Posts Categorized: Life Well Lived

#SweetGiving with Sweet Friends for OCC

October 13, 2016 Holidays, Life Well Lived 2

Operation Christmas Child

Photo Credit: Chelsea Francis

As I sit to write this, Christmas is exactly 72 days away. Ok, scary thought. Because I haven’t really started on Christmas presents yet. . .honestly, I haven’t really even thought much about Christmas, especially as we are all so intensely focused on politics at the moment. I know, I know ~ let’s simply avoid that volatile subject for now and talk about something much more necessary and even FUN!

For the past several years, I can’t remember exactly how long ago we started, but I know it’s been years and years {so sad thinking how my oldest is 24!}. Anyways, while my children were growing up each year they would pack a Christmas shoebox for a boy or girl dependent on their age at the time for Operation Christmas Child.

Last year, I started the tradition with my sweet grandsons. The youngest little monkey was 4 and the step-grandson was 7 – perfect ages to begin sharing the idea that not every child wakes to an abundance of gifts on Christmas morning. This video helped both boys understand who they were creating special gift boxes for. For about a month we collected small items that would fit in a shoebox, with the 4 year old choosing toys and gifts for a 4 year old boy and the 7 year old doing the same for his age. It was fascinating to see what they picked as gifts they would want if they had no toys at all.

This year I invite you to join us in preparing gift boxes. It is a wonderful way to teach empathy while helping children around the world.

Just in case you’ve never heard of Operation Christmas Child please allow me to share its’ mission

Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, demonstrates God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world, and together with the local church worldwide, shares the Good News of Jesus Christ. We collect and send simple shoebox gifts filled with toys, school supplies, and hygiene items to children affected by war, poverty, disaster, famine, and disease. Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered gift-filled shoeboxes to over 124 million children in more than 150 countries and territories.

Who is Samaritan’s Purse?

Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If you would prefer to make a donation in honor or memory of someone visit Samaritan’s Purse Gift Giving Catalog filled with specific gifts for individuals and families around the world. For example, with a $20 donation you can make it possible for a child to learn to read and write! And I know how important reading is to us book lovers, right?!?

My good friend Kirsten from Sweet Tea and Saving Grace is providing tips and resources to help create your shoeboxes. Also, Samaritan’s Purse has a Pinterest page with tons of ideas for preparing your shoebox. And, if like me, you are not a part of a church that collects the shoeboxes it is easy to find a local collection point with Shoebox Collection Point resource. Simply enter your zip code and voila, a collection point within a few miles of you will be shown.

I love this coloring page provided by Samaritan’s Purse to include in the box. It helped bring home the message of giving to my grandsons and allowed the child who received the box to ‘know’ the child giving on the other end. If you want to follow along with my grandsons and me as we prepare our shoeboxes, please do so on Facebook or Instagram.


Thank you for allowing me to share this important work with you. Please do share any tips or ideas you have for creating a shoebox in the comments. I’d love to see how we all join together to bring hope and light to children around the world.

Many blessings Dear Hearts,



Weekend Cooking: Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

August 28, 2016 Book Talk, Life Well Lived 8

slimmer the new mediterranean way to lose weightIt’s been a while since I’ve participated in Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, and I’ve been meaning to share this recipe from a favorite cookbook, Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight {reviewed here}.

This is a wonderful recipe using fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Plus, it’s a one-pot wonder, my favorite kind-of dish to cook! Also, gluten-free and dairy-free.

Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables


  • 2 medium skinless split chicken breasts
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 sprigs of marjoram or oregano {either herb adds great flavor}
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 small red or yellow potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 small carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pearl onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Place the herb sprigs in a single layer in middle of medium-size casserole or large cast-iron pot. Cover the herbs with the sliced tomatoes and place the chicken breasts, already seasoned with salt and pepper, flesh side down on tomato and herb bed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together chopped carrots, zucchini, potatoes and pearl onions with olive oil stirring well to coat.
  4. Spread vegetables in the dish surrounding the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken breast reaches 165° F, about 30 minutes.
  6. To serve, transfer chicken to a dish, spoon the tomatoes and other vegetables over, and sprinkle with parsley.

[Tweet “Easy + Delicious One Pot Wonder: Chicken and Summer Vegetables 30 – Minute Meal”]

Side note ~ When I made this dish Friday night, I took lots of photos with the intent of sharing each step of the process here on the blog. And darn-it! wouldn’t you know, my computer is not reading the SD card!  Aargh! the frustrations of blogging and photography! Thank you for listening and allowing me a moment to “be real!”

