Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tranquil Moments

Although I love to write, I have never written poetry. To be honest, I don't even read much poetry. Life gets so busy and taking the time to linger over a page of reflective words seems extravagant. The occasions when I have taken a moment to peruse poetry, I was left with a feeling of calm and appreciation. Here's what the blog Family Friend Poems says about poetry:

"Life is a lot of work. What is it that gives us the strength to continue when we are tired and burned out? Sometimes an inspirational idea can help renew ourselves and be filled with strength to fulfill our life's purpose." 

So much inspiration can come from simple moments and words, as I discovered when I visited poet, Sharla Lee Shults's blog, and came across this tranquil pictorial essay. Sharla was kind enough to let me share it here. Give yourself a gift, take a deep breath, clear your mind, and enjoy.

Sharla Lee Shults

[At the end of this posting is a slide show you do not want to miss!]

Picture this. . .

With the unrelenting rain still in our midst, thoughts today shift to moments of tranquility. While the rain can definitely be soothing within melodic tunes, its rhythm can be somewhat unsettling as echoes of thunder break the silence and flashes of lightning zigzag across an already bleak sky. Let's close our eyes and let our minds become absorbed in a much lesser stressful atmosphere.

A soft haze engulfs the scene as early morning fog slowly begins to lift. Everything in sight begins to shimmer with the earliest rays of sunlight casting reflections in droplets of dew. You are alone. With coffee cup in hand, you gaze out the window as eyes shift across the lake and begin to pan the horizon. Thoughts drift to the day before and events that now set the stage for all the tomorrows to come. What a great morning for a walk along the rocky shore of the lake! Coffee will have to wait.

Cathy Marshall Two Sun Morning

In the distance, you spy the old dock built by your grandfather when he was a young man, stout and strong. The visions of fishing with cane poles, laughing at his worn-out jokes, and hopes of catching ol' granddaddy catfish bring on a soft laugh and a smile. You walk on. You stop at the dock peering down the long stretch of planks as it juts outward as if reaching for the other side of the lake but never making it. You pause. 

Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee, USA

As you stroll the dock, sunbeams engulf your whole being like a warm cloak being draped across your shoulders. You peer down at the water just in time to see tiny tadpoles dancing in the morning light. A splash a few yards away gets your attention knowing it is that ol' granddaddy catfish teasing and tempting you to drop a freshly baited hook in the water. He will just have to be content on playing about in the water and enjoying one more day in the lake for on this day you do not have your fishing pole. His lucky day.

Ol' Granddaddy Catfish

The panoramic view from the end of the dock is green with envy as the tree-line shore masks long forgotten cabins in the background. They had been abandoned many years earlier for the owner had died leaving no one as heir. Broken windows and battered boards shield only the ghosts that linger in the shadowy stillness of both the daylight and the darkness. You wonder about the stories that could be told if any of those old cabins could talk. But, perhaps, it is a good thing the remaining walls could not speak for you have far too many secrets whose stories best not be aired.

Taking off your shoes, you lay them aside and take a seat on the end of the dock. Dangling your legs over the edge, your toes begin to swish back and forth across the top of the cool water disturbing the stillness of the lake with ripple after ripple. In the next few moments, you are completely surrounded by only the scenes of tranquility.

"Tranquil moments are treasured moments: moments where time seems to stand still, thoughts drift away to a magical place and worry becomes a thing of the past." ~catnipoflife

Don't think, just click below:

Sharla Lee Shults is a retired math teacher, wife, mother and author of two books of poetry: Remembering & Echoes. Her third book, Awakening, is expected to be released in early September. Here's what Sharla says about poetry:

 "Poetry is a way of transcending the boundaries of conscious thought. It's spiritual realms are echoes from the heart inspired by life and God's love that whisper of yesterday. The poetic verses of my books epitomize expressions of inspiration generated from random thoughts, comments from others, images portrayed, or creative reflections of feelings to warm the heart and lift the spirit."  


Do yourself a favor and order Remembering by Sharla Lee Shults. It's filled with moving poetry that will help you to relax, ponder, reminisce, smile, and encourage. 

To Order Click Here:

Kick Back song of the week has been replaced by the slide show above.


