Kids learn more when they read

One of the most important ways we can help children learn is by reading to them.

  • It helps children develop the mental processes of motivation, curiosity, and memory.
  • It helps children develop early language skills.
  • It provides a time for one-to-one attention and affection, which encourages children to have positive feelings about reading.
  • It can help children cope during times of stress or tragedy.

Learn more at this link from the American Medical Association-

Reading to children-Advice for parents

 (This post contains affiliate links; if you purchase something at the link, this blog may earn a commission; thanks. )

statue of boy reading a book
a statue in Oklahoma dedicated to the children who died in the Oklahoma City Murrah Federal Building bombing 1995
Fun for Kids of All Ages - Zookbooks STEM Books for Children Free baby board Books! World Vision helps children in some of the toughest, most dangerous countries, restoring lives and preserving futures. Support World Vision and help protect children today.

exploring the HEART of health through reading

Find out how reading changed my life from my guest post at Let’s Create.

Reading-The fastest way to everywhere

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

an open book with pages folded to make a heart
photo from Lightstock.com, affiliate link
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Still TRUMPED by SOVEREIGNTY: a family update

You’ve met my friend Sara Stophel here before when I reviewed her book and when I told you she completed her college degree. Now she has more exciting news- a wedding.

Nik, the son of Sara and her late husband Chuck, married a beautiful young woman Alivia in a spring wedding. Sara gave me these photos to share with you.

a bride and groom posing with flowers
Mr. and Mrs. Stophel

I know how it feels to welcome a girl having raised 2 sons. Sara is thrilled to have a daughter in her family now.

In case you missed it, here is my review of Sara’s book where she explains how her life has been…

TRUMPED BY SOVEREIGNTY:

Juggling Faith, Healing, And Submission to God’s Perfect Plans

a memoir BY SARA STOPHEL

“Damen Ballard, twenty-five, left his apartment on April 19, 1995, to grab a pack of cigarettes at the convenience store. On his way back he took the shortcut…crossing I-44 on foot at rush hour. He was hit and became a John Doe while doctors tried to save his life. Even as we were watching the terrible news of the Oklahoma City bombing down the road…and fighting against all of those feelings of desperation when we discovered no hearts would be coming…Chuck’s new heart was just two floors above us in the very same hospital.”

Sovereignty is a word you may not use or even hear often; I know I don’t.  Probably the most common usage is in a political sense, like the sovereignty (authority) of a nation. Maybe that’s why Sara Stophel offers this definition on the back cover of her book;

“‘Sovereignty’ means that God, as the ruler of the universe, has the right to do whatever he wants. Further, he is in complete control over everything that happens.

In a game of cards, a trump card overrules any card previously played … But what happens when that “game” is actually life? And what happens when you realize that God’s sovereignty is the final trump card?”

Trumped by Sovereignty is two stories in one book.  One story relates the multiple medical challenges faced by Sara, her husband Chuck,  their children and extended family. The other story describes how Sara coped with these challenges, especially in relationship to her Christian faith.

I have known Sara and her family for several years and already knew much of their story although not all. I know Sara to be direct, truthful and frank. She does not mince words.

(I did not consult Sara prior to writing this review.  I paid for my copy of her book.)

This is not one of those “how we went through a horrible experience and survived by our unshakable faith” stories; rather it is “how we went through extraordinary stress which tested our faith which survived and grew anyway”.

Sara doesn’t tell you how she solved her problems; she admits that her problems caused her to change the way she looks at life, faith and God.

Sara’s book describes multiple medical conditions that afflicted her family (yes, afflicted is exactly the right word). The list reads like a medical textbook, so much so that you may need to look up some of the terms to understand what they are; she does not describe them in detailed scientific terms.  (I’ve included some links for you to use.)

Between Sara, her husband Chuck, their children and extended family they endured –

Sara and Chuck met in college, a Christian university that is known for its belief in divine healing. However, Sara’s home church did not teach miraculous healing. So it was a new concept for her, and one she found difficult to reconcile as her family’s serious health issues continued to worsen and not respond to medical treatment much less prayer.

Sara Stophel with her late husband Chuck

She does not expect you to believe that she endured these challenges and tragedies due to strong and unwavering faith; rather she freely admits otherwise. As she puts it, her “truster” frequently breaks and needs repair.

