KIDLANDIA: Giving Gifts of Meaning by Julianna M. Cruz

I hope that everyone is able to find that perfect gift for their loved ones this holiday season, but as I say that it reminds me that there is really no way to wrap the gifts that are at the top of my list (health, happiness, and love for all my family and friends). I know many children write long lists that include the latest toys and technology, but I hope that somewhere on that list is a special wish for others. Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to plug local, small business. I plan on making as many local purchases as I can—there are just so many talented artists and crafters in our area—we must support them. If you would like to find that unique gift, be sure to stop by the Alternative Gift Fair this Sunday. I will be there selling and signing books at the Inlandia Institute’s table, and there will be many local artists and crafters selling their wares.

I checked the weather report and it looks like it will be a great day to shop outside. Please go to the Facebook link for more details. I hope to see you there!

When: Sunday, December 7, 2014

Where: Methodist Church, 4845 Brockton Ave, Riverside, CA

Time: 11-3pm

Why: To support local authors and artists—and find that unique gift that you cannot find at Walmart. 🙂

Happy Shopping.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, a author, and an Inlandian.



KIDLANDIA: Give Thanks and Praises by Julianna M. Cruz

I am truly grateful for the fountain of support that I always receive from family and friends. It was so uplifting to see so many familiar, smiling faces at the launch of my newest book, Tia’s Tamale Trouble. Amazingly, we sold all of the books that we brought to the event. If you didn’t get a chance to get your copy, and you would like one for yourself, or to give as a gift, please leave a comment and send me an email so we can arrange to get you a signed copy. It was so fun to watch my friend, and fellow Bryant teacher, Tracie Lents (the illustrator) tell all the children about the process of illustrating our book. They also were very excited to take part in her turkey coloring contest. Winners will be displayed in the Taylor Gallery at the Riverside Art Museum—and the winner will also receive a signed copy of Tia’s Tamale Trouble. I can’t wait to find out who the winner is!

Thanks and Praises must also be given to everyone at the Inlandia Institute that helped bring my vision to reality—I couldn’t have done it without you! A special thanks to Cati and Larry who carried my baby all the way through to the end. I know and appreciate how hard you worked.


Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, a author, and an Inlandian.

For All Those Who Ask, What *is* Inlandia? by Cati Porter

Once again we are approaching that time of year when we give thanks for friends and family, take stock of what we have accomplished, and express appreciation for all those who have made it possible. So, thank you—we are all Inlandia.

A question I get asked regularly is, what is Inlandia? We have now been writing these columns for well over a year, and I don’t think we have ever addressed that directly here. Sure, you can make out who we are by the patchwork of topics covered here; what you see is what Inlandia is and does: many voices, all hailing from Inland Southern California, celebrating the region. But on the heels of what has been a banner week for Inlandia, I thought I would try to explain it in a little more detail.

The Inlandia Institute was established in 2007 as a partnership between the City of Riverside and Heyday, our co-publisher, after the publication of the anthology Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California’s Inland Empire. The idea was to found a literary and cultural center here in the Inland Empire that focused on the writers and readers of the region. Soon after, Inlandia moved into our own office, incorporating in 2009, and in 2012 Inlandia was granted non-profit status as a 501(c)(3).

Inlandia has five core programs: Children’s Creative Literacy, Adult Literary Professional Development, Publications—both with our co-publisher Heyday as well as a locally-produced independent imprint, Free Public Literary Events, and the Inlandia Literary Laureate. What does this translate to? Just this past year, Inlandia has:

– Served over 2000 children, including at-risk youth through The Women Wonder Writers program of the DA’s office, resulting in a collection of written work and a public reading and discussion; and in programs in Title 1 schools like Fremont Elementary, where we held a book discussion and gave all 200 fifth-graders and sixth-graders a free copy of Gayle Brandeis’ young adult novel, My Life with the Lincolns, thanks to a generous Rotary sponsorship.

– Served over 2400 adults through public outreach events like Celebrate Mount Rubidoux and the Mayor’s Celebration for Arts & Innovation, and by hosting free monthly author events during ArtsWalk at the Riverside Public Library, and writing workshops throughout Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, including a Family Legacy Writing Workshop at the Goeske Senior Center.

– Published: No Easy Way, the story of the integration of Riverside schools, by Arthur L. Littleworth, a chapter integral to Riverside history; Vital Signs by Inlandia Literary Laureate Juan Delgado and Tom McGovern, which went on to win an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation; and the Orangelandia anthology, which contains the fruit of Riverside’s citrus heritage. And launching this week, a new children’s chapter book, Tia’s Tamale Trouble, by Inlandia author and educator Julianna Maya Cruz.

