Monthly Archives: March 2013

how I got hooked on country

How will you use this book?

country ?

Growing up I loved the Supremes.  We used to pretend we were the girls in my basement.  We did listen to the music from Woodstock and I loved the whole hippie idea, but really weren’t interested in the other things associated with the hippie generation.  Late in high school and early in college there was really just one man for me, that would be my man, James Taylor. I would study his lyrics and would convince anyone I know that played guitar to play, Fire and Rain or You’ve Got a Friend.  I expanded eventually to Prine, Dylan and Post.  The folk musicians were somewhat associated with ‘country music’…but back then country music just seemed corny…something my dad would definitely make fun of, though he didn’t like that crazy hippie music either.

I gave birth to a daughter…she really didn’t have any use for the music of her generation until the Backstreet Boys…she was much more interested in playing basketball, running cross-country and of course, her many fairy tale dreams.

My son, on the other hand, somehow heard Garth Brooks singing Thunder Rolls when he was six.  He actually wrote him a letter telling him how much he loved that particular song.   I also liked Garth’s lyrics and used them with my seventh graders to teach poetry.  My son became an avid, lifelong lover of music and playing his base.  His love of country waned somewhat in favor of jazz.

Emily who shared a mutual love of James and I, didn’t really get hooked on country until the Dixie Chicks came along.   I love country music now for one very big reason.  It tells a story.  My favorite and my daughter’s ultimate favorite was, Wide Open Spaces.  When we said our final goodbyes when she was starting college, I got in the car and immediately turned on the radio.  It was playing this very song, at the exact right moment.    The tears were streaming.  I think I cried four hours back to Chicago.  Here are a few of the lines that caused these emotions:

to find a dream and a life of their own (I knew life as I knew it would never quite be the same with my daughter)

it takes the shape of a place out west, but what it holds for her she hasn’t guessed yet (she actually went north to college, however, prophetic in nature, she met her husband on a raft trip in Wyoming eight years later)

she needs wide open spaces, room to make her big mistakes (I didn’t want her to experience these mistakes, but on the other hand, I believe in order to grow and learn, mistakes have to happen….and they really did)

mom stares out the window and says, “I’m leaving my girl.” She says, “It didn’t seem like that long ago, when she stood there and let her own folks know”  (This is the part where I really broke down because…those years in the middle…raising my family,  were such a loving blur to me).

So here I sit, a granny at the Grand ‘Ole Opry, 2013.  One of Emily’s favorite new bands is about to come on stage and she is just a little jealous that I’m here and she isn’t.  It is a band from Tennessee and they are about to play the very ballad that John (Emily’s husband) sang around the campfire on the first night they met, out west.  Two songs and two people collided on that trip.  John asked her to hold his music and to shine her headlamp on the pages of the Rock Me that night and it pretty much was love…just like a good old country song.  Their story, just like many of ours, are this amazing, God ordained story.

You might be curious about the song, if you have been listening to country music the last few weeks Darius Rucker has put it on the charts.  Dylan wrote the refrain, many years ago and the Old Crow Medicine Show wrote the lyrics in the middle now quite a few years ago.  I’m sitting at the Opry listening to Old Crow waiting and knowing they’ll play Emily and John’s song, and of course they did.  It was a magical moment.

I finally got my cowboy boots on my trip to Nashville and finally got my 31st post.

Thank all of you for your comments and love the last few weeks.

PS  ‘cuz I like them, and I hope y’all decide to stick around some and continue slicing up some great pie, oops- stories every Tuesday.  I have enjoyed reading and getting to know your lives… Happy Easter…He has risen….He has risen indeed!

old crwo

why this book?

How will you use this book?

How will you use this book?

This May I will teach a class, Evaluating Children’s Literature.  I  am fortunate to teach women who are currently in the classroom teaching kindergarten-third grade.  This year they will be commenting on specific books on a blog that I have set up.  It will work like the Slice and they will all comment on a post that I have written about a book.  The teachers in this program will be getting twenty-one picture books and short novels.  The professional text we use is  Mentor Texts (Dorfman and Capelli). I hope that this assignment will get my students interested in blogging and that they will also come up with ways to use these books with the children in their classrooms.  Here is a sample of one of my posts about a classic that is still relevant in classrooms of today.  

I pick one classic for our class every year. Why exactly did I pick this book?  Is it because it is one of the titles from my childhood that I remember  so clearly being read aloud by my wonderful elderly teacher Mrs. Feltman? Or is it because this book was stickered blue in the library in my hometown?  Blue indicated the age that we should be before we read a particular book.  A blue sticker indicated that either a second or third grader could read this book. The library ladies deemed it so.  Back in the ’60s I was elated that it was blue because then my mom would approve.  Or maybe it was because this book would literally change the trajectory of my life, as a reader and as a human being.