“I could not commune with a God who did not honor my bigger-than-mustard-seed faith. I was more than certain God loved people…but I was also nearly certain He just needed me as a tool of transparency. My truster was broken. Having loved God my whole life, I couldn’t think of anything better…anywhere else to turn…so I just kept on serving and assuming the love and peace of God were for everyone but me.”

Sara sense of humor never wavers, both in her writing, and  in life; she probably could not have made it  through some of the days she has lived without it.

You will laugh, cry, or both at some of her stories like-

  • Her annual physical (which was a year late) with her doctor, Dr. LionKing (an offbeat humorous pronunciation of his real name)
  • Her first CPR class after a family death

And you may get angry as she describes her shabby treatment by the IRS, the cell phone company and the local fire department first responders who refused to take her critically ill husband to the hospital.

Sara recently with her 3 sons

I encourage you to buy and read Trumped by Sovereignty. I know Sara and her sons which means I also know that their challenges are not over; in fact, they may be bigger than ever. I believe she will continue to face them with the same courage and humor that she has so far; and maybe in a few years she will write volume 2 of her story.

 

 

Trumped by Sovereignty is published by Paladin Publishing, Tulsa Oklahoma.

Sara Stophel welcomes invitations to speak; you can follow her on

Facebook  at Sara Stophel -author .

Sara at a speaking engagement

Sara’s son Nikolai Stophel is a professional writer/photographer for Samaritan’s Purse. Prior to that position, he  covered the turbulent weather we have here in Oklahoma. His photos of Oklahoma storms illustrate this previous post. You can find more of his work on Instagram. 

On the 6th anniversary of Chuck’s release from illness and pain, his wife Sara reflected on her Facebook page-

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

          Dr. Aletha  

The Good Samaritans fighting Ebola

2019-Another Ebola epidemic

Five years ago the world watched as Africa grappled with a Ebola deadly epidemic as the virus swept through Liberia, infecting and killing scores of people, including healthcare workers.

Now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda find themselves in the midst of the second largest Ebola outbreak in history. It began in the DRC last year, and has now spread to Uganda, since the countries share a border and people travel freely between them.

an electron image of the Ebola virus
this colorized transmission electron microscopic (TEM) image revealed some of the ultrastructural morphology displayed by an Ebola virus virion. credit-CDC/ Frederick A. Murphy, microbiologist, public domain

The 2014 Liberian Epidemic

In 2014, the Ebola virus came to the United States when a volunteer physician working in Liberia contracted the virus and flew home for treatment which proved successful. His illness and recovery from what is usually a fatal disease caught the world’s attention. Here is a summary of the dramatic story.

Dr. Kent Brantly -physician and patient

Dr. Kent Brantly awoke feeling ill- muscle aches, fever, sore throat, headache and nausea. As his condition progressively worsened to include difficulty breathing, he learned the cause of his illness- the Ebola virus. Having spent the past few weeks caring for patients caught up in the Ebola epidemic that swept Liberia in the spring of 2014, Dr. Brantly had contracted the disease himself, and would likely die, as almost all victims do.

Dr. Brantly, a graduate of Indiana University’s School of Medicine, had volunteered to work at ELWA Hospital in Liberia which was receiving aid from Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization. This hospital served as Monrovia’s Ebola treatment center and Dr. Brantly headed the unit.

As his condition deteriorated, his physicians decided his only hope for recovery was use of an experimental drug, ZMapp, previously untested on humans. Since otherwise he was likely to die, he received the drug by infusion into a vein. By the next morning he felt well enough to arise from bed and shower. Unknown to him, thousands of people around the world had been praying for him.

During this time his colleague, nurse Nancy Writebol, was battling her own Ebola infection. She also was treated with ZMapp.

Samaritan’s Purse arranged for both of them to be evacuated to the United States. There, they could continue receiving supportive medical care, as well as allow infectious disease specialists to learn from their conditions. It also would relieve the workload on the doctors who continued to care for Ebola patients at ELWA.

Hear Dr. Brantly describe what it is like to be ill from the Ebola virus.

Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.

(affiliate link)

An update about Dr. Brantly, July 2019

Five years after contracting the deadly virus in Liberia, the Christian doctor will serve at Mukinge Mission Hospital in Zambia. Read the story here-

Dr. Kent Brantly returns to Africa

It’s not a matter of not fearing. It’s a matter of choosing to have compassion despite fear.

