Sierra Club

The Sierra Club: A Range of Possibilities

Considering the difficulty of coordinating ten people for a dinner party, it’s nothing short of amazing that the Sierra Club boasts two million members and supporters. Sounds like pretty compelling evidence for the belief that more and more people every day are becoming concerned about the health and welfare of our planet.

A self-described “environmental organization,” the Sierra Club was founded in 1892 by conservationist John Muir and a few of his close friends. While the group organizes more than twenty thousand local and international outings each year, the Sierra Club is no mere hiking fraternity. Its members are the driving force behind much of our better-known ecological legislation, including the establishment of national parks, the Clean Air Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

In 1916, two years after John Muir’s death, his dream of a bureau to oversee and protect national parks was realized when President Wilson created the National Park Service. Since then, the Sierra Club has worked tirelessly to create, expand, and preserve protected wilderness areas across the country, helping to save some two hundred fifty million acres from over-logging, flooding via dams, and industrial destruction.

Sierra Club members pride themselves on preserving our national, natural heritage. As we celebrate Earth Day this month, let’s remember how far we’ve come with eco-legislation, and think of how far we have to go.

Let your voice be heard. Make every day Earth Day.

Share the environmental message with your kids! During the month of April, you’ll receive 30% off of your order AND free shipping when you order one of our green titles: Sofia’s Dream, What Does It Mean to be Green?, or A Bird on Water Street. Use code BEGREEN at checkout.

Kids

Kids Say the Smartest Things

Little kids are amazing. They soak up new information like sponges, and they’re wildly enthusiastic about the things that they love. It was my privilege to visit with a group of first-graders recently; we talked about the vital connection between life and Earth, emphasizing the need to keep our planet clean and healthy. Despite the broadly abstract nature of the topic, the students took the talk to heart, creating essays and pictures about why it’s important to take care of the Earth. Click on photos to enlarge.

Kids

“If you don’t pick up trash you will not have food and water. If you don’t take care of the Earth you will spread germs. If you cut down lots of trees you will not have oxygen.” –Makiya

Kids

“Trees give us oxygen so we can smell.” –Samantha

Kids

“It keeps us alive; to keep the animals safe, we need a clean world.” –Zackary

Kids

“So we don’t suffocate. What would we eat and drink? What would you do if your friends couldn’t breathe?” –Gavin

Kids

“I am picking up the park because I want to stop pollution and put it in the trash can. If you cut down the trees we have no oxygen.” –Lane

Kids

“I like to clean Earth. I like to do it because I like to live. When you clean you help the Earth; that is good because you would be able to breathe.” — Kaylee

Kids

“Trees help us to breathe. Trees keep the dirt in place. We need the Earth clean.” –Hannah

These are just a few of the terrific essays that were turned in; all of the kids did a great job and asked plenty of thoughtful questions. A special thank-you to Abigail, Aleycia, Patrick, Ozzy, Teagan, Gage, Addison, Alexys, Jacob, Marcus, Carston, Zach, Evan, Austin, Hannah, Makiya, Samantha, Zackary, Gavin, Lane, Kaylee, and Tommy. If you’d like to continue the conversation with your own kids, consider picking up a copy of What Does It Mean To Be Global? or any of our other eco-friendly, green titles.

Why do YOU want to help take care of the Earth?

Featured Young Writer

Featured Young Writer of the Month:

Why Do Kids Care About Our Planet?

In keeping with this month’s theme regarding the vital connection between life and Earth, we’ve reached into the archives to find this gem from Featured Young Writer Sarah Marjorie. Sarah wrote this as an eighth-grader, and her words ring just as true today.

Why do kids care about our planet? We care because it’s our future. The planet Earth is our home. It supplies us with the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the nutrients that are necessary for us to survive. At my school, which is a three-year middle school, we spend each year focused on one part of the Earth. In sixth grade, we studied the global water crisis and raised money to build a well. In seventh grade, we studied land and how it is changing. This year, in eighth grade, we studied the air and atmosphere around us. Just yesterday, I finished my final project, an iBook about global warming. Every student that attends this school comes to care about the Earth in his/her own way.

Adolescents care about our world because we want to change it. Everyone dreams of it, from toddlers to teens. We want to make a difference for the better. Whether our impact is on one person’s world or an entire nation, kids care about the Earth because it is our home and we hold the power amend, modify, and redesign it the way we want. We need to live here and future generations do, too, but we’re responsible for taking care of it to live naturally and in harmony with nature.

With all the talk of global warming and climate change, kids feel like the Earth is theirs to take care of, and it is. We are the Earth’s future, and if we don’t take care of it, everything we know and love could possibly be effected. Due to the fact that kids care about the planet, we have the power to change it and use our knowledge and technology to keep it safe. We know this and that’s why we care about the Earth.

Little Pickle Press music

Relish the Sweet Side of Little Pickle Press:

Songs to Savor

In addition to an ever-growing list of award-winning books, Little Pickle Press has also produced music! Related to two titles, these green-themed songs come straight from the heart, and will hopefully speak to yours. Here with lyrics and a bit of background is our own Chief Pickle, Rana DiOrio.

I remember when I had the pleasure of listening to the rough mix of Dreaming, written by Jasmine Saldate and produced by Terrance Kelley to complement our children’s picture book Sofia’s Dream by Land Wilson and illustrated by Sue Cornelison. I sat at my laptop with my earphones on and listened to it over and over again. It made me smile, sing, sway, and then later, hum. Part of the thrill of listening to this uplifting song was the realization that this is my job—listening to, critically analyzing, and critiquing beautiful music is part of my job now! I digress.

The Inspiration:
Jasmine’s inspiration for the song came from witnessing how mothers love their children and appreciating the lengths to which mothers will go to ensure that their children are safe and happy.

