Be Prepared

Be PreparedMore essays on monthly themes from taekwondo class. The month’s theme was Be Prepared. This is what it meant to these students.


Being prepared is being ready for anything. If you’re always prepared, nothing will surprise. Your being prepared can save lives. For example, soldiers must be prepared so enemy soldiers don’t jump them. Every heard the saying, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” It’s not always right, but it brings up a good point though. You should always be prepared. I have to be prepared for a lot of the things you make me do, like the test coming up and that’s just an example. Overall, I am just saying, be prepared.


There are several ways I prepare for taekwondo testing. A way I practice for taekwondo testing is I like to practice at home to get warmed up for practice. I do other exercises at home as well to get strong and healthy. I have taekwondo and need to make sure I go to as many classes as possible. I do warm ups at taekwondo, too. One of them is squat kicks. I need to squat down and come back up and kick. In taekwondo, I have to write essays about the theme of the month like be prepared, focus and motivation.

I have started a new school year. We did a lot of thins to get ready for that, too. We needed to go get some supplies like pencils, erasers, markers, and folders. We also needed to get food for lunches, and snacks for school. We also went to buy new clothes because some of my old clothes did not fit anymore.

These are things I got prepared for.


I prepare for taekwondo by practicing at home and using my punching bag. I also practice balancing during the day. I sometimes hop around on one leg without falling one time. Mr. Brayton said I should watch youtube videos on snakes biting to show how I should kick. I watched them trying to bite people and they were quick

My favorite subject in school is math. I practice math problems on the computers so I can move onto multiplication and division

By being prepared for taekwondo my body gets stronger, and by being prepared for math my brain gets stronger.

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U & I – Joining The Club

Jesse Maricic BMW X5 M50d 2014 campiagn editorial photo shoot_toSo, on the night of January 20th, I was inducted into a club where many Uber drivers are members. It was one I hoped to avoid, but, alas, it was not to be.

I arrived home around ten that night from a tournament. Being alert and awake, not ready for bed, I decided to head downtown, pick up some bar business. I made three short trips before I received a call to pick someone up down on 4th near Fong’s Pizza. I waited, then called. I received a voice mail. I usually try one more time before I’ll wait awhile longer then cancel. The second resulted in a woman who said that they were coming but it might be a minute.

A minute later a woman taps on my window and says that her friends were coming, but one was intoxicated and they were having problems. So I waited. I exited the car to stretch my legs and enjoy the humid evening.

The woman appeared and asked if I could drive around to the parking lot between the buildings. I did so and discovered the attendant lifting a woman, keeping her from collapsing to the pavement where, I soon discovered, she’d already been.

We maneuvered the woman into the car. Her clothes were damp and she was crying and wailing. Her three friends tried to calm her, to no avail. She toppled over in the car and I told them that we had to get her upright.

The trip was from downtown all the way to Norwalk, about a twenty minute drive. The drunk woman continued to cry and say things I couldn’t understand. The two others in the back tried to calm her and discussed the situation. The woman in the front seat had tilted my way and soon her head was below my right arm. She had fallen asleep. The other two offered to try to get he upright, but I said she wasn’t bothering me.

Down to Norwalk we went with the drunk woman continuing to keen and whine. I offered to help get her to the front door but they said they had friends who might help. Unfortunately, those friends were a bit out of sorts, too, because they never showed.

At the house, the sleeping woman woke, went into the house and I never saw her again. The other two tried to haul the drunkard out of the back seat. I discovered one of the problems was one leg was still in the foot well. I pulled it outside and stepped back to let her friends help.

That’s when it happened. The woman vomited. Down the front of herself. When they finally removed her from the car, I discovered some of the mess had settled on the back part of the seat and some had stained the front part.

They dumped the girl on the ground and one went inside to get something to clean up the mess. Meanwhile, I took pictures to send to Uber.

The woman cleaned up the mess so I’m left with a couple stains I’ll have professionals clean.

Meanwhile, the drunk woman was feeling the effects of the ground and tried to stand. I shouted that somebody had better catch her before she toppled into some rocks nearby. I grabbed her and held her upright. Then she insisted she wanted to get back in the car, she was cold. Her friends steered her to the front door…and that was the end of the adventure.

I was out only about an hour, four trips. I turned in the pictures and Sunday morning had to send them again (Uber has a problem of not receiving the information the first time around or asking for extra stuff even though they have the evidence.), and later in the afternoon, I received a message that said they had charged the woman extra and gave the money to me for clean up.

$150 if you urinate or vomit. That’s what you’ll get charged. I don’t mind if you drink and I don’t mind taking you home. That’s what I’m out there for. I’d rather have you as a passenger than as a driver while I’m out there.