The Hundred Dresses, first published in 1944, literally slayed my heart.  Wanda Petronski who lived way up in Boggin Heights walked to school and was told to sit in the back of the room because of the mud on her feet.  She was teased by the popular girls in ways that crush a soul.  If you have never read it aloud to your class,  please consider it tomorrow.

“No young person…will ever forget it.” -Book Week

PS  Eleanor Estes brought me into the reading club.  I began reading Ginger Pye, Pinky Pye, and all of the Moffats books.  I will forever be grateful.

prone to wander


prone to wander,

Lord I feel it,

prone to leave the God I love,

here’s my heart,

oh, take and seal it.

seal it for thy courts above…. (Come Thou Fount)

today is our Good Friday, my friends and I always asked every year,

why and how could it be good,

when our Savior died so horribly on the cross?

how could they have named the day Good?

it forever and always is bad when 

friends betray


nails are pounded in flesh


you are asked

to carry your own cross

to your 


your mother cries and then…

miracle of miracles

you say to a thief

“today you will be with me in paradise”

that is what is maybe good,

if you forgave a criminal,

you will also forgive this criminal,

this criminal who is prone to wander

daily pushing you 

to the back

when you should be in the front,


because you are Good



Good Friday        2013

Good Friday

I just want to read

book love

book love

I have always been this kind of reader.   I will  start a book and I literally don’t want to put it down until I finish.  This has always been a problem, for thirty-five years of marriage and twenty-nine of those raising children, it has been a problem…mainly because my life hasn’t ever let me read like that.   Oh, to be ten years old again!

So my big compromise has really been reading my fiction during Christmas vacation, Spring vacation and summer vacation; I read non-fiction very differently…but that maybe is another post.  So a few days before our trip, I went and got one of my favorite authors and packed her in my backpack, hoping to possibly open her up during the car ride south.  Alas, it was not to be because of leaving at night and then white knuckling it through Indiana’s big storm.

I have also been trying to keep up with the ‘slices’ before Dave tries to get me in the car for at least one adventure every day.  Today it was very hard, because I woke up at 1:00 am and decided to crack open my book to get myself sleepy.  I read for three hours before I felt even a little tired.  I woke up, sliced and then it was off to the antique shops and then to a beautiful state park.  I love to be in new places, but now this book just has me hooked, I can hardly think about any thing else.   I probably will end up finishing this book in the middle of the night, however, if I do that, what will I read on the way home?

I’m wondering if anyone else out there reads like I do.  I would love to hear how you manage your reading life.

Signing off for now…I’ve got to get back to my characters. xo




I miss you Sammie.

I love your chubby little girl arms and your ringlets after your bath time.  Last time I saw you we played little people and you let me ring the doorbell to the house.  You loved it when I had the people talk to each other and you laughed and I laughed every time we flushed the toilet in your ‘little people’ house.  Playing rock and roll with your new guitar was crazy fun in front of the mirror in Mommy and Daddy’s room was a wild time…wait, maybe we were on Skype when you were giving your performance.  I love the Sammie dance you do in a circle to the beat of a song.  You will be musical, there is no doubt in my mind.  It is a wonder how you understand both English and Spanish, my bilingual baby girl.   That makes me so proud and happy.

Will you know me at the end of May?  Will you remember my kisses?

How will I do this the rest of my life?  I want to walk side by side and hold hands.  I want to go camping and teach you how to swim at the lake.  I want to give you a pink diary and teach you how to sew on the machine.  I want us to have talks about all the good books.  I want you to make books and write books with me.  I want you sing Christmas carols at church next to Grandpa and me and run around my house looking for Easter eggs.

I know that Skype is good… I should be grateful I can see your sweet smile and your really blue eyes every day.  But some days I just long for a cuddle.  I should be grateful…I know…but sometimes, I’m just not.

God speed Sam….Em and John.

love Mor Mor xxxooo

on the road again

on the road again, making music with my friends

on the road again, making music with my friends


…..a great walk with Kelly down by the river, talking about life, faith, marriage and career, love my girl.