A poem from Remembering  by Sharla Lee Shults:

My Hand in Yours, Your Hand in Mine 

As a tiny infant
I was too young to know
My hand in yours
Made the love grow.

As a young child 
I sometimes resisted
My hand in yours
Holding it only because you persisted.

As a teen
I always rejected
My hand in yours
Thinking it only a childlike gesture.

As a young adult
I reached out
For your hand in mine
Wanting you to erase all doubt.

Now as an older adult
I cherish each moment tendered
Of your hand in mine
Wishing it would never be surrendered.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Book Giveaway

Take a moment. Click below and enter to win a copy of my soon to be released debut novel, A Stop in the Park. Sponsored by Goodreads. Thanks!!!  ~  Peggy

Release Date: September 20. I'm getting excited!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Such a Lovely Woman

Tucked in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains of New York State is an isolated reservoir called the Lows Lake Recreation Area—a haven of tranquility where mechanically propelled vessels are prohibited. The only way to explore these waters is with a paddle and a boat. My husband, Keith, two friends, and I decided to do just that. We stuffed food, drinks, gas stoves, water filters, tents and sleeping bags into our kayaks and proceeded into this desolate area for two nights. But would survival gear be enough? Camper Sharon didn't think so. Thankfully, she insisted on essentials like chairs in a bag, wine and $3.99 inflatable floats. Well, we all insisted on wine.

Of course, severe thunderstorms were predicted on the day our trip was scheduled to begin. The smart thing to do would be to cancel, but everything was packed and days off from work were already taken, so we ignored the logical part of our brains and embarked on our adventure in spite of the weather forecast. If the sky looked like it would blow-up when we arrived, we'd spend the night at a hotel and head out in the morning.

When we arrived the sky looked like it was going to blow-up. Camper Phil asked the woman who rents bear canisters out of her garage what she thought about the weather. Who needs a meteorologist when you have the bear canister saleslady? By the way, these are containers, which resemble small black barrels, and are designed to lock up your food so bears can't get at it when they come prowling through the campsite at night.

Am I really going on this trip???

The bear canister saleslady said, "You have time. Get to your campsite and set-up. There'll be one big boomer. Take cover in your tents, then smooth sailing."

"Okay," we thought, and continued to the launch at the Lower Dam.

The sky darkened as we paddled toward our destination.

The scent of rain accompanied us dampening our plans for a leisurely paddle far into the wilderness. Then, our first stop—a strip of land that barricaded us from further travel. We had to carry our very heavy kayaks over the terrain. As soon as we hoisted ourselves out of our boats, a lovely ranger with long blonde hair and a broad smile greeted us. She pleasantly asked us about our plans and told us, from memory, which of the thirty-nine campsites were available, and a little about some of the guests who would soon be our neighbors. I was surprised when the ranger divulged that she lived with her husband at a boy scout camp situated on the lake year round. Yes. Thoughts of The Shining did cross my mind. I was even more surprised to learn that she had adult sons that had moved away years ago. This woman looked far too young to have grown children. When we asked her about the weather, she looked at the darkening sky, told us that we had time to get to camp ten, "A spacious site."

We transported our kayaks down a narrow path, occasionally stopping to rest.

Camper Phil and Camper Sharon

When we reached the bog leading to the lake, I couldn't believe that the ranger was standing on a bridge smiling at us. She must have used another trail that we weren't aware of. I pulled my kayak down a short hill and when I glanced up this swift footed woman was standing on the bank across from me. "How are you doing?" she asked.

I stopped. How did she get from the bridge to the shore so quickly? Was she a witch that could travel with a twitch of her nose? I quieted my imagination, shrugged my shoulders, and shimmied into my kayak. The others did the same. As we paddled away, I felt a few raindrops on my cheeks. Camper Keith, once again asked, "What do do you think about the weather?"

"You'll be fine," the ranger bellowed, as she waved good-bye.

We paddled hastily as the gentle breeze evolved into wind and a trace of thunder sounded in the distance. Camper Phil asked, "How about site eight?"

Site eight was close, but not very big and didn't have much of a beach.

