Spin Cycle: 28 Inspirational Quotes

For this week’s Spin Cycle, Ginny Marie of Lemon Drop Pie is asking us to list 28 of . . . well, whatever we’d like! We’re just celebrating that the 28-day month of February is almost at an end. (One of my former principals used to call it the “armpit of the school year.”)

For my post, I’ve decided to list 28 inspirational quotes. In the comments, tell me which one was your favorite or if you have a favorite that I didn’t list!

Quotes on Success


Believe with all your heart2.

Success Robert Collier3.

How far you've come4.

Life is a succession25.

Einstein Say NO6.

If You Can Imagine


 Funny Quote

This one made me laugh. I guess it’s the Spanish version of “If someone hands you lemons, make lemonade.”


House on Fire8.

Always do right Mark Twain

 Quotes about kindness


Schweitzer do for others10.

Mother Teresa kindness11.

motivational click november einstein collection


Wonder Collage

Quotes about Hope



Dwell in Possibility Dickinson15.

Prayer of Protection16.

Carson Downton Abbey


Roosevelt knot hang on18.

All's right with the world2


Angel Quotes

Thanks to my book Angelhood coming out in two months, my friends are sending me lots of angel quotes. So here’s a whole set of them.




Angel Start Moving


May There Always Be An Angel By Your Side.

Angels Can Find Us

Entertain angels

Psalm 92 Angel Wing

Walk with Angels 2
Walk with Angels27.

Can't see your angels28.

Friends are angels

Stop by the Spin Cycle to see what other kinds of lists other bloggers came up with.

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Lenten Reflection for Thursday, February 19, 2015

My parish puts out a daily Lenten reflection booklet with passages meant to help us ponder the day’s readings.  This year I wrote three of the reflections. Here’s my first one. It’s based on Luke 9:22-25.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Well, who on earth wants to take up a cross? They’re heavy, cumbersome, and painful. They slow down our progress on the path we want to take, but perhaps that’s the very point. I have all sorts of plans, but God keeps sending me these crosses–unwelcome illnesses, sudden requests for help from friends and family, added expectations at work—that keep getting in the way of what I want to accomplish.

And that’s when I’m forced to remember the first part of Jesus’s directive. If I’m going to follow Him, I first need to deny myself. As the band Mercy Me sings in their song “So Long Self,” I have to say good-bye to me: “Well, it’s been fun, but I have found somebody else.” That somebody else, of course, is Jesus. And if I really want to follow Him, I have to keep “turning outward” as Pope Francis has been reminding us to do: to deny myself, to turn toward others, and to pick up whatever cross God asks me to bear today.

* * *

The reflection booklet obviously doesn’t include video, but that doesn’t mean I can’t include video in my blog post version! Here’s the video from the song I mentioned by Mercy Me. It’s kind of a silly spoof on the idea of saying good-bye to yourself, but I still really like it.

Got any other great songs that put you in the mood for Lent?

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Monday Book Review: Fake ID by Lamar Giles

It’s time to review another Edgar nominee, this time for best young adult mystery.

Title: Fake ID

Author: Lamar Giles

Genre: mystery

Age group: young adult

Synopsis: Teenager Nick Pearson has been living in the Witness Protection Program for years. His father, a former mob ally, is a key witness in a case against a big-time mobster–or at least, will be a key witness once the police capture the mobster. Unfortunately, Nick’s dad has problems playing by the rules; thus, Nick’s family is forced to change names and locations several times. When Nick lands in the small town of Stepton, things go wrong quickly. A student at school commits suicide, but Nick isn’t convinced it wasn’t murder. Worse yet, he fears his dad is messed up in the whole deal.

Giles provides several nice plot twists to a story that keeps getting more complicated as Nick investigates, so I can see why it’s been nominated for an Edgar. After years of reading so many mysteries, it’s a little hard to surprise me so I’ll admit that there was one plot twist that got me.

Parents may want to be forewarned that there is foul language in the book, but it didn’t seem gratuitous to me. I’m sure high school students hear similar or worse language on a daily basis. There are also brief mentions of sex and one short make-out scene. Nick certainly isn’t the perfect hero of a romance novel, but he’s a kid trying to do the right thing despite his father’s mistakes, so we root for him to succeed, and there are definitely some humorous lines in here.

One other thing I feel compelled to mention is that after the questionable suicide, one character mentions that another character says there won’t be a Catholic funeral because it was a suicide. I don’t know if Giles purposely included this erroneous idea or if he’s unaware himself. However, as a Catholic with a book about teen suicide due out in just a couple months, I thought I should clear the air. Someone who has committed suicide can have a Catholic funeral Mass. If you’d like an explanation, feel free to see this article.



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Spin Cycle: Valentine’s Day and Ten Great Loves

As a single person, it’s easy to get disgruntled on Valentine’s Day. Already this morning, my Facebook feed is filled with all my married friend’s posts about the chocolate, cards, books, flowers, and jewelry their husbands have given them today. (Side note: you know you have a lot of author friends when their husbands give them books for Valentine’s Day.)

For the Spin Cycle this week, Ginny Marie is giving us a Valentine’s Day prompt with a twist: simply put, what do you love? (Notice it’s not “Whom do you love?” So I’ll refrain from telling you how much I love my friends and family. :) )

I love . . .

1. My new Jamberry nail wraps for Valentine’s Day. Aren’t they pretty? Got lots of compliments from my students yesterday.

photo 32. Mystery books. Please, oh please, oh please, surprise me in the end.

image3. Italian food. What’s not to love about some pasta? You can do so many things with it. Mix it with some cheese, tomato sauce, and spinach. Or maybe some sausage and broccoli. Or maybe some zucchini, squash, cherry tomatoes, and cheese. Yummy, yummy, yummy! And to go with it . . .

image4. A nice glass of wine. I’m pretty non-discriminating when it comes to wine. White. Red. Rose. Sparkling. Whatever. As long as it’s not an overly oaky Chardonnay.

IMG_25355. Traveling. Have I told you about my upcoming trips? Guatemala for spring break. Italy and Spain this summer! Dallas for a writing conference in September. Then New York in November for my investiture into the Order of Malta!

Order of Malta Magistral Palace in Rome.

Order of Malta Magistral Palace in Rome.

6. Italy! Don’t worry, Mom! I’m not moving there.


Check out that blue Roman sky! Bella!

7. A nice cup of tea. This is one of the reasons I adore the Brits. They appreciate a good tea time.

Another cup of tea for the record books.

Another cup of tea for the record books.

8. Running on a warm day. (Please let that warm weather return soon.)


Com’n, sunshine! Bring back the running weather!

9. A really good story. At first I thought about writing my post just about this fact. You see, there’s a certain movie out this weekend that everyone who blogs seems to be mentioning (and criticizing). I won’t be seeing it. I never read the book. I’d heard about it fairly early in the game because its quick rise to fame was making waves in the publishing world: Twilight fan fiction that had gained popularity and then a publishing contract and now a movie. However, every literary agent and editor who blogged about it back then said right away how poorly written it was and that it lacked a real plot. Why would I spend my time on that? There are too many good stories out there. And that’s what I love: a good story. Which brings me to number 10 . . .

10. Musical theater! A good story combined with beautiful music and breathtaking dancing. You gotta love it!

Into the Woods circa . . . uh, let's just say it was "once upon a time."

Into the Woods circa . . . uh, let’s just say it was “once upon a time.”

So guess what I’m doing tonight for Valentine’s Day? My plans, I’m pretty sure, must be a sign of God’s sense of humor. You see, my friends and I have season tickets to a local theater company, tonight happens to be our night for the current production, and the show just happens to be . . . West Side Story! That’s right, for Valentine’s Day, I’m going to see one of the saddest love stories in the history of musical theater. Ha!

My West Side Story sweatshirt from high school

My West Side Story sweatshirt from high school

But still, I count myself as lucky. On this day when we remember our loves, I get to a do a lot of things I love. I’m wearing my pretty Jamberry nail wraps. I’ve already had a nice cup of tea. I’ll get to do some mystery reading later. Then I’ll enjoy a nice Italian dinner with my friends. (I’ll have that glass of wine, of course!) And then I get to see some musical theater with beautiful music, dancing, and a good story to boot!

Whatever your plans are for today, I hope you do something you love!

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Monday Book Review: Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

The full title of this book is Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove: A Mystery with a Blinking, Beeping, Voice-Recording Gadget Glove You Can Build Yourself. Whew! How’s that for a title! It’s the first of my 2015 Edgar-nominated books to review.

Nick and TeslaTitle: Nick and Tesla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove: A Mystery with a Blinking, Beeping, Voice-Recording Gadget Glove You Can Build Yourself

Authors: “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Genre: mystery

Age group: middle grade

Summary: Twins Nick and Tesla Holt are named after the famous (although really not as famous as he should be) engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla. The eleven-year-old twins are staying with their Uncle Newt, a scientist asked to fix a brand-new interactive display of animatronic representations of famous scientists at a local museum about to have a grand re-opening. However, someone seems set on ruining the museum’s celebration. When Uncle Newt and his friend Hiroko think they’ve got everything ready, they activate the animatronic version of Nikola Tesla to give it a test run. At first, everything seems fine, but suddenly all the robotic-like figures start talking at once, and then at high speed until a beaker flies out of Louis Pasteur’s hand, Charles Darwin’s head falls off, and everyone is suddenly plunged into darkness. When the lights come back on, Uncle Newt and Hiroko work on repairing the broken robots while Nick, Tesla, and their two friends decide to investigate who is out to ruin the museum’s big night.

Super Cyborg GloveWhile Nick, Tesla, and their friends work on the mystery, they decide they need a special glove to help them. At first, the glove needs an LED light that can be activated by touching two fingers together. Later, they need to record someone talking, so they add a small recorder to the glove. As the mystery progresses, more devices get added to their super-cyborg glove. What makes this more fun is that the directions for the glove are included in the book so that kids (with the help of their parents) could actually build their own super-cyborg glove if they wanted to.

The mystery part of the book is pretty fun, too. While I may have predicted what was going to happen at times, I think the ending would surprise most young readers, and I definitely think the authors captured the voice of eleven-year-olds pretty well. (Seeing as I spend my days with eleven and twelve-year-olds, I like to think I know what they sound like!)

A fair warning to parents who don’t like adult characters to seem “stupid”: Nick and Tesla’s Uncle Newt is kind of your stereotypical “mad scientist.” He’s brilliant with his science, but lacks a bit of common sense, and he’s definitely not good at keeping an eye on his niece and nephew. They are allowed to roam the museum unsupervised because he’s too distracted fixing the museum display.

That being said, it’s really nice to see woman and girls portrayed as being not only interested in science but also very good at it. Uncle Newt’s friend Hiroko is a smart, female scientist, and Tesla is a bright young woman who makes for a strong heroine and counterpoint to her more cautious but still smart twin brother. I would recommend this book to those in grades 3-6 who like mysteries and/or are interested in science.

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Your Birthday Is Not About You

On this week’s Spin Cycle, our topic is “Birthdays: Love ‘Em or Hate ‘Em?” I’ve had kind of a bad history with birthdays, so I tend not to like them. I know this baffles some of my friends a bit, but perhaps these two stories will shed a little light on why, when my birthday comes around, I tend to run for cover and just pray it ends soon.

I still have my colored paper clips from junior high.

I still have my colored paper clips from junior high.

My first story goes back to my thirteenth birthday. Perhaps the number thirteen should have been a clue things weren’t going to go well. It was my eighth grade year, and one of my good friends was in my homeroom. We’ll call her Ellen. The school day was wrapping up, and I was double checking my Chandler for my homework assignments. (Who didn’t love those Chandlers back then? Mine was covered in stickers and doodles made with highlighters and tons of colored paper clips.)

When I realized I hadn’t written down the social studies homework, I turned around to ask Ellen what the homework was. Ellen had gotten up from her desk to get a tissue or something; however, her Chandler was left wide open, so I decided to peak to see if she’d written down the social studies homework. Instead of finding it, I saw large letters declaring “Amy’s Surprise Birthday Party” on Saturday.

Uh oh.

Clearly, I was not supposed to see that. I turned around quickly to face the front again, but I wasn’t fast enough. Ellen was heading back down the aisle, and she saw me whip around.

“What did you just see?” she screeched.

“Nothing.” I was a bad liar.

“Yes, you did!” Ellen screeched again.

“I was just looking for the social studies homework. I forgot to write it down.”

Ellen gave me a funny look. She wasn’t convinced, but I refused to admit I’d seen anything about my birthday party.

The rest of the week passed, and I heard nothing about it. Maybe they had decided to cancel it since I’d found out. Finally, Saturday morning arrived. I was restless around the house. Had they really canceled it? Then I got the call from my friend Ann. She lived near Ellen, and her house was the obvious choice for hosting a party. Ann invited me over to hang out at her house with her, Ellen, and another of our mutual friends. Ann didn’t sound too excited, but I figured this was the invitation to my “surprise” party.

My mom drove me over, and I wondered if they’d actually try to surprise me or just forget about it and we’d hang out for the day. As I walked to the house, I prepared myself to act surprised.

When I stepped inside, three eighth grade girls gave a very lackluster “Surprise.”

Before I could even muster up some feigned surprise, one of the girls said, “But you already expected that.”

“Yeah, you totally ruined it,” said another, her arms crossed, her face dour.

“You shouldn’t have been snooping in Ellen’s Chandler,” said the third.

“But . . but . . .” I protested. “I just wanted to know the social studies homework.”

It didn’t matter. I had managed to ruin my own birthday party. Eventually, they got over it, and we spent the day hanging out together, but I felt terrible about ruining the party for them. My birthday party had been ruined, and it was all my fault.

Skip ahead to my twenty-first birthday. That’s supposed to be a big one for everyone, right? You’re finally able to drink legally.

My twenty-first birthday fell on a Thursday night. It was in my senior year of college, and I was one of the youngest of my friends. Thus, they had all celebrated their twenty-first birthdays before me (and without me).

My roommate had told all our friends that we’d go out on the actual night of my birthday. When I got home from classes that Thursday afternoon, I had come down with some sort of cold. Nothing awful, but definitely not feeling up to par. All I wanted to do was curl up and go to bed.

“Could we go out tomorrow night instead of tonight?” I asked my roommate.

“No!” she yelled. “Everyone’s been waiting for this for a long time. We have to go out tonight!”

I didn’t see what a big deal it would be to wait one night. I was sure I’d feel better if I could just get one good night’s sleep. But no, my roommate was adamant. We had to go out that night. Everyone was depending on it. I couldn’t disappoint everyone else!

You see, I should have learned my lesson with my thirteenth birthday. Your birthday is not about you. It’s about an excuse for everyone else to have a party. They really don’t care what you want. They just want a party.

So I followed my friends onto a Milwaukee bus, and we headed to an area where they were sure there were some great bars. Only no one could find them when we got there. Finally, after lots of walking around, we found a bar that my friends agreed was suitable.

“Oh just wait,” everyone said. “Since it’s your twenty-first birthday, you’ll get all sorts of free drinks and drink specials.”

So into the first bar we went. My friends told the bartender it was my twenty-first birthday and asked if there was anything special he could do for me.

Nope. No free drink. No drink specials. My friends ordered beers for themselves. I don’t drink beer. When I was a little kid, my dad let me sip his beer, so I could see what it tasted like. Puke. That’s what I thought beer tasted like.

So I stood around lamely not knowing what to do. I had never ordered from a bar before. Did they serve wine? Seriously, I didn’t know. I was that naive. And even if they did serve wine, how did I order it? I knew enough to know I like wine, but I knew nothing about types of wine. At that time, I couldn’t have found the words pinot grigio to save my life. Did one just order white wine? What if there was a follow-up question about what type of white wine? I’d have no idea how to answer!

And mixed drinks? I knew nothing about them. My parents used to drink something called a Manhattan or another drink called a highball, but again, I knew nothing about them. Would I like them? How much would they cost? Were those the current right names for the drinks or were those the 1960s names? And why didn’t bars have menus? How was I supposed to know what they had and how much it cost?

The bar was crowded, so I stood in the midst of the crowd while my friends drank beers, and I drank . . . nothing. No one even offered to get me a Coke.

After a while, my friends decided to try another bar. They were sure there were some more around here, so we started walking the streets of Milwaukee. And we walked. And we walked. Remember that I was feeling sick and very tired that night. The walking did not help that matter.

Finally, we found a second bar. The same thing happened. No free drinks. No drink specials. My friends drank beer, and I drank nothing. Again, none of my friends offered to get me a drink, except for one guy who offered to get me a beer. When I said I don’t drink beer, he just shrugged his shoulders and went off to get his own. The place was crowded, and there was nowhere to sit. I prayed we’d find a bar where I could at least sit, even if I wasn’t going to drink.

After the second bar, we spent more time wandering the streets of Milwaukee. I couldn’t understand how all my friends who had turned 21 before me didn’t seem to know where any of the “good bars” actually were. The walking was getting extremely tiresome. People argued about which way to go to find a good bar. I began to pray for the night to end. All I wanted was my bed.

Then someone mentioned a German bar. There it was, lit up in the distance. We got inside, and it was like we’d stepped right into Deutschland. Oh, and look at that! An open table we could sit at! And what’s this? An actual menu? You mean, I could sit and peruse the selections? What a concept!

So yes, I sat at a wooden table in a German bar in Milwaukee and drank one wine cooler for my twenty-first birthday. After that, my friends let me go home and go to bed.

These are just two of my not-so-hot birthdays from the past, and part of the reason why I like to “duck and cover” every year when my birthday comes around. You know what I want for my birthday? Peace and quiet, and no one making a big deal out of it. Just give me a couple of nephews to hug, and I’m a happy camper.

Birthday 2014

Birthday 2014

Got a birthday story to share? Click on the Spin Cycle button below and link up your post at the end of Ginny Marie’s post.

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My To-Be-Read Pile

This past Monday I didn’t get a Monday Book Review posted. I did, however, trek on out to my local public library to pick up some new books after getting my car out of the aftereffects of the Blizzard of 2015.

Parking at the library was at a premium since they hadn’t managed to plow half the lot yet. I had to circle the lot for ten minutes to get a spot. Once inside, though, I found several fun picks.


Recognize any titles? Two of the books are up for the Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery, and the other two are up for best YA (young adult) mystery. Every year I try to read through as many of the nominees as possible before the winners are announced in April.

So here are some books you’ll probably being seeingg reviews on in the near future:

  • Nick and Testla’s Super-Cyborg Gadget Glove by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
  • Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai
  • Fake ID by Lamar Giles
  • Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
Posted in Book Reviews, Edgar Nominee | 3 Comments

New Headshot chosen!

Thanks to all who voted to help me pick a new headshot! I would have been staring at them for days if it hadn’t been for your votes. As my sisters-in-law like to say, I would’ve been suffering from Cattapanalysis Paralysis (the state in which a Cattapan over-analyzes so much that he or she becomes paralyzed and can’t make a decision).

And the winner (with 40% of the vote) is . . . .

Headshot K!

Headshot K

Headshot K


Not too far behind it was the very similar Headshot J (with 20% of the vote).

Headshot J

Headshot J

The next closest was Headshot D, which is rather nice, too. I may use this as an alternate photo.

Headshot D

Headshot D

Thanks again to all who voted!

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Monday Book Review: Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Last summer, this book was so popular around the summer school kids that even the principal asked to borrow my copy so she could read it. After she returned it to me, it took a while before I had time to read it. And then it took even a couple more months before I had time to write this review, but here goes!

UngiftedTitle: Ungifted

Author: Gordon Korman

Genre: contemporary realistic fiction

Age group: middle grade

Inside cover flap: “The word gifted has never been applied to a kid like Donovan Curtis. It’s usually more like Don’t try this at home. So when the troublemaker pulls a major prank at his middle school, he thinks he’s finally gone too far. But thanks to a mix-up by one of the administrators, instead of getting in trouble, Donovan is sent to the Academy of Scholastic Distinction (ASD), a special program for gifted and talented students. It wasn’t exactly what Donovan had intended, but there couldn’t be a more perfect hideout for someone like him. That is, if he can manage to fool people whose IQs are above genius level. And that becomes harder and harder as the students and teacher of ASD grow to realize that Donovan may not be good at math or science (or just about anything).”

As a teacher of gifted students, I always like to see them featured in books. Unfortunately, they are often stereotyped, and I felt this occurred in Ungifted. For example, gifted students are often perceived as socially awkward and nerdy. However, that is certainly not always the case. While some gifted children may fall within the autism spectrum, most of them do not. And most of them are very aware of their social interactions with their peers. In fact, many specialists in gifted education talk about the varying types of “intensities” gifted children can experience, including being hyperaware of their social interactions and emotions.

As a quick example of the bad stereotyping, in the book Ungifted, a boy named Noah (who has the highest IQ in the school) is completely unaware of YouTube and has to be introduced to it. Not only do my gifted students know what YouTube is, they have their own YouTube channels with faithful followers (900 of them!) and post videos weekly.

Later in the book, Noah says he wishes he could go to a regular school because the gifted kids are under such pressure that they never laugh. Ha! I’ll laugh at that. If I had a dime for every time, my gifted students laugh in school, my salary would double. Sure, some of them are under tremendous pressure from their parents, but most of them still find plenty of reasons to laugh. In fact, a good sense of humor is usually a sign of intelligence, so gifted kids tend to get jokes some other students might not.

That being said, I did like the character Chloe, who is a gifted girl who just wants to prove that not all gifted kids are social outcasts. She has some funny lines, too. For example, she’s always coming up with hypotheses, and when her dad says she looks beautiful after getting ready for her first ever school dance, she comes up with the hypothesis “The compliment loses credibility in direct proportion to how closely related you are to the speaker.” Ha! So true!

My problem is that Chloe shouldn’t have to prove to everyone that gifted kids aren’t social outcasts. I’d like to see a book with gifted children that shows their depth and complexity. One that includes a gifted kid who’s also a sports jock or a theater prodigy or the most popular kid in school.

While I found some of the book’s lines to be funny, I won’t be recommending it to my students. They deserve a better representation of who they are.

Posted in Book Reviews, Middle Grade | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Help me pick a headshot!

In getting ready for my book release, I had some new headshots taken last month at Popio Stumpf Photography. Chris Popio did such an awesome job that I’m having trouble choosing. Can you help me pick a headshot to use for my book and social media? I got it narrowed down from 300 shots to 12 for you! :)

Headshot A

Headshot A

Headshot B

Headshot B

Headshot C

Headshot C

Headshot D

Headshot D

Headshot E

Headshot E

Headshot F

Headshot F

Headshot G

Headshot G


Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | Tagged | 8 Comments