155 Big Green Pen Minutes Day Sixteen: Read

I am participating in the 31 Days of Free Writes October challenge. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. (Confession: I can’t resist spell-checking!)

Today’s prompt: Read

I worry about myself and reading.

I *adore* reading and am a tireless advocate for reading and readers … especially freedom to read. Banned Books Week is one of my favorite advocacy events of the year (just sad it has to be a thing).

But it takes me forever to get through a traditional book on paper (not the case with audiobooks).

I remember reading a Harvard Business Review article years ago, long before I had a smartphone, by a man who said his brain had been scrambled by his device ….. meaning he had gotten so addicted to taking “digital sips” of information that he had become utterly unable of paying attention to the traditional form of books/information.

Has that become me?

If so, what can I do about it?

When I did my six-hour silent retreat last year, I took a book and made it through the whole thing (granted, it wasn’t an extremely LONG book, but I read it cover to cover over the course of the retreat (shout out to Fr. James Martin SJ for a great book).

I keep thinking I need to detach in that same way (as I did at the retreat), just me and a book (no phone, no interruptions) … but for longer than six hours … to rewire my brain.

I think writing is the lifeline between my brain and the word — thank goodness for writing.

Maybe the next thing I need to read is a directory of retreat centers (although given the way our lives go these days, I may need to find an alternative way to rewire my brain ….. right here at home.)

Writing Challenge

Help #ProjectReadathon Generate Children’s Books!

I have been a Charity Miles ambassador for many years now, and it is astounding to see how the app and its impact on deserving causes have both evolved (big props to creator Gene Gurkoff for that). I am excited that Charity Miles is partnering with Penguin Random House to conduct a campaign around children’s books.

Charity Miles Expands Beyond Feet on Pavement (Or Pedals)

As a proponent of Charity Miles, one of my goals over the years has been to encourage people to use the app, to dispel misunderstandings, and in general to talk it up in order to help as many causes as possible.

For example, you don’t have to be a “serious athlete” doing “serious mileage” to make a difference. Walking from your parking spot into the grocery store, for example, can help. Anything over a tenth of a mile counts toward benefiting a favorite charity.

I know, I know — everything I have said so far involves physical exertion.

Now, however, Charity Miles has added READING to the ways you can help a cause.

READING, people! And you know how I feel about that!

Helping Save the Children Earn Children’s Books Through the Charity Miles Readathon

Though April 23, Charity Miles is partnering with Penguin Random House for  the #ProjectReadathon campaign. During the campaign, Charity Miles members will be invited to contribute minutes to the Million Minutes goal by visiting the Charity Miles Impact Hub!

Side note: Even as a veteran Charity Miles user, it took me a little searching to find the Impact Hub. Here’s a screen shot of what it looks like (assuming you have installed the Charity Miles app). Just follow the red arrow.

Children's Books

Today, for example, I read “Hardwiring Happiness” which generated a 3-book donation.

Children's Books

Reading inside the Impact Hub triggers book donations from Penguin Random House to kids in need in the US, Canada, and Mexico through Save the Children. The more you read, the bigger impact you have: read a 20-minute excerpt and you could unlock a 5-book donation, or read an hour and unlock 20. The excerpts expire in 24 hours so keep up your reading streak and read every day.

But Moving Is Always Good Too!

You can also unlock books by walking, running, or cycling and logging Charity Miles. Charity Miles has set a goal to log 10,000 Charity Miles for Save the Children. Each mile will translate to one minute read, for every 20 mins a book will be donated. Reaching the goals means moving 2,500 books to children in North America!

Why This Lights My Fire

So many of us have books peeking out of multiple little corners of our homes. Stacks of books our children discarded long ago. Books we grabbed on impulse at the bookstore and haven’t gotten to. Books we read, loved, and just can’t part with.

For many kids, that is not the case. Let this infographic from Reading is Fundamental sink in:

Children's Books

RIF says it well:

A productive, contributing nation is dependent on a literate society.  Every child deserves an opportunity to own books, learn how to read, and obtain the fundamental building blocks to achieve their highest potential.

 

I applaud Penguin Random House for helping kids become readers and, therefore, lifelong learners via #ProjectReadathon.

