A Memory of a Mother’s Love

Why we should revisit children's books as adults“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.” ―C.S. Lewis

Every night growing up, my brothers and I would curl up next to my mother as she read us a bedtime story with a gentleness and nurturing spirit that only a mother can provide.

She introduced us to the kind and imaginative Boxcar Children, took us through the mischief and mishaps of Curious George, The Berenstain Bears, and Corduroy, kept us questioning with Goosebumps, and entertained us with the rhyming cadences of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do you See?, Jamberry, and all of Dr. Seuss’ classics (Go, Dog. Go! being a particular favorite), in addition to other beloved stories, such as Make Way for Ducklings, Goodnight Moon, and the many enchanting tales of Walt Disney. Read more

“Circus XTREME”: The Last Greatest Show of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

Barnum & Bailey circus“You must have always a great and progressive show and also one which is clean, pure, moral and instructive. Never cater to the baser instincts of humanity…and always remember that the children have ever been our best patrons…” –P.T. Barnum’s last letter before he died (1891), written to his “well-loved” James Bailey

“Circus XTREME”, which is making its very last appearance in Providence, Rhode Island this weekend, is Xtremely entertaining and there is no doubt that P.T. Barnum would have been proud of this very “Xpert” creation for having lived up to his life motto “Excelsior”, a Latin word meaning “ever upward” and “still higher.” Read more

Treasured Poems from a Treasured Volume

famous poemsIn the introduction to a treasured book of the past, A Treasury of the World’s Best Loved Poems (1961), readers are asked to ponder the question: “What is poetry?”

The introduction’s writer recalls the many and varied attempts at definition throughout the ages, citing poetry as:

  • “the music of the soul” (Voltaire)
  • “the art of uniting pleasure with truth” (Samuel Johnson)
  • “the universal language which the heart holds with nature and itself” (William Hazlitt)
  • that which “makes me feel as if the top of my head were taken off” (Emily Dickinson)
  • “not the assertion of truth, but the making of that truth more fully real to us” (T.S. Eliot)
  • Or as Albert Einstein said of truth, perhaps great poetry is “that which stands the test of experience.”

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Growing in Gritty-ness

Einstein quotes about intelligence“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” –Albert Einstein, physicist, 1879-1955

The question of individual success has long fascinated philosophers and life thinkers. From Confucius, the 6th century BC Chinese philosopher, who once wrote, “The nature of man is always the same; it is their habits that separate them”, to the 4th century BC ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle – “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit” – one can find various musings throughout the centuries on humanity’s capacity to accomplish great and marvelous things.

Yet, even with centuries of life wisdom at our disposal, and a repertoire of more recent research that shed light on human behavior, it seems that man’s quest to understand the underlying factors of man’s success may never cease, as evidenced by Angela Duckworth’s 2016 book, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Read more

“Hillbilly Elegy”: A Timely and Important Memoir

Hillbilly elegy
West Virginia hillside, 2017

I was born in West Virginia and so, by birth, I am an official hillbilly. Though I have lived in New England for almost 35 years, I cannot deny the strong soulful connection to the “wild and wonderful” land of West Virginia where much of my simple childhood was spent. In my college years, I once went spelunking in the mountains of West Virginia and after a day exploring deep in a cave of stalactites and stalagmites and winding knee-high rivers, we climbed to the top of an Appalachian hill in the dark and slept. When I awoke in the fresh mountain air, my eyes opened to a pastoral delight of beautiful rolling cow dotted hills. The hills and hollows of West Virginia truly are in my blood.

And so, last August when I spotted, prominently displayed in a bookshop in New York City, Hillbilly Elegy, my heart skipped a beat (how often does one come across the word “hillbilly”?). I knew I had to read it for the mere prospect of taking me back, with a strong sense of place, to the Appalachian hills where I came from.

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“Originals”: A Surprising Truth about Entrepreneurs

Originals book review“Originality is not a fixed trait. It is a free choice.”
–Adam Grant

When people think of entrepreneurs, they tend to see them as the ultimate risk-takers: people who unabashedly take a chance on something they believe in. People who enjoy going out on a limb, taking leaps into the unknown and thrive on uncertainty.

But, it isn’t necessarily so. In fact, entrepreneurs are more risk-averse – and much more calculated – than you think. The proof is in Adam Grant’s latest book, Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.

Utilizing data and studies from across industries, Grant shows how entrepreneurs are fueled less by risk and more by the opportunity to try something new, pursue a passion and see things in a new light. Read more

A Post-Lenten Reflection on the Practice of Self-Denial

“Mental toughness is many things and rather difficult to explain. Its qualities are sacrifice and self-denial. Also, most importantly, it is combined with a perfectly disciplined will that refuses to give in. It’s a state of mind – you could call it ‘character in action.’” –Vince Lombardi (football player and coach, 1913-1970)

quotes about self-denialIt has been a little over a week since I ended my 40-day chocolate and “things I like most” fast in observance of the Lenten Season – the first time I have willfully committed to “giving up” something since I entered full fledged adulthood nearly five years ago.

A tradition that I gladly embraced at the start of Ash Wednesday during my childhood years, it became significantly less appealing as the demands of adult life made the idea of giving something up seem nearly unbearable.

In fact, it was only during these last 40 days that I came to a greater realization of just how challenging the practice of self-denial is – and how much truth exists in the age-old saying that life’s most valuable lessons are best learned through times of difficulty, struggle and discomfort. Read more

There’s a Saying in Gaelic, “Céad Míle Fáilte”…

“Walls for the wind, 
And a roof for the rain,
And drinks beside the fire –
Laughter to cheer you
And those you love near you,
And all that your heart may desire!”
– Irish Blessing
McGann's Doolin
Inside McGann’s, Doolin’s local pub

In many ways, it was like a scene right out of a movie. We had entered into a small local pub, tired and hungry from a long day of traveling in the cold, rainy winds of an Irish November. We had stumbled blindly through the dark, a five-minute walk from our hotel along a narrow, winding road set amidst rolling hills.

There were just two other people in the pub, visitors, like us, evidenced by the large, worn backpacks towering next to their table. The bartender greeted us warmly and we asked if he had a menu for food.

“We do, but the kitchen is about to close,” he said. “We only have homemade beef stew and seafood chowder.” We ordered one of each, two pints of Guinness and sat down at a tableside fire for what was to be one of the most memorable stops on our two-week long journey. Read more

In Other Words: Life Lessons from Peyton Manning’s Retirement Speech

Peyton Manning retirement speechThere are many reasons to applaud football icon Peyton Manning for the speech he delivered earlier this week announcing his retirement from the NFL.

Delivered with grace and humility, it stands in stark contrast to the dastardly dialogue and vindictive language that we continue to hear during what is bound to be one of the most significant presidential elections in American history.

For football fanatics, his speech was a testimony to the greatness of the game and the ability of any player to rise, against any and all odds, on any given Sunday. For Peyton Manning’s fans, it was bound to confirm their fervent admiration and respect for an athlete who has role modeled hard work, dedication and integrity throughout his 18-year career. Read more