"Site ten," Camper Sharon replied. "I want a beach."

Camper Phil stopped paddling. "The weather!"

"The ranger said we'd be fine."

We paddled on.

When we arrived at campsite ten, we hurried to get our tents set up and our supplies tucked someplace where they would stay dry.

Camper Keith

The storm cooperated and stayed away. Leaves swished in the wind and the tumultuous lake lapped against the many rocks that lined the shore. Still no rain, but it was evident that it would be arriving soon, so we settled in, built a fire and waited.

We drank. We ate. We waited.

The sky was nearly black. The sound of thunder moved closer, but no rain. We waited.

Then looming toward us, in a kayak twice as long as mine, came the ranger. She stopped to say hello and to check on a campfire that had been started in another area of our site the day before. "I wanted to make sure it was totally out," she said.

A light drizzle began.

"I better be on my way," the ranger said.

"Do you have time?" Camper Sharon asked pulling the hood on her rain jacket over her head.

"I'll be fine," she said smiling. "The boy scout camp isn't far."

The ranger gracefully stepped into her kayak and was soon out of sight.

Our conversation faded. Our heavy tongues told us that we had enough wine and the gloomy day turned into night. The inevitable storm still hadn't arrived. Perplexed, we went into our tents convinced that torrential downpours, booming thunder and flashes of lightening would wake us at some point during the night.

Morning arrived, but the storm didn't. The top edge of the sun peeked over a hill when I emerged from our tent. Keith was already up, pumping water from the lake with his filter into Nalgene bottles. Phil and Sharon were near the fire pit getting the gas stove ready for brewing coffee. I gazed at the placid water anticipating a peaceful day of natural exploration—then there she was—the ranger kayaking along the banks. Of course, she stopped.

Pleasant as always, she asked about our night, our rest, our plan for the day. She then told us how lucky we were to have missed a violent storm. "Lows Lake was on a thread that it missed." Raking her golden hair back with one hand, she said, "Everywhere around us there was hail, fierce winds, and downed trees.

We looked at each other with eyes that expressed gratitude and concern. We just missed being in the middle of a potentially frightening situation. But all is well that ends well, as the saying goes. The ranger wished us a good day and was off.

It really was a spectacular morning, so I grabbed my camera and walked to the shore. I glanced at the lake and noticed a round yellow ball, the sun's reflection. I snapped a picture. When I looked at the image on the camera screen, I didn't see a round yellow ball. I saw this:

Could it be an angel in the lake?

Now, you might say that it's my reflection, but the sun was in front of me, not behind me. You might say, the camera scattered the light and this is the image it happened to catch. But, I stepped back in amazement. Before running to show the other campers, I looked down the lake. The ranger was nowhere to be seen.

Phil and Sharon asked me to send them the photo of the angel in the lake and I happily complied. Phil showed us the photo on his large Mac computer screen and we were even more amazed at what we saw. An image that could take hours to explore and decipher. Each person who has viewed this photo up close sees something different; finds something more.

We speculated in jest after our camping trip about the ranger and the photo. We wondered what we would discover if we went to the boy scout camp for a visit. Of course, she'd be there and would probably invite us in for pie and coffee. She was such a lovely woman. Then again...

What do you think?


The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman. Amazon says, "At the heart of this novel is Lucy Green, who blames herself for a tragic accident she witnesses at the age of twelve, and who spends four decades searching for the third angel—the angel on earth who will renew her faith.


A beautiful lullaby, Goodnight My Angel sung by the Celtic Women


A scene from my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, where the main character Michael Stolis goes on a hike:

After a few hours, he stopped at a lake that resembled a liquid emerald. Michael sat on a mound of dirt, placed his back against a boulder, and inhaled the magnificent sight. Then, he closed his eyes. His muscles loosened. Whines, tiresome conversations, technical gadgets, arrogance, material possessions, complaints, and obligations erupted from him and dove into the lake. He imagined the bomb of excess creating a splash that touched the sky. When the spray from the splash dispersed, it showered Michael with an orchestra of music. The symphony gradually turned into an acoustic melody from the strings of a guitar. The soothing sound encouraged Michael to rest. He fell asleep as tranquility stitched his soul.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Be An Active Bystander--Be A Friend

Instead of kicking back this week, we're going to step forward. As a speech-language pathologist working for a public school and a parent, I have witnessed and heard about the impact of bullying. The 2009 Indicators on School Crime and Safety collected statistics from a variety of studies and found that one third of teens reported being bullied at school.

What can be done?

For some solutions, I'm turning Kick Back Moments over to Sandra McLeod Humphrey. Sandra is a retired clinical psychologist, a character education consultant, and an award winning author of eight middle-grade and young adult books. She's also the recipient of the National Character Education Center's Award for Exemplary Leadership in Ethics Education (2000) and the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature. You can learn more about her books by visiting her website at

Sandra McLeod Humphrey

Bullying Then and Now

School bullying is nothing new and was once considered a character-building rite of passage for our children, but now it is seen for what it is--a form of victimization and abuse which can leave lasting psychological scars.
Unfortunately, school bullying is on the rise everywhere, and schools need to have anti-bullying policies in place and operational. The stories in my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs are all based on actual bullying experiences that students shared with me during my school visits and is dedicated to a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who took his own life as a result of being bullied. Unfortunately, bullycides are becoming all too common these days.

During my school visits, we role-played different bullying scenarios, so that the students could "feel" the same situation from the perspective of the bully, the bully's victim, and the bystander and I always emphasized the importance of the role of the bystander who can inadvertently (or sometimes purposely) facilitate the bullying situation.
The difference between bullying then and now is that, in the past, a student was able to get away from the bullies and find at least temporary refuge in his or her own home. There is no such refuge for today’s victims with the advent of cyberbullying. Bullying that begins at school can continue via cell phone and the social networking sites. Victims can feel overwhelmed and powerless, sometimes leaving them to believe that suicide is their only option.
The good news is that public awareness about the serious ramifications of bullying is increasing, thanks to anti-bullying campaigns and new legislation; TV coverage by people such as Anderson Cooper, Dr. Phil, and Oprah Winfrey; the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention; and even students themselves (see
Like any other kind of abuse, school bullying is intolerable and it’s time for all of us to dispel the old adage that “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.” Words do hurt!
Some Parental Tips:
1. Listen: Encourage your children to talk about school,
    friends, activities, etc.
2. Take your children’s complaints of bullying seriously:
    Remember that children are often afraid or ashamed to
    tell parents that they have been bullied and a simple
    bullying incident may turn out to be quite significant.
3) Watch for symptoms of victimization: social withdrawal,
    drop in grades, personality changes, etc.
4) Use children’s books to initiate a discussion about
    bullying: Judy Blume’s Blubber is a classic novel about classroom dynamics, shifting alliances, and the bullying that can go on unseen by adults. Trudy Ludwig’s Just Kidding emphasizes the distinction between tattling (trying to get someone in trouble) and reporting (trying to help someone in trouble).  And my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs offers specific bullying scenarios which encourage readers to talk about the choices they would make in those situations.   
Some Student Tips (Remember, bullying is all about power, so try not to give the bully that power):
1) Ignore the bully when possible: the bully is waiting for
    you to react, so stay calm and don’t react when
2) There’s strength in numbers: bullies generally don’t
    pick on groups, so hang with your friends.
3) Don’t retaliate in kind: this usually will just escalate
    the situation. Violence usually leads to more violence.
4) Tell an adult you trust: If the bullying continues, tell
    a parent or teacher or some other adult you trust. 
5) Don’t underestimate your role as bystander: bystanders
    can unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) have
    the power to facilitate or stop the bullying situation.

Remember, No one deserves to be bullied, so don’t suffer in silence. Do something or tell someone!

Some Suggested Internet Resources: 
International Bullying Prevention Association:
Olweus Bullying Prevention Program:
Rachel’s Challenge:

Thanks Sandra for stopping by and sharing this important information with us.


One way to prevent bullying is to inspire young people to greatness. They Stood Alone...25 Men and Women Who Made a Difference by Sandra McLeod Humphrey does just that.   

Here is my review as it appears on and Goodreads:

Inspirational and fascinating, "They Stood Alone" by Sandra McLeod Humphrey provides a fresh biographical account of twenty-five men and women who changed the world. I learned about the simplistic values of Henry David Thoreau, the rebellious spirit of Galileo Galilei, the courage of Mohandas Gandhi, and the compassion of Mother Teresa. Although these peoples' names are familiar to most, I discovered new facts, like Clara Barton was a painfully shy child and Albert Einstein dropped out of school at fifteen because he not only hated school but his family had financial problems. In the end, these heroes overcame personal obstacles and achieved greatness. I also learned about less famous champions like Marion Anderson, the first black singer to sing with the Metropolitan Opera and pioneer of the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson. Told with clarity and verbal imagery, Sandra Humphrey takes us on a journey into prominent lives that won't be forgotten. In fact, you may initiate stimulating conversations at social gatherings when you ask questions such as, "Did you know that Isaac Newton was only an average student?" Engaging, intriguing, and informative, both children and adults will be inspired to achieve their goals and dreams after reading, "They Stood Alone."


Since bystanders and friends are antidotes to bullying, let's go with: You've Got a Friend by James Taylor


In my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, Michael Stolis realizes the importance of friendship:

"Michael welcomed the symphony. There wasn't anyone he could share his anguish with, but Rufus seemed willing to listen, maybe even help. It suddenly occurred to him what was happening. He was making a friend. At this point in his life, he had some acquaintances, who he didn't really care for, but no buds to hang with. Michael smiled. He liked the idea of having a friend." 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Farmer's Market: A Success Story

I was driving to the grocery store on Saturday morning and suddenly thought, Why not go to the Farmer's Market instead? Support local merchants and buy fruits and vegetables that haven't spent three days on a truck being transported from who knows where.

Finding parking in town was a bit of a problem, but I wasn't surprised. Saratoga Springs is teeming with tourists in August, but I eventually found a spot and strolled to High Rock Street where farmers come each week to sell their products. What surprised me was the crowd—hordes of people:

 Trying out products...

Talking to merchants...

Listening to music...

Catching up with friends...

Waiting for breakfast...

And the scents—bouquets of summer flowers, fresh basil, bacon frying and freshly brewed coffee overpowered the fumes from nearby traffic, which somehow seemed faraway. Cells phones weren't glued to people's ears and the folk band didn't have any competition from iPods.

Being part of this energetic scene made me wonder if farmer's markets were becoming more popular. People trying to return to a simpler time when merchants explained the details of their products instead of the side of a box; where cash was traded for fresh food as opposed to plastic for packaged products; where smiles and laughter were as common as ripe tomatoes.

I did a little research when I returned home. The answer is: Yes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on August 3, 2012 that Farmer's Markets across the nation have increased by 9.6 percent over the past year. Organizations such as, Slow Food, started in 1989 to counter fast food/junk food lifestyles first ignited consumer's needs for fresh, local produce. In 1994 there were 1744 farmer's markets registered with the USDA. Today: 7,864.

By the casual walking, easy conversations, and smiles I observed on Saturday, it was evident that slow food wasn't the only thing people were interested in finding at the market. Slow living was also up for grabs and it appeared to be a very popular product.

Do you visit a Farmer's Market near your home? If so, what is your favorite part? For me, so hard to choose, but I'll go with the overall ambiance of friendliness and joy. It really is a happy a place.


Gypsy Jazz West entertains at the Portland, OR Farmer's Market. This is a 20-minute video, but stop in for a few minutes and enjoy the festivities:


A few years back I came across a truly fun and easy read: A Year on Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. It's about three women whose husbands are gone and children are grown. says, "Tired of always dreaming and never doing, Cici, Lindsay, and Bridget make a life-altering decision. Uprooting themselves from their comfortable lives in the suburbs, the three friends buy a run-down mansion, nestled in the picturesque Shenandoah Valley. They christen their new home, "Ladybug Farm," hoping that the name will bring them luck.


When Jamie Stolis, the disenchanted heroine in my soon to be released novel, A Stop in the Park, is asked, "What do you feel like when you're in your garden?" She replies:

"Like love is pouring out of me. The earth graciously accepts it and returns my gift with beauty."