Books! Books! Books!

So many books! Why? Because literacy is everything. Think I’m exaggerating? Nope. Wait ’til you see the statistics. Oh, and also, because bookstores require A LOT of books.

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Jane seems to have inherited my book nerdiness.

I’ve had this crazy love affair with books since I was a kid. I like being around them, holding them, scouring the back cover for my next adventure. I get sucked in by real outstanding cover art. And, yeah, I’ll totally pass on a book with a lackluster cover. Because I want the whole experience. I want to catch a glimpse of the book laying on the table and not be able to resist picking it up—just for a minute—just to read a page or two.

I’ve been lucky with reading. It came easily to me, and right away I was able to find books I adored, ones where I saw myself in the characters. They made me dream bigger than my suburban reality. They made me want to know more, be more, do more. I had constant accrsss to books. I had books that were given to me, books I bought at the Scholastic Book Fair with quarters scraped together from my allowance, and a precariously leaning pile of books I’d dragged home from the library.

Not all kids are as lucky. 

Representation is still a big hurdle in literature, although publishers—especially publishers of children’s books—are making a concerted effort to include more diverse protagonists (children of color, protagonists from various ethnicities, differently abled children, LGBTQ protagonists).  But for those books to make a difference, children have to be able to access them. The need to appear in abundance on booksellers shelves, in Little Free Libraries across the land, in traditional and school libraries, and in used bookstores.

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And books, all kinds of books, need to make there way into the homes of kids. And not based along class lines. ALL kids. All kids need to have a go-to library of books they love that they can read over and over again. Why? Check out the findings of a study done by the Australian National University: “Growing up with few books in the home resulted in below average literacy levels. Being surrounded by 80 books boosted the levels to average, and literacy continued to improve until libraries reached about 350 books, at which point the literacy rates leveled off.” 

80 books. Kids need 80 books in their homes, in order to achieve average literacy levels. And what happens to kids who don’t reach average literacy levels? 2/3 of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. So, yeah, I was lucky. But it shouldn’t come down to luck.

As I was checking out of Value Village today with an entire cart of books, the rad young man boxing the books up for me said, “Man. You REALLY like books.” I laughed. As he loaded them into the box, he kept pausing at the kids’ titles: “Hey! I read the Boxcar Children when I was in school. I loved those books.” After he’d done this multiple times, he said, “Does your kid like to read?” I affirmed that she is pretty hyped about books right now. “Good” he nodded. “Tell her to keep it up. Reading is important.” Indeed.

“I’m thinking of opening a bookstore,” I blurted in his general direction. He gave the box of books a bit of side-eye. “Okay, okay. I’m guess I’m a little more committed to the idea than just ‘thinking about it.’”

“It’s a good idea,” he said. “Get people things to read.”

Yep. That’s it right there: I want to get people things to read. Books they are passionate about. If people believe they don’t like to read, maybe it’s just that no one has ever put a book in their hands that opened up some part of the world for them. A book that exploded their imagination. A book that spoke to them. And that’s crucial because reading makes us see outside our own small worlds. Makes us more empathetic. Reading just flat out makes us better. 

Everyone should have access to books. In their home. Books they can afford. Books of their very own. 

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That’s my dream: to open up a used book store that has something that will spark (or reignite) a love of reading in every single customer that walks through the door. I believe it’s possible. 

Besides. what else am I going to do with all these books?!

Be part of the building of the dream: What is the very first book you’d look for if you walked into a used bookstore?

Want to know more about literacy? Check out these resources:

We Need Diverse Books

Empowered Readers

Reading is Fundamental

A Quick Recap

Rocket Fuel got its start as the offshoot of Rocket Designs (a recovery brand that Simon & I launched together). Originally, all my posts looped back to recovery (as everything in my life does). But, I started to feel a little stifled by being tied to a theme…

Rocket Fuel got its start as the offshoot of Rocket Designs (a recovery brand that Simon & I launched together). Originally, all my posts looped back to recovery (as everything in my life does). But, I started to feel a little stifled by being tied to a theme…

At the same time, Simon and I got pulled in different directions (by things like his transition, a move to Atlanta, a near break-up). We decided to continue selling recovery shirts online, but not to further develop the brand. Which left Rocket Fuel hanging around in cyberspace on it’s own.

