Faith is like Baking–recipe for Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins

            “God gives us the ingredients for our daily bread, but he expects us to do the baking.”—Chip Ingram

I stood there, contemplating the recipe. Would it be good? What if my modifications/changes to keep the recipe gluten-free, cause it to fall flat? Furthermore, what would my daughter and her friend think? I could be investing 20-30 minutes of my time that may ultimately end up wasted, and require me to start all over with something different. On the other hand, the recipe seemed to possess all the key ingredients . . .


I was hoping to create muffins that were not only gluten-free, but also infused with much love and, of course, yummy flavors that would appeal to my daughter’s taste preference. I was putting complete confidence in a recipe I had never before made, created by a person whose recipe-website I had never before used. Hmm . . . That is when it hit me. Baking was similar to our faith life.


According to Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.” Furthermore, according to the dictionary, faith has two meanings: “Complete trust or confidence in someone or something;” or, “a strong belief in God.”


Faith is as intangible as love; and yet, we all can recognize the feeling of love. Love, like faith, requires the proper ingredients, such as people, as well as loving actions. Examples of these ingredients in action might include (but certainly aren’t limited to): a man who thoughtfully writes a love letter to his beloved for no special occasion—only the feeling of love; the mother who painfully tells her child, “no,” not because she doesn’t want her child to be happy, but because she loves her child enough to give him boundaries; or, the grandchild who sets aside a work project, in spite of a pending deadline, in order to help grandparent. The point is, without the proper ingredients fueled by action, love may not thrive or grow. In fact, without action, love may stagnate, flounder, or perhaps even wither. Thus, it is with faith—and even baking!


Faith, without the suitable ingredients that are further energized by a recipe for action, cannot thrive. While it is easy to say, “I have faith in God,” action is still required. Just as I could have stood at my kitchen counter stating that, “I have faith in this recipe,” but then didn’t make the muffins, did I really have faith?   Furthermore, there is no one action that defines faith, just as there is no one recipe to successfully bake muffins. Rather, it often those little, day-to-day choices and actions, that demonstrate, build, and foster one’s faith.


Compared to the steps for building one’s faith, baking muffins is relatively easy. I have read and baked a wide variety of recipes over the years to recognize what basic ingredients should be part of a quality baked good; therefore, it is a merely a matter of selecting a recipe with the flavors that suit my family’s taste buds. Then, the key is following the recipe, step-by-step, in order for the muffins to bake up into the consistency of a mini-cake with delightful aromas and delectable taste.


Likewise, there is the Holy Scriptures, prayers, meditations, inspired readings, church, teachers, priests and/or pastors offering a plethora of recipes on how to put our faith into action—depending upon our innate taste preferences—by that I mean, the inner calling. For some, the inner calling may require a quite visible faith-recipe, such as, mission-work, ministering to the sick, teaching Sunday School classes, caring for the homeless, working in hospice, teaching children, and so forth. For others, their faith-recipe may be more reserved, but absolutely just as valid, such as a private prayer/devotional room, reading the Bible or other inspired/devotional type reading during a work break, being at the ready for service to others behind the scenes, being the person who is willing to take time to listen to co-workers, and so forth. Just as there are wide array of ingredients for serving up muffins, there are potentially an unlimited components for serving up faith.


However, just as muffins require certain basics in order for the chemical reaction to occur, turning individual ingredients into one tasty treat; faith, similarly, requires key elements in order to turn individual gifts into the beautiful body of Christ. For muffins, baking powder or baking soda, salt, flour, fat source, sugar, liquid, and egg are typical baking essentials. Likewise, faith also demands basic components, such as frequent encounters with the Scriptures, daily prayer/meditation, and regular guidance from a trusted priest, pastor, or teacher.


The basics for muffins, such as flour, salt, baking powder/soda are required for any style muffins–just as our faith-life requires certain basics.


