Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Is Your Main Man Part Minion? 10 Ways You Can Tell

My husband is a very good sport.  He loved these two pages I colored for him so much
they are now taped up on the wall.  He also humored me by posing for these pics.  

My husband whose real name is Kevin loves the minions. I’m convinced that is the case, in part, because he kind of is one.    

10 Ways You Can Tell If Your Main Man Is Part Minion:

1. He should not be left unsupervised for long periods of time.

2. He can be quite cute and endearing. 

3. He loves bananas.

4. He is still disproportionately entertained by scatological humor.

5. He often wears black and blue.

6. He found both Despicable Me movies to be wildly entertaining. 

7. He has the same name as one of the minions.

8. He’s not above playing practical jokes.      

9. He can be rather mischievous.

10. He exhibits very single-minded focus.

Do these describe your main man?  They're all true of mine.  If your guy is part minion, I hope you have a wonderful sense of humor and can appreciate the silliness he adds to your life.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Risen Movie Review, Reflection, and Virtual Blog Tour

Risen is the greatest detective story ever told.  Political unrest, religious disagreements, torture, multiple motives, unusual suspects, layers of lies, covert operations, betrayal, a crime scene investigation, unreliable witnesses, and implausible implications create quite the unsolved mystery.  Only this time they’re not looking for the murderer.  Everyone knows who did it.  The how, where, and when were public knowledge.  They’re looking for the missing body.   

Pontius Pilot charges his tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) with preventing an uprising in Jerusalem.  The followers of Joshua claim that he will rise again, so the Roman soldiers take several precautions to ensure that his brutally beaten body won’t be stolen from the tomb.   We all know how well that goes.

Though a well-trained killer, Clavius possesses two weapons far more dangerous than his sword: his disbelief and hardness of heart.  In time, the hunter becomes one of the hunted.  The non-believer can’t reconcile that he saw a man who was dead, then he later saw that very same man alive again, talking, eating, and healing the sick.  The obvious, tangible presence of the person Clavius had watched expire on the cross completely unnerved him.  He was in full armor, but the man before him still managed to pierce his heart.  

This film is a form of evangelization and historical fiction that raises some of the big questions about life and death:

To whom do you answer?  To whose summons do you respond to immediately?   Whose word do you believe?  Who determines your call and purpose in life?  Can you believe, trust, and remember what you see, hear, experience, touch, taste, and smell?  Are you more concerned about what the truth is about or what other people think?  How does what you believe reflect on you?  How does it become evident through your words and actions?

A genuine encounter with Jesus Christ always transforms people. 

Are the events in the film, their sequential order, and the characters in the movie 100% Biblically accurate? No.  Do they create a thought-provoking look at what life might have been like at that time while weaving in some facts we do know about the Resurrection?  Absolutely! 

This is a movie that believers and nonbelievers alike can enjoy.  Though once you've experienced it firsthand, there's no going back.

To pre-order your own copy of Risen which is being released May 24, 2016, click here.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Handmade, Homemade Art Appreciation

I've always enjoyed doing arts and crafts a great deal.  Growing up, my mom, sisters, and I were forever doing various projects.  We had all sorts of supplies to make friendship bracelets, beaded jewelry, weave potholders, knit, cross-stitch, draw, color pictures, and paint. My mom assured we had an extensive assortment of creative options.  She joined us in exploring with many different materials, media, and came up with many original ideas for cool kids' projects.

I'm still excited and inspired to have bright colored pencils and markers, different hues and textures of paper, paint, intricate designs to color...  When really little, my mom called me "the paper monster."  Here's the story behind that nickname and what began my passion for paper.

Sometimes it has felt a little safer for me to work on a piece of art than it has for me to write, especially when I'm still processing something that's hit me on a visceral level.

After training myself to write whatever comes to mind in my journal as a way of processing my thoughts and feelings without filtering them, it feels a bit harrowing, potentially dangerous to write without holding anything back. At times, creating a piece of art seems a little less revealing, raw, or intimidating to me than some of my writing can be.

