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February Elevator Reviews

February Elevator Reviews

Are you looking for some good books for you, a friend, your children, or a family member?  Are you too busy to read a full review?  Do you ever think, “I don’t need all the little details.  Just tell me whether or not it is good!”   Then Elevator Reviews are for you.  Pretend you and I are on an elevator – sipping a Chai latte and on our way to the 18th floor – and I’m going to give you a quick glimpse into my current-reading shelf.  Sit back and enjoy!

February Elevator Reviews:

The Nesting Place, Myquillyn Smith

This book was enchanting.  I do not typically have “decorating” books on my to-read pile, but this one came highly recommended from The Modern Mrs. Darcy, so I thought I would give it a try.  I found it to be a delightful easy read that was written to inspire and equip you to create a beautiful, functional home wherever God has placed you.  This gives her a unique and fresh perspective into the importance of settling in, wherever God has placed you.  You may be like me and typically shy away from the “decorating” genre, but I highly recommend that you add The Nesting Place to your shelf.  5 stars.

I Still Believe, Jeremy Camp

This amazing autobiography gives you an intimate look into the spiritual journey of Christian song writer and singer, Jeremy Camp.  It provides a glimpse into his childhood and how he came to the Lord.  Then following the love story with his first wife, her battle with cancer, and the Lord’s faithfulness.  And ending with where he and his family are now.  Highly recommend I Still Believe!  You will listen to Camp’s music in a whole new light.  5 stars.

Deep Work, Cal Newport

I was intrigued by the premise of this book: learning how to focus without distraction in a distracted world.  However I sadly found that Mr. Newport exhausted all that he had to say in the Introduction.  After that I found that he simply repeated what he originally said – over and over again.  In addition, I found that some of his ideas where unrealistic and outdated.  For instance he suggests that businesses should only have physical mailing addresses and no email.  I enjoyed the original idea, but was not impressed with Deep Work.  1 star.

Full Disclosure, Dee Henderson

This book is a re-read that I added this to my fiction reading this month.  Ann Silver simply understates things: her job, her abilities, her history.  Now her path has crossed with Special Agent Paul Falcon, a solid FBI agent with an incredible record.  When she drops some evidence on his desk with the offer that he can catch one of the most wanted serial killers in history, Paul is not only intrigued by the journals, but by the woman who brought them.  Full Disclosure is an incredible read. 5 stars.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Richard and Florence Atwater

This delightfully whimsical story was the perfect read aloud for the lunch table when I was nannying this month.  The tale of Mr. Popper, Mrs. Popper, Janie, Bill, and their 12 arctic birds is a story that all children find intriguing. The idea of 12 trained penguins who take the entertainment world by storm is just outside of possible and just inside of imaginable.  The memorable illustrations by Robert Lawson, coupled with the funny “ork” sounds of the penguins make Mr. Popper’s Penguins a must-have for your bookshelf.

It is also important to note that the book is NOTHING like the movie – I am not recommending or endorsing the movie.

Before I Wake, Dee Henderson

Another re-read, also from Dee Henderson.  Rae Gabriella has retired, after a terrible ending to an undercover assignment.  At the insistence of an old friend she begins work as a detective in the small quiet town of Justice, Illinois.  Soon after arrival, and just after she meets Sheriff Nathan, women in the town are found dead.  All of them from seemingly natural circumstances.  But what are the chances that several women all just died in their sleep?  The only thing I disliked about Before I Wake is how it ends.  There are several loose threads that are not tied up in the end, as you expect, but it is a wonderful read.    4 stars.



From part one of this series: ”

My distance degree is not worth “just as much” as a traditional campus degree – it is worth more.  It is worth years of work, life experience, and personal growth.  Let’s go above degree equality, let’s go above and beyond the status-quo.  If you are going to be different, stand out.  Go big or go home! So I encourage you and challenge you to own your degree this year.  Use 2018 as the year you pursue doing more than just getting by, just passing the test, just getting the credit.  How do you do that?  I’m glad you asked!

If you choose to think outside the box, be a little uncommon, and earn your degree through distance learning, you may find yourself having to explain your degree to everyone you meet.  This method will grow you and challenge you.  But it also gives you the option to, not only earn a degree, but to also acquire years of experience and skills that make you invaluable in the workplace.

