Give a Book, Get a Reader, and Thank Your Lucky Stars

Can you remember the moment you realized that a book could take you to a whole other world?

Whether it was a made-up world or part of the real world from a different angle or different point of view, it was new for you. And the magic carpet, your time portal, your door to the secret garden was a book!

And the magic carpet, your time portal, your door to the secret garden was a book!

Those of us for whom reading was a treasured pastime will never really know how much of an impact it made on our lives, but today, there’s all sorts of research on the subject.

California’s “Talk, Read, Sing” campaign reminds us that you can’t start reading to kids too soon. The Annie J. Casey foundation issued a report in 2010 entitled “Early Warning: Why Reading by the End of the Third Grade Matters” that alerted educators and parents to the relationship between third grade reading proficiency and high school graduation levels.

In 2011, the American Educational Research Association followed up by publishing a study by sociologist Donald J. Hernandez that gave more specifics, saying that “a student who is not reading at grade level by third grade is four times less likely to graduate by age 19 than a child who does read proficiently by that time.”

It follows then, that pulling out all the stops to get children to think of themselves as readers by the time they finish the third grade is a worthy endeavor. Hopefully, the “Muffin Project” that A&M is doing with M.C. Tillson can help turn some more third graders into readers.

If you grew up in a household of readers, you should thank your lucky stars.


Looking for Ways to Save Time?

hourglassMe too.

Although—at first glance—I have spent this past week making slow haste in the pursuit of time-saving habits and activities.

First, there was the time I spent on the phone explaining to the phone company that I wasn’t going to pay their late fee because I had signed up for auto-pay and it was now their responsibility to make sure my bill was paid on time. I mean, isn’t that rather the whole point of auto-pay?

One thing that has become pretty clear to me is that I simply don’t have the time to spend on saving time.

Then, there was the time spent waiting for my son at the airport. The pilot had saved some time along the way, and the flight actually landed early! Unfortunately, we ended up waiting almost an hour before the passengers were able to deplane because there was no gate available when they landed. Would the gate have been available, one wonders, if the flight had simply been on time?

Most recently, I made the decision to rent a car closer to home rather than at the airport. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time this was going to save me!

When I arrived to pick up my car, I found that—in spite of confirming my reservation just two hours earlier—the rental car company had no cars to rent…I mean, they know they’re a rental car company, right? (Insert Jerry Seinfeld episode here, right?)

I spent most of the morning explaining that, while I was NOT interested in upgrading to a mini-van (which had already been turned down by a pretty ride-savvy family of four) or a very large, very big, very shiny, black pick-up truck with lots of chrome, I WAS extremely interested in getting my compact car and starting my vacation. It took all morning, but I finally got my car. Frankly, I’m convinced that the only reason it didn’t take longer is because they closed at noon.

(To be fair, the rental car company’s manager gave me a follow-up call which I really appreciated. She gets an A++ for customer service in my book and I will give them another try when I’m next in town because of her.)

But the truth remains that I have now taken advantage of so many time-saving offers this week that I’m behind in just about everything. I really don’t think I have time for a vacation. One thing that has become pretty clear to me is that I simply don’t have the time to spend on saving time.

But maybe next week…I understand that the people who make the operating system for my computer have a time-saving upgrade that can save me hours. I can’t wait!

Is That a Fact?

One of the things you learn when you get your first list of spelling words is that you’re going to have to write definitions for each word. The second thing you learn is that you can’t use the word in your definition of the word.

For example, defining a fact as a fact would not work in 2nd Grade. But does it work in today’s fact-bloated culture? Does simply saying that something is a fact make it a fact?

Let’s examine what a fact is not: A fact is not an opinion. It is not a piece of or even a collection of data. It is not a recommendation. It is not a truth—even a great truth.

mathfactFacts are indisputable and can be proven by accepted methodologies. They are not subject to popular vote or opinion polls. They exist whether we know about them or not. And they exist whether we approve of them or not.

As my favorite astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said,
“You get to say the world is flat because we live in a country that guarantees free speech, but it’s not a country that guarantees that anything you say is correct.”

Very little of the information we receive on a daily basis is factual—no matter what the source. So, the next time you hear someone “stating a fact,” listen closely and see if you agree. You probably know better.

And that’s a fact.

P.S. Check out these “mind-blowing” facts!


How About Water Neutrality?

With the Tuesday ruling by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, high-speed internet access officially joins the ranks of electricity, natural gas, phone service, and water as a public utility. This means, of course, that high-speed internet access is now under tougher scrutiny and subject to regulation by local, state, and/or federal agencies.