… from Daddy who is watching weather and worried about us going on ‘the road trip’,

…..I tell Tonto that we will leave tonight to try to chase the storm clouds…he says okay but—–

…..I tell Tonto that my father always knows best when it comes to watching weather reports,

…..we go to Palm Sunday on Saturday night with Kell….awesome church, glad she’s there with us,

… her back to the gold coast, get Portillos, yum, we are off down the Skyway that takes us to adventures north and south,

…..the night sky shines like diamonds, the weather pristine, how could it possibly change?

….stopping for the night…tossing and turning, worried about beating the brewing storm,

….righteous worry, bad weather is coming, but my faithful Tonto is driving us through it,

….sunny skys, “Did we beat it?”  I offer to relieve Tonto,

….the start of droplets, I’m sweating, Tonto is sleeping, oh no.

….it’s the scary car wash rain, I can only see the flashing lights of one car ahead of me…I can’t locate my flashers,

…………………………white knuckles, Tonto continues to sleep, or pretends to

……………………………………………3 miles to go,  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can

……………………………………………………………..I did, and we beat it,

…the storm of 10 inches of snow, my dad tells me today, about the rain storm that I knuckled through yesterday

…thanks Daddy, love you too….

To Sibling part 2

To SiblingXO

To Sibling


Six years ago that night I started recording my thoughts about you in my pink diary that mom had given me the year before.  It had a picture of a ballerina on the cover, I always wanted to be one…but quit lessons when I was your age because that drill sergeant of a teacher kept telling me to point my toes and I really got tired of her insisting on it.  I liked the music and the floating around like good little flower ballerinas do, but I admit it, I hate when anyone ever tries to boss me around.

So back to the journal, I wrote every day because someday I wanted to tell you what it was like…the year you were born.  That diary, I guess became a habit that lasted and lasted through my high school years.  I found out that writing helps me worry less.  I am going away to college in one week and am going to tell the straight truth of what it was really like during my 7th grade year.

Probably I should describe myself first or how I viewed myself when I looked in the long hallway mirror.  I know you’ve looked at yourself there too.  For some reason I always look at my feet first, I guess it is because I used to dream about cool shoes and maybe getting white leather Go-Go boots with black stacked heels.  Maybe Grandma would get them for me because she loved me to look ‘mod’.  My legs were super skinny and I got to wear pretty short mini-skirts that Grandma sewed.  Mom was so opposed, but she never fought with grandma, so I was safe with clothes.  Now back to the mirror,  going up the length of my body I saw absolutely the flattest chest probably on this side of the Mississippi… sigh…and now on to my face.  It was okay, I guess.  I had dimples and straight teeth when I smiled.  My hair was cut short because mom said that it was on the ‘thin’ side.  But what I hated most was my brown glasses perched on my nose, the only perfect thing on my body!  Others would say my eyes were my best feature because of their unusual color, but no one could see them under my spectacles anyway.  So, I’m telling you that even though I did love my nose, at that point in my life;  you could say that I was pretty insecure about myself in so many ways.

But at least I could tell you that I had a best friend. And I know right about now you’d be interrupting and saying,

“Ellie you got me, you had me too!”

And you were right, but I didn’t know that back then.

September 5th Our story begins…

righting the ship

righting the ship

righting the ship

So, I thought we’d be safe traveling south for spring break.

We really need a road trip.  Code for Dave and I, we really need to talk things over.  Our ships have been sailing in different directions and we need to ‘come about’ and change directions. If you have been in a relationship for a long time, I’m fairly certain that you know what I’m talking about.

For years Dave and I spoke the same language because we both worked with students.  He worked as a media center director in our high school and I was a coach/reading specialist in a local grade school.  We understood the rhythm of the school year and our moods reflected the seasons of getting ready, for many years the long basketball season used to coincide with welcoming our spring vacation.  And then it was closing out the year and getting the garden ready.  Dave’s love of everything garden has been years in the making.

For two years the balance has shifted….our seasons are opposite.  He begins his work at a local nursery and I am edging up to the end of the year and start teaching at a local university.  We are passing ships.  His traveling season is ending and I feel like mine is gearing up for the way it always was, hiking, biking, traveling to the lake and our ultimate favorite, Colorado.  To put it mildly, I feel always like I have either always left my heart in Colorado and in recent years, also have left it in Michigan.  And right now, a chunk of it is in Ecuador, of all places.

So we are going on a road trip to Nashville.  I am anxious to be on the road, in a car and not fighting security.  But I know there will be adventure in it just the same.  And of course, there is always that adventure in discovering us…this new season of traveling down the path together.  Hopefully, we can get through the snow that might be blocking our vision and start to understand each other’s heart again.

To: Sibling


To: Sibling


I really started writing this to you before you were born, before I knew the person that you would become.  It was the summer of 1967 before my two-year trip to Junior High.  To say to you that I was anxious about all of that would definitely be an understatement.  The week before school started mom and dad kept me at the table after desert to tell me about you, I had just found out that I wouldn’t be in Diane’s homeroom.   I was all worried that change was in the wind.  That night when mom looked down at my finished bowl of apple pie a-la-mode and then up at my steely, grey eyes I knew suddenly that my life was going to change forever.

She gulped as she said it, “Ellie, I know that you have always wanted a baby brother or sister, uh, hmmm, I’m just going to say it.  She glanced at Dad.  We are all going to have a baby in about five months.”  As she looked at Dad, I guess for reassurance, he grabbed her hand.

Dad started in trying to help, “You know, we had been trying for a long time…”

I broke in gasping, “You’re pregnant Mom? This has got to be really a giant joke. You can’t really be serious.”

Standing up I looked across the table at her strained smile and I knew that it was the truth.  All I said was this, “You are both too old to be parents and so am I.”  I have so much regret over saying those words; I’ve repeated them a million times in my head.  I’m sorry.”

I walked out the door into the August night, climbed the old apple tree to think.  I wondered if Diane would still be my friend when she found out.  I wondered if you would cry as much as the baby did next door.  I wondered if you would look like me.  I wondered if you would love me even though I wasn’t at all sure that I wanted you.



School was starting after Labor Day and I knew I was going to be keeping the biggest secret of my life for as long as I could.

To SiblingXO

To Sibling

Buddy Day

Just love those Buddies!

Just love those Buddies!

Today is fantastic Friday.  Why?  In our school district Friday is the day we are allowed to wear jeans provided we sport our spirit wear.  At the end of tomorrow our spring break week starts (that is really fantastic).

But really I’m pretty pumped  because tomorrow is Buddy Pup’s birthday.  He is our very own, chubby-big-puppy mascot for Buddy Day! Once or twice a month, all of our fifth graders and all of our first graders come to our cafeteria for a Liberty/Literacy celebration.  This year we have over 300 students in our cafeteria for Buddy Day.  Buddy Pup is the centerpiece of this literacy activity  because he writes letters back and forth to the first grade classrooms.

We start with our Whoa Clap dance, the brain friendly way to start any massive group gathering.  After the Whoa Clap, their brains are ready to learn new things about reading.  We start the year where first graders start…needing funny songs and poems and now,  at this point of the year, we  are into our story books where we solidify our comprehension strategies that we have been learning about in all of our classrooms.  The most important management  strategy of course…you know it, is  TURN and TALK, and  believe me, they love to talk and they love their buddies.  After our twenty-minute whole group time the partners work on reading and writing activities and alas, my fifth graders have the joy of working with first graders on the dreaded Dolch words which they actually find fun to teach.

I am a believer in cross- age-learning…both students in the pair profit.  One of my pals who teaches first graders will be completing her dissertation on Buddy Day this year.  A very important part of this program is teaching the fifth graders how to work with their buddy.  I create the lesson plan, explain it to the fifth graders in another 30 minute session  and then  they become the teachers who engage their younger partners in learning.  This is unique to our program.  Hopefully, we are growing some students who will become future teachers.

It has been our tradition.  It is one of those memorable events that students leave our school with.

Tomorrow we will be singing the birthday song with Buddy.  He will be requesting his favorite song and dance, Going on a Bear Hunt.  He will be opening this very enormous box that contains the best present in the world.  I think you might be able to guess.  But shhhh, don’t ruin the secret!

PS  This is the song that we use for our Whoa Clap.  They follow me up front move to the music (like aerobics or zumba) for just the early part of the song.  Then we start clapping faster, I extend my right hand up and my left hand back and we say WHOAAAA CLAP.  At that exact moment the music is turned off, their bottoms are on the floor and everyone is focused and there is absolutely not a peep from the crowd.  If you want to see a movie of it, I think I may be able to record it on my phone and put it up on my page.  They do love it.



math anxiety

just because


I love reading Laughter, the Best Medicine, a column in Reader’s Digest magazine.  I had a major chuckle because I really connected to this funny little story.


People with math anxiety actually feel pain when doing arithmetic, according to a study.  The Week asked its readers to name this condition:

  • Fibromyalgebra
  • Aritmia
  • Pi-graine
  • Percentile Dysfunction (my personal favorite)
  • Add Nauseum (what my meeting was like today)
  • Digit-itis

My whole life was filled with math anxiety.  It maybe started when I moved from one school district that was doing ‘new math’ in the 1960’s to another that favored ‘traditional curriculum’.   Or it could have been my engineering father, who didn’t really get his ethereal or ‘spacey’ oldest child .  I remember the only way I could get through those boring math facts was by drawing a face around number 10 and making a long side pony-tail to make her cuter.  And on some days I would have Miss Nine and Mr. Eight marrying and having 17 children.  Dad grew impatient  with my inability to memorize.  Simply put, my fingers really did serve me well back then.  I also wanted him to share his slide rule with me, the secrets of the slide rule were very intriguing, how did it work?  How could he get the right answer so quickly?  Yeah, I’m old, it was years before the calculator, however, my grandma who was an accountant used this cool machine to make sure she was accurate at work.

Years of sweating and being yelled at…using my eraser with such vegenance that I’d rip holes in the middle of my long division problem.

Then came the peaceful years finally in high school.  Geometry was the beautiful part of math for me….finally shapes and some sense of why I would maybe use some of these skills someday.  I could buy into the theory that some day I might have to figure out the area of a room.  I loved using rulers with precision.  I loved to label and erase the lines after I had inked a word in my science class, labeling a body system.

Oh…those days…where was Greg Tang when I needed him? If you are not familiar Greg, he writes books about math.  His leading best seller is The Grapes of Math.  Last summer at a conference I attended he said,”We make math so hard for our kids.”  Even though he is obviously brilliant, for the first time I felt that someone was speaking my language.  The website that he created for children is exciting as well as great practice.  Finally…at this late date, peace with my anxiety.

Here it is, if you want to play with numbers….thank you Greg Tang , the name the awesome  game is Kakooma.

just because

just because

just because

I grew up in a family that had three meals every day.

I didn’t even realize that there were kids who didn’t.

My mom was home throughout my entire childhood, singing in the kitchen as she prepared our meals.  We walked home for lunch and there were sandwiches, soup, fruit and milk waiting for us every day.

I didn’t even realize that there were kids who didn’t.

I didn’t know anyone who lived any differently in the ’60’s until I started going to camp for a week every summer with kids who lived just about a half an hour away from me in the great city of Chicago.

I remember watching them as they gobbled up every morsel of the gross camp food in front of us, including two glasses of powdered milk.

At night, when the lights were off we would talk about what life was like at our schools and in our neighborhoods.

One night I remember crying silent tears as one of my bunk mates told us that her mama wouldn’t let go outside and play any kickball in the streets.  She told all of us that the streets where she lived were scary most of the time and that one of her girlfriends was shot, well, just because.

I didn’t realize that kids got shot.

It was that summer that I knew that I was lucky. I lived in my town and could play kickball and just move when we saw a car. I was lucky that cars in our town didn’t have bullets that shot kids in the street.

I also knew that I was lucky that I had  two parents who made sure that I ate my breakfast, lunch and dinner, lucky that I even had breakfast, lunch and dinner with milk that wasn’t mixed with water.  I was lucky and it was just because.

It forever changed me.

Knowing this made me into a person who wanted to do something… anything, to change part of the world around me,

just because.

Rapunzel hair…



Recently I went to Nina to get my hair cut.  I know Nina not because I am loyal to one beautician over another;  I know her because my husband visits her on a regular basis, because he loves his hair short and she does a phenomenal job cutting his wavy salt and pepper hair.  I hadn’t been to get my hair cut in probably six months.  Even Nina, a sweet person of few words said, ” Your hair is really long.”  I knew she was thinking, “Women in this age range, don’t usually keep their hair this long.”  And she would be right, but for once in my life I wanted to know what it would feel like to have long, straight, thick hair.

In my younger years, my mom always cut our hair.  I had short hair with bangs that were usually very uneven.  My mom had said that I needed to keep my hair short because it would look stringy if it got long because it was so fine.  Looking back, it probably was an attempt to save money.   It was funny however, because my youngest sister Carol, who had beautiful blonde curls, never had to have her hair cut like Julie, or I did.  Perhaps my mom was afraid to touch the beautiful ringlets with her scissors, or perhaps it was because she was the baby in the family.  I remember mom having loads of fun putting Carol’s hair up in pig tails while she squirmed in the high chair.  The truth of the matter was I was jealous, very jealous.

When I was in Junior High hair mattered.  Hair was what separated you from the popular crowd.   My mom still was hacking  away on my hair at that point.  Do you remember the television show The Wonder Years?  Winnie Cooper was a character on that television show that had long, glossy dark brown hair.  There was a girl at my school that was the blonde equivalent.  I wanted to be her.  I wanted my sandy hair to hang long and straight down right to my waist so it would sway gently in the breeze as I moved through my day.

Once when I was in high school my mom had given up on the hair cutting dream and we started going to get our hair cut at a salon near our house.  Baby Carol, four years younger, was in the chair first and then it was my turn.  After cutting Carol’s hair and while she was working on mine the beauty operator said to me,

“What happened to you? I guess you didn’t get the good hair gene!”  

That pretty much stung, even though it really was the truth that I lived with. Maybe that is why I’ve never had beautician loyalty all of these years.

Well, my dream never died.  And now, at this late date, after the big hair had magically changed.  My once stick straight and very thin mousey hair grew fast and wavy and is incredibly lustrous.  God granted my wish and I now I really have Rapunzel hair. But then one day I had a reality check.  I actually saw a women my age with long straight hair, walking ahead of me.  I thought,

“That hair really isn’t so becoming for a woman of her age… which by the way is my age!”

I made the appointment with Nina. “Cut it I cried.”  And she did.  After she was finished, she said,

“You have very pretty hair , Nancy.”

I smiled and thought…”and now  I will now forever be loyal to you too, sweet Nina.  And your gratuity…it will also make you smile.”

Bread and Wine

grateful for the slice

You will love this book!

What have we be been doing in this year’s Slice?    I’m going to answer my question because, I guess, I’m doing the talking right now.  We are using our writing skills to strengthen our writing and reading muscles.  We are building a small writing community that values feedback.  We are listening to each other and have seen that we are able to forge connections across the miles, even stretching to other continents.  The internet is amazing. How do we do it?  We share ‘slices’ of our existence.  We share words and many of us share books that we love and think others should read.  We go to conferences and share the words of professionals that we admire and what they have to say about issues in education that we are concerned about.  Many have also shared their culinary escapades and adventures in new recipes. I have just the perfect book for all of you.  Shauna Niequist is a person that believes in fellowship, community and showing love through opening up our homes to friends and family with, food.  This is a cookbook like no other.  Shauna weaves ‘slices’ of her life throughout the entire book. It is complete with full recipes and tips to encourage the wary cook…well like me! The recipes are from chefs, her favorite cookbook writers, various restaurants and various people in her life.  She includes and credits everyone, even though she obviously loves to experiment and adapt recipes to make them her own.  Many of my favorites lean towards ‘endings’…the desserts of course.  Some of my favorites included Blueberry Crisp, Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee and Gaia Cookies.

But what I love more about this book than the recipes is hearing Shauna’s voice throughout.  I know her voice because I’ve heard her speak and I’ve read her first two books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet.  I’ve used chapters of both of these books when I’ve worked with teachers at my school and with the teachers that are in the class I teach at a local university.  Her writing is very personal and resonates deeply. In this incredible book she has cooked up  a unique format for a book.  She weaves her life along the edges, around her recipes.  A person is left feeling satisfied, well fed.  Here are some of her words from one of my favorite chapters in the book.

“And when I talk to them, I tell them the story of my mom.  I tell them there’s still so much time and still so much to be done.  I tell them it doesn’t have to be fulltime, or all-or-nothing, or all-at-once.  I tell them what my mom tells me- that you just have to take one step and that when you do, the next one will appear.  I tell them the path doesn’t have to be a straight line, and that often only  makes sense when you look back at it.  I tell them that when my mom was my age, she was a stay-at-home mom.  She wasn’t yet an oil painter or a potter or an AIDS activist or an expert on peacekeeping.  There’s still time, I tell them and I tell myself. There’s still time.  (In this passage she is talking to all women, but especially to the 30 something crowd) My mom makes sixty look good and she reminds me every day that honest prayers transform us…”                

I know that all ‘slicers’ will love all Bread and Wine, a love letter to life around the table with recipes!

Shauna’s blog is also amazing, visit her at:

stomping on the grillos



It was the beginning of rainy season when we got to Ecuador on Christmas Eve.  We enjoyed our Christmas morning and later in the day something else came to town and it wasn’t Santa on a return visit. grillos, very well-developed crickets flew into town. Not just one …millions flew in from the fields surrounding this town. They knew that the rains would soon be flooding the surrounding rice fields where they live.  According to the locals they came every year, trying to find food and shelter and life in the villages.  So on Christmas day they littered the carport, tried getting into the house through any opening.  I guess cement construction is not at all airtight, nothing is airtight, in South America.

