days gone by.

Gosh, where do the years go?  It seems like just yesterday our little girlie was “graduating” from kindergarten.  And now today, she is a college graduate.

Days filled with backpacks, homework, field trips, class parties, science fair projects, papers to write, tests to study for, college applications,  job applications…those are all behind us.  The questions we have take AP classes or not?  to request a certain teacher? choir or band?  18 credits or more? a major and a minor… or maybe just an additional certificate?  Well, at this point those questions don’t really matter.  She has achieved a college degree.

The work and worries of parenting probably never really end. But there comes a certain relief with each stage of life that we have a little less responsibility.  And that is a pretty sweet place to be. (Of course, she is still living here with us for a bit, but isn’t that the new norm of millennials?)

So, for all of my dear parent friends that are still in the thick of it…Hang. In. There!

Check the backpacks for homework and notes to sign, show up for the class parties, chaperone a field trip, help your kiddo with assignments/projects/papers to write, be a study warrior.  You. Can. Do. It!

And in the end, you will feel relief that you have made it…and maybe even just a wee bit sad that it has all come to an end.  (just a very wee bit.)  Because now my big girl still calls on her way home from work and secretly hopes that her mama will be waiting up to hear all about this next phase of life.

Congrats Sweet Bree!  You made it.  We made it!

kinder grad

college grad


looking for joy…part 2

FYI…If you did not read the previous post, you may be confused at this reference to Nana’s “life of leisure” so take a few minutes and jump back HERE to read all about that.  If you want to skip that and read on…the main idea is that my niece and my daughter had a sweet little conversation regarding the grand life that their nana (my mama) has…a life wide-open for relaxation, fun and adventure.

nana and papa on vacation

Well…their tech savvy nana sent them a little rebuttal today via text message – she is sooooo hip!  Check it out (hope it is okay that I am sharing this with the world Mom!)

Nana's text

Wow.  Look at that productivity! Gotta love her spunky response to these young gals thinking she is just sitting around eating bon bons!  There was definitely joy this evening in the messages and phone calls flying between all of us.  Keep seeking joy my friends!

looking for joy.

When did life and work and responsibilities become some urgent? In most aspects of my life, it feels as though the to-do list has quadrupled…the immediacy of task completion has amped up…and many people that I encounter each day seem to be intensely working at the aspects of their life. Why the rush? Why does it all have to be so hard?  Where is the fun?

Just last weekend, my college-freshman niece commented. “Gosh, some days it would be so nice to live Nana’s life.” You see…Nana is retired, she has time to read, craft, quilt, garden, bake, meet her friends for lunch or coffee…  So, it made me wonder…do we really need to wait til retirement to savor in the joys of filling our days with the things we love?  Is it possible to make a little fun along the way?

And then again this week, the Thursday night guest speaker at my “Leadership for Teaching and Learning” class challenged us to develop our Attitude of Gratitude…to seek the things in life that give energy rather than take energy…to measure what we treasure.

So, allow me to share a little bit of joy that I have discovered this week…

Taking time for breakfast…coffee/cream, scrambled eggs, green juice…yummo. *joy*


Sharing conversations with a wonderfully wacky fourth grade teacher that has welcomed “Shirl” into her classroom – the students take turns having her at their desk, accessorizing her as they wish.  They treasure the sheer happiness on her face, despite the many challenges that she has faced in life… Awww…humor and fun and a little bit of craziness in an elementary classroom. Such fun!  *joy* This same teacher has a gumball machine and Judy Blume and a colorful little rug outside her classroom door. *joy* They still work on standards-based curriculum…they will be tested with the OLPA , the MCA, the WIDA, MONDO and Everyday Math…AND they still laugh and live in community.  Refreshing.

shirlshirl2bubblegum and judy blume

Another energizing school visit took me to a high school in the city…Demographic data: African American 21%;  American Indian 2%; Asian American 53%;  Caucasian 9%; Hispanic 15%; Free and Reduced Lunch 85%; Special Education 14%; English Language Learners 38% – a complex school with a very diverse gathering of students.