Once given the basics, muffins can be imparted with a multitude of flavors; however, if were not for the heat of the oven, no matter the quality of the ingredients, the batter would never change. Thus, it is with us. Our faith will only expand, just like my muffin batter, when heat is applied. It is through the extreme heat that the chemical reactions occur. Some recipes call for a bake time of 20-25 minutes in a 325-degree oven, while others require 45-50 minutes at 375 degrees. Therefore, it is worth remembering, (and I say this to myself as much as to anyone reading this) that when encountering the heat of our oven-of-life, no matter for how long or how hot, keep in mind the humble muffin. Then, allow those basic ingredients to provide you with the “assurance of what we do not see” while in the midst of life’s heat; and, may it allow us to confidently rely on our faith that all is at it should be in order for us to become “baked” into the best version of ourselves.


The liquids without the basics ingredients and heat cannot become the dozen muffins–nor can we fully “become” without the basics of regular faith life actions.

Even when you combine the wet with the dry basics, without timed exposure to heat, muffins cannot come to fruition–neither can we without the ingredients of our faith recipe exposed to the heat of life.

P.S. I did bake the new recipe with a few modifications; and, my daughter and her friend indeed liked it. In fact, her friend ended up eating four! Therefore, I share my reconstructed recipe with you. I hope you will have faith to bake them up sometime!

The recipe follows below.

It is worth remembering the humble muffin when experiencing great heat from the proverbial oven-of-life.




**Gluten Free Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

 ¾ cup white sugar or equivalent substitute, such as Stevia

¼ cup oil (vegetable, coconut, or even applesauce, if you prefer no additional fat)

2 eggs (or equivalent substitute)

¾ cup canned pumpkin

¼ cup water

1½ **gluten free all-purpose flour (I prefer Cup-4-Cup brand.)

¾ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1-teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

½ cup semisweet chocolate chips

(**You do not have to use gluten-free flour if you do not need/want it.)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Line muffin pan with parchment papers or grease.

Mix sugar, oil, and eggs.

Add pumpkin and water.

In a separate bowl mix together the baking flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt.

Add wet mixture and stir in chocolate chips.

Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.

Sprinkle tops with love dust; a very light dusting of sugar, if desired.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.



Let us step away from media, and thankfully spend time in the here and now

            “For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies

             For the love which from our birth over and around us lies,

            Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”—Folliott S.



“Stop worrying, Mom. It’s Thanksgiving week. You’re supposed to be thankful!” Madelyn, my daughter, home from Bethany College for a week of rest, chided me with a teasing voice and an ornery look on her face.


I had chosen to rise somewhat early on Saturday in order to go to the gym, run a couple of errands, and return home to complete a few household tasks. This would allow me to be available to talk with Maddie once she was awake. I’ve learned, as she has grown older, that it is more important to be available during time periods she is most likely to be home before she takes off to be with friends.


Near 4:00 pm, as she was getting ready to head out the door to spend the evening with friends, it occurred to me I had not completed any writing. I often try to begin writing on Saturday morning, but on this morning, I was so focused on spending time with Maddie, I had completely forgotten about my side-gig!


            “Oh, no! I completely forgot to do any writing!” I said more to myself than my daughter. That is when I received her admonishment to be thankful. Which led my mind down the rabbit hole of thoughts . . .


            In an evolving, rapidly changing world in which the media, world leaders, and businesses vie for headlines, tweets, and other forms of attention; and, in which citizens strive for “likes,” “followers,” and “friends,” it is all too easy to allow these images, and they are that, mere images—not necessarily reality—to enter our psyche and plant tendrils of thought-control. The more of these images our brains take in, the more the vines and wisps of social imagery subconsciously subvert our minds until we forget to fully focus on the here, the now, and the visceral reality of our own life.


