Did you know that barn owls mate for life? Are you aware that they are extremely emotional creatures and have many ways to express their feelings? Could you guess that they practice birth control and will breed only when they perceive an excess of available mice for food? These are some of the many intriguing facts about owls that readers learn in this little gem of a book.
This book was recommended to me by my sister-in-law. I enjoyed its message so much that I am recommending this for my school’s next summer reading list.
Wesley the Owl by Stacey O’Brien is a book about love and devotion. It is a true love story about a woman and her owl. Stacey O’Brien is a Southern California biologist who adopts a baby barn owl with an injured wing. He could not survive in the wild so she selflessly takes him in, oblivious to the joy that stands before her in raising this creature. Through the trials and triumphs Stacey experiences with this bird, the reader realizes just what a significant role a pet plays in our lives. As Stacy states in her book, “When humans and animals understand, love, and trust each other, the animals flourish and we humans are enlightened and enriched by the relationship.” (O’Brien 202) Animals are more intelligent than we may give them credit for; this book reminds us of that intriguing reality.
The story chronologically follows O’Brien’s 19 years with Wesley from owl infancy when she weaned him into his “nest box” in her bedroom through the end of his long life with his battle with cancer. She gives both her scientific, factual views and tender-hearted observations about Wesley. O’Brien even shares the insides of Caltech and some of her interestingly eccentric colleagues. I laughed when Stacey brought Wesley to the grocery store wrapped in a blanket as a baby, I gagged when she described how she killed endless amounts of mice for Wesley’s diets (yes, as much as I have much more respect for owls, I won’t be raising one any time soon), I melted when Wesley “held” Stacey with his wings, and I cried when Wesley tried to console Stacey through a horrible dehabilitating disease she contracted during Wesley’s later years. I could sit here and let my fingers ecstatically fly off the keyboard with all of my favorite tidbits from the book . . . but that would take out the fun of reading this book. You can definitely read this within a day or two; O’Brien writes her observations and feelings with fervor. As a bonus, she includes “Some Things You May Not Know About Barn Owls” at the conclusion of the book.
We humans can learn from owls about devotion, trust and love. I am inspired by Stacey O’Brien’s life philosophies and the devotion she returns to Wesley. As she proclaims, she made a vow when she was very young to live life not by wading in the shallow water but by diving into the deep end as much as possible, no matter how dangerous. The way she raised Wesley attests to her commitment to that vow. As of the book’s print, she was contemplating raising another owl and beginning the whole process again! If I am ever lucky enough to have a chance encounter with one of these magnificent feathered friends, I will stop and admire this feathered friend and be very grateful for the opportunity. GG gives Wesley the Owl an A for the heartwarming lessons and touching account of this love story. Extra credit for the wonderful photographs spattered throughout the book – most of which O’Brien took herself while raising Wesley. They help illustrate just how funny, complex and beautiful Wesley was.
There’s something to this. I was shopping in Francesca’s boutique, flipping through Michele Bernhardt’s Colorstrology book, and discovered that my personal color is Jaffa Orange. There is something to this because the cotton tank I already had in my hand to purchase matched the color exactly. Hmmm . . . Colorstrology tells us that our birthday carries a numerological value and meaning. That value corresponds to a color palette from which we can draw insight about our personalities. Wearing, decorating and surrounding ourselveswith this specific color is supposed to bring out our true selves, our best selves. We are not to confuse our personal color with our favorite color – Bernhardt says that our favorite color can change as we evolve or change our surroundings. Our personal color, on the other hand, remains constant.
This fun book rests on my coffee table. There is a page for every day of the year. There are even color swatches in the back to take with you when shopping for your color. 🙂 In addition, each color has its PANTONE® Color identification to help find the perfect match. I like the suggestions Bernhardt gives for using your personal color.
Want to send an ecard telling the bday person what his/her color is?! It’s completely free – here’s the link for the ecards!
Grading Girl gives Colorstrology an A+ for an interesting alternative to traditional zodiac and astrology readings.
I’d say this is pretty accurate . . .
My Personal Color ~ JAFFA ORANGE
Analytical, Responsible, Sensitive
If you were born on this day: “You love to use your mind. Your ability to analyze problems and situations is exceptional. You never really know just how good or talented you are due to your yearning for perfection. Many of you cover your sensitivity with facts and a composed exterior. You actually have a very sensitive spirt that needs to be nurtured and recognized.” (Bernhardt)
Colorstrology says that wearing or surrounding myself “with Jaffa Orange helps you live life more freely by integrating your intellect with your emotions and your passion with self-control.” (Bernhardt)
That is what one of the instructors at Tri Balance Yoga Studio regularly expresses at the end of my Hot Yoga class. This statement mirrors one of the philosophies I try to live by – to live life in the moment. There is no future, there is no past. The future and the past only exist in our language, not in reality. The only real moment is the present moment, yet too many people try to live for the future or re-live the past. In doing so, they miss out on so much. I wanted to start taking yoga to relax my body and help my mind live in this present.
I discovered Tri Balance Yoga Studio two weeks ago and I can honestly say I’m a better person for it. As listed on the Tri Balance site, the many benefits of yoga include improved balance, relieved aches and pains, reduced stress, increased body strength, more flexibility, anti-aging effects, improved blood pressure, and more. Being an avid strength and circuit trainer, I used to write off yoga as a good stretching activity but not much else. I only wish I realized how wrong I was earlier. I now believe yoga can accomplish all of those benefits and more. I personally feel so lithe and light after each class that I’m glowing. It could have to do with the fact that I literally drip sweat and melt skin during class. In any event, you CANNOT walk out of Tri Balance in a bad mood.
The first week I joined, I participated in four hot yoga sessions and one fitness Pilates. The first day I missed a session, I instantly felt it. The second week (last week), I was unfortunately busier and was only able to partake in two hot yoga sessions. I missed it terribly. This week I vow to take five sessions. Allow me to explain some of the reasons Tri Balance is such a soothing studio . . .
First, the people at Tri Balance – the instructors along with those behind the desk – create a welcoming, individualized environment. I have had two hot yoga instructors so far and one fitness pilates instructor; all three of these experts constantly walk around the room, either helping to correct our body positions or challenging us to maneuver in more difficult positions. I have received individual attention every single session as I noticed so has everyone else. Classes always attract an impressive amount of people but because the room is fairly large, it never feels too cramped to move fully. The entire studio is impeccably clean. The women’s bathroom is inviting with extra towels, mats, soaps, etc. ready for members; plus, it always has that fresh just-been-cleaned smell each day. The studio offers a variety of classes including Hot Yoga, Hot Core Yoga, Fitness Pilates, Ashtanga Yoga, Total Body Conditioning, and Core. Classes are offered seven days a week. Prices are very reasonable; and, you don’t have to sign a contract locking you in for a certain time. Click here for current rates.
Along with the yoga studio, there is a hair stylist, massage therapist, nutritionist, and holistic doctor within the same walls – another attestment to Tri Balance helping the whole person . . . physically and mentally. The studio also regularly offers workshops to enhance the yoga experience. For instance, the next workshop is covering Gong Meditation, using our inter-vibratory system to de-stress.
Convinced yet? Well, if you live, work or visit the northwest suburbs of Chicago, you should give Tri Balance studio a try. Tell them Grading Girl sent you! You will not be wasting your time. People of every size, shape, gender, and age take classes here. Everyone leaves his or her inhibitions at the door. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the room is set at 106° and the lights are very minimal during the hot yoga sessions. Admittedly, I’ve fallen asleep momentarily after the Namaste because I’m so relaxed by the end.
An added benefit: Tri Balance offers discounts to police officers, firemen, teachers, military personnel, and nurses. Of course, they get extra credit from Grading Girl for that one! 🙂
Grading Girl gives Tri Balance Yoga Studio an A for providing the community with a soothing environment for very healthful classes. The convenient schedule (hot yoga is offered at least four times a day) adds to the high grade.
Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult did not receive quite the notoriety as My Sister’s Keeper or 19 Minutes but not for lack of a compelling story. The controversial topics of religion and capital punishment are what kept this book off of some people’s nightstands – but not mine!! Picoult is my favorite contemporary author and she does not disappoint with this one; she carries her characteristic twists to the end once again.
Within each of her 16 novels, Jodi Picoult delves deep into the most troubling contemporary social issues. In Change of Heart, she examines a convicted killer on death row, Shay Bourne, who has taken the lives of Officer Kurt Nealon and his young stepdaughter, Elizabeth. When Shay discovers that his victim’s living daughter, Claire is desperately in need of a heart transplant, he sees his only chance for salvation – donating his own heart after his death sentence. Standing in his way, of course, is the law and a mother filled with anger. On his side are three unexpected allies: a Catholic priest (who had a hand in Shay’s sentencing!), an ambitious attorney who is determined to see Shay die on his own terms, and a community that sees Shay as a messianic character who gives them hope.