For heaven’s sake have a little responsibility so you don’t make a mess in my car. I don’t know how much money I would have made that evening. Maybe not as much as the woman was charged. Still, some of that has to be passed along to the detail shop.

Well, I’ll have another story to tell other passengers when they ask.

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Personal Goals

goalsA few weeks ago, I posted series of essays on goals written by some of my students. The essays were written last January and because of other commitments it’s taken awhile to get those posted. This January, I again had Goals as the theme of the month with an assignment for them to write a list of goals, plus a list of taekwondo goals. Those martial arts goals I want to pin on the bulletin board so everyone can read them and keep track of them.

I thought it fair that the instructor also wrote goals for the upcoming year. Both personal and martial arts related. If I’m not keeping up on my training and improving, how can I expect my students to put in the same effort.

With that in mind, here’s my list. Some are TKW related, some are not.

  1. To increase the amount of days I exercise.
  2. To increase the amount of days where I’m working specifically on my 5th Degree form.
  3. To complete and pass a midterm test at Black Belt camp in February.
  4. To complete and pass a midterm test at World Championships in July.
  5. To develop more graphic design skills.
  6. To find a publisher for two books that have been out of circulation for too long.
  7. To finish writing and editing the latest novel in progress.

I know there are only seven, but they’re important. I want to add two more, but I’ll reserve those for personal knowledge and be happy when those goals have been met or in an advanced stage of being met.

Fairly short post this week, but that’s okay.

What are your goals for this year?

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U & I – People

People in carWhen people ask me if I enjoy driving for Uber, usually the question comes after the inquiry as to how long I’ve driven. I started in September 2015. It’s a job where I set my own hours. If I don’t feel like driving, I don’t. I’ve gone out for two hours and I’ve been out for close to twenty hours. It’s up to me whether I drive. So, yes, for the most part, I enjoy it.

I tell people I’ve seen more of Des Moines than I ever thought I would and I’ve met a wide variety of passengers.

I’ve been to all the suburbs and several towns outside the metro. Adel, Booneville, Bondurant, Ames, Polk City, Granger, Hartford. I don’t like driving in Ames, but only because I’m not as familiar with the city. The layout of the campus streets is ridiculous.

But, I think the people make the job enjoyable. Everybody has been pretty nice. Oh, sure, there have been a few who have been mad, but not at me. One guy was upset because he’d gotten tossed out of a bar and I had to tell him not to take his anger out on my car. One wasn’t happy with the route I’d taken, but she wasn’t too upset.

I meet a variety of personalities. Many are quiet. They don’t talk during the entire ride, which is fine. Many are chatty and ask me question after question. I don’t mind.

I am amused by those who give me a short autobiography, including many personal problems that maybe shouldn’t be discussed. But, maybe they figure we’ll never see each other again, so it’s okay.

Some passengers-many who have been drinking-feel the need to give me detailed directions even though the GPS is directing me along the same path. Unless I know where I’m going, I rely on the GPS but defer to the passenger if a different route is preferred, even if that route is a bit longer.

I also enjoy listening to passengers who talk about friends/family/exes/co-workers. Some of the conversation, I’d not like the person being spoken about to hear.

Some passengers, as mentioned in another post, are amorous with each other. Some have argued. A few have cried because of what happened earlier in the evening.

Passengers have left a variety of items in my car which, if possible, I’ve endeavored to return: A water bottle, cell phones, umbrella, alcohol bottles, energy drink, cigarettes, can of chewing tobacco, driver’s license.

I have been able to return everything but the umbrella and the license. Well, the energy drink was given to another passenger (the can had been unopened) and because the alcohol had been opened, I threw away. I tossed the cigarettes and the chew. I mailed back the license…but it was returned as an invalid address. I called Polk County and tried to track down the person, but after a valiant effort, I ended up cutting up and disposing of the license. I hope the guy made out okay.

Some people ask me if they can smoke in the car (no). Some people ask me if they can make or take a phone call. (Sure.) I’ve listened to business deals, computer-ese and tech-ese and complicated math problems.

Nobody has made me feel uncomfortable or has been threatening. I did have one incident where I thought calling the cops in would have been a good idea. A lady had to retrieve some shoes from an abusive ex. The guy had called for the ride for the girl and then told me to leave. However, the girl wanted to return home after visiting the guy. I sat with a friend of hers in the car waiting. About the time it started to get uncomfortable, she returned, upset and angry. When we arrived back at her home, I handed her a business card and told her to call me if she ever needed to visit the guy again, that she couldn’t go over there alone. I hope she’s okay.

Anyway, the people make the job interesting. From the drunks to the guys who want to crank my radio volume to the quiet passengers.

I wonder who will get in the car the next time.

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U & I – More Random Stories

drivingMost of the trips I make aren’t spectacular or even wild. “Tell me your wildest Uber story.” Is a request I often hear. I tell about the drunk woman who peed in the backseat and the guys I took from the strip club back home so one could get more money, then back to the strip club.

