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Dignity of All People-Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

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Dignity of All People-Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

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In 1987, President Ronald Reagan declared March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Because holidays like St. Patrick’s Day are also in March, the awareness about people with disabilities can get overlooked. This month, we want to take a moment to reflect on its importance and highlight the dignity of all people.

The 70s and 80s paved the way for social change for those living with disabilities. With the support of President Reagan, “programs to provide career planning, job coaching, and employment for those living with disabilities began to increase. The idea that individuals with developmental disabilities could become productive members of the workforce was new to many people, and entrenched preconceptions had to be overcome.” (Source)

According to the Developmental Disabilities Act, the term developmental disability means a severe or chronic disability that happens before age 22 that is likely to continue and affects three or more of the following areas: self-care, receptive and expressive language, learning mobility, self-direction, capacity for independent living and economic self-sufficiency. Many of us are unaware of the challenges that those with special needs endure on a daily basis. While I have never raised children with special needs, I have friends who have. I will never know the challenges they face, but their strength, courage, and perseverance to endure and advocate for their child is commendable. I admire them greatly.

Developmental Disabilities Recommended Reading

Reading is a great way to get a look at something that you might not have experienced firsthand. Books, both fiction and nonfiction, can help you get closer to the issue. The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards is an incredibly moving story in which a man decides to send his newborn daughter, who suffers from Down Syndrome, away to an institution. The nurse tasked with taking the baby to the institution decides to raise the baby herself, and the novel takes you along for that journey. Another great read is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon, a novel that centers around the detective adventures of a boy with an unnamed condition but that has indicators for developmental disabilities such as Asperger syndrome, high functioning Autism, or possibly Savant syndrome. Mark Haddon later noted in a blog that “”Curious Incident is not a book about Asperger’s….if anything it’s a novel about difference, about being an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and revealing way. The book is not specifically about any specific disorder” (Source). That, in itself, is a beautiful sentiment, as it focuses the book on the story, not simply a disability.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer is also told through the eyes of a boy with Aspberger’s syndrome who is navigating an emotional and confusing time after his father died in the September 11th terrorist attacks. This book would bridge nicely into our 117 Solutions in 2017 theme for next week: stories from survivors of terrorism.

Dignity of All People

Every person deserves respect. Every life is precious and has purpose and value. I am reminded of this quote from Pope Francis:

“Things have a price and can be for sale, but people have a dignity that is priceless and worth far more than things.”

I hope you can spend some time reflecting on the challenges that those living with disabilities face. Our country has come a long way in supporting them, but there is still so much more work to do. If you or someone you know has a solution to the challenges that those who live with disabilities face, please don’t be silent. Your story could be the hope and help that someone needs. Join us to find 117 Solutions in 2017.


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nonfiction writer tool

Nonfiction Writer Tool: Structure

There are a lot of things to think about when you start to write your nonfiction book, and one of them is its structure. Without structure you have chaos, and with chaos comes confusion. That’s why structure is such an important nonfiction writer tool.

Nonfiction Writer Tool-To become a nonfiction writer and not just someone who has a story to tell, you will need organization. Before you put pen to paper, your book percolates in your head and chaos reigns, doesn’t it? Unorganized thoughts, stray threads, and important principles are all slammed together without structure. You have something to say, but how will you communicate it?

Your job as a nonfiction writer is to communicate. You must lead the reader through your story, your concept, or your process and help them make sense of what you present.

In a sense, you are a tour guide. You are taking your readers on a journey, and it’s up to you to plot the route.

Start with your Purpose Statement.

The purpose is the final destination on your tour, and you want to take your readers along the path of least resistance to reach the ultimate purpose of the book. Don’t let your readers get lost!

A good nonfiction writer uses structure to keep their readers’ attention

I recently watched a brilliant preschool teacher move fourteen squirming, easily distracted, practically-like-puppies little ones down a hall, past a flight of stairs, and to the gym at the far end of the building without one child stepping out of line. Not even one.

How did she do it? She simply gave them something to grab onto. This brilliant woman had fashioned a six-foot piece of rope like a lion’s tail, and each child grabbed the tail and followed as she guided them along the path to the gym. Not one child let go, not even one.

Of course, your readers aren’t preschoolers. They’re intelligent men and women, but they, too, need something they can grab as you guide them to the purpose of your book.

They need to grab onto you for this journey. It’s your job to get them from point A to point B, and the best way to do that is to let them hang onto your tail.

So what is your tail? It’s your tale, your own story. Structure is the writing tool that will wrangle your readers and keep them following along with you. Your story is the tie that binds all parts of your book together, it’s you from end to end, and in the middle, too. Your book needs to be completely infested with your own story from start to finish. That’s what provides the structure for your book. It’s your story, and only you can tell it. Get organized and tell your tale.


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Client Profile: Craig Hughes – Teaching You How to Grow Your Small Business

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If you’re an entrepreneur looking to grow your small business, you’ll definitely want to read this book written by the owner of a taxicab company. We know what you’re thinking: Why would the owner of a cab company ever write a book, and what could I possibly learn from reading it? This man started out with a small taxi company and battled his way up to building a multi-million dollar business.

Meet Craig Hughes, Founder and Chairman of Total Transit, Inc., in the Phoenix, AZ area.

grow your small business

Craig knew nothing about the taxi business when he purchased an unsexy, dilapidated cab company in 1984. Since that time, he has grown that business to be the busiest taxi dispatch in the United States. Total Transit does $140 million in business each year and has enjoyed a 35% growth rate over the past 7 years. That is success by any standards!

Learn how to grow your small business

When Craig first came to us, he had an idea for a book that would help entrepreneurs get over the hurdles of moving from the start-up stage to the expansion phase. The purpose of Craig’s book is to inspire small business owners who are cash strapped, spread too thin, and feel trapped by their business to take action that moves them from their current all­-consuming, hands-­on approach to the freedom of a self-­sustaining enterprise. His book aims to teach you how to grow your small business so that you can enjoy true success, and not just wear the title of “small business owner.”

 

 

Craig understands the frustrations that small business owners face. There comes a time when they become the biggest obstacle to their company’s growth. Everything comes to a halt until they can solve the problem, call the customer, send the invoice, perform the service, etc. They feel trapped and want the business to start working for them, rather than continue working for the business.

His book, Get Out Of The Way: How To Grow Your Small Business From An All-Consuming, Hands­-On Approach To A Self­-Sustaining Enterprise, shows business owners and entrepreneurs a way to grow their business while gaining more freedom from its day-to-day demands. The book will be available in August 2017. Mark your calendars. You won’t want to miss this one!

If you are someone you know has always wanted to write a book, reach out to us, and we can help you make it happen!

 

 


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The Importance of Reading: Celebrate Read Across America Day & Dr. Seuss’s Birthday

Today, March 2nd is Read Across America Day, as well as the birthday of the beloved children’s author, Dr. Seuss. It’s a great day to celebrate and discuss the importance of reading. We’ve written before about why good readers make good writers, but the importance of reading stretches to everyone, writers or otherwise. Reading is important throughout all stages of life, from childhood into old age.

The importance of reading for children

Read Across America Day was created to get more kids excited about reading. The idea behind the celebration was to create the same sense of enthusiasm for reading as schools do for sports and spirit weeks. It’s a wonderful initiative that shows children just how fun reading can be. Reading can be a challenge for some children, and that challenge can cause them to shy away from books and proclaim that reading simply doesn’t interest them. However, it is imperative that all children are given the guidance and encouragement they need to work on their reading skills.

For children whose minds are still actively developing, the importance of reading goes far beyond the enjoyment of books. Proper reading skills help children develop better communication skills as well as improved comprehension across all school subjects. Many studies show that children that read or are read to often in preschool and kindergarten perform better in other subjects such as math and science than students who have had less exposure to books.

Finding the right book is essential. Children need to have access to books that they enjoy, so that they can also come to enjoy the act of reading itself. Dr. Seuss books are a great place to start!

The importance of reading for adults

A child’s mind needs stimulation in order to develop, and the same is true for the mind of an adult! Books can serve so many purposes for adults and can truly help expand their minds. Here are just a few benefits to reading:

Learn new things

Books can teach you so much, whether it be how to perform a specific task such as building your own furniture, or how to guide yourself through a difficult time, such as a divorce. There are direct ways of learning through books that are written with the intent to teach the reader a new skill, but DIY and Self Help books are certainly not the only types of books that can teach the reader something. The beauty of reading is that each reader experiences the book in his or her own way. You might read a novel and learn something new about yourself. Nonfiction books can expose you to a facet of history you didn’t know before because life is nonfiction, after all. Books make excellent teachers.

importance of reading

Relate to others

Reading books can also help you relate to others on a deeper level. While reading a painful story that was written with brutal honesty, you might start to see yourself within the pages. You may even feel as if the writer put into words what you yourself could not.

Of course, the importance of reading as a way to relate to others isn’t just about relating to people who have had experiences similar to your own. Stories, fiction or nonfiction, can allow you to see through the eyes of someone else and give you a better understanding of a situation, experience, or perspective that you had never explored on your own. Books expand your mind by allowing you to reach outside your own life and take a look at something new.

Get exposed to different experiences

You are only one person. You cannot see every place or experience every situation firsthand. You can, however, expose yourself to an incredibly diverse variety of people, places, and experiences through books. Reading may expose you to a hobby that you had never considered but, after reading about it, find that you might really enjoy it. Stories can give you some perspective when it comes to tough topics and choices that people are faced with every day, even if you yourself have never had to make those difficult decisions. Books expose you to worlds outside of your own, which is why reading is so incredibly important.

Read Across America Day may have been created with children in mind, but I urge you to honor this day by picking up a book and re-dedicating yourself to reading.

 


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How to write a nonfiction book

Nonfiction is Life

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… and Life is Nonfiction

Have you seen the movie Hidden Figures yet? I give this nonfiction movie 5 stars, and it exposed me to another angle of Black History Month. Until I saw this movie, I never knew that three female African–American mathematicians were instrumental in the early days of NASA. They weren’t just instrumental, they were crucial to John Glenn’s orbit around the earth! Why hadn’t I heard of this before?

This month gives us the opportunity to recognize and applaud the contributions that black men and women have made. From artists, to poets, to politicians, to religious leaders, to authors, to sports figures, to business men and women, to scientists, to everyday people, this is our appointed time learn more about these people and to celebrate their accomplishments.

black history nonfiction

Nonfiction sports history

My husband is a baseball fanatic, and we recently visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. What a treat! Negro leagues were formed due How to write a nonfiction bookto segregation laws, and they ran strong from 1920 until they started their decline in 1945, when Jackie Robinson was recruited by the Brooklyn Dodgers. They produced strong players like Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Roy Campanella, LeRoy “Satchel” Paige, and—of course—Jackie Robinson. Think any of these athletes made history? You bet your boots they did! They were a strong force in the civil rights movement, although all they really wanted to do was play baseball.

As I think about our effort to find 117 solutions to our most pressing problems in 2017, I’m drawn to the racial divide that has plagued our nation almost since its inception. It’s a big problem, and we need to find solutions.

Nonfiction contemporary conversations

I like what is happening in St. Louis, particularly through an organization called Mother 2 Mother, where 11 black mothers share their stories with “thousands of mostly white attendees…” Their purpose is to expose other women to the “dangers and realities of raising Black sons in America regardless of the socio-economic status achieved.”(source)

How to write a nonfiction bookI attended one of these conversations and was dumbstruck by the things these black mothers endure that have never been part of my life. Their sons are consistently pulled over for no reason and, in some cases, have been handcuffed and taken to the police station. One woman’s daughter was told to go to the back of the school bus by some teenage boys, who were never punished, and it happened in the priciest zip code in the St. Louis area. As I heard these mothers – doctors, attorneys, scientists, and professors at Washington University – talk about what they and their kids battle on a daily basis, I shrunk in my seat and thought, “There has to be a solution to this.”

117 Solutions in 2017

We are looking for solutions to problems like white privilege and the racial divide. How about you? What do you know, what have you been through, what have you discovered or developed that can help others? What inspirational nonfiction book could you write that will bring hope to others? Please join us in our effort to find 117 Solutions in 2017!

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society
  • To use your life and your gifts and your resources to MAKE THINGS BETTER. Not because you must, but because YOU CAN!

 


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Nonfiction Writer Tool: Sensory Language

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Human beings are wired to respond to stories, and we remember things that have an emotional impact on us. When you write your book, there’s a nonfiction writer tool you can use to impact the reader. It affects them on an emotional level, so they will remember what they read.

How do you do that? Well, it’s not so complicated. One way to impact your reader is to bring them in close, to make them feel like they’re right there in the room with you. You do that by creating scenes that use the nonfiction writer tool of sensory language.

Sensory language as a nonfiction writer tool

Sensory language is just what it sounds like – it’s the language of our five senses. When you use sensory language, you describe what you saw, felt, heard, tasted, and smelled. You don’t write, “I was sad when my girlfriend left me.” You write, “When she told me she was leaving, she smiled as she whispered the words, ‘I’m leaving you.’ My throat clamped tight. I blinked hard, so I wouldn’t cry, but one hot tear fell and salted my upper lip.”

In this passage, you find four of the five senses: She told me–hearing; throat clamped tight and hot tear–feeling; she smiled–sight; she whispered–hearing; salted my upper lip–taste. The only sense not included is the sense of smell.

Sensory language punches up your writing and engages the reader. It breaks up the monotony and helps the reader to visualize the scene, so they can experience it.

Before and After

Take a look at the two passages below, and notice how sensory language makes a difference.

1. Becky called me and said that something terrible had just happened. She wanted to talk about it, so I asked her to meet me at the grill on the ground floor of my building. It was almost noon, and I was hungry, so I asked her if she wanted something to eat.

Compare that to:

2. “The police just barged in my house,” Becky said. “It was raining, and their boots tracked bits of grass and mud all over my white carpet. Didn’t even bother to wipe their feet. It’s like they used my carpet as a door mat. There were six of them.”

A piece of red hair – I Love Lucy red hair – escaped from behind her ear, and she slicked it back without taking a breath. My watch beeped twelve o’clock, but she yammered on. The grilling onions made my stomach lurch. I hadn’t eaten breakfast.

“Wow,” I said. “I’m so sorry. Can I get you something to eat? I could use a bite myself, and maybe that would make you feel better.”

Her head banged down on the table, and she hiccuped massive sobs. “What do you think I am, a twelve-year-old?” she sputtered. “It’s not like a snack can make me all better!”

Sensory language is a nonfiction writer tool that is easy to incorporate. All you have to do is describe what you hear, what you smell, what you see, what you feel, and what you taste. Drop those elements in a scene and watch your writing come alive!


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How to Write a Nonfiction Book When It Hurts

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This year, our focus is to find 117 Solutions to our most difficult problems, an effort we call 117 Solutions in 2017. I’m encouraged by the response we’ve had, but I also feel humbled when I’m asked how to write an inspirational nonfiction book when it hurts. Not all stories are pretty, especially those about child abuse.

Sean Carney is one of my heroes. He’s a big, burly man, tough in a kind-hearted way, and he has the kind of laugh that would get you in trouble at church. Deeply generous, Sean lives large, and he shares his blessings inspirational nonfictionwith everyone around him. He should have died when he was 20.

Inspirational Nonfiction; A Painful Story

Sean wasn’t sick, but he grew up in a sick environment that was punctuated by regular incidents of the worst kind of child abuse, inflicted on him by his uncle. The son of a violent father and a depressed-to-the-point-of-being-disabled mother, he had to take the family reins when he was just twelve years old, getting his brothers up for school and cooking their dinner at night. It’s no wonder he became angry and violent, and at 13 he started using drugs: pot, PCP, crystal meth, alcohol, cocaine, and heroin. At 17 he became a father. By the time he was twenty, he was on the needle. Even though he drank and drugged, he could not escape the PTSD from the sexual abuse.

Sometimes you can’t tell when children are in trouble. Sean’s family looked like the richest people in town. He was an All-Star in Little League and hockey, he played army, went to the beach and played in the woods, and he was even a track star. He looked like the run of the mill mid-western kid, but Sean had a secret that burned a hole inside him. His rage was always just under the surface, and it frequently exploded.

 

A business owner since he was 17, by the time he was 20, despite his drug use, Sean’s strong work ethic made him a phenomenal success. But inside his head, the abuse still tormented him. He was full of self-loathing and felt he was never good enough. Angry to the point of planning his uncle’s murder, he was a loose cannon. How could he feel any different? Look what happened to him.

But that’s not the end of the story. Sean turned his life around, and he is writing an inspirational nonfiction book that will encourage other down-and-outers and show them that they can turn their lives around, too.

What’s the Purpose?

The purpose of Sean’s book is to show people who have lost faith in themselves and feel hopeless about their future, that no matter what’s happened to them or what they’ve done, that they don’t have to be defined by their past but can be prepared by it to live out their unique purpose and become the person they were truly meant to be.

There are over 27,000 reported cases of child abuse every year, but how many more don’t get reported? Hundreds of thousands of adults carry those scars, and I’m grateful that Sean Carney  stepped up to tell his story and offer hope and help to others. Living with the after-effects of child abuse is a problem, and Sean offers a solution. His inspirational nonfiction book may be painful to write, but it will be the voice of hope and help to those who have suffered similar situations.

117 Solutions in 2017

How about you? What do you know, what have you been through, what have you discovered or developed that can help others? What inspirational nonfiction book could you write that will bring hope to others? Please join us in our effort to find 117 Solutions in 2017!

The purpose of 117 Solutions in 2017 is:

  • To create a groundswell of solutions to problems that have, until now, seemed too big or impossible to resolve
  • To unleash the answers that are trapped inside of people
  • To change lives, save lives, and transform society
  • To use your life and your gifts and your resources to MAKE THINGS BETTER. Not because you must, but because YOU CAN!

 


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Black History Month — Start by Celebrating National Freedom Day

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Today, February 1st,  is the first day of Black History Month. It is also National Freedom Day. With fun and silly National “something” Days like National Talk Like a Pirate Day and National Popcorn Day, it’s easy to overlook important commemorative days like National Freedom Day. This year, I want to appreciate National Freedom Day and everything it stands for throughout Black History Month.

National Freedom Day commemorates “the signing by Abraham Lincoln of a joint House and Senate resolution that later became the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. President Lincoln signed the Amendment outlawing slavery on February 1, 1865, although it was not ratified by the states until later.” (Source)

It’s an excellent way to begin Black History Month. It’s a day to celebrate freedom for all people, particularly for African-Americans. Black History Month highlights those who contributed to our nation, before and after the abolition of slavery. And what is history other than the stories of people who suffered, fought, and persevered? It’s a time to remember the incredible stories of those who helped make our nation what it is today. Stories are important. They connect one generation to another, and I particularly like the famous Black poet, Maya Angelou’s opinion about stories:

Do you have an untold story inside of you? Even if you’re not a writer, you can still tell your story. You’re the only one who has your story. You’re the only one who can tell it.

I’m particularly fond of Maya Angelou, partly because she was born in St. Louis, Missouri, where I live. But what really draws me to her is her wisdom. She has depth and speaks truth that we need to hear. This is one of my favorite quotes of hers:

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

Stories, more often than not, involve pain. Experiences are not always easy or pleasant, but they make us who we are. They shape us and the world around us. The world can be a scary place, but we can find comfort in shared experiences, shared stories. Stories build bridges and create connections.

I encourage you to spend National Freedom Day and Black History Month reading stories about black Americans and thinking about your own story. Your story could be the voice of hope and help that someone needs. Join us to find 117 Solutions in 2017 , so we can find 117 Solutions this year to some of our most pressing problems. It’s your story and only you can tell it.


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Vocabulary for Online Writing Classes

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Your manuscript is comprised of words, and the ones you select are critical to how well you communicate with your audience. The vocabulary you select will either make or break your manuscript. A strong and varied vocabulary is an important writing tool that all writers should strive to have.

We use words to communicate ideas, thoughts, and emotions. Sometimes our communication is successful, and sometimes it’s not. Your job as a writer is to select the words that communicate exactly what you mean, without the possibility of misinterpretation. A wide vocabulary allows you to do that. Without a good working knowledge of words and their meanings, your written communication will be muddied or poorly understood.

If you don’t have a strong vocabulary, one way to develop it is to use a simple but effective writing tool: a thesaurus.

Say you wanted to describe how you felt on the day your first child was born. You might use the word “happy.” However, we use the same word to describe a wide range of pleasant feelings, don’t we? I’m happy when I have a cup of coffee in the morning, but that’s not the same happy I felt the day my daughter was born.

I highly recommend a writing tool called Visual Thesaurus. Simply type in the word you want to replace, and the results pop up in mindmap format. Click on any of the displayed word options, and they will expand to give further meaning. In essence, you drill down until you find the precise word that means exactly what you want to say.

I looked up the word happy because I wanted to describe how I felt when my daughter was born. Some of the selections included blissful, joyful, content, glad, bright, elated, euphoric, etc. The term that really struck me was blessed.writing tool

 

Next, I wanted to describe how I feel when I drink a cup of hot coffee in the morning. I don’t feel blessed, or euphoric, or bright, or gleeful, I feel content. I am content with my cup of coffee.

The words blessed and content are both variations on the word happy, and yet, they actually have different meanings.

A nimble working vocabulary allows you to say exactly what you mean and to be explicit, rather than vague. I caution you to choose words that your audience will understand. In other words, keep it simple. If the reader doesn’t understand your word choice, you may feel intelligent, but you will lose your audience, and that’s not good communication. A thesaurus is an excellent writing tool because it helps you brainstorm and then drill down to the perfect word, but you do not want your readers to need a dictionary just to get through a mess of overcomplicated words on each page. So when choosing your words, remember that you are writing to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

 


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inspirational people

Making a Difference with His Nonfiction Book

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I hope you are following our mission to find 117 Solutions in 2017 because you will meet many ordinary, yet inspirational people, who are working hard to make this world a better place. Tom Hofmeister is such a man.

inspirational people

I met Tom at a conference several years ago and was immediately impressed with his work. I knew right away that he was one of the inspirational people in the world who need to share their story in a nonfiction book. He owns and operates elder care facilities that are nothing like anything I’d ever heard of before.

I’ve visited a number of nursing homes over time, and not long after I arrived, I always wished that my visit was over. Why did it smell so bad? Why were there so many wheelchair-bound residents parked in the halls? Why did most of the people sit in their rooms all day? This was the last stop on the journey of life, and I sure didn’t want to end up there.

Enter Tom Hofmeister of Elderfire Lodges.

Tom is building a network of elder care facilities that you wouldn’t recognize. He is solving the problem of parking your parents somewhere while they wait for the end. His lodges are bright and vibrant communities. They capitalize on the talents of their residents and get them involved in running the place. His lodges are destinations for community events, which bring in local residents for art shows, community meetings, and the Boy Scouts. The lodges are never sterile and antiseptic. Rather, they are built like a home with all the comfortable amenities you find in your own residence and, as a result, they are a favorite destination for family dinners and celebrations.

Far from feeling like they are parked and waiting for the end, his residents don’t have time for that. They’re too busy working with the local garden club or teaching their valuable skills to others. That’s the kind of place I want to live when I finally have to leave my home.

And, yes, Tom is writing a book. The purpose of his book is to introduce families of aging adults to this alternative approach to adult care, which allows them and their loved one to feel safe, secure, and respected, without increasing costs or sacrificing a home environment.

And, no, Tom is not a writer. He’s just an incredible person who has a solution that he wants to share with the world. Take a look at what Tom has to say about inspirational people who are not writers and how they can still put their story into a nonfiction book.

 

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