Here are five practical ways to maximize your college years as a distance student:

1. Get an accountability group

Pursue finding students who are also earning distance degrees and create an accountability group.  You may find them on an online forum, a Facebook group, your online class, or even just local friends. I even met one friend at my testing center when we were both there to take a CLEP.  Having a group that can pray for you, ask you how the tests are going, or just be a sounding board for any questions/rants/comments that you have.  Get a group of people who are studying like you, and build each other up in the Lord.

2. Pursue workplace skills

Put yourself in the position to learn hard and soft skills in the workplace.  Part-time or full-time, internship or job – it really does not matter.  Seek out a position that will allow you to learn from those who are older and more experienced than you.  Pursue learning skills that will set you apart once you graduate – not just for the resume, but for the rest of your life.  And never underestimate the power of a letter of reference from a happy employer.

3. Look for volunteer and service opportunities

As a distance student you may not have the opportunity to get involved in Greek Life, on-campus service projects, or help lead the student body.  But don’t let that stop you.  Change your perspective and look for opportunities around your city and your community.  Schools, special need centers, National Parks, your church, mission trips – the opportunities are endless for you to volunteer and be involved in the life of your local community.  And service projects or volunteer work is often the work that has the greatest amazing impact on our life.

4. Keep your reading list

So many people I talk to say, “oh, I haven’t read since I started college.”  I hear this and I inwardly cringe. Prioritize reading – even if you only read one or two books a semester.  It may seem like a little thing, but reading is actually a vanishing skill in today’s world. Reading challenges your brain, helps you practice your concentration, and grows you as a person.  Read interesting books – fiction and nonfiction – and keep a record of what you read.  Also, choose your reading material thoughtfully. In the process of applying to graduate school and applying for scholarships, I have been able to share with the deans and faculty that I have read The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables while finishing my degree.  In other words, I have surrounded myself with good literature – instead of burying myself of modern textbooks.

5. Pursue relationships with your professors

With a few exceptions, most distance students will not have the opportunity to meet their professors face to face.  But don’t let that stop you from purposefully pursuing a relationship with them.  Do not limit yourself to public posts on the forum, get their personal email and send them your questions and comments.  If you have any questions, ask them – do not guess at the answer.  Demonstrate to your professors that you are not just there to pass a class, show them that you actually want to learn all that they can give you.  College faculty are faculty because they are passionate about their area of expertise and sharing it with students.  Take advantage of that fact and ask them for more than just what they list on the syllabus.  Once again, never underestimate the power of a letter of recommendation from a professor.

This is just the tip of the iceberg.  What ideas do you have for making your degree worth more than just four years of coursework?

Above and Beyond Degree Equality (part one)

Above and Beyond Degree Equality (part one)


Welcome to the fight for degree equality.  See, the majority of students will attend regular universities with classrooms and hallways and fire drills, and they will never have to prove or justify their degree.  The majority of students will attend a university familiar to them and the people around them, earn a degree, put it on their resume, get a job, and happily begin life in the workforce.  But if you choose to think outside the box, be a little uncommon, and have an adventure while in school, you may find yourself having to explain your degree to everyone you meet.

“So where did you go to school?”

(inwardly cringing and wishing I felt like lying) “Um, Thomas Edison State University.”

“Oh, I don’t think I have heard of that one.”

“Haha, probably not!  It is up in Trenton, New Jersey.”

“Oh, you’re from New Jersey?”

“Um, no… I just graduated from Thomas Edison.  I’m an online, distance student.”


Cringe, sigh.  Over and over again.  Wishing I could lie – just once!  And claim I went somewhere that people knew and respected.

But here’s the deal.  No I don’t.  Sure for a moment it might be uncomfortable and awkward to explain why you chose the path you did, and it might take a little more explaining than normal, but the truth of the matter is – I wouldn’t trade my education for any other option.

The experience of putting myself through school, working full-time while I earned my degree, having to do the research myself, and having to be my own academic advisor has given me so many practical life skills that I never would have gotten on a traditional four year “college campus experience.”

