It’s July 2021! What a year so far in life, work, and reading. Last year I read 46 books, just shy of my personal goal of 50. From historical fiction to self-help to fantasy, reading helps me unwind and explore new-to-me worlds and experiences. The below list includes all of the books I read between July 1 – December 31, 2021 (not including 4-10 children’s books that I enjoy reading with Jameson daily!) Here’s 2021’s Part I if you’re interested.
37. The Goodbye Cafe by Mariah Stewart. A cute novel loaned to me by a neighbor. I may have to read another work by Maraih, she’s published over 40 books! To write for a living…the dream. “I guess we’re all different things to different people. … Oh well. Different environment, difference influences.”
36. The Shades by Evgenia Citkowitz. A short novel with a deep look at family, trauma, and the way some things just unravel. “As his research was teaching him, photographs were framed to create impressions; often designed to obfuscate and lie.”
35. Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi. A powerful glimpse at upbringing, science, god, addiction, and the people who live through it all–or don’t. “We know right from wrong because we learn it, one way or another, we learn it.”
34. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. My first read by Hamid and definitely not my last. “… and so by making the promise he demanded she make she was in a sense killing him, but that is the way of things, for when we migrate, we murder from our lives those we leave behind.” And I also really liked this bit: “… which is to say that while the changes were jarring they were not the end, and life went on, and people found things to do and ways to be and people to be with, and plausible desirable futures began to emerge, unimaginable previously, but not unimaginable now, and the result was something not unlike relief.”
33. The Bookshop of Second Chances by Jackie Fraser. A lovely read about a woman going through a wake up call in life, and how fate seems to step in at some of our lowest moments. “And I’m sorry I said all those awful things. It’s frightening to have these feelings. And I know you don’t feel the same way, so probably I should have kept all this to myself. But I didn’t . . . I didn’t want you to think that we weren’t friends because I don’t like you. I do, I really like you.”
32. The Diamond Caper by Peter Mayle. A Little Free Library neighborhood find. Fun read, a bit predictable. “I haven’t met many celebrities, but the ones I have met were so pleased with themselves it kind of put me off the whole idea.”
31. If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous. A Bluestocking Bookshop buy and solid read. It was emotional, culturally new to me, and full of love, loss, and longing. “When I wake up, the whole world has been transformed.”
Love is a book we read together.
Love is a jacket in snowy weather.
Love is a sun to brighten our day.
Love is a boat to float us away.
Love is a song we sing aloud.
Love is a wish we make to a cloud.
Love is a poem we dream alive.
Love is a verse we fight to revive.
Love is a bag of all that is right.
Love is a hand to hold at night.
Love is a shadow when we feel alone.
Love is a line held fast to a stone.
Love is a whisper of care on the breeze.
Love is a nest built high in the trees.
Love is a feeling of comfort and hope.
Love is a word we use to cope.
Love is a life in need of support.
Love is a ship awaiting transport.
Love is a source that credits the past.
Love is the future that’s coming too fast.
Love is the now and love is the then.
Love is the tomorrows we won’t give in.
Love is a secret held close to the heart.
Love is a glass—fragile from the start.
In 2020, I read 46 books, just shy of my personal goal of 50. From historical fiction to self-help to fantasy, reading helped me unwind and explore new-to-me worlds and experiences in 2020–a year of hardship, COVID-19, and the shifting to a different kind of normal. In this new year I plan to continue to read, pushing myself to seek works that challenge my worldview, experience, and understanding. The below list includes all of the books I read in 2021 (not including 4-10 children’s books that I enjoy reading with Jameson daily!)
Last year I simply catalogued my reading list, this year I am adding a quote from each work that most inspired me to pause and think, laugh-out-loud, or intentionally shift my way of seeing the world. Here’s my January 1 – June 30, 2021 completed reads list. For July 1 – December 31, 2021, follow Part II.
In 2018, I took the advice and support of colleagues, friends, and family and started a GoFundMe. In 2019, I self-published I Am Me. In 2020, I focused–I called, emailed, used Social Media, and even gave books away for free to share I Am Me with the Down syndrome community and beyond. I am happy to announce that I Am Me will be available as an English/Spanish book in 2021!
After hearing from so many of you about how the book inspires and empowers, and after dozens of requests for a Spanish translation, I am over the moon to be able to share the big news. With support from Niurka Aileen Diaz and Hayley Chase, I Am Me will be available in English with Spanish translations on every page.
Diaz and Chase worked with me to translate and enhance the musicality, cadence, and meaning behind I Am Me.
Yo soy yo, y eso es todo lo que necesito ser. I am me, and that is all I need to be.
Check back in 2021 for the re-launch of I Am Me, available in English and Spanish. Until then, take a look at this Literature Review guide by Learning to Give: I Am Me.
A few months ago I asked myself: What is something new I can do to help promote Down syndrome Awareness, inclusion, and community engagement?
Last year I self-published the children’s book I Am Me. About the book: A heartfelt and honest work that acts as a mantra of sorts for anyone and everyone, but especially for individuals who are “different” in society’s eyes. Children, parents, friends, and family of individuals with Down syndrome (or any human being) need not be afraid of the unknown or the different because we are all amazing, super, and created as who we are meant to be. It’s all about appreciating diversity AND celebrating it!
I Am Me is available for purchase on my website, Amazon, in other book retailers upon request, as well as Poppin Huis, in Holland, MI. In addition to retail sales, I put in the effort to connect with organizations like Jack’s Basket and Down syndrome Associations around the country to provide discounted books for use in celebration baskets, donor thank you gifts, and fundraising efforts.
