Painting or Cleaning?

Decided to put off cleaning a bit longer and play with paints instead 😊. Family isn’t coming until tomorrow.

Happy Turkey Day Everyone.

~ Gretchen

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Back Up and For Sale

Phew!  My book is once again available on Amazon!  With the addition of a few photos of myself when I re-habituated two baby Howler monkeys back into the northern rain forest of Guatemala, my book has enough pages to have info on the spine!  Oh so important.  Thanks for your patience and enjoy!  And PLEASE write a review on Amazon!  🙂

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Adventures in Publishing

Hi All,

Due to the hurricanes that have been ravishing the US (and beyond), I didn’t receive my copies of “The Jade Serpent” until a few days ago.  When they finally arrived I found that the spine was blank. Oh No!

After investigation I discovered I needed 3 more pages in my book for it to have the title and my name on the spine. So I have been reformatting with old photos of me in Guatemala and added a map of the world showing where Koen and Titanus have been adventuring.  All this to tell you that, if you have been trying to purchase my book on Amazon – it has said the print version is unavailable. (Still available on Kindle).  If all goes well, it should be available again starting tomorrow – Sunday, 10/1.

Lesson learned…always buy a physical proof before launching.  Oh, and with the added pages, Createspace forced me to up the price to $6.20. Sorry.

Thanks for your patience as I continue to learn this process.  And please -write a review on Amazon!  It really helps!  Thanks!

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The Jade Serpent…Published!

Hi Friends!

I am so excited to let you know that I have just published the second book in The Treasure Chest Mysteries: “The Jade Serpent.”

You can find it on Amazon in print and Kindle formats.

I’d like to ask your help in spreading the word to all your friends who might be interested (or know someone who might be interested) in a fun adventure story for approximately a 3rd grader (7-9 yrs old).

ALSO If you purchase one on Amazon – I’d be oh so grateful if you would write a review as that is how books get noticed and ‘suggested’ on Amazon.

Thank you so much for your support!  I hope you enjoy.    Gretchen

Outsmarting looters, crawling into dark, dripping caves, and escaping spear-throwing villagers is
only
half the battle when ‘afraid-of-heights’ Koen is forced to jump off a giant temple,
climb to the top of the tallest tree in the rain forest, and swing for his life – like Tarzan – through the jungle.

Putting his trust in: a medicine man, a monkey and a mouse… No Problem.
Koen and Titanus are off on another adventure.
But it’s a race against time.
Can they find the stolen treasure before the thieves get their dirty hands on it and it is lost forever?

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Hope Through Action

Hello Again.

September is here and it is finally starting to cool off a bit in Sacramento!  While my issue with crazy hot weather has bothered me like a persistent fly this summer, it pales in comparison to what is happening in our world.  My heart goes out as I see devastation across our continent from raging fires to catastrophic hurricanes, to an 8+ earthquake.  Reading through the front section of the New York Times yesterday and today, it felt like the world was coming to an end.  Then, drop in the latest humanitarian focus on the Myanmar Rohingya, and the famine in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen was enough to make me want to cry and crawl under a blanket.  It felt beyond bleak.

But then I remembered what happened on Friday at my school.

I am piloting a year-long service learning project with my fifth graders this year. Our foci are the environment and hunger.  While I am bringing in quite a few speakers to help inspire my students over the course of this year, the first was a representative from the Climate Reality Project; this is Al Gore’s NGO that is working very hard to spread the belief that climate change is a reality and there are things each and every one of us can do to make a change – today.  Christine Flowers was our presenter and she spoke to about 90 third through fifth graders.  She used big concepts, but brought them down to a level that our curious young students could relate too.  We ended with a drawing project on how they could each make a change to help the planet.

My students returned to class jazzed to work on developing our plans to make a difference.

Then, last night, I had the great pleasure of attending a fundraising event for the Red Sweater Project.  Ashley Holmer is the founder of this amazing organization that is transforming education in rural Tanzania.  With only 27% of Tanzanian students passing the exam to graduate from high school across the country, the Mungere school started by the Red Sweater Project has a pass rate of 100%.  These kids are the rural poor with little chance for an education.  But because this young woman is dedicated to making a change, they now have a chance to make a change.

So, while the world is in upheaval and I find myself heavy and feeling stuck with where and how to help, I am determined to remember (and to not stand idle) that there is good in this world and good people working to make positive strides for a better, more supportive and caring world.

Here’s to action and hope!

Gretchen

 

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Writing, Teaching and Traveling

Hello Friends,

The time has just flown by since I last sat down to take stock of life and share it with you.  Since February, my last post, life has been full of good stuff.  I finally finished my second book in the Treasure Chest Mysteries titled “The Jade Serpent.”  I will be announcing when you can pre-order through Amazon soon.  Working on finishing the illustrations now.  Very excited.  It has been such a different process to write a second book in a series; full of constraints, but overall they have been fun challenges to work with.

