Author Spotlight: Carole P. Roman


Carole P. Roman is the award-winning author of over 50 children's books. Whether it's pirates, princesses, or discovering the world around us, her books have enchanted educators, parents, and her diverse audience of children.

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Where did you grow up?  

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but moved to Queens when I was three. At eighteen, my parents moved us to Long Island, so I grew up in three very different parts of New York. They say you can leave Brooklyn, but Brooklyn never leaves you. It was there I learned about family and community that shaped my entire life.

Did you read a lot as a child? 

My grandmother lived with us and I still have the fairy tale book she used to read to me. It was my mother’s book. Those wonderful stories became a part of my imagination. She was a terrific storyteller, my grandmother, and she gave me the love for personal histories and how they are affected by world events. I grew up on her stories about pre-war Europe and trench warfare of World War 1. I started reading Nancy Drew books in second grade in a friendly competition with my best friend. We raced to see who would finish all 100 books first. I think she did, but I went straight into adult fiction by fourth grade and read whatever was laying around the house. My mom and grandmother were avid readers and there was always something. Interesting fact, I still trade books with that same friend 58 years later. 

What were some of your favorite books/authors? 

I love Tracy Chevalier, Bernard Cornwell, Allison Weir, Phillipa Gregory, anything with history in it. My favorite book of all time was ShoGun. It was the perfect mix of history, adventure, romance, and intrigue. However, I love some of the newer books coming out written by Colson Whitehead, CS Harris, and so many others. I can’t go to bed at night unless I read first.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be an actress, but my parents told me I had to get a practical degree. I took acting, singing, and dancing lessons and was in many amateur shows, but got my degree in secondary education. I taught for a hot minute and my husband asked me to help him build our business. I did and we became one of the largest players in our industry. We employee hundreds of people and I still work there as the CEO. Writing came to me later in life. I started this second career at 58 and haven’t looked back. I have a podcast and founded a magazine. I write under two pen names and am very active in the indie community.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. 

I sold high-end jewelry. I was a social studies teacher. I have been a dispatcher, reservationist, saleswoman. I have sold children’s coats and babysat for other people’s children. I have worn many hats!

How did you get started writing? 

My mom and I were very close. We did almost everything together, especially read. When she passed from lung cancer, I was in a funk. My sons wanted to help me get out of it, and created a contest to see who could come up with the best story. I brought in Captain No Beard, based on playtime with my grandchildren. It not only won first place in our contest, it was named to Kirkus’ Best of 2012. 

What do you like best about writing? 

I love creating characters. I enjoy hearing how people were entertained by something I created. I love when I hear how a book made them happy or helped them get through a troubling time. It’s intimate to share your writing. It makes the world a smaller, friendlier place. I also like the challenge of doing something new, pushing myself to try new things, new genres.

What do you find the most challenging about writing? 

Getting all the errors corrected. I don't see my mistakes no matter how many times I read it. I see what I intended to say, and those pesky errors irritate me. I put all my books through three professional editors and there are still things that slip through.

What do you think makes a good story? 

A good story is selective to the person reading it. I like human stories. I enjoy reading about a person’s experience in a world I may or may not recognize. I just finished The Nickle Boys and it left me sad, but it was important to be left unhappy. The purpose of the book was to expose injustice in the world. Reading informs and teaches us about what we don’t see. It teaches me never to take my life for granted. It leaves me thinking, there for the grace of God go I. I can only relate the experiences of my life. Reading opens up a whole new world and helps me understand others.

Where do you get your inspiration?

I get my inspiration from everyday life. They say to write about what you know. That is always where I start. It makes the book authentic. 

What is your favorite reading/writing snack? 

Popcorn is not only my favorite snack, it’s my favorite food. 

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

I can talk and write at the same time. I can have a conversation with my brother, who is blind and never realizes that I am working on something. I also write horror under the name Brit Lunden, which is weird. I have never watched or read anything that is horror. I hate to see blood, and they said my debut book as Brit Lunden was very scary. It’s funny. I have no idea where it came from. Must have been all those gory fairy tales.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Don’t get discouraged. Get on a good thread on Goodreads and talk to other authors. If you pay for anything, make it an editor and a good cover.

If you could spend a day in any imaginary world from a book you’ve read, where would it be and why?

Regency England, having tea with Jane Austin. 

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Tell us about your latest book/project. 

I just published The Big Book of Silly Jokes and am delighted with the reviews it is receiving. I think the world needs more laughter and I am happy to accommodate. The book is a good way to teach children how to break the ice. It has 800 jokes, plus a chapter on how to write your own. It can be used as a reading tool, and in the case of my granddaughter, it’s a great way for her to practice speech. I also just finished a book on spies during World War II, for kids. It was fascinating. Lastly, I am publishing my latest book in the Bulwark Anthology for the adult readers.

 

For more information about Carole and her books, visit:

Facebook Twitter Instagram Blog Website Amazon Author Page


Teaching Toolbox: A Digital Classroom

by Larissa Juliano


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More and more teachers and librarians are utilizing digital magazines in their classrooms, including me! Let’s explore all the different ways you can make the most out of each issue of Story Monsters Ink! Be sure to head to your library and do a “book hunt” after learning about your students’ favorite authors, newly released books in the Book Reviews section, and dozens of books and authors featured across the colorful pages of each and every issue. Most have active links so you can hover your mouse over the text and you will quickly see what links are available to you.

When I open a new issue or look through a back issue, my first stop is the table of contents to see which articles and books are being featured, and how I can incorporate them into my class:

Do an author study

Every issue will have someone for you and your students to meet. Jeff Kinney, Sandra Boynton, James Patterson, Lauren Child, Tomie DePaola, Kate DiCamillo, and so many others have all graced the covers. Choose one to research further and follow along in their writing journey, or have your students write the author a letter.

True life inspiration

Real-life heroes with wisdom and insight into life’s challenges (big and small) which will certainly motivate and personally connect with readers.  

Fresh ideas for tweens  

Ann M. Martin’s Babysitters Club is featured on the August 2018 issue and will surely generate interest for a whole new generation of Kristy, Mary Ann, Stacey, and Dawn followers. Stars like Kelly Clarkson, Ruby Jay, Danica McKellar, and more can be real role models for girls learning to find their voice and navigate through the complexities and challenges of middle school relationships and academics.

Classroom projection devices

Bring up your magazine on your Smartboard, Prometheum, or other computer/projector device and ask questions for children to come up and click, or circle with computer pens, to get them moving and interacting! There are extra fun and interactive pages to bring up on your projection device, such as the reading guide, book reviews, author websites after reading the article, videos, and movie reviews. With so many districts using computer projection technology, many classrooms will have the ability to project this literary resource for all students to see!

Nonfiction scavenger hunt

Focus in on the magazine for a high-interest resource to begin a nonfiction feature scavenger hunt (prep ahead of time). Explicitly teach what nonfiction text features are (they are to nonfiction what story elements are to fiction!) and what purpose each one serves (this can be open-ended!)  Text feature examples: captions, table of contents, headings, photographs, quotation marks, bold words, graphs, charts, glossary, index, and more.

Bonus things to ask children/tweens/teens as you flip through the magazine…

*What genre of books are featured in this section?

*What is the theme of this author’s work? What is their inspiration? Find out if the author Skypes and set up a visit with your class! I have done this multiple times in my school district and in my graduate studies! Same with real-life heroes!

*Follow Story Monsters’ social media pages to stay up-to-date of upcoming articles and writing contests

Explore the Monster’s website

The Story Monsters team is constantly updating their site with so many features and tools for teachers/students to access on their own. Teaching guides are available as PDFs to go along with each issue. Questions in the teaching guide can be modified depending on the child’s age—use your teaching experience and love of literature to make Story Monsters come alive in the hands of your students!

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Feeling nostalgic

When Mister Roger’s and Levar Burton’s familiar faces pop up on your screen, take that opportunity to share some of their magical and inspirational shows, find books about friendship and kindness, and even act out some puppet shows!

Student writers

One of my favorite links on the website is “Student Writers Wanted” which gives our readers monthly opportunities to feature their own writing pieces—book reviews, articles, essays, poems, and drawings! This would be a dream come true for me as a middle schooler in love with writing!

Share with us!

Send us pictures or comments of how your classroom and children are using the digital version of Story Monsters Ink! Email or go on Facebook @StoryMonsters and tag us or Twitter and use the hashtag #teachingtoolbox. We would love to feature them in future Teaching Toolbox columns and/or Story Monsters social media! Let’s learn and grow together with this literary resource at our fingertips!

Download our helpful classroom questions for teachers to use as a supplement when reading interviews and articles about their students’ favorite authors.

A Special Classroom: Sea World Includes Us in their World


by Dawn Menge, PhD

 

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Joshua helped me draw a huge thermometer onto the poster board. “Can we go outside today and collect recyclables so that we can fill in the thermometer to the top?” Our students with severe cognitive delays had a small business making Christmas trees and recycling on campus. They had voted to use their money to take a trip to Sea World in San Diego and swim with the dolphins. This project began during the last school year and was continuing into the New Year.

Mid-year we ran into a small glitch that turned into a huge issue. A person who wanted to start a recycling program wrote negative articles about our students recycling. This issue accelerated with my parents accompanying us to attend a school board meeting. The school board offered to give our students the money for the trip, but the parents and I were adamant that they had a right to feel pride in their accomplishments and earn their way to Sea World. We were allowed to continue our work and the thermometer was soon filled.

At that time, in addition to my classroom responsibilities, I was home schooling Stephanie, who suffered from a temporary paralysis due to an illness. I visited her home each week and we invited her and her little sister to join us. “Ms. Dawn, I’m going to work very hard to get strong enough to go with you,” she said. Because of her weakened state, she had to work especially hard to build up her strength and stamina to attend with us. But, she was determined to fight and accompany her classmates on this adventure and have an experience of a lifetime with her family. Each week, we would talk about her physical therapy and occupational exercises to see if she was gaining enough strength to come. At times, there were setbacks. “I was sick this week Ms. Dawn. I didn’t get to work with my teachers,” she would say. “I’m very proud of all your hard work and I know you will make it for our trip.” I’d encourage her each week, although I wasn’t really sure if it would be possible for her.

The exciting day arrived and we boarded the bus early in the morning for the three-hour drive to Sea World. The park had generously offered to allow the parents to attend for free with their children. The Sea World employees escorted us back to the Dolphin encounter area and handed each one of us a wet suit to wear. Managing to put these on was an adventure in itself. But, we all managed this feat in the end and put our water shoes on and walked outside to the pool. The dolphins were jumping and swimming around in anticipation of their trainers’ commands.

We split up into groups based on student needs. The higher-functioning students who were physically stronger were grouped in a larger area with several teachers and parents. My brand new administrator was in this group being christened as my boss in a very adventuresome way. We all lined up and the first dolphin swam up and landed on the ledge. “She feels soft,” Giggled Ashley, as she ran her hands along the stomach of the dolphin. “Look how fast they can swim and jump in the air. I wish I could do that,” laughed Jasmine as she pointed to Samantha the dolphin.

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Ms. Judy was holding onto Amanda’s wetsuit as she petted the dolphin. Little Amanda was visually impaired with a seizure disorder and very determined to interact with the dolphins. She was so excited she held onto the dolphin’s fin and she tried to swim away.

