“You Can’t Wait Until Life Isn’t Hard Enough Anymore Before You DecideTo Be Happy” – Nightbirde/ Jane Marczewski

When I saw her performance – and witnessed the profound and deep-seeded performance, aside from the letter I usually try to slip to seniors when they graduate – that have been a very important part of my educational life as they become graduates – I hope – especially in 2021 that these graduates realize spome very important things.

In figuring my educatiional career – I have been in the educatiional field for twenty four years – 12 of those years as a Librarian and Media Specialist, 12 as an English Educator, all the while studying Master’s Degrees simply because to be honest, I always search for aspects of education that are morphing, growing etc..

I think in this particular post I am able to identify the core aspects that do not require names –

As an educator, I have seen some pretty harrowing moments, as most educators do – young children from the age of 4 to the age of 18 physically, emotionally, mentially, socially abused, used for money for parents that see their childen as such a tool, learned to always keep extra food and a small refrigerator in the back because without fail, there are always a handful, that come to school relying on the breakfast, lunches, and snacks they know they can come to a library and obtain – and when I was an English teacher, definitely my classroom as well. So many educator experience this today and get no credit for this realization.

Seeing students growing up hungry, alone, isolated, abused, neglected, and more, day in day out, along with the stress and disrespect that are thrown to educators even more today, there is no way, no how, anyone could possible realize the role of a librarian, of an educator, of a counselor, even of an administrator unless you are actively doing this on a daily basis – I know some will disagree, and that is okay, but living this experience for over 24 years – and having family members and friends see me drag myself home some night – complaining when I hate complainers, whining when I hate whiners – the depth and reality of how little educational processes have come, and need to come, it sits with you well.

It is important for graduates to have a chance to sit down with their supports that enabled them to see their way to 12th grade to realize – exactly what the above quote points out.

The pandemic was a small slice of what havoc life can truly throw your way. I am grateful, after some personal losses way back when I first started in the educational field, I would 100% throw myself into my students, my field of study, my classrooms, in and out of buildings.

“But when does Harry get some time for Harry?!” – lol, yes, I have been told this many times and yet, only a small handful of individuals know that what keeps me happy, going, etc is having had these rough experiences and times, and some pretty great ones, and finding a niche and a step, for someone else to be able to find, and then find their way.

There is nothing worse than feeling that there is no way out, no new opportunity or experience that is in front of you, that can help express who you are, to yourself and to others. Yet, one of the most rewarding moments of an educator, as well as the most trying, is being beat down in a world that truly feels at times it is against every gain you try to obtain for yourself and for others and getting back up. Yet there is confidence and strength in numbers.

I look back and see I could have spent alot more time building a relationship with someone that would have resulted in a family, children, etc and I cannot say that is not a good thing. I joke around alot and lament when people get married and offer condolences, but deep down, I hope and know (they usually do) I am so extrmely happy for them because I have grown up with them and I do expect nothing but the best for them. I will be honest, I truly suck at anything somewhat related to the idea of a relationship, I just simply suck at that whole area – and yet- isn’t the first step admitting? LOL – Yet, I have never once felt bad about this aspect because –

It has been AMAZING – to weigh the number of obstacles, daunting roadblocks, and deadends that appear, only to realize they are mirage – and having a friend, an educator, a guide- show you with patience, and foresight (which to many see as blindness) just as ,myself, a very old 40ish person – looking back- how to put something aside for others helps you put something aside for yourself.

Classes of 2021- trust me on this, there have been many evenings where I have come home at night, and doing what I do, I work myself until my feet are numb, my back feels as if it will break, I begin to see stars, and I can no longer lift my arms, I throw the wishes, frustrations, and diasappointments that others feel around me and experience into tasks, chores, lists, to-do’s on those especially bad days. Sometimes I am a sponge, I absorb much of it privately, and sometimes I even weep at night seeing the breakdown and struggles that many young students should not have to endure.

I am not the only one. You will have to believe me on this one, some of the strongerst teachers you know have some of the hardest moments when they are by themselves, having to put on a game face when they want simply offer a hour of just chatting and talking with you because they want you to know, based on their years, if you believe and persevere, not evwn a pandemic can shake the energy you can bring to everything within you touch, sight and future.

Nothing can prevent you from performing acts of kindness and initiatives that no one asks you for.

Take with you the knowledge and keys of success individuals are willing to give you- this separates the individuals that will wait for something good to come to them- to the individuals that know good will come to them after seeking out how to provide that good to others in the process.

Yes, there are countless cheerleaders that are faculty, close friends, coaches, family that continually tell me “You are amazing!” You are relenetless and an energizer bunny!” “You are the best!: ” I so appreciate such comments but what it comes down to is this, and I have always known and believed this:

Without the struggles, the ability to confide in educators as soothsayers and fortune tellers of other futures, without the belief that you have the power to change a world that is often plagued by selfish, Me Me Me thinking,- with not realizing to have the ability to somehow benefit those aroound you and include them in on your successes – you truly will feel as if you are always in desolate country. Without you, I have no sucesses, no highlighted achievements, no truly success strories. Unless you are inthe picture. Yes, Y O U.

So don’t doubt yourself or underestimate your ability to ride a funk out that you might find yourself in.

Surround yourself with individuals willing to let you dream every single day on how you can actively do something to improve and perfect, be it yourself, others around you, or the world ten years from now. What matters is your happiness, (and do not wait 40+years to realize this) – and your happiness coupled by bringing others along with you.

You will never regret this decision, and realize how wealthy you will become down the road if you simply trust your instincts to help others; as a result you will be helping and gorwing yourself, and being pastient over these years as they occur.

I have never been so luck as due to having met literally family in the form of students, friends, colleagues, and faculty in this country and other countries. One thing is the same wherever you find yourself, Individuals have a higher threshhold of success if you are in their corner and rolemodel generosity to themselves and others.

There is so much to learn – I am excited more than ever for you – Please Decide to be Happy no matter where you find yourself. You have done that for me ten times over – Keep that faith!

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You Have What it Takes…

Following our long -awaited Cross Country Banquet covering the past two seasons – a teammate came up to me and told me there were sorry and apologized because they knew they could have done better. That never left me, and it took me a few days, but I formulated a a small portion (it is difficult to put it all in words after a year that often exceeds words) back to this athlete- (Remaining anonymous- and in actuality – this applies to everyone that made up quite an amazing 2020 WHS Cross Country team).

Dear ___________________

Despite not being able to have a Cross Country Banquet, I would have to say it was quite an amazing opportunity see so many talented runners in one room after a year that put each one of us on a rollercoaster. But one thing was left unsaid.

You came up to me and said to me, “Mr. Brake, I am sorry I let you down.”

_________ , you NEVER let me down. Not once. Not ever. You showed up. You showed up when you struggled with your academics, when it was sometimes painful for you to run, when you had an amusment park of roller coasters of your own to conquer. And get this,

You did. You pushed yourself. You said you didn’t push yourself. You said you could have done better.

But you showed up. You showed up knowing you might be able to do better, not sure you were able to do better, but you showed up.

The one single thing I learned, 31 years after high school, yeah, THIRTY ONE. The BEST relationships, the best memories, the BEST learning I have ever done after over 16 years post high SCHOOL, an onslaught of undergraduate and graduate classes, the best moments of my life continue to be with students, athletes, and friends like YOU.

I understand and feel the disappointment you feel when you get a chance to truly realize the season is over and in hindsight, you know what they say about hindsight. (I hope?! πŸ™‚ ) But YOU are not hindsight.

Think about the amazing season we had, and you were a part of it- we had a princess, twins, a pandemic, ladies that were pushed to pace boys, boys trying to pace some of the ladies (true) and cross training/sport athletes, and a TEAM. WE had a TEAM because of all the aforementioned working for themselves AND together, and YOU, were a part of that team.

What made me think of what you said that night over and over after our long-deserved banquet?- approaching people and telling them that they should consider cross country. You know what the first thing they say to me is? “What makes you think I can run?”

I will share with you one of the biggest truths/secrets I uncovered since I jumped into cross country.

Running is a small part of what cross country is, and from the outside, that IS a secret because many think that makes 100% of what cross country is.

Wrong. This is the truth, the heart, the ability to put your good days, your bad days, having an outlet to channel 100 emotions and being able to do it among the outdoors, traveling, being able to control your breathing as your brain races through these emotions and experiences, and being able to do this in different spots over 3.1 miles, and yet still being TOGETHER as a team – despite not seeing each other for parts of the course – that is what makes Cross Country uniqiue.

You could have never run more than 50 feet and be the best cross country team athlete if you bring your heart and willingness to do your best, support others, and willing to set aside your pride, and give a little of yourself to others as well as to yourself. You could be a finisher of 17:00 after 3.1 miles or a finisher of 55.00 after 3.1 and STILL BE THE BEST part of a XC Team.

It is how you carry yourself, what you bring to the TEAM, and the heart you bring to XC; on paper, there is no way to measure THAT – be it time, rate per mile, or personal record.

I hate to compare a sport to the best moments of my life, so I won’t. I look past the sport and see the individuals who bring and bare themselves for the sake of being better, be it 30 seconds better or maintaining a better rhythm of breathing or enduring longer.

This life that challenges us every step, if not this past year, has been a constant foot race to see how you will endure as an individual. After seeing three years of growth and some exceptional athletes come and go, I have had the best moments of my life by seeing the sacrifices individuals make for the sake of a team as a whole. We were lucky enough to have a returning senior athlete gives us a glimpse of what lies in the future.

That warms my heart more than anyone will ever be able to, or ever had. You need to take that and ask yourself, what now?

You can fall into that category of people that say “I can’t” or make excuses before you even give yourself a chance to consider, “Maybe?…”, and in doing so, you only think about yourself and not the others that you could support. That is easy to do when others are not around. However, holding on to how you have helped others through this season when together, and doing so when they are not around, now THAT is an amazing trait…you have the chance to take the times you have and work towards supporting others that might now be in view right now. Will you?

.You never let me down. Ever. You showed up,

You gave of yourself for the sake of others on a daily basis. So, you didn’t do as good as you think you could? That is an amazing learning lesson in itself, the realization – many do not get that far – and you have. So do exactly as I asked – take what you know, and make something even more of it, and simply…

Show up. I am proud of you – never forget that πŸ™‚ That is the best kept secret of XC.

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One Among Many

It is refreshing to have a reminder, in a lesser form than the pandemic, of what can lead individuals to greatness beyond what is right in front of us.

Seaford Star April 29, 2021

When I saw this image of Duane landing first place, and then took in the overall record of the results of the team that day, I had to ask – what matters most, the individual, or the team?

Then it hit me, I remembered in the Fall 2020 season, for WHS Cross Country, we often faced the possiblity of not having enough athletes to actually count (when it came to qualifying for meets). Yet, we always came together and realized the individual effort mattered as much as the team effort and this gave us choices.

Choices.

If we did not have enough athletes to qualify as a team for a meet, we had each of our individual talents to represent out team in another form. But we had to believe we could break a record, be it personal or on a historical record form, but that was and is XC.

Meet after meet, with the pandemic looming over us, athletes supporting us from WHS soccer, field hockey, and within families, and even other teams –

https://anchor.fm/harry-brake/episodes/Woodbridge-High-Schools-XC-Podcast–The-Runners-High-with-Sussex-Academy-XC-Coach–Jay-Diaz-ev71po

-amazing things happened, on an individual basis and as a group.

Choices. It does not matter if as a group of an individual you succeed, as long as you hold the light of possibility and always give yourself choices to succeed. Especially in a pandemic that allows us to realize what we need to realize all along.

Greatness is always in front of us πŸ™‚ and always within us.

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Genuine realizations.

I still think it is amazing the things we miss.

At nine years old, Amaya was simply was a puppy again at training. HUGE credit of course goes to Andres Jannou for the years he actually did spend on her when she and Wriggley needed someone to guide them, as well as Carolyn Baynes who puts the guides and pointers in all the right places. From the very day Amaya had the chance to be a part of the WHS play Annie, she when asked is seemingly yelling, “What have you been waiting for?” Her easy going nature, her eyes, her mannerisms, her willingness to do things that have never been asked and her wanting to be asked – it melts your heart when you take all these realizations and how genuine she is – how absolutely genuine she is and how precious the time is you carve out to make time for such moments, and the realization I could have, should have carved out more moments like these.

Amaya’s second training class – and without hesitation, and truly only her third time asked by meyself for commands – Amaya sat when asked, went into a down positon with the right movements, stayed when asked, and was able to maintain eye contact on her eye after the temptation of food she could not resist in front of her.

If anyone realizes what you lose by not carving out time to just let these genuine realizations soak through your mind and allow you to contemplate what you experience, it is me; thanks to Mexico and a country that taught me it is not all about me, that gave me Amaya, Wriggley, Dane, and Kinah, that gave me Dewy, Suzy, and Hangover, that gave me the chance to reside out of my comfort zone and siingular perspective and realize the genuine nature of others outside of what I always knew – there is no turning back, and I am eternally grateful.

I could also refer to the amazing voyage that Dane, Wriggley, and Amaya made from Mexico City, without their mother Kinah, with three rescued cats in tow in one vehicle, NONE of which ever rode in a vehicle and yet accepted this 4 1/2 day trip as if this had been old hat. Their genuine innocence was and still is beyond words.

