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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Keeping Your Grumpy Chunks Out of My Great Day Cereal

Have you ever had a great day going when someone in a really bad mood calls you or starts to talk to you? When that happens, do you resolve not to let their bad day impact your great one?

It’s a little like what happens to milk with vinegar. A glass of milk can be cold and refreshing. But if you pour a tablespoon of vinegar into that milk, it begins a chemical process where the milk begins to curdle. Cooks do this when they don’t have buttermilk and need a quick substitute to continue a recipe.

So imagine your great day and good attitude is the glass of milk.  There are some people in this world who are just plain full of vinegar to the point it overflows and they want to share the misery. It’s like they stirred a heaping dose of Grumpy Chunks and Sour Cream into their morning bowl of wheaties. They may not even realize they want to share it.

Your job is to cover your glass of milk when the Vinegar Varmints visit. You can still greet Vinegar Varmints with a smile, but keep your heart covered so when they pour their balsamic concoction, it bounces off the sides of your cup and doesn’t impact your great mood.

If someone throws a rock at you, it can be easy to pick that rock up and throw it back at them – maybe twice as hard. But imagine in the long run if you’re having a great day, someone hits you with a rock, and you suddenly start working to return the slam. The moment you do that, your great day can be lost forever.

Is it not better sometimes if someone throws that rock at you to just keep your milk covered and let it bounce off you and then fall to the ground? I sometimes wonder if that’s what the Biblical admonition to turn the other cheek really means. You determine how much power that grumpy chunk lobbed at you really has.

Mind you – if the Vinegar Varmint lobs the Grumpy Chunk at someone else, it’s perfectly fine to protect and defend others.

But if it’s just a rock that’s thrown, it can sometimes be more effective to think:

Just because you stirred Grumpy Chunks and Sour Cream into your morning Wheaties is no reason for me to let your bad mood ruin my great day.

5 Whys and 3 Hows to Help the St. Vincent de Paul Friends of the Poor Walk

The Society St. Vincent de Paul is one of the best kept secrets of the Evansville – Tri-State area with its effort to help those who are needy in our community.  What are the details?

St. Vincent de Paul Friends of the Poor Walk

  • Saturday, September 29, 2012
  • Evansville State Hospital Grounds
  • Registration is at 8 a.m., and the walk begins at 9 a.m.
  • 1 Mile and 5K routes will be available.
  • Financial and food donations are welcome.

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Help the Friends of the Poor Walk

  1. There will be 160 other Walks for the Poor on the Same Day – you’ll be walking with over 18,000 others across the United States.
  2. All funds raised by the Walk for the Poor will be used in Southwestern Indiana to help the poor and the needy.
  3. In the Evansville district, there are 26 Catholic parishes actively involved in SVdP services. (Posey, Vanderburgh, Gibson, and Warrick Counties) who provide direct emergency assistance to the local poor. Half of the funds raised Saturday will directly help those parishes help the needy in their own back yards.
  4. Lasts year, SVdP helped more than 4,900 families and individuals in the Evansville area.
  5. SVdP must raise its own funds not only to help with parishes but to manage their food pantry (which provides food to low income people who can visit the store once monthly if they qualify) and the thrift store which is open to the public but provides clothing and household items to those in need. SVdP does not receive funding from the Diocese of Evansville or the Daughters of Charity.

Top 3 Ways to Help the Friends of the Poor Walk.

  1. Join the walk. Bring your friends and donations.
  2. Donate money online. If you search for the following walkers and donate to their walks, your money will stay local: Beamer, JillGries, PamelaGries, JanetThe Jackson Family, Cor UnumTorrevillas, WilchelaTorrevillas, Wilchela, or Williams, Cynthia.
  3. Donate food items to the Tri-State Racquet Club. They are accepting donations through September 28.


Keeping College Students Safe in a Big Bad World

I would hate to be working in campus security this week. This is the hard part of being a mother of a college student in uncertain times.

The following universities were threatened by bomb scares this week:

  • September 14 – University of Texas at Austin
  • September 14 – North Dakota State University
  • September 14 – Hiram College in Ohio
  • September 17 – Louisiana State University (Boston man arrested in connection with it)
  • September 18 – Arkansas State University
  • September 20 – Southern Illinois University
  • September 21 – North Michigan University (person of interest has been identified in this and 4 other non-university threats)

Yes, there may be copy cats.  We do not know who or what is making these threats. What to do?

Listen and watch:

For every  college student in America….now is the time for college students to be vigilant. Look for circumstances, objects, and more that seem off. Listen for threats online or in person. If you see something suspicious, say something to campus security.

Listen to your gut instincts. Gut instincts can warn you of bad situations before the details are fully identified. If your gut tells you something is off, protect yourself and say something to campus security.


There are all sorts of disaster preparedness guides and more. Make sure you are aware of safety and evacuation procedures for your campus and your dorm. Protect yourself.

We all learned on September 11 many years ago that terrorists would do whatever it took to bring us down and would do the unimaginable.

Well, guess what. It’s still a big bad world out there. A few bad guys in that world still want to do us harm. We have no idea what they will do or when.

Remember the Lessons of Flight 93 on September 11. When the passengers on that plane realized what was about to happen, they took history into their own hands and changed it. Armed with nothing but scalding water, a rolling cart, and determination not to surrender to terrorists – they stopped the bad guys, at the cost of their own lives.

There will come a day when something unexpected happens again. The time or the opportunity may come when you have to fight for survival – your own, those you love, or maybe even complete strangers.

My prayer is we all remember the heroes of Flight 93 and God forbid, if we have to, pay their heroism forward.


Moments of Fleeting Grace

We all carry a crazy patched quilt of mixed baggage with us. Some pieces are beautiful.

Others are stark in their horrific tragic moments that shred our hearts into pieces smaller than confetti. Those pieces seem to cover us at times as we struggle to mend the pieces together the best we can. Over time, new pieces are added and the sorrow of those dark patches becomes easier to bear.

As our crazy quilts grow, we sometimes fold the quilt to the most current patches and occasionally forget how dark some of the underneath patches are.

When I remember, I pray for God to take those terrible dark patches and make some good come from them. It can take years or decades to see the answer to those prayers. Sometimes the answers to those prayers are quiet, long drawn, and can be seen in the big picture.

On a very rare occasion, something will happen that brings the dark patch to the front. On an even rarer occasion, what happens is a single, lone Grace-filled moment that captures us by surprise and reminds us that all was not lost in that dark patch.

It’s almost like a single sequin is sewn into a patch that’s so black it seems like a black hole that defies time and space. But the single sequin gleams in the light, reminding us there’s a way out of the darkness.

The moment may stretch into a season. Other times, it’s still that single moment. But it’s a grace moment we can treasure, and remember, that we are not alone in the dark patches or the light patches. And we can resolve to open our hearts so we can see the sequins when they are presented to us – moments of grace that remind us we are not alone.

Those are the moments that differentiate the southern fiction of Flannery O’Conner from William Faulkner. O’Connor sees the despair and emptiness in some people’s lives but always has that lone moment of grace so fleeting you may not realize it’s there, but it’s a chance to see the wonder of God’s mercy.

And when we see it, we treasure it and cry, not quite in the darkness but in the shining light of a single sequin.

Don’t Let the Grumpy Rumps Stop You!

The following is a talk I once gave to a teen after she was humiliated by an adult who did not understand the difference between constructive criticism and condemnation.

I was thinking about it after the fact and realized that others might benefit – not just teens but anyone who knows the feeling of working hard, doing good work, and having someone slam you  after the fact. Here goes….

I’m sorry the Grumpy Rump said that. It was inappropriate and wrong.

You did good work. You are a wonderful person, and you are both loved and valued.

The sad thing is this Grumpy Rump had such a narrow vision of the world that she didn’t get it. Sometimes you do good work, and people resent what you did. So they go after you and try to discourage you so you will never ever try that path again.

I don’t know why they do what they do – that is their problem.

It does not mean your work was bad. It does not mean you are stupid. It does not mean you are unappreciated.

Other people recognize your good work and that you are a wonderful person.

We can’t help what she did. What you can help is how you respond. You can learn to ignore the Grumpy Rumps.

Don’t let the Grumpy Rumps stop you from your own success.

You do what you do, do it well, and remember that your success is the best revenge.

I know a lot about Grumpy Rumps. They have gone after me for a life time. I know how horrible it feels and how easy it is to want to just quit right here, right now.

Don’t let the Grumpy Rumps stop you from your own success.

Now, with old age, I see that God can use what the Grumpy Rumps do for good purpose. He recognized how deeply I was hurt by my own Grumpy Rumps and turned that into a desire to help others when they get slammed. That’s how I’m able to try to help you today.

One day, you may be in my shoes. You may be encouraging someone else who is in tears after a Grumpy Rump attack. You can comfort them, tell them they are valued and repeat what they must remember:

Don’t let the Grumpy Rumps stop you from your own success!

How Bullies Inspired Me to Youth Leadership

In my less than perfect childhood, which included more time in trailers than traditional homes, I encountered bullies. My middle school and high school years, living on the wrong street in town, were at times an exercise in avoidance, seeking safe places and refuges where the bully across the street couldn’t get to me.

We often forget that those terrible experiences can be used for good purpose by God. He did with me.

Ten years ago, when I was a mother, I encountered bullying behavior in an organization with my own children.  I saw a minority child who was taunted with racist comments. And I learned that on breaks, a girl had bullied others to the point of tears – and no one stopped her.

I realized I had to say or do something. So I became president of their parents organization and immediately instituted a new policy:

Zero Tolerance for Bullies

When you’re in leadership and set a standard like that at the top, it filters down. So far as I know, the bullying stopped. The few times it nearly erupted its head, I turned into Battle Ax Mary, Defender of Those Who Are Bullied.

Over the years, friends of mine who have seen my protectiveness of children sometimes joke about it. But they know that if I’m present – if I see a child being bullied either by other children or an adult, I will throw myself between them and do what it takes to stop it.  They know I have never caved to a bully.

Ten years later, my own children are nearly grown.   I still work in youth leadership, but it can sometimes get easy to lull into a complacent spot of going through the motions. I know that the first essential element of any successful youth program is that the kids need to feel safe and comfortable.

Then something happens. I see a child mistreated and remember why I first ventured on this path of volunteering with kids.

I know what it’s like to try to do something and to be humiliated. I know what it feels like when you work hard and someone publicly mocks you.

Our inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness can be compromised with we let the bullies do their dirty work.

As a result, now and for a lifetime, I will volunteer with youth programming to give kids a safe place in which to nurture their talents. Most of the time, that role will be fun.

But no matter what, my Battle Ax Mary supersuit, complete with a hammer of Wrathful Mom (which is stronger than the hammer of Thor), will be hanging in the closet, in case I need to reach in, grab it, and wear it to protect a kid.

Bullies be warned. The only way you will come between kids and me is over my cold, dead body.

Delegation and Inspiration

Once, Maggie Thatcher was asked how she accomplished so much. She answered that she hadn’t worried much about the bath towels or how they were folded.

If you are going to succeed as a leader – or a manager – the first key to success is finding a good team. The second key is to delegate tasks well, to fit the best person to each task at hand. Finally, the third key is to inspire those you work with to put forth the best effort possible.

I have managed and led teams where those I work with know more about what’s to be done than I do. I prefer working with experts in their field. So long as I know the basics, I can rely upon their expert judgment and trust that they will exceed any expectations.

It’s not leadership with a carrot or with the stick. Instead it’s leadership taught by working together. Where I back off, don’t micromanage, and trust the pros to be the best pros possible.

It means my job isn’t to order them. My job is to provide them with the tools, the information, and the opportunities to succeed.

Sometimes, they will do things differently than I would. They focus on their details, and I’ll focus on mine – the organizational and background paperwork that keeps all of us going.

If I hammer down their initiative, disparage their risk taking, or discourage them from trying new solutions, then I have destroyed over half the potential of my team. Instead, the critical element is to recognize their worth, thank their initiative, and show them how much they are needed.

Our success lies in tapping into their genius and passion to make great things happen.

When I find the right people, give them the best tools, and back off so they can do what they do best, they always impress me.

Then You Turn the Page

Lots of people have tough stories and have overcome obstacles. I am one of them. I grew up in the story of the single parent childhood, rocked with poverty mixed with a dash of scandal. In middle school, I really did walk through the snow to deliver papers on my paper route, including after the blizzard of 1977.

There is a story there – and I wrote a book about it.

In long distance perspective, I recognize that every obstacle I overcame made me who I am today. Many of those struggles sensitized me such that they developed my empathy and my gut instinct.

But the key to a happier ending doesn’t lie in wallowing in that story or using it as an excuse for bad decisions now.

The key is much simpler:

Then you turn the page.

The first step in building a better life is to turn the page, to flip the script, and to resolve to learn a newer, healthier story with a better ending.

It is possible. I know because I did it – with a lot of prayer, support from good friends, and hard work.

If you spend too much time gazing at yesterday’s storybook and pondering the sorrows of yesteryear, you just might forget that the pages on the other side of the book, the future, are blank.

And your decisions and actions now will determine what is written upon them.

The Fruits of Good Youth Development Programs

Leaving a youth retreat takes a little longer when you’re on the committee that planned it. Except it wasn’t me on the committee – it was my son. He brought home a bag of dish towel laundry to clean. When I started to pick it up to run it, he stopped me, “I’ll do it.”

“Make sure you run it on the sanitary load,” I started to tell him.

“I know. I’ll handle it,” was his response. Enough said…

When you enroll your 8 year old in a program like Scouts or 4-H, you’re more likely to think about the county fair or campfires. You don’t realize that if they stick with it, and it’s a fully organized youth development program, they will be assuming big responsibilities by the time they are teenagers.

And then you don’t realize that when a teen is really given the responsibility to run something, they learn how to run things. They learn by doing (an experiential learning model) how to be self-reliant. I see this not only with my own kids, or with the kids in the 4-H club I lead, but I also saw it in the exceptional young leaders I interviewed this spring for a series of stories on teen youth leaders in my community.

Not all youth programs are created equally. A good program is more than a field trip to the skating rink, games night, and a cookout.

A good youth program is developmentally appropriate and is organized to nurture kids from  young grades through high school, inspiring them to return to the program as leaders themselves.  Skills are taught. The kids want to be there. Community service is essential.

But the good programs do more than teach skills; they instill character traits and a strong work ethic. They gradually teach kids to assume more responsibility for their own activities. The youth not only develop responsibility for parts of the programming but authority to make some decisions so they feel ownership of their own activities.

Those who work with young people will see the difference between those who’ve learned to work with others through good youth programming. It reminds me of the high school science teacher who said she could tell which kids have cooked in a kitchen and which have not through their performance in science labs. Some kids have so much experience handling liquids and solids that they intuitively know what to do. Those who lack that experience have to play catch up.

I just wish I could convince more parents of young kids to involve their kids early and often in good youth programming.

From the other side of the parenting spectrum, it’s worth it to enjoy the fruits of those early years later.

Freeze Ahead Breakfast Burritos


Sausage veggie mixture for burritos

Often, breakfast time is a frantic rush to get out the door. For many years, on “those” mornings, I included a trip through the drive-through for a breakfast burrito. Then I decided to try to make my own – and to make them healthier and cheaper than the fast food restaurants.

After some trial and error tests, here’s my favorite way to make them. Give yourself plenty of time to make these, but once they are made, you will have at least 30 breakfast burritos ready to freeze so you can grab and go. Some breakfast burrito recipes combine everything, but I prefer making 3 separate skillets and then combining them. Here’s the technique:

Meat Mix:

  • 1 lb. sausage
  • 3 green peppers, diced
  • 3 multi-colored peppers, diced
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 can black beans, drained

Dice the peppers and onions and fry them with the sausage until the sausage is done and the onions are clear. When the sausage is no longer pink, toss in the spinach and let it wilt. After all the grease is drained, stir the drained black beans into the meat mixture. Set aside.

Hash Browns:

  • 1 16 oz. package of shredded hash browns
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan

Fry the hash browns until there are crispy edges. Drain the hash browns. Set aside.

Cheesy Eggs:

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • Pepper to taste

Break the eggs into a large bowl and pour in the milk. Whisk the eggs for 3 minutes, so the eggs are completely mixed and air is whisked into them. While you are whisking the eggs, heat the skillet so the eggs will go into a warm skillet. I use the same skillet I used for hash browns, so there is no need to use non-stick spray or oil. You decide whether you need to spray the skillet. With the pan heated on medium-low (about 3 on a dial going to 10), pour in the eggs. Let them set a few seconds before carefully stirring them with a spoon. I prefer stirring with a wooden spoon to give them a whole, fluffy look. Stir around the pan to ensure that none stick to the pan. When the eggs are nearly set, pour the cheese on top of them, turn the heat to low, and cover the pan. When the cheese has melted, stir the cheese into the eggs.

Burrito Assembly:

Tear off a 12-inch square of food service wrap. (I buy it in bulk from Sam’s because it works better.) Place a tortilla in the middle of the square of wrap. Put 1 tsp. of the potatoes, 1 T of the meat, and 1 T of the eggs into the tortilla. Start to wrap the tortilla and then roll the food wrap around the tortilla. Freeze. (I prefer to freeze them in quart size bags that hold 5 each so I can keep them in the deep freeze and then pull a bag at a time to our refrigerator freezer.)

Heating the Burrito:

Remove from freezer and remove the plastic wrap. (VERY important – never, ever cook food in a microwave while it is in plastic wrap for health and food safety reasons.) Place on a plate and heat for 30 seconds. Turn the burrito over and heat an additional 30 seconds. You will need to experiment with your microwave settings to determine how long to heat the burrito.  You want the burrito to be completely warm in the very middle. For food safety purposes, the middle of the tortilla should heat to a minimum of 165 degrees for it to be safe to eat. (That’s for moms like me who put the anal in retentive and keep a food safety temperature chart inside the kitchen cabinet by the stove just to do things right.)

This batch should make at least 20 tortillas. I would have 40 available so you can make them until the mixture is gone.

So how do they compare in cost and nutrition with drive throughs? I bought ingredients at Sam’s and Aldi’s and compared.




























And here is a comparison of other nutrients:


Vitamin A

Vitamin C



















Here is a cost comparison:

Arby’s  $       1.99
McDonald’s  $       1.00
Mary’s  $       0.50

The other perk to making my own burritos is I no longer have to calculate where the nearest drive through is to my morning route and hope rush hour traffic doesn’t delay me.