Good Books: March Trilogy

32003174244_7c486e7080_zI picked up March: Book One the other day and enjoyed it so much that I picked up book 2 today. March is a graphic novel trilogy about Congressman John Lewis’s life and involvement in the Civil Rights movement. The third book in the trilogy won several book awards this year: The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, The Corretta Scott King award, the Michael L. Printz award, and the Sibert Medal.  This is how it finally got on my radar. It floated through my life but I finally paid attention last month when it won so many awards at the ALA conference! (it is very rare for one book to win multiple awards in a year).

I can see why it is so highly regarded. First of all, the art (by Nate Powell) is stunning. But really, the whole story is extraordinarily inspiring. And especially so now in our current time. We are facing a time of dissent that will be written in the history books and it is important to look to those that came before us and how they went about their protests.

John Lewis is an American hero and, honestly, anyone who writes their biography in graphic novel format is a badass.

A month of love cultivation

Almost exactly one month ago I started an experiment where I would do metta (AKA lovingkindness) meditation three days a week and see what would happen.

During the month I also read the book: “Love 2.0” (the one that is discussed in the article I link to in my original blog post). I also discovered the author’s “Happify” iPhone app (and website) and have gone through some of the tracks.

When I started the experiment I was at the tail end of a pretty bad depression and decided that lovingkindness meditation 3 days a week certainly couldn’t hurt! So how do I feel now, a month later? I can tell you that I feel much happier. I am not sure if it is the result of doing the meditation or simply my brain chemistry (maybe it’s both) but I feel much happier. I think that what is happening is I am making new neural pathways in my brain that are causing me to feel positive emotions rather than negative emotions. In my experience, due to my issues with depression,  the first emotion to arise for me in a situation is negative.  It took a long time to  be able to take a step back and realize this was happening. When I was finally able to take a step back and understand what was happening it made me feel even more miserable about myself and I wondered if I would ever be able to have a different response.

So in the past month I feel like this practice has been a tool for me to rewire my brain. I am not saying I’m all sunshine and roses (my husband and verify this with you 😉 ) but I do notice that more positive feelings are bubbling up to the surface before the negative ones.

I am also feeling loved. This may sound weird to you, but feeling loved has been difficult for me. Mostly because I have had a hard time loving myself. But I am starting to feel like I am loved an appreciated, and that is a wonderful feeling.

In the book, Barbara Frederickson talks about love, physiologically,  being an emotion that you feel in micro-moments. You have these moments with your partner the most, and with your family, and children if you have them. But you can also have these moments with anyone. Physiologically your body doesn’t really know the difference. So her idea is to cultivate this feeling of love toward all beings, not just the most important people in your life. She proposes that the more micro-moments of love you experience, the happier you will be. So as I’ve been practicing metta meditation I have also been trying to have those moments with others. As I experience them I feel like the best way to describe them is as  moments of kindness. Indeed, being kinder throughout the day has made me feel happier.

When I was going through my depression I decided that I needed a break from Facebook. I do this a lot when I am depressed. I feel like Facebook takes a lot out of me and when I am in that state I need to limit myself to the bare minimum of things that I can do – and sometimes Facebook isn’t one of those things. Instead of completely cutting myself off I limited my time there. I only checked in a couple of times a day. I found this to be a good happy medium for me. I could still keep up with my friends but I was missing a lot of the drama and other things that bug me about the website. While I was on my semi break, and while I was reading Love 2.0, I realized some things about social media that is helping me understand my weird feelings toward Facebook. Frederickson, in her studies, suggests that this physiological feeling of love can only happen face to face because there is something that takes place in the physical realm for this to take place. I am not sure if I agree with this, and I feel like anyone who has cultivated online friendships would understand my disagreement. I certainly have felt connection with my distant friends. However, I  am wondering if this physiological connection has something to do with my feeling like I need to take a break from social media when I am in a depressed state. I am wondering if I am just not able to fully get what I need from the online world and because I am not “filling the void” so to speak, it becomes this circle of depression and unfulfillment. I guess sometimes I need real hugs.

Just some thoughts. Thanks for indulging me. 🙂 And if you have read this far – wow. Thank you! ❤ 🙂


Miss Monica’s favorite story time books for Toddlers

If you have read my “About” page you might know that during the day I am a Children’s Librarian. I’ve been doing this for 10 years and I love it. There are some days when I can’t believe I actually get paid for this because it is just so much fun.

One of the things that I do is story time for preschoolers, toddlers, and babies. I’ve been doing story time for many years and there are tried and true books that I use for each age group. One of my Twitter/Facebook friends asked if I could recommend some books he could read to his toddler so I thought my list of favorite story time books would make a good blog post.

Story time is so important. It’s more than just simply reading books to kids. When I plan story time I am including specific activities that will help the child learn the skills they need  in order to learn to read later.

If you are a parent and are interested in learning more about the activities you can do with your child to help them learn to read, check out this website. The activities are simple and easy and you are probably already doing them, but it is nice to know that what you are doing is going to help them later on. And if you have questions or want more resources please don’t hesitate to ask me in the comment section.

Toddlers like illustrations with bright colors and simple graphics. Something to look for in books for toddlers is less text and shorter stories (they have low attention spans, as I’m sure you already know).

OK! On to my favorite books.

Miss Monica’s Favorite Story Time Books For Toddlers

  • My Car by Byron Barton – I can recommend ANY book by Byron Barton. I love this book in particular because it has a funny twist at the end and it has a couple of big words that parents can point out to the child.
  • Meeow And The Little Chairs by Sebastien Braun
  • Hurry! Hurry! by Eve Bunting
  • Cat’s Colors By Jane Cabrera. I love everything written and illustrated by Cabrera. Her fun illustrations and bright colors really draw the little ones in.
  • From Head To Toe by Eric Carle
  • Maisy Dresses Up. By Lucy Cousins. This is a series and toddlers love them all!
  • Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear. By Emily Gravett
  • Kevin Henkes. I am kind of obsessed with Kevin Henkes’ illustrations in  a few of his picture books. Really wonderful, simple stories, too. These are three of my all-time favorite story time books:
  • Spot Goes To The Park. by Eric Hill. (those lift-the-flap books are a big hit. Make sure you are careful with them or they will be destroyed.)
  • Clip-Clop by Nicola Smee
  • Chicky Chicky Chook Chook by Cathy MacLennan. This one is just really fun to read – lots of fun rhymes.

Something else to consider: buy durable board books for your toddler and let them play with them. It is OK if they are destroyed. Allowing your child to handle books at this early age will help them later. Let them become familiar with them and comfortable with them.

Most importantly though: make your reading time FUN. Let every reading time be a happy experience for them so they will associate reading with positive feelings.

Enjoy! And if you have questions, please ask.

I will share my favorite Preschool books in another post.



they are just opinions

“The way to stop the war is to stop hating the enemy. It starts with seeing our opinions of ourselves and of others as simply our take on reality and not making them a reason to increase the negativity on the planet…
…It’s up to us to sort out what is opinion and what is fact then we can see intelligently. The more clearly we can see, the more powerful our speech and actions will be. The less our speech and actions are clouded by opinion, the more they will communicate, not only to the people polluting the rivers, but also to those who are going to put pressure on the people who are polluting the rivers.”
– Pema Chödrön . When Things Fall Apart; Heart Advice For Difficult Times.

I bought When Things Fall Apart about 6 years ago, when my stepdad died and never read it. It’s just been collecting dust on my bookshelf. A few weeks ago I attended a workshop for work and one of the speakers talked about the concept of self compassion and how it can help us as library workers in dealing with compassion fatigue (or Secondary Traumatic Stress). One of the books recommended was this one, so I thought I’d pick it up since I had it handy.

I am really glad I did. And I wish I’d picked it up a lot sooner. The name of the book put me off, I think. I think I felt like I had to be in a really bad place in order to read it, but, as it turns out, the book has a lot of practical advice for just everyday living. It is a classic American Buddisim text and very jargony, so I am not sure if non-buddhists would get much out of it, though I think if you are interested in learning about Buddhism from a practical standpoint this might be a good book to read. I have a lot of non-Buddhist friends who have read this and liked it though, so.

Anyway, I like it and recommend it. I just read this from the book a few minutes ago and feel like it is very timely, considering the circumstances of the world.

More on what I am learning about self-compassion in a later blog post.