Daymaker - a person who performs acts of kindness with the intention of making the world a better place.
~ David Wagner
, author of Life as a Daymaker; how to change the world by making someone's day ~

DayMaker - any thought, word, or deed that spreads happiness, compassion, or fruitful ideas.
~ Annis Cassells ~

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

20 Loves, Part 3: I Love to Read

Maybe my love of words and reading started in the crib. My mother said she taught me nursery rhymes in late nights while my father worked driving a city streetcar.

I devoured the limited library collection at Marcy Elementary, the K-8 school I attended in Detroit, running through works by Lois Lenski, John Tunis, Louisa Mae Alcott, Betty Cavanna, James Fenimore Cooper. Biographies of Thomas Edison, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Ben Franklin, Marie Curie, and Florence Nightengale intrigued me. So did those Hardy boys and Nancy Drew. From 6th grade on, each year I re-read several favorites: Mrs. Mike, Seventeenth Summer, Little Men, and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books.

Friends, Patricia and Saundra, and I trekked to the Public Library on Gratiot Avenue every week. We would browse and read and show each other our new discoveries. Each of us would choose another armful to check out before heading home. It was heaven.

That walk to the library took forever in winter. We’d share gloves, warming the hand that carried our load of return books, our other hand jammed in a coat pocket. Sometimes we’d run for one block, to generate body heat, then we’d slow to a walk for the next. In hot, humid summer months, stopping at the Eagle Dairy for milkshakes became a delicious habit that continued into the fall. 

Reading, itself, was a delicious habit. It transported Saundra, Patricia, and me through time and space, gave us a glimpse of other ways of living, and taught us three little Black girls about the world outside our eastside neighborhood. I’m sure it’s because of our love of reading that we ended up with lives different from most kids on our block.

While pregnant, I read aloud to my daughters. Pat the Bunny, Curious George, and The Snowy Day were favorites. Going to the library became an event for them as toddlers. This paid off as they grew to enjoy reading and did well in school. Now, often we discuss and recommend books to each other.

During my 34-year teaching career, I tried to instill the love of reading in my elementary and middle school students. Sometimes that meant asking students to dig in and dissect a book, search for meaning, or look for similarities and differences between the characters and themselves. Sometimes that meant reading aloud, giving voice to the incredible stories that lay between the book covers.
1999, a few months before retiring

I will always cherish the memory of a group of 8th graders who listened, begged for me to read, and cried at the end of Where the Red Fern Grows. When they came to class the day after the movie aired on TV, many were incredulous over the differences between the movie and the story they’d heard. “They changed it! The book was way better!”

Today, I belong to three book groups. Sometimes the books chosen overlap, and groups read the same selection during the year. At other times, I’m juggling two or three different ones and then fitting in others that I choose to read for pleasure or enlightenment. This past couple of years, I’ve read some outstanding and inspiring stories; I’ll list a few titles below.

I recently re-read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes were Watching God, lingering over her delightful language and imagery on this third time around. It was like visiting with an old friend.

What impact has reading had on your life? What have you read lately that you would recommend?
~ xoA ~
A Short List of Recent Favorites:
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese
Into the Beautiful North, Luis Urrea
Someone Knows My Name, Lawrence Hill
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCrullers
Traveling with Pomegranates, Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
When Women were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams
Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Saturday, May 25, 2013

20 Loves, Part 2: I Love the Beach

Oregon Coast

I woke up thinking about the beach. No particular beach, just that I love spending time beside the ocean. Vivid beach memories live in my mind. Fond memories of the happy times when heightened senses let me experience the vast blueness, the calling seagulls, roaring surf and laughing children, the salt air, the mist and fog. Then there are the healing memories after the hurts and scars of life. Everything gets better at the beach.

When my girls were little, we spent lots of time at the beach in Ventura. I remember walking them from the Motel 6 to the pier and back, quite a hike for those little legs of theirs. I remember we read, played in the sand, and ventured out into the foamy water. I remember marveling at how children who don’t know each other instantly become beach buddies, working together to dig and build in the wet sand just for the joy of it, no pretenses.

East coast beach time with my daughters as adults found us grabbing our steaming coffee mugs and jackets, walking in the dark, heading to experience the sunrise just outside our Topsail door. Caught in the majesty of the colors and our precious time together, the beach offered us solitude and companionship, each of us fulfilled.

Beaches everywhere beckon to Judy and me in our travels. We’ve strolled the Malec├│n along the beach at Mazatl├ín, stuck our toes in the Atlantic at Myrtle Beach, relaxed and snorkeled on the Big Island, hiked the sand dunes to the ocean on the Oregon Coast. Sharing the beach with someone else who enjoys it as much as you is unmatchable.

Instinct drew me to the beaches of Pismo and Morro Bay when I was hurt or sad, needing alone time. The gray, misty atmosphere, surreal and right for my mood, I remember the instant letting go of interrupted dreams. I remember how the ebb and flow filled me with hope and courage. The receding water rushes back; we can count on it. 

For me, the beach serves as a metaphor for life. Stuff happens. We shrink a bit, retracting, receding from reality. Then we gather our forces and rush back in, maybe quietly, timid at first, but soon we’re roaring in, our lives changed but full again.

Time at the beach brings me peace and allows me to be just who I am, in the moment.

~ xoA ~

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

20 Loves

I facilitate workshops. They might be writing workshops or self-care workshops or workshops on a variety of topics. One strategy I like to use is called “20 Loves”. It comes from Sid Simon’s work on Values Clarification. 
After jotting down 20 things I love to do, in no particular order, I think about them and what they mean to me. For this next Writers of Kern Blog Challenge, I’ll be writing about some of the items on my 20 Loves list.

20 Loves, Part 1:  Zumba!  

I look around the room, full of bodies gyrating to the loud, pulsing beat that streams from the overhead speakers at BodyX Fitness in Bakersfield. I’m the oldest person in the group. But that doesn’t stop me from circling my hips, shaking my shoulders, or rolling my torso. True, I don’t look like the girls in the videos, or like my classmates or the  instructor up front, but I am having fun. I am in the mix. On Zumba days, I look forward to going to the gym. It’s so much fun, like a party, I forget that I’m exercising. Some of us even applaud after each song.

The first time I heard about Zumba was a few years ago when a Bakersfield yoga instructor, who was also a belly dancer, told a few of us that she was taking classes to become an instructor. “Zumba? What’s THAT?” we asked. The following summer, my first taste came in Paula’s class at Downtown Health & Fitness in Coos Bay. That day, I fell in love with Zumba.

The music may be Latin, pop, country, hip-hop, contemporary, or folk. We’re doing dance steps -- salsa, cumbia, samba, merengue, cha-cha, and mambo -- alongside exercise moves like jumping jacks, squats, and bicep curls. Belly dance moves and folk dance steps infiltrate the choreography. Each number is choreographed by our instructor, or by those great Zumba fitness dancers in the sky, specifically for a particular song. But, each leader, and each participant, brings her own flavor to the routine.

Nicole's Friday morning Zumba class
Courtesy of Nicole

In an hour of non-stop movement during Zumba, a person burns from 350-700 calories. It all depends on the effort she puts into it. Higher jumps and steps and larger movements use more calories than if one’s feet stay close to the floor. Zumba is forgiving; all styles, all ages, all levels of athleticism can join in and get a workout that’s just right for them. 

At the end of one recent session, our 40-something instructor, Nicole, plays her cool-down song. Elvis’s voice serenades us as we slow our steps to match one of his hits. Surveying the large, sweaty, smiling group of women, I think, I’m probably the only one here who saw Elvis in person on his first national tour back in the 50s. I recall that day filled with the screams of crazed teen-aged girls, including mine. 

Nearly sixty years later, I remember his hip movements and figure Elvis would have loved Zumba, too.    
~ xoA ~