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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.

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.




Thursday, September 7, 2017

Convicted

I enjoy reading crime novels.  I don't know why, but I am intrigued by the  suspense  of trying to figure out the clues to solve a crime.  Convicted, by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins is a real life crime novel dealing with the wrongful conviction of Jameel McGee by a self purported dirty cop, Andrew Collins.

In the novel, Collins and McGee alternate telling their story, the tale of Collins becoming a cop that broke the rules and planted evidence.  One that found ways to skim money from arrests and did anything to get his collars and make a name for himself both in the department and on the streets.
McGee,  was the one of the men that he framed.  Unfairly accused of a crime he did not commit, McGee served three years in prison, away from his baby boy, and vowing to kill the police officer who had put him away.  Eventually Collins's deceit catches up with him and he too spends time in jail for his crimes.

One would think that these guys would be arch enemies, but they eventually become friends through the art of forgiveness.

I was impressed by the well written story shared in the book.  The promotion of the book says that "it reads like a gripping crime novel."  I don't think I agree with this statement.  I felt it read like a memoir, told between two very distinct voices.  I sincerely enjoyed the book.  The readability was perfect.  I read straight through and enjoyed the journey that they shared with their readers.  I am thankful that  the story was shared.  I feel it is important for all to know that even through deep adversity, forgiveness can be found.
I heartily recommend this book.


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



Saturday, August 5, 2017

The New American Heart Association Cookbook 9th Edition

Healthy living, healthy eating...those two mainstays simply go hand in hand and The American Heart Association Cookbook is a time honored resource on both.  The 9th edition of this book is the best one yet with "800 recipes-100 of them all new and 150 refreshed"(AHA).  I recently received this edition from the Blogging for Books website and I am thrilled to have it.  I sat right down and read through it page by page.  The recipes look amazing!
I confess that I usually feel healthy recipes are tasteless, but the recipes in this cookbook look flavorful and easy to prepare.  Every category is well represented, appetizers, soups, salads, fowl, meats and desserts and so many more. At the bottom of each recipe are the nutrition facts per serving. A helpful addition to planning nutritious meals and an overall health centered diet.
The one recipe that I want to try first is the Sweet Corn Soup with Crab and Asparagus.   This soup has all of my favorite ingredients and is made in a light and healthful way with only 126 calories per serving. My next recipe will be the Slow Cooker Pumpkin Oatmeal, which simply screams fall comfort food.  There are so many recipes to try that I will be busy cooking for a long time, but the great thing is that everyone of them is good for the heart and soul.
I heartily recommend the The American Heart Association Cookbook to everyone wanting to embrace a heart healthy lifestyle and those who simply love great cooking!


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

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Midnight Queen

I am always up for a new magic filled novel.  I have enjoyed fantasy fiction since I was a young girl when I first read the Dragon series by Anne McCaffrey.  Since that time I have read so many series, with my all time favorite being the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling.  Perhaps I have loved Rowling's series most because I shared this one with my children, as they devoured the books and movies during their childhood years.  I read every genre of fiction, but fantasy provides pure escape reading as one enters a world of  amazing creatures and abilities.

My love of this genre lead me to choose  Sylvia Izzo Hunter's novel, The Midnight Queen, from the Blogging for Books website.  Hunter's book is set in rural Britain and historical Regency England.  Oxford's Merlin College is the location of a school of magic for the most affluent and talented students. The main characters Sophie Callender and Gray Marshall learn about themselves as they learn magic from the hallowed halls of Merlin College.

I am certain that I chose this book because of my penchant for books similar to the Rowling series, and as so many that I have tried in the past, it falls short of my hope.  I don't want to discourage those wanting to read a good bit of escape fantasy fiction.  The Midnight Queen is a perfectly fine book. The characters are interesting, the concept is good, the plot is fine, if not super exciting as it tends to lag a bit here and there, but it doesn't rank as one of the best I have read.

That being said, I would encourage all readers to try The Midnight Queen by Hunter, as a light summer read in the fantasy genre, it is a good selection.


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


Monday, June 26, 2017

The Teacher Challenge: Top 5 Non-Negotiables in teaching.

Let's just begin this post by saying I am humbled to be tagged along with the amazing teachers challenged to post their top 5 non-negotiables.    I came to the teaching realm through a unique path.  Personally, I have always believed that God brought me to the place I am, through unique and maze worthy means.

I never saw myself as a teacher, certainly not a teacher of secondary education students.  But, I have learned in my life to trust and pray and follow.  I have trusted in God and prayed for his guidance, I prayed for direction, and no matter how scary it was, I did my best to follow the path I was being lead upon.
Risk: I faced many risks, but I trusted the path so I kept sticking my neck out because I felt a passion for the students He put in my path.

I began this journey as a paraprofessional for 5th-6th grade learning disabled students.  I fell in love with fostering learning through fostering confidence in the gifts each student was blessed with from the beginning.

I eventually became a high school paraprofessional for the local education cooperative.  I loved the job and the students.  In time I was given the opportunity to interview and accept a position as an ESL paraprofessional.  I had studied languages, linguistics, and English secondary education in college so this seemed like a perfect fit.

 I do not have a teaching certificate, but do have a Bachelors of Science degree in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences which includes hours in English, Social Sciences and Natural Sciences.  I felt like the perfect para, I could tutor the students in most classes and teach English to non English language students.  The only problem, I didn't have enough ESL students.  I was bored.  Not something I take lightly.

I refuse to not be used to my full capacity so...I wrote to my assistant superintendent.  And I  prayed, oh how I prayed, I knew saying that I was not used to my full capacity was risky for my job but I could not take money for a job I did not feel that I was adequately earning.  My administrator told me to think of a better use for my abilities and let her know.  Again, scary....but I did and told her that I needed more work to do or I needed less hours, I was simply not cost effective in the current educational climate.

 Then I offered my extra hours to assist in helping an Impact classroom and the lead teacher, Jason Kohls, thankfully allowed me to come into his classroom.  I was in love with the students!   These were MY kids!!! Students that struggle and need guidance due to various factors.  Finally I found my niche.  But I needed to be accepted to the position.  The assistant superintendent kindly agreed to allow me to teach these students and through a waiver I was allowed to facilitate three hours of Impact classes!!!!

That was last year.  This year, my colleagues have agreed to supervise my classrooms to continue my quest to facilitate as many Impact classrooms as the district will allow me to teach.  God knows this is my passion.  God also knows that at my age attaining a teacher's certificate is not money well spent.  But He always finds a way for me to pursue my passion to help students succeed and for that I feel unconditionally blessed.

Through this menagerie of teacher existence I have had a classroom of students to tutor, facilitate, and care for the past six years.

And yes because I have had a classroom the past six years, I do have non negotiables.

1. My classroom is a safe place for all students. Students may share feelings and thoughts without fear of reprisal from others.  I will ensure that all students treat each other with respect. Everyone in my classroom can talk without fear of ridicule.  Any students that cross this expectation will be held accountable to ensure a safe environment for all students at all times. My students know that it takes a great deal to make me hold them accountable to the administration but this is a deal breaker, and the students respect this.

2.The class time each day must be shared by all students. This may sound strange in a regular classroom setting, but in a class where each student needs tutoring it is a real issue.  I will give everyone some attention during the class period but everyone must share the time allowed.  This I honestly feel is the hardest part of my job.  Each and everyone of my students need the full class hour of instruction each and every day. However, I have many students each hour. I do my best to go from student to student throughout the class hour.  Trying my best to give every student some assistance every day is a non-negotiable.

3. Students must take responsibility for their own actions.  Many students that find school challenging blame others for their struggles.  Yes, many factors lead to the problems that are faced in life, but one must take responsibility for their own actions.  It is not the parents, the other teachers, or anyone else's fault if work is not completed.  It is your own.   Own it and resolve the issue.  If there is an extenuating circumstance I will help to resolve this, but I won't make excuses, and neither should the student.

4. I will come before school and stay after school to help a student but will not invest more care for the subject than the student involved. I learned my first year on the job that it is dangerous to care more for the student's grades and classwork than the student themselves.  I follow the quote by Mark Twain, "Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself  to be their option." I will love unconditionally but expect the student to work for the success they achieve, and will support the student who wholeheartedly works unceasingly.

5. I will watch and learn from my co-workers each and every day.  I struggle to call my licensed teacher colleagues peers.  They earned that certificate and I have just achieved my work credos through tenacity and perseverance.  Yet every opportunity I find myself in their midst I am awed and inspired.  I watch and learn and feel privileged to be in their arena.


The Story Cure

It is my firm belief that everyone who can read is also a writer.  I concede that some individuals are more talented in the composition of written passages, but all can write.  Everyone has a story to tell, in one fashion or another.  I, profess to be a wannabe novelist.  I have always wanted to easily tell engaging stories that make others want to read and become part of the imaginary world of  characters that live in my mind.  I can create the characters, the situations that happen to them, but weaving the entire plot and theme of the book are very difficult for me.

Blogging for Books to the rescue.  While looking for my next book to request I happened upon, The Story Cure- A Book Doctor's Pain-free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir by Dinty W. Moore.  Voila! The perfect answer.  The Story Cure offers a diagnosis and the prescribed cures for the main elements of a novel.  Along with the written information, The Story Cure also includes interactive lessons to put the cures to practice in fixing a book.

Moore, refers to himself as a book doctor, having taught many classes as well as working with individuals create the book that lives inside of them.  I found the information very helpful.  I plan to work through the exercises and try to bring life to the story I know I can tell.

I would sincerely recommend The Story Cure to any writer struggling to bring their novel to life.



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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

What it’s like to be pampered for 32 years…



I am pampered.  Well cared for, spoiled, and absolutely, completely, in love with the husband who takes such good care of me.  I have been completely, totally pampered for the last 32 years.  I think when Scott and I took  our wedding vows there must have been a silent clause that he took that said, “I will love, cherish and pamper my wife, until death do us part.”  I  know I said “I will obey,” which I remember adamantly telling our pastor that I would not say, but it was in the vows and with stars in my eyes I never knew I ever said it, until I saw the video tape.  Yet, I confess, I have obeyed his wishes, desires, and wants since the day that I uttered the words.  God must have known that those things would align with mine anyway.

Tomorrow is our 32nd anniversary.  I would have to say, as a pampered wife, life has been perfect.  That being said, it has not always been easy.  We have had many challenges in our career and family life.  In some ways more than others, in other ways fewer, but definitely not idyllic.  However, at every point in our relationship I  have felt cherished and loved.

In the beginning, when we were just newlyweds who were trying to finish our degrees at Kansas State University, I felt loved when we found days that our schedules matched and we could have dinner together.  A rare treat with each of us working retail jobs while trying to finish school. I also felt cherished  when I would set off the smoke alarms trying to cook the perfect meal, and my darling husband would check the banking account to see if there was enough money to take me out to Country Kitchen for a meal.

Then I felt loved and pampered when he held my hand, and my head as I was sick through almost 8 months of my first pregnancy with my son, and he dealt with the stress of a pregnant wife and graduating KSU while looking for a job that would support us.  It was real, and scary, but I was taken care of each and every day.  

I felt pampered while he held my hand through every child’s labor, through the scary take offs and landings of each vacation that involved airflight, through the deaths and funerals of both of my parents and my best friend, and the weddings of my children.  I have never felt alone.  Even when he was on a business trip for weeks when the children were small.  Even when everyone had the flu, and the tornado sirens were blowing,  and I was alone, I was not because he was thinking about us and calling us and a constant source of support.

I felt pampered because he has done the dishes every night that I cooked dinner.  That was the deal when we were in college, whoever cooked the meal didn’t have to clean the dishes.  I have almost always cooked, which I prefer.  I rarely burn a meal anymore.  God must have known that I love to cook and he doesn’t mind dishes.

I have felt pampered to receive a hot cup of coffee everyday on my bedside table to help me wake up.  When he travels, and I must get my own, it makes me miss his presence and realize how truly blessed I am which makes each cup of coffee even more precious.


As of tomorrow, we will have been married for  32 years.  The journey is amazing.  I hope and pray that I will never experience it without my dear husband.  Thank you Scott, for always letting me know that with you at my side I am truly pampered.   

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Blood Rose Rebellion

Young adult fiction is a genre that I have always enjoyed.  Perhaps because I found my true passion for reading at that age. Book series that contain all the elements of a great young adult novel are a certain gem for my bookshelves.  Great series such as "The Hunger Games,""Harry Potter,"  "Dragon Slayers," and "Divergent," to name just a few are some of my favorites.  In my opinion,  Rosalyn Eves's book, The Blood Rose Rebellion is the next book to enter this realm of great young adult novels.  

The Blood Rose Rebellion is set in the world of an "alternate Victorian England" per Eves, and the main character, Anna is a young woman who is alienated from her place in society due to a lack of magical ability.  All of her family have magical powers, but Anna's lack of magic not only is an embarrassment to her and her family, but also wreaks havoc to unravel the magic of others in her presence.  Following an embarrassing event at her sister's societal magical debut, Anna leaves England with her grandmother to hide out in Hungary.  Little does Anna realize, that her true adventure has just begun.

Eves's novel is captivating from the very beginning.  She weaves a story with intrigue, mystique, and romance. Her characters are as engaging as her plot is riveting.  It is easy for me to recommend Rosalyn Eves book, The Blood Rose Rebellion to both young adult and mature readers.


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