Dr. Kent brantly, christian chronicle.org

The Ebola Fighters

Dr. Brantly and hundreds of other professionals who treated Ebola victims in 2014, the “Ebola fighters”, were named Time magazine’s PERSON of the YEAR for 2014.

Ebola is a war, and a warning. The global health system is nowhere close to strong enough to keep us safe from infectious disease, and “us” means everyone, not just those in faraway places where this is one threat among many that claim lives every day. The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight. 

Nancy Gibbs, TIME magazine
An African doctor viewing xrays and MRI image.
World Medical Mission branch of Samaritan’s Purse serves as a lifeline to dozens of mission hospitals by providing millions of dollars worth of critically needed equipment and supplies.

Samaritan’s Purse

Once again, Samaritan’s Purse is working to contain and stop the Ebola epidemic , now in the DRC.

“Samaritan’s Purse opened an Ebola Treatment Center on Jan. 17 in Komanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to meet the needs of suffering people as this deadly disease continues to spread. We are running the center with dedicated national Congolese staff under the oversight of a small international team.

As of July 2, over 2,300 people in DRC have been infected with Ebola, and 1,586 have died from the disease. Sadly, those numbers continue to rise. The fatality rate of the current Ebola outbreak in DRC is a staggering 67 percent—a rate that is elevated due to ongoing violence and resistance among community members.”

You can help Samaritan’s Purse fight Ebola by donating at the link above or

You can also make a donation by mail. Send to: Samaritan’s Purse, PO Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607

(Neither Dr. Aletha nor this blog are affiliated with Samaritan’s Purse nor compensated for mentioning their work.)

“The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) gives a clear picture of God’s desire for us to help those in desperate need wherever we find them. After describing how the Samaritan rescued a hurting man whom others had passed by, Jesus told His hearers, “Go and do likewise.”

Samaritan’s Purse website

You can read the Good Samaritan story in my previous post at this link

What happens when we stop to help -being a Good Samaritan

sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

Kristin Chenoweth’s memories and memorabilia- a book review

Kristin Chenoweth’s memoir chronicles her  successful career as a Broadway, television, and movie singer and actress. She is well known as good witch Glinda in Wicked.

Some of her career memorabilia is on display at the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center in her hometown. The theater there is named in her honor.

a banner-The Kristin Chenoweth Theatre
At the Performing Arts Center of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Every summer she returns to oversee a Broadway Bootcamp for aspiring young performers and this summer was no different.

On display at the PAC are Kristin’s jacket, shoes, and bag she used when she was a Tigette at Broken Arrow High School , in Broken Arrow Oklahoma.

A LITTLE BIT Wicked:Life, Love, and Faith in Stages

a memoir by Kristin Chenoweth

Like me, Kristin Chenoweth was born and raised in Oklahoma; unlike me, she is an award winning singer and stage, screen, and television actress.  She is loved and admired here in our home state, being an inductee into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, as well as the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

large building with multiple windows
The Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center

I have been to the Broken Arrow Performing Arts Center in Oklahoma where she conducts an annual Broadway Bootcamp.  But I didn’t know much about her until I listened to the audiobook version of her memoir A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages, read by her. Now I almost feel like we are best friends.

From the opening paragraph, Kristin is candid, no nonsense, transparent, and hilarious. She’s one of those “you never know what she’s going to say next” people and you don’t want to miss  any of it. She is just as up front sharing her failures as she is celebrating her successes.

This part of the country is referred to as the “Bible belt” and Kristin admits to reading and believing it. So don’t be surprised when she mentions and even occasionally quotes from the Bible in her memoir. Like when she talks about the circumstances of her birth.

Kristin’s faith and family

Kristin was adopted at birth by a couple who had one child but were unable to have more. She describes herself as the product of “forbidden love.” Her biological mother was an unmarried flight attendant who became pregnant. Instead of  abortion or  raising a child alone, she opted for adoption. Kristin joined the Chenoweth family soon after birth.

Her adoptive parents have loved her and supported her career and she is immensely grateful to them.

Rather than being angry or bitter, Kristen is grateful to this woman who she says was kind enough to “let me go”. To illustrate, she tells a Bible story from the Old Testament about the wise King Solomon. It goes like this.

One day two women (prostitutes in some Bible versions) came to King Solomon,  and one of them said:

“Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house. Not long ago my baby was born at home, and three days later her baby was born. Nobody else was there with us.

One night while we were all asleep, she rolled over on her baby, and he died. 

Then while I was still asleep, she got up and took my son out of my bed. She put him in her bed, then she put her dead baby next to me.

In the morning when I got up to feed my son, I saw that he was dead. But when I looked at him in the light, I knew he wasn’t my son.”

 The other woman shouted.

“No! He was your son. My baby is alive!”

The first woman yelled.

“The dead baby is yours. Mine is alive!”

They argued back and forth in front of Solomon,  until finally he said,

“Both of you say this live baby is yours.  Someone bring me a sword.”

“Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him.”

The baby’s mother screamed.

“Please don’t kill my son. Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don’t kill him.”

The other woman shouted,

“Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby.”

Solomon  pointed to the first woman saying,

“Don’t kill the baby. She is his real mother. Give the baby to her.”

Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.


From 1 Kings chapter 3 Contemporary English Version (CEV)
Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society


She compares her birth mother to the woman who loved her child so much she would rather lose her than see her die. She believes,  “The ultimate test of love is letting go.”

Kristin won’t try to find her birth mother, refusing to intrude  on her privacy. She hopes she is happy, has a family, and knows how blessed Kristin’s life has been.

Kristin’s personal life

Unlike many entertainment celebrities, Kristin doesn’t seem to have any skeletons in her closet; she has avoided problems with alcohol, drugs, abusive relationships,  financial problems, or other scandals. 

Kristin makes living with  Meniere’s Disease sound like a sitcom. Meniere’s causes dysfunction of the inner ear, resulting in sudden, unpredictable, debilitating attacks of vertigo(dizziness),  nausea, and vomiting. Episodes resolves after a few hours or sometimes days.

There is no cure for Meniere’s except a radical ear surgery which might leave her with hearing loss. As a professional singer she doesn’t want to risk that, so she copes with the condition with humor and an unwillingness to let it stop her from fulfilling her work commitments.

a display case with trophies belonging to Kristen Chenoweth

Memorabilia from Kristin’s career on display at the theater in Broken Arrow

Kristin has her serious side, evident as she describes singing at her beloved grandfather’s funeral, and supporting her mother through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

She sometimes feels caught between  the Christian community which criticizes her liberal social views and her friends with unconventional lifestyles who are turned off by her uncompromising Christian witness. As she puts it, she wants to love and help everyone in the same way Jesus did; she doesn’t want to take sides or exclude people just because they are different. 

Kristen Chenoweth's Antoinette Perry Award and pink hat.
Kristin’s Antoinette Perry Award

Kristin’s performing career

Kristin has and still does perform on the stage, movies, and television, and records albums. She won a Tony award as Sally Brown in “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

an evening gown on display next to a photo of Kristen Chenoweth
Kristen receiving her Tony Award, photo and her evening gown displayed in the theatre lobby

I hope you will read, or better yet listen to Kristen’s memoir.

She may be “A Little Bit Wicked”, but I think you will love her as much as we do here in Oklahoma.

a floor length, fancy pink and white dress covered in ruffles on the skirt

These are affiliate links which support this blog in sharing the HEART of health.

Enjoy Kristin’s singing

Listen on Apple Music to COMING HOME

Buy on the iTunes Store THE ART OF ELEGANCE  album

And find it on Amazon

Thanks for joining me to meet Kristin Chenoweth and see a little bit of our home state.

If you have enjoyed this, please share and follow this blog. See you next time.

Dr. Aletha

WICKED- cover of a program from the musical

WICKED is a touching saga of love, friendship, betrayal, courage, and forgiveness.

After hearing how wonderful it is, I finally saw the touring production of WICKED and it is every bit as “wicked” as everyone says.

Although Kristin no longer performs in it, other actresses bring Glinda and Elphaba to life with singing, non-stop action, and gorgeous costumes.

It may be based on a children’s story, but WICKED is a touching saga of love, friendship, betrayal, courage, and forgiveness. Don’t miss it if you have a chance to see it.

You can stream the WICKED album free with Amazon Prime (affiliate link).


Jackson Park, City of Broken Arrow sign

About Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

statistics from the City of Broken Arrow, 2018

  • Population- 112,000
  • Land area -55 square miles
  • Median income -$82,831
  • Median home value-$157,700
  • Median age-37 years
  • 277th largest city in the U.S.A

Top 5 employers in Broken Arrow

Do you wonder how Broken Arrow got it’s name? Find out at this link.

History of the name of Broken Arrow