On my various road trips over the last month to promote my book, I've greatly enjoyed the different cities and communities I've visited. In each one I'd find myself proclaiming, "Oh, it would be so great to live here."
In Tri-Cities, Washington, the hiking trail up Badger Mountain was terrific, as was the view from the top.The river is a beautiful green oasis snaking through the region. I found myself thinking, "It would be so great to live here and have access to this trail and this view."
In Seattle, I went for a walk on Alki Point and reminisced about when I used to live nearby and take my young son to play on the beach.
It's also a great place to walk, run or cycle, with great views of the city and Puget Sound. Part of me wished I still lived there.
Then came our visit to Bellingham, Washington, one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the world, though I might be a bit partial to the region after growing up in Whatcom county, in the shadow of Mount Baker. Mike and I love to visit Fairhaven, an historic part of the city where we get lost for several days in the stacks at Village Books. Our Drive home took us along scenic Chuckanut Drive which overlooks Chuckanut and Samish Bays with views of the San Juan Islands.
Our current trip took us south and through Bend, Oregon, where we stopped at an Italian coffee shop, started wandering the streets and found a little courtyard just off the Deschutes River, where we sat in the sun and almost ended our trip right there it was so beautiful.
A 14-hour day of driving brought us to Sacramento, California, and a visit to the home of relatives near the American River. Their home backs up to a trail for walking, running, cycling and watching wildlife. Out for a walk I saw a young deer, numerous wild turkeys and luckily, none of the rattle snakes who live there.
Enjoying the lovely views, the atmosphere and people of all the places I've been visiting the past month or so, I couldn't help comparing them to where I live in Spokane.
Everywhere else seemed so fresh and exciting. Here, or there would be a great place to get out and exercise. This place or that would be so relaxing, so close to nature. Wow, what great restaurants and shops they have in this town.
It made me realize that I have come to take for granted the lovely views in my own city, the places to exercise not far from my front door, the opportunities to observer nature in my own backyard.
Rick Steves says travel is intensified living. And I have found that to be true on my recent road trips. It has opened my senses to the world around me and helped me more fully appreciate both the strange and distant and the well-known close up places.
Carla's 14-month-old son Corey fell off a swing in the back yard and died of a head injury. You want to think such a thing could never happen in your family, that it was a freak accident...
But in reading Carla Killough McClafferty's book subtitled CONCUSSION AND FOOTBALL'S MAKE-OR-BREAK MOMENT, it's clear the risk of death and brain damage is higher than I ever imagined. Especially for kids who play football, but also for kids who play soccer or ride bicycles, or swing on swings...
Corey suffered a minor bump on the head the day before he fell from the swing. After he died, the doctor told Carla that the two falls were a factor in her son's death. But she didn't really understand what had happened until some twenty-five years later when she researched this book.
"I studied what happens in the brain when one is a victim of Second Impact Syndrome or SIS. I understood in a different way exactly what happened in my son's brain in those minutes immediately following his fall."
"In the end, the research was much more personal than I thought it would be."
FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES tells of a Purdue University study of the Jefferson High football team in Lafayette, Indiana. The study showed brain impairment not just in the boys who suffered concussions during the season, but also in boys who suffered repeated hard knocks to the head, but never showed any signs of concussion.
"At first we thought the scanner was broken," one researcher said, referring to the boys' functional MRI test results.
Before, during and after the 2009 season, the players underwent two tests. One measured how well they remembered words and shapes during a 20-minute test, as well as the speed and accuracy of their responses. MRI scans showed brain functions like thought, speech, movement and sensation.
When the before and after test results were compared, four boys who experienced lots of hard impacts to the head (as measured by an accelerometer in their helmets) but no concussions, showed the same neurological changes to the brain as three boys who had been diagnosed with concussion during the season.
The risk then, for these players of suffering SIS is huge. A player might sustain a life-altering injury without showing any outward sign.
A different study at Virginia Tech study is that the helmet accelerometers showed they young boys experienced impacts of the same severity of force as high school and college players. One hit was so hard, it would be like running into a brick wall at 20-miles an hour.
Carla says her book is not an attack on football. The reality of repetitive head trauma is balanced with love of the game.
"In FOURTH DOWN, I present the facts, then leave the reader to draw their own conclusions. The point of the book is to look at the cutting edge research on concussions and head injuries and how these issues affect people. I address recognizing a player with a concussion and what the experts say they should do after a concussion. My hope is that the book will inform young athletes about the issues so they understand why they shouldn't ignore symptoms of concussion."
Along with the danger of SIS comes the specter of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE, which boxers commonly suffer and has recently been diagnosed in some pro-football players.
CTE can be diagnosed only after death and has been discovered in the brains of men who died and donated their brains to science. CTE is irreversible and progressive brain damage that results from repetitive brain trauma.
When a teenage rugby player died in 2006 after a concussion, his parents donated his brain for study. Scientists were surprised at what they found--the first evidence of CTI suffered by a teenager.
Delving into the personal side of the science of head injury was not easy for Carla, but she says, "The emotional cost of writing this book is worth if even one athlete tells a coach that he might have a concussion and does not return to play too soon, risking second impact syndrome."
"I don't think I'm courageous at all. I was willing to go where the research took me. The book allowed me to get to know the parents of Nathan Stiles and Eric Pelly, both teen athletes who lost their lives as a result of concussions. As they shared with me the lives and deaths of their children, I grieved with them and for them. Although Corey has been gone for more than 25 years, his loss is always with me and times like this bring it back to me with fresh pain."
FOURTH DOWN AND INCHES: CONCUSSIONS AND FOOTBALL'S MAKE-OR-BREAK MOMENT by Carla Killough McClafferty received a starred review in Publishers Weekly, selection by the Junior Library Guild and the ALA YALSA Nominee List for 2014 Nonfiction Award.
Top photo thanks to Katherine Johnson https://www.flickr.com/photos/aka_kath/
You’ve heard about Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat on the bus, but does the name Barbara Johns mean anything to you?
Long before the Montgomery Bus Boycott 16-year-old Barbara took a courageous stand for civil rights when she led fellow students to boycott their segregated high school in the town of Farmville, Virginia.
Here’s a photo of the high school for white students in Farmville in 1951, it had had plenty of classrooms and a gymnasium, cafeteria, infirmary, and other resources.
Barbara’s younger sister Joan Johns Cobb describes the situation at the school for black students.
The school we went to was overcrowded. Consequently, the county decided to build three tarpaper shacks for us to hold classes in. A tarpaper shack looks like a dilapidated black building, which is similar to a chicken coop on a farm…. In winter the school was very cold. And a lot of times we had to put on our jackets. Now, the students that sat closest to the wood stove were very warm and the ones who sat farthest away were very cold…. When it rained, we would get water through the ceiling. So there were lots of pails sitting around the classroom. And sometimes we had to raise our umbrellas to keep the water off our heads. It was a very difficult setting for trying to learn.
The author of the new book THE GIRL FROM THE TAR PAPER SCHOOL, Teri Kanefield says Barbara Johns risked her life, “but she wasn't afraid. She truly believed she was on the right side” the morning she stood up at a school assembly, asked the teachers to leave the auditorium and then asked her fellow students to walk out in protest.
Barbara was a quiet, studious girl. But the morning of April 23, 1951, she took off her shoe and pounded it on the podium to get her point across. "Don't be afraid, just follow us out," she said.
That day, when the curtains opened it was my sister on stage rather than the principal. I was totally shocked, said Joan Johns Cobb. I remember sitting in my seat and trying to go as low in the seat as I possibly could because I was so shocked and so upset. I actually was frightened because I knew that what she was doing was going to have severe consequences.
Because at the time, you still read of lynchings…. And so therefore, everyone was afraid that he or she would be lynched. Even, at the time, for talking back to a white person or in the case of the black men, speaking to a white woman. So we all lived with that type of fear. It was real. It was scary.
Students remained out of school and after two weeks, NAACP lawyers joined the effort, filing a petition in court to desegregate the Prince Edward County schools. In reaction someone burned a cross in the schoolyard, a black minister supporting the strike received death threats and a homemade bomb died out on his doorstep.
Barbara received several threats and her parents sent her out of town to live with an uncle and finish high school.
The legal challenge to segregated schools failed, but three years later, Barbara was one of the plaintiffs in Brown vs Board of Education which outlawed school segregation throughout the land.
Teri Kanefield says Barbara Johns is a reminder that every single day, history is being made. “It has taken almost a half century for her [Barbara] to be widely recognized as a true American hero. This makes me believe there are Barbara Johnses among us now, but we are not recognizing them as visionaries and heroes.”
One of the author’s favorite aspects of the story is that young people convinced the adults to take action.
Tomorrow is the 60th Anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling on Brown Vs Board of Education. Today the Christian Science Monitor reports that since then, any gains in racial integration in American schools have mostly been reversed.
"Situation here is fast becoming desperate," General Jonathon Wainwright cabled General Douglas MacArthur May 3, 1942.
The next night the Navy risked a daring mission, as Submarine Spearfish glided past a Japanese minesweeper and destroyer, to surface. A small boat motored out to meet it carrying 25-passengers, including eleven nurses. Read more about Spearfish rescue...
What would turn out to be the last U.S. mail shipment to leave Corregidor was also taken aboard, including some hastily scrawled letters to family. Army Nurse Hattie Brantley didn't bother. "I couldn't write a letter to my family. What was I going to say?"
The Spearfish dived 200 feet below the sea, stealing away toward Australia, leaving fifty-four army nurses and twenty-six Filipina nurses behind.
In the next 24-hours over May 4 and 5, the Japanese hammered Corregidor with some 16,000 shells, then as the first landing force took the beaches, nurses on duty in Corregidor's underground hospital destroyed records, keeping their gas masks handy.
Army Nurses Alice Zwicker confided in her diary, "Even all the rumors of what the Japanese may do to all of us and especially the women mean little or nothing to me at the present. Just end this awful destruction and find help for these patients who need the barest essentials so badly."
Another nurse ventured into the main tunnel just before the surrender. Dirty, hungry and exhausted men filled the passageway. "Some asked for water, some for food, and the pity was that we had very little of either. Some were swearing, some staring into space. She hurried back to the nurses' lateral, where her off-duty colleagues huddled, starved for food and for news.The next wave of Japanese rolled tanks onto Corregidor's beaches and Wainwright imagined the wholesale slaughter that would befall his men, and "...I thought of the havoc that even one tank could wreak if it nosed into the tunnel, where lay our helpless wounded and their brave nurses."
He sent men out with white flags at 10A.M.
Most nurses heard the news over the tunnel radio. Surrender would come at noon May 6. "Now our facial expressions were stony, and we avoided letting our eyes meet," said Army Nurse Denny Williams. "Not only our own hopeless fear, but collective fear, with it's power to panic, passed from person to person like a current, lurching and jolting on-off on-off, but always more intense until I had visions of our soldiers fighting until all were dead outside and the enemy came inside, screaming and brandishing swords and bayonets. I wondered if I would die and how I would die. I hoped to be quiet and brave."
The women had arrived in the Philippines unprepared for war, but learned quickly when driven to the limits of endurance nursing wounded and dying American soldiers. Now they would face the horrors of prison camp for three years before General MacArthur would reclaim the Philippines and liberate them.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known history, stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers in the blog comments, by email or social media.