Monday, November 24, 2014

Jonalyn's Gotcha Day Party

At Jonalyn's most recent IEP meeting in October, we expressed our concerns about a few things, including her having friends of her own cognitive abilities. In fact, we have been researching other placement options for her.

I did mention that perhaps I could bring in treats on her gotcha day since her birthday is in the summer. Her wonderful teacher jumped right in and began planning a big party. She invited all of the 5th grade girls to come - and I think they all showed up. They were so excited.

When they came in the room, they decided they wanted to surprise Jonalyn, so they hid behind the tables so they could jump out.

Jonalyn's not quite sure what's going on.

The teacher set a special place for her at the table with an extra large goody bag.

The theme was Frozen, so we made snowmen from marshmallows.

I brought subs, chips, grapes, juice, and


You can see how much she's loved.

Her teacher. This woman is amazing.


Even the boys had to stop in and see what was going on. They had their noses pressed against the windows while they were out at recess so they could have a peek.

After lunch, they played a game to see who could toss the ball in the farthest bucket.

Jonalyn won, but as you can see, it wasn't a fair fight LOL! She's way beyond the line. The girls were so gracious. None of them complained about Jonalyn bending the rules, or about her winning.

The entire gang.

It was so good for me to see that the kids truly do enjoy Jonalyn and treat her well. We're breathing a little easier knowing that deciding to keep her where she is for the time being is a good decision.

Then, of course, we had to celebrate at home. She's been ours for 7 years already. Wow, can you believe it? Seems like only yesterday and yet it feels like she's been with us forever.
One of the girls gave Jonalyn this cat. They know how much she loves cats!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Food in Santo Tomas during WWII

By November of 1944, food rations to the over 3000 Westerners interned by the Japanese at Santo Tomas had dwindled to a little bit of watery rice every day. The prisoners were still able to supplement their diets with talinum and camote.

This is what talinum looks like.

It's a green. The young leaves can be eaten raw, while the larger leaves can be cooked, much like spinach. It doesn't have a very strong taste. Because of this, the internees added garlic to their talinum - lots and lots of garlic, apparently. Whew.

They still eat this in the Philippines. I found a recipe for talinum and cucumber salad. Make a salad of the talinum leaves and chopped cucumbers. Drizzle with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

This is camote. English speakers know it as sweet potatoes. The skin is a little more purple, but the flesh is the same orange color.

The Filipinos like to slice the camote, dip the slices in sugar, then fry them. They're skewered and served as a popular street food. Of course, at Santo Tomas in those days, there was no sugar and no cooking oil. One woman took to frying her food in her face cream. Nothing went to waste, either. They also cooked the greens - with plenty of garlic, of course!

Still, by November of 1944, people were dying at an average of 1-2 per day of beri-beri and other diseases. Starvation was a real problem and get worse with each passing day. Liberation was still three months away.

So, if you had to try either of these foods, which would you choose?

Monday, October 20, 2014

70 Years Ago Today: General MacArthur "I Have Returned"

70 years ago today was a watershed mark for those Westerners being held in the Santo Tomas Internment Camp in Manila. At this point, they had been held for 33 months and conditions in the camp were deteriorating quickly. Food was scarce and disease was a real problem, especially beri-beri.

Two and a half years earlier, General Douglas MacArthur escaped from Corregidor Island in a PT boat and made his way to Australia. On arriving on March 20th, he declared, "I came through and I shall return."

From that point forward, the internees worked at surviving until General MacArthur kept his promise. By October 20th, 19444, the Americans had been bombing the Philippines for several weeks. The Santo Tomas prisoners had been waiting with baited breath for the announcement of an American landing on Philippine soil.

One of the over 7000 islands that make up the Philippines is Leyte (pronounced Lay-tay). The city of Manila is on the more northern island of Luzon. The Americans targeted Leyte in order to cut off Japan from valuable oil supplies.

Announcements were made at Santo Tomas via a loudspeaker on the grounds, usually first thing in the morning. On the 20th of October, the announcements weren't made on time. At last, the speaker crackled to life. The internees couldn't exhale. What had been the hold up?

The announcer cleared his voice. "The announcements are late, but better Leyte than never." The prisoners understood the play on words. The Americans had arrived in the Philippines. As General MacArthur stepped ashore later that afternoon, he uttered the famous words, "I have returned."

Certainly, no words were any sweeter than those to the Santo Tomas internees. Though overjoyed, they couldn't celebrate the way they wanted. The Japanese continued to hold them prisoner. The war was far from over.

How do you think you would have felt at the announcement of General MacArthur's return if you were a Santo Tomas internee?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


This is a hashtag that gained a lot of momentum on Twitter. Bethany Mota, a YouTube star, started it. She records videos about being bullied, and on Dancing with the Stars, she danced an anti-bullying dance. I don't watch the show (don't throw things at me), but that's what I read.