And soon, I started to wonder if the name really fit what was happening on the blog. And what I want to happen in the future. What do I want to do more of? Well, I’ve dabbled in fiction. (I’ve got a whole middle grades book written… but not published. Remind me to work on that). I love to read (and I’d like to talk about what I’m reading a bit more…) And I want to do a lot more critical thinking and writing about what’s happening in Atlanta (and in the world at large).

What won’t change? Well, me being me. Which means a whole hell of a lot of honesty. And some cussing. And lots of pictures of my kid. And post about running and recovery and coffee and spirituality and parenthood and LIFE.

But the name. Y’all. The name of the blog has got to change.

Moving On Up (or, really, just east a bit)

5 Helpful Tips for Moving (from someone who apparently thinks she needs to move every 2 years or so, even though she’s got a hoarder(ish) kid and a messy as hell dog. Ahem.)

I’ve dropped hints. I’ve insinuated. But now, I’ll come right out and say it: We’re moving. Again.

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Apparently, this is a thing we like to do every few years. You know, to keep things fresh. And to test the limits of my sanity.

We’re not leaving Atlanta. (My love for Atlanta is welldocumented. Like, real well.) We’re just moving about 2 miles down the road–from Grant Park to East Atlanta. (Moving just down the street from our current home is also something we really like to do. In Florida, we moved a quarter mile down the road once.) But, look, what I’ve come to understand is that place matters. And, sometimes, you’ve just got to make a move to a place that really fits who you are.

Since I’ve unwittingly become a seasoned mover, I’ve created this handy 5 Step Guide to Surviving a Move:

  1. Give everything away. I mean, keep your family members. And your dog (if you have one. But for God’s sake, don’t go out and get a dog. They’re hella messy.) But seriously, if you haven’t used it in a year, toss it. It’s messing up your chi (or something). Living in clutter is not living your best life. And, if you can put it in storage (or in the garage or basement or attic… wherever) for months or years, do you need it? Let me answer that for you: no, you do not.
  2. Bribe your kid to get rid of stuff. Look, I don’t usually support this kind of behavior, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Kids are like little, tiny hoarders. They develop sentimental attachment to broken pencils and scraps of paper. Ship your kid off to a friend’s house, throw away anything that might escape their attention while they’re gone, then bribe them to get rid of stuff you’re sure they’ll notice if you pitch. I’m talking cash money here, people. Pay up and get that stuff out of your house.
  3. Mentally prepare yourself to face the dirt. Unless you are a self-avowed compulsive cleaner, you have no idea how dirty your house is. If you did, you wouldn’t be able to live there. Dirt is lurking everywhere. Put on your adulting panties, throw soap & water in a bucket and start scrubbing. “Getting ready to show the house” is a whole separate category of clean, like next-level clean. Usually, my family lives in “clean enough.” And I’ve got no trouble admitting it. But now, my baseboards sparkle. For real. Will it be like this after we move? Hell, no. It’s too much work. But for now, we’ve got sparkle…
  4. Label boxes clearly. This is going to be super-important when your kid is freaking out because they can’t find their Piximonkuncle Kerflauflehead. You aren’t even going to know what that IS, much less where you put it. Especially if your kid had so much junk in their room that you filled up 5 full-size moving boxes with just their stuff. (No, I’m not bitter. Not at all) And, no, labeling boxes “Random Shit from Jane’s Room” isn’t going to help. Especially if your kid isn’t even named Jane.
  5. Pray for serenity. You’re going to need it. giphy

Oakland Cemetery Run

This morning dawned dreary and cool(ish) after last night’s rains. What better time to take a run through one of Atlanta’s most famous cemeteries than on a cloudy Monday morning? Right. No better time. So, off I went.

This morning dawned dreary and cool(ish) after last night’s rains. What better time to take a run through one of Atlanta’s most famous cemeteries than on a cloudy Monday morning? Right. No better time. So, off I went.

The best thing (the VERY best thing) about running in the summer is feeling free to do whatever I want during a run. No pressure. It’s hot as all hell outside, so taking it slower & just staying in the moment becomes a survival technique. And it’s also a technique that lets me take a lot of pictures on my running adventures.

Here’s Oakland Cemetery in Grant Park, Atlanta, in all it’s summertime glory:

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Beautiful. And peaceful. Such a chill way to start my Monday.