The Lyrics:

Verse 1

You are my home
I’ll care for you; you’re not alone

You are my friend
On me you can always depend

I would fly to the moon at night
Just to make sure everything’s alright

It makes a difference in every way
To keep dreaming

Chorus

So dream of what
The Earth would be
With the help of you and me
What we do on Earth today
Makes a difference in every way
Aiming high in all we do
Will inspire other too.

Plant a tree and hug a friend
Help a neighbor and lend a hand

Many things that we can do
To keep dreaming

Verse 2

Imagine a place
Full of beauty we all can embrace

Sharing a dream
Keeping Earth full of beautiful things

And we could fly to the moon at night
Just to make sure everything’s alright

It makes a difference in every way
To keep dreaming (Chorus)

Little Pickle Press music

Little Pickle Press has also produced an original composition for What Does It Mean To Be Green? The music and lyrics are, once again, by Jasmine Saldate; the song was produced by John Alevizakis of Little Buddha Studio.

The Inspiration: According to Jasmine, being green is something everyone should want to be! Her inspiration for the What Does It Mean To Be Green? song came from an image of a child with a super-hero cape saving the world by being green. The song flowed from that powerful image.

The Lyrics:

Green, green what does it mean?
She’s your Earth; treat her kind.
Be green, green and keep her clean.
She’s your earth; treat her kind. (Chorus)

Many things we throw away.
We could use them again in some way.
If we find a box we could be in luck.
Look dad, I turned this box into a truck!

And when you want to get somewhere,
There are ways to spare the air.
Ride a bike, or take a walk instead,
Or if you have to drive, carpool with a friend. (Chorus)

I like to splash when it rains.
Why let the water just go down the drain?
Set your pots outside and walk away.
They’ll be full in a couple of days.

See a light on when no one’s there,
Turn it off, we all should care.
Save a tree, energy, electricity;
If we all save a little then we will all be . . . (Chorus)

The Songs: By now, I’m hoping your interest is piqued. If so, please consider listening to the songs by linking here for What Does It Mean To Be Green? and here for Dreaming. And by all means, please tell us what you think about Little Pickle Press music by leaving a comment!

Water Crisis

Water Crisis: A Q&A with Matt Damon

Hey, there! Let’s start the week with a little quiz, shall we? It’s a short one, I promise.

Water:

A. is good for your kidneys and overall health.

B. covers most of the planet, but only a tiny fraction of that water is clean and drinkable.

C. can have an impact on quality of education.

D. is a vital link in the connection between life and earth.

If you suggested E., all of the above, you’re right. Water is absolutely necessary to our daily lives, and not just because we can use it to make coffee. Every part of your body relies on the water in each cell to function. While this big blue marble known as Earth is awash in water, about 97% of it is salt water. A piddling 8% of the remainder is unpolluted.

Imagine waking up knowing that you have to walk four (or more) miles to get your water for the day. You can’t go to school, because your family’s survival comes before your education. You can’t go to work, because you need those precious hours to search for water to keep your family alive. When you do finally get your hands on enough water to fill your bucket, you may not be so keen to have a drink. Contaminants and bacteria from human waste, decomposing animals, and who knows what is likely to be floating around in there.

After coming face-to-face with the water crisis, Gary White and Matt Damon founded Water.org, an initiative that will provide regular access to safe supplies of water to the nearly one billion people around the world who are currently without such access. Having surpassed their initial goal of reaching two million people with safe water and sanitation, Gary White had this to say: “Young girls are going to school, women are able to become economically productive, more children are living past their fifth birthday, and families are healthier and living with greater dignity.”

With success like that, no donation will ever be considered a drop in the bucket. Please watch the two embedded videos to see why the water crisis is a world crisis, and then take a moment to give what you can. You can help spread the word by sharing this post and by following #WaterCrisis on Twitter.

 

 

Summit County Libraries

Featured Library of the Month:

Summit County Libraries

Based in Frisco, Colorado, with branches in Silverthorne and Breckenridge, the Summit County Libraries have the perfect website tagline. The world at your fingertips.

The Summit County Libraries do indeed offer the world. First off, there’s the spectacular scenery that is one of Colorado’s claims to fame. Then there’s the library catalog itself. When you visit their website, you’ll find the Research tab, with links to tons of databases covering just about any topic that you can imagine. There’s also a companion page full of search tips for the struggling researcher.

If you’re looking to feed your passion for print, The Summit County Libraries offer up a grand buffet. The online catalog is broken down into categories, and each title has a star rating to give you a quick idea of its popularity.

Separate pages for kids and teens have the usual “here’s something to read” links, but there’s more. Homework help, fun and games, and a special page simply called “Life.” This page offers support for teens that may be dealing with difficult issues such as peer pressure, personal health, and self-esteem.

Visitors and patrons with mobility issues are encouraged to enjoy the libraries, with guest passes and mobile outreach services available. To keep up with the latest in literature, you can sign up for the newsletter here.

The next time you’re in the area, visit the Summit County Libraries and take your reading to new heights!

Earth Day Books

10 Eco-tastic Pinterest Boards: Earth Day Books

Hey, parents! Wanna give your kids the world? Put a book in their hands! Wanna give your kids a clean and healthy world? Give them a book about Earth Day.

The brain of a child is an amazing thing. They soak up everything they see and hear. Okay, maybe not the fourteenth time that you asked ‘em to take out the trash, but they do gather and store information at an amazing rate. If you want your kids to learn about important topics such as the vital connection between life and earth, now is the time.

To make the lesson easy on everybody, we’ve compiled a list of super-cool Pinterest boards that focus on Earth Day books. Pick, click, and choose from tons of mainstream and indie titles that will give your kiddos a strong grasp on going green.

