Category Archives: family

United Through Reading program

I just saw this on CNN today and thought it was super cool.

This program lets soldiers in the military pick a children’s book, read it on camera and then (absolutely for free), they send the DVD recording and the book to their child.

At home, the children have story time with their parent almost as if they were right there. I think this is fantastic and I’m definitely adding it to my list of charities I’d like to contribute to.

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Filed under books, charity, family, kids, news, TV, video

The Gift of an Ordinary Day

I’ve been reading The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother’s Memoir by Katrina Kenison. This book is far and away the best book on motherhood I can remember reading. Many passages left me breathless, as if Kenison had somehow reached into the depths of my heart and pulled out the most private fears and thoughts I’ve had about life as I watch my children grow old too quickly.

I soon picked up a highlighter and began marking the sentences that spoke to me, but soon sentences became paragraphs and paragraphs became pages. I had to abandon the highlighter and admit that this book, in its entirety, was something special.

This would make an amazing Mother’s Day gift. I’m planning on giving it to my mother.

Below I encourage you to watch the video of the author, Katrina Kenison, reading an excerpt. (And I’m warning you – grab a tissue!)

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Filed under books, family, gratitude, kids, video, women

The Power of Half

This is the inspiring true story of a teenage girl who encouraged her family to sell their home and give half away to charity. The Power of Half by Kevin Salwen and Hannah Salwen causes readers to ask themselves how to make a difference in the world by giving more and taking less.

Here is an article by the authors which I have been authorized to share with you.

Hannah’s Take: Believe You Can Make a Difference
by Kevin and Hannah Salwen,
Authors of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

About 111 women die of breast cancer every day in the United States. A million teenagers get pregnant each year. Someone dies every thirty-one minutes because of drunken drivers. I’m not writing this to bum you out. But you might be thinking, There are so many problems, there’s no way that I or any one person could solve anything.

When civil-rights activist Rosa Parks refused to move to the back of a public bus in 1955, she never dreamed of the impact she would have on millions of lives. “I didn’t have any idea just what my actions would bring about,” she said years later. “At the time I was arrested I didn’t know how the community would react.” The reason Ms. Parks didn’t get up is that she knew the racist laws were wrong.

Rosa Parks is just one of the thousands of influential people whose actions changed the views of many people today. Think about Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Greg Mortenson, John Woolman, Madame Curie (if you don’t know them, check them out; they’re all remarkable). Sometimes small acts significantly affect a large group of people. But even when they don’t, they can have a big influence, maybe on just one individual.

So don’t get discouraged because you can’t solve a whole problem alone. As the British philosopher Edmund Burke said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” I know exactly what he was talking about. Before our family project I kept telling myself that no matter how hard I tried or how much money I gave, I would never be able to fully solve any of the world’s big problems. When I worked at Café 458, the Atlanta restaurant for homeless men and women, I saw dozens of people come in looking depressed and lonely. But still I didn’t see them as individuals, but instead as a group, “the homeless.”

Then one day at Café 458 I heard two homeless men talking about a college basketball game that I had watched with my dad the night before. I snapped to the realization that these people are people. How stupid and rude I had been to see them as different from me. I realize now that having that epiphany was a big step for me. In that split second of comprehension, I switched from seeing them as a group of people to viewing them as individuals. When I started seeing people in need as individuals, the problem of homelessness and hunger seemed smaller and I felt like I could make more of a difference. I also started believing that I could help because the problem was on a personal level.

Activity

Think of a person from your community who inspires you. Look beyond his or her specific actions to the kind of qualities that person brings to work or volunteer activities. For example, some people are better at creating new programs than at actually putting them into action; other people are doers, ready to take someone else’s ideas and run with them. Is that aunt in your family a problem-solver? A good listener? An inspirer?

Now think about your strengths in the same light. If you took your best characteristics out into the world, how could you use them to make a difference? Are you patient? Maybe you would be a good tutor. Are you musical? Maybe you could be playing the guitar at a nursing home (and bringing your family along to sing — no talent required). We all have gifts the world can use.
The above is an excerpt from the book The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back by Kevin and Hannah Salwen. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.

Copyright © 2010 Kevin and Hannah Salwen, authors of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back

Author Bios
Kevin Salwen, coauthor of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, was reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal for over 18 years. After his tenure at The Wall Street Journal, he started a magazine, Motto. He serves on the board for Habitat for Humanity in Atlanta, and works with the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Hannah Salwen, coauthor of The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back, will be a junior at the Atlanta Girls’ School, where she plays for the varsity volleyball team, and is her grade’s representative to the student council. She has been volunteering consistently since the 5th grade at the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Cafe 458, among others.

For more information, please visit www.ThePowerOfHalf.com.

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The Groom To Have Been

The Groom to Have Been by Saher Alam

Back of the book:

Just as Nasr, a young man with a vibrant professional and social life in New York, begins to prepare for the arranged marriage he hopes will appease his Indian Muslim family and assure him a union as happy as his parents’, he starts to suspect that his true love has been within his reach his entire life. Nasr has known Jameela since they were children, and for nearly that long she has flouted the traditions her community holds dear. But now the rebellion that always made her seem dangerous suddenly makes him wonder if she might be his perfect match. Feeling increasingly trapped as his wedding date approaches, Nasr contemplates a drastic escape, but in the wake of 9/11, new fears and old prejudices threaten to stand between him and the promise of happiness. Current in its political themes and classic in its treatment of doomed love, The Groom to Have Been is a graceful and emotionally charged debut.

I loved this book. It was hard to put down and unpredictable to the last page. The characters were incredibly well-rounded, the imagery fantastic, and important observations on race, religion and tradition were woven into the fabric of the plot seamlessly. This would make an excellent book club selection for the discussion it would surely encourage.

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Evenings at the Argentine Club

evenings-at-the-argentine-club Victoria Torres is an Argentine American woman who still lives at home. A slightly over-weight college drop out, Victoria works at her father’s restaurant – a gathering place for the Argentine community in Burbank, California. Lacking direction in life and self esteem, she’s shocked when a fellow Argentine American boy she grew up with comes back to town and takes an interest in her. Eric is handsome, successful and they share a common history, but what is he doing back in town, will he stay, and what does he see in Victoria that she can’t see in herself?

Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante brings something unique to a genre saturated with stories of Mexicans and Cubans, (not that I don’t enjoy those stories as well!)  The first few chapters were a little slow going, but it soon becomes an unpredictable page turner as one becomes emotionally invested in Victoria and Eric’s turbulent but passionate courtship. (Some scenes are borderline Romance novel material but she pulls it off leaving the reader wanting more.)

The story of Victoria and Eric’s budding romance is contrasted by the crumbling marriage of Victoria’s parents, Victor and Jacqueline. Amante is successful at weaving the two together and demonstrates a superb ability of being able to get into each character’s heart and show us what they’re feeling – from a stubborn, overly macho father and husband, to his lonely heart-broken wife who struggles with his infidelities, empty nest syndrome, and her stifled dreams.

I found myself identifying equally with young, insecure Victoria as she falls in love as well as her wise mother Jacqueline who mourns her grown children and is frequently a victim of nostalgia and loneliness.  Emotions are so well described in this book that I will admit to shedding a few tears.

This is a really beautiful story that touches on many common themes such as sacrifice, marriage, love, confidence, family, and  independence. But what I found most interesting in Evenings at the Argentine Club were the more unique thoughts on how different people define success,  and how immigrant families with American-born children can achieve the American Dream while still remembering who they are.

Non-Spanish speakers will appreciate that Amante uses Spanish words judiciously throughout and always in a context that is easily understood, making Evenings at the Argentine Club accessible to everyone.

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Filed under books, career, change, chick lit, culture, depression, dreams, family, marriage, men, opinion, romance, self esteem, Spanish, women, work

Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz

I just finished crying after having come to the end of Belinda Acosta’s surprisingly touching chick lit novel, Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz.

When I first picked up this book, I assumed the story would be from the perspective of the girl, and that her name was Ana Ruiz, but Ana Ruiz is the mother and she is going through much more than just organizing a quinceañera for her ungrateful daughter, Carmen.

Ana’s twenty year marriage to Esteban is falling apart,  and Carmen who is a “Daddy’s girl”, wrongfully blames Ana for kicking him out, (not knowing what her father has done.)

Ana decides to throw her daughter a quinceañera as a way of bonding with her, but Carmen is disrespectful and unappreciative from the get go.

Aside from her exploding home life, she also has new pressures at work. The university she works for has hired a new world famous artist and part of Ana’s job is to try to woo him into a permanent teaching position. The trouble is that the very handsome and charming artist is trying to woo Ana into a relationship.

Belinda Acosta’s writing style will make any Spanish-English bilingual smile with pleasure as she unapologetically sprinkles Spanish words and phrases into the text, even outside of dialogue. It is the way many Latinos living in the United States speak and think, so it’s refreshing to see it in print.

I did not expect to be as moved as I was by the relationships between the characters. Acosta makes you really care about this little family, and you can’t help but identify with Ana’s struggles as a wife, mother, and as a woman.

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