Writing Workshop Wednesdays (27)

My friend Catherine and I are taking a Soul Collage course together.  She, too, is a fellow breast cancer warrior.  Our instructor was explaining how obstacles in our lives inevitably set us on the right path.

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On the ride home after class, I was thinking how grateful I am to have met Catherine, and if not for the cancer, I probably never would have met her.  If not for Catherine, I may not have laughed great belly laughs while participating in a book study with her, may not have discovered Schranz Park, may not have decoupaged at COCA, and may not have introduced myself using a picture which called to me from a magazine.

So, for this Writing Workshop Wednesdays, consider an obstacle in your life and then explain how it eventually led to a blessing in your life.

Who Was Helen Keller?

As mentioned in a previous post, my daughter and I (and now hub) are addicted to the Who Was/Is? series of young reader books.  This past weekend while frozen in we read Gare Thompson’s Who Was Helen Keller?, illustrated by Nancy Harrison. I knew Keller was deaf and blind and that a devoted teacher, Annie Sullivan, was able, after much perseverance, to open the world to Keller.  Yet, I had no idea of the numerous obstacles Sullivan and Keller conquered together until Sullivan’s death in 1936 as well as the history behind schooling for deaf children.  Go Gallaudet!

What amazed me probably more than anything else is how, in order for Keller to be able to learn at Radcliffe, Sullivan had to spell every lecture into Keller’s hand.  Every lecture . . .  Yet, their combined efforts prevailed, and Keller graduated from Radcliffe in 1904 with honors.  What an amazing lesson to be learned by all less-than-motivated learners.

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What amazed my eight-year-old daughter was how Keller had met every president from Cleveland to Kennedy.

Not only an ideal chapter book to use in teaching students how to overcome adversity, but also ideal in discussions about interacting with people whom are different than ourselves.  For in chapter 9, we learn, “The girls were friendly [at Radcliffe], but many did not know what to say or how to act around Helen”  (87).

Unfortunately, the English teacher within must mention the dreaded typo found on page 92, “The book also revealed Helen’s wonderful imagination ad [sic] how she pictured her world.”  What is nice to note is that my squirt noticed the error, too, in her reading.  Yesssssssssssssssss!

For my daughter’s book report assignment, she opted to create a newspaper based on Who Was Helen Keller?  Thank you Ms. Gann for such creative learning opportunities.  Amazing!

IMG_1862Who Was Helen Keller? just may be a contender for my daughter’s next book selection for Book Club Babes as they will be exploring the biography genre.

Fig and Goat Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust

My momma-in-law hooked me on the FREE (with $50 purchase) Schnucks Cooks Magazine years ago always bringing the latest copy over whenever she visits.  Religiously I tear out the coupons and mark the recipes I would like to try, but rarely do.  Yesterday was different;  I checked a bucket list item from my list by making my first cheesecake ever.  Mmmmmmmm!

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I had always assumed making cheesecakes were time-consuming and difficult because people I know did not make them often.  Coming across the Fig and Goat Cheesecake with Pistachio Crust recipe in the Schnucks Cooks Magazine Fall 2014 issue, I knew I had to give this one a try.  Of course I was the only one excited about this venture as the hub has sworn off cream cheese for life (because he thinks it tastes like arse), and my oldest squirt is convinced she does not like any cheese except Parmesan, never mind all of the pizzas she eats now and the multitude of  jars of macaroni and cheese she ate as a baby (you should see how many snow globes we created from those jars).

Anywho, during an exploration of the new grocery store, Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, I gathered my ingredients.  Not realizing Boar’s Head made goat cheese, I threw this log into my cart and am so glad I did.  While opening the package, a huge chunk just so happened to fall into my mouth.  What ensued was creamy, salty goodness on my taste buds, a flavor nearly mimicking (to me) the briny liquid in a green olive jar.  Yummers!

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In addition, since the recipe calls for fig jam, my anti-cheese squirt selected the Zergut variety from the shelf, and it was definitely the right choice.

