Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Hello Stars: Lena in the Spotlight [a book review]

The Littlest Drama Princess and I received a book to review this month. I am pretty sure my oldest child and I have read one of the other "Faith Girlz" books before, so when the opportunity came up to read a new one, I jumped on it! This book is the first in a series, if the number on the spine is any indication.

Lena in the Spotlight is a book series about a young girl who auditions for a part in a movie, and Hello Stars is the first in the series. Lena is finishing up the fifth grade when she auditions for the movie, and the book follows her journey through the anticipation, potential rejection, and inevitable acceptance into the strange and exciting new world of filmmaking! Lena's story is peppered with stories and quotes from the Bible since her parents are raising her to lean on and trust God. Making a movie isn't all fun and games, though, and Lena has a few bumps in the road, but the authors always bring it right back to leaning on God and His Word.

While the story has a great foundation on Christian values and takes young readers through the application of God's word to their lives, I found the physical structure, layout, and editing to be distracting. There were times when the sentences were choppy, others when they were too repetitive, as well as instances when the commas didn't make sense. There were breaks in the main character's day without breaks in the paragraphs or chapters. It was as if someone was writing the story like they talk, and it was not within what I consider the formal bounds of written language, although many would probably think I am being too critical (and I might be!). I almost hesitate to mention these issues because they are not about the story at all! However, my daughter is homeschooled and finishing the fourth grade, and reading chapter books is one way I expose her to the written language and all that it entails: punctuation, capitalization, vocabulary, sentence structure, and word use. Sadly, this book was a bit of a disappointment as far as that goes. If you aren't a grammar fanatic and your child doesn't need the book to help teach language arts, you likely won't notice any of that! :)

Now, back to the story. :)
I liked that the story kept circling Lena back to trusting God. They prayed often and about everything. There was no sibling disrespect as we often see in today's fictional families, so that was a huge plus! And when Lena messes up, there is grace demonstrated by others in her life. We sure need that message in our house with three strong-willed children! {wink}

I am not sure we will read any more from this series, but it really is a delightful story, and it appears there is more of Lena's romp to stardom to come. Based on the back cover, it might even be loosely based on a real story.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free with the understanding that I would read it and review it. No expectation of a positive review were given, and this review is my own personal opinion.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Statistically Speaking

I love statistics. My favorite math classes in college were statistics classes. Statistics can be quite helpful. And they never lie.

Did you catch that? Statistics never lie.
People do.

We are quite capable of taking in numerical information and manipulating it to align with our personal platforms. You see, a statistic is just a number. It actually means nothing all by itself. We have to evaluate it to determine a meaning.

For example, if i were to tell you that statistically, you are more likely to be overweight if you eat at McDonald's, you might consider that to mean McDonald's equals weight gain.

You + McD's = weight gain

However, that is not the case. Even if that statistic is true (i'm totally throwing that out there without any knowledge of validity), it doesn't really prove anything.

See, statistics are tricky. In the right hands, statistics help us understand trends, evaluate the effects of set variables on a set population, and interpret research findings. In the wrong hands, statistics will lead us astray... take us down a rabbit hole of misinterpretation that can ultimately lead us to believe something that is just not true.

So, while "9 out of 10 dentists" prefer XYZ toothpaste "over the leading brand" is, for sure, completely accurate, that doesn't tell you much, does it? I still have unanswered questions:
- which toothpaste is the "leading brand?"
- were these dentists new to their profession or retired, highly-experienced dentists?
- what did they prefer about it, specifically? Was it because it prevented cavities better than the "leading brand" or because it was just more readily available nationwide?

(I discovered in one of my statistics classes that "leading brand" really just applies to generic! Shh!)

So you see, statistics are helpful, but they are tricky. They are practically weapons of partial information.

Here's where it gets personal for me....

I was born with a tongue tie. It was never discovered by my parents or doctors because I had no issues with feeding or talking. I discovered it myself in my teens, far too old to worry about correcting it.

Two of my three children have developed something most people have never heard of: Transient Synovitis. It is when a virus settles in the hip joint and the child loses the ability to support his/her own weight on that leg. Oftentimes without pain. Not dangerous, but not exactly common.

My youngest child was born with the most uncommon form of congenital hypothyroidism. Her bloodwork told a story her development didn't support. Still, we saw specialists and confirmed. Medication was prescribed and she'll have this condition forever.

This same child developed obstructive sleep apnea at 12 months of age. We saw specialists and confirmed. We were told by the specialists at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital that "we don't usually see kids this young with this condition." Surgery corrected the condition, but her recovery was a bit abnormal compared to the other patients. She just didn't fit the norm.

Same child develops not one but THREE separate reactions to vaccinations. Highly unlikely. Unrelated coincidence, the doctor tells us after the first round, then again after the second reaction. After the third one, which was by far the worst, we found another doctor.

Fast forward several years. She is very small in stature. We're beginning to worry about her growth. X-Rays of growth plates are taken and the diagnosis is that she will be a late bloomer. Fairly uncommon. She doesn't fit the norm. Again.

Last year, my dog was very sick and we thought he was dying. After trying everything and being about to give up, we sought a specialist who discovered that our dog (who is a house pet and walks with my husband around the neighborhood) had contracted a canine form of MRSA. A couple of months of exhausting treatment saw great improvements, and we eventually beat the bug. But still. MRSA?!

I love statistics. Really.
But when someone looks me in the eyes and says anything is "highly unlikely" or "statistically unlikely" or not something i should worry about because it isn't common, i feel less than relieved. In my world, statistics are just really fascinating numbers and we often fall outside the norms.

And somebody has to be the minority.
Statistically speaking.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Getting Stuck

Getting stuck is a real pain.
Getting un-stuck can be a worse pain.
But can getting stuck ever be a blessing?
I believe so....

Sometimes, i get stuck in a rut. That rut becomes distasteful enough that i look around and realize i'm stuck, then i do something about it. Climbing out of a rut always teaches me something about myself.

Sometimes, i get stuck on a problem. That problem becomes so overwhelming that i'm unable to move in any direction. So i pray about it and ask for direction. Many times, a new solution comes to mind or enough time passes that it becomes obvious i'm not intended to solve the problem. So i can move on.

Other times, i may be stuck in an internal struggle. When this happens, i turn inward and resort to worry and fretting, which is always so helpful, right? ;)

But if i'm stuck in a battle with myself or my emotions, it's often harder to see the way out. I'm learning to focus on the little things i can do right now. And i'm learning to give myself grace. One unfortunate side effect to growing up without the emotional support or loving connection of a parent is that i became 'accomplishment' driven. I tried to earn favor, love, and attention. I still get stuck in that pattern sometimes, but the worst of it is always when i'm fighting myself.

So, i'm learning to treat myself with kindness, forgiveness, and grace - much as i would treat my children. And it helps get me un-stuck most every time.

Getting stuck is a pain, no doubt.
But getting un-stuck is where the real lesson can be found.
So the next time you find yourself stuck, pause and look up, look around, look inside, and find the lesson God is trying to teach you. When you move through it, that's when getting stuck becomes a blessing.

Friday, April 29, 2016

The False Socialization of Social Media

In the homeschooling world, we get asked a particular question A LOT:
"But what about socialization?"

And we answer it as kindly and compassionately as possible, because it isn't that person's fault that we've been asked that particular question 1.3 million times before she asked it. ;)

However, since i am frequently dealing with that question, i find that my mind pays attention more to socialization issues than perhaps the average adult. And it is in this attentiveness over the past few weeks that i have noticed something quite upsetting:

Social media is actually harming the way we socialize.

Hear me out.

The idea of social media is to connect with others, whether it be friends or family who live some distance away, or within communities of like-minded or similar beliefs as us. And when you hone your followers or friends, you can achieve a pretty good balance of that.

