Category Archives: Tips and Tidbits

Is Having a High-Tech Phone Really So Smart?


I’m due for an upgrade. Not for my car, house, husband, or any body part – although a couple of those might be nice. No, it’s time for a new phone. I’ve reached the contracted period on my current perfectly-good flip phone, and I am eligible for one with all the latest features.

Soon I will make the brain-blowing trip to the cell phone store and try to decipher the choices and costs, hopefully, emerging hours later with the latest and greatest. At which point, I hope all my flip-phone-hating loved ones and friends will stop abusing me. Taunts about the 21st century, cackles at my fine fuchsia phone, the badgering about texting. It’s all grown very old, even though my communication device still does just

The peer pressure concerning texting has become more than I can bear. Everyone wants me to be able to text. Resisting alcohol at a college fraternity party wasn’t this difficult. The shame of having to remind folks “I don’t get texts” has become too great. Though quite frankly, I really feel no shame about it at all, except for the apparent inconvenience it causes others.

My first degree is in business, so after several years in retail and getting married, I returned to school for a teaching certificate. I taught keyboarding, marketing, and Introduction to Business before becoming a high school guidance counselor. In my mind, typing is an important skill, but like so many others, it is becoming a lost art. Gone for the masses the way of Shorthand, sewing and canning. My son is a terrible typist. It’s hard to type 60 words per minute using only one stupid little finger. It makes me sad.

Before those years of teaching, I worked at a now closed big-box discount store. I managed the safety, security and shortage functions for the store, so I was required to carry a pager (aka beeper), which is one of the reasons I decided to become a teacher. It was a pain to be “on call” when not at work. So, here’s my question … Why in the world do I want to subject myself to a constant state of on callness?blog-ht phone1

I don’t get it. Folks have become slaves to their devices. I’ll grant you there are benefits to having the tools available at one’s fingertips, but, like so many other things in life, I think we have gotten completely carried away. Do we want every other activity in our lives to be interrupted by the demanding communication diva that incessantly buzzes, rattles and rings in our hands? One friend has a ring-tone representative of a bleating goat. I wish a goat would eat all the silly things.

The rebellious side of me (thin, though it may be) wants to resist the upgrade altogether and stick with my sweet little pink phone. There when I need her, able to let me know about the most important of alerts, and silent regarding the rest of the data that funnels into my e-mail and social media pages at a frenetic pace. I’ll check that when I get to it.

Alas, I will upgrade. I will get texting and maybe a few other “critical” options, but don’t expect me to like it!

Keep Smiling!



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!



Fair Season ’14


It’s fair week in Lincoln County, Missouri! And, I am on a bit of a fair “high,” so in that spirit, I wanted to share two things with you today.

First, one of my children’s favblog - Fair - July 8, 14orite picture books when they were little was a book called “A Hog Call to End All.” The book, written by Suann Kiser and illustrated by John Steven Gurney, is a bit of an anthem to county fairs.

The county fair is underway and going well when a hog-calling contest bring about chaos at the fairgrounds. It’s a fun read!

You may check it out on Amazon:

Secondly, after enjoying the first day of the fair, I thought I’d write my own rhyme about all the things you might find at the Lincoln County Fair and many others within the state and country. Thanks to all those who planned and prepared over the past year to bring about a fun week for all! Enjoy!


Months before …

Houses and troughs, cages and pens,

Hogs and steers, rabbits and hens.

Animals secured, cared for and fed,

Immunized, fattened, some, hopefully, bred.

Meetings attended, projects begun,

Wednesday-night work nights over and done.

Woodworking, welding, gardening and more,

Sewing, breads, crafts, and choices galore.

The week before…

4-H floats are built, painted and dressed,

Exhibits completed to fully impress.

Ladies rehearse for Saturday’s show,

Sharing talents and smiles with royal-queen glow.

Parade day…

The day heats up as excitement grows,

Who will be in the procession nobody knows.

Flags, horses and tractors, politicians and bands,

Candy and sirens, waves and shaking of hands.

Fair time…

There is much to learn with each fair-week surprise,

“Bantam” and “pullet” are poultry words, I surmise.

Rabbits must be “balanced” within each baby meat pen,

A trio of 4-pounders might just score a ten.

The rides are thrilling and the games are a hoot,

Especially, if you’re not set on winning much loot.