“Come and shake the dolphins’ fins Freddie,” the trainer asked our youngest student with Down syndrome. The trainer held onto his shoulders as Freddie held the dolphin’s fins. They turned around and the dolphin gave him a big kiss and in turn Freddie hugged the dolphin so tight he almost didn’t let go. I’d never seen him with such a great big smile on his face. We all gathered ourselves sadly together and headed back to the changing rooms. It was filled with excited voices of students and parents alike trying to peel the wetsuits off and enjoy the rest of their day at Sea World.

Our last group included our school nurse Melinda for Stephanie as her physical health was still very fragile. The staff at Sea World helper her mother take Cindy out of the wheelchair and place her in the hoist to be lowered into the pool. Stephanie and Brianna were beyond excited. Stephanie leaned over and gave the dolphin a kiss as he swam by her. “Oh, my goodness there were tears in my eyes, she was so excited when she touched the dolphin,” remembers Melinda. “I will never forget that experience. It was so awesome.” Their dolphin swam up and perched on the ledge so that they could feel her sleek body, shaking her head as her trainer pointed for her to swim around the pool and jump high into the air twisting as she came back down, a big splash landing on the girls. The complete joy in their faces was more than enough reward for our staff. The memories of the hard work and struggle we had endured to make this happen washed away and was replaced by these irreplaceable memories for these students with severe cognitive delays and their families.

In our small groups, we continued to enjoy the Sea World park watching the shows, feeding the animals, learning about our world’s oceans and how important it is to protect our environment. Our recycling program not only helped our students accomplish this incredible goal on their own, but also helped the environment. As part of our functional curriculum, our students learn life skills such as counting and budgeting, communication skills in ordering their own meals and then paying the employees for their meals. “I was so impressed at the way the students were able to go to the cafeteria at Sea World. They were able to order their own food, figure out if they had enough money and pay on their own,” recalls Melinda. A lifetime of educational benefits came from this experience. All too soon, it was time to pack up and get on the bus for our long drive back home. The day may have been over but the memories and experiences gained would last a lifetime.  



Dawn Menge, PhD has won 29 national awards as the author of the Queen Vernita's Educational Series. As an educator, she holds a Master's and a Clear Credential in moderate/severe disabilities and a Bachelor's in human development. Dr. Menge has been teaching severely handicapped students for 16 years.

Is a toad a frog, or a frog a toad?

by Conrad J. Storad
photos by Meghan Nichols and Laurie Storad

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Young children are naturalists without the formal training. The environment outside provides laboratories of many kinds. Learning can take place at the pond across the street or in the woods around the block. Advanced study is always ready and waiting at a vacation beach with family, or near a summer camp lake with friends and classmates.

Kids are notoriously curious. They ask endless questions and perform primitive experiments just to find out how and why things are the way they are. Do you remember the many questions you had growing up in your world of outdoor play? Hopefully, you enjoyed playing outside and weren’t afraid to get your hands and clothes dirty.

I did, and I wasn’t. And I do remember a few outdoor explorations and questions from those early days with friends, brothers, and a sister. How deep a hole can we dig on this beach before it fills with water?

What kind of creatures do you think live under this rotten log? Will that bug bite or sting me if I grab it?

What does that toad’s skin feel like? How far can I see from the top of this tree? How long will it take for this tadpole to grow legs?

Luckily, I’m getting lots of chances to relive my early days of exploration through the eyes of my grandchildren. My granddaughter Hadley, a kindergartner-to-be, is way ahead of her older brothers when it comes to curiosity about Nature’s little secrets. She routinely peppers me with questions. For her, I’m a walking, talking “Google search.”

She nailed me with a good one during the annual Memorial Day fishing derby at our neighborhood pond. The day was beautiful, but the bluegill and bass were not cooperating. Patience is not the strongest trait for preschoolers or kids of elementary school age. The cane poles and bobbers were quickly left on the grassy banks. Of much greater interest were the swarms of tadpoles in the green algae near the pond’s mucky edge.

Some of the kids already knew that tadpoles were young “frogs-to-be.” Others even knew that they were a stage beyond eggs. Hadley took it a step further with her question. But first, some background for context.

A week earlier, Hadley had caught a toad at her babysitter’s home. Of course, the toad had to go home with her. Toads make great pets with the proper habitat and care. A large glass jar and an occasional worm does NOT meet the criteria. With some prodding, Hadley’s mom was able to convince her that the toad was better off with its “family.” She reluctantly returned it to the spot where it was found. Days later, her aunt bought her a small frog to keep as a pet. Again, frogs make great pets with the proper habitat and care… But, back to the pond story.

Hadley’s bucket was filled with tadpoles. Her hands covered with gunk, she looked at me and asked, “Toppy (my grandpa name), is a frog a toad? She paused, then added, “Or is a toad a frog?”

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Do you know? Turns out, this question does not have an easy answer. For the people who study them, there is no real scientific difference between frogs and toads. However, there are lots and lots of physical differences between the more than 7,000 known species of frogs and toads living on Earth today. So the complete answer is a bit more complicated.

Scientists classify animals based on lots of different characteristics. For example, frogs and toads belong to the same big animal group. Both are amphibians. These are cold-blooded creatures that spend the early part of their lives in water. In the water, they breathe with gills, like fish. When older, amphibians will live on land, but often stay close to water. They breathe air through lungs, like us.

Most frogs and toads look and act quite differently. But don’t be too quick. Some look very similar. It can get confusing. Following are some of the most common ways to tell them apart.

Frogs:

Must live near water to survive.

Have smooth, moist skin. They appear slimy.

Have a long, narrow body with bulging eyes.

Have long, strong hind legs that help them jump high and far.

Are food for many predators.

Toads:

Live on land, but often near water.

Have rough, dry, bumpy skin.

Have short back legs. They take small hops instead of long jumps.

Don’t have many predators. Glands behind a toad’s eyes produce toxins that give a bitter taste and smell. The toxins burn the eyes and nose of predators.

The list goes on and on. Both female toads and frogs lay their eggs in water. But a frog lays eggs in a cluster or clump under the surface of the water. A toad will lay its eggs in a long chain. Some toads don’t lay eggs at all. They give birth to live young.

For me, one of the most interesting parts of a frog or toad’s body is its tongue. Both have long, sticky tongues that shoot out of their mouths like a New Year’s Eve party favor. A frog tends to have a longer tongue.

Frogs and toads use their tongues to capture insects, spiders, minnows, and other small prey. A toad has a shorter tongue. It needs to be closer to its prey. Toads rarely miss a six or eight-legged meal.

There are other differences as well. But what about this one: Is a tortoise a turtle…or is a turtle a tortoise? Hadley will have to wait. That’s a question for another day and column.


Some hoppin’ fun facts:

  • Toads have rough, bumpy skin. But those bumps are not warts. They are actually special camouflage that helps them blend into their habitat.

  • Frogs or toads live on every continent except Antarctica.

  • A baby toad is called a tadpole, or toadlet.

  • World Frog Day occurs in March each year. Save the Frogs Day is the first Saturday of April each year. National Frog Jumping Day is in May. And the Gary Diamond National Admire a Frog or Toad Day occurs on July 1st.

 

Resources to learn more:

Books:

From Tadpole to Frog by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

National Geographic Readers: Frogs! by Elizabeth Carney

Frogs and Toads Discovery (Discovery Book for Kids) by Kate Cruso

 

Websites:

Lang Elliott Music of Nature
musicofnature.com/calls-of-frogs-and-toads-of-the-northeast/

All About Frogs.org
llaboutfrogs.org/froglnd.shtml

Easy Science for Kids – Frogs and Toads
asyscienceforkids.com/all-about-frogs-and-toads/

 


The award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults, Conrad J. Storad expertly draws young readers into his imaginative and entertaining “classroom” to help them better understand and appreciate the natural world.

 

Titan Gabrielse is Recruiting Heroes for a Special Club


by Melissa Fales
photos by Crystal Kneeland Photography
Story Monsters Ink, August 2019 issue

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Titan Gabrielse may be a little boy, but he has big plans. Recently diagnosed with dyslexia, this 7-year-old has taken his struggles with reading and writing, the extra school work he needs to do, and the weekly private tutoring he requires all in stride. One day, Titan casually told his mother, Tiffanie about an idea he had. “He said, ‘I want to create an army of friends with dyslexia so we can beat up dyslexia together,’” says Tiffanie, who came up with the idea of turning that army into an afterschool club. Thus, the idea for Read with the Titans was born. Now Titan and his family are working to make his vision a reality. “With any luck, Read with the Titans will be functioning by the next new school year,” Tiffanie says. 

Titan will be entering second grade at Swansboro Elementary School in North Carolina. Tiffanie recalls the anguish she felt last year watching him struggle to read. “You could tell it was painful for him,” she says. Tiffanie says she was confused but not surprised when she got called into his classroom to talk to the teacher about his below-grade level reading skills.

Fortunately, Titan was diagnosed with dyslexia early. Too often, says Tiffanie, dyslexia is not diagnosed until third grade. “By then, you’re so far behind,” she says. Titan is currently reading at a Kindergarten level, but he’s also participating in an extended school year so he won’t lose any of his progress over the summer. Every week, Titan travels over an hour each way for his lesson with a private tutor who specializes in dyslexia. “He gets motion sickness,” says Tiffanie. “But he doesn’t complain.” 

Once the Gabrielse family had the word, “dyslexia,” to describe why Titan was having such a hard time with reading and writing, they started using it often. “I wanted him to own it,” Tiffanie says. “I have dwarfism. I own that. I’m small. The grass is green. The sky is blue. By owning it, you take the shame away from it.” The fact that dyslexia is an invisible learning disability made it a little harder for Titan to understand. “My son doesn’t have a physical disability like I do,” says Tiffanie. “Wrapping your head around something when you can’t see it is hard.” 

In stories, titans are strong. They have superpowers and they help people. They are heroes. They have to work hard to be a hero just like other kids like me with dyslexia have to work hard to read and write.

Titan is already compiling a list of things he’d like to do with his “army” after school, including playing word games and practicing reading and writing through activities such as sending letters to pen pals. Titan has also recently started talking about having his Read with the Titans club create graphic novels since the image-heavy genre helps give the words context for dyslexic readers.

A key component of Read with the Titans will be to encourage self-acceptance among these young people. Dyslexia is hereditary, and Titan’s father, Marine Ssgt. Eric Gabrielse, endured it without ever knowing that there was a word for the issues he was experiencing. "I struggled with my own dyslexia for years as a child,” he says. “I still struggle with it. It's not just the reading and writing, but the thoughts that there's something wrong with you. I saw everyone else read and write easily and I figured I was just stupid.”

Perhaps most importantly, says Tiffanie, she and Titan hope Read with the Titans will spread the word about dyslexia. “October is dyslexia awareness month,” Tiffanie says. “That seems like a good place for us to start.” She believes that even a simple, inexpensive campaign can be effective. “Things like wearing t-shirts,” she says. “Wristbands. Talking about it. Confronting it. Embracing it. You can't have an army if you don't have recruits.”

Titan has expressed concern about dyslexic kids who don’t have the type of loving, supportive family and friends that he has been blessed with. “He said, ‘I don’t want them to be alone and dyslexic,” says Tiffanie. “He is the most sensitive, loving little boy. He’s come so far and he’s worked so hard.”

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Titan didn’t choose the name “Read with the Titans” for his club because it’s his name, but because of what it means. “In stories, titans are strong. They have superpowers and they help people,” Titan says. “They are heroes. They have to work hard to be a hero just like other kids like me with dyslexia have to work hard to read and write.” 

Tiffanie is beyond proud of her son and all he has gone through. “I think I named Ty correctly,” she says. “He is a true titan because of his ability to persevere … I’m not shocked he wants to help others. It’s who he is. That’s why I want to help his idea come to life any way I can. Especially if that means by doing so, he'll see being dyslexic is nothing to be ashamed of. It's nothing to be embarrassed over. Everyone has something. And dyslexia is certainly nothing that will ever hold him back.”

For more information about Read with the Titans, contact titanreads@hotmail.com, and follow on Instagram @titanreads or Facebook at Titan Reads.

Riding Horses at the Deuker Ranch

by Marie A. Fasano

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The Deuker Ranch Equine Assisted Adaptive Riding program is located in Star Valley, Arizona, about 10 minutes from Payson. They teach riding and horsemanship skills with a focus on participants who are challenged physically, cognitively, or socially. Their instructors and volunteers work with youngsters to safely develop independent skills and confidence from horses.­

“I’m really riding!” beamed Charley as she sat astride Autumn, the 850-pound Halfinger. This was her first time riding around the paddock. Dennis, the owner and instructor, walked beside them, quietly giving Charley directions. Prior to this, the little, 9-year-old was petrified to go near a horse. Autumn stands over six feet tall at the shoulders. Her strong, sturdy build provides a safe and stable ride for the children.

“Charley, you are doing so well, tomorrow you can ride big Rex,” Dennis said. He is a Belgian draft horse who weighs in at over 2,000 pounds and over six feet tall at the shoulders, but a gentle as they come.

Although there are several Equine Assisted programs in Arizona, the rural Dueker Ranch, run by husband and wife team, Dennis and Kathy Dueker never charge a fee. It is a 501c3 charitable organization. The ranch began in 2015 after Dennis experienced the power of horses changing lives. Kathy has spent a lifetime around horses, even having worked at Disneyland in California taking care of the draft horses that pull the street cars on Main Street, USA.

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I remember the first time we went to Deuker Ranch and how my niece, Charley cowered as we got near the horses. Kathy gently took her hand and said, “Charley, I have to feed all the horses and I need help, want to come with me?” By the end of the afternoon, Charley was feeding the horses out of her hand. Kathy is as gentle with the horses as she was with Charley.

This is what happens every week at Deuker Ranch with Kathy and Dennis and their volunteers. This Equine Therapeutic riding program is a treatment strategy that in­cludes equine activities or an equine environment. Through the miracles of horses, riders can overcome barriers through the unique power of love and friend­ship with the gentle giants or miniature horses. Their trained volunteers do several tasks. They can be sidewalker/coaches, horse leaders, barn hands, facility maintenance workers, or complete grooming and tacking. They enjoy being around horses.

Research, and the Deukers’ own experience, shows the benefits of therapeutic riding for the participant may include increased strength, flexibility, improved balance and coordination, improved coping and social skills (reduced stress and hyperactivity) and increased quality and quantity of communication.

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The equine movement engages the sensory, neuromotor, language and cognitive systems that support functional daily living skills. Each participant needs a medical release before they are able to ride. The rider always has a volunteer walker next to them while they are on the horse for support, encouragement, and safety.

“I have seen children that were nonverbal speak their first words while sitting on a horse. I have helped children in wheelchairs feel freedom for the first time on the back of a horse. I have taught autistic children to focus and follow directions while riding.” said Dennis.

I spent an afternoon at the Deuker Ranch observing Dennis and Kathy following PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) guidelines working with three teens diagnosed as developmentally challenged, on horseback, each with a volunteer at their side. Adriana, Becky, and Jacqueline come for their riding lessons on Thursdays and call themselves “The Girls Club.”

“I’ll do anything to be around horses,” Adriana said. “It’s stress free, no drama.” Smiling as she mounted Merrigold, a pony breed, 14 hands with stout muscles and strong bones.

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Becky had a big smile when Mat, the volunteer walking by the side of her horse said, “You’re directing Autumn really well today.”

“The horses make the girls feel alive,” says Susan, Becky’s mother. “She is shy, but around the horses she talks more.

When the girls were asked if they have a special horse, Jacqueline quickly responded, “We like them all. We mix it up and ride different ones.”

Jacqueline agreed to write a poem about her experiences at Deuker ranch.

      

Riding Horses

Riding a horse makes me relax.
Riding horses makes me brave and strong.
Riding is fun to do.
Riding is fast sometimes.

 

The in-depth following of directions has helped Jacqueline achieve gold medals in Special Olympic events. “I see more confidence and assertiveness in her, since she began riding here,” says her mom, Lucy.

Today Jacqueline is riding Ruby, who is over 1,800 pounds. These are work horses. Ruby and Rex, two Belgian Draft horses worked side by side pulling a tourist wagon around Yosemite National Park.

“They like to work,” says Kathy. “The Drafts are not so excitable. They are people friendly.” Kathy is the one at the Deuker Ranch who makes sure the horses are trained. 

The classes progress each week from getting up on a horse, handling the reins, balance, and various exercises.

The exercise on this day was balancing on the horse while drawing. Dennis asked each rider to pick a fun drawing that is on a clipboard. The teens are laughing a lot and look again and again at the papers trying to decide. Once they make their decision they move around the paddock directing the horses around the large round drums. They are very good at riding the horses around the drums as they have done it many times.

As they are riding, they get to pick crayons of their color choice that are on the drums. This takes thinking about choices. The volunteer working with each girl hands them their chosen crayons. Once they have gone around all the drums and selected their colors, they must stop the horse, and balance while drawing.

After stopping the horse with a “Whoa,” then holding the horse quietly, the girls start coloring. It’s a lesson in balancing and keeping the stopped horses in control so they can color.

Once they have completed the task, they continue riding. It was a pleasure to observe the teens exercising with the horses, practicing balance and having fun at the same time.

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What about the horses? Children and adults alike fall in love with the herd. At the Deuker Ranch there are three miniature horses, Willow, her daughter Gracie and Kenny. Their small size makes them the perfect horse to meet with small children and those in wheelchairs.

Dennis and Kathy bring the miniature horses to programs and events so children can experience being around horses. One day, at the Payson Community Kids program, the children learn about being around horses by gently brushing them while a volunteer holds the reins. You can sense their calmness while they complete this repetitive task.

Recently, the Ranch acquired Hamish, a Clydesdale colt, its newest addition. Hamish, like their other draft horses, “has an instinct that they want to work and they want to help.” said Dennis. The other “gentle Clydesdale giants” at the Deuker Ranch are the ambassadors often  and used for the Veterans program.

“What makes us different is that our services are free! That’s how important we feel therapeutic riding is,” said Dennis. 

Dueker ranch is a nonprofit Corporation and a 501(c3) Arizona-qualified dollar for dollar tax credit charity.

 

For more information, contact the Deukers at 928-978-7039, DuekerRanch@gmail.com, or visit duekerranchhorsetherapy.com.





Alzheimer’s Disease: The Importance of Minimizing Change


by Patricia M. McClure-Chessier

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June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month—a time for people of all ages to get involved to fight against the disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re 5 or 95. One of the important facts that should be highlighted this month for anyone that is impacted by this disease is how change can have a tremendous impact on a person with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. The more prepared the family/caregiver is, the better.

The main underlying cause of memory loss and confusion is the progressive damage to brain cells caused by the disease. Sometimes your loved one may remember an important date about one person and not the other. Sometimes they may remember something significant about someone who they aren’t close to, but can’t remember something significant about the caregiver. There is no rhyme or reason in most cases. The human brain is very complicated, and the condition presents other challenges that scientists still cannot fully answer.

Your loved one may even lash out at the person taking care of them for no apparent reason, and the caregiver may not understand the precipitating factors. The person may get upset easily, use bad language, scream, or hurl insults. Your loved one might even throw things, or resist your care by pushing and/or hitting you. This behavior could be a symptom of the disease, or just a response to them feeling confused. Aggressive behaviors can be verbal or physical, occur suddenly, and could be the result of anxiety and/or confusion. While aggression can be very difficult to cope with, it’s important for you as the caregiver to understand that your loved one is not behaving this way on purpose. Behavior is a form of communication. Aggression can be caused by many factors, including physical discomfort, environmental factors, and poor communication.

Environmental factors play a huge role, but are often overlooked. Caregivers have to be careful with making changes in the environment. For example, modernizing a home could create some significant challenges for the person with Alzheimer’s. Changing from a rotary phone to a touch-tone phone could deter the person from using the phone. We have to give a lot of thought to upgrading microwaves, stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, etc. Changes could have a negative impact on the person’s independence and quality of life. The more they can continue to do for themselves, the better. As caregivers, please consider the impact the change could have on your loved one. Even simple changes can complicate their world, and cause them to regress. So be careful and minimize change!

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Award-winning author/speaker Patricia M. McClure-Chessier, (MBA, MPA) is the author of Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s The Story of Pearl and A Caregiver’s Guide for Alzheimer’s & Dementia Nine Key Principles. She has worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years and is available for presentations. For more information, visit www.patriciammcclure.com or contact Patricia at pmcclurechessier@yahoo.com or www.authorbookings.com/members/patricia-m-mcclure

A Special Classroom: Visits


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by Dr. Dawn Menge

“Help Queen Vernita with our days of the week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.” I encouraged the preschool students with Autism as I read to nine different preschool classes. Each class has a population with ages ranging from 3-6 year old and the students’ abilities range from non-verbal to verbal communicatively. “During the Sundays in January, Queen Vernita and her friend Debbie stayed home and read three books. Do you like to read? “Yes,” chimed in several of the students while others nodded their head or attempted to grab the book.

“In February, Queen Vernita and her friend Tommie had a huge snowball fight and made beautiful snow angels.” It has been a highly unusual winter in Southern California with rain and snow for weeks. “Did you get to make a snowman or have a snowball fight?” I asked the little ones, as I imitated throwing a snowball in the air. “The class of nine preschoolers all attempted to throw their own imaginary snowballs through the air. “On Sundays, they lay by the fireplace and took long naps, snoring loudly! Do you guys snore when you sleep?” The room was filled with nine little children snoring loudly and laughing.

“In July, Ashlie and Queen Vernita spent 31 glorious days at the beach. What is she doing in the picture? “Several of the students got up out of their chairs and pointed to the illustration of Queen Vernita and Ashlie building a sandcastle while the verbal students excitedly started reliving their experiences at the beach. “I played in the ocean, but I didn’t like the feel of the sand.” A little boy told me as he rubbed his hands together. Many students with Autism have sensory needs, as textures bother them. This little boy was sensitive to the feel of sand, while others are more sensitive to smells or visuals such as the lights in a classroom. Many of our students cannot tolerate loud or noisy areas and wear sound reduction head phones to limit the input coming to them from outside their worlds. “Queen Vernita ate fried fish tacos on Fridays. Who likes fish tacos?” Most of the students wrinkled their noses but a very verbal little boy informed me, “I go to Hawaii every summer and play in the waves and make sandcastles, but we do not eat fish tacos. That is yucky!” as he turned his head back and forth in an obvious sign of distaste.

