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This blog is about poetry, prose, publishing, children's books, writing, teaching, and performing poetry.
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1.                                                                                     

JOE'S BLOG... ABOUT ANYTHING THAT POPS UP IN JOE'S MIND


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2. A  TOUR GUIDE FOR LIFE


Tour Guide for Life  (Dedicated to Debra E. Ross)

I want my children to grow up with roots,

to love some of the wonderful things

that I love: words crafted on a page,

hunting for treasures in book shops,

appreciating nature in all its glory,

discovering humor everywhere,  

playing sports for the fun of it,

enjoying the play of All-Stars,

visiting landmark places,

eating favorite foods,

sledding downhill,

family traditions

and more.

 

I want my children to grow wings

to let their imagination take flight,

to love learning for learning’s sake,

to thrive on life’s many daily challenges,

to keep the doors of learning wide open,

to make goals, easy ones and difficult ones,

to love themselves, others, and all creatures,

to be grateful for their talents and blessings,

to launch their “I-made-this-spirit” each day,

to jump out of bed wanting to make a difference,

to enjoy life’s roller coaster ride, especially the “ups”

and learn from the “downs.”

 

I want to be my children’s Tour Guide for Life,

to a smart, cultured and literate life

far beyond my footsteps.

 

I will share with my daughters

my passion for roots, wings,

and a cultured life.

 

~ Joe Sottile

                                                                                                                                                                                          

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3. Be Your Optimal Self

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Man is mortal. This is the universal truth and everyone should learn to accept it. But, even though the days on Earth are numbered, each one of us should strive to live an optimal life with a perfect balance of health, wealth, peace and prosperity.

 

In order to live life optimally, you need to live for today and save a little for the future. At the same time, do not live your life for the sake of others but live it for yourself. Live your life on the basis of your beliefs and not totally under the influence of others although you should take benefit from the words of others.

 

There is an inner voice or conscience that keeps speaking to you. Listen to your conscience speak to you and understand what it has to say to find the purpose of your life. Every person’s life should have a purpose and it is essential to live for this purpose to live an optimal life.

 

Enjoy what you do in trying to achieve your life’s purpose. If you are not enjoying what you are doing and do not have the zeal to take it forward, then you are probably wrong at identifying your purpose in life.

 

If you are not living your life trying to fulfill its purpose, you will find things going wrong all around you. This is so because you have a lot of negativity filled in you and the action that follows is bound to be negative. This is called the law of attraction which states that like attracts like. This may lead to many problems like relationships going sour, inability to cope up with stress at the work place, etc.

 

For this reason, it becomes very vital to understand the purpose in life and follow it with zeal to achieve it and most importantly, enjoy doing what you are doing. Approach this purpose in life with a positive mindset and the actions that follow will definitely be favorable although you might have to work a lot towards it. The joy should be in the journey and not the destination.

 

Follow your inner voice that is speaking to you. Learn to understand what it has to say. Identify your life’s purpose and live everyday like there is no tomorrow and strive each day to come one step closer to your purpose in life. By learning to do this, you will not only enjoy each and everyday of your life, you will learn to live your life optimally.



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4. 7 WAYS TO TRANSFORM YOUR LIFE WITH POETRY

  1. Kids love hilarious poetry. They enjoy laughing and giggling at funny poetry. If the poems in a book tickle their funny bones, they want to read more and more of that author, and then other humorous authors. After awhile, they will not only read to laugh, but they will read to succeed in school and life. Ah, the power of funny poetry!

     

  2. The late Shel Silverstein has sold millions and millions of books. You can find his poetry books in libraries, schools, homes, and in all kinds of bookstores, including airport bookstores. When local authors are starving for shelf space, what makes his hardcover only poetry books so popular? Yes, he has unusual black-and-white sketches, but the real secret of his success is that Shel was a kid advocate. He wanted to empower kids more, and adults less, and kids knew it. When kids feel no one understands them, they can turn the pages of Shel's books and find a friend. That's the power of funny poetry.

     

  3. Knock-your-socks-off poetry, as I sometimes call it, creates a special bond between reader and poet. I know a popular elementary teacher who credits his good rapport with students from the first day of school on because he read funny poetry to his class whenever there was a schedule break or change. His students begged him to read all of Shel's poetry books, and other funny poets like Jack Prelutsky, Judith Viorst, Kalli Dakos, Ralph Fletcher, Bruce Lansky, and Sara Holbrook. The kids wanted to hear poems from these authors because their poetry encouraged them to laugh and see another side to life.

     

  4. If a poet earns the umbrella hat of a "funny poet," the poet can also sprinkle in some rather serious verses in his garden of poetry. Shel was the master of this. For example, in Falling Up, the poem "The Voice" Shel ends the poem with: "What's right for you-just listen to/The voice that speaks inside." Funny poetry can lead to serious or mysterious poetry, thus expanding the reader's poetry horizon.

     

  5. Crack you up poetry is like a good entertaining movie. It can help us escape our immediate world and become part of the poet's imaginary world. There are times in the lives of kids and adults when escaping reality for awhile is a good coping technique. Funny poetry can afford a little needed escapism.

     

  6. All kinds of whimsicle poetry can be memorized and shared whenever life's situation seems to call for some levity. The nature of poetry itself teaches kids about rhythm, rhyme, cadence, alliteration, and the power of repetition. All of these characteristics of poetry make it easier for kids to memorize poetry than prose. Because of this, Mother Goose has survived and thrived from generation to generation.

     

  7. Laugh out loud poetry makes our sides split and our lungs gasp for air. But this is a good thing. Laughter has a powerful influence on the body. Like what? Laughter boosts your immunity system, adds joy to your life, decreases pain, relaxes muscles, improves your mood, helps defuse conflict, and attracts others to us. And funny poetry is a catalyst to producing these wonderful effects.

     

    Why not let funny poetry transform your life today by creating a funny poetry library in your house, perhaps in the bathroom? Just wave the poetry wand with your favorite credit card, purchase a few poetry books, and watch your troubles become less troubling.  The "Funny Poetry Book Library" will be a boon to all who enter.

     

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5.  Transform Yourself with Positive Self Talk from This to...

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Do you feel like you are always talking yourself out of success?  As soon as you start to set goals for yourself, do you suddenly have nagging thoughts about how you aren't up to the task or how you simply aren't qualified to carry it through? 

If you have ever experienced either situation, you need to change the way you respond to your inner dialogue.  Instead of obeying your negative commands, you can use positive self-talk to counter the negativity and overcome nearly all anxious thoughts.