Getting Started Personally

Since starting yesterday, I have read two excerpts, resulting in donations of six books, and walked 0.28 miles. That part was a pretty tiny start, but hey, that means there are only 9,999.72 more to go? 

Children's Books

I would love your help in getting there. More importantly, so would kids in need of children’s books.

Children's Books

 

Banned Books Week 2016

Banned Books Week gets me fired up every year, and that passion has only grown since last year’s Curious Incident Incident.

Since 2014, I have participated in the Banned Books Week Virtual Readout (which, by the way, can be done anytime — not just during BBW). In 2014, I read from Captain Underpants; in 2015 I read from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, and this year I read from Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out.

I am a bit of a newbie when it comes to “clipping” passages via Audible, and I found the passages I had intended to share in my readout, after the readout. I want to expand on those a bit (the read-out is limited to 3 minutes) before I pass the paper version of the book along to a friend.

Other Important Passages

The three passages I shared were from:

Jessy, who was born as a girl and now identifies as a male. Jessy spoke about how he enjoys life “from a different perspective.”

I can see the world simultaneously from a male and a female perspective. ~ Jessy

Wanda, mom of Jonathan, who is gay and Christina, who is transsexual. As a parent, Wanda’s statements really resonated with me.

Hug your children. Hug them. ~ Wanda

Luke, who was born as a girl and now identifies as a male, and whose poem inspired the title of the book. Luke said coming out trans is “very exposing. It opens you up to a lot of mockery.” It was important to Luke to come out via a poem.

Said, ‘What are you?’ said, ‘you gotta choose’

said, ‘Pink or blue?’

and I said I’m a real nice color of magenta.

The passages I couldn’t find due to my Audible clip-finding incompetence and the ones I did not have space for are:

Wanda, Jonathan’s and Christina’s mom (again). [in response to a man who had physically attacked Christina]: “You’re not from here, right? In America people are used to this. There are gays, there are lesbians, there’s transgender. There are all kinds.”

Wanda continues, “…when I’m in the train with her, I still hear little kids say, ‘Mom, is that a man or a woman?’ I don’t want to hear that. I sometimes have to remind her not to show her Adam’ apple, and that’s so sad. I don’t want to have to remind her to keep her chin down.”

These passages about Wanda’s response to the man who had attacked Christina, and about the interactions she and Christina have with strangers on the train, resonated with me. I think it was because Wanda had an opportunity to educate the man who had attacked Christina (obviously it’s horrible that an attack is what led to that educational moment). Secondly, talking about the train made me think of how we can jump to assumptions about one another and the absolutely moronic (and hurtful) things people can say to one another when silence would be a better choice (but I understand that kids ask filter-less questions…).

Mariah, who was born as a boy but is transitioning to female: “A lot of transgender girls feel that they look like a boy and they try to fix it. The thing is, real beauty comes from the inside. You could be the most passable trans woman ever. Real beauty from the inside!”

The thing is, real beauty comes from the inside. ~ Mariah

I just loved this because …. it’s so very true.

Cameron, who was born as a girl and, at this point, requests to be referred to with pronouns such as “they, them, and their” talked about being treated with male privilege: Because I’m perceived as a male, I get male privileges. Male privilege means I don’t have to prove myself for my opinion to have weight. People assume that I’m intelligent. People assume that I have something to say. I get a fair amount of respect.

Cameron continues, “By being male, I’m automatically given some kind of validity that is weird. ‘Wait, guys, I haven’t said anything yet. And besides, you shouldn’t be giving me male privilege because I’m not really a guy — at least not by your standards, I’m definitely not.”

Why did this section intrigue me? Honestly it’s because there have been a few times in my life when I wouldn’t have minded just a few moments of “male privilege” when I was treated condescendingly.

A Few Closing Thoughts About This Book and This Topic

This book gave me insights into being transgender that I have not had previously. At the same time, as a parent, I found myself mentally sorting out some dynamics that were specific to teenagerhood and family dysfunction. It must make teenagerhood, which is already fraught with its share of difficulties, even harder to be so misunderstood.

In all honesty, though, I struggled with pieces of the book. Maybe it’s because my journey of understanding what it is to transition and to be transgender is fairly new. I do see why teens who want to supplement their transition with hormones and/or surgery have to go through intensive counseling. I heard their impatience to “just move things along” and worried that they had not developed the critical thinking skills and self awareness necessary to make such life-changing decisions.