The responses she got to this were very interesting. They included things like:
  • I've changed to become a better person and I'm proud of me
  • I'm open-minded
  • I have great taste in music
  • There is only one me
  • I'm smart and beautiful
  • I have nice hair
  • I can eat an entire pizza by myself
  • I'm an original
  • I can see who people really are
I was prepared to get on my soap box and preach about loving yourself for all of the wrong reasons. And there were many of those, as outlined above. Let's hope that some of them were kidding.

Among the responses, though, I did find some encouragement. These people love themselves because God loves them. And in the end, God loving us is the only reason we can love. Love our parents. Love our spouses. Love ourselves.

As I wrote about loving ourselves, I thought it might sound proud, selfish and egotistical. But I think we have to view it in the right light. I am worth something because I am created in God's image. I am worth something because He saw me at my lowest point and loved me enough to send his Son to die for me. I am worth something because I am a child of God.

So, why do you love who you are?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cancer Kicks My Butt

It's been over 18 months since I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Over a year since I finished radiation treatment, and yet, I'm still battling cancer. No, I'm still cancer-free. But cancer isn't finished with me.

My oncologist works for a teaching hospital. That is to say, he likes studies. Not an all bad thing. Earlier this summer, he was at a conference at which the results of a study were announced. We had been trending toward this treatment anyway, for a variety of reasons.

Many breast cancer patients in Europe with an ER/PR+ tumor like mine take drugs that put them into menopause and then take another drug to block any estrogen being made by their adrenal glands. (It's the estrogen that made the tumor grow.) This class of drug is known as an AI. At first, I did very well on the regimen. About six weeks into it, I began noticing swelling and pain in my joints. It took another 6 weeks or so until we figured out it was the AI causing the symptoms. I've been off of it for about 6 weeks with only slight improvement.

I don't write this for sympathy or pity. But I want the world out there to be aware that the effects of cancer don't magically go away when they pronounce you done with treatment. I saw them in my sister for years after her diagnosis. I'm seeing them in myself. I see them in others who have walked this road. When they say the treatment can be worse than the disease, they aren't kidding.

In all of this, God is still on His throne. He has a plan and a purpose for this. That is what I need to keep trusting in these days. What we all need to trust every day. And then we must go out and fight the good fight. Thanks for all of your prayers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

St. Louis and ACFW 2014

Even though I didn't win a Carol Award, I had an awesome time in St. Louis. The trip went smoothly (except for getting lost in a not-so-great neighborhood). After arriving on Wednesday afternoon, I went to dinner with my fabulous critique partner and my equally fabulous agent.

We went to dinner at Fitz's root beer (sorry for being disloyal to you, Sprecher. You're still the best in my book!). It was yummy and they had the best gluten free buns I've had. Ever. I'd be a regular if they weren't 6 1/2 hours away!

We then took a little stroll down the street. This is a hip area of STL (I'm hip!) known as the Delmar Loop.

There's a statue of Chuck Berry. How fun.

Across the street is the Blueberry Hill restaurant with a bunch of Chuck Berry memorabilia. We didn't go in there, but it looks like fun.

Along the way, they have stars on the street, just like in Hollywood, but for famous people from St. Louis and Missouri. I didn't realize these people came from there.

All in all, a great evening. Thank you Diana, Ed, and Tamela!

The city is celebrating its 250th birthday, so there are all these cakes around town.

On Thursday, my roomie and I took a walk down by the Arch and the Mississippi.

Oh, and here are three Carol Award finalists!

What a great weekend of friend-making, learning and networking!

 What city do you like to explore?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Celebrating the Carol Awards with a Giveaway!

In just over a week, the Carol Awards will be given out. When I get details for the live stream, I'll be sure to post it.

I'm really excited about it. Just getting to be a finalist is way cool. So I've decided to celebrate with a giveaway! Cause free stuff is fun.

With winter on the way (sorry to break it to you), I'm going to be giving away with super soft tulip throw blanket, a $10 Starbucks gift card and your choice of either Log Cabin Christmas, Snow on the Tulips, or Daisies Are Forever.

What you have to do is simple. Take a picture with Snow on the Tulips! If you have it, you're set. If you don't, I'm giving you almost a week to get it. Then post your picture to my Facebook page (not my author page that you may have liked, but my other one: Send me a friend request if you haven't already done so. You can also email it to me if you don't have Facebook.

You have until 11:59 p.m. central time on Tuesday, September 23rd. I'll be gone to the ACFW conference, but I'll draw and post the winner here and on my Facebook page.

Thanks for all of your support along the way. I sure appreciate it! Show me a little love back and get a chance to win!! And pass it on.