Thursday, December 31, 2009

365 days... 52 weeks... 12 months...

That's how long it's been since Peggy, Annemarie, Wendy, Julie, and I first posted about the words we chose to focus on during 2009. During these months, we forged friendships together as we shared our individual journeys with one another.

Although I chose to focus on FAITH and JOY this year, I must say that I learned as much from my friends' words as I did my own. Balance, discipline, abundance, and excellence made their way into my own life as I read their monthly posts or looked at the photographs and other images that helped them tell their stories. I often found myself contemplating their words alongside my own.

When I chose faith and joy, I could already see a connection between the two... that by having more faith in God and in His plan for my life, I will be able to experience more joy in the daily moments that make up my life. I shared my words with my students and made it a point to think about the words as the days and weeks rolled past.

How did I do? I think in the beginning, I was more attuned to the words and what I wanted them to mean in my life. As the months passed, however, I found myself slipping into old habits of worry. Yet, in the middle of the day or during the evening at home, I would stop and really look at the world around me. And I would smile. Joy, I realized, is all around me if I open my eyes wide enough to see.

God wants each of us to be happy... to experience joy in our life each and every day. Why else would He send beautiful rays of pink and orange to greet us each morning? Why would the sounds of nature, from birds' songs to the crashing of ocean waves, soothe our souls? Why would He bless the earth with children whose carefree laughter is a clear invitation for us to experience joy?

He gives us these bursts of color and song as a gift so that we will know joy.

Here are Peggy's final thoughts on "balance:"

This post is our final reflection on our words for 2009. I chose the word BALANCE because I hoped it would empower me to leave my unbalanced life behind in 2008. Overall it actually helped in the most simple of ways. That is, when I was feeling quite stressed out throughout the year, I would, now and then, remember, "oh yeah – balance" and take a few deep breaths.

The philosophy of balance can be found in many of the world’s religions, particularly the eastern religions. In both Hinduism and Taoism, the idea of balancing your mind, body and spirit is very important. In Hinduism it is believed that the body is made up of seven basic "chakras" or energy centers, each of which correlates to different bodily functions, levels of consciousness, emotional states and so on. In order to stay healthy, we need to ensure that these chakras remain balanced. Similarly in Taoism, there is the concept of "chi," which is the vital energy that flows through the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is believed that illness is caused by imbalances of yin and yang in the body, which blocks the free movement of "chi." Thus, to stay healthy you need to maintain the balance between yin and yang in your body.

In western culture, a commonly heard phrase is "healthy mind, healthy body," which encourages balance between mental and physical health. Having a healthy mind and body, however, is only a part of the story. As suggested by the following Taoist quote, we also need to bring our spiritual selves into balance: "Unless the mind, body and spirit are equally developed and fully integrated, no [wisdom] can be sustained."

Annemarie shares these thoughts:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." (NIV) Hebrews 12:1-3

This is the last edition of my monthly reflections on the word DISCIPLINE. My friends and I started on our respective journeys twelve months ago after reading Caroline’s post having no idea where the road would take us. It has been wonderful trip. I chose the word discipline to inspire, motivate and direct me through the year.

It was a good thing to aspire to but one that I will probably never fully achieve. When I finally came to that realization, I finally felt more relaxed. The point was to reach for that goal with PERSEVERANCE. I fixed my eyes on Jesus who helped me to remain steadfast because knowing I could do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13) So as I endured difficult times, those words carried me through. My goal was not to be the perfect parent or the perfect teacher, but be more planned and organized in both of these areas.

I haven’t exactly decided what my focus is for next year, but I am certain it will involve creativity of some sort. So don’t “lose heart,” I will be back with another series of posts.

Wendy shares this with us:

January 1, 2009 I made a commitment with my blog friends ….post each month about one WORD for the year. I chose ABUNDANCE.

In the beginning, I had been blogging regularly, receiving inspiration from other blogs, and sharing my blogging with close friends. I had already quoted scriptures that speak of abundance. I understood that God wants abundance for us and wants us to recognize the abundance we already have no matter our situation. In January, for the first post I said this; “How will a WORD impact the way I am living? How will this one WORD teach me, challenge me, make me want to be a better person?”

Well, my commitment to this WORD saved me from myself. When I was depleted of spirit, I was reminded. When I was depleted of funds, I was reminded. When I was depleted of love of others, of love of self, of discipline, of faith, of balance and of excellence, I was reminded. I was reminded of my abundance every month by the words of this blog group. I was encouraged by their words and I was inspired to give more.

I learned that if you hold fast…keep moving…keep living…and keep giving, you will have enough. You will have abundance in your life. God promised it and even without faith we will have it. Faith just makes it better.

Mitch Album says “The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.” I could say the way you get Abundance is the same….
I cannot say it any more clearly than the acrostic that I posted in January: Abundance is a verb. It is an act of life that requires one to move…to do, in order to become.

Atone for your hurtfulness.
Bid farewell to judgment.
Utilize your mind.
Notice your surroundings.
Draw on support from friends.
Acknowledge the gifts of others.
Nullify negativity.
Create moments of meaning.
Embrace the little things

I am looking forward to 2010. My word for 2010 is Gratefulness. Again I say, ““How will the WORD impact the way I am living? How will this one WORD teach me, challenge me, make me want to be a better person?” Come along with me those who will and commit to another WORD for your year.

... and here are Julie's final thoughts on excellence:

What an interesting discipline, this practice of choosing and focusing on a guiding word for the year. It has been a blessing and touchstone throughout '09 to meditate on the facets of excellence as my blog buddies and I have traveled this rotation.

