Thursday, July 24, 2014

Come Visit My New Pad

I moved!  Come check out my new pad at

Mark Teague's Pigsty Book Club

Does your squirt's room look like this?  Is she a huge fan of pigs?  Then, the book to read is Mark Teague's Pigsty.

Beautiful illustrations painted in acrylic bring the antagonists, the pigs, to life.  Not to mention, the message of this picture book just might encourage your kiddo to clean his/her room.

Once the "pigsty" has been remedied (we are still not there yet . . . not even close), celebrate with a game of Monopoly and a big bowl of Bob's Potato Chips.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (2)

I have used this prompt or a similar one with my English 111 class and then discuss whether, after rereading our writing, one would be able to visualize this ideal mate he/she has described.  Would one be able to actually paint a picture or create a video from the information shared?  Did the author exemplify, explain, and elaborate? 

PROMPT:  Describe (PG-13 style) your ideal mate.

My ideal mate is, most importantly, kind and gentle and did not hesitate years ago when asked to carry my terminally ill father to his bed (for which I will forever be grateful) or to empty my drain tubes after my double mastectomy.  When our daughters ask him to play Little People, dress up, or play kitchen, he immediately agrees and follows them to the playroom.  When my friends or I have computer problems, he remedies the situation with patience and much humor in the form of feigned frustration, "I am tired of being the I.T. guy," or false bravado, "Your friends want me." 

Perfectly placed punctuation and proper grammar in his writing makes me swoon and anxiously await that next post-it note hidden on my steering wheel expressing his love or grocery store requests.

His lips are plump and perfectly commingle with mine when we kiss while his shadowy overgrowth lightly scratches my cheek.  When he smiles, I look for his faint dimples every time.  

With careful attention, he snags that chin hair I am unable to conquer after many failed attempts and assures me if ever in a nursing home, he will come and tweeze me when I am no longer able.

His muscular arms envelop me and pull me to him when tears fall from my eyes, and he is able to wipe the hurt away and replace it with his whole heart. . . my ideal mate.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Thanks

Even with all of life's ups and downs, I like to take time out each week and reflect on what all I have to be thankful for . . .

An unexpected find left under my pillow by my youngest daughter. . .

My oldest squirt thrilled at the gift of goofy glasses for inviting friends to VBS . . .

Kissing and squeezing the hub's grandfather . . .

My girls' love of swimming and the water . . .

A food sample at the grocery store which truly hit the spot . . .

Homemade strawberry preserves from a woman blessing . . .

The hub's patience with my need to move our furniture around . . .

Chopped garlic drowning in olive oil, a freebie at Lorenzo's in Vandalia . . .

What are YOU thankful for?  Share below in the comments section.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Space of Her Own

Inspired by Virginia Woolf's quote, "A woman must have . . . a room of her own," (she was one cool cat) as well as the magazine Where Women Create (wish they had monthly issues; salivating just thinking about the possibility) I have been on a mission to find this room of my own within my own house.  Seeing the walk-in closet in our master bedroom as a viable option, the hub vetoed it with, "Where we will put our clothes?!"  Ugh . . . sometimes he can be such a downer.

I tried a corner in our main living space by a window for several years, but the intense light from the window made for an overheated laptop, and eventually my desk became a dumping ground when we needed to pick items up off of the floor in order to vacuum.  Little People climbing Mt. Essays Needing to be Graded did not make for a creative, organized space.

Thus, my recent find for a space of my own is a nook in our breakfast area.  Flooded with light but not intense glaring sun, I can see while I type without having to wear sunglasses or strip down to my birthday suit (I am always HOT). 

Since there is no room for a wall of bookshelves, my ultimate fantasy, I scored a mail sorter at a garage sale for $5.  Eureka!  I spray-painted it to match my $15 teacher's desk find at a school sale, and A Space of Her Own was established.

I then wondered where do other women create, so I asked my friends.  Women blessings Deb E. and Beth M./@BMiramonti shared their spaces with me. . .

I want to nap in Beth's hammock.

A partner for Beth to cuddle up with in order to spark those creative juices.

Notice Deb's organization.  Aaaah!