  1. Earth Day—Somers Library: Aimed at younger readers, this board features easy-to-read titles with bright illustrations and familiar characters.
  2. Earth Day—Book Pal: This board steps away from the story format and offers straightforward answer books. Looking for answers to questions such as Why Should I Recycle? and Why Should I Protect Nature? You’ll find them here.
  3. Earth Day Books—Scholastic Canada: People are inspired to protect the things that they love, and this board will foster a love of animals and their vanishing habits. From plankton to polar bears, this detailed board has offerings for readers of various ages.
  4. Books: Earth DayKids Yoga Stories: This well-arranged board has books, top-ten poster-style pins, and fun activities for kids who want to learn about Earth Day.
  5. Spring Books Earth Day—REAL Reading Excites: Set up with poster-style pins, this board catalogs seed books, rainbow books, and more.
  6. Earth Day Picture Books—Rebecca Ives Eisenberg: Part inspiration, part review, this board is perfect for parents of younger readers. If you look closely at one of the pinned posters, you’ll see a very familiar cover!
  7. Earth Day Children’s Books—Natalie Longmuir: From realistic to really wild, this board showcases some beautiful hardcover children’s books about our fellow living creatures.
  8. Books for Earth Day—Lucid Publishing: Emphasizing digital and recycled-paper editions, this board turns the spotlight on instructional (but fun) conservation books.
  9. Earth Day and Environmental Awareness for Kids—Storytime Standouts: Once your kids have absorbed the lessons in the books, they can put them into practice with some really neat activities. This board offers books and craft ideas.
  10. Library List—Jenni Fischer: This board isn’t strictly about Earth Day, but it’s so totally amazing that I had to include it. Many of the pins are poster-style, with a variety of titles arranged on each. Categories include Earth Day, diversity, multiculturalism, artistic creativity, and lots of other topics that deserve to be discussed in every home.

If you’re in the mood for a bonus, PBS has a great list of Green Reads by Danielle Steinberg. Many of the titles will be familiar, and offer the message that one person truly can make a difference.

So now you’ve got a few hundred ideas. Time to shut off the computer, grab some cocoa, and curl up with the kiddos and some good books. Which one will you read first?

Three Rs

The Three Rs: Expanding on a Theme

The theme of reduce, reuse, and recycle has become a part of our collective consciousness, right up there with wi-fi and coffee. We all know about it; we all know it’s a good thing, but how many of us actually put it into practice?

Why should we put it into practice?

More than just a triad of feel-good buzzwords, the eco-friendly Three Rs are a way of life. Let’s look at reduction, for example. Do you like to breathe? Me, too. By reducing the number of trips you take in the family truckster, you can reduce your annual contribution to air pollution. I’m not saying that you should walk everywhere, but simple steps like carpooling or parking in a central location in order to accomplish several errands within walking distance can really add up.

Reuse. Anyone who grew up during the Great Depression or World War II is a past master of this trick. Outgrown clothes? Pass them down to the next kid in the family. Clothes worn out? Cut them up and use the still-good pieces to make quilts and other items. With the arrival of the Internet, inspiration is just a click away. It’s easier than ever now to seek out new ways to use old stuff, rather than wasting resources by buying another impulse item.

Recycle. It’s not just for plastic bottles anymore. Batteries, appliances, and metal of all kinds can be recycled. While crossing a bridge one day, my husband and I happened to look down into the creek. Rather than splashing fish and playful raccoons, we saw a washing machine and several tires. My husband was outraged. “Look at that. People live here for thousands of years, and all they leave are a few arrowheads. We’re here for a couple hundred, and leave a mess like this.” The recycling bug bit us hard that day, and has been hanging on ever since. With a recycling center a matter of blocks away, it wasn’t a difficult decision. Now the only hard part is reminding him to tie a sturdier knot around the old newspapers!

Reduce, reuse, and recycle. Three small changes that can add up to big differences. But wait; there’s more! A fourth, fifth, and beyond! That R can stand for Rethink, as in rethink old methods and look for better ways to serve our planet. Or maybe Refuse, as in refuse to buy items that aren’t made with sustainable ingredients or are packaged in single-use plastic. My personal favorite is Repair. Learn to mend seams and loose buttons. Teach yourself to patch and plaster and fix instead of throwing something away when it’s no longer out-of-the-box perfect.How about Restore? When you cut down a tree, plant a new one. Having a picnic? Pick up your trash and those cans that someone else left behind.

How many Rs can you come up with? How many do you live by?

Need some more ideas for applying the Rs? Download our free lesson plans!

What Does It Mean To Be Green? Lesson Plan

Sofia’s Dream Lesson Plan 

Red Balloon Bookshop

Featured Customer of the Month:

Red Balloon Bookshop

The right book can help your imagination soar like a balloon, and the Red Balloon Bookshop is the place to find that book!

Since 1984, the Red Balloon Bookshop has been serving the literary needs of patrons of all ages in the Twin Cities area. The staff has done the job so well, in fact, that the shop had to expand and move to a new location only five years after opening.

There are story times and book clubs for various age groups and tastes, including Spanish Story Time, the Chapter and Verse Book Club, and the (Not So) Young Adult Book Club. There are special events that include authors, illustrators, magicians, and music, and more cool stuff is added to the event calendar every month!

The Red Balloon Bookshop caters to educators as well, with special discounts for schools and teachers. They make sure to order extra copies of summer reading list titles in order to combat the dreaded “summer slide.” The staff even keeps a wish list on hand, allowing generous patrons to help put much-needed books into appreciative classrooms.

If you’re looking for something special, the Red Balloon Bookshop offers an “Indie Next” list, a monthly compilation of must-read titles from independent publishers. There’s even a special list just for kids!

Want to let your mind take flight? All you need is a Red Balloon …

Earth, appreciated

Earth, Appreciated: A Playlist

There are a lot of things to appreciate about our home planet. Air, for one thing. Breathing is pretty nice. Water is good, too. Without water, we can’t make coffee, and I really appreciate my coffee.