Appreciation, gratitude, love, and joy for our life, and all of the Divinely created earthly resources, are often forgotten—or sometimes viewed as a prop for a media-driven image. My daughter was right to call me out. I had spent time with her rather than writing. If I didn’t make my self-imposed blog deadline or the newspaper deadline, life would not end. What was the motive behind my worry for not writing? Furthermore, what is my intent for the writing in which I do—create an image, or increase genuine good will. It was worth exploring, reflecting, and self-checking.


           “For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night

            Hill and vale and tree and flow’r, sun and moon and stars of light,

            Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”

            I do possess a passion for writing. I discovered it during the angst of my teen years. Writing gave voice to the thoughts, words, and phrases stuffed into my head and heart; words that I could not, would not verbally express. During those developmental years, I did not (and often still don’t) clearly articulate my words, especially if there was a perceived negative emotion attached to them. Often, I unintentionally offended people, or “made them mad,” as my immature mind thought of it, when I spoke.


Furthermore, when faced with another person’s strong emotion, I am intrinsically wired to feel their emotion. While this is a good thing with regards to teaching students, as a youth, I could not separate (and still often struggle) another person’s emotions from feelings of my own. As a teen, I tried to speak, but as I simultaneously experienced both the other person’s feelings and my own gut emotions, my words became jumbled and never came out the way I intended. After several negative experiences of saying, “the wrong thing,” the fear of my own spoken words greatly magnified. Thus, words, words, and more words began to jam my soul like the traffic on I-95 attempting to evacuate Florida during a hurricane.


Writing became my safety net; but as I entered young adulthood, I honed my writing skill for the benefit of my education, not self-expression.   Once I was finished with formal education in my early thirties, I abandoned my writing for many years. Still, the words continued jamming, jamming, jamming and damming my heart and soul like the Greenup County Lock and Dam holds back the Ohio River.   It wasn’t until my mid-forties that a dear friend suggested I write again.


“Not only would it help you, but you might also be able to help others,” she had insisted.


I have written weekly ever since, and I am grateful to that friend for helping me reconnect with my writing voice. Writing allows me to work past emotions of self and others–leading me to important life lessons and revelations that I may not have otherwise learned; and, it is my hope that these reflections, that I so publically share, help others too. However, I must ask myself, am I attached to the image of my writing or to the lessons I continue to learn and experience?


My daughter was right to call me out.   If I am to write, I should do it with a heart of gratitude and the humble intention of allowing Divine Providence to lead me to the lesson, the heart, and purpose of my words, rather than the need to meet superficial deadlines, images, or other worldly imposed standards.


It is Thanksgiving week. My writing should give voice to gratitude, gratefulness, and appreciation for the tangible and intangible alike—from the beautiful rolling tree-covered hills surrounding us, to dear family, friends, co-workers, and students; from the God that created our beloved Earth and our dear loved ones, to the sweet joy felt during an embrace, kiss, or handshake, there is much for which to be thankful. Furthermore, I encourage all, including myself, to step away from social media, the headlines, and all the other hullabaloo surrounding us; and instead, on this day of Thanksgiving, make time to appreciate, love, and savor the here and now—the reality, rather than the image.

“For the joy of human love; brother, sister, parent, child.

Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild,

Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise.”










First Visit to see our daughter at Bethany College and Wheeling, WV area

            “The oldest private college in the state (WV)—where traditions of academic excellence and lifelong learning are still the hallmarks of the Bethany experience.”—Bethany College website


Leaves crunching underfoot, sun light playing hide and seek with clouds of cream, cold air rudely stinging cheeks and uncovered hands, lungs and legs burned with the effort of walking up a steep hill, and not a soul to be seen. We had been here before, but this visit was strikingly different. Young co-eds did not descend upon us in persuasive greeting; there was not an influential keynote speaker awaiting, not only our arrival, but also for others like us; and, not a single sign of swag, banners, or other outwards signs of bravado lining our walk. Instead, our initial greeting was the random and sparse chirpings of the remaining songbirds that had not traveled south to warmer environs. And yet, we were not alarmed, but rather, reassured on this peaceful Saturday morning.

