At Reach And Teach we try our best to be mindful of our impact on the planet every day. We're always looking for ways to lower our footprint, save a little money, and feel good about the choices we make.
Way back when co-founder Derrick Kikuchi was at Hewlett-Packard, engineers were always encouraged to think about the person sitting right next to them, at the "next bench," whenever they were working on designing a product. Thinking about someone you know, sitting right next to you, and basing your decisions on what impact the product will have on her life, her work, her planet, can help you make better decisions and design better products. Also, think about the impact your design decisions will have on you if you were to be the user of the product. We apply that thinking at Reach And Teach, seeking products that we will personally use and which we think will benefit you, our neighbors.
Earth Day is April 22nd but we like to think of every day as Earth Day. With that in mind, in this post we'll share some of the ways we reduce, reuse, and upcycle. And... in doing so we're more frugal (saving money), green, and happy! We invite you, our neighbors on the next bench, to join us.
A Problem: How to Store Leftover Food
Here's the deal...... we love to cook. And, when we cook, we like to make enough to last several meals and we end up using a lot of plastic wrap. Whether we're wrapping rolls of sushi or lasagna or bread.... we want to keep what we've cooked large batches of so that we can have meal after meal after meal after meal. Every time we take that wrap off something we've cooked and saved, we toss it right into the garbage. What else can you do?
So, this year, we asked ourselves if there was any way we could find to use less plastic wrap and..... good news!!!! We discovered Bee's Wrap!
The Solution: Bee's Wrap
Here's how the fine folks at Bee's Wrap describe themselves.
Good food has always been central to our home life here in Vermont. We grow and preserve most of our vegetables, we milk goats, raise sheep, pigs and chickens. Our family life revolves around the garden and kitchen. But all of this food needed to be kept fresh and growing concerns about our environment and the health safety of plastic, made plastic no longer a viable option for food storage. As a stay at home mother of three I was also interested in bringing in additional income while staying home and available to my children.
This is where Bee's WrapTM enters. Enchanted with all the shades of muslin, old flour sack, scraps of trimmings, lace, yarn, and given some invaluable suggestions from family and friends, I found that by coating it all in beeswax my creations became functional!
The combination of fabric infused with beeswax, jojoba oil and tree resin made for the perfect alternative to plastic for food storage. The antibacterial properties of beeswax and jojoba oil help keep food fresh and allow Bee's Wrap to be used again and again. Bee's Wrap evolved into a basic food storage product that was easy to clean and use, that we could make available to many people, not just our own households.
The comforting and uplifting scent of melting beeswax filled our home for months. Now, Bee's Wrap is made in its own shop by myself and some wonderful women. We are thrilled to be able to share this new product with you and hope you find it as useful and enjoyable to use as we do!
So, stop using and tossing all that plastic wrap and try Bee's Wrap. Click here to buy some from Reach And Teach.
A Problem: Life Is Messy
If you had to guess what made up one third of all landfill waste what would you guess? Go on, take a few moments and think about that one. Believe it or not, the answer is..... paper towels! Wait what? But.... I only use a few of those a day, you might say. Nope. The average person uses 100 rolls of paper towels a year. When we were working on "greening" Reach And Teach, we looked at all of our daily habits at work and at home and one of the things we quickly realized was how often we went for the paper towels for quick cleanups. Why? They're convenient, relatively cheap, and we figured we could toss them in the compost bin. If only.
Here's the lowdown on paper towels in the good old USA:
13 Billion Pounds of Paper Towels Are Used Each Year
One third of All Landfill Trash is from paper towels
Average Person Uses 3,000 Paper Towels Each Year
100 Rolls Per Year Per Person @ $150 Per Person, 100 Trees and 125lbs of Carbon Dioxide
Replace w/Skoy Cloths for just $15 a Year
A Solution: Reusable Towels
Wait, what? There's an alternative to paper towels? Of course. Many public bathrooms have replaced paper towels with air dryers. Around the kitchen you can use a sponge, a rag, or.... Reach And Teach is pleased to offer, Skoy Cloths! We've secretly substituted our paper towels in our kitchen and in our soap refilling station area with Skoy Cloths and we like them so much we're offering them to our customers. Four cloths to a package, at just $7.20 each, can save you a lot of money and help the environment, including saving lots of trees. It takes ONE TREE to make a roll of paper towels, not to mention the energy, water, transportation....
The Skoy Cloth is an innovative cloth that comes in an array of colors and designs and takes the place of your paper towels, sponges, rags, dishcloths and more.
It is a European made product packaged in the U.S. and 100% biodegradable when properly composted because it is made from a natural cotton and wood-based cellulose pulp. The Skoy Cloth is a chlorine-free, unbleached, and non-GMO product using water-based colors and inks. After an independent composting test, Skoy Cloth broke down completely within 5 weeks.
The Skoy Cloth is a durable product due to the reusability factor and can last months.
The Skoy Cloth has an absorption factor of 15x its own weight. As a result, producing the most superior cloth product available. Imagine using 15 sheets of good-quality paper towels at once... This is how a wet Skoy Cloth will feel in your hand.
The Skoy Cloth is long-lasting because of the wash-ability feature. It dries quickly, so it is not a breeding ground for bacteria. Have you ever used your sponge, then smelled your hand and it reeked of horrible bacteria? That will never happen again if you microwave your Skoy Cloth regularly. It is also dishwasher and washer/dryer safe. Cleaning your Skoy Cloth will keep it healthy and germ-free.