As to the rest of life, the last half of the school year at Sacramento Country Day School was packed with history.  For the American Revolution unit the students researched the key players, learned about women spies, explored how and why the revolution happened and then, after writing papers, they performed a musical, in A Capella, that spanned the American Revolution.  It was great.  We then learned about the Constitution and Bill of Rights, before heading into the Civil War.  For this final unit the students’ main project was to research and debate in groups. They went above and beyond and I was so impressed with their debating skills.  Also, throughout the year, the kids did 10 Minute Minis.  This was their opportunity to teach the class anything (upon approval) that they were interested in, to the class.  We had the gammot: card tricks, history of dogs, turtles, elephants and video games, rugby, lacrosse and baseball strategies, how to shake and make ice-cream, create clouds in bottles, and decorate your locker, step-by-step origami, and how to speak a little Japanese… and many more.  It was amazing what we learned in ten minutes.

Learning how to attack in Rugby

Creating a cloud in a bottle. (Classroom was set up for our North vs. South debates)

History of dogs – with a live specimen

Lacrosse strategies

Earlier this summer I was given the great opportunity (from my school) to participate in the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History‘s Seminar on the American Revolution in New York City.  It was a week of amazing learning.  New York City in 1789, became the first US capital under our new Constitution and therefore it was packed full of history that we explored. We walked between 7 – 13 miles each day uncovering its revolutionary history.  Some of the places we visited were:
~ Trinity Church founded in 1696. Alexander Hamilton is buried there
~ Federal Hall – where George Washington was inaugurated,  and it was the home of Congress
~ Wall Street – named so because it used to have a wall that ran east/west across the island to protect the tip from First Nation peoples
~ Bowling Green – where the Dutch would chop off the heads of dissidents and use them as bowling balls for entertainment, and where the statue of King George the Third used to be.  Also the iron surrounding the little park is the original fence, minus the little crowns that used to be on the poles – they were cut off when the Americans toppled the statue of King George.

Flying into NYC. In this photo you can imagine where the “wall” was that protected the tip from the Native Americans.

The plaque on Wall Street explaining the “wall.”

The stone block that used to be in Federal Hall that George Washington stood on when he was inaugurated as our First President.

Map of the Battle of Brooklyn – a very decisive battle in the American Revolution.

We walked from Brooklyn to Manhattan across the Brooklyn Bridge – just a gorgeous bridge, day and views.

Alexander Hamilton’s grave at Trinity Church

Inside Trinity Church

Me having a beer with my new teacher friends in Chelsea.

We also spent our evenings exploring: Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Little Italy, Alexander Hamilton’s Grange…

Arriving by ferry to Ellis Island.

Visiting the Statue of Liberty.

Mighty Girl!

Alexander Hamilton’s Grange – this used to be 9 miles outside of town in the country – now the area is called Harlem.

Inside Hamilton’s Grange – this is the room and desk that he wrote the Federalist papers. Gave me chills, it was inspiring to be there. But… is it wrong that I kept picturing Lin Manuel Miranda sitting there? 🙂

At the end of the week I took the train up to Connecticut to spend the weekend with my sister and her family.  A great seven days on the East coast.

Since returning to Sacramento I have been teaching two creative writing classes at Sacramento State University for 4th – 10th graders.  It has been really fun to help them step outside the usual, observe their surroundings and find the stories waiting to be expressed.  Such creative minds.

I’ve also been working on my house a bit here and there.  Last weekend I tore out the old carpet in my living room and refinished the hardwood floor beneath.  I’ve now repainted, put up crown molding and moved back in.  Still working on the wall paintings, but getting close to being satisfied.

This week I am home to focus on my writing.  As I have been wrapping up “The Jade Serpent,” I have outlined a nonfiction book about my time in Myanmar full of photos of that beautiful country.  After those are off to the presses, the next big writing project is to continue developing a fiction story for young adults that I started a few years ago.  It is centered around a stolen antiquity, moves between centuries and across continents… an adventure mystery: mysture? adventery?

I have also decided that the next Treasure Chest Mystery will take place in Vietnam – one of my most favorite countries I have visited.

So lots to keep my mind engaged.

Next year I am teaching fifth grade again.  I will be coaching one volleyball team (instead of 3 like last year!) and tutoring a 6th and an 8th grader as my extracurriculars.  I’m excited also, to be piloting a year-long service learning program for my school with my fifth graders.  The focus is on hunger but I’ll be tying in issues around water as well.  My school also has a “sister school” in Rulindo, Rwanda and I am hoping to tie in the local service with the global learning.  Should be a fun year.

These cubist paintings were created by my students last year – arent’ they awesome? I love them altogether.

On that bright note, have a great August!

~ Gretchen

 

 

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Six Months in Sacramento

I have now been living in Sacramento for just over six months.  At first I wasn’t sure if this was a good move for me.  But the longer I am here, the more I am loving this place.  I do not think I have ever lived in a place where people are so nice, so happy, so open and genuinely love where they are.  The happiness quotient is contagious.

On January 21st, I walked with fellow teachers and friends in the Women’s March.  Amazing.  Such good, positive vibes.  Inclusion and support was the energy of the day.  I loved being a part of such a great crowd of people wanting the best for everyone.   img_6627

img_6632I am still in love with my school as well.  I just returned from a week at the Marin Headlands with my 5th grade class.  We hiked and bonded and laughed and learned.  It was good to get to know the kids in a different atmosphere and to be out along the beautiful California coast.  We had amazing weather and were happily exhausted each night.img_6782 img_6968

My after-school writing class is going well too.  The kids are so creative.  They are now developing a variety of stories and getting them ready to submit for possible publication. This summer I am going to be teaching two creative writing classes at Sacramento State University.  I love teaching and supporting creative thinkers.

My 5th graders just finished a unit on the American Revolution – our culminating project was a musical.  It was really fun – all done acapella.  Now we are working on the US Constitution and Bill of Rights – which brings up so many issues right now.  We are also gearing up for a Human Rights assembly.  My kids will be doing a rap/song/chant to a song by Colby and Awu (from Cameroon) called “Change the World.”  They’ll be singing acapella again, using their cubist paintings from art class as props and – via their t-shirt color – ending in a colorful rainbow.  Should be fun.

The official last day of winter is March 20th – just over 3 weeks away!

Happy end of February.

Gretchen

 

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Happy New Year!

Here is to another year of getting to create worlds in our minds and share them with world!  Happy writing everyone.

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Adventures in Writing

Hi!  Lots has changed over the last month.  I’ve moved states, bought a house, started a new job, started coaching 3 volleyball teams, started teaching a youth creative writing class and…found a little sister – 2 months old/2 lbs – for my Oscar (cat) who lost his brother one month ago. PHEW!

I am loving Sacramento.  It is not how I remembered it.  It has such diversity here.  From ethnicity to neighborhood vibes, a wonderful mixture – I just love it.

Yesterday I finally ventured out to explore the Artists Open Studios.  Very creative people here.  Driving through the neighborhoods – full of big trees and quaint houses – made me smile and think about how lucky I am.

I ended my wanderings along the American River.  There are paths for miles along the two rivers here.  So fun to think of great hikes after school once my schedule calms down a bit.

My school, Sacramento Country Day, is great.  The 5th graders I am teaching are so excited to learn and embrace new ideas.  My 5th/6th grade volleyball teams are doing really well.  Last Friday, one team had a game and they really played well together – and won!

img_5642My ‘Adventures in Writing’ after-school class is full of kids that love to write.  I am having fun challenging their minds to explore broader possible paths for their characters and settings, and to create tension and drama – it is all great practice for me as well.

Home life:  I bought a bit of a fixer-upper – and it will be a fun work-in-progress.  Sophie – the newest addition to my little family is so tiny and adds lots of springy, impetuous energy to our house.

So all is good in my world.  I hope it is in yours as well.

Have a great end to your September!

Gretchen

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Oregon Gardens

A deep breath infuses my body with the rich perfumes of pine, fir, lush soil, cut grass, and blossoming plants.  Every time, it nearly knocks me over with its power.  The abundance of nature in all its glory is here in Oregon.  I love being here with my mom at her beautiful house just off the hustle and bustle of the University of Oregon campus.

Over the last few months we have been chatting over the phone (me – from the desert terrain of Gallup, NM) about re-creating her small patch of garden on the south side of her house that gets full sun, and therefore has the great potential to be a vegetable garden.  When I arrived a couple of weeks ago we started plotting in earnest.  After a rather painless trip to Jerry’s (a local version of a Home Depot) we returned home with a plan and lots of supplies.

First, we weeded the over-grown area and laid out what I like to call “weed destroyer” – black landscape material that blocks light.  Then we mulched and started hauling in the concrete blocks.  A few six foot, 12″x 2″ cedar boards, soil and voila; raised beds and a tidy little garden. Super fun and quite easy.  Here are the before and after shots:

IMG_5206IMG_5208

The next day I took a trip up to Portland to visit some friends and one was my dear friend Patty Cassidy.  She is an amazing gardener and such an inspiration.  She is a grand master gardener and has turned her expertise to helping seniors continue to garden and explore the wonders of plants in all shapes, colors, smells and forms.  She has written a wonderful gardening book, aptly titled “Gardening for Seniors” that I was happy to learn has been translated into four different languages.  She is also the president of the Portland Memory Garden which has been “especially designed for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems: the site is relatively flat and is away from other park activity and significant traffic noise. The garden was dedicated in May 2002 and is one of eight memory gardens in the U.S., and one of only two built on public land. The garden is a national demonstration garden project, created as part of the 100 Parks, 100 Years centennial celebration of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA).”   If you are looking for wonderful advice about your garden – Patty should be your go-to gal.

It was a gorgeous Oregon afternoon of filtered sun.  I had such fun chatting in Patty’s beautiful back yard with her husband Gary, who, like me, is diving into the world of children’s literature.  No worries – I’ll be shamelessly promoting his book when it comes out too.

In three short weeks I’ll be moving to Sacramento, California.  I am really looking forward to a little space of my own to dig into some earth and help cultivate a bit of life.  Moving to Sacramento not only means I can garden again, but as the winter season is so mild – I’ll get to garden all year round!  I can’t wait.  And I have so many wonderful gardening experts in my life to help me.  Such fun.

I’ll write again from California.  Have a great end of your June!

~ Gretchen

 

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