The Best Books I Read in 2018

At the end of December, I always look back and review the books I read over the past year.  I have been keeping track of the books I have read since 1989.  Keeping these lists has been wonderful for it allows me to look back over the many books I have read in my adult life.  Through this exercise I get to remember great passages, great themes, and great ideas.  When I look back, I also remember the titles and authors I have particularly enjoyed which often brings me back to read those same books again.  I love reading and believe that our lives are infinitely richer through the books we read.

Here is a list of the best books that I read in 2018 with a short summary of each. (Quick note – not all of the books listed below are pictured in the graphic.)

MY FAVORITE BOOKS 2018

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Opening Day 2018

It’s not quite forty degrees here in New Jersey.  It’s cold.  Hand stinging cold.  It’s the cold that makes your nose and ears hurt. 

Did I mention it’s April?  I think the fact that it’s actually spring makes the temperature outside that much colder.  

At least the sun is out, though the day will remain in the low-40’s.

Yet, even with the (close to) frigid temperatures, I am excited, very excited, unbearably excited, to get outside this afternoon.  Today is the Opening Day of our softball season.  

I just love to play ball.

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A Shining Light

(Author’s note – I changed the names of the student in this true story.)

Way back, a long time ago, when I was a teacher, I had a student named Beth.  One day in class, during a discussion about Pre-Columbian America, Beth shared that she was of Native American decent.  That prompted me to bestow a nickname on her.  (I gave happy nicknames to lots of kids.)  From that day forward Beth was “A Shining Light in the Sky.”  Beth loved the nickname.  She came to class every day with a warm smile.

Beth was one of those kids who was easy to like as a teacher:  She was happy, enthusiastic, a hard worker, and team player.  A model student, Beth was the type of kid who makes teaching a joy.

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The Judge

(The following passage was included as part of the monthly newsletter that I send out to the parents of my school community.)

It is no secret that I enjoy sports, mostly baseball, and that I have always been a big fan of the New York Yankees.  There is something about baseball that resonates with me.  The ebb and flow of the game, the simplicity, the day-to-day consistency…  Like a good friend, from April through September, baseball is a constant companion.  I love it.

One of the big stories that has come out of this year’s baseball season has been the fact that a rookie on the New York Yankees, a certain Aaron Judge, recently set the record for the most home runs ever hit in one’s first season.  No player had ever hit 50 home runs as a rookie until Aaron Judge accomplished that feat.  Amazing.

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Limits

Often times we say, “I can’t do that” or “I’m not good at that.”  (I am as guilty of this as anyone.  There’s a lot I sometimes believe I can’t do.)

When we say the words, “I can’t,” we are limiting ourselves.  As a result, I believe that some of the most damaging words in our language are “I can’t.” 

When we say we can’t, we make our own lives poorer – not richer.  When we say we can’t, we eliminate the possibilities and the learning that comes with and from new experiences.  When we say we can’t, our world becomes smaller, our interests become fewer, and we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to learn more about ourselves.

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The Houston Astros and You!

(The following is a modified (slightly shortened and less school specific) version of the message I sent to my teaching staff as we begin to prepare for the opening of the 2017-18 school year in a few weeks.  The message applies to all individuals in all walks of life and all professions.)

When I was a child growing up in the late 1970’s, the Houston Astros had very cool uniforms. 

I was a Yankees fan (that is deep-seated in my blood), but there were times when I wished the Yankees could at least be a little more colorful.  I, of course, love the Yankees’ midnight blue pinstripes and the interlocking NY, but for a kid, that Astros rainbow uniform was a lot more eye-catching!

The Astros also were also a pretty unique team.  They played in the only domed stadium (The Astrodome), they played on fake grass (Astroturf), they had exciting players like Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard, and Cesar Cedeno (pictured above).  The Astros were even featured in one of the Bad News Bears movies!

None of that influenced me enough to be an Astros fan, but it is undeniable that there was a certain appeal to rooting for the Houston Astros. 

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Running Currahee

Ever since my son Ryan had the same thought I did for an activity during our visit to see him in Georgia (“Three miles up, three miles down…”), I had been thinking of running Currahee Mountain.

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Currahee Mountain is the (extremely) large hill that was used as a (very difficult) physical fitness activity at Camp Toccoa during the early stages of paratrooper training during World War II.  The stories of the training, and the success of the troops, has been immortalized in the book and HBO miniseries Band of Brothers which tells the story of Easy Company from the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne.

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