I’ve learned how to manage my time, study effectively, and how to be purposeful in my work.  Working full-time as a substitute teacher and office manager gave me practical skills that future employers are looking for.  And believe me, nothing teaches you how to conduct research like trying to figure out which credits will transfer correctly.

My distance degree is not worth “just as much” as a traditional campus degree – it is worth more.  It is worth years of work, life experience, and personal growth.  Let’s go above degree equality, let’s go above and beyond the status-quo.  If you are going to be different, stand out.  Go big or go home!

So I encourage you and challenge you to own your degree this year.  Use 2018 as the year you pursue doing more than just getting by, just passing the test, just getting the credit.  How do you do that?  I’m glad you asked!  Look for Part Two this week!  🙂

Because let’s be real… its just me

Because let’s be real… its just me

I do not like looking up how-to articles on blogging and writing book reviews.  Google it, look it up on Pinterest – use whatever your social media you prefer – but however you look up information about blogging, you will find the same suggestions: post regularly, fill your post with pictures, and pick topics based on search engine optimization.

All scientifically proven suggestions that I recklessly do not heed.

I want to write a post when I have something to write about – which is sometimes every day and sometimes once a week.  I do not schedule my posts, I do not use a lot of pictures, and I certainly do not pick my post topics based on what will collect hits or visits (I’m not even sure I know what the difference is).

But there are reasons behind this, and perhaps that is why I feel like this blog really is the truest form of my writing – at least the writing I allow to be public.  Because I write posts that are in my head and on my heart.  These are the words that are pounding around inside me.  They might be emotional words that are weighing on me or a book that I read and really wanted to share or maybe just a informational post to help people who are curious.

There are few pictures because I do not like to post pictures I did not take.  It feels cheep, like a thief or a fraud to be using someone else’s work.  I want to post words I wrote and pictures I took – or at least asked someone to take for that moment.  I have used stock pictures before, but it never sits right.  There is no emotional attachment to these pixels.  I want something I saw, touched, smelled, witnessed.

So come sit down and stay awhile.  Read and comment, read and ghost away – I empathize with both reactions.  And enjoy!

Tribute to a Faithful Friend

Tribute to a Faithful Friend

I still step out the back door and head for the chicken house, expecting her to follow me.  I still walk across the back yard, expecting her to match me step for step.  Someone kicked a soccer ball across the yard today, and I waited for her to chase it.  But she’s not here anymore.

It has been said, time and time again, that a dog is man’s best friend, and perhaps, in a mysterious meeting of mere animal to eternal soul, that is true.  There is a understanding that dogs have with their human companions, inexplicable and, yet, understood by both sides.  In the hustle and bustle of daily routine, it is inexpressibly peaceful and wonderful to find a creature who’s greatest joy is to sit and stare at nothing, make no remarks about anything, and simply rest in your companionship.  They expect nothing, and happily give everything.

She and I had many conversations over the years, Most notably the times when I was broken and confused.  She never said anything, never tried to fix it.  She was just herself, and that is all I could ask for.  I came to depend on her, to take for her granted, and to assume that she would always be there.  She and I had a binding, verbal agreement – that she would go with me when I got married.  That she would live out the remainder of her life enjoying the solitude of being an only dog.  She gave me her all, down to the last moment.

She had her brushes with death before, but I had always whispered, “you can’t leave me, yet,” and she always rallied.  Perhaps I came to assume that I could merely will her existence indefinitely.  After all, I wasn’t married yet – we had an agreement.  And perhaps that was why she didn’t quit when she could have. Even deaf, mostly blind, unable to walk, and unable to eat, she would sleep outside our back door.  Faithful to the end.  The selfish tendencies of cats are perhaps most noticeable when they slip away in their latter years.  They many times save us the trouble of medical bills and difficult decisions, but all my cats have so far deprived me of the chance to say goodbye, around the lump in my throat, and to have closure.  Dogs are quite different.

