Sunday, October 28, 2018

Fall


Fall is brilliant in the coming.
A chill dances on the breeze
Cooling and stealing away summer’s heat
Trees begin their painting
Golds, oranges, reds
Pumpkin entices
With its deep autumn aroma
Boots walk us
Scarves warm us
Fall festivals keep us busy
As the slow boil of Fall turns to Winter freeze
I look longingly at the bathing suit in my drawer
And whisper
Goodbye summer.

~Alisa Laska 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

You Had Me At Kayak

I met my husband in South Carolina.  We spent most of our courtship dodging alligators and ducking snakes falling out of trees. 

Let me explain...

I won't go into how exactly we met.  (I'll leave that for another memoir blog!)  But, I will say that about a month after we met, my husband bought me a kayak.  I have to say that I freaked out a little bit at first.  I mean, this was a huge gift for someone whom he had really just met and had only been talking to for about two months or so.  I wondered what I should do?  I finally decided to accept the kayak and then if we happened to break up, as many relationships do, I would simply give him back the kayak.  Sounds good, right?  Well, we never broke up.

Turns out, he had me at kayak.  (Or so he likes to brag!)  Here is a picture of our two kayaks.  Mine is the blue one at the top.  South Carolina was a gorgeous place to live.  The winters were a little boring, but we were lucky to have met in the springtime when the world was at our fingertips as far as outdoor activities go.  We could walk the boardwalk, hang out at the beach, go for a motorcycle ride or do what we liked best at the time, go kayaking on one of the rivers. 

It turned out that kayaking was the most relaxing things I had ever done.  Amidst the exhausting demands of ministry (I was a full-time youth director at the time), I needed an outlet to unwind.  We would paddle around, exploring the low country of the Carolinas.  We would time the tides just right so we'd never have to paddle upstream against the tide.  (Smart hubby!) 

It was beautiful!  The trees in the background with Spanish Moss hanging low, the old Southern plantation homes along the river to gaze at as we paddled.  My blood pressure dropped a few points each time we pushed off. 

We did have our fair share of  funny incidents.  Including the times when we'd see a small alligator pop up out of the water, or just see his eyes gazing at us.  (Supposedly, according to hubby, they are scared of kayaks due to the Native American boating traditions.  I don't know if he made that up to make me feel better or not!)  A time or two, we also had to dodge a snake falling out of a tree.  Needless to say, I never got out to do some swimming in the water!  I also dropped hubby's sunglasses into the creek at one point, which I thought were a cheap pair.  He told me later that they were his new designer-brand glasses.  (Oh, young love!) 

Kayaking turned out to be what I liked to call my "Three Hour Vacation."  I have always wanted to have that inscribed on the side of my kayak.  It's the most relaxing three hours I can think of.  The inscription reminds me of one of my favorite things to do near water--check out the boat names.  I've seen some funny ones over the years, including a gigantic boat in Annapolis named the "Minerella" with a literal helicopter on the top, aptly named the "Glass Slipper."  I've seen many named after women or places or funny sayings.  Doing a Google search, I found these beauties: 

She Got The House
Seas The Day
Fishizzle
Reel Therapy
Unsinkable II
Taco The Town
Ctrl+Alt+Delete
My Other Boat Is Also A Boat
FahrFrumWurken
Bacon In The Sun
Sea-battical
Knot For Sail
Liquid Asset
Row Vs. Wade
Missing Peace
One More Toy
Grounds 4 Divorce
Sails Call

Many of these could tell their own story if we let them.  My favorite that I saw recently is below.  Life's A Journey.  Whether we're courting our future husband or just on a three-hour vacation, it's important to take time out from life to rest, relax and enjoy someone's company on a sea-battical.  Just bacon in the sun...



Monday, October 15, 2018

In need of editing for your project, proposal, paper or grant?

Photo by Freddy Castro
Do you have a project, proposal, document or college paper in need of editing?  Need a little help writing content for your blog, website, or business social media account?

Ever thought of searching for a grant to grow your business or finance your dreams?

I can help!

