Education Reviews Writing

Blizzard! The Storm That Changed America


Having grown up in Upstate NY and now living in Western NY, snow is no big deal. Winters here sometimes last six months. Unless you are a skier, you get sick of snow soon after Christmas, but you learn to cope with it.P1040252

Only a handful of times can I remember experiencing a true blizzard, the kind that closes shopping malls, grocery stores, work, and schools. In this riveting book, Blizzard! Jim Murphy tells of the infamous blizzard of 1888, where not only towns came to a standstill, but also more than six hundred people died. Some people died in their own backyards. This storm was a monster, and he describes it with vivid details and historic accuracy. To give you and idea of how bad the storm was, check out this part where a boy sets off for school anticipating the storm to be a daring adventure.

At first, Sam liked the experience of being outside in a wild storm, fighting his way through belt-high snow and fending off the wind. His aunt and uncle had instilled in him a strong sense of self-reliance and duty. He had been told to go to the store and then to school, so he was going to do both, no matter what the consequences. Several blocks later, Sam came face-to-face with the violence of the blizzard. As he was crossing an intersection, the wind was on him like a wild animal. It picked him up and tossed him into a deep snowdrift. Sam struggled and clawed to get free of the snow, but he was in over his head. The more he moved, the more snow fell on top of him. He shrieked for help, but no one heard him above the wind’s mighty roar. His boyish romp had turned into a frightening trap in just seconds. 

P1110928This was one of the most incredible disasters in our nations history. I read with fascination and literally gripped the book as if the storm was in my living room. Thankfully with our modern day snow cleanup crews and weather satellites, we can prepare for snowstorms and stay safe. If you can’t get enough of the snow this is  a good book to read while safely tucked inside your warm houses with a toasty fire and a cup of hot tea.


Art Reviews

What Seth Godin Says About Art: You’ll Be Surprised


You remember the story of Icarus, the kid who didn’t listen to his dad and flew to close to the sun?  His waxy wings melted and he plummeted to his death in the sea. Seth Godin uses this greek myth to teach not about marketing, but art.  What does Icarus have to do with art and why does marketing guru Seth Godin write a book on making it?

Icarus Deception imageHe uses Icarus to point out we only know half of this well known story. Icarus’s dad didn’t just tell him to not fly too close to the sun, but also warned him not to fly too low or the sea would wreck the lift of his wings.  Flying is a delicate art, not too high, not too low, or disaster.

Seth says, “It’s far more dangerous to fly too low than too high, because it feels safe to fly low.  We settle for low expectations and small dreams and guarantee ourselves less than we are capable of.  We’re so obsessed about the risk of shining brightly that we’ve traded in everything that matters to avoid it.”

Your work is your art.  Art is about making a connection.  It isn’t limited to paper and palettes of color, it is your contribution to the world.  It is aspiring to do great work for the purpose of making real connections with others.  Do you influence? Are people changed for the better because of you?

P1100016Making art is not easy, it forces us to stretch our wings farther than we’re comfortable with.  Fear of being wrong or rejected keeps us safe, but also keeps us unsatisfied because we haven’t bloomed our potential.

Seth says art might scare you, might bust you, and it isn’t always pretty.  But it is who we are and what we do, and what we need. If you are brave, use insight, creativity, and boldness to challenge the status quo, then you are an artist.


Read my review in it’s entirety at Homeschoolbuzz.

Heath and Medicine Reviews

Med Head: My Drugged-Up Battle with My Brain by James Patterson

med head

I read this book in one sitting.  It was that good.

Together, James Patterson and Hal Friedman wrote this book from Hal’s son Cory’s perspective:  a boy tormented by uncontrolled Tourette’s, OCD, and anxiety.  Diagnosed at age 5, Cory was compelled to move his body in awkward and painful ways. He would repeat phrases till it exhausted the listener. He visited multiple doctors, took numerous meds, only to experience side effects with little to no help for his tics and obsessions.

Cory tried to fit in. If the kids at school were laughing at him he would cope by being the class clown. His parents were sure they would find a cure, and as the years passed Cory stayed determined to rise above his illness. Even through suffering with unwanted drug side effects and the darkness of depression, he did not give up.

real and trueI think I loved the story so much because it was gritty and honest. Cory’s story would encourage others who are faced with similar difficulties to never give up, no matter how bleak, or how awful a person’s challenge might be, there is always another day, another chance, and if you reach deep inside there can be found a strength we never would have found  had we not been brought so close to the edge.