I have continued my love of arts and crafts by dabbling in drawing, coloring, painting, jewelry-making, scrapbooking, and such well into adulthood. Photography continues to be one of my major passions.

Over the past few years, when I have felt my thoughts or emotions are still too raw to put into words, I have turned to art as my expression and way of processing.  Many of the art projects I did just for fun, because I felt inspired to create something.

When my new youngest sister arrived on the scene last month and was getting settled, she mentioned that she'd like to decorate her bedroom walls.  Since I had a box of artwork at our place that I had done but hadn't hung, I brought it over in case there was anything in there that might be of interest to her.  I had done a few pieces with pink in them, which I know is her favorite color, so I thought she might like one or two of those.

She was quite thrilled going through the box and surprised that I had done all of the different pieces.  I was trying to explain that she was welcome to take whatever she liked, but I wasn't positive she understood after she looked through many items then put everything back in the box.

Within a week or two, my mom told me I should really come over and see what my new sister had done to her room.  I gathered from that she had chosen some of the artwork I'd brought over to put up.

I was amazed when I walked into her bedroom and saw the walls covered with art projects I had done over the past few years.  It made me feel very loved and appreciated that she was so excited to put the artwork I'd made up in her room.

After years of spending hours, days, sometimes even months creating handmade, homemade gifts for people only to discover shortly after that some of them have been discarded or relegated to some dusty box in the basement, I felt really encouraged that artwork I had done for the sheer joy of creating long before I met my youngest sister or even knew my mom would become a foster parent has spoken to her and been instrumental in making the room her own.

Every single piece of artwork I brought over is now hanging up somewhere in her room.  I see this as the adult version of having your report card or latest project up on the fridge.  Some day I may have my artwork, most likely my photography in an exhibit, but for now, this has warmed my heart and made me feel appreciated.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kevin's Got Class: Put the Legos Down and Slowly Back Away

This is the town that Kevin and two of his comrades made
to fulfill the in-class assignment they were given earlier this week. 
(Lego supply was limited. See below.)

Kevin and his classmates were asked to get into teams of three and create a green city with housing for 2000 people, a hospital, fire and police stations, shopping center, waste management facility, public transportation, schools, and at least one green area such as a park. 

The materials provided were flat 3’x 3’cardboard pieces with plain white paper to draw on, markers, Legos, and wood blocks for construction materials.  There was only one container about the size of a cinderblock filled with Legos to share among 5 teams.  

My husband’s team was on a roll building things left and right.  They were quickly running out of the Legos they needed for the project. Kevin took it upon himself to go “shopping” from the other teams. His problem-solving technique met with great resistance.

“Don’t make me steal them from you,” Kevin said to the first group he came to that denied his request. “You probably don’t even have a police station, yet.”

“Our police station is right there,” his classmate said, pointing to it.  “And there’s the jail.” 

“Look!” Kevin said, eyeing the petit prison.  “There I am in the window!”

Everyone cracked up.

Apparently good times were had in their sustainability and design class this week. 

Next week the winning team will receive a dozen Sugar Shack donuts.  This announcement met with great excitement and a little smack talk.

“Our team will enjoy them thoroughly,” Kevin boasted.  “But your water looks mighty tasty.”

My husband has gone from skipping class, avoiding all reading and homework assignments, and not studying in high school to the head of his class, the resident comedian, and the model student asked to help others.  Who knew?  

Nothing is impossible with God!  My husband Kevin is currently attending ITT for a degree in Drafting and Design.  He has class three nights a week from now until he graduates in September 2017, and so far he's aced everything and has been chosen by his teachers to mentor those who have fallen behind.  

Please keep us in your prayers as we discern how and where God would like Kevin to use the abilities he is learning and honing at present and in the future.    

