is limited to other people’s cast-offs, it is unlikely they are receiving current, nourishing, quality reading material. Book ownership is a powerful factor in the development of positive reading identities. Additionally, when we buy new books, we support the artists who write and illustrate for young people. Blog posts, reviews, and tweets are great, but book sales ensure artists can keep making art. If you read a book in ARC (advanced reading copy) format and you like it enough to recommend it, buy the final book. Review copies are marketing tools to build advance buzz and interest in the book. If we want more books written by authors we love, we need to buy their books. This is particularly important for authors and illustrators from historically marginalized groups, who have already overcome discriminatory obstacles to become published in the first place and may not get a second chance if sales aren’t good enough.

Provide young people access and encouragement to read any text they want in any format they can.There’s abundant research on the benefits and appeal of audiobooks, e-books, graphic novels, serial fiction, picture books, poetry, or any format you can imagine. As a teacher who taught students with a wide range of reading experiences, abilities, interests, and development, I celebrate any format that fosters reading engagement and reading growth. It’s not a competition or hierarchy. The best books for kids are the books they can and will read.

Dedicate your time and resources toward literacy initiatives that put books in kids’ hands—especially kids from marginalized communities. Here are a few literacy organizations and initiatives that I recommend. This is by no means a comprehensive list. Please add the organizations you support in the comments, so we can all learn about them and support them, too.

Evaluate whose voices are missing in your school and classroom libraries. I see article after article bemoaning the poor reading performance of boys and children of color and listing perceived deficits in children and their families as the root cause. What books are young people reading in school? Do all children have the opportunity to see themselves and their families reflected in books? Whose “canon” is valued? Children deserve positive, affirming portrayals of all of their experiences—not just stories of oppression and suffering that perpetuate stereotypes. Lee and Low has a created a list of steps to creating a diverse book collection—a vital evaluation and development process.

I am just getting started, but this post is already 1800 words long, and I have said enough for now. I know that many of you are working every day to increase children’s meaningful, consistent book access. What ideas and resources do you have to share? What obstacles and issues do we need to add to the conversation? Please leave your suggestions in the comments. I look forward to learning from all of you.

Donalyn Miller has taught fourth, fifth, and sixth grade English and Social Studies in Northeast Texas. She is the author of two books about encouraging students to read, The Book Whisperer(Jossey-Bass, 2009) and Reading in the Wild (Jossey-Bass, 2013). Donalyn co-hosts the monthly Twitter chat, #titletalk (with Nerdy Book Club co-founder, Colby Sharp). Donalyn launched the annual Twitter summer and holiday reading initiative, #bookaday. You can find her on Twitter at @donalynbooks or under a pile of books somewhere, happily reading.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On the Bright Side

Today's going to be a crappy day.

I mean that. I'm starting my prep this afternoon for the colonoscopy I'm having tomorrow afternoon. It's a routine screening procedure, so nothing to worry about, except the misery of making sure every inch of my intestines is squeaky-clean for the camera.

I'm in a bit of a funk this morning, despite all the myriad blessings in my life. I was in a funk part of yesterday, too--the 104th day of January, sleet bashing against my office window while I wrestled with my novel manuscript and mostly it kicked my--well. I stuck with it, because writers are people who stick with writing, and also because my publisher seems serious about the deadline, but I would like to point out that at no time yesterday did I feel the slightest flicker of inspiration. Nada. And yet in the end, by sticking it out, I came up with a respectable number of pages that aren't half bad.

I don't do page or word goals, by the way. I'd rather end up with 20 brilliant words at the end of a long day than 1000 crummy ones. But that's just me. All authors work differently.

Anyway, between more time on an airplane (flew up to Chicago to visit my son last weekend, weather was crummy there too but my son oh so lovely, had a great time) and lots of hours in my desk chair, my hips were hurting last night. (I sit cross-legged at my desk. It's not great posture for my hips but I've been doing it forever and am really uncomfortable any other way.) I was half-asleep in bed when I suddenly asked my husband, "You know how my hips are hurting?"

"mmm," he said.

I said, "Do you think there's any chance it's cancer?"

He woke up a bit more. "Kim," he said, "That's your IT band. It's been hurting for twenty years, and if it was cancer you'd have died a long time ago."