Pausing to snap pictures here and there along our ascent, we took in our surroundings. From the looks of the leaf-filled paths, we had just missed the peak autumn colors by mere days. The phone weather app that had earlier revealed an air temperature of 19 degrees, now boasted a balmy 28 degrees! Ahead, on the brick lined path, we saw the first sign of life: two girls walking an energetic and enthusiastic small dog. The dog paused upon seeing my husband, John and me. He cocked his head this way and that, as we talked to it in our best doggie-voice. Laughing, we continued walking as the dog jauntily returned to his short-legged step-hop-prance walk.


We were visiting our daughter, Madelyn, at Bethany College for the first time since she became a student. We planned to meet her at the college’s coffee shop, The Hub, but upon entering the shop, it was clear she had not yet arrived. In fact, no one was there except for the lone employee whose name, we soon discovered, was Linda.

The Hub, pictured above, is Bethany’s coffee shop.

Linda greeted us warmly, and upon learning the reason for our visit, asked the name of our daughter. She indeed knew Maddie, and said she was a “sweet girl.” In fact, we would later learn that Linda knew all of “her students” at Bethany. She was in her 49th year of working in the food service industry at Bethany. It was quite clear she loved her job because of the students, and later, as we discovered from several students, they loved Linda.

Linda, pictured with Maddie, and Maddie’s friend, Ben, join us on the couches of The Hub.

I couldn’t help but think that is why Maddie loves Bethany College so much— a school small enough to allow the opportunity to quickly form relationships and bonds, not only with students, but also with professors and staff such as Linda. This notion was confirmed frequently as we encountered and met many of our daughter’s new friends, peers, as well as another staff member, Amy Van Horn, Associate Director of Career and Professional Development, who, along with her daughter, Eden, has taken Maddie under their wings, giving her a local family base—something we greatly appreciate! Nearly every person to whom our daughter introduced us, we ended up parting in a hug of farewell!


Maddie and Eden Rice seated together.

Additionally, we experienced similar positive with encounters off-campus, albeit without hugs, in the nearby town of Wheeling. To begin, the staff at the Highlands’ Hampton was just as accommodating, friendly, and engaging as on previous visits. Each time we stay there, we feel as home as one can feel in a hotel. Furthermore, our dining experiences over a two-night stay further reinforced the genuinely genial nature of Wheeling residents.


On our first night in town, Maddie and Eden, trekked down “Bethany mountain,” as I have come to think of it, and met us at the Hampton in order for us treat them to a dinner at a local favorite eatery, Ye Olde Alpha Restaurant and Tavern—a Wheeling, WV Landmark Restaurant. Its website describes Ye Olde Alpha “as a no-nonsense establishment offering meat-centric meals along with other classic American dishes and beer.” Our waitress for the evening was Jesse, and as busy as Jesse was serving numerous patrons, she remained attentive, upbeat, patient with our questions, and offered ordering tips for our meals. In the end, Maddie and Eden noshed on oversized, juicy burgers, fixed to their personal taste preference along with a mound of fries. John enjoyed a nightly special sausage sandwich also served with a heaping over plate of fries. Meanwhile, I enjoyed their house salad and stuffed banana peppers. It was scrumptious food with fantastic service. We will return!


Maddie, Jesse, our waitress, and Eden Rice at Ye Olde Alpha.

The following evening, after spending the entire day on campus with Maddie, John and I explored another dining spot as Maddie had plans with her sorority sisters. Therefore, we tried another local eatery, Wheeling Brewing Company. Talk about a hidden treasure! This wood-filled, cozy brewpub was also staffed with spirited and warm people.   Fannie and Kylie took care of all of our dining needs, by answering questions, making suggestions, and even going out of their way to ensure my meal was gluten-free. Executive Chef, Ryan Butler, in fact, stepped out the kitchen to discuss meal modifications to ensure my dining safety as I have celiac disease that requires me to avoid consuming foods with wheat, rye, and barley. He even, unbelievably, had Braggs Liquid Aminos on hand to replace soy sauce in my delectable dish, The Kimchi Boat. WBC strives to work with local business to not only cook with local food ingredients, but also serves food in bowls, platters, and cups crafted by local artisans! This was truly a dining event that John and I hope to visit again soon!