Love the cards Deb creates!
Where is YOUR space of your own?  I would love to hear about in the comments section below to garner some ideas, and, more importantly, I would love to see it.  Tweet your pic to @authorgroupie (unless you can figure out a way to leave a pic in the comments section)! 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Bloom

Bloom . . .  This past Sunday I turned 43.  Recently, I have whittled my social media outlets down in order to be more in the moment with my loved ones and spend more time writing.  

Thus, without the yearly "happy birthdays" from Facebook, I didn't think anyone would acknowledge my birthday besides close friends and family, and this was okay by me.  This is not because I dread aging;  I am thrilled to still be kicking (breast cancer warrior) and happy to tell anyone who asks (or doesn't ask) my age.

Yet, I was surprised this year on my birthday.  Instead of digital birthday wishes, I received a pile of beautiful cards in my mailbox, and my heart bloomed.  I carefully opened each envelope and savored the handwritten messages.  To me, an old soul, these were packages being unwrapped by me (and my two young daughters).

Never having been the recipient of a Card Shower before, I was overwhelmed and am grateful.  A huge thank you to woman blessing Sue and all those whom participated in creating this bloom

What does BLOOM mean to you?

Share your idea of LOST in only five minutes . . .

Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday:  Bloom

Easter Egg Dresser

I have spent the last couple of days feeding my addiction . . . not to books, but to furniture ReHAB.  My latest score, a dresser, came from the shed of my BFF's dad.  

With a good solid foundation, all I needed to do was select my spray paint colors.  Thus, an Easter egg became my inspiration.  


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writing Workshop Wednesdays (1)

Why do you write?

I write to understand, process, share, and be heard.  Writing allows me to find my position on subjects, archive my memories, and most importantly, show others my love for them.

In writing about books, I hope to infect others with my passion for reading as Professor Manuela Mourao did for me over twenty years ago.
Faced with a cancer diagnosis in 2011, I was motivated more than ever to capture my thoughts and ideas on this blog for my girls as well as others to reaffirm we are not alone.  One day, perhaps, my daughters will read my writing and connect with their mom on another, more intimate level, or at the very least, know I was a writer who constantly worked on honing her craft.

Now, it is YOUR turn to answer this week's Writing Workshop Wednesdays prompt. . .

Why do YOU write? 

Habitat for Humanity ReStore Finds

If you haven't visited your local Habitat for Humanity Restore, you need to . . .  Love digging through piles of used materials due to the endless upcycling/repurposing possibilities?  Then, this is the place for you.

To date, I have visited the Sullivan, IL, ReStore, the Collinsville, IL, ReStore, and the St. Louis (Forest Park), MO, ReStore, and this is what I discovered.

Purchased at the Collinsville ReStore

A school-grade bulletin board purchased for $5.  I simply spray-painted it black, pinned my kiddos' artwork on it, and hung it above the mantle for a rotating display of creativity.  Can you see the flaw in the cork?  I can't either.  I covered the small problem area with a painting, or a piece of fabric stapled to the front (my BFF's idea) would work, too.

A return visit a week later resulted in a $15/dresser badly in need of a paint job and new pulls.  My youngest directed me as to which drawers would be painted what and selected the pulls from The Home Depot.  The result . . . pinkalicious storage for my daughter's room.

Purchased at the Collinsville ReStore
Since I like to pretend with my girls we are eating in a French bistro (Fancy Nancy-esque), I scored this frosted glass window for $5, did absolutely nothing to it except hang it on the wall (okay, the hub hung it), and use it to write our daily menus.  Ooh la la!

Purchased at the St. Louis (Forest Park) ReStore

Have you visited a ReStore?  What did you discover?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Belong

Belong . . .  It's amazing how there are days when I can feel so alone when there are so many vehicles to being "social" in today's world.

For me, I need the good old-fashioned face-to-face interaction. . . the physical presence of another human being to share the uniqueness of human nature, find the humor in the everyday occurrences, and simply belong.

Like a plant which withers without water, I, too, wither when I am not watered with fellowship and God's word.

A good friend posted a blog this week at The Gentle Yoke which reminds me we all belong to God, and He is always near . . . hovering over us.

What does belong mean to you?

Share your idea of BELONG in only five minutes . . .

Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday:  Belong

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Book Club Babes II: Knuffle Bunny

Book Club Babes II member Miss Riley selected Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny for our latest discussion.

