Monday, December 31, 2012

Peaceful New Year

Although I'm pretty indifferent about Brad Pitt, I love what he says about happiness:

"“This idea of perpetual happiness is crazy and overrated, because those dark moments fuel you for the next bright moments; each one helps you appreciate the other.”

And This:


“I think happiness is overrated, truthfully. I do. I think sometimes you’re happy, sometimes you’re not. There’s too much pressure to be happy. I don’t know. I don’t really give a s–t. I know I will be at times and I know I won’t be at times. Satisfied, at peace, those would be more goals for myself.”

So here we have another New Year's Eve with that pressure to be happy. To get dressed up, go to a swanky party, spend too much money, drink too much booze, eat too much unhealthy food, and wake up on New Year's Day feeling miserable.

I'd prefer to spend my New Year's Eve Brad's way, peaceful—quietly reflecting the events of the past year and contemplating what my aspirations are for 2013. Wake up feeling refreshed. Maybe write some, ski some (so much beautiful, fresh snow surrounding me), touch base with people I love, tell my husband he's the best (because he really is).

Will I be happy all of 2013? Highly doubtful. Will I be at peace, as I strive to be honest with myself and others; try to do the right thing; give whenever the opportunity arises; follow my dreams; help where I can; be grateful always for my amazing life. If I make those aspirations reality, even during times of unhappiness, I will have peace because I am living by my ideals.

So instead of saying "Happy New Year" I'm going with, "Peaceful New Year."   

May You Find Peace. 


Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Writer Kicks Back

Hi Kick Back Friends,

FYI:

I'm changing the format of Kick Back Moments for the next few months. Instead of a once a week intricate piece, I'm switching to more frequent shorter posts. I'm half way through the first draft of my second novel and really want to focus on completing it within three months (hold your applause: half way through the first draft of a novel means 1.5 years to publication, if you're on the fast track). In order to make that happen, I need to cut corners in my day to day schedule.

When you drop by Kick Back Moments from now on, you may find an awesome video, a kind act I observed, a peaceful moment I experienced, a knock out book I read, something that made me laugh out loud, something that made me simply smile, photos, quotes, etc.—anything that makes us forget the stress of our days and helps us take a moment just to kick back.

I also hope you share your own kick back moments in the comment section. Better yet, if you come across a quote, book, video, experience that you would like to share on this blog, please e-mail me at peggystrack8@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you.

So, today's kick back moment:

The other night I was watching the Kennedy Center Honors Ceremony as they paid tribute to the classic rock band, Led Zeppelin, on TV. For me, the finest moment came when Heart walked onto stage and performed Stairway to Heaven. Although their rendition of this masterpiece was extraordinary, what evoked the most emotion in me were the facial expressions of the composers, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant. To sit back and know that you were responsible for a piece of art that many refer to as, "The greatest rock song ever written," must be amazing. So as you watch this magnificent performance, also pay attention to Jimmy and Robert's reaction. Beautiful!  

 


  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Give Yourself a Santa Moment

Santa did us all a favor when he asked children around the world to leave him a plate of cookies and a glass of milk when he stopped by their house to deliver gifts. I mean really...is there anything that provides more instant comfort and energy than a bite of baked sugar, butter, flour, eggs, vanilla, loaded with extras like bing cherries and chocolate chips? Just writing about cookies makes me smile. Yes, I am the same woman who wrote about the downside of sugar a few months ago, but we are in the midst of the holidays, and deserve a treat. Plus, anything Santa recommends can't be too bad.

I discovered a fantastic place to buy cookies this year, and I had to share it with you. Nestled in a church basement kitchen in Albany, NY, Linda Kindlon has made her dream of owning a bakery come true. Frustrated with working at jobs that weren't working for her, Linda decided to see if she could make a living doing what she loves most—baking. She found a church that was willing to rent out their kitchen, gathered the capital she needed, built a website, and started spreading the word about her original cookies. As most business ventures go, it took some time to attract loyal customers, but before long the buzz about her delicious edibles grew. Now, Linda often works ten to twelve hour days to fulfill orders—from individuals, businesses, coffee shops, health food stores, and her friends at local farmers' markets.

Linda baking for you! 

