7 Reasons Why You Should Write

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Life can be hard. It can be confusing. It can also be comforting. Every now and then, most people find a way to relax and let go of their emotions and thoughts. Some will take walks, others will have a conversation with a friend, while many will write and journal. Writing doesn’t mean you have to sit down and publish a book. This habit takes on various forms, depending on the writer. One day you can be creating a story that’s been in your mind, the next day you are creating a list of your hopes and goals, and lastly, you are writing down characteristics about a passed loved one you miss. Once a pen hits a piece of paper, or a person’s fingers hit the keyboard, a powerful thing occurs. Plus, there are health and lifestyle benefits to writing. If you have been wanting to journal and haven’t known where to start, let me persuade you with a few facts, as well as some tips and tricks.

  1. You will eliminate stress. Don’t we all want to get rid of at least a little bit of stress in our lives? By journaling, you are creating a clear list of everything you are worried about, therefore, allowing those thoughts to come out of your head. In addition, it helps you to see what you are stressing about and whether or not you actually need to be stressing about them. Something in our heads may seem big when, in reality, it is tiny.
  2. You’ll gain a sense of awareness of your reality. Our minds can only take so much before they “explode.” Just like with stress, writing down what you have on your mind, what you are going to complete, achieve, and how you feel, will help you realize who you actually are and what you are feeling. Plus, writing down your thoughts will assist you in making better decisions.
  3. Between gaining a sense of reality and eliminating your stress, writing makes you happier. Researcher Laura King stated in the article “The Psychological Benefits of Writing” that keeping a gratitude journal will increase your happiness and health because you are able to focus more on the good things in life.
  4. Periodically journaling your thoughts, daily life, and memories soon become a historical record for you to keep year after year. Some people fill notebook after notebook with their writings.
  5. A common reason for people to write is to channel and understand traumatic events, as well as hard memories. Journaling about your difficult times can help you realize the feelings and emotions you might have held in. However, studies have found that it is best to wait until about six months after the event for the benefits to sink in; otherwise, you could become more depressed. It is also important to note that this type of writing shouldn’t be forced; let it flow.
  6. Journaling can make you a better learner. Writing does take time and thought. You sometimes have to be in a zone to put words into sentences. Yet this creative outlet lets you express ideas and encourages critical thinking. In return, you are more introspective, explore more interests, and are more willing to dive deeper into ideas.
  7. One final benefit of writing is that it can keep your mind in shape. This habit motivates your brain to stay sharp and can help protect against Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The power of writing, whether it’s every day or a couple of times a month, can have a big benefit on your health. Also, it is a creative way for self-care, putting yourself first, and clearing your mind.

xoxo,

Megan

The Top 3 Best Historical Novels for Young Adults

I’m a history buff. My interest in history started when I was young and has continued to grow. I love to visit historical sites, read historical books, and watch historical films. Since my love began when I was young, I believe it is important to expose children and young adults to what has happened in the past. One way to do this is by letting them read historical books. For this month, I have gathered some of my beloved historical novels for young adults.

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson

This biography by James L. Swanson brings young readers the story of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of his assassin, John Wilkes Booth, and Booth’s co-conspirators. Swanson uses archival material, trial manuscripts, primary sources, and interviews of the time period to bring the twelve-day manhunt of John Wilkes Booth to life. In addition, readers are given pictures and facts about those involved, the important locations, such as Fords’ Theatre, as well as, newspaper articles and advertisements from April 1865. Chasing Lincoln’s Killeris geared towards young adults, sixth grade and older. However, it is also a favorite among adults. I read the novel this past summer and learned facts about this important time period in American history that I never knew. However, a great alternative for a true adult version is Swanson’s bestseller, Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars is a historical fiction novel based on the Holocaust during World War II. Main character ten-year-old Annemarie Johansen lives in Denmark with her family. When the German troops come to town to “relocate” all the Jews, Annemarie’s family takes in her best friend, Ellen Rosen and pretends that she is Annemarie’s late older sister, Lise. Young readers learn about another side of the Holocaust through the Johansen’s actions and involvement in the Danish Resistance. During this time, the Jewish population in Denmark were relocated to the neutral ground of Sweden to avoid being sent to the concentration camps. In fact, Lise was killed by the Nazis for working with the resistance. Number the Stars draws readers into a story of heroism and pride. It is also a tale of friendship and doing good in a time of war. Fact fun: author Lois Lowry created the title to reference Psalm 147:4. As Lowry says, “God has numbered all the stars and has named each of them.”

