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Friday, February 7, 2014

Glamping (aka my first writing retreat)

I went on my first writing retreat last weekend. I drove up to the Smoky Mountains (in Bryson City, NC) with a friend and took home in a beautifully renovated log cabin. (did I forget to mention we were glamping?) Not only was it a needed break from the way-to-cold winter we've been having, but I actually got some writing in, too. Win-win. Oh, and there were no animal scares, with the exception of two rather aggressive kitties and two coyotes spotted from the car. Whew!

Here are some pics:

Thursday, January 23, 2014

It's never too late

One of my Facebook friends updated her status to read that she didn’t think she could make any new BFF-type friends after her mid-20s. Another friend posted that if you are a woman in your mid-30s who is single and childless, it is your fault and you are hopeless and you must be miserable. Well, that wasn’t his exact quote, but you get the point. My first thought was then what happens in your 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s then? Dare I even ask about once you turn 80? Gasp! Do you just stop living and breathing and growing after you hit 25? We are inundated with stories by countless opinion-havers who publicly and privately pressure others to imitate their own experiences by perpetuating messages like…if you haven’t done this by this age, then it’s too late. Well, my question is: SAYS WHO? And where is this life-expectancy-handbook by which we are to follow? I must have missed that somewhere during the many years I have been furthering my education.

What if I want to start a family at 60? What if I don’t want to start a family at all? I just read an interesting story about a 70-year-old foster mom. Isn’t it more important that she gave a homeless child a place to sleep? The article of course focused on her age. What if I want to travel all the way around the world, but not until I’m 83? Or do they revoke passports at that age? Or I know, what if I want to live in a different country for every single year that I am alive? When does it no longer become appropriate to dream? Have goals? Set new goals? Grow? Stretch our thinking? I get so excited when I hear stories of high school or college graduates who began a new degree program after their retirement or the seniors who take up weight lifting, marathon-ing or cross-country skiing so they aren’t just sitting around the house, settling. In fact, every holiday that I’m home, I play volleyball with my grandma and her senior friends. I show up every time reminding myself to take it easy on them, but I’m the one who walks away with the bruises. She’s 82.

Maybe this is a regional discussion. When I lived on the east coast, I loved the diversity. My friends were intelligent, eclectic, and unique –charting their own paths. When I visit the west coast, I meet similar free spirits –everyone doing their own thing. However, my time in the Midwest has been a little different. There are rules in play here. Rules that not everyone (me included) are privy to. For example, you must be married by this age, with this amount of offspring, live in this neighborhood, by this age, have this amount of money in your bank account, and if you have not accomplished any of this, by this age, there’s no hope for you to ever achieve this later. You are a lost cause. And we will give you the ‘pity stare’ at every chance we get.

I guess I like to think a little outside of the age-box because of the examples around me. My parents started new businesses and complete school programs well into their 50s, their friends travel the globe and write about their experiences, some are foster parents who ‘have new children’ every single year that they are charged to raise. Now, let me be the first to say that I have fallen to societal pressures before. I’ve gotten engaged at the ‘appropriate age,’ gone to graduate school at just about the ‘right time’ in my life, and have accomplished many a life goal when others ‘expected me to.’ But, I’ve also gone ‘off the grid’ so to speak and my life doesn’t always flow exactly as I’ve planned (or how others have planned), but I am still OK, better than OK even. In fact, I add something new to my bucket list every single year.

This post can probably be attributed to the fact that I just turned a year older yesterday or the fact that I really dislike being closed into any type of box. I’m just sick of reading about where I should be in life, and what I should have accomplished. Everyone has to the right to live each day exactly the way they want to. So, rather than questioning my age and accomplishments thus far, I choose to celebrate exactly where I am today and look to the future. And let’s celebrate and support each other, no matter what age, no matter what stage of life, no matter what accomplishment. So, to any of you out there still hoping to reach that next level, hike that impossible mountain, travel around the world and back, write a scandalous novel…I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late, so get started.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, I thought I'd share some of his famous words:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that -MLK Jr.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase -MLK Jr.

Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity -MLK Jr.

Happy Birthday MLK Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/m/martinluth297520.html#rLLfGhU0svoHxEF6.99

Friday, January 10, 2014

Picture books are (just) for kids?

Some people laugh when I say I still read picture books. My avid children’s literature friends understand. I read picture books for a few reasons: I taught preschool for many years, it’s now my line of research, I enjoy writing them, and for pure enjoyment! As an adult, the messages I take away from a picture book are endless. 

Take Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave for example, which I read again today. It tells the story of an artist and poet, who was able to practice and perfect his craft while under the oppression of slavery. What many around him saw as useless dirt, Dave used to make clay to mold into beautifully handmade pots and jars, which he sold and used to store goods. Each pot was signed and engraved with one of his original poems –I wonder where is all my relation, friendship to all –and every nation.

Dave’s inspiring story reminds the adult me:
1.     Perspective is key
2.     One man’s trash is another man's treasure
3.     Even when you doubt, exude confidence
4.     When you discover your purpose, you can give more than you ever expected
5.     You can produce a lot with just a little
6.     Leave your mark along the way
7.   Brush past the roadblocks and excel

Thanks Dave for those reminders!

Monday, August 19, 2013

This is why I write:

  Hi Ms. Wilkins, 
I would like to thank you for writing such a great book. I am African American, from a suburb in NJ, and my Grandma lives in NYC, so I felt like I was 'Natasha'. I am so glad to have invested in  you book because it truly was an investment in my life. Sometimes I feel like I need to fit in with my white friends, but then I feel like I'm 'betraying' my black friends. But, your book inspired me to be myself. Before, I would be 100% me and sometimes feel like something wasn't right, now I don't mind being myself. Being the best me is all I want to be.
 So, Thanks for that
Thanks Amber!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Using multicultural literature in the classroom

As we welcome a new school year let's think about incorporating more literature into the curriculum. Using literature in the classroom is necessary to a student's educational development and success. Using multicultural literature is even more important, literature that reflects the diverse make-up of contemporary classrooms.

According to research, using literature increases student engagement, improves reading achievement for culturally and linguistically diverse students, and raises consciousness of cultural issues. Multicultural literature are books written by and about people of color. Education researcher Rudine Sims Bishop’s definition of multicultural literature involves texts that reflect the racial, ethnic, and social diversity characteristic of our society and the world. Bishop and other researchers point to the dual role that this literature serves - as a mirror and a window - where children can see their own life experiences and learn about another child’s life experiences.

Literature, in addition to a textbook, can be used to nurture children’s learning across the curriculum. Because we want to encourage students to look beyond one source of information, it’s important for literacy instructors and advocates to make purposeful decisions when selecting, evaluating, and researching books for children.

Suggestions for use of multicultural literature:
1. Introduce different genres:
(graphic novels, picture books, fantasy, historical fiction, informational texts, and poetry)
2. Introduce literature units (literary units):
(use literature to teach literary elements)
(use literature to launch writing)
3. Introduce content units:
(use literature to teach a topic other than the literature)
4. Introduce author/illustrator studies, genre studies, and thematic studies.
5. Encourage students to respond to literature in meaningful ways:
(note taking, keep a journal, write stories/plays/songs, act it out, share with peers)
6. Create text sets:
(collections of books that focus on a topic of study)
(sets can grow over time and give students choice over their learning)

Where to look for multicultural literature:
1. Award sites:
(like Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpre, and the Asian/Pacific American Award, etc.)
2. Publisher websites
3. Goodreads.com
4. Author websites and blogs.
5. Education research journals:
 (English Quarterly, Children’s Literature in Education, Journal of Young Adult and Adult Literacy, Children’s Literature Journal, Journal of Research in Reading, and Children’s Literature Review)

Friday, May 24, 2013