I sat in the library after school during a session called “Let’s Get Poppin” where students worked on homework with teacher support, with the promise to get popcorn and bus tokens.  Cool idea. *joy* And then as I was leaving, the lobby area was filled with groups of students…talking, working on homework together, listening to music, dancing, and playing this fantastically colorful piano. *joy*


And finally…last night it was cold and Halloween and I was whipping up some homemade caramel corn while Bob took a former student out and about in our community for a little trick or treating.  Si Poo arrived in Minnesota when she was in 5th grade, as a Karen refugee from Burma/Myanmar via Thailand.  She is now in her second year of college, studying criminal justice.  We have become great friends through the years.  So last night, she drove out here to the suburbs with her sister, niece, auntie and a few cousins to trick or treat with Mr. Lein.  She sat at my kitchen counter munching on caramel corn and drinking hot cocoa with me as she filled me in on the news of her life, and we video chatted her cousin in Bangkok baking cakes at work….yep *joy*

trick or treaters

I will continue to make my to-do lists, and keep up the pace with the demands at work and grad school…AND I will seek joy.  I will take the time to look up and notice the sweet moments…to communicate and listen with the people around me…to smile and laugh and not take things so darn serious. Hope you will too!

60 hours in Haiti.

Gosh, where do I begin? It has been a whirlwind trip once again to my favorite little island nation. I took advantage of a few days away from work to connect with the children and staff in Port au Prince, Haiti. There is soooo much to share…I think I will just let the pictures tell the stories.

Connected with ANA Director Rock Cayo regarding the paperwork for one of our students seeking a student visa…

conferring about gefte's paperwork

Brought Creole Storybook Bibles for the boys. They read and read…and fell asleep with open bibles every night…

Boys and their Bibles

Held a parent meeting with Director Rock and Administrator Roselaure…30+ parents attended!  Each family received a Creole Storybook Bible (thanks to the donation from Celebration Lutheran in Sartell)…

Parent Meeting - Bible Distribution

Observed the water distribution system – thanks to the initiative developed by my niece Avalon to make water more readily available to the students each day…


Interviewed 13 new students with Administrator Roselaure and Interpreter Stanley (he filled in when Rock needed to make an airport run)…

translator stanley and new students

Savored some sweet moments with these beautiful children…


Checked out the division of the rooftop classroom into 2 rooms for grades 4 and 5. While I was up on the roof snapping the pic, neighbor girl and student, Rolande waved to me!  Love to see the children in the neighborhood.

Rooftop Classroom and Neighboring student

Explained what a ringbearer does (thanks to Google Images) to two little dudes that will be bearing the rings at Breelynn and Kyle’s wedding this summer!  (Bree was able to ask them via Facebook Video Chat – sweet huh?)


Enjoyed a quick visit with JP’s Haitian family – Junior and Guerline…


Taught an English Institute Class and joined in the worship session/English lesson as students practiced their language skills while singing Ten Thousand Reasons…(lighting is dark, because the lyrics were projected on a man-made screen on the wall)…what an awesome experience…

English Institute Worship

Led a three-hour Teacher Seminar – Agenda: vision, student needs, brain research/differentiation, backwards design/planning, news and announcements     *adding a weekly English lesson for our students, planning a spring field trip, the Spektak is scheduled for June 18th…

teacher seminar

Conducted a Finance Meeting with Accountant Edelyne to negotiate the budget – good thing I am taking a finance class in grad school!  I needed to translate Haitian goudes to US dollars and question the # of lbs of rice to purchase…

Finance Meeting

Introduced Flat Stanley to the real Stanley and gave him a quick tour of Haiti…


Shared some fun conversations with “waiting families” back home…gotta love technology and Facebook Video Chat. Now we just need to get them home!