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

This #1 New York Timesbestseller and young adult read is perfect and relevant for 2019, because it has been 50 years since the Apollo 11 mission and man’s first walk on the moon on July 16, 1969. Author Margot Lee Shetterly describes in vivid details the story of four African American women making their mark in NASA history. These women, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, worked as mathematicians and “human computers” for NASA, meaning they created and solved equations and calculated numbers and flight paths that would send rockets and astronauts into space. Segregated at work, these women’s mathematical skills impressed their mostly white and male counterparts and allowed many of them to be promoted from human computers to engineers and computer programmers. Their careers spanned from World War II, the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Space Race. Hidden Figures is a must-read for not just history fans, but for everyone.

From the Civil War to World War II and then to the Space Race, these historical novels cover a wide span of history and are a must-read for young adults.

xoxo,

Megan

 

My Favorite Children’s Books

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For many people, the love of reading starts at a young age, thanks to being introduced to classic children’s books. Growing up, I had multiple novels that I loved to read over and over again. To this day, I still remember those stories and the emotions they brought with them. If you are looking for a new book to share with the little people in your life, take a look at my suggestions below.

The Junie B. Jones series by Barbara Park

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“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.” This classic sentence is the opening to all of Park’s Junie B. Jonesbooks. From 1992 to 2013, this series produced almost 30 books around this fictional 6-year-old, her parents, baby brother Ollie, her grandparents, friends, and Junie B.’s stuffed elephant, Phillip Johnny Bob. The series covers Junie B.’s journey of starting kindergarten in the first book, Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, to making it to first grade.Some of my favorites novels in the series are Junie B. Jones is a Party Animal, Junie B. Jones Has a Peep in Her Pocket, and Junie B. Jones Is a Graduation Girl. If you are looking for a fun-loving book series, written in the voice of a child, for the young ones in your life, Park has the perfect collection. In addition, she has written older books for middle school aged children.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

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The book, The Outsiders, is another one of my favorites. It is geared towards middle-school aged children or older, but teaches many valuable lessons. First published in 1967, author S.E. Hinton describes it as a “coming of age” novel. It tells the story of two rival gangs, the working-class “Greasers” and the upper-class “Socs” and is told through the view point of Ponyboy Curtis, a teenager who is part of the “Greasers.” The Outsiders is set in 1965 Oklahoma. What I love about this novel is that it shows society that socio-economic classes and their differences are pointless and they can cause more harm than good. The Outsiders is filled with themes of bridging the gap between the poor and rich, standing up for those who can’t, and the interactions between people. Many students read this novel in school, but if you haven’t, I recommend you do so. Also, fun fact: Hinton starting writing The Outsiders at the age of 15 and was only 18-years-old when the book was published.

There are many classic children’s books out in the world. People have their favorites that they read over and over again. One of the best things, however, is when the love of a children’s book is passed from generation to generation.

xoxo,

Megan

A Delicious Look into Cookbook Book Clubs

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Book clubs have been around for decades and have introduced the love of reading to many people. However, there is a new type of book club that is gaining in popularity – a cookbook book club. Basically, it is a book club where attendees bring food. The premise behind this type of club is attendees choose a recipe from a cookbook, prepare the dish, and bring the dish and the cookbook to the meeting.