The menu’s new nightly with meat, veggies and spuds,

And, you need not wear your fancy eatin’ out duds.

Music and entertainment sprinkles the grounds,

Machinery fills the air with smoke and loud sounds.

Pickler, palm readers, derbies and dirt bikes,

Joust, jump, repel, or bounce, if you like.

The big sale is exciting for entrepreneurial youth,

Who can make more money than with any lost tooth.

Though the night might go late, the sale barn stays filled,

With supportive folks ready to pull out those big bills.

The horses are groomed for nightly events,

To entertain those folks with equestrian bents.

Costumes for riders and their trusty steeds,

And hopes they won’t exceed dangerous speeds.

When fair week concludes, it’s time for a rest,

For the fair board and workers who’ve all done their best.

You’ve planned a fun week for the county and guests,

So, thanks for your efforts, by them we are blessed.


“Raised on Country Sunshine” is a sweet song, and it happens to be the theme of the Lincoln County Fair 2014. County fairs and similar events give kids an opportunity to be part of something that is good and pure. They achieve success, build confidence, have fun and learn. I hope the fairs across the country are safe and successful ones. Now, what is your fair’s theme? 

Keep Smiling!



Home Styles and Talking Trials


What is your decorating style? A quick online search reveals a wide range of styles that exist in the home decorating world. There is Victorian, art deco, contemporary, country French, arts and crafts, southwestern, industrial, coastal, modern midcentury, Asian, Hollywood regency, traditional and more.

When I decided to redecorate my kitchen recently, I didn’t really have a name for what I wanted, but I had a picture in my head. Sometimes, the picture in your head is hard to communicate out of your mouth.

My kitchen had been completely painted – orange. The dated vinyl flooring, revealing every speck of dirt in its whitish pinpoint pattern, was taken up and replaced with neutral ceramic-looking tiles. And, we had replaced our country light fixture with a warm one that had a sort of Spanish feel, I thought. That’s where my work had ceased. The walls were bare. So, I called in help from my friend, “J.” We’ll call her “J” for this article.

J is a pretty good decorator. The book club members all agree. When I told her I wanted to make a spur-of-the-moment trip to look for kitchen décor, she was all in. First, though, she came to see where I stood and what we needed to be looking for.

She walked in and got busy assessing the walls, shapes and colors she would be working with. I showed her some towels and a decorative plate I wanted to utilize. And, her creative juices were flowing as a vision came into place for her… some metal work here, a piece of art there, a grouping, a new non-country foyer bench, different kitchen window blinds (we had just bought new blinds), some pottery.

J: “So, you’re kinda going for Arizona.”

H: “Yeah, I think that’s the idea (sounds about right).”

And, off to the resale shops we went.

Now, I am not snooty, but resale stores don’t work well for me. I just can’t see the potential. I lack that particular skill. However, once there, J found a lovely bowl for my table.

H: “That’s good. I could put some colored balls (orbs) in it.”

J: “No, honey. Not colored. Brown.”

I found another bowl, smaller and multi-colored, for a shelf and took it to J for her thoughts. She appeared befuddled.

J: “You can’t use this bowl with that other one.”

H: “Oh.”

J: “We’re not on the same page, here.”

H: “Okay, so think Mexican restaurant.”

While I am not bold in my own personal style, I like color in my home. My website background was chosen, because it makes me think of Guatemala (Mayan), where my girl was born.

J: “Ohhhh, I got it. Let’s put this other one back. I’m with you now.”

J, though I strongly suspect is not really down with the Mexican restaurant style of kitchen decorating, shifted gears and proceeded to help me search for the things that would work right for me. (The proper name may be “Hacienda” style. Then, again, that may be something altogether diffeBlog - Home Decor Gift - 5-13-14rent.)

Sometimes, we don’t communicate well, even with those who know us well. We may think others fully “get” what we’re saying, and yet the message is unclear. This may not be as critical in matters of home décor, but it sure is when we are talking about big issues.

When we are expressing and demonstrating our expectations to our children, we better be clear. When we talk to them about right and wrong, morality and Godliness, we must not be vague. And, when we seek to share our faith and the story of salvation with those who may not know, we need to be completely understood.

