Cold Coffee and Speed Limits: Encouragement for Mamas of Teens available for pre-order for .99 cents!

Cold Coffee

Why is it that there are thousands of books/blogs about raising babies, toddlers, and even school-aged kids, but when we our kids become teens–poof! Sure, there are plenty of scary clinical approaches out there, but this book isn’t one of them. I’ve been a mama of teenagers for a while now, and though I’m no expert, I’m here for you. Besides stories from the trenches, I’ve included teen-pleasing recipes, tips on time management and other issues important to us mamas.

Besides being a mama of three, I’m a writer, an experimental cook, and an English professor. I live in Texas (the land of Old Yeller) and I survive on large amounts of coffee and ungodly amounts of sugar. It’s really not healthy.

If you want a clinical approach, a hands-free parenting guide–keep looking. But if you want an honest guide to the joys and heartbreak of raising teens…well, you may have found it.

For a limited time, you can pre-order this book for .99 cents! It will be available on Kindle only Sept. 25, 2015.

Cold Coffee and Speed Limits: Encouragement for Mamas of Teens Pre-Order

Tips From Your Professor: 5 Steps To Sending an Email to Your Instructor


Example of a terrible email: 

hey i was absent last week and i dont understand the work i need ur help 

–anonymous student, writing from his account 

Do you need to send an email to a professor or teacher? STOP! Read this helpful guide first.This blog post is dedicated to all my instructors I may/may not have sent horrible emails as a student.

1. Don’t skip the greeting. Even though you are in a hurry, take the time to say hello before making a request or asking a question. Dear Professor, Professor Jones, etc. are acceptable greetings. By taking a moment to address your teacher, you are establishing the culture of respect between you.

2. After a polite greeting, take one sentence to wish your teacher well. Something like, “I hope you are having a good day so far,” or “I hope your week is going well” goes a long way in establishing goodwill on your end. You’re not just jumping in with what you need. Teachers get dozens of emails a day, and almost everyone needs something. It will be worth your while to demonstrate to your teacher that you regard him/her as an actual human being with feelings.

3. Politely state your question/request. Here are two examples of the same question.

A) This homework is crazy! Do you think we are graduate students or something? I can’t do this assignment!!!!!!

B) If it’s not too much trouble, may I see you after class to get some clarification on the homework assignment? I’m struggling quite a bit and want to do well.

Same question, different effect.

4. Don’t end your email without using some kind of “complimentary close.” This means to add a “Sincerely,” or “Many Thanks” etc. before you sign your name. Under no circumstances should you not sign the email (that’s just lazy).

5. Don’t forget to use proper grammar and spelling. An email is not a text, and your professor is not your bestie. Keep it formal, and don’t use “text speak” ( i cu). That’s unprofessional and discourteous.

Last but not least, don’t forget to say “Thank you” to your teacher. She’s probably reading your email at 11:00 p.m. before she falls asleep. After all, she’s a person too.

On the Middle Child and Asserting Your Voice


Dear Sarah,

23 years ago, I woke up to a startling popping noise, similar to the sound a bottle of champagne makes. It wasn’t champagne. It was the beginning of your journey into this world to meet me. I know there were (and are still) others you would meet, but I like to think this first time was meant for me alone.

coronado bridge

I’ve told the story many times before: the long ride across the Coronado Bridge in the pre-dawn hours, the lights twinkling across the bay as my contractions grew stronger and closer together. Dad was flying from Bremerton where his ship, The Long Beach, was being dry docked for repair. We hoped and prayed he would make it in time, but he was just a few hours shy.

The nervousness of the taxi driver who didn’t speak English and seemed very concerned I might soil his cab with my impending birth. How I labored for several hours alone, waiting for your Nannie and Papa to drive up from Indio to be with me. The doctor and nurses placing bets about how big you were gonna be (they were all wrong…and so inappropriate!). How beautiful you were when I held you in my arms, all 22 inches of you. You were and are still a gorgeous girl–the kind of baby that made people stop and notice, involuntairly saying “Awwww” when they saw that unbeatable combination of eyes and lips and now, the long raven hair that you could have only gotten from your daddy’s Italian side.

Not surprisingly, your sister was a bit jealous. She tried to keep you out of Nannie’s room so you wouldn’t get any of the snuggles. She wondered out loud when you were going back to the hospital. In short, she was not impressed.

But you found your voice pretty quickly. You learned to stick up for yourself, to declare your opinion–sometimes to demand your own way. When you were four and Jody asked what you wanted Santa to bring you for Christmas, you summarily told her to “Grow up.” When I tried to replace your worn out Simba that you carried everywhere by its neck (because that’s how Simba’s mother would have carried him!), I “washed” him and came back with a new, less ratty version. You looked me straight in the eye and said, “This one looks … new. I want my old one.” You ended up getting two. It wasn’t too long before the second one looked as decrepit as the original.