If you'd like to try Skoy Cloths for yourself, click here to visit our web store.
A Problem: Quick Trips to the Grocery Store And... Bags!
There's a big, giant, bag in our garage, filled with... plastic bags, the kind we used to get all the time at the supermarket, before we became enlightened enough to start carrying our own reusable bags everywhere we went. A few years ago when Cool Cities San Mateo began meeting in our shop one of their big goals was to get a law passed requiring merchants to charge ten cents for every bag a customer needed. Just ten pennies, one dime, could make people stop and think and learn new habits. Cool Cities succeeded and judging from the number of people saying "no" when we offer them a bag for a dime, and more importantly the number of people who always carry a reusable bag with them, the law is truly a success.
Here are some startling statistics:
100 Billion Plastic Bags Used by Americans Each Year
Average 600 Bags Per Person Per Year
2.2 Billion Pounds of Fossil Fuels and 3.9 Billion Gallons of Fresh Water to Produce
Costs $4 Billion Dollars a Year (Retailers/Consumers)
Creates 1 Billion Pounds of Solid Waste and 2.7 Million Tons of C02
Takes 1,000 Years for Plastic Bag to Decompose
100,000 Sea Turtles and Other Marine Animals Die Each Year Because of Plastic Bags
And, in case you are wondering what to do with your giant bag full of plastic bags from the bad old days before you were enlightened, most supermarkets have recycling bins for those bags. Typically, they CAN NOT go in your normal big blue bin at your house. Those bags require special handling so please find a place that truly does have the ability to get them recycled.
A Solution: Reusable Bags
Way back in the day, when we first started Reach And Teach, we were speaking at a gathering of seniors (folks in their 70's and up) about our new venture and the person who invited us told us it was a bring-your-own-bag lunch, but that we shouldn't bring our own, she would provide our lunch. She'd made us delicious sandwiches, home-made cookies, and she gave us our lunch in something we'd never seen before... a ChicoBag. Andy Keller, who invented ChicoBags, is one of the people we credit with helping to educate the public about the environmental harm caused by single-use bags. He created a bag that you could always have with you, that folded up into its own attached pouch, and with the addition of a carabiner (metal loop with spring-loaded gate), allows you to attach your bag to your belt or purse so it is always handy.
One of the most damaging habits Americans have fallen into is the use of plastic water bottles. You've seen folks walking out of your local supermarket with literally hundreds of plastic bottles of water, or maybe you've actually been one of those people. We've got to admit, there were a few events in the last five years where that seemed like the only good option for making sure folks had access to water. The impact of plastic water bottles on the planet and on our wallets is staggering.
Our friends at Klean Kanteen support the important work of 5 Gyres Institute. To understand the impact of plastic pollution, 5 Gyres studies the five subtropical gyres by sailing through them. Unlike other ocean conservation organizations, 5 Gyres doesn't just take scientists out into the ocean, they take artists, writers, musicians, journalists, students, teachers - anyone who will serve as a 5 Gyres Ambassador for change. The goal is to give stakeholders from all walks of life an authentic vantage from gyre central. Check out their video.
Here are just a few of the facts about plastic water bottle use to consider:
Americans use 50 Billion Plastic Water Bottles Per Year
That's 1,500 Plastic Bottles Per Second
Americans Spend $22 Billion Dollars A Year Just for the Water in Plastic Bottles
That's $346 Per American Per Year (versus $0.48 cents for tap water)
80% of Plastic Water Bottles that Could Be Recycled STILL End Up in Landfill
2,500,000 Tons of Carbon Dioxide Are Produced Manufacturing Plastic Water Bottles
90% of Ocean Trash is Plastic Bottles and Bags
A Solution: Reusable Water Bottles
A Klean Kanteen water bottle costs just $20 and the water you'd need to fill it from your tap (even filtered) over and over and over again all year long is just $0.48 cents.
Frugal + Green = HAPPY!Whether you're heading out for a short hike or giving a big presentation at work, the 18oz Kanteen® Classic holds enough to keep you hydrated, but is also fits easily into your bag, pack or briefcase. Available with the Sport Cap 3.0; featuring a soft silicone spout, 25% higher flow rate and "chirp" free hydration.
Klean Kanteens are made from high quality, 18/8, food-grade stainless steel; totally free of BPA and other toxins. Because stainless steel itself is safe, Klean Kanteen doesn't need to coat the inside of the bottle with a plastic or epoxy lining, one of the main differences from aluminum bottles.
Click here to visit our Klean Kanteen ordering page.
A Problem: Stinky Places
We have a dog. We have a bathroom, We have a laundry room. We have some stinky places. For most of our lives we've used various sprays to get rid of, or cover up, odors. Here's the problem with most of those sprays. They only work for a short time, they're expensive, the containers they come in can't be reused, and the science is not very clear on whether they are bad for the environment and our health. But..... we don't like stinky places! So, what can we do?
A Solution: Reusable Odor Absorbers
After finding it at a gift show, we tested out a Moso Natural air purifying bag when we noticed that our car was beginning to smell way too much like our dog. Following the simple instructions that came with the bag, we put it out in the sun for a few hours and then popped it into the back near the kennel and when we got into the car a few hours later, no more dog smell! We were sold. We've had the bags in various sizes available in our San Mateo shop and have gotten great feedback from lots of other customers. "My son's room was really bad. I put the Moso Natural bag in the sun for a few hours and then carefully opened my son's bedroom door and tossed it all the way in. The next time I opened the door, I could breathe!