Today’s drawing prize (pictured here) was put together personally by All About Home owner, Lori Akins. Located on Main Street in Troy, MO, All About Home has a beautiful collection of home décor items. And, the building itself a lot of history. That may be the subject of a future post!

Reminder: Make a comment on today’s Bloom, Bond & Build post and/or choose to subscribe to my blog, and you will be entered up to two times for today’s drawing. Good Luck!

Keep Smiling!




No Controversy in Diversity


Divergent is the new movie that everyone is buzzing about, and I, along with four middle school girls, saw it over the weekend. Based on the book by Veronica Roth, the movie tells the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior who is in danger, along with a few others like her, who possess a unique collection of attributes. The government is much more comfortable with those who fit into one category only.

Those “factions” in the movie are as follows:

“Abnegation” – They are the selfless, the civil servants, the humble; they sacrifice for others.

“Amity” – These are the peace-lovers. They grow the food and seek - divergent -

“Candor” – This group seeks honesty and truth above all else; they administer the justice system.

“Dauntless” – Fearless and daring, these are the military and law enforcement officers.

“Erudite” – The most intelligent of society belong to this group of thinkers and creators.

It’s an interesting premise for a movie, and I expect most viewers can’t resist wondering where they would fit in this imaginary society. Personally, I would fall in “Candor” with lesser inclinations toward “Abnegation” and “Amity.” However, my prideful self would like to think I approach “Erudite,” but my “Candor” self recognizes I am anything but “Dauntless.”

Divergent is entertaining and thought-provoking, and it addresses the message of conformity. From a secular view, movie-goers are encouraged to explore and appreciate all their talents and gifts, even when those around them may not value their uniqueness and diversity.

Aren’t we fortunate to live in a culture where each of us can express our talents and gifts freely, and aren’t we blessed that God has given each of us a wonderfully unique set of them!

“We all have different gifts. Each gift came because of the grace God gave us. Whoever has the gift of prophecy should use that gift in a way that fits the kind of faith they have. Whoever has the gift of serving should serve. Whoever has the gift of teaching should teach.” (Romans 12:6-7 ERV).

What did you think of Divergent? If you had to fit into a faction, which one would it be?

Keep Smiling!



Social or Psycho?


Have you been playing the games popping up on social media? One involved participants listing a specified number of interesting facts about themselves, and, in turn, each responder was given a number so that they could carry on by giving their own list. More recently, I played the door game. By selecting the door which appeals to you most—the one you would like to step through—you reveal something about your personality. That was fun. Another helped readers determine which Disney character or royal princess (or prince) they most resemble.

These are entertaining things to try and to share with others. We gain insight into the way we think and behave. I love that stuff. During my counseling classes, I took and gave lots of personality, attitude, aptitude and IQ tests. Back in the day, I enjoyed reading the personality profiles connected with each of the zodiac signs… not so much now. Many of us enjoy learning more about ourselves and others, primarily because it helps to create connections.

However, let’s keep in mind those connections made in the virtual world aren’t the same as those in the real world; they aren’t as good. I think of the conversations we have online as disposable. They aren’t retained as long nor are they as meaningful as those we have face-to-face.

Few things feel as warm as hugs shared with church family on Sundays and Wednesdays. Quickly-typed phrases don’t resonate in the ears like carefully-chosen spoken words to a friend in times of sorrow. And, spontaneous smiles cannot be replicated by any emoticon that’s available to us online.

Don’t misunderstand me, please. I think the social media tools available to us today are wonderful resources for connecting (at a certain level) with people all over the world. The applications are great, both personally and professionally, and the world is better because of these tools. But with all things, it is wise to practice moderation in our use of these.psycho - blog

So, in my most Jeff Foxworthy-like voice, let me summarize this way:

If you pee your panties, because you just can’t leave the hilarious banter on FB …

If you forget to pick up your kids, because the old-lady-dancing videos have you spellbound …

If you forget to eat…

Wait; if you forget to eat, you’re really a loon. If the other things apply, you may be slightly crazy and find a diagnosis in the DSM-5 that pertains to you.

In truth, though, if your computer time is cutting into your real-life connection time, maybe it is time to re-evaluate. For few things mean as much as a caring and unrushed phone call, a hand-written note, a pat on the shoulder, or a well-timed gesture of kindness.

Keep smiling!