Kids Read: Holidays Around the World

Enjoy this list of 12 stories featuring winter holidays from around the world.  

Hanna’s Christmas by Melissa Peterson

“When her mother tells her that there is no time to put together a proper Swedish Christmas, Hanna longs to return to Sweden, but when her grandmother sends her a tomten, a magical and mischievous creature, Hannah learns to celebrate Christmas in a special way!” (Suggested ages: 4-9)

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie DePaola

“Tomie dePaola’s glorious paintings are as luminous as the farolitos that light up on the Plaza in Santa Fe for the procession of Las Posadas, the tradition in which Mary and Joseph go from door to door seeking shelter at the inn on Christmas Eve. This year Sister Angie, who is always in charge of the celebration, has to stay home with the flu, and Lupe and Roberto, who are to play Mary and Joseph, get caught in a snowstorm. But a man and a woman no one knows arrive in time to take their place in the procession and then mysteriously disappear at the end before they can be thanked. That night we witness a Christian miracle, for when Sister Angie goes to the cathedral and kneels before the statue of Mary and Joseph, wet footprints from the snow lead up to the statue.” (Suggested ages: 4-8)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s 8 Nights of Chanukah by Eric Carle

“Light the menorah, spin the dreidel, sing songs, and so much more in this sweet board book! This festive counting story makes for a fine holiday gift for fans of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, all while introducing young readers to the wonderful traditions of Chanukah.”  (Suggested ages: 1-3)

The Shortest Day by Susan Cooper and Carson Ellis

“As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again. Written for a theatrical production that has become a ritual in itself, Susan Cooper’s poem “The Shortest Day” captures the magic behind the returning of the light, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before — and the hope for peace that we carry into the future. Richly illustrated by Carson Ellis with a universality that spans the centuries, this beautiful book evokes the joy and community found in the ongoing mystery of life when we celebrate light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth.”  (Suggested ages: 5-9)

The Christmas Promise by Alison Mitchell and Catalina Echeverri

“This storybook is a captivating retelling of the Christmas story, showing how God kept his promise to send a new King, a rescuing King, a forever King.” (Suggested ages: 2-6)

Christmas Wombat by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

“‘Slept. Scratched. Slept.’ Indeed, it seems like Christmas will be just another day for the wombat . . . until she smells carrots! In this charming picture book, the star of Diary of a Wombat goes head to head with Santa’s reindeer in competition for carrots—and wins. Then, as an accidental stowaway on Santa’s sleigh, she learns that carrots are internationally available. No wonder she isn’t hungry for treats on Christmas morning! Engaging illustrations delightfully complement the spare text in this unique, wombat’s-eye view of a favorite holiday.” (Suggested ages: 4-7)

Christmas in Germany by Jack Manning

“Tinsel, candles, and baked decorations called Lebkuchen hang from Christmas trees. Strings of lights decorate lampposts, houses, and stores. Saint Nicholas fills children’s shoes with toys and treats. Carolers walk from house to house singing Christmas songs, and bands play in town squares. These are the sights and sounds of Christmas in Germany. Come explore the many German traditions that bring people of this country together at Christmas.” (Suggested ages: 6-8)

My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz

“During the seven days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in!” (Suggested ages: 2-5)

P. Bear’s New Year’s Party by Paul Owen Lewis

“A dapper polar bear has an elegant New Year’s party and invites all of his animal friends. As each party animal arrives, children learn to count and tell time.” (Suggested ages: 3-7)

The Legend of Old Befana: An Italian Christmas Story by Tomi DePaola

“This is a delightful reading of the favorite Italian Christmas story about an eccentric old woman and her never-ending search for the Baby King.” (Suggested ages: 4-9)

A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman and Susan Gal

“A World of Cookies for Santa takes readers across the globe to see all the treats that await Santa on Christmas Eve. Head to the Philippines, where children leave out puto seko cookies and ginger tea for Santa; jet to Russia for a honey-spice cookie; then set out for Malawi for a sweet potato cookie! When you’ve returned home, the journey’s still not over—M. E. Furman provides recipes for children to bake some of Santa’s cookies for themselves.”   (Suggested ages: 4-8)

Joy to the World by Kate DePalma and Sophie Fatus

“Explore Christmas traditions from 13 different countries! Rhyming text and detailed illustrations make the book accessible to younger readers, while educational endnotes about the 13 celebrations add interest for older children. Gold ink and festive illustrations capture the joy of the season and make this book a beautiful gift in itself. Engaging and informative for anyone who wants to learn about the holiday.”  (Suggested ages: 4-10)

Shirley Jackson: Celebrating a Life Through Books & Media

Happy Birthday Shirley Jackson, American writer whose captivating books of horror and gothic mystery have earned high honors in American literature. Born Dec. 14, 1916 in San Francisco, California, Jackson’s work continues to delight fans of the macabre. Horror master Joyce Carol Oates summed up Jackson this way: “Characterized by the caprice and fatalism of fairy tales, the fiction of Shirley Jackson exerts a mordant, hypnotic spell.” 

You probably read “The Lottery” in high school – it’s one of the most widely anthologized and read short stories in the English language. First published in The New Yorker magazine in June 1948, the story remains one of the most terrifying of the 20th century. 

Jackson’s first novel, “The Road Through the Wall” (1948) is loosely based on her childhood in California. It satirically explores what happens when a smug suburban neighborhood is breached by awful, unavoidable truths. This is the tale that launched Jackson’s heralded career. 

“Hangsaman” (1951) is based on an actual event, the disappearance of a student from Bennington College in 1946, which was never solved. In the chilling, suspenseful book, Natalie Waite longs to escape her father, a domineering and egotistical writer, for college. But college life doesn’t bring the happiness she expected. Little by little, she is no longer certain of anything–even where reality ends and her dark imaginings begin.   

“The Bird’s Nest” (1954) follows a young woman’s descent into a nightmare. Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girl–but four separate, self-destructive personalities. Jackson’s third novel develops hallmarks of the horror master’s most unsettling work: tormented heroines, riveting familial mysteries, and a disquieting vision inside the human mind. 

In “The Sundial” (1958), the Halloran clan gathers at the family home for a funeral. No one is surprised when the somewhat peculiar Aunt Fanny wanders off into the secret garden. But then she returns to report an astonishing vision of an apocalypse from which only the Hallorans and their hangers-on will be spared, and the family finds itself engulfed in growing madness, fear, and violence as they prepare for a terrible new world. 

“The Haunting of Hill House” came out in 1959, and is still considered one of the greatest ghost stories of the 20th century. Four seekers arrive at a notorious mansion called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers–and soon it will choose one of them to make its own. 

“The Haunting of Hill House” was adapted for the screen not once, but three times. First came the movie The Haunting (1963), starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom. A second film, also called The Haunting, was made in 1999, starring Liam Neeson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Owen Wilson. And Netflix is producing a television program called The Haunting of Hill House starting in 2018, starring Michiel Huisman, Carla Gugino, Henry Thomas and Elizabeth Reaser. 