The purpose of government oversight, of course, is to ensure that all citizens (the “public” in public utility) have access to the same level of service. For example, you wouldn’t have one community with clean, fresh water while another community has water so full of contaminates that it corrodes the pipes it flows through.

Yes, public utilities are a good thing. They espouse the right ideas and they exist for the right reasons. However, as with most public entities—including governments themselves—the ultimate responsibility for maintaining the  standards for public utilities belongs to us, the people being served.

HT_Flint_Girl_Scout_2_ER_160114_4x3_608Without the public—public monitoring, public challenges, and public outcry—public utilities simply become a distribution channel for companies providing the service.

As any one who hasn’t been asleep under a rock for the past twenty years will tell you, high-speed internet access is a requirement for any man, woman, or child who is going to thrive in our society. And now, with this latest ruling, preventing access to high-speed internet is officially a government matter.

So let’s keep an eye on how this ruling about high-speed internet access plays out. And, as the public being served, let’s not be slow to challenge providers who don’t meet our expectations. Let’s live up to our responsibilities so we can make sure they live up to theirs.

Pick up the Phone

raindrops on lake
Too many choices can drown your productivity.

I have lately been lamenting the fact that, in spite of all the communication choices available to me, I am communicating less.

Part of my problem is “deer in the headlights” syndrome or, if you prefer, “analysis paralysis.”

Trying to decide which medium (and which variation of the medium) to use for a communication makes the task harder, not more convenient. My mother doesn’t “do” email. My dad does email, but doesn’t text. My son is all about texting—except that now he’s traveling in Ireland and has only 250 texts for the whole month. (I’m not sure I’m even on his texting list…at best, I’m pretty far down.) Like me, my sister is pretty much ready to intercept anything on any device—and she’s also much better about getting back to people than I am.

Thank goodness I have a strong “email only” rule  for business.

My point here is that while having choices is good, too many choices can get you in trouble. We have to figure out a process or system, or else we’ll never get anything done.

Governor Rick Snyder
Michigan’s Governor Rick Snyder is planning to ask for federal aid in the Flint water crisis.

Let’s take Michigan’s governor Rick Snyder for example. He seems to be suffering from his very own version of this malaise. He announced yesterday that he plans to ask for federal aid to deal with the water crisis in Flint. I can only assume that his unconscionable delay is because he is stressing about which communication method to use.

I think I’ll send Governor Snyder a letter to urge his action, or better, an email. No, wait—maybe I’ll tweet. Or Instagram. (If only there was a “Don’t Like” on Facebook.)

Maybe a subpoena is the way to go.

How about picking up the phone, Governor. I’m pretty sure they’re expecting your call! CelesteTillson

methane gas
Methane gas leak in southern California.

P.S. What’s up with that natural gas leak in Porter Ranch, Governor Brown? You know, “the BP leak on land”? Maybe you should just go ahead and decide on press conferences for communicating those state emergencies.




Happy Holidays?

It’s hard sometimes to offer greetings of the season with any sort of sincerity. Who am I kidding? It’s hard a lot of the time.

Pick your own bit of news or situation that has you shaking your head. There’s plenty to go around. Can you honestly even think the words “Peace on Earth” without feeling a little sick to your stomach?

And yet—isn’t that the point?

Christmas is about hope, as are the many other celebrations of the season, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Day, Yule, Omisoka, and, for many Muslims, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. Knowing that so many people around the world are adding their voices to the cause of hope and the prayer for peace is in and of itself a reason to celebrate.

Just purchased greeting cards of this “Bluebird in a Yaupon Holly Tree” by Jeanne Kay Juhos.

So, however and whatever you celebrate this season, do it with joy, do it with fervor, but most of all, do it with hope. And, please, when you encounter someone who is totally out of hope, do what you can to share what you have.

Wishing you a happy, healthy holiday season and hope for the new year!


Seasons Greetings and
Merry Christmas!


A Meet and Greet Treat in Southport

What warms the cockles of your heart more than a hot toddy? (Does anybody even know what a cockle is any more? Answer: A small scallop-type shellfish.)Related image

A “First Friday” event. Have you ever been to one? They’re everywhere. I’ve been to a First Friday event in Calumet, Michigan and several in California. There are first Friday art walks, first Friday wine walks, first Friday holiday, and first Friday book walks.

This first Friday of November 2015 will find me in Southport, North Carolina, a place near and dear to my heart (thus warming the cockles, etc…) participating in their monthly Gallery Walk that encourages local artists, supports local businesses, involves the community, and welcomes visitors.  It’s fun and a great time to meet your neighbor.

It is, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.

So, if this first Friday finds you in a local gallery, bookstore, wine shop, or just cruising the local downtown, check out your own cockles and see if they aren’t pretty warm. Here’s wishing you a happy November!