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jazz Girl a novel of Mary Lou Williams and her early life by Sarah Bruce Kelly

The spirit of the woman and her music played on my emotions and tugged at my heartstrings.  A testimony to the power of music and the gift of a passion for it early in life are woven into this novel about a girl born and brought up to jazz.  

As a toddler, Mary sat on her mama’s lap while she played the church organ, and that’s where she got her start at the ripe age of three.  With more than her fair share of setbacks, she keeps moving forward, transforming each loss into the fuel for her rhythm and blues. 

I didn’t know a great deal about the life of the real Mary Lou Williams, but I could easily relate and empathize with the mostly innocent and childish, yet deeply sensitive viewpoint of the main character as she may have been before coming of age. 

The pain of prejudice, damage of alcohol abuse, and the heavy weight of mourning the loss of loved ones were palpable.  I could almost feel what the music would sound like that she’d “conjure up” at different times under the influence of powerful emotions that she knew no other way to express or process. 

The notion of an artist being compelled to express herself through her craft comes out loud and clear.  All of the drama and heartache at home and school are jazz juice for her fast fingers and singing soul. 

Once I finished reading Jazz Girl, I began watching videos on YouTube of Mary Lou Williams playing the piano, talking about how she got started at a very young age the same way described in the novel. 

I’m fascinated to learn more about Mary Lou Williams and hear about what inspired the author to write this novel.  Fortunately, I’m good friends with the author’s best friend, so that shouldn’t be too hard to arrange.

I’m grateful to my Cursillo friend and co-worker Becky for loaning me her signed copy of the book last week.  What perfect timing!  I only wish I had known that Sarah Bruce Kelly was coming to town to speak, so I could have gone to that as well.  (She says she'll let me know the next time she's in our area giving a talk.)

To me, good historical fiction reads like an intriguing story while creating a curiosity in the reader to do more research to figure out the fact from the fiction.  Jazz Girl has certainly made me eager to learn more about this music legend’s legacy and her biography.

For more information about Jazz Girl or to order your own copy, click here. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Soundtrack to My Life: Your Positive Encouraging Radio (PER)

This awesome radio station which is available online to stream live has been the soundtrack to my life for the past few months since I "happened upon" Your Positive Encouraging Radio.

Many of the song lyrics on this Christian radio station have resonated so much they have brought me to tears. Others have gotten me to turn up the radio and sing my heart out. 

A few of my fave songs/music videos are below:

Lauren Daigle "Trust in You"

This is the graphic I was inspired to create with the photo of the sunrise I took looking over Lake Ontario several years ago.  It was actually the day after Kevin and I first admitted out loud we had feelings for each other.  We had stayed up all night talking on the cottage deck. (I was still in high school and Kevin significantly beyond that part of his life, so we never ever thought we'd have a chance to be a couple.)  I paired that memorable sunrise I saw the next morning (super-early since I couldn't sleep at all that night) with these lyrics.

Matthew West "Grace Wins"

Stars Go Dim "You Are Loved"

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Nature Walk Leads to Artistic Exploration: God's Love Is Always in Blossom

I went for a walk in our neighborhood one afternoon, and when I saw the seed pods all over the ground, I thought about how they look like the wings of fairies .

I picked up several seed pods along with a blossom or two that had fallen on the sidewalk. When I got home I started playing with the seed pods, and skinny brown fronds from a branch, and then I thought to cut a little dress out of the paint samples I have on my art shelf.

The fairy dancing photo in the center of the above graphic is one I took.  I only had one pink Dogwood blossom still intact by the time I returned home, so I photographed it with the fairy, cropped, copied, and pasted it to look like she was surrounded by them.  

The graphic I made from it is a reminder that God's love is always in season and full bloom.  Several years ago when my mom still lived in the house she had, I framed a group of flower photos I had taken and wrote a similar quote to go with them.  I hung the whole display in the kitchen, where it stayed until it was time to put the house on the market.  

Love can be honoring and appreciating nature, art, and the things people spend time and energy to do or make to express their affection for us.