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“Then came August and Hannah came to visit. It is a very hot time in the land of Oceaneers. Queen Vernita and Hannah spent all 31 days camping in the mountains. On Wednesdays, they slept outside of their tents so they could count all the stars. Can you help me count the stars?” A little girl jumped onto my lap and grabbed my hand as I pointed and began to count the stars. Those little ones that could count joined in on star counting, fading away as we reached past the number ten. “How many frogs are there? One, two…,” as I held up each finger the students followed along. “Saturday nights they made a campfire and cooked S’mores. They were so gooey and yummy, made of marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate. “Have you ever had a S’more?” I asked as I rubbed my stomach, “I like the melted marshmallows, and I like the chocolate.”

“As the season of summer left, fall came. Along with the changing of the leaves colors, came Virginia. September is apple picking time. Do you like apples?” Apples, repeated a little girl that had been silent up to this point. Echolalic speech is frequent with people who have autism. They will repeat specific words or phrases. The more verbal students who are echolalic come to school and repeat phrases they’ve heard on movies or TV. They also repeat out of context, prior conversations they have had at home or in the community. Their speech is halted short, sometimes limited to a word or two to convey their message to the listener.

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“Tyler Ann stayed until the end of the year. I’m so glad that I have 12 such great friends to come and visit me on each of the 12 months of the year. Thank you so much for allowing me to come and read Queen Vernita’s Visitors to each and every one of you.” I thanked my last group and headed back to my classroom of high school and transition students who are have moderate to severe disabilities. It is always such fun to read to the little ones at the educational center in which the preschoolers who have Autism attend school. Their teachers all refer to them as their friends, creating a warm and friendly environment for children who have high anxiety in social situations. But, after reading to 90 friends in nine different classrooms, my voice is tired and I’m ready to rest until the next year.


Dawn Menge, PhD has won 29 national awards as the author of the Queen Vernita's Educational Series. As an educator, she holds a Master's and a Clear Credential in moderate/severe disabilities and a Bachelor's in human development. Dr. Menge has been teaching severely handicapped students for 16 years.

    

Author Spotlight: Tim Vasquez


Tim S. Vasquez’s casual, easy-to-read writing style has collided with his vast life experiences to create his long-awaited first book, The Taco Stand. Growing up in the kitchen of his parents’ Mexican restaurant in Tempe, Arizona, has provided him the impetus for the book. Tim is the owner and operator of his family’s restaurants, Someburros and Isabel’s Amor, where he strives each and every day to honor the legacy of his Nana Isabel and Tata Poncho.

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Where did you grow up?
Tempe, AZ.

Did you read a lot as a child?
I loved children’s books but I enjoyed writing more than reading.

What were some of your favorite books/authors?
I enjoyed Shel Silverstein and A Light in the Attic as a child. As a high school student I loved The Count of Monte Cristo.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a professional baseball player.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.
I worked in my parents’ restaurant, Someburros, growing up and now I own the business and that is my full-time job.

How did you get started writing?
My grandma Betty was a good writer and so was my mom, Mary. They always made writing fun and something enjoyable to do. My mom still loves writing poetry and she has had a huge influence on my writing.

What do you like best about writing?

I love the storytelling aspect of writing. I enjoy using words that paint a picture in the reader’s mind so they actually feel like they are a part of the story.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?
Finding the time to actually do it.

What do you think makes a good story?
I think the best stories are ones that the reader can relate to and totally picture in their mind.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I love getting a cup pf coffee and “people watching.” I try to think about who they are, what they are doing, and how they got there. Every person has a story and if I think about what it might be, sometimes it inspires me to write.

What is your favorite reading/writing snack?
Coffee.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I write best right after exercising outdoors. It seems to get my creative juices flowing.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
There are no rules and there is no right or wrong with writing. Be creative. Be yourself. Write what’s on your mind.

If you could spend a day in any imaginary world from a book you’ve read, where would it be and why?
I’d love to be adventuring in Where the Wild Things Are.

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Tell us about your latest book/project.
My book, The Taco Stand, tells the story of my Nana Isabel and her passion for cooking and making tacos for her boys to sell on the street corner. One day, she is approached by a man in a black suit and he presents his greedy plan to expand her business while taking time away from her family. Isabel is faced with the decision between fortune or time spent with family.


For more information about Tim Vasquez and his book, visit www.thetacostandbook.com.

Cartoonist Across America Creates Art Ability in the Classroom


by Dr. Dawn Menge

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Phil Yeh founded Cartoonists Across America in 1985 to increase literacy across the country. He has painted more than 1,800 murals in 49 U.S. States and more than a dozen countries. Phil’s goal is to create and encourage literacy through the Arts. "I am pleased that the Cartoonists Across America Tour has been formed, because I agree that literacy has become a problem in our country. Humor itself is always a valuable tool in providing incentive for reading.” - Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts.

The recent snow storms in Southern California postponed our much-anticipated visit from Phil Yeh. He was going to bring his talents to our classroom to create a mural with the students who have severe cognitive delays in our classes. Finally, he was able to brave the weather and he and his wife Linda came to spend the day with our students.

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Paint, brushes, and comic books were all unpacked and Phil soon began to freehand the mural for us to paint. Right before our eyes he created mountains, the sun, Joshua Trees, and many animal characters for our students to paint in. Highlighted across he wrote, “Building a World of Readers, Artists and Dreamers.” The first of the students came to choose their colors to paint. Their varied cognitive and physical delays were pushed aside and soon forgotten as they excitedly picked up their paint brushes and paint and began to fill in the mural. Each student took their turn in adding their personal touches to our mural. Soon, there was a bright yellow sun with deep red lips painted by our beautiful young student who despite being deaf, uses her assertive nature to command and direct others. Our young man with Cerebral Palsy in his electric wheelchair spent an hour painting the Joshua Trees. He was so intent on getting it right and staying within the lines, carefully dipping his paint brush in the green and then raising his arm to apply the color.  

The hours passed quickly as more than 30 students whose abilities included Autism, Down syndrome, visual and hearing Impairments, and intellectual disabilities, took turns adding their loving touch to the mural. The occupational therapists, speech therapists, education specialists and educational assistants all joined in to add color and flare to the community board. The students used their creative imaginations and formed a river flowing at the bottom of the mountains. Animals were given varying color schemes, none looking the same as different students tackled different areas. Birds flying across the mountains sported colors in yellow, red, blue, and brown. The mountains were orange, yellow, and blue. A young man in an electric wheelchair painted the rabbit with a red face and a purple suit.

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Phil Yeh spent the morning helping and encouraging the students and explained his philosophies and experiences about using the Arts to expand and increase the use of combining art and literacy to build stronger communities. “Our belief is that without the presence of creative expression, the ability of students and adults to learn and pursue any subject becomes stifled, uninspired and robotic,” he says.

Phil’s graphic novel, Dinosaurs Across America, teaches U.S. Geography while entertaining students and adults with the vividly illustrated pages. As Phil painted over the black lines on the mural the paint brushes were washed, and the paint put away. The mural will be showcased in a local art show to appreciate artwork developed by individuals with disabilities. A fitting end, to a unique and amazing opportunity given to our students, on this rainy, wintery day. We are all responsible and influence Phil’s dream to create literacy through the arts and to help him accomplish his goal of “Building a World of Readers, Artists and Dreamers” in homes, classrooms, libraries, and community centers throughout the country.

Author Spotlight: Rita Gigante, Bobbie Sterchele-Gigante, Donna McDine, and Renie De Mase

Meet the authors/illustrator team behind Angel’s Forever Home (Mascot Books), a true story about a dog who was rescued from a Chilean earthquake, and searches for his forever home. Facing his fear of rejection for not being like other dogs, he embarks on a journey that teaches him the importance of patience, courage, and the willingness to open his heart to others.

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Where did you grow up?

Rita: Old Tappan, NJ.
Bobbie: Northvale, NJ.
Donna: I am a lifelong resident of Rockland County, NY and have resided in Tappan, NY for the last 21 years.
Renie: I grew up In Airmont, NY (Suffern).

Did you read a lot as a child?

Rita: No, I didn’t have an interest in reading till senior year in high school.
Bobbie: Yes. Pre-teen.
Donna: I was an avid reader as a child. I especially enjoyed the Nancy Drew mysteries. I still have the collection to this day.
Renie: Yes, all the time.

What were some of your favorite books/authors/artists?

Rita: There are so many and very diverse. Some are The Great Gatsby, The Eden Book series, Outlander, The Biology of Belief, Becoming Supernatural, The Glass House, etc.
Bobbie: The Godfather’s Daughter, An Unlikely Story of Love Healing and Redemption, Judy Blume books, astrology and healing books.
Donna: Judy Blume was my favorite author and I read Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret so many times the book was torn and worn out.
Renie: Renoir and Monet, I don’t really have a favorite artist.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Rita: I always knew I would help people but just allowed it to unfold to where I am today.
Bobbie: A nurse.
Donna: I had dreamed of becoming a reporter and enjoyed watching the Lou Grant show with my dad. It always intrigued me how the reporter would put their story together.
Renie: A mom and an artist. I considered interior decorating or art therapy as well.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer/illustrator.

Rita: I am a psychic, medium, healer, health coach, massage therapist and exercise physiologist.
Bobbie: Nurse, hairdresser.
Donna: In high school I worked in the bakery department of a local supermarket and eventually fell into the work as an administrative assistant. While I continue to write, I continue to work as an administrative assistant to keep the steady income flowing. Which is imperative with college tuition for our daughter.
Renie: As a teenager I worked in a bakery, a florist, and a clothing store. Later I worked as a realtor while trying to build up my art career.

How did you get started writing/illustrating?

Rita: I started writing my memoir 15 years before it came out in 2012.
Bobbie: When I started college I wrote lots of poems from my life.
Donna: Back in 2007 I came across the Institute of Children’s Literature aptitude test and my long-shelved desire to write was re-sparked. I eagerly completed the test and mailed it back. Yes, back then we used snail mail…LOL. And I now have six children’s books to my credit along with many print and online magazine articles.
Renie: I sketched and painted all the time growing up. I took every class available in high school. I studied art in NYC then continued with art lessons. I painted murals in both schools and private residences. I had the opportunity to teach children in an art/craft studio. I am now commissioned for custom artwork, painting pet portraits and house rendering and that is how I was asked to illustrate this book, I originally painted a pet portrait for the author.

What do you like best about writing/drawing?

Rita: For me it is very cathartic and healing. I also love to bring stories to life, make people laugh, and help others in their healing process.
Bobbie: Bringing a true story to life.
Donna: Once I have a story idea in place and I have conducted my research whether it be for historical fiction or internal character interviews, I move forward with the story. Even though I am the creator of the story, it often amazes me the twists and turns a story takes from my original plan.
Renie: Just the feeling of creating something, I find it to be a combination of fun, exciting, rewarding, and relaxing all at the same time.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?