From the microscopic world to the vast oceans, the world is full of wonder, danger, and beauty. There are discoveries to be made and insights to be gained. There is also great potential for loss; climate change and population expansion are taking their toll.

In the Earth, appreciated TED talks playlist, you’ll find twelve compelling reasons to take a keen interest in the vital connection between life and earth. A wide-angle view of fragile Earth presents magnificent aerial photographs and “documents human impact on the environment.” Hidden miracles of the natural world goes beyond the visible and into the world of the microscopic.

The story of life in photographs outlines the story of life from the beginning, using a slideshow-style presentation. The world’s oldest living things details some of “the world’s oldest continuously living organisms.” Go from the oldest to the coldest when you watch Haunting photos of polar ice.

After you feast your eyes on the visual bounty, it’s time to lend your ears to some of the biggest voices in environmental science. James Hansen explains “Why I must speak out about climate change” and Paul Gilding suggests that The Earth is full. Al Gore presents New thinking on the climate crisis, while Sylvia Earle shares My wish: Protect our oceans.

John Doer urges investment in clean energy in his talk, Salvation (and profit) in greentech. The list rounds out with Alex Steffen’s The route to a sustainable future and Johan Rockstrom’s Let the environment guide our development.

Taken one by one, the twelve talks presented in Earth, appreciated are thought-provoking. Taken all together, they are a chilling reminder that the planet is not our property, but our partner. If we let that “business” fail, there are no bailouts.

Share the Earth, appreciated playlist, and start the global conversation at home with a copy of What Does It Mean To Be Global?, available in hardback and digital formats.

Mother Nature

Don’t Mess With Mother Nature

“When I thrive, you thrive.

When I fail, you fail.

Or worse.”

So speaks Mother Nature, voiced by Julia Roberts, in a film created by Conservation International as part of its Nature Is Speaking campaign. The campaign, which features short films voiced by celebrity heavy hitters including Harrison Ford, Penélope Cruz, Robert Redford, Edward Norton, and Kevin Spacey, uses the viewpoint of a cast of characters including Mother Nature, The Ocean, and The Rainforest, and more, to send a message to humans: Nature doesn’t need people, people need nature.

Since watching the Mother Nature film last fall, and then—okay, I was hooked—watching every other one available in rapid succession, I’ve been trying to put my finger on why they are so powerful. I think the answer lies in comments made by Dr. M. Sanjayan, Conservation International’s executive vice president and senior scientist. “The environmental movement … tends to present nature as something that is separate from people. By making it clear that people need nature to survive, we are turning the conversation around …”

Take it from me, they’ve turned the current dialog surrounding environmental issues on its head and it’s effective. Roberts’ Mother Nature is unapologetic, uninterested, and quite possibly annoyed. “I have fed species greater than you,” she admonishes. “And I have starved species greater than you.”

Her words, juxtaposed with striking images of nature’s beauty and power, leave no room for misinterpretation. She need not be invested in the survival of the human race, but we might do well to invest in her.

This month we’ve dedicated our blog to discussing the vital connection between life and earth. Mylie Thompson kicked things off with her thought-provoking post about the Pachamama Alliance, which, by protecting the rainforest of Ecuador, is inspiring a future for humanity that honors and sustains all life.

Today, I invite you to watch these equally thought-provoking short films, available at http://natureisspeaking.org/. Let’s keep the conversation going!

Earth Day Books

What Does It Mean To Be Global?

Just Ask These Folks!

The vital connection between life and Earth is you, and there’s no better place to start forging that relationship than in the global community. Think about it: the more we understand each other, the more we understand our place in the world. Once we’ve got that idea down pat, we’re more inclined to look after the world itself. Here at Little Pickle Press, we know just the way to introduce young readers to the global community. And we’re not the only ones. Read on for some reviews of our own Rana DiOrio’s What Does It Mean To Be Global?

ONE.org: “Here’s a collection of six great children’s books about some of the issues that we care about—like global health and caring for the poor. Hopefully, they inspire these young readers to turn into young activists.” Read full article here.

Publisher’s Weekly: “Taking the name Little Pickle from the term of endearment she uses for each of her three small children, DiOrio opened her press in October 2009 with the launch of the series with What Does It Mean to Be Global?, followed by What Does It Mean to Be Green? and What Does It Mean to Be Present? in March and July, respectively, of the following year.” Read full article here.

Joanna Marple:Global encourages children to explore the world’s various cultures, religions, languages, and traditions. The illustrations are colourful, whimsical, and happy, and match the simple text and message well. While I am sure this has the classroom as a target, I think it would make a great present and basis for discussion with any child.” Read the full review here.

Cool Mom Picks: “What Does It Mean To Be Global? and What Does It Mean To Be Green? are two great books to start with. My kids were instantly captivated by simple narratives, accompanied by Chris Hill’s sweet cartoony illustrations. But most of all I think they liked not being talked down to. Rather the opposite; your kids will walk away feeling important and empowered, like they can make a difference in their own little worlds and beyond.” Read the full review here.

What Does It Mean To Be Global? has racked up nearly a dozen awards since publication, and is available in three languages and several formats. There’s the hardbound print edition, which features soy inks and recycled paper, and digital versions for Kindle and NOOK. In case you were wondering, yes! There’s an app for that! Offered in three languages (English, Spanish, and French), this fun and interactive app will put the whole world into your child’s hands. There’s even a catchy theme song available from iTunes.

Does being global mean traveling the world? Nope. Sometimes, it just means opening the door to your imagination and taking that first step. Come with us!

Rights of nature

What Would It Mean for Nature to Have Rights?