Linda has clearly become one of the most popular bakers in the capitol region of New York State. Her secret is to use only the finest of ingredients. She uses organic products whenever possible and believes in freshness so buys from local farmers. The result is absolute cookie art. When I brought a cannoli cookie, made with ricotta cheese, marscapone cheese, and crushed cannoli shells on top, home to my husband, Keith, he exclaimed, "That's the best cookie I've ever tasted." After he savored his treat, he immediately "liked" Linda's Facebook page.

Linda's son pours flour cultivated in Vermont into a bin
 

When asked why she enjoys baking so much, Linda said, she was raised in a "cooking" household so feels connected to the process; when she is baking alone in her kitchen the problems of the world seem to fade away; and she enjoys the creative side of baking. "If something tastes good, I try it out in a cookie," Linda says. That has included varieties such as, double chocolate and caramel and pumpkin, apple, and oatmeal. For the holidays, one of her offerings was small snowmen dipped in white chocolate and sprinkled with peppermint.

My favorite is called, "Girls Best Friend"—a cookie baked with pretzels, chocolate, and potato chips—heavenly.

Linda's favorite: white chip craisin, and she currently gives away a dozen through a contest on her Facebook page every Wednesday.

White chip craisin cookie

So, regardless of your faith, this Christmas Eve, join Santa. Kick back, pour yourself a glass of milk and fix yourself a plateful of cookies. After the hectic holiday season, YOU deserve it!

Now for a scavenger hunt:
If you'd like to win a dozen of Bake For You cookies and a copy of my novel, A Stop in the Park, go to my Facebook page and simply "like" my most recent post: http://www.facebook.com/PeggyStrack

You'll find a link to the Bake for You FB page there too!

A very merry Christmas to those who celebrate and many happy wishes to all who enjoy the season of giving.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Joy of Reading To Children

I don't get to read to kids any more. This realization struck me while I was waiting to meet with a fellow speech therapist in the school district where I work. Her room held at least one hundred children's books stored on shelves, in cubbies, and spread across tables. As an administrator now, I don't have the opportunity to dig deep into books with children and explore solutions to problems like ways the Little Critter could clean his room more efficiently and what Alexander could do so he wouldn't have another terrible, very bad day.

I also used to love reading to my sons. We'd go to the library each week and select at least twenty books. At home, we'd spread them out on the family room floor and settle on our couch. Max and Greg would take turns selecting the book they wanted me to read. There were times, we'd read all twenty books in one sitting. There were times, like with The Trouble With Trolls by Jan Brett, that I just keep reading the same story over and over at their urgent request of, "One more time, Mommy." I never minded. In fact, I welcomed the chance to make my voice a little more dramatic in certain scenes; the pausing between words a touch more effective.

While reminiscing as I stood waiting for the therapist to walk through the door, I noticed this book by Laura Vaccaro Seeger:


I'd never seen it before. There was a day when I was up to date with the latest and greatest children's books, but those days were over. Oh how I wished there was a group of children sitting at the table begging me to read the story aloud, but there wasn't. So I did the next best thing. I sat down, opened the book and read a riveting story in the middle of my work day.

What was the result?

A warm feeling accompanied by the memory of children's faces lighting up with emotion at  different scenarios  from an abundance of stories. At home later that day, I went into my basement and found this—a treasury of books that will eventually find their way to the the ears and eyes of a child again:



Here are just some of the benefits of reading to children listed on the website, Raise Smart Kids:
  •  Reading to your kid makes you bond with him/her, and gives your child a sense of intimacy and well-being.   
  • It calms your child, especially when he/she is fretful or restless.
  • It promotes increased communication between you and your child.
  • It builds listening skills and imagination.
Although I've never done a study, I'm pretty certain that if we switched the words kid/child to adult, the findings would be the same. Go back and try it.

What's your favorite children's story?

I have so many, but the one that just popped into my mind is The Mitten by Jan Brett.

Here's a special treat. The governor of New Jersey, Christopher Christie reading Twas the Night Before Christmas accompanied by the Boston Pops. No matter what your political or religious beliefs, you're sure to enjoy this.