Rita: Getting started.
Bobbie: Having the time to do it.
Donna: When conducting my research for my historical fiction books, The Golden Pathway and Powder Monkey I needed to remind myself when to stop the research and get down to the writing.

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What do you think makes a good story?

Rita: A character that speaks to me. Good descriptions of people, places and events. A story should make you want to read more even when you get to the end. Anything that I can learn from.
Bobbie: The truth and experiences of someone’s life.
Donna: From my perspective it’s important not to be preaching to the reader by a lesson. To create a true world where a child can relate to his/her life will keep them interested rather than trying to get a lesson across.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Rita: Meditation, exercise, and discussion with other authors.
Bobbie: Inspiration comes from within and experiencing life with new people every day.
Donna: My inspiration comes from many facets. From jotting down conversations my children have had with their friends over the years while playing, newspaper articles, or even an overhead conversation or action while out and about.
Renie: Sometimes from my feelings whether I’m going through a good or even difficult time, which will affect my work. The beautiful colors outside also inspire me.

What is your favorite reading/writing/drawing snack?

Rita: Popcorn.
Bobbie: Cheese doodles.
Donna: French vanilla tea with bite-sized cold chocolate chip cookies. Yum.
Renie: I don’t eat when I am painting, however starting early in the morning with a good cup of coffee is always nice. Although I’ve gotten so into my project that I’ve dipped my brush into my coffee instead of the water…

Do you have any quirky writing/illustrating habits?

Rita: Not really. Just need a quiet place and sometimes exercise will give me motivation and great ideas.
Bobbie: I doodle while I write.
Donna: My research, character interview, outlines, and first drafts are always written long-hand with my favorite writing pen. A Graf von Faber-Castell pen gifted to me by my husband and daughters when my first children’s book, The Golden Pathway was published in 2010.
Renie: Not really quirky, but I have an old eraser I should toss but I love using it, even though I have newer ones, I always use that one. Also I like blending colors with dirty water for shadowing.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors and illustrators? 

Rita: Push through. Know that whatever you have to say is worthy and can help others. Trust the process.
Bobbie: Write from your heart.
Donna: Participate in writer’s workshops, conferences, and critique groups. Read, read, and read some more in the genre you find the most inspiring to write for.
Renie: Just create, don’t overthink, especially wondering if it’s “right “or “wrong,” because it’s not either, it is your creation, just let it flow out…. When drawing a person or an animal, always use absolute black and absolute white in the eyes. A teacher taught me that when I was younger and I always think of that, just a simple fact.

If you could spend a day in any imaginary world from a book you’ve read, where would it be and why?

Rita: Outlander. Love the culture, land, time period, etc.
Bobbie: I would be in the afterlife and experience what it would be like and then come back to Earth and share my experiences.
Donna: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. It is absolutely fascinating how the characters go from one world to another.
Renie: I would spend the day in a mystical garden; I like the woodland/garden watercolor scenes with fairies and angels all around.

 

For more information about Rita Gigante and Bobbie Sterchele-Gigante, visit www.spaceofgracehealing.com

For more information about Donna McDine, visit www.donnamcdine.com.

For more information about Renie De Mase, follow her on instagram.com/renies_art/

 

 

Conrad's Classroom: The Skin We're In

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I’ve conducted hundreds of writing workshops over the years with students and adults of all ages. Young or older, students all have questions about the writing process. One of the first questions asked in every session is: Where do you get your ideas?

My answer is always the same. Ideas are everywhere. You just need to open your eyes and look around; open your ears and listen. It works for me.

My annual visit to the dermatologist was the spark for this month’s column. Sitting in the exam room got me thinking about just how amazing human skin is as a protective covering. It’s tough, yet flexible. It keeps harmful irritants out, but is porous enough to let off excess body heat and moisture in the form of sweat.

If cut or scraped or roughed up, skin has the ability to heal quickly, often in just a matter of days. These facts I knew already. But with curiosity piqued, I asked some questions to learn more.

Skin is actually the largest organ of the human body. Most people know a bit about human organs. The heart pumps blood through a miles-long network of arteries, veins, and capillaries. With every breath, our lungs take in oxygen from the air and expel carbon dioxide and water as waste products. Our liver and kidneys rid the body of harmful toxins.

All of those organs are connected inside our body. On the outside, our skin is the perfect covering for everything. That includes all of our organs, muscles, bones, nerves and brain.

An average-sized person has between 16 and 22 square feet of skin. Spread across a flat surface, that is enough to cover a single bed. Or, consider that a standard doorway opening is about 21 square feet. All of that skin weighs between 9 and 11 pounds. Skin accounts for about for 15 percent of our total body weight.

Our skin is the body’s protective barrier against the outside world. It’s not as tough as a turtle’s shell or a suit of armor. Still, it protects our bones, muscles, and internal organs from disease. Our skin is filled with nerve endings, the sensors that allow us to feel and touch and react to heat and cold.

Human skin is made of three separate layers and each layer has a specific purpose. The outside layer is called the epidermis. It is thickest on the palms of our hands and soles of our feet. It is thinnest on our eyelids. The epidermis also contains the pigments that give our skin its color.

The middle layer is called dermis. It contains billions of nerve endings and is home to blood vessels and the roots of every bit of hair.

The subcutaneous layer is the deepest layer of our skin. It contains fat cells. It serves as a shock absorber to help protect our internal organs.

According to scientists, our skin is constantly changing and produces new skin cells as dead cells are shed. We shed between 30,000 and 40,000 dead skin cells every minute!

Our skin totally renews itself about once every 28 to 35 days. Consider it this way: By the time you reach age 20, you’ve already cycled through a new covering of skin almost 200 times.

We need to be aware of and take care of our skin each and every day. It’s our perfect covering.

 

Facts to get under your skin:

  • Your skin is home to billions of bacteria. More than a 1,000 different kinds.

  • Much of the dust in your home is actually made of dead skin cells.

  • Damaged skin heals itself by forming a scar. Scar tissue does not have hair follicles or sweat glands.

  • Tough, thick skin often forms over an area that experiences repeated pressure or friction. This tough, thick patch of skin is called a callus.


Resources to learn more:

Books:

My Amazing Skin Can Heal: A Book about Boo-Boos, Bandages and Band Aids by A. D. Largie

Skin: The Largest Organ in the Body by Baby Professor


Websites:

Science Kids – Human Body Facts

How Stuff Works – How Your Skin Works

KidsHealth – Your Skin

YouTube – How Your Skin Works


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The award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults, Conrad J. Storad expertly draws young readers into his imaginative and entertaining “classroom” to help them better understand and appreciate the natural world. (photo by Linda F. Radke)

Raising Me (To Become a Good Dad)

by Paul Alan Ruben

As a child, I didn’t want to be like my father. I wanted to be him. As a son, I idealized and idolized him. His interests, beliefs, and feelings about the world defined my father. And me.

Evidently, I wasn’t alone. In his book, Under Saturn’s Shadow: the wounding and healing of men, noted Jungian psychologist, James Hollis, PhD, writes, “Every man carries a deep longing for his father.” Pulitzer Prize winning novelist, J.M. Coetzee, observes in his novel, Slow Man, “Those into whose lives you are born do not pass away.” These sentiments reflect my experience as a son. I’ve not met a man in my life who doesn’t feel similarly.

Unfortunately, my father wasn’t the ideal role model, to say the least. Growing up, I discovered early on that my father did not seem interested in me. I do not recall, for example, being praised, spending alone-time with him, doing whatever fathers and sons do that enhances their bond. Shocking as it may seem, I do not recall being told, “I love you,” ever. And his fiery temper left me as unsure of myself as I was of him.

Fast-forward to my becoming a father. The moment I looked down at my newborn son after my wife handed him to me, I vowed that I would be the parent and father I never had. For the first 12 years, if I do say so myself, parenting was a snap. I was an emotionally available dad, raising an effusive, loving, bright child. Hugs, kisses, praise, and “I love you” were my parenting staples. And when discipline was required, my actions and words informed my son that the object of my dismay was his behavior, not him. What I hid, however, was my lingering fear that eventually he would discover the truth—that I was not a good father, and that he would no longer love me. 

At 13 years old, my son’s attitude took a turn that was as stunning as it was inconceivable: this wonderful dad’s wonderful little boy I thought I knew, had transformed into an adolescent whose middling grades no longer matched his super intellect, verified by every standardized test and his previous teachers’ report cards. But what most rattled me was my teenager’s dismissiveness, and his willful expressions of independence. He may not have meant it personally, but quite frankly, I took it that way. I regarded these behaviors as a rejection of me, as a referendum on just how ineffectual a father I was. Finally, the truth. I was a fraudulent dad! I did not deserve his love! 

For the next few years, I found myself, more often than I care to recall, angrily responding to his adolescent sass the way that I had responded to my father’s rage: I withdrew emotionally, cloaking myself in silence, as if he didn’t exist. I shut down emotionally, vanished, and when he asked me if I was angry, I declared softly, flatly, “Me? No, why?” I could see that he was confused and hurt, but I was also hurt—too hurt to speak to him, too hurt and afraid to confront his various misbehaviors for fear he would withdraw his love for me. In short, I felt more like a wounded combatant than a dad.

Throughout my son’s adolescence and well into his twenties—especially when he lived at home with my wife and me while in graduate school—I often wondered, will my angry silences alienate my son, just as my father’s overt rage had alienated me? I feared this inner dialogue that replayed itself whenever any interaction created emotional dissonance between us—Why would he love me? I don’t—would create the outcome I most feared: father and son as intimate enemies. 

I had to do something. I sought and benefited from various insights—garnered from reading about parenting, periodic counseling, and relentless introspection about what being a dad actually meant. Over time, I discovered that I could hoist myself up from my excuses-mat (it’s all my tough childhood’s fault) and become an adult dad and grown-up human being that both my son and I could be proud of.

Over the past decades, raising me has been a challenging process. That said, I have discovered various raising-me pillars that continue to validate my journey to becoming that father I aspired to when my son was born. 

Be responsible for your behavior! The responsibility for how you treat your son isn’t your father’s, your difficult childhood’s, or your troubles at work. The responsibility for how a father treats his son is 100 percent the father’s, 0 percent the son’s, period. This parenting-responsibility principle is a process that commits you to acting as an adult dad and grown-up human being, and to taking responsibility for your parenting beliefs and behaviors, when they work and when they don’t.

Your feelings are your feelings, not the truth. Fathers are humans and all feel, at times, uncertain, inadequate, frightened, angry, even unloved. While these feelings are valid, because they emerge from within, they are feelings only! They do not reflect who you are: a good dad, a loving dad, who has always wanted the best for his son.

Be proud of YOU. Not because you are perfect or have all the answers. Rather, because you count. To yourself and your son. Think of it this way, how can a son be proud of his father, if a father is not proud of himself?

Reflect, Aspire, Actualize: It is unrealistic to imagine responsible parenting as a bar that, once grasped, means, Woo-hoo, I did it! Becoming a responsible dad and parent is a lifelong, three-pronged process: Reflection, Aspiration, Actualization. Consider your behavior, and in so doing, continue to refine the kind of dad you aspire to become. Then, difficult as it sometimes may be, make every effort to be that dad and human being.

