Dressed for Success

Whether we’re donning shorts and flip flops, or a suit and tie, most people choose how to dress depending upon their plans for the day. Our clothes contribute to our level of comfort and self-confidence. We wouldn’t fight a fire or a war without wearing the proper gear to protect ourselves.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture is found in 1 Samuel 17. Here we read the story of David and Goliath. It’s hard to imagine a small shepherd boy facing an angry giant. King Saul thought he would prepare David for battle by dressing him in his own tunic. “He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.” v. 38. David could not move in this heavy armor and discarded it saying, “I cannot go in these, because I am not used to them.” Instead, he put five smooth stones in his shepherd’s bag and raced off to face the Philistine.

You know the rest of the story. David won the battle against Goliath by slinging only one stone, knocking his enemy to the ground. Then he finished Goliath off with the giant’s own sword.

I love this chapter because it expresses something I’ve known in my own life. It’s hard to succeed by wearing someone else’s armor. As a new teacher, I often felt inadequate. The task of managing an environment conducive to learning challenged me. I turned to veteran teachers for advice, which they freely gave. The more teachers I consulted, the more overwhelmed I became because each response was different.

Through prayer I began to reflect upon what skills I already possessed which could be transferred to my new challenge. You see, before I became a teacher I worked as a social worker with diverse groups of children who lived in the inner city of Columbus, Ohio. I remembered how I dealt with conflicts among the children through group discussion. I decided to do what I already knew how to do.

I began to conduct weekly “class meetings” to give the students an opportunity to air their grievances with one another. It worked. Although our “meetings” took up thirty minutes of instruction time each week, the children grew to understand how they could handle conflict on their own and didn’t always need me me to solve all of their squabbles. In addition, the children complimented one another for acts of kindness which built friendship within the class.

Although self-help books and advice from peers have their benefits, what works for others might not work for you. Like David, maybe God has already equipped you with the ability to handle a new challenge by using your skills from past experiences.

Saul wanted to help David. He couldn’t imagine anyone facing Goliath without an armor. But David knew something about himself. He knew he had already killed a lion and a bear with his slingshot. Why wouldn’t God help him now as he squared off with a ten foot Philistine?

All he needed was the right stone… and the same level of faith which carried him in the past. Imagine the conversations among the hundreds of Israelite soldiers who witnessed David’s victory. His success is still talked about today.

Dear reader, I hope this story encourages you whenever you’re feeling intimidated. Don’t compare yourself to others but use the combination of skills and talents that are uniquely yours. You will be dressed for success.

Combatting the Crisis in Literacy

Leslie Williams helps children love reading.

If you can read this, you are probably not among the 32 million adult Americans who can’t. Adults who read at less than an eighth grade level, have difficulty understanding essential information to function successfully in society. Low reading skills result in lower incomes, lower quality jobs, and low self esteem. But literacy is a journey that starts when adults are young. If children fall behind in elementary school, they never catch up.

Leslie Williams volunteers with first graders as part of the Read2Succeed Program in Orlando, Florida. The program is sponsored by the Foundation for Orange County Public Schools. Volunteers work to improve reading comprehension by building vocabulary.

Leslie introduces three new vocabulary words to her first grader each week. She reads a picture book aloud and her student follows along and highlights the words in the text. Together they craft a sentence using one of the new words. Then the child illustrates the word in his journal. At the end of the session, the picture book goes home with the student. This process is repeated for twenty-four weeks. By the end of the school year the first grader receives a total of thirteen picture books.

“I believe Read2Succeed is a huge benefit. The program gives them one on one attention, and they feel special. This is my fourth year as a volunteer and I love working with the kids.” Leslie commented.

A retired teacher who comes from a family of teachers, Leslie has fond childhood memories about reading. “My siblings and I always got a book from Santa every Christmas. My mom read books to us every night before bed. Charlotte’s Web was her favorite book and became one of ours as well.” Today, Leslie considers herself a reading advocate. She belongs to a book club and reads at least one book a week.

I asked Leslie if she felt if ebooks would make printed books obsolete someday. “Gosh, I hope not,” she responded. “Nothing can replace the look and feel of a new book.”

Leslie agrees the internet and social media have shortened our attention spans for reading. “My daughter teaches first grade and complains that it’s hard for books to compete with video games. However, when she reads aloud to her class the children are engaged because she includes sound effects.”

May is “National Get Caught Reading” month. Many classrooms display posters of celebrities reading a book to encourage students to read for pleasure. This post acknowledges all those who make a contribution to further the goal of literacy. I am thankful for teachers who impacted my life and the many volunteers who work with children.