No, most of the trips are common. Taking people to and from the bars, people to and from house parties, to pick up cars at the mechanic, to and from work, to and from the airport. Pretty standard stuff.

Some are unique. Not wild or crazy, just amusing, fun, or memorable.

Kevin called for a ride for a friend. I picked up the friend at a West Des Moines hotel and took her up to Ames. A couple hours later, I was back at the same hotel…this time to pick up the actual Kevin.

It is rare, but I have dropped people off at events and picked them up later. A couple from Ingersoll area I dropped off at the Waterford Restaurant and three hours later picked them up. I dropped a couple from Urbandale at a wedding at the Science Center and picked them up later that night.

I’ve picked up the same three British guys from Sherman Hill area a few times. The last time it wasn’t all three, but one and a pretty girl.

I’ve ferried a local newsman home from work various times.

A young couple I took from downtown out to the west side where they tried to get into a nightclub without I.D. Then I took them back to the east side, where one of them tried to buy beer…again without I.D. I ended up dropping them off at a house where other friends were.

A memorable trip involved a man from Granger (yeah, I’ve been up there a couple times). He had been drinking and, though no details were given, I think he had marital issues. Anyway, he had put in the destination as a taco place. Once we were in the car, the conversation shifted to that he really wanted to go to the casino, but, he said, he had to put in the taco place or else no Ubers would pick him up. Then he thought I resistant to take him to the casino and wanted dropped off near Walmart in Grimes so he could call another Uber.

Anyway, I told him I’d take him wherever he wanted to go. On the way, he offered a proposition. He said for taking him to the casino, he’d give me fifty dollars for a tip. However, if we both walked into the casino to the roulette table, I could choose either red or black and he’d lay down a hundred. I could have $200 or nothing OR the fifty-dollar tip just for dropping him off.

I considered it. I really did. For a second. If he hadn’t been drinking…maybe. I settled for the fifty and dropped him off at the casino hotel, where he bought a room.

Then there was the couple I picked up from the Ankeny country club. Nice looking couple. Handsome man, attractive woman. They’d enjoyed a wonderful evening together and kissed most of the way to her house. I thought they were married. Alas, no, just a couple…who really didn’t want the evening to end. At the house, he asked me to wait and went in with her to finish their kissing and verbal goodbyes.

I felt for the guy when he returned to the car, frustrated he had to leave. I don’t know the details but I know he left a beautiful woman and himself longing for more.

Oh yes, I have had many couple make out in the back seat. Nobody has removed clothing as of yet, but it does get steamy back there at times.

I really need to get that dash camera installed…

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GoalsFor the month with goals, I asked the students to write their goals for taekwondo.


My goals for taekwondo are to exercise to become stronger. The strength will help me bread boards, and not get tired so fast. Another goal is to be more confident. I want to be able to speak up for myself and stand up for myself if I have to. I’m happy to come to class each week and practice taekwondo. These are the goals that motivate me to continue my taekwondo.


These are the goals I have in taekwondo:

Earn my black belt

Pass with flying colors the first time

Get better at bending my knees

Get a lot more powerful

Concentrate more in sparring

Learn how to block accurately (with the correct hand)

Break with a brown board

Be able to do more pushups

Get a LOT more flexible

Get better at phrasing move in my form

Start using spectacular moves when sparring

Get better at falling gently

Distance myself better so I can spar the short ones

Break boards consistently on the first try


This is a list of my goals for the next year in taekwondo

To get my belt

To pass with flying colors

To focus in class

To break a brown board consistently

To get my kicks higher

To make my reverse kicks faster

To make my form smoother

To keep my distance in sparring

To have more power

To make good combinations in sparring


For home, my two goals are: following my chore list and to do chores every night. My two school goals are: doing my homework every night and hope kids in my class will listen and follow instruction. My goals for the community are: helping others and be active.


I want to memorize my entire form this year. I forgot a few things at the last testing so I want to work hard to get it right this time. I really would like to earn my next belt which will be my blue belt. I will have to work hard on my kicks to make sure my knees are high and I am kicking with power. I want to get more power when I spar as well. This will help on both kicks and punches. I want to get a sparring dummy for the house so I can work hard on getting stronger with more power. I really want to become a black belt one day. My dad says I have to keep working hard, trying my best and having fun. I also need to listen to what my teachers, parents and class instructors say to help me get my goals.


My goals are to do good in school and work real hard at my karate and focus on kicks and try hard to listen better to my instructor. Also to do a good job at school and listen to my teachers and not get upset with them and be nice to my friends and not hit people when I’m angry. Learn to take some quiet time when I need it and get better at karate and not give up.