In choosing excellence as my word for 2009, I was expressing a heart's cry to 'come up' in various areas of my life. Because I'm in the business of raising many children, I am also in the business of managing people's expectations. Some folks have very minimal expectations of me, assuming that I am too busy, too distracted to contribute in other areas. Some expect that I must be some kind of 'super mom' and figure I'm the one to call on for any kid-related project. And the reality is different.

It is focusing on excellence that helps me see what I need to be doing in my day to day life and what needs to be taken to the curb. I can't do it all excellently and there are areas where it is acceptable to me to do simple 'maintenance'. But in those areas I feel the Lord is calling me to serve, a plumb line for me to determine if I am walking where He is leading is to discern the caliber of contribution I am making. And when something comes along that is a good thing but is something that shouldn't be on my plate, holding it up to the light and seeing if it is something that could be accomplished with excellence makes it easier to put down when I see it is something that cannot be done to that level in my present season. Excellence can be defining.

I am so thankful to be on my journey with like-minded people, believers who have let go of legalism and are embracing the miracle of grace. And somehow in the doing, they are also continuing to walk with excellence, not out of a sense of fear or obligation, but out of a grateful heart, wanting to bring their best for the King. Where I set my standards for myself, the level of character I expect from myself, are all outpourings of my desire to please Him, an expression of His in-dwelling.

Has this beacon of excellence been a tool this year? Absolutely. Have I 'achieved' excellence in all the areas I would have liked to? Absolutely not. And that is the purpose of these defining words, to create a philosophy, a guide for our varying paths. Clarity has come this year through this term of excellence, clarity in areas that need more work, clarity in what needs to be laid down, clarity in what areas have been refined and may have something to offer.


And the journey continues.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

It's Coming Down...

the tree, that is! I already miss the glow of the lights and the way our stockings look so festive hanging on the mantle....

Even though my tree is full of ornaments (memories), I did buy two new ones this year.
One is a silver "joy," which hangs by a green ribbon. The other is a snowlady and her little girl sledding down a hill. The snowlady reminded me of the big snow we had when Hannah was little and how we used makeshift sleds to slide down a big hill nearby.

I'm thinking "joy" may have to hang near my desk this year as a reminder of my journey....

Is your Christmas all packed up and stored away? If I had it my way, my tree would twinkle just a little bit longer....

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

I can't believe...

that my girl is 14 years old now!

and that 14 years ago at 10:13 p.m., she made her arrival into this world. Where, exactly, does time go?

She had a great party last night.... She invited six friends over for a slumber party. Did I say "slumber?" Excuse me. I meant to say a "let's-see-who-can-stay-awake-the-longest" party. And, boy, did they!

Well, not completely. A few fell asleep between midnight and 2 a.m. Then a few more managed to find some zzzz's around 4 a.m. Me? I was one of the first asleep.

Here's the nearly-speechless birthday girl after unwrapping "the best present ever." (She's way advanced in the technology department compared to her mom.)

And here she is with her friends after pulling the all-nighter.... Aren't they a bright and fun-looking bunch?

Happy birthday, birthday girl! I love you!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Off Task? Shhhh.....

As a teacher, I pack the curriculum into every minute of every hour of every school day. Teaching grammar, writing, and reading in one hour and getting students prepared for not one but three state assessments requires it. So imagine my students' surprise, and mine, when I totally fell off the wagon!

It started in academic support, a 45-minute enrichment class with my homeroom students. They were bickering, and it was constant yapping and yacking as they shot verbal jabs at one another through the air.

"You sound like brothers and sisters," I said, finally, in exasperation. "Haven't you heard the saying that if you can't say anything nice, you shouldn't say anything at all?"

"Huh?" They asked with faces turned towards me expectantly.

I told them to look around the room and think about something nice they could say about every single person sitting in there. Then I had them write their name on a slip of paper, which I put into a cup. After they pulled a classmate's name out of the cup, they had to come up to the front of the room and say something nice about that person. And they couldn't just say "she's nice." Having been the recipients of numerous writing lessons during the past four months, they were required to e - l - a - b - o - r - a - t - e. "Details," I said. "Give us details!"

And they did.

They were able to say nice things about every person in that room. The girl who began the year with attitude written all over her face was complimented on her behavior and on her beautiful complexion. Her smile lit up the room. And another girl who has struggled with friendships and self-esteem had at least seven students clamoring to say something nice about her.

These kids are smart. They weren't about to let their teacher off the hook. They said that I had to say something nice about each one of them. And then the tables were turned again as several of them wanted to say something nice about me. Things like "you work us hard, but we know it's because you want us to be better writers." "When I get here in a bad mood, you make me laugh." "You're not all moody on us."

They've proclaimed Thursdays as "Therapy Thursdays."

I was so proud of them. And a bit worried. Our academic support time had rolled into language arts time, and it was thirty minutes of community-building instead of grammar and writing and reading.

But, you know what?

That was the best lesson I've taught all year.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Did I tell you that my daughter made the basketball team?
And that she scored four points tonight?

That's my girl in the center of the picture.
The photographer wasn't having a good night.
It's kind of hard to cheer and take pictures
at the same time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Lady in the Zebra Coat

i went to a party last night
wearing a zebra-print coat and a pair of dark jeans
one fashionable shoe outshone by one air-cast in orthopaedic gray

i ate
i talked
and then i
joined hannah
and sang into a mic
although i only knew the
choruses of the songs we sang

and i was her back-up singer
and one of her back-up dancers

and i had fun,
which for me, is a biggie...
i tend to be crabby sometimes...
and not always the life of the party...


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Name That Blog...

I'm a few days behind with blogging, but when I saw Relyn's post here, which referred to Beth's post here, I decided I just had to play along.

In their posts, both Relyn and Beth explained how they came up with the names for their blogs. My story's pretty simple....

I had wanted to start a blog, but like Relyn, was a little hesitant to jump into it until I had the perfect name. I knew that my blog would be a mix of writing and photography, and I wanted these words and images to capture the simple, every day moments that make up my life.

And, with that, I had my name: Moments in Time. And it's here where I place those words and images that capture those moments in time.

Now, I'm really curious.... How did you come up with your blog's name?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Animal Show: Reflecting on Our Words

This month, Peggy, Annemarie, Octamom, AVT Coach and I decided to choose an animal that expresses or epitomizes the meaning of our chosen word of the year.

I'm sure my choice of dogs to express the meaning of joy doesn't surprise those who know me. Both Scout and Maggie have a way of warming my soul, making me laugh, and filling me with heartfelt joy.

They are ALWAYS happy to see me. They do the silliest things that make me laugh out loud, yet they are attuned to the personalities and emotions that flavor our home....

Studies have shown that owning a pet can add years to your life. In fact, just petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure. And residents of nursing homes have shown a boost in mood and social interaction when a dog has been brought in for a visit.

My two dogs definitely bring joy to my home, to my life, to my family.

Peggy chose dolphins to symbolize what "balance" means to her...

One day a long time ago, I was watching a documentary about dolphins and something inside me clicked. I was well into my late 20’s and was watching the television as if I was glued to it. It felt as if I was in a mind-meld with the dolphins and it was too a point that I started to cry because on some spiritual level, I understood what these dolphins were saying. I just knew that the dolphin was my Spiritual Animal Totem, I just knew it!

The beautiful, graceful, sleek dolphin carries many messages for the two legged! A key to understanding because the dolphin meaning is connected with
themes of duality. It has to do with the dolphin being both fish and mammal. It is both of the water, and an air breather. Ergo, dolphin symbolism talks to us about "being in two worlds at once." Indeed, the dolphin is a great conveyor of the concept of yin and yang.

It is playful, and is a reminder that time to play is a crucial element in walking in BALANCE. It moves through the water quickly and with great grace, ever moving with the flow. Dolphins tell us to move with the ebb and flow of life, and not to search for brick walls to smash into. To spend our energy fighting the current gets us nowhere. Being constantly at war with others, with our surroundings and with circumstances we cannot change, destroys the spirit, eats away at hope, and consumes the joy of life.

The power of the Dolphin is community in BALANCE.

AVT Coach chose the amazing elephant for her word, abundance.

I have chosen the ELEPHANT as an animal depicting ABUNDANCE. Of course, it does have abundant size but it also lives abundantly. Here is what I found out:

Elephants cry. They express grief at the loss of another elephant. They exhibit behaviors that depict sadness, bowing their heads, lowering their ears, and pausing at the place where another elephant has died.

Elephants play. They express joy at seeing other elephants. They dance around, spin and twirl, and trumpet joyful sounds.

Elephants are helpful. They take care of each other and especially the babies in the group.

Elephants give back. Without intention of doing so, their feet make large depressions in the ground where water can collect and be a provision for other animals.

Elephants are social. They live in large family groups and communicate over long distances with each other.

In my quest for an Abundant life, I think these characteristics are certainly a start. Have empathy for others, find joy in play, care for others, give back to the greater community, and create a positive family environment.

Octamom chose the swan as her symbol for excellence....


My word for '09 has been excellence and after a bit of zoological searching, I finally settled on the swan as the emblem for my word. Swans typically mate for life and have strong family bonds. The male and female swans nurture and raise their cygnets together, developing their own 'tribe', if you will. The image of a swan has graced many a coat of arms, conjuring connotations of nobility and are seen as symbols of love and fidelity because of their tendency to form life-long bonds. Many fairy tales and myths surround the species, the moral of the tales often being the adherence to beauty and grace, even in the midst of difficulty and ridicule.

Plus, swans are just pretty to look at. They just are.

Which is perhaps not the most excellent reason to choose a swan as my symbol of excellence. But I also got to take a great picture of one down of the lake during the summer.

And that sealed the deal for me...excellence.

Annemarie chose the ant for her word, discipline....

The ant has received a bad rap throughout history as a pest, a nuisance, an annoyance. While in Puerto Rico, I would often be surprised to find ants in my sugar, but no one else would be surprised. In Texas we are known for a more ferocious type, the fire ant - certainly not a little creature to be reckoned with.While thinking about this critter, I began to realize the one thing no one has ever called an ant is lazy. When you see ants, what are they doing? Moving, carrying, building, preparing for whatever may come. If you destroy their home, the very next day they have set up shop just on the other side of the sidewalk. Which brings me to my story...

In a field one summer's day, Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing gleefully. Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. Grasshopper tried to dissuade Ant from his work by inviting him along in his day of reverie, but Ant could not be swayed. He was preparing for the long winter. Ant tried to convince Grasshopper of the foolishness of his ways telling him he too should lay up stores.Grasshopper was not worried about winter as he had plenty of food for now and continued to while away the hours and days leading up to the first snow at which time he found himself dying of hunger. Meanwhile, Ant and his family could be seen surviving from what was stored away during the good weather. At that point Grasshopper knew IT IS BEST TO PREPARE FOR THE DAYS OF NECESSITY.

There are times when I would rather play than have the DISCIPLINE to stay at home and clean house or go to the grocery store and shop for the family. Sometimes I give in and later have to pay the consequences. Other times I pull myself together to get done what needs to be. Over the course of this year, my focus on DISCIPLINE has led me to see the error of many of my ways - most of which I have tried hard to change. Of course being human and having a the luxury of being able to go out if need be, I have not perfected this way of life. It is still something I strive to improve.