I guess no book about such a heavy topic SHOULD be neatly tied up with a perfect bow. That’s why I feel so strongly about access to all kinds of books, and am such a staunch advocate for the freedom to read.

AND … I have to commend author Susan Kuklin for her photography skills as well. Perhaps Audible has that stuff in “the files” (those things I never look at after reading an audiobook) but it was a special pleasure to hold the pages (and images) in my hands, especially the ones at my beloved NYC High Line!

A Great Banned Books Week Video

I thought this video from Phillips Academy Andover (which mentions Beyond Magenta, I might add!), was creative!

Their summary statement echoes my position pretty well:

In honor of #BannedBooksWeek, the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and Phillips Academy encourage students to read and obtain knowledge from all sources. At Andover we believe in the First Amendment and that we should not censor what is available to our students.

Literature Challenges

Remember Who You Are

Today was a first for me: the first time I have heard a Lion King reference used during a homily said by a Catholic priest. As I sat with my cousin, Karen, at St. Jude the Apostle Cathedral in St. Petersburg this morning, Fr. Anthony referenced Simba, Timon, Pumbaa, and Nala during his remarks. He reminded us of the line “remember who you are.”

I had the good fortune to spend the weekend in Tampa and St. Petersburg. As I scrolled through pictures from the weekend, it occurred to me that this trip rather succinctly sums up much of “who I am” (if you put aside the fact that my husband and kids were not along).

READING (no picture for this one …)

My audiobook choice was a horrible choice if I was trying to escape (because it is about a son being the caregiver for his elderly mother). BUT I am thoroughly enjoying Bettyville and am impressed at the author’s ability to interject humor into a situation which (believe me, I know) is often devoid of humor.

FUN WITH WEATHER/NATURE

Isn’t this sunset over Old Tampa Bay glorious?

Sunset

Although my iPhoneography didn’t really do it justice, this rainbow over St. Pete was beautiful!

Rainbow

This morning’s sunrise over Coffee Pot Bayou:

sunrise coffee pot

RUNNING

My friend Diane Berberian and I ran the Lowry Park Zoo Run Run 5K yesterday morning. The course ran through the zoo and along the river. Seriously, running friends are the best!

Diane

FOOD!

Back when I was making my way along the Tallahassee Burger Trail, Diane had said “if you’re ever in St. Pete, I’ll show you a great burger.”  She did! And I enjoyed a Black and Blue Burger from The Burg (and voted for it in the 4th Annual Grand Central District Battle of the Burg(er))! Yummy!

burger

FRIENDS / COWORKERS / FRIENDS

Being part of a virtual team is great because of the flexibility but there are just times when you want to look each other in the eyes! Megan and I have been social media friends for a while, then became coworkers with Weaving Influence when I joined WI in October 2014. She recently moved to Florida (yay!!!!!!). Her husband Frank and I have been Swarm friends for a while, and narrowly missed a Newark Airport meetup in March. And then there’s Blake, who truly fits that “for this child I prayed” verse. I so enjoyed meeting them IRL and face timing Becky (our founder!).

megan

FAMILY

The genesis of this trip was my desire to visit with my Aunt Faye. I was unable to attend the memorial service in June after my Uncle Marvin passed away, so I had promised to spend some time with her this summer. A few logistical hurdles jumped and it all worked out great — I got to enjoy dinner with her, my cousin Kathy, Kathy’s husband Bob, and two other friends (and snap the great sunset picture above).

Faye

Then, rounding out the cousin visit agenda, I went to mass with Karen (Faye’s other daughter) this morning!

Karen

Lastly, I rarely get down to Riverview to visit our family burial plot. I spent a few moments visiting Ann, Chuck, Wayne’s grandparents Stanley and Lottie, his Aunt Susan, and a few other Thomasson relatives.

Chuck

Ann

When I went up for a blessing during Communion today, the deacon’s blessing was “May you have an awesome week.”

Thanks to a weekend characterized by so much of what I love: Books, Friends (and coworkers!), Family, Food, Running, and Nature … count me “grateful” and on target for an “awesome week”!

I hope your week ahead is full of blessings and “awesome” as well!

