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The written word has always been a joy for me.  I can not remember a time in my life when I did not have books. Before I was able to read them, my mother read books to me. As soon as I could read independently I was never without a book in my hands or very nearby.  As years passed, writing developed into a passion for me as well. I tried novel writing while home with my two children during their early years and was challenged to focus on the craft.  I never gave up the love even when I had to give up the pursuit.  Now, with grown children and the fact I am sitting on the other side of fifty I can pursue my dream of writing.  I have continued the reading quest but now the writing is attainable as well.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Chocolate Mayonaise Cake and Missing Mom

This time of year I miss my mom more than any other time of the year.  Perhaps it's because it is spring and so many events of spring remind me of her.  Easter makes me think of all the Havenstein Easter dinners, egg hunts and traditional tapioca pudding mom made because we loved it so much.  Things that centered around my mom. 

My mom made every event (holiday) fun.  She had an affinity for being the ultimate hostess and making each gathering special.  Every birthday  featured our favorite foods, a cake of angel food with seven minute frosting and a gift that she had labored over to make sure we would treasure the item.

 I think this is why birthdays are so important to me.  I try to make each of my children's birthdays a special event.  Just as my mom made my birthday exceptional.  I remember so many of them and I know this is because my mom made them a work of heart.  I love birthdays.  My birthday included, though as I grow older the day seems to hold less excitement and fun, must be part of getting older.

Mom made every social occasion feel important. Even an unexpected event like a meeting or gathering was celebrated with an appropriate dessert.  Two stand by desserts that I remember her stirring up in a jiffy for a meeting  or a group of people stopping by were blonde brownies, or  her chocolate mayonnaise cake with chocolate frosting...all from scratch.  The chocolate cake is a personal favorite as it is a simple cake to make that is incredibly moist and delicious.  I rarely make this cake because it makes me miss mom all the more.  The smell and process brings back such vivid memories that I reserve making it for occasions that I feel mom would want to be a part of, such as a reception for a potential pastor for our church.  I know mom loved her church and would appreciate me making this as we entertain a pastor for our church.  The best certainly deserves the best. 

My birthday is this week, so I miss my mom more than ever.  I would love to have just one more hug and some time to spend with her.   It's not that I don't feel loved, I do, but no one loves a child more than their mom. 

Mother's day is also around the corner, and my mom's birthday often fell on mother's day.  A double whammy for her and a double missing for me since she has passed. 

Ultimately, though this post may seem a bit melancholy, it is a writing of joy.  If my mother had not been such an exceptionally special and loving person she would not be so sorely missed. Birthdays would not hold such esteem and  special foods would not seem such poignant items to enjoy. 

I hope that some reading this take heart, and make incredible memories with their children and family.  Just as my mom did for me. It doesn't take money, it simply takes time and heart to be remembered with love.  Miss you mom. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Learning Through Consequences


If you have read my posts in the past, you know a bit about me and my job.  I work with students that for one reason or another struggle to thrive at school.  Of course there are many reasons why this is the case; some have family backgrounds that prevent them from being able to focus on their school work, others just find school difficult to understand, and there are some that have social or emotional influences that affect their learning experiences.  Whatever the case, school is generally the last place that they want to be at any given moment in time.

Now I confess, I am an empathy sponge.  This is a good and bad thing to be in my chosen profession.  I am able to understand the kids better, and know which areas frustrate them, but I also feel helpless sometimes when I know that my students are upset and emotional.  I want to help them understand their material and make their lives less stressful for them, but essentially their success or failure is their responsibility. As much as I want them to be successful I can not "make" this happen. I logically know that all I can do is offer support and assistance and they must make the right choices and work hard to pass their credits.

As April approaches, so does the end of the school term for this year.  Our school ends in mid May so there are only a few weeks left and for my students, time is running out to improve grades.  I was feeling very depressed the other day about the circumstances some of "my kids" are in at this point of the semester.  Now, I know that most of this is due to the choices they have made throughout the semester.  I have preached many a "sermon" about the effects of choosing to only do work within the school day, doing nothing outside of class time (essentially the same thing),  doing only the bare minimum, and most grating to my nerves of all, not using the time in class(particularly in my class)  to complete work, but  instead goofing off during that time.  The closer the end of the semester creeps, the more anxious I get about the students.

The other day I caught myself in an emotional loop of worry.  I had to purposely remind myself that these students are getting an education that doesn't just focus on their credit acquisition.  Because I care for each and every one of them, I want their path to knowledge to be less stressful and more successful, but in all reality, success isn't just in passing a class and walking across the stage at graduation.  Failing and learning that consequences of actions are very real is also an educational experience. Just not the one I wish for my kids.

 I think that any educator or parent would like to see their students or children happy and able to achieve what they want with the least amount of resistance. But I am not certain that this teaches grit and resilience. 

My overall thought for the day is that I need to focus on the good, preach the word of responsibility and let go the guilt of things outside my control.  I pray my students make choices that bring success, but in the end I must accept that the consequences are on them.  Reader, if you are an educator or a parent, I hope you find some comfort in my thoughts today.  Love them, teach them, comfort them and pray for them. Then let them learn, in whichever way they choose.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Daisy Cakes Bakes

Daisy Cakes Bakes is a lovely new cookbook written by author Kim Nelson, owner of her own business, Daisy Cakes.  I first saw this book on the Blogging for Books website and was smitten from the start when I saw a white layer cake with peach filling on the cover.  In the middle of a winter doldrum, this cake on the cover of her book just screamed spring and freshness.  Something I am craving as I anxiously await the warm weather of spring and summer.  Nelson's book features Southern comfort baking so all her confections are calling my name. I just love the South and all the comfort foods in that region. I was not disappointed when I received my copy  of Nelson's book and began exploring the recipes inside the book.  I am anxious to make many of them, especially the white coconut frosting,  and  the butter brickle cookies, which I have a feeling my son-in-law would adore.

I can highly recommend Daisy Cakes Bakes for any baker's home cookbook collection.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

When God Made Light

Matthew Paul Turner  and David Catrow have done it again with another beautiful children's book to charm parents and entertain young readers. When God Made Light is as delightful as their previous book, When God Made You. Turner's prose is catchy and easy to read. Catrow's illustrations are winsome and just simply sweetness defined. I am completely loving this book!
A picture book must appeal to children and adults to be a success, When God Made Light, does this so well.  I was so excited when I saw the book listed on the Blogging for books website.  I remembered their first book and I loved it so much that I knew I wanted this one also.  I wanted to find out if the book equally appealed to children so I had a little reading session with my adorable next door neighbor, who happens to be in kindergarten and loves reading as much as I do.  We sat down and read When God Made Light from cover to cover.  She said "the book was great", "the cats were cute and funny" and  "the story was about God making light and us."  Overall she told me she really liked the book.  So there you go, high praise for When God Made Light  from  both of us!

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Being Present Not Angry Is Worth It Every Time

Some days just getting to where I need to be is a challenge.  Take today for example, I wasn't running particularly late, I would have gotten out the door and on my way to work right on time if I hadn't tried to top off the pet's water bowl before I left the house.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated and over filled the bowl which caused a cascade of not only water, but also all the tasks to clean up the spill before I could leave the house.  I had to scoop out the extra water, (it is a fountain bowl so picking it up and pouring isn't easy) then change the towel under the bowl which was wet and setting on the wood floor, put the wet things in the laundry and still get the dog put in the bedroom before leaving. 

I am prone to timing things to the last minute so this made a kink in my timeliness.  I could have gotten angry, and let the events ruin my day,or been down on myself for not planning my morning better, but a few years ago I realized that no matter where I am at a particular moment in time, I am exactly where I need to be.  Even running late to get to work or any other planned appointment.  Today was a prime example of this because if I had been exactly on time then I would have missed the event that put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. 

As I left the house, probably five minutes later than I should have, I was driving down my street which just so happens to exit at a crosswalk for the neighborhood elementary school.  Children are often walking to school so I drive slowly. At the last house on the street I notice a young boy, one I don't know because this home had just recently sold to new owners. He was probably a kindergarten or first grade student, and he was all bundled up in his stocking hat, heavy coat, and backpack standing on the walk next to his driveway garage door, facing the street.  In all that heavy clothing, the boy was doing a full on impression of a European water fountain as he "peed" an amazing stream in front of God and everyone.  I did a double take, this simply isn't what I usually see as I drive down this road. Then I burst out laughing! It is always hilarious to see other people's kids doing something that you'd just die of embarrassment of if your own child did it at the same age.

I guess my day was starting with water in more ways than one.  Besides cracking me up, I once again realized that if all had gone as planned today and I hadn't spilled water to clean up as I was rushing out the door, I would have never been treated to a full out laugh fest on my way to work.  Life is just too short and too precious to be angry about insignificant matters, including running late.

  I used to try to make up the time when something would happen to start my day in an unplanned way by rushing about, causing myself more anxiety as I drove faster than I should, knowing I wasn't following the speed limit and increasing the tension. By the time I would get to my destination I was in a horrible mindset and the rest of the day would continue down the same path.

Then one day I realized that no matter where I am, or what I am doing, God has placed me exactly where I need to be at that particular moment in time. What an anxiety reducer, I learned that being present in the moment, whatever or wherever it is, is a blessing and shouldn't be wasted.  Whatever I do, wherever I am I will do it for the Lord because he has placed me there.

Now I try to live my days with this mindset. If I am working with a student that is angry or very frustrated with school and life in general, I remind myself that I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to do so I must somehow find joy in this moment and share that joy with others. This is not easy, or even always successful, but it is a goal I continue to strive for as I do so love my students.

I do my best to be on time and be where I need to be but if unforeseen circumstances arise, I make a point of enjoying the moment and purposefully finding joy.  My days go so much better and I smile more.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Chalk Man by C.J.Tudor

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor is a good read for a cold winter night, if you enjoy a good mystery.  The mystery begins with a group of teenage boys living in their English village, making their way through the trials of adolescence and a bucket of chalk given as a birthday present.  The boys' teacher, Mr. Halloran, gave them the chalk as a gift and inspiration to enact a secret code of chalk figures to communicate with each other throughout the long summer days.  The boys primarily use the chalk figures to warn each other of the town bullies and plan meeting locations but when Eddie, the main character finds a drawing that leads him to a murder, everything changes. Years later, as adults, the mystery resurfaces and one of the boys, now an adult is killed.  To solve both crimes, Eddie learns he must solve the mystery to  protect himself as well.
I tend to be a judgmental critic when it comes to mysteries.  They often feel predictable and staged to me, using well worn plot lines.  I am pleased to say that The Chalk Man is not that way.  I was pleasantly hooked from the beginning of the book to the end.  It is easy to recommend The Chalk Man as a wonderful engaging read.  

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Celebrating Christmas with kindness to all including myself!

Tis the season to be harried- fa la la la la, la la la la.
No one to blame but lit-tle ole' me- fa la la la la, la la la la.
Yet only I can change my attitude, fa la la, la la la, la la la.
Celebrate by making time for gratitude, fa la la la la, la la la la!

My family know that little dittys go through my head constantly.  At home they often come out as I sing to everyone about everything.  The dog, to kennel up.  When the kids were little we sang about bath time and picking up toys. I sing about cooking supper and something I hear on the news.  Thankfully my family is tolerant and don't get too annoyed with my rhyming little songs. 

Lately I have been letting the holiday schedule of hectic obligations get on my nerves because I have been feeling that I cannot complete all the tasks that I need to do.  In trying to embrace all the joys of Christmas and the wonderful gift of the holidays I began to fall into the trap of losing track of the joy in the process. Not much singing was going on.  The more anxious I became about completing my to do list and finishing the semester at the high school I work at  (finals are next week)  the less holiday spirit grew inside me.  It was during an almost meltdown that I realized, I had done this all to myself.  I was the one who had placed these expectations on myself.  No one else.

How easy it is to fall into the trap of trying to fit into the society norm of doing it all, or worse yet, comparing ourselves to others.  I am guilty.  But I can also choose to make better choices and give myself the gift of kindness that I am working so hard to give to others.  I can do this by evaluating what things on my schedule I feel very passionate about and focus on those things.  While letting the other things go.  I did just that the other day.  I took time to print out a calendar and fill in the dates with items that I really wanted to participate in, limiting myself to only a few tasks per evening after work.  I scheduled in the church obligations, baking days, wrapping days, and even a day to clean because the dust is getting deep and this stresses me but I know I can't do everything, everyday so that will be completed closer to the actual holiday so that it may last for visitors.

Some things will lapse, things I really enjoy . but must trade for other activities I equally want to do.  For example, I love to do Urban Groove at Genesis, it is a type of Zumba class.  However, I can't do the night class and all the baking I also want to do for friends and family.  So for a week or so  I will omit Zumba and relax in a different way without beating myself up about not getting enough exercise. 

That's the key, I am finding, allowing ourselves the tolerance to make choices and not feel like we are letting someone (even our self) down. Easier said than done, but worth the effort.
It is equally important to remember that it is because we are so blessed that we have the means to be stressed!  This calms my harried nerves faster than any other thought.  If I wasn't blessed with  friends, I wouldn't be busy seeing them and doing activities with them.  If I wasn't blessed with means, I wouldn't be baking cookies, or  buying and wrapping gifts for family and friends.  And if I wasn't blessed to know and love the Lord, I would not be spending time working at his church preparing for the celebration of his birth. All of these things I am truly grateful for and I am blessed to have them in my life so I don't mind so much making choices to not do some of my other favorite things in trade for these.

It is so important to spread joy and kindness throughout the holiday season and all the year, but don't forget while taking care of others, to also take care of yourself. Then there will be glad tidings and great joy for all to share!

Merry Christmas!!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Embracing Peace....30 Days to Peace

Tis' the holiday season and busyness is everywhere.  The stores are busy with people hustling and bustling about as they buy presents.  Decorations are everywhere, and where there are decorations, there are obligations and parties.  I look at my calendar and everyday has something attached to the date.  Instead of finding joy in the days, I find myself feeling overwhelmed.

I am part of a year long enrichment program with some of my coworkers at the school district. It is titled "Inspired Leadership" and has already helped me find my center in many ways.  We are encouraged to practice being "present" in all our endeavors and learn to say no to things that are merely obligations that take away our energy and give us no enrichment. Our sessions are led by a wonderful coach, Tamara Konrade.  She helps us find the energy to be authentic and evaluate the motives behind decisions to help us all become better in our relationships with others and ourselves.

When I last was on the Blogging for Books website, I had recently attended one of her sessions.  One book appealed to me and I ordered it right away,  30 Days to Peace has not disappointed.   30 Days to Peace is a one month creative journal published by Waterbrook.  I am simply in joy over this lovely little book.  I wrote the first few entries this week and already I feel much less harried.  In fact, yesterday I had a stressful end to my work day and before getting into the car to come home I worked on a journal entry.  I was amazed how much better, more centered and purpose driven I felt.   Rather than  just wanting to escape the moment I ran towards the tasks I had, and truly enjoyed them.

I would recommend 30 days to Peace to anyone who needs some comfort and quiet during this busy season.  I  truly feel that it has helped me find the joy of the season.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Holiday Cookies

This holiday season I vow to do something every week to make myself feel festive and in the holiday spirit.  This is just one reason why I was so excited to get Elisabet Der Nederlanden's beautiful book, Holiday Cookies from the Blogging for Books Website.  Nederlanden shares engaging recipes from a myriad of traditional and new sources to create a cookie book that appeals to all bakers.

Some of the international recipes include Swedish Pepparakor, Italian Pignoli, Austrian Linzer Augen, and Hungarian Kiffles. The book also includes confections: Peppermint Bark, Apple Cider Caramels, and  Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch Squares to name just a few. Finally, the book has traditional favorites such as gingerbread cookies and other decorated favorites.

This book is a charming addition to my recipe book collection and I am so excited to begin using it through this and future holiday seasons.  I would recommend  Elisabet Der Nederlanden's book, Holiday Cookies to any baker this holiday season.

FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My Blessings

I haven't written a blog post for a while.  The school year began and I got busy.  That is what happens each and every year.  School starts and my schedule then revolves around getting up, rushing off to my classroom and coming home to try to cram the rest of my day with keeping my husband, the house, and pets cared for.  Then add in social and church commitments and personal commitments of exercise  and the days really begin to blur.

One particular reason that they go so fast is what I do during the day, I work with high school students.  Each year as  I enter the school term, I try to think of a way to encourage my view of the year. Last year the district suggested each person find "one word" to use for the year.  I chose "foster".
This year, I decided to think about how my students make me feel.  For the most part. I work with students who do not love the whole concept of school.  In fact, for many of my students, they would just about rather be anywhere other than at school.  My students feel school is very hard.  There are many reasons for their perceptions.  Some have had tough life circumstances so just existing is difficult and school is part of that existence.  Others have problems learning, but are not diagnosed with any specific need so they receive no special services.  Some missed educational concepts when they were younger due to absences, illnesses or language acquisition and now have missing concepts that affect their studies.  In a nutshell, all the students I work with struggle.  I feel like I spend a lot of time outside of tutoring them in subjects. I spend time coaching them to exist in the world.

Back to my choice about how to approach this year, well, I decided to work on changing perceptions. This year I am calling my students, "My Blessings."  I am doing this for many reasons.  My students are the reason that I get out of bed in the morning and drive to school.  Without them, I would have no reason to get up and go, other than my own silly agendas, and that is indeed a blessing.

My students help me use the gifts I have been given  in a positive way.  I enjoy connecting with people, helping others understand, teaching new things, taking care of others, and training my students to advocate for themselves.  These are blessings.

Sometimes I notice that there is a stigma attached to the students I work with, and others associate negative labels and values with "my kids."  If I consistently refer to them as "My Blessings," perhaps a new perception may happen over time.

When I am working with "my kids," and they are down and overwhelmed, as they so often are,  letting them know that they are "My Blessings," and why they are, affirms that I am invested in them and care deeply about their success.

Last of all, sadly,  it seems that much too often I find out that a past student has been lost. That happened once again today. It simply breaks my heart.  These individual's lives are so difficult and surviving school is just a very small part of the deal.  Life can be too much to endure.  Yet, they are still "My Blessings," because there is a warmth from their soul left with me that can never be taken away.

Through hard work I am blessed and "My Blessings" are with me each and every day of school year and linger on after.