Maddie was busy with her sorority sisters on Saturday evening.

While Maddie was hanging out at Alpha Xi house, John and I checked out the scene at Wheeling Brewing Company.  Fannie and Kylie took great care of us!

Of course, what weekend trip would be complete without Sunday brunch? Therefore, I fought my perpetual car-sickness once more as we made our way   ‘round the winding roads back to the top of “Bethany mountain” in order to dine with our daughter and Eden in Bethany College’s newly remodeled and completely renovated cafeteria. This cafeteria is not the typical college cafeteria I experienced back in the dark ages of the 1980s. Operated by the same company that runs Eat ‘n Park, this cafeteria featured locally sourced foods, a made-to-order omelet station, as well as copious varieties of fresh vegetables, fruits, and salads. Additionally, there was a sandwich bar, salad bar, freshly made pizza stand, traditional hot-dish-of the day section, drink station, and ice cream/dessert station. I couldn’t believe my eyes, or my taste buds! With all of those food choices, I am betting the freshman fifteen is more than a college myth a Bethany!

All in all, John and I find both Bethany College and the Wheeling area an excellent location for a weekend getaway. We would highly recommend to others—which is a good thing since it looks like it will be our home-away-from-home for many years to come!


P.S. Currently, from November 10-January 1, it is also the home of Olgebay Winter Festival of Lights—a festive display of lights John and I also enjoyed as we made our down the mountain towards Wheeling on Saturday evening.



Try Mindfulness Walks as a way to recharge, return to the present moment, and rejoice in the gifts of God

            “. . .Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet . . .

so that your blood with bring the color of love to your face,

so that the wonders of life will appear,

and all anxieties will be transformed into

peace and joy. “—Thich Nhat Hanh



“Oh no! We’re going to have to do one of those mindfulness walks again; I can just tell! I hate those!” declared one student, voice filled with indignation


“I kinda like them,” added another student sheepishly.



Though I had not announced a mindfulness walk to the students of a class in which I co-teach with another dear educator entitled, “Move into Health,” a few attentive students must have sensed my intention. After all, I had asked them to line-up to head outside on a weekday we typically spend inside.   What the students did not yet realize was that our class-size was going to be nearly double on that day due to another elective class joining us as their teacher was sick; thus, we would not all fit into one classroom. Besides, it was the end of the day, the weather was surprisingly pleasant, and it was the week of Trick-or-Treat—a week in which all K-8 students, it has been my experience, hit a wall, become cranky, tired, and much less focused. Fresh air would do all of them some good, and frankly, benefit my colleague and me too.

These ginkgo trees stand at attention, guarding either side of the entrance to our staff parking lot like sentinels with golden plumage atop their heads.

Our students have completed a total of four mindfulness walks this school year–one in August, one in September, one in October, and now, one in November. Furthermore, our school is blessed to have a small walking path that loops around one of our playgrounds and the staff parking lot. Unfortunately, most students do not use the entire path.   This is because half of the trail is out of the view of teachers supervising their recess time. However, through our supervised mindfulness walks, students in our class can take advantage of the entire peaceful path.

This is part of the school path students can regularly access during recess; however, the section of the path that goes around the staff parking lot is not regularly available to students. During mindfulness walks, students trek with staff members around entire path.


Long ago, I discovered the joys of this path as a transition between work and home. It began after one particularly noisy, stressful, and busy day. I stepped outside into the bright sunshine, took a deep breath, and sighed trying to release the anxious tightness that constricted many of my muscles. I continued walking, but took several more deep breaths, noticing the rich scent of warm earth, dead leaves, and the smell of sun-warmed asphalt as I headed to my car. Once at my car, my eye kept being drawn to the trees and shrubs surrounding the part of the path that loops around our parking lot—the section in which our students do not regularly play during recess. Placing my school parcels in the back of my car and without really thinking, I headed toward the path.


