Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

We left THIS a week and a half ago...

...and we're still on the road.

We are having a great time!  More about that if we decide to head back to the tundra when we get home.  Until then, have a happy and blessed New Year!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

It's the Baby

Well, it's time for me to sign off for the holidays. Christmas is coming early to our family and lasting more than twelve days. We will be going to spend the first Christmas our kids will ever remember with their grandparents. I'd say it's about time. We are all excited. But there is much left to do. First, though, a sweet Christmas memory.
Lee and I have always sung in our church's Christmas musical. Our kids have sung along with the CDs as we've learned them, and they probably do a better job of memorizing the music than many of the choir members. Each year there is a song or two sung by the children's choir. Before our kids were old enough to take part, they always loved hearing these the best. One such song that the kids would belt out at the top of their lungs was about the real meaning of Christmas:
It's the Baby in the manger
Tiny infant sweet and small
It's the Baby, He's our Savior
Come to earth to save us all,
Come to earth to save us all.
Bethany was only 2 1/2 that year, and we thought we might be pushing our luck taking her to church on Christmas Eve. Not to worry. She was immediately enthralled by the candlelight. As the Biblical account of the events surrounding the birth of Christ was read, images from a children's book depicting the scenes were projected onto a large white wall above the platform. I was grateful that we were seated near the back, for little Bethany would not be deterred from standing on the pew to get as close as she could, and exclaiming, "It's the mommy! It's the daddy! It's the baby!" Never has there been purer, more joy-filled worship. She sang her heart out with the carols, even though she didn't know half the words. Blessed Christmas, indeed.
Now the kids sing with the choir, and it is our delight to listen as they lead us to worship the Baby...
who grew into the Man...
who would be our Savior
Christmas blessings to you and your family!
Note: Last year when only about four (dear, sweet, wonderful) people read my blog, I wrote a few posts with my thoughts about Christmas. If you're interested, you can find them here:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ho Ho HoLY Cow!

This is love at first bite. No reference to Edward here. I do not know the first thing about Twilight, except that I think I read somewhere they made it into a movie. 

No. Love at first bite. As in the kind with calories mouth-watering flavor. The kind where you think for just one minute that maybe you have a few pairs of jeans stashed somewhere in a larger size that you really liked pretty well. That kind of love.

I've made two recipes so far from my cookie exchange: Jenna C.'s Cake Balls, and Sherry's Microwave Fantasy Fudge. The fudge, well, it is just super creamy smooth yummy fudge. (I like to substitute a cup of butterscotch chips for one of the 3 cups of chocolate chips--my favorite!) But the CAKE BALLS are a totally new thing to me, and let me tell you, I am hooked!

I made "Gingerbread Snowballs" in keeping with the season, and they are almost gone, in a word, scrumptious. But you can use any flavor of cake, frosting and candy coating. Oh, the possibilities are endless.

Go make some. Seriously. You're my new hero, Jenna!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Winter Royalty

Cookie Cleanup

Wow, that was fun!  I'm up to my ears in crumbs with a cookie hangover.  Nothing a little eggnog won't fix.

I had so much fun checking out the recipes, poking around some new blogs, and following the links to even more deliciousness.  My two favorite discoveries for recipes that are not on Mr. Linky are Cake Pops and Oreo Truffles.  As luck would have it, Tara R. and I both had the same idea, so if you happened to click on her link (#6), you realized you hit the jackpot because there are so many more recipes there!

Some of you so generously loaned me your creative juices to give a name to my pretzel treats!  I loved several of them, and had tried to come up with a "button" name myself, but none quite did the trick.  In the end, I'm going with Betty's idea, Pretzel Kisses, because you get both the sweet and salty sense of them--and that is really what makes them so special!  Besides that they're cute.  (And if you've never visited Betty, you should.  She is all the way from Paraguay, and her blog is a fascinating read!!)

Thanks to everyone who has posted recipes so far, and remember, it's never too late. And now, I need to go finish one of those recipes that I'm in the middle of trying.  Can't wait to see how they turn out!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cookie Exchange--Let the Fun Begin!

I'm so excited--we're ready to sign up for the swapping of sweet treats! (And yes, non-cookie treats are acceptable as long as they are yummy!) Please put the name of your recipe in the name space, and link to the specific post with your recipe so that people can come back and check later. It's never too late to link!