Darn, My Dog is Dead

At the end of the 2014-15 school year, my son told me that his assigned summer reading was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. This book was the summer reading selection for all grades. I ordered it on May 29, and it has been in our home since we received it. I wish my teenager were one of those go-getters who had his summer reading done before the July 4 fireworks, but he doesn’t roll that way.

When “Mandatory” Became “Optional”

On August 4, all families of students received this email from the principal:

School System Literature

My son was jubilant that the mandatory reading had been made optional. I, on the other hand, was not.

Trying to Understand

The day after the email explaining the new status of the summer reading assignment, I sent the principal an email inquiring about the decision. He called me the next morning, August 6 (and I very much appreciate the return call). To paraphrase, he said that upon further reflection, a decision had been made that the book, which contains multiple incidences of the “F-word,” “set the wrong tone, especially for incoming freshmen.” He said approximately 20 parents of incoming freshmen had called or emailed to register their displeasure, and that summer reading should be “fun.” He also said that apparently high schoolers often don’t start their summer reading until the last minute (I guess this was related to the fact that this decision was made once some students started discussing the book with their parents).

In response, I suggested the school could have done a disclaimer at the beginning of the summer and explained from the very beginning “this book has language which some students may find offensive. If they prefer an alternative they can request this through an instructor.”

The Public Discussion

Every Friday, I share what I am reading (paper and audio) on Facebook and Twitter for Friday Reads. This week, I abandoned the audiobook I had been reading (for now) in order to re-read “Incident” and announced that as my Friday Reads selection. It has been so long since I read the book, I felt like I needed to familiarize myself with it again, especially if I am going to be championing it publicly. In that post, I explained that it HAD been a mandatory assignment but had now been made optional.

School System Literature

Today, the Tallahassee Democrat published an article about this issue (read it here).

This Parent’s Opinion

My concerns center mostly around the process surrounding the decision to lift the mandatory requirement for the book. An email from the principal 13 days before school begins, stating “I am lifting the mandatory requirement for this novel” is not the ideal solution. Ideally, back when the decision was initially made about summer reading, the faculty or administration would have familiarized themselves with the book sufficiently to acknowledge that some parents and/or students may be uncomfortable with the language. They could have then developed an alternative book choice with accompanying assignments.

I read in the Tallahassee Democrat article that one parent was alarmed by the “foul language and the religious skepticism. She went on to say “I am not interested in having books banned … But to have that language and to take the name of Christ in vain – I don’t go for that. As a Christian, and as a female, I was offended. Kids don’t have to be reading that type of thing and that’s why I was asking for an alternative assignment. I know it’s not realistic to pretend bad words don’t exist, but it is my responsibility as a parent to make sure that my daughter knows what is right or wrong.” While I respect this parent’s opinion, and the choices she makes on behalf of her student, these factors would not cause me to seek an alternate assignment.  

I think it is realistic for a school to consider the frequency of obscenity in a book when making that book its single choice for summer reading for all grades (although I think it is highly likely that the majority of students entering high school are aware that people use this language). From the very beginning, when I started re-reading the book and realized that the first f-words were uttered by a woman who has just discovered that her dog has been murdered and has a garden fork sticking out of its carcass, I thought to myself, “well, I wouldn’t likely say “darn, my dog is dead.” I would be more likely to be overcome with shock and grief and say something relatively out of character. But I will concede there are probably other books that are just as worthy from a literary standpoint which have milder language.

On the issue of religious skepticism, however, the role of literature is to expose us to varying viewpoints. I want my children, who have been raised in a Christian household, to read books about people from all walks of faith, including NO walks of faith.

Since beginning to re-read the book, I have been reminded of its ASSETS in addition to the components which appear to have caused concerns: a reinforcement of prime numbers, explanations of the literary mechanisms of simile and metaphor, and a detailed insight into one person’s experience of the world from the viewpoint of someone with an Aspergers-like condition. These are all things I want my rising junior to learn.

To quote my friend Yolanda, “Literature is meant to make you think.” Thinking is most comprehensively fertilized when seeded with a VARIETY of thoughts, ideas, and viewpoints, not just those with which we concur.

School System Literature

Ultimately, I want my child to be able to analyze literature, learn from it, and discuss it respectfully with those who agree AND those who disagree. As parents, this situation gives us an ideal opportunity to role model HOW to interact with people of diverse opinions. Let’s not blow it.