Snow Swim Challenge

Up until yesterday I had never participated in a challenge, such as the Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness for illnesses.  The father of a young child at our school has been diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.  Vann Ly is 39 years old.   He has a wonderful family with two young children.  Little 3-year-old Evie goes to our school.

Devastating doesn’t even come close to describing what is happening with this family.

Yet, there is a wonderful backstory, and how happiness can make a difference:

Vann loves Captain America, and so does the family.  Vann wears his Captain America T-shirt to every chemo treatment.  In his words, “Captain America represents purity, goodness, and will never back down from a fight.”  Friends and family now wear a Captain America T-shirt.  Evie wears hers to school!

Van’s sister moved up her wedding date, and the wedding was held at the hospital in Boston, at Dana Farber Cancer Center, so Vann could be there.  Everyone at the wedding wore Captain America T-shirts.

Friends have started doing a “Snow Swim Challenge” and posting it on Facebook and YouTube.  This has given their family moments of joy and much happiness.  It is the highlight of their lives right now.  Laughter is the best medicine.

Yesterday my school participated in the challenge!  It was one of the best things we have done.  It took giving to another level.  Not only did it lift their spirits, it lifted mine as well.

Here is the YouTube video below.  Please share this, as March is Colon Cancer Awareness month.  I want to be able to tell Vann that people all over the world (you) have seen this.  I hope you are as lucky as I am, and get the opportunity to compete in a challenge and make a difference.  Never underestimate the power of Giving and Happiness.


Posted in Death and dying, Expressing words and feelings, Family, Giving, Inspiration, Kindness, Love | Tagged , , , , , , | 46 Comments


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Blog Tour – Gallows Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book 2

I have the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Charles French, a distinguished educator and author.  His new book, Gallows Hill, is a thriller and the second in his exciting series.  The first book, Maledicus, is a riveting page-turner deep into history and speculative fiction, that follows paranormal investigating by three main characters.  Frankly, that barely scratches the surface of mystery and darkness.  Without further ado, let’s meet the author:

I know you are partial to classical literature, particularly Shakespeare.  And, you teach English Literature courses at Muhlenberg College.  How has that influenced you and your writing?

I have loved Shakespeare most of my life. I was first entranced by his work as a high school student, when I saw a traveling professional production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was amazed not only by the language but also by the physicality of the play and the images of magic. I was hooked.  I believe that Shakespeare is at the center of Western writing, and certainly themes and issue in Shakespeare have influenced my writing. Among these themes are the nature of evil, and the way that some choose to embrace being evil. This certainly works into my two books, Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 1 and Gallows Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society, Book 2.

What started your interest in writing speculative fiction?

I have had a very strong imagination my entire life, and I have been reading since I was very young. I have always loved any tales that took me into other worlds, and the desire to write about such possibilities is a natural offshoot of my reading. I believe that developing a child’s imagination through reading from the earliest possible ages is extremely important to that child’s life, and I was lucky enough to have a mother who encouraged me to read very early. As a consequence of my constant reading, I learned to love the idea of writing speculative fiction.

When did you begin writing?

I have been writing off and on most of my life, but earlier, I rarely finished any stories or novels. I committed to be a serious writer, one who writes almost every day and finishes projects, about 6 years ago, and I intend never to stop writing.

Your first book, Maledicus, introduces readers to three characters who form IPS, investigative paranormal society.  Can you briefly tell us about the characters?

Yes, I certainly will. They are Roosevelt, a retired history professor, Sam, a retired homicide detective, and Jeremy, a retired antiques dealer. The three men all suffered the loss of someone very close to them to death. They have time on their hands, some resources, and they want to know if there is life after death. So, they form a ghost investigation group, in order to try to find an answer to this question. I should add, that in, Gallows Hill, Helen becomes a member of the Investigative Paranormal Society.

Amazon gives this book 4-and-a-half-stars.  Congratulations!

Thank you so much!

While Maledicus focuses on Roosevelt, your new book, Gallows Hill, focuses on Sam.  Can you tell us about Gallows Hill?  How does Sam play a role in the book?

Sam is the central figure, the protagonist, of Gallows Hill. For each book in this series, now intended to be 4 books, I will focus on a separate member of the IPS. In Gallows Hill, Sam will find the answer about why his son, Josh, committed suicide. Sam also has to deal with two villains from the past, one a supernatural entity from the 1800s, and one a human criminal whom Sam arrested and caused to be convicted while Sam was a detective. This man wants vengeance on Sam, and he is brutal in his desires.

Did you plan to have a sequel when you wrote Maledicus?  If so, are you planning to write more books?

Yes, to both questions! I originally thought of the IPS stories as a three part series, but now it will be a 4 parter. And I have plans for many other novels also. I am currently pitching the first book in a Young Adult series to agents, and we will see where that goes.

Thank you so much for this interview, Charles French.

You can visit Charles French at:

Gallows Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book 2 is available at Amazon.

Posted in Author interview, Book Review, books, reading, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 40 Comments

Those Two Short, Precious Years

When our daughter took piano lessons with Nancy, I would sit and wait in the living room of her big old house, along with our young son.  We had an hour together.  An hour that didn’t have the distraction of home; laundry, homework, and preparing dinner.  Nancy’s house was full of turn-of-the-century furniture and artifacts, including a harp.  It was a wonder, especially to the eyes of a six year old boy.