My goals for this year are to do better with my reading and to practice more on my karate skills and help out more with my pets at home. My big goals this year is to be officially done with speech at school and getting ready to go to Middle School next year. Also , do a good job in school and try to get along better with my sister at home.

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Around The Globe With S. A. Stolinsky

What? No opening picture showing where this week’s interview is taking place

Well…here’s the thing. I went to the author’s home to pick her up for our world travel and when I asked where she would like to go to conduct the interview, she said to follow her.

I did. Through the house…to her bedroom.

“Whoa!” I said. “You’re not serious.”

“Yes,” she said. “This is where I write and I could think of no better place to talk.”

“But…it’s your bedroom. If you’re husband comes home…”

“He already knew you were arriving this morning.”

I wipe my brow and try to find a suitable place to sit…not the bed…

I guess I’ll stand.

Hot Shot Banner 851 x 315

1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?

Ho ho, I am definitely NOT the most fascinating person in my city, but I am interesting in that I was a working actress who then morphed into a Ph.D. in clinical and forensic psychology before finally settling into the career I should have pursued to begin with (with the psych doctorate I have right now, of course) writing. I think all those careers added to the writing and certainly made me more curious, happy and complete as a writer.

2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?

I’m a nervous wreck. I always have been. I kid around that I’m one valium below par, but the truth is, I worry about everything. Time demands don’t make me nervous and nothing “real” makes me nervous—but considering the future and what I’m doing with my life and whether I’m accomplishing important work, that keeps me up at night.

3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as rock star?

Ha, again. I sing like a crow so rock star-ing was not in the stars. I used to play the piano, badly and when I was ten my father decided I should play the violin. He practiced with me and I’m seriously surprised we weren’t kicked out of our flat. Writing was actually something I had a flare for and I loved telling stories and engaging people.

4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?

I would have loved to have dinner with anyone of a bevy of playwrites including most of the 1950s. I loved the old real-live television writers, too.

5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?

I would hope my books made you laugh, chortle, enjoy and look forward to the story’s ending. I would hope they would encourage you to let go of stress, anxiety and anything else that would be stopping you from your trip or while on your island. Like I always say, my protagonists scrunch up a Kleenex and throw it in the air and let it land where it may—that’s the kind of “who-gives-a-shit” attitude I’m hoping you’ll feel, so that what isn’t so important won’t be made more important or fearful than it really is.

6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.

All of that is so individual. With HOT SHOT, it took me two years and why I just don’t know. It’s a gambling story, so I did go to Vegas (ah, poor me) and spent two days at the Rio Hotel which is off the strip but is the center of the World Series of Poker, and talked to everyone who would talk to me, went behind the scenes, sat at one of the tables in that HHHHHUUUUUGE arena where too many tables to count sit under hot overhead lights with lots of cables and wires and who knows what. It’s quite an experience and I know that the people I see at the final table when I watch the tournament on television, took a long and hard time to get there. They played a lot of poker.

As far as plotting and characters, I always start with a character, his/her background, way of being in the world, sense of being and then throw them into some untenable situation and watch how they might get out of it. I always outline. I find that if I do, I’ll see the inciting incident and it’s ramifications so much better than just panstering. My schedule is: I go to the gym in the morning, then come home and eat lunch with my husband and write for the rest of the afternoon. I do research on the computer and Google, but I like to talk to people involved in my story, too.

7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”

Sure. Just start writing that first sentence. Another sentence will follow and another and pretty soon your story will come to you. You never go to it anyway, it always comes to you. The unconscious you know.

8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?

Do the best you can with your talents, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, and just keep truckin.’ I wish I could follow my own advice.

9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?

No, I’ll never stop writing. If I couldn’t type my stories, I’d dictate them into a cassette. I have a three-book series called The COUNTERFEIT series about a would-be actress, Lily Handy, who uses her talents as an actress to solve horrendous crimes the big boys can’t even break the ice on. But she’s totally unaware that she’s done that. Her profiling is so weird, but complete, the crime solves itself.

10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?

First and foremost, my publisher, and Amazon, B & N, and Kindle. There’s a pre-sale right now for the book, but I’ll definitely have giveaways, too. Oh, and my own website is

coverHot Shot

S.A. Stolinsky


November 1, 2016

Book Description:

Payback is a powerful thing…

Actor and bartender, Tyler West experiences a sudden streak of luck — winning poker games. Determined to change his life, he enters the World Series of Poker. His life is suddenly turned upside down when the Russian mafia fronts him 1.5 million dollars to play at the tables. And then…he loses…

Now on the ride of his life, deceit and deception are his key to uncovering the truth. He must recoup the money, but will it come at a price? Can he stay alive long enough or will his time run out?

Book Trailer:

Fiery Seas Publishing     Amazon


Tyler pushed his long, blond hair back with one hand and slouched. He knew she found him attractive. “I’ll tell ya,” he began, hoping to make it last, keep her interested. “I pretty much need the start up money right now.”

