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.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Banking on your abilities...

How is it that I didn't know about community Time Banks until today? Using your own skills and abilities to help others, and then, in turn, you get to benefit from the skills and abilities of someone else. All hours of work are valued equally. Wow! Wonderful concept... great way to build community, and an innovative way to contribute, while getting a job done. What's great is that just about everyone can participate because everyone can do something... even if it's simply to keep someone else company for a while. Click here to learn more, and to see if there's a Time Bank program in your area (check out the short video on that site about Time Banking... the video was created entirely with Time Bank hours!).

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Michael Phelps: Finding focus

When I heard that gold medal Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps (the most decorated Olympic athlete in history), has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), I admit I felt a pang of excitement. I was excited that he's not only another amazing role model for people of all ages with ADHD, but he's yet another person who has proven, to anyone who has ever told a child with ADHD "you can't," "you won't," "you'll never," or "you shouldn't," that anything is possible. Phelps can be added to a long list of "famous" individuals, from presidents to scientists to artists to actors to writers to athletes, who have found a focus and reached great success in life, despite having ADHD or ADD.

Yesterday I came across the two articles below - good reads for parents (and educators) who have a child with ADHD.
Click on the titles to be linked to the articles.

Michael Phelps' Mom Gives Parenting Advice - Here's a great article from ADDitude Magazine about the moms of Michael Phelps, Ty Pennington (from ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), and Danielle Fisher, the youngest person to ever climb Mt. Everest, as well as all of the "Seven Summits." The article explains how these moms parented their children with ADHD, and how their support made a positive impact.

ADHD and After-School Activities: Finding the Right Fit - from WebMD

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Juggling something new...

Last Saturday my Mother and I went to the Farmer's Market down in Deering Oaks Park. It was a lovely morning and always great to not only have a reason to stroll through the park, but to buy the freshest produce around. And then there are the people - running into people I know, meeting new people... and simply the fun camaraderie among all the shoppers, whether they know each other or not. But, I had no idea that we'd run into some wonderful performers at the Farmer's Market! A Mime juggling fire... lit torches... while another performer played the accordion! Later the Mime walked, and even rode a unicycle, on a slack rope strung between two large trees. And the show ended with a woman doing aerobatics on a rope hanging down from a tree. Kids, please don't try this at home - at least not juggling with fire, or doing tricks on ropes.... but, by all means, DO try something new! Even juggling (just not with fire!)! Question: What was the last "new" thing you tried to do? I think for me it was... to create a blog! : )

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Can Do! Ability Survey

The new school year is about to start! Consider kicking it off by having your students complete a Can Do! Ability Survey. It's a great way for kids to start recognizing all the things they CAN do, as well as how they use their many abilities. Students can store their completed survey in their individual student portfolios, and then complete another copy of the survey again at the end of the school year. Students, parents, and teachers will have fun comparing the "before" and "after" surveys - seeing how students and their responses have changed and grown over the course of the school year, as they've learned new things, gained new perspectives.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Camp No Limits

This morning I saw a great story about Camp No Limits in Rome, Maine. Founded by the No Limits Limb Loss Foundation, Camp No Limits is a camp for kids who have lost limbs (i.e. have had amputations)... a camp where they can discover they're not alone, learn new ways of overcoming challenges, gain confidence, and have fun! In addition to Maine, Camp No Limits also has locations in Idaho, California and Florida. Click here to watch the local news story about it. Check out the "Camp No Limits" Web site to learn more.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Climbing To Great Heights

I was digging through a box of old photos my Mother recently gave me, and found this one of me up in a tree with my siblings... probably around 1973. I'm the one in yellow to the right. The tree was in our back yard, and one we loved to climb. There was something very satisfying and rewarding about climbing a tree. It didn't matter if I managed to get up there on my own, or if someone had to give me a boost - as long as I could get up to sit on even the lowest branch, I felt a great sense of accomplishment... it made me feel as if I could do anything. What a wonderful place to be!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Big Dreams

The 2008 Olympic games begin tonight in Beijing, China (I'm actually watching the opening ceremonies as I type). I was just remembering how, every time I ask children what their "Big Dream" is during an Olympic year, there are inevitably a handful who respond that their dream is to be "An Olympic swimmer" or "An Olympic gymnast" or "An Olympic basketball player." The Olympics seem to help many children see the possibilities, and believe in them... at least for those interested in athletics. This always makes me smile. What I enjoy is that few ever say their "Big Dream" is to be a "gold medal" Olympian, or any medal winner, but simply to be an Olympian. To me this speaks to the appreciation of abilities, and the effort... the journey... rather than the destination.