Then, go visit the other recipes (be sure to say hello while you're there!), and pick one to try!! Don't forget to tell your friends--they can join the fun anytime!

P.S. Hello to all of you 2010 visitors. I've noticed an influx of you visiting from over at June's place. Sorry the linky is outdated, but if you click on the link above, it looks to me like the links are still good. The recipes are too! Trust me. ;-)

Sweet and Simple Treats

We're baking up a storm here, getting ready for Christmas.  Bethany just whipped up a batch of these little beauties, and she's all set to show you just what to do.  All you need is a package of holiday pretzels (the rectangular waffle ones are cute too), a package of Hershey's Kisses, and some M&Ms.  

Place pretzels on a cookie sheet.  Unwrap Kisses.

Place unwrapped Kisses on pretzels.

Now they're ready for the oven.  Bake at 170 degrees for 3-4 minutes (probably closer to four).

Remove from oven, and quickly place an M&M on each kiss.  Press down gently but firmly.  If you find that Kisses are still solid, place in oven for another minute (before putting the rest or the M&Ms on).  Otherwise they will not attach to the pretzel.

They are ready to eat, and special enough to give as gifts.
Cute, quick, yummy!  It doesn't get any better than that!

Note:  These things deserve a real name.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Mint Meltaways


Ben and I share a love for chocolate and mint.  We have a favorite recipe that totally melts in your mouth!

You need:
4 egg whites
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon mint extract
1 cup chocolate chips (or chocolate mint chips if available)
green food coloring

Preheat oven to 35o degrees.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form.  Gradually add sugar and salt a little at a time, dissolving completely.  Beat until fairly stiff peaks form.

Add mint extract and food coloring.  Fold in chips.

Drop by spoonfuls onto greased baking sheets.  If you want them to look a little fancier, put the mixture into a plastic food storage bag, and close.  Cut off a corner and use as a decorator tip.

Sprinkle with a few remaining chips if desired.

Place in oven and turn it off.  Leave in oven for six hours or overnight.  Do not open!

Remove from oven and serve!

"I'm Ben P. and I approved this recipe."

Remember, our "Cookie Exchange" is coming on Monday.  Come back and link up a recipe of your own, and then go find some inspiration from others.  If you're not ready by Monday, no problem!  Come back and add yours anytime.  Invite a friend!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Adventure in the big city

Note:  To view photos full size, click here.  Use the arrows to scroll through the album.

And don't forget, we're gearing up for the big "Cookie Exchange" coming up on Monday.  Get out your favorite recipe to share, and join in the festivities!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cookie Exchange!

We are getting in the Christmas spirit at our house, and it occurs to me that I could use some good new, but tried and true (by someone else) cookie recipes. Pretty easy ones that I can make with the kids.  Then it occurs to me that maybe someone else could too. And I happen to have a few good ones!  

So then I thought, HEY!  Let's share!

Here's what we'll do:  

Pick your favorite recipe or two to post.  They should be relatively easy to make. Step by step photos make it extra fun, but are not necessary. Next Monday, December 8, I will put up a Mr. Linky so you can link to your post.  And then you can zip around to find some other quick inspiration. It's that simple!

Here's one to get started:  See those heart sandwiches up there?  They are refrigerator cookie dough, rolled out and cut into hearts.  Sandwich together with raspberry jam and decorate with tube frosting.  (I've tried with the canned frosting, but it killed my hands!)  Obviously my kids didn't do the decorating...but you could certainly come up with an easier way to decorate them. A green dab of frosting with Christmas swirl chips or white chips (yum with raspberry!), M&Ms or something like that!  These little gems are as tasty as they are pretty--enjoy!

Update:  We're all set to go...the fun starts HERE!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Merry "SITSmas!"

Today they're having a Christmas party over at The Secret is in the Sauce. What a fun day to say hello to some friends (old and new) who have brought me much joy in 2008. May you and your families enjoy a season filled with wonder!

If you'd like to meet some of my favorite SITS girls, go herehere, here and here. You'll find some amazing reads and some new friends!

If you'd like to win some fabulous prizes (other than the $200 Target gift card, because I want to win that!), head on over to SITS!