See your son as his own person. In his seminal work, The Prophet, Kahlil Gibran speaks of our children: “They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.” Your son is deserving of and entitled to a father who sees and values him for who he is. This means reinforcing your son’s sense of self-respect, self-possession, and self-love.

Let your son know that he matters. When in your presence, your actions and words must first and foremost tell your son: I see you. I hear you. I acknowledge you. I encourage you. I can disagree with you, critique you, punish you, while always respecting you. You are emotionally safe with me. I love you without condition.

In his book, Living an Examined Life, Dr. Hollis writes that successful parenting is located “…in the child who understands that he or she is seen and valued for who they are … It sounds so simple, yet proves so rare.” Today, my greatest raising-me challenge remains becoming the adult dad and grown-up human being I aspire to be. Rome isn’t built in a day. Nor a lifetime. I am, however, proudly building Rome.

Paul Alan Ruben is a two-time Grammy winning audiobook producer and author of the short story collection, Terms of Engagement: stories of the father and son. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.



Author Spotlight: Nicole M. Stevenson


Nicole M. Stevenson is the author of Diamond's Kindergarten Madness, a story about a very anxious little girl who is about to start her first day of school!

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Where did you grow up? 
In Queens, NY. “Queens is Where Creativity is Born.” A mixture of cultures that got along.

Did you read a lot as a child?
Yes, I read. I didn’t read every day. When I did, I really would get into the story. Books would provide an essential escape for me, whether it was to get away from my brother or because there was reruns of my favorite shows. My mother was an avid reader.

What were some of your favorite books/authors?
Where the Wild Things Are. When I was teen, Nancy Drew. I enjoyed reading comics, especially Archie.

What did you want to be when you grew up? 
Believe it or not, I wanted to be a pediatrician. Later on when I entered college, I realized that biology and chemistry were a lot harder than I thought.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer. 
Babysitting my godbrother was one of my first jobs. I worked for PAL summer youth—a whole bunch of children that were full of energy. I was an Usher at a theater in Queens, where I met Cool & the Gang, as well as a country singer. It was great experience getting paid to show folks to their seats and seeing free shows.

How did you get started writing?
Poetry was my introduction. In school I learned about poetry and fell in love with it. It is the words in the card you love, the lyrics to your favorite song.

What do you like best about writing? 
When I write and people enjoy what I’ve written, and I can evoke different emotion from the reader.

What do you find the most challenging about writing? 
The biggest challenge I’ve had to face is when I’m on a writing streak and then there is a dry season. The point when it seems your writing is at a standstill and you are awaiting the downpour.

What do you think makes a good story? 
A story that can hold up to its genre in which it’s written and leave the reader wanting to read more. A story that makes readers ask if there is going to be a sequel or series.

Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration can come from anywhere. Diamond’s Kindergarten Madness started with my eldest girl, the main character is named after her. This is not her story, just something that I made up.

What is your favorite reading/writing snack?
My favorite snack are Oreos and ice cream. They make me happy.

Do you have any quirky writing habits?
I will write on anything from a napkin to toilet paper.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Write, write, read, rewrite and repeat.

If you could spend a day in any imaginary world from a book you’ve read, where would it be and why?
Well, I would have said Where the Wild Things Are, but after careful thought it would be inside Diamond’s Kindergarten Madness. In her world, she lets her mind get the best of her and she envisions some of the silliest things that occur. It makes me laugh and I feel like a kid again.

Tell us about your latest book/project.
My latest project is about a prominent black figure. This time I’m going back to my roots—poetry, of course.

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books?
I’ve written four books thus far and aside from children manuscripts, I’m working on adult manuscripts as well. “I also host “On the Wall” live chat interviews on Facebook, I am the founder of Profile magazine fashion and entertainment, and I draw, paint, and write songs.

For more information about Nicole M. Stevenson, visit her on Facebook.

A Letter to My Younger, Nervous Self


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Dear little Ben,

I heard that you’re taking a test in school this week and that you’re very worried about it. You’re worried that you’ll forget everything you memorized. You’re worried that you’ll end up with a bad grade. I also heard that you have to play in a piano recital and that you’re freaked out. You’re scared that you’ll play the wrong notes. You’re afraid that your parents and teacher will be disappointed and angry.

Everything’s so hard when you have to do something important and you get worried. Believe me, I know. I remember how I felt when I was your age. When I took a test my stomach hurt, and my head ached, and it was hard to come up with the right answers. And when I had to play the piano in front of an audience my hands shook and it was so hard to get my fingers on the right notes. I remember my piano teacher saying, “You play so beautifully, why are you so nervous?” I remember my parents telling me, “You’re smart, you shouldn’t worry. You’ll do fine on the test!” This made me very frustrated and angry. I felt like they just didn’t understand. And I know you feel that way, too. You’re suffering and no one understands you. You feel alone.

But I have news for you. You are not alone! Many kids your age feel these things. And no one’s really helping them, either. So here’s the really good news: I can show you how to feel calm when you take a test and you play the piano in a recital. You don’t have to be scared and nervous. You can feel calm and confident.

I can hear you asking, “How can I do that?” Well, right now you’re focusing on how nervous and scared you are. How about if you learned to focus on being calm instead? “Focus” means what you’re thinking about and where you’re putting your attention. In a basketball game, the players are focused on the net and getting the ball into it. Then they score points and win the game. Right now, when you take a test and play in a piano recital you are focused on how nervous and scared you are. Your attention is going to your tight stomach and your throbbing head. So of course you can’t “score.” Of course you feel like you are failing. Learning how to be calm is not hard. In fact, it’s easy. You just have to learn to focus on something else. Let me show you how.

Being calm takes two steps: 

Step 1: Breathing. Of course you’re breathing all the time, but there’s a special way to breathe that will help you calm down. To do this, first you place both hands on your belly. Next, when you breathe in, you feel your belly filling up with air. You don’t have to push your belly out. Just send the breath down to your belly and feel it gently expand. This is called deep breathing. Your body and brain enjoy this. They want to be calmed down.

Step 2: Grounding. This is also easy, and fun. To do it, put both feet flat on the floor. Now feel the floor under your feet. Next, feel the chair you’re sitting on against your legs and bottom and back. Once you’ve done that,  now feel the floor and chair supporting you. Feel them holding you up. And don’t forget to breathe!

When you breathe and ground, you are focusing on calming down, not on how nervous you are. In fact, breathing and grounding are the best ways to calm yourself down.

Let’s practice. Right now, close your eyes and imagine you are taking a test or playing in a recital. If you start to feel a little nervous, use the tools right away! Breathe and ground. Do it again. And do it one more time. You’ll feel better and better.

And remember ... just keep doing it. I did, and now, when I have to take a test or play the piano, I remember to breathe and ground, I don’t get all upset and scared. I stay calm. You can do it, too. I know.

Your bigger self,
Ben (but now people call me “Dr. B”!) 

Ben Bernstein, Ph.D., is an author, educator, and performance psychologist. Trained as a teacher in inner city schools in New York and London, he was a prominent figure in the progressive education movement in the early 70s, and has since gone on to teach at every level of the educational system.

Over the last 50 years he has coached thousands of clients, from high school students to business executives to Pulitzer Prize, Tony and Academy Award winners. He has received numerous awards and grants from the U.S. and Canadian governments, and has been a speaker at national and international conferences. He was the first director of improvisation at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute in Utah.


For more information, visit drbperformancecoach.com.

Author Spotlight: Becky Benishek


Becky Benishek loves to create stories that help children believe in themselves and find the magic in ordinary things ... and she likes Legos, Renaissance Faires, and the Commodore 64.

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Where did you grow up?

In a one-story house with a giant elm in the front yard, in a town surrounded by farmland and forests, between two cities. My mom still lives there. I love it.

Did you read a lot as a child?

Constantly. I can’t remember learning how to read. I remember my parents reading to me, and the house was full of books. I also remember reading to my kindergarten class and later, taking books out to the playground at recess to read on top of the jungle gym!

What were some of your favorite books/authors?

Miss Suzy by Miriam Young, illustrated by Arnold Lobel; A Hole is to Dig, by Ruth Krauss, illustrated by Maurice Sendak; Willow Wind Farm: Betsy’s Story, by Anne Pellowski; How Spider Saved Christmas, and other Spider books, by Robert Kraus; The Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Whenever things bothered me or I was going through something when I was younger, I would tell myself, “Laura had to do this and put up with that and it was a lot tougher,” and that helped me get through it. The 1939 set of Book of Knowledge encyclopedias because they were truly wonderful marvels designed for children. Each volume had poetry, things to make and do, stories, and answered questions in addition to providing rich history and contemporary knowledge.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

A steam locomotive engineer. (I still do.) But I also always wanted to be a writer, which to me was synonymous with “author.” How little did I know!

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.

I’ve worked in a variety of IT and marketing jobs, including my present job. It’s wonderful, a real feel-good place where we train people who care for kids and adults with special needs and mental health issues. Very empathetic and caring all around. I manage an online community full of these customers, who seem like heroes to me and to all of our staff. Through my work with this company and this platform (Yammer), I’ve also received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award since 2016, which lets me meet even more heroes.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always written stories and poems; I still have most of the ones from way back, sheets stapled together and a cover done up in crayon or marker. I used to include “reviews” from The Horn Book and such, to make them seem authentic. Naturally, all were glowing! I’d submitted poems and such to various small-press publications through the years, but it was only in the last few years that I finally stopped thinking about getting my actual stories out there, and started doing it. My first two books are self-published (What’s At the End of Your Nose? and Dr. Guinea Pig George), and my third (and fourth-to-come) were picked up by MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing. In addition, I’ve been writing songs, with an eye toward collaborating with a local musician.

What do you like best about writing?

The way inspiration really does come like a thunderbolt, transfixing, illuminating. How you know you’d better drop everything and get that pen, tablet, or keyboard in hand or risk losing it all. Even at 3 a.m. Even when you’re brushing your teeth. How you feel yourself being a conduit for something that feels so wonderful and could, just possibly, be wonderful for someone else, too. And how, with the finished piece in front of your eyeballs, you don’t feel hollow or bereft because it’s out of you. Instead, you feel complete.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?

Sitting myself down and doing it. Allowing myself to sit down and do it. There’s always something else going on, and that something else can seem so much glossier and more vibrant than the mechanics of writing.  

What do you think makes a good story?

I like the expected done up in unexpected ways. A little quirkiness or surrealism, surprising elements, shots of humor; these draw me in. If it’s true that there are only seven plots in the world, then we’re already following a formula from the start. So what makes your story particularly you, that no one else could have written? That’s what I look for and enjoy.

Where do you get your inspiration?

In the course of a conversation, or a snippet of a thought or an overheard word, or looking at something that really resonates with me. Sometimes you’re aware of it when it develops and sometimes it comes like a thunderbolt.

What is your favorite reading/writing snack?

I’ve found it can be very motivating to write when hungry. I seem to get hungry every couple of hours, so that’s not too big of a stretch, but there are degrees. Otherwise, I love crispy, sweet and tart apples with or without creamy peanut butter, soft Camembert or smoked Gouda on rosemary crackers, hot chocolate with peppermint or vanilla, and chunky guacamole with just enough kick in it, with carrots to dip in or warmed tortilla chips. I’ve also gotten into loose-leaf tea and have quite a variety now. I think I’m still talking about eating while writing or reading, not just eating. Hmm! (Hungry now.)