Imagine what it would feel like to live in a society that protects Earth’s right to thrive; where Nature is honored and recognized as having rights and is no longer primarily defined as property. In this world, courts would weigh in when conflicts arise between ecosystems and humans. Oceans, animals, mountains, and all of Nature would have rights just as human beings have rights.

This is what is known as Rights of Nature. Rights of Nature recognize the Earth and all its ecosystems as a living being with inalienable rights: to exist, to live free of cruel treatment, to maintain vital processes necessary for the harmonious balance that supports all life.

It can be difficult for many of us to imagine a world where Rights of Nature is widely enacted, and we might wonder how things would be different.

For nearly two decades, San Francisco-based Pachamama Alliance has been focusing on protecting the Amazon rainforest of Ecuador, while also inspiring a new future for humanity—one that honors and sustains all life.

Pachamama Alliance was instrumental in the founding of and provides financial support to a group of internationally recognized experts and leaders working for the universal adoption and implementation of Rights of Nature. This group is called the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

According to the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature, this is what it would mean for Nature to have rights:

Under the current system of law in almost every country, nature is considered to be property, a treatment which confers upon the property owner the right to destroy ecosystems and nature on that property. When we talk about the “rights of nature,” it means recognizing that ecosystems and natural communities are not merely property that can be owned, but are entities that have an independent right to exist and flourish.

Laws recognizing the rights of nature thus change the status of natural communities and ecosystems to being recognized as rights-bearing entities with rights that can be enforced by people, governments, and communities.”

In 2008, Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in its constitution, and in 2013, Pachamama Alliance supported the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature in successfully forming the first Global Tribunal on the Rights of Nature. Recently, in December 2014, the International Rights of Nature Tribunal convened in Lima, Peru. Thirteen judges heard twelve prominent cases evidencing violations to the Rights of Mother Earth and Nature, human rights, and rights of indigenous communities. You can read more about the tribunal here.

While the concept of Rights of Nature might be an unfamiliar one to many of us, shifting the way we perceive and interact with the natural world could expand our circle of responsibility to life outside of human communities and to all of the living beings with whom we share this planet.

To learn more about Rights of Nature, click here. Pachamama Alliance offers the Game Changer Intensive—a seven-week online course designed to educate, inspire, and equip you to get into action for a just and sustainable world. Sign up for the Intensive and learn more, here.

Mylie is a writer for the San Francisco-based non-profit, the Pachamama Alliance. She connects people to Pachamama Alliance by writing and editing news, events, email campaigns, and also by co-coordinating Pachamama Alliance’s blog. After many years of working in in the field of animal rights, she is happy to now help empower people to create a more sustainable world through Pachamama Alliance.

When she is not working, she enjoys vegan cooking, gardening, hiking, writing, shopping at international markets, and traveling anywhere—especially places brimming with geothermal activity, like Yellowstone National Park and Iceland.

Partnership

Pickles + Cheese = ONE Meaningful Partnership

I had a dream when I founded Little Pickle Press that we would partner with like-minded brands to support nonprofits that serve the communities we care most about. As with most dreams, the path to actualizing this dream has been circuitous and steep at times, but it has come true! It’s with great honor and humility that I present to you our #BCorps4ONE campaign. But, before I explain what that is exactly, let me take you back to the windy, hilly path …

In October 2012, I had the privilege of traveling to Ethiopia with a delegation of ONE Moms to support the mission of the ONE Campaign. We were asked to immerse ourselves in the Ethiopian culture and to tell the stories of its people.  You can read some of my stories here, here, and here. The experience touched me deeply and changed me meaningfully. It galvanized my commitment to serving ONE, well, for life.

I made many new friends on that journey, (the brilliant and talented) Diana Prichard among them. Diana is a freelance agriculture and food writer, photographer, professional speaker, hog farmer, and also an award-winning children’s book author. During one of our long drives in the countryside, Diana and I lamented that children have no idea where their food comes from. Most children in the United States believe that milk comes from a carton in the refrigerator, for example. I suggested that she write a children’s picture book on the topic, and she did. Not just any book, mind you. She wrote The Cow In Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen, a multiple award-winning book that is as humorous as it is informative, illustrated by Heather Devlin Knopf.

Two years later, we were approached by a (charming and resourceful) representative of Cabot Creamery Cooperative, a fellow B Corporation. Cabot was seeking like-minded brands to add value to the community. They found a match with us. Together, we hatched a plan to raise awareness of food origins and to address food insecurity in all of our communities by donating fifteen percent (15%) of the net sales of The Cow In Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen to the ONE Campaign. You can read more about our partnership here.

Partnership

 

Now, it is up to you to help us to achieve our goal. Please buy a copy of The Cow In Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen and encourage your friends to do the same!

teacher

Stranger Than Friction

In 2006, Ryan Lund Neumann was a brand new teacher, eager to change the world but unsure how he was actually going to do it. In 2009, he created a blog (neumannictimes.com) and began documenting his life as a teacher. Through reflective inquiry, he discovered he could positively affect the lives of others via teaching and writing. His first book, titled What Had Happened: a work of friction (Amazon Books; $13.50), is the result of his efforts to communicate how it feels to be a teacher, in and out of the classroom.

“It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave.”

In every profession, there’s the good news and the bad news. The critiques and the critics. During the summer of 2011, I self-published a book about my observational experiences as a high school English teacher at an urban high school in the suburbs of Metro Atlanta.

Having always wanted to write a book (it was a bucket list item and everything), I’d previously been unsure of what to do with a surplus of writing I’d produced as the absurdities of my everyday life became more and more difficult to comprehend. Writing I’d forced upon myself as a means of both reflection and inspection, for a span of 24 months (stretching from my 3rd to 5th years of service), I thought and wrote about the teachery person I was becoming. At times both treacherous and tremendous, I identified the areas in which I excelled and those that should have gotten me expelled. But it wasn’t until I’d stopped writing and accepted a transfer position at my alma mater that I realized I could turn my writings into a rite of passage. While transitioning from the high school I began my career at to the high school I once attended, I rifled through the ramblings of my rookie years, organized them in a choose-your-own-adventure sort of way, and pressed the “publish” button within Amazon’s self-publishing service, CreateSpace. Within days, my first book, titled What Had Happened: a work of friction appeared in the Amazon bookstore.

Shortly after a neighborhood newspaper published an article about my localized efforts, a variety of things happened:

  1. Triumph. Turns out there were people who wanted to read what I wrote.
  2. Terror. Turns out there were people who wanted to read what I wrote.
  3. Tension. Turns out not everyone liked what I wrote …

which is to be expected. Right? I mean, you expound about anything and you’re bound to offend someone. Right? Write. Thing is, I wrote about my experiences as a teacher knowing full well that if my efforts were going to expose anyone for anything, it was going to be me. In other words, I figured if anyone’s going to be the frowned upon tool when the dust settles, it would be the guy who naively chose to write about what had happened. And who knows, maybe in the end I will be. I certainly hope not. I really try to avoid being a tool whenever possible. But writing in the moment (as I am now), I realize that every word I type could merely invite a respite I’m not prepared for. Spite and condemnation and all those vitriolic things we spend so much time in life trying to avoid. But then again, maybe nothing will happen. Maybe, because as I’ve been told time and time again, I’m just a teacher. So who cares? Why does it even matter?

Not so very long after word had spread about What Had Happened, I received an email from an offended acquaintance. Without going into the details of that correspondence, I will say the messenger expressed their discontent with what I’d chosen to share, that this individual thought my stories to be derogatory, and ended their message with the following phrase:

“It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave.”

Press play on the present. For over three years, the email I described above has been the screensaver on my phone. Serving as both a reminder and reference point, the contents of this message have been greeting me multiple times a day, every day, for over 1,000 days. Mildly unhealthy? Maybe. Altruistically necessary? Absolutely.

The reasons for this message’s permanence has varied dramatically from week to week. Some days it’s been a source of motivation while others it’s brought on aggravation. However, it wasn’t until this past summer that it resonated to the point of purpose. While in the process of mentally preparing for the onset of another school year, I went to revisit my bucket list. Two items in particular stood out:

#7. Pay for a Student’s Entire College Tuition

#34. Affect and Effect positive change into the world of education

Then I looked at my phone:

“It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave.”

Then I looked at my bucket list. And then back at my phone. And then it clicked, “it was in the best interest of all that I decided to leave.”

From that moment on I decided that for every book I sell, whatever proceeds I would normally receive from Amazon will go directly to a scholarship fund that will one day pay for a student’s entire in-state college tuition. After crunching some numbers, I figured out I need to sell right under 6,300 books (earning roughly five dollars for each book sold) to raise enough money for one student’s college tuition.

Since then, I’ve been trying to gain traction in promoting this endeavor with local media outlets, radio stations, and even local television programming.

One thing that’s been hindering some outlets from picking up this story is the idea that my project, despite its good intentions, ultimately only helps one person. It’s a valid point, but upon further speculation, I think many people (educators especially) will see that my project benefits a great number of people.

Yes, it is true that from a financial standpoint, the proceeds of my scholarship project will only immediately assist one person.

But here’s the thing:

As teachers, we’re often made to feel insignificant, expendable, and generally less than … everyone else. Yet our profession is still heralded by many as one of nobility and dare I say, respect; which is an increasingly odd juxtaposition. This book, my whole account of what had happened and the scholarship fund it supports will show any and all interested parties that teachers can be actors whose efforts effect the larger equation of educational policy and public perception.

Feelings of devaluation take many different forms and affect people in a variety of different ways. I’ve seen it end the careers of some very promising educators and empower others. For me, being made to feel that what I do, the profession I’ve chosen to pursue, and that the way I approach what I do is somehow inadequate or doesn’t matter, that feeling has done both. And I don’t specifically mean the email I referenced earlier. At this point, that transmission is more symbolic than anything else. I’ve experienced those invalidating affections from students, teachers, parents, friends, and the list goes on. But every person in every profession experiences some sense of depreciation in their career.

What I’m writing about here is what we do after that happens.

Like so many educators that have come before me, and those that are on the up and up, I got into teaching not because I love English and wanted to profess that love for the next 30+ years. I got into to teaching (although I may not have realized it at the time) because I know how big of an impact teachers can have on the lives of others; both good and bad. They can build you up, break you down, and badger you into becoming the best version of yourself you never knew existed. I think this is especially true at the high school level.

Living in fear is something I’ve always been at odds with. This is a feeling I’ve openly communicated with my students over the years as well. When I was younger, I would hesitate; a lot. This led to a great deal of lost life; or rather, lost living. I’ll provide them with a surplus of adolescent examples to emphasize that very point, and then I’ll tell them when everything changed.

These last few years, regardless of the labels of the courses I’ve been tasked to teach, the big focus has always been on life. And the big challenge for me has always been how to bridge the gap between a learner’s experience and the importance of authentically lived experiences. We’ll talk about life post high school during class, and I’ll ask my students to contemplate what they want to do with their own lives. We’ll make bucket lists and everything.

I’ll try to emphasize that it’s entirely too easy to let yourself feel small and insignificant. To blindly accept that you’re going to be stuck in a certain set of circumstances forever and that’s just the way it is, is ridiculous. It’s much harder to challenge and rise above not only the assumptions of others, but really the assumptions of yourself; because many times we are our own worst enemies. And then once we’ve tackled that beast, the big and typically final lesson I attempt to impart is this:

Every person is capable of epic feats, but it’s so much more fulfilling when you try to better society by helping others along the way.

Of course, as teachers we know our students need examples. So I’ll say,

“Look. Guys. We’re all working on a dream, right? For example, I’ve got this book I wrote about my first five years as a teacher. It’s this collection of stories that provides readers with a glimpse of who I was not as a teacher, but as a person in my mid-twenties; a flawed individual who was (and still is) extremely far from perfect. But for me, the whole writing a book thing was an epic feat. Something I was very proud to have accomplished. But then for a while there, I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t know how something I’d written could help anyone else, and to be honest, I was actually afraid to do anything with it because I knew there were people on the up-and-up who didn’t approve of what I wrote. Even though many times I was writing to process the friction I would experience at work, I had no idea what other friction my accounts might produce.”

“Then I stepped back and realized I was living in fear, and this fear was preventing me from being the person I wanted to be. I want you guys not only to believe that anything is possibly, I want you to act accordingly. Dream big, ya know? On my end of things, I need to try my hardest to model that ideal … that expectation. Ultimately, the first step towards modeling such behavior requires me to face my own fear; some of which is rooted in the idea that what I do doesn’t matter. When I raise enough money from book sales to pay for a student’s entire college tuition, it will have an immediate impact on a student’s life. Like, duh. Right? But my hope is that it will also show many other people that books are powerful. Books can do things. Change lives. Inform people and propel goodness. Writing is super important. It’s a medium that will always matter, ya know? Words matter. More often than not, words translate into action.”

Then I’ll take a deep breath for fear of passing out and say:

“Don’t be afraid like I was. Sometimes our biggest critics are critical of us simply because they do not understand us. And sometimes their biggest critiques can become a source of creative improvement. After all, big things have small beginnings.”

I know that’s what happened to me. Looking back on the wording now, “It was probably in the best interest of all that you decided to leave,” I couldn’t agree more.

In 2013, seven years after venturing into the world of education, Neumann’s book won the National Council of Teachers of English CEE James N. Britton Award. The award encourages teacher development by promoting reflective inquiry in which educators raise questions about teaching and learning in their respective environments. After giving a talk about his book at NCTE’s Annual Convention, Neumann felt compelled to do more. His book, and the scholarship fund it supports, embody his desire to positively impact the lives of students, teachers, and anyone invested in education.

John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck: Of Mice, Men, and Memories

Inspiration isn’t only found in sweeping landscapes, valiant deeds, or grand speeches. Sometimes, it awaits discovery in a cherished childhood memory.

With twenty-seven books to his credit, John Steinbeck drew deeply from the well of memory to create works such as The Red Pony, The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, and To a God Unknown. It was his memories of witnessing the plight of migrant farm workers that inspired his best-known books.

Three of his four “California novels,” each dealing with the difficulties faced by migrant agricultural workers, brought fame, awards, and, in the case of The Grapes of Wrath, hostility. The best-selling book of 1939, The Grapes of Wrath went on to earn the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Steinbeck’s sympathetic prose and staunch support of migrant workers turned many against him; the controversy spawned by the backlash caused the book to be banned in some schools and libraries until 1941.

John Steinbeck continued to write during World War II, working as a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. After the war, he returned to writing for himself, crafting novels and screenplays based upon his observations and memories of local happenings. His self-described “big work,” East of Eden, was based in part upon his own family history.

In 1962, Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In 1964, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson. John Steinbeck has been quoted extensively, including the unabashed exclamation, “I am impelled, not to squeak like a grateful and apologetic mouse, but to roar like a lion out of pride in my profession.” While these words are powerful, it is a quieter, more gently composed quote that captures his gift for making magic from memories.

“Many a trip continues long after movement in time and space have ceased.”

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Erma Bombeck: The Original Mommy Blogger

In the 1970s and 80s our family had the very chic ‘avocado green’ kitchen appliances in our home. Everyone had them or some variation of pastel colors. Yet, the color of our refrigerator didn’t matter because the one thing everyone had on them were cut out newspaper articles. No matter what house we visited, we were sure to find ourselves in kitchens where we would be reading clippings of Erma Bombeck’s “At Wit’s End” column that were stuck there with magnets as a reminder to read them again. And, did we ever.

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A staunch feminist who fought ardently for the Equal Rights Amendment, Erma was ahead of her time with her acerbic wit and self-deprecating humor. In fact, you didn’t have to be a mother to connect with her writing. Even as a junior high school student I found myself stealing copies of one of her titles from my mother and laughing uproariously. How is it that I found her details of motherhood so funny if I hadn’t been a mom? The truth is, Erma was simply a fantastic writer with a gift that brought everyone into her little world and expanded it. Her work could be found in over nine hundred newspapers in the United States and she expanded to three weekly columns and published memoirs.

 

My mother and I re-read her books so often (in paperback form) that they practically fell apart from all the use. Some of our well-worn favorites included I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression (1974), The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank (1976), and my personal favorite, If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits? (1978). We even had a copy of the book she wrote with her friend Bil Keane (cartoonist for Family Circus), Just Wait Until You Have Children of Your Own, which was published the year I was born.

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Erma was a first-generation college graduate in her family and was encouraged to become a writer. It’s fitting, then, that her alma mater, the University of Dayton, hosts the popular Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop each year. Devoted to humor and personal writing, it’s a highly respected and sought-after workshop.

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Erma was the master of the witty quip. So much of her writing has become a part of the lexicon of the American mom that I’m convinced she was the original mommyblogger, writing our lives in her column and published books so masterfully that she brought us all closer, if for no other reason than to band together against our children.

Do you have a favorite Erma Bombeck quote? Share it below!

Santa Clara County Library

Featured Library of the Month:

Santa Clara County Library

The first time that I opened the home page for the Santa Clara County Library, I was greeted by a module announcing the Homeland & Home Community Cookbook. Whoa, I thought. This is my kind of place!