As Super Jay Brand promises, for every book sold a donation is made to an organization that supports the Down syndrome community. In my local area, I make donations to the Down Syndrome Association of West Michigan (DSAWM). Donations have also been made to Down Syndrome Diagnosis Network (DSDN) and the National Association for Down Syndrome (NADS). In 2019, books sales and other Super Jay products allowed us to donate $1,502.28. So far in 2020, donations are topping $3,000!
How many books have I sold? As of October 16, 2020, 1,494 I Am Me books have been purchased, with just under 1,200 of those books sold in bulk at discounted pricing. I am so grateful and thankful for the love I Am Me has received. Self-publishing is a hard process, but with hard work and perseverance, and a willingness to reach out to people I don’t know to make new connections and share the message of I Am Me, I have accomplished more than I ever imagined, and there’s more to come!
How do I get I Am Me in more hands? This year I wanted to give back on a bigger level. With a few of those outreach connections I made in an effort to share I Am Me over the last year, I was introduced to a new friend with personal ties to the Red Glasses Movement. In conversations with this fellow parent in the Down syndrome community, I mentioned that I really wanted to be able to offer books for free in celebration of World Down syndrome Awareness Month. A few weeks later I was asked to submit a grant proposal!
With support from the Jandernoa Foundation, I gave away 224 I Am Me books for FREE to teachers, classrooms, and parents around the USA in October 2020!
These free books were accompanied by a reading guide (download below) and an informational postcard. Recipients were asked to provide a picture or share a note about their experience reading and sharing I Am Me.
Thank you to the Jandernoa’s for their support, encouragement, and belief in the power of a book to advocate for inclusion, community, and self-efficacy.
“You are you and I am me, just exactly how life is meant to be.”
What’s next? Maybe a new book … I’ll keep you posted!
“Thank you so much for the wonderful books you donated to our first grade students! They absolutely loved them and it was cute to watch them read along. Perfect level for a first grade shared reading. I really enjoyed your guided questions and suggested follow up activities too!” – Ms. Noel, Coopersville Area Public Schools
Edited and final:
I saw a little honeybee, flying near a tree.
He zoomed around in circles and landed on my knee.
You might scream or run away, or maybe you would freeze,
but I sat calmly as I watched and felt the evening breeze.
“Hello, young bee,” I said to him. “You’ve had a busy day.
It’s good that you can stop and rest. You’ve come a long, long way.
You’ve soared for miles through the air, for many days and hours,
collecting sticky pollen, while dancing with the flowers.”
His big eyes gazed into my own, and then he flew away.
I wondered if he’d fly around and come again someday?
I wondered if he flew through rain or felt the summer’s heat.
I wondered if he wove through cars while traveling down the street?
Does he stop to watch the children and pause his beating wings?
Does he listen to the music as a feathered sparrow sings?
The honeybee was out of sight, no longer could I see
my little friend who paused awhile to rest upon my knee.
But when I reached into my sack to grab a bite to eat,
between my sandwich was a spread of honey, smooth and sweet.
I realized a simple truth I hadn’t know before—
I gave the bee a chance to rest, but he gave me much more.
He gave me honey for my bread, I gave him space to be.
That was just enough for him, and it’s enough for me.
In production —
I saw a little bumblebee, flying high, up near a tree.
Soon he zoomed down toward me and landed here upon my knee.
You might scream, or run, or freeze, but I felt as calm as the evening breeze.
“Hello young bee,” I said quietly as he buzzed upon my knee.
He was resting, I could see, tired from his long journey.
Soaring miles through the sky, dancing along flowers as he flew by.
Collecting all that wondrous stuff, sticky pollen smooth and tough.
Bumblebee, buzzing bee, sitting here upon my knee. Soon he was looking up at me.
His big eyes gazed deep into my own, and then he was off and flying home.
I am left to wonder, where? How far he flew, from here to there?
A journey through wind and natural struggles, and cars and bikes, and playful bubbles.
Over hills and through lush green forests, a morning flight and an all-day chorus—of wings fluttering with such speed and need, in search for gold without greed.
I watched his journey through the sky, with a curious and patient eye.
For inside the bag there with me was a sandwich made with fresh honey.
I smiled to myself and nodded to the night—my bee no longer visible, out of sight.
But now I see something more, something I did not realize before.
That buzzing bumblebee that rested here upon my knee, gave me the honey nestled between this bread, spread so generously.
And all I did was allow him to rest a moment upon my knee.
I did not scream, or run, or freeze, for he just needed a perch at ease.
That little buzzing bumblebee that landed here and sat with me.
He gave me this honey, and I gave him space to be.
That was enough for him and it was enough for me.
Each year, Down syndrome Associations across the country gather together members and the local community to celebrate and raise awareness. Super Jay Brand is committed to giving back annually.
Although we are not sure if this annual fundraising event will take place in person or virtually, we want to make sure we’re participating as best we can. We will use our voice and our actions to be agents of change and take action for the common good. You are meant to be. I am meant to be. We are meant to be!
This shirt design promotes love, inclusion, community, and self-efficacy. All proceeds will be donated to DSAWM’s (Down syndrome Association of West Michigan) 2020 Step Up for Down syndrome fundraising event.
Buy your shirt today! Shop Here
Youth sizes $19.99 (Green or Grey) | Adult sizes $22.99 (Teal or Grey)
About the awards: For nearly fifty years, Multiplying Good has lived the power of creating positive change through helping others and recognizing the extraordinary. It is time to celebrate every good act – from the medical personnel, first responders and essential workers to the teachers and caregivers to the millions helping in any way they can. Now more than ever, innumerable acts of bravery, generosity and good are giving us hope and bringing us together.
“You are you and I am me, just exactly how life is meant to be.” #IAmMeMeantToBe #SuperJayBrand