FB video chat

And best of all…bonded with these buddies of mine…


running errands-Haiti bound.

iPhone musicTonight I joined the 21st century…as Bob and I were out running errands this evening, I plugged my phone in to charge using the USB adapter and voilà-my music started to play! How cool is that? A bit of “Beautiful Things” by Gungor to fill my car with inspiration. I know that my techy daughter uses the music from her phone when she is in the car, but this was the first time I discovered it on my own. Yippee.

The to-do list is getting shorter as I prep for a weekend away in Port au Prince, Haiti…travel toiletries purchased, bibles packed, paperwork organized, pictures printed, treasures for the boys have been dropped off…

Now to prepare my heart…there is anticipation and excitement with every visit.  This adventure in Haiti began when I trusted the longing I felt to “do something”…not quite sure what that would be, just knew that I needed to go.  This will be my eighth trip since that first visit in June 2011.  With each one, I have made new connections and friends along the way. Riky and Ecclesiastes have now joined their forever family in Montana, Davinsly and Stanley still wait to come, Jefte moved in and waits for an opportunity to travel on a student visa.  ANA Primary School has expanded and a food program continues to provide a noon meal. Two new teachers have been hired and Miss Roselaure is now the administrator/teacher in charge.   I typically have a wish list of items to accomplish when I arrive, and yet I know that I must trust the journey.  God has plans for me…I just need to listen and be ready.  I will seek His wisdom as I go. Take a peek at the faces in the video clip below to capture a little bit of where my heart and mind are living these days.

living in unity.

How good and pleasant it is when God’s sisters live together in unity!

psalm 133:1

And that is the truth.

Raking a Difference

I had the great pleasure to spend the past 20 hours with a few of our small group girls and fellow leader Amy [missed you Ann, Anna, Maggie, Libby, Sarah, Micaela, Lexi and Maggie!]  Last night began with a little rock, paper, scissors challenge, worship, and a message…followed by late night conversations, a bowl of buttery parmesan popcorn, juice boxes and a sleepover…a morning of “Raking a Difference” for an organization doing great things for girls in need…lunch at my fav taqueria…quiet time at a local ball field…a competitive “Amazing Race” against the other small groups….and coffee from our sister barista Libby!

Small Group Retreat

Great fun.  Many giggles. Memories created that will unite us!

Life can be crazy hard at times…stressful, complicated and filled with expectations from so many places.  These girls are achievers…do-good kinda chicks that have very full lives with school, sports, social lives, church…online schooling for one because she will be returning to Africa in a few months…and another is balancing homework in English when all of her previous instruction was in Hebrew. There is peer pressure and self-inflicted pressure.  Being a teen ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. And yet…these are great years – full of new and exciting adventures. So…they are choosing to surround themselves with friends that will hold them up when the going get’s tough…laugh with them about the sweet, silly things (for example facebook cat statuses)…and share the big and small moments in this journey.  I feel privileged to have the opportunity to share a just a small slice of life with these fabulous young ladies. xoxo

sweet moments.

My weekdays and eves are filled with work, class, meetings and all of the duties expected of a middle age working gal!

Then the weekend comes and I disconnect and recharge.

The past couple of Saturdays, there have been kitchen extravaganzas-complete with raspberry jam, chocolate cake, zucchini bread, apple crisp…

Just me and some Norah Jones and a few pots and pans. Awwww…serenity now.

Tonight I got to share that baked apple crisp with my parent-in-laws…and my sweet niece/college girl who joined us for dinner!

college niece

This week’s reminder…work hard at work and the business of being a responsible adult….AND be certain to make time for the sweet things in life…

…dinners with family and friends…cooking adventures…reading something that makes me think (enjoying Jen Hatmaker’s Interrupted at the moment)…surfing mindlessly on Pinterest…coffee/pumpkin spice latte dates….browsing TJ Maxx…TV movies and a bowl of popcorn…

OH so many options of the things I enjoy.  Hoping you are finding the balance of sweet moments in your weeks!