The problems that i am seeing come in the form of inflammatory posts made to divide us into boxes. Oh, you know, the ones that start with "Republicans believe..." or "Democrats think..." or the ones that go something like this: "For all YOU who believe..." Because, you know, all people in those groups are exactly alike and all that.... :-P

The issue, too, is that there seems to be no filter anymore to anyone's internal dialog. I get the honor of being privy to your inner-most generalizations about a particular group of people. And the sad thing is, sometimes i am in that group of people. Things that you would likely never say to my face if we were sharing a meal somewhere are now blasted with the most harsh speech imaginable over social media. And i'm sure i made these mistakes in the past, too. Hopefully, i have learned to temper my thoughts and not use social media to rail at the world around me.

But i won't lie.... It's changing how i feel about some people. Not because i am judging them based on their views, but because i now wonder how they TRULY feel about me. The next time we sit down at the Christmas dinner table, i'm going to be uncomfortably aware that you think i'm a heartless, bigoted, morally-confused, high-and-mighty idiot. And the next time you call and invite me to coffee, i may decline. Because now i know how you feel about me. Sure, not me specifically, but "people like me." And frankly, that is not that different. That's why i believe social media is actually killing relationships.

I love a great many people who are very different than me. And i respect their uniqueness and their zest for life within the bounds of what they believe. And i truly do cherish differences, because honestly, a world full of people just like me would be a complete and utter disaster! We need variety. God is painting a masterpiece, and we all play a part!

But i am growing world-weary with social media thrusting in my face the black-and-white nature of some people i thought i knew. The hateful speech over hot-button issues from people who i thought were open-minded and loving. The finger-pointing and judgment from people i thought were welcoming and sweet-natured. It's all too much for me lately.

Sure, i could cancel my account and never engage in the craziness. But there are so many benefits to me for some social media sites that i have not decided to walk away. Yet.

Does anyone else see social media degrading our social interactions with one another?
Have you put distance in any relationships because of social media posts?
I'd love to hear from you on this issue. :)

In the meantime, remember:
There's a person on the other side of social media.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Vast Wasteland of Distractions

Do we even realize how much time we spend on electronics? I am seeing a terrible trend, and i am fighting against it in my own life, and it worries me for future generations. I am reminded about something i used to say to my husband in the early years of our marriage: there will always be something interesting on the internet; you have to know when to walk away. And that was before Smart Phones!

Now, we have the internet at our disposal at all times. And there will always be a video clip, an email, a Google search, or whatever, that we can spend our time on. But suppose the following....

Husband A comes home from work. He changes his clothes, goes to hang out with friends, comes home to eat the dinner his wife prepared, then goes to a club to watch a band play with friends. He gets home after the littlest child's bedtime, doesn't tell her "goodnight" or tuck her in, goes to the garage to fiddle with various hobbies, and then goes to bed when he's tired. During this time, his wife and children have taken care of themselves and gone to bed as well.

Does Husband A represent a dedicated spouse? An engaged father?

How about this one:
Husband B comes home from work and goes for a walk with his earbuds in, listening to various podcasts on his smart phone. He comes home, eats the dinner his wife prepared, and goes to sit down somewhere in the house with his phone or tablet. Sometime later, he might change to his desktop computer or play video games online with friends. When he has decided he's tired, he takes his phone to bed and listens to podcasts and watches videos until he's ready for sleep. During this time, his wife and children have taken care of themselves and gone to bed as well.

How do we feel about Husband B?
It is not that different than the Husband who isn't physically present, but it is so much easier to be mentally absent these days!

Here's another scenario:
Mommy A takes her son to the park. While there, she chats with friends or neighbors and her son plays alone. After the park, she takes him to a fast-food restaurant for lunch, where he eats in silence while she chats with some of the other adults around her. Mommy A takes her son home and puts him down for his nap. After his nap, she takes him out for a walk in the wagon, chatting with a neighbor while they walk around the block. When they get back home, she sets him up with some crayons and makes dinner while talking on the phone. During dinner, daddy and son chat about their day and Mommy A watches television. After dinner, Mommy A gives her son a bath and lets him play in the tub while she works on a hobby nearby. After her son's bath, Mommy A puts him to bed and kisses him goodnight, then dashes off to watch another television show.

How well is Mommy A engaging her son? How do we feel about Mommy A?

Imagine all of those friends and neighbors and telephone calls and television shows and hobbies are her smart phone. Not really different.