For a fun nature-inspired art project you can do with children, click here.  

Lord, thank You for the beauty of nature and the opportunity to be creative with and in it.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Top 12 Signs It Might Be Time to Find a New Child Care Provider

I’ve learned a great deal about child care over the past 20+ years of experience babysitting, nannying, teaching, tutoring, mentoring, and helping to nurture, raise, and teach newborns through teens.  

Five of these are fun and meant to be outrageous.  Seven are dead serious signs that child safety is not a primary priority at a child care facility or school.  Do these sound familiar?  If so, your kids and you deserve better!

Your child has been taken on an unannounced field trip out of the country without your knowledge or permission.

The ABCs learned in your child’s class are: A is for Assault, B is for Battery and Bullying, and C is for Crying and Complaining.

A full-page ad and coupon for The Nit Fairies were in your parent orientation packet. 

Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be tempted to come get some of the dagger-length pieces of mulch on your playground when she’s running low on wooden stakes.

The Department of Social Services (DSS) inspector for your daycare has been onsite so many times in the past six months investigating violations and complaints that they’re forcing you to give her an office at your location.

Children under the age of ten are regularly allowed to hang out in places where they are not within sight and sound of an adult.

A number of teachers and assistants who have worked at a particular company and/or at a specific location from anywhere between two years to fifty or more leave in the middle of the school year.

There’s at least one new teacher you’ve never met or heard of with your child every week while another one has mysteriously disappeared never to be seen again.

No list of children with life-threatening allergies and the medicine they take in case of emergency is posted or readily available.

There is a list of those with life-threatening allergies, but the person on staff who is driving regularly forgets to bring your child’s Epi-pen/inhaler on each off-site bus run or field trip.

A new hire whose background check hasn't been returned yet is left alone with children of any age in a classroom, outside, on a school bus, or in any place where the adult and people in her care are not visible to a current faculty member with approved background screening.  

And the # 
sign it might be time to find a new childcare provider…

Not a single one of the teachers/staff members onsite when you drop off or pick up can correctly identify ALL of the following: 
A. your child by appearance 

B. his/her full name 

C. any life-threatening allergies and medications he/she has on-hand 

D. The appearance and/or first and last name of a parent or another approved pick-up person.

Do you know the most important questions to ask when interviewing a person whom you’re considering leaving alone with your children for hours at a time? 
If not, you're not alone.  Most parents don't know all the pertinent things to ask and look for when selecting the right child care scenario for their family.  Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you. 

Check out this post from My Nanny Diary series for links to the best and most thorough lists of questions to ask and things to look for to find a safe, competent, caring child care provider.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Dear Pope Francis: The Pope Answers Letters from Children Around the World

Jesus loves the little children, and clearly Pope Francis does, too.  The handwritten letters and color drawings from thirty children appear in Dear Pope Francis.  

Many letters were collected, 259 to be exact, from six continents, 26 countries, and written in 14 different languages.  Each one selected for this book includes the original handwritten letter, a color drawing, the English translation of the message as well as a photo of the child, the person’s first name, his or her age, and the country where they live.

Fr. Antonio Spadaro, S.J., Director of La Civiltà Cattolica, brought the letters to the Pope and recorded his answers to the children’s questions. Fr. Spadaro later transcribed the Pope’s response to each one and that reply is included on the page opposite from the original letter the child sent.  

Check out this video clip to see and hear some of the great questions asked:

In a digital age, we sometimes forget the delight that can come from writing and receiving a handwritten letter.  It is my hope that reading these letters from children and the Pope’s responses to them will help reignite people’s faith as well as a fondness for the exchange of personal letters sent through snail mail. 

I highly recommend this book for families to read with their children!  Kids (and adults) will likely identify with the questions posed and enjoy the drawings all the while getting a more personal glimpse of Pope Francis and his love for children. 

