Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Trying to fit in...

Whether you're a reindeer with a red nose, a train with square wheels or a jack in the box named Charlie, we all want to fit in.

Throughout our lives, we all want fit in, feel accepted and be a part of something.

As a toddler, pre-teen or young adult and as we grow older, acceptance is a part of who we are. Accepted for who we are, not excluded because of race, gender, religion or...

Mental Disability.

Think of the challenges that you've faced through out your life, now add a mental or intellectual disability and that challenge becomes more difficult.

In 1968, Eunice Shriver, created the Special Olympics and some 35 years later it's become the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 4.2 million athletes in 170 countries.

In 1987, Jimmy Iovine, grammy award winning record producer. (Iovine has worked with everyone from John Lennon to Bruce Springsteen)  gathered a diverse group of artists to record a collection of Christmas music as a tribute to his late father.

Proceeds went to the special Olympics. Now 11 albums and millions of dollars later, watch and listen to Vanessa Williams as she narrates of how this wonderful project came about.

Learn how Whitney's rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear" stunned the producers and musicians with her performance.

Others on that first record which in 1998 was certified quadruple platinum, include, Steve Nicks, Bon Jovi, John Mellencamp, Run DMC and Madonna among others. Oh, and some fine artists from Ireland called U2.

Voices as diverse as the music they're famous for, the artists, not paid for their performance put together memorable versions of Christmas classics, versions that all fit in a holiday play list.

".....Repeat the sounding joy...."

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

To all the St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox and Baseball fans alike...

As you prepare for this years World Series, pause for a bit and think back to your high school days. To those days of summer when you were either playing high school baseball or rooting for your team. Or perhaps when you're cheering on as a proud parent, watching your son or daughter nervously step up to the plate, your fingers crossed, sitting on the edge of your seat in the bleachers, hoping they'd get a hit; pitch a strike or turn a double play.

Sure your focus is on the Cardinals or Red Sox, but they've had their one shot at forever, many times over.  The Red Sox' drought of WS appearances and wins is a fading memory and the Cardinals, well, they've been there the most with the exception of the Bronx Bombers.

But during the off days of the series, pick up Chris Ballard's book called, One Shot at Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season .

 One Shot at Forever  is a wonderfully written book about a small town in Central Illinois, its HS baseball team and their unconventional coach. Released in 2012, Ballard ventures  to Macon IL to tell us about the summers of the early 1970s, a High School baseball team and an unbelievable season.

If you've ever played  a neighborhood game of baseball, tee-ball, colt or pony league, American legion or HS baseball; if you enjoy a great human interest story; if you ever grew up in a small town, if you've ever found yourself rooting for the underdog, you'll love this David vs Goliath type book!

 When Lynn Sweet, an English teacher with a unique style, was offered the job of coaching he thought, sure, it might be fun. And that's how the story begins.

But it's more than a baseball story. It's a story of influence and inspiration; team work and tenacity; caring and community. Ballard walks us through poignant moments of Macon's Ironmen baseball seasons while "touching all the bases" of the biographies of players and their families.

He puts you in the bleachers during the games then reunites you with the grown men of that magical season reflecting on a memorable time of their boyhood.
Its been said, one misses 100% of the shots never taken, well, the Macon Ironmen of the early 70's took their shot.  A shot that stayed with them...forever.

Watch a video on the book...One Shot at Forever by Chris Ballard

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Her name is Malala....

Her name is Malala Yousafzai.  She's a teenage girl from the Swat Valley in Pakistan and she...

Stood up for girls education

Stood up for books

Stood up for equality

And she was shot.

Malala's competitive spirit shines through in her book,  I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, where she not only talks about education and schools, but her life in violent Pakistan, her family, her fathers influence, the Taliban and confronting inequality in her own way.

400 schools bombed. Look around your state.  400 schools bombed. Can you imagine?

Imagine being so passionate about one thing, it could be anything, books, sports, education, religion, nature, whatever that may be, but you have to leave it. Leave it with the hope that someday you'll return. In leaving Swat as an IDP( internally displaced person), Malala left behind her school bag. ( they could only take so much ). A school bag full of books and dvds which she cared about so much, that she prayed over them; prayed that one day she'd return to them again.

Can you imagine?

Now, for the most part, we can live, work and do as we please in the country for which we live.  A nation abundantly full of choices and  freedoms.

Yea, I get it, we're not perfect. We have our issues. Our education system isn't perfect but it's available to whomever chooses to learn.

In Malala's book, we learn about the every day challenges she and others face, reminding us of how good we have it and should continue to appreciate all what our country offers.

You may not agree with him, his views or his show, but this past week, Jon Stewart of Comedy Central, Daily Show fame, interviewed Malala. After viewing it, I had to read this young woman's book. It's an extraordinary memoir about a brave young girl.

Now she does have her critics. One op-ed in particular appeared this week in the USA Today with the infuriating title of: Malala is a heroine, but Gandhi she ain't

No, she isn't. Nor should we compare. Malala is her own person. She...

Stood up for girls education

Stood up for books

Stood up for equality

And she was shot

In. the. head.

And she lived.

She is Malala and this is her story:

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Like a Wyoming Grizzley Bear ripping through a Rainbow Trout...

While ripping through the first two Joe Pickett novels  by CJ Box, I was contemplating my next reading adventure but still wasn't sure where I wanted to travel to.

When in WinterKill, the third Pickett novel, I found my future reading destination.

A character at the center of WinterKill is named Gardiner.

It was a sign. So with the ferociousness  of a Wyoming grizzly bear tearing through a rainbow trout( Box' books are that good and they read that quickly), I finished WinterKill. Little did I know what lay ahead of me in my ensuing chosen thrill ride of a read.

So I grabbed a mug of green tea( yes, no coffee here), let my big thirsty leather chair surround me and I devoured the latest novel by who else, Meg Gardiner.

Ransom River will strap you in from page one to the last. An originally creative mystery with court room drama as its backdrop, it stacks up against the best of them.  One shouldn't be surprised why Stephen King and Jeffery Deaver recommend her, not to mention scores of newspapers and literary reviewers.

Ransom River is a stand alone but you aught not be standing as you read it. So brew a beverage, grab a chair and enjoy a great novel!

Another solo(word standalone was becoming redundant) book by Meg is Shadow Tracer:

Her Evan Delaney series( in order left to right):

Her Jo Beckett series ( in order left to right):

For more on Meg Gardiner visit her website .

Happy Reading!

Friday, October 4, 2013

The passing of Tom Clancy..

We read books.

We read books for enjoyment and education. We read books for escape and knowledge.

We read books.
With the passing of authors Tom Clancy, Vince Flynn and Elmore Leonard, and others this year, the delicate pages of our lives turn. Characters written by our favorite authors ever cemented in the library of our memories.

But with all artists, poets, singers and writers, their works live on. Live on to be passed to generations that exist today and those yet born.

A great legacy for the creativity that enlightens our lives with each verse, brush stroke, sentence and lyric.

Teach a child to read and their world becomes endless.

RIP Mr. Clancy, you'll be missed.