When you realize Dane’s story, obviously having been

raised for fighting other dogs due to his scars and tough body, his broken body from people kicking him, runnning over him with a car, the utter mistreatment near death, receiving him from the hands of another absoultey genuine man who had already taken in 6+ homeless dogs in Mexico, who drove almost 3 hours away to bring him to me in Mexico City, Dane, shaking, trembling, covered with blood, and surviving through a pretty painful surgery piecing his leg bones together, months of pain, and STILL he looks at you with those brown eyes with nothing but absolute, genuine adoration – thew veterinarian in Mexico that believed, that truly defies any sense of trust I have ever known, and is a testament to what we can be as humans. What we can do if we want to make a change for the right reasons.

Okay sure, I am discussing pets here, fine, let’s move onto humans πŸ™‚ One of the largest realizations, once I gave myself time to do nothing but reflect, was to see how the element of sports can interact hand in hand with education, and how often academics, take a back seat to sports, for parents, for coaches, for many that let academics take a back seat to sports. The argument often comes up that sports keeps the mental dexterity of the student alive and energized when the academics often can drive a person crazy. Considering a pandemic and how hard academics have been, it has been a revelation to see how, when reshaping education to be as interactive, as exciting as sports can be, how the value of academics is perceived differently.

As a coach, as an educator, as a former bad student in all things Math, I understand that the disservice done to students is the SAME exact model of instruction that tears aways the value of education in light of sports, since; it has been organized this way since the INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION. Just because this is the way it has always been does not mean it is the proper way as timea around us have changed. I look to the pandemic to shape and change the genuine realizations that will target our Departments of Education to go to educators, to go to parents, to go to the students, collect their views, their ideas, and form a more perfect alignment with how education can be a 21st century approach – which allows sports – to align itself with academics instead of competing with it.

The most genuine relationships I have had with my athletes during a sport season have been when we have comiserated over academic issues together, and tried to solve thise issues together, instead of pushing off that academic problem onto the student alone. Sports are as valuable a tool as academics, and academics are as rigorous and valuable as sports, if the same time, equal time is given to both. The comments I continue to receive from athletes that see the genuine realization of their coaches, their athletic mentors, that are willing to put as much time in to their athlete’s academics as they are to their athletic form? – it is beyond appreciation you can put into words, and yet, this is a rare realization – and needs to be a more frequent one.

It is so easy to make judgements calls, be used to your own style, your own community, without ever stepping out to realize what is possible outside of those own familiar patterns. It takes more ability, guts, bravery, and genuine trust to step outside of what you have always known, to discover something you never have, to dissocer those who are not “your people” – it is a feat of bravery and honor to do so. Coaches, Departments of Education, legislators, civil rights leaders, politicians, parents all have the chance to open doors that have not been opened before, and to air voices that have never been asked before; for their ideas, their suggestions, their views, their realizations to be heard, proposed to others that have not been propsed to before. There is nothing more genuine than carving time out to allow these moments to occur, at no specific rhythm or time, but giving yourself some time every single day to allow these moments to simply arrive and not be forced, to be accepted or responded to, without deadlines, without the appropriate expected answers you want to hear.

I am grateful for the lessons my dear Amaya, Wriggley, Dane, Dewey, Suzy, Hangover, have taught me from the time they were rescued to the time I am still learning from them. I am grateful for the athletes who continue to tell me Coach – it means alot when you instil the fact that grades as as important in how we approach them as that next on field milesone you push us towards. Now, I am counting, relying, and looking to those thaty can provide the time in charge of educational changes to be open to a genuine realization that individuals they have never asked might have alot to say and to offer.

From academics, to sports, to the very family members that are our canines, felines, and all other family pet members, from students, to educators, to politicians that at times wear out their welcome, to adminsitrators, to commitee members, if we fail to take away the amazing opportunities we haven’t thought of yet, as the sake of the heavy losses we have been dealt from this pandemic, we all lose and learn nothing. There are truly so many genuine realizations that will never, ever sink in that can change so many things past due for change, unless we allow for the genuine realization to be discussed, to be asked, to be received.

I look forward to see what the next training lesson with Amaya will teach ME, what she will have to teach ME, and to see how genuine I will be to realize the time I have missed πŸ™‚ And in the meantime, I hope the world around us also is willing to be open to the very genuine realizations that will make a better reality.

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What is Happening? No really, what IS Happening?

**Warning ahead of time, if the existence of runons and lack of punctuation puts the fear of God in you, be forewarned, this happened below in order to reproduce the speed of all events happening in a given day as today. It could be worse ….:) **

Pandemic. I never really had thought much about this word until obviously the past year and if we are on the “same page”, I will never dread the day where I can gently push this word to the back of my shelf memory. Without going into the craziness that has become our lives due to this word, let’s take a look at one day.

Just one.

Thursday, April 1st – April Fool’s Day- no, no purple hair mistakes (sorry!) – but today for me, one little microcosm example, as I am sure each of you have similar stories to tell – that define what the pandemic has brought to your doorstep and how it feels.

With my Mom recovering from hip surgery and some slight complications along the way – I knew this morning – despite visiting hours not happening for hours and my need to be at school at 7:20 – I was able to get out the door after feeding and walking /running the hounds- dash over to her house – grab items I knew she was wanting (chargers for devices, clothes, things that will ease your mind when you are in the middle of a smorgasboard of events) – managed to get over to the hospital and find a GREAT indvidual who enabled me to get the items to the security guard who in turn made sure those items were on their way to Mom – Thank you Tidal Health staff at before 7:00 AM!

Okay – so rescuing family trauma – checked off my list – we are navigating the health arena to have it all operate smoothly somehow and I am grateful for the ways it is working out despite what seem bumps and roadblocks in the way, when you stop, you realize how much worse things could be and grateful for how good they are in the middle of such a crazy time.

Making it to work in the nick of time, grabbing the temperature thermometer for the students, dropping my bookbags off in the library, students arriving into school for this Thursday, and we all have smirks and looks of relief knowing, THIS IS THE last DAAAAAYYY before Spring Break, yes, DARN, cold but we will take it even if there is HAIL coming down πŸ™‚

As we are finishing and students are in from the buses, Leon announces as he comes in from assisting the buses,”Cake! I’ve got cake – appreciating you for supporting me!” We stop, he said the magic word. What? Cake, ? “In the main office, cake!” As IF we had not been snacking on so much unhealthy food as of late, and yet, not being able to refuse – ever been there? We were and to hear him describe this treasure on a Thursday, and it sounded beyond anything you could IMAGINE – and the last day before Spring Break? Really? Walking back to the Media Center all I could think of was CAKE – that is SO AMAZING! –