That cheered me right up, and I went to sleep.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Goy On The Bus

Catriella, the PJ Library employee who was in charge of the Author Israel Experience, asked all of us lottery winners participants to write a reflection after the trip. I sent her links to my previous blog posts about Israel, but I didn't consider them my Official Reflection, because, primarily, I hadn't had enough time to reflect. I dropped back into my normal life short of sleep and saturated with new experiences, and there were broken fence boards and a horse missing a shoe and another pretending to limp (he's the drama queen) and laundry and school visits to prepare for and oh yeah a book under deadline.

I've been interested in my friends' reactions both before and after my trip. Mack, who's worked on my farm for the past 20 years, usually gets worried every time I travel abroad. He warns me of terrorists in Scotland, in Austria, in Italy. My trip to Egypt five years ago rendered him nearly speechless, and now, with increasing troubles of his own, I figured he was not going to take the idea of Israel well. I expected a whole lot of you-shouldn't-go-there and mideastern-terrorists from him.

"Miss Kim," he said instead, a few days before I left, "I need you to promise me somethin.' When you get to that Wall, will you say a prayer for me?"

I did. I wrote my prayer out on paper I ripped from my journal, and I took a photo of it, and then took a photo of it stuffed into a crevice in the temple wall. When I got home Mack asked, "Did you remember?" and I showed him the photos.

For me the Wall will ever be first its foundations, as we saw them from the ancient tunnel by which we approached it. It will be sitting in the shade while our guide Jonty explained the architecture, the vanished archway, the rubble and broken pavement left over from the temple's destruction two thousand years ago. It will be watching women pray with their foreheads against the wall and tears streaming down their faces. It will be a small group of friends walking backward away from the wall, slowly, because we wanted to be in solidarity with the women who cried.

Yesterday at Mass word had gotten out about my trip. Several people brought up "The Holy Land," and one person said, "You walked where He walked!" Jesus, sure. Standing at the Temple, or looking out at the Mount of Olives, it's impossible for me not to think of Him. But I was on the trip in search of what it meant to have a Jewish identity, not to explore my own Christianity. I left the Via Dolorosa for another time.

(The bus is trundling down a modern highway, through not-quite-desert, lots of sand and bluffs. Gail, sitting next to me, calls out, "Jonty, what's this on the side of the road?" It's a little domed church, mosque-like but with a cross on top, and a parking lot and a few trees. "Ah," Jonty says. "That's the place where Jesus was baptized." Oh, okay. No big deal.)

I was one of only two non-Jewish writers, and I think--I may be wrong--the only practicing Christian. This came out when we introduced ourselves the first night, Right from that moment my fellow writers were kind to me. They welcomed my questions. They explained traditions. Several times, different people would come up to me and ask how I was doing. Was I learning what I felt I needed to know? How did I feel about whatever activity we'd just done? Was it awkward for me? Was I okay?

The second night we had a drum circle on the beach near the Dead Sea. A man taught us all to play the drums, then led everyone else in singing a few songs. Everyone else because they were Jewish songs, in Hebrew, and I didn't know a single syllable. On the walk back to our rooms people asked, Did I feel out of place? Was it uncomfortable for me?

No, it wasn't. Because of them--because of how they welcomed me. I came to understand how songs were important in Israeli life. I could feel how the kibbutzim used to gather and sing in the evenings. I could feel the traditions--not just religious, but cultural--behind the songs. The other writers' honesty and openness made the whole trip like that for me--easy, eye-opening. I wasn't Jewish, but I belonged.

That is, until Yad Vashem. Only three of us went there, skipping a culinary tour of Jerusalem's enormous marketplace. I love markets, but I thought I needed to see Yad Vashem. Then Stacia decided to go because she thought I shouldn't have to see Yad Vashem alone, and Gail decided it might help her book, too.

I knew it wouldn't be easy. It shouldn't be easy, it ought to be dreadful. But I'd been to the U.S. Holocaust museum, and I'd seen Schindler's List and old newsreels from the liberation of the death camps. I'd seen the awful images before. What I wasn't prepared for was the beginning, the history of Antisemitism and how thoroughly it was entangled in and propagated by the Catholic church. I knew the history--but I'd never seen the vile medieval artwork before.

And then, Poland. My mother's side of the family is all Polish. They came to the United States in the early 1900s, in the wave of Polish immigration fueled by a famine in that country. My Polish side was also my Catholic side, and when I was 11 a Polish cardinal became pope, and I would have said that historically Poland was pretty much always entirely Catholic, and I would have been wrong. Poland had over 3 million Jews before WWII--about 10% of its population. And three million died in the Holocaust. German Jews had much higher rates of survival than Polish Jews. Nearly everywhere else had higher rates of survival than Polish Jews.

So suddenly this felt very personal to me. My people, my heritage, were not the good guys here. It was hard to absorb.

I also learned some very specific information that fixes the plot problem I had on a book I'm working on in my head. I laid it out to Gail and Stacia in the cab ride back to the rest of the book, and to the cabbie, too, who joined in our discussion with gusto. I would end up unable to sleep much of that night, bothered by nightmares, but when we rejoined the rest of our group, outside the marketplace, they surrounded us with tenderness and love. Were we okay? Yad Vashem is so hard. Had we eaten? Were we hungry? Here, have some food. Here, walk with us. We're going to a bakery.

The very next day we would see the Dead Sea Scrolls, up close, not behind glass, and someone would read a line from one of them, and nearly everyone would start to sing.

This is what I learned in Israel: we are all different. We are all the same. And words can last forever.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Night Flight from Tel Aviv

It's Wednesday, and I'm headed to Missouri. School visits in Chillicothe, where I spent a delightful two days several years ago--it's the second time I've been invited back to a school I visited before.  My intensive travel year is nearly over--I've got a week of visits in May, and then it's all fun and games until September.

If you're at all interested in having me visit in 2018-2019, please contact me now. I sincerely doubt I'll be squeezing anything else into October, mid-November through the end of January are booked for my husband's surgical recovery, and spring is filling up really really fast. Plus it's still marginally possible that I'll have a new book out next spring--I should know for sure in a few months--and if that happens I won't accept new visits until the launch details are worked out.

So. Last night I dreamed of airports--no surprise--and Israel. I want to tell you about my flight home, and a boy named Yoshe (that's not his name; I don't use the real names of minors in my blog. But it could have been).

To understand my night you first have to understand the day. It was our last day in Israel. We woke early in Jerusalem, ate a good breakfast (how I loved Israel breakfast buffets! a multitude of offerings I'd never eaten before. Sashushka! Berochis! (I have no idea how to spell that) Persimmions! Potato Kugel! Gefilte fish! every day I'd take a serving of whatever I couldn't identify, take it back to my table, and ask my friends what exactly I was eating. Someone always knew.), staggered onto the bus, and drove to Tel Aviv. It's not far, maybe an hour. Unlike most of the places in Israel, which pre-date Christ, Tel Aviv didn't even exist until 1909, not in any form. It feels like a very modern city, nothing at all like Jerusalem.

First we visited the house where David Ben-Gurion, founder of the State of Israel and its first prime minister, lived. He had the best personal library I've ever seen; I think we all felt a longing for it. Then we went to an adjoining conference space and had some reflection on the trip as a whole. Then we went to Independence Hall, the former Tel Aviv art museum where Israel declared its independence in 1948. Then we were turned loose on the city for nearly two hours. Mara Rockliff and I went through the Tel Aviv market--I'd missed the tour of the Jerusalem market by opting for Yad Vashem. We ate some sort of lovely flatbreads at an outdoor stand, bought spices and halva, and I had my first ever Turkish Delight. As Mara warned, I was deeply disappointed. This was why Edward sold out Narnia? I think less of him now.

The market ended near the beach. We walked along it, searching in vain for somewhere without steep rocks, so we could wet our feet, and more successfully for a public restroom. Then back on the bus to another part of town, where we had a graffiti tour, which is exactly like what it sounds--a tour of graffiti on the buildings. By now it was getting darkish. We had our farewell dinner, highlighted by a talk given by one of Israel's leading modern writers, whose name I entirely forget, though I liked him.

Then it was 8:30 at night. The first flight out--the one that went to New York, not California--left at 11:10, and given the size of the plane and the scope of Israeli security we were actually leaving it a bit late, but we all made it. I was in seat 45J--that's the 45th row back, actually the ninth seat over, the aisle seat of a group of three against the far side of the plane. The window seat was occupied by a very nice woman from Boca who had been visiting family in Israel. The middle seat was occupied by Yoshe.

He was, he told us, eleven years old. He was slender, slight for his age, an ultra-Orthodox Jew whose long forelocks were pulled back and tucked securely into the edges of his kippa. He was fluent in both English and Hebrew and I have no idea where he was actually born, or lived; he was part of a family so numerous that the very small children were seated with the parents and Yoshe nowhere near them.

He delighted being alone. He delighted in the screen on the seatback in front of him, which showed whatever movies or cartoons or video games he wanted. He delighted in the dinner they served him. He was audibly pleased when the flight attendants announced that while the only meals they would be serving were dinner right after takeoff and breakfast immediately before landing, anyone who felt hungry during the 12 hour flight could go to the middle galley and pick up whatever snacks and drinks they liked.

I was worn out from the day and the trip. I was full from dinner. As soon as we took off I made myself comfortable, glasses and shoes off, wrist guards on, neck pillow in place and a light scarf thrown over my head. My superpower is sleeping on air planes and on this one I needed no medical assistance. I was whacked.

I'd barely shut my eyes when Yoshe tapped me gently. "Sorry-sorry," he whispered. He needed to get out, and he was too small to clamber over me without banging into me.

I removed my scarf, moved my legs sideways, and said, "I'm going to be sleeping this entire flight. Anytime you need to get out, wake me up. It's okay. I won't be angry." It was only fair. He grinned.

He went off, to the bathroom I presume, then returned via the middle galley carrying a can of Coke. I went back to sleep. He turned on his overhead light (the only overhead light on in the plane, a small puddle of light, not enough to disturb me), put his headphones in, and started watching movies.

When he finished the Coke, he whispered, "sorry, sorry," pushed himself past me, went to the bathroom, and returned via the middle galley carrying another Coke.

And another. And some pretzels. Half a dozen bags. And some Sprite, for a little change, and then back to Coke again. At one point when I woke to use the toilet myself he handed me two empty cans to throw away. Then it was his turn to get up. "Sorry, sorry."

His second or third movie, Despicable Me, cracked him up entirely. He giggled and giggled. I'd been perfectly happy moving six or seven times so he could pee and refuel, but this was too much. I raised my scarf. "Quieter," I said.

"Sorry, sorry." He reached to adjust the volume on the movie.

I said, "No. YOU."

"Ah." A big grin. "Sorry, sorry."

He was quieter. He kept drinking soda. He never once slept, not for one single blessed moment, whereas I, despite everything, slept for 10 hours. With interruptions every eight ounces or so.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Things Change

I've got 20 minutes to write and post something before I have to leave for yoga; I have to leave early because my yoga studio moved and I don't know exactly how long it will take me to get there. (Previously, it was exactly 10 minutes away--so my aim was always to leave at 8:10 for the 8:30 class knowing that I usually run a few minutes late. Today I'm leaving at 8. Or so I tell myself.) I'm tetchy about the studio moving. The old studio was for me an extremely safe space, a place of total security and comfort, and it messed me up for two weeks when they painted the walls a different color. So I expect to be out of sorts at yoga today.

I want to write more about Israel but I'm not sure I can. Something awful happened to one of our group late last week--unexpected and thoroughly horribly awful--but it's not my story and I won't say more, except that I had come to feel quite connected to all the people on the trip and now we're connected by sorrow and concern for our friend. So that's hard.

Yesterday was Easter. It was the first Easter Mass I celebrated at home for something like 13 years. Once the children hit school age their spring breaks always started with Good Friday, and we love to travel--I've heard Easter Mass at the Duomo, at Notre Dame in Paris, at St. Mark's in Venice and in a cinderblock church in a very remote part of Costa Rica. Yesterday we had a nice Mass at home, and later I made nachos. My son went to church with friends in Chicago and then had brunch out. My daughter went to church with friends in Philadelphia and then went on an unsuccessful trip to find Peeps, because they heard that if you stuck toothpicks in the Peeps and then put a pair of them in the microwave the Peeps appeared to be fencing. Unfortunately the stores were fresh out of Peeps. The Penn fencers must have got there first.

I want to say something profound, about loss and resurrection, perhaps, or the universality of love and grief, but really I've got nothing this morning. A cup of coffee. Yoga in a new studio. A trip to the grocery, a horse getting a shoe back on. Novel-writing. Laundry. One usual blessed day. Perhaps. It's early.