I’m grateful I live in Atlanta. Every day, I’m grateful.

 

5 Things I’ve Learned Today

If you go on & on about how hot Florida is, Georgia’s gonna get all jealous and show off. It’s okay to change plans. Seven year olds are non-truth tellers. Everyone needs to own their part. Today is always a good day for a do-over.

  1. If you go on & on about how hot Florida is, Georgia’s gonna get all jealous and show off. That’s why today it was 87 degrees by 10:30 a.m. And why, on a 5K run, I thought I might simply evaporate into thin air. Or spontaneously combust. Which one is more likely under oppressive heat that sucks all the oxygen out of the air? Either way, hot as actual hell. Sorry, Georgia. You are hot, too. The whole South is hot. So there.

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    Wait! Am I actually in hell?! No, no… that’s just the Atlanta Zoo parking lot. Whew!
  2. It’s okay to change plans. Like if, say, you’d planned on taking a nice jaunt through the cemetery on your run. But then you realize that the cemetery doesn’t have much shade to speak of. Then you might just decided that–unless you want to make the cemetery your permanent home–you should run through the park, where shade abounds and you’re likely to be hot and tired but ALIVE at the end of your run. Maybe, if something like that happened, it’d be okay to change plans.

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    Ah, shade: so beautiful… and life sustaining. 
  3. Seven year olds are non-truth tellers. I discovered this 3 days ago, when I started excavating Jane’s room. Normally, she frowns upon me touching her stuff. But she’s vacationing in Florida right now… which meant I got to venture in to her room and discover that it was DIRTY. Like, real, real dirty. Holy shit. She was supposed to be straightening, dusting, and sweeping her room every week. But, I guess I was also supposed to be checking that she done that oh for, say, the past year. Oops.

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    Jane in Florida with her aunt & her cousin. Shhh… don’t tell her I touched her stuff.
  4. Everyone needs to own their part when shit goes wrong. I know Jane tried to clean her room. There’s just too much STUFF in there for her to clean anything. I let her accumulate all that stuff. Then I didn’t check if she was really cleaning–because I’m overwhelmed by the stuff. I was lazy and wanted to avoid a hard conversation about hanging on to and collecting things …. and I paid for it for the last 3 days.

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    Me, after cleaning Jane’s room.
  5. Today is always a good day for a do-over. I tell Jane we can start our day over any time (thanks A.A. for that little nugget). So, I’m calling a do-over on cleanliness and orderliness. Whatever I’ve been teaching Jane about either one of those so far is a load of horseshit. No one needs as much stuff as she has. And cleanliness is next to godliness–or something like that. I just know that if I ever go into her room again and it’s that dirty, all she’s going to get for the next gift-giving-holiday is a Wet Swiffer and some dust cloths. And maybe a hutch to keep the dust bunnies in.
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    The clean version. For a before shot, imagine if a tornado swept through here. A very dirty tornado.

     

 

 

 

Header Image by Franck V. on Unsplash

#SummerRunning

I’ve been exploring Kirkwood, Edgewood, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, and a little bit of Decatur. It’s Georgia hot out there, which means that by the time I start running at 9 a.m., it’s already 80 some-odd degrees. That frees me up to not worry about my time and just enjoy the run. And I have! Like, for real. 

I’m really FEELING running right now. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes I trudge through a run because I know I’ll feel better later (running is a central part of my mental health maintenance routine). But, for the past few weeks, I’ve woken up excited about each new running adventure.

I blame this guy:

I mean, come on! Adventure! Fun! And he always seems so genuinely thrilled to be running. So, I got kinda thrilled, too.

I’ve been exploring Kirkwood, Edgewood, Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown, and a little bit of Decatur. It’s Georgia hot out there, which means that by the time I start running at 9 a.m., it’s already 80 some-odd degrees. That frees me up to not worry about my time and just enjoy the run. And I have! Like, for real.

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My 4 big takeaways over the last few weeks:

  1. Things are rarely what they seem. The hill that looms so large… once I start climbing it, doesn’t seem so bad. The air that feels cooler because of the cloud cover is going to produce inescapable sticky-hot humidity that will ultimately slow me down. I’ve stopped trying to anticipate the future–even the next few minutes–and just go with what is.
  2. There’s an adventure waiting–but you have to look for it. I found a forest in Kirkwood! And a completely shaded, lovely trail… that’d I’d been by a million times but simply never turned the corner to explore it.
  3. It’s easier to enjoy the moment with no agenda. There’s a time & a place for plans (and training). But just being… taking things as they are, walking when I need to, stopping to take pictures makes running so much more exciting and enjoyable. No expectations. It’s really lovely.
  4. Make time for what matters. I rarely feel so enamored with running. So I don’t often devote this much time to it. But, lately, it helps me feel grounded, connected to myself. Making the time to do this for myself makes me a better mother, partner, writer.

Running… it’s how I’ve spent my summer so far. What’s your summer been about?

Notes from Field Day

When I was a kid, Field Day was my day of triumph. I got to shock people every year with the fact that I could RUN. I was fast. I guess I didn’t look particularly athletic. And, to be honest, my parents didn’t really push sports. And coming home dirty from school was frowned upon. So, yeah, rough & tumble wasn’t really my game. Which made it even more fun to kick ass every year in the field day race.

Yesterday was Field Day at Jane’s elementary School. Obviously, I found this wildly exciting:

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But come on… FIELD DAY! What could possibly be more fun?!?

When I was a kid, Field Day was my day of triumph. I got to shock people every year with the fact that I could RUN. I was fast. I guess I didn’t look particularly athletic. And, to be honest, my parents didn’t really push sports. And coming home dirty from school was frowned upon. So, yeah, rough & tumble wasn’t really my game. Which made it even more fun to kick ass every year in the field day race. (To be fair, I usually wasn’t first. I typically placed a solid second–which was just ass-kickey enough to suit my taste.)

Imagine my complete confusion yesterday when some kids didn’t want to participate in Field Day. WHAT?

Look, I know all kids are different. I know that some kids really don’t dig outdoor stuff. And there were definitely those kids. But I got the nagging feeling that, for some of the kids, something else was at play.

It didn’t come together for me until last night, when I attended a Social Emotional Learning training at Jane’s school. We were discussing the roll of community meetings in SEL–that’s when the kids get together each morning to greet each other and sometimes to share a bit about what’s going on in their worlds. Greeting each other by name is important, the instructor noted, because some children rarely hear their names associated with something positive.

Ooof.

Even a kid like Jane hears things all the time like “JANE! Pick up your clothes off the floor.” “JANE! Did you take the dog out?!” “JANE! We HAVE TO GO. Hurry UP.” And Jane comes from a non-financially-stressed, co-parenting household with one parent who doesn’t work full-time (and another who does). So, basically, on paper Jane’s got a good thing going over here and often her name is used to fuss/redirect/scold. What’s it like for other kids?

Flash back to field day: Jane’s teacher is hugging a little girl who doesn’t want to participate, while giving race instructions to the other kids. Once she finishes with the instructions and general corralling of children (which is like herding cats), she refocuses all of her attention on the crying kid. She uses the little girl’s name repeatedly, telling her how much fun she’ll have, how everyone will cheer her on, how she’ll be so proud of herself when she’s finished. Jane’s teacher can do this because she’s spent ALL YEAR building a relationship with her students, reinforcing a safe-space atmosphere where the kids encourage & cheer for each other. The teacher was being totally straight-up when she told the little girl that her classmates would cheer for her. That’s what they do for each other. That’s what she’s taught them, coached them, encouraged them to do.

The little girl ran the race. And she came back beaming. And sure enough, the kids cheered her on, yelling her name the whole time.

I don’t know the little girl’s story. Maybe she was just having an off day. Maybe she isn’t encouraged a lot to try new things. Maybe she was just afraid of failing (aren’t we all?). But I do know that having an adult who really SAW her helped her take a leap and do something she was unsure of. And she was GREAT the rest of the day.

Being around Jane’s school a lot has changed me in many ways. I’ve definitely pushed myself to be more empathetic, to connect with kids, and to always go with kind first. Every kid has a different story. If I’m patient and caring enough, they just might trust me with that story one day. And, to me, there’s no greater honor than a kid telling me what’s on their heart.

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Me & Jane at Field Day (Photo Credit: @jonsiemel on Instagram)

Oh, and it turns out that Jane might enjoy racing at Field Day just as much as I did when I was a kid:

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I’ll count that as a win.