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Monday, January 11, 2016

My One Word for 2016 and How You Can Contribute

My #oneword for 2016 is CONTRIBUTE.

I want this year to make a difference: to me, my family, my church, my community, my world!  I want to be integral in that change through the contributions that I make with my time, effort, prayer, and yes, my money.  Not much will happen without some input on my part.  Don't get me wrong, God's actions are not constrained or dictated by my whims or maneuvers.  But, I may become part of His work by seeking and serving - this is my contribution.

My health and fitness will not improve if I am not intentional about caring for this clay temple. I must decide what to eat, when to eat, where to eat, and how much to eat.  The same goes for moving.  Each exertion can be calculated either to the positive or the negative.  These assets and liabilities determine where the needle of the balance falls - literally!

My business will not flourish if it is left untended.  I must work each day to pursue leads, hostesses and recruits to further the mission of empowering women and men around the world out of poverty. We must work together and support each other if advancement is our goal.  To that end, if you are reading these words I would also like for you to consider how you can be involved with Trades of Hope this year.  Maybe you need to purchase gifts.  Might I suggest shopping here first?  Would you like to host a party either in your home or online to spread the work and beautiful jewelry, accessories and decor items offered for your friends?  You may have been looking for your own way to contribute to the financial well-being of your family and others this year.  Let this be the sign you were looking for.  I'd love to speak to you about getting started with Trades of Hope.

My church and my community are inseparably linked in my mind and my heart.  What is good for one is generally beneficial for the other.  That's how the local church should work.  On that front, I will be leading a neighborhood Bible study on Thursday mornings in my home for local women.  I humbly ask for your prayers that God would bring together exactly who He desires for fellowship and growth as we study His Word.  My husband and I are also working with a new marriage strengthening ministry called re/engage.  If you are in the DC metro are and want to go from "simmer to sizzle" in your marriage, this may be just what you are looking for.    You can visit to find a local church if you are far from here.

A primary ministry of our church is Jill's House.  This is a respite center for families of children with special needs.  Please go check them out and see for yourself the wonderful work they do and what they provide for the children and families.  This month I am hosting an online party to benefit Jill's House.  100% of my commission from this party will go to Jill's House.  You are vital to the success of this work.  Without your contribution, I cannot make a contribution.  See how that works?  We are all in this together.  Go to my Facebook event to join.

Do you have a "one word" for 2016?  I'd love to hear what it is in the comments.  Let me know if you joined that party as well. Let's all make a positive contribution this year.


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Books for the Children on Your Christmas List

Books are the gift that keep on giving.  Year after year, there are favorites I return to when I want to live through the language of authors who take my imagination to new heights.  We read aloud to our son every night.  The beauty of books is that while he may not be able to read a story for himself yet, he can get swept away to lands as near or as far as we share with him.

Here are some of my favorites.  My son is 6, so these have been appropriate for him.  There may be a few on here we haven't gotten to yet, but will be soon.  Enjoy!!

Thanks in advance for using these links attached to the images.  Many of them are affiliate links and enable us to share even more books together.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

We are currently reading this Wonder-ful book.  As a former special education teacher and the aunt of a nephew in a wheelchair with Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy, I appreciate the openness about differences.  Fiction is one of the greatest tools for teaching empathy.  Here we are taken into the world and thoughts of August Pullman as he ventures into school for the first time as a 5th grader.

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

What can I say except that every child and adult should read these books.  Watch the movies afterward, but definitely read these books.  The language used by C.S. Lewis is incomparable in it's power to transport us to new worlds and share deep truths with such beauty.  This boxed set has beautiful color illustrations through out.  I also have the combined books in one hardback volume.  It has the feel of an heirloom that should be in your library.

The Tin Forest by Helen Ward

This was a gift to my son from a high school friend of mine.  This had been her daughter's favorite book, and I quickly understood why.  The illustrations are intriguing with hidden images of birds, flowers, insects and wild animals populating the forest made of tin that springs to life from the imagination of the old man who lives within it.  This is a great introduction to Helen Ward that will leave you wanting more.  I'm thinking we need to add more to our own collection.  You will want to gaze at the pages over and over.