I know you sometimes make jokes about being the ignored middle child but you know we couldn’t overlook you if we wanted to. Your beauty, talent, brains, wit and hilarity brighten up our daily lives and I don’t know what we would do without you.

And I think your sister may have finally gotten used to your being around. Just a hunch.

Happy Birthday, Sarah. I love you so much.

One more time, Sarah–here’s the song I was thinking of while taking that long drive across the Coronado bridge, knowing my life was about to forever change.

I’m so very lucky.

Get Here if You Can

On Marching Band, Second Chances, and Joy


The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. Psalm 28:7 

I picked them up after band practice today.

Her smile was noticeable, even from several feet away–braces can’t mask loveliness that comes from the inside. Her hair is stuffed into a bun, and she laughs a bit at the awkwardness of scrambling across the seat. It’s kind of great.

Even better? The smile that my son wears when they tumble in the car, a pile of instrument cases and water jugs. The contrast between his demeanor a year ago and today–it’s remarkable. The fact that two  teens maintained a long-distance relationship for over a year–the fact that anyone can, let along two kids in high school–it boggles the mind. But they did it. They didn’t give up. It was anything but easy. It was heartbreaking.

But she’s here. She’s back. After over a year of a very painful move cross-country, Watergirl’s family is on its way back too–and they sent her first…so she wouldn’t miss band camp.

I know this decision has not been an easy one. I’ve heard bits and pieces of the dilemma as her parents made a very difficult choice to again uproot and come back. Who is ever 100% sure of God’s will–even those who speak to him most intimately? The truth is, we pray and ask for guidance and wait for an answer. Sometimes, heaven is silent and the clock forces us to make our best guess. Sometimes we must make a decision from our gut and trust that God is looking out for us.

I know only a tiny bit of the back-and-forth that Watergirl’s mama and dad faced. They want what most people want–to do the right thing for their family. Add in a congregation they love (and one that loves them back) and the equation is further complicated. They say that moving is one of the most stressful of life events–right up there with divorce and death. When we move from one town (or state!) to another, there is always a bit of divorcing of some sort, isn’t there? It’s separation, it’s saying goodbye. It’s packing and unpacking and loading and unloading and taking furniture apart and putting it back together again. It’s turning off power and turning it on again. It’s tears and stress and we snap from the pressure.

But then–we see the smile of a young girl.

Lance and Becky–I know you can’t see it right now; you are still making your way back to Texas, so I’ll try to describe this smile your daughter wore today. I’ll try to describe the grin my son wore because of your daughter’s smile. It’s a smile of contentment, joy, and a realization of the miracle of unexpected second chances.

Thank you–and I can’t wait to welcome you back to Texas, with a big smile.

Spanish Rice Stuffed Peppers:

bell peppers


5-6 large bell peppers, different colors
1 onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, minced.
1 cup white rice, uncooked
1 can rotel
2 cups chicken broth
1 pound ground chicken
1/2 tsp. cumin, salt and pepper as desired

2 cups sharp cheddar cheese

Rinse and devein peppers. Sautee onion and bell pepper with the ground chicken. Season as desired. Prepare rice as directed, using chicken broth instead of water. When rice is finished, mix in with the ground chicken, the can of rotel, and add cheese. Stuff into peppers and top with more cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes or until peppers are soft.

Tips From Your Professor: 5 Behaviors of Successful Students


Whether you’re just beginning college or going back to earn an advanced degree, most people begin with the best of intentions. Who wants to drop a ton of cash just to fail? Nobody! Bad behaviors can sneak up on you, and before you know it, you’re on the way to a failing grade. If you want to be successful in college, here are 5 habits successful students know.

1. Good students are on time and don’t miss class! This is so important. They know that strolling in even a few minutes late will cause them to not only miss valuable instruction, but they might also miss deadlines. Good students understand that being late and missing class convey one thing to the class and the instructor: you just don’t care. Students who commit to attending and being on time do better than students who don’t…it’s just a fact.

2. Successful students are attentive and engaged. They know it’s not enough to simply show up. It might have been enough in high school, but college classes are more challenging and require participation. Engaged students remember more content than students who simply warm seats.

3. Good students stop by the professor’s office even if they’re not having trouble. They know making an effort to meet their professor can go a long way to making a smooth semester. Good scholars make a favorable impression on their professor early in the semester, knowing she might be willing to help them out later in the semester when they are struggling. She might even write a letter of recommendation for you later. They know college isn’t just about getting grades. It’s about making connections for the rest of your life.

4. Successful students complete their assignments on time. Many capable, intelligent students don’t get the A’s they deserve because they struggle with this one issue. They always expect the unexpected (the printer WILL jam at the last second, they WILL run out of paper, the library WILL be closed, there WILL be a tornado) and they give themselves plenty of time.

5. Good students talk to their fellow classmates. They know it doesn’t pay to be a loner. They exchange contact information. They form study groups. They know the more social they are, the easier the class will be. In the short hours right before the big test, they’ll have someone to send panicked texts to.

So show up, be on time, be engaged, be polite and communicate! These steps will go a long way to helping you have a successful career as a student and beyond.

Seeking Submissions: Sweet Tea and Southern Sunrises: 100 Stories of Strength and Inspiration


Seeking Submissions: Sweet Tea and Southern Sunrises: 100 Stories of Strength and Inspiration from Southern Women (tentative title)

Are you a Southern woman who has a great story? Are you tired of the way media portrays us? Do you have a story that will inspire others? I’m looking for your true story that emphasizes the good qualities of Southern women—our strength, our resilience, even our stubbornness. I will also consider poetry about Southern women or living in the South.

Stories must be between 500-1200 words. If your story is chosen, you will keep the rights to it. Although you won’t be paid, you will be published in an ebook that I will edit and put together. Your name will be listed among contributors. If there is enough interest, the book might be published in a more traditional manner.

Here are some possible ideas to get you going, but are in no way meant to limit your creative energy!
1. Growing up in the South: the good and bad
2. Facing or encountering stereotypes (either as a woman or as a Southerner)
3. Encountering/conquering racism
4. Breaking cycles of poverty/being the first in your family to get a degree
5. What your mother taught you
6. What you want to teach your daughter
7. Southern ingenuity—making the best of a bad situation or coming up with unique solutions
Email your submissions to

5 Things My Chihuahua Taught Me


My little chihuahua Goliath (the brown one on the left) died last week. While he was only about six pounds, the impact he’s left on my life much larger. I lost my father to cancer in September 14, 2003, as the leaves were just boasting their autumn colors, setting the Arkansas countryside afire with color.

Those first days — I have little recollection. The fog of grief is powerful, and it’s able to obscure many details. One thing I do remember is waking to find a tiny puppy on my chest. My husband knew I was lost–and wanted me to be found again. What better way to come back to the land of the living than to have a puppy to take care of?

Little did I know how much he was taking care of me.

Here are 5 things my chihuahua Goliath taught me.

1. Size bears no importance to authority. Even though he was the smallest of our three dogs, he was definitely the Alpha. The other dogs listened to him and obeyed his commands to check the yard for intruders, to get OFF his pillow, to let him go first at the food bowl. I remember this as I rapidly become the shortest in my house!

Goliath as Study Buddy

2. Sometimes just being there is enough. There are so many times I was upset or sick and Goliath would join us, sitting on our laps or nearby. It’s not as if he could sing me a love song, send flowers, or convey words of wisdom to help me with my problem. But he didn’t have to–his warm puppy presence cheered my heart and slowed down my manic mind.

3. Resting is important. I’m a type A personality and find it hard to just relax. Even if I’m in front of the television, I’m often writing, grading, planning, researching, returning emails–long into the night. Goliath was the King of Comfort. He would always find the fluffiest pillow, the coziest blanket to lie on. He had to keep up his strength as Alpha in case the family needed his help barking. He learned to do this in power naps–VERY powerful naps sometimes lasting 22 hours out of the day. He was like a bully baby.

G resting

4. Protecting the family is a duty. Goliath took this job seriously. Well, he took the job of telling the other dogs to take it seriously seriously. This is how it works. Rocky will perch on the top of the recliner, peering out the window into the dangerous neighborhood, scanning for gang activity or potential killers (or postmen). If a threat hovers, Rocky will sound the alarm, waking Goliath, who will join in the warning call. Lucy, the German Shepherd and self-proclaimed Family Police Force will burst out the doggie door with enough power to shake the house, teeth bared. Usually it’s just a squirrel (we call him Henry and he loves to mess with Lucy–but one day…). Goliath was more of the Police Dispatcher.

5. Dogs (and pets) are irrevocably part of the family. They accept us in any manner we present ourselves: grouchy, unshowered, whatever. That day when he just rested his head on my hand for the last time–I knew that would be forever seared in my memory as a day I lost a dear friend.

Goliath enjoys a puppy cone

Rest in peace, sweet friend. In my heaven, I’ll see you there–and I’ll bring the softest pillow in the world, and a puppy cone.