Yes, I slid into the office right away DESPITE eating a whole Birthday Cake filled Easter Egg from Sweet Serenity shoppe the day before (a large one- stress does that) – despite knocking off at least 10+ boxes of Girls Scout cookies in the last week (Thank you Ms Jen Leonard) – in spite of taking out cookies, sugar nuggets of every candy and concoction we have had brought into school the last few days, the equation of healthy versus not healthy was HEAVILY on the side of the NOT HEALTHY – and when I saw the way that cake look, Leon’s magic cake- and no knife, well of COURSE I headed to the library, remarked to Leon how amazing it looks, took the knife back, and despite it being before 8:30 AM, that corner piece of Chocolate Turtle cake with caramel and probably more chocolate known to Willy Wonka? I could barely swallow a piece it was that THICK – it celebrated the fact we had made it to the LAST DAY before Spring Break it was a GREAT start to this day –

Tackling the 3D printer and getting id badges and book stands started, tackling the signouts of Chromebooks needed delved out, tackling a shelf full of books that had been hiding in a storage drawer and getting them shelved, weeded, or otherwise donated due to duplicates, a call to the hospital to check on the transfer of Mom to a new facility, receiving a call back confirming the transfer and aproximate time this would occur (figuring in my head the time needed to catch Mom before she made this transfer from the hospital) – looking down – DARN- 12:07 already?

12:15 marked the production of out FIRST podcast from the Runner’s High podcast segment from WHS Library Media Center with Jay Diaz, Sussex County Cross Country Coach and we are online in less than 8 minutes (STAY TUNED!) – I got this. – Hooked the mike up to the desktop, arrived at the live feed site Anchor to capture the audio, set up the camera as a backup for Zoom JUST IN CASE audio dropped from one source, and there is Coach Diaz waiting in the room – here we goooo-

An amazing and soul-filled interview that when it comes out in a day or so , you will be amazed HOW MUCH comes out of it when you hear it – halfway through it – what? Tanner Hollis and Amanda Roth with a bag in front of me- I was deer in the headlight and not expecting – “Coach Diaz- can I pause you for a minute?” – Zoom still recording, and the conversation of receiving a complimentary gift as a thanks for pushing Kudos for the Troy Haynes Foundation unfolding in front of Coach Diaz – perfectly recorded and my surprise as receiving SUCH A COOL GIFT BAG gift – from this amazing initiative – things are happening SO FAST! – just like like – Ms Roth and Tanner disappear!- – back where we left off – recording, Q & A-ing, and now , students coming in mass rush returning the Chrome books for the day, me interviewing and motioning with my hands to just drop off the Chromies on the desktop –

(BREATH taken here)

Just as we get through the last student successfully dropping of the Chrome book without an extra sound made, the loud speaker announcements come on overpowering parts of pur interview- BUT WE KEEP PLOWING THROUGH – and we will NOT be stopped! – not able to avoid the side remark of the various dismissals – and a student coming in for direction – at the front desk, me answering/repsonding to the interview while scrawling and directing that student silently upstairs to the Math instructor waiting for him – while completing such an amazing and enlightening side of XC from this collaborative Q & A podcast, that memory still fresh in my mind – a call from the case worker representing my Mom’s transfer to a new rehab facility and answering those questions to the best of my abaility

– disinfecting the returned Chromebooks, surfaces used for the day, grabbing as much as I could to close the library down for the Easter Break,

-refreshing the fact I would be going over outstanding invoices for books and determining which books did get shipped and which did not- with Ms Margaret Workman, and her coming across an Oriental Trading coupon in the middle of asking if I was interested in 20.00 from Priental Trading and then realizing that offer only came with an order of so much being bought and her remark – this was the PERFECT remark at the BEST time-

“Nothing is easy is it?”

and I almost collapsed right there – without a beat, with the perfect amount of sarcasm and disbelief, it was perhaps one of the funniest remarks made in the middle of a freight train of events unfolding in RAPID fire motion –

Needless to say, revisiting the hospital to go over a checklist of to do’s in 30 minutes, realizing I parked at an angle in the hospital parking lot and that I ran the vehicle low on gas and because it is at an angle, the gas not making it to the gas tank on an angle – (lol) walking home to get my Mom’s vehicle to get home to get the gas can to go back and fill up the gas can to out gas into MY vehicle to start it up but NOT doing so because well, I can only drive one vehicle at a time (really?!) – at home a little before 5:00 to feed the dogs, walk the dogs and get back in the house before the 5:30 PM meeting with Classic Upward Bound for the parent town hall meeting, (and having had talked to a few friends from Bridgeville to Harrington on a plane to get a vehicle back to my house and Mom’s house πŸ™‚ – whew- 6:30 and meeting is over- out the door to a former student’s (Thanks Colton!) to be my second driver- dropping Mom’s car at her house, dropping Colton back home after a successful pick up the car that I could not drive while driving my own car from the TidalHealth parking lot, back to Mom’s to gather items she needs for the next few days as a new rehab, back home –

and yes. April 1st is my Dad’s, Harry B Brake , (not Harry Randall Brake my brother, and not myself Harry R Brake) but my Dad’s and the one thing sticks out in my mind.

Despite that craziness above – which if you really tried to recreate and confirm – we ALL have had days thanks to this out of joint schedule of life we have been handed that rin fast forward – despite all of that above, I kept thinking how lucky I was able to have my Dad’s cool headed-ness to get throgh such days as this. No he might not be physically here when I call him up on the phone, but there was no doubt he had been with me all day to get me through all of – THAT above and be able to celebrate and appreciate it. He defined the story that I never could quite explain – that formed the Rings Around Us – no matter how crazy and how without a stop our days are – we carry something inside each of us that makes every day an aamazing day – it is worth every amount in the world to realize this, whether we stop to do so, or whether we keep motoring through rapidfire event after event, as often happens, we each have moments where we can be so thankful for the events forward rather than that can take us 20 steps back, which has happened as well in so many lives today. All of our lives.

In an offhand sort of way, the largest reunion known to any living being happened today and I felt this. Every single individual that contributed and contributes to my day – is a part of who my father was and is – a reflection of how my father always strived, no matter where, when, or how, to help someone, and be a part of what was going in in their world as well. I realized I had been celebrating his birthday all day with the very events – people – and generosity I had been receiving with them all day. That is what I always think about on April Fool’s Day, – can I pull off a prank in the smallest way as he did every day in the grandest way, while still remembering how amazing a spirit of helping others he held all throughout the day. I witnessed, again, as I have on prior April 1st days, a day full of the motivation and satisfaction of having those that are making the best of the hand they have been dealt, and moving forward.

Happy Birthday Dad!

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Kudos in reflection…The Mind of an Adult Begins with the Imagination of a Child

Sitting in my car on Friday, letting the realization of how a weekend will feel and feels, we all have done it. Realizing it IS the weekend, excited about an open door that allows possiblities within the framework of Covid, and three individual Kudos stickers on my lap.