KICK BACK BOOK OF THE WEEK:

Of course, it's a children's book. I'm going with a relatively new book by Linda Hales, Andy Roo. This is what Amazon has to say: 



"Andy-Roo is a young puppy who grew long legs and feet quite different from the other kids at the playground. This book tells his story, especially how he overcame his differences and became a popular player in little league games. Andy-Roo's experiences are captured in short picture stories that will appeal to the young reader in the 3-7 year age bracket. A moral is embedded in every tale that will not be lost on the young reader but will be remembered in context with Andy-Roo, the character. Most of all, his tales always make children smile!


Here's the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Andy-Roo-Birthday-Surprise-Linda-Hales/dp/1469961938/ref=la_B004YKW4QU_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355058392&sr=1-1



KICK BACK SONG OF THE WEEK:

A seasonal story song: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sung by Destiny's Child. Nice lipstick, Beyonce!



  A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA:
 
 



              

Sunday, December 2, 2012

NYC For A Day!

Most of you know by now that my favorite place to kick back is in nature. It doesn't matter where—hiking on a mountain trail, sitting near a waterfall, watching clouds from my back porch, strolling along an ocean beach—as long as it is marked with the tag, "Made in Heaven," I immediately slow down when immersed in it.

But humans also deserve credit for creating some spectacular places to spend a carefree day. One of those places is New York City, especially around the holidays. Living only 150 miles from Manhattan Island, my sister and I took Mom down on the train for her 80th birthday. She has always wanted to see the Radio City Music Christmas Spectacular, so we thought it would be a great gift. Here are some moments that are worth sharing:

There's the dancing:

Flags at Rockefeller Center dance in synchrony
with some help from the wind.
 
 
 


         Salvation Army volunteers in NYC don't just stand still ringing a bell to collect money.
They put a dancing show!
 
 
 
Who needs the Olympics with these street performers around! 
 
 
 
And those amazing Rockettes! Better watch out Santa!
 
 
The window shopping is like nowhere else I've ever been:
 
 
Just ask your significant other for this 12-carat diamond ring showcased in the
window of Cartier. When he flinches, say, "Or those cowboy boots would be nice."
He'll be so relieved, they are sure to be yours.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Macy's Christmas window display never disappoints.
 

 
Entire stores are devoted to chocolate:
 
 
       
 
 
Lights everywhere...
 
 Chandelier at Radio City Music Hall
 
 
Part of the Rockefeller Center Display
 
 
 
The Famous Rockefeller Center Tree
 
 
A Live Nativity
 
And there's so much more. Nature is still my favorite place to kick back, but the vibe of a lively city is astounding. Here's to the brilliant minds who created these unbelievable sights and the talent that brought them to life. 
 
KICK BACK SONG OF THE WEEK:
 
This one really made me smile. The Legendary Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Jules Munshin perform New York, New York from the 1944 musical and the 1949 MGM musical film On the Town. The music was written by Leonard Bernstein and the lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. 
 
 
 



 
KICK BACK BOOK OF THE WEEK:
 
I am very sad to tell you that Kick Back Moments lost one of it's most loyal readers this past week. Sandra Humphrey, author of several moving books about character development and following dreams, died in a house fire along with her loving husband. Although I never met Sandra, she was such an inspiration. After retiring from her career as a clinical psychologist at the age of 55, she began writing and publishing books. Sandra was a strong positive force in my online writing support group, encouraging others to persevere with their writing and publishing aspirations. She supported all, and to be honest, I don't know where she found the time and energy to accomplish all that she did at the age of 76-years old. In honor of Sandra, this week's kick back book of the week is: 
They Stood Alone: 25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference—I know Sandra Humphrey certainly did. Please go to her website to learn more about this wonderful woman.  

 http://www.kidscandoit.com/blog/2012/11/27/dare-to-dream-big-the-power-of-two/#comments    

  



A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA:

 
 A candle lit for Sandra Humphrey at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Brad Paisley's Grandfather Had it Right!

I was glancing at my inbox on AOL mail and noticed an announcement from Amazon. The subject line read, "If you like biographies you might like..." Always looking for something good to read, I clicked into the site and was surprised to see that country singer, Brad Paisley had written a book called, How My Musical Heroes Made a Guitar Man Out of Me. My first thought: Everyone really is writing a book. That quickly passed and I focused on the word: guitar.