I admit to laughing inside about it on day one, my camper, my first-born daughter who loves learning about everything bug and science related was in a frenzy.  She used the hose to spray the sides of the house and then stomped on the struggling crickets with a vengeance that I hadn’t seen since her tantum two-year old days.   At one point during , she glared at me and said, “Not in my house !”  I looked up with my serious face and started contributing, stomping on the grillos  to help this poor frantic child of mine.

Lately, I have been thinking about the ferocious attacking.  “What are the ‘grillos’ in my life?  What do I need to attack so the pestilence  doesn’t invade my soul? It wasn’t hard for me to answer my own question.  I desire to act like a child of God, a person who displays in my every day life the fruits of the spirit.   Galatians 5:22 says:  “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. ” This is the way I want to live!  When I see the ‘grillos’ spring up in my life I need to attack… look at them, stare them down and stomp them out and say, ‘not in my house, not in my house‘.

This week I feel less than gentle with some of my little first graders.  Learning sight words is one example.  I know that practicing in isolation is not the best mode for these children..because the words carry so little meaning.  However, in the context of the book it matters more.  They need  to repeat read and some will only do that in the context of my 45 minute session (ie. they do not read at home).  I find that some days I just am so impatient, short and testy.  I also feel that I try very hard not show that impatience, but it creates this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. I know that God can help me…I need to give even these little things to him moment to moment.  Saying quietly, ‘not in my house, not in my house’.

lame ducks can still be heard squawking

grateful for the slice

join us in slicing about life

some really believe

that if

Barack doesn’t get it done


it won’t get done.

they say that he is a

Lame Duck and that

after only one year in this second term

his power to

change will be crippled.

I am a poor, old

Lame Duck too….

some look at me and ask

me tenderly about my


but I know they are thinking

and thinking that

this Lame Duck


float down the

Sunset River…soon

not realizing that Lame Ducks

still can squawk

Loudly, Ferociously, Indignantly

when they know

danger is lurking

around the river bend,

her chicks will follow and still

there is this imprint

and after all, some lame ducks have been even known to stick around for a season or so.

reading aloud



amazing animals

amazing animals

Many have blogged about The One and Only Ivan, by Kathryn Applegate.  I won’t expand on the merits of this book because the conversation around this book has been immense.  The bottom line for me is this…children love this book and this book is accessible to children.  However, I really mean it when I say this, “It is a book that was born to be read aloud, first.”

The power of reading aloud in the classroom cannot be replicated even in within our homes, snuggled up near a fireplace with popcorn and cold drinks.  This book begs to be read in our classrooms with children from all different backgrounds and creeds.  The laughter is meant to be shared with your rug or desk partner and even  the person in your classroom that is despicable on many days.  After this read aloud children will check this book out, read and savor it again and again.

Shhh….I decided to take an aspect out of my intervention so that I would have time to read it to my 2nd graders, to try it out with my readers who struggle a bit, to see if they could sympathize with Ivan, Bob, Stella, Julia and Mac, to see if they could visualize what Ivan did with his ‘me ball’ to see if they would get the part about the Jama rescue story that was told by Stella  (sorry for that long run on…I’m starting to write like 2nd graders talk).  And guess what…they get it…they really do.

If you haven’t read it, a piece of history is told within this book.  This part of the story actually happened at the Brookfield Zoo.  Stella tells this story of Jama, who lived in a zoo and rescued a young human that fell into the gorilla pit.  I asked my second graders if they thought something like this could actually happen.  Two students said yes and two students said no.  I then asked them how we could find out.  They said, “Let’s google !”  I responded with glee and we found out that indeed, a small child had fallen into the exhibit and a female gorilla protected this three-year old and gently  presented him to her caretaker.  This happened in 1996 and this young boy is now 20 years old and his gorilla protector still lives at Brookfield and is now 22 years old.

My second graders were elated, because we actually found footage of the scene that unfolded that day.

Our 2nd graders will be going to see this habitat in May.  I’m sure they will want to see this exhibit first.

PS For those of you who don’t live in Illinois…this is the link to the story.  I hope you have a chance to read about Ivan before the end of the year. It is a book no one should miss.  Binty Jua was a hero on that day. Ivan is also a hero in this book.  Thank goodness the Newbery award panel deemed this ‘award worthy’.