There will ALWAYS be something interesting on the internet, and we ought to remember that the temptation to tune out will always be there. Will we rise above it, or will it become our master? I don't want my children to grow up and say, "Mommy was always around, but she was always distracted by her smart phone/computer." :(

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Homeschooling Introvert

I am a homeschooling mother.
I am also an introvert.
This was easier to balance when my children were smaller. Naps were relished, early bedtimes eagerly anticipated, and play-dates with friends who had small children a veritable delight of socialization for everyone involved.

However, my children are in high school, middle school, and middle elementary now. And it is much, much harder to find that quiet solitude that once came more naturally. While i was in the trenches of that toddler to preschooler stage, i falsely believed that it was the hardest time for mamas who are introverted. And, may i say, if you don't go on to homeschool your children, this may very well be the case! But as i serve as teacher, lesson planner, curriculum researcher, grade reporter, activities director, and high school adviser, i find my days much fuller and my brain strained at a deeper level than when i was teaching the alphabet, table manners, or colors.

Add to that the nature of the high school activities calendar, and this introvert is a puddle on the floor at the end of each day! My husband dare not ask me anything of any substance during the school week, and i do most of my catching up with family and friends over the telephone while running errands or driving home from some event i've dropped a child off to participate in.

I am an introvert.
I need quiet.
I need stillness.
I need alone time.
And i need it all at least daily.
But, surprisingly, it is not getting easier to meet those needs as my children get older, since the academics get so much more daunting! My poor extended family and friends must think i vanished into thin air... or that i don't care to spend time with them, and that just isn't the case! I really must find the balance.

That being said, i do not look forward to my children leaving home, so i guess that makes me a glutton for punishment! :)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Human Experience

This morning, my family and i attended a gymnastics meet for The Littlest Drama Princess. She and her fellow gymnasts were a bit more nervous at today's meet than they were at the last one, and that was hard to watch - and harder still to try to push them through it to overcome the butterflies and near-panic. In the end, each child tackled her own nerves and stomped on them as she walked through the struggle to the other side. Accomplished. Take that, fear!

One of the greatest moments i have ever experienced in my life thus far happened during that battle over nerves this morning. You see, when we go to these meets, there are 4-6 different gymnastics facilities represented. We have parents and coaches and teams from all around our area, people we have never met and will likely never see again. The girls in each team have 4 different events: Uneven Bars, Vault, Balance Beam, and Floor Exercise. Each event happens at all times, so the teams are rotated through the events in an orderly fashion, but nevertheless, all of the events have gymnasts performing - simultaneously.

So, as you can imagine, we move around and get the best view of our own child when it is her turn, we cheer on our home teams, and we leave room near the other events for those parents/families/friends. Pictures are taken, cheers are raised, and there is a lot of applause for each event, so it can seem disjointed when you are focused on one event and there is cheering and applause for another.

However, at a pivotal moment for one of our team's littlest and newest gymnasts, as she took the floor to begin her routine, she froze, panicked, and then... covered her face and began to sob. As we sat helpless in the stands, gymnasts all over the competition were still performing their routines in their events. We waited with bated breath, watching, whispering prayers for strength for this 4yo during her first-ever competition while the music carried on without her... and finally, the coach walked up to her and bent over to talk with her.

As the coach spoke to this precious child, still, the rest of the place carried on. But i was focused. "Lord, help that sweet child!" i whispered. "You've got this!" i tried to *think* across the rows of chairs and gymnastics mats to her frightened little brain. The coach spoke briefly with the judges and they agreed to let her start over.

She took her place. She squeezed her eyes shut. The music began. She marched out those steps in the beginning, eventually opening her eyes and waging that war with her fear, staring it down as she nailed the second, then the third, then the final segment of the routine. The music rang out its final notes. She saluted the judged. And the crowd went WILD. WILD, i tell you! EVERY parent there, every grandparent, every coach, every child, the WHOLE PLACE erupted in applause and cheers.


My oldest daughter and i teared up, ready to hug every living soul in the room.
And my faith in humanity was restored.
There is still good in the world.
At heart, we care deeply, even about other people's children, whom we'll never meet.
And when terrible things happen, we get to glimpse that side of humanity as neighbor comes to the aid of neighbor. And when we see a child struggling with her fear, we cheer her on as if she was our own. That, friends, is all part of the human experience.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

You Can Be a U.S. History Detective, Too! [a book review]

I was given the opportunity to use and review the U.S. History Detective, Book One, by The Critical Thinking Co. My children all studied U.S. History this year, so I was thrilled to be given the chance to try one of their books. My oldest child was given this one since it is written for students in grades 8-12+.

The curriculum we chose for U.S. History this year was very thorough, I'm sure, but my daughter found it very dry and boring. The reading was lengthy and she found she was not retaining much. Then she started using the U.S. History Detective book. She was much more excited about the shorter length of the lessons, the way the pages are laid out (I have a real personal struggle with curricula that is written well but laid out badly - read, overwhelming to the student), and the frequent review sections. To expect a student to read an entire chapter of 8-10 pages of history facts and figures and then answer only a few questions always seems silly to me, and The Critical Thinking Co. must agree because they have sections about 2 pages in length before asking for student feedback. The way it is broken up is much more conducive to retention, in my opinion.

There are multiple choice and free response review sections, charts and diagrams, a "Fun Fact" section for each lesson, and lots of pictures to help with the multiple ways a student needs to get the material into the brain's memory banks. I am always impressed with The Critical Thinking Co.'s ability to make their books interesting and interactive as compared to other texts.

This is one example of what I really liked about the book:

It is a review activity using a Venn Diagram to help students compare and contrast indentured servants with slaves. That is a literary process! I love when our subjects can be combined in a meaningful way - it takes the busywork out of language arts to write about something you are already learning in another subject area. :)

My daughter really likes this book and finds that it works well with her learning style. She tends to have trouble retaining a lot of text, so having it broken up in meaningful ways and with frequent student response sections has really helped her make more sense of U.S. History. If only we'd found this book earlier this year! ;)

If you are about to study U.S. History, or if you need a summer review, I recommend the U.S. History Detective. And since it is Book One, I intend to keep looking out for Book Two on their website (it isn't there yet, but I think this one will be a success, so it's just a matter of time)!

I also get to offer my readers the following deal from The Critical Thinking Co. as part of my agreement to write this review. If you ask me, that is a major bonus!

15% Off Any Size Order!
Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.

*Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the above-mentioned book for free with the intent to use and review it honestly. A positive review is not required and the above review is my honest feedback after using the book.

Critical Thinking Co.'s "Understanding Algebra I" [a book review]

I was given the opportunity to review two great books for The Critical Thinking Company. The first one is called Understanding Algebra I. Since my oldest child is just wrapping up Algebra 1, I thought this would be a great overview after-the-fact as math is not easy for her.

One thing we noticed right off the bat were well-laid-out pages. There was color, charts, diagrams, and plenty of white space! One thing I personally think math textbooks get wrong too often is jamming too much information onto a page, and the student can start the lesson overwhelmed. That often happens with my oldest, so this was a bonus right away.

Another thing that we liked was the opportunities to practice each concept at the end of the section. I actually felt like she had more practice problems related to the concept than her current math program. Part of that, in my opinion, is the nature of having a very spiral approach since there are so many review problems in each lesson. I am not opposed to it (I actually prefer spiral math), but I think her current mathematics program could add a few more problems to each section that are specifically related to that lesson so that the child has ample opportunity to master the concept before moving on. Understanding Algebra I did that very well, and even threw in Word Problems sections and More Practice sections.

There was a time or two that she saw something in the book that she didn't already know and neither she nor I felt it was explained well. Part of that could be that her current math program is not known to be advanced and some Algebra I courses could be more advanced. I'm not sure the reason, but it only happened a couple of times - so that is likely just due to our difficulty with that particular concept each time.

Additionally, we battled a lot of illness and my daughter participated in a high school musical with her tutorial program during the time we were reviewing this book, so we did not complete it. We intend to finish it, though, because she has to take a test to demonstrate mastery over Algebra I shortly. :)

In conclusion, I think Understanding Algebra I is a great resource! If a parent doesn't understand Algebra, this would be a great book to put into the hands of the student who needs a better explanation of the subject (or if the parent just wants the student to learn independently!).

EXTRA!! As part of my review, The Critical Thinking Co. is offering my readers the following deal - Happy Learning! :)
15% Off Any Size Order!
Details: Offer expires 5/31/2015 at Midnight PST. Use Coupon Code BLOGR315. Online prepaid orders only. Valid one per customer. Offer does not apply to iOS or Android apps, or manipulatives such as Attribute Blocks, Interlocking Cubes or Pattern Blocks. Offer may not be combined with other discounts or offers, and is not retroactive. Not valid on wholesale orders.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of the above-mentioned book for free with the intent to use and review it honestly. A positive review is not required and the above review is my honest feedback after using the book.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Over the past several months, more than a year if i'm honest, i have faced more mountains than i could move. During that time, i thought i was doing well holding up my end of the bargain: i kept my head up, i kept my feet moving, and i never shook my fist at God. The rest, i figured, was up to Him.

Sure, i trusted Him. Most of the time.
And i leaned on Him. Sometimes desperately.
And i praised Him. Even when it hurt.

But i forgot to hold on to those lessons He was teaching me. I allowed my focus to stray from the moment-to-moment, peace-in-the-storm joy of the Lord...and my focus became my own suffering.

I became battle weary. Understandable, some might say. As did i.
But then i did something that i never should have done: i gave myself permission to whine. I was justified, after all; I was going through a lot!

But when i gave myself permission to whine, i constructed an idol. My idol wasn't a statue or a religion or a person; my idol was my pain. I dragged it around and showed it off - "look at my pain," i cried! I let myself make all of my decisions based on my circumstances. My circumstances began to define me.

Now, don't get me wrong, there are seasons of suffering in which we must take care of ourselves. Self care is not selfishness, it is necessity. Even God, in all His infinite wisdom, built rest into His own calendar - and then into ours. Respite gives us needed energy to keep moving and strength to endure.

What i am talking about is the stage during which we must RISE OUT of the ashes and become what God has been shaping us to be. During that metamorphosis from broken to beautiful, we are meant to take off the old and become something new. From a caterpillar to a vibrant butterfly! An amazing miracle of God's hand! We cannot become the butterfly if we hold onto the caterpillar's hardships.

At one point, i knew i had to be doing something wrong; i recognized that i was in sinful disconnect from God, just based on my personal experiences. The problem was, i couldn't put my finger on it! I even asked God repeatedly to show it to me! But God... in all His gentleness, knew i wasn't ready to hear it or see it. My focus was still wrong.

So this morning, after 2 weeks of physical suffering, i awoke without pain and without illness. I have never been so grateful to see 6am and my normal routines! I took joy in my work, delight in my day's obligations, for the first time in months.

And God, being God, finally removed my scales and allowed me to see my sin.
Here i sit, wanting to weep, laugh, praise, and dance... knowing i have broken through the chrysalis - finally! - and ready to see what God wants to use me for in this next season.

I have been prepared for something. We all have. The only choice we have is how we allow ourselves to be used for the Kingdom. Or even if we allow it.

My selfishness, my sin, my pain nearly kept me from whatever God has planned for me. That would have been a far worse fate than anything i have suffered this past year! Praise God, He never gives up on us!

Life can be hard. We can get battle weary. But our earthly circumstances should never define us, and our joy cannot rest in our situation. This life is fleeting, and the moments are temporary. The painful moments and the joyous ones. But the Joy of the Lord is eternal, lasting, and surpasses all this earthly realm has to offer!

Today, i choose joy. And i submit my pain to the One who can make beautiful butterflies out of caterpillars and strong trees after devastating fire. And i cannot wait to see what He does with me! :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Put Down Your Smartphone and No One Has to Get Hurt

Dear Driver,

Hello! I hope you have enjoyed the introduction of spring weather thus far and i pray this letter finds you well.

This afternoon, my children and i were coming home in the early stages of rush-hour traffic. We had the advantage of being able to drive in the HOV lane, though, which was super awesome as i had a stomach ache to beat all and needed to hurry home. The problem is, while we were over in that lane, my son, who was in the passenger's seat, looked over and saw you staring at your smartphone. While driving.

Then he saw YOU doing it, too.
And then YOU.

I argued that maybe you were placing a call, but when we leapfrogged back and forth a couple of times, it became obvious to both of us that not one of you was placing a call. Or putting down your smartphones. Two of you were casually perusing your smartphones while paying partial attention to the traffic ahead of you and probably no attention to the traffic all around you.

According to my son, it looked like you were on Pinterest or Facebook.

Look, folks, i know there's some FAB-u-lous recipes for the perfect, 30-minutes-or-less, weeknight dinner on Pinterest and you're on your way home to a house full of Ravenous Rugrats, and there are trending stories on Facebook that you've just got to catch up on, but not one of those things is worth the inconvenience of a car accident, the increased premium on your insurance, or (dare i say it..?) - SOMEONE'S LIFE.

My oldest daughter is 15 and studying to take her driver's test to obtain her permit. She saw you, too. Are you setting the best example for her or other teens? Because they.are.watching. Always.

My youngest child is 8 and she is happily playing with her flipflops in the backseat, chitchatting about her gymnastics class yesterday and the skills she is obtaining from her favorite teacher. Are you prepared to be the one to take away her ability to continue with her love of gymnastics because you cause an automobile accident that damages her precious little body with your careless disregard for both safety and the law? Because some accidents are preventable. And some wounds don't heal.

In our house, i practice what i preach. I mean what i say. I ask for forgiveness when i mess up. And i try to do what's right. Because these kids are tomorrow's leaders. 
Did you catch that? KIDS are tomorrow's LEADERS. 
And unless we show them how to fight against the temptation to break the rules, they will take the easy way out. 

Just like you did today, Driver. You took the reckless, selfish route today when you made your smartphone more important than your driving - and everyone else's safety. [Here's a thought: carpool if you must use your phone on your commute.]


Mother of 3 in Middle Tennessee

Smoke and Mirrors

Over the past 18 months, my life has been pretty non-stop upheaval and stress. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the list of Top Life Stressors has knocked nearly constantly at my door. And they aren't really polite about waiting to see if i want them to hang around!

During this time, i have prayed, begged, wept, screeched, sat in stony silence, and lost myself to hysteria too many times to count over the drama that has become my life. I have enlisted many prayer warriors for many situations beyond my faculties, and i have cried in the front row (with friends) and the back row (alone) of my church. Winter has become my New Normal, and i'm not talking about the weather.

So, this past week, yet more drama came to call. And it was followed closely by... yep, you guessed it, more drama. Gah! I was pretty sure i had been hit by more than i could handle, i got pretty depressed, and when i thought i couldn't take any more of it, God reminded me that i was not alone and that He would get me through all of it.

I spent a few days with Him between messes and He spoke confidently and sternly to my heart. I realized that as much as i have leaned on others this past year and a half, i really only need God. I am tired of whining, tired of complaining, tired of sounding like a broken record. Things aren't really changing, at least not fast enough for my liking and not in any direction i want them to go!

So... i am going to stop focusing on the things that are a mess and start turning toward the parts of my life that i can do something about. The parts that satisfy my soul, soothe my spirit, calm my mind, and bring me joy.

I'm going to walk into the Fun House and play with Smoke and Mirrors. That junk the devil wants to throw at me? Yeah, it's not really there. It doesn't own me. It can't control my day or my mood or my reactions. That mess the world keeps creating around me? Can't see it anymore for all the Smoke from my praise music and gluten-free flour puffs and watercolor paints. All of the tough stuff that has become part of my daily living? It's impossible to see in a room of Mirrors that reflect my service to the Lord and my love for others.

I'm lifting up my head, turning from the negativity that tries to bring me down, and walking in the light. Just a tiny amount of light casts out the deepest darkness! And i know i am not anywhere close to "the deepest darkness" life has to torment us with, so i know i'll be okay.

Sometimes, the best way to handle the hard stuff of life is to play games with yourself. I'm not beyond tricking myself into discovering joy. :)