One in ten Canadian kids has asthma—and a lot more than that have an affinity for soccer. Debbie Spring’s book Breathing Soccer (2008, Thistledown Press) focuses on both of these aspects in an approachable way that encourages kids to learn more about their asthma and find balance through developing an understanding of their disease, while not allowing asthma to hold them back. I received Breathing Soccer last week, and today had the chance to sit down to chat with Debbie about the book.

Breathing Soccer can be found on Amazon [Canada and USA], Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Thistledown Press.  Please continue the discussion by asking questions of Debbie [or I] below, and I’ll be sure to pass them on for her to respond to!

Disclosure: I received Breathing Soccer from Debbie for free after reaching out to her about the book; we agreed to conduct an interview following to my reading of Breathing Soccer–I was not required to provide a favourable review—I do certainly recommend the book, though :].

There are a few things I have opinions on—a lot of the time I just shut up, but sometimes I get argumentative, and sometimes I get argumentative about my opinions with people on Twitter. We are usually quite civil about it, but this is the first time I ended up reviewing a book out of the scenario. I connected with author Lira Brannon last week—connected is a nice term, in retrospect, I did interrogate her a bit about the “inspirational” nature of her book A Different Kind of Cheerleader, and the type of “inspirational”-ism that was implied, as the book is both centred around disability and Christianity. As I said on Twitter, “Disability isn’t inspiration: it’s life”. Lira, however, dealt with my interrogation well, and when I asked if I could receive an electronic copy of the book for free in exchange for a review on my blog, she agreed and quickly hooked me up with a Kindle download code.

Trigger warning: The later aspects of this review mention self-harm and suicide.

Three-sentence summary: 
The main character, Tansy, is a thirteen-year-old with a spinal cord injury [SCI] from a skateboarding accident in her childhood. Now a paraplegic, Tansy has all but abandoned the dream she and her best friend share of successfully qualifying for their junior-high cheerleading squad. As she starts junior high, she is introduced to a variety of new people who change her perceptions about what she believes she is capable of—and what she thinks about God, and who she was created to be, and to become.

Target age:
I’d throw this one in the 10 to 15 age-range—but, I personally enjoy teen fiction, so go with what works for you/the kid you’re trying to buy a book for.

Thoughts:
Overall, while the core aspects of the plot were fairly predictable, there were enough twists in the core of it to keep me interested and guessing—I started reading the book late Thursday evening, kept going until 1:30 AM, and finished it off the next morning [and people, my Concerta would have worn off at 11:30 or so—it was the book keeping me going].

While the core aspects of the book include Tansy’s desire to become a cheerleader independent of her disability, the author paints a very clear picture of the rest of Tansy’s life: starting at a new school and dealing with how her teachers respond to a student using a wheelchair (i.e. the typical ‘I can’t walk, but I can hear’); Tansy’s feelings towards her disability (anger, resentment, and eventually acceptance); responding to how her friends perceive her disability; relationships with her mother, brother, friends, physical therapist; and how her SCI and using a wheelchair pose additional contemplations within the already complicated life of an adolescent trying to figure out her place in the world.

Though I slated the book for younger ages, there are some themes including self-injury, attempted suicide, and suicidal ideation present in the book that may be more suitable for slightly older readers. The mentions of these aspects are brief, however, they were a source of confusion for me as I didn’t think there was enough detail preceding or explaining the circumstances in which Tansy’s acquaintance from rehab, Meg, was hospitalized following a suicide attempt (this may require a re-read on my part). While not comorbid, I appreciated that the author intentionally mentioned the mental health aspects associated with living with a disability and/or following a traumatic injury.

The storyline brings Tansy to interact with a variety of people who become a part of the bigger story unfolding—pressures from different people lead her different directions: some into finding the confidence to try out for cheer, others who cross her path in unexpected ways that help teach her about God—and through these conversations, more about the people around her. While some characters seemed slightly out-of-place [i.e. I don’t care if he’s the coach’s son, why the heck is the youth pastor hanging out in the middle school gym and at cheer tryouts all the time?], for the most part, the interaction of the themes surrounding Tansy’s daily life learning to more fully coexist with her disability, and the journey towards believing in God, was well structured.

I thought, despite all the #inspiration[al] tags, that overall the author did a decent job at not sensationalizing Tansy’s accomplishments, and allowing her to both succeed and screw up as much as a character without a disability would have, with a few exceptions of circumstances that wouldn’t have arisen if not for Tansy’s disability […which obviously is realistic]. In terms of the realism of integrating Tansy into the cheer team, I [being an adapted physical activity nerd] felt that Lira addressed the types of “wheelchair tricks” Tansy was able to learn well, but would have enjoyed reading more about how she became a true team member and not just a possible story of oh you’re in a wheelchair, we’ll let you on the team even though you blah blah blah through more concrete examples of how she used her chair as an asset and not an inspiration–such as how she would be integrated into team and more gymnastic-type and how existing routines were adapted. But, like I said, I’m a nerd that way.

Reading Guide:
A question guide is provided in the back of the book, which prompts the reader [or an educator or youth leader, etc.] to reflect on what they’ve read. The questions are evenly distributed between faith, friends, family, and Tansy’s disability. Though I never use reading guides on my own [because, what is this, school?], it’s definitely a nice bonus feature.

Recommendation:
A Different Kind of Cheerleader is geared towards older-school aged kids and younger-teens—an easily approachable read, with enough plot twists and serious/more mature themes to keep older readers engaged Cheerleader would be a great way to approach the topic of disability in a variety of settings. As both faith and disability are core-topics [and often very confusing], I’d recommend younger kids (under 12) be supported through reading this book, by a parent, mentor or educator, to best facilitate learning and enabling kids to ask questions and form a better understanding of their own thoughts on both core themes.

Final thoughts:
A Different Kind of Cheerleader is an approachable and engaging book for readers in their younger teens [and, if you’re me, early twenties], presenting a variety of opportunities for critical thought on faith and disability. With multiple quick unexpected turns in the plot, Cheerleader is easy to get lost in for a few hours, and would be a suitable way to begin a discussion on teens’ thoughts on what it means to live with a disability—and hopefully, one that can help realistically assist them in contemplating how to restructure their thoughts on a variety of different topics.

A Different Kind of Cheerleader can be found on Amazon. You can learn more about Lira on her website, and through connecting with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: I received a free electronic copy of the book, A Different Kind of Cheerleader, from the author, Lira Brannon, which I offered to review prior to finalizing the agreement. I was under no obligation to provide a favourable review.

On the 12th of each month, a bunch of bloggers from around the world take 12 pictures of their day and blog them.  Here are my pictures for February 12th, 2012!

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8:50 am – church. Yeah, we currently have a giant Rubiks Cube [each edge is six feet] hanging in church to accompany the IT’S COMPLICATED series we just began. It’s pretty awesome.

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10:05 am – church. Between services, scouting out the recycling bin for my Starbucks cup. [My friend forgot the non-fat, no-whip bit, but I love her anyway :)].

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12:24 pm – church. Who did you meet this week?  Snapped a picture of this after taking care of the 3 + 4 year olds :].

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3:13 pm – kitchen at home. I hung out with my cousin, Dean, yesterday and we went to our grandparents’ for dinner. We brought dessert, except my grandma made PUMPKIN PIE, so we had leftovers. So I got to bring dessert home.

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4:48 pm – kitchen. Final exam schedule for the term. Is it over yet?  Midterm madness tomorrow and Tuesday, so really it is only just beginning.

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4:57 pm – kitchen. Energy systems anybody?  This stuff is all on my Principles of Coaching exam tomorrow. I am kind of scared, but not nearly as scared as I am for my Physical Growth and Motor Development midterm on Tuesday.

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6:03 pm – kitchen. Pizza for dinner. It involved various coupons and my mom and I having to go in separately to pick up two pizzas.  Also I ran into a guy who graduated high school a year before me and is dating somebody I graduated with, so we got to make small-talk. That’s always fun.

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6:34 pm – kitchen. Probably the most ridiculous BBM conversation I have ever had. And perhaps the most ridiculous conversation I have had with Dean [and trust me, that says a lot].

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6:48 pm – kitchen. Charging my fitbit for the week or however long this thing lasts. Love it.

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9:33 pm – kitchen. Currently reading Matthew Good’s book. It’s so weird. I thought it was going to be like a memoir or whatever, but it’s basically a bunch of short stories and/or he is teaching you to fake multiple personality disorder or become an anti-nausea med addict.  Probably fictionally, but since I will never try I will never know.

12 of 12 - february '12

10:29 pm – kitchen. Yes, I feel like I haven’t left my kitchen all day.  Also I’ve been eating these cookies off and on all day. They are so good.  Freaking studying.

February 12 of 12

10:56 pm – kitchen. This is my pile of studying crap and textbooks I don’t actually read much.  That’s an issue and I need to work on it the next half of the term.

I’m on the road of least resistance / I’d rather give up than give in to this.

Promises Promises, Incubus

Over the summer, I read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield [yes, please note: The WAR of ART, not The Art of War], on recommendation by my friend Drew.  As one of the reviews says, it is a kick in the ass.  Unfortunately, it seems that I have left my copy of the book at the cabin.  Fortunately, the website for the book provides the exact section of the book that immediately hit me the hardest and forced me to read it several times in a row to fully comprehend.  This is the section on defining Resistance with a capital R.

Late at night, have you experienced a vision of the person you might become, the work you could accomplish, the realized being you were meant to be? Are you a writer who doesn’t write, a painter who doesn’t paint, an entrepreneur who never starts a venture? Then you know what Resistance is. […] To yield to Resistance deforms our spirit. It stunts us and makes us less than we are and were born to be.

The War of Art, Steven Pressfield

(Read more here)

Occasionally, the thought of Resistance-with-a-capital-R comes to mind.  Resistance is the force within me, or the forces around me, that freeze me.  Every time I skip a day of push-ups, every time I have “writer’s block”, every time I start a paper 48 hours before it is due, every time I hesitate on sending that e-mail that might dig too deep for somebody, every time I don’t write down a thought . . . this is Resistance.

No benefit comes of Resistance.

Each time Resistance wins, I lose.  The benefit from acting now might be small, but the loss from giving in to Resistance all adds up.  Now could have added up to hundreds of pages of writing, hundreds of good conversations, and more minutes of time with a positive impact within it.

“I’d rather give up than give in to this.”

It is now that I have.

Over the last six years, 12 of 12 has been graciously hosted by its creator, Chad Darnell. though Chad is moving on, I am grateful for his creativity and willingness to host our links over the years and give us an awesome project to tackle once-a-month. Thank you, Chad!

On the 12th of each month, a bunch of bloggers from around the world take 12 pictures throughout the day.  Here are my pictures for December 12th, 2011!

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11:27 am – sidewalk. Our passports are expired, I think, so we went to get our passport pictures redone.  Not that I look a ton different, but my last picture was from when I was fifteen, so guess I’m due for a bit of an update.  I have an incredibly hard time not smiling in the darn things.

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11:34 am – photography place. Passport photo dude’s studio is also part collector’s store, which featured, along with sort of creepy Mario, a large TV playing The Doctors.  Also I yelled at Jillian Michaels about some sort of crap advice she gave.  Soon-ish-to-be kinesiologists are allowed to do this, right?  Am I a kinesiologist if I have yet to graduate?  I’m not sure.

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11:36 am – photography place. Smithers action figure!

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11:37 am – KUNG FU PANDA! Made me think of my friend Mike :]

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11:41 pm – photography place. I kind of want this, is that ridiculous especially considering I’m a vegetarian? Though the burger looks sad :(.

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12:52 pm – road. New extension, how exciting.  (Can you believe this is midday? So dark-ish.)

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12:56 pm – practicum. Can I still call it practicum if my practicum is totally over, as is the course associated with the practicum?  I went back to my practicum place and helped the rec therapist, Tracy, wrap Christmas presents for the tenants! Was super stoked to be back, considering I keep having to tell her I can’t make it to things and ti makes me sad!

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2:36 pm – Lindee’s. Turns out I forgot my phone and iPod at my grandparents’ house [we went there for lunch], so I had to go to my aunt’s house [next door to my practicum place and which I have a key for!] to call my mom to pick me up. I am so smart, S-M-R-T.  Can you guess what this is?

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3:15 pm – bedroom. HOORAY!  Got home to see a giant package in my mailbox, which happens to be the ACSM’s Exercise Management for Persons With Chronic Diseases and Disabilities textbook that I ordered via The Book Depository about a week and a half ago. I had no idea it would arrive so fast.  Also, I definitely ordered this for fun and not for school, and it is fascinating. Because I am a giant nerd! :] (Also, currently reading for Lance Armstrong’s it’s Not About the Bike for the second or third time.)

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5:15 pm – kitchen. Passport picture.  Is it mandatory to dislike these things? No-glasses weirdness!  DEFINITELY better than my old one though! [ . . . not only am I sporting the TWLOHA shirt on my student ID, I will apparently be sporting it on my passport to some degree for the next five years].

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7:29 pm – kitchen. About to have a Skype meeting [read: party] with Dia, in which we try to do work and usually end up not doing work. Also we contemplate taking off and rolling with this project we’re on for our legitimate jobs [except we kind of both love our legitimate jobs too much, and there is the issue that I have to finish school].  It would likely involve kinesiology, road tripping and documentary shenanigans or something equally fabulous.

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9:30 pm – kitchen. And back to the study train, yeah? Final final on Friday. It will be another fabulous day when this term is over!

12 of 12 is a project created by Chad Darnell, Though this is the last official Chad-hosted 12 of 12, I hope to see you all come 2012!