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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.

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.

Thursday, September 7, 2017


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.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Thy will be done...very scary words indeed

Four of the scariest words in the English language (if you are a Christian and completely understand what these words mean) are "Thy will be done."  I try to always pray this in any situation I am faced with, I ask for God's will for me, and I must tell you, it is a scary prayer to pray.  So often I want what I want, and praying for His will is humbling.

Just recently I was faced with an incident that disheartened and discouraged me.  My gut, human reaction was to be frustrated, angry, and hurt.  I was in a situation where I couldn't show any emotion, (being an adult is often this way) so I pushed the feeling down and "adulted" my way to the end of the day when I could properly process them. What I discovered later was that of course, I can't change anything on my own so I "simply"(okay, so it's never really simple, a bit of sarcasm slipped out) prayed for God's will to be done in my life.

My situation is not life threatening.  It hurts but I won't be financially strapped. However, I began to think about all who daily pray for God's will in their life, and the faith and humility it takes to do so.  The parent of a seriously ill child is one example.  Trusting God's will for the healing of the beloved child, knowing that His will very well  may be that their child is ultimately healed by going to heaven is a truly frightening situation. A homeless individual, asking for God's will when they have no idea of where the next meal or bed will be, is faith as an action verb.

Praying for God's will in any loved ones' turmoils takes absolute faith. The one praying must relinquish all claim and control and allow their life to be purely in God's hands.  I happen to believe that our lives are anyway, but giving up the pretense of control is difficult. 

Every time I attend church, my congregation recites the Lord's Prayer. I say "recites", because sometimes I wonder how many are actually concentrating on the words being said.  The prayer begins:

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done...

Right there, In the fourth line we are asking for God's will and giving ourselves entirely into His hands. A very safe place to be, but perhaps a test of giving up control which is a very human trait.

Though the words and the actions of placing oneself entirely in God's control, asking for His will and being content in the waiting are scary, in the end following His will is the safest and most comforting place to be.  You're welcome to join me, anytime.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Life After Heaven

As a spiritual person, one who is proud to be in the Christian faith, books about individuals' encounters in heaven are always interesting to me.  I guess for me, and maybe for many Christians, I have a bit of Jesus's disciple Thomas in me. Although I believe by faith in God's word, the bible, I also have the human curiosity to want to see with my own eyes, to know what heaven will be like when I get there.  For anyone not familiar with the Christian faith, Christians believe heaven is assured to those who are baptized in the water and the word of Jesus Christ, our Savior, who died and was resurrected to save the world from sin and the devil.  If one acknowledges Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the person is saved by His Grace and will then go to heaven upon death.
My curiosity about heaven lead me to choose Life After Heaven, by Steven R. Musick, as my most recent selection from the Blogging for Books website.
It was a comforting read. Like most heaven accounts, Musick reports that he traveled to heaven through a bright lighted "tunnel" and ended in miraculous and comforting area of peace and perfect beauty.  He meets with Jesus and learns about the parts of his life that have troubled him, he is given explanations for the events in his past and Musick is so comforted that he wants to stay forever in this perfect place.  Then Jesus sends him back to his earthly existence in a damaged body and acute sense of loss for the love and communion with Jesus he had experienced so briefly.  For Musick his time in heaven was brief, in reality he had been in a coma for five weeks.  Following his  return to life, he overcomes many obstacles and throughout his lifetime, he finds "bubbles" of heaven's existence all around him as he grows to a deeper faith and relationship with Jesus.
I enjoyed Musick's book, Life After Heaven.  I feel that anyone, at anytime, will find comfort and acceptance in his story and feel that Jesus is not only Lord and Savior but a friend that walks beside those who believe in Him. Heaven is waiting for those who believe. Read Musick's account and find joy in it!

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

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Vibrant India

The end of the academic year is quickly approaching, and little time outside of the school day is available for pursuing hobbies, but summer is coming....and with that arrives time to have some fun.  One of the first things I look forward to doing is spending more time in the kitchen, trying out new recipes and new cultural dishes.  I was so excited when my recent book, from Blogging for Books, arrived on my doorstep.  Vibrant India, written by Chitra Agrawal, is exactly as its title implies; a vibrant depiction of the stunning and savory dishes found in the Indian cuisine.

The vegetarian cuisine in Agrawal's book is paired with pages outlining South Indian food traditions, Indian cooking tips and techniques, items needed in a South Indian pantry and the various kitchen tools essential to Indian cooking. Each recipe is carefully explained so that even a cook unexperienced in  Indian cooking is able to attempt the dishes.  Agrawal offers both the traditional spices in her recipes as well as substitutes found more commonly in an American kitchen, so that her dishes are less intimidating to prepare.  There are a few items in her recipes that I have not been able to find locally (I live in a rural area of Kansas). However I believe I can locate them online or the next time I travel to a larger metro area.

Agrawal's book, Vibrant India, also includes elements of Indian culture, both in the written commentary that Agrawal has in her chapters, as well as the vivid artwork that showcases the color and heritage of India.

I am certainly enjoying Chitra Agrawal's book, Vibrant India, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in exploring the flavorful cooking of exotic India.

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

The Chamberlain Key

I'm a skeptic.  I will lay it right out there.  When it comes to theological writings, ones that purport to open up the mysteries of the bible, old or new testament, I tend to tread with caution.  Perhaps this is because I was raised and have always been Lutheran.  We believe that the bible is the inspired word of God, written by men, through the guide of the Holy Spirit.  That said, I did find, The Chamberlain Key, written by Timothy P. Smith an interesting read.
Smith writes a real life story about his discovery of a key that is hidden within the old testament, "the Masoretic tradition of textual transmission...(with its)...seemingly fanatical insistence that both the letter count and sequence of specific biblical manuscripts not be altered so much as one letter (Smith). It is through this precise translation with exact spacing that Smith discovers the Chamberlain Key through the use of the Leningrad Codex.  He, with other academics and professionals discover messages that point to and confirm the Christian gospel.
When I first picked up this book, I was afraid it would be much like the Bible Code written by Rips, Witzum and Rosenburg.  Thankfully it is not.  Smith even refers to this book as he also found the book "appalling for many reasons"(Smith).
I do not pretend to know or understand all the the bible offers for both Christians and Jews.  I do believe it is God's word for mankind.  I feel that Smith's book is an unique story, of a man with a strong faith.  My skeptical nature can not condone the book as a new faith text.  I can recommend the text as a good read of a man, who worked hard to share his faith story and journey to delve deeper into God's word.

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Truly Inspiring

St. Patricks Day, I walk into the junior English classroom, and on the board is the statement "what in life makes you feel lucky?" students wrote on the board a reason they feel lucky...I wrote one too..
"What in life makes me feel lucky? My job.
Today in junior English, the students presented "Identity Boxes" as a project for the novel study that the class is beginning, Night by Ellie Wiesel.
Being among the amazing students in our school is just one reason that I love my job. Being with amazing teachers is definitely another.  Amber Neighbor is one of the most sincere, intuitive, and inspirational teachers that I have had the  privilege to interact with and been blessed to be in her classroom.

Her love of teaching, and inspiring learning is tangible each and every day.  Today she had her students present "Identity boxes" as a prelude to reading the novel Night.  Each student shared quotes, memories, belief systems, fears, and memorable personal objects that they identified with as aspects of their personalities.  Because she has created a classroom atmosphere where her students feel safe to share parts of their lives with their peers, the experience was one of the most memorable of my career.

  Students that I work with everyday shared snippets of their lives that gave me great understanding into their families and educational experiences.  Each student as an audience member was silent, listening to their peers, and I could see compassion, understanding, and tolerance being fostered by the sharing of thoughts and memories. I am hard pressed to find another educational experience in my career that was as poignant as today.

Thank you for teachers like Amber Neighbor who make learning relevant and tangible, not only for their students, but also for the others they inspire in their lives.  That is what makes my life lucky, working with professionals like Amber, who make me love my job!

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Struggle is Real

There is an internet story that is being shared concerning a boy and a butterfly. I was thinking about the story today because this story seems to exemplify so many things I see in my own life but also those lives around me.

 In the story, the boy has  a collection of butterfly cocoons, most of the cocoons are empty and the butterflies well away on their journey. One is left, it is struggling to exit the confines of the cocoon.  The boy wants to help the butterfly by opening the cocoon and easing its way when an old man comes by and stops him.  He tells the boy to let the butterfly struggle, because this process helps the butterfly gain the strength needed for its long journey ahead in life.

This story exemplifies how I feel about so many things in the world. Struggle is real.  Sometimes struggle involves concrete things like money, food, jobs.  More often, though, struggle involves internal conflicts, such as self-esteem, anxiety, depression, or lack of confidence.  Everyday, many fight the emotions and turmoil, and struggle to keep going, to work their way out of the strife whether it is physical or internal.  Those who make it through are stronger for the process, even if it is exhausting to complete.

I myself have struggled with self-esteem and feelings of confidence.  As a child I was painfully shy, and I have pushed myself to be outgoing, but there are times when  I resort to past feelings and behaviors.  I believe it is my own struggles that have helped me to empathize with others, particularly my students.  "I get it."  I know how it feels to get the details of a project and want to bury my head because the process seems so vast.  That there are moments where I hope that whatever the process is, it will just go away. This can be completely overpowering and I feel frozen in time and must push myself to continue a commitment I have made.  I also understand all types of avoidance behaviors.  I want my students, friends and family to know, I get it, the struggle is real.

But, as much as we want to save ourselves from suffering and experiencing the hurt of the world, both internal and external, it is more important to face the obstacles,  to struggle, because this is how character is built and perseverance is achieved. If we allow ourselves to escape our problems, through denial or other avenues, we are cheating ourself from the growth that comes with the process.

 The same is so for our children, or our students. If we save them from the struggle, expect less, allow them to hide from responsibility, to escape when the internal or worldly problems arise, they will not become the strong adults our world needs.  If we intercede on their behalf when they face a problem, be it homework, relationships, sports, or jobs to make their lives easier, to save them from the pain, to save ourselves from the agony of watching them try and fail, or worse yet watching them not try; then sadly they will not find the internal strength needed to deal with the difficulties that come from living.

Inherently humans want to help each other. Teachers want to help their students find success.  Parents want to help their children grow and mature.  However, let us remember that helping does not mean ending the struggle needed to improve and thrive.  Like the butterfly,  all need to feel the frustration of trying and enduring when things are not easy.  To feel a bit trapped but learning that with perseverance the goal can be achieved. Ultimately to find pride in embracing the struggle, no matter what it happens to be and know that strength comes from the trial.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

When God Made you

"YOU, you… God thinks about you. God was thinking of you long before your debut" (Turner). This first line and certain truth is the theme within Mathew Turner's enchanting children's book, When God Made You.  Turner's book, vibrantly illustrated by the artist David Catrow, speaks to the child in all of us.  Turner embraces the fact that each individual is completely different, yet completely planned according to God's perfect plan.  
As an educator, and a Christian, I feel Turner's book, When God Made You, is an important addition to the children's publishing genre.  Turner speaks to the question many children, and adults struggle with, being different and unique yet finding their place in society.  In, When God Made You, the child in all of us feels comfort that "Out of billions of faces from cultures, all races, people God made, from all different places, God new your name"(Turner).  No matter what, each person is part of God's plan for a perfect world. No one is a mistake. No one is less than perfect in whatever body they are born with or abilities they possess.

I was so excited to see this book on the Blogging For Books website.  The title spoke to me and I had high hopes for the content.  I was not disappointed.  Every part of the book is exquisite.  Reading the pages brings smiles to the reader's face and joy to the heart.  I simply can't wait to share this book with adults and children alike.  It is with heartfelt sincerity that I recommend, When God Made You.  Share it with every child in your life, young and old.

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Drop Dead Easy Knits

My niece can knit.  She does beautiful work and I admit...I'm jealous.  Knitting has always been a craft that I have aspired to learn.
I have made various attempts. On one occasion my niece's Austrian great grandmother attempted to teach me....she spoke no English, and I learned the word "nein" for no.  Meaning, "no, not like that!"  We had a good time working together, but I did not become the master knitter I had hoped I would. I have had others try to teach me, I can do a basic knit and pearl but,  I want to do more!

I am certain that is why I was excited to see the book, Drop Dead Easy Knits, by Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Egan, and Kirsten Kapur, listed on the Blogging for Books website.   While knitting may still not be easy to me, the book makes the patterns appear very doable.  The illustrations are beautiful and the instructions are straight forward. The items listed are very contemporary in design, and make me excited once again to try to pick up my needles and "click it" until I get it!

I may need to enlist help from my niece, but I am very excited to try some of the patterns from,  Drop Dead Easy Knits.  If you are an accomplished knitter,  I would heartily recommend this book.  You will be ready to get those needles moving and make some stunning pieces.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Home on the Range

Looking for a gentle, heartwarming read for a cold winter day? Then treat yourself to Ruth Logan Herne's second addition to her Double S Ranch Book series, Home on the Range. Herne has continued the Christian mystery storyline of the Stafford family, three brothers who are learning to live their lives through the struggles of relationships and hardships, and ending with the satisfaction of finding love of a woman and life on the Double S Ranch.

Herne's talent for creating strong characters that portray the vulnerability of the human condition makes for enjoyable reading that soothes the soul.
Home on the Range primarily dealing with the story of Nick Stafford and his two girls, Dakota and Cheyenne.  Cheyenne, the older of the Stafford daughters is in third grade, and rebelling from a heart broken by her mother's desertion.  Nick does his best as a single father, raising two headstrong girls, and trying to keep the ranch operating in the shadow of his sick father, Sam Stafford.  The family leans on their newly resurrected faith in God to uphold them in the difficult times. As a therapist for the children, Elsa Andreas enters the picture.  Little does Nick know that Elsa has her own healing to do.  With faith, all heal and help each other.

Herne has a knack for telling a story that is compelling, yet comforting.  Her use of small town characters, real life struggles, and strong faith, engage the reader from page one to the end of the book.  It is easy to recommend Home on the Range as a relaxing adventure to indulge in on a cold winter's day.
FTC disclaimer: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.