A successful search on Pinterest resulted in the discovery of the Kids Activities Blog and the coolest activity to use as means of experiencing Knuffle Bunny.  In preparation for the meeting, my squirts and I visited our favorite park, Droste Park in Maryville, IL. and took several pictures of the playground, walking path, and dock.  At home, we converted these pictures into black and white before printing onto 8 1/2" x 11" paper.

When members arrived, they were allowed to choose from the scenes offered.  Then, they drew a color picture of themselves, glued it onto the black and white page, and added a caption.  Completed artwork was laminated so that further people, objects, etc. may be added and erased again and again to the picture using dry erase markers.

Discussion followed with each member sharing her journal picture and favorite part of the book.

For snack, supplies of bagels, thin carrots, raisins, peanut butter, cream cheese, and Annie's Cheddar Bunnies were provided by Miss Riley's mother so that each member could create her own Knuffle Bunny.

Next discussion:  Miss Morgan's selection of The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear

Friday, July 4, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Exhale

Exhale . . .  Yesterday I watched a friend's kiddos while she had to work.  This summer she and I are swapping days with our kiddos who are identical in age so that each of us has time to exhale.

The kiddos and I visited one of our favorite parks and ended up staying for over two hours.  Children's laughter . . . exhale.

They then fed "dead bread" (expired bread/cereal) to the ducks who happened to be M.I.A.  Exhale . . .

A short walk to the local library followed where the kiddos selected books and movies . . .  Their love of reading . . . exhale.

A day I wish didn't have to end . . . exhale.

Share your idea of LOST in only five minutes . . .

Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday:  Lost

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Flashed My Support Group and Liked It

A dear friend I met as a result of having breast cancer (perks of cansah) asked me to join her at a breast cancer support group she attends; dinner included.  Sold!  There was to be a guest speaker, a sex therapist, at this meeting, too, who was to speak about intimacy and cancer.  I'm up for most anything . . .

Finding my way to David C. Pratt Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital, I walked into a room of beautiful women sitting in a circle.  My friend hadn't arrived yet, so I took a seat next to a woman named Norma, and I am glad I did.  Later in the evening while the therapist was discussing vibrators and dilators, I nudged Norma and asked if she knew the difference between the two since I didn't.  She replied, "No," but quickly shouted out the question to the instructor.  Nice!  My kind of girl . . .

By the end of the evening, discussion had taken a turn to breast reconstruction and the decision whether to choose nipples or not.  Surprisingly to me, in a room full of nearly twenty women, it turned out I was the only one who had opted for nipples.  Questions were then geared towards me regarding the procedure, recovery, post-op instructions, etc.  From experience, I know this is a tough decision as breast cancer warriors are only given one shot at nipples due to the usage of skin.  If infection or necrosis sets in, a second attempt at nipple reconstruction is unlikely (as I understood it).

I finally thought to myself and out loud, "If anyone wants to see my boobs for themselves, I'd be happy to show them."  In my experience, most everyone in the St. Louis Metro medical community had already seen my breasts during diagnosis, treatment, and reconstruction, so what's the harm in a group of women taking a peek if it puts their minds at ease and helps make their decisions regarding their own bodies easier?

A fearless group of women warriors, I look forward to seeing them again.  If you are a breast cancer warrior undergoing treatment or post-treatment, come on out and network with some of the bravest women you will ever meet, and I may just flash you with my new ta tas.

Have you been to a support group which has helped you in your breast cancer fight?  Share the time/location below in the comments section.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Sunday Thanks

Waking on my own . . .

The squeeze of a woman blessing in church . . .

Playing wiffle ball with my squirt . . .

Having lunch with loved ones . . .

A lengthy nap in the afternoon . . .

Twice on the treadmill . . .

For what are you THANKFUL?

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Karen Russell's Sleep Donation Book Club

I stumbled onto Atavist Books and was intrigued with the synopsis as well as the book cover of Karen Russell's digital-only novella, Sleep Donation.  I am on a novella (short novel) kick, so I downloaded it to my Kindle straightaway.

The plot follows the protagonist Trish Edgewater who lost her sister, Dori, due to an incurable case of insomnia and now works for the not-for-profit Slumber Corps urging others to donate sleep through the emotional appeal of her sister's death.  Furthermore, the story follows Edgewater as she works closely with Mr. and Mrs. Harkonnen whose infant, "Baby A," possesses sleep vital for this life-threatening epidemic.

In unfolding the plot, Russell's use of simile throughout offers vivid descriptions for the reader:

" . . . Donor Y wrote in tiny all-capitals, like a scream shrunken down into a whisper"  (Location 469).

"My wife just died, you see, and she's saturated my sleep like coffin milk"  (Location 506).

" . . . the freak blue Maybelline [personally, I never know where to put that blue] smuggles in between the taupe and the gray, which Dori always said was like the strawberry you're forced to buy in Neapolitan ice cream . . ."  (Location 1093).

In addition, the imagery of the moon found at the beginning and the end of the novella offers full-circle writing which could be discussed at length in the critical thinking classroom.  Yes!

While reading this short work of fiction, I was on the edge of my seat especially during the scene with Mr. Harkonnen and Edgewater, but ended up expecting a bit more.  Also, confusion for me was towards the end where Trish is referred to as "Mrs. Edgewater"  (Location 1565) when no mention of a husband occurred anywhere in this writing.  Instead, an intimate give and take appeared in Sleep Donation, but a co-worker shared the scene with Edgewater in lieu of a spouse.

For the purposes of book club, one may consider serving "loaves and fishes . . . "  (Location 1004) or "poisoned apple[s]"  (Location 1034), but I prefer "green pistachios. . ." (Location 1165) and a risque "purple sleep cocktail. . ."  (Location 1316).

Friday, June 27, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Lost

LOST . . .  Using this summah to truly unplug and be LOST in my children and the hub.  As witnessed on the insides of their doors with Sharpie marks, my kiddos are growing like weeds.  When did this happen?

So, this summah, we are LOST in one another. . .  No scurrying from camp to camp as in previous years.  A VBS here and a Sports Camp there rounds out the summah.

Facebook deleted . . .  Long summer days and nights LOST in one another, in books, in play, in conversation . . .

Share your idea of LOST in only five minutes . . .
Lisa-Jo Baker's Five Minute Friday:  Lost

Thursday, June 26, 2014


If you are like me, you enjoy observing people, wondering what their stories are . . .  Everyone has a story to tell.

While at the park yesterday, I could overhear a personal trainer and his client.

Trainer:  "Your form is a thousand times better than anyone I've worked with.  Seriously."

Trainee:  "Really?"

Later in the session . . .

Trainee misses punching target and accidentally clips Trainer.

Trainee:  "I'm sorry."

Trainer:  "It's okay.  I've been hit thousands of times."

For me as one who enjoys writing, I think our best "stories" come from those around us and those "stories" we have experienced ourselves.  As a reader/observer, the pleasure comes from trying to decipher these stories.

When I asked my hub his take on the above conversation, he replied, "He wants to do her."

When I asked my girlfriend, her reply, "Trainers are salesmen."

What stories have you witnessed?  What are your interpretations?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Book Club Babes: Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab

Miss Colleen's selection of Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab was a hit not only for the book club members, but also the adults.  A thriller full of suspense and pretty cool experiments (this coming from a liberal arts person), I read my copy in one night.

Due to the high volume (sweet!) of experiments Miss Colleen's mom brought with her, we changed the mode of discussion.  Each member chose a favorite question out of the three written in her journal, wrote said question on an index card, and placed it in a bowl.  Members then chose a question (blindly) from the bowl and were given time to think about the answer before sharing with the rest of the group.

After discussion it was experiment time, their favorite.  

Volcano Kit Purchased at Happy Up

To conclude, members were given a choice of ice cream flavors including mint chip and double chocolate chunk (the hub was unable to find double chocolate praline)  because this was what Nick and Tesla devoured at the end of the book.  Takeaway was a sandwich bag full of diluted highlighter juice to be used in a top secret manner of the Book Club Babe's choosing much like Nick and Tesla used it to track the van in chapters 9-10.

Next discussion:  Miss Grace's The Puppy Place:  Chewy and Chica

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Get Fisk Book Club

Looking for a daily read full of suspense, romance, and short videos?  Get Fisk may be just the read for which you are searching.  Think adult graphic novel meets the adventure-themed novella resulting in this digital series of monthly titles which contain chapters able to be read while waiting in a doctor's office, at lunch, or while the kiddos are soaking in the tub.

This month's title, Pirate's Lair, revolves around pirates working out of the Horn of Africa.