Nancy had a television, and we were allowed to turn it on.  During those piano lessons, Mister Rogers Neighborhood was on TV.  This was different, because we weren’t watching it at home with distractions.  We were a captive audience.  Watching Mister Rogers was like being at the movie theater.  Really.  We did this every week, together, for two years.

He certainly made an impact.  Every show was familiar, yet new and exciting.  This became our favorite TV show to watch together.  That was over thirty years ago.  Today, I know Mister Rogers made a difference.  He profoundly influenced my teaching.  And, our son is a kind father with a big heart and positive attitude.

Piano lessons were an hour long.  After a thirty minute Mister Rogers Neighborhood on TV, we read books.  My strongest memory is reading aloud The Velveteen Rabbit.  I had never read this book as a child, so reading the story to my son was a shared experience.  It was wonderful.

When a classic book is still popular, there’s a good reason.  I discovered that.  This book has all the elements that really mean what is most important; childhood fear, worry, friendship, struggle, bravery, understanding, acceptance, and love.  I’m a teacher who reads aloud every day, and I can attest that few books reach the depths of the most human experiences.  The Velveteen Rabbit does.  We worried and cried and cheered together.  We asked a hundred questions.

We were captivated, together.

“You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept.”
The Velveteen Rabbit

Being in Nancy’s big old house for two years was far more than piano lessons.  Sharing Mister Rogers and many good books was the pinnacle.


Posted in books, children's books, Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Imagination, Inspiration, Kindness, Love, reading aloud, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

Childhood fantasy

The joy of reading fairy tales doesn’t end in childhood. Tolkien knew this well. In the words of Sue Vincent…

Sue Vincent's Daily Echo

cslewis writing for children

He’s right… by the time you reach an age with double figures, fairy stories are for babies… and you are no longer a babe. In just the same way that we cease admitting to the guilty affection for the music our parents liked as we grew, so do the books of early childhood get left upon the shelf… at least when anyone is looking.

We ‘progress’ to more complicated reading. Quite often the books we read as teenagers say more about how we would like to be percieved by the world, or reflect the adventures or romance that we long for at that age. Most of those stories, too, are as wildly fantastical as the fairy tales… but being set in ‘reality’, they are more acceptable to our fledgling egos.

Those who loved fairy tales may be lucky, making the early discovery of fantasy and science fiction… which may simply…

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Music Begins to Inspire Our Art.

“The music goes into your ears and into your brain.  Then, as you listen to the notes and sounds, it goes into your heart and shoots out of your fingers.  Like a million stars.  It’s magic.”

Those are the words I passionately said to fifteen spellbound children, sitting around my record player and watching me carefully take an album out of the jacket.  I put it onto the turn table and lowered the arm.  I knew that this was true, and that the children would become masters at their work when listening to music.  Their fingers could paint what was in their heart.

Then I began to play the music, Beethoven Symphony No. 9.  This music starts low and builds to a crescendo.  The louder the music, the bigger and wider children’s eyes became.  We listened.  We heard the sounds of violins.  At the same time I showed children works of art.  They liked “Gladiolas” by Claude Monet, among many others.

“Perhaps Monet listened to this music as he painted.  Imagine that.”

I should have known better than to ask if anyone was ready to listen to Beethoven and paint.  The stampede was predictable.

Jayden was one of the first to paint.  This day was his second time working on his art piece.  Unlike Alex who is painting “The Yeller Who Got Lost”- his rendition of “The Scream”- Jayden wanted to create his own work of art. The first time at his piece, he was fascinated by using the paints, and carefully worked his brush with mostly white surrounded by black.  It was a square, rather small and intriguing.  He was quite satisfied.

Now he was listening to music and working on his piece the second time.  It was as if the math and science part of his brain had discovered the creative part of the brain.  The seed that worked hard to grow roots was now germinating.

Music was working.

 Jayden returned to his art yet again, a third time.  An artist knows when the work is complete.  When he was finished he smiled.  I stepped back holding the art to show Jayden his painting from a distance.  “This is how people will see this at a museum or Art Show.”  He nodded, smiled a big smile, and then he was off to play.

These masterpieces will be mounted and framed.  Children will give their art a title.  All masterpieces have a title.  I wonder what Jayden will name this gorgeous painting.

Lucca had listened carefully when I told children the titles of different masterpieces.  After three visits to paint her art, she proudly told me the name.  “Falling Tree.”  I hadn’t even asked!  She pointed out the tree, earth, and sky.  Beautiful!


Posted in art, Early Education, Inspiration, music, Teaching young children, The Arts, wonder | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 82 Comments

School Spirit Day

“I’ve got spirit.  Yes I do.  I’ve got spirit.  How about YOU.”

Children love singing and cheering, and rooting for their school.  Every March our school has a giant pep rally. We parade with pom-poms, sing our school song, holler chants, and wear school clothing.

It is so much fun!  “G-C-S Is-The-Best” is the children’s favorite chant. Isn’t spirit something we all need?  It fills us up. We feel good. School spirit gives us pride and unity.

It was a great day!


Posted in Early Education, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, Love, Peace, self esteem, Singing, Teaching young children | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments