Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Magic of a Signature Giveaway

One of my favorite characters from a novel is Mr. Jensen in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. He doesn't have a big part, but his role has made a lasting impression on me. He was the janitor in protagonist Francie's school. He taught the students to be compassionate by his own actions and to exhibit good character, about “good citizenship and about a good world where everyone did the best he could for the common good of all” (p. 175). When he signs the student's autograph books, he does not briskly and sloppily make a mark, but he signs it with purpose and precision. This in itself is a lesson, that even the simplest things can be worthy of great care.

I've watched several artists sign their creations over the past few months. I've noticed that when they autograph their work, a sense of pride and reflection appears on their face—like their a piece of their soul is being scrolled on the page. When they hand their product over, most smile and express their gratitude because you've taken the time to appreciate their efforts. For me, it's like their work comes alive with a dash of the pen.

Garth Stien signing his novel,The Art of Racing in the Rain
Schenectady Public Library
As Pat Riley says, "Each Warrior wants to leave the mark of his will, his signature, on important acts he touches. This is not the voice of ego but of the human spirit, rising up and declaring that it has something to contribute to the solution of the hardest problems, no matter how vexing."

I think a signature is so special I'm offering a giveaway of signed art I've collected. Don't worry about me. I made sure to get two copies—one for you and one for me!
Here are the items I'm giving away to one lucky winner. Signed copies of:
The Art of Racing in the Rain a novel by Garth Stein
The Poe Shadow  a novel by Matthew Pearl
Under an Indigo Sky a CD by guitarist, Laurence Juber
The Adirondacks a book of photos by photographer, Carl Heilman
Tai Chi Cookies by baker, Linda Kinlon, at Bake for You (She'll sign the box!)
Head on over to my Facebook Page and click "like" on the giveaway post and your entered. Check back on May 6 to see if you're the lucky winner.  Facebook Address:  
Have a great week and make sure your signature reflects your true character!




Sunday, April 21, 2013

Random Acts of Violence—The New Normal?

I've cheered at many marathons as my husband, Keith, crossed the finish line. The culmination of hundreds of training hours, nutritional eating, and sacrificing other activities to take the challenge of pushing his body to an ultimate physical level. Crossing the finish line represents keeping an individualized commitment that would be so easy to break because of sore hip joints, early morning jaunts after parties that went past midnight, running through wind, rain, and snow (It's true!) and a wife that sometimes says, "Do you really have to do that eighteen mile run this Saturday? I was hoping we could take a walk in the park?" (Yes, I am guilty). Those runners who finish a marathon keep going through all this and when the race day finally arrives it's time for triumph and celebration.

Tragically, two individuals turned the great Boston Marathon into a horror show on April 15. We all know the details and I'm not reiterating any of them. What I want to focus on is the quote by Fred Rogers that has been showing up all over Facebook and other social media sites:

The truth of Fred Roger's mother's words rang out loud and clear following the explosion in the Back Bay area of Boston. I'm giving myself five minutes to think of as many as I can. Here goes:

First Responders — Those individuals who ran toward the victims instead of away from the explosion—Here's to the helpers!

Police—Quick, smart, brave, action only begins to describe your heroism. Here's to the helpers!

Medical Personnel—You saved hundreds of lives and never missed a beat. Here's to the helpers!

FBI & Other Investigators—You scrutinized thousands of photos and videos until you identified the perpetrators. Here's to the helpers!

Boston Citizens—You stayed strong and partnered with the police in the expeditious capture of the two men responsible for crippling so many lives. I was amazed as I watched your city come together to solve this crime. Here's to the helpers!

People—There is no doubt in my mind that the outpouring of love and prayers traveling to Boston from around the world contributed to the spirit and healing of those involved with this tragedy. Here's to the helpers!

My five minutes is up, but the list of helpers continues in my mind. It is evident that there is so much more good in the world than bad, and the good must continue to stand together. As New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo says, "It's a terrible situation in Boston. And, unfortunately, ... one gets the sense that this is more reflective of the 'new normal,' if you will," he explained. "So much of society is changing so rapidly. We talk about a 'new normal' when it comes to climate change and adjusting to a change in the weather patterns. 'New normal' when it comes to public security in a post-9/11 world. Where these random acts of violence, which at one time were implausible, now seem all-too-frequent."

Random acts of violence—the new normal? As hard as it is for me to admit it, I have to agree with Governor Cuomo. Outside of the Boston incident this week, I watched parents of the Sandy Hill victims in Washington D.C. lobby for background checks before gun purchases. On my way to work, I saw Albany, NY police barricade a street with yellow tape because of a shooting where one man was killed. I received an e-mail from our home owner's association that reported three home break-ins in my quiet, "safe" neighborhood. I clicked onto AOL News and saw that there was another shooting where two were killed at a Colorado rally on April 21.

What do we do about this "new normal" of increasing violence?

Be a helper!

Be patient and cooperative with security checks in public places. Compromise some of your privacy  as increased surveillance is implemented at shopping centers, college campuses, sporting events and on and on. Boston proved pictures and videos do work in capturing the bad guys. Like the Boston citizens, let's be part of the solution. Don't be paranoid, but be aware when stepping out into the world. If someone or something looks suspicious, report it. Better safe than sorry. If the helpers band together and prove, no one gets away with anything, the "new normal" may eventually turn into peace and security.

My thoughts and love to all the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy. May the helpers in your life be there for you as you grieve and recover. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Five Senses of Kayaking

The ice has melted on Saratoga Lake. For me, that means it's time to put away the skis and break out the kayak. I did exactly that this past Saturday with husband, Keith and friend, Dennis. Yes, it was chilly. Yes, we stayed close to shore just in case someone tipped their boat into the frigid water.

A little risky?

Probably, but there's something about being one of the season's first to launch a boat into the lake. It's adventurous and makes me feel like a pioneer. Not only that, I simply love kayaking. I don't think there's another sport that offers such an intimate encounter with a natural body of water without getting wet. With it comes a sense of calm and intrigue.

Peggy gets ready to kayak!

What do I get out of kayaking?

As with many outdoor activities, it correlates with a life journey. Paddling along a whispering stream or  bouncing on top of a rippling lake is fun at first, but with each stroke, the paddle becomes heavier. Soon, my shoulders pinch and a crick emerges on the back of my neck, but the body keeps moving. If I persevere, the joy I gain from the voyage overshadows these minor aches. The next time out, I'm that much stronger, can travel a little further, and take on a more challenging route.

Then there's the escape kayaking offers from the often daunting world we live in. According to Jan Sheehan, health and fitness journalist, "Finding solace can be as simple as replacing nerve-jangling stimuli with soothing sights, sounds, textures, aromas, and flavors." These soothing senses are abundant on a motorless boat ride. Here are a few examples:   

Sight: Pine tress, berry bushes, clouds, sky, geese, cattails, an endless trail of water or a bend in the route with something unknown waiting just around the corner.

Lows Lake, Northern Adirondacks, NY

Sound: The woosh of water as the paddle moves me along. Birds chirping and cooing in an unrehearsed symphony that is somehow perfectly orchestrated. Resting my paddle on the cockpit hoping to catch that all too rare sound of silence.

 Shhh! Just found myself some quiet.

Smell: That pure yet musty scent. The combination of fish and foliage; weather and fresh water; and an entire community that lives beneath the dark water and above the clouds.

Fish Creek, Saratoga Springs, NY 

Touch: The droplets of water that dribble on my skin when the paddle is lifted out of the water. The breeze that cools my skin. A branch or tree limb that brushes my back.

Lows Lake, Northern Adirondacks, NY

Taste: Plants, animals, water, and air stirred in a pot and inhaled. The taste of nature, revitalizing and calorie free.  

Lows Lake, Northern Adirondacks, NY

Then, of course, there's the sixth sense. That unexplained phenomenon so often found in nature, but not easily explained. Look into the clouds. What do you see?


"Row row, row your boat gently down the stream. Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily. Life is but a dream."— Eliphalet Oram Lyte

Sunday, April 7, 2013

A Crash Course in Dream Chasing

It's been seven months since I made my dream come true and published my first novel, A Stop in the Park, a candid story of a family's struggle to rediscover their love and dreams amid the frenetic pace and demanding schedules of life today.

Besides the obvious satisfaction I felt by seeing my work in print, I also learned quite a bit about dream chasing that I'd like to share with you.

Making a Dream Come True

I'm following my dreams. It sounds whimsical, almost magical, doesn't it? Someone who knows what they want from life and is willing to go after it. I know I admire individuals who abandon protocols and traditions to venture off on a calling that may seem crazy or unobtainable. Most of us however, opt for safety.

Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse, who became popular when she blogged about the top five regrets of her dying patients revealed the number one regret. You guessed it. "Letting dreams go unfulfilled." They left earth without addressing what they were truly summoned to do, or at least try.

Why do we let this happen? We are given the gift of a life then live it cautiously instead of spreading our wings and soaring into what fascinates us most. It may be pursuing a competitive career such as music, a physical challenge like walking the Appalachian Trail, or a humanitarian goal like working on a mission in a foreign country.

I suppose it's because we fear failure, worry about money, and don't have the time. So we go about our days frustrated because we're not doing what inspires us. Intrigued by the topic of dream neglect, I wrote a novel, A Stop in the Park, about a married couple who are following a prescription for a successful life. Michael, the husband, has a lucrative job as an attorney, which allows his wife, Jamie, a former journalist, to stay home with their two daughters. They have all the luxuries money can buy, but are miserable and on the brink of divorce.


Because they aren't following their dreams—and they're not big dreams, like being an NBA basketball player or a movie star. Michael discovers he would like to teach music to disadvantaged kids and Jamie wants to be a farmer. How can they embark on a new life when they are buried deep in obligations and debt?

Here's what Michael says when he contemplates chasing his dream:

“Maybe dream chasing is like climbing a mountain. You know, finding the trail, stepping onto it. At first you're energetic and it's easy. Then you trip over a root, face a huge boulder, or a steep incline. So you stand up after the fall, find your way around the boulder, and trudge up the vertical. Eventually, you're on top of the mountain with an expansive view of the world."

What do some people who have realized their dreams have to say:

"Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness."—Oprah Winfrey

"You're time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's dream. Don't be trapped by dogma—which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They already somehow know what you truly want to become."—Steve Jobs

"I've always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come. I don't do things half-heatedly. Because I know if I do, then I can expect half-hearted results."—Michael Jordan

 Here are some their stumbling blocks, along withothers who persisted with their dreams:

What’s your dream? Have you stepped into it yet? If not, what’s stopping you?

Monday, April 1, 2013

What I Found on my Easter Parade!

I was walking down Broadway in my hometown of Saratoga Springs, NY late Easter morning   feeling lucky. I may be biased, but I think I live in one of the most charming small cities in the country. The main street has so much to offer: restaurants, boutiques, cafes, a popcorn vendor, and yes, ice cream parlors.

   Early in the Morning on Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY
And I'm so excited that we'll soon be adding a Bow Tie Movie Theater and Northshire Book Store to the main street. Yes! We're actually opening a book store instead of closing one! Okay...enough bragging. I want to tell you what happened on my Easter walk.
As I left the focal part of town and headed toward Skidmore College...
...I saw a frenzy of activity in front of a prominent resident's home. She was throwing a surprise Easter party for the community. It's not unusual. Stopping at her house on Halloween is all the treat you need and she offers a dazzling display for all to enjoy around the holidays.    


Because of privacy, I won't tell you her name, but look at the fun she offered all who stopped by on Easter. So glad I had my camera with me.

       Baby Animals 
A Jellybeans Buffet!
Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny
Spring Flowers!
Even the Horse got to Wear a Bonnet
It wasn't just about the beauty, treats, and stunning home, however. It was about people from all walks of life gathering at a neighbor's front yard for conversation and a few laughs. I love how some people go out of their way to make a community fun and unified. I know of one man in Albany, NY who tunes up the neighborhood children's bikes every spring and a woman who offers a story time on her porch for children during the summer. It can be anything from a senator in Peekskill hosting a  barbecue to a school creating a neighborhood flower garden. It's simply about getting together and sharing  with those who live close by. Here's to the people in our communities who realize how important kick back moments are and take the time to offer them.
Is there anyone you know of who does special things to bring your town/city alive? I'd love to hear about it. 
Now, let's go to a concert...Sugarland, Jake Owens, and Little Big Town sing Life in a Northern Town:
"A community needs a soul if it is to become a true home for human beings. You, the people must give it this soul."—Pope John Paul II