Should I go in, should I just think of others topass this Kudos onto? As I ate one of the best thick, delicious grilled cheese sandwiches and fria Chai tea- I thought, heck,. yes, I should.

I marched back in to Amity, presented Amity Coffeehouse with a Kudos as well as the in-store resident artist Queena Joy Mast with a Kudos

after explaining what Projectkudos.com was. You would have thought I dropped $1000.00 on the studio ( I would if I could). The story that unfolded, the loss of someone so close to them due to cancer, the painting she completed of this individual who they lost to cancer, (yes that painting, AMAZING!) – and I mean, how would I haveknown that unless I had not pushed myself to follow through with Kudos? I wouldn’t have, absolutely not, and how well interconnected everything was- FATE.

Not that this was without additional excitement, over 10 times Cheska, who was visiting the Wilderlove Vintage store, broke in and began to tell us an unreal story she was writing. Her account of a tumor that had to be removed and how , the very next day, the complications, the debilitative after-condition that never occurred; literally the miracle that was her life now, and showing us pictures after her surgery- it was alot to take in after a whole day of drama and coping with school-setting situations, emotional overload and yet, I wondered…what would have happened if I had decided NOT to followup and go back in and give the Kudos as was my original feeling? Leaving after a flurry of information from Cheska and husband, visitors on their wayto Cape May, and Cheska’s remark of noticing I did not have a ring on my figure and gviving me the tip of not to be afraid of relatonships by the way (are you seeing this experience yet?!) – WOW

My point is, being an adult in a pandemic is quite easy to forget whatit was like to be a creative child when we did not have such a world situation- meaning – do not hesitate, now mroe than ever to tap into creativity, the chance to uplift and pass on to another encouragement, to literally grab a Kudos and give one to someone you know.

Today is the last dayto share a Kudos with someone, whether you knew Troy Haynes or not, hashtagging someone and sendingthem a Kudos today, you are more aligned with Troy’s spirit of others fulfilling their very best – something we all share despite the friendships we acquire, nothing more willbring you to the spirit and sense of giving Troy contained of passing it forward.

In a difficult tmime for so many, I can think of no better time for you to reach out to someone and givem them a Kudos nudge, so theyknow you are thinking about them – using these hashtags – #4troyfoundation #WHS #givekudos #Projectkudos @Project Kudos Powered by Schell Brothers you can help others remember what it is like to imagine and raise up – something I heard again today on NPR’s podcast with Kwame Alexander this morning. Pass the Kudos on while you have the chance!

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The Point Is…

Personal question, 1 of 3 I have today but this one is on my mind. Are there any students/adults out there that didn’t realize that school librarians

are taught in a Master’s of Library and Information Science (and start this process in a Bachelor’s) to:

-take the Dewey Decimal System (the way books are organized at K-12 level), and truly make sure the collection IN THE LIBRARY matches the classes /lessons the school provides, aside from books students enjoy reading?

-that weeding needs to be done once a week and never, ever ends and there is a proper process to do so? -continual opinions of students, and teachers, the patrons who use that library, are asked for to keep a library’s collection at least to an average age of the year 2000? Would you want YOUR son/daughter learning how to participate in investing for their future in books from 1972? When I did a check on some school libraries collections, their average age was 1975! SEVENTY FIVE – AVERAGE age, think about that.

-take technology, and apply and instruct old and new applications for and to parents, teachers, and students- technology changes EVERY SINGLE YEAR- without a school librarian, do you realize NOTHING NEW happens and this experience is different, I promise, it is 100% different coming from an educator than from a certified librarian- absolutely different, because they are trained differently.

-reach out to parents, students, on their OWN when they provide safe places to patrons, and become the bridge between parent and teacher to help both sides and facilitate learning – when the teacher is going it alone, do you realize how stressful that is for the educator, the parent, AND the student? That is why library media specialists are one of the most underused resources, EVER – and if this position does not exist, take a stress level x5 on everyone involved and imagine what is being left out of education.

-enhance the ability to approach tests and raise test scores in a practical way, which increase when students are INTERESTED in areas like vocational, artistic, literary AND academic, and yes, believe it or not sports. All of these areas are tied together in a properly trained certified library media specialist.

-fill in the gaps, find discrepancies that exist in learning heard from the parent, from the student and fill those spaces in when the library media specialist sees areas of weakness – they have sources in the community to assist with this. -become knowledgeable about student’s interests ALONG with student’s needs.

-keep an ear to every single faculty, admin, and student in the building and when they hear there is a need – they immediately go to problem solve to provide a solution to that need – that is one of the key roles of a certified library specialist, networking, IN AND OUT OF SCHOOL.

-multi-task on a daily basis – this week – I connected students to legislators on legitimate problems they want to see change in Delaware, provided scholarship references and tips to, answered questions about how to screenshot forms on a screen, how to wrap text in an excel spreadsheet, how to format a printed page to landscape versus portrait in a pdf, where to go to and find volunteer sheets to volunteer in the community, what is the best way to approach a teacher they are afraid of ( I Called the teacher and worked out an agreement between the two), inform the student how to order graduation materials, even though late, where to go to obtain a driver’s pass if they just started driving, where they can find information on electives for scheduling, who to meet up with about printing a one sheet paper in color, how they can order a lunch they forgot to order this AM, who to contact in t he community to find a way to get involved in a nature internship, where to find info on tutoring in the summer, BREATHE- this was me by 11:30 AM today, and half of the above was by email from students not in school this week –

The point is –

STUDENTS have needs that do not fall during school hours some districts, and schools do not understand what Library Media Specialists do or why they are needed to do every single day for students and teachers, but they never bother to ask how this position has changed, just as education is changing.

https://www.bagtheweb.com/b/oxhmdp

Did you see any mention of shelving books, stamping books, and promoting literacy in the above? — Wait for it wait for it— no-

that stereotype of what librarians, which ARE Library Media Specialists, is from the 60’s – toss it, and help, as a parent, as a teacher, as a grandparent, as a RELATIVE, ask WHY this role, is not in your school – I am trying to also help make sure we have a process that allows every school to have certified librarian specialists, alongside paras, alongside public librarians, to help ALL OF THE ABOVE HAPPEN.

Please do not hesitate to provide why this is important in one of two ways below – but without your awareness and realization of what a certified librarian specialist is trained to support and to for your student – NOTHING happens and you agree to that – or you disagree with that, which is how change happens for a new future of education. We would love input you would provide below:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScKo74mThoRFz_Q3-GF6yMg3tV7px4tCAhOwX7yOhCOk5PWBw/viewform

P.S. For how many that know little to nothing about this position in their school district, there are so many that do realize and do know, and you are the reasons, why Library Media Specialists can achieve the things they doΒ πŸ™‚Β I am blessed to be in a district that realizes this and so many parents, teachers, and students realize this, but there so many many states, districts and schools that do not. If education at a higher level is to change, then everyone needs to be involved and committed to this ideal.