As always, a huge thank you to Caroline at Whimsical Whispers for enlightening me about choosing a word for the year, and thanks, too, to my four blog buddies who have joined me in this journey.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tired of Turkey? Try This Tasty Treat!

With tummies packed full of Thanksgiving fare, you might not be in the mood to eat anything yet. But if you are, and the leftover turkey doesn't look too enticing, you might want to try this delicious recipe I found a'la Paula Deen.

As you know, I'm not much of a cook, so when I try a recipe, and my family eats it (happily, I might add), it's time for a little happy dance! Today, I got to do my happy dance. Enjoy!

"Mexican Veggie Casserole"
2 T vegetable oil
3 C chopped zucchini
1 C chopped onion
1 (15-oz) can corn, drained
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can ranch-style beans
1 (10-oz) can diced tomatoes with gree chilies, drained
1 package taco seasoning mix
2 C 2% shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 (8-oz) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 C light sour cream
12 (5-inch) corn tortillas, divided
Garnish: chopped green onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in corn, black beans, ranch-style beans, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning mix.

In a small bowl, combine 1 C cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream.

Layer 4 tortillas over bottom of prepared pan. Top tortillas with half of zuchini mixture; top evenly with half of cheese mixture. Place 4 tortillas over cheese mixture; top with remaining zucchini mixture. Top evenly with remaining cheese mixture. Cover top of casserole with remaining 4 tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 C cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with green onion. Serve immediately.

Click here to learn more about cooking with Paula Deen.

I talked about Paula in this post, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Plentitude of Gratitude....

I have a confession to make. I procrastinate. I find a million other things to do than what needs to be done at that moment.

Like now.... My house needs a little cleaning. Well, a lot if you count the gazillion paw prints that have been tracked onto the floor during the past several days of rain we've had here. Papers and books are stashed here and there, including several bins full in the dining room that have been waiting a sort-through since summer. And if I don't get things sorted and moved and cleaned, how will I ever make room for Christmas decorations?

Which leads me to Thanksgiving.... in a roundabout way, of course.

Thanksgiving. Being thankful.

I looked at a gratitude journal at Barnes and Noble last night and was tempted to buy it. I held it in my hands. I flipped through the coated pages. I looked at the designs and the journal prompts. And I realized that I don't need a gratitude journal to express my thankfulness. I can share it with you rather than keep it tucked away somewhere in my clutter. So, today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I share these thoughts....

I'm thankful for...
  1. my family, of course. For a husband who works hard to provide for his family, who gives freely of his time to prepare meals and package breakfast and lunch five days a week. For a daughter who brings me joy every day. For in-laws who know the meaning of love and friendship and faith.
  2. my home. Even though it's a little on the messy side today and is in need of a few repairs, it's home.
  3. a car that doesn't leave me stranded. In my younger days, I had cars that would choose when and where to crank. I had to be pushed off nearly everywhere I went in my Kharmann Ghia Volkeswagen. I bought cars that should have had "lemon" printed on them in bright orange paint. Now my husband takes care of that for me. (Did I already say I'm thankful for my husband?!)
  4. a job. It's tough sometimes teaching nearly 100 teenagers. It's demanding. It's challenging. But the rewards are there.
  5. silly puppies and faithful dogs. There's no other animal on the planet that can convey love and trust like dogs can. (That's my opinion, of course; you're welcome to your own!)
  6. time to play.
  7. the freedoms America offers and the choices that come with it.
  8. the inner drive that let me see college as a way to better myself and my future.
  9. Mr. Anderson who helped me obtain a loan, so I could quit working full time and finish my degree.
  10. friends who have been a part of my life.
  11. the gifts and abilities God has given me. I pray that I will recognize these gifts and use them for His purposes.

I need to give thanks more often. For the ray of sunlight that is battling its way through this cloudy day.... for the colorful leaves that still decorate the trees in my yard.... for the little things that brighten the minutes of each day.

Gratitude and thanks.

To my friends in America, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! To my friends in other lands, may you have a Happy Day of Peace and Joy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Snapshot Saturday

I love how the early morning sun streams through my windows....

I love how the light casts spotlights and shadows on the golden leaves outside my door.....

I love the gentle rustle of the leaves as a light breeze dances through them....

Maggie carrying a ridiculously too-large-of-a-bone around the house nearly dropping it on my foot. Scout nestling into his spot on the couch, head resting comfortably on a pillow. At least until he hears a squirrel close by and dashes out for the chase.

Hannah waiting for a friend to come over for a weekend of make-up and photo shoots, late-night giggling and midnight snacks.

A new Somerset magazine to linger over. Recipies to peruse. Essays to grade.

A snapshot of my Saturday.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Passionate Petals... Reflecting on Our Words

This year as I’ve journeyed through life contemplating faith and joy, I’ve been more aware of the beauty around me each day. Yet even though my focus has been on these two words, I’ve still had days when I saw the world through a darker lens. A busy schedule and seemingly constant demands have clouded my world at times.

When Peggy suggested that we choose a flower that reflects our words, my first thought was on finding a photo that captured the essence of joy. I thought of sunny buttercups and my mother’s favorite flower, tulips. I also thought of flowers that connected to my word, faith. All of which led me to Caroline of Nowordz Photography, one of the most gifted photographers I know.

Caroline brings joy to many with her ability to capture the beauty of everyday life, so I asked if she would be willing to share one of her photographs with me. And she sent this lovely shot...

The beauty of the flower against the muted tones of the background seemed to perfectly capture my feelings this month. Even when peering through the world in an imperfect fashion, there we find it. Beauty. It stands out against the backdrop of life leaving us with a more peaceful and joyful feeling.

Thank you, Caroline! If you haven’t been to her site, you’ll want to click right on over to Nowordz Photography and to Whimsical Whispers. I’m sure you’ll be inspired and in awe of what you see.

Peggy, who suggested that we choose flowers to reflect our words this month, shares this beauty with us...

The amazing flower I chose to represent my word is called "Hippeastrum Cinderella".I took this photo in my hairdresser's garden last week. The complete beauty and balance of this flower called to me as I was leaving his house.

Flowers have always been a source of pleasure and happiness symbolizing love and friendship and since the dawn of time we have instinctively known that flowers can lift our spirits and make us feel well again. They play an important role in restoring or evoking a sense of harmony in mind, body and spirit of healing in its quintessential form.

Annemarie shares this...

The orchid is considered to be one of four noble plants. Because it grew deep in the mountains, it was compared to scholars who had transcended the greed and fame-seeking of the secular world.

Orchid growth is affected by everything from elevation and light to humidity, air movement and nutrition. When I looked up how to care for this "delicate" flower, I realized that this is a flower I would probably kill in just a few days. In my search for a more disciplined life, I came to an understanding about myself. I like my laid back life. I love that I am not always worried about menus and shopping lists. My children are healthy and happy. Yes, my house is less than tidy, and my flower pots outside are less than tended, but I am happy. So as this year of searching for discipline is nearing an end, I will begin thinking about what it is that I would like to work on next year....I have two more months to think about it.

AVT Coach shares this with us...

I have spent the past ten months with an action plan to have the most abundant life possible. I have cultivated new friendships and renewed old ones. I have committed time to family and used social media to create more connections with people. I made efforts to use my leadership skills in my work and have encouraged countless families in their journey toward spoken language. I have meditated and prayed. I have listened to music that stirs my soul. I have set new goals for fitness and nutrition. Abundance has been all around me each step of the way.

My chosen flower can only be the flower that is a personal favorite. I have chosen the poppy. I smile when I see an abundance of poppies scattered across a field as in a Van Gogh painting. The dichotomy is that poppies have a bad rap. They are associated with a shady industry that is the demise of many people, unhealthy, commemorate the death of soldiers in some countries and symbolize remembrance.

They were used in the Wizard of Oz to hinder Dorothy's journey down the yellow brick road. Even so, looking over a field of these beautiful flowers gives me a feeling of abundance and of gratitude. Abundance spread in the open for all to see and enjoy.

And Octamom shares this....

As my blog buddies and I continue through our Reflecting on Our Words project, I have been delighted with the number of ways my creative friends have come up with to bring imagery and metaphor to their guiding word for the year. This month, the theme was to choose a flower that exemplifies each of our words. It was a fun mental challenge to think through flora and fauna that would give example to my 2009 word, excellence.

I at first thought of flowers that have great beauty or hardy qualities or are rare. But what kept coming back to me is the flower that we see a lot of during this season, the blossom that someone decided is the 'birth flower' for November. And that would be the chrysanthemum. (The chrysanthemum illustration on the right is from the New International Encyclopedia from 1902, with the image url being hosted at Wikipedia.) The chrysanthemum is actually native to Asia and wasn't introduced into Europe until the 17th century. It is often seen as a symbol in Chinese and Japanese artwork. In the U.S., it is a floral symbol of the season, a happy spot of color for the autumn.

Chrysanthemums are also used in a number of beneficial ways. The petals can be used to make a sweet tea. The blossoms make a natural insecticide that is not harmful or toxic to animals and humans. The plant is also used as an antibiotic and an antiviral agent. A potted indoor chrysanthemum has also been shown to be effective in reducing indoor pollutants in the air.

And now for the tie-in to my 2009 word, excellence.

True excellence brings with it the benefits similar to the chrysanthemum. When I operate in excellence, I can make life sweeter, more palatable for those around me. When I operate in excellence, I can help reduce the pests of procrastination and apathy. When I operate in excellence, I can help fight off the infecting agents of mediocrity. And when excellence is present in the room, the environment is all the cleaner for it.

Friday, October 23, 2009


I guess you could say that I'm on a literary kick.

Fact is, our school is ordering a class set of books for each grade level, so I've been scurrying around trying to decide on the best novel to read and share with my 8th-graders. I want something that gives me plenty to teach.... characterization, plot development, word choice, and theme while giving the students a good story to enjoy.

I may have found it with Jerry Spinelli's Stargirl.
Written from a teenage boy's perspective, this story weaves its message through a plot that focuses on peer pressure and the need teeangers feel to fit in and conform with their peers. Stargirl, the other main character, is a free spirit, who is more concerned with how others feel rather than what they think. Yet as the characters wade into their relationships with each other and with their classmates, they find that remaining true to themselves is more challenging than they imagined.

The story made me smile... and cry, of course. Don't they all? Yet I think it will soon become the new class set of novels for my 8th-grade classroom. Its theme of being yourself (and being happy with who you are) is one that I hope my students will embrace as they continue their journey into adulthood.

Although I can picture numerous activities to go along with the book, it only took me a couple of hours to read it. So, if you measure time by the seconds rather than the hours, you can probably squeeze this one in!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I'm Blushing....

I know we're not supposed to be obsessed with looks and image. I really try to let my daughter and my students know that "looks" aren't what make us who we are. What we do is what makes us who we are.

But I have a confession to make.

I've been looking a little drab lately.

My hair has hung without much shape, my face has seemed pale, and I've been thumping around with this air cast on my right foot for nearly three weeks. That little fashion addition definitely hasn't helped to improve my self-image.

That changed this week when I took Hannah to the Clinique counter at the local department store. Although I never wanted my daughter to wear make-up, she is definitely a glam-girl who loves to play with all things that come in powders, creams, pencils, and wands. It was time to restock her beauty supplies with an SPF/tinted moisturizer. I decided it was time to add a little color to mine.

Years ago I loved using a gel blush of Clinique's, but, as usual, it was discontinued a year or so later. Powders just seem to make my face look drier than it already is, so pale is my usual shade of color. I had just about given up on getting that blush of color on my cheeks when, voila, I discovered something "new" at the Clinique counter. A creamy blush stick that you swipe across your cheeks then blend in. I decided its $18 price tag was worth it; it was just the right shade and blended perfectly with my skin tone.

A little splash of color. A subtle blush. Suddenly, I'm feeling a little better about myself!

Monday, October 12, 2009

A True Time-Stealer....

What an amazing story.... one that moved me to tears and made me think again about the power of words and the power of the human spirit.

Over the past few years I've read several books that gave me insight into the lives of other people who lived in countries that faced brutality and death on a regular basis. Fictional accounts, yet historically accurate in many ways, these books made me more aware of the vast differences that exist in our world.

This weekend, with nearly 90 essays to grade, I kept stealing moments with The Book Thief. Essays lay on my lap, while The Book Thief remained on top, open to its story. As I stumbled through the last pages, I was in tears, wrapped in emotion so heart-breaking that it pained me to realize that this story could have been true of the children and adults who lived through the Nazi regime and the ally invasion that finally ended World War II.

In the beginning, I found the book difficult. Written from the perspective of death, I kept wanting to move into the story of Liesel... I didn't care at first to read what Death had to say. But as I continued to read, I became one of the people of Himmel Street, and I stayed there until the very end.

The essays await, visits to you are still to come, but I wanted to share this remarkable story with you. Written by Australian Markus Zusak, it's a book you won't want to put down. Read it when you can.... and let me know what you think about it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action... As We Reflect on Our Words

My friends and I have been posting together once a month as we reflect on the words we chose to focus on in the beginning of the year. When I began to think about a video that would appropriately reflect my thoughts on faith and joy, I immediately thought of the artist Akiane Kramarik. Her faith is the foundation for her art, and I can't help but feel joyful (and in awe) every time I look at her work.

Below is a CNN clip of an interview with her...

Peggy teamed up with The Moody Blues to convey her thoughts on "balance:"

Octamom shares the work of Kari Jobe whose video of her song, "I'm Singing," includes viewers' experiences, the result of which she says is "excellent... really amazing people continuing to walk with joy, even in the midst of some tough times."

Annemarie gets kudos for creating this original video to showcase her word, "discipline."

And AVTCoach gives us a video on "abundance." (I must have been the least techno-savvy one in the bunch because I couldn't figure out how to get the code over to my blog....) So please click HERE to watch her video, which features Akeela and the Bee.

Monday, September 28, 2009

This Boot Was Made for Walking....

I always find it a little difficult to pack up my summer sandals at the end of the season. Our summer temperatures linger into fall, and while I may switch from capris to full-length slacks, I can usually get away with wearing sandals for several more weeks.

Yet the time has come a little early this year. I've actually been advised to switch from this strappy little number ...

to something more in line with a boot. And they weren't talking about an up-dated Ugg or a cute little faux fur-trimmed number. More like this one in classic gray ....

And, no I'm not going snow skiing any time soon either. That's a top-of-the-line air cast. Big and heavy and not enjoyable to wear at all.

It seems that I may have a stress fracture in one or more of the metatarsal bones of my right foot.

Last time I had a stress fracture it was in my tibia after running a 20-mile marathon training run. The current stress fracture is a little more of a mystery. The physician's assistant said that I may have begun the process during my four-mile walks this summer and compounded the problem when I took my strappy-sandaled feet back to the hard, cold floors of the classroom.

Whatever the cause, I'll be sporting this boot around for the next three weeks.

And you know what? That's okay because my foot sure was hurting before I started wearing this thing.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Another Year to Celebrate!

According to the Days Alive Calculator, I've been breathing 17,530 days so far. That's 48 years. 48! Can you believe it? And I'm not the only one.

It was a year ago this week that AVTCoach and I struck up a conversation and discovered that, of all things, we are birthday soul sisters. Not just celebrating the same birthday. We were actually born on the same day in the same year. How cool is that?

It took a while to put it all together, but when we did, we had fun comparing notes about our lives. You can read all about my birthday here, what it means to be a Libra here, and her birthday tribute to us both here.

This year, we decided to post a photo history of sorts, showing us at the ages of 8, 18, 28, 38, and ... um, 48. Just so you know, I had to dig pretty deep to find these. (Note to parents of three children: Please keep taking pictures after the third child is born!)

Being from a military family, I'm constantly adding up the years and trying to figure out exactly which state or country I lived in at that time. Now, I can positively say, that at least for part of 1969, I lived in a brick house across the street from my grandparents. Here I am hugging the teddy bear I got for Christmas. I was probably my happiest living here and would gallop imaginary ponies through my grandparents' yard and tie the ponies to the foot of my bed each night.

By the time I was 18, I had graduated high school and had already been working full-time as secretary to the librarian at a junior college. I took classes at night but stopped once I went to work as a secretary/paralegal at a law firm. Here I am celebrating my 18th birthday with my grandmother, Queenie Anne, whose birthday was the day before mine.

By the time I turned 28, a lot had happened. I had become a skydiver and a pilot and was working my way through college. I finally had to leave the law firm because the classes I needed were only offered during the day. I did keep working, though, as a radio DJ and news anchor. The biggest news of the year was that Craig asked me to marry him... at an Alabama football game! After saying "yes," I promptly locked the game tickets and the keys in the car. (And he still married me!)

By the time I was 38, I had become a mom! Hannah was three years old by then. She's definitely my greatest accomplishment. Being her mom is an absolute blessing.

And now, I'm 48. During the past 30 years, I've worked as a paralegal for 11 years, in public relations for 11-12 years, and I've been teaching for nearly five. I wonder what my future holds?

But, more importantly, here's hoping that I have another 17,530 days to live! A happy, healthy ninety-six isn't too much to ask for, is it?!

... that goes for AVT Coach, too! I wouldn't want to celebrate such a big day without her. And if you want to wish my friend a happy birthday, click on over to her site. She's the other Partridge Family fan...!
Happy birthday, Wendy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

It's a Balancing Act

Sometimes, I feel like I'm on a tightrope. If I lean a little too far one way, I'm sure to find myself dangling, barely hanging on, until I can regain my balance and stand up straight again. Regretfully, the balancing act is here to stay, and I find myself keeling over one side then the other as I try to balance out my life. Work and home. Family time and me time.

I have never been able to go to work at the scheduled time and leave when the work day is over. Oh, how I want to... how I envy those who are packed up and ready to leave when the last students walk out of the building. Yet I simply cannot do it. Instead, I find myself working late every day and even later on some days than others. The janitor knows me well, as I've often left just as he's getting ready to turn on the alarm system. Three and a half hours after our "official" work day has ended.

So, that's where I've been lately. Either at work or at home doing work it seems. And althoughI had so much fun blogging and visiting during the summer, I knew it would have to end, or at least slow down, when school started.

I was so right.

During the school year, I become so wrapped up in teaching that I have little time for anything else. Cooking? Walking? Out of the question. Just late nights grading or creating or just getting ready for the next few days. There's also more running around with Hannah now that school's back in session. And homework that creeps on hour after hour.

On January 1, I'm claiming Peggy's word, "balance," as my very own. I'm in great need of balance right now. Always have been really.

"Balance" has not been an adjective for how I live my life.

So, here I am squeezing in a little time here to say hello and let you know that I've missed visiting all of you and having you visit me. And even though I have plenty to do right now...

I'm going to hit publish and then spend a little time in your company. That's what I need right now. A little company... at least before I climb back onto that tightrope of mine.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mosaic Monday: All Dressed Up With Somewhere To Go

When Hannah was a baby, she smiled and laughed a lot. When she was a toddler, she would put her sweet, little feet in my high heels and try to walk around the house in them. When she was in pre-school, she would wear my scarves, my hats, and my jewelry and look in the mirror and smile at herself.

When Hannah was in elementary school, she would play in my make-up, brushing colorful eye shadow over her eyelids and eyebrows.

When she began middle school, she would twist and twirl her pony-tailed hair into a messy bun on the top of her head and fall out of her desk and trip on the stairs.

Then, this past Saturday night,

Hannah artfully brushed a subtle shade of eye shadow over her eyelids and combed mascara through her naturally dark lashes. She styled her friend's hair in cascading curls before styling her own hair into a sleek, sophisticated look.

She slipped into her first little, black dress and stepped into her first pair of high heel shoes.

And she went to a friend's Bat Mitzvah and smiled and laughed a lot.

She danced with her friends and forgot to eat because she was having so much fun.

And I sit here now, both proud and wistfully sad.

Proud that she is as sweet as she is beautiful... that she is wise and silly and graceful and clumsy. And a bit sad remembering her toddler days and that she's not my baby any more, yet always will be.

God gave me the gift of motherhood, yet it's a gift that tugs at my heart and coaxes happy-sad tears down my cheeks...

on a Saturday night when she's all dressed up with somewhere to go.

XOXO Peanut... I love you
For more photo mosaics, visit Mary at Little Red House... the generous host of Mosaic Monday.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

52 hours spent at school

7 1/2 hours available for planning

4 1/2 of those spent in meetings

93 students to teach each day

93 essays to grade

93 tests to grade

93 review sheets to grade

93 universal screenings to grade

25 literature tests to grade

1 giant notebook to compile

1 school Web page to update

4 days of lesson plans to complete

Sitting on my deck with Scout on a Saturday morning.... priceless!

So, how was your week?

(I've missed you guys!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

"I have found that JOY is all around me....
It just takes opening my eyes and heart to really see it and feel it!"
~~ Roban

It's exciting to be joining four of my blog buddies for the eighth time as we post reflections on the words we chose at the beginning of the year. This month's reflections are short and sweet... a simple sentence or two about our journey this year as we strive for balance, discipline, excellence, abundance, and joy in our lives.

"Striving for BALANCE between complexity and simplicity, constantly evaluating and re-evaluating the trade-offs I have to make to get there." ~~ Peggy at Middle Age Ramblings

"DISCIPLINE is setting your eyes on the prize, recognizing what you need to do to get there and removing all obstacles that will prevent you from finishing the race." ~~ Annemarie at So I was Just Thinking

"In August, I recognized the ABUNDANCE of seeing old friends, listening to great music, feeling the cool mountain air, and having a real time phone conversation with a good mate!" ~~ AVT Coach at This Abundant Life

"EXCELLENCE: A process and a discipline, not a destination." ~~ Octamom

Special thanks to Caroline at Whimsical Whispers for inspiring us to begin the journey in the first place!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

And the Winner is....

Have you ever noticed that when you find something you love, you want to share it with others? It's just too good to keep to yourself.... Kind of like Oprah, I guess, and her "Favorite Things" show. You know the one. It's the show where she gives everyone in her studio audience trinkets like HDTV Refrigerators, Artisan Stand Mixers, and Camcorders.

Well, consider me a small-scale Oprah when it comes to sharing things I love. Like when I kept giving my mother-in-law Bath and Body hand soaps because I loved them so much. Kitchen Lemon, Sun-Ripened Raspberry, Coconut Lime Verbena.... One day I happened to get a good look in her bathroom and realized that she had enough of my favorite hand soaps to open up her own Bath and Body franchise. She loves them; she uses them, but sometimes enough's enough.

I gave one sister a leather journal for Christmas one year. I love all things paper and journal-y. For Hannah it was an Italian link bracelet like mine. I finally bought my running friend the same kind of socks I ran in. They were so soft, my feet did a little dance when I put them on each morning.

So, when I was working on my mosaic for this past Monday, I thought it would be fun to introduce more of my blog friends to something I love by offering a giveway. After a quick Facebook chat, Rebecca generously agreed to have Scrapblog donate a 12x8 Keepsake Album to one lucky reader of mine.

So, with the help of the random generator at Violets are Blue, I'm pleased to announce that ...

is the lucky recipient of one of my favorite things!

Check your e-mail, McVal, for information on how to create and claim your keepsake album.

Because several who left comments said they wished they could see my mosaic images up close, I've added a couple below. Just click on the Scrapblog logo for a larger view.

And thanks to each of you who left comments last Monday. This was my first giveaway, and it was definitely one of my favorite things to do!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Scrapblog Giveaway!

I discovered blogging and scrapblogging at about the same time. It was June 2008 while Hannah and I were at the beach. Suddenly, my world became much larger! I not only became a blogger and scrapblogger, but I met new friends from all over the world each time I clicked "publish."

To commemorate the reawakening of my creativity, I've teamed up
to offer YOU
a chance
to WIN
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post, and you'll be entered in the drawing.

If you're the lucky winner, you can either print one of the scrapblogs you've already created, or create something new. It's so easy!

Here are a few pages of the digital scrapbooks I created using

So, go ahead, leave a comment! The deadline is Friday, August 28.

Mary at Little Red House is the gracious host of Mosaic Monday. Skip on over and take a look at the other mosaics....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Watching Her Grow...

I love this picture of Hannah....

She paused as we made our way into the school building for her first day of kindergarten. Her smiling face seems to say "I'm in big school now; can you believe it?!" I smiled when I looked closely at the picture and noticed her hand. I can practically see the energy and excitement dancing through her....

And that pink bookbag... Barbie, I'm sure. Matching lunch box held her snack for the day. I remember that white blouse, so crisp and fresh in the sweltering August heat. Her sandals, her toes....

I remember her spunk when she ran up to me after school and proclaimed, "I didn't even drop my tray!" (Apparently, she had been a bit worried about that happening during lunch... apparently she did okay that day!)

And here she is seven years later on the first day of 8th grade. No more pictures in front of the school. The front porch will do just fine she says! Her eager smile is still there.... And she's excited. Still.

She makes friends easily (something I've never been as good at) and is diligent in her work.

But I have to wonder where the years have gone. Afternoons of sunshine seemingly vanished over night.

"You only have me for five more years," she said recently with a sneaky grin on her face.

"No," I reminded her, "I have you for life! And, uh, watch out... I would make a great college roommate!"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mosaic Monday: Jellyfish, Sea Dragons, and Sharks (oh, my!)

I love museums and aquariums. I can spend all day poking around...

Last weekend, Hannah and I met my sister and her daughter in Atlanta for a few days of exploring....

Our primary destination was the Georgia Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the world. It didn't take me long to find two of my favorite sea animals: the Australian weedy sea dragons and sea horses. These two creatures seem almost mythical to me. The aquarium also is home to Nandi, the only manta ray ever to reside in a U.S. aquarium, whale sharks, and cute beluga whales. Not to mention the most diverse population of aquatic life ever found in an aquarium.

The Titanic Aquatic exhibit was still open, so we were able to see the artifacts recovered from that tragic crossing. It was amazing to see a display of china plates stacked one behind the other sitting upright in the sand just as they had found them deep on the ocean floor. Unbroken, no less. Clothing, luggage, and other personal items were also on display, all recovered practically intact from the wreckage. As we made our way through the exhibit, we came to a passageway that was designed so we could feel the vibrations and sounds of the engines just as third-class passengers did on that fateful night. It was a bit eerie and sad to walk through the exhibit knowing how many people lost their lives that night and how frightened they must have been as the ship was sinking.

There was so much to see throughout the aquarium, I can't tell you about everything. But you can visit the Georgia Aquarium virtually by clicking here. And if you're ever in Atlanta, you might want to put this on the top of your "to-do" list.

The photos are: (1) jellyfish (2) sea worms (3) shark (4) beluga whale (5) Hannah and Allison petting the sting rays and sharks (6) sea anemone (7) otters (8) whale shark (9) Hannah "swimming" (10) sea horses (11) jellyfish (12) the cousins in front of the aquarium entrance.

Mosaic Mondays are hosted by Mary at Little Red House. Click on over!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Packed and Ready to Go

it was my daughter's first day of school yesterday
can you see the excitement on her face?

dressed in her new uniform
with her hair just so....

she was excited
she's a great student
but y'know what?

I think she was most excited
about seeing so many of her friends
and that makes me smile
because without them
school would just be
textbooks and assignments
and cafeteria food

but with friends
it's more like a gathering
where smiles and laughter
are the commas and exclamation points
that punctuate each day

I hope she has an exceptionally good year!