As a freelance writer, I have written and published articles and chapters in a book, as well as ministry curriculum.  I am currently a content editor for the Deeply Rooted curriculum series by http://fourfivesix.org/. I have a passion for writing and editing and a goal to expand my freelance writing and help others to improve their pieces of writing and grow their businesses.  See below for details:

Need help editing or proof-reading your papers, proposals, documents or college papers?  Need a lesson written for youth or preteen ministry?  Help with content for a retreat or youth group lesson?
$15/hour

Research/writing/and follow-up on Grants for you or your business:
$20/hour

Contact Alisa Laska, alisalaska14@gmail.com

I look forward to partnering with you to make your writing the best it can be,

Alisa Laska

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Bullying



This Summer I was a reader for Jonathan's new book, and I wanted to pass along the information about it because it is an excellent book on the topic.  He uses his own experiences as well as his many years ministering to youth and parents to craft a well-written book that speaks to so many hurting teens and children and those who seek to help them.  Check out the rest of the blog for info on the book and how to order it.  Let's do our part to stop bullying in its tracks.

Parents and teachers would love to help hurting kids, but the truth is they don’t know how.

Why? The reason is quite simple: bullying has completely transformed in less than a decade.

Today bullying has no boundaries. When the bell rings, kids might leave their school campus, but they can never escape the other world, a world where mockers and intimidators thrive. Ironically, they carry a gateway to that world right in their pockets, because they see that world as an avenue of escape… but in reality, it’s putting them in bondage.

In The Bullying Breakthrough (Shiloh Run Press, November 2018) author and youth culture expert Jonathan McKee provides real-world help for parents, teachers, and youth leaders who often feel ill-equipped to deal with today’s bullying culture.

Check out his book on Amazon

Dr. Jim Burns describes Jonathan’s new book as “both disturbing and incredibly helpful.”

Author Josh McDowell calls it "Jonathan's most vulnerable and insightful book yet! An eye-opening peek into the world of bullying today and what we can actually do to prevent it."

Social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn claims this is “Jonathan’s most important book so far,” describing it as “an essential guide to preventing and stopping bullying behaviors.”

With chapters including, Digital Hurt, The Escape Key, Meet the Principal, Real-World Solutions, and more, McKee shares his personal story of pain and offers a sobering glimpse into the rapidly changing world of the bullied. With more than 20 years of experience working with teens and studying youth culture, McKee provides helpful ways to connect with kids, open doors of dialogue, and give kids the encouragement they need and the validation they’re searching for. . .too often in all the wrong places. Parents and youth leaders—anyone who interacts with kids—truly need this book.

Jonathan McKee is the author of over twenty books including the brand new The Bullying Breakthrough; The Teen’s Guide to Social Media & Mobile Devices; The Guy's Guide to God, Girls, and the Phone in Your Pocket, and the new fiction book, Bystander about a school shooting on a high school campus. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for parents on his website TheSource4Parents.com.  And for youth workers on his other website  https://thesource4ym.com/Jonathan along with his wife, Lori, and their three kids live in California.   



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Coffee Person

Photo by: Alisa Laska
A friend of mine said one day recently, "I don't know how parents of toddlers can get through the day without multiple cups of coffee."  I wholeheartedly agreed.

For most of my life, I would have smiled and went on with the day, not really agreeing but wishing I did.  You see, I never used to like coffee. Shocking, right?  The tase of it made me think of sour beans and the caffeine made me shake and kept me up at night.  Coffee was just not my friend.  However, I always wished that I liked it, since coffee is such a part of our culture.  Everyone drinks it, everyone talks about it, there are so many flavors and coffee shops and special cups and, well, you get the picture.

And then I had kids.

It wasn't until my second child had turned two that coffee turned around for me.  She still doesn't really like to sleep through the night.  She'll have nightmares or random cries or make noise or whatever it is that wakes me in the middle of the night.  Sometimes multiple times.  Don't even get me started on the nights she is sick or getting sick and she wakes up literally six or more times...

Another contribution to my newly-found interest in coffee is this place:  The Lobby Coffee Bar
I love it.  I've spent many days here writing, editing, emailing or just hanging out with the hubby.  Located at Chesapeake Church, The Lobby supports local mission work to end hunger and also mission work in Honduras.  Who wouldn't love to go somewhere where the profits help others?

Coffee snuck up on me, but now it's a full-blown thing.  I can't get through my work days without it and other days I'm just tired.  Also, it's Autumn and the Pumpkin Spice and Brown Sugar Lattes are out, so, there is that.

Coffee, you have corrupted me, what can I say?  Anyone want to meet up for a cup?



Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Tired in the waiting

Photo by Annie Spratt
Those of you who know me well know that I've been going through a mid-life crisis of sorts.  (No, I haven't gone out and bought a red sports car...yet...)  After a season of ministry, I am in a season of waiting, wondering, dreaming and praying about what I will do next for my career.  I haven't just been sitting around.  I have been momming, writing, editing, teaching and serving.  I am loving all of these experiences, and I can see God working in all of them. These "mini-callings" are shaping me and growing me for my next career, I am sure.

But, I can't help the wanting-to-know.  I am patient, but only for so long, and then I just wish that God would spell it out for me.  Like, if he'd hire a sky-writer and write it across the sky, that would be good enough for me.  :)  I keep having these moments where I think I've figured it out, along with the many reasons God has asked me to wait.  I feel like it will be a huge "aha" moment where I will know why God chose that path for me.  But, maybe it won't be.  It's hard to tell.  Those couple of false starts recently have caused me to realize that sometimes God just calls us to wait.  Not only to wait, but to be content in the waiting.  To pray for contentment if we don't have it, and to rest in knowing that he has it all in his timing.

This week, two verses popped up in my life about this topic.  As Margaret Feinberg so aptly put it, this is the "sacred echo,"  when God repeats something in several ways or places in our lives.  The first was this verse from the Message version of Romans 8:26-28,

"Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along.  If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter.  He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans.  He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God.  That's why we can be so sure that every detail of our lives of love for God is worked into something good." 

I love the part where we get tired in the waiting and God's spirit is right alongside of us, helping us along. He knows our wordless sighs, our aches and groans, and turns them into prayers. How many times have we come before God not even knowing what to say?  We lay our hearts out before him and the Spirit prays for us.  The spirit keeps us present before God.

The last line captivates me, knowing that every detail of my life of love for God is worked into something good.  I may not be doing something huge for him at the moment, but every little detail of my life is something he can use for His glory.  How amazing is that?

The other echo came during a leadership class at church last night.  Our pastor reminded us that we just need to keep going while we are waiting.  Waiting is not a passive thing, where we get to just lie down on the job.  No.  We can do as the Psalmist wrote in chapter five, verse three:

"In the morning, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly."  

I will choose to wait expectantly.  I will pray and wait and dream big dreams for God.  And in the waiting, I will move and act and serve and be and do.

I am tired in the waiting, but I will wait expectantly, Lord, with palms outstretched and the eyes of my heart wide open.


Saturday, August 18, 2018

Tips For Air Travel With Kids (And Grownups!)

For the second part in my series on traveling with kids (see car travel tips from Part One, here: Road Trips With Kids, I enlisted the help of my sister-in-law, who has had a LOT of experience traveling with kids all over the world for this guest post.  Enjoy!

Garmarjoba. Bula. Salam. I’m Alisa’s sister-in-law, Deb….and due to my husband’s job we live overseas. We have lived in the Republic of Georgia, Fiji, and have recently arrived in Qatar (hence my array of greetings). As you might imagine, we have done our fair share of air travel with kids….so that is why I am doing a guest post here! (If you are interested in reading about our adventures, check out my blog here: Next Stop...the World! ).  We just changed our duty station this summer, so I’m a little behind on all of our adventures!  Due to our transition this year, we’ve had to take a lot of flights since March! We’ve had 9 flight itineraries to keep track of. Of those, only two were round-trip and two were international (one across the Pacific and one across the Atlantic)…..so, needless to say, we’ve racked up some frequent flier miles in the last few months….so enough of the intro, here are my tips for air travel for kids:

1. ALWAYS carry extra clothes in your carry-on. I really try to minimize the amount of stuff in our carry-ons but after having to spend a fortune on a t-shirt for myself after someone was an infant and I just couldn’t handle smelling like throw-up for another flight...I learned my lesson! For the kids, I always pack a complete outfit plus a spare set of underwear. For myself, just an extra shirt (I can deal with wet pants if a drink gets spilled on them….kids have less patience). My husband likes to tempt fate. I use a packing cube to really compact the clothes and keep them contained at the bottom of a backpack so they are not really a burden and just available if needed.

2. Airplanes, once airborne, are COLD!! In the US, carriers do not give out blankets any longer (even for transcontinental red-eye flights, as we sadly discovered...at least they don’t if you end up flying back in steerage like we do). So even in the hot summer, I’ll pack a sweatshirt and warm socks for my younger child and myself (my teen is in charge of his own carry-on now…I remind him, but if he opts not to pack anything….not my problem). 

3. Snacks! I know this was on the car road trip list - common theme here! Though, if flying internationally, check importation restrictions. For example, when we were flying into Fiji/Australia/New Zealand we could not bring any food items that contained cheese, whey protein, honey, meat, or fresh fruits/veggies from the US. So, if we brought those snacks we had to have them consumed before disembarking from the plane (and all our bags, including carry-ons, were x-rayed before leaving the airport to verify we didn’t leave the airport with any of these items). 

4. For the snack consumption, I try and throw a couple empty plastic bags (subway sandwich bags are perfect) to hold the trash in our seat….as it seems like it is forever before the flight crew ever comes by to pick up any trash.

5. Meals – staying on the topic of food. If you are flying internationally, you have the option to select special meals in advance. Being a vegetarian, I have learned it is best to request the vegetarian meal. While there is typically a vegetarian option, sometimes they are out of that option by the time they get to your seat. Most airlines will offer a kids’ meal (typically the adult meal but with fewer sauces and more treats). Flying internationally, sometimes the meal is what kids from that nation will enjoy…not always chicken nuggets. If you have picky eaters like we do, we have learned that you can never go wrong with the fruit meal….who doesn’t like fresh fruit? My only caveat to all of this is that if your flight leaves late at night I would skip the meal request. When we have flights that leave after 7 pm, we won’t request the special meals for the kids. Special meals are delivered before general meal service (added bonus), but with late flights, the kids typically put on their eye masks, hunker down, and fall asleep. With special meals, you are obliged to take them and will be woken up and given them. So then you have a meal tray to deal with and a potentially fussy-trying-to-get-to sleep child….not fun (not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…lol).


6. For our seats on the plane, once our tickets are booked, we always try to select our seats beforehand. Our preferred arrangement is my husband and teen in one row and our younger one and me in the row behind them. That way when my younger one inevitably kicks the seat in front it is just my husband being annoyed not some stranger who might get really annoyed. If seats are in groups of three, we will select the aisle and window seats as well. That way if the flight is not completely booked, someone is less likely to pick the middle seat when selecting a seat…..about 1/3 of the time this works and we end up with an empty middle seat and extra room to lay down and rest on!! I will typically go ahead and sit in the middle seat during boarding though, since my younger one doesn’t like strangers. If someone does board and say the middle seat is theirs, I point to my younger one and ask if they mind if I sit in the middle and give them the aisle. I’ve never had someone say no.

7. As I mentioned in the first point, I try to keep items in our carry-ons to a minimum. Less stuff in the carry-on keeps it lighter so the kids can carry it themselves, plus it is small enough to stow at their feet. I’ve tried packing books, games, toys, etc….and they all go untouched. The only thing the kids really want to use is their iDevices (and if available – watch in-flight movies)….so sometimes on an 11-hour flight it is worth it to choose your battles….and this is not one worth fighting! Unlimited screen time it is….so it’s a treat! We pack everyone’s iDevice, CHARGER, adaptors (if needed), and a small notebook and pen/pencil. (Our notebook is 5x7 size). The notebook provides so many options of games….hangman and tic-tac-toe are our go-to’s. Though you can also draw pictures, make a bucket list of what to do when you get to your destination, etc.


8. If you get stuck with a long layover en-route to your destination (13-hour layover survivor here!), lounges are wonderful! Some credit cards give you free entry (they have high fees though…boo!). I have a priority club membership for $49 year where you can get access to lounges worldwide. It then costs $27 per person for entry (for myself and up to 3 guests). Note: members may be free depending on which plan you sign up for. If you travel a lot then you may want to upgrade to a membership that includes 10 free entries a year. If you would like to get 10% off the cost of membership (disclaimer….I earn a free guest entry), then send me a message via the contact form on my blog  Next Stop...the World! and I’ll send you a referral!!! Talk about win-win!! You’ll want to check before you fly though, because some clubs limit the number of guests/or don’t allow kids, but most major airports have multiple participating lounges so if you have a long layover you can just find a different lounge that will work. What is so wonderful about hanging out in a lounge vs walking the halls of the airport? It is so much quieter than the airport…no constant PA announcements. They have free food and drinks (well I guess not free since you paid the entry fee).  The unlimited food and drinks are typically healthier than the fast food options that are available out and about in the airport and some beer and wine is typically included. The seats include comfy, den-like furniture with more charging stations nearby. There are bathrooms scattered through-out (and since entry is controlled I feel comfortable leaving the kids to run to the