Inlandia also undertakes special projects from time to time, like “Making Waves in Inlandia,” which chronicles the stories of the women’s environmental movement through oral histories and a very cool interactive component on our website, including a map of all the spaces saved by local environmental activists, and video interviews.

We also have two other interactive features on our website—a map that details the location of every Inland Empire site mentioned in our flagship Inlandia anthology (which, regrettably, is currently out of print—but we are working on a second edition! More about that in a future post). And, just this past week, with the publication of No Easy Way, we launched an interactive timeline, “Time Travel through Riverside’s School Integration History.”

Further, after the first of the year, we will be launching a six-part series of monthly public civic discussion forums featuring esteemed panelists and partner organizations, with the kickoff event at UCR’s Culver Center on January 31, 2015, at 1 pm.

One of the sound bites associated with Inlandia is, “celebrating the region in word, image, and sound.”

Planned projects include a new Adopt-a-School program which will bring literary arts education, taught by professionals in the field, to area schools; a Native American Voices conference at the Dorothy Ramon Center in Banning, featuring and celebrating indigenous peoples; a writing workshop at the Ontario Museum of History and Art celebrating black aviators in February, in honor of Black History Month. Not to mention our usual monthly Arts Walk series at the downtown Riverside Public Library and the free writing workshops held in six different cities throughout the region.

We are supported wholly through the generous donations of our members, supporters, and through grant funding from organizations like the City of Riverside, the Riverside Arts Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and Cal Humanities. But like any arts organization, we are constantly thinking of creative ways we can ensure continued funding while also making it fun for contributors. Last week, we participated in the county-wide Give BIG day of giving, and to all of those who helped us meet our goals, thank you!

We are also currently in the midst of a book fair fundraiser sponsored by Barnes & Noble. If you missed the kickoff event on Saturday November 22, which featured readings by notable locals Larry Eby, Isabel Flores, Stephanie Barbe Hammer, Julianna Cruz, and a flurry of contributors to the Orangelandia anthology, know that you can still participate through the end of the week by shopping online or in store (any Barnes & Noble anywhere, as long as you have Inlandia’s code: 11484482), through Black Friday. So if like most people at this time of year you are beginning to think about holiday gifts, give a gift to Inlandia when you shop at Barnes & Noble this Thanksgiving week.

From all of us at Inlandia, we give thanks for you this week, and every week, throughout the year.

KIDLANDIA: Honoring and Remembering Our Loved Ones by Julianna M. Cruz

It’s a stormy day here in Riverside, and memories of my mother-in-law came streaming in as we set out to buy Marigolds. 30 years ago, during the first week in November, a storm passed through Riverside much like today’s and it sent my mother-in-law (to be) into a bit of a panic. Why? Well, I was wrapping up the last minute arrangements for our outdoor wedding at the Botanic Gardens (UCR) and she was afraid it would rain on our wedding day. My easy-going attitude about the weather did not ease her worry; in fact, it made her worry all the more. I didn’t have a Plan B, and she looked at me and said, “What are you going to do if it rains?” She didn’t approve of my response, “I guess we’ll get wet.” I reassured her that even if it rained it would be a wonderful event and that in other cultures rain on your wedding day is actually considered good luck. She just shook her head as I chuckled. That’s when she reminded me that I still hadn’t registered at any of the local stores and relatives were calling her to find out which china pattern we had chosen. Gifts were the furthest thing from my mind, and I never have been the kind of girl that chose china patterns. I just wanted people to share our special day with us (I considered their presence to be their presents). Again, I got the shake of her head and a sigh that let me know she was trying to be patient with me. As it turned out, the day was absolutely beautiful. Stunning cumulo-nimbus clouds floated in a bright blue sky and the garden looked as though it had been washed clean and groomed just for our wedding—I couldn’t have been happier. I’m pretty sure Dorothy was happy too. Thanks for being patient with me, Dorothy. I really miss you. Thank you for bringing this memory to me today. Decorating my in-laws grave today gave me great pleasure. The air was spicy and sweet, kind of like the memories I have of Henry and Dorothy Cruz, the best in-laws ever!

Dorothy and Henry are at the National Cemetery and my Grandma Martha Nunez is at Crestlawn Cemetery in the Arlington area, so we drove along the outskirts of Riverside under a beautifully stormy sky. Both cemeteries are located in such a way that one can truly admire the topography of the Inland Empire.

Standing at the olive tree by my grandma’s grave I drank in the view and breathed in the scent of marigolds. I arranged them in a cascade style and that reminded me that I needed to go get water. It seemed that my grandma was always thirsty, so whenever I visit I pour an extra drink for her. Whenever I am there I remember the times I would ride my bike down the Santa Ana River Trail to sit with her. I would roll my bike up to the olive tree, go get some water, and sit down for some quiet time. As I sat calmly, I could hear the crow of roosters and barking dogs from down the hill. The bird songs and the wind whistling through the olive leaves made me feel happy. My grandma loved birds. We would always feed her little friends the last bits of stale bread. I miss you, Gommy and I feel you with me always.

Dia de los Muertos gives us a day to remember and honor our loved ones each year, but I feel them all around me everyday.

Take some time today to remember your loved ones.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.


KIDLANDIA: Come to the Museum by Julianna M. Cruz

I’m using my blog space to promote an event at our wonder-filled Mission Inn Museum. They are holding a Riverside author signing event, and I will be there to sign copies of my book, Dos Chiles, Two Chilies and my friend Cindi Niesinger will also be there to sign her new children’s book, Mouse Wedding at the Mission Inn Where’s Daddy? There are lots of other books by Riverside authors as well. I will have a sample copy of No Easy Way if you would like to look at it before ordering. All proceeds from sales will go to the Mission Inn Museum.

I hope to see everyone there!

Mission Inn Museum

1:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Thanks for all your support,

Julianna M. Cruz

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

KIDLANDIA: Keeping it Simple by Julianna M. Cruz

This week it’s all about simplicity in room 11. By that, I mean, simple machines. The students are looking all over the place and naming wedges, incline planes, pulleys, screws, levers, and wheels & axles—they’re everywhere! I was really happy to be on recess duty this week—no really! When a small group of students came up to me and pointed out the ramps on the portables, we discussed how the inclined plane made it easier for the teachers to roll that backpack cart up the ramp. Could you imagine having to lift all that weight up 3 feet into the room? It’s so much easier to roll that cart up the ramp. Wait a minute, did you say ROLL? There are wheels on that backpack cart! Naturally, our conversation went on to friction and how wheels reduce friction. I couldn’t have asked for a better placed learning/teaching moment!

There is just something about being outside with my kids that inspires learning. You could call the sunshine and fresh air my muse. What a great recess duty! I have this feeling that there aren’t too many teachers that enjoy recess duty in the same way, but I must find my muse wherever I can—recess duty is the cheapest muse you will ever find. Trust me.

Get outside! The weather is perfect for learning!

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

KIDLANDIA: Teens Dealing with Loss by Julianna M. Cruz

Today, was Grandma Alice’s Funeral, and I noticed that several of the teens who attended looked like they felt awkward. Maybe they weren’t sure what to do, or how to behave. They dealt with it very well—don’t get me wrong, but I wondered, had anyone checked in with them to ask if they were okay? We tend to give a lot of attention to the closest relatives of the deceased (and rightly so, they need it) but I worry about the teens. They seem kind of disconnected. I know they feel the loss, but how are they dealing with the grief? And how are they dealing with watching their parents fall apart? I have a feeling that this is where religious ritual comes into play, and no matter which religion is for your family, there is a ritual of sorts for dealing with death. I’ve noticed, even at the Catholic Church that I was at today, that rituals seem to have loosened. Is it just me? I mean, there was a very particular way to say certain prayers, at certain times, you knelt during some, you stood during others, and you recited very particular responses—many of these were absent (or loosely suggested) today. I found it just a little disturbing, and the fact that it disturbed me disturbed me. At one time I would have let that roll right off my back (like water off a duck’s back, as Grandpa Henry would say), but not today. Today, I needed the comfort of ritual. Does that make me weak? Perhaps. But I believe it also makes me human.

If you have suggested readings for teens dealing with the death of a loved one, please leave titles in the comments. I’d like to pass on the suggestions to the teens I know. Your suggestions could help struggling teens dealing with loss.

Thank you for helping me make a difference.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

KIDLANDIA: Trash Talkin’ with Kids by Julianna M. Cruz

No, it’s not what you think. Last week I was walking to my classroom, with my little charges following behind, and we walked right into a teachable moment. There was trash all over the lawn and in the hallway. I stopped everyone and said, “Oh, my heart is breaking! Please help me save the Earth!” I bent over to pick up a piece of trash and most of the kids automatically joined me. Before we even walked into the classroom our lesson for the day had begun. I take great pride in teaching by example, so as we walked in we sorted the trash by putting recyclables into our blue recycling tub and other trash into the trash can. I thanked my students and assured them that they had personally made a difference in the world that day. That got me thinking about a lesson I had written (and taught many times over the years), and I vowed to get going on it the very next week. Now, most of you are probably thinking, “When am I going to squeeze in another lesson?—especially one that is not already in my long-range plans!” My answer is, find the time—steal it if you have to! This is paramount! Anyone who would like a copy of the lesson plan and student/parent data collection sheets can feel free to leave your email address in the comments and I will send it to you.