And for the next Merry SITSmas post, head over to the Juicy Alligator!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Monkey Bread

We are getting our holiday baking underway here, and I thought I'd share a favorite recipe. You may very well have it already, but if you don't you should. We just made it for Thanksgiving morning, but it makes any day feel like a holiday!


Monkey Bread

2 cans biscuit dough (20 biscuits)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º (my pan is dark, so I set mine at 325º).  Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray.

Melt butter with 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 c. brown sugar. Set aside.

Put the 1/3 c. granulated sugar and 1/3 c. brown sugar along with the cinnamon into a plastic bag.

Cut biscuits into quarters and roll into balls. (Or not.  It really isn't necessary.  I cut them into quarters with a kitchen scissors.) Add a few at a time to the bag of sugar mixture and shake until pieces are well coated.

Drizzle a little of the butter mixture into the bottom of the pan. Place half of the coated biscuits on top. Pour half of the butter/sugar mixture on top. Sprinkle with half of nuts, if desired. Repeat with the next layer of biscuits, butter mixture and nuts.

Bake about 35 minutes, until golden brown. Check at about 30 to make sure it's not getting too dark. After removing from the oven, let stand a few minutes and then invert onto a large plate. Enjoy!

Notes to self:
1. It would probably be fluffier and prettier if the kids didn't roll the dough balls to death.
2. Pretty is over rated.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

God's Kindness: A week of thankfulness (finale)

(Part three here)

The song that started this whole thing about a week ago had me singing, "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance, oh Lord." So I went to look up this encouraging verse by checking kindness in my concordance. There it was, Romans 2:4. A verse of encouragement? Not exactly! Here's the whole thing:

"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?"

The Roman Christians had lost sight of God's kindness and were marked by a hypocritical and judgmental nature. Paul was telling them to stop it!

The last couple of years have found me checking my own theology for legalistic baggage. This commentary on this passage by Chuck Swindoll really struck a chord with me:

"One of the worst forms of pride among Christians is a militant, harsh, abrasive attitude that expresses itself in judging others. The most accepting people on earth should be Christians. And the most winsome, magnetic place in the world should be the church. Both can be true if we will stop judging others and start opening doors of Christ-centered giving."

I am thankful that... was so clear to me when Christ poured out His kindness and made himself irresistible to me.

...someone issued me the challenge to commit to a life of following Him.

...God has given me times of rest and blessing.

...God taught me to be fearless by showing me His faithfulness as He allowed my fears to come true. often He has used the church, His body, to wrap His arms around me in my need.

...just when I am getting comfortable, He challenges me to take another step forward to extend His grace to a world full of people who need Him just like I do.

...he continues to stretch my thinking, to show me the vastness of his strength, his greatness, his character.

...he is constantly in the process of transforming me to be more like him.

(NOTE: Just in case you have been curious enough to click through these posts, and find yourself waiting for someone to challenge you to commit to a life of following Christ, consider yourself challenged. You could never make a more profound, life-giving commitment.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

God's Kindness: A week of thankfulness (Part 3)

(Part two here)

"He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy." Acts 14:17

Once I discovered that God could give me more courage than I ever imagined having, things started to get better fast. I was a late bloomer, but a little confidence went a long way. I found real friendships, and quit worrying about who I wasn't friends with, and what they thought about me. (Now isn't that a gift you wish you could give your daughter!) My later high school and college years were, simply put, a feast. This was true both in terms of friendships, and of spiritual growth.

Then came graduation. I took a job at a small private school in the town where my boyfriend lived. I made barely enough money to get by, but I was excited to get a new start on my adult life. The real blessing was that I got involved at the church where my boyfriend was the youth leader. I could not imagine the extent to which I would come to rely on my church family.

I lived in that town for two years. Early on my boyfriend broke up with me, and soon after that, moved away. I would jokingly say that he took off and left me with the kids, since I then took over as the youth leader. (That was actually the best part--they were amazing.) In those two years, I lived in five different places--and not because I thrived on change. I had a car that about sucked the life out of me for all of the times it broke down, placed me in harm's way, and cost my last penny to fix. I wrecked my knee when I took the youth group skiing, and ended up having major knee surgery. In the middle of winter. Let me just say for the record that crutches and ice were not made for each other.

In the end, my car died, and for several weeks I ended up depending on my roommate and my friends from church to get me to and from work, and to physical therapy for my knee. Very painful therapy, which in the end was never successful in restoring my range of motion. So I ended up in surgery again, to break up the scar tissue caused by the first surgery and subsequent six weeks in a cast. Did I mention that I was totally dependent on others to get me everywhere I needed to go during these weeks that turned into probably a few months? I hated that.

God knew what I might not have wanted to know at the time. He was teaching me to be fearless. Not that it worked 100%, mind you, but it occurred to me later that, during those two years of barely scraping by, pretty much everything I feared happened. Plus some things that I never thought of fearing. My relationship ended. I ran out of money. I ate food from the food shelf. I lost my source of transportation. I had surgery. Twice. I had to ask for help. LOTS of help. But oh, the Lord came through! Not only did I learn to trust Him, but I also learned why He loves a cheerful giver. It was no fun to be on the receiving end, but it was truly amazing to me the way that my church family reached out in love and kindness to me, OFFERING help so that I wouldn't have to ask.

God knew that I needed to be fearless. Just a few months later I headed to the Philippines for two years, not knowing anyone. They were years of tremendous unrest in that country, but they were years filled with peace in my own life.

I think often about the two years that God spent proving to me that when my fears come to fruition, He is faithful. I never would have asked for a season like that, but I am thankful that rather than always giving us what we ask for, He gives us what He knows we need.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

God's Kindness: A week of thankfulness (Part 2)

How thankful I am that I received that challenge at camp to live for Christ because He died for me. It was so obvious to me. Of course I would make such a commitment. So did several of my friends.

Fast forward a couple of years. Tenth grade. A group of those same friends was at a girl's house one night. I guess I found out about it by calling around to see what was going on. That didn't occur to me until later. After I had been there for awhile. Some people were hanging around in the kitchen. Some downstairs. I was in the kitchen. I have no idea for how long. What I do remember is that I realized the others were taking turns. Hanging out with me. In the kitchen. They were starting to smell funny when they came up. Yeah.

Somehow they knew better. Somehow they knew I would not be going along with this plan. I told them they were crazy. I told them they were about to waste their lives. I went home and told my mom and cried. And started looking for some new friends.

Maybe you have been there. In the kitchen. Or downstairs. Understand this: I wasn't speaking in judgement on them. They all had burdens in their lives like I did. It's just that I loved them. And I knew the peace of letting God carry my burdens. How I wished they did too.

I'm thankful because when I told God I intended to live for Him, I knew that it was for life. It wasn't that I hadn't known and loved and believed in Him before. But somebody took the time to issue the challenge to make a commitment to the relationship. A commitment that would give me the courage as a teenager to walk away from friends who were headed the wrong direction. Had it not been for the commitment, I might have been downstairs. Praise God, I was not.

Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-29

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

God's Kindness: A week of thankfulness

Ever have a song from who knows when pop into your mind and start living there for awhile? That's what happened to me this week. So much so, that I'm going to turn its message into a series of posts as my Thanksgiving celebration this year.

The song is "Your Kindness" by Leslie Phillips, based on the scripture in Romans 2:4 that says, "God's kindness leads you toward repentance." This is certainly true in my life.

I was a young teenager struggling with the realities of my parents' marriage falling apart. I didn't have an easy time making friends, and I certainly didn't want the friends I did have to have an awkward need to somehow treat me differently because of our family situation. I chose to remain silent about the matter. But somehow I knew that God knew all about it. So I talked to Him, the friend who understood me completely, surrounded me with His compassion, and cared for me as my heavenly Father who would never leave. Ever.

God pursued me with His kindness through those years, and I found Him irresistible.

I was at a Young Life camp during that time where the speaker issued a simple challenge. He said that if we believe that Jesus died for us, it only naturally follows that we would live for Him. The scripture he used has been my life verse ever since:

"For Christ's love compels us,
because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves
but for him who died for them and was raised again."
2 Corinthians 5:14-15

Every follower of Christ has a story. Mine is so simple. He found me when I was lost. I was, am, and will forever be grateful. I couldn't help but turn in His direction and follow Him.

Here are the lyrics to the song "Your Kindness" by Leslie Phillips:

Waiting for angry words to sear my soul
Knowing I don't deserve another chance
Suddenly the kindest words I've ever heard
Come flooding through my heart

It's your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

No excuse no one to blame
No where to hide
The eyes of God have found my failures
Found my pain
He understands my weaknesses
And knows my shame
But His heart never leaves me

It's your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

If You are for us
Who can be against us
You gave us everything
Even Your only Son

It's your kindness that leads us
To repentance Oh Lord
Knowing that You love us
No matter what we do
Makes us want to love You too

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sunday Snippets

Today was a great Sunday.  Everyone brought their Operation Christmas Child boxes to the altar during the service, and we had a prayer of dedication, asking God to bless the recipients in every way.  It was fun seeing the kids take their boxes up.  They have loved this.

The sermon was on the preeminence of God.  We learned that that's a word for making Him the main thing in our lives.  That's just what we've been learning in a Bible study I'm in using the book Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It's based on the account of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42.  Jesus chides Martha for being worried about so many things, when only one thing is needed.  He's "the thing".  THE thing.  The ONE thing.  So it was good to be asked in a different way today, am I keeping him the main thing in everything?  As a family are we keeping him the main thing? Can we say that everything we do contributes to, rather than detracting from, keeping him the main thing?  It's actually a question Lee and I ask ourselves often, because we find it a struggle.  I believe that most of the things that we do have the potential to honor the Lord, but I'm not sure that all of them do.  Especially if they make us too busy to enjoy time with him.

Yesterday we attended the funeral of a man about my age from our church who had multiple disabilities, both physical and mental.  He had such a sweet spirit and beautiful smile. He used his gifts to serve faithfully as our greeter. The service was packed.  It was a truly beautiful tribute to Mike, and to his impact on his world. It was a humbling reminder to never underestimate the value of a life.

Last Sunday we had the groundbreaking for our new church addition.  This has been a LONG time coming!  God has truly stretched our church's faith in the process.  I think that perhaps in His plan, it has been much more about building our character and focus than it has about erecting a structure.  

As we broke ground, I was reminded of these words from scripture. Although they are a farming and planting reference, they still seem to apply.

"Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord until he comes and showers righteousness on you." Hosea 10:12

Keeping him the main thing...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No more word verification

OK.  I did it.  After three passionate pleas and like a million amens, I turned off my word verification.  If you don't know what that is, it's that last hoop you used to have to jump through to comment on my blog by typing in whatever cryptic gobbledygook they put there for you to copy.  But no more.

I turned on word verification after I found an extremely profane, computer generated comment on a post.  So now that you know you don't have to do word verification, and you are eager to get commenting on my posts, I hope you'll excuse any inappropriate comments that you get to before I do.

And now for something really random.  A few people have had this challenge on their blogs lately to go to the sixth photo in the sixth folder in your files and tell what you remember about it.  This is really a favorite of mine.  I took it with my brother's camera (hi Dave!) when I was just considering buying my first digital camera.  And I bought one just like his.  Bethany has always loved a playground, and they are still one of my favorite places to take pictures.

Now doesn't she just make you want to leave a comment?  You can. No word verification. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Pay it forward (part 2)

I received a gift of help this week from a fellow blogger that I would like to pass along. Susan at Short on Words is a fabulous photographer. While most of the photos she posts are outdoors, she posted some great indoor, low-light photos this week. I have been dreading impact of the colder, darker days, on my photo taking opportunities. When I saw Susan's photos, I asked for some pointers. In case anyone else doesn't like to use flash, here are the tips that she so graciously shared (I elaborated a little after I tried them out):

1. Check your camera's white balance setting, and set it to incandescent or flourescent light (it's a lightbulb icon on my camera) for indoor pictures to get truer colors. (Note the yellow cast on the picture of Ben's Halloween candy. It's so much better in the ones in my mosaic below!)

2. Without flash, photos taken in low light can have a lot of noise or easily be blurred. Changing them to sepia can sharpen and provide much better detail. (Note the two versions of Ben and the presents in the mosaic. This photo is quite fuzzy full-size--the color is nice, but the sepia version looks much clearer.)

3. Pictures with lower resolution often look great if they are smaller. You may not want to print them, but they can look great on your blog or in a small slot in a photo book.

4. Susan's pictures were action shots, so she increased the shutter speed (a.k.a. sensitivity or ISO) to keep them from being too blurry. This results in lower resolution yet, she pointed out, which is why she kept them small and used sepia. (Edited:  Actually, for Susan's accurate explanation of this, check the comments!  I lost some info in my translation--which incidentally happens all too often in my photography as well.  ;-)  )

5. She also recommended that if possible, move the subject close to a window or lighter area.

If you can use these tips, then go try them out, thank Susan, and pay them forward!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pay it forward

There are many moments in life where we receive a gift--not really a present, not for a special occasion--but a gift that we could never begin to repay. The great thing about gifts like these is, not only are they useful and timely, but the giver expects nothing in return. The best way to show thanks and honor is to pass the gift along.

We are blessed in so many ways. Just the other day, Ben was saying that he is probably one of the luckiest people in the world. (Not his sentiment ALL of the time.) He understands that he has more love and more things than the average person on this planet could ever begin to expect. This is why it's a blessing when we are given a great opportunity to pass our abundance along.

Our church is one of many around the country (and world) that promotes Operation Christmas Child, an effort to send Christmas gifts to impoverished children, along with practical assistance and a message of hope. This year our kids were excited to participate, and to earn money to buy gifts themselves. In fact, they were actually the ones who took the initiative! So Christmas came to our house this week (complete with snow!). The kids went to work making cards, wrapping boxes and packing their treasures.  We are thrilled that they know that God is the giver of all good gifts, and that they can pass along the gift of the good news about Jesus to other kids.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I Accept!

Melissa B. at the Scholastic Scribe is an English teacher.  I love English teachers! (See below.) She has created this little award to draw attention to bloggers who know how to craft their words.  Very cool.  There are so many awesome writers sharing their passion out here.

I would like to thank Marrdy and Michelle, who have both given me this award recently. I'm glad they both won it, because they deserved it! I could only hope to live up to it.  But I will use it as an opportunity to point out a few others who surely do.

The rules are posted here on Michelle's blog, so if you are a winner, click the link to find out what you are supposed to do.  (And I just broke one of them.)  I have my own rule about awards I pass along:  you get to choose whether to play or not...I just want you to know you're appreciated!

Here goes:

Kathy over at Mama's Losin' It probably gets several blog awards every day. She's famous. In her former life, she too was an English teacher. Every week she holds "Writer's Workshop", in which she gives several writing prompts to get readers thinking and writing on their own blogs. Voluntarily! About 50 of them every week! And she writes her own post using one of the prompts each week. SHE  is romancing her students

Stefanie at Because I Pause is a very reflective thinker.  She uses writing creatively to think her way through the joys and challenges of life.  Her writing often helps me process my own thoughts.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, Carrie at The Gremlin Wrangler has a blog that is worth a million.  Her pictures are fabulous, but her writing is also priceless. You must read her Letters From Your Friendly Cashier, posted weekly.  She's a treat.

Courtney at It's How You Live uses writing to challenge herself and others.  She has a great passion for living out her faith and teaching her kids to do the same.

That's four.  Many of my other favorites have already received the award, or have received other awards from me.  Really, everyone who blogs and/or comments deserves an award, because we all use the blogosphere to harness the power of words. Sometimes we are the communicators.  Sometimes the audience.  Sometimes both.  I can't pick just one more, so I congratulate all of you on using your writing to inspire, challenge, encourage and entertain.  I am the better for it!

If you can read this...

...thank a teacher. And while you're at it, I'd like to thank the teachers who taught me to write. There were many of them. But one sticks in my mind.  

Mr. Bird was my English teacher my senior year of high school.  We loved him.  In fact, there were several of us who occasionally went out to breakfast with him. Before school.  Yup, teenagers who got out of bed early to go hang out with a teacher.  He was that cool.

Not only was Mr. Bird cool, he also taught me something that helped launch me into a successful college career:  How to Organize My Thinking on Paper. And when I say successful, I'm thinking of a research paper I wrote for the eloquent and brilliant Dr. Clark.  When he returned it to me, I could hardly believe my eyes.  In his comment he stated (and I quote), "Your writing sparkles with lucidity." Yes, he did!  And when Professor Dean was about to hand back a set of essays, he said, "I want to read a paper to you in which the student took the question seriously and gave well thought-out answers and evidence." As he began to read, I realized that it was my own.  Yes, it was!  Thank you, Mr. Bird. And Dr. Clark and Professor Dean.