This is an amazing, humbling read. Cory’s journey is tough, and if his mental illness wasn’t enough to battle he had nicotine and alcohol addictions too. No, this is not a feel good tickle your toes kind of read, but it is not a disastrous downer either.  Everyone can take at least one thing away from Med Head – if you have hope you can get through anything.


Reviews Writing

Book Review: Gruesome But True Brain Science

Phineas Gage

Phineas Gage, a 19th century railroad construction foreman, survived an accident that blew a thirteen pound 3 foot by 7 inch iron rod through his cheek and out the top of his skull. He should have been dead, but he got up walked and talked.

Jack freaking outMeanwhile, everyone else freaked.

His recovery was not unremarkable. Infection, delirium, pain. He may have survived a catastrophic injury but poor Phineas would never be the same.

From the book:

Phineas has a huge scar on his forehead and a small scar under his cheekbone, but otherwise he is physically healed. Yet Dr. Harlow has private doubts about Phineas’s mental state. Phineas is just not his old self. The new Phineas is unreliable, and, at times, downright nasty. He insults old workmates and friends. He spouts vulgar language in the presence of women. He changes his mind and his orders from minute to minute. The railroad contractors let him go.

This book is so fascinating I read it in one sitting. It being only eighty pages with numerous illustrations and photographs had nothing to do with it. And, it wasn’t all that gruesome. Rather, only a few stomach turning sections and the rest – fascinating.

Phineas Gage

Education Reviews

Are you Dominant, Influencing, Steady or Conscientious?


Learn or you’ll be made to learn.  That’s old school.  New school: unlock your potential.  Determine your strengths, discover your learning style, and unleash your talents.


PeopleKeys, a company specializing in behavior analysis, offers instant access to a variety of behavioral profile assessments.  I had my twelve-year-old son take their online Student Strength’s Report. In less than thirty minutes he had fill out the eDISC assessment, and I had a thirty-four paged report that interpreted his answers. It detailed not only his primary learning style, but also offered tips on how to maximize his learning by focusing on his strengths.

The report assessed these areas:

  • Personality style: Are you Dominant, Influencing, Steady or Conscientious
  • Cognitive thinking: Which one are you? Literal, Intuitive, Theoretical, or Experiential
  • Perceptual learning:  How do you learn best? Auditory, Visual or Kinesthetic

Check out PeopleKeys for potential business hires, to assess your student, or to learn about yourself.

Maximize Strengths; Minimize Weaknesses..It’s that simple. If you know where your thinking excels, you can capitalize on those aspects, use your mind to do what it enjoys doing most. Know Yourself.

To know yourself sometimes requires that you stand outside of yourself and observe, objectively in a critical way. Your report has indicated that you prefer one thinking style. It is up to you to decide if it is “like” you or it is “not like you”. From our PeopleKeys Student Strengths Report


Read the rest of my post here at

Enjoy a very quick personality quiz on Blogthings.

Which one are you?
Which one are you?

Education Reviews

What Did Ever Happen to Penny Candy?

not penny candy

If you are a baby boomer like me, do you remember walking to the corner store by yourself  and getting a ton of candy for just fifty cents? Bottle-caps, candy buttons, bubble gum cigars, sugar daddy’s, and waxy big lips. Fun.  Whatever Happened to Penny Candy?  I have no idea.



But Uncle Eric (Richard Mayberry) does, and he tells us in his classic book on economics .

Don’t worry about financial babble, the author uses straightforward talk and clear metaphors to explain things like:

  • The origin of money
  • Inflation
  • Recession
  • Depression
  • Wage/price spiral

This is a great, short (159 pages) read for kids, moms, dads, teachers, entrepreneurs, business-minded students, grandma, and grandpa. Yes, this is one of those rare books that both young and old will learn from.

So before you jump into your next lucrative business adventure, read a little of Uncle Eric’s advice first.



The Monstrumologist: A Gorious Read

I trembled, and my heart failed within me..I saw by the light of the moon the daemon at the casement.  Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
I trembled, and my heart failed within me..I saw by the light of the moon the daemon at the casement. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
If given a choice of a romantic, adventure, historic, or horror reading genre I will always choose horror, with hopes that a dash of the others are mixed in.  Bring on the rancid smells and spilling guts – as long as it’s the villainous creature’s and not the hero’s.
A favorite horror book of mine is The Monstrumologist (Book one) by Rick Yancey. In it we meet young Will Henry who has a curious job – apprentice to the Monstrumologist.  AKA Pellinore Warthrop, this19th century scientist studies and hunts monsters and has 100% job satisfaction.
Anthropophagi are carnivorous breeding creatures recently discovered in Will’s hometown. Food of choice for these creepy thugs: humans. The Monstumologist’s challenge is to hunt these animals and protect the community from their brutal killing rampages.
Read a couple of horror novels, see a few monster movies, and it’s instinct to look over your shoulder as you run up the basement stairs. 12-year-old Will practices this same ritual. Only he has a real cause for his fear. In his basement hangs a once living, now dead Anthropophagus.