Do you have any quirky writing habits?

This may not be quirky so much as elbows-out and snarly, but when I’m writing, do not disturb me lest a horror happen: My train of thought derailing. If I had a Jo March (“Is genius burning?”) garret, I’d retreat there, but I have established a corner of a room where my computer lives. I may also have occasionally commandeered the immediate area I’m in when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, for the sake of household peace, I just need to get the initial train of thought down and then everyone can talk to me again.

What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Don’t stop writing. Do find a good editor. And even if your dream is to be accepted by a publishing house, don’t hesitate to self-publish in the meantime. You’ll learn so much about the industry and meet so many amazing people.

If you could spend a day in any imaginary world from a book you’ve read, where would it be and why?

Pern (Anne McCaffrey)! I always wanted to be a dragonrider.

Tell us about your latest book/project.

The Squeezor is Coming! (MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing) is my newest release. What’s a Squeezor? He’s a friendly monster who just wants to give hugs with his great, big, wrap-around-you-twice, squeezy arms, but he looks so scary, even other monsters run away! This makes the Squeezor very sad. How can he get them to look past his appearance? Then he gets an idea: It isn't about what he wants, but what the other monsters need. Originally, my story was much shorter. My marvelous editor, Quata, whom I found on Fiverr, thought that if I expanded on it, it could really make it into something big. I had to think about it, but saw that she was right, and I’m so happy I listened to her. When I received the contract from MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing, I was frozen in spot just staring at it for at least a minute! Then the hunt was on for an illustrator, and fortunately, I happened to work with one. Matt Fiss is a co-worker who does graphic design. I loved what I’d seen of his portfolio and some pieces he did for our company, and knew he’d be perfect to bring the Squeezor to life. To my delight, he agreed. Then, early in 2019, Hush, Mouse! (Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing) is coming out. Mouse is a tiny kitten who meows so much that she's always being told to hush. Little Liz is the only person in the house who appreciates Mouse, because she’s short for her age and is often overlooked and unheard. Together, the two prevent a crime and prove that even though they’re small, they're worth being listened to. For Mouse, I found a wonderful illustrator through Instagram, named Alicia Young. I loved how she drew both animals and children. I also decided to show diversity in Little Liz’s household. Growing up, most of the books I read had a boy as the main character. Even now, I have to consciously think not to default to “he” as a generic. This kind of thing really does have a long-term impact, and that’s why I wanted to help more kids see themselves in books. I’ve got more stories waiting for their turn to shine.

Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books?

What I really hope to show in my books is a different way of looking at things that can also lead to compassion and empathy—for ourselves as well as for others. Everyone has unique differences, and we don’t always recognize that we’re all part of the same family. I also think it’s harder to find meaningful and nurturing things in the mass of not-so-great stuff that comes at us. We may not know what we’re missing, but we know it’s something. It’s no wonder we’re experiencing so much drifting and disconnection. We can feel alone, misunderstood, picked on. We can’t always communicate our needs, either. So I want to give someone or something a voice in our world that they don’t ordinarily have.

That’s why I’ve got a snail who decides to give his boring old town of Slipperyville one last chance, a guinea pig who thinks he’s a doctor, a big-hearted monster who learns how to look past his own needs, and a tiny kitten and little girl who believe they really can save the day—and do. Thank you so much for giving me a voice, too, in this wonderful interview.

 

For more information about Becky Benishek and her books, visit beckybenishek.com.

 

 

Young Eagles: The Story of a First Flight


by Marie A. Fasano, EAA 635640
photos by eaa.org

Launched in 1992, the Young Eagles program has dedicated more than 25 years to giving youth ages 8–17 their first free ride in an airplane. It’s the only program of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation.

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I open my eyes and turn in bed to look out the window. I can see it’s a crisp, fall morning with a clear, bright blue sky—perfect flying weather. I learned this is the best time to fly … early morning just after sunrise when the weather still has the cool feel of nighttime. The air remains smooth with fewer bumps. I hurry to get dressed and run to the kitchen to eat my breakfast.

After eating, I jump up from the table and yell, “Mom, let’s go to the airport, I want to fly.”

At the airport, I leap out of the car and run to the hangar. I’m so excited. I’m finally going to take my first airplane ride in a small plane. I see the planes lined up. I later learn they are a Cessna, Piper, Cirrus, home built and more, ready to go. They each can hold from one to three passengers. I grab my mom’s hand as we see the volunteers setting up the desk and registration forms for the parents to sign.

Mom says to a volunteer, “I have two important questions. What does it cost for Danny to fly and is it safe.”

The volunteer answers. “It’s free. The EAA, Experimental Aircraft Association has been flying kids since 1992. So far, over 2 million young people from ages 8 to 17 have had airplane rides for free all over the United States. The pilots donate their time and their planes. It’s the only program of its kind, with the sole mission to introduce and inspire kids in the world of aviation. Each pilot is licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and all aircraft are likewise licensed by the government. The flights are conducted according to federal regulations.”

After mom registers and gives her permission, a volunteer pilot, Paul, says, “Come on over for the pre-flight, the walk around. You’ll learn what the pilot must do to be sure everything on the airplane works OK. The pilot does this check before every flight. Let’s take a look at how the airplane flies. You can get in the cockpit, the area where the pilot sits.”

I climb up and settle in the pilot’s seat in the airplane.

Paul tells me, “The wheel or stick inside the airplane moves to turn the airplane in the air.”

As I turn the wheel, he says “Look outside the plane at the wing and see the ailerons, the small part of the wing. It goes up and down whenever the wheel turns right or left. This is how the airplane turns in the air. Now push the wheel forward and back. As you do this, look at the tail of the plane, with the elevator and see it go up and down. This is how the plane goes up and down in the sky. Next, look at the rudder pedals on the floor. They look like gas pedals in a car. Push one at a time and look out the back of the plane to see the rudder on the tail move. The rudder helps to turn the plane on the ground and in the air. See that lever in the center of the panel in front of you? Push it down to let the flaps on the wings of the airplane go down. Here the pilot checks to be sure there are no obstructions that would interfere with the flap movement.”

“Wow, I see them moving down.” I say.

He helps me out of the plane and says, “Let’s go outside and we’ll do the final check. I’ll drain the fuel from a small opening under the plane to be sure we find no water or dirt in the fuel.”

All my questions are answered from how the fuel pump provides gas, to how the pilot talks on the radio. After the pre-flight, I am eager to fly.

Paul walks me to the airplane to be sure I don’t walk into the spinner and propeller, “A big deal when being around an airplane is safety first,” he says. “Don’t go near the propeller blades because if there is a problem, they may turn without warning and you can easily get hurt.”

In this Young Eagles program, the pilots enjoy introducing youngsters to the joys of flying as much as the kids do. It may be a man or woman, someone who flies for fun, uses the plane for their business, or someone who has spent his life as a commercial, professional pilot flying for the major airlines or the military. Diane, the pilot who is flying me today says, “Most kids want to sit up front with the pilot to be the co-pilot.”

As Diane helps me into the right seat of the plane, I see there are pillows on the seats, so I can reach the wheel and see out the plane.

“I’ll show you how to strap in with the seat belt just as you do in a car,” says Diane. “Then we’ll make sure the doors are shut tight.”

She gets in the plane and helps me put on a headset. “OK, all set, can you hear me OK? We are ready to taxi to the runway.”

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“I can hear you, I’m ready, let’s go,” I answer. The plane moves forward and we are on our way to the runway.

Before we take off, Diane stops at the end of the runway. “I’ll do a pre-check pushing the power up to make sure the engine is running OK,” she says. We’ll use the radio to make a call on the microphone, so other pilots know we are leaving. Pilots use a special alphabet called the phonetic alphabet. “November Five Niner Mike Juliet is ready for takeoff, runway two four.” Diane looks to the sky to be sure no one else is coming in to land. All is OK and she turns to the runway, pushes in the power and I feel the airplane racing down the runway.

In a moment the plane lifts off. “I can see everything on the ground get smaller and smaller,” I say. For the next 20 minutes we’re in the air flying over our town. “There’s my school and Green Valley Park. I think I see my house!” I yell excitedly.

“Do you want to take the wheel and fly for awhile,” says Diane. I grab the wheel. “Gently, she says, it doesn’t take much to control the airplane. I’m here to back you up.”

As I lighten up on the wheel, I say, “Like this?”

“Great job she says,” You’re a natural pilot.”

“How about you make a radio call to let the other pilots know where you are?” “Repeat after me, “Five Niner Mike Juliet on left downwind runway two four at sixty-two hundred feet.”

I call on the radio and think, “I can’t believe she let me do that, just like a real pilot.”

Too soon we are on final to the runway and ready to land. I look down and see my mom waiting. Once we’re on the ground and out of the airplane, I say “Bye, Diane. That was awesome. I want to be a pilot, too.”

“Here’s your certificate and Young Eagles logbook with a personal code to activate your free EAA Student Membership and Sporty’s Learn to Fly ground school course,” says Diane, “You are now a Young Eagle.”

I run to my mom with a wide grin. “That was super.”

EAA will send the new Young Eagle follow-up information about their free online ground school course, details regarding other youth aviation programs, and EAA scholarships. So, take a free flight and become a Young Eagle. Check the website to find an EAA Chapter in your town.


Marie A. Fasano RN, MN, MA, commercial, instrument pilot with multi-engine and seaplane ratings. Marie’s flying, an important part of her life, entailed coordinating for the EAA Chapter #810 Young Eagles for about five years, flying the kids in her Cessna 182 59MJ; taking rural patients to medical appointments with Angel Flight West; and flying medical personnel to Baja, California to dirt strips for clinics for indigent peoples. Marie also spends her time teaching nursing, nutrition, and helping clients with long term care health insurance. On the side, her photojournalism has appeared in nursing and aviation journals and general newspapers.

Author Spotlight: Carole P. Roman and J. Robin Albertson-Wren


Homework horrors, chores, and not-so-friendly friends … that’s enough to stress out any child. The secret to staying cool is easy: it’s called mindfulness―and authors Carole P. Roman and J. Robin Albertson-Wren have written a #1 bestseller that gives kids fun activities to practice it on their own.

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Where did you grow up?

Carol: I was born in Brooklyn, New York, but moved to Rosedale, Queens when I was three years old.

Robin: New England – in Concord Massachusetts, outside of Boston.

Did you read a lot as a child?

Carol: I read a lot as a child. I began reading Nancy Drew with my best friend when I was six. We used to go to Woolworths and buy different books in the series, then trade them when we were finished reading. I soon began reading books my mother left around the house and ended up discussing them with my mother and grandmother. I read anything that was on the Times Bestseller List, I suppose. She only bought popular fiction.

Robin: As much as possible. I used to love reading up in trees near our home.

What were some of your favorite authors and books?

Carol: I remember loving Exodus, by Leon Uris, The Godfather by Mario Puzo, but as I got older my genres would change. When I was in my late teens I read only espionage books, Ian Fleming being my favorite. That kicked off a British year when I read everything by Orwell. I gravitated to science fiction by the end of my teens and read a lot of Asimov, Blish, and other science-fiction authors.

