It’s Monday! What are you reading? a new author

It may just be that I am an Iowa girl who is living in Minnesota. Maybe it has to do with the love a fields of flowers and long forgotten gardens and homes. Or it is just the idea of a simple mystery and a family looking to reconnect. There are so many touch stones for me in this middle grade fiction book that it was a great read on a Sunday afternoon.

download.jpgThe Secret of Goldenrod by Jane Reilly is fun read. The story is set in rural Iowa in a very small town. Trina and her father have moved into an old house to repair it for sale. You quickly learn that Trina and her dad move from place to place repairing houses. This leaves Trina with lots of great skills but also a lonely kid missing her mother and the powerful relationships of friends.

Trina is sure the old house they are now living in is haunted and so do all the people who live in the town. No one will come near the house and most are sure Trina and her dad will be gone in a day or so.

Trina has a skill of listening to the house and is sure this house is as lonely as she is. As the story of the house is revealed Trina also begins to understand her own story of loss and confusion – will her Mother ever come home? why does she just send postcards from all over the world? how can she travel so much?

Reilly draws a fine line between a bit of magic (a small talking doll from the doll house) and what could be explained with logic (the sounds from a steam furnace, a toilet that flushes its self). Trina constantly repeats there is no such thing as a haunted house.

I loved this story but I would love to see what students would like about it. Students living in rural setting might enjoy  this but I wonder about our street wise city kids.  The school bullying feels real, the development of relationships feels real. I just wonder if it is so far removed from our cell phone and computer savvy students.

This will hit the shelfs of our school library next fall so I will have to wait to hear what our students think about it.

All that said Reilly has a new book coming out in October from Carolrhoda press –The Notations of Cooper Cameron – and yes I 5110LK78H+L._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgam excited to read it.

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Beginners Mind

tumblr_lvfyqeRBpe1r653yzo1_1280.pngThe phrase Beginners Mind for me comes out of the Buddhist teaching. It is that place where you allow yourself to be open to being a learner. It is the time when you ask questions and allow for the fact that there will be many mistakes. Mistakes are, as we know, where we learn the most. It is light and full of possibilities.

It is also hard at times to hold this way of thinking in our thoughts. Today after days of rain and more rain, days of chilly damp weather, days of feeling stuck in the mud (both literally and figuratively) I am struggling to hold that fresh thinking. The thinking of possibilities seems hidden from me.

At times I am a frustrated old frog crocking away about the same old issues. The politics are still crazy, the weather not to be mentioned, the school year and testing seems to have gone on too long, my little seedling are not growing – crock, crock, crock!

The lack of walking, sun and physical labor in my garden has taken a toll. I have lost hold of that beginners mind. I know that a few weeks ago I was plotting changes in the garden. I was thinking through where to add bushes, garden beds and how to rid myself of so much green grass. How does this small space become more of a natural garden and less of a city yard with grass? How does gardening move into an art form with design? How do I learn those steps? I was thinking about how to be creative. How does one learn creativity?

I have for the moment lost that light. I am frustrated and feel I don’t have a clue what I am doing. (Do you hear the old frog crocking?) It is times like this that I realize the importance of a teacher/mentor. When we lose our way it is the teacher who nudges us back into possibilities. It is the teacher who can guide us to the right article to read or where to research for that new idea. The need for a mentor who can nod and agree that it takes time to learn anything or everything. Change comes with time, learning comes with time – we will stumble along the path but we will learn the teacher reminds us.

One can learn on their own. Some of us are better at this than others. There are those who will strike out and research, read, try and try again and then become their own expert. For most of us that discipline and the ability to hold that positive thinking can be hard. This is why we have teachers or mentors. This is why we seek out experts to remind us that we are all in beginners mind.

I do read lots of blogs, books and chat with neighbors to learn but a mentor takes on a different role than just helpful hints over the back yard fence can not provide. A teacher does more than just hand out information to her/his students. They help you reach into the details of learning – the information of dirt, plants, sun and bugs but they also help you find that creative touch. They help you develop who you are as well as your skills and your understanding of the world around you. This mentorship is an art in and of its self. It is about helping a individual grow.

So today while it is raining once again I will return to my garden books as my mentors. I have yet to find my way to a live, breathing mentor for the garden but I will try to remain open to the possibility. I will also try to leave the crocking outside with the real frogs who may find a new home in my back yard which right now is more pond than garden.

  • Cloudy
  • 51 degrees feeling like 46 – (warmer than yesterday by about 10 degrees)
  • raining again
  • with the possibility of sun tomorrow – beginners mind!


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It’s Monday! What are you reading? a mystery and Shakespeare

download-1.jpgA few weekends ago I was chatting with my niece who is homeschooling her two kids. The older one is an avid reader of  non fiction and at times you feel you are talking to a small adult. These two will be starting a unit on Shakespeare in the fall. She was concerned about the depth of reading and has decided to take it slow. Sharing bits and pieces with him. Reading aloud to him as well. A great idea I thought.

As teachers/parents we sometime jump into literature that our students can read but don’t have the life experiences to fully understand the material in front of them. She clearly was thinking about this but her course of study she was following was headed in this direction.

I knew that there are quiet a few fiction books for middle schoolers that pull Shakespeare in the story or touch on that time period. They share a bit of the history of the time and make some pretty dense reading a bit more fun. This search for books led me to Hicks mystery series. The first one is Secrets of Shakespeare’s Grave.

It is a quick read and perfect for 4th through 6th graders. The chapters are short, there is lots of quick action and brother/ sister fights that are all to familiar in families. It would make a good read aloud as well.

Colophon is twelve and loves her families publishing business. (A perfect name for one in love with publishing – colophon means a publisher’s emblem or imprint, especially one on the title page or spine of a book.) She is a reader and a lover of history. Her brother who most likely will inherit the business, as it gets passed to the oldest son, can’t stand it and wants nothing to do with it. When the story begins we learn that this business is in the middle of a family take over and it is not going to be pleasant.

How does this connect to Shakespeare? That is the mystery that unravels through clues left long ago by their Great, great, great, great grandfather, Miles Letterford.

This mystery came out in 2012 and there is a follow up titled Tower of the Five Orders. (which I am excited to read today) and a new release later this year called The Van Gogh Deception.

Here are a few other books that take us back to our friend William:

King of Shadows by Susan Cooper
(not a fiction book)   Shakespeare: His work and his words by Michael Rosen 


Do you know if any other books we should add to this list?

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What season is it? oh yeah spring in Minnesota

My laundry basket is full to over flowing and I seem to be doing laundry every other day. What does that have to do with the seasons? Well in Minnesota we don’t just spring into Spring we flip back and forth for weeks on end with the world around us trying to decided what to do.

It is mid May and we are past our final frost date and I have not seen snow for a few weeks so that is great but that does not mean things are settled completely.  It just means you need to keep a wide variety of clothes handy at all times.

rain.JPGWe started this morning dark, cool and rainy. The lights needed to be on in the house, we had closed down the windows last night and as I dressed I pulled out a light weight fleece to start the day. My plant seedlings tucked carefully under a blanket (think plastic tarp) to keep from flooding and also getting a bit too cold.

As I worked in my office I soon found I needed to open the window even though it was pouring rain. A short time later I was pulling off the fleece and off to find a short sleeve shirt. The sun had arrived and with it a muggy warm.

After lunch the wind picked up although sunny and I went to find a light weight shirt with long sleeves to put over my short sleeves. It was cool in the house as I continue to type away. The sun was bright and I also went out to open up my little cold frame I had set up on the deck for my spring seedling.  They would love this outside warmth and sun.

I once again changed clothes pulling off the long sleeves, finding shorts and enjoying the temperature rise to 81 degrees and sunny.  Also knowing my plants would be happy.

As I began to think about this post and what I might say today – the skies quickly darken, the temperature dropped once again and the rains hit hard and fast. Large drops falling and sounding as if there was hail coming. I ran for the deck to once again cover my plants for fear of hail destroying 10 trays of tiny seedlings I had worked so hard to grow. seedlings .JPG

Now wet and chilled I returned to my jeans and light sweatshirt as I watched the rain. As of earlier to day we had received 3/4 of an inch but have no desire to venture out in this to see what it is now. I am guessing we are on our way to a full inch of rain for the day.

Oh wait – the rain had stopped, the sun is out again and this cool breeze is warming as I type. As you can see – in Minnesota we change clothes a lot – some times it is the fault of the weather.

Other times the laundry explosion is my fault – it is my coming in from the garden with muddy knees, shoes, hands and face. At which point my husband just points to the shower and I find yet another set of clothes to put on.

Wet, muggy, damp, cool, and muddy – cloudy, sunny, windy – everything but snow!

This is the wonderful glorious days of spring!

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Slice of Life – Meditation

On a regular work day my mind is often spinning. There are so many thoughts running around in circles. There are the thoughts about work – are the computers working, what kid has not complete the test, how are they doing, have we followed all the rules – on and on it go. There are the thoughts about what are we having for dinner, do I need to get food, what new recipe could I try. There are the thoughts about the garden what needs to be done, weeded, trimmed, planted, mulched it too can go on and on.

We let your minds race from thought to thought. We are easily distracted and pulled into new thinking very quickly. So I do yoga and I try to meditate. I work on quieting my mind. I try to just breath.

Breathing in and breathing out – a balance of air to keep the lungs moving and the body balanced. I bring my focus to the breath to calm and settle the race that goes on in my head each day.

graden weeded.JPGIt is work for me to get this to point of quiet. I tend to be a mover and a mental racer. So tonight as I reflect on the day I am a bit surprise at how my day went. I spent all day in the garden. All day weeding, planting, and trimming. I worked at a slow pace with focus and what I realized is that my busy mind stopped today.

There were no racing thoughts. In fact there was only the slow steady thought of each movement. The watching of how I was pulling each weed. The looking to be sure it was a weed and not a plant I was hoping to grow. I did not plan the next day, the next meal or the next event, or the next step. I simple was in the garden.

A day of meditation. A day of a quiet mind. A day of calm and stillness yet much was accomplished in the garden. Funny how we can work so hard to find quiet and then when I go off to work hard I find what I often seek – a quiet mind.

Now as dark of night slides in, a light rains fall, the green of the garden glows and the tulips close for the night. I am tired, my muscle ache a bit but I am settled and looking forward to another day of mediation in the garden. tulips yellow.JPG

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Slice of Life – Getting muddy

Waking early and staring out the bedroom window as the sun rises gives me a garden with shades of green and rich black soil moist from the spring rain. The weeds and plants appear different only due to color tones of green.

I was disappointed as I sat looking at the window only seeing green that morning but a tiny hint of color pushed me to get dressed and venture out in the yard. Once there I was delighted with rich color, and texture unseen from my window.

There was the bright pink turning blue as the Bluebells opened up,Bluebells.JPG






I found the shiny red of rhubarb stems waiting to be made into pie in another week or so.

rhubarb stems.JPG






There was the deep red sitting just above the mud at the base of the wild ginger plant with the furry green leaves on top.

Wild Ginger.JPG

Ginger flower.JPG










There was the frilly early leaves touched with red around the peony bud.

peony 2.JPG

There is so much more to find when you walk in the middle of life. Sitting watching from a window doesn’t give you a true picture of what the world can be like.

One needs to step into the garden to find the true spring colors. They can be hidden to the causal viewer, the viewer at the window or the one who stands on the deck refusing to walk into life. We need to get our boots on and head into the mud to really catch the richness of the world around us.

So find your rain boots or an old pair of shoes will do. Then head out and take a look around.



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It’s Monday! What are you reading? middle grade fiction

Two girls, a little dog and ashes – all traveling in the middle of the night create a story that is hard to let go of. Sarah Dooley’s new book Ashes to Asheville pulled me in to the lives of these two young girls. They are dealing with loss in so many ways. There is the loss of one mother, the loss of family when one daughter must go live with her Grandmother and the loss that a family experience when society will not recognize their family as family. unnamed.jpg

During the time this book was written the world here in the US made a change that took this book from current language to a more historical piece. Gay marriage was made legal. (I worry now in our new political climate that it will once again this language and fear will become current and that right to marry for many will be lost.)

The story deals with how children feel and are treated when they have two moms. What happens when one mom dies? Dooley shares how families are creative in making their family but then comes the struggle when the legal system does not accept that family structure.

Dooley weaves a story through the eyes of Fella, the youngest, as she travels with her older sister over a night trying to reach Asheville and return home before the adults know they are gone. They are hoping to fulfill the last wish of Mama Lacy.  These two face all the adventures you might expect – over heated engine, a theft who steals the ashes thinking it is a jar with money, bad weather, and a fellow late night traveler also losing a parent to death. All this craziness is dealt with using a bit of humor and yet able to pull out the loss, anger and worry that each girl feels.

This would be a great book for a read aloud to middle school students. It is rich with discussion topics but has characters you come to love and care deeply about.

It has me interested in look up a few of Sarah’s other books – Free Verse, Body of Water and Livvie Owen Lives Here.

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