After college, I went on to a teaching career of my own.  Since I taught second grade, I taught all subjects.  My favorite?  Writing.  At a workshop about writing instruction, a presenter said something that really resonated with me:  "If your students can't think of anything to write, you haven't romanced them enough." Thank you, Mr. Bird for romancing us--for capturing our imaginations, and giving us opportunities to realize when we wrote we learned, and learned about ourselves.

I still love to write. It's the best way I know of to clarify my own thinking. I am very thankful to have blogging as a forum for my writing. I am humbled by the fact that people read it and are actually kind enough to provide feedback. I can only hope that every once in awhile it sparkles with lucidity.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The Power of Words

Note:  Originally posted on Blog Around the World, a wonderful blogging community whose time came and went, but the relationships live on.  This is posted here for posterity.

What an honor for me to be invited as guest blogger at Blog Around the World today!  This is such an amazing bunch of travelers, isn't it?  It occurs to me that the one thing that brought us all into the blogosphere in the first place is that we all believe in the power of words...and more specifically, the written word.

One time I was listening to a nationally broadcast radio call-in program for teenagers. I usually liked what the host had to say to the kids who called in, but on this particular night, I took issue with one of his responses. So much so, that I wrote him a letter. A few weeks later a colleague of mine said, "Way to go, Tracy!  I heard (the host) read your letter on his show last night!" Well I was sure glad she heard him, because I had missed it, and he never wrote me back. But from then on, he changed the kind of response he gave to kids in similar situations. The power of words.

So imagine my pleasure when my own kids started discovering the power of the written word for themselves. One day a couple of summers ago, my daughter invited a friend over to run through the sprinkler. My son caught wind of it before said friend arrived, and realized such a plan would invade his backyard baseball diamond during batting practice. He solved that problem by placing signs on both sides of the house.
A few months ago I sent my kids to their rooms to "cool off" when they had a problem they couldn't seem to solve for themselves.  My daughter slipped this under her brother's door to settle it once and for all.   Happy that she was beginning to "use her words", I encouraged her with this letter of empathy. It seems that my little letter was just what she needed, because only a few weeks later in a similar situation, Bethany expressed herself much more clearly. (Note all the parts of a friendly letter, properly placed and punctuated!)
Now we're getting somewhere.  Next thing you know, she'll be penning a sequel to War and Peace.  Move over Tolstoy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A trick that IS a treat (a.k.a. How to Get Rid of the Hiccups)

In acknowledgement of a day that can't easily be ignored, but that isn't a favorite of mine, I give you a trick that will come in handy someday.

Last week I noticed that Givinya had an antidote for a sneeze on her blog, and Lizzy wanted to know if she also had a cure for the hiccups.  Well, I've got just the trick for that one.  I promise, it works for me every time. 

When I was a teacher, it seems that about once a year I would get the hiccups in the middle of a lesson. So I would stop what I was doing and tell the kids to wait a minute while I got myself a drink of water.  They would watch in amazement as I showed them how to drink the water upside down!  I could always tell that their respect for me went up several notches on those days.  

So, without further ado, here are my capable assistants, Cincinnati Bengals #85 CHAD JOHNSON (hear announcer's booming voice) and "not at all scary" Feather Witch Bethany (I know, she's a witch...not my idea!) to demonstrate this handy magic trick.
Watch carefully...

1.  Get a glass of water, about 2/3 full (not too big, not too small).

2.  Put your mouth on the side of the glass that is AWAY from you. (Uh oh, Chad.  Better take your helmet off first! That's better.)

3.  Bend over forward and drink the water. All of it. Do NOT stop in the middle! (It may take a couple of tries to get proficient at sort of holding your breath so water doesn't go up your nose, but you can do it!)

Voila!  Your hiccups have now disappeared!  You're welcome.

By the way, Debbie chose little old me to be the guest blogger at Blog Around the World  for Friday. I know, I can't believe it either!  But you can go on over yourself and find my reflections on The Power of Words.