The weathered boards creaked and groaned beneath my trembling tread; the hairs on the back of my neck stood up; and my calves felt numb and tingly as imagination overcame cool intellect. With each step my heart beat faster, for in my mind’s eye I saw it beneath the stairs, crouching on all fours upon the sweating stone floor, a headless beast with blank black eyes set deep in its shoulders and a mouth overflowing with row upon row of glistening teeth, the lion in the savanna brush, the shark in the reef shadows, and I the grazing gazelle, the juvenile seal frolicking in the surf. It would rise as I descended. It would reach through the open slats and seize my ankle with its three-inch barbs. Once in its relenting grip I was doomed, doomed….

This Printz Honor Book explodes with good writing, a tight plot, and has gore galore. No, no, you squeamish people won’t enjoy it so read no further. Many humans are attacked and Yancey holds nothing back: disembowelment, brain and flesh eating, limb ripping, maggots. Oh and my favorite: (it’s the nurse in me) worm infestation complete with pus-filled carbuncles.

explosive fun

You’ve been warned…this is scary Walking Dead like gothic gore with disturbing carnage. And I wouldn’t advice reading it late at night or alone in the dark, lest you see things in the darkness that aren’t really there.

Please, do share your favorite horror books in the comments.

Vincent Price


Creepy Crawly Brain Reorganization

brain synapses

The brain is vast and complex. Neurons, synapses, fifty thousand miles of wiring, and billions of nerve cells. You would expect an organ so complicated would require hyper-vigilant attention to keep it from malfunctioning. On the contrary, the brain works fine with the basics: good food, sleep, and exercise. But what if something is amiss with the brain?  What do you do if you are a parent and have a child with ADD, ADHD, or a developmental delay?  How do you sort through all the treatment options, advice, and modes of therapy?  Though none of my sons have any significant developmental delay, I recently reviewed a  DVD on childhood brain development by the Family Life Center located in Pennsylvania.

Guest Speaker

The presentation was a videotaped lecture by Matthew Newell, director of the center.  Mr. Newell zipped through child brain development from infancy on and then discussed his belief in the ability of the brain to be repaired through his

physiology vs pathology

Integrative/Chiropractic/Cranial Sacral/Fascia/Digestive Treatment approach. He uses Crawl therapy (no matter what the child’s age) which may require hours of crawling

crawling babya day for “neurological reorganization”.

Besides the crawling, and creeping around the house he has many more treatments which he testifies will help disorganized brains to reorganize, thus improving the developmental delays and child’s progress.

Heavy metal detox, smell therapy, eliminating electromagnetic field exposure, and eating only food that is natural and organic.  Read my review in its entirety, and tell me what you think.  Is this truth with scientific research to validate Mr. Newell’s practices, or is having kids who already know how to ambulate crawl for hours a day to fix their brains seem….



Education Reviews

No Technology and Baths Once a Week?

farmer boy

I grew up watching the Little House on the Prairie television series.  From its debut in 1974 to conclusion in 1983, I was captivated by the drama, shed tears at the believable hardship, and snarled whenever Nellie Olesen showed up. I had little knowledge of the real Laura Ingalls and even less of her husband Almanzo Wilder. I had never read Farmer Boy, Laura Ingalls-Wilder’s second book based on a year of her husband’s childhood.  I invited my twelve-year-old son to join me as we dimmed the lights, grabbed some candy, and watched this fascinating documentary on the man behind the book: Almanzo Wilder: Life Before Laura. 

almanzo wilderHearing the selected readings from Farmer Boy and seeing the book’s illustrations pop out and pan the screen made me want to run out and get the book and coax my teenagers to snuggle with me on the couch while I read aloud this classic story of the historic pioneer life of homesteading, milking cows, churning butter, and homemade apple pie.

butter churning

I can’t imagine anyone not liking this documentary. Watch it, read the book, make a pie, churn some butter, ride a horse, and, if you happen to live near Northern NY, schedule a visit to Almanzo’s homestead in Malone – a perfect ending to a wonderful family adventure.

Click here to read the post in its entirety.

Education Reviews Writing

The Power in Your Hands: A TOS Crew Review

Read my review….