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My grandfather was a one-of-a-kind type of guy, a mixture of sailor, rascal, gentleman, rapscallion, yarn-spinner, fisherman, dreamer, and patriarch. He was bigger than life. He ran away from home, joined the Merchant Marines, sailed the seven seas, and had the tattoos to prove it. During his colorful life, one of his jobs was to paint circus wagons for Ringling Brothers Circus. He had a steady hand and use these special sable brushes, imported from Russia, to paint stripes and curlycues. My uncle gave each of us one, and I touch it every now and then, just to rest my hand where I know Grandaddy's had been. In my mind I can hear his laugh, smell his outdoorsy smell, feel the press of his big arm holding me close.


“Bloom where youre planted,” Mama would spout.

I should have listened and not tuned her out.

She said it a lot,

Im kidding you not.

“Bloom where youre planted, whatever your pot!”

See, I was a kid who might grumble and gripe.

“...Dont like my teacher...just not my type.”

But Mama would say,

In her no-nonsense way.

“Bloom where youre planted, cause thats where youll stay.”

I stayed and I stood, though I kept up my guard,

Knowing Miss Burns would be much, much too hard.

I entered her room

With a heart full of gloom.

And found, with Miss Burns, that Id bloom and Id bloom.

Call the militia! Call the Marines!

For seven years later, Id entered my teens.

I hate to confess

That Id stress and obsess,

“Ive nothing to wear!” and “I hate this old dress.”

But Mama would say, “Child, we havent a dollar,

But Ill change the sleeves and put on a new collar.”

Id watch her begin

With her needles and pins,

And wouldnt you know it? That dress “bloomed” again.

Then came the time when I left home for college,

Eager to fill up my head with new knowledge.

I wrote home to Mom,

Saying, “Please, please stay calm,

But Ive met a guy and hes cute! Hes the bomb!”

Mama wrote back, saying, “Wait! Its a phase!

Trust me! Youve known him for just...14 days.”

Her words did intone,

“Agree or come home!

Bloom where youre planted but right now, ALONE!”

“But Mama,” I wept, “I might be an old maid.”

I launched, to my shame, an impressive tirade.

But Mama held fast,

“It never would last.

Youll bloom again—and this too shall pass.”

The years rolled on by, and much later, I wed,

And I tried to “bloom,” like Mama had said.

It was I, now, each day,

When my kids were at play,

“Bloom where youre planted,” they both heard me say.

But oh, how we want things—bigger and better.

Then one day we find were a credit card debtor.

My checkbook held naught!

I was in a tough spot,

For trying to live much too big for my pot.

Id forgotten to bloom in a pot just my size,

And that is when trouble will always arise.

When debts are assuming,

Mortgages looming,

Odds are that happiness will not be blooming.

My lifestyle had taken possessions for granted.

I had to RELEARN to bloom where Im planted.

It isnt the “stuff,”

Possessions or “fluff,”

That make us feel deep down that we have enough.

Its focusing in on the blessings from God

And learning to live with a life slightly flawed.

The car has a dent?

Your bracelet is bent?

Your son tracked in mud, or worse, wet cement?

Need to lose weight?

Hairstyles not great?

Dont like your husband, or friend, or roommate?

Dont have a job?

Head has a throb?

Your boss is demanding and sometimes a snob?

Your son wants a turtle?

Cant find your girdle?

And lunch with your daughter is sometimes a hurdle?

Kids always fight?

Cant sleep at night?

Your first grader cant get her shoes tied just right?

You can go far

In the place where you are,

No matter how humble, how small, how bizarre.

So shout hallelujah! Take nothing for granted.

Give God the glory, and bloom where youre planted.


Click here to download Bloom Where You're Planted 


      This recipe is so simple you could make it blindfolded. Well, almost. Its savory, salty,   creamy goodness tastes terrific on toast, an English muffin, celery, crackers, or…your finger. This stuff almost never goes bad in the fridge, and it’s a great go-to snack or sandwich filler for when you’re in a hurry. The best part is this is a LOW-CARB snack if you eat it on raw veggies. If you eat it on bread, you’re on your own.


 1. Just a few simple ingredients you probably already have, and you’re good to go. You’ll need 8 oz. of cream cheese at room temperature, 1 cup of green olives, a spatula, spoon, mixer, and bowl. See? Simple.

 2. Drain the olives, and mound them up on your cutting board. Just know that one will roll off and under the cabinets. Expect that.

 3. Chop the olives to a rough chop. That’s kitchen talk for “don’t pulverize the olives.”

 4. They will look like this. Nice and green and pretty. Don’t let the red pimentos scare you.

 5. Put your softened cream cheese in a deep bowl.

 6. Whip up the cream cheese with your hand mixer. You can go fast. You can go faster.

 7. Scoop up your chopped green olives…

 8. And put them in the bowl with the cream cheese.

 9. Ta-da!

 10. I like to grind in a little black pepper. Skip this step if you don’t like ground pepper.

 11. Use a spoon to mix it all together.

 12. Taste some to make sure it’s as yummy as I said it is. Realize that I’m right.

 13. Put the mixture in a container for your refrigerator.

 14. Smooth it all down, and with any luck, this will last all week. Maybe.

 15. Spread it on toasted bread, sandwich rounds, or crackers.

 16. Hurry. Just the smell of this stuff will make you jump up and down.

 17. Grab some chicharrónes…you might call these pork rinds…. Our family calls them chi-chis…And use them to dip up the olive cream cheese.

 18.  Call 911 if you need a chaperone. You can also use it to stuff celery, mushroom caps, little sweet peppers, or lettuce wraps.

19. Look how easy!










           This is an inexpensive, razzle-dazzle-sparkle idea for your classroom. I use plate chargers as picture frames for student work, special awards, parent gifts, bulletin-board displays, and class photographs. Plate chargers are in all the discount and craft stores, and right now is a good time to grab some because we’re nearing the holidays. They come in all colors. Many times you can find round and square ones for $0.99, but mine with the scalloped edges were $1.99 at Hobby Lobby.

            Print colored pictures on cardstock paper, and cut out an 8-inch circle. Glue the photograph to the center of the charger. Use inexpensive stickers or paint pens to write a message on the rim of the charger. You can stick these to a display with Velcro tape, or drill two holes in the top and string them with ribbon. Voila! You’re in business. How cute are these? I want them in every color!









Aren’t some words in writing just dead? I know that we’ve all seen them. Words like run, said, happy, fun, mad; the list just goes on and on and on. These words need to be put to rest, but students choose to use them over and over again. Why? Well it’s probably because they can’t think of better words with which to replace them. Now this is where a classroom’s Dead Wall finds its perfect place. A Dead Wall can be a simple bulletin board, a section of wall space, or even a corner of the white board. Once you have your Dead Wall space, you’re on your way to giving your students a resource they will use time and time again. Now you’ll need to find all those dead words—you know, the words that you get tired of reading in paper after paper—and find a word or list of words that will SIZZLE in its place. Use a piece of gray construction paper, and cut it into a tombstone shape. Now all you have to do is write the “dead word” on the top in small print and write the SIZZLIN’ vocabulary word(s) that can replace it in large print. Post these tombstones on your Dead Wall, and you are well on your way to bringing student writing back to life. To even take it to the next step, you can do what a teacher friend of mine, Jon Spencer, did and host a classroom funeral for all of your dead words. Encourage students to wear all black and have them all gather around as you place each word to rest. You can even allow students to be creative and share their own eulogy for how they will miss using each of the words, and throw in a box of tissues for the extra effect. This will be a learning experience that your students will never ever forget.


I wish someone had told me about this idea when I was in my twenties; it would have saved a lot of nicks and cuts over the years. Who said it? “Too soon old. Too late smart.” Rick and I keep a caddy for dirty knives next to the kitchen sink. Instead of putting them in the sink or on the counter where someone can accidentally get cut, we keep them here until the rest of the dishes are done. Then it’s easy to do these knives by hand and to be extra careful.



        Primary teacher Alma Valle-Beghtol, who teaches at Briscoe Elementary School in   San Antonio, teaches her students ”You can paint a picture with your words.” She uses a picture of an artist’s pallette and where the blobs of paint are, she writes: similes, idioms, taste, touch, interjections, etc. Kids use this visual aid to add beauty and depth to their writing. Alma, you are a Teacher Spectacular, for sure.  




Many times it can be difficult to reach our reluctant boy readers!

Click the image below to view Melissa's list of titles that will help.



At an early age, kids need to develop a sense of place in the world, a feeling of companionship to other children and cultures, and to recognize that they have a voice. When confronted with any sort of need that has arisen out of a problem, disaster, or dilemma, no matter how small or big, a citizen of the world asks:

What can I do? What can we do?

Help your students to become citizens of the world, starting right in their school and neighborhoods. Remind them that even though they are kids, they still have a responsibility to their fellow man to reach out and make the world a better place in whatever manner they can.

Download the following PDF for excellent ideas on how to teach your students to become citizens of the world!


          When I was a teenager, my whole world revolved around my youth group from church. There were about 60 of us, and we were a rowdy, happy group. Our church was within walking distance from the high school, and we were given an hour and fifteen minutes for lunch every day. That meant lunch at the church together for grilled cheese and tomato soup or hamburgers and French fries and breakfast once a week. We did some serious laughing and swapped all the latest gossip over food.

            Our customs were a little weird. After Christmas, everyone looked forward to the huge Christmas tree burns we would have. Everyone looked for all the old, dried-out Christmas trees people put out by the curb. The deal was, you tied the tree behind your bike with a rope, then biked it home. You did this until you had a pretty good stash. Most of the church youth groups in the area were planning for their Christmas tree burns, too, and finding those dried-out trees meant war. It was not unusual to wake up and find your stash GONE, stolen in the night, swiped by one of the other youth groups, no doubt. Even so, we racked up more than 100 trees, maybe more. That was a serious pile of pine and icicles.

            The night of the tree burn would rival Dante’s Inferno. Imagine the heat the enormous pile of dried-out pine generated. The flames leapt 40 and 50 feet into the sky. Our custom was to line up, and every kid had a tree that was his or hers to throw. We were at least 100 feet away because of the immense heat emanating from the burning starter pile. Then the insanity began. When your turn came, you grabbed your tree with an intense grip and ran like an idiot toward the giant flaming pile. As you got as near as you dared, you heaved the skeletal tree up over your head with as much force as you could muster. I swear some of them burst into flame in midair, they were so dried out and flame ready. Then, with your face burning and your hair flying, you turned and ran back to the line to do it all over again when your turn came. Why our parents and our youth leaders would allow this barbaric ritual is anyone’s guess, but it was repeated year after year. To my knowledge, no one was ever hurt or burst into spontaneous combustion, a miracle, if you ask me. What didn’t kill you made you stronger.