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Tell Me Sweet Little Lies: Racism, Bias, Confirmation, and the Disinformation Epidemic – Featuring Nicole A Cooke, PhD

Perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of Dr. Cooke’s presentation is what I thought I knew, and how much I had not fully realized – then it came to me, being in the School of Information – wasn’t that a constant, ongoing process we see in the societies around us every day?

Breaking down the differences between misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation was a great great start. I honestly did not differentiate these, at least to my knowledge.

In looking at the goals of malinformation, which was to deliberately misleading, realizing it could be harmful, and which could lead to arrests and fall under criminalized activity seemed pretty on target with what I imagined and gravitated towards as a definition. What I did not realize were the subtle examples that were around me every single day that went unnoticed and unrecognized. When looking at the advertising of what was considered “unprofessional hair” and seeing countless examples of women of color depicted as unprofessional, compared to that of white women more than not depicted as professional, and recognizing the “Sweet Brown” meme often used, it was pretty obvious to see this as a version of digital black face,

The images of ads that featured Lebron James as King Kong saving women, as well as the way Serena Williams depicted as someone possessed and ape-like, the image spoke 1000 words when accompanied with this simple truth. It was easy to see the repeat pattern when Arab/Muslims are portrayed as violent killers, often also put into the same category as unfair transgender depictions. This means it is so easy fro public to apply the transgender position to individuals to someone who is not even transgender, simply as so large a public applies norms they have become used to hearing and seeing, to any and all individual that fits that category in their mind. It is quite shocking how powerful media has been able to influence so many in that aspect with the use of images and what I was unfamiliar with as digital blackface.

It was also interesting in seeing the depiction of Michael Brown as the media wanted too portray him, usually without a suit or would they have been able to portray him the same way as he appeared in a suit? Or ANYONE for that matter? it is quite easy to see how malinformation in this format caused fearmongeering, and how many unlikely connections easily go so wild so quickly.

With today’s vaccine current state, the misconceptions of past beliefs, how it was believed higher medical professions believed individuals of color had higher pain thresholds for pain, and how this affected the treatment of individuals, and showing the aspect of cultural competence (or incompetence). This was a powerful tool and lesson in light of current situations we may or may not find ourselves relating too, yet the presence and existence of this still occurring around us.

Relative to this recent has been the recent Kate and Harry interview, showing a progression from the UK. In this recent interview, the progression seeing in tabloids – headlines carrying and depicting a Megan from a point of simply emotional/crying to the point of wanting to give up on life, there are distinct parallels to the life of Princess Diana. All one has to do is follow the nature and history of the UK tabloids and you recognize the glaring similarities, and yet reactions to Harry and Megan have been quite different at times until a climbing point of release with this recent interview was conducted.

Seeing the graphic image of a sign in Scotland misrepresent information itself, in just the Kill a White on Sight sight, easily convinces those that this is the carrying cry of Black Lives Matter, when in reality, 93% of Black Lives Matter individuals were peaceful after George Floyd, and how quickly associated those individuals portraying themselves as Black Lives Matter had nothing to do with the actual movement or group, yet e never hear on the news, at the time, that reality. When examining the virtual cams and news that occur after curfew, you do find the majority of individuals tying themselves to BLM when in reality, they are not at all., Especially when violent actions occur, and then these actions are tied to BLM.

The tie to the name of the Covid 19 breakout, now being attributed to anyone of Chinese descent brings back worse days of the U.S. past. Mainly with the attribution of Japanese internment. I never even realized there was a group with the name of Stop AAPI Hate and we hear so little about organizations such as this.

It was also revealing when we looked back at the South Pacific musical seeped into these stereoptypes of malinformation, and spend more time being proactive on how incorrect past and current stereotypes can be so detrimental to others, often coming to us with no effort at all. Correcting and not accepting is often the largest hurdle towards change for sure. The critical conversations we are willing to have, instead of simply discussing the presence of these stereotypes, does indeed make all the difference.

I had never heard of Gloria Ladson Billings, but loved the quote associated with her, “We teach what we research.” I do think this mantra could help inform and awaken minds and eyes of current students, as future citizens., It is obvious through the media and through the visual how we are conditioned to value whiteness and Christianity at the sacrifice of other groups that do not fall into these categories but our perceptions. The tribal categorization of placing those into an “other” category does indeed, have its consequences.

I loved the referral to the brown doll versus the white doll test, and felt this point was driven home with the above and current moments we find ourselves in history. This falls right in line with the day after the Dr Martin Luther King assassination, and Jane Elliott’s Brown Eye test.

Kelly Marie Tran’s quote, “It wasn’t their words their words, it’s that I started to believe them.” brought back the amazing pushback she received on social media to the fact that many believed, and stated, and eventually pushed her off social media, that Star Wars had no places foe anyone of Asian descent.

As we are bombarded with stereotypes daily, consciously and unconsciously, the case of implicit bias, assigning bias based on beliefs assigned to / about groups, it is easy to see where microaggressions related to racial slights are on the increase.

In discussing the differences between gaslighting and racelighting, the importance of information literacy has never been more important before, EVER. I immediately saw the spaces where school librarians are being “excused” out of their value and positions in society, amid allowing the stop of information literacy to be presented to massed. This allows the critical literacy to fall by the wayside, and mass individuals can assign context that leads to meaning in a vacuum so much more, and so easily.

When this much is able to happen, all happen so much more without context, the misconstrued actions resulting from misconstrued perceptions grow, and grow, and grow to become a reality for so many. One of the countless ways is the fact that individuals of color are needed in the very professions that are often marginalized, the news, the medical fields, librarianship, obviously the news, and to me, it is not huge coincidence that current librarianship is still dominated by white women, and yet very few individuals of varying race and color are even encouraged into this field. Personally, when the role of a school librarian itself is being marginalized due to a host of countless reasoning, how much easily is it to apply to the areas of race, religion, news, and more? The information literacy that is and has been represented via school librarians, as it disappears, is often replaced with the beliefs individuals feel comfortable with, not the realities that exist in the world today.

One of the most powerful aspects of Dr. Cooke’s presentation was the vividness and the acute clarity of the images she utilized during her presentation. I purposely left out the images so you can compare tomorrow, once I compile these, how much the visual plays a role in the above content, which is a priceless and valuable topic we need to have represented vis discussion, day in and day out amid so much disbelief being accepted today. Easy, so easy to do, without school librarianship to challenge popular beliefs today, often leading to actions we never would have thought of/ just like the realities we are not challenged on as a result. Dr. Cooke’s presentation for these reasons and so many more!