Underneath my feet, leaves crunched, then faded as my footsteps quietly padded over a mossy spot. Inhaling once more, the scents became more earthy and fragrant than the parking lot area. This shaded section of the path was observably cooler, the pigments more vivid and less washed out: asparagus colored green moss, interspersed with rusty amber leaves, dotted with leaves the color of garnets, margarine, and oranges like the skin of a Clementine that was turning brown with age. All the while, I could hear the flow of the end-of-work-day traffic, joined with birds in song, and a nearby church’s bells chiming to the tune, “He Leadeth Me,” a long-ago song I once learned to play on the piano and had not heard in years.



Leaving the shaded area of the path, seemingly harsh sunlight, once again, pierced my vision. Sounds under my feet changed to the grinding-crunch of gravel underfoot which was soon softened by sand underfoot, which then turned into the firmness of concrete, and finally to the uneven tones that accompany walking over lumpy ground, tree roots, and mulch. The sun warmed my skin with a kiss of heat on my cheeks as the moving air slightly brushed my hair. Inhale, scents of concrete, mulch, and dirt. Exhale, muscles relaxing, face and eyes softening.   While, at the time, I did not think of it as a “mindfulness walk,” this less than ten-minute excursion became the seed of experience from which the students’ current activity evolved.


The instructions to the students are fairly simple. No talking until after the walk; and instead, simply walk and observe. What do you smell? What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? What do you notice? What has changed since we last walked? What do you think? Usually, we walk full two full loops, then circle up as group, and sit, often basking in ample sunshine, discussing our observations.


On this particular walk, a Marshall University P.E./Health major and future educator joined us. As we gathered the nearly 40 students of grades 6-8 together, he joined my co-worker and me as we led a dialogue of what the students noticed and/or felt. When the MU student was asked to share his thoughts on the experience with our middle school students, he boldly shared with the kids that he could feel the presence of God embracing us as we walked, surrounding us with beauty, peace, and love. This led me to ask the students if any of them felt closer to God as we walked. One brave 6th grade, freckle-faced boy raised his hand and earnestly stated,


“I felt prayful, like God was right here listening to me.”

Beside one section of the student accessed path is a “peaceful bench” for students, or teachers, who need to sit and feel the peace of God.


What seeds are planted in our students during our walks, I may never know. What I do know, is that for 20-plus minutes of time, none of us are plugged into devices, chattering, or participating in any number of typically distracting activities. And, while I cannot state that every student who participates in the mindfulness walks goes home feeling calmer, closer to God, more mindful of the seasonal beauty, or filled with a grateful heart, just knowing that one middle school student and one college student felt that way after one walk was enough. It was certainly enough.


Morning Mindset

          “Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context for the rest of your day.”—Eban Pagan



          “There is enormous power in nailing your morning routine, but there’s even more power in adapting to it when it doesn’t happen as we’d like.”—Terri Schneider


I will be painfully honest, and perhaps even, a bit vulnerable. Last week, was not one of my better weeks. Therefore, as I write this piece, I am writing to myself as much as I am writing to you, Dear Reader.   It is my hope these personal reflections benefit another person struggling through a tough week, day, or even moment.


Due to the fact, I try to accomplish several tasks in the morning; I try not to hit snooze-button on weekday alarms. I have learned that by hitting snooze, I am setting myself up for trouble later, namely running late. Running late then leads to the domino that starts the fall of other events, such as not having enough time in my classroom before students and co-workers arrive to adjust to my space and the day—which can have a noteworthy impact because I am no longer naturally wired to be instantly extroverted in the morning.   Engaging with numerous children and adults requires abundant energy, clarity, and focus, at least for me. Thus, having that buffer time of 15-20 minutes to quietly rev up, despite the fact I typically have everything in my classroom set up for the day before I arrive at school, generates an upbeat start.