Robin: I loved the Bill Peet books, especially The Wump World and The Little House on the Prairie series, especially when Laura Ingalls was especially rascally.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Carol: I wanted to be an actress, but knew that was unlikely. I put all my energies into being a teacher.

Robin: An architect – I loved building forts and tree houses when I was little.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.  

Carol: I worked in various retail stores that included jewelry, hardware, paint, clothing, and electronics. I babysat. I tutored other kids in my high school. I now run a global transportation company with my family.

Robin: I’ve been an elementary school teacher for over 25 years, and a mindfulness instructor for the past 5 years. When I was younger, I loved working as a camp counselor and lifeguard in the summer.

How did you get started writing?

Carol: My kids asked me to bring in a story for a family competition and then helped me publish it.

Robin: I had a marvelous teacher in 2nd grade who encouraged us to write books of poetry. That is when I first started. As an adult, I wrote my first manuscript when my daughter was an infant and I was a stay-at-home mom for 5 years.

Why do you write books?

Carol: When I completed my first book, I realized it wouldn’t sell without creating a brand. I then built my brand by trying different genres ranging from picture books, to fiction and nonfiction, as well as early reader chapter books and adult fiction under another pen name. Mindfulness for Kids is the first book I was actually asked to write.

Robin: I love sharing ideas and stories!

What do you like best about writing?

Carol: I love every aspect of writing, from creation to watching the reviews come in. It is emotionally satisfying and as exciting as having a new baby come home. I love it so much, I wrote a book on how to get published that ended up spawning three different blog radio shows and a magazine called Indie Author’s Monthly.

Robin: I love the freedom to get my thoughts and ideas created into the written word.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?

Carol: Making sure the books go out as mistake-free as possible. I do at least three edits, but pesky errors come up every now and then.

Robin: Finding the time to write, uninterrupted.

What do you think makes a good story?

Carol: Good stories are different for everyone. I think the most important element is making it universal enough that people can identify with the characters and feel what they are going through.

Robin: When people write about something they are passionate about, something that involves a variety of perspectives, emotions, and deep thought, it often makes for a good story.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Carol: I got the inspiration for The Treasure at Snake Island from a beautiful sunrise I witnessed on my way to the office. I wrote Oh Susannah based on a busy blogger’s response in a note. My kids and grandchildren always inspire me.

Robin: From my students (ages 3 to 21), and my own children.

Tell us about your latest book/project.

Carol: We collaborated to create Mindfulness for Kids. We had a wonderful time creating relatable situations for children to identify when they are having an issue, and then supplying them with tools to help themselves. I think it’s a wonderful book and I am thrilled with it.

Robin: It’s a collection of short stories, in which children experience a variety of emotions. Each story is followed by two mindfulness activities that could help in handling stress, managing anger, building resiliency…etc. I was thrilled to be the mindfulness expert on this project and work closely with Carol to create this engaging, fun, and useful book!

What’s next for you?

Carol: I think I want to try my hand at something YA.

Robin: I will continue to teach mindfulness techniques to people of all ages, and would love to create Mindfulness for Teens next!


For more information about Carol P. Roman and her books, visit caroleproman.com.

For more information about J. Robin Albertson-Wren or to join her online mindfulness course for elementary school students, visit mind-awake.com.

To learn more about Mindfulness for Kids or to purchase, visit Amazon.com.

Conrad’s Classroom: Fear the Roo

by Conrad J. Storad

What the heck is a Zip? If, like me, you are a graduate of The University of Akron, you already know the answer. I worked five seasons as a student equipment manager for the U of A football team during the late 1970s. That job helped me earn a degree without accruing any student loan debt. Nada. Zero. Zip. But what is a Zip?

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We heard that question from the fans at every college stadium we played in across the country. The answer was obvious once you saw Zippy, our school mascot. A Zip is a kangaroo—an Akron, Ohio variety. For a time, the school’s modern rally phrase was “Fear the Roo.” Huh? A kangaroo mascot? To get some history, go to Zippy’s web site at: uakron.edu/zippy.

Once you learn more about kangaroos, you’ll understand why the creature is a wonderful mascot for a sports team. Kangaroos are strong, agile, and fast. They have keen vision and a superb sense of hearing. Any athlete in search of glory in his or her sport of choice would love to embody the traits of this amazing creature from the down under continent of Australia.

Fully grown red kangaroos use their powerful hind legs to move at speeds of more than 35 miles per hour. They bound in leaps almost 6 feet high that measure up to 25 feet long per hop. In comparison, big jackrabbits in Arizona can jump 5 to 10 feet per hop. How far can you jump in a single hop?

Most young readers probably already know that kangaroos are different in many ways. Kangaroos are marsupial mammals. Humans and tigers and monkeys and elephants and horses and bats are placental mammals. Like all mammals, marsupials are hairy and warm blooded. The mothers produce milk for their young. But marsupials have an outside pouch where their young grow and develop.

A baby kangaroo is called a Joey. The Joey is hairless and only the size of a Lima bean when it is born. The tiny Joey actually must climb from the birth canal into its mother’s pouch. During six months in the mother’s pouch, the Joey will grow 2,000 times bigger than its size at birth.

More than 60 kinds of kangaroos live on Earth today. The musky rat kangaroo is the smallest. A full grown adult weighs less than a pound. Big red roos can weigh up to 175 pounds. Powerful hind legs give the kangaroo its hopping power. But how many legs does a kangaroo have? You say four, of course. Nope. Not according to a 2015 research study published in Biology Letters.

The correct answer is five legs, say scientists from Australia’s University of New South Wales. A walking kangaroo actually propels itself with its muscular tail. The tail acts like a fifth leg. The scientists learned that the tail of a walking kangaroo works as hard as our legs work when we walk down the street. No other animal is known to use its tail in this way.


More hopping fun facts:

A group of kangaroos is called a mob.
A Wallaby is a kangaroo that weighs less than 45 pounds.
A kangaroo has a head like a deer, can stand upright, and can swim.
Kangaroos are browsers. They eat a variety of leaves and vegetation.

Resources to learn more:

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Books:

Big Red Kangaroo by Claire Saxby
Kangaroo to the Rescue (National Geographic Kids) by Moira Rose Donahue
Kangaroos: The Symbol of Australia by M. Martin

Websites:

National Geographic Kids—Kangaroo

Kangaroo Facts and Photos—Bush Heritage—Australia

Basic Facts about Kangaroos—Defenders of Wildlife

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The award-winning author and editor of more than 50 science and nature books for children and young adults, Conrad J. Storad expertly draws young readers into his imaginative and entertaining “classroom” to help them better understand and appreciate the natural world.



Author Spotlight: Patricia M. McClure-Chessier


As an author, educator, healthcare professional, and speaker, Patricia M McClure-Chessier’s life reads like an individual who is very compassionate, caring, inspirational, tenacious, and industrious. Her passion for learning started when she use to play school with the children in the neighborhood, and her role was the teacher. Her love for writing developed through creative writing and poetry in grade school. She admits that writing is therapeutic and fulfilling for her. “I write because I want to preserve myself and leave my legacy in writing,” she says. Patricia’s first published book Losing a Hero to Alzheimer’s: The Story of Pearl was a first-place winner in the Aging/Senior Living and Relationships categories and an Honorable Mention winner in the Biography/Memoir category at the 2016 Royal Dragonfly Book Awards.

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Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the city of Chicago.

Did you read a lot as a child?
Yes! I loved to read as a child. Reading allowed me to expand my imagination. It also gave me a chance to escape from difficult situations going on around me.

What were some of your favorite authors and books?
My favorite books were the Box Car Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner, Beezus & Ramona by Beverly Clearly and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a psychologist or a teacher.

Tell us about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became an author/writer?        
I have worked in the behavioral healthcare field for the past 25 years. After graduating with my Bachelors in Psychology from Eastern Illinois University, I worked in the capacity of a direct care provider, case manager, and director at a residential and vocational facility for people with intellectual disabilities and mental illness. As newlyweds, my husband Eric and I took care of my mother who had Alzheimer’s. Later I had children and went back to school to obtain my masters in business administration and masters in public administration, all while working as an Associate Clinical Director/Senior Leader at a behavioral healthcare outpatient organization. As time progressed, I made the transition to work as a Healthcare Executive Leader in Risk Management and Quality at a behavioral healthcare hospital. Throughout my career, I have written several articles for major newspapers and magazines. Additionally, I am an adjunct professor and teach college healthcare courses.

How did you get started writing?
As a small child I enjoyed writing, especially creative writing and poetry. One of my fondest memories was when I was 12 years old, I wrote a poem titled “He Say She Say” and entered it into a poetry contest for Ebony Jr. Magazine, and it got selected for publishing. My parents were so proud! Also, in grammar school and high school I was on the newspaper and yearbook committee.

Why do you write books?
Thus far, my books have been about my journey and experience caring for my mother who had Alzheimer’s. I want to persuade the readers to do the right thing, inform them based on my professional and personal experience all while entertaining them. I find sharing knowledge fulfilling because the information will be valuable to someone else. I believe we are all helpers to one another on this earth and I relish in doing my part! I want readers to understand how the disease affects the individual, caregiver, and family. I want them to be more equipped to handle the situation.  

What do you like best about writing?
Writing to me is magical! I can be free, transparent, and authentic. All of my writings thus far have been nonfiction. When I write, I start to relive the experience, and sometimes this can be good, but sometimes it can be depressing. Writing about my personal experiences is very therapeutic for me. If my past experience takes me to an emotional state, I know there is more healing that needs to take place. I write because I want to share my journey, love, experience, and highlight what God has brought me through.

What do you find the most challenging about writing?
Finding the time to write is always my biggest challenge! I live a very busy life and I have to manage my time wisely.

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Where do you get your inspiration?
I get my inspiration from my parents. Both of my parents spent valuable time with me. I had a special relationship with the both my parents. Their strengths and weaknesses complimented each other as parents. I believe I got the best of both worlds. Although both my parents are deceased, I get inspired from the legacy they left. Both my parents were goal-oriented, motivated, committed, loyal, and hard-working. My parents believed that I could do anything and convinced me that I could. My husband, children, and friends are a great inspiration to me as well. I also get inspired by watching other successful people. I gravitate towards autobiographies because I am always curious about the story behind the success.  

Tell us about your latest book
In A Caregivers Guide for Alzheimer’s and Dementia: 9 Key Principles, I share how being a caregiver for someone with Alzheimer’s or Dementia can be a stressful and a thankless job. The experienced caregiver will garner additional strategies to help prevent burnout and gain additional insight on how to handle challenging situations. The reader will learn to employ techniques with the person with Alzheimer’s/Dementia when they are noncompliant with active daily living skills or exhibiting unwelcoming behaviors. Additionally, it offers a unique perspective on how to be successful as a caregiver with a limited support system. Everybody can’t be a caregiver, but we can all participate in care giving! The 9 key principles will teach the reader how to survive this tumultuous journey and remain physically and mentally healthy.

What’s next for you?
I have been working on a screen play that I hope to have completed soon. I’m learning writing a screenplay from a book is more challenging than I realized. But I’m up for the challenge.

 

For more information on Patricia M. McClure-Chessier and her books, visit losingaherotoalzheimersthestoryofpearl.com.

 

November is Alzheimer's Awareness Month

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