Jackson also published two volumes of memoirs. First came “Life Among the Savages” (1952), taking on the lighter side of small-town life. In this witty and warm memoir of her family’s life in rural Vermont, she exposes a domestic side in cheerful contrast to her quietly terrifying fiction. With a novelist’s gift for character, an unfailing maternal instinct, and her signature humor, Jackson turns everyday family experiences into brilliant adventures. In the sequel “Raising Demons” (1957), Jackson’s four children have grown from savages into full-fledged demons. The clan moves into a larger home, taking the chaos with them. A confrontation with the IRS, Little League, trumpet lessons, and enough clutter to bury her alive are spun into a reminder that a happy family in a new home is every bit as thrilling as a murderous family in a haunted house.    

Jackson’s last novel, “We Have Always Lived in the Castle,” (1962), is often cited as her masterpiece. Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods, until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. The book was adapted into a 2018 movie starring Taisa Farmiga, Alexandra Daddario and Crispin Glover. 

Jackson suffered from poor health and died in 1965 at age 48. But many examples of her writing were discovered after her death, and 56 pieces are collected in “Let Me Tell You” (2015). It includes eerie short stories, inspiring lectures on writing, comic essays about her large, boisterous family and whimsical drawings. 

To learn more about Jackson, try “Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life” by Ruth Franklin. Or try “Private Demons: the Life of Shirley Jackson” by Judy Oppenheimer. “The Letters of Shirley Jackson,” written over almost 30 years, have all the hallmarks of Jackson’s beloved fiction: flashes of the uncanny in the domestic, sparks of horror in the quotidian, and veins of humor that run through good times and bad. 

National Write a Business Plan Month

Snow will be falling soon which means it’s the most wonderful time of the year to… write your business plan???

Yes, you heard me right. December is National Write a Business Plan Month! With all of the end of the year holiday celebrations, why would anyone even THINK about writing a business plan between busy holiday preparations, family gatherings, school programs, and all other festivities? It is because the month of December is the perfect launchpad to turn your dreams into a reality at the start of the new year. Have you been dreaming of opening a store or restaurant, starting a crafting business, marketing a new invention, getting into ecommerce, or have other brilliant ideas? We have the resources for you to get started! Check out a sampling of our books, dive into our databases, and network with local organizations who want to see you succeed. Begin 2023 on the right foot by making your business aspirations and dreams come true!!!

Book List

Backable: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You by Suneel Gupta with Carlye Adler

A groundbreaking book that boldly claims the key to success is not talent, connections, or ideas, but the ability to persuade people to take a chance on your potential.

Book Yourself Solid: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even If You Hate Marketing and Selling by Michael Port

Kick off the cycle of success with serious self-promotion that works.

Build the Damn Thing: How to Start a Successful Business If You’re Not a Rich White Guy by Kathryn Finney

An indispensable guide to building a startup and breaking down the barriers for diverse entrepreneurs from the visionary venture capitalist and pioneering entrepreneur Kathryn Finney.

Business Plan in a Day: A Complete Business Plan in 24 Hours or Less! by Rhonda Abrams

Written for anyone who needs to develop a business plan as soon as possible, Business Plan in a Day 4th ed. breaks down the sometimes-intimidating process of business planning into easy-to-follow, manageable steps. With worksheets and checklists, time-saving tools, and expert advice, Business Plan in a Day 4th ed. enables business owners to develop a well-constructed and efficient plan that can help them plan the business they’ve always wanted to start, raise the funds they need, and move their companies forward. With new content to help business owners survive and thrive during a recession, Business Plan in a Day 4th ed. is up-to-date with the advice and resources needed today.

Business Skills All-in-One for Dummies by John A. Tracy

Compiled from eight of the best Dummies books on business skills topics, Business Skills All-in-One for Dummies offers everything you need to hone your abilities and translate them into a bigger paycheck. Whether you’re tasked with marketing or accounting responsibilities – or anything in between – this all-encompassing reference makes it easier than ever to tackle your job with confidence.

Excuse Me: The Survival Guide to Modern Business Etiquette by Roseanne J. Thomas

In today’s workplace, manners matter more than ever. With an increasing amount of open-plan workplaces and constant connectivity, the chances of unintentionally annoying or offending others is growing. Merging classic rules of behavior with new realities of modern business, Excuse Me spotlights dozens of puzzling situations, with suggestions for bridging divides.

How to Write a Business Plan by Mike P. McKeever

You need a sound business plan to start a business or raise money to expand an existing one. For over 30 years, How to Write a Business Plan has helped fledgling entrepreneurs – from small service businesses and retailers to large manufacturing firms – write winning plans and get needed financing.

The Introverts Edge to Networking: Work the Room, Leverage Social Media, Develop Powerful Connections by Matthew Pollard with Derek Lewis

One of the biggest myths that plagues the business world today is that our ability to network depends on having the “gift-of-gab.” You don’t have to be outgoing to be successful at networking. You don’t have to become a relentless self-promoter. In fact, you don’t have to act like an extrovert at all. The truth is that when introverts are armed with a plan that lets them be their authentic selves, they make the best networkers.

The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Even Need by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox

Written by two expert authors who have won secured millions of dollars in government and foundation grants, The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need is the classic book on grant seeking, providing a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for government, nonprofit, and individual grant seekers. Drawing on decades of experience in grant writing and professional development, Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox demystify the process of securing grants while offering indispensable advice from funders and recipients.

Power Your Profits: How to Take Your Business from $10,000 to $10,000,000 by Susie Carder

A comprehensive, bulletproof start-to-finish plan for taking your business from startup mode to the multi-million-dollar mark straight from the inventor of the Predictable Success Method(tm).

The Small Business Start-Up Kit by Peri Pakroo

Want to start a business? Don’t know where to begin? The Small Business Start-Up Kit shows you how to set up a small business in your state, while clearing state and local bureaucratic hurdles.

Starting an Online Business All-in-One for Dummies by Shannon Belew

With the right knowledge and resources, you can take action to start the online business you’ve been dreaming of.  This comprehensive guide provides tips and tricks for turning your dream into a reality. The sixth edition of Starting an Online Business: All-in-One for Dummies will teach you the basics and beyond. It will prepare you to set up your business website, offer your products in an online store, and keep accurate books. The authors help you navigate the primary legal, accounting, and security challenges related to running an online business.

The Startup Checklist: 25 Steps to a Scalable, High-Growth Business by David S. Rose

The Startup Checklist is the entrepreneur’s essential companion. While most entrepreneurship books focus on strategy, this invaluable guide provides the concrete steps that will get your new business off to a strong start. You’ll learn the ins and outs of startup execution, management, legal issues, and practical processes throughout the launch and growth phases, and how to avoid the critical missteps that threaten the foundation of your business. Instead of simply referring you to experts, this discussion shows you exactly which experts you need, what exactly you need them to do, and which tools you will use to support them – and you’ll gain enough insight to ask smart questions that help you get your money’s worth. If you’re ready to do big things, this book has you covered from the first business card to the eventual exit.