People Who Can Read, Should

Take time this month to enjoy a good book. Reading is a great way to unplug and relax. Leave a comment and share some of your favorite books.

The Invention of Pawz Dog Boots

“Necessity is the mother of invention.”

Art and science are closely related. I used to think of creative people as those who paint, write, or arrange music. My definition of creativity expanded when I heard about Gary Friedland. Who is he?

Gary Friedland is a retired art director who became an inventor. One day he tapped into his artistic talent to create Pawz dog boots. Here’s the back story (no pun intended) of how I came to learn about Pawz.

Our dog, Buddy, drags his feet on the pavement. Pawz boots help him walk without developing painful sores. We learned about Pawz from the physical therapist who worked with Buddy after he had back surgery. His red boots have become a conversation piece on the street. In fact, he’s wearing them on the cover of my new children’s book.

In the process of launching Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street, I contacted Andrea Friedland, manager of customer relations for Pawz. Andrea was happy to learn their product helped Buddy lead a healthier life. She was delighted that our beagle is shown wearing his red boots on the cover of my book. Now I’ve partnered with Pawz and the company is providing free samples of dog boots for my book signings.

Buddy meets Andrea Friedland, customer service representative from Pawz.

Buddy, Herb, and I met Andrea while she was in Orlando last week for the Global Pet Expo. During our meeting we learned all about the creation of Pawz. Andrea’s father in law, Gary Friedland, enjoyed taking his dog for walks in New York City. He wanted to protect Huckleberry’s feet from the salt and chemicals used to melt ice on city sidewalks. Every dog boot he tried had problems. Some boots fell off and disappeared in the snow. Other boots were not comfortable for Huckleberry. There’s an old saying, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

Gary designed and patented a rubber dog boot that stayed on Huckleberry’s feet. Unlike other boots, Huckleberry did not fight wearing Pawz because he could feel the ground when he walked. In 2005, Gary teamed up with his son, Michael, to form the Pawz company. Today their product is distributed by 8,000 independent retail stores in 26 countries.

I’m inspired by Gary’s story. For most of his life, he probably never thought of himself as an inventor. Now he is known for creating a new product that helps dogs live healthier lives. Opportunity knocked for Gary. Instead of thinking, “This is out of my wheelhouse.” He opened the door.

“The reason so many people never get anywhere in life is because when opportunity knocks, they are out in the backyard looking for four-leaf clovers.” —Walter P. Chrysler

First, Gary wasn’t fearful of trying something new. Next, he turned to family members with business skills for help. Finally, he didn’t try to avoid the hard work necessary to succeed.

For information about my first book signing click here.

Buddy the Beagle on Blueberry Street is also available on Amazon.

The Making of a Champion

“You may not succeed, but you will lose for sure if you don’t try.”

Meet my neighbor, Reed Zuehkle. Although he excels in several sports, he is known for his achievements as an international ski jumper. So what’s a ski jumper doing in Orlando? To to be truthful, I don’t know those details. But I’m excited to share a few details of his life as an overcomer. Here are a few of Reed’s accomplishments in the sport of ski jumping:

  • qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980 and 1984.
  • won the U.S. National championship in 1982.
  • placed fourth in the World Cup in 1985.

Reed’s stats are impressive. But what’s more impressive to me are the challenges he overcame to accomplish his goals. When he was five years old Reed was stricken with polio. Night after night he woke up screaming with severe leg pains. The pain only lessened when his mother came to his bedside and massaged his legs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

After his parents consulted a doctor about his symptoms, Reed was hospitalized for tests. Eventually the family learned his pain resulted from a reaction to the oral polio vaccine. Unfortunately, the vaccine which was supposed to protect him contained the live virus.

The doctor prescribed orthopedic shoes. Reed thought the shoes were ugly and took them off whenever his mother wasn’t looking. His leg pains continued for a year. Polio weakens a person’s muscles. The doctors advised his parents to not expect much out of him physically. In fact he was advised to not exert himself. This news crushed his parents. Reed and his family lived in Wisconsin and most of their family life revolved around skiing. In fact his father, Keith Zeuhkle, won the National Ski Jump Championship in 1956.

Home Therapy

Reed’s parents refused to accept the doctor’s advice. They started a daily regiment of exercise to help strengthen his leg muscles. This involved making Reed sit on a shelf in a closet and lift sand bags with his legs. He started with one pound bags. As he got stronger, the weight increased. Reed still remembers his sisters standing outside the open closet door and cheering him on. Eventually he could lift heavier sandbags than any of his four siblings and his leg pains stopped.

Pursuing His Dream

When Reed’s father wasn’t working to support his family, he coached at the local ski club. As a kid, Reed always hung out with his family at the club. Skiing was their way of life. At age ten, he won his first local competition. During his adolescent years he advanced to national and international events. In 1982 Reed won the same national competition his father won in 1956.

