24-Hour Walk for 826CHI

“I wonder how many steps I could take in one day?”

The first time that tangent popped into my head while walking around New Zealand, I didn’t think much of it. But it kept nagging me. So I asked, “Why not?” and decided to actually do it.

Then, I had another idea–what if I wasn’t doing it just for the heck of it, but for charity? People do that all the time, right?

So that’s my plan. On September 24th (or the a backup date, if weather isn’t cooperating), I’ll walk out of my house at 5:00 a.m. and won’t stop until 5:00 a.m. the following morning. I’ll hike the Des Plaines River Trail, which starts and finishes right here where we live in Des Plaines, Illinois.

826CHIWhat am I walking for?
I’ll donate money and raise awareness for 826CHI, a Chicagoland organization dedicated to supporting students age 6 through 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, plus helping teachers inspire their students to write. They do workshops, tutoring, field trips, and publish books filled with the work of their students. At the end of a lot of their programs, a professionally designed and edited book is created, so these kids can call themselves published authors.

Midwestern Gothic worked with 826michigan to co-publish a book a year ago, and it was such a fantastic experience. Reading their work, seeing it take shape into Tell Me How It Was: Imagined Michigan Histories, and then hosting the launch party / reading was truly an honor to be a part of.

Why is this important? 826 is a national organization with many local chapters that teaches kids they don’t have to wait to have a voice.

Many of them will never call writing their profession. Some may not even like it. But the process of drafting a story, editing and polishing it, then crafting it into a physical object that exists in the real world teaches them what it means to make something out of nothing. It introduces them to storytelling–a skill that’s a huge advantage, especially in business.

The best thing about 826 programs is that it helps kids build confidence. Yes, they have something to say. They’ll have to fight and work to get it out into the world. But it’s worth it.

I’ll donate $5 per mile of my own money. If I manage to hit my goal of 80 miles, I’ll donate another dollar per mile on top of that.

Why am I posting this? If you’d like to help donate to this organization as well, I’ve set up a CrowdRise page that makes it easy to give any amount you’d like. They take a smaller portion of the proceeds than any other site, which keeps the focus on the cause. If anyone wants to walk with me for part of the route, I’d love to have company. Shoot me a message and we can figure out a way to coordinate.

Donate to 24-Hour Walk for 826CHI

Meditations, Anti-Fragile, and The Skeleton Tree: Rapid Fire Book Reviews

Meditations by Marcus AureliusMeditations by Marcus Aurelius: 4 of 5 Stars
This book is short, compact, and filled with so many lessons that a 2nd reading is probably necessary. Some lines need to be read several times in order to extrapolate their meaning and apply it to the here and now of your life. The letters penned by the aging Roman Emporer were never intended to be read by anyone. But this density also comes from clarity of thinking paired with lack of context. Some work needs to be done to connect musings from the battlefield to personal development, business, or whatever you choose to apply them to. But once you do, you’ll find the wisdom from hundreds of years ago is just as applicable today.

Anti-Fragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb: 5 of 5 stars
If approached with an open mind, this book is one of the rarities that can physically shift your ideology and broaden your place on the political spectrum.

The main message of the book is that we need to build ourselves and our systems (financial, political, cultural, you name it) to be antifragile. Meaning, we embrace conflict and small shocks to the system, because it ultimately makes everything stronger. Delaying or trying to prevent these conflicts only creates negative “black swan” events, like the 2008 financial crisis.

The print is small, the book is dense, and some of the concepts are tough to wrap your head around. But nowhere have I seen the case for anti-interventionism and eliminating the tendency to fear failure so thoroughly and effectively argued.

The Skeleton Tree by Iain LawrenceThe Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence: 4 of 5 Stars
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author’s agent at the Chicago Women in Publishing event. When they described it as “Hatchet-like,” I was instantly positively triggered and would have bought it immediately.

While Hatchet sets a high bar, the Skeleton Tree carves out its own tale incorporating themes about family, boy vs. wilderness, and even elements of supernatural lore from the Pacific Northwest.

I enjoyed that the story balanced the line between giving the two shipwrecked boys just the right mix of luck, personal growth, and perseverance necessary to survive. The author believably set up ways for the boys to scavenge through junk on the beach, struggle to find food, and survive encounters with the wild.

I passed this book on to my son with little hesitation, as I know he’ll enjoy this archetypal survival tale with its own set of twists.

Book Review: Lords of the Sith

Lords of the Sith2 of 5 stars

This was my first foray into the Star Wars Expanded Universe novels, after checking out two of the graphic novels. Lords of the Sith takes place between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, after the fist of the Empire has closed around the galaxy and the seeds of the rebellion are being sown.

This story is about Darth Vader’s reputation being born. People have heard the name, but have yet to take the measure of the man. Throughout the book, he accomplishes unbelievable feats with the Force, some with the aid of the Emporer. But since the Emperor only uses his significant power in secret, the credit for all of these feats serves to build Vader’s legend.

The entire book centers around a planned attempt on the Emporer and Vader’s life by a band of freedom fighters on Rythos. A remote spice planet that has changed owners often, but never had its own independence. The novel is a fast read, because nearly 75% of it is told at the pitched pace of the attack.

Unfortunately, that’s the novel’s primary weakness. When everything is frenetic and action-packed, nothing is. There’s very little character development (and what is there has little to do with the story) and a plot that’s fairly straightforward, (rebels attack, have to change their plans, fail, succeed, fail, succeed, etc.). Aside from being set in the Star Wars universe and being Star Wars action-porn, there’s not a whole lot to this novel.

Hopefully, my next foray into the universe will contain more than blaster fire and light-sabers.

Buy Lords of the Sith