Many of you know that I am a a passionate music appreciator. I feature a song every week on this blog; my iPod needs a new size to hold all of the music I want; I attend concerts regularly; the lead character in my novel is tempted to leave a lucrative career to run a music program for the Boys and Girls Club; and I donate ten per cent of the profits from my novel to The Mr. Hollands Opus Foundation. Because of this, I was curious about what Brad Paisley had to say. I was then enticed to buy the book (although I haven't yet) when I read what Brad's grandfather said when he gave him his first guitar at 8-years-old:

"If you learn to play, anything would be manageable, and life would be richer. You can get through some real tough moments with that guitar on your knee."

It's true. Take a look:

Bruce Springsteen offers a song of hope to
citizens of his home state, New Jersey, after
Hurricane Sandy.



A music therapist brings joy to a child with cancer.



Toby Keith entertains troops in
the Middle East on a USO tour.


High school students in St. Paul, MN,
who were determined to be at "high risk"
for dropping out, reconnect with education
through music at the High School of Recording Arts.


As a speech-language pathologist who works for a high needs school district, I wanted to find out if schools like the one above were successful. The answer is a resounding yes. The High School of Recording Arts is reporting graduation rates anywhere from 70-76%, depending on the year. This is amazing considering some other statistics: only 1 in 2 students in Los Angeles graduate, and in 2012 the graduation rate in Detroit was 60% with a 20% drop out rate.

Music does have to power to engage and heal. Unfortunately, schools around the country are reducing or terminating music programs because of budget issues. This is especially problematic in districts that have high poverty populations. When my sons wanted to play an instrument, their father and I had the resources to make it happen. Many parents don't. Part of the mission statement in The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation says, "Kids thrive when given the chance to learn and play music. Putting an instrument into their hands improves the quality of their education and their lives. The window is brief and all kids deserve a chance to play music in school!"

That is why during this season of giving, I am increasing my donation to The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation to 20% of profits from A Stop in the Park and on December 6 I will donate 100% of profits. 

Why?

Writing A Stop in the Park was a joy. Sharing it with others is a dream come true. Donating some of the proceeds from it to worthy charity is extraordinary.  I love being part of a solution. Reading, writing and math are the body of a school, but music and the arts are the spirit. I want to help keep it alive.

If you haven't purchased A Stop in the Park yet, and want to, now would be a wonderful time. Just think on December 6, $2.10 from your $2.99 Kindle download or $3.05 from your $13.28 paperback on Amazon (that is what I make from each sale) will help put a musical instrument in the hands of a child who otherwise may not have the opportunity.

Here's the link to my fundraising page. Watch it grow:   http://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/peggystrack/peggystracksfundraisingpage 

KICK BACK MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
This week I'm going with the movie, Mr. Holland's Opus, instead of a book. If you haven't seen this yet, it's a must—entertaining and inspiring. Michael Kamen, who wrote the score, developed The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation. It is available on Netflix and through most libraries. Here's the trailer:


    

KICK BACK SONG OF THE WEEK:

When I get Where I'm Going by Brad Paisley. In this song Brad sings about what it will feel like to meet his grandpa in heaven. I certainly am glad his grandfather put a guitar in his hand.

  
 A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA:
"When life gets intense, there are people who drink, who seek counseling, eat, or watch TV, pray, cry, sleep, and so on. I play."—Brad Paisley        


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Are We Poor?

"Are we poor, Mom?" my eight-year old son asked as we sat around the dinner table on a winter evening in 1998.

I looked at him as if he had two heads. "Poor? What makes you think we're poor?"

"Cause we can't afford to go to Disney World."

I looked at him as if he had three heads. "Really, Greg? You think we're poor because we can't afford to go to Disney World?"

His ten-year-old brother, Max, must have detected that I'm about to give a lecture tone in my voice, and excused himself.

"Sit down," I said.

"Why Mom? I know we're not poor."

"Sit down," I said with my well-rehearsed mother voice.

The questions began. "Are you ever hungry and can't find anything to eat?"

"No," they said.

"Are you ever cold and don't have a place to get warm?"

"No."

"Do you play hockey and ski?"

"Yes."

"Poor kids don't play hockey and ski."

"We get it, Mom," my son Max said in his almost teenager voice.

