People don't like to talk about it. Many cover up symptoms in shame, trying to handle the downward spiral on their own. One in four women will be affected in their lifetime, and men are not exempt, either.

Depression needs treatment. It's a serious illness. Read about my firsthand experience with depression here. My guest post is on the Dreaming Big Publications blog today.


Books and Kids

Books and kids go together like macaroni and cheese or milk and cookies. I've never met a child who had no interest in a good story.

As a classroom teacher, I read aloud every day to my class. It was a time the students looked forward to and didn't want to miss. I enjoyed seeing them captivated by the story. They loved humor. They loved books that evoked emotion. There was always a collective 'awwww' when reading time was over and the chapter ended with a cliffhanger. They wanted more.

I no longer have my own classroom, but sometimes I'm invited to classrooms to read to students. This is a preschool class I'm sharing a book with. These kids aren't readers yet, but they will be soon. Reading aloud to students promotes readiness skills.

If you've never volunteered to read aloud to a classroom, maybe it's something you'd like to try. Or if your schedule makes it impossible, perhaps you could donate a book to a classroom. Any teacher I know would be delighted with either effort.

Today would be a good day to read aloud. Age doesn't matter much. The younger you start reading to a child, the better. If your child is older, find a high interest book, then read aloud a chapter every night at bedtime. Good things will happen. Kids and books are magical.



What's Your State Reading?

For the past 16 years the Arkansas library system has promoted a statewide reading program called "If All Arkansas Read the Same Book". The selections are made each fall and the year-long activities culminate with a book tour by the author.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck's The Pecan Man is the chosen title for 2016-17. This summer has been a busy book tour time for Ms. Selleck. She has visited libraries and book clubs in cities across the state and has often managed to fit more than one stop into her day.

When Ms. Selleck gave a presentation at my hometown library, I was on the front row, literally. She was also gracious enough to allow me to have a photo with her. This one is the latest addition to the author photo collection board in my office. 

I'm always intrigued to hear from and to get to know the person behind a book. I enjoyed The Pecan Man for many reasons, one being the authentic Southern voice of Ora Lee Beckworth, the story's narrator.

Cassie Dandridge Selleck has a second book, What Matters in Mayhew, and it's now in my to-be-read queue. The sequel to The Pecan Man is in progress, and I'm looking forward to it, as well.

I commend the Arkansas library system for their worthwhile reading program, and I hope it is continued. I'd be interested to know how other states promote reading and authors in their libraries. 
What's your state reading?



Those Blooming Azaleas

Like most southerners, I love my azaleas. I have one section of red ones and another of white ones. The red group is in full bloom, but the whites are lagging a bit behind. As I checked on their progress today, I noticed the lacy, snow white blossoms are not alone. Placed strategically here and there in the midst of the white blooms are a few stray pink flowers. Huh?

Is this the equivalent of a person trying a new hair color? I didn't know flowers had the option of changing their minds like this. Has a flowering shrub ever had a mid-life crisis? Whatever the azaleas are up to, I think I'd better keep an eye on them.

Azaleas are a type of shrub classified in a large group that includes blueberry bushes. If my azaleas get any crazy ideas next year, I hope they decide to produce blueberries.



Something Green to Read

Fredrik Backman has become popular with my book club. Over the past few months we have chosen to read A Man Called Ove and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry. Now for the month of March we are reading Britt-Marie Was Here.

Today I noticed the cover of Britt-Marie Was Here has beautiful shades of green. I'm reading from a green book on this St. Patrick's Day, and I hope you are, too. Green is an important color in the world. Besides this great book, some of my other favorite green things are:

1. Trees
2. Mint
3. Avocados
4. Kiwis
5. Shamrocks
6. Apples
7. Asparagus
8. Emeralds
9. Grapes
10. Money

It's easy to see where my heart lies. Half of my favorites are food. If you don't have a green book to read today, another color will do. Happy St. Patrick's Day.



I'm Over It

The incident happened several years ago, but the memory is so fresh it could have been an hour ago. I was a new employee at a particular workplace. One of the seasoned workers informed me, "You're not like us." Her mouth was smiling, but her words stabbed me through the heart. When she said 'us' she was referring to herself and everyone else working there.

I was stunned, too stunned to ask her for any explanation. I crawled into my shell and swore it didn't matter.

I felt like a child in school, the one not invited to play.

I know I did my job well. No one could question my work ethic. I was treated with respect in the workplace, even so, I heard her words echo through the halls.

Time marched on, and I left that job behind. The words tagged along with me. They troubled me. What made me different?  The woman's face haunted me. Late at night when I couldn't sleep, I ruminated on the words. I thought about them for years without resolution.

Then, one evening during a book club meeting, I heard some similar words. As authors were being discussed, one person chimed in with "writers, in general, are different". I agreed.

My mind went backward in time. I once again heard "You're not like us", but this time with new ears. This time I did not feel excluded. I felt defined. I realized the woman from my old job never meant to criticize. I should have interpreted her comment as a compliment, rather than as an insult.

I don't have to be like everyone else. It's the differences that make the difference. I'm a writer because I'm different. I'm different because I'm a writer.

All that time ago, I don't know what compelled my co-worker to make the statement that troubled me for years, but it doesn't matter.

I'm so over it.



A Homesteading Adventure

I've grown up hearing tales of the many hardships my ancestors faced. My grandparents homesteaded 160 acres of land in Arkansas. I don't know if they had any concept of how difficult it would be to move their family into an uninhabited place, build a house, and clear the land. What I do know is that my grandparents were not afraid of hard work, and they were not quitters. My mother was a child during the homesteading years, so she shared a first hand account of much the family endured during that time period.

Because of the homesteading history in my own family, I was intrigued by Coffee-Drunk or Blind. This book by Elle Knowles is the story of her family's adventure in homesteading. During the late 1950's, the Knowles family set off from Louisiana to Alaska. Vernon and Helen Knowles had four small children when they left Louisiana and added a fifth while living on the homestead. Much of the book is comprised of letters written to and from family back home.

This nonfiction book is rich in history of the time period. I don't know how Helen Knowles managed not only to survive living in the wilderness under primitive conditions, but to make a happy home for her young children. Read the book for yourself and see if you can imagine how your family would react to some of the trials faced by the Knowles family.

My favorite tidbit gleaned from the book -- Helen Knowles imparted a love of reading to her children by reading aloud to them every day.

Find out more about Elle Knowles and her books here.