Book Review – A Positive Life

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A Positive Life…Living with HIV as a Pastor, Husband, and Father” by Shane Stanford is a book about so much more than living with HIV.

Shane Stanford’s life is a fascinating one. Of interest is not just his experiences and reactions of living with HIV and Hep C after being diagnosed at the age of 16. Shane’s upbringing, in particular, the relationship he shared with his grandfather which largely helped shape his outlook on life was particularly touching to read. Shane’s story neither starts nor stops though with the diagnosis of a condition that at that time was a death sentence. Shane’s courage and positive attitude ensured that his story did not end in that doctor’s office.

What I admire most about Shane are his choices. There were many crossroads in his life when giving up would have been the easiest choice, when having a pity party would have been justifiable, and yet, he chose hope, love, and faith. It was largely his faith that would sustain him through some of the more challenging times that were to come.

A diagnosis of HIV in the 1980s was very different than one today. At that time, public fear and judgement was at an all time high and there were not people living with HIV, only people dying of AIDS. Shane takes us carefully through that time in history and relives what it was like to be facing HIV during that tumultuous time.

In his memoir, Shane speaks openly about the most personal aspects of his life and shares in a way that engages the reader’s heart as well as mind. His honesty about his marriage is admirable. HIV does not define this man and is not the only struggle he has lived through. His faith and love of God with all that has happened in his life are inspirational.

Shane Stanford spoke at the Global AIDS Summit in 2006 and his concise and honest speech is also included in the book.

His wife, Pokey Stanford, provides a chapter near the end and I found it very intimate to hear from her after all I read about her on previous pages. I appreciate her willingness to open up the most personal details of her life in order to help others.

At the very end of the book, there is a study and reflection guide entitles “9 Lessons From a Positive Life” and I found these especially helpful.

Overall, the lessons that Shane has learned from living with HIV are lessons that can help us all to live better lives in whatever trials we face. This book is thoughtful, honest, and well written and reading Shane’s account may change the way you look at the face of HIV/AIDS.

Snow Day Activities (indoor)

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Today is way too cold to venture out, so I got to thinking about what indoor activities I could do with the kids to keep them (and me) from going crazy. Here are some easy ones that I came up with that could be made with household items.

Doll House or Castle.  Using empty boxes, help your child make a doll house or castle.  Imaginations, scissors, and markers are all you need.  If you really want to be creative, use scraps of fabric, pipe cleaners, and tiny boxes (such as match or toothpick boxes) to make curtains, lamps, and furniture for the house.

Faux Stained Glass.  Use up your broken crayon pieces by spreading out a sheet of wax paper and having the kids make crayon shavings on it using a pencil sharpener.  When they are done, fold the wax paper in half and iron it on a low temperature.  The kids can then make a frame for their creation out of construction paper.  They can make it look like a butterfly or a stained glass window.

Themed collage.  Have the kids create a collage using glue and pictures from a catalogue, magazine, or flyer.  Give them a theme such as “favourite things”, “foods that are healthy”, “things that fly”, “things that are red”, or “what I would buy if I had a hundred dollars”.

Masks.  Masks are a good way to change the mood.  They can be made using large paper bags, paper plates, stiff paper, or paper mache.  Feathers, glitter, sequins, ribbons, and beads can make the masks more interesting.  The kids can even then put on a play wearing their masks, which will help the hours pass more quickly on a rainy or snowy day.  If you don’t have supplies for mask making, face painting can also change the mood in the house and be used for make-believe.

Easy Shrinky Dinks.  Use empty small size potato chip bags or regular size chocolate bar wrappers.  Hole punch one hole near the corner and then place them on a baking sheet.  Put them in the oven at 325 degrees, keeping an eye on them.  They will shrivel and curl and then uncurl.  Remove from the oven when they are at least halfway uncurled.  Wait for them to cool.  They can then be made into keychains, zipper pulls, or jewelry.  Kids love this one!

For other great stay-at-home activities, be sure to check out these fun posts:

Creative Mail Ideas
More Snow Day Activities (outdoor)

Creative Mail For Kids – 5 Unique Ideas

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Everyone likes to receive happy mail, which is pretty much anything other than a bill.  You can use these ideas to have kids send mail to grandparents, friends, cousins, or pen pals.

Writing letters is a great way for children to practise their writing skills and penmanship in a practical and fun way.  Sending them (by “snail mail”) instead of e-mail is especially fun.  Below are some suggestions for fun and creative mail they can send.

A Homemade Photo Postcard – Take pictures and let the your child turn them into postcards by sticking a white index card onto the back of them.  They can then write a message, fill in the address, put a stamp in the corner and send their personalized postcard.

A Puzzle – Have your child draw a colorful picture on cardboard or thick card stock with a message for a friend or relative.  If the child is old enough, have them cut the picture into puzzle pieces.  If they are too young, you can cut the pieces for them.  Pop the pieces in an envelope and mail to the intended recipient for a very fun greeting card.

Invisible Ink – Have your child write a message or draw a picture in lemon juice on a paper.  Include a note on a separate piece of paper explaining that in order to view the message, the recipient will have to heat the paper up over a candle.  This one is as fun to receive as it is to make.

Secret Code – Your child can write a letter using a secret code.  Be sure that they send a decoder along with the letter of course!

Building Suspense – One idea that can improve your child’s creative writing abilities as well as their desire is to have them write a story and send a grandparent, aunt, uncle, or friend one chapter at a time.  The recipient will want to know how the story ends and will phone or write to ask the child, who will then feel encouraged in their writing and be spurred on to finish that story and to write others as well.

Add a Sentence – This one is also good for building creative writing skills in your child.  The way it works is that your child writes on sentence or one paragraph (depending on the age and writing level of the child) and sends it to the recipient.  The recipient then adds another sentence or paragraph on to the story and sends it back.  Your child then continues the story from there and this continues back and forth until the story is finished.

Sending and receiving mail is fun for any child (it’s fun for adults too!). If there isn’t a relative that your child can send mail to, consider asking a Senior’s care centre if there is a lonely resident there that your child can send letters to or find a pen pal for your child.

How to Make Your Own Tempura Sauce

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While cooking some tempura shrimp, I casually checked the fridge for the tempura sauce only to discover to my dismay that I could not find it.  I scoured everywhere in my kitchen, but the search was fruitless.  Desperate, I did a quick Google search for tempura sauce recipes, but became increasingly discouraged as the recipes called for things that would take a trip to a specialty grocery store to acquire.  My pantry doesn’t have many authentic Japanese ingredients!  I changed the ingredients to things I could find in my kitchen and tweaked it to suit my tastes.  Given the ingredients, this is not authentic tempura sauce, but it tastes like a good likeness and it can be made in about 5 minutes and with common ingredients that are in most kitchens.

1/2 cup chicken or vegetable broth

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

2 Tbsp. white wine

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 Tbsp. minced ginger

Stir ingredients together on low heat for five minutes until they are well blended.

It turned out so well and was so fast and easy to make that I will be making my own tempura sauce from now on instead of buying it.