Here’s what we are doing. Next week I’m going to introduce my students to the Scientific Method by conducting an experiment about how much trash we generate. Students will learn about the Giant Trash Gyre in the Pacific Ocean (just one of five) and discuss how they can keep from contributing to that mess. Then, they will predict how much trash they will generate in a 3-day period, and sort them into solid waste and recyclables. They will weigh the trash, and learn how to collect and record data by using a simple table. We will be using some math that’s a little advanced for the second grade, but it’s never too soon to introduce them to higher level math, with support—especially if it’s purposeful math. Hopefully after seeing how much of their trash can be recycled, they will think about waste management more responsibly. They may even look around and take responsibility for cleaning up, even if it’s not their mess—because it’s the right thing to do. If you are a parent and would like to help, please come in on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday to help weigh and sort. Please bring a bathroom scale and a calculator—we can do this experiment with the materials we already have!

Here’s a video of the North Pacific Gyre. Warning: do not show this video to your elementary class—they might cry—perhaps junior high or high school students would respond better to the video.

If you don’t find success with the link above, look up the Pacific Trash Gyre.

For younger students, I suggest Bill Nye’s Garbage video.

Thanks for helping me and all of our children make a difference.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.


KIDLANDIA: Trout in the Classroom Time, Again!

I’m writing a little early again because tomorrow morning I’ll be helping teachers learn how to raise trout in their classrooms. Yes, I said trout. As some of you already know, my students and I have been raising trout in the classroom for close to fifteen years now. We have had a blast learning about the life cycle of trout, what their environmental needs are as they grow and change, and how we affect their environment. As students learn to care for and observe the trout they also learn to be good stewards of the earth. The Trout in The Classroom program has been developed by the Department of Fish and Game, locals to the Inland Empire, brought to teachers by the Deep Creek Fly Fishers Club. If you are interested in learning more about the program you can visit the Deep Creek Fly Fishers site. If you are a teacher who would like to be part of the Trout in the Classroom program, please come to the Isaac Walton House at Fairmount Park, Riverside, CA 92501 tomorrow,  Sunday September 14, from 8am to 1pm and ask about how you can get trained.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.

KIDLANDIA: Six Degrees of Separation

It always amazes me when I meet someone who I think is a stranger and it ends up we are related in some way. I’m sure this has happened to you too. Well as weird as it sounds, it keeps happening to me. But not just with people—with situations, and even with food! Let me explain. I’ve been living with the belief that everything happens for a reason—whether that reason is divine intervention, or merely the choices one has made—one thing definitely leads to another. So, with that said, for the last month or so I have been having very powerful bouts of déjà vu. This déjà vu seems to be strongest with food, but situations in which I am meeting people are also strong. I wonder: am I really experiencing this again, or am I so focused on what I want to happen that everything is just falling into place? Let me make clear that things can’t just fall into place if you haven’t already created a place for things to land—usually through hard work and preparation. I know sounds like a philosophical ramble, but bear with me–you’ll see how it all falls into place.

For the last year, my incredibly talented husband, Curtis Cruz, has been attending the Riverside Community College Culinary Arts Academy. He left his teaching position at Redlands High School in order to pursue his passion, first he saved a year’s worth of wages  in order to go without working. He recently graduated, with medals in Hot and Cold Food competitions, and the Outstanding Baking and Pastry Award. To say the least, I am very proud. So what is he doing now? That’s where I get that strange feeling about how I fit into the whole plan. You see, over the summer, I met a distant cousin, Mitzi, and she and I formed a fast connection. During a visit to her home and business in Redlands she introduced me to a friend, who sells olive oil at a shop in Redlands, and like I said before, things started falling into place. Energy just keeps flowing in the right direction—it’s amazing, and a little scary.

Curtis and I will be sharing her booth at the Redlands Farmers’ Market next Thursday night. Look for My Goodness, Artisan Breads together with Stone Wheel Olive Oil Co. next Thursday night. What a natural pairing of two great flavors! I hope that when you let that olive oil soaked sourdough touch your tongue that your eyes close involuntarily and you let out a little sigh of pleasure. Then, and only then, will you know that feeling that I’ve been having.

Hoping to see you all again.

Julianna M. Cruz is a teacher, an author, and an Inlandian.