Happy Weekend Friends!




We Interrupt Our Regularly-Scheduled Program to Bring You this Important Announcement

May 10, 2016 Life Well Lived 17

Last Sunday I began experiencing some rather strange symptoms. I felt flush and cold all at once. Disoriented. Exhausted. Nauseated. Most of these symptoms I have also experienced with multiple sclerosis and chronic migraine only in a different, milder sort-of way.

I passed it off to the exercise regiment I’ve been doing {to help with energy which also exhausts me if I veer from that sweet spot of just enough exertion v. too much}.

By the evening I was so nauseous that I ate only half of a pretzel for dinner thinking it would settle my stomach. Then I thought well darn, maybe I’m dehydrated being out here in this dry Arizona heat. I knew that wasn’t likely, because I drink almost a gallon of water every day.

Normally I’m not snappish with my sweetie. Sunday evening I was down-right hateful and cranky. Yet, I could not figure out what was wrong.

Throughout the evening the nausea never let up.  From hot to cold; cold to hot and endless cold sweats. It was when I had to go to the bathroom that things started getting weird. Ever heard of black poop? Like tarry, icky, smelly, black poop? Yeah, neither had I. Thank goodness for Google and Bing and Yahoo.

I determined that I was experiencing an upper-GI bleed. Most of the articles said this was an emergency. How much of an emergency Google wouldn’t tell me.

It was a very long night. By early the next morning I was so dizzy I couldn’t stand up straight. When I started throwing up blood my sweetie insisted it was time to go to the emergency room. I was in full agreement.

Once we got to the ER I was admitted and taken back for an upper-GI scan. There was so much blood that the dr could not even see where it was all coming from. So out came the stomach pump, or rather, in went the stomach pump.

I have had so many tests, probes, scans, surgeries, etc etc that I thought I could handle most anything. Let me just share, if you can go a lifetime without having a line put through your nose to your stomach and then hooked up to a giant clear cup then you will have won. Seriously. Add that one to your blessings.

[Tweet “If you can go a lifetime without being hooked up to a stomach pump then you will have truly won. Add that to your blessings.”]

And those giant cups? That look like the hospital ones with the big fat straw you see in every patient’s hospital room, filled with ice? It’s that size, but clear. So you can see all the gunk coming out. It was not pretty. Not pretty at all.

I had stayed relatively calm until I woke up from the scope to discover the tube in my nose – I admit, I lost it. That thing hurt so badly. Of course it didn’t help that they put it into my right nostril where the bone is all crooked and messed up from a car accident.

By now the doctors had figured out my hemoglobin was dangerously low, and thank goodness, I was pretty much out of it. The next several days were spent in the care of the wonderful doctors and nurses of the ICU.

You’d think with all that time lying around I could have gotten at least one book read. Nope. No tv either. Pretty much all I did was sleep.

So Why Share Such a Personal Experience?

Three reasons.

  • If you are a blood donor, thank you. This makes the third time you’ve saved my life, not counting the three years of immunoglobulin treatments for MS. Your gift of blood saves countless lives, every hour, every day.
  • If you take any type of NSAIDs – Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Aleve, please know that those things can do irreparable harm. Take in moderation {like the never-kind-of-moderation}. Or at least not the kind of moderation where you’re taking 2-6 pills a day for an extended amount of time.
  • To all those that sent prayers and well-wishes – you made a tremendous difference. To those that helped my sweetie through the ordeal with moral support, guidance or a listening ear – thank you, so very much. To my mom and oldest daughter – thank you for dropping everything to come be with me. and My Sweetheart – you’ve been through hell and back for me and with me. You know {or at least you should know} that you’ll always be my hero.



16 Bookish Gifts for Mother’s Day That Also Give Back

April 28, 2016 Life Well Lived 6



Y’all know Mother’s Day is around the corner, right? I’m nodding at myself as I say that. Usually I’m scrambling the day before to find something special for my mom. Well, either that, or she gives my brothers and me a list 😉

This year is different. This year I’m going to be ahead of my typical procrastinating schedule. Will you join me? I’ve found a few items that are super-special, filled with meaning and will also warm your mama’s reading heart.

The gift that gives back. Two for the price of one  – a tangible lovely gift for your mom + the gift of knowing your purchase will help others in need. and who doesn’t love that?!?