This Is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See by Seth Godin

Great marketers don’t use consumers to solve their company’s problem; they use marketing to solve other people’s problems. Their tactics rely on empathy, connection, and emotional labor instead of attention-stealing ads and spammy email funnels. No matter what your product or service, this book will help you reframe how it’s presented to the world, in order to meaningfully connect with people who want it. Seth employs his signature blend of insight, observation, and memorable examples to teach you.

Our eLibrary Business Resources

Gale Courses offers a wide range of highly interactive, instructor-led courses that you can take entirely online. Courses run for six weeks and new sessions begin every month. Be sure to check out the Accounting and Finance, Business, and Computer Applications courses.

LinkedIn Learning Choose from thousands of online courses to learn in-demand skills from real-world industry experts.

Northstar Digital Literacy This free set of digital literacy assessments includes self-guided modules: Essential Computer Skills (Basic Computer Skills, Internet Basics, Using Email, Windows, Mac OS), Essential Software Skills (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), and Using Technology in Daily Life (Social Media, Information Literacy, and Creative Job Search). Closed-captioning is available and screen readers are supported. At the end of each test, the user receives a page of results, which lists the skills that have been mastered and the areas that need improvement.

Small Business Reference Center offers exclusive full text for many top consumer small business reference books, as well as tools to address many small business topics. It includes business videos, a help and advice section and details on how to create business plans.

Local Community Organizations and Resources

Campana Center for Ideation and Invention

The Campana Center for Ideation and Invention gives every maker the tools, skills and confidence they need to bring their ideas to life.


The Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise (GLIDE) helps Northeast Ohio entrepreneurs wrap sound business practices around great business ideas. GLIDE’s experienced Entrepreneurs-in-Residence provide professional business assistance to companies at every stage of development and connect entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Lorain County Chamber of Commerce

Linking Lorain County’s Business Community Together Since 1988. Connect. Promote. Grow. Partner. Your Lorain County Chamber.

Northern Ohio Area Chambers of Commerce

Incorporated in 1995, the Northern Ohio Area Chambers of Commerce (NOACC) was established to provide tangible benefits of chamber membership to local businesses. NOACC has now grown to over 125 chambers of commerce – some volunteer managed, some county-wide in scope – and some of the NOACC chambers have grown ten-fold with the adoption of these benefits.

Power of MORE

The PowerOfMORE is an award winning association of Chambers of Commerce working together to help you build your business on Cleveland’s west side and beyond.

The Richard Desich Sales Institute

The goal of the Richard Desich Sales Institute is to establish a world class sales institute that centers on the direct input of the thought leaders within our regional business community. The program is an approach to training through a Learn and Apply Methodology – where delivery of content is paired with implementation through a formal hands-on experience.


SCORE remains dedicated to our mission of fostering vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education. These past few months have taken a toll on many of the small businesses and communities we serve. SCORE’s network of 10,000 volunteer men and women stands ready to support the small business owners we serve. Entrepreneurs are, by nature, courageous and resilient.

Small Business Development Center (SBDC)

The Ohio Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) provide a high-impact, front-line program designed to facilitate small business growth, job creation and access to capital. SBDCs provide confidential one-to-one business advising at no cost, management training and education programs, and technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Ohio SBDC Network also includes the specialty programs – International Trade Assistance Centers (ITAC) and Manufacturing and Technology and Technology Small Business Development Centers (MTSBDC). Each center is staffed with highly-trained, industry experts to assist the local small business community with growth strategies.

U.S. Small Business Administration

The Small Business Administration has a guide that you can download called Start Your Business in 10 Steps which covers plan, launching, managing, and growing your business.

Holly Jolly Hygge – Celebrate the Holidays

“It came without ribbons, it came without tags. It came without packages, boxes, or bags … Maybe Christmas he thought doesn’t come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.” – Dr. Suess, How The Grinch Stole Christmas

December is finally here, which means the holiday season is fully upon us!  And with that seems to come all the expectations through social media and the magic of Christmas movies (I’m looking at you, Hallmark Channel!) that we need to do ALL the things and buy ALL the toys and gadgets in order to have a perfect holiday.  But, let’s face the facts: no one really has time nor all the funds to make that happen.  This isn’t a Hallmark movie, and unfortunately, there is no small town business owner who wears plaid and has a meet cute with you picking out holiday decor at your local store to make it happen.  Alas…the holidays can be a really big source of stress for many people, who feel pressured to do so much to create “perfect holiday memories.”  However, there might be a few ways to combat the holiday blues.  Denmark is considered one of the happiest nations in the world (and has been for a few years running)! The question is, why?  Well, in Denmark they have a thing called hygge. 

Pronounced (definitely try this a couple of times, outloud to get a feel for it!) Hoo-Gah, Hygge is a Danish word meaning “to give courage, comfort, or joy.” However, hygge is more than a noun – it can be a verb, or even an adjective, and it’s a way of life for Danes.  Hygge has gained some popularity in the United States over the years, especially as we Americans always look for new ways to incorporate happiness into our lives.  With hygge, it is a way to take time out of your busy schedule and to be present and mindful in the moment. And especially in the holiday season, that is far more important than getting the best present, or capturing the most Instagrammable moment for the likes.  The winter is considered the most hyggelig time of year, especially with the holidays.  So, how do you hygge?

  • Holiday Lights: Lighting in Denmark is extremely important, as it’s so very dark for a good chunk of the winter there.  Hygge lighting is not super bright, but ambient and cozy.  Cue twinkle lights!  Use string lights to not only decorate your tree, but also around your home.  Turn off the overhead lighting, and take a few minutes to bask in the glow. 
  • Holiday Lights II:  Additionally, hygge is about being present in the moment.  There are so many places around that have beautiful holiday light displays that you can drive to or walk around, even in neighborhoods (which means it is low cost!).  Enjoy the ambiance and make memories with your family that can become a yearly tradition!
  • Movie Nights:  Personally, I love a good night in, snuggled under blankets, especially watching holiday movies.  Pair this with loved ones, ambient lighting, and a mug of hot cocoa wearing your favorite comfy pj pants, and you have a perfectly hygge night.  And trust me, your kids will remember it fondly.  (This was literally how I watched Gremlins the first time with my family and it’s permanently etched in my holiday memories!)
  • Handmade Gifts:  Tis’ the season of gift giving, but instead of participating in the zaniness of the stores or internet shopping, why not make something for someone?  By making a hand-crafted item, such as an heirloom recipe book or a hat or a scarf, you could even bake cookies or paint wine glasses for someone as a gift.  The process of making something for someone is very hygge,  and it is so appreciated and memorable!
  • Baking: Tis’ also the season for all the sweet treats, and what better way to make holiday memories and be present with your family than to make baking a family affair?  Have little ones help decorate cookies, or have a cookie swap among family members.  The process is more fun and less daunting if you have other people baking with you.  Then give away extras as presents!
  • Bring Nature Inside:  If it truly is too frigid to go outside (and maybe there’s no snow yet in Ohio), but you still want to enjoy nature, try decorating with some holly or an evergreen bouquet.  It’ll smell like the holiday season, without the commitment of a whole Christmas tree to take care of.  Bonus: Snuggle up at home and make a fragrant pot of cinnamon, cranberry and cloves and simmer it on low to make your home smell wonderful – and socialize with your family over it!
  • Cozy Family Dinner:  Turn off the bright overhead lights, and prepare a fun meal in ambient (candle) lighting, and hang out with your family.  The holidays are so busy, people will appreciate being able to be present with one another without rushing through a meal. 
  • Embrace the Flavors of the Season:  If you’re staying close to home make choices to incorporate seasonal vegetables and fruits for winter, or try foods that only come out around the holiday season (think peppermint mocha or certain cheese spreads).   You can also incorporate this in what beverages you partake in, going with gingerbread flavored tea, coffee, or hot cocoa!
  • Schedule a Day Off:  That’s right.  It can be that simple.  Plan a weekend day where the only thing you have to do is be with your family, and you are under no social obligations (or holiday shopping for that matter).  So much about the holidays can be go, go, go: Pictures with Santa, holiday concerts, religious services, holiday parties, gift wrapping, last minute shopping, decorating, not to mention all the regular chores and errands that you have to do, that to be truly hygge it’s nice to take time to just be present and rest.  That can mean curling up with a holiday romance novel, snuggling by the fire with a loved one, eating a charcuterie board with your family for dinner, or staying in pajamas all day.  The point of it is, do what makes you happy, even if your pajamas are truly Hyggebuksers (the pj pants that are the utmost of comfortability but have seen some things) and it’s a mundane and not social media worthy moment.  Because at the end of the day, the holidays aren’t about likes or how many events you can do in a month.  It’s about spending time with those you care about. 

I hope these ideas help you with the pressure of the holiday season and things get a little more hygge in your life!

For more information on Hygge, check out these titles!

Here’s Looking at You Kid – Happy 80th Anniversary, Casablanca!

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

Celebrating its oak anniversary (that’s eighty years!), and considered one of the greatest, if not the greatest film ever made by many film aficionados, Casablanca is a film of legend.  Between the sweeping score, memorable lines, and iconic lead characters, it has not only been preserved by the Library of Congress for being culturally significant, but it has captured viewers’ imaginations for the past eight decades, and for future decades to come!  So, let’s celebrate Casablanca, which graced the silver screen on November 26th, 1942 with some behind the scenes facts!  Fun fact: If you would like to watch the movie, you can check it out from your local library!

“Round up the usual suspects.”

Before we even get into Humphrey Bogart (Bogie)’s cool screen presence, or the chemistry that he and Ingrid Bergman share across this epic love story, let’s dive into the humble beginnings!

  • The story of Casablanca was initially a play, “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Bennett and Joan Allison and was pitched for Broadway but never made it.  However, Warner Brothers saw its potential, and bought the script and all its rights for $20,000 dollars!  To put this in perspective, The Maltese Falcon, (another Bogie starred film) was purchased for $8,000 dollars. 
  • Had anyone mentioned Humphrey Bogart as a leading man in an epic love story for a popular Hollywood movie in 1940, executives would have shook their heads and said, he’s definitely not a leading man!  However, Bogie starring in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon changed their minds (The Maltese Falcon in particular was extremely successful), and the character of Rick was born. 
  • Humphrey Bogart had to stand on blocks or sit on cushions in order to look taller than Ingrid Bergman, who was actually two inches taller than him!
  • Although Casablanca seems to be a very exotic location, the film was actually shot in the studio in California.  The filming was also rushed in order to cash in on the fact that there was an Allied invasion of North Africa and the consequent capture of the city of Casablanca. 
  • The iconic song “As Time Goes By” almost wasn’t in the film – you see, the composer of Casablanca’s sweeping theme was Max Steiner.  The song “As Time Goes By” was in the play, but Steiner didn’t like it, and wanted it out.  However, Ingrid Bergman had already filmed her scenes with the song included, and had cut her hair shortly after, so they couldn’t cut the scenes due to continuity!  Thus it stayed – and became a popular hit across the radio after the film came out!
  • Additionally, in examining this scene with Ingrid Bergman, the famous line that has been quoted a multitude of times, “Play it again, Sam” is not actually in the movie.  In the scene the phrases, “Play it,” and “Play it Sam” are used, but never “Play it again, Sam.”  Some have thought that due to the Woody Allen play called, “Play it again, Sam” that became a film in 1972, that people have attributed it to the film, and thus it is constantly misquoted!
  • No one expected Casablanca to be the hit it was!  It was expected to be a successful film of 1942, but no one expected the Academy Award nominations and wins, which helped garner it attention and popularity from critics and audiences alike!  Casablanca won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. 
  • In Ireland and Germany, the film was cut – in Ireland it was banned due to the Emergency Powers Order (which is to preserve wartime neutrality) as it depicts Nazi occupation in a bad light, but then it was cut and re-released there to also not include the scene that describes Rick’s and Ilsa’s love affair.  In Germany, it was also heavily cut, with all of the Nazi depictions and references to WWII removed. 
  • Sequels have been discussed, but never made.  After the initial release of the film, an immediate sequel was discussed, but never made it past the production discussion, other creators have said that due to the cult status, there shouldn’t be a sequel made.  Other movies have been filmed similar to it, like Havana, which is a similar story but set at a different location, and was commercially and critically panned.  However, Casablanca’s legend lives on.

“We’ll always have Paris.”

So, let’s celebrate again this Hollywood classic, a movie that has stood the test of time again and again, with fantastic acting, wonderful quotable lines, and a romance that is epic as it is tragic! “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

Boris Karloff: Celebrating a Life Through Books & Media

Happy Birthday Boris Karloff, British actor whose Hollywood films are iconic in the horror genre. Born William Henry Pratt on Nov. 23, 1887, his silky voice and slight lisp did nothing to detract from a menacing presence that has given filmgoers nightmares for almost a century. 

Karloff appeared in more than 150 films, but the most famous must be Frankenstein (1931), directed by James Whale for Universal Pictures. Another Brit, Colin Clive, played Dr. Frankenstein, who stitches together an artificial man from cadavers retrieved from fresh graves. Every scene of the film is iconic, especially Clive crying “It’s Alive! It’s Alive!” when Karloff’s finger twitches at his first moment of life. Dr. Frankenstein, of course, lived to regret his achievement, although film fans will never tire of Karloff’s boxy-headed murdering ogre. 

The film was life-changing for Karloff, catapulting him to stardom, although he had already appeared in dozens of films going back to the nineteen-teens. He received top billing, above Charles Laughton, Raymond Massey and Melvyn Douglas, in The Old Dark House (1932), a spooky thriller about travelers stranded in (what else?) an old, dark house. It was a busy year for him, also playing starring roles in The Mummy, and The Mask of Fu Manchu. 

These movies helped seal Karloff’s appeal as a horror actor, and he made a successful career in the genre for the rest of his life. In The Black Cat (1934), Karloff appeared for the first time with Bela Lugosi in a horror classic of satanism and murder. His first sequel to Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein (1935), brough him back together with Colin Clive to create that rare sequel which is the equal of its original. In The Raven (1935), Karloff is reunited with Lugosi in a chilling tale about a brilliant but unstable surgeon, fascinated by instruments of torture, who convinces an escaped killer to help him win the love of a beautiful young woman.  

