Thursday, December 4, 2008

NBC Special about the 2008 Paralympic Games to air Dec 6, 2008

photo by Frank Polich

The world was glued to their TVs this summer for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but hardly any air time was given to the
2008 Paralympic Games. Tune in this Saturday December 6th at 4:30pm EDT for the re-airing of an NBC special about the amazing Paralympic athletes as they prepare for and compete in the 2008 Paralympic Games -- get "WOWd", inspired... and show your support!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Chuck Close, his art and Big Bird

For the longest time I had a Can Do! People page featuring artist Chuck Close on the Can Do! Web site.... but discovered the other day it was missing. I have no idea if I took it down for some reason, or if it was inadvertently removed, but I added it back the other day when I was poking around and found this great Sesame Street video clip of Chuck Close with Big Bird.

One reason I really like this clip (besides the kids voices - adorable!) is because it shows Close's art from two different perspectives - up close, and then from a distance. It's a great metaphor about how things aren't always what they seem - sometimes we need to stand back and look situations in a different way. It's also a great metaphor for how people are more than the individual details of their life... rather, people are the whole of those parts. And even greater than that!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Best Friend on Wheels by Debra Shirley

Around the end of July I received an email from Debra Shirley, author and former Administrative Director of Physically Handicapped Actors and Musical Artists League (PHAMALy). Debra asked that I consider including her new book, Best Friend on Wheels (Albert Whitman & Company, 2008), on the Can Do! list of Disability-related books for kids. I read the information Debra sent about her book, as well as looked up info about it on the web. It looked like a great book, yet I couldn't add it to the Can Do! site as a recommended book until I read it. Well, I'm happy to report that this week I finally put my hands on a copy of Best Friends on Wheels, and it is a book I highly recommend. It's a wonderful picture book - fun, lively illustrations, and a very positive story about how one girl overcame her apprehension about meeting the new girl at school... someone who happened to need the use of a wheelchair. The story acknowledges the somewhat awkwardness (i.e what to say, what not to say, etc) some people have when they meet someone with a physical disability:

"When I saw she was using a wheelchair, I froze,
I fidgeted, twisted, and stared at my toes.
I was so nervous , I stammered, and stuttered.

I might say the wrong thing, I thought, so I muttered."

However, the book hits home with the realization that there is a lot more to a person than his or her disability or challenges, and that if you get to know the person, you'll most likely find you have a lot in common. The girls in the story become fast friends as they get to know each other, and in the end, though the disability isn't ignored, it doesn't define who Sarah is, nor does it define their friendship:

"I still think her wheelchair's a pretty neat tool,

but now I see Sarah first - and she's cool!"

Not only do I think this would be a great book to help kids understand how to approach and interact with others who have a physical disability, but it's a great book to use with kids to learn how to make connections and get to know any potential friend - to get to know their likes and dislikes, and who they are on the inside, rather than focusing about what they see on the outside. The girls in this story demonstrate how kids can make a new friend - regardless of whether the friend has a disability or not. I'll definitely be adding Best Friend on Wheels to the Can Do! list of recommended books, and will also be adding it to our guidance library at school!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Got a story? Write it, publish it!

My dear friend, Peter H. Reynolds, has a great blog called The Stellar Cafe. He recently wrote a very inspiring article, Stories Wanted, on his blog encouraging, almost daring, people to take the plunge and write that story they've always been meaning to write, or wanted to write but weren't sure if they could, or weren't sure if anyone would be interested (I'm sure the excuses could be lengthy). I posted a comment in response to Peter's "Stories Wanted" article, and after I was done decided my response would be a fitting blog article for CanDoozle, so here it is:

They say that invention is born from necessity, and I think children's books are born that way sometimes as well! About 5 or 6 years ago I was working with three first grade girls who were deeply entwined a friendship triangle - two girls unable to share the third. I searched and couldn't find a children's book on the topic, so I fired up my trusty Wacom tablet and Flash program, and created (wrote and illustrated) my own story!
I made a print copy with my printer, but also created an online version that my students could read at home with their parents. However, as it turns out, many educators found the online version of my story over the past five years, and many emailed me to ask if there was a print version of the book available for purchase. I started sending my manuscript around to "traditional" publishers for a couple of years, without any luck, while still receiving emails from very eager and interested educators. At some point not long ago, Peter mentioned to me, so I investigated, and publishing my story, Sharing Friends, via was my summer project this year... in other words, it's "What I did this summer." I have to say, it's was a mighty exiting moment to hold the first copy of my book in my hands! So, yes, not only should you take the plunge and write that story, but there are many ways to "publish" these days - from online versions that you can post on a Web site yourself, to self publishing via a "Print On Demand" (POD) company like, for one.

My advice? Go for it!

p.s. My story, Sharing Friends, is at, if anyone wants to take a peek. And/or you can check out the original online version at (I did revise/polish the story a bit before publishing the printed version - fine tuned, tweaked, etc... but it's very much the same story).

Friday, October 10, 2008


Last week I hurt my back... pulled it... officially "sprained" my lower back. Ouch. It's progressively, slowly, improving, but still quite painful. And having to carry an oxygen tank with me everywhere I go doesn't help. However, I was determined to vote this week. I was actually going to vote last week, but my back hurt so badly then that I had to postpone. I should add that I always vote early - absentee ballot - or at least I have every year after the 1992 election when I stood in line for hours to vote on election day.

At any rate, not letting anything, not even my back, or a heavy oxygen tank, stop me from voting today - I called the oxygen supply company yesterday to ask if they could bring me a little cart that I could use to wheel my oxygen tank around in... which they dropped off this morning. So, this afternoon, off I went to City Hall - oxygen in tow! My Mother picked me up and we made it a "Mother/Daughter" event... proudly wearing our respective "I voted today!" stickers after we did our civic duty. We stopped at a local cafe for coffee and cookies afterward to celebrate.

It feels VERY good to vote. Regardless of the outcome, I always feel excited to know I did my part - shared my opinion. But, I want to do a little more by encouraging others to vote - no matter what your challenges or obstacles. Most towns have volunteer groups willing to give rides to individuals who can't drive themselves to the polls, and you can always request an absentee ballot ahead of time - so you can vote early and avoid the crowds. If you're 18 or older, and a citizen of the United States, then be sure to register, and be sure to vote! It's one very important, powerful thing to you CAN do... and it's something that makes an enormous difference. Your voice, your vote, counts!

It's never too late

Yikes! It's been over a month since my last post! That's not good! But before I move forward, I want to go back to the 2008 summer Olympics. I already mentioned Michael Phelps and all his accomplishments, despite having ADHD. However, I want to be sure to talk about one other Can Do! Olympic althlete (though let's face it, all Olympic athlete's are Can Do! by nature!) - and it happens to be another swimmer: Dara Torres.

Dara Torres is the first woman in history past the age of 40 to swim in the Olympics. Not only did she swim in the 2008 Olympics, but she won three silver medals! It's great proof that "it's never too late" - a great "can-do" motto!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Spreading "hope" with Wings of Epoh

This week I had the pleasure of reading a new book, Wings of Epoh, written by Holocaust survivor, Gerda Weissmann Klein, and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. I also reviewed the film version of Wings of Epoh, a creative adaption by Peter H. Reynolds and his twin brother, Paul A. Reynolds. Wings of Epoh is about a boy named Matthew who has autism and his friendship with a butterfly named Epoh ("hope" spelled backward). In the story, Matthew relates to Epoh, feeling a special connection as the butterfly tells his story - especially when Epoh explains feeling isolated and alone when encased in a cocoon. Peter H. Reynolds' gentle but colorful illustrations wonderfully complement the story. Wings of Epoh eloquently teaches acceptance, tolerance and empathy, and would be especially helpful for educators, care givers, family members, or anyone who works or interacts with an individual with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, or any child with special needs.

To learn more about Wings of Epoh, click here.