The Moso Natural Air Purifying Bag is the easiest way to maintain a fresh, dry and odor free environment. Without using batteries or wires, the Moso Bag will work continuously to remove odors, allergens and harmful pollutants from the air. In damp, musty environments the Moso Bag will absorb excess moisture to prevent mold, mildew and bacteria from forming.
The Moso Bag is a safe alternative to air fresheners that are filled with formaldehyde, petroleum and fragrance, which can be carcinogenic and lead to numerous health problems. The Moso Bag is filled with non toxic, chemical free and fragrance free moso bamboo charcoal that allows your family and pets to breathe safely.
To use, simply place the Moso Bags in or near the effected area. Within a short time (usually less than 1 day) the effected area will be fresh, dry, and odor free.
With simple maintenance the Moso Bags are reusable for up two years! Most common air fresheners, in addition to being ineffective, don't last more than 45 days. Once a month, place your Moso Bag outside. The UV rays from the sun will clear out the pores of the bamboo charcoal, making it ready to absorb again. After two years as an air purifier, the Moso Bag makes a wonderful addition to your garden. Simply cut open the Moso Bag and sprinkle the bamboo charcoal into the soil, where it helps plants absorb moisture and nutrients. This completes its lifecycle as a product that comes from the earth and ultimately gives back to the earth.
Click here to learn more about and purchase Moso Natural bags.
A Problem: We Recycle But What Really Happens to That Stuff?
We love our blue bin but we know that in reality a lot of stuff that's supposed to be recycled never actually gets used to make anything else. Or, stuff that we recycle here has to get sent as far away as China and the fuel required to send stuff all the way there and products all the way back.... well, that's not really very good for the environment.
A Solution: Upcycled Products
Over the last few years we've found more and more wonderful products that are upcycled, cool new products made from recycled materials. Among our favorites are Green Toys which are made in our own backyard near San Mateo, from recycled milk jugs, which are BPA-free making them safe for kids and the planet. We also have upcycled jewelry, wallets made from recycled inner tubes, purses and glass cases, and more.
As always, we're grateful to all of our partners in peacemaking who help us on our journey towards a more peaceful and sustainable life! If you're in the San Mateo area, stop by our shop, Reach And Teach, at 144 West 25th Avenue any time and we'll be happy to give you a tour and show you the latest things we've discovered AND please let us know about products you use that help you lighten your footprint on the planet.
"Tolerance is over-rated. We don't want to be tolerated, we want to be accepted. Even better, we want to be valued." That was the way a gay rights activist started a presentation about the work which eventually led him to the White House and meeting with the president. As we approach April, I'm reminded of that lesson as I update this post which was originally titled "Autism Awareness Day."
April is Autism Acceptance Month and April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day and Reach And Teach is joining with thousands of organizations and individuals around the world to do a shout-out of love, acceptance, support, and yes, for those who aren't aware of how many people are impacted in some way by autism, we hope to spread some awareness. If you happen to have arrived at this page with little awareness about autism, you can click here to get a quick definition.
A Boy Walked Into A Bookstore...
We had a teenaged boy and his mom in our shop one day and after they had spent some time looking through some of our bookshelves the boy came over and asked "What have you got on autism?" I showed him some books but none really clicked. He said "I'm looking for something that has more data, more statistics, because I'm doing a report on autism for school." I then found the perfect book and he and his mom came to the register and made their purchase. I asked him what had sparked his interest in autism as a subject. He looked at me and said "I'm autistic."
Having read quite a bit about autism a quote from one of the books came to my surprised mind. "If you've met one person with autism, you've met ONE person with autism."
This year one of her friends created his own graphic and idea for April, going beyond "awareness" and moving towards acceptance and respect. We're all for that! And, while we're at it, we'd like to share some information on how many people in your midst could use a little acceptance, respect, and love!
About 1 in 68 children (or 14.7 per 1,000 8 year olds) were identified with ASD. It is important to remember that this estimate is based on 8-year-old children living in 11 communities. It does not represent the entire population of children in the United States.
This new estimate is roughly 30% higher than the estimate for 2008 (1 in 88), roughly 60% higher than the estimate for 2006 (1 in 110), and roughly 120% higher than the estimates for 2002 and 2000 (1 in 150). We don't know what is causing this increase. Some of it may be due to the way children are identified, diagnosed, and served in their local communities, but exactly how much is unknown.
The number of children identified with ASD varied widely by community, from 1 in 175 children in areas of Alabama to 1 in 45 children in areas of New Jersey.
Almost half (46%) of children identified with ASD had average or above average intellectual ability (IQ greater than 85).
Boys were almost 5 times more likely to be identified with ASD than girls. About 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls were identified with ASD.
White children were more likely to be identified with ASD than black or Hispanic children. About 1 in 63 white children, 1 in 81 black children, and 1 in 93 Hispanic children were identified with ASD.
Less than half (44%) of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.
Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2.