Polio wasn’t the only physical challenge Reed overcame. In December of 1978 he tore a ligament in his left knee during the Four Hills competition in Germany. This condition required surgery. In those days patients were required to wear a full leg cast for eight weeks. Consequently, his knee joint froze and wouldn’t bend. Reed had another surgery on his right knee for torn cartilage soon after the cast on his left leg was removed. He spent another eight weeks in a full cast which resulted in another frozen knee joint.

Determined to jump again, Reed spent the summer and fall of 1979 training hard to regain the flexibility in his joints. He qualified for the U.S. Olympic team one year after his accident at Four Hills.

“Don’t Give Up”

I asked Reed what advice he might offer to anyone facing a challenge. He responded, “It’s easy to give up. Anybody can do that. Unless you buy a lottery ticket, you’re not even in the running. You may not succeed but you will lose for sure if you don’t try. If you really believe in something, don’t give up.”

Since his father worked a lot, Reed considers his mother the driving force behind his motivation to be an overcomer. He was glad his parents set high expectations for his recovery. He knew sitting on the sidelines wasn’t for him. Reed knew what is was like “to be put on the shelf,” and he sure didn’t want to stay there.

Most of us will never become Olympic athletes but we all have challenges in our lives. Reed’s story helps me remember to persevere. Success might be right around the corner.

Sacrificial Love: The Story of Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler learned that when someone is drowning, you jump in and help.

Irena Sendler never thought of herself as a person who did anything out of the ordinary. She believed she was just listening to her heart when she worked to rescue thousands of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto in 1943.

I learned about Irena while touring the Holocaust Center of Maitland, Florida. Currently the museum is hosting the “Heroes of Warsaw” exhibit which shares the original artwork of illustrator Bill Farnsworth. The exhibit will be on display until December 28, 2018.

Farnsworth’s illustrations appear in the children’s book, Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin. (Holiday House 2011) I was so intrigued by Irena’s life, I borrowed a copy of the book from our local public library.

THE SETTING

After the German army invaded Poland in 1939, thousands of Jewish residents of Warsaw were rounded up and packed into a ghetto with eleven foot high walls. Soon a typhus epidemic broke out due to poor sanitation. The Germans were horrified the epidemic would expand beyond the walls of the ghetto. They permitted Polish authorities to take care of health and sanitation inside the walls since they were afraid to enter.

THE PLOT

Irena Sendler was a young Catholic social worker who dressed as a nurse to gain access to the Warsaw ghetto. Armed police were stationed at every entrance. As a member of the underground group Zegota, she used her cover to smuggle Jewish children to safe homes, where they assumed false identities. In the book the author describes the creative means by which Irena bypassed the armed police. Irena hid children in coffins and under the floorboards of ambulances. Babies were tucked into potato sacks and toolboxes.

Her efforts were not without personal sacrifice. Irena had become a prime mover in the Zagota organization.  Eventually she was arrested, imprisoned, and tortured by the Nazi’s. She escaped her execution with the help of a truck driver who accepted a bribe for her release. While Irena was in prison, her aunt saved the record of the children’s true identities. After her escape, Irena recovered the lists, stored them in glass bottles, and buried them under an apple tree.

After the war ended she gave the lists to Dr. Adolph Berman who placed the children in Jewish homes. Irena liberated four hundred children herself. Zegota saved over two thousand. Most of the parents of the surviving children were executed in the Treblinka death camp during the war.

THE MORAL

When asked why she risked her life to save others, Irena responded by sharing something she learned when she was young.

“I was taught by my father that when someone is drowning, you don’t just ask if they can swim, you jump in and help.”

Irena never thought of herself as heroic. She believed, like many selfless people she was simply doing what she had to do. Irena thought the real heroes were the Jewish mothers who gave up their children to unknown persons. 

IRENA’S LATER YEARS

On October 19, 1965 Irena was recognized by the World Holocaust Remembrance center of Jerusalem. Polish Communist leaders did not allow her to travel to Israel to receive the award. She was later presented the award in 1983.  

Irena Sendler died in Warsaw in 2008 at age 98. Her life reminds me of Psalm 41.

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak; the Lord delivers him in times of trouble. The Lord will protect him and bless his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 

The Holocaust Center sponsors educational programs dedicated to combating ant-Semitism, racism, and prejudice. Plans have been unveiled to move it’s location to a newly renovated facility in downtown Orlando which will serve as a symbol of the city’s diversity and acceptance.