Ah, too fast.

Start up money? Now? You think I got a stash under my bed upstairs? We should go up and find out. My, my we’re in a hurry aren’t we?” Elsie pushed Tyler into an oversized easy chair covered with brown mohair. A black cat with white paws jumped off it as Tyler slammed down.

Easy kid. That’s the trick. You don’t wanta look too desperate, know what I mean? Well, you are good lookin’ I’ll give you that,” she said. “What ya got there?”

Tyler gave her a certificate.

Made this up on my computer. It kind of sells land.”

Bullwhippie,” Elsie said as she tore up the certificate and put it in a glass ashtray on the glass coffee table. “The only thing that makes a lot of money fast is ass, kid.”

One point five million?” Tyler asked.

You’re good looking, but honey your ego’s getting away with you.”

Elsie sat in her chair, a plush, pink armchair with multicolor pink pillow and a foot stool in front. She leaned toward him.

Listen, baby. This is just between you and me, got it? I’ve been a madam longer than I can remember. I work on the sly sometimes, and my parole officer comes around, but he don’t bother me. You know why?”

A still crestfallen Tyler looked at her.

“Because I got the goods on all those assholes, that’s why. I got the video. Don’t ever do porn without a video somewheres in the bedroom. Ya got me?”

Tyler nodded.

Elsie continued without noticing. “I’ll never tell where I hid the original, but believe me I got plenty of copies. Got a friend on Grand that does the best photography in the city. I had a couple of tapes made and almost sold ‘em to TV—the porn sites. So I been thinkin’ real hard about how I can re-establish my rep. And here you come.”

Tyler finally opened his mouth but it was only to use his tongue to wet his lips, they felt parched and he was sure they would crack it he kept his mouth closed any longer.

Yes, Ma’am,” was all he could think to say.

I’m gonna start up the biggest whore house in the state, sonny. This time? With men. You know how much a good male hooker can make? Two thousand a night. Now—depending on your stamina…”

Yeah, I get the picture,” Tyler said.

He wasn’t in to older women, but he had to admit, Elsie was beginning to look visibly younger with the excitement she was projecting. Some people love their work. Her gray roots were beginning to look more like silver blonde streaks and her smile was widening. Her teeth, perfect in what were undoubtedly caps, glistened.

A male whore house. I don’t think it’s been done before,” Elsie repeated.

Elsie was spry for a woman her age, but she had become overweight and as Tyler checked out the flat, it looked like she’d just moved into the place. She no longer looked like a professional, but that was probably the point. On a small table next to Tyler there was a silver framed picture, a studio shot of a glamorous woman, her head tilted back, full makeup and blond hair, her fingers just touching her chin and a large, pearl necklace around her neck and thick jeweled bracelets on her wrists. Tyler realized it was an old shot of Elsie maybe forty years ago.

Women in their eighties still masturbate, you know that?” Elsie asked noticing him admiring the photo. She looked like she might jot down his answer in an interview. “And what a shame that is when guys like you are just running around willy-nilly.”

No, ma’am, never really thought about it,” Tyler said.

You sure do look like your pa. He was a crafty one, but always good to my girls. You work out, huh? I got a boob job in my seventies. Hell, nothing stays up forever. They’re just starting to sag again now. Thinking about getting ‘em done again, so this is a good time we connected.”

Yes, Ma’am,” Tyler wasn’t sure where this was going, but he was pretty sure he didn’t want it to go much further.

Thirty percent on my end,” she said.

Huh?” Tyler realized his eyes had widened and tried to relax so he wouldn’t look so stupid.

Thirty percent.”

That’s a lot of money, Ma’am,” Tyler said, when the hole in his stomach shrunk slightly. “I mean I’m desperate, like you say, but that’s a big cut.”

Listen, kid. A man looks like you, your age, your height, your…face, could make more than two thousand dollars a night, okay? It’s not gonna last forever, so you better grab it while ya can.

authorAbout the Author:

Stefanie Stolinsky, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and forensic psychologist with a private practice in Beverly Hills, California. She specializes in trauma, adults sexually, physically and emotionally abused as children, and PTSD. She is an international speaker and has taught training seminars in overcoming the aftereffects of child abuse. She has also taught licensing examinations to candidates for both marriage, family and child counseling and for the psychology licenses.

She began her career as an actress in motion pictures, television and stage and created a unique therapy combining acting exercises with psychodynamic psychotherapy to help survivors of all kinds of trauma overcome the aftereffects of abuse. The first edition of “ACT IT OUT” was a top seller for over nine years. A second edition of the popular book was launched in April of this year and is available on Praeclarus Press, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

She is also the author of several award-winning short stories including her newest short story anthology, DATE NIGHT, and numerous comedy mystery. Dr. Stolinsky lives with her husband in Los Angeles.

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awe-and-inspiration-for-social-mediaOn this last blog of 2017, I wanted something special, but then that knock on the door offers another author wanted the coveted space. I know, it’s always something special with the featured guests, so why fight it, right. Why resist?

Besides, she’s here to offer the answer to one of the most oft ask questions from fans: From where do you get your ideas. So, here’s one author’s answer. I hope you find it special, like I did.

The Inspiration behind ‘Mamá Graciela’s Secret’

By Mayra Calvani

All my books have a special place in my heart, but my latest children’s picture book, Mamá Graciela’s Secret, has an even more special place. This is because it was inspired by my paternal grandmother, also named Graciela.

Mamá Graciela was a very sweet, generous, selfless person. And a passionate dog lover. She rescued many dogs not from shelters but right from the streets and at one point had like 30 dogs living under her roof. She just couldn’t stand the idea of an animal suffering the harsh life of the streets. When she saw a stray dog, she had to help. Her husband wasn’t as much a dog lover as she was but he never got in the way of her helping the dogs, which was nice.

My grandparents also had a small restaurant by the beach called La Bahía (just like in the book!) and my grandmother’s talent for making pollo frito (fried chicken) was kind of well-known in Ponce, the town in the southern coast of Puerto Rico where they lived. Initially my tale was about dogs and pollo frito, very close to the real story, but after I started the submission process, an agent told me the children’s market was saturated with dog books and she suggested I changed it to cats. So that’s what I did. This naturally led to bacalaítos fritos (codfish fritters) instead of pollo frito. It worked better because bacalaítos fritos are a traditional Puerto Rican snack, which added to the ethnic quality of the book.

Mamá Graciela also loved cats and, as I understand it, she fed them outside her home, but it was difficult and potentially dangerous to keep them indoors because of the dogs… So I knew I had to combine both critters at the end of the story. My grandmother died many years ago, but I could never forget her and her love for animals, so the idea simmered in my mind for over a decade before I was ready to put it down to paper. I’m very glad I did.

25_Mama_G_Reg_Cover_Cube__64118.1497550310Mamá Graciela’s Secret

Publication date: October 10, 2017

Written by Mayra Calvani

Illustrated by Sheila Fein

MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing

36 pages, 3-7 year olds

Reading guide at:



Mamá Graciela’s TENDER, CRUNCHY, SPICY bacalaítos fritos are the best in town…

Local customers (including stray cats!) come from all over the island to enjoy her secret recipe. But when the Inspector discovers that Mamá secretly caters to so many cats and he threatens to close her tiny restaurant, Mamá must come up with a plan to save it—and all of the animals she loves.

Mayra and RamsesAbout the author:

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her children’s picture book, Frederico the Mouse Violinist was a finalist in the 2011 International Book Awards; her anthology Latina Authors and Their Muses was a First Place winner at the 2016 International Latino Book Awards; her nonfiction book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a Foreword Best Book of the Year winner. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications like The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, Bloomsbury Review, and others.

She lives in Belgium with her husband of 30+ years, two wonderful kids, and her three beloved pets. When she’s not writing, editing, reading or reviewing, she enjoys walking with her dog, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Sheila-in-Studio-1About the illustrator:

Born in Queens, New York and living in Los Angeles since 1987, Sheila Fein has always been inspired by the changing world around her. Earning her BA in Design from Buffalo State College of New York, her concentration was on drawing, painting, printmaking, and photography. Sheila’s education as an artist has taken her everywhere from Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia to Bath University in England. Today, Sheila Fein runs two figurative workshops, Imaginings Sketch in LA and People Sketchers in Thousand Oaks. She has been featured in numerous collections, magazines, books, solo and group exhibitions. Her paintings and drawings reside in public and private collections. Sheila loves to make the imagination of others a reality and has done so through her commissioned Fein Fantasy Portraits and Interactive Paintings. In addition to being a fine artist Sheila works as an illustrator. She just completed the book “Mama Graciela’s Secret” for Maclaren-Cochrane Publishing.

Book info:

ISBN:HC 978-1-365-86153-6

SC 978-1-365-86155-0

ISBN Dyslexic Font Version:

DY HC 978-1-365-86154-3 DY SC 978-1-365-86156-7

**This book also has version printed in the Dyslexic font, the typeface for people with dyslexia. Go to to find out more about the typeface.

Suggested Retail Price – 17.99 Hardcover & 13.99 Softcover 40 % Discounted Price – 10.80 Hardcover & 8.40 Softcover

Available through – Ingram – Discount 40% Returnable – Yes

MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing – Discount 40% – Returnable – Yes

Publishing company Contact Info: MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 1024 Iron Point Rd 100-1478 Folsom CA 95630


MacLaren-Cochrane Publishing 620 Buchanan Way, Folsom, CA 95630 916-897-1670

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Self Control

self controlHere’s a biggie that we all struggle with.


Self control is working on my anger and not to hit or kick my friends when I’m mad. My self control is to have responsibility for my actions. My self control is how to learn to calm myself down when I’m upset.

Self control is to practice on my karate moves. Self control is to listen to my teachers and what they are telling me. Also, self control is telling someone I’m sorry if I did something I shouldn’t have done to my friends.

Self control on my emotions and feelings. To talk to someone if something is bothering me and also let someone know if someone is giving me problems or are picking on me.


I learn self control in the things I do. I’m in control of doing the right choices and of my actions and not making bad choices. I’m in self control on working hard and practicing, so I can get better.

Also being responsible control. Controlling our emotions when we are very upset with someone that we don’t do something that we shouldn’t do and control words we should not use, especially b ad words when we’re mad at someone. Also working out tough situations we deal with at school and home.


I think it means not getting irritated when things don’t go my way. Letting someone else go first when I really want to. Not yelling or talking back when I’m angry. Staying and listening when I get upset and want to leave. Doing stuff I don’t want to do, calmly.


I have exhibited self control at school. While playing soccer during recess, someone got ran over. I told him to be careful and he shoved me to the ground. Instead of returning the favor, I walked away and told the teacher on duty what happened.

Another place I have exhibited self control is at taekwondo practice when my sister Noelle and I are sparring. We get caught up in it and it could easily go too far, but we have to use self control to keep it from getting too aggressive.

Self control isn’t always used to prevent something negative from happening, it can also be used to help people do positive things. For example, when I am playing basketball, I use self control when using the proper form to shoot, instead of just just throwing it up there and hope it goes in.

All over the community I witness self control. Some use it well, but other don’t Be the bigger person and use self control wisely.


Self-control is an extremely essential attribute to have. The definition of self control is ‘the ability to control oneself, in particular one’s emotions and desires or the expression of them in one’s behavior, especially in difficult situations.’ In my own words, that means being able to control your feelings and actions whenever and wherever you are. However, this is easier said done.

When you exhibit self control, it is always important to realize no one is perfect. Also, making a plan of what to do in any situation helps a lot. Self control can be shown anywhere you are; whether it be at church events, at school, weightlifting, at youth group, playing sports, or even at your local Walmart! Though it may seem like it is a useless quality that you will find anywhere you go, self control is vital; and like every characteristic is that is vital, it is not always easy to exhibit.

Yes, using self control can be extremely hard, but an attempt should always be made to exercise self control, no matter what situation you find yourself in. Here are a few examples of when it would be a good time to exhibit self control from my personal experiences.

* At school, rather than talking to my friends (which seems much more appealing to me) I use self control during class to pay attention to the teacher(s) and do my assigned homework.

* At home, when I’m working on my homework and my brothers begin to annoy me, rather than yelling at them and letting myself get aggravated, I do my best to keep cool and exhibit self control. Though I’m not often successful, trying to calm down is always one of the most important steps. (Failure leads to success.)

* When I’m playing sports, (any sport, actually) I can use self control by keeping my temper in check when it seems the referees are making unfair calls against our team. Self control is not always used to keep something bad from happening, though. Sometimes (for example, when I’m about to serve in volleyball) I must use self control to properly serve the ball and concentrate while I’m doing so.

* When weightlifting, self control is crucial because if you lift without the proper form, you can easily damage your back and/or other muscles. Also, some people, if they’re hurt, need, when they’re weightlifting, to reduce the weights for awhile. You should never overload yourself; self control applies to very many things.

* You can even use self control at Walmart! When you are going shopping and are hungry, usually, you tend to buy more food than if you hadn’t been. If you are shopping at Walmart and see those Little Debbie treats down the aisle, self control will help you to turn away from the treats and buy more healthy/useful items. When I go sopping anywhere, I always find myself longing to have something that’s on sale. Then I ask for it and that usually drive my parents crazy. In order to ignore the temptation, I have to use self control. It really does help!

When you’re exhibiting self control, it doesn’t matter the place or the time. Self control applies to everything – from good thoughts to bad, tempting thoughts! However it is not self control if it’s somebody else controlling you. Self control is all on you; it’s your choice to make; it’s your own self control. When you exhibit self control, you can’t expect someone else to keep you calm. Self control is all about you controlling your own self: you emotions, your actions, your words, etc.

Self control. We all long to live in a life without temptation, but sin has entered our hearts and we fail to see the big picture. God gave us a gift that we can use to withstand temptation. Now all we need to do is use it.


I think good self control is keeping your hands to yourself and not getting in other’s space. I think I do good with self control at class by sitting still and not messing around while other students are breaking boards or testing. I also have been trying to do better at standing at attention during the bow in. I also think eating healthy is a good way to show self control. I always eat fruits, vegetables, and meat for lunch and supper to make me healthy. I can have candy, cookies, ice cream once in awhile but not too much. I like chocolate and candy and it can be hard sometimes to not eat too much. Also if someone is making me upset, I try to ask them to stop nicely even if I want to punch them in the nose. I don’t want to get in trouble too, just because they are being naughty. I want to keep practicing and training hard to get my black belt.


In my line of work, I have to exhibit self control all of the time. I can’t throw a fit or argue with inmates when they don’t do what I ask. I have to control my frustration to diffuse the situation. In school, I have to have self control by making myself write extra or do extra research instead of the bare minimum. I have to have self control when eating as well. As much as I may want to eat a whole cheesecake, I limit myself and have control over my impulses.


You have control of yourself, meaning you do what you know you should when you don’t want to, even though you want to do something else and give up on your assignment and do the other thing instead, like if you can do soccer, or play football, if you like, or lacrosse if you like lacrosse, or even karate, if you like karate, but self control is when you know the right thing to do and do it, even if you still want to do something else, you still do the right thing even if you still don’t want to, you still do the right thing anyway.

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Stay Positive

Stay positiveMore students essays.


I deal with adversity and obstacles by keeping on trying. I sometimes get upset and frustrated and sometimes want to quit, but I keep trying. When I was learning to tie my shoes, I was scared at first and a little upset, but after I tried it a few times and figured out I could do it, I was happy and excited that I had learned something new. When I was at the pool and wanted to try the water slide, I was scared even though my mom, dad, and brother were all riding it. I thought it was too fast and scary. I eventually got up the courage to try it and thought it was really fun and went down it like 100 times.


My mom always tells me to stay positive. I try to listen, but sometimes it’s hard. Like everyone else, I have problems, and everyone has problems, even small ones.

One of them is school which I find difficult. At times there’s school work for firsts, always stressing me out and taking up my time to relax. I also don’t like bullies, even if it’s not me being targeted. It just really annoys me to see someone hurting another because it makes them feel good. But there’s one thing I can tell myself to stay positive, “It won’t change until you do something.”

Beside that, I also have problems at home. Things can get pretty negative there, but I make due. One thing I can look forward to in the future is being able to travel back to Japan, where we can be a hole family again.

Although it’s hard to stay positive, it would be better than the negatives. You’re less energetic when you’re sad and you’ll think less and make terrible mistakes. That’s why you got to think about the positives and not the negatives.


Well, once when I got a hard math assignment, I got frustrated. I felt I couldn’t do it. So, I asked my Nana for help. After she explained it, it made sense. Then I was able to do my math assignment.

Sometimes, when I’m trying to learn something, I want to give up because I can’t do it. Well, I feel then, like I couldn’t do it. But, if I can take a time out from it, then usually it can be done.

Repetition – like I learned to tie my shoes or roller skate or ride a bike.

Positive reinforcement helps!

Sometimes I pray about difficult things to get easier.


I have to deal with adversity everyday of my life and I really do not like it. Sometimes, in taekwondo I have to practice a different move. This is how I stay positive in stuff like taekwondo. First, I think about something to cal me down. Then, I keep trying and trying and keep doing my best and if I don’t give up, I succeed at the taekwondo moves.

At school when I have something hard to do, I might ask my friends to help with the task. When my friends volunteer to help me, it makes it not so hard as it is being done alone. If I can’t do something because I’m hurt, then my friends help me right away without waiting and I’m happy that they will do that for me.

When I first hear I would learn division, I thought I could not do it. But when my parents made me do it, I got better at it. I started to pass tests on division and multiplication. I was glad I finished division facts on my own without anyone helping me.


Overcoming obstacles and adversity is hard and it’s hard to stay positive when things happen. However, after a moment (no more) of being down or whatever, you have to look at yourself and decide, “Am I going to let this get the best of me?” or am I going to do something about it and use it as a learning experience. We can take the difficulties and see them as opportunities to better ourselves, learn to grow.


My biggest stay positive is when things get tougher and challenging, I want to just give it up. I feel I can’t do it or everyone is better at it than me.

I have learned staying with karate and focusing and practicing and listening to my coaches. I will get better at it. Also, my teachers at school said when I started karate, I had a more positive attitude and not as shy as I used to me and I speak up more. I have learned you don’t have to always whine and it takes practice at everything.


My stay positive is at school. I’ve had struggles with math and reading is my biggest challenge. I like to give up on it and I get real upset trying to understand it.

I know I have to try to stay positive and know it will get better for me the more I practice at it. I try to stay happy and positive at school. I have realized it’s not worth it to give up, then you will never learn.

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