Of additional importance, as this past week demonstrated, are those initial waking thoughts. Mindset is vastly influential. Despite the fact I did not hit the snooze button, I began last week, and honestly, each day, with a mindset of dread. But first, a disclaimer . . .



I am, by nature, as the saying goes, a hot-mess-express when it comes to organization, including time. One look at my house and personal belongings will give you insight into this fact. Fortunately, my wonderful parents recognized my hard-wired chaotic nature, repeatedly talked to me about it, and further modeled the power of routine. Not only did they teach/model the importance of establishing a routine schedule for time-management, but also habits regarding where and how to keep belongings. Therefore, I know how to set up a fairly successful time management routine, and have at least applied them to my professional life.



My car/house keys are kept in my purse, while my school badge and school keys are kept in my school bag. Cell phone is placed in my purse on the way out the door to school, and set on my desk upon arriving to my room. White boards at the back of my classroom have three lists, one for each grade I teach, enumerating my students’ daily goals—which are always rewritten every afternoon before leaving school. Post-it notes of to-do lists adorn my desk, along with a stack of papers that require my attention on the next school day, are organized in the afternoon before my departure as well. Instructional routines for the day, week, month, and year, have all been intentionally created to ensure I hit every instructional goal by the end of a school year. However, one alteration in these plan; and BOOM, I become a proverbial fish out of water, not able to breathe properly as I yearn for the waters of routine, structure, and consistency.


And, that, my Dear Reader, is why I began last week with a mindset of dread. The previous week had already been filled with numerous alterations in the schedule, and the then current week was beginning that way as well. Furthermore, I began to feel as if I had become the stereotypical, “old” teacher, set in her inflexible ways. “Get rid of me now,” I felt certain, was printed all over my forehead last week like the scarlet letter of Hester Prynne’s chest.


Like that recognizable fish on the sandy shores of life, I flipped and flopped, trying to edge back into the water in order to swim with the flow. “I can do it,” I told myself, “I can go with the flow of change.” Then, as I began to go-with-the-flow, and not my carefully constructed routine, I would completely forget to complete required task(s). This would then initiate another cycle of self-flagellation, “I’m of no use. Why couldn’t I remember a simple request?”


With great admiration (and some envy too), I watched as several of my young co-workers navigated through all the changes and requirements with seemingly little struggle. Oh, how I wished I could be more like them. (On Friday, however, one shared the week had seemed frustrating and challenging to her too!)


Which brings me back to the purpose of all this rambling confession: the importance of a positive morning mindset. While a routine is helpful and important, a flexible and optimistic mindset is quite possibly of greater value than my routine, especially now as the upcoming days become shorter and more frequently cloud-filled, and yet schedules often become more harried, hurried, and inconsistent as the year heads into holiday months.


Getting up early, without hitting the snooze, in order to have time to exercise is a noble and worthy cause for the health of my physical body. However, if my thoughts, as I step out of bed, are focused on the dread of the upcoming day, then perhaps I am creating a habit as powerfully negative as hitting the snooze button repeatedly. Perhaps, instead, I would benefit from two skills that I most recently practiced on a trip with my 7th grade students to Camp Magis.


Firstly, going to bed with grateful heart and a positive intention for the next day. Then, upon rising, refocus on that positive intention. Furthermore, I need to return to an old habit, which has gradually slipped away from me: spending a few moments of each morning in meditation/prayer. Taking as little as 10-15 minutes of time to pray/meditate and/or reflect upon a purposeful readings, may not only offer clarity to the monkey-chatter of my mind, but may also encourage a more agile, nimble, and responsive state of mind—benefitting not only me, but also, the co-workers and students with whom I want to be of service. Of course, I will need to readjust my established morning routine, but if last week was any indication, it is certainly with a try!