But age is a terrible master, who always wins out.  Even against the most steadfast of faithful hearts.  And the day came when I knew I couldn’t ask her to hold out any longer.  Her eyes seemed to be begging for the end.  She wanted to know she was done, that she had obeyed and would be rewarded.  I knelt down and whispered, barely speaking through the tears.  “Good girl.  I’ll miss you so much.”  And I let her go.  My sweet dad took her and brought her back, burying her before I could see her.  My last memory would be her standing and looking at me, nothing else would mar that.

Life went on, but I still tear up sometimes.  When I expect to see her and I don’t.  Some parts of me feel like I failed my part of the agreement, part of me knows Kate loved me no matter where we were.  All I know for sure is, God gave us  gift when he made dogs.  And getting to have a faithful, loving dog is an amazing experience.

Year End Bucket List

Year End Bucket List

The year is coming to an end.  Slipping slowly down behind the mountain, vanishing from sight.  I like to take this time to look back and think about what all happened this year.  Look back over my shoulder and all that God has done.

People like to create bucket lists.  Lists of things to check off in their lifetime.  Places to visit, people to meet, and things to do and see.  But what if we reverse that?  Rather than making a list for our life, what if we make a list as we live?  It is a change in perspective that can fill your heart with thankfulness.

Don’t look at your list to see what hasn’t happened yet.   Look back and see what He has done.

The nights everyone was home around the table, the amazing sunsets I got to watch, the sunrises as I headed to work in the dawn, the violin music I got to learn, the Hardy Boy books I got to read with my little brother, singing at the top of my lungs, getting to perfect favorite recipes, laughing until tears came, leaving the country and meeting new people, sunrises from an airplane, and long walks down the road.

There is so much to be thankful for.  Here at year’s end.

Get Me Started… College Algebra CLEP

Get Me Started… College Algebra CLEP

Get your highschooler ready to earn 3 college credits after graduation with the College Algebra CLEP!!!!


Ready to be done with high school algebra, once and for all?  Ready to get those math credits under your belt and move on?  Most high school students are prepared to take the College Algebra CLEP after finishing the high school level of Algebra 1 and 2.  That means you could graduate from high school prepared to go test out of an entire semester of college credit!  Sound like a good plan?

Well let me help you get started on the College Algebra CLEP!

1) Stock your bookshelves

There are two resources that you *have* to have on your bookshelf for the College Algebra CLEP.  The first one is the CollegeBoard CLEP Official Guide and the second is the REA College Algebra Guide.  CollegeBoard makes the CLEP exams, so their test guide is the best one to have on your shelf, no matter which test you’re taking.  And REA guides are the perfect test prep guide, to make sure you are covering all the problems you will meet on the test.

2) Get to know the College Algebra CLEP

The College Algebra CLEP has 60 questions to be answered in 90 minutes.  A passing score is usually awarded 3 college credits, depending on the policy of your institution. Approximately 50% of the exam is solving straightforward problems, the remaining 50% of the exam is application of the concepts learned in a college algebra course.  A scientific calculator is provided for you, in the test taking software.

3) Take the CollegeBoard practice test

Take the CollegeBoard practice test for College Algebra and figure what percentage of the questions you got *correct* (i.e. divide number correct by total number of questions).  If your total is 60% or above, go take the test!  If not, move on to step 4.  Note that I usually only take the CollegeBoard practice test when I’m assessing my knowledge of the subject.  That allows me to reuse this practice test many times.

4) Study, study, study

This is the perfect time to pull out your handy, dandy REA College Algebra Guide!  I use my REA guide as the backbone of my study time, and then supplement with some other resources.  I use Khan Academy, Wikipedia, and Texas A&M.  I also use the Algebra I For Dummies and College Algebra DeMYSTiFieD books.  Feel free to use the practice tests in the back of the REA guide to measure your progress as you study.

5) Retake the CollegeBoard practice test

Take the CollegeBoard practice test for College Algebra and figure what percentage of the questions you got correct.  If your total is 60% or above, go take the test!  If not, repeat step 4.

Get a Normal Email Address!

Get a Normal Email Address!


Welcome to your life, wherever this finds you.  Still in high school, venturing through college, finding yourself in the work place, or diligently at home.  Wherever you are, you probably have an email address and this piece of your life is a huge key to how you view life and what you make of yourself.