In The Invisible Ray (1936), Karloff is teamed with Lugosi again in a science-fiction horror film about a radioactive meteorite and its effects on the people who find it. The Walking Dead (1936) showcased Karloff as an innocent man framed and executed for a murder he didn’t commit. When he’s brought back to life, the guilty parties begin to suffer. The Man Who Changed His Mind (1936) was a departure for Karloff, who plays a mad scientist who develops a machine that can transfer the mind of one person into the body of another. And in Tower of London (1939), Karloff is Mord the Executioner, a cruel henchman of King Richard III of England, a ruthless tyrant who stopped at nothing to reach the throne. Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price add to the fun. 

In 1938 Karloff took a break from horror for the title role in Mr. Wong, Detective, about a Chinese detective solving mysteries in San Francisco. It led to a series that lasted through 1940 featuring Karloff as Mr. Wong, one example of Hollywood films in which Caucasian actors are cast as Asian characters. 

He made a rare appearance as a hero in Devil’s Island (1939), as a doctor wrongfully imprisoned on the notorious French penal colony for ten years. That same year he returned to horror in The Man They Could Not Hang, playing another mad scientist who can bring dead people back to life. Karloff played similar roles in The Man With Nine Lives (1940) and The Devil Commands (1941). He was not averse to comedy either, offering a sinister touch to light-hearted fare including You’ll Find Out (1940), The Boogie Man Will Get You (1941), Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949) and Abbot and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1952). 

Karloff made his final film appearance as the Frankenstein monster in Son of Frankenstein (1939), although he would spoof himself as the monster decades later on television in Route 66. But Son of Frankenstein featured Basil Rathbone as Dr. Frankenstein’s son, and paired Bela Lugosi with Karloff again in a horror classic. The editors of “Universal Horrors” quoted Karloff as saying “After Son, I decided the character no longer had any potentialities – the makeup did all the work. Anybody who can take that makeup every morning deserves respect.” The last entry in Universal’s Frankenstein cycle was House of Frankenstein (1944), with Karloff playing the mad scientist who revives various deceased persons including the Frankenstein monster, the Wolf Man and Dracula.  

Karloff had had enough, and left Universal for RKO, where he made three movies for producer Val Lewton. The Body Snatcher (1945) teamed Karloff with Bela Lugosi for the last time, in a spooky tale of grave robbers, murder and blackmail in 19th-century Edinburgh. Isle of the Dead (1945) featured Karloff as a general with a group of strangers who are quarantined inside the same house after an outbreak of the plague. Bedlam (1946) starred Karloff as the corrupt master of an asylum for the insane in 18th-century London, who gets his just desserts.  

American moviegoers turned away from horrors after World War II, and Karloff tried his hand at other genres. He led a gang of jewel thieves in the musical comedy The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), which was a big hit for Danny Kaye in the title role. In Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome (1947), Karloff threatens a city with poison gas.  

The Strange Door (1951) had Karloff in a return to horror as a murderous family servant in a gothic castle. In Frankenstein 1970 (1958) Karloff played Dr. Frankenstein, inviting a film crew to shoot a movie in his castle. With a title like that, it can’t go well for the moviemakers. The Haunted Strangler (1958) was made in England, and written especially for Karloff, who plays a man investigating horrible murders in Victorian London. Corridors of Blood (1958) has Karloff as a surgeon in 1840s England experimenting with anesthetic gases with nasty results. 

Karloff also found success in television. From 1961 to 1962 he hosted Thriller, an anthology series of murder, supernatural and suspense tales introduced by Karloff at the beginning of each episode, his eyes sparkling at the mayhem to come. 

In 1963 he made two movies for the low-budget horror king Roger Corman. The Raven, unrelated to the 1935 movie, is a comedy-horror film with Peter Lorre, Karloff and Vincent Price as sorcerers trying to outdo each other. The Terror is straight gothic horror, with a young Jack Nicholson pursuing a ghostly woman to the crumbling castle of nobleman Karloff, where he uncovers a mystery. The Comedy of Terrors (1964) featured Karloff with Peter Lorre, Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone in a horror-comedy romp about a 19th-century undertaker who goes to great lengths to acquire new clients. 

Karloff made several low-budget films toward the end of his life, including a few in Mexico. He also loaned his voice to Mad Monster Party (1967), a stop-motion animated TV special in which Baron Von Frankenstein (Karloff) invites all the monsters to his private island to name his successor as leader of the Worldwide Organization of Monsters. 

And with Christmas on the way, try How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the animated tale narrated by Karloff about the grumpy Grinch and his plot to stop Christmas from coming to Who-ville. 

To learn more about Karloff, try “Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster” by Stephen Jacobs. Try also “Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff: the Expanded Story of a Haunting Collaboration” by Gregory W. Mank.  

Kids in the Kitchen: Thanksgiving Treats

Thanksgiving is time for family, friends, and delicious food!  Spending time in the kitchen, especially with children, not only results in a yummy treat, but it can also provide many teachable moments.  Kids in the kitchen are able to practice following directions, measuring, and even explore basic chemistry.  If you are looking to make some tasty treats this Thanksgiving holiday, below are related websites and videos. 


Make Homemade Butter
(from Buggy and Buddy)
Candy Cornucopia
(from Simple Girl at Home)
Turkey Fruit Platter
(from Everyday Delicious)
Roasted Squash Hummus
(from Happy Kids Kitchen)
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
(from Happy Kids Kitchen)


Click here to view additional kid-friendly cooking videos by Lorain Public Library System!

Kid-Friendly Cooking Programs with Lorain Public Library System

The Lorain Public Library System offers culinary literacy programs for children and families.  Below is a list of upcoming kid-friendly programs.  Please click each event name to learn more and to register online.  You can also register by calling your local library branch.

Decorate a Candy House – Tuesday, Dec. 13 @ 6-7:30 p.m. (Domonkas Branch)

Family Friendly Vegan Comfort Foods – Tuesday, Jan. 10 @ 6:30-7:30 p.m. (North Ridgeville Branch)

Soup Chefs – Saturday, Jan. 21 @ 2-3 p.m. (North Ridgeville Branch)

Valentine’s Day Cake Pops – Saturday, Feb. 4 @ 3 p.m. (South Lorain Branch)

Kids Cook! – Thursday, Feb. 23 @ 6:30-7:30 p.m. (Domonkas Branch)

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month

The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers, he belongs just as the buffalo belonged. – Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux Chief

To celebrate Native American Heritage Month, also known as American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month, I put together lists of fiction and nonfiction books for all ages celebrating their rich and diverse cultures, traditions, histories, and contributions of Native American people.

If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to live and grow. All men were made by the same Great Spirit Chief. They are all brothers. The Earth is the mother of all people, and all people should have equal rights upon it. – White Elk

Adult Books

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer

As a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer has been trained to ask questions of nature with the tools of science. As a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, she embraces the notion that plants and animals are our oldest teachers. In Braiding Sweetgrass, Kimmerer brings these two lenses of knowledge together to take us on “a journey that is every bit as mythic as it is scientific, as sacred as it is historical, as clever as it is wise.

A Calm & Normal Heart: stories by Chelsea T. Hicks

From Oklahoma to California, the heroes of A Calm & Normal Heart are modern-day adventurers – seeking out new places to call their own inside a nation to which they do not entirely belong. A member of the Osage tribe, author Chelsea T. Hicks’ stories are compelled by an overlooked diaspora happening inside America itself: that of young Native people.

Come Home, Indio: a memoir by Jim Terry

A Native American cartoonist shares his journey from childhood, through struggles with alcoholism, to a spiritual awakening at Standing Rock.

Indian Mounts of the Middle Ohio Valley: a guide to mounds and earthworks of the Adena, Hopewell, Cole, and Fort Ancient People by Susan L. Woodward and Jerry N. McDonald

Mounds and earthworks are the most conspicuous elements of prehistoric Native American culture to be found on the landscape of eastern North America. This book identifies and describes 70 extant, publicly accessible sites in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia, where mounds were constructed by Woodland people beginning some 3000 years ago. This book also reviews the culture, history, and geography of the Woodland and Late Prehistoric mound building groups and the fate of their structures during the Historic period. Sources of additional information about the Ohio Valley mound building groups are provided, as is access information for the mound and earthwork sites. The revised edition of the popular guide book incorporates new information and ideas about the mound building groups that have appeared since the first edition was published in 1986, and describes almost twice as many sites as were in the earlier edition.

Native American Legends of the Great Lakes and the Mississippi Valley selected and edited by Katharine Berry Judson

Collected almost 100 years ago, these timeless tales reveal the central beliefs and guiding principles of Winnebago, Ojibwa, Menominee, and other peoples and provide a window into their outlook and aspirations. An introduction by historian Peter Iverson highlights the divergent ways Native American identity has been constructed through such legends.

The Night Watchman: a novel by Louise Erdrich

A historical novel based on the life of the author’s grandfather traces the experiences of a Chippewa Council night watchman in mid-19th-century rural North Dakota who fights Congress to enforce Native American treaty rights.

Original Fire: selected and new poems by Louise Erdrich

In this important collection, award-winning author Louise Erdrich has selected poems from her two previous books of poetry, Jacklight and Baptism of Desire, and has added nineteen new poems to compose Original Fire.

The Red Canoe by Wayne Johnson

Buck, government name Michael Fineday, Ojibwe name Miskwa’ doden (Red Deer) is on the brink of suicide. He has just been served divorce papers by his wife Naomi, who is fed up with his savior complex and the danger it often attracts to their door. Living on the border of Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community reservation, Buck makes a living as a boatbuilder and carpenter. He spends his days alone, trying to win the trust of a feral cat… until a semi-feral girl shows up, fascinated by the canoe Buck is building. Lucy, Ojibwe name Gage’ bineh, (Everlasting Bird), lives in a trailer alone with her father, a local policeman struggling with PTSD which is compounded by the loss of Lucy’s mother. Just barely fifteen she has lived with a lifetime of abuse, while knowing that if she ever spoke out, her father would bear the consequences. Buck senses Lucy is in trouble and doesn’t hesitate to come to her defense. On the foundation of their shared Ojibwe heritage, they trace Lucy’s abuse to a ring that extends farther than either of them ever imagined, while building a bond even sturdier than Buck’s canoe.

Redbone: the true story of a Native American rock band by Christian Staebler and Sonia Paloini

Experience the riveting, powerful story of the Native American civil rights movement and the resulting struggle for identity told through the high-flying career of West Coast rock ‘n’ roll pioneers Redbone.

Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life by David Treuer

Presents an insider chronicle of the history of Indian reservations and contemporary Native American life, highlighting misunderstood issues and examining the historical tensions between Native Americans and the U.S. government.

This Land is Their Land: the Wampanoag Indians, Plymouth Colony, and the troubled history of Thanksgiving by David J. Silverman

Ahead of the 400th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving, a new look at the Plymouth colony’s founding events, told for the first time with Wampanoag people at the heart of the story.

White Magic: essays by Elissa Washuta

Throughout her life, Elissa Washuta has been surrounded by cheap facsimiles of Native spiritual tools and occult trends, “starter witch kits” of sage, rose quartz, and tarot cards packaged together in paper and plastic. Following a decade of abuse, addiction, PTSD, and heavy-duty drug treatment for a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder, she felt drawn to the real spirits and powers her dispossessed and discarded ancestors knew, while she undertook necessary work to find love and meaning. In this collection of intertwined essays, she writes about land, heartbreak, and colonization, about life without the escape hatch of intoxication, and about how she became a powerful witch. She interlaces stories from her forebears with cultural artifacts from her own life – Twin Peaks, the Oregon Trail II video game, a Claymation Satan, a YouTube video of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham – to explore questions of cultural inheritance and the particular danger, as a Native woman, of relaxing into romantic love under colonial rule.

Winter Counts: a novel by David Heska Wanbli Weiden

A vigilante enforcer on South Dakota’s Rosebud Indian Reservation enlists the help of an ex to investigate the activities of an expanding drug cartel, while a new tribal council initiative raises controversial questions.

You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me: a memoir by Sherman Alexie

The author of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian presents a literary memoir of poems, essays and intimate family photos that reflect his complicated feelings about his disadvantaged childhood on a Native American reservation with his siblings and alcoholic parents.

Teen Books

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

From the acclaimed Ojibwe author and professor Anton Treuer comes an essential book of questions and answers for Native and non-Native young readers alike. Ranging from “Why is there such a fuss about nonnative people wearing Indian costumes for Halloween?” to “Why is it called a ‘traditional Indian fry bread taco’?” to “What’s it like for natives who don’t look native?” to “Why are Indians so often imagined rather than understood?”, and beyond, Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (Young Readers Edition) does exactly what its title says for young readers, in a style consistently thoughtful, personal, and engaging.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Daunis, who is part Ojibwe, defers attending the University of Michigan to care for her mother and reluctantly becomes involved in the investigation of a series of drug-related deaths.

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Life in Native North America by David Treuer

Since the late 1800s, it has been believed that Native American civilization has been wiped from the United States. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee argues that Native American culture is far from defeated – if anything, it is thriving as much today as it was one hundred years ago. The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee looks at Native American culture as it exists today – and the fight to preserve language and traditions. Adapted for young readers, this important young adult nonfiction book is perfect educational material for children and adults alike.

Also available as an eAudiobook.

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz

Going beyond the story of America as a country “discovered” by a few brave men in the “New World,” Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz reveals the roles that settler colonialism and policies of American Indian genocide played in forming our national identity. The original academic text is fully adapted by renowned curriculum experts Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, for middle-grade and young adult readers to include discussion topics, archival images, original maps, recommendations for further reading, and other materials to encourage students, teachers, and general readers to think critically about their own place in history.

A Snake Falls to Earth by Darcie Little Badger

Fifteen-year-olds Nina and Oli come from different words – she is a Lipan Apache living in Texas and he is a cottonmouth from the Reflecting World – but their lives intersect when Oli journeys to Earth to find a cure for his ailing friend and they end up helping each other save their families.