In addition to the usual FAQ list and interlibrary loan offers, the Santa Clara County Library has an eye-popping list of local happenings. Keeping the Silicon Valley area covered with nine handy locations, the SCCL is a Mecca for bibliophiles of all ages.

Got little ones? Bring ‘em to the baby story time or Tiny Tot Jamboree. Older kids can search the Homework Help page or discover cool facts on the Kids Blog. There’s a blog for teens as well, along with study hints and community involvement listings.

Grownup readers are in good hands; everything from a health information center to special programs for veterans are just a click away. There’s even a mini social network built right into the website! It lets you keep track of your borrowing history, your “to read” list, and fellow patrons that share your interests.

With 1.8 million items available to search on their website and online catalog, you’ll have to go a lot farther than the West Coast to find a title that they don’t have. The next time that you’re in the Golden State, stop by the Santa Clara County Library. You may not yell “Eureka,” but you’ll be glad you found it.

Gertrude Stein

Portrait of the Avant-Garde: Gertrude Stein

Mention the name Gertrude Stein to most people, and you’ll typically get a similar response every time. “Oh, yeah! Her! She, um, wrote … things.”

While definitely influential, Stein and her work are remarkably hard to categorize. Adjectives ranging from the polite (innovative) to the dismissive (difficult) have been applied to her writing, while the life of Stein herself has been the subject of much speculation.

A student of psychology and medicine, Stein eventually moved to Paris to be with her brother. It was there that her reputation as a patron of the arts took root as the pair began collecting the works of painters such as Picasso and Matisse. With the help of her brother, Leo, and her lifelong partner, Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein established a well-known literary and art salon which attracted the likes of Ezra Pound, Max Jacob, and other authors and artists of the time.

During World War I, Stein and Toklas served as ambulance drivers in France, but soon returned to the world of art when the fighting was over. Though Stein’s prose tended toward the abstract, her salons and gatherings served to inspire authors Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The phrase “the Lost Generation,” used to describe American expatriate writers, is attributed to Gertrude Stein.

In spite of having over a dozen titles to her credit, Stein’s only commercial success came with the publication of The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, which was written by Stein using Toklas’ point of view. Though her lecture tour of the United States was well-received, Stein maintained her home in France, living there through World War II and until her death in 1948.

Although she was not necessarily a commercial or prolific writer, there is no doubt that Gertrude Stein was an influential writer. She followed no formula and sought no accolades, choosing instead to write from, and for, her own heart.

For a selected bibliography, click here. To learn more about the art collection of Gertrude and Leo Stein, click here.

Alice Walker

Called to Action: Alice Walker

Although a childhood accident with a BB gun pellet left her with a visible eye scar, the first thing you’ll notice about Alice Walker is her smile. It is an infectious smile that warms everyone it touches. It’s also an excellent disguise, hiding a spine of pure steel.

Born into a family of Georgia sharecroppers, Walker attended segregated schools. Self-conscious about what she considered an ugly and disfiguring scar, she retreated from those around her and sought comfort in reading and writing poetry. Her rough start in life didn’t stop her from seeking ever-higher goals; Walker graduated high school as valedictorian of her class before attending college.

Best known as a Pulitzer prize-winning author, Walker has been a teacher, lecturer, and social worker. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and it was this involvement that inspired her first collection of poetry. Branching out into short stories and children’s literature, Alice Walker hit her stride as a writer with The Color Purple, arguably her most famous work to date. Her works have been translated into more than two dozen languages, and have sold millions of copies.

Her talent with words and determination to seek equality for all has led Walker to provide a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard. A tireless activist, Walker stands beside not only victims of poverty, abuse, and other atrocities, but also on the side of the changemakers, encouraging and inspiring people to be the change they seek in the world. In 2012, she wrote Overcoming Speechlessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel, followed that same year by Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. A list of her awards and works can be found here.

Alice Walker is best known for The Color Purple, but it is her devotion to equal rights for people of all colors that truly deserves recognition. Her unflinching style and passion for justice make her a force to be reckoned with; her caring spirit and strength of will make her an inspiration. To hear Walker’s story in her own words, please watch the brief but captivating videos available here.

Photo courtesy of http://www.alicewalkerfilm.com/photos/.

Lift Bridge Book Shop

Featured Customer of the Month:

Lift Bridge Book Shop

It’s always neat when a business lives up to its name. Speedy Shipping, Tas-T-Lunch, Discount Mart; I’m still waiting for Free Chocolate to open. At least there’s Brockport, New York’s Lift Bridge Book Shop, a more-than-just-a-bookstore that lives up to its name in fine style.

The bridge part, in my mind, comes from the books themselves; books are bridges to everywhere and anywhere. And the lift? That comes from the moment you step inside!

As soon as you pass through the doorway under the big, colorful mural, you know that you’re in a good place. Owners Cody Steffen and John Bonczyk have taken great pains to make their store not just inclusive, but inviting as well. It starts with their extensive Children’s Department, which has books and educational toys and games for new and expectant parents as well as “veteran” moms and dads. The Lift Bridge Book Shop staffers offer book recommendations for all ages, and are ready to handle school purchase orders.

As you might expect, Lift Bridge Book Shop hosts a number of book clubs, but these aren’t your typical “Title of the Week” groups. Graphic novel devotees, Women Who Love to Read, the Eclectic Book Group, and the Unitarian Universalist Book Group are just a few of the spots in which a visiting reader might fit. And of course, there’s story time for the little ones.

If you want to plan your visit in advance, the Lift Bridge Book Shop website is informative and easy to navigate. Find Staff Picks, store hours, and links to tons of resources, right at your fingertips. You can check out their Facebook page to keep up with the latest happenings, and subscribe to their mailing list for surprise coupons.

Yep, some days you can really use a lift. Lift Bridge Book Shop is an excellent place to get it.