Besides your Social Security number you will probably use your email address more than any other piece of identification.  And, unlike other generic piece of ID, this is personalized and a peek into who you are.  Make sure you take your time on it.

Job applications, college admission forms, resumes… the list goes on and on.  Each of these will ask for your email address because it’s one of the best ways to contact people in the 21st century.  And on each of these many professional men and women will be looking at your email address.  Where you live is standard, your phone number is standard, but your email will stand out.

You may have a Bachelor’s in Accounting.  You many have a GPA of 3.7.  You may have been valedictorian in high school.  But if your email address is ““, none of that will matter.

Believe it or not, your email address can be the determining factor in getting a job.

Take the time, invest the extra energy, and create a simple, professional, normal email address.  It’ll get you much farther.

Love Story

Love Story

Just because everyone needs a good love story for Valentine's day.



They met in a small town.  A mutual friend introduced them and they started talking.  She was quiet, he’s more outgoing.  She could not figure out why he kept hanging around, he wondered if she liked him.  Back and forth, back and forth.  Their paths kept crossing (funny how that works), then they started dating (officially), and then they fell in love.  

But he had a dream, and he took a job far away.  She stayed behind to finish school and try to move on.  He worked, many miles away, during the day and stayed up thinking at night.  She studied, many miles away, during the day and cried herself to sleep at night.  But her trust in God became stronger because of the distance and silence.  And he listened to God and started thinking, “why did I leave her?”  

One day she looked out her window and saw his dog in her yard.  

She is his memory, when he forgets mentally postpones something.  He is her steady when she has crazy ideas.  He has never met a stranger, she hides from new people.  She can speak in public, he gets nervous in a crowd.  He loves cheese cake, and she loves chocolate.  She orders online, he loves to go shop. He wants to travel and see new places, she would never leave home.  She gives words, he gives time.  He’s the computer guy, she writes everything on a piece of paper.  She wants to plan everything, he wants to just go try it.  He is the daredevil, she is the one that worries.  She loves the beach, he wants the mountains.  He drinks his coffee very black, she drinks it with lots of sugar and milk.  Delightfully at odds with each other, it is a love that had to work.

They have both changed in the past (almost) 25 years.  She still has green eyes, and he still has blue; she still has a beautiful smile, and he still loves to hug her.  It is the other things that have changed.  Her hands are worn with the care of running her home, but she still looks just as lovely to him.  His blond hair is replaced with grey, but he is just as handsome to her.  They are raising eight children, and learning just how weak they really are.  Their date nights now consist of a trip to the grocery store, usually in the family van.  But their faith is deeper and stronger now.  And their love is fuller and richer, founded on Christ.

True love stories are not about the kind of love that we have been conditioned to think of.  That’s the shallow, cheesy Hollywood love.  This is a deep rooted, self sacrificing love.  Their love has not always been easy, it has sometimes been really, really hard.  But love is never about easy, it’s about hard.  Life is not easy, love is not easy.  They are two sinners, struggling to live together.  That’s why their faith is stronger, they have had to reach for God that much more.


When you read the beginning of their love story it is romantic and sweet.  But later on, when the story is full of struggles and heartache and bills to pay and losing babies and broken cars and raising kids, it is hard to see the romance and sweetness.  But it is still there.  And it is even more romantic and sweet, because they have poured 25 years of themselves into each other and their marriage.  It is a real love story, the kind everyone wants to have.  If you want to see true love, I suggest you look to your parents.  It’s a great place to start.

Yes, I'm Crazy!

Yes, I'm Crazy!

Yes, I know I promised a blog series on writing.  However, God had different plans, and last Sunday I broke my wrist.  So my dominant hand is in a cast for the next 5 weeks.   However, I do have the series all planned out and, as the pain continues to subside, I plan on typing out all the posts for you.  So stay tuned.

On another note, I was able to CLEP American Government the day after I broke my wrist.  I was just so ready to be done with it, that I got up Monday morning and my mom drove me in to the testing center.  My proctor put the computer mouse on the left side of the computer for me, I took my pain medicine, and then CLEPed Government.  Squeaked by with a 51, came home and slept for a couple of hours.

Yes, I’m crazy.  🙂  But I only have 3 tests now until I’m a Senior.