Children’s Books

Baby Rattlesnake told by Te Ata and adapted by Lynn Moroney

Willful Baby Rattlesnake throws tantrums to get his rattle before he’s ready, but he misuses it and learns a lesson.

Between Earth & Sky: legends of Native American sacred places written by Joseph Bruchac

Ten Native American legends help a young boy learn that everything living and inanimate has its place and should be considered sacred and given respect.

The First Blade of Sweetgrass: a Native American story by Suzanne Greenlaw

In this Own Voices Native American picture book story, a modern Wabanaki girl is excited to accompany her grandmother for the first time to harvest sweetgrass for basket making.

Fry Bread: a Native American family story by Kevin Noble Maillard

As children help a Native American grandmother make fry bread, delves into the history, social ways, foodways, and politics of America’s 573 recognized Indian tribes.

How Raven Got His Crooked Nose: an Alaskan Dena’ina fable retold by Barbara J. Atwater and Ethan J. Atwater

Chulyen, a trickster raven, loses his nose in an embarrassing incident, but vows to get it back. With the help of magic powers, Chulyen devises a caper to retrieve his missing nose, and learns an important lesson along the way.

Keepunumuk: a Weeâchumun’s Thanksgiving story retold by Danielle Greendeer, Anthony Perry and Alexis Bunten

Told in a Native tradition, this Wampanoag story of Weechumun (corn) and the first Thanksgiving shows how the Native people, who already lived on the land where the pilgrims settled, helped them survive their first winter.

I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner

An Indigenous woman describes how she loved her child before it was born and, throughout her pregnancy, gathered a bundle of gifts to welcome the newborn.

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Little Gopher follows his destiny, as revealed in a Dream-Vision, of becoming an artist for his people and eventually is able to bring the colors of the sunset down to the earth.

The Legend of the Lady Slipper: an Ojibwe tale retold by Lise Lunge-Larsen and Margi Preus

In this retelling of an Ojibwe tale, a girl’s act of bravery to save her family leads to the appearance in the world of the delicate and tender flower called the lady’s slipper.

The Legend of Ohio retold by Dandi Daley Mackall

Young Dikewamis and her family are forced to keep moving as the “moving stone mountains” creep closer and closer to their village, driving away the bison and deer, turning the waters to ice, and hardening the earth, making it impossible to grow food. Their Chief, Tarachiawagon, has had a vision in which he sees fingers of water in a bountiful land. Thus he calls his people to embark upon a journey. The long, arduous trip will test the faith of many, including Dikewamis, but ultimately, it will lead their people to a new land. They will call this land Ohio, named for the many rivers that cross it – the fingers of water Tarachiawagon saw in his dreams.

Powwow Day by Traci Sorell

Because she has been very ill and weak, River cannot join in the dancing at this year’s tribal powwow, she can only watch from the sidelines as her sisters and cousins dance the celebration – but as the drum beats she finds the faith to believe that she will recover and dance again.

Raven: a trickster tale from the Pacific Northwest retold by Gerald McDermott

Raven, a Pacific Coast Indian trickster, sets out to find the sun.

The Rough-Face Girl retold by Rafe Martin

In this Algonquin Indian version of the Cinderella story, the Rough-Face Girl and her two beautiful but heartless sisters compete for the affections of the Invisible Being.

Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie

Thunder Boy Jr. wants a normal name…one that’s all his own. Dad is known as Big Thunder, but Little Thunder doesn’t want to share a name.

Intro to Yoga

I am very happy you are here. My name is Sarah. I have been teaching yoga and meditation for about 3 years now. My goal for my classes is for practitioners to feel empowered and relaxed in their own body and experience. Another one of my goals is to honor, understand, and share the histories and conditions for Yoga—the practice I teach. So I thought I’d kick our post off exploring the vastness of what yoga is.

In the west, we view yoga as something equal to physical exercise, something that just moves the body. The physical stretches and breathwork are only a small part of what yoga is. Yoga began at least 2,500 BCE, possibly 5,000-10,000 BCE in Asia. Yoga has roots in Indian philosophy, Jainism, and some Buddhist practices. Culturally, yoga is a spiritual practice, a condition, a way of living and interacting with oneself and the world—in a way that is grounded in love, nonviolence, and truth. There is no “shoulds,” or forcing yourself to fit in Yoga.

Yoga teacher Susanna Barkataki explains,

“Yoga was originally intended to prepare oneself as a foundation for unity with the spirit. . . .The purpose of this kind of meditative awareness is to experience, practice, and live oneness of mind, body and soul with the divine. This kind of freedom is called samadhi or liberation…”

I am writing this to bring awareness to the vastness of what yoga is and to invite you to take what works for you.

Questions and Ideas to Open up Your Practice

How can I let go of aesthetics in my practice?

How can I take what I learn on the mat off the mat?

How can I let go of shoulds? How can I give myself the space to be how I want and need?

What was I taught and what do I really feel?

The opposite of judgement is curiosity, instead of judging curiously and compassionately give to yourself and others.

Jessamyn Stanley Every body yoga : let go of fear, get on the mat, love your body

It’s a book of inspiration for beginners and practitioners of all shapes and sizes: If Jessamyn could transcend these emotional and physical barriers, so can we. It’s a how-to book and a book that challenges the larger issues of body acceptance and the meaning of beauty. Most of all, it’s a book that changes the paradigm, showing us that yoga isn’t about how one looks, but how one feels.

Jacoby Ballard, A Queer Dharma : Yoga and Meditations for Liberation

Jacoby Ballard provides an empowering and affirming guide to embodied healing through yoga and the dharma, grounded in the brilliance, resilience, and lived experiences of queer folks. This book touches on the foundations of Yogic and Buddhist practice with meditations along the way.

Thich Nhat Hanh Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh shows us how to make positive use of the very situations that usually pressure and antagonize us. Dirty dishes, red lights and traffic jams are spiritual friends on the path to mindfulness – the process of keeping our consciousness alive to our present experience and reality. The most profound satisfactions, the deepest feelings of joy and completeness lie as close at hand as our next aware breath and the smile we can form right now

Pema Chodron The Places that Scare You : a Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times

In The Places That Scare You, Pema Chödrön provides essential tools for dealing with the many difficulties that life throws our way, teaching us how to awaken our basic human goodness and connect deeply with others—to accept ourselves and everything around us complete with faults and imperfections.

Web Resources

Yoga With Zelinda is a practice for all peoples and bodies! She has a variety of videos to choose the one that works for you.

Li’l Yogi’s by Sabrina Merchant, has fun yoga practices for kids. Her channel has a large variety to choose from.

Happy Birthday, Kurt Vonnegut

Happy Veterans Day and Happy Birthday to Kurt Vonnegut Jr., American novelist whose “Slaughterhouse-Five” is a landmark of 1960s anti-war dissent. Born Nov. 11, 1922, Vonnegut served in the U.S. Army in World War II and earned a Purple Heart for his service. Decades later his dark humor and satirical dystopias earned him the role of counterculture hero for the Baby Boom generation.   

Vonnegut enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was fighting with the 106th Infantry Division in December 1944 when he was captured by Nazi soldiers. He was sent to Dresden, where he survived the Allied firebombing of the city in February 1945 by sheltering with other soldiers in an underground slaughterhouse. The experience contributed to the book he published in 1969, “Slaughterhouse-Five.” 

Like many G.I.s, after the war he returned to the United States, went to college on the G.I. Bill, got married, started a family and worked jobs including newspaper reporter and publicist for General Electric in Schenectady, NY. Vonnegut sold his first short story, “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” in 1950, and another shortly after.  

His first novel, “Player Piano” (1952), is set in America following a third world war. Based on Vonnegut’s experience working for General Electric, the novel spins the chilling tale of engineer Paul Proteus, who must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run completely by machines. His rebellion is vintage Vonnegut–wildly funny, deadly serious, and terrifyingly close to reality. 

His next novel, “The Sirens of Titan” (1959), is an outrageous romp through space, time, and morality. The richest, most depraved man on Earth, Malachi Constant, is offered a chance to take a space journey to distant worlds with a beautiful woman at his side. Of course there’ s a catch to the invitation — and a prophetic vision about the purpose of human life that only Vonnegut has the courage to tell. 

“Mother Night” (1961) features American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., an Allied spy during World War II, who broadcast propaganda on German radio with coded information that helps the Allies. After the war he is tried in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? With gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray. The book was adapted into a 1996 movie starring Nick Nolte as Campbell. 

“Cat’s Cradle” (1963) follows one of the fictional fathers of the Atomic Bomb. A satirical commentary on modern man and his madness and an apocalyptic tale of Earth’s ultimate fate, it features a midget as the protagonist, a complete, original theology created by a calypso singer, and a vision of the future that is at once blackly fatalistic and hilariously funny.  

“God Bless You Mr. Rosewater” (1965) is a postmodern satire and a biting look at the American class system. Eliot Rosewater–drunk, volunteer fireman, and president of the fabulously rich Rosewater Foundation–is about to attempt a noble experiment with human nature, with a little help from writer Kilgore Trout. It’s an etched-in-acid portrayal of the greed, hypocrisy, and follies of the flesh to which we are all heir. 

“Slaughterhouse-Five” (1969) was an instant best-seller and turned Vonnegut from a struggling writer into a financially successful hero of college students across the country. The novel is the result of what Vonnegut described as a 23-year struggle to write a book about what he had witnessed as an American prisoner of war. It combines historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, and satire in an account of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son turned draftee turned optometrist turned alien abductee. As Vonnegut had, Billy experiences the destruction of Dresden as a POW. Unlike Vonnegut, he experiences time travel, or coming “unstuck in time.” 

Published at the height of the Vietnam anti-war movement, the book catapulted Vonnegut to folk-hero status. He was awarded honorary degrees and invited to speak at college campuses across the country. The book was made into a 1972 movie with Michael Sacks as Billy Pilgrim and Valerie Perrine as Montana Wildhack, a porn actress with whom Billy has a child on the planet Tralfamadore. 

“Breakfast of Champions, or, Goodbye Blue Monday!” (1973) is set in a fictional Ohio town, focusing on a Pontiac dealer slowly losing his mind and one of Vonnegut’s most beloved characters, the writer Kilgore Trout. When Trout finds to his horror that the car dealer is taking his fiction as truth, violence ensues. What follows is murderously funny satire, as Vonnegut looks at war, sex, racism, success, politics, and pollution in America, and reminds us how to see the truth. The book was made into a 1999 movie starring Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Albert Finney and Omar Epps. 

“Slapstick” (1976) is an apocalyptic vision seen through the eyes of the King of Manhattan (and last President of the United States), a wickedly irreverent look at the all-too-possible results of society’s follies. But even the end of life-as-we-know-it is transformed by Vonnegut into hilarious farce–a final slapstick that may be the Almighty’s joke on us all. 

“Jailbird” (1979) was inspired by the Watergate scandal that ended the Nixon presidency. The book is a wry tale about bumbling bureaucrat Walter F. Starbuck, who tries to live by the Sermon on the Mount, from Harvard to the Nixon White House to the penitentiary as Watergate’s least known co-conspirator. Shall the meek inherit the earth? Perhaps on a short-term basis.  

“Deadeye Dick” (1982) follows a young man from a peculiar family background who inadvertently shoots a pregnant woman while playing with a rifle. This catastrophe has an irrevocable effect upon his life. Rudy Waltz, a.k.a. Deadeye Dick, tells the story of his life as a middle-aged man expatriate in Haiti. In addition to the other catastrophes of his life, his hometown back in the U.S. is virtually destroyed by a neutron bomb. At the ending of the book, it appears that Rudy, while he may not have fully come to terms with his actions, has at least come to live with them.      

“Galapagos” (1985) looks at our world and shows us all that is sadly, madly awry–and all that is worth saving. A simple vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race. 

“Bluebeard” (1987) is the fictional memoir of Rabo Karabekian, an abstract-expressionist painter reviewing his life. Broad humor and bitter irony collide as Karabekian, at age seventy-one, wants to be left alone on his Long Island estate with the secret he has locked inside his potato barn. But then a voluptuous young widow badgers Rabo into telling his life story–and Vonnegut in turn tells us the plain truth about man’s careless fancy to create or destroy what he loves. 

“Hocus Pocus” (1990) skewers a West Point graduate who oversaw the humiliating evacuation of U.S. personnel from the Saigon rooftops at the close of the Vietnam War. Returning home from the war, he unknowingly fathered an illegitimate son. In 2001, the son begins a search for his father and finds him just in time to see him arrested for masterminding the prison break of 10,000 convicts. Vonnegut’s famous brand of satire and wit captures twenty-first century America as only he could foresee it. 

“Timequake” (1997) explores the consequences when the universe decides to back up ten years. Everyone has to do exactly the same things we did the first time; minute by minute, hour by hour, year by year, betting on the wrong horse again, marrying the wrong person again. Why? You’ll have to ask the old science fiction writer, Kilgore Trout. This was all his idea. 

Vonnegut wrote one book for children, “Sun Moon Star” (1980), and several collections of speeches, commencement addresses and opinion pieces. These include “Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons” (1974), “Palm Sunday” (1981), “Fates Worse Than Death” (1991), “A Man Without a Country” (2005), and “If This Isn’t Nice, What is? Advice to the Young” (2013). 

He also published several collections of short stories, including “Welcome To The Monkey House” (1968), “Bagombo Snuff Box” (1997), “God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian” (1999), “Armageddon in Retrospect” (2008), “Look at the Birdie” (2009), “While Mortals Sleep” (2011), “We Are What We Pretend to Be” (2012), and “Complete Stories” (2017).  

To learn more about Vonnegut, try “And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut, A Life” (2011). Also try “The Writer’s Crusade: Kurt Vonnegut and the Many Lives of Slaughterhouse-Five” (2021). And Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time (2021), a DVD documentary about Vonnegut’s extraordinary life.