I Believe Wednesday: Take a Chance


I’m a big believer in taking a chance. Amazing things happen when you take the leap, not knowing how it might turn out. You can surprise yourself with how successful you are. But then…

Then there are the times when it is a disaster. You don’t just fail, but you fail BIG. And the repercussions continue.

Then I have to ask myself – which regret is bigger? The regret of trying and failing or the regret of not knowing if it might have worked out.

MOST of the time, I’d rather know. I’d rather know if my dream is possible. I’d rather know if I’m capable.

It’s the sheer nerve that it took me to send out a book proposal with no agent or formal writing training. In my heart, I really believed that my idea was a good one and, blissfully, so did the publishers.

whitehousekatIt’s the audacity I had to contact the White House to see if I could be admitted as press to a Mother’s Day tea event hosted by Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden. I still can’t believe I did it. Even moreso, I can’t believe I actually got press credentials and stood in the room with them and with their special guest Prince Harry.

Let’s be honest — all the big decisions required me to take a chance: marriage, having kids, every job I’ve ever tried. (Especially the jobs where someone gave me a shot at doing work I’d never done before. And I did it. Every time.)

So what is the next big chance? There are a few that I’m taking at once, because why not? 1) I’ve been sending out my picture books to agents. 2) I’m starting work on a middle grade book. Not just talking about it. Actually starting it. 3) I’m working towards a new contracting job that is really exciting…but also really kind of scary.

The potential upside — proving to myself that I have a future in this writing world. The potential downside — shaking my confidence and forcing me to put this dream aside for awhile. But probably not. It’s not like they’ll take my pen away.

Other I Believe Wednesday posts: I Believe Wednesday: Kindness and I Believe Wednesdays: Imagination



Take Action Tuesday: Environment

heatandlightI got this book as a Christmas gift last year. I honestly didn’t even know what the topic was when I picked up the book. I began reading and realized this one was hitting close to home.

Jennifer Haigh’s book “Heat and Light,” takes place in a town called Bakerton which had been built on the coal industry, but had fallen on hard times as coal lost favor. A company comes into town, selling the story of natural gas, trying to convince residents that allowing fracking on their farms would save their futures.

Residents wrestle with their choices. What is best for their families financially? How do their choices affect their neighbors? Will those that fight simply be left behind with nothing as the fracking moves forward all around them? And will those who stand up leave their neighbors with no future?

Here in our town residents have been battling against an asphalt plant that would be established in a residential area within 1.5 miles of two elementary schools and a preschool. The fight has dragged on in court for years and then, suddenly, local officials settled with the company, hoping to get something out of the mess. Residents were outraged and the discord and discourse continues. More lawsuits. More fights. So many issues mirrored those in the book.

My take action message is this one — STAY INFORMED. It was stunning to me how many people didn’t even know about this asphalt fight until the settlement was made. Some felt like it wasn’t very close to them. Some felt like it was a lost cause. Some just really didn’t care. The ones that made me sad were those that really, really did care but just hadn’t known until there was little left to do.

As the realities set in, I think people realized all the ways our environment could be affected. We draw from local groundwater. What might leach into the soil and our water supply? Even if there are air quality controls on the factory, what is the impact as the open-topped trucks travel through town each day? What is the traffic impact of these enormous trucks trying to pull out onto a main road?

So my take action message for today is to stay informed about what is going on in your community, especially as it pertains to the environment. It matters.

Past Take Action Tuesday posts include: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Take Action Tuesday: Minds Wide Open.





My Day, Monday: Knowing History

I got behind this week on posts, but now, happily, my computer has returned home and I’m ready to catch up. So today you get THREE posts.

march_lewisI had planned my subject for My Day, Monday about a week ago. I recognized that it was falling on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I wanted to talk about an amazing graphic novel series. I don’t even have to say the name now, do I? Yup. My planned post was about “March,” a three book series of graphic novels about the civil rights movement written by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.

Since I know you haven’t been living under a rock, you know what has happened since then. Lewis and Trump got into a war of words and “March” sold out on Amazon and at many independent book and comic book stores. So, I think I’ll hold off on talking about it more for the moment. I don’t want this blog to come off as “me too!” But read it. Really.

Instead I decided to write about an unexpected book that tumbled onto our bookshelves. One of my kids picked this book up for $1 at a school book sale. She liked the picture of the boy on the front and that it cost $1. That is the savvy financial analysis we’ve taught our kids. Well done.

ronsbigmissionRon’s Big Mission” by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden tells the story of a little boy named Ron who has a BIG idea. He heads to the local library to take out some books that he was excited about, books about airplanes. There was one big problem. Ron was black and black children were not allowed to borrow books from the town library. He didn’t back down. He took his stand. Literally, actually. He stood on the library checkout counter and made clear that he expected to be able to take out the books. What came next changed his life.

This is a wonderful book and it is actually a fictionalized version of a real event in the life of Ron McNair. McNair went on to earn a PhD from MIT and became a NASA astronaut. He died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.

Other My Day, Monday posts: My Day, Monday: Eighty Days and My Day, Monday: To Inspiration and Libraries


Picture Book Weekends: The Gigantic Turnip

I have now been without my computer for four days. It has seemed to make every single task just that much more excruciatingly painful. Even things I would normally just check on my phone made me pause, as I thought about how nice it would be to see it on a bigger screen. I am currently typing on a teeny, tiny laptop that drives me out of my tree. My fingers feel too big for the keys. The cursor seems to jump at will. Yes, I am being a total baby about it. I know. I just miss my friend.

giganticturnip But, I still have minutes to post my weekend entry. And so, today’s picture book is “The Gigantic Turnip” by Aleksei Tolstoy and Niamh Sharkey.

This book was published by Barefoot Books in the late 1990s. This was a great bookstore/publisher that was located in Cambridge, Mass. and England. A few years back their Cambridge location moved to Concord and, sadly, then closed down the bricks and mortar shop. Fortunately their books, including this one, are still available online.

This is the kind of book that simply begs to be read aloud.

In the story, an old woman and old man live on a farm with their collection of animals. When it is time to harvest their crops they discover that in addition to their regular plants, they have grown an absolutely outrageously enormous turnip. They call upon each of their animals to help them pull this turnip from the ground. And, as often happens, it is only with the help of the smallest, that they can finally complete the job.

giganticturnip_hcwcd1The prose is lyrical to my ear. I love the way the typeface varies in size and sometimes reflects movement and action in the book. The artwork is true to the spirit, simple in form with natural colors. The whole look reminds me of books from my childhood, very traditional and inviting.

This is one of those books that I’ve read to my kids for years and I expect I’ll continue to share for a long time, as its classic nature will ensure that it doesn’t feel dated.


Friday Flicks: Little Women

I know, I know. Stop rolling your eyes. I LOVE this movie. Really.

Every year it is required watching in my house at Christmas time. But really I’ll watch it any time.

I know there is much dissension in the ranks as to the best version because there have been so many. There are actually nine film adaptations of the story.  There was 1933 with Katharine Hepburn as Jo. In 1949 came June Allyson as Jo, Peter Lawford as Laurie, Elizabeth Taylor as Amy and Janet Leigh as Meg. Hard to argue with that cast.

The BBC had a 9 episode series in 1970 but here’s the one that is making my head spin. There was a 1978 made-for-TV miniseries with a cast that is just more than I can handle: Meredith Baxter as Meg, Susan Dey as Jo, Eve Plumb as Beth, Greer Garson as Aunt Kathryn and…William Shatner as Prof. Bhaer. I just can’t even imagine. Jan Brady as Beth is just not right.

little-women-picMy favorite though is the 1994 version and it really is because it is full of actors that I fell in love with as a kid. It is just such a sweet and warm adaptation and Winona Ryder’s narration is so endearing to me. (Oddly I watched “How to Make an American Quilt” the other day for the first time and her narration kept catching me off guard because it seemed odd she wasn’t Jo!) But really — this cast is amazing: Susan Sarandon as Marmee, Ryder as Jo, Trini Alvarado as Meg, Kirsten Dunst as young Amy, Claire Danes as Beth, Christian Bale as Laurie, Eric Stoltz as John Brooke and Gabriel Byrne as Prof. Bhaer.

“Little Women” is one of those books I’ve read dozens of times and see something new each time. (I was fairly devastated to learn that Alcott actually didn’t want to write the book  and stalled on writing it until her father convinced her; the publisher had offered him a contract if she finished.) Like so many, I grew up loving Jo’s character and her strength and curiosity and drive. I was struck recently by someone who noted that in many ways Meg should be considered the hero as she focused on doing what her family needed at all times — ensuring some financial security, helping to raise her sisters, etc. It’s an interesting perspective I need to think more about.

In a few weeks I have the good fortune of bringing one of my Girl Scout troops to Alcott’s home, Orchard House, to participate in a workshop. An actress will bring them back to 1870, helping them make and write journals and letting them act out scenes as the March girls did with their Pickwick Papers. I’m very excited to have them experience this especially as only ONE of the girls in our troop (my daughter) knew the story of “Little Women!”

Did you grow up with this book? Did you love it or hate it? What’s your favorite film adaptation or are you a book-only lover?