IMG_1653As I write this post, the cheesecake has been devoured in less than a twenty-four hour time frame.  Hey, I did share with the neighbor.  However, if I knew just how delicious this cheesecake was prior to sharing, I may have thought twice about it.

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Five Minute Friday: Open

Open.  This past Friday I scurried to the store in order to gather groceries before the impending freezing rain.  The temperature outside seemed to chill me to the bone.  A breast cancer warrior, my thoughts were, “If I had real nipples, they would be piercing through my winter coat at this time.”  Then I thought I need to text that to my BFF/partner in crime/cheerleader/sounding board/lifeline.  Yes, immature beyond a shadow of a doubt, but this is how we roll.

Fast forward to my return home and my retrieval of the mail.  As I lowered the plastic black door, I spied a rectangular piece of correspondence addressed to none other than “Tits McGee,” and I could not help but smile one of those smiles that borders on painful due to its width.  This, I knew, had to be a “small package” (what I consider snail mail) from the same woman who said without hesitation, “Cansah Schmansah,” when I told her of my diagnosis.

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The real joy came in the form of tears as I opened this card, for inside was the inscription, You’re the sister I always wanted.  Open.

Five Minute Friday: When

When.  The hub and I gifted our girls with miniature porcelain tea sets for Valentine’s Day.  Found at the grocery store for $3.99/set, it was a deal I couldn’t pass on . . .  I remember wanting a set like this as a little girl, but it seems to me these delicate teacups and saucers were not affordable then as they are now.

I have to admit I wasn’t sure how they would react to these fragile gifts;  I was taking a gamble.  My girls like their crafts and stuffed animals.

To my delight, they were thrilled with these tea sets and immediately hosted party after party for Miss Piggy, each other, and Barbie.  I was fortunate enough to be invited this morning where I was told to say “when” when the proper amount of cream had been poured into my cup.

IMG_1615Not wanting this moment with my girls to end, I reluctantly uttered the word, “When.”  When.

Psalm 23:5:  ” . . . my cup runneth over.”

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (26)

While in a waiting room yesterday, I caught the tail end of the Dr. Phil show focused on cyber bullying.  Apparently the parents on the show had a child who was being bullied through the Internet which resulted in the suicide of said child.

As a victim of adult cyber bullying, I know how hurtful messaged words can be.  I can only imagine the magnitude of this hurt on an adolescent.

Observing those seated yesterday in various stages of disease and worry, my thoughts always return to the power of our words if used in a POSITIVE manner.

Since I am usually a difficult stick and walk out with numerous needle holes when blood is taken or i.v.s are put in, I was grateful at the solo stick yesterday.  Wanting to thank my nurse, I handed her the card pictured above.  A card similar to this was given to me by woman blesssing Sarah K. (whom introduces me to some of the coolest stuff), and it completely made my day week month.

So, for this season of love, how do you plan to use your words for the better?

*This post dedicated to the amazing Nurse Jenny.

Three Times Lucky

So, my oldest daughter finally passed over her copy of Sheila Turnage’s Three Times Lucky, the book her buddy Miss G. selected for their third-grade book club; I was not allowed to begin reading until she was completely finished.

Winner of the Newbery Honor Book, a New York Times Bestseller, an Edgar Award Finalist, and an E.B. White Read-Aloud Honor Book, my eyeballs were drooling at the thought of cracking open this book.

Immediately confronted with colorful characters such as the Colonel and Miss Lana as well as characters which will melt your heart as in protagonist Mo who gives vinegar bottles, full of notes addressed to her unknown mother, to the local townspeople who gladly throw them over bridges for her in the hopes they may find their way to her mother.

In fact, my hub was wearing a Heisenberg t-shirt the other day,  the one with Walter White’s face on the front, and my daughter proclaimed, “That man looks just like Detective Joe Starr!”  Starr, a male main character Mo didn’t like due to the “hook of his nose, or the plane of his cheekbones . . . [and] the way he didn’t smile”  (13).  Of course, I had to quickly turn my back to disguise the tears of joy running down my face at this unfolding, before those same eyeballs (mine), of literacy in action.

Three Times Lucky, while containing some heavy themes (domestic violence, alcoholism, murder), does so in a manner which is not only digestible for the young reader but also educational.

With my oldest looking forward to discussion of Turnage’s book at an actual cafe, Sgt. Pepper’s Cafe in Edwardsville, I am looking forward to witnessing firsthand the love of reading at this young age.

Update:  Discussion rocked at Sgt. Pepper’s Cafe.  Topics spanned from the many combinations which represent family to the yummy ice cream which topped off our savory lunches.  Yummers!

Next discussion:  Miss Kirstin’s pick of Magic Kitten:  A Summer Spell

Happy Birthday G.G.

We met my first year of teaching.  I was enthusiastic, motivated, and, without a doubt, wet behind the ears.  You had fifteen years of teaching under your belt, so you were seasoned, honed, and realistic.  I needed you that first year, your encouragement, advice, support, and not just in regards to teaching.  I have needed you every year since then too.

After meeting and talking and talking and talking, we realized we grew up only a hop, skip, and jump from one another, and I think this simply solidified our similarities.  Perhaps, the Midwest can do that to people.

You welcomed me into your home, allowed me to play with your kiddos, and invited me to your various house parties.  Come to think of it, I am just now truly making use of those stamps I bought years ago.

We laughed until we cried riding on a school bus with a driver who spent more time looking in his overhead mirror than looking at the road.  Grateful you were with me on the first field trip I ever hosted, you took the lead when a child’s mother ended up having diarrhea while this yellow means of transportation was in motion.  I, in the meantime, had my nose poked out the window in an attempt to put an end to my retching.  Yes, I was useless.

This same year, we fell in love with crew neck sweatshirts adorned with various patterned fabrics and sayings due to a student’s talented mother.  With overwhelming trust, you permitted me, with no beauty expertise whatsoever, to trim your hair in your classroom after school one day using a student’s borrowed scissors.

At the end of that first year after we had said our farewells  to the rest of the staff, we walked out the doors of this school together.  You would be returning the next year while I took a teaching gig in another town.  I remember panicking at the thought of having to teach without you down the hall and the idea that perhaps our friendship may grow apart with distance.  This did not happen;  if anything my heart grew fonder for you with the absence.

Fifteen years later, we have so many more tales to tell and so many more memories to create.  So, on this your birthday, I wish you great love and much bliss along with bus rides free of diarrhea.

Five Minute Friday: Keep

Keep.  The hub and I originally met online.  We were both on this now defunct dating site at the same time during a two-week free trial.  We like free.

On our first date, we met for lunch and then played 18 holes of golf in what I think had to be 150 degree weather.  When he put his arm around me while we were riding in the golf cart, I thought I would melt not only from the heat, but also from embarrassment;  I knew there was no way my antiperspirant had maintained the fresh feminine floral scent.

After golf we went to Blockbuster (when there still were Blockbusters) and selected a movie to watch while eating our favorite deep dish pizza from Papa Del’s.  Six months later we were married.

On our first anniversary with not much money, we exchanged cards.  When I opened mine, there taped to the inside of the card was the most heartfelt gift I have ever received (next to my two girls), the Blockbuster receipt from our first date.  Keep.

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (25)

The other night I attended a talk by Keith Edwards, Campus Speaker and Educator, at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, home of the e, at the invitation of woman blessing Sarah K.  An informative, engaging speaker, Edwards stressed the importance of a proactive approach to rape versus simply a reactive stance whereas the former demands an end to rape and the latter assumes the inevitable existence of rape.  Brilliant.

During his presentation, Edwards outlined the definition of informed consent, a term which should be a staple in everyone’s vocabulary.

So, for today’s Writing Workshop Wednesdays, define informed consent.  If this term is unfamiliar to you in regards to sexual activity, take the time and do your research and then share this meaning with others.  Take the proactive approach.