Whether dreaming about using abilities to participate in an Olympic sanctioned sport, to create a new computer game, to create a best selling book, to create a cure for cancer... or to simply ride a bike to a friend's house... I hope all children learn to develop an appreciation of their abilities, whatever they
can do, no matter how big or small, no matter where those abilities take them.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Straws & Connectors

With kinesthetic learners in mind, one purchase that was a big hit this year with the kids I work with was a box of Straws & Connectors. This set consists of plastic straws and little plastic connectors that look like jacks. Whether working individually, in pairs or small groups, kids can build all sorts of things with these straws - from simple to very complex. All the kids who used them were very energized and excited by them.

There's something about building things that most kids seem to really love... and I've seen these simple building materials help many kids, even kids with low self-esteem, develop an amazing sense of pride and accomplishment after completing their creations. Anne LaBossiere, the other school counselor I work with, is actually the one who suggested we add a set of "Straws & Connectors" to our shelves last year - so I have to give her credit. Thanks, Anne!

The Dot... dotted...

I meant to mention in my last post that Peter H. Reynolds' book The Dot is also available in braille through BrailleInk. What's great about BrailleInk.'s books is they include the original printed text and illustrations, along with the braille text. This allows for the book to be simultaneously enjoyed by both sighted readers, and braille readers.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

I added an ongoing book list to the right side of this blog... books that embrace, embody, encourage, inspire a can-do attitude and spirit. Actually, I'll probably have two lists - children's books, and books for adults - though most of the children's books will be for adults too.

The first on the list are the children's books The Dot and Ish, written and illustrated by my very good friend, Peter H. Reynolds. Peter and I have collaborated on many projects, and he even created the art for the Can Do! Web site. His books, The Dot and Ish, are about overcoming the "can'ts" - "I can't draw" or "I can't draw well." While both stories focus on creativity and art, they are inspiration for overcoming any type of "can't." They're stories about daring to do it anyway - doing it because you want to, no matter what anyone else thinks, no matter how well (or not well) you can do it, but because it's something you enjoy, and want to do, and can do.

By the way, if you want to add The Dot or Ish (or any of Peter H. Reynolds' books) to your own collection, I'd recommend ordering them from Peter's family's book store, The Blue Bunny. If you order any of Peter's books from The Blue Bunny, they'll arrive signed by Peter! Pretty cool, eh?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Planting the Seeds of Peace

Today the second session of the Seeds of Peace camp in Otisfield, Maine began with a flag raising ceremony. This is Seeds of Peace's 16th year - and its mission and accomplishments are an amazing testament to the belief that peace in our world IS very possible. The camp hosts teenagers from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, and America... helping them develop empathy, respect and confidence, along with leadership, communication and negotiation skills. Over 150 campers will be attending this second session, as they spend the next three weeks playing, talking, learning and trying to better understand each other - with the hope of walking away as friends, and as the next generation of peacemakers.

You Can Do It!

The other day, when I was trying to come up with a name for this blog, I Googled "You Can Do It." I half expected to get a bunch of hits for Rosie the Riveter/"We Can Do It!" images, but instead was led to the book "You Can Do It: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-up Girls" by Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas. I've never read this book... I've never even held it in my hands... but I love the book's concept, and I love the cover - the design, the title, and the sub-sub-title: "Dare to Dream, Learn Something New, Do Something Just for You!"

Sadly, Lauren was killed on United Flight 93, on 9/11. Her book was published posthumously. In life, she clearly had a can-do spirit, and wanted to inspire that spirit in others. It's wonderful that she's still able to do so, even in death.

I'm going to try and find this book in my local library - I'm eager to give it a look (it's bringing back memories of my Brownie/Girl Scout days, too!). If I find it, I'll be sure to let you know...

UPDATE (8/15/08): I just picked up a copy of "You Can Do It!" from my local library, and I'm happy to report that I think it's a great book. It's certainly a very motivating book - with a lot of practical suggestions for how get started in making your dreams and goals come true - even tips/exercises to help you figure out what your big dream is. The book is broken down into sections, and chapters/badges within those sections. Each chapter is then broken down into tips for getting started, getting motivated, advice from a mentor, "badge steps," and a list of additional resources (books, organizations, web sites). There are also 60 badge stickers in the back of the book. All in all it's a book that makes it very hard to say "I can't" when it comes to something you really want to do. A very can-do book indeed!

CanDoozle has arrived...

Just when it seemed the world had enough blogs... yes... I'm tossing my hat into ring! Announcing the launch of CanDoozle - the official blog of the Can Do! Web site. Welcome!