Setting Goals and Sticking to Them with Positive Self-Talk

Are you initially filled with excitement when you first set goals for yourself? Are these thoughts then followed by self-doubt and self-defeating thoughts that stop you in your tracks before you even get started?

It can be difficult to make the most of your life when you are constantly talking yourself out of being a success.  It can be frustrating and discouraging to have these thoughts constantly plaguing you. Many of us, in fact, don't even realize we have them! All we know is that we don't have the confidence to stick to our plans and reach our goals

But there's another way!

Positive self-talk is an effective way to set goals and ensure that you stick to them, even if you have never been able to do this before.  The way this works is that you decide what goal is important to you, and then you plan the logistics of how you are going to attain this goal.  When self-doubt starts kicking in, you will respond with affirmations that prove your success without surrendering to the negative pressure. Since you're reading this article, it's clear that you're no quitter and you're certainly not a failure, so start believing in yourself!

Re-Programming Your Mind

Affirmations are essentially positive statements that re-program your mind for the positive. The moment you have a self-defeating thought you'd be able to counter the negative with a motivating statement. An example of a positive affirmation is: "I am worthy of great success," or "I see myself in the winner's circle."  What this does is replace negativity with thoughts that will help you move toward your goals instead of further away from them.

Positive self-talk is easier to implement than you might think. You may not be aware of the severity of the negative dialogue currently within your mind. However, once you begin with positive self-talk, you will suddenly realize that you are self-sabotaging the goals you set for yourself from the minute that you make them. This process can open your eyes to exactly how much this inner conversation has been interfering with your life. You'll feel hopeful that you can now set goals and surpass them.

Through positive self-talk you will be able easily set long and short-term goals for yourself. And when you use affirmations, you'll have accessible tools to help you push yourself further than ever before. Learning to quiet negativity with positive thoughts is a great move toward setting and attaining future goals with ease. You can become Your Own Hero.




 


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6. WRITING IS PRICELESS

Picture

Writing for me has always been about personal empowerment, not about fame or fortune. That’s how my writing career started, and it is still my main goal as a writer: let the words out and see where they take you. As Robert Frost said, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

In the beginning I wrote to discover what I knew. Then I wrote for myself and my best friend, Dave. I grew up next door to Dave in Queens, New York, until he turned five. His family moved away. Our parents stayed great friends. The friendship survived because on Thursdays the men met to play cards in the kitchen and the women to sew sweaters and chat in the living room. They took turns visiting one another with lifelong friends.

As teens, Dave and I would always spend part of the summer together. We shared important interests: playing baseball, chasing girls for dates, blue ribbons on the track team, and a Regents diploma. During the school year, it was frequently more satisfying to write long letters to one another about girls, sports, school, and our domineering fathers than to do anything else. Our moms faithfully exchanged our letters every Thursday. We called it the “Pocketbook Mail Express.” No stamps needed, just the trials and tribulations of life-and-death teenage issues. We wrote volumes. The writing was extremely cathartic and highly invisible. Only our eyes ever saw what we wrote.

Our fathers were card carrying members of the Greatest Generation ever—hard workers, honest and loyal. They worked for the future of their kids, but their kids were supposed to be seen and not heard. We had a roof over our heads, food on the table, mothers who believed in us, and fathers who wanted us to be near-perfect. And we weren’t.

If we earned B’s, “Why don’t you have all A’s?” If we won a red ribbon in a race, “Why didn’t you win a blue ribbon?” Our best was never good enough. We didn’t feel like our fathers believed in us.

When I became a high school senior, we had to write a weekly essay. My English teacher, Ms. Starr Hacker, always scribbled an “A” on my compositions. Only the size of the “A” varied. I worked very hard in class. She wrote in my yearbook, “Good luck to a very interesting student and personality.” What made me interesting? I think that I was emerging as a writer, thanks to David and Ms. Hacker.

I decided to give back to others like Ms. Hacker did by becoming a teacher. When I told my father, he asked “Why a teacher?”

“I won’t be happy unless I’m a teacher.”

He asked, “Why do you have to be happy?”

I had no answer. I was flawed with the possibility that my father, a plumber, might not be happy with his work. He had fooled me.

My guidance counselor warned my father that I might not be college material. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to take English and Education courses. I knew at least three people believed in me: Mom, Dave, and Ms. Hacker—and writing played an important part in it.

I graduated from a community college, and transferred to a state college. I met my true love and we both graduated with teaching degrees. The two years that Marilyn and I were engaged, my father was worried that I would flunk out. Dad didn’t know that Marilyn made me a better student. Before mom met Marilyn, Dad said, “I don’t want you to like Marilyn.” But they did anyway.

Two weeks after graduation we married. My brother once noted that “Dad isn’t smiling in your wedding photo.”

He’s right. Before the shot was taken, Dad leaned over and said, “You should have gone to graduate school first.”

I was a successful teacher for thirty-three years. During and after my teaching years, I wrote essays for parents and teachers, and poems for children. It was never about making money. It was about corralling my experiences and making sense of them.

When my mother was dying in the nursing home, I sat down and wrote a tribute about her life to capsulate what a great mom she was. It was my last gift for her, a gift of words. At her funeral in church I read my tribute. To my amazement, the congregation stood up and clapped.

Writing is a priceless gift.  

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7. WRITING IS PRICELESS

Picture

Writing for me has always been about personal empowerment, not about fame or fortune. That’s how my writing career started, and it is still my main goal as a writer: let the words out and see where they take you. As Robert Frost said, “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”

In the beginning I wrote to discover what I knew. Then I wrote for myself and my best friend, Dave. I grew up next door to Dave in Queens, New York, until he turned five. His family moved away. Our parents stayed great friends. The friendship survived because on Thursdays the men met to play cards in the kitchen and the women to sew sweaters and chat in the living room. They took turns visiting one another with lifelong friends.

As teens, Dave and I would always spend part of the summer together. We shared important interests: playing baseball, chasing girls for dates, blue ribbons on the track team, and a Regents diploma. During the school year, it was frequently more satisfying to write long letters to one another about girls, sports, school, and our domineering fathers than to do anything else. Our moms faithfully exchanged our letters every Thursday. We called it the “Pocketbook Mail Express.” No stamps needed, just the trials and tribulations of life-and-death teenage issues. We wrote volumes. The writing was extremely cathartic and highly invisible. Only our eyes ever saw what we wrote.

Our fathers were card carrying members of the Greatest Generation ever—hard workers, honest and loyal. They worked for the future of their kids, but their kids were supposed to be seen and not heard. We had a roof over our heads, food on the table, mothers who believed in us, and fathers who wanted us to be near-perfect. And we weren’t.

If we earned B’s, “Why don’t you have all A’s?” If we won a red ribbon in a race, “Why didn’t you win a blue ribbon?” Our best was never good enough. We didn’t feel like our fathers believed in us.

When I became a high school senior, we had to write a weekly essay. My English teacher, Ms. Starr Hacker, always scribbled an “A” on my compositions. Only the size of the “A” varied. I worked very hard in class. She wrote in my yearbook, “Good luck to a very interesting student and personality.” What made me interesting? I think that I was emerging as a writer, thanks to David and Ms. Hacker.

I decided to give back to others like Ms. Hacker did by becoming a teacher. When I told my father, he asked “Why a teacher?”

“I won’t be happy unless I’m a teacher.”

He asked, “Why do you have to be happy?”

I had no answer. I was flawed with the possibility that my father, a plumber, might not be happy with his work. He had fooled me.

My guidance counselor warned my father that I might not be college material. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to take English and Education courses. I knew at least three people believed in me: Mom, Dave, and Ms. Hacker—and writing played an important part in it.

I graduated from a community college, and transferred to a state college. I met my true love and we both graduated with teaching degrees. The two years that Marilyn and I were engaged, my father was worried that I would flunk out. Dad didn’t know that Marilyn made me a better student. Before mom met Marilyn, Dad said, “I don’t want you to like Marilyn.” But they did anyway.

Two weeks after graduation we married. My brother once noted that “Dad isn’t smiling in your wedding photo.”

He’s right. Before the shot was taken, Dad leaned over and said, “You should have gone to graduate school first.”

I was a successful teacher for thirty-three years. During and after my teaching years, I wrote essays for parents and teachers, and poems for children. It was never about making money. It was about corralling my experiences and making sense of them.

When my mother was dying in the nursing home, I sat down and wrote a tribute about her life to capsulate what a great mom she was. It was my last gift for her, a gift of words. At her funeral in church I read my tribute. To my amazement, the congregation stood up and clapped.

Writing is a priceless gift.  

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8. THREE WISE SAYINGS


Life is a mirror of your consistent thoughts.
- Napoleon Hill

Practice hope. As hopefulness becomes a habit,
you can achieve a permanently happy spirit.
- Norman Vincent Peale


Plant the seed of desire in your mind and it forms a nucleus
with power to attract to itself everything needed for its fulfillment.
- Robert Collier
 

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9. THREE WISE SAYINGS


Life is a mirror of your consistent thoughts.
- Napoleon Hill

Practice hope. As hopefulness becomes a habit,
you can achieve a permanently happy spirit.
- Norman Vincent Peale


Plant the seed of desire in your mind and it forms a nucleus
with power to attract to itself everything needed for its fulfillment.
- Robert Collier
 

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10. 5 AWESOME BOOK REVIEWS OF WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET By Joe Sottile 

Most Helpful Customer Reviews 5.0 out of 5 stars          Reasons Why Everyone Should Read Poetry October 5, 2014 By Teacher, Reader, and Reviewer Format:Kindle Edition Joe Sottile's poetry that I've read is uplifting and inspiring. It brightens the sometimes dreary world. Now, Joe has written a book titled WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET. In this book he gives reasons why even non-poetry lovers should read poetry, valid reasons that make you stop and think, at least they did me.

Joe is a former teacher and from what I can tell, not knowing him personally, he was a good one. When students got angry he'd have them write their anger on paper. This helped them learn to deal with their anger. He offers many other ideas of how parents and teachers can help children and red flags to watch out for.

WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET would be a great book for teachers, counselors, and everyone that works with children and teens. If I were still teaching I'd want a copy for my classroom. Let me leave you with a quote from Joe: "...you have to see with your heart, your passion ... and sooner or later your mind will follow."

I was provided with a copy of this book for my honest review.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A different book about poetry October 16, 2014 By Amazon Customer Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I was not expecting to find such a witty, smart and constructive book when I actually got the book - I was expecting some nice poems that I can read and potentially some interpretation of those. But inside I found a revolutionary approach of poetry - why and how can poetry influence in a positive fashion our lives - the author had the courage to express his view in writing. And his view turned out to be a very interesting read that I enjoyed from the first page to the last.

5.0 out of 5 stars Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance October 16, 2014 By Jill Alcorn Format:Kindle Edition Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance, Why Poetry can Save the Planet. Every page is filled with story after story that is sure to give pause to all readers, even those who don't read poetry. He will always be Joe "Silly" Sottile, but in this book, we are granted more serious narratives, and they make every bit as great a story.

Incredible value for the book, honestly. This is a book you'll be sure to read again and again.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Teacher/Counselor/Therapist Must-Read October 7, 2014 By J. Mctaggart Format:Kindle Edition Although I am not a poetry lover (or anywhere close), I have been using Sottile's poems with students for a great many years. I choose to use his work because he "gets" kids, and he speaks TO them - not above them. In "Poetry Can Save the Planet" Sottile, speaking to the adults who work with children, presents a powerful case for what he believes to be true. And who knows? He just might be right.

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book October 7, 2014 By R. Humbert Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I loved this book! I never really gave much thought to poetry at all. I started reading and couldn't stop! My favorite part is his story about his mom and how he used poetry to help him through such a difficult time. Very inspiring! Lisa Humbert

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11. 5 AWESOME BOOK REVIEWS OF WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET By Joe Sottile 

Most Helpful Customer Reviews 5.0 out of 5 stars          Reasons Why Everyone Should Read Poetry October 5, 2014 By Teacher, Reader, and Reviewer Format:Kindle Edition Joe Sottile's poetry that I've read is uplifting and inspiring. It brightens the sometimes dreary world. Now, Joe has written a book titled WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET. In this book he gives reasons why even non-poetry lovers should read poetry, valid reasons that make you stop and think, at least they did me.

Joe is a former teacher and from what I can tell, not knowing him personally, he was a good one. When students got angry he'd have them write their anger on paper. This helped them learn to deal with their anger. He offers many other ideas of how parents and teachers can help children and red flags to watch out for.

WHY POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET would be a great book for teachers, counselors, and everyone that works with children and teens. If I were still teaching I'd want a copy for my classroom. Let me leave you with a quote from Joe: "...you have to see with your heart, your passion ... and sooner or later your mind will follow."

I was provided with a copy of this book for my honest review.

5.0 out of 5 stars
A different book about poetry October 16, 2014 By Amazon Customer Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I was not expecting to find such a witty, smart and constructive book when I actually got the book - I was expecting some nice poems that I can read and potentially some interpretation of those. But inside I found a revolutionary approach of poetry - why and how can poetry influence in a positive fashion our lives - the author had the courage to express his view in writing. And his view turned out to be a very interesting read that I enjoyed from the first page to the last.

5.0 out of 5 stars Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance October 16, 2014 By Jill Alcorn Format:Kindle Edition Joe continues to amaze with yet another stroke of brilliance, Why Poetry can Save the Planet. Every page is filled with story after story that is sure to give pause to all readers, even those who don't read poetry. He will always be Joe "Silly" Sottile, but in this book, we are granted more serious narratives, and they make every bit as great a story.

Incredible value for the book, honestly. This is a book you'll be sure to read again and again.

4.0 out of 5 stars A Teacher/Counselor/Therapist Must-Read October 7, 2014 By J. Mctaggart Format:Kindle Edition Although I am not a poetry lover (or anywhere close), I have been using Sottile's poems with students for a great many years. I choose to use his work because he "gets" kids, and he speaks TO them - not above them. In "Poetry Can Save the Planet" Sottile, speaking to the adults who work with children, presents a powerful case for what he believes to be true. And who knows? He just might be right.

5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book October 7, 2014 By R. Humbert Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase I loved this book! I never really gave much thought to poetry at all. I started reading and couldn't stop! My favorite part is his story about his mom and how he used poetry to help him through such a difficult time. Very inspiring! Lisa Humbert

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12. Book Review: Bev Stowe McClure's STAR OF THE TEAM

Right from the title, I had a hunch that this would be an excellent book. Why? Haven’t most of us while growing up daydreamed about being “the star of the team”? It’s a universal desire. Then I read the dedication, which I always do to find out where the author’s heart is. After I read Beverly Stowe McClure’s dedication, I knew this would be one of her best efforts as a writer ever. I wasn’t wrong.

Because the basketball action was described perfectly—plenty of action, and no needless words, I knew that I was on the right path for a good read. Right on that first page I was introduced to many of the important characters, and one of the book’s major conflicts. One line stood out showing how well the author knows kids and how to appeal to their reading taste: “She looked as if she’d swallowed up a bug and was about to puke the thing up.” Now, I knew my granddaughter, Megan, would love this book because a little grossness goes a long way with young readers.

Good writing goes a long way, too. This novel is action-packed from the get-go. I think that Beverly Stowe McClure is half author, half sportscaster, and half star basketball player, (I hope you caught a little humor there.) But what I said is absolutely true. The author really knows the game of basketball, and kids. Those are two elements that really make this book a fun-read,

Speaking of humor, that’s another quality of the book: it is laced with humor along the way to the championship game.  And Kate struggles with staying true to her good values or being narrow-minded and negative. We are never sure how it’s all going to turn out, especially after she has a major setback. And the author provides us with a number of surprises before we sit down for the final game of the season.

I liked all of the characters, especially Kate, Emily, Coach Mom and Ray. They always talk like real people, thus creating very believable characters and a story to remember. There are lessons to be gathered from this novel. They reveal themselves in a subtle way as you read the book, lessons that I hope all my grandchildren know such as: life is a team sport.

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13. Book Review: Bev Stowe McClure's STAR OF THE TEAM

Right from the title, I had a hunch that this would be an excellent book. Why? Haven’t most of us while growing up daydreamed about being “the star of the team”? It’s a universal desire. Then I read the dedication, which I always do to find out where the author’s heart is. After I read Beverly Stowe McClure’s dedication, I knew this would be one of her best efforts as a writer ever. I wasn’t wrong.

Because the basketball action was described perfectly—plenty of action, and no needless words, I knew that I was on the right path for a good read. Right on that first page I was introduced to many of the important characters, and one of the book’s major conflicts. One line stood out showing how well the author knows kids and how to appeal to their reading taste: “She looked as if she’d swallowed up a bug and was about to puke the thing up.” Now, I knew my granddaughter, Megan, would love this book because a little grossness goes a long way with young readers.

Good writing goes a long way, too. This novel is action-packed from the get-go. I think that Beverly Stowe McClure is half author, half sportscaster, and half star basketball player, (I hope you caught a little humor there.) But what I said is absolutely true. The author really knows the game of basketball, and kids. Those are two elements that really make this book a fun-read,

Speaking of humor, that’s another quality of the book: it is laced with humor along the way to the championship game.  And Kate struggles with staying true to her good values or being narrow-minded and negative. We are never sure how it’s all going to turn out, especially after she has a major setback. And the author provides us with a number of surprises before we sit down for the final game of the season.

I liked all of the characters, especially Kate, Emily, Coach Mom and Ray. They always talk like real people, thus creating very believable characters and a story to remember. There are lessons to be gathered from this novel. They reveal themselves in a subtle way as you read the book, lessons that I hope all my grandchildren know such as: life is a team sport.

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14. October 13th, 2014

[...]

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15. October 13th, 2014

[...]

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16. Joe's New Book:  POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET

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17. Joe's New Book:  POETRY CAN SAVE THE PLANET

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18. The Best Part of Growing Up

Growing up in the '50s, the biggest joy of my life was throwing a ball. True, Easter was bountiful in candy; Christmas was full of toys; birthday parties were fun; and the tooth fairy always paid off, but that perfect pink rubber ball symbolized heavenly slices of childhood, and both of my parents knew it

 Our front door looked dented and battle worn from hard rubber projectiles pounding its surface. My father’s ritual nap after work was constantly interrupted by mortar fire. Our ball playing broke windows, tore up the lawn, cheated serious injuies, and created lasting memories.  

A month ago, while riding my bike for exercise, I had an unusual daydream that reminded me of how important a rubber ball could be. As I slowly drove through a plaza, my eyes caught an old brick wall with a perfectly drawn stickball batter’s box. Suddenly I imagined the batter’s box screaming at me, “Stop! Get off your bike! Play here! Practice! Fire your best pitch!”

I yelled, “I don’t have a ball!”

The box declared, “Your loss fella, not mine!”

The rest of that day I couldn’t think about anything else, except the most popular sport played during my childhood—baseball, in any form, including stooball and stickball.


As a younster, I had two choices as what to do with my time. I could go outside or I could go outside. Rain? Rainy days didn’t count. They were strange interludes in baseball limbo before we could take the field again. On rainy days, I played ball by seeing how close I could throw the ball up to the ceiling without hitting it until I exhausted my mother’s patience. In the bedroom I could play “All-Star Baseball” with players represented on cardboard disks. But I’d rather be playing ball outside because inside the house I felt like a baseball without a cork core, hallow and  bounceless.


When I played stickball near my cousin John’s house, his ballpark was on the side of a factory building. If you blasted the ball on the roof of a distant factory, that was a Mickey Mantle home run. As soon as it was hit, the batter automatically yelled, “Going! Going! Gone!”
 


A Mickey Mantle home run was a joy to hit, but a small nightmare to retrieve Now we had to climb on the roof to retrieve our rubber Spalding. A collection of galvanized pipes, running from one building to the other, formed a makeshift “ladder.”

It was like climbing a fire escape with half the steps missing. Fortunately, workers never caught us. They were too busy working, and they always missed our death-defying aerobatics. We used every limb to reclaim our twenty-nine cent investment in fun.

There was that one time we used the back of the house as a backstop and my Aunt Frances warned us, “You’re going to break a window!”

We assured her that the ball never goes near the windows. Of course, we were

absolutely right about that. Wanting to hit a home run with my first at-bat, I slashed at the first pitched ball with all my might, and the wooden-broom-handle bat sailed through the kitchen window.

In disbelief Aunt Frances stuck her head through the shattered window and said, “I thought you couldn’t break a window!”

It was obvious that we had to focus on playing ball at my house for a long while.

Fortunately, I did have special parents.


To play stoopball properly, you needed parents who were enlightened enough to realize that it was “okay” in the long run, if their child periodically broke the amber bug light above the door, bent the scallops on it with erratic foul balls, and riddled the bottom of the door like a car crusher. It was “okay” if John and I wouldn’t allow cars to park near the house or across the street in front of the home run trees, while a game was in progress. It was “okay” to redirect traffic and parking on the block. Playing ball ruled.

We needed access to those trees because that’s where the home run balls were headed. The fielder, standing in the middle of the street, he had one chance to make a miracle catch by swiveling around, racing to the trees, and snatching the ball out of mid-air. These miracles occurred with the frequency of Brooklyn Dodger World Series victories; but when they happened, it felt as if we just had won the Golden Glove Award for fielding.


We knew that we were good at something: catching a little pink missile as it scrambled down through the maple leaves or hitting majestic home runs. And we never had any trouble with self-esteem. We didn’t need brown certificates of merit, blue ribbons of achievement or towering silver plated-trophies. We just needed a special moment in the sun and parents who understood the joys of youth.


That pink ball had magic. We just had to unleash it.



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19. SEE IF YOU Like THIS ENCOURAGING POEM

The Fire Insideby Anonymous When all is lost and hope has fled
When fear is strong and strength is dead
When love and joy abandon you
When mental anguish grows in you

When the last of efforts fail to save
When your fate is ill, your mind enslaved
And when your head hangs low in misery
This is when you'll find the key

A single ember from deep within
Burns hotter and hotter, as flames begin
The fire of truth will light the way
And help you fight, this lonely day

The battle is long, the struggle is rough
Never regret not giving enough
For when we offer our very best,
Our very soul is put to the test

Stand tall and true and you'll prevail
Just hold on tight and never bail
You will survive if you don't quit
Victory is there, if you reach for it

One day in the future, you will look to the past,
And know you had what it takes to last
So never give up and good things will come,
Not just honor and pride, but a job well done.

0 Comments on SEE IF YOU Like THIS ENCOURAGING POEM as of 8/15/2014 12:26:00 AM
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20. The Six People Who Shaped My Life

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

My life might have been entirely different had I not befriended seven people along life’s journey. It has been said that to understand the path of our life we have to review it in reverse, starting with the early years.

Beyond parents and siblings, throughout my life I have had six people leave deep footprints on my heart: a landscape architect (Dave), a family practitioner (John/Dr. Jensen), an English teacher (Miss Starr Hacker), a professor (Dr. Ralph H. Hunkins), my wife, (Marilyn), and a poet (Shel Silverstein.) Whom and what we love seems to shape the person we become.

I grew up next door to Dave in Queens, New York, until he turned five. Then his family moved 30 miles away. Our parents were great friends. The friendship survived the move because on Thursdays the men met to play cards in the kitchen and the women met to sew sweaters and chat in the living room. They took turns visiting one another with a small group of lifelong friends.

During the summer Dave and I would always spend a week or two at each other’s home. We shared several important interests: chasing girls for dates, blue ribbons on the track team, and a Regents diploma. In our teens, it was frequently more satisfying to write volumes to one another about girls, sports, school, and our domineering fathers than to do anything else. Our moms faithfully exchanged our letters every Thursday. We called it the “Pocketbook Mail Express.” No stamps needed.

Our dads asked a lot from themselves and those they loved. And our generation was the one where kids were seen but not heard. Sometimes our letters were a forum for complaints against the universe. Sometimes they were simply tales of teen triumphs and defeats.

I admired Dave and his family because they took summer vacation trips together. Dave was a Boy Scout, had cute girlfriends, and attended church with his family. He always wore shiny black shoes, a pressed white shirt, and a tie to church. Dave was the first person who taught me how to make a presentable knot. Now whenever I put on a tie, I think of Dave and how I kept my vow to be like his Dad by vacationing with my kids during their formative years. Thanks to Dave and his vacation stories I became a better father than I might have been.

John, the doctor-to-be, was very analytical and loved baseball. As a youngster, I hated playing “Go Fish!” with him because had a photographic mind.  I was better at playing stoop ball, stickball, or sandlot baseball. Because he lived a bike ride away, we played ball all of the time. We grew up loving baseball and rooting for two different New York teams. We had baseball and family in common—Christmas dinners, birthdays, confirmation, and more.

John taught me to stand up for myself, enjoy family gatherings, and cherish our moments outdoors or indoors together. Some of the best laughs we had were watching the “Jackie Gleason Show” and rolling with laugher on the living room floor. We even earned money together by sharing a big paper route. At the age of 12, we sometimes took the train into the city by ourselves with our earnings and attended a Yankee day game. John encouraged me to go after whatever I wanted, but never to lose my sense of humor in the process.

In my senior year in high school, I realized that I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player. My English teacher, Miss Starr Hacker, thought that I was a promising writer. She believed in me. For her, I wrote my heart out. My weekly essays always had a large red “A” scribbled on them. I actively participated in her class. My mind was growing with possibilities. I started believing that I could be an English teacher or a writer, thanks to her.

 I longed to make a difference in the lives of others, just like Miss Hacker. I even considered being a sixth grade teacher because mine was so dull that I thought that I could do better!

My first education course was taught by Dr. Ralph H. Hunkins. He was a kind, intelligent, and enthusiastic. We immediately hit it right off in class. I loved studying about teaching, especially theories of education and men like John Dewey. Two pet projects of Dr. Hunkins were defining what education really is and fostering World Peace. In his classroom I was politely outspoken. After doing an Independent Study with him, we became friends, and I wrote him often after I graduated. He once told me that my letters about school were better than John Holt’s writings about education. Sometimes I even had the pleasure of his wife’s delicious cooking and friendly company. Thanks to them, my confidence as a future educator or writer was growing.

Around the time I met Ralph, I also met my bride-to-be, Marilyn Dufford. We fell madly in love. I thought she was perfect, beautiful on the inside and the outside. And she loved kids. She wanted to be an early childhood teacher. We studied a lot in the college dorm. She taught me how to really study, love long walks, chick flicks, and pizza at “Arnies.”

We married two weeks after our June graduation. In September she was teaching kindergarten, and I was teaching sixth grade in the same school district. I felt the happiest I ever felt in my life. I taught elementary school for thirty-three years.  She taught public school for fifteen years, became a religious director, and raised two lovely daughters. She finished her teaching career as a Special Education teacher. The two of us always loved teaching kids, books, stories, and words.

Thanks to Ralph’s inspiring words about writing, I published a number of articles for parents and teachers in national magazines, and I fell in love with the works of Shel Silverstein, especially A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Poets like the late Shel Silverstein made the ordinary different and exciting. I read and enjoyed his poetry so much that I internalized it. I never met the man, but he became my mentor and friend. Whenever there was a break from the regular school schedule, I read his poetry to my delighted students. They loved the joy and craziness in his poems. And sometimes his poetry even gave them thoughts to ponder. They treasured the book of poems they created in June. If as a teacher you can make kids laugh, think and create for themselves, they are more apt to become self-actualized students, encouraging the best from themselves and their teachers.

My students encouraged me to be to write and perform poetry for our class and other classes. Now I am the luckiest man alive helping kids to laugh, think, and write, whenever I am invited into school as a poet. Each school is my stadium. Each stage is my diamond. And Coach Sottile enjoys his players and our moments in the limelight, thanks to Shel and six others.   

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21. Does Your Dog Go Suffer With Panic Anxiety Because of Loud Noises? Here's the Cure!

Does your dog seem to experience panic anxiety when he or she experiences loud noises such as thunder, lightning, and fireworks? Does your dog or your cat for that matter start to shave and quiver? Hide under furniture or behind furniture? Cower in the bathroom near the toilet.

Symptoms of Stress

If you see any of these signs, your animal is experiencing storm or loud noise phobia. There is a litany of other symptoms that you may see: your dog is pacing; your dog is looking for a place to hide; your dog pees on the floor; your dog is a nervous wreck; your dog looks at you with big brown eye that say “Please do something, just don’t sit there!”

A True Story

And how do you feel about all of this? Do you wish that you had a possible solution up your sleeve? Well, I’ve been there and done it. I’ve felt like racing to the vet through a howling storm, where all the traffic lights in my town and the next were down. I actually did this, and intersections were a gamble on living or not because there were other crazy people on the road, but not all were headed to their vet. Yes, there were a few close calls. And what did the vet do? The vet prescribed some mild medicine for Roscoe. So, that’s one solution: doggy medicine to calm raw nerves.

Other Possible Solutions?

1.     Hug Therapy —Maybe your dog just needs some extra hugs and reassurance. Snuggle up in a blanket and whisper soothing words to your dog. Don’t feed them a stack of treats. This might reinforce the behavior that you want to see fade. Just let your four-legged family member know it loved, and the world isn’t really ending.                               

2.     Thundershirt Therapy--for your dog or cat—According to the manufacturers, this shirt or sweater is 80% effective in reducing the stress of storms, travel, separation, and other anxiety causing events. Check out what PetSmart.com has to offer you and your four-legged buddy. The odds are in your favor.

3.     Be Proactive Therapy —Let rover become used to noise in general, especially if you get your dog as a puppy. Play your CDs periodically in the house over an extended period of time, and from day to day increase the volume, while rewarding him or her with treats. This will develop a liking for music and noise. It won’t become a big deal.
 
4.     If All Else Fails Therapy—race through the storm to see the vet, but be careful on the wet, slipper roads. Or better yet, be prepared with mild, safe medicated treats. If prescribed correctly, they will not turn your dog into a four-legged zombie. Certified veterinarians Know what they are doing.

BONUS: Ah, now you can relax, you have solved your dog’s problem by implementing one of the above four ideas.  So pour yourself a lemonade with lots of ice, and consider writing in your diary or journal how you solved this problem. Enjoy a laugh about the whole situation. If you have any emotional pain left you could even write about traumatized dog to get the pain out.

Does that suggestion sound farfetched? Like I said, I have been there, and here’s a poem that I wrote for Picture Poetry on Parade! Yes, it contains bathroom humor, but it also contains a subtle message: if your dog has this problem, it’s time to do something about it. And please don’t punish your dog for misbehaving. He’s not a “bad dog.”

THUNDER & LIGHTNING

CRASH! CRACK! CRASH!

RIPPLE, RIPPLE, CRASH!

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

  PITTER! PITTER CRASH!                                 

My dog who is afraid of nothing

is afraid of thunder & lightning.                                     

He hates BOOM! BOOM!

CRASH! CRACK! CRASH!

He hides under the table,

 shaking in terrible fear, 

refusing to do his “business” outside

 on the dark, wet lawn.                 

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

Poor Roscoe, hunched under the table… 

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

SLASH! SPLASH! PLOP!

 PLOP! Oh, no!

That’s mom’s new rug!  

She’s going to call you “BAD DOG! 

But you just hate thunder & lightning.
“I love you, Roscoe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       but I don’t like cleaning up.






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22. The Best Part of Growing Up

Growing up in the '50s, the biggest joy of my life was throwing a ball. True, Easter was bountiful in candy; Christmas was full of toys; birthday parties were fun; and the tooth fairy always paid off, but that perfect pink rubber ball symbolized heavenly slices of childhood, and both of my parents knew it

 Our front door looked dented and battle worn from hard rubber projectiles pounding its surface. My father’s ritual nap after work was constantly interrupted by mortar fire. Our ball playing broke windows, tore up the lawn, cheated serious injuies, and created lasting memories.  

A month ago, while riding my bike for exercise, I had an unusual daydream that reminded me of how important a rubber ball could be. As I slowly drove through a plaza, my eyes caught an old brick wall with a perfectly drawn stickball batter’s box. Suddenly I imagined the batter’s box screaming at me, “Stop! Get off your bike! Play here! Practice! Fire your best pitch!”

I yelled, “I don’t have a ball!”

The box declared, “Your loss fella, not mine!”

The rest of that day I couldn’t think about anything else, except the most popular sport played during my childhood—baseball, in any form, including stooball and stickball.


As a younster, I had two choices as what to do with my time. I could go outside or I could go outside. Rain? Rainy days didn’t count. They were strange interludes in baseball limbo before we could take the field again. On rainy days, I played ball by seeing how close I could throw the ball up to the ceiling without hitting it until I exhausted my mother’s patience. In the bedroom I could play “All-Star Baseball” with players represented on cardboard disks. But I’d rather be playing ball outside because inside the house I felt like a baseball without a cork core, hallow and  bounceless.


When I played stickball near my cousin John’s house, his ballpark was on the side of a factory building. If you blasted the ball on the roof of a distant factory, that was a Mickey Mantle home run. As soon as it was hit, the batter automatically yelled, “Going! Going! Gone!”
 


A Mickey Mantle home run was a joy to hit, but a small nightmare to retrieve Now we had to climb on the roof to retrieve our rubber Spalding. A collection of galvanized pipes, running from one building to the other, formed a makeshift “ladder.”

It was like climbing a fire escape with half the steps missing. Fortunately, workers never caught us. They were too busy working, and they always missed our death-defying aerobatics. We used every limb to reclaim our twenty-nine cent investment in fun.

There was that one time we used the back of the house as a backstop and my Aunt Frances warned us, “You’re going to break a window!”

We assured her that the ball never goes near the windows. Of course, we were

absolutely right about that. Wanting to hit a home run with my first at-bat, I slashed at the first pitched ball with all my might, and the wooden-broom-handle bat sailed through the kitchen window.

In disbelief Aunt Frances stuck her head through the shattered window and said, “I thought you couldn’t break a window!”

It was obvious that we had to focus on playing ball at my house for a long while.

Fortunately, I did have special parents.


To play stoopball properly, you needed parents who were enlightened enough to realize that it was “okay” in the long run, if their child periodically broke the amber bug light above the door, bent the scallops on it with erratic foul balls, and riddled the bottom of the door like a car crusher. It was “okay” if John and I wouldn’t allow cars to park near the house or across the street in front of the home run trees, while a game was in progress. It was “okay” to redirect traffic and parking on the block. Playing ball ruled.

We needed access to those trees because that’s where the home run balls were headed. The fielder, standing in the middle of the street, he had one chance to make a miracle catch by swiveling around, racing to the trees, and snatching the ball out of mid-air. These miracles occurred with the frequency of Brooklyn Dodger World Series victories; but when they happened, it felt as if we just had won the Golden Glove Award for fielding.


We knew that we were good at something: catching a little pink missile as it scrambled down through the maple leaves or hitting majestic home runs. And we never had any trouble with self-esteem. We didn’t need brown certificates of merit, blue ribbons of achievement or towering silver plated-trophies. We just needed a special moment in the sun and parents who understood the joys of youth.


That pink ball had magic. We just had to unleash it.



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23. Does Your Dog Go Suffer With Panic Anxiety Because of Loud Noises? Here's the Cure!

Does your dog seem to experience panic anxiety when he or she experiences loud noises such as thunder, lightning, and fireworks? Does your dog or your cat for that matter start to shave and quiver? Hide under furniture or behind furniture? Cower in the bathroom near the toilet.

Symptoms of Stress

If you see any of these signs, your animal is experiencing storm or loud noise phobia. There is a litany of other symptoms that you may see: your dog is pacing; your dog is looking for a place to hide; your dog pees on the floor; your dog is a nervous wreck; your dog looks at you with big brown eye that say “Please do something, just don’t sit there!”

A True Story

And how do you feel about all of this? Do you wish that you had a possible solution up your sleeve? Well, I’ve been there and done it. I’ve felt like racing to the vet through a howling storm, where all the traffic lights in my town and the next were down. I actually did this, and intersections were a gamble on living or not because there were other crazy people on the road, but not all were headed to their vet. Yes, there were a few close calls. And what did the vet do? The vet prescribed some mild medicine for Roscoe. So, that’s one solution: doggy medicine to calm raw nerves.

Other Possible Solutions?

1.     Hug Therapy —Maybe your dog just needs some extra hugs and reassurance. Snuggle up in a blanket and whisper soothing words to your dog. Don’t feed them a stack of treats. This might reinforce the behavior that you want to see fade. Just let your four-legged family member know it loved, and the world isn’t really ending.                               

2.     Thundershirt Therapy--for your dog or cat—According to the manufacturers, this shirt or sweater is 80% effective in reducing the stress of storms, travel, separation, and other anxiety causing events. Check out what PetSmart.com has to offer you and your four-legged buddy. The odds are in your favor.

3.     Be Proactive Therapy —Let rover become used to noise in general, especially if you get your dog as a puppy. Play your CDs periodically in the house over an extended period of time, and from day to day increase the volume, while rewarding him or her with treats. This will develop a liking for music and noise. It won’t become a big deal.
 
4.     If All Else Fails Therapy—race through the storm to see the vet, but be careful on the wet, slipper roads. Or better yet, be prepared with mild, safe medicated treats. If prescribed correctly, they will not turn your dog into a four-legged zombie. Certified veterinarians Know what they are doing.

BONUS: Ah, now you can relax, you have solved your dog’s problem by implementing one of the above four ideas.  So pour yourself a lemonade with lots of ice, and consider writing in your diary or journal how you solved this problem. Enjoy a laugh about the whole situation. If you have any emotional pain left you could even write about traumatized dog to get the pain out.

Does that suggestion sound farfetched? Like I said, I have been there, and here’s a poem that I wrote for Picture Poetry on Parade! Yes, it contains bathroom humor, but it also contains a subtle message: if your dog has this problem, it’s time to do something about it. And please don’t punish your dog for misbehaving. He’s not a “bad dog.”

THUNDER & LIGHTNING

CRASH! CRACK! CRASH!

RIPPLE, RIPPLE, CRASH!

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

  PITTER! PITTER CRASH!                                 

My dog who is afraid of nothing

is afraid of thunder & lightning.                                     

He hates BOOM! BOOM!

CRASH! CRACK! CRASH!

He hides under the table,

 shaking in terrible fear, 

refusing to do his “business” outside

 on the dark, wet lawn.                 

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

Poor Roscoe, hunched under the table… 

BOOM! BOOM! CRASH!

SLASH! SPLASH! PLOP!

 PLOP! Oh, no!

That’s mom’s new rug!  

She’s going to call you “BAD DOG! 

But you just hate thunder & lightning.
“I love you, Roscoe.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       but I don’t like cleaning up.






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24. The Six People Who Shaped My Life

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

My life might have been entirely different had I not befriended seven people along life’s journey. It has been said that to understand the path of our life we have to review it in reverse, starting with the early years.

Beyond parents and siblings, throughout my life I have had six people leave deep footprints on my heart: a landscape architect (Dave), a family practitioner (John/Dr. Jensen), an English teacher (Miss Starr Hacker), a professor (Dr. Ralph H. Hunkins), my wife, (Marilyn), and a poet (Shel Silverstein.) Whom and what we love seems to shape the person we become.

I grew up next door to Dave in Queens, New York, until he turned five. Then his family moved 30 miles away. Our parents were great friends. The friendship survived the move because on Thursdays the men met to play cards in the kitchen and the women met to sew sweaters and chat in the living room. They took turns visiting one another with a small group of lifelong friends.

During the summer Dave and I would always spend a week or two at each other’s home. We shared several important interests: chasing girls for dates, blue ribbons on the track team, and a Regents diploma. In our teens, it was frequently more satisfying to write volumes to one another about girls, sports, school, and our domineering fathers than to do anything else. Our moms faithfully exchanged our letters every Thursday. We called it the “Pocketbook Mail Express.” No stamps needed.

Our dads asked a lot from themselves and those they loved. And our generation was the one where kids were seen but not heard. Sometimes our letters were a forum for complaints against the universe. Sometimes they were simply tales of teen triumphs and defeats.

I admired Dave and his family because they took summer vacation trips together. Dave was a Boy Scout, had cute girlfriends, and attended church with his family. He always wore shiny black shoes, a pressed white shirt, and a tie to church. Dave was the first person who taught me how to make a presentable knot. Now whenever I put on a tie, I think of Dave and how I kept my vow to be like his Dad by vacationing with my kids during their formative years. Thanks to Dave and his vacation stories I became a better father than I might have been.

John, the doctor-to-be, was very analytical and loved baseball. As a youngster, I hated playing “Go Fish!” with him because had a photographic mind.  I was better at playing stoop ball, stickball, or sandlot baseball. Because he lived a bike ride away, we played ball all of the time. We grew up loving baseball and rooting for two different New York teams. We had baseball and family in common—Christmas dinners, birthdays, confirmation, and more.

John taught me to stand up for myself, enjoy family gatherings, and cherish our moments outdoors or indoors together. Some of the best laughs we had were watching the “Jackie Gleason Show” and rolling with laugher on the living room floor. We even earned money together by sharing a big paper route. At the age of 12, we sometimes took the train into the city by ourselves with our earnings and attended a Yankee day game. John encouraged me to go after whatever I wanted, but never to lose my sense of humor in the process.

In my senior year in high school, I realized that I wasn’t going to be a professional baseball player. My English teacher, Miss Starr Hacker, thought that I was a promising writer. She believed in me. For her, I wrote my heart out. My weekly essays always had a large red “A” scribbled on them. I actively participated in her class. My mind was growing with possibilities. I started believing that I could be an English teacher or a writer, thanks to her.

 I longed to make a difference in the lives of others, just like Miss Hacker. I even considered being a sixth grade teacher because mine was so dull that I thought that I could do better!

My first education course was taught by Dr. Ralph H. Hunkins. He was a kind, intelligent, and enthusiastic. We immediately hit it right off in class. I loved studying about teaching, especially theories of education and men like John Dewey. Two pet projects of Dr. Hunkins were defining what education really is and fostering World Peace. In his classroom I was politely outspoken. After doing an Independent Study with him, we became friends, and I wrote him often after I graduated. He once told me that my letters about school were better than John Holt’s writings about education. Sometimes I even had the pleasure of his wife’s delicious cooking and friendly company. Thanks to them, my confidence as a future educator or writer was growing.

Around the time I met Ralph, I also met my bride-to-be, Marilyn Dufford. We fell madly in love. I thought she was perfect, beautiful on the inside and the outside. And she loved kids. She wanted to be an early childhood teacher. We studied a lot in the college dorm. She taught me how to really study, love long walks, chick flicks, and pizza at “Arnies.”

We married two weeks after our June graduation. In September she was teaching kindergarten, and I was teaching sixth grade in the same school district. I felt the happiest I ever felt in my life. I taught elementary school for thirty-three years.  She taught public school for fifteen years, became a religious director, and raised two lovely daughters. She finished her teaching career as a Special Education teacher. The two of us always loved teaching kids, books, stories, and words.

Thanks to Ralph’s inspiring words about writing, I published a number of articles for parents and teachers in national magazines, and I fell in love with the works of Shel Silverstein, especially A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends.

Poets like the late Shel Silverstein made the ordinary different and exciting. I read and enjoyed his poetry so much that I internalized it. I never met the man, but he became my mentor and friend. Whenever there was a break from the regular school schedule, I read his poetry to my delighted students. They loved the joy and craziness in his poems. And sometimes his poetry even gave them thoughts to ponder. They treasured the book of poems they created in June. If as a teacher you can make kids laugh, think and create for themselves, they are more apt to become self-actualized students, encouraging the best from themselves and their teachers.

My students encouraged me to be to write and perform poetry for our class and other classes. Now I am the luckiest man alive helping kids to laugh, think, and write, whenever I am invited into school as a poet. Each school is my stadium. Each stage is my diamond. And Coach Sottile enjoys his players and our moments in the limelight, thanks to Shel and six others.   

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25. SEE IF YOU Like THIS ENCOURAGING POEM

The Fire Insideby Anonymous When all is lost and hope has fled
When fear is strong and strength is dead
When love and joy abandon you
When mental anguish grows in you

When the last of efforts fail to save
When your fate is ill, your mind enslaved
And when your head hangs low in misery
This is when you'll find the key

A single ember from deep within
Burns hotter and hotter, as flames begin
The fire of truth will light the way
And help you fight, this lonely day

The battle is long, the struggle is rough
Never regret not giving enough
For when we offer our very best,
Our very soul is put to the test

Stand tall and true and you'll prevail
Just hold on tight and never bail
You will survive if you don't quit
Victory is there, if you reach for it

One day in the future, you will look to the past,
And know you had what it takes to last
So never give up and good things will come,
Not just honor and pride, but a job well done.

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