The Butterfly Lady by Danny Hoey

The Butterfly LadyThe Butterfly Lady by Danny M. Hoey Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In living a life that was true to his heart, Gabriel made others uncomfortable. This story explores the ways in which, for years, Gabriel’s relationships fall short of creating fulfillment in him and those he is connected to. The beautiful prose pushes the reader to explore the paths hate has the opportunity to take. Ugly emotions can drive even the best people to act in truly disgusting ways but The Butterfly Lady offers, in a poignant way, an alternate path not taken.

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A Night to Remember: BIG Hearts for Little Hands

img_1326Last night my husband and I attended the fundraising dinner for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Palm Beach and Martin Counties. I have volunteered as a mentor with this great organization for almost three years, but  have never attended their fancy fundraising dinner before last night. I’m so glad I was able to go–it was a really fun date night with a special purpose.

State Attorney Dave Aronberg of Palm Beach County was the guest speaker and his remarks touched on the power of mentoring programs to keep children out of the juvenile court system. Despite the studies which show powerful results of mentoring programs, funding for BBBS continues to take a hit each year, which makes private funding more important now than ever.

I was nominated this year for Big Sister of the Year. Out of over 500 matches, I was pretty honored to make it into the running for the prize. I did not win, but was asked to prepare a short acceptance speech on what being a big has meant to me. It was a neat reflective exercise, so I have decided to share it below:

I grew up in a home with two parents who cherished me and worked hard to provide me with opportunities to follow my passions, meet new people of all different backgrounds, connect to my community and try new things. Being a Big allows me to take that journey, to a lesser extent, with a bright caring little person who I care deeply about. My little is my friend and being with her brightens my week. I’m pretty certain she has taught me just as much as I have tried to teach her. Her childhood is much different than mine was, but being with her has developed in me a gratefulness for what life has to offer. I also just have a lot of fun getting to try things again through her eyes. We both appreciate the work Big Brothers Big Sisters does. Thank you very much for your support tonight and throughout the year to keep making matches like my little and mine possible.


Please consider how you might be able to reach out make a difference in your community in a way that utilizes your special gifts–even if it requires you to step outside of your comfort zone. If  you have any questions about Big Brothers Big Sisters, please don’t hesitate to ask me. I am happy to share my experiences.

Welcome Wally!

I am someone who occasionally goes off the deep end where things of the heart are concerned. A year ago when we made the decision to start saving a down payment and buy a house here in Florida, we made out a wish list of wants and needs. To some it might seem odd that many of our top wants were dog-related. We wanted a house with a fenced in yard. We wanted a safe neighborhood to walk the dogs in at whatever time we got around to that particular activity. We wanted a carpet-free home, because we did not wish to fight the battle over accidents or throw up and carpet any longer. We wanted an open concept plan, so we could see what the dogs were doing at all times and so we could throw the ball a hundred times a day for our partially blind dog and still let her fetch the ball without frustration or running into things.

So, we made it through puppyville with Peanut, our sweet, gentile, giant. She finally is completely and totally house broken. She knows several hand signal commands (she is  completely deaf in addition to her missing eye), and after the destruction of so many of our things–she finally sticks to chewing on toys almost exclusively. So… how do we celebrate? Yesterday we took a walk through the rescue dog fair when we picked up pill pockets for our other neurotic but loving rescue mutt we got from the Humane Society three years ago. My heart melted when Dave pointed out one little feisty guy. So tiny– a mere 8lbs. Almost the exact opposite of Peanut and reminded us of a younger Cooper. Then we started playing the “how much harder would 3 dogs be than 2?” game. Reason prevailed, we left with only the purchase of pill pockets. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the cute little dog with the fun spirit and what a joy he would bring to our home. After being home for a little while, we decided to drive back and get this cute little pup, if he was still available.

He seems healthy, slept all night in the little dog bed next to me (much better than the other two heathens, I might add), and has been a delightful addition to our household in the past 24 hours. We are showering the other two with lots of attention, who are naturally very curious and a bit jealous. I think they will all get along great once they are used to each other. I know this little guy is fun and makes me smile. I am filled with love for all three dogs, each in their own way. I look forward to the future.


Total Immersion: The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Faster, and Easier by Terry Laughin

Total Immersion: Revolutionary Way to Swim Better and FasterTotal Immersion: Revolutionary Way to Swim Better and Faster by Terry Laughlin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Total Immersion is a system of swimming that prizes technique over power and seeks to teach swimmers how to adapt their vessel to swim more fishlike and eliminate the struggle that plagues so many swimmers and would-be swimmers. Living four miles from the ocean, having a barely used health club membership card in my billfold and a small backyard pool perfect for practicing technique–it seemed that I really have no excuse for my poor swimming abilities. This book is an excellent how-to book focused on skill building for the new swimmer or long-time swimmer that is tired of being frustrated with their slow progress in the water using old fashioned techniques. The freestyle stroke is broken down into a series of small steps in which the swimmer is encouraged to imprint the proper technique on their mind and body. Once all the drills are learned, then the steps are assembled into a highly efficient full stroke. This book helped me with the mental distress I have when I go in the water. I was unable to pull enough information out of the text to be sure I was practicing correct technique, so I did buy the video set which explained the steps discussed in video format. I think the two products compliment each other well. I want the background and history and science behind what I am trying to do in the pool. I do better when I am in a “program” and I do indeed feel a part of the Total Immersion group now that I am practicing drills daily. I hope that becoming confident with this new form of exercise will help me to become healthier long-term. I’m excited for the future and credit this book with getting me to take the first step to discovering this new hobby.

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The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict

The Other Einstein: A NovelThe Other Einstein: A Novel by Marie Benedict

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Historical fiction provides the dangerous temptation to take fiction as fact. With this story, it is very easy to vilify Albert Einstein as the adulterous, abusive, and cut-throat man of brilliance he is perceived to be in The Other Einstein. After enjoying the story, what is telling for me, once I separate fiction from documented fiction, is that Einstein vigorously courted and then married a brilliant scientist who overcame so many odds to attend the same university as the privileged Einstein, yet he did nothing to support that potential once he married this phenomenal woman. Is this blasphemy against the most celebrated scientist of modern times? In my opinion it is simply a fuller picture of the man who so many claimed to know. This book did what great historical fiction is supposed to do–it made me curious about the time and people it discussed. It made me appreciate the setting and characters which were discussed and encouraged me to dive deeper into my own research of the topic. Excellent job to Marie Benedict on creating an engaging story which I look forward to sharing with others.

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Shelter Dogs in a Photo Booth by Guinnevere Shuster

Shelter Dogs in a Photo BoothShelter Dogs in a Photo Booth by Guinnevere Shuster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imagine if dogs who have been discarded by their original owners, yet desperately want a furever home are given a photo shoot by a professional and their glam shots shared with potential owners? That is exactly what happened when the very talented Guinnevere Shuster started volunteering in her unique way to help dogs find homes. This book is a collection of photographs of dogs who have been adopted, in part, due to her amazing work. Flipping through these photographs and reading the stories of these amazing dogs will warm your heart and make you feel good about the world around you. I plan on sending a copy to my dog-loving Grandma in the near future!

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Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society by Jan A.G.M. van Dijk

Digital Skills: Unlocking the Information SocietyDigital Skills: Unlocking the Information Society by Jan A. G. M. van Dijk

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I got this book because I believed it would support research I am working on this semester about the digital divide and libraries. It certainly accomplished this and so much more. As someone who has spent a fair number of years helping people of all ages and backgrounds to gain digital skills in order to improve their lives, this book provided some really interesting context for my work. While I always had my suspicions and ideas on how people learned and why they learned, I had never done much research to support these theories rolling around in my head. The empirical research done in this field was fascinating to read. The framework suggested by these authors to more effectively tackle the issue of the second level digital divide that we are now facing (skills deficits contributing to the marginalization of certain groups) makes sense to me and has me considering fundamental shifts in how I tackle this issue in my own work moving forward.

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Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith

Chocolate FeverChocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

My little and I read this story together. She is nine years old and picked it out herself. She seemed to like it well enough. The thought of a kid eating too much chocolate and getting caught in a dangerous adventure when he tries to run away from his problems was fun for her. The vocabulary was enough of a stretch, that it was a good learning experience. I was not impressed with the book, however. It was just too dated and not as relevant for her as I would have hoped. It’s not really one I will recommend to others.

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The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

The Heart Goes LastThe Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some things scare the hell out of me if I think about them too much. One of those things is greed and what would happen if we as a society stopped seeing each other as human beings, but instead really focused on money and power above all else. How would that affect you as a person who loves another person? This story explores one such possibility and the question of to what we choose to do with our own free will. This clever tale follows a couple in the supposedly not too distant future as they deal with the ultimate economic downturn and get caught up in a viscous cycle of systems doing what is “right” for those in power. It is the couple’s own heart which could be their final undoing.

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The Locust Effect by Gary Haugen

The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of ViolenceThe Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence by Gary A. Haugen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If we don’t know that a problem exists, then it is impossible to ever fix it. Most people know that millions of people around the world are suffering in poverty. What is less known is the extent to which violence combined with a lack of any kind of criminal justice system in parts of our world cause many to lose their lives or plunge further into desperate circumstances. This is a moving narrative that needs to be heard. This call to action will make you grateful for the opportunities you have and make you want to be part of the solution for others.

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