"Well, I hope so. Not being able to go to Disney is not the definition of poor," I said making an instant commitment to sign us up to work at the soup kitchen the next weekend, which we did (that just gave me an idea for a future blog post).    

I've never forgotten that conversation. It is a reminder that I always need to be grateful for what I have, not complaining because something is missing. Sure, I want things, dream about vacations, but I catch myself if I start to pout because those desires are out of my financial reach.

That is why every Thanksgiving I pull this essay out as a reminder of my many blessings. You may have seen it before, but it's a valuable re-read, especially before the holiday shopping madness begins. The numbers may be different because this was written several years ago, but the sentiments are the same:

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who won't survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 20 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than nearly three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare, especially in the United States.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone's hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God's healing touch.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world who cannot read anything at all.

You are so blessed in ways you may never know. If you are feeling blessed, repay the blessings bestowed unto you and do something for others.

—Anonymous 

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! ~ Peggy


A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA:



I was lucky enough to see this scene at dusk when
I went for a walk the other evening. I had to share it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Treasures

Oprah does it all the time, and I'm not talking about giving to charity or taking her studio audience on great adventures. She recommends books, and oh how authors love to have her approval. It's like getting a golden ticket to the New York Times Best Sellers List.

Well, I'm not Oprah. I don't own a television network or a magazine, and when I say "I loved that book," it doesn't mean instant success for the author. 

I am however, an avid reader who devours books, and I know what I like. That is why I was intrigued when author, Sandy Humphrey, invited me to go on a blog treasure hunt involving books. My assignment (which I've altered just a touch) is to answer a few questions about my own book, A Stop in the Park, then refer you to websites where you can discover book treasures. It's then supposed to operate in a chain fashion. I accepted the assignment without the chain. I just wanted to share my six favorite books of 2012 with you, and welcomed the opportunity. 

The criteria I used when choosing my book treasures of 2012 are:

  • The book had to be written by a debut author.
  • The book hasn't spiked into the Amazon overall top 100 yet. 
  • The books I chose kept me turning the pages long after the clock on my nightstand told me to go to sleep. They flowed beautifully with clarity and magnificent writing. The characters were engaging and when I finished these books, I felt like I had lost a friend. I wanted more. I wanted a sequel.


So sit back, read about how A Stop in the Park came to be. Then, discover my "book treasure" picks for 2012.      

What is the working title of your book? 
A Stop in the Park

Where did the idea come from for the book? 
I have been an avid reader since the day I realized letters formed words and had the power to create stories. That evolved into a love of writing, especially fiction, and by the time I entered middle school I knew that one day I would write a novel. Although I started many and have written numerous short stories, I didn't achieve my goal until this past year at the age of 54. What motivated me to make my dream come true was a scene I saw while relaxing with my husband, Keith, in Dupont Circle, DC. I witnessed an upscale white male losing a series of blitz chess games to an elderly African American male.  The upscale man's wife and daughters waited impatiently as Dad and husband insisted on more games. I turned to Keith and said, "Wouldn't that be a great start for a novel?"


What genre does your book fall under? 
Contemporary Fiction.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?  
Touching, romantic, and deeply provocative, A Stop in the Park follows the story of a man and a woman who yearn to escape the trap of the modern American Dream.

Is your book self-published or represented by an agency? 
It is self-published through CreateSpace.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  
Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates; For One More Day by Mitch Albom

Who or What inspired you to write this book? 
I see so many people living prescribed lives today—not lives that truly call to them or that they dream about. In the rush to get ahead and attain more and more, marriages suffer, children are ignored, fun is forgotten, and life becomes a laborious chore. I wanted to show through a story how a family deals with these issues and what they do when they realize that they are living their life all wrong.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest? 
I think the romantic element. Can a lost passionate love between husband and wife be rekindled after many years of neglect? And...can people really change when situations become intolerable? 
  

Do you have a favorite review you would like to mention? 
Toughest question yet. From the "There needs to be more than five stars for this book," to "The writing was good, but the story was not for me," all are valuable because they allow me to learn what a reader took away from my story. The critique I breathed the biggest sigh of relief from was when I received an outstanding review from Kirkus. This gave me the confidence to forge ahead with marketing A Stop in the Park. If a reputable literary review firm like Kirkus gives a book it's nod of approval, there has to be something really good about it. After three years of working on A Stop in the Park, I was thrilled.

Now for my five favorite reads of the year with their links--true treasures that I'm glad I found among the more than 8 million books on Amazon:

And Whippoorwill Sang by Micki Peluso -  A mother’s account of the events of her family, filled with laughter, love, loss, and survival. It emphasizes how the author deals with the sudden death of her daughter after she is tragically killed in a drunk driving accident, and how she brings her family together to heal, hope and live once again. A beautifully written and engaging story.   http://www.amazon.com/And-Whippoorwill-Sang-Micki-Peluso/dp/1466497076/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1352842362&sr=8-1&keywords=and+the+whippoorwill+sang

I.O.U. Sex by  Sandra Nachlinger and Sandra Allen - A fantastic entertaining read. Here's part of the description from Amazon: "When June, Kiki, and Peggy graduated from high school, all of them were still virgins. After all, they were good girls. Years later, when the three women read June’s diary from their senior year, they joke about the sexual frustration they caused their steady boyfriends back then. That’s when Kiki makes a startling statement. “When you think about it, and I’m only trying to be fair, we owe those guys sex.” With bawdy jabs and tipsy laughter, they vow to track down their old boyfriends and just DO IT. Lives intertwined, the three friends share their quests with sexy, poignant, and sometimes hilarious results." 

An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Trensniowiski - The true story of an 11-year-old panhandler, a busy sales executive, and an unlikely meeting with destiny. Absolutely superb! You will not be able to put this heartwarming book down.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - I was swept away by this novel. It is the story of a middle age couple living in Alaska who never were able to have children. One evening they create a daughter out of snow who  disappears during the night. She does, however, return as a mysterious real child. A true adult fairy tale!

The Twelve Rooms of the Nile by Enid Shomer  - If you feel like taking a trip to Egypt in the 1800's for a riveting adventure, read this book. Gillian Gill, author of Nightingales says,   “I could not imagine it: Gustave Flaubert and Florence Nightingale as friends, almost as lovers! Step by step, detail by detail, Shomer constructs the story of how a man and a woman with nothing in common but genius, one French, one English, one steeped in cynicism, one drowning in despair, could meet on the Nile in 1850, talk, write, hold hands, and see into each other’s souls. As brilliantly sensual as it is finely psychological, this novel is a tour de force of twenty-first century storytelling.”


And of course, the author who asked me to take part in this book treasure hunt, Sandra Humphrey. Sandra writes inspirational books about people who make their dreams come true, people who overcome great obstacles to achieve greatness, and character books for children. Please check all of them out at:   http://www.kidscandoit.com/

Do you have a favorite book treasure? Please share in the comment section. Thanks and happy reading! 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What's the Rush?

Have you noticed that "faster" is considered the ultimate goal in today's world?

We have fast food restaurants that have drive-thru windows that make grabbing a meal even faster.

Electronic companies are continuously coming out with new and improved devices that make accessing information faster and people act fast to buy them. They may even pay extra for faster delivery.

Legislatures argue about increasing speed limits so we can drive faster.

Restaurants offer curbside delivery for take-out so we can get where we're going faster.

Strong athletes are tempted to take performance enhancing drugs so that they can move even faster.

Schools are implementing more stringent curriculum's so students can learn to read, write, and do arithmetic faster.

Advertisements for items that encourage us to slow down and enjoy the moment are rare, unless they're from pharmaceutical companies that have developed drugs to help us adjust to this "fast" paced world.

It's on the insane side, isn't it?

Why am I thinking about how accelerated living has become? I was listening to the novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith on CD, and fell in love with this passage about how Mr. Jenson, a janitor at main character, Francie's school, signed the students' autograph books:
 

"At graduation, the children asked the principal to sign the first page of their autograph book out of respect to his position but they valued Mr. Jenson's autograph more and he always got the second page to sign. The principal signed quickly in a great sprawling hand. But not Mr. Jenson. He made a ceremony out of it. He took the book over to his big roll-top desk and lit the light over it. He sat down, carefully polished his spectacles and chose a pen. He dipped it in ink, squinted at it, wiped it off and re-dipped it. Then he signed his name in a fine steel-engraving script and blotted it carefully. His signature was always the finest in the book."