Steps to Beginning 

  1. The first step to starting a cookbook book club is deciding on the logistics of the club. Think about who will join, family and friends, where you’ll meet, and when you’ll meet. Will the club meet at the same place at the same time or will it rotate between members’ houses and dates? Also, organize how you’ll pick the cookbooks. For example, is each attendee going to be making recipes from the same cookbook or different ones? Try to get at least 5-10 members, so you’ll have enough attendees to showcase a wide variety of dishes. Be careful your club isn’t too small or too big – remember you are going to be eating, so there will be some cost involved in preparing the meals. Lastly, all members don’t have to be culinary geniuses. This is a time to share dishes, as well as cooking tips and tricks with others.
  2. Next, plan your inaugural meeting. Remember to set your date and location. Then, choose your cookbook, if you decide to use one cookbook for all members. Your next step is send out invitations, printed or digitally. You could even create a group on social media for members to communicate. If you decide on members choosing their own books, this is a great avenue for attendees to say which cookbook they are using for that meeting.
  3. Associate meetings with themes. For example, host a meeting that is family favorite recipes from tried and true cookbooks or only dessert recipes. You could also assign a meeting to honor a famous chef. Maybe it will be the Barefoot Contessa night and attendees will choose one of her cookbooks and prepare a dish.
  4. One of the benefits of having a social media group of attendees is that it allows for better organization of the group. There is generally more cost involved with this type of book club, compared to your traditional one; create a list on the group or in a google doc for members to list what they are bringing, in regard to recipes, plates, cups, napkins, and silverware. All responsibilities shouldn’t fall on the meeting’s host, unless otherwise decided upon in the club. Also, members can discuss recent recipes and cookbooks within the club when a meeting time isn’t near.
  5. Don’t forget about the drinks. It can be as simple as having bottles of water for everyone. It can also be as extravagant as bringing new drink recipes to share. This element should also be discussed with your club’s online group.
  6. Think about ways to make the meetings interactive and fun. Of course, food makes everything more fun, but also include possible games and conversation starters. Try going around and having members share why they chose a particular cookbook, or recipe, and their process for making the dish. You can take it a step further and focus on a single dish per meeting. For example, each member could host the event and choose the dish. Then, at the meeting, attendees will prepare the dish together and receive copies of the recipe.
  7. Speaking of recipe copies, always have them for members to take home. This is especially important if the recipes come from different books. However, if you chose to use one cookbook per meeting, share the book between members. That way, every member won’t feel as if they have to purchase the various cookbooks for each meeting.

There is nothing better that brings people together than food and a cookbook book club does just that. Ease your members into this new concept by letting them prepare dishes from a cookbook they have at home and then let your creativity run wild. There is no rhyme or reason, rules or laws to what a cookbook book club should entail.

xoxo,

Megan

2017 Top Book Reviews

I’m always up for a good book and I’m always on the lookout for my next read. Each year, I keep a list of all the novels I’ve read and whether or not I liked them. However, I request the assistance of reviews to help me pick out a book. These reviews are helpful and give me insight into what the story is about. So, I decided to do the same with the top three books that I read in 2017.

Kid Carolina: R.J. Reynolds Jr., a Tobacco Fortune, and the Mysterious Death of a Souther Icon by Heidi Schnakenberg 

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My hometown, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is greatly influenced by the legacy of R.J. Reynolds and his family. Reynolds helped build the town back in the early 20th century. I have a deep fascination for this family and the events that occurred in their lives. After reading The Gilded Leaf in 2016, I became interested in learning more about the life of R.J. Reynolds Jr.

The book Kid Carolina is a detailed biography of Dick Reynolds’ personal relationships and demons, careers in politics and business and his love for the sea and sky. Schnakenberg goes above and beyond in covering all aspects, from his childhood to his death, which still remains a mystery, and how he earned the nickname “Kid Carolina” as a teenager. If you are a historical nonfiction lover, you’ll definitely enjoy this read.