Thankful Thursday

grateful for the slice

grateful for the slice

Last week I was reminded that I need to get back to expressing gratitude more often…so…in no particular order.

thankful for a grand-daughter who is a red-headed wonder, spirited, sweet, so delicious to squeeze. Love, love that she loves her books and animal sounds too!

thankful for a husband that still looks at me and says, “Goodnight Wolfie”  (I think wolves are absolutely amazing animals, and he knows I like to be compared to one).  Still crazy for my guy.

thankful for a son that still enjoys playing but has also learned how to be faithful and compassionate in serving an at risk population that is often ignored (18-20 something former foster youth). I’m so proud of my son.

thankful for my daughter Kelly who has been in our family for ten years.  She really ‘gets’ life and is shaking up the education world working in the front office in the Chicago Public System.  She is my curly-haired brunette super star.

thankful for our missionaries to South America Johnny (son-in-law), Emily (daughter) taking this continent by storm, building friendships one at a time and loving them with outstretched hands and open hearts.  They are a team that is second to none!

Malachi- the second part of the story



Yesterday I wrote about giving God the ‘first fruits’ or the best of what we earn.  When I think about it…everything is his, and really I owe him everything.  If you read my post from yesterday, Malachi, the secret came out, I have difficulty giving.  Maybe you wondered how did I move from that place of holding, to that new place of  giving happily.

For many of us it starts with a  story. This is my mother-in-law’s story, as she told it to Dave and I early in our marriage.

Bill and Verlee married after the Korean war.  They really started with very little, both growing up in farming families that didn’t own their own land.  Bill got out of the service , and got a job in a factory.  Nine months later they had their first son, David, my husband.  There was a week sometime after Dave was born that Verlee realized she didn’t even have enough money to buy necessities, not even enough for  bread and milk.

At this point in the story I  can actually imagine the scene  in the story… little sweet David, crying in his crib, crying, as he looks at his forlorn mommy.   And then he’d  see his mommy folding her hands and bowing  in prayer.  What do you do when you don’t have enough money for food? If you are Verlee, first you pray and then you do something you can can control.  So… she started cleaning a  closet.

As she was cleaning, she noticed a box of cards people had given to her for their wedding.  She began to read  the cards for comfort.  In one of the cards, deep in the box something else fell out of the envelope.  

God’s love floated out of the envelope.  It was in the form of money… just enough for bread and milk.  He provides for us and blesses us.  That day when she told me that story she looked into my eyes…always give your best, your first fruits to God.

This is now a generational story, as we have had Grandma retell it to our children.  Four years ago, as my daughter was preparing to move out-of-state to be married, she laid a folded check on our kitchen counter and said, “Mom, I won’t be at Willow this weekend  (she was leaving the next day), could you please take this to church with you and dad and put it in the offering?”  After she left that day, I cried, because I knew how hard it must have been to write that check.  She was practically penniless because of all the wedding and moving expenses.   But she believed that God would supply all her needs,  she had faith to believe in God’s promise of provision.

It was my job to bring her wedding dress down south for the wedding.  Before it was bagged for the journey, I secretly sewed a pocket into the folds of her dress.  This is another family tradition.  Inside it, I tucked a small sticky note that I had written.   And, I think you’ve guessed it, a check for the same amount she had tithed before leaving.  It will always be a special memory as I saw her open and read it on her wedding day.

I couldn’t have captured the essence of my daughter better than this.

Opening her secret pocket.  This is a memory I will treasure in my heart always.

My favorite life verse:  Proverbs 3;5-6  Trust in the Lord God with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.




Today we heard a message about giving the ‘first fruits’, or the first ten percent of our earnings to God.  It is a message I have heard many times in my adult life.  It has been something that I have struggled with because by nature I’m a saver for a rainy day type of person.

When I was a little girl I would save money in my quarter saver.  I would save baby sitting money in my oven mitt that I had made in junior high home economics.  It dangled over my head, hanging from my bed post as I slept.  I just loved to sit on my bed and count my money to make sure my younger sisters weren’t taking any of it.  I really never had a goal for my money, I just liked seeing it stack up.   Even back then, my dad would encourage me to give part of my earnings in the Sunday school offering.  We had little envelopes to put the money in.  My dad didn’t talk about percentages back then, he just said “some”.  So I did give…some, usually as little as possible, after all, it was a secret and in an envelope.

Fast forward to my married life.  I married a ‘giver’.  His spiritual gift is giving and our church reinforced this principle.  My heart was never convinced even at this point, to trust God, to believe his promises of taking care of us through it all.  After all, I had married a teacher, not a millionaire.  Times were lean, we gave.  Times were better, we gave.  Times were lean, we gave.  Times were better…. As a parents, we taught this principle to our children.  Blessings…our God has always provided a way.

Malachi 3:10

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.
Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the
floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room
enough to store it.