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. 


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: 

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:



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.

"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?"


"Do you play hockey and ski?"


"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.


May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! ~ Peggy


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.

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:

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?           


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


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:


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."