What Should I Do After High School? Five Steps to Help You Decide

Are you unsure of what the next step is after High School?  Not sure whether to go to college or not?  Not sure what to major in if you do?  Try the five steps below to help you gain some insight about yourself and to explore the possibilities that are awaiting you.

Step 1:  List

List 10 things that interest you.  Which one interests you the most?

Step 2:  Evaluate

List what you think your strengths and God-given talents are.  Ask parents,           grandparents, family members, or close friends what they see as your greatest strengths and gifts.  Compare.  You may be surprised at what others see in you!

Step 3:  Research

Consider which jobs relate to your interests and ask yourself these questions:

Would I prefer working indoors or outdoors?  Would I prefer working with a set schedule or set my own hours?  Am I a morning person or a night owl? After you have answered these questions do some research.

For a peek at U. S. News & World Reports The 100 Best Jobs click http://www.money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs.

The United States Department of Labor puts out an Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Check out what they list as the fastest growing and new jobs http://www.bls.gov/ooh/.

Image Courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Step 4:  Explore

Discuss with others and explore how to achieve your dream job.  There are so many options available!

Did you know that gap years are popular in Europe and Australia?  It’s catching on in the United States.  Taking a gap year before college can be advantageous in many ways. Click http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2010/07/20/8-things-to-know-about-a-gap-year to learn more about what a gap year is. There are companies that can help you plan your gap year.  Follow http://www.americangap.org/planning.php to see an example of one.

Step 5:  Set Goals.

What steps need to be taken in order to reach my goal?  What do I see myself doing in five years?  Ten years?  Write it down!  You are more likely to achieve goals that you have written down.

Try not to feel overwhelmed.  Life is a journey, not a race.  There are things to be learned from every experience.  Draw wisdom from them and make a commitment to be a lifetime learner.  You won’t regret it.

As a Christian, I encourage you to pray about what God wants you to do.  In the words of that great lady, Corrie Ten Boom, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  May God bless you on your journey!

Jeremiah 29-11


Tarpon Springs, Florida Day Trip

If there is one thing I’ve learned living the soccer life, it’s to explore the city where you live and its surrounding areas.  Treat your current living situation as if it is temporary (because sometimes it is) and live like a tourist!

My daughter and I recently went on a day trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida while my husband was away coaching a soccer game.  Since it is located one and a half hours from where we live, this was the perfect spot to go and explore without finding overnight accommodations.  With supposedly the highest percentage of Greek Americans than any city in the U.S. our spirits were high (well, mine were) as we looked forward to immersing ourselves in the closest thing that we were going to see of Greek culture.

We proceeded through town, passing some lovely antique stores that looked promising to explore, but put those aside for another day.  Upon arriving at the Sponge Docks we parked ($3) and proceeded to walk down Dodecanese Blvd.  Along here we found various souvenir-type shops with several of them selling sponges….of ALL shapes and sizes.

Ornamental Sponges

Ornamental Sponges

Tarpon Springs Sponges 2

As always, there were some “interesting” souvenirs offered up to those whose money was burning a hole in his/her pocket.

Gator Claw Back Scratcher

Gator Claw Back Scratcher

While browsing through one of these stores called Spongeorama we entered their Sponge Diving Museum (FREE) in the back of the store.  The museum gives some interesting history on the sponge industry but  is in urgent need of some cleaning and updating.  The store offers a free 20 minute video that also tells about the history.  We skipped the video and continued to explore.

Tarpon Springs - Sponge Bicycle


Yia Yia

Yia Yia

Walking along the dock area we found a couple of sponge diving boats that were tied up.

Sponge Diving Boat

Sponge Diving Boat

There are a couple of cruise line companies available to take you out for a sponge-diving demonstration, dolphin watching, and even a lunch or dinner cruise.  We weren’t ready to try out our “sea” legs yet so we continued walking.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Diver Statue

We passed a few Greek restaurants when suddenly I spotted it…the very place where I knew I could find what I was really looking for.

Hellas Bakery

Hellas Bakery

It was mid-afternoon and time for a coffee break and a sweet treat.

Tarpon Springs Bakery Goodies

It all looked so delicious!  I decided to try their Greek coffee and… now let me see…



There it was – the baklava!  I couldn’t resist it.  The thought of that honey and nuts was what I was craving.  We decided to enjoy it outside at a table.  The coffee had a lot of dregs in the bottom.  They were supposed to be there.  That was something I didn’t know about Greek coffee.  Don’t drink what’s in the bottom of the cup!  Now I know!  The baklava, however, was exquisite.

During the early evening tables were set up by restaurants along the street which had been blocked off.  We had a seat on a bench and enjoyed watching a group of brave souls who were partaking of a free lesson in Greek dancing.  This was followed by a live band playing Greek music while diners enjoyed what looked to be a scrumptious meal with good conversation and laughter.

Tarpon Springs - Greek Bouzouki

Greek Bouzouki

We closed the day out by sharing a Greek Spaghetti meal called Makaronada at Costas Restaurant.  A popular appetizer enjoyed by several in the restaurant was Saganaki – or flaming cheese.  It was a sight to behold!  Maybe we’ll try that next time.  Opa!



Super Affordable Front Door Decor for Spring

Spring Door Decor

Spring Door Decor

I love to shop Thrift Stores, Goodwill, and Dollar Tree to come up with inexpensive, yet beautiful decorations for my home.  This arrangement cost me around $7 to make using a few things I already had plus a few non-budget breaking finds.

Paris Can – $2.99 from Goodwill

Pussy Willow Stalk – $1 from Dollar Tree

3 White Hydrangea Blooms – $3 from Dollar Tree

2 Ivy Plants – Free, I already had these on hand.  Look at thrift stores to find similar items, which is where I got these a while back.

I stuffed the bottom of the can with newspaper since it is deep.  I then placed some floral foam that I had left over from another arrangement (bought at Dollar Tree some time ago) on top of the newspaper.

I have noticed that many arrangements have a triangle formation so that is what I was shooting for.  I think it could have used one more hydrangea bloom at the bottom but when I went back to Dollar Tree I couldn’t find another one.  Maybe I’ll find something else to put there…a bow, a bird perhaps.  I’ll keep looking!

Don’t be afraid to try creating something.  You might be surprised to find a talent you didn’t know you had.

Happy Spring!

Easter With Mom

Easter came and went, as it tends to do.  I wasn’t prepared for the flooding of grief that I felt.  Yes, I know that we have hope because of Christ’s resurrection.  Yes, I know my mother is in Heaven having a much better time than we are having here on Earth. Yes, I believe that I will see her again one day.   And yet…

But then, during Easter weekend Mom made her presence known to me.  She was in the smell of the eggs boiling on the stove, the crinkle of the newspaper being laid down to dye the eggs.  She was even in the crackle of the candy bags as I opened them and prepared Easter baskets.  She was there telling me that ham is always good for an Easter meal and to make sure to get pictures of everyone in their Easter clothes.

I read a quote that resonated with me soon after the death of both of my parents in the same year.  “There is no experience quite as stunning as when there is nothing where something has always been.  To try and imagine the thing itself, not the hole left behind…especially when that thing has the first face you probably ever saw, spoke the first words you ever heard, and whose touch has comforted and guided and corrected and made you safe since the beginning of time.”  Alexander Levy, The Orphaned Child.

I was stunned when she died.  I am still stunned. It has been one year.  They didn’t tell me how much it would hurt.  They didn’t tell me that I would belong to a new society, the part of society that knows grief and pain.  This society is its own entity.  You only belong to it when you have been through sorrow and grief.  Those who have not experienced it will not understand.  It feels to me like a secret society where only its members can give a nod of understanding to its fellow members.  It is a society to which you have no desire to become a member and yet it is thrust upon you.

There is comfort, though, in the knowledge that my mom will live on…through me, through my children, through our traditions, through our stories.  I want her to know…that I will be expecting her next Easter as well.

Easter circa 1968.  Mom was taking the picture, of course.

Easter circa 1968. Mom was taking the picture, of course. Pictured are: Dad (Pastor Marion Martin), Bobby, Garry, Julie, and Barry. I loved getting a new Easter dress, hat, gloves, and a purse.

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful heart.  Jeremiah 31:25


Banana Walnut Pancakes

My husband woke up with a hankering for pancakes on Saturday.  I, being the thoroughly (and sometimes not) prepared housewife that I am, did not have the usual ingredients on hand when I prepare them from scratch.  So, wanting to make him happy I scrambled around seeing what ingredients I did have and this is the recipe I came up with.

Pancakes 016

Good heavenly days, these were amazing!  I think the Greek vanilla yogurt gave the pancake just the right amount of vanilla essence that pushed the flavor over the top!


  • 2 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1/4 cup Greek Vanilla Yogurt (plus a little of the liquid that collects on top of yogurt for moisture)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Bananas, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • Caramel Sundae Syrup


  1. Mix together Bisquick, almond milk, yogurt plus liquid, and egg.
  2. Prepare pancakes in non-stick pan or griddle.
  3. Top with sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, and caramel sundae syrup

Buen Provecho!


Chulita’s Taco Soup


Chulita’s Taco Soup is one of THE most requested meals in my family.  Its name derives from my oldest son’s nickname for me – Julita (pronounced Chulita by my son).  The ingredients have evolved over the years and this is the most current version of it.  It’s a fairly quick and hearty meal to prepare that you can change up depending what ingredients you have on hand.

I often double the recipe so that my family can have leftovers.  I found out after my sons graduated from high school that they would sell my taco soup at school in exchange for something they didn’t get at home (fried food).  Apparently, this taco soup was a top seller!

Chulita's Taco Soup



There are certain canned foods that I always keep in my pantry and among those are the necessary ingredients for my taco soup.  For this recipe you can use ground beef or ground turkey.

See?  These are pretty simple ingredients to have handy.

See? These are pretty simple ingredients to have handy.

The Secret Ingredients

The Secret Ingredients


Salt and Pepper

Salt and Pepper

Sharp Cheddar - my favorite!

Sharp Cheddar – my favorite!

Chulita’s Taco Soup


  • 3 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
  • 1 15.5 oz. can of yellow hominy, with liquid (may use a can of corn or frozen corn if you prefer)
  • 1 15 oz. can of Ranch Style Beans (or chili beans)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes (or regular crushed tomatoes if you prefer)
  • 1 can of water (may add more water depending on how soupy you like your soup)
  • 1 4 oz. can of diced green chilis
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t. Tex Joy Steak Seasoning
  • 1 t. garlic powder (I use chopped garlic and garlic powder)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 6-8 corn tortillas cut into narrow strips (optional)
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I think pre-shredded cheese loses flavor so I prefer the block cheese)
  • Optional Garnishes – sour cream, avocado chunks, chopped green onions, corn chips, cilantro


  1. Brown meat with onion and garlic.  Drain.
  2. Add seasonings, hominy with its liquid, beans, chilis, tomatoes, and water.  Let simmer 10-15 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, cut tortillas into strips and put into soup.  Alternately, you could cut the tortillas into strips and brown them a little in oil, making a crunchy topping.
  4. Serve over white rice.  Garnish with cheese and other optional garnishes as desired.

Recipe Photos 027

Buen Provecho!



Packing for Temporary Housing

Packing Up

Packing Up

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Pan.   It says, “Would you like an adventure now or shall we have our tea first?”  I love tea and adventures!  Moving has certainly given us the opportunity to explore and enjoy new opportunities which I see as adventures.

Our current adventure is taking us from Texas to Florida.  We’re leaving my home state and my older children.  I’m a sad mama.  My baby (she’s 16) is the only child moving with us.  We will be in temporary housing for two months while we look for somewhere to live.   We’ve done this whole thing before and I have learned a few things along the way to make us feel a little more at home while we live in temporary housing.

Although living in a hotel or condominium can be a luxury (housekeeping and maintenance) not to mention the free soap, shampoo, and conditioner (Hey, I love saving money)!, it can feel, well, not so homey.  Here is my not-so-exhaustive list of what I like to bring with me during these times.

Kitchen Essentials

Spices – I bring the ones I use the most.  Since I was leaving Texas I brought along my Southeast Texas staple spice – Texjoy.

Sharp Knife – Knives in a lot of condominiums are not sharp so I have learned to bring my best one.

Measuring Cups and Spoons – While these are not essential, the last two condominiums where we stayed have not provided these.  I brought my own since I do actually use them for baking.

Rice Pot – I cook rice every day the Colombian way.  I have a certain pot that works best.  I know and love this pot.  (It traveled in the spare tire well on the way here.)

Recipes – I have a few favorites that I couldn’t leave behind like Chocolate Sheet Cake (for birthdays) and Pumpkin Bread.

I wish I would have had room for my crock pot.  I’m missing it!

Records and Office Supplies

Passports, Driver’s Licenses, Social Security Cards, Vaccination Records, Medical Records, School Records – These can and should be kept in a safe if one is provided.  Protect your personal information!

Bill File or Notebook with previous and upcoming bill information, Information on movers, Calendar with important dates to remember (Don’t trust your memory because moving is stressful and you need to have reminders in place.)

Scissors, Tape, Pens, Pencils, Paper, Paper Clips, Note Pad – These can be tucked into a small bag or case and will come in handy.

USB Memory Stick – Since most of us don’t travel with our copier/printer you may need to load a file onto this and find an Office Depot or the library where you can get copies or printouts made.  Don’t forget to take some change with you to feed into the printer/copier machine!


Prescription Medicines

Pain Relievers, Allergy Medications, Stomach Medicine, Basic First Aid Supplies

Extra Comforts

Yankee Candle – Our family’s favorite scent is Spiced Pumpkin.  This definitely makes us feel like we are at home.

Throw Blanket – These are great to snuggle up in and are usually not provided at a hotel or condominium.

Pillow – My husband takes his pillow everywhere!  If you like your pillow, take it with you.

Bedding – While most places provide bedding, some children might like to have their favorite quilt which can be of great comfort at bedtime.  If you have room for it, go ahead and take it with you.

Toys – A few favorites plus a board game, cards, etc. are great for entertainment.  Try to make this time of transition as fun as possible.

Books – I brought my Bible, Bible Study Guide, Quote Journal, and a few books by some of my favorite authors.  We cannot join the library until we have a permanent address so we have been visiting Thrift Stores to find a few more books to read.  We can always donate them back when we are done with them.


Computer/Power Cord

IPad or Tablet/Power Cord



You get the idea…don’t forget the power cords and chargers!


Small Sewing Kit

Super Glue

Small Tools


You never know when you will need some of these things.

I’m sure you’ll remember a few things that I’ve left off.  Please share some of your experiences and let me know any of your suggestions.

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning!”  ~Peter Pan

Sunset on Anna Maria Island, Florida

Sunset on Anna Maria Island, Florida








My Favorite Color

When I was a little girl my favorite color was sea green.  We used to live in a small town whose utility trucks were that color and every time I would see one of those trucks around town I would yell out, “There’s my favorite color!”  I’m sure there were eye rolls from my brothers because we saw those trucks a lot!

I did not realize I was in the minority with my love for this color until I was in the “Little Miss China” pageant in China, Texas.

The pageant coordinators had us fill out a form with information about ourselves.  When it was my turn to walk on stage I heard myself described.  “Julie has blonde hair and brown eyes.  She enjoys playing with Barbie dolls and riding her bicycle.  When she grows up, Julie wants to be a nurse.  Her favorite color is green.”

I listened as the emcee described the other girls in the pageant.  “Rhonda’s favorite color is pink.  Susan’s favorite color is pink.  Kelly’s favorite color is pink.”  Wait, am I the only one who likes green???

I didn’t get to wear the tiara that day and in my child’s mind I thought that it was probably because I had put the “wrong” color for my favorite color.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I had a choice to make after that.  I could either continue choosing sea green as my favorite color or try to fit in by saying that my favorite color was pink.  I chose the former.  Why would anyone want to choose a color from the 24 count box of crayons when you could choose from the 64 count box?

Since those years in the 1970s we have moved on to spectacular crayons with metallic and fluorescent colors as well as scented crayons.  We even have a 120 count crayon box now.  With colors like Unmellow Yellow, Sunglow, Macaroni & Cheese, Atomic Tangerine, Magic Mint, Banana Mania, and Outer Space we see that life really is full of an amazing array of colors.

I kind of see people like crayons.  We are all different shades with various talents and personalities.

Perhaps instead of red, you are closer to a Razzmatazz or instead of green, you are a Screamin’ Green.

Maybe you feel like you don’t fit in that 8 count crayon box.  Have you ever thought that maybe you weren’t meant to?  I don’t think Albert Einstein and Ludwig van Beethoven would have fit in that box.  Do you?

We are all unique with God-given talents and gifts.  We are meant to use the ones He has given to each of us and be a blessing to others.

Mark Twain once said, “We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen that we do possess.”  Why is that?

There is a place in this world that only you can fill.  Don’t fall into self-doubt.  Embrace your talents.  Use them for the benefit of others.  Be the blessing.

Now, open up that 120 count box of crayons and choose a color!

8 Tips For Dating Your Husband

Jorge and Julie 8 Tips For Dating Your Husband PhotoI’m a big fan of the sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond.”  I was recently watching an episode where the characters Ray and Debra went on a date for Valentine’s Day.

They were seated at a nice restaurant munching on the pre-dinner bread and butter that was on the table.  Debra was telling Ray a “funny” story about how one of their sons had taken his brother’s hat from him.  They chuckled a bit and then the conversation fizzled out.

Desperate to rescue the conversation, they began discussing how good the bread was and how the butter was “the perfect temperature/density.”  Butter – now that’s a topic that can get spread pretty thinly.  (I couldn’t resist.)

Ray and Debra’s date was a big FAIL.  My husband and I have had a couple of those because we started discussing issues that turned into arguments.  I knew we needed to change strategies.  I wanted my husband and me to look forward to our dates, not dread them.

Below are eight dating tips to help ensure that your next date with your husband will be a success.

Set the date and time and put it on the calendar.  Plan a date at least one to two times a month and more often if time allows.  Once the date is on your calendar do your best to not let anything interfere with it.  It’s important to still be a couple and not only a mommy and daddy.
Take turns doing something each of you would enjoy.  Maybe sports are not your thing but he really enjoys them.  Go with him to a game and he will go with you to a concert.  Whatever you choose to do, be considerate of each other and determine that you will have fun.  “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.”  Proverbs 15:13
Be creative!  A date doesn’t always have to consist of dinner and a movie or even cost money.  For some unique and fun dating ideas check out www.thedatingdivas.com.  The ladies on this website have done an impressive job of planning out some terrific dates.  Seriously, you need to check them out.
Dress to impress.  Show your husband that you still want to look nice for him and that he is worth the effort.   Compliment him on his appearance.  He needs to know that you think he is the handsomest man in the world to you.
Make a list of things you can talk about on the date.  You don’t necessarily need to be obvious about it but you can be prepared for times like this.  Sometimes conversations can lag.  Be a good conversationalist but also be a good listener.  This is a good time to find out what your husband’s dreams are and what makes him tick.  Share your dreams with him as well.
Turn your phone off or only take calls from the babysitter.  You need to protect your time together without interruptions from work or other friends.  Enjoy real face time with your spouse.
Avoid discussing problems you are having.  Concentrate on having fun and keeping things positive.  Dates are meant to be enjoyable, not a time to air out all your issues.
Flirt with each other.  This can be the best part.  Use your imaginations for this one.

One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is a healthy and strong marriage where they see that their parents love each other.  It helps them feel secure.

