Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Make Friends with a Book

Joseph Brodsky—named United States Poet Laureate in 1991—wrote, “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”  Brodsky was speaking from personal experience since he was raised in Russia during the Stalin era and was not allowed the freedom to distribute his writings.
A post on Facebook called “Surprising Book Facts” gives the following statistics:
  • 33% of high school graduates never read another book during their lives.
  • 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
  • 42% of college grads never read another book after college.
  • 80% of US families did not buy or read a book last year.
Do you think that explains why graduation rates and test scores are at an all-time low?

Contrast those stats with another article I saw on the Internet with the headline Sandvoort, Guyana. The closest library to this South American village was a long two mile walk away. Most school age children had never read a book and the teachers used the “chalk and talk” method for their teaching. In a village where most families can barely afford toothpaste, the desire for learning is so great that villagers are using sweat equity to build a local library. Everyone is pitching in by donating their spare time to construct the building, shelve donated books, and cook meals for the workers. The children in that village will now be exposed to a whole new world of opportunities through their reading. 

I know the ways we receive information in the U.S. is changing due to the technology revolution, but we need to encourage our families to read. All authors, including me, want to know that people will read the words that we are inspired to write. An unknown author has said, “A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.”  So pick up a good book and read.
ere’s a suggestion:  Born Three Times-A New Life, A New Liver, A New Love.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Canadian Connection

My sister, Audrey, has served as our family historian and genealogist for many years.  I recently received from her a voluminous stack of documents that record her work researching the origins of our family back to the mid 1600’s and mid 1700’s.  What a fascinating read to discover all those who lived and died on my mother’s and father’s sides of the family. It is a record of hard working, industrious men and women who struggled through life with a lot fewer resources than I have today. Many dealt with the same health issues that I have had and it makes me grateful for the blessings of modern medicine. Neither my sister nor I would be alive today if we had lived in “the good old days.” Many had a strong faith in God that allowed them to survive and thrive in spite of life’s circumstances and I am the inheritor of that legacy.

My family tree on both sides has been traced back to Canada. I was raised in a small town close to the Canadian border in upstate New York. When my ancestors moved there, New York was not yet a state and the lands were populated by the Mohawk Indians. France and the Catholic Church controlled the Canadian provinces. The need for arable farm land and timber drove my ancestors from French controlled lands into what would become The North Country of upstate New York. The bitter cold winters and short growing season presented many challenges to be overcome in order to survive in that area.

I moved from that area further south in New York State when I was six years old to the Rochester, New York area near Lake Ontario across from Toronto, Canada. This past year, my oldest son, Stuart, accepted a position with the Bank of Montreal, with headquarters in Toronto. I visited his family before Christmas and was reminded again of my Canadian roots. Yes, the Polar Vortex is alive and well in Canada, but Toronto stays somewhat warmer than much of the country because it is on Lake Ontario. Nevertheless, it was very cold, windy, and snowy, and a true test of character every time we walked to the subway station or to a store. My granddaughter, Marcella, helped me navigate the icy streets. I borrowed a coat from my daughter-in-law so I wouldn’t turn into a Popsicle and promptly ordered a “puffer” coat to have for future visits. I hope to visit next time in July so that I can enjoy the brief, but beautiful Canadian summer.

We’ve all heard the saying “What goes around, comes around.” I can truly say that my life that began with strong Canadian roots has come full circle. 
Read more about my growing up years near the Canadian border in my memoir, Born Three Times-A New Life, A New Liver, A New Love. It is available in soft cover and Kindle formats at Amazon.com:   http://www.amazon.com/Born-Three-Times-Life-Liver-ebook/dp/B00A3UBK9C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389722852&sr=1-1&keywords=Born+Three+Times