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Bearing to Carry, the Ray of Light We Need Most Right Now – Creativity – Bringing the Raybearer Into Focus

Jordan Ifueko, as a debut author, featured as Delaware’s Festival of Words author on March 4th was different than many have experienced in a long time. Within minutes of starting, all participants were knee deep into discovering what it meant to create a world. With the flip of a few ideas, Ms. Ifueko was able to involve student moderator Katie Payne (She did AWESOME!) and librarian Carrie Simpson (excellent job!) and FOW director Andrea Rashbaum (HUGE KUDOS FOR ALL THIS!) into 2 worlds of where Velociraptors, society roles, ruling classes, power, a land called Katyborg, apricots, antagonists, protagonists, and more all coexisted and were created in the first 10 minutes of this session.

It is amazing what can happen when give a slight push, given a few starters, and worlds begin to become a reality. This beginning exercise let us peek into the way that Jordan Ifueko operated as a bearer of tales older than time.

So much investment was put into the novel The Raybearer as we began to find out.

Ms Ifueko noted about the main character, what she wants is her mother, that is her obvious primal need, that sense of security and led wanted from a parent, something every individual can find a tie to. It was reassuring to hear Ifueko reinforce that all should be encouraged to experience moments, and they will find there is always another layer that can bee peeled back.

Ms. Ifueko went on to relate that she had been homeschooled from the very beginning, and had started writing at age 13. When they moved to Oregon, she attended a public school for the very first time, testing into 10th grade, her graduating class was a total of – 17! It was interesting for her to realize how small this was yet amazed at how much a small group that did all things together, due to the number, could do so much! A common purpose often was identified through such a small group, and you should start to see parallels to a council of siblings that resemble the Raybearer foundation. Even if separated from each other, a sense of pain and departure is felt, and I am sure this existed for the novelist in the real world in many similar situations with the transition from home school to a public school /social setting with such a small number, some carry over would be expected.

Jordan Ifueko went on to note that some authors will say, as long as the world rules and systems make sense, the individual relationships do not have to be that deep, however, you will find and note, as Ms. Ifueko also acknowledged, those are NOT the books she believes in writing! In the end, a young girl who finds her place in an empire, all stems from a girl who wants a hug from her mother – and again, some common connections could be easily made outside of the pages of Raybearer to many readers.

Ifueko went on to encourage everyone that if they are interested in writing and journaling, do not be afraid to journal about what you want, what you are afraid to look forward to, and realizations you make along the way.

“YA adults have an appeal because the coming of age is an important part of everyone’s lives” and the author emphasized you do not have to always think your life will begin at a later date, your life, just as the author, offers so much now, be it a book, an event, or shaping the world for the better.

When asked about her Inspiration – she mentioned so much new fantasy – N K Jemisin, The Broken Earth trilogy, with the presence of the omniscient narrator mixed with a limited third person and even a 2nd person point of view. The ability to switch can be confusing, but has amazing results to conclude her books!

Ms. Ifueko also mentioned Tiffany Jackson – who often writes as an “unreliable narrator”, leaves things out until the last couple paragraphs who often leaves elements out of the last couple paragraphs, of her whole story, which often also causes much surprise and shock!

You begin to see a pattern here of authors that use creativity and the element of surprise to the max, to really “shake things up” in the literacy world, and when talking to Jordan Ifueko, one does not get the idea she is all about doing what everyone does, hence why her debut novel is so notoriously publicized!

When looking at the Raybearer – it is easy to see the creation and idea needed to be a blend of cultures, Western Africa /Nigera, and brining into perspective how often other countries do the dictating of another country, and this is a chance to represent a country from the inside out, not the outside in.

Ms. Ifueko’s hope was was continue to be inviting readers to be a part of the story – and the Griots played a huge part in that, where they memorize generations and generations of history (this reminded me of the novel, The Giver. She found she was able to twist African mythology a bit, and she did a ton of research to set up accurate accounts of history to enfold the characters.

Again, it is obvious in the past colonizers have made the majority of stories, which is never really the accurate or fair story of a country or people. The Raybearer pulls back that tale and replaces colonized accounts with more traditional, historical histories.

Due to colonizers stories having take the forefront, many individuals are in the dark about amazing attractions such as the Walls of Benin found in Nigera. It is about time we unearth the true stories and the true beauty of countries through original stories, and the Raybearer enables that power given to the reader.

When asked if the role of redemptor still mainly follow the story of Tarisai, Ms Ifueko stated that was a part of it. She compared The Raybearer to the story of Jumanji. She noted there was a budding romance with Winn, of Songland, how Kira obtains this fascination with Songland, she needs to know things – she gets attracted to information about Songland and needs to know EVERYTHING about it, yesterday!

There was a great reflection on what we pick up from reading. The more we read, the more when we write we also put down alot of what we have picked up through osmosis from the reading we have done! The upside is the more we read the more possibilities, styles, and techniques that begin to mash that can affect and influence us as writers, the downfall is that we might be picking up norms for ourselves that might be dominantly from another culture we have absorbed so much of! It was noted how interesting how the influence of status quo has on us as readers from what and how much we read.

And yes there will be more! Book #2, Redemptor, will be coming out in August and there MIGHT be a chance to snag a net galley, so keep your eyes on author Jordan Ifueko for your chance!

When asked what is next for the young author, she detailed the idea of a magical world set in New Orleans – a protagonist much different that Tarisai  – a little more jaded. We are interested for sure in seeing how Jordan Ifueko sees all around her and how she will continue to develop truths we could all be better for realizing !

You can find more on Jordan’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jordanifueko/?hl=en, and her recommendations to protect your love of storytelling and read A LOT, as well as defend your love of writing bear the light that can make a change!

Favorite authors ? Yes! – she mentioned Charlotte Bronte, and an interesting concept. She mentioned a teacher that made her take out all nouns and adjectives, and put in all her own. Going back to noticing the style you read, as a writer, you begin to notice the distinct style of a author when you do that specifically and put your own nouns and adjectives around the pronouns and style of that particular author!

One final standout, it was so interesting, maybe one of the most unique observations, that in looking at the world of Narnia, how interesting of a perspective it was that English children, find their way to Narnia, and basically have this world waiting just for them, to rule, not even sharing a culture or belief system of the world that was there before them. I see someone being able to take out that specific Narnia concept, and being able to replace with Jumanji, colonization of Britain over Africa, and countless other historical events where the native story has been clouded by a foreign story. The original story laying behind the layers is often the most interesting, and that is exactly what you will find in Jordan Ifueko’s Raybearer. We are excited about tonight’s books discussion about all of this and more!

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“Sitting Right Across from an Author”

On March 2nd, Catherine Ryan Hyde‘s visit with readers of her book “Have You Seen Luis Velez?” created quite an awakening and set of realizations about the world around us. One of the attendees stated it was as if “She was sitting right across the living room in a chair from her” and certainly, either from the warmth of her book or from the laid back, relaxed style that Ms. Hyde brought to the author session, it was not difficult to see how easy so much just seemed to come to her as an author.