4.5 stars out of 5

Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World by Max Lucado 

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This book came into my life at just the right time. As many of you know, I have depression and anxiety. New York Times bestselling author Max Lucado put the words of God that I needed to hear into writing and has helped me create a better balance in my life. Lucado provides readers with a map of trusting in God to ease worries and promote a sense of thankfulness. If you are struggling with the stress of daily life or could use some calm in a chaotic world, this book is perfect for you. Plus, Proverbs 31 Ministries has a great Bible study to go along with your reading – I’m looking forward to completing it again!

5 stars out of 5

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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As I’m currently studying for my graduate certificate in middle grades education, I’m learning more about the lives and developmental needs of young adolescents. After seeing the trailers for the movie, I thought it would be a good decision to read the book, Wonder, to compliment my studies. This novel is centered around August Pullman, a boy with facial birth defects. August, also known as Auggie, is entering the fifth grade and a public school for the first time. Palacio gives an excellent description of Auggie’s life, his family and their challenges, and how Auggie teaches his fellow classmates respect and empathy for others. In addition, Wonder started the #ChooseKind campaign and has taught others to spread kindness to everyone around them (you know I’m all about spreading kindness in the world). Let’s just say I’ll definitely be teaching this book in my classroom.

4 stars out of 5

xoxo,

Megan

 

I’ll Be Home for Christmas (Part II)

The conclusion to I’ll Be Home for Christmas….

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Over the next couple of days, my family lived precariously, waiting impatiently to hear any news about Russell.

One night, as we were decorating the Christmas tree, I couldn’t take it anymore. This was always a tradition my family did together and without Russell, I wanted nothing to do with it. “Why can’t we find anything out about Russell?” Are you sure you contacted everyone you could think of for information?” I exclaimed, out of anger. “Lizzy, your mother and I are doing everything we can. The least you can do is be supportive and keep up hope,” stated my father. “It’s hard to keep up hope. It’s easier to have doubt. I’m going up to my room and the two of you can keep decorating,” I said, disappointed with his response. “Lizzy, please don’t,” my mother began to say, but a knock on the front door interrupted her.

“Who do you think it could be, Bill?” my mother weakly asked. All of our hearts were pounding out of our chests, wondering who stood on the other side of the door. One by one, with my father in the lead, we walked to the door and slowly opened it. “Are you Mr. Dillard?” a man in an Army uniform asked. “Yes, yes I am,” my father replied, nervously. “Here, I have an important letter for you. I hope you and your family have a very Merry Christmas,” he said as he passed the letter to my family. As quickly as he came, the uniformed man went. Not knowing what to do, my family stood there like statues in a museum. “Open it Bill! Don’t just look at it!” shouted my mother.

Very slowly the letter was torn open. As he began reading, my father’s eyes grew ten times bigger. “It’s…it’s from Russell!” Jumping with enthusiasm, my mother grabbed the letter and shouted “Safe! He is safe! Russell is safe!” Hearing the news was the best thing I could ask for. “What else does the letter say, Mom?” I asked. “It says he is safe and an Italian family has taken him and a few other soldiers into their home, after their plane was shot down. They are keeping them in hiding, otherwise they would be taken as prisoners of war. All that matters is that he is safe,” my mother said as she squealed with excitement.

After hearing the happy news, my family gained a little bit more Christmas spirit and together, we finished decorating the tree. From then on, my family kept receiving letters from Russell; however, we couldn’t write back, because it was too risky. Between letters, I kept reading the old ones over and over again until I could recite them from memory. All I wanted for Christmas was for him to be home, but I knew that was impossible.

Within no time, Christmas Eve was here. As always, my family went to the Christmas Eve Candlelight service at our church. Right as we were pulling out of the driveway, it began to snow. “There’s nothing like a white Christmas, don’t you think?” said my mother. There was something different about the evening, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Oh well,” I thought, “tonight is Christmas Eve and I’m not going to let anything bother me.”

 

I loved everything about the Christmas Eve Candlelight service. From singing “Morning Star” to lighting the candles, the service officially signaled to me that Christmas had begun. By the time we left church, the snow had picked up and the ground was covered in a blanket of white. “Almost two inches deep and more is going to fall by morning,” my father said as he observed the sky. Sometimes I believed my father could tell the weather better than anyone.