Black and Hispanic children identified with ASD were more likely than white children to have intellectual disability. A previous study has shown that children identified with ASD and intellectual disability have a greater number of ASD symptoms and a younger age at first diagnosis. Despite the greater burden of co-occurring intellectual disability among black and Hispanic children with ASD, these new data show that there was no difference among racial and ethnic groups in the age at which children were first diagnosed.
About 80% of children identified with ASD either received special education services for autism at school or had an ASD diagnosis from a clinician. This means that the remaining 20% of children identified with ASD had symptoms of ASD documented in their records, but had not yet been classified as having ASD by a community professional in a school or clinic.
Here's a problem, though, when you see these three amazing kids... you also have to think about stereotypes... Stereotypes can cause you to either expect a child somewhere on the spectrum to be incapable of anything or... a prodigy. The truth is, like any other group of people, identified as a group because of some common thing, people with autism are on a spectrum, individuals with unique gifts, talents, challenges, personalities... and the key for them, like anyone, is for them to have the opportunities and freedom to become the very best individuals they can possibly be. That's where understanding, community, love, support, encouragement, patience, and so much more come into play. Every child, every person, deserves wild cheering, standing ovations, hugs, outpourings of love, so that every single child can shine.
That's why we want to light up the world in blue EVERY DAY, to help each and every individual thrive.
Given that we've just said how important it is for you to consider each person individually we'd still like to lift up a resource that can help people get a quick introduction to what many children on the spectrum would like YOU to know. Ellen Notbohm wrote this book and has made a short review of these ten things quickly, easily, and freely accessible from this link. I love the very last part of her article, which I'll share here:
View my autism as a different ability rather than a disability. Look past what you may see as limitations and see my strengths. I may not be good at eye contact or conversation, but have you noticed that I don't lie, cheat at games, or pass judgment on other people?
I rely on you. All that I might become won't happen without you as my foundation. Be my advocate, be my guide, love me for who I am, and we'll see how far I can go.
"View my autism as a different ability." That's what's happening at a very special car wash. Check out this video.
From Awareness to Acceptance And Beyond!
Our friends Len and Libby Traubman have helped lead a Jewish/Palestinian living room dialogue group for over two decades. Their key to peacemaking, which they now teach to people in conflict all over the world, is listening to other people's stories. "The shortest distance between two people is a story." "The difference between an enemy and a friend is a story." Those are the lessons they've taught to so many people. But, what if it is difficult to hear someone's story? People on the spectrum often have a very difficult time communicating so it may take a lot more work on our part to "hear" their stories. The effort, however, will be worth it.
Each year, I meet April with a bit of existential dread. Each April, I am once again made aware that to most people, autism means broken, defective, a victim of a fate worse than death, a problem, a disease, something that needs to be fixed, cured, and changed. This has been the predominant view of autism for decades.
That needs to change.
The world doesn't need more awareness of Autism, it needs more acceptance of Autism. Acceptance is understanding. Acceptance is building on a person's strengths to enable growth and independence, not viewing a person through the confining lens of ableism. Acceptance means acknowledging that different is not defective. Acceptance requires work. Acceptance is an action.
I am different, but I am the same as you in every way that matters. I think. I feel. I triumph. My differences make some things more difficult, but they do not make me less than you.
Get started by checking out the resources at Autism Acceptance Month. Also, our friend Patricia Tilton has reviewed a lot of wonderful books over the years in her Children's Books Heal blog related to autism. Click here to visit her Autism Acceptance Month page.
Reach And Teach Resources
Among our friends and colleagues there are many who have children somewhere on the ASD spectrum. Because of our connection to autism and our belief that inclusion, respect, acceptance and support for people on the ASD spectrum and their families is a social justice issue, we have collected some great resources on autism. Those are shown below. Please let us know about other resources you love, including web sites, books, organizations... Click here to email us with your suggestions.
These Princesses Don't Need Any Prince to Save Them!
We get our share of princesses visiting our shop in San Mateo, along with folks who have a princess in their lives, and lots of folks who are not too thrilled with the whole "princess industrial complex." Being who we are, we totally get the many sides of the princess debate and are thrilled to have some great "alternative" princess resources in our store and this month we want to feature some of those AND celebrate the visit by the Guardian Princesses to our shop on March 21st.
Princess Ten Ten
What happens when you defy your father and the cultural norms of your city, daring to wear the clothes you choose and practicing a martial art reserved only for boys? You get banished of course! But what happens when you discover that your city is being destroyed by pollution and its people are being exploited? Do you seek out some prince to help you save the day? Nah! You use your own special powers which include the ability to harness the wind and organize the community to stop the people who are polluting the city and enslaving its people.
That's the story of Princess Ten Ten, the first gender-independent, East-Asian, martial-artist super-heroine, one of the Guardian Princesses whose story was read at our shop. We still have some autographed copies of the book available.
My Princess Boy
We mentioned earlier that we've had our share of princesses visiting our shop but did we say that all of them were girls? It turns out there are some wonderful princess boys out there. That's why we're glad we have this book available.
My Princess Boy is a nonfiction picture book about acceptance. It tells the tale of a 4-year-old boy who happily expresses his authentic self by enjoying "traditional girl" things like jewelry, sparkles or anything pink. It is designed to start and continue a dialogue about unconditional friendship and teaches children -- and adults -- how to accept and support children for who they are and how they wish to look.
At Reach And Teach we like to shake things up a bit, especially history, so given this princess theme we thought we'd share a resource about some princesses and others who have reputations that are not quite.... well......
In Bad Girls, readers meet twenty-six of history’s most notorious women, each with a rotten reputation. But authors Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple remind us that there are two sides to every story. Was Delilah a harlot or hero? Was Catherine the Great a great ruler, or just plain ruthless? At the end of each chapter, Yolen and Stemple appear as themselves in comic panels as they debate each girl’s badness—Heidi as the prosecution, Jane for context.
This unique and sassy examination of famed, female historical figures will engage readers with its unusual presentation of the subject matter. Heidi and Jane’s strong arguments for the innocence and guilt of each bad girl promotes the practice of critical thinking as well as the idea that history is subjective. Rebecca Guay’s detailed illustrations provide a rich, stylized portrait of each woman, while the inclusion of comic panels will resonate with fans of graphic novels.
King And King
Of course we can't leave a story about princesses without a little nod to a few kings, can we? Nope! But, of course, it would also have to be a special story about kings.... like King And King.
The queen decrees that it's time for the prince to marry and the search is on! Princesses come from far and wide hoping to catch his eye. Will the prince be charmed by a magic act? Taltalized by an arias? Mesmerized by the Miss from Mumbai? Or... will he follow his heart?
Enter the jubilant world of King and King, a merry and modern tale of living happily ever after, sure to woo readers of any age.
To All of Our Kings and Queens and Princes and Princesses Out There - Thank You!
We're so grateful to all the folks who visit our shop in San Mateo, visit us online, and support our work of transforming the world through teachable moments. We would especially appreciate it if you would use your magical powers to help spread the word. Please share this newsletter with friends.
Thanks for being our partners in peacemaking! We ARE the princes and princesses we've been waiting for and we are the ones who can make this world more peaceful and sustainable.
Speaking OUT Featured in School Library Journal AND Advocate Magazine
WE are thrilled to learn that the School Library Journal reviewed Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus in its print edition. We'll share what they had to say and then share news about a review in Advocate Magazine (below):
SCHOOL LIBRARY JOURNAL
Grade 10 Up-This gorgeously produced photo-essay book takes a unique spin on showcasing LGBTQ youth. The young people in the photographs speak for themselves, some in longer form essays, others by writing, scrawling, or drawing directly onto the images themselves. Their words seem truly their own, not edited or filtered through an adult editorial lens, which allows them to be messy, contradictory, inspiring, well spoken, frustrating, occasionally graphic, and interesting, sometimes all at the same time. The photographs are beautifully presented, and the technique of including the subject's writing upon them is compelling. At times the handwritten notes are difficult to decipher, but that adds another intriguing layer of complexity to the work as a whole. Some of the youth also write more at length in formatted sidebars, reflecting on how their thoughts about their identity have shifted since they were first photographed. Some of the other text inserts, like a positive review from the Huffington Post or the Human Rights Campaign, seem out of place but do not detract too much from the reading experience. Smith includes an impressive array of youth, diverse in age, race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. One noticeable lack is that none of the subjects clearly identify as trans women, though trans men were well represented. Overall, this is a stunning and unique addition to the existing literature, with an immediately relevant approach. -Kyle Lukoff, Corlears School, New York City
Reach And Teach is thrilled that The Advocate, one of the world's leading GLBTQQI magazines, did a story on our recently released book, Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, published by Reach And Teach as an imprint of the wonderful team at PM Press.
Our friends at Limitless Horizons IXIL are offering an exciting opportunity for people to visit Chajul Guatemala from July 31 to August 9th. Customers in our shop know and love the incredibly beautiful scarves and other crafts woven by the women of Charjul. This is a terrific chance to get to meet those women, stay in their community, and learn about life in Guatemala.
First - A Story
A quick story before I share their invitation. Back in 1999, a dear friend of ours named Stan was raising money to help build clean water wells in El Salvador. He had visited a community there when he was in his 80's and was so moved by the people he met that he dove into a project to help make their lives better. He was stuffing envelopes in our church office one day when I chatted with him. He talked about how he'd waited so many years to do things that he had wanted to do... waiting until he'd gotten settled in his job, saved enough money, or until his work was calmer, or his kids were old enough, or....... His wife had died around a year earlier and it struck him that he'd waited way too long to do many of the things he could have done. He encouraged me to "do things right now, don't wait." A few days later, Stan boarded a flight to Egypt, a place he'd always dreamed of going. He died on Egypt Air Flight 990 when it crashed after leaving Kennedy Airport in New York. We learned of his death at church on Sunday and as tears streamed down my face a friend from the congregation touched my shoulder and said "Why don't you come with us to El Salvador this year and see the wells that Stan made possible?" That, of course, was an impossible invitation to which to say no. Derrick and I traveled to El Salvador that year and our lives were changed. Never had we seen such generosity, joy, love, compassion, from people who had been harmed so badly, for whom life was so difficult. The seeds for Reach And Teach were planted and watered by Stan's wells.
Could a trip to Guatemala change your life? Is now a "good time" to accept an invitation?
Invitation to Guatemala
Limitless Horizons Ixil (LHI) works in the Maya Ixil community of Chajul, in the western highlands of Guatemala to develop a culture of literacy and learning. LHI creates opportunities for the indigenous youth, women, and families of Chajul, to develop the academic and professional skills needed to effect change in their lives and community.
From July 31 to August 9, 2015, LHI is hosting a Community Engagement Trip and we'd love for you to join us! It's an amazing opportunity to learn about the Maya Ixil culture and the obstacles faced by rural communities, as well as make a huge impact in the lives of Chajul residents and practice speaking Spanish.
This is a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue with teachers and students, hear from families about their experiences, learn about back-strap weaving from mothers in our artisan program, and contribute to the community by engaging in meaningful service work alongside community members. In a beautiful and remote mountain setting, you will live a range of intimate and unparalleled experiences. The cost for the trip is $1,450, which includes lodging, food, ground transportation, Spanish-English and Ixil-Spanish-English translation, trip guides, and unique access to the homes and lives of Ixil families due to the close relationship we've developed with the community over the past ten years.
This is a great opportunity for anyone who's interested in international community development, education, and non-traditional travel experiences. All the details of the program can be found at http://limitlesshorizonsixil.org/ce-trip.
Happy 2015! Just as we're cleaning up the shop after a really lovely holiday season we are also gearing up for our first author talk with Mei Mei's Lucky Birthday Noodles (Saturday January 24th at 1pm) and stocking our shelves with some beautiful gifts to help celebrate Valentines Day.
PLUS, we want to share links to a couple of really nice articles about Reach And Teach that appeared in the SF Examiner and Examiner.com
Read on for information about the book talk, Valentines Day ideas, and links to the articles we're proud to share.
Adoption, Chinese Culture, and Cooking Combine for A Lovely Book Talk Jan 24th at 1pm at Our Shop in San Mateo
We often get asked if we have books about adoption and were really thrilled when the author of Mei-Mei's Lucky Birthday Noodles wrote to us and asked if we'd like to have her do a book talk in our shop.
Mei-Mei is Chinese—but not Mom and Dad! When she was a baby, Mom and Dad flew all the way to the other side of the world to adopt her and bring her home. Lucky for Mei-Mei, her parents want her to know all about her roots in China's wonderful culture. That's why, on her birthday, her mom always makes her a traditional Chinese treat—long noodles, for a long and happy life. And this year, Mei-Mei is big enough to help her mom make them!
Join author Shan-Shan Chen as she reads from the book and shares some fun activities on Saturday January 24th at 1pm. We'll also have some treats and beverages.
And... since we do love our neighbors here on 25th Avenue we can't complete a story about noodles without a shout out to The Noodle Shop (one of the best restaurants on the street.)
Speaking of Love.... Valentines Day
We've got a wonderful selection of hand-made Valentines Day cards in the shop, including same-gender designs, as well as wonderful delicious organic vegan chocolates from Sjaak's, beautiful hand-carved soapstone hearts from Kenya, beautiful packages of ground or whole-bean fair-trade coffee, and a lovely assortment of aromatherapy candles, just to name a few possibilities for Valentines Day.
Fair-trade, sustainably sourced, some local, some from around the world, and reasonably priced... all things we love and know you do too.
Great Press about Reach And Teach
That last paragraph sums up how we decide what's going to be in our shop and we were thrilled to have two stories written about us in December that really got to the heart of what we do.
Thanks to Monica and Antonia Ehlers for getting the word out about Reach And Teach. Here are links to the two articles that we hope you'll share:
Speaking of writing... we would truly appreciate it if you would share a bit about your experience with Reach And Teach by posting a review on Yelp.
Reach And Teach Lifestyle
As we enter 2015 we want to let folks know that we are planning to expand our line of lifestyle products. People love our Moso Natural Air Fresheners, Skoy Cloths, Refillable Soaps, cookbooks, and other tools for living a more sustainable and frugal life, so we're on the hunt for more products to help everyone do just that. Our main rule for how we select things? We have to love them and use them ourselves. If you have an idea for something we should add, please contact us to let us know. We thrive on your recommendations.
Thanks as always for being our partners in making the world a more peaceful and sustainable place!
Stumped on Gift Ideas? Here Are Some of Our Favorites!
Santa Claus visited our shop in San Mateo on Saturday the 29th and while he was busy taking selfies with little and big kids we got to enjoy spending time with dozens of people wandering through the shop. One of the best parts of our jobs at Reach And Teach is telling the stories behind our products. The other thing we love is having someone say "I've been trying to find a gift for someone who is really hard to shop for..." We then ask about that person and typically, within a few moments, we can find just the right thing. If you've got someone like that in your life, maybe one of the treasures we'll talk about below will spark your interest. If not, you can always call or email us and we'll be happy to help you personally find just the right gift.
Visiting My Nephew...
"I'm visiting my sister's house for a few days and haven't seen my nephew since he was four. He's seven now and I'd love to have something I could do or read with him. His mom says he has a great imagination and is really inquisitive about things...."
That request took us directly to one of our favorite books of all time, Flotsam.
A bright, science-minded boy goes to the beach equipped to collect and examine flotsam--anything floating that has been washed ashore. Bottles, lost toys, small objects of every description are among his usual finds. But there's no way he could have prepared for one particular discovery: a barnacle-encrusted underwater camera, with its own secrets to share . . . and to keep.
Each of David Wiesner's amazing picture books has revealed the magical possibilities of some ordinary thing or happening--a frog on a lily pad, a trip to the Empire State Building, a well-known nursery tale. In this Caldecott Medal winner, a day at the beach is the springboard into a wildly imaginative exploration of the mysteries of the deep, and of the qualities that enable us to witness these wonders and delight in them.
My Granddaughter Just Came Out
"A few weeks ago, my granddaughter came out to her parents. They were pretty shook up by it but are handling it well. I want to do something to let her know how much I love and support her."
While admitting (or bragging) that we're the publishers of this book, we also have to say that we're confident that this is THE go-to-gift for anyone in your life who is GLBTQ, a parent, or an ally.
Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus is a photographic essay that explores a wide spectrum of experiences told from the perspective of a diverse group of young people, ages fourteen to twenty-four, identifying as queer (i.e., lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning). Portraits are presented without judgment or stereotype by eliminating environmental influence with a stark white backdrop. This backdrop acts as a blank canvas, where each subject’s personal thoughts are handwritten onto the final photographic print. With more than sixty-five portraits photographed over a period of ten years, Speaking OUT provides rare insight into the passions, confusions, prejudices, joys, and sorrows felt by queer youth.
They Have Friday Game Nights
"My brother's family has dinner together every Friday night and they love playing all kinds of games. I'm looking for something special... something you won't find in a typical game store or big-box shop that the four of them can play."
When we hear something like that we grab two of our favorite games to and more often than not, sell both!
From our friends at Blue Orange Games, we recommend Aztack. How will you stack up to the legend of the Aztecs? To win the favor of the high priest, players must build a temple out of inscribed stones according to divine laws. Every added stone must bridge the two underneath and match them by color or glyph. Only the most observant and strategic player will win this stacking game. Block out your opponent and stack the most stones to rise to the top of the Aztack!
From our friends at Atlas Games, Once Upon a Time is the award-winning storytelling card game that encourages creativity and collaborative play. One player is the Storyteller, and begins telling a story using the fairytale elements on her Story cards, guiding the plot toward her Ending Card. The other players use their own cards to interrupt her and become the new Storyteller. The winner is the first player to use all her Story Cards and play her Ending Card. The object of the game, though, isn't just to win, but to have fun telling a story together.
She's Really into Electronics and Games
Looking around our shop with all of its unique wooden toys, board games, books, and other products that seem as far aways as you can get from electronics, one customer came in ready to completely stump us.
"My niece really LOVES dabbling with electronics, has written some of her own 'apps' (whatever that means), and loves playing games on her computer and tablet."
Come over here to our all-in-one touch computer (thanks to Julie McDonald who designed and gave us this machine). Let us show you Makey Makey.
MaKey MaKey is an invention kit for the 21st century. Turn everyday objects into touchpads and combine them with the internet. It's a simple Invention Kit for Beginners and Experts doing art, engineering, and everything in between.
My father-in-law..."My husband's father is absolutely impossible to buy for. He always says he has everything he needs. He LOVES riding his bike but I haven't figured out any accessory that he might need for riding.........."
When we heard this from one of our favorite customers we walked over towards our jewelry display and picked up one of our Alchemy Goods wallets, made from recycled bicycle inner tubes. We showed it to him and he burst into the biggest smile. PERFECT! And... we're happy to report that it was a huge hit with his father-in-law.
If you're looking for an extremely durable wallet that treads lightly on the planet, then look no further. Made entirely from reclaimed bicycle inner tubes, the Franklin is slim, durable and stylish. 4 card slots and a full length bill slot. 3.75"(L) X 0.5"(W) X 3"(H)
They LOVE Your Store But... I Don't Know What They Already Have
If someone you know loves our shop, OR, you KNOW they would love our shop if only they knew it existed, how about giving them a gift certificate? Whether they come into our brick-and-mortar in San Mateo or shop online, a gift card to Reach And Teach can help transform their world. Click here to visit our gift certificate page. We'll automatically deliver an email to them to with all the info they need to shop online or at our San Mateo store.
There's Much More BUT, Let Us Stop Now to Say Thank You!
On December 2nd we were privileged to be invited to appear on Other Voices, the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center's monthly TV program. If you're looking for more ideas, please check out the YouTube of the show.
We are serious about you giving us a call or sending us an email for suggestions if you still have someone in your life for whom getting a gift is difficult. As we said on a recent TV show, though, remember that a gift of your time, an experience together, a letter, a phone call, a hug, some home-made jam or cookies, all of these are great gifts! You don't have to shop to show someone you love them!
With that in mind, we want to thank all the people who have shown us love and support for all these years. That includes all the amazing people who created the products we share, the folks that do the work to make them, the folks that do the work to get them to our door and to yours. And, we want to thank you, our partners in peacemaking, for doing what you do to make the world a more peaceful, sustainable, and inclusive place.
Whatever holidays you celebrate, or if you celebrate every day as a holiday, we wish you all the best this season and in the coming new year. We would not be here without you!
If only this guy (that's Reach And Teach co-founder Craig Wiesner surrounded by friends in 1976) could have stumbled across a book like Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, back in the day.... But back in that day, the dominant images of "gayness" didn't look anything like him and he felt so isolated, scared, lonely, and helpless that a few years later he ran away from his friends and family in New York and joined the Air Force.
Today, 38 years later, on Veterans Day (November 11), this veteran is proud to be part of a team that earned a starred review in Kirkus Reviews for a book that can help LGBTQ folks see that they are not alone, that they do not have to be afraid or lonely, that they are not helpless, and they needn't run away.
On October 1st, 2014, Reach And Teach, as an imprint at PM Press, released Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus, a photo-essay book representing ten years of work by Rachelle Lee Smith. Here's what Kirkus has to say about it in their starred review:
Art, activism, individuality: the spectrum of queer youth, speaking in their own words. Smith presents her artwork as a photographic essay exploring the amazing diversity among young people (all 14 to 24 at the time of their photographs) identifying themselves as queer, gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual or questioning.
Originally displayed in 2007 at the opening of the then-new campaign headquarters of the Human Rights Campaign as "Pride/Prejudice: Voices of GLBT Youth," all the photographs for this collection were taken against a white background. The subjects were asked to write something, anything, about themselves, their opinions, viewpoints or experiences in the whitespace of the photo. Some feature only the photo and words originally written. Others feature a few sentences to a paragraph contributed seven years later. A few aren't totally legible, but ranging from a simple declaration to a manifesto, the words of the subjects are illuminating.
The collection features a foreword by Candace Gingrich, who saw and was moved by the original art show, and an afterword by Graeme Taylor, who at 14 spoke to his school board about supporting LGBTQ students and won awards when that speech went viral. This presentation simultaneously highlights the individuality of the subjects and proves to those who may be isolated by geography or culture that they are not alone. An important work for queer youth and those who support them as the future they represent.
Foreword and Afterword
Having Candace Gingrich write the foreword and Graeme Taylor (his photo from the book on the right) write the afterword, with all the photos and words of queer youth in between, shows how much progress we have made over the last few decades. Yet there is still much to do! But for a moment, let's celebrate some of the good. So much has changed, with marriage equality the law in many states and Don't Ask Don't Tell gone. A few weeks ago a Navy recruiter spent an hour in our shop in San Mateo and we had a wonderful talk about how the military did NOT fall apart when the ban on gays serving was lifted.
From Witch Hunt to Freedom - It Gets Better
Those who know me well have heard about my Air Force experience, after I had confided to some friends in Korea that I was gay. I had never uttered those words to anyone before. Around a week later, another person in our unit in Korea, tired of being in the closet, told the commander he was gay. The commander launched a witch hunt to find out who else might be gay, threatening people with court martial if they didn't name names. My closest friend was shown a picture of his family's house and told that if he didn't give them a name, any name, his parents would lose their house because of the money they would have to spend on lawyers to defend him. Despite the threats, no names were named.
Even after things had calmed down, I was cornered by a security NCO who suspected I might be gay. He warned me that I was going to have to take a lie detector test at my next assignment (the NSA at Fort Meade Maryland) and they would ask me if I was gay. Fearing that lie detector test, I took a different assignment and spent the next four years in Monterey, teaching Korean.
Sadly, while I was in less danger of being outed there, my students weren't. Over four years I stood helplessly by as incredibly gifted young people were accused of being gay and kicked out of the military. As my second term in the Air Force wound down, I realized that I couldn't live with the threat of losing everything if someone accused me of being gay, so I left the job and a lot of people that I loved.
Getting out and finding work in high-tech I was still deeply in the closet. I still had no idea what gay life could be like and was still scared and more lonely than ever.
One afternoon I went to have lunch in our company's cafeteria and I found a newspaper at the table where I usually sat, open to a page about the Billy DeFrank Gay/Lesbian Community Center in San Jose. I have no idea who left it there, open to that page with the headline "Gay Life in the Slower Lane", but discovering that center and going to a support group there was my first introduction to gay life, and within weeks I was out of the closet and never going back in. It has been a good life since that day.
My hope is that people will find a copy of Speaking OUT: Queer Youth in Focus in their school library, in a doctor's office waiting room, at the dentist, in a barber shop (or hair salon or nail salon), on a cafeteria table, in their pastor's study, on a coffee table, in their parent's living room..... but that's up to you! Buy copies of this book and get them out in the world. Gift them far and wide. Take a copy to your dentist leave it in the waiting room. Take one to your hair salon and leave it with the other magazines. Be the angel who helps someone, somewhere, realize that he or she is not alone.
A bunch of wonderful people donated $25,000 to help get this book published so that the cover price could be just $14.95, the price of a nice lunch. That means it doesn't cost much at all for you to be an angel! And speaking of angels, isn't Christmas coming????
Today is Veterans Day and our book just got a starred review. The only thing that could make this timing even better would be for folks to buy a whole bunch of copies of the book and spread them far and wide and know that someone, somewhere, might be sitting down to lunch to discover this book sitting on her table. So..... click here and buy some! Right now, at this very moment, there's someone out there who really needs it. Buy the book!
So many people feel helpless in the face of the Ebola crisis in West Africa but there are ways we can help. Starting today (October 29th) we'll have local kids selling snack bars and fruit chews outside our shop in San Mateo with all profits going to Doctors Without Borders to support their Ebola relief efforts in Africa.
If you'd like to donate directly, PLEASE DONATE NOW on our page at the Doctors Without Borders web site.
We'll also have some games set up inside and outside our shop. Bring a playmate to the shop and make a friendly little... financial challenge. Whoever doesn't win (there are no losers) gets to donate the challenge amount to the campaign!
You CAN make a difference! Join Reach And Teach in supporting the amazing and courageous work of Doctors Without Borders providing much needed medical relief in the Ebola epidemic.