Let them see you excited about your date.  My girls love helping me get ready for a date and get just as excited as I do when I go out with my husband.

Are you ready?  Now go have some fun!


Summer Backyard Fun

I remember catching fireflies as a kid during the summer.  I rode my bicycle, played with dolls, and attended Vacation Bible School.

We ate popsicles and watermelon under my grandparent’s backyard shade tree.  We picked peaches from my grandmother’s trees and helped hand-crank the ice cream maker so we could eat what I still recall as the best ice cream I have ever had.

I played baseball with my brothers and cousins and scripted plays with them to perform for our parents and grandparents.

There was swimming in the pool and at the creek. We ran through the sprinklers and did a lot of  slipping and sliding on our Slip and Slide.

Summer time was unstructured and we were encouraged to use our imaginations to keep ourselves occupied.

“Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults.  If we try to alter this natural order, we will reach adulthood prematurely but with neither substance nor strength.”  Jean J. Rousseau

Mr. Rousseau was an 18th-century philosopher from Geneva.  It seems there were people during his time (just like in ours) that forgot to let kids be kids.

Boy with Airplane copy

Summertime is a great time to let your kids be kids while developing their Psycho Motor Skills without them even realizing that they are doing something that is vitally important to their development.

Below are some ideas to help you and your kids keep the free summer fun going in your own back yard.

Equipment:  balloons, soccer balls or plastic balls

  • Whack-A-Mole – Mark off an area of 15 x 15 yards using t-shirts or something similar.  One child holds a ball while the other children dribble their own ball (mole) within the area.  The child holding the ball then tries to hit or “whack” the moles.  The child whose “mole” got “whacked” then stands in the middle and becomes the whacker.
  • Wheelbarrow Race – This requires two people.  One person gets on their hands and knees while the other stands behind him.  The person standing lifts the legs of the person that is on the ground and holds onto them.  The person on the ground begins “crawling” using their hands.  This takes teamwork and coordination.  You can turn this into a race to the finish line if there are enough participants or just count and see how quickly the “human wheelbarrow” can make it to the finish line.
  • Kangaroos - Players hop with their feet together.  Determine a set number of hops (for example 10 or 12) and see who can go furthest.
  • Juggling - Using different surfaces of the body (head, elbow, knee, chest) see how many times the child can “juggle” a balloon or plastic ball.   This could be turned into a race or the child can simply try to beat her own record .  A soccer ball can also be used.
  • Shadow Dancing - Mark out a space to move within.  The first child moves in a zig-zag or freestyle way throughout the space.  The second child or “shadow” must follow behind and imitate the first child’s movements while maintaining a distance of 1-1 1/2 yards.  The first child may stop suddenly and his “shadow” must do the same without running into the first child.  This could be done to music.  This game helps with quickness and reflexes.  
  • Mirror Image - Two children face each other.  One of them is the person looking into the mirror while the other is the mirror image.  The “image” must imitate the movements of the person looking into the mirror.  
  • Tiger by the Tail - This is a game similar to tag and is fun when there are a lot of children.  One child begins as the hunter while the other children are the tigers.  Tuck t-shirts or dishtowels into the back of the “tiger’s” pants forming a tail.  The hunter then tries to grab the tigers’ tails.  Once a tiger’s tail has been grabbed he then becomes a hunter as well until all of the tiger tails have been snatched.  This can be done within a marked off area and the tigers can dribble soccer balls while being hunted.
  • Learn to Somersault, Do Cartwheels, and Handstands
  • Jump Rope - We used to do rhymes while we skipped rope.  Teach some of the ones you remember from your childhood.
  • Skipping - We used to do this to music and would sometimes race each other to a finish line.

Let your children come up with variations on these games.  It’s time for them to use their imagination and enjoy playing.

These games can be played with adults as well so jump in and enjoy the time with your children!

“Hidden in every human being exists a child that wants to play.”  Friedrich Nietzsche

What kinds of games or activities does your family enjoy in the backyard?  I would love for you to share them!