Once we got home, we built a fire, and opened the traditional only one present on Christmas Eve. Still, there was something strange about the night, but I still couldn’t figure it out. Once the Christmas Eve traditions were done, there was one more thing to do. “Does everyone want hot chocolate? Bill, make sure the fire is going strong and Lizzy, make sure the lights are turned down,” my mother said from the kitchen. The Dillard family always watched the snow fall from the living room window and drank hot chocolate by the light of the Christmas tree before going to bed.

We had only watched the snow fall for about 10 minutes when a jeep pulled into our driveway. Oddly, it was Russell’s jeep. Thoughts began to run through my head, but I quickly pushed them aside, thinking there was no way he could have gotten home. From where I was sitting, I couldn’t see the person walking up to the front door. Instead of knocking, the mysterious person began to sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

Glancing between the window and my parents, I realized the jeep actually was Russell’s and he was the mysterious person. “Run and open the door,” exclaimed my mother as her and my father stood there, smiling with joy. As excited as I could be, I opened the door and saw Russell, standing there in his Army uniform, singing the last note of the song as loud as he could.

“Russell! Russell! You are home!” I said as I jumped into his arms, knocking him down. “What? How?” I exclaimed as a million questions began to surface. “Lizzy! Lizzy! Let me come inside and tell you,” Russell replied to my incomplete thoughts. “It’s good to see you!” both of my parents said as they greeted their son. “Tell me how! Tell me how!” I blurted out, breaking up their reunion.

Before Russell began, my parents showed me a letter they had kept hidden from me. “You knew he was coming home and you didn’t tell me?” “Lizzy,” my parents said, “we wanted this to be a Christmas surprise for you.” In his letter, Russell said he was coming home for Christmas, but in order to leave, he had to pretend he wasn’t an US citizen until he got back to base. Getting back to base wasn’t easy, but Russell was able to make it there safely.

“But how did you get your jeep?” I asked. “While you were at church, a neighbor drove me home from the train station and I got it then. Mom and Dad helped me plan the whole welcome home surprise, once I got back to base. ‘Operation Lizzy’s Christmas Present’ was what we called it. Keeping it a surprise from you wasn’t so easy,” answered Russell.

As I raced towards my brother, I began to list all of the old traditions we still needed to do. “Ok, ok. We’ll do them,” he said, “but where to begin?” I thought about this for a moment, then pulled Russell out the door and to his jeep. “It’s time to go caroling,” I said. With our parents waving from the door, Russell and I started our annual caroling trip through town.

When we pulled up to the front house, Russell looked over at me and said “Told you in my letters I would be home for Christmas.”

The Christmas of 1944 became a Christmas I never forgot.

My Favorite Things

295711_10150295069964548_4502222_n(Me with The Greensboro Grasshoppers baseball mascot in 2012) 

Recently, I came to the realization that I just jumped right into blogging and didn’t really “introduce” myself. Well, to fix that problem, I decided to give you a pick into my life.

So, these are a few of my favorite things…

1: My favorite place in the world is anywhere on the coast.

2: I love baseball, especially the Atlanta Braves! How many days until Opening Day? (About 32, in case you’re wondering 🙂 )

3: Every summer, I watch two mini-series: North and South and whatever seems interesting to me at that time.

4: Horses, dogs, and pigs are my favorite animals.

5: Traveling, traveling, traveling! I can’t get enough of it! (You’ll see why in a future post)

6: Sweet tea is my downfall. I could drink it every day and with every meal.

7: I read a Nicholas Sparks’ book every summer, along with a classic, such as The Great Gatsby or To Kill a Mockingbird. (Apparently, summers are “busy relaxation” times for me.)

8: Pearls and monograms go with anything!

9: My goal in life is to visit all 50 states. (Route 66 roadtrip, anyone?)

10: My all-time favorite quote is: “She believed she could, so she did.” -Anonymous

xoxo,

Megan