Redefining Age with Valerie Ramsey

There are many phrases which try to describe anyone past the age of sixty. Phrases like, “over the hill,” “past my prime,” and “slowing down” come to mind.  None of these describe Valerie Ramsey.

I heard Valerie Ramsey speak at a luncheon for seniors last week. Now 78, she defies every concept I previously believed about aging. Valerie’s story is amazing. A mother of six, and stay at home mom,  she entered the work force at age 53. Valerie began her career selling golf balls at Pebble Beach Resorts and worked her way up to the position of  Public Relations Media Director.

Soon after she accepted her dream job at Pebble Beach, Valerie was diagnosed with cancer and heart disease. She made a decision to not let adversity stop her from doing the work she enjoyed. Valerie overcame her health issues and continued her position as PR director for fifteen years.

End of story? No way.  At age 63, Valerie was discovered by the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency of San Francisco. Tall and slender, Valerie fit the perfect image of a beautiful mature woman. It’s hard to believe she kept her fulltime position at Pebble Beach while working modeling assignments part time.

If that wasn’t enough, Valerie is an author. Her book, “Creating What’s Next Gracefully” (Pathfinder, 2013) inspires readers to do great things, no matter what their age. At 78 she is a popular motivational speaker on the national and international circuits and has no intention of slowing down. Valerie has appeared on many TV shows, including the Today Show, Fox News, and Extra. Oh and by the way, she still models.

Back to the luncheon… During her presentation Valerie encouraged listeners to create what’s next in their lives by keeping their eyes and ears open for new opportunities to pursue their dreams. ” One way to power past fear is to imagine a positive outcome,” shared Valerie. “Above all, don’t let who you were define who you are.”

I have to say I’m inspired by Valerie’s message. So many people, women especially, look at their advancing years with a feeling of dread. Valerie sees her age as a positive. After all how many people succeed in new careers in their sixties and seventies?  At age 64, I’m not considering a modeling career, but I am looking forward to more adventure.  Are you thinking about your next chapter? Leave a comment and tell me about it. Let’s encourage one another.

 

 

One Beagle’s Battle with Degenerative Disk Disease

If you’ve followed my blog during the past year, you know I like to travel.  This month my main trips have been to the veterinarian’s office.  The four-footed furry member of our team, experienced a set back in his health, forcing him to be on medical leave.

On our most recent camping trip, Buddy, our beagle, couldn’t seem to get comfortable. He paced, shivered, and whined. Buddy suffers with degenerative disk disease. On occasion he struggles with pain in his back. We phoned our vet, who advised us how to handle the present emergency. Fortunately, we brought along some medication to relieve his pain. Can you believe we actually carry a first aid kit for our dog? We administered the medication, but decided to come home early in case his condition worsened.

The next day Buddy improved. The combination of pain medication and steroids halted what might have been another terrible event.  In 2013, one of Buddy’s disks ruptured, resulting in paralysis of his hind legs. Click on the “buddy’s world” tab above for details.

We scheduled a follow-up appointment for Buddy with Dr. Enrique Duprey of the Corrine Drive Animal Hospital. The two of them have an understanding. Buddy strikes a cute pose and stares at Dr. Duprey. Few can resist Buddy’s beguiling brown eyes. Buddy knows his cuteness pays off in treats. On this visit Dr. Duprey offered more than treats. He offered laser treatments.

Low-level laser therapy is a relatively new concept being used to treat dogs with arthritis and degenerative disk disease. This illness is fairly common in long-bodied dogs. The treatments use light to stimulate cell regeneration, reduce inflamation, and increase blood circulation. For almost four years after his surgery and recovery, Buddy got along very well. His recent pain episode indicates the disease is still present.

A typical treatment session lasts ten to fifteen minutes. Buddy wears special dark goggles to protect his eyes. I’ve been told the laser feels good to the dogs. Buddy hasn’t complained. If laser therapy reduces his need for medication and prevents another ruptured back disk, we’re all for it. Right now he’s receiving two treatments a week. If he continues to do well, the treatments will be decreased to once a month. He’s had eight treatments so far. Buddy enjoys all the special attention he receives from the technicians at the animal hospital. He’s the coolest beagle in Orlando.

IMG_4443 (2)

Looking back, we’re not sorry we share our home and our lives with Buddy. Beagles give more than they take. Buddy is charming and congenial.  He’s a great companion. Relatively calm, Buddy’s not a nuisance barker, but he’ll let us know if cats or other visitors are near. Then he omits a loud baying sound heard for blocks. Out on a hike Buddy is attuned to the smells and sounds of the woods, a part of his hunting heritage.

IMG_9524

IMG_4628

 

If you’ve experienced medical issues with a pet, or if you are simply crazy about beagles, leave a comment. I’d like to hear your story.