We were very lucky to be participants of such a great book and episode. As tonight is the book discussion of Have You Seen Luis Velez?, thanks to Delaware Festival of Words, we reflect on the take aways she provided as an author:

Ms Hyde emphasized that events over lifetime have helped shape her as well as what has come out onto the page. Her creative process was often irregular compared to others, quite independent of what authors might say is a system that works for them. Truly the events that have been occurring around her influenced what we see in her deeply moving publications.

In formulating the origins of Have You Seen Luis Velez, she mentioned she has imagined parts for a long time, a run down apartment and bad neighborhood, a youngish boy, an older woman, and yes, a cat. When we asked her about the importance of the cat she made a very good point, had the cat not existed in the plot, then the young character might not have ever had the link to the neighbor that began a spiraling connection of events that pushed the two through the remainder of the book.

Connecting back to what inspired her to write, she mentioned that as of late, she has been watching the way she felt society going – which to her obviously was not being happy about where society was going, and led her to think of the things that might be going wrong.

I liked the fact /comment made that too many people have this mindset we are good people – even when oneΒ of us does something terrible, forgivable, the fact is that they are dangerous, when they do such an act – – and that leads to the proof of a tribalism. We versus a they, they being dangerous, an US being better than a they– and indeed, it does seem that there is too much of this in the world today.

It was worth noting the author did not think she could solve this problem, but at the very least she could get people to talk about this issue and that would be a starting point.

In ties/connections to the novel on a person novel, she reflected that other than her being half Jewish – only one of her grandparents she knew, her maternal grandmother come to the U.S. from Germany/slash Poland and never had been really in danger as she wasΒ  not born until 1955. In high school she has watched the documentary, Night and Fog and she still today remembers sitting through the whole movie horrified at the atrocities of what the allies has found when encampments had been liberated from World War II. It was worthy of her noting when you have a book that is capable of combining several cultures, you have the opportunity to see or know one culture from the inside out is so helpful and such a benefit.

Hyde’s comment about in fiction it is about turning up the volume to make a more interesting read occurs often in her novel, especially in Have You Seen Luis Velez?

When asked if she researches for her books, she did state she does but as you would have guessed, it depends on the book, she is able to do light research, write, and then go back and see if any mistakes were made based on the research she conducted.

She did view a book she is now working on, a coming of age story taking place during 1941-1942 – the main character realizing he is gay at an inconvenient time and place, also connected to three best friends, one being Japanese. Obviously, being during 1941-1942 also causes its chare of issues with the culture and conflict that was occurring in the United States at the time.

In elaborating on the authoring and editing process, she relayed how an agent reads the draft first, then editor, then a developmental editor, then copy editor, then 2 proofreaders and a sensitivity reader. Although many might not be familiar with a sensitivity reader, as there was not usually this position, it is interesting how in today’s climate, this is part of the process.

We discussed the issue of writing about someone you are not and she did feel it is okay to write about someone you are not –BUT IT HAS TO BE CORRECT and not taking liberties that fall far from the actual portrayal, as we brought up the controversy surrounding the book American Dirt.

Ms Hyde went on to mention that on the surfaces we have a lot of differences, but underneath that, you get a really universal experience- basically a human being is someone who wants safety, love and be loved, which is a shared experience almost everyone wants, and those are the areas we should focus on to connect us as a community.

Many readers has questions, one being the situation of the character Raymond being possibly asexual, as his sexuality was not really an asset when slight mentions of characters showing an interest in him. I loved that Ms. Hyde’s responses was that people have false ideas about this topic, and honestly, no one would have questioned his sexuality if he had appeared more responsive to his sexual characteristics, either, a good point. She did mention that, that was not a key factor or topic for Raymond as a character – as the other values and important details were with his relationship and motivation with other characters. This also allowed Raymond to have the freedom and chance to have a better understanding of who he was as a character.

Another reader asked if this was a model of a hero’s journey, unconsciously. It was interesting to note it was a journey of self discovery and the author noted this was first time she had nine characters with the same first and last name!

As an author, she did not realize until she was into the story how the other characters would be disappointed that they were not the Luis Velez that Raymond was looking for. Focusing back on the cat as a character, seeing Raymond finding and befriending the cat in an abandoned building, buying food himself, and saving /protecting the cat tells you all you need to know about Raymond.

Again, the question arises, I\if it had not been for the cat – how would they have taken the step into friendship ? The answer is doubtful. For the cat’s sake Raymond will show up at the door – that was the key that opened the lock for the door. However I thought before the cat, Raymond had the inclination to help his neighbor, so I was not 100% sold on the above fact.

When asked about how arriving at the name Luis Velez – Ms Hyde stated she needed definitely the name to be Hispanic, a name easy to remember, easy to pronounce, and she had obtained the idea from a Frasier show – closely tied to the name Lupe Velez – so again – taking aspects from the world around her! She mentioned she will hear names and they will just click. She again reiterated that she did not worry how others are doing it in developing their plot and details, she relied on what worked for her, and writers should rely on what works for them!

In mentioning the concern for the world around her – she referred to Trayvon Martin – the acquittal – bothered her – the an incident again where an older man (Michael Dunn) killed a younger man (Jordan Davis) over the music – the penalization does not bring the young man back – and she continued to be troubled by the stand your ground laws as she continued to see such troubling events all around her.

She stated it is important to question How do you write an ending that is what everyone will talk about?

When asked Why New York?, she mentioned she was more inclined to writing settings in small towns, rural settings, and occasionally approached big cities. However, in Have You Seen Luis Velez?, you have to live in a place large enough with so many people named Luis Velez – which was pretty true!

When asked How long does a character stay with you?, she stated Not as long as you think – she had to switch gears as she is on a 2 book a year to be written / published schedule – it would be a problem if you could not get out of the last book – as she would not be able to separate one book from another regarding the separate plots, characters, etc..

When asked is Ms. Hyde deemed herself successful, she said yes, by her definition. She is able to do what she loves and not having to stop what she does for a living! Since being a sophomore in high school, she liked the idea of being an author, and if you did not know, she was the author of Pay It Forward! I loved realizing this after reading this book as I did not know before and yet- it makes sense! I also loved the fact that she did not particular like the idea of anything having to go to movies, as it meant less to her as being able to write meaningful books. She hoped to get Payitforward into more schools and we discussed how books like Pay It Forward, and Wonder, make a difference to readers, youth authors like Jerry Craft and the ideas we discover in Have You Seen Luis Velez?

If interested in a connection to discussing, reading, and developing possibilities of Have You Seen Luis Velez? into a Kindness Program, Ms Donna Carter, from the Greenwood Library is helping develop this idea among Sussex County – a theme that is desperately possible and needed across the world! Excited for tonight’s book discussion!

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