Sparkly Items

  • Moms are in the unique position to inspire us constantly and completely. The Giving Key is a reminder of that love and inspiration. | Employs LA Residents Transitioning From Homelessness
  • Although advertised for friends, this bracelet set would be such a sweet gift between a mother and daughter. | 40% Of Sales Donated To Benefit Survivors Of Human Trafficking
  • Made from paper, these earrings are a lovely Spring accessory. | Creates Sustainable Income for Women and Children In Masese, Uganda

[Tweet “16 Bookish Mother’s Day Gifts giving back to women and communities.”]

For the Home

  • It’s important that moms are comfy when reading. This alpaca blanket ensures just that. | For Every blanket purchased a Blanket is Donated to Your Local Homeless Shelter
  • The wise mom and reader has more books than bookshelves. This unique steel book stand represents Inca wisdom. | Proceeds Assist Talented Artists Worldwide and to Unicef’s Program of Saving & Protecting Children
  • These Classic Books Coasters are a lovely way to protect mom’s furniture while she’s reading with that cup of tea or coffee. {or wine 😉 } | Each Product Sold Donates a Book to a Community in Need
  • I can attest to these candles. Light, fresh scent and portable enough for any mom who travels. {and a must for hotel rooms!} | Donates 100% of after-tax profits to provide new funding to reading-related charities


mothers day gifts

For the Writer

  • To keep up with books read, to jot down inspiring quotes, or for journaling this hand carved journal is gorgeous and worthy of that special mama. | Work with Artisan Partners to Overcome Poverty
  • When your mom gets deep into her writing, This Bar Saves Lives will keep her going til she comes up for air. | For Every Bar Purchased One Pack of Life-Saving Food Provided to Child in Need
  • Add Free-Trade, Organic Coffee to the granola bars and she’s got enough to sustain her for hours of reading and writing. | Sustainable Development of Rural Communities in Mexico and Guatemala
  • To be a great writer you’ve got to be an even greater reader. Buy your mom a book on writing or that classic novel she’s missing in her collection. | For Every Book Purchased One Book is Donated
  • These Jane Austin Notecards are perfect for the mom who enjoys sending real notes through the real mail. | Started by a Book Blogger, this Shoppe Gives a Portion of Proceeds to Several Charities


mothers day gifts

The Complete Outfit

  • This tee is the perfect way to share the importance of reading. | Awareness and charitable contributions to variety of causes
  • What mom doesn’t need this stylish tote to carry her books? | Employs Innercity Youth and Provides College Scholarships in Phoenix, AZ
  • Another option could be this burlap FEED bag. | Provides 25 Meals for Children Around the World
  • It will be summer soon, and that means reading by the pool, or better yet, on the beach. These sunglasses are both stylish and practical. {practical how? if your mom likes to push her sunglasses up to the top of her head this version without wire won’t get caught in her hair!} | Buy One/Give One Mission and Training + Empowering Those in Developing Countries

Now, the only problem is choosing just one gift, yes?

Help add to the list – what companies do you like that give back to the community?



Thoughts on Writing

April 18, 2016 Life Well Lived 6



The first time I stated “I’m a freelance writer” I was also tamping down feelings of being a fraud. That awful lizard brain was telling me, at the same time, “hah! who do you think you are calling yourself a writer!” Of course there was lots of inflection and tone in the lizard brain’s questioning. If you can imagine that little voice in your head that whispers “you’re not good enough. . .” waking up, hopping from shoulder to shoulder to repeat in each ear like crazy jackal “who do you think you are?”

So I’ve been thinking and wondering:  If you’re a blogger, do you consider yourself a writer?

It’s a rhetorical question and one I’ve often asked myself. Am I writer because I journal? because I blog? because I write freelance articles? What makes me a writer? What makes anyone a writer?

[Tweet “As a blogger do you consider yourself a writer? “]

Longtime readers know what a champion I am for life-long learning. Coursera and other MOOCs {Massive Open Online Course} are the best inventions since sliced bread. So when I found Gabriela Pereira’s site a couple of years ago, you can probably imagine my delight. Is it really possible to DIY an MFA?

In thinking further on what makes a writer a writer wouldn’t it be to write, to practice the art of writing? to continue to learn about writing? Isn’t that where the growth of a writer comes from? That’s what I tell myself, at least.

Going back to school for my MFA is simply not possible for health and financial reasons. Doing the DIY MFA has been possible and doable. Plus the ‘homework reading’ is fun 😉

This post was inspired by a writing prompt for the DIY MFA Street Team. “Have you ever thought about getting an MFA?”

I’d love to know if you have ever considered getting an MFA or what you believe makes a writer. Let’s talk it out!