Picoult’s research never ceases to amaze me. Her meticoulous portrayal of death row laws along with the book’s attention to Christianity, Judaism, and the Gnostic gospels gave me new insight. This story is told from four different points of view: the Catholic priest, the attorney, another death row inmate, and the mother of the victims. Through their thoughts, the reader is given some very deep food for thought . . . “There’s a big difference between mercy and salvation” . . . “Would you give up your vengeance against someone you hate if it meant saving someone you love?” . . . “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you” . . . quotations such as these make for a very provocative book. In fact, Picoult uses several famous quotations here from some of the greatest thinkers in history including Lewis Carroll, Mother Teresa, Albert Einsten, the Dalai Lama, Woody Allen, Albert Einstein, etc.
I enjoy books that make me think, challenge my philosophies, and offer new perspectives. Change of Heart does all that and more. In the story, religion seems at times to bring characters together and at others to drive a wedge between them. All the while, what defines “justice” is continually challenged. We all know it’s wrong to execute someone innocent, but what about someone who is guilty? The book never screams one side or another. Rather, through the completely varied characters in Change of Heart, the reader is left with perspectives on all sides of these compelling issues so that one closes the book exploring one’s own values and beliefs.
Grading Girl gives Change of Heart a B+. While this did not make me outwardly cry like My Sister’s Keeper did (something I never normally do when reading), this did leave me with some deep, concerting thoughts. It’s a captivating story of redemption, justice, and love.
On to more books off of my very high summer reading pile . . . Picoult’s Handle with Care is one of them and I look forward to exploring more thorny moral and ethical issues with this compelling author.
What makes a person true to himself, truly authentic, is when he takes his passion and acts on it. It’s when he isn’t trying to be who he thinks others may want him to be but, rather, he expresses himself creatively and freely. Furthermore, he takes great fulfillment in sharing that expression. There is an up-and-coming musician who is that person. With his searing lyrics, soaring vocals, and driving rhythms, the passion is evident. Strums of an acoustic guitar, harmonica, drums, and piano all stream seamlessly together. Harmonies lift hairs and bring up gooseflesh. Unexpected chord changes cause you to stop and LISTEN. Creative accompaniments such as loose change or leg slapping add unique, dimensional elements. This is what you hear when you listen to the music of Darryl Markette.
Darryl’s first release, “Rain on Thee,” on iTunes. Check out all of his releases!
I can’t help but listen to his latest release, “She Wants Love,” over and over. His sound has a part rock, part country, even part bluesy feel that projects what Darryl does best – take a bad situation and pour it out for the world to absorb and commiserate. His songs tell real tales of love and loss, but they’re sung with such passion and commitment that the message becomes more about learning and living than losing. The songs leave you with something to ponder over rather than something to pine over.
Singers and songwriters are expected to be deep in a cliched caricature of anguish. Somehow, Darryl goes beyond that to a deeper place. Each song is musically individual enough so that he escapes a cookie-cutter oh-woe-is-me sound. “Never Said Goodbye” is a jaunty tribute to his beloved dog, Hunter. “Lost in Time” is an alternative ballad with piano and harmonica tracks that crescendos gradually until it pierces the heart. Completely opposite, “Rockstar” has that sing-along, nothing can stop me now mood everyone can relate to. You hear a crack in his voice in the haunting “Have Faith” as he sings “How do you forget your biggest regret when all you can do is weep.” What makes his music not just good but perfect for soothing the soul is during moments, such as in the “I Keep on Waiting” finale, when the toe-tapping whistling will have you humming for hours afterward. DMarkette’s music makes your heart sing.
Never one to rest on his laurels, Darryl is tenaciously taking his musical message across the country. He recently performed at Gold Pan Saloon in Colorado and made his much anticipated Los Angeles debut at Hollywood’s Whisky A Go-Go. See GG’s post “Part Time Cowboy Full Time Rockstar Rides to L.A. Better yet, visit Darryl Markette’s website, dmarkette.com, to experience his original music firsthand, sample his covers that include a handful arguably better than the originals, view past concert videos, and find out about upcoming performances. Example performances include Darryl’s annual event on his birthday, May 5th. But rather than a birthday celebration, Darryl raises funds to fight breast cancer. Pinko-de-Mayo, as he cleverly termed it, has proven a ravingly popular success over the past four years. [See GG’s press releases for details for Pinko de Mayo : Chicago’s Most Promising Rocker, Darryl Markette, Holds Pinko de Mayo and Chicago’s Hottest Rocker Paints ChiTown Pink for Pinko de Mayo and Darryl Markette Paints ChiTown Pink.] (2012 was his best Pinko yet, with 500+ guests. His efforts just keep growing!) Darryl’s very last Pinko, Pinko V of 2013, was a very different yet just as successful fest – an outdoor fest – with all proceeds generously going to his countless contributions to the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Grading Girl gives Darryl Markette’s music an A+ for touch your heart lyrics, sear your soul vocals, and seduce your ears guitar chords.
And here’s my very favorite cover by Darryl Markette!! I love this . . .