The Animals' Christmas Carol by Helen Ward

Since it is so close to Christmas, be sure you add this one, too.  It is stunning to look at while reading the verses based on a French carol that can be traced back to the 12th century.  There is even the music and verses at the very end.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik

I was first introduced to Hugo by the Martin Scorsese film of the same name.  The movie, like the book is a love story to the cinema, innovation and visual imagery.  If you have a child that loves pictures more than words, you will want to invest in books by Brian Selznik.  His genius lies in storytelling with pages upon pages of drawings that weave in and out of the written pages seamlessly.  The black pages of the book are a novelty in and of themselves.  I have glanced through (if that is possible) his other books and know that I need to add them to our collection as well.

The Growly Books by Phillip and Erin Ulrich

It is no mystery that we love Growly, Chippy, and Tully in this house.  We also love Erin Ulrich!  Phillip and Erin have captured the spirit of friendship, adventure, bravery and loyalty in the Growly Books.  The trilogy consists of Begin, Widewater, and Morning.  The artwork by the talented and lovely Annie Barnett, of Be Small Studios, bring the characters and landscape to life.  These are stories to inspire your young adventurer.

The Wrinkle in Time Quintet by Madeleine L'Engle

Most people are familiar with A Wrinkle in Time, but have not followed the Murray family on their other adventures through the rest of the series.  Get these for yourself if you haven't read them all.  Some of the others are even better than the namesake of the series, in my opinion.  After reading the first one, I fully endorse watching the 2003 Disney movie starring Alfre Woodard and Kyle Secor - watch the deleted scenes.

The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

I'm not sure that there needs to be any other reason than IT'S WINNIE-THE-POOH!!  If you need convincing that these should be in your child's library (or your own) you have most likely stopped reading through this list already.  This is not an easy read. It will test your skills as a narrator, but will bring hours of joy to story time.  The classic illustrations are so much nicer than the newer cartoonish versions.  I'm a purist at heart when it comes to Pooh.

Beatrix Potter the Complete Tales (Peter Rabbit)

Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, Squirrel Nutkin.... These whimsical tales of woodland creatures, and a few kittens, have stood the test of time.  I have to admit that this is missing from our own collection.  We have read many of the individual small books from the library, which are darling, but this boxed hardback speaks to me in a deep way that seems worthy of handing down through generations, much like the stories themselves.


Shine So Bright by Tim Willard

I am so excited to let you know about this book.  I haven't read it yet, not even the sample pages that were available.  BUT.... I know Tim's writing, and it is exquisite.  His passion is beauty language, especially from the works of C.S. Lewis, and it shows in his lyrical prose that seems to be a collection of ordinary words with extraordinary impact.  I have such confidence that this will be a well-loved book in our home that I joined the Kickstarter campaign to ensure it was printed.

Shine So Bright is the story of LoLo Star, how she is taunted, and then how she learns to shine, so bright.  When I say hot off the presses I mean it.  These have been printed within the last week.  You can be one of the first to share this story with your family.  I am doing this for several children this Christmas who hold dear space in my heart.

So there you have a starter list of books that I think you should be buying this Christmas.  There are so many classics that I didn't include.  I've said nothing here of The Velveteen Rabbit, Curious George, Madeleine, Babar and all the others that have been loved for generations. I'd love to hear which books you would include. 

Happy shopping, happy reading!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

#GivingTuesday Opportunities for YOU to Make a Difference

This is #GivingTuesday!!  After last week's emphasis on giving thanks, we can now focus that gratitude and give back to others.  I have a few suggestions for you here.  I'd love to hear how you are participating.  There are so many amazing places to give, shop, and offer your time.  This is no way exhaustive but just a kickstart in case you needed some suggestions.

***TODAY ONLY*** When you shop the IJM catalog, your gift is doubled.  You make twice the impact for freedom in this world.  Gifts start as low as $7!!


Your donation offers refugees a priceless gift as they rebuild their lives, educate their children, and seek lifesaving surgery.  To date there have been over:

  • 1,350 lifesaving hear surgeries
  • 100,000 aid deliveried to families affected by ISIS
  • 30 small business grants to displaced widows
  • $61 social return on each $1 donated

Of course, I would also appreciate you shopping through my Trades of Hope!  There are several ornament sets to choose from, as well as the rest of our fabulous accessories and decorative items. The ornaments make great additions to small gifts and cards, they also make a great addition to your tree!  You will be giving opportunity and empowerment to the artisans around the world who work to provide for their own families and rise out of poverty.

Now go out there and make a change in the world on this

Saturday, October 31, 2015

When the Chair Hits the Classroom Floor

This last week I have found myself constantly with an image of a desk in my mind’s eye.  There was a girl, there was a resource officer, there were other students, and there was a teacher.  But, what stands out most to me is the desk.  I think that there was one other person in this nation that may have been even more affected than I was by the sight of that desk and it hitting the floor.  I’ve been thinking about her a lot this week.

We have to go back to 1997 for this to make sense.  Since we have to go back 18 years, right about this time of year, which should clue you in to the impact.  I was a 7th grade teacher in a large suburb of a city in the Deep South.  We’ll leave it at that for the location.  I was teaching a small class that was labeled “Mixed Resource Special Ed”.  These were kids that were generally in mainstream classes except for their math and English because of the gap between them and their peers.  I was out of my trained area and most likely out of my depth.  This was my last classroom in a school setting.

To the point.

This collection of students ranged from one that was on the spectrum with obsessive/compulsive tendencies to a couple that I was convinced at the time had made themselves “special ed”. This had come from their behavior over the course of their years of school. The defiance and unwillingness to comply directed toward me daily – and I’m sure I wasn’t the first – had left a few in this group grades behind in reading and math skills. I could see the ones who tried, but just couldn’t get it.  They needed this class so badly.  They didn’t need the added distraction of the others.

The end of the first quarter brought exam day.  The instructions were simple.  When you finish your work sit in your seat quietly until the others are done.  Simple.  Just sit, no talking. Simple.

This proved to be too hard for one girl.  This is the one I referred to at the beginning.  Sitting was not on her agenda.  Being quiet was not on her agenda.  I had to go to her twice to remind her to sit back down in her seat and stop talking.  She was up and leaning over to her right to talk to another girl.  Twice.

At first there was the sly grin of “you caught me”, then the pain must’ve started.

“There’s blood on the floor!  There’s blood on the floor!” from one of the students.

She held her left hand up and looked down to see the blood.  Something was wrong.  The end of her ring finger was missing.  It lay on the floor inches from where the edge of the desk had hit the floor.  The ceramic edge had cut it off from her weight.  She was holding on to the side of the top when she had leaned to far and tipped.

Just sit.  Simple.

We got her in the ambulance with her fingertip and the local hospital performed reattachment surgery.  It was unsuccessful.  I knew this would impact her for the rest of her life.  This, after all, is the finger where a wedding band is placed.  The part I haven’t old you yet is that both of her parents are Deaf.  That capital D is intentional, it’s cultural and part of who they are.  If your parents are Deaf, you communicate with sign language.  You need both hands.

I looked this student up on Facebook the other day, and I found her.  I scrolled through photos of her and her children.  In ever shot where her left hand was visible it was covered by her right or the last two fingers were folded under.  My heart ached.  This event had become part of who she was in every photo and how she carries herself.  I imagine there is shame, possibly some anger directed toward herself, probably more than a dash of regret.

Just sit.  Simple.

I wondered what she thought when she saw that desk on the news hit the floor.  What did she think about the girl, the officer, the girl’s future, her own past?

My heart ached for a former student and for a student I’ve never met.  It still does.  

I think about that teacher. 

I became the teacher that cut your finger off if you talked in my class.  No, really.  I was the one.

How will this teacher be known?

I’m not writing this to comment on the specific actions in that classroom in SC.  I’m writing about the fact that when I see those videos, I see the desk hit the floor.  We all bring our histories with us and they are the filters for our eyes.  It’s hard to overcome, but it is also just as hard to read into a situation you may have never experienced.

The chair tipping wasn’t an isolated event in my shared experience with my student.  It didn’t stop there either.  I spent hours in the hospital waiting for her to come out of surgery.  I was there with her parents.  The school hadn’t thought to summon the interpreter for the hospital.  Fortunately, this was my trained area. I was at the hospital the next day as well.

That was my last year of teaching.  She is the only student whose name I remember.  She is the one I think of when I see that chair hit the floor.

Photo is of a similar Virco Martest 3000 Series 3700BR Student Desk (3700BR) from Amazon.