After hearing this, Mr. Jenson immediately became one of my favorite fictional characters—a man who makes a ceremony out of something as simple as signing his name. Can you just imagine how he makes a pot of soup or sets the dinner table? 
 
It also made me think about how many people sign their name in our "fast" paced world. My signature looks like white noise and my husband's looks like the activity on a heart monitor. And we're not alone. The skill of penmenship has become a lost art. 

Trying to recall what my legible signature looked like, I decided to craft my name in the style of Mr. Jenson. I took a piece of sky blue stationary and the best pen I could find out of the top drawer of my desk. I slowly scrolled my name in a manner that would make my second grade teacher proud. It relaxed me. I even wanted to make my signature neater—prettier, so I did it again. After about five minutes, I stopped and continued with the activities of my day.

How did I feel?

Calmer. It amazed me how an activity as simple as slowly writing your name can change the pace of a day. Try it!  

How do you sign your name? Would your own mother recognize it, could it pass as art or somewhere in between?           


KICK BACK SONG OF THE WEEK:

Simon and Garfunkle (and surprise guests) remind us to slow down with Feelin' Groovy.




KICK BACK BOOK OF THE WEEK:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

As I listen to this story while I drive, I find myself wondering, What took me so long to read this novel? The characters, the writing, the story are so engaging, written in a time when authors took their time describe scenes and dig deep into lives and situations. I am truly loving this book:





A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA

From my novel, A Stop in the Park. Frustrated Michael can't understand why his family was so impatient  when he wanted to stop in Dupont Circle on their way to dinner to play a game of blitz chess:  

"Dupont Circle was bursting with entertainment, and there was nothing wrong with hanging out for a little while. What was the hurry? Dash off to dinner so the girls don't become uninterested in the restaurant, then rush back home so everyone can take their places: Emily and Megan in front of the television; Jamie ogling the computer screen; and him upstairs in bed scanning fifteen hundred channels of digital cable, unsuccessfully seeking something of interest to watch until sleep set in."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

An Adirondack Journey

My favorite movie is The Sound of Music. The songs, scenery, and story always seem fresh somehow, and I watch it at least once a year. There's so much I could rave about—a story of love, family, devotion—but today I'm going to focus on a trait that the two main characters possessed: the courage to step into their destiny despite great risk and loss. (Spoiler warning ahead, but I'm sure most of you have seen The Sound of Music). Maria walked away from her life in the convent to marry the Captain, become a mother to seven children and enter a world so different than the one she left behind. The Captain broke his engagement to the Baroness because he fell in love with his children's nanny. Then he left Austria with his family to start over in Vermont after refusing to serve in the Nazi army. Although most of us don't need to make major choices like these, smaller changes can seem monumental when we are faced with them.

It's easier to stay the course, than to walk into the unknown. Your heart and soul may be telling you to "Go" and at the same time your security is quivering with fear. Saying farewell to people and places  you love to embark on a new beginning is simply hard, but change is also an ingredient for rich living.

My dear friend Janice is about to make a career change that involves a major move. As excited as she is, it means leaving the home where she raised her son, her friends and her beloved Adirondack Mountains. These mountains were more than just trees and lakes to Janice. They were her spiritual sanctuary. She climbed all of the park's 46 peaks above 4000 feet, meandered on the tranquil paths, and kayaked on its waterways. Although the Adirondack Park won't be a short drive away any longer, Janice is taking many memories with her, and this natural playground will always be there with a warm welcome when she comes home. Here are a few of Janice's photos that she captured over the years while exploring the Adirondacks of New York State set to the music of  Michael Hedges. I'd like to share this gift to Janice with you. Sit back and enjoy the beauty.




KICK BACK SONG OF THE WEEK:

The song playing on the video above is The Unexpected Visitor by Michael Hedges.

KICK BACK BOOK OF THE WEEK:   

An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser, which takes place in the Adirondack Mountains.



From Amazon Reviewer, Tom Weikert: "Its unparalleled depth defines An American Tragedy, listed by Time magazine in its 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005 list. A multi-leveled latticework of themes that includes everything from Freudian psychoanalytic theory to the ills of capitalism and its attendant social climbing in early Industrial America, this epic novel reminds me why I love great literature."

A LITTLE SOMETHING EXTRA: