Monthly Archives: August 2014

What’s Your Pleasure?


One of the joys in my life is my book club. We meet tonight, and I am very excited to see my friends, have a nice dinner together, and talk about our latest reads. We weren’t able to meet in July due to crazy schedules, so this is our first gathering since June, and there is much to discuss. Our latest reads were a couple of intense tales. More on that later…

Reading has become a real blessing to me in recent years. I literally read only two or three books while growing up. I was able to read well aloud, but, when I read silently, I rarely maintained focus long enough to retain what I read. A really good listener and a great note-taker, I did fine in high school and college. (I still can’t be in any type of meeting without taking a note.) All this is super ironic since I write now and always found school writing assignments easy.

I’ve always had romantic thoughts about reading, admired avid readers, and craved to be a reader. And, one day I did. My friend suggested that she and I start a book club; she was already in one. We did so, and we have been meeting for nearly five years now. We have a great time together, and I love being able to discuss - Book Photo - 8-29-14

We need hobbies and time with friends. Whether you scrapbook or run, do crafts or read, it is good for the soul to do those things alongside friends. I encourage you to find something in your life that makes you think or inspires you, and then connect with others who have the same love. Gardening, decorating, traveling, geneology – the world is full of fun, interesting things to do. Depending on your stage of life, this may be only one monthly meeting, but that little bit of time can be really meaningful.

So, I thought I would share with you some of my favorites (or those we found most interesting):

From a variety of genres…

“Devil in the White City” – Erik Larson     (Lots of facts, not an “easy” read; good history.)

“1,000 White Women” – Jim Fergus          (Interesting concept; fun characters.)

“Eat, Pray, Love” – Elizabeth Gilbert          (Made for good debate; I’ll leave it at that.)

“The Kommandant’s Girl” – Pam Jenoff    (Good suspense story from WW II.)

“Big Stone Gap” – Adriana Trigiani             (Light, sweet read; good after Larson’s above.)

“Year of Wonders” – Geraldine Brooks       (Story about the big plaques in Europe.)

“The Silver Star” by Jeanette Walls              (We’ve read three of hers; she’s good.)

“One Summer – America 1927” – Bill Bryson           (Lots of detail about the time; not a novel.)

“The House on Tradd Street” –  Karen White            (Haunted house in the south; fun.)

“The Gargoyle” – Andrew Davidson                            (A good one to discuss; wild beginning.)

So, what is your hobby? How do you rejuvenate? Share your activity or a favorite book with us!

Enjoy the Weekend!




Will Ferguson Be One of Those?


Engagements, wedding days, births and deaths, simple holidays somehow turned extraordinary, “firsts” in our lives – these are the things from our personal lives that we each hold dear and remember most over the years. This combination of events is unique to each one of us, and it holds the stories of our lives.

And, there are those events that we all as a culture, a country, a body of citizens in this time period share in our collective memories. Those are the happenings and dates that resonate and are remembered by all of us who live in the same general time and place.

Of the later sort, here are some events I remember best (or worst) …

As a young teen in the back seat of my parents car (likely the silver 1970’s Chevy Impala), I remember them lamenting the untimely passing of Elvis. What a talent, what a waste. We’d been on a little road trip during the summer week of his death. Here’s a link:

It was a cold day in Kirksville, Missouri. My senior year of college, and I remember being burned-out, restless, and sad before I watched with the world as the Space Shuttle Challenger repeatedly exploded in the sky. A cold day indeed:

Although I don’t remember the moment I learned of Princess Diana’s tragic death, I do clearly remember the time and year it happened. Only a couple of weeks after my son’s birth, Lady Di was killed in a car accident. I think many were touched by her. Though her life was so very different, there was something relatable and sympathetic about her:,_Princess_of_Wales

One never knows what a day will bring. I was a second-year counselor at Francis Howell High School in St. Charles, MO at the time, and, we were busy in our offices when the news about Columbine came. What a devastating day! Though, it wasn’t really, it seemed like the first of multiple school shootings that have taken place since then:

I watched Katie and Matt live the day the towers fell. I‘d left my job to be home with kids for a while. One was playing on the deck, one was waiting in Guatemala to come home, and I was sorting pictures in front of the TV, my broken foot in a boot. And, it was very likely the most terrifying day in U.S. history:

So, in our personal lives we have vivid memories of both the heartbreaking and heart-warming events we experience. We find wild laughter and uncontrolled tears in the scrapbook pages of our minds.


In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord,

make me dwell in safety. (Psalm 4:8 NIV).





Why, then, do the memories of our communities, country and citizenship seem to be so overwhelmingly sad? Why are those shared memories most often of the evil acts and painful days within our world?

I suppose the answer exists within the media. We can blame a lot of stuff on them, right? These horrific happenings are what we learn about first, what we see replayed repeatedly on our computer and television screens. I am making an observation as much as a judgment about this. But, one does have to ask, how would our culture be different if the positive and righteous events in our history were as clear and vivid in our memories?

A more loyal and proud citizenship? A more peaceful world? Less depression, more joy?

Will Ferguson be one of these events for our children?

(By the way, for those readers that are not local, Ferguson is less than an hour from my home. So, the rioting and violence taking place in that community right now is quite real for those of us in this part of the country.)

What days in history live large in your consciousness? Share your thoughts with us.

Have a Thoughtful Thursday!


Building Grade-A Communications with Your Child’s Teacher(s)


My kids are now starting the 7th and 11th grades of school. I have spent many hours at the kitchen table helping with homework, had many conversations with teachers over the years, and imparted much wisdom to my kids (whether they consider it so or not) on the topics of time-management, doing our best, hard work and more. Today, I am sharing with you some suggestions for setting the year right with your child’s teacher or teachers. I have observed these things as a teacher, counselor and parent, and I hope they will help you during this school year, too!

blog - Communications - August '14

I am posting the only first-day photo I could find. My girl looks ready to go with her backpack on and coordinated outfit (this was preschool for her). However, as usual, she has drool down her front. She was such a slobbery little thing. Notice, too, that my big boy has enjoyed his buttery biscuits. He ALWAYS eats breakfast. The greasy marks all over her shirt are the evidence. I sure hope I made him change. Honestly, though, I probably didn’t even notice that day!


Perhaps one of the most often heard complaints of parents about teachers is that there is a lack of communication. Parents don’t like to be surprised by a grade at the quarter’s end, nor do we want to hear about “continued” or “ongoing” behavior or academic issues for the first time.

Teachers typically appreciate parents who are communicative and cooperative when it comes to their child, but being available may sometimes be a challenge for them. That’s particularly true when kids reach the secondary level and teachers may be seeing 200+ students in a given semester.

How can parents keep informed about what’s going on with their child and make the task more manageable for teachers? Here are seven ways to stay on top of the latest news.

1)  Be Available for Open House and Conferences

Nearly every school schedules an evening at the start of the year where parents can visit their children’s classes and teachers. Open houses are opportunities to learn what will be expected and have face-to-face introductions with teachers. There are also conferences a little further into the year, during which parents get an update on their children’s progress. Schedule around these events, and plan to attend. These evenings are scheduled for parents’ convenience and for the purpose of communicating information; schools appreciate those who attend.

2)  Train Your Child to Advocate for Himself

Begin teaching your child to communicate with his teacher by the time he reaches second or third grade. Even young children should be able to ask simple questions about homework or field trips. As he grows, encourage him to speak personally with his teacher about improving his grade or making an appointment for extra help. Children need to learn the skills to effectively communicate most concerns themselves. Then, parents step in on more serious concerns.

3)  Utilize E-Mail, if Available

Teachers have plan periods for making private calls, but many times e-mail is the preferred method of communication for them. Teachers are able to e-mail from their desks during short intervals of time in the day. Making contact via the phone is often hard to accomplish. Unless a conversation is required, use e-mail for faster feedback. Allow teachers a 24-hour turnaround time. Your question may require some research or calculating, so give the teacher time to prepare a complete and accurate response.

4)  Provide Prompts for Obtaining Routine Updates

Some students have IEP’s (Individualized Education Plan/Program) or 504 Plans because of diagnosed learning disabilities or medical diagnoses that mandate additional accommodations for their success. If your child has such a plan and you are getting weekly or monthly updates on her progress, e-mail a reminder to her teacher that it is time for that report. This will help you get the feedback needed in a timely manner without a lot of frustration.

5)  Check out School Resources

Make it a habit to read newsletters that come home from school, and review the local newspaper to stay current on what’s going on within the school district and specific buildings. There are many resources that are available to parents, ranging from events organized by elementary parent groups to college fairs held at the high school level. Stop by the school’s guidance office and find out what’s available there. You’ll likely find materials about school clubs and activities, tutoring resources, and scheduling and scholarship information. Ask your child about daily announcements, and advise him to stay tuned in for the latest as well.

6)  Make Communications Pleasant

Teachers are human, too, and they may avoid making calls or communicating with unpleasant parents. While these issues can be serious to discuss, we can strive to be positive in our conversations. Ask how you can help the teacher or child as they work toward the desired goal. Provide your insights about your child, and be willing to hear the observations of the teacher, too. Be specific about your desires where your child is concerned, but resist a defensive tone. She will be more successful if you and her teacher are working together as a team on her behalf.

7)  Moving Through the Channels

If you’ve received no response or unsatisfactory feedback from your child’s teacher, contact his counselor. The counselor will act as a liason between you and the teacher to provide the information needed. It may be necessary to involve a principal or arrange a meeting during this process, and the counselor can facilitate that for you. If a specific teacher is a poor or negligent communicator, the counselor will already know this and be able to help with the problem.

I hope it will be a great year for my teacher friends and their students! 

Keep Smiling!



Travel Isn’t Just for Summer!


For most families, the trips to the Florida beaches, the excursions out west, and the big-city sight-seeing adventures are behind them for the summer and for 2014. For most, school begins this week and this year’s vacation season comes to an end.

It’s a sad thing – the close of the season of fun.

Except, consider this… Fall is a beautiful time of the year. And, there is something really nice about a little getaway tucked into the middle of a busy semester of school. Plus, there are often a few three-day weekends for students when teachers gather together for meetings and professional development. Perhaps, a short trip locally would be just the ticket during this season.

With that in mind, I’ve listed five reasonably close destinations for you and your family to visit.

1)  The Amana Colonies in Iowa are roughly 4.5 hours from St. Louis. A group of seven villages established by a German religious group, a visit to the Amana Colonies is a lesson in history and culture, where you’ll find interesting shops, artisans and fine restaurants. Tours and activities are offered for guests. Learn more about the Amana Colonies at:

2)  St. Joseph, Missouri describes itself as the place where the Pony Express began, and the town where Jesse James died. A weekend there will be full if you only visit those two locales, but there is much more to see and do. Kids will love the interactive displays at the Pony Express National Museum; adults will enjoy hearing about the life and death of Jesse James. Find about all there is to see at:

3)  Springfield, Missouri is more often a town we travel through on our way to Branson rather than a destination itself. However, it offers a lot to do as well. Rich in Civil War history, it’s also a great place to enjoy a baseball game. The Springfield Cardinals games are affordable and fun – the baseball experience at a fraction of the price. See lots more to do at:

4)  Galena, IL is a lovely town where Ulysses S. Grant lived part of his life. In fact, a great many Civil War leaders that were raised in Galena, which was a busy and bustling city at one time. There is architecture and an historic hotel, along with wineries and shopping. It’s a beautiful town. Check it out at:

5)  Carthage, MO, like others above, has history and shopping, bed-and-breakfast lodging and architectural tours. What’s unique to Carthage is the Precious Moments Chapel and Gardens. You don’t have to be a fan of the figurines to find this FREE stop, which may take a few hours, inspirational and restorative. Plan your visit to Carthage at:

In the next few weeks, I will suggest more ideas for some fun family travels. In the meantime, please check out my pinterest ( page for photos of these and other great places to visit. And, if you would, share with us some of your discoveries.

Learning and laughing, seeing and sharing, being with friends and loved ones – these are the things that make life special!

Enjoy the Weekend!