Reading Cycles

 

My mother used to read to my brothers and I, and one of her favorite books to “act out” was “Stand Back,” Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!”  She really did act it out too… She would transition voices for each of the animals in the story, and … I think this was our favorite part… she would act out each sneeze (which was very, very dramatic).

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We would usually read during the day, right before naptime (or quiet-time, since we didn’t necessarily always nap). The image that comes to mind is my two brothers and I, in our shared bedroom at our small apartment. (We lived here when I was in kindergarten and moved shortly after.)

I personally love reading to others, and I feel this is because of the investment my mother made in each of us children. Also, my father taught me to read at four years old. My parents separated when I was very young, so I visited my dad on weekends. He still tells the story of how he taught me to read in 3 weekends using the Hooked on Phonics program. “Your mom called me when you got home, and exclaimed, “Mike!!! She can read!!! Not just look at the pictures and make up a story, but she can ACTUALLY READ!!!”

In third grade, I was blessed to be in the class of my favorite teacher ever, Ms. Keiholz. I was so sad that I had to move on from her class, but I always said hi to her and gave her a hug every time I saw her. After fourth grade, my mother decided to homeschool us kiddos, and I was able to go into Ms. Keiholz’s class and help some of her students during reading time. I would sit with a student that needed some help and we would take turns reading out loud.

In high school I participated in the drama club and was part of the Speech and Debate team (Just to clarify… I didn’t actually debate… they had several different events that revolved around speaking activities). Storytelling drew my interest, and during my junior year, I was able to place in two different competitions with one of my favorite stories, When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins. 61erYWupHRL._SY423_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg(I also participated in Speech and Debate during my senior year… but I met my future husband, got engaged, and was totally engrossed in wedding planning and my grades.)

I still LOVE to read… but of course I get easily distracted by all of the things that I “need” to do (I’m a busybee- it’s something I’m working on). However, when I do get caught up in a story, it is wonderful! My favorite genre is historical fiction with a tad bit of romance in it… and my favorite author is Jane Kirkpatrick, who just happens to write in my favorite genre! (If you’re at all interested in reading some of her books, I highly recommend A Sweetness to the Soul; it’s truly one of my favorites!)

And now, as I look down and see my ever-growing belly- at least until mid-October that is- I think about the wonderful times I will get to spend with my daughter, reading to her, teaching her how to read, and she eventually reading to me, her daddy, her future brothers and sisters, and someday, a long, long time from now, her own children.

 

Hard Work U, Hard Work Me

College of the Ozarks is a small, private, 4-year Liberal Arts College located just south of Branson, Missouri. I graduated from this institution just three and a half months ago, and I look back on my time there with great fondness.

This college is also known as Hard Work U. The students here don’t rack up student loans. This college focuses on the importance of graduating debt-free, and helps students accomplish this by offering several workstations where each student puts in the hours and earns their education.

Workstations include the Farmer’s Market, the dairy, landscaping, Dobyns Dining Room at the Keeter Center, the student cafeteria, dorm workers, the Ralph Foster Museum, the Jones Theater Company, Christian Ministries, the music department (this was my workstation for the duration of my stay here), laundry, the fire station, construction and several faculty offices… and there are many more.

As a graduate of College of the Ozarks, the importance placed on hard work is something that will stay with me forever. I saw myself as a hard worker before going to school here, but now it is engrained in me. I’ll tell you why.

I have been somewhat of a perfectionist for the majority of my life. So naturally, I want to get really good grades in school. Before C of O (another nickname for College of the Ozarks), this was rather easy for me to accomplish. People all have different gifts, and mine was in the area of schoolwork and doing well on tests. My classes at C of O challenged me, and I had to up my game in order to keep my good grades. In some cases, I had to take my level of dedication to a whole new level. Just ask my husband… he remembers those evenings of endless study, followed by going to bed, then getting up before the sun to study some more.

My first B came in a class called Aural Training III (sight singing and ear training). This is embarrassing to admit, but this class made me cry. Now, I’ll tell you I’m SO proud of that B. I worked so hard and couldn’t get it “perfect,” but I gave my all and that’s why I’m more proud of that grade than almost any other grade.

My workstation was a different story. My first few semesters, my job was very easy. I worked in the music department, and simply did whatever someone asked me to do. I scanned student IDs and stage managed at Wednesday recitals, cleaned and ordered supplies for the office, wrote a few newsletter articles, helped with band moves and organized music for professors. As I came out of my shell and began to grow as a person in different qualities, I started seeking more responsibility in my workstation and it was definitely handed to me. My last two semesters I was **in charge** of the newsletter, and had so much more going on than my previous semesters… including preparing for my senior recital and graduation.

What you can take away from that was my life was REALLY busy. How did I make it through?

I made it through like all the other students made it through—dedication to hard work, the backbone of C of O. I made it with the guidance of my professors and peers, and the encouragement from seeing friends and co-workers around me push through their hardships. **AND** in no way can I leave this out: C of O is committed to Christ. Being surrounded by a community striving to bring God glory through serving others is what it all came down to. I can’t tell you how many times I felt pressured beyond what I thought I could handle, and just when I needed it most I would be reminded that God never gives us more than we can handle, that He is our strength when we are weak, that I don’t have to rely on my own strength to accomplish what needed to be done, but that I could lean on God’s strength and He would fuel me in my need.

Honestly, I don’t remember everything from all of my classes during college. (I wish I did, but one can always go back and review.) But learning what I’ve shared with you here is something that I value greatly, something I’ll keep forever, and something I hope you will find and embrace, wherever you may be.

Scrumptious Banana Bread

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I hope this photo brings you some encouragement today! Praying is so important. It brings us close to our heavenly Father, and where else would we rather be? 😊

And now for some yummy food!

We all know the drill. You’re at the grocery store and the bananas are only .59/lb. So you buy a few. (Okay, who are we kidding? You buy a lot!)

The bananas turn brown and it’s time to make banana bread—a super moist, sugary, delicious, and full-of-so-much-fat loaf of banana bread. But this is getting you nowhere close to your fitness goals. So guess what? It’s time to modify.

(By the way… even though this is “healthy” bread, try not to eat the whole loaf in one sitting! ☺ )

Note: I use coconut sugar and oil in this recipe. I have also made this recipe using brown sugar and canola oil, but when I made it using the coconut oil and sugar, it was the best banana bread I’ve ever had! And it’s healthier for you too! Coconut oil is a healthy fat (good for your brain), and coconut sugar has a low glycemic level, so it won’t spike your blood sugar and then leave you with a crash!

Banana Bread:
1 ½ c. flour (you can use whole wheat, unbleached white, or whichever kind you prefer)
1 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt

1 egg, beaten
½-¾ c. coconut sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
½ c. plain Greek yogurt (non-fat)
¼ c. coconut oil
1 c. mashed bananas (I use 3 medium sized bananas)
2 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8×4 pan with cooking spray.
Combine the first 5 ingredients in medium sized bowl and mix; set aside. Combine the last 6 ingredients in large bowl and mix well. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and blend just until flour mixture is incorporated. (Don’t over mix!)

Bake between 50-60 minutes, or whenever a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean.
Let it cool a bit before you try some… I know… the temptation is almost unbearable!

Warning: Your home will smell AMAZINGLY DELICIOUS.

☺ Enjoy!
-Amber 

Some Nutrition Facts: (1 serving=1/10 of loaf)
Calories (Energy!): 194 (211 if you use ¾ c. sugar)
Fat: 6 grams
Protein: 4 grams
(I modified this recipe from http://eatingcleanrecipes.com/2010/01/whole-wheat-banana-bread/.)

Being Full of Thanks

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It is easy to think about all of the woes we have in life… I could name a few, but that’s just not the point of this message. I’ll be straight with you… today I was full of woes. Nothing going right, everything going wrong. And now that I look back, I’m really embarrassed and ashamed. (But hey—there’s no sense in feeling bad over it because sometimes… cranky moods just happen. So when they DO happen, we need to have a game plan.)

And the game plan is easy.

Be THANKFUL.

For the people you have in your life, the job you have, or the talents you have been blessed with. For the roof over your head, and the people you get to smile at.  For the food you have to eat, the beautiful great outdoors, and the night sky’s natural beauty. For the music you get to listen to and the sports you can participate in. Think of anything and you can find a way to be grateful for it.

So next time you catch yourself in this crankiness, immediately recognize what’s going on (that you are feeling sorry for yourself.) This is vital—because if you keep on in that mindset, it becomes more difficult to get out of it.

Find, seek, and pursue thankfulness. Don’t stop searching until you’ve abandoned your “sorry” focus for your grateful focus!

Life in a New Town

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Moving to a new town can be difficult. Actually… let me rephrase that. It can be EXTREMELY difficult. As if packing up your life into a truck isn’t hard enough. Beginning in a new town presents many challenges, such as adjusting to unfamiliar roads and traffic, finding the best place to buy your groceries, where to workout (whether in a gym or finding the best running path in your area) and settling into your new home. I have just recently relocated with my husband and cat (she did surprisingly well during the move!) and here are a few things that have helped me during this transition…

  1. Breathe……………. Go ahead… take a deep, long breath right now! Because it’s going to be okay. Yes, there are struggles to face ahead of you, but you can meet all the demands confronting you today! Just take it one step… and one breath… at a time.
  2. Make a list! There are so many things to do during the process of moving and even after you settle in. Writing down your to-do list will free your mind of pressure that comes with trying to remember every little thing. So keep your pen and some paper nearby… when you think of something you need to do, jot it down, and keep going with the task at hand. You’ll be more productive by cutting out the distractions of trying to do everything at once!
  3. Create a routine. Getting yourself into a routine gives your life structure, and will help you settle in to your new life with more flow. We are creatures of habit, and re-establishing your habits will help you to feel right at home.
  4. Set your goals. And re-think your goals… they may have changed since you last looked at or gave any thought to them! We grow and change throughout life, and our goals should be flexible enough to change with us. In your goals, try to somehow incorporate what you are passionate about… doing what you love creates a drive to succeed like none other. If you think your talent/passion/doing what you love is not a realistic goal or way to succeed, think outside of the box! Get creative with what you love to do and find a way to incorporate it into your life.
  5. Relax! Don’t fret the small stuff. Work hard while you’re working, but at the end of the day, take time to rest and be thankful for everything you accomplished. Don’t be critical of yourself… if you didn’t like the way your day went, make a list for the next day and be conscious of making a change for the better. Enjoy this new stage of your life!!!