For more information about Dear Pope Francis or to order your own copy, click here. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Three Surprising Stats from National Association for Mental Illness (NAMI), and Suicide Prevention Tips

·         1 in 5 adults in America experiences a mental illness
·         Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 15-24
·         75% of all lifetime cases of mental illness begin by age 24

This infographic/link describes the nature of self-harm and why it can be an important warning sign to watch out for.

Several families I know have some tough topics related to this weighing heavily on their hearts: depression, self-harm, and suicide.  Some wish they had known sooner how to recognize the warning signs of depression, address self-harm, and/or help to prevent someone from committing suicide.  There is still time to learn and educate others. 

Education about mental illness is one of the best ways we can promote health, trust, openness, and offer support.  There are still a number of people who think that depression is just a bad mood or a negative outlook that could easily be turned around if the person was willing to make more of an effort.  As long as those myths remain, we have work left to do.     

Need an excellent resource on Depression & Suicide Prevention?  
This info-packed website has tons of informative articles, links, lists, and resources.  They also have a great motto: 
Suicide Prevention is Everyone’s Business

Check out this info-packed website for the signs that someone might be suicidal and tips on how to help them.  Don’t ignore them.  Seek help and support for your loved one as well as yourself.  

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255), provides access to trained telephone counselors, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You're Only as Sick as Your Secrets

I began having bouts of depression around the age of nine.  Of course back then, I had no clue that I was dealing with an illness or that there was a term to describe the desire to end my life.  

Some lessons I’ve learned the hard way, by struggling through and/or by accompanying a loved one in the trenches.  Other aspects of depression, possible symptoms and signs, I’ve discovered through articles, books, and conversations.  

This is my personal reflection on how depression feels: A Taste of the Agony in the Garden.     

My Personal Prayer for Depression Sufferers: Lord, draw close to Your heart every person who has nearly lost the will to live, who has lost hope, and/or who can see no reason for their lives, no greater purpose or significance in their existence.  Help them reach out in honesty and truth to those around them.  Give them the courage to voice their thoughts, feelings, fears, and hopes to someone they can trust.  Open the hearts and minds of those who are in a position to offer them help, hope, encouragement, support, and prayers. 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Michele Morris Update and Exciting News about Her One-Act Play "Teresita"

This is what the book's cover will look like.

Where Is She Now?

Michele Morris has returned to Richmond, Virginia.  After an adventure in following God’s will that led her clear across the country to Carmel, she has continued praying and discerning the question she began to ask God many years ago “What do You want of me?” 

Her devotion to Christ, being a person of prayer, and seeking His will in all things have remained.  It looks a little different than she’d expected, but that’s often been the case.  In recent months, she has been led by the Lord to seek publication for her original play about St. Teresa of Avila. 

“Teresita” ends with a message of needing to move forward to discover and finish discerning if the life of a Carmelite was indeed where St. Teresa was being called to spend the rest of her life.  Michele continues her own discernment having journeyed to Carmel and back. 

The parallels between Michele’s life and St. Teresa of Avila's are fascinating.  Now many others will get a taste of the highs and lows of vocational discernment in the life of one of the most popular Doctors of the Church through “Teresita.”

About the Play

Known as Teresita to her friends and family, nineteen-year-old Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada asks for her father's permission to enter Carmel of the Incarnation.  He says no. In a passionate and decisive moment, Teresa leaves home in the middle of the night without her father’s knowledge.  Teresa reflects on her life's experiences that led her to this imminent decision.     

The Buzz about “Teresita”

"Michele has produced a drama that is born from a heart filled with love for St. Teresa of Avila. She captures the faith of the great Saint whose story is fitting in this age of a profound renewal of the church. She acts with a conviction inspired by Teresa."
~ Fr. James F. Kauffmann, S.T.B., S.T.L., M.A., S.S.L. 

“Ms. Morris in “Teresita” exceeded our expectations with the depth of the story, the poignancy of the message, and the sheer entertainment value. She puts a human face on this Saint whose lofty reputation can have a dehumanizing effect. I highly recommend her show for audiences of children and adults alike. For us, one performance was not enough.” 
                                      ~ Fr. Robert Novokowsky, FSSP

"Michele Morris has created a compelling and important script and performs it with dynamic sincerity.   Her one-woman play, "Teresita," reaches out to us and penetrates into the depths of what each of us define as "faith." I am so pleased to recommend that you experience this show!"
~ Larry Gard, Artistic Director, Carpenter Science Theatre Company 

"Teresita" is going to be published as a book by Leonine Publishers.  To see the upcoming book in the Leonine bookstore, click here and scroll to the bottom.    

Special thanks to my Glory Bee Friend!" 😁🐝     Love, Michele

Friday, April 29, 2016

Books Are One of My Primary Love Languages

I've read The 5 Love Languages book by Gary Chapman, but I'm utterly convinced that BOOKS ARE ONE OF MY PRIMARY LOVE LANGUAGES! The above graphic I created is made up of only a shelf or so full of the thousands of books I've read and really enjoyed. People who know me well know I am a voracious reader. If I love and care about you, then I recommend or give you good books to read. Those who know me well and love me recommend, lend, or give me good books to read.  

I no longer have copies of the vast majority of these books, because my habit when I absolutely love a book it so to give it to a family, friend, and/or even an acquaintance who has shared an interest in a topic that a particular book I have read treats with tremendous accuracy, hopefulness, and or candor. 

Since I rarely reread books unless they are so profound and life-changing I feel the need to soak up their wisdom through a second read-through, then the compelling desire to share the love by passing it on is greater than letting it collect dust when I already have a stack of great books I still want to read on my shelves. Are you like that, too?

How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from Someone Who Knows by Jacqueline Novak

I was too offended by much of the rudeness and lewdness in How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from Someone Who Knows.  I read up to page 101 before becoming so bothered I couldn’t bring myself to continue.  I had hoped to be entertained by Jacqueline Novak’s take on the misery of depression, but the vulgar language and excessive sexual references made me feel annoyed and irritated instead of amused. 

I get that she’s a popular mainstream, not-at-all-religious comedian and the shock factor is what gets to some people, but I wasn’t feeling it.  I’m sure that watching several of Christian comedian and musician Tim Hawkins’ hilarious Youtube videos this week also influenced my visceral dislike for Novak’s approach.     

I’ll admit a few of the items on her Top lists included made me smile, but I never found myself actually laughing (which to me is the mark of a book that is truly funny).  At least, she was brutally honest in the Introduction:
“What This Book Will Not Provide:
  •        Useful exercises
  •        Insights of lasting value
  •        Relief from depression
  •        Help of any kind” (p. 9)

I get that this is humor and a parody, but skimming quickly through the rest of the book only to discover that my favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s has been discontinued was more than I could handle.  One of the primary ways I’ve experienced significant relief from depression has been to make some rather drastic changes to my diet, so I rarely eat dairy products, chocolate, or lots of processed sugar these days, but knowing that I won’t get to so much as glance at my former ice cream fix on the frozen foods aisle seems cruel.

If I were knee-deep in self-help books and languishing in the lingo of depression but had never sat with someone who was feeling suicidal to keep them from ending their lives or considered the possibility of my own early demise, I might feel differently.  

I wouldn’t recommend this book for those who are suffering from severe depression or in the midst of caring for someone who does.  I personally have found books on the topic by Henri Nouwen, Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP, Joyce Rupp, and Nick Vujicic significantly more interesting, encouraging, practical, and enjoyable to read.  (Nouwen is a priest, the next two are consecrated women religious, and the last one is an upbeat, humorous gentleman author and speaker who was born without arms or legs).  Their faith-based approaches resonate with me and left me with three of the four anecdotes that Novak’s book lacked: "useful exercises, insights of lasting value, and help..."

I received a free copy of How To Weep in Public from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  Got a blog?  Like reading and reviewing books, check out their program here. 
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