Every time I tie my shoes...

Here's a little secret about me that I've never shared with anyone before:

Every time I tie my shoes, I think of Mrs. Carroll, the teaching assistant who sat at a table in the hallway between Mrs. Dubois and Mrs. Roberge's kindergarten classroom at John F. Kennedy Elementary School in Blackstone, MA.

Mrs. Carroll taught children like me a myriad of life skills like zipping up your own coat, memorizing your phone number, and tying your own shoes.

I can remember sitting in that hallway like it was yesterday, learning to cross and loop laces until I could tie my own shoes without any instruction. Without even looking. 

I was five years-old when Mrs. Carroll taught me a skill that I still use today. 

Every time I tie my shoes, without exception, I think about Mrs. Carroll. I can see her sitting across from me, glasses perched on her nose, determined and unwavering, insisting that I master this skill before first grade. 

Teachers never know how long their lessons will live in the hearts of their students.

My daughter received her first library card. Her father might be more excited about it than she is, and for good reason.

My daughter received her first library card last weekend. She was thrilled.

I think my wife and I were even more excited than she was.

She also checked out her first book with it: If You Give a Moose a Muffin.

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I didn’t receive my first library card until I was ten years-old. There were very few books in my home when I was growing up, so my library card represented access to a world never before seen by me. I loved my public library, despite it’s miniscule size (a single room of books) and placement in the basement of our town hall. I would walk the aisles, staring at the spines of the books, unable to fathom how many stories were now available to me.

Today my hometown library is a beautiful building located in what used to be my middle school. It’s enormous, illuminated by natural light, filled with more books than my childhood mind could have ever imagined, and equipped with all the amenities of a modern-day library.


I’ve had the pleasure of speaking there on a few occasions, and while I adore the space, I still hold a special place in my heart for that small, basement room in the town hall where so many doors opened for me for the first time.

After some sleuthing by a clever reader, I even managed to identify and locate the first library book that I ever checked out, and a copy sits on my bookshelf today.


I have yet to reread it, fearful that it won’t be as spellbinding as I remember it to be, but I’ll crack it open soon.

Today copies of all three of my novels can be found in the same library where my daughter received her first library card All three can also be found on the shelves of my hometown library.

This astounds me. My heart still flutters every time I see one of my novels on a bookstore shelf, but seeing them on the shelves of these two libraries means more to me than I can describe.

I have wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember, but in my wildest boyhood dreams, I never imagined that my books would someday find their way onto the shelves of the library where the world of books and reading first opened to me.

And as a parent, the idea that my books are sitting on the shelves of the same library where my daughter received her first library card is equally indescribable.

My daughter was decidedly less impressed, and she is never terribly  excited about seeing her father’s books on library or bookstore shelves. That’s okay. My novels don’t have any pictures, and the endings aren’t always happy.

As long as she’s reading something, I don’t care.

My hometown on Blackstone, Massachusetts needs to learn the value of doing nothing

I grew up in Blackstone, Massachusetts, a small town on the border of Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

I love Blackstone. It was a wonderful place to grow up. I’ve actually set one of my future novels in Blackstone, partly because it’s easier for me to write about a place I already know but also because of the affection I still have for the town.

I was taking a peek at Blackstone's official website yesterday for reasons I honestly can’t remember when I clicked on the About Blackstone tab, expecting to learn a little bit about the history of my hometown.

What I found was a single page PDF that was clearly written by a middle school student suffering from a traumatic brain injury. It is a poorly written, strikingly nonspecific, occasionally incomprehensible document that offers nothing of value to the reader. Comprised of three sections, it is the third section that I think is the worst.

Titled ORGANIZATIONS, I have pasted it below for your examination. In terms of grammar, please note the capitalization of the words Civic Organizations and the double and triple spacing after sentences.


Even worse, I don’t think it’s possible to write three sentences containing less  information than these. This is truly a study in the art of the wasted word, a masterpiece of drivel and something that does not belong anywhere in print, let alone on the official webpage of my hometown.

What would a person who was considering moving to Blackstone think after landing on this page?

Worst of all, this is not a difficult problem to solve.

Why not simply link to Blackstone’s Wikipedia page, which isn’t great but at least is comprised of facts and correct grammar.

Or why not sponsor a contest at the high school, asking juniors and seniors to write their own About Blackstone page. Allow students to spend the entire school year working on their entry, then post the best piece on the website, crediting the student for the work.

Or how about simply deleting the tab altogether?

As a general rule of thumb, nothing is almost always better than dreck.