Get Fisk would be the ideal vehicle for the formation of a book club in a work environment (The Literate Lunchers), in an adult literacy classroom, or simply a means to chat with others regarding daily reading.  Thus, grab a local bite, your brown bag, or your replacement meal shake, and have a brief discussion regarding the Get Fisk daily read.

Loving Another Woman's Child

Looking back, I see how apparent the reasons of why I became a teacher.  Not only am I a "BIG kid"  (not a baby goat) at heart, but I have this desire to positively contribute to a child's self worth based solely on his/her unique person, the child as gift philosophy.  This undoubtedly springs from my own dysfunctional upbringing where I was placed on the metaphorical back burner.

As a mother, I am blessed to be given the opportunity to express daily to each of my children her importance and ability to impact others through kindness, generosity, and love

In addition, I have been blessed to have been given the opportunity to love and learn from other women's children. . .  as a teacher, coach, neighbor, group leader, and mother.  

My children bring home some of the most intelligent, hilarious, thoughtful friends who will undoubtedly improve this world as adults and who do so already as children.

What is difficult, though, is having to say, "I'll see ya later!" to these kiddos when they move away.  Unfortunately for us, we have now had to do this two years in a row.  As seen in my daughter's second-grade journal, the impact is lasting as the girls mentioned in the journal moved at the end of the previous school year.  

Our whole family full of tears said goodbye to Miss C., my eldest's tow-haired, blue eyed, classmate, fellow Girl Scout, and neighbor.  In fact, I think we hoped right until we saw the moving truck that perhaps plans would change, and this girl's move would be aborted.  This young lady brought much joy to our lives through her gentle manner, helpful ways, and unending smile.

This year, we are having to say goodbye to Miss E.  My eldest daughter met her in kindergarten as they were both seated at the "Rainbow Pegasus" table.  Miss E., a young beautiful lady with the most distinct voice- low and raspy- also touched the life of my youngest daughter as a reading mentor this past year in school.  With much anticipation, Colette readied herself (minus any of the usual urgings) for school on "Reading Buddy Day."  In fact, those two are so much alike, I can look into the future and see what my youngest squirt will be like in two years.  In return, Miss E. always looked out for my youngest on the playground at school and otherwise as I often heard her say, "Where is Colette?"

Although Miss E. and her family's moving truck is full and headed for the East Coast, I can only hope one day these belongings will find their way back to this area.

How has loving another woman's child impacted you?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Lisa Kleypas' Tempt Me at Twilight Book Club

It had been a year, and I still hadn't read Lisa Kleypas' Tempt Me at Twilight.  I had borrowed it from the owner of the condo we rented in Florida, but it never made it into the house past the laundry room.  So, when leaving for a return trip to the condo a year later, I knew I had to read it on the way.  

If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey in any way, shape, or form, then this romance is for you (see pages 314-17).  Set in the 1800s, this book follows an innocent Poppy Hathaway and a troubled Christian Grey Harry Rutledge as they maneuver through the complexities of societal pressures, dysfunctional childhoods, and trusting relationships.

For the purposes of book club, great-aunt Albertine's steamed apple puddings with drizzled cream sauce, courtesy of Chef Broussard, would be a welcome conversation starter.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Club Babes: Frozen

Book Club Babes (a third-grade book club) met and discussed Disney's chapter book, Frozen, selected by Miss Bella.  As members arrived, they were asked to decorate a cup to be used for the frozen punch, SoBe pina colada drink (found at Schnucks for $1/bottle . . . score).

Frozen SoBe was used as ice cubes to chill the punch.

After a dinner of sandwiches (which is mentioned in "Love is an Open Door"), a frozen dessert bar was served complete with a cake like the one found in the movie (minus the head statue) and various white/silver-colored treats (thank you Miss Faith for the white-iced snack cakes).

Discussion ensued with thought provoking open-ended questions such as, "What makes a family?" and "What is true love?"  to close reading questions such as, "What are the names of the three trolls?  Look in chapter 2."  One member's question of "What was your favorite scene?" led to third-grade members acting their answers out for the rest of the group.  Yes, goosebumps ran up and down my arms and legs as literacy in action unfolded before my eyes.  Even first and second grade siblings joined in on the discussion.  Be still my heart.

The remainder of book club was spent watching the movie Frozen (okay, I think one member ended up watching the movie in its entirety) and playing;  hey, they earned it.

Next discussion:  Miss Colleen's pick of Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab