One books journey to Syria

Usually I take Wednesday to chat about travel or food, but I have been working on this story at work this week and I had to share . . .

Redleaf Press Blog

We often hear that a book can change your life. The right book, in the right hands, can change many lives. We were recently reminded of that fact when we were contacted about our book, Making It Better: Activities for Children Living in a Stressful World by Barbara Oehlberg.

This book has helped teachers and students across the country, but we were touched by the story that came to us about this book’s journey to a place far away from the normal classroom. A place where children and their families have been displaced from their homes. Where violence surrounds them and their country is in collapse. A country that has been at war for years—Syria.

Beryl Cheal, CEO of Disaster Training International and a former teacher and author that we have had the pleasure of working with in the past, recently traveled to Jordan, where she worked with young…

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Looking forward to 2015 . . .

Well, 2014 is over already and what a year it was! It was a year of change and growth for all of us. I started my MBA. I started a new job I adore. We welcomed a new little girl to the Benner clan. My youngest sister started college (wow I am feeling very old). Olivia moved into a new daycare class and away from the teachers we all adored (we still have to go say “hi” to her Brooke). We took Olivia on her first trip to Disney. Olivia said “I love you” for the first time!

FamilyRolling right into 2015 I know we are going to have a happy jar full of little moments like these. We are already planning and looking forward to so many things. There are six things I am excited for that with a little attention on my part will make this year the year to top.

1. Visiting new places and revisiting old places with new friends. We are already planning a camping trip to South Dakota. I’ve never been and this will also be Olivia’s first trip there and first time camping. For years I have also wanted to do a girl’s weekend with my sisters. A time where we can just focus on fun and ourselves. So we are headed to Chicago for a long weekend of good food, shopping, and a little pampering. This past year also saw the birth of a new business idea that will mean gathering stories. Starting close to home, we are headed to the Amana Colonies in Iowa for some food tasting, shopping, and a little history lesson. I can’t wait to hit the road!

2. Experiences not possessions. As I’ve gotten older and as I’ve seen people dear to me age and slow down I’ve realized even more that the experiences are what make up a life. So for this year I am focusing on not passing up opportunities that come my way for experiences that have been on my bucket list. I am going to be skydiving and traveling and we will see what else!

3. Foster friendships. With starting my MBA, a new job, and having a toddler I feel like I have let the few friendships I had developed slip away. I’ve never been the one to be the center of attention so as the person who sits back and observes making friends has always been a slow process for me. I have met some amazing people over the past year and learned a lot about them, but it is time to let them into my world a little more and set aside time to get to know them even more. I know that as I get older friendships will be even more important and I want to encourage Olivia to do the same.

4. Celebrate life events. We have had so much to celebrate these last few years, but I don’t feel like we have done it right. So this year I want to throw a special birthday party for Olivia’s third birthday. I want to celebrate my husband and mine’s further growth into our 30s. Each celebration doesn’t have to be a big blow out filled with gifts and hoopla, but they will be special and unique and build happy memories we can carry forward. Happiness jar

5. The happiness jar. Last year I started a happiness jar and this year I want to over stuff it with things big and small. This simple mason jar sits on our mantle and last year I’m sure I overlooked some little joys to write down on a scrap of paper and stuff inside.

6. And to top it all off after 10 years of waiting and signing the petitions – Crispy M&Ms are coming back to the US! Since 2005 I have had to stock up as my in-laws made trips to Australia and New Zealand, but not anymore 🙂

Crispy M&Ms2015 is going to be amazing!

Enjoying apple season the grown up way

the nomad momma

They say an apple a day keeps the doctor away and while I’m sure this only applies to the fresh fruit I will salute the adage with a toast of crisp apple cider. Summer has faded and fall is upon us and one of the few things that lifts my spirits when thinking of saying good-bye to the warm weather is the thought of all those fresh picked apples and the tasty creations they become. apples

One of the best places to enjoy the more mature of the many apple based beverages is in a region known more for its wine and cheeses than anything else. The Pays d’Auge area of Normandy, France is home to the “Route du Cidre” or Cider Road and a great epicurean extension from Paris. Only a few hours’ drive from Paris the region boasts fertile farmland and delicious cuisine using seafood, duck, and the famous Camembert cheese…

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Investing in life accounts

I’ve spent the last several weeks attempting to reconnect with myself and embrace my own nature. Since my last post I have completed my sessions with my life coach and am carrying everything I learned forward with me. In fact, one of the first things I learned is what has kept me busy the last month – life accounts.

We worry so much about investing our financial resources into specific accounts; always evaluating the return. Yet we often think very little about our finite resources of time and energy and where we invest those for the biggest happiness return. A return that often leads to improvement in health, relationships, and even those much worried about finances.

So step one was deciding what six areas of my life are truly important to me. This was hard because I’ve tried for years to give full and equal attention to everything in my life . . . which is probably why I was feeling burnt out and like I had failed at so many things. By narrowing my focus to just six areas I could put my energy into the things that would enrich my life.

Rule one is Self has to be an account you focus on first and often. As is normal with women, especially moms, I suck at taking care of myself first. However, the last few months had shown me that if I am falling apart I’m no good to anyone anyway. So I am at the top of the life ledger and have been making investments more regularly – consistent runs, reading daily for fun, writing, creating, and sometimes just sitting in silence.

All of that me time felt very selfish and unacceptable at first, but it has trickled into my other life accounts and more than doubled my happiness return. Having time to focus on myself has also allowed me space to gain clarity on what my other life accounts are and what I want to achieve in them.

happiness creation1. Self – be intentional with who I am and feed my mental and physical needs.

2. Spouse – be a wife and friend to my husband and open up to share a full life with him.

3. Children – help my daughter grow into a strong and confident young woman and show her how to go after what you want.


4. Family – be an active part of a loving family that can rely on each other through thick and thin.

5. Career – love going to work everyday feeling fulfilled and challenged while giving back to the world.

6. Exploration – be led to knew destinations and experiences by my curiosity.

What are your life accounts and how will you use them to explore the world and create your happiness?


The life of a working momma

I always knew I didn’t want to be a stay at home mom, but I never fully realized what life as a working mother would be like. I’m not sure why, but I had these visions of plenty of time with my daughter. Leisurely dinners after work, a little reading, maybe an occasional family movie night, getting organized for the next day, and kissing each other good night.

Instead it is a mad dash from daycare to the house with wailing coming from the back seat most nights. Letting her nibble on Pirates Booty while I scramble to get dinner together. Then a twenty minute meal (sometimes taken standing at the counter). From there it is about a half hour of pure chaos or coma. My husband and I are toast from a long day at work. I hate to just turn on the TV and have Olivia sit there, but that, sadly, is where we often end up at the end of the day. If the TV isn’t on we have to do something to keep her busy which isn’t always the easiest at this stage since she isn’t old enough for games and doesn’t quite play pretend yet.

So after fumbling around with plastic rings or her new circus tent it is off to bed or bath. Either way it ends with the same couple of bedtime stories and tucking her in to bed. Then it is tiptoeing out of the room hoping we won’t be back in fifteen minutes to pick up a screaming child.

If she stays down it is time to crash for a little bit on the couch to catch up on shows while doing work or school work. Of course, it is usually at this point I realize I still haven’t gotten organized for the next day so before finally heading to bed I make a clumsy attempt at preparing snacks and lunch for the next day so I can spend my morning working out.

So the battle of momma bear and professional goliath continues with no end of the war in sight. I had heard of mommy bashing online and have seen quite a few examples of it recently. However, I have come to realize it all starts within. It comes from my insecurity (and I’m guessing the writer’s) that I’m not a good mother. If I didn’t doubt myself I wouldn’t recognize the mommy bashing posts as anything other than annoying chatter.

So you know what? My daughter has seen almost all of the Disney movies before the age of two. I am a little harried most of the time and definitely look like I could use a daily nap time. But my daughter is loved, healthy, and will know that it is normal and okay to feel conflicted about things. What matters is that I recognize that I can be many things in my life and as long as I enjoy the majority of my days in this world I’ve done pretty good and so will she.

And if all else fails I watch this . . .

March Nature Box

Between work, school, spending time with family, and trying to do a few things for myself a few items had to get dropped from the to-do list. One of those things was making healthy homemade snacks. I use to make homemade granola, prep snacks the night before, and nibble on healthy options that would fuel a full day of activities.

Since starting classes I’ve taken to grabbing whatever I can and nibbling on things that definitely don’t fuel a full day of work, chasing a toddler, and homework. I found myself getting tired early in the day and then feeling guilty for what I was eating.

So I have broken down and subscribed to Nature Box to get healthy snacks delivered to our door monthly. Month one has arrived . . .


Cherry Berry Bonanza – a medley of dried cranberries, cherries and blueberries. This snack wasn’t my favorite. It is a very tart blend and plain dried fruit isn’t my favorite, but I’m looking forward to adding it to yogurt and a snack mix of multigrain cheerios and nuts.

Roasted Kettle Kernels – honey coated roasted corn. Wow! These are a sweet, salty, crunchy kernels of delight. Growing up in the corn belt I now think about all of those little kernels laying outside the grain elevator with a whole new potential.

French Toast Granola – maple flavored granola with pecans. Yummy. A little sweet and way healthier than most store bought versions. We have been enjoying this on our morning yogurt and will definitely be sorry to see the bottom of the bag.

Masa crisps – corn chips with flax seeds. From the first bite my taste buds said Fritos, but my brain said way better. We enjoyed these with chicken tortilla soup and even the little one couldn’t stop eating them.

Pistachio Power Clusters – nut squares with almonds, cashews, and pistachios. These were my favorite snack in the box and I have been rationing them since I ate the first cube. Slightly sweet and a little bump in energy with each bite.

I can’t wait for April’s box!

A smile and a few tears

This week we had to give presentations in class on case studies regarding leadership and one presenter had almost all of us in tears.

She asked if we felt like  leaders and most of us said no – that is sort of why we are in the MBA program after all – but then she asked if any of us are parents. Almost all of us said yes to that question. Then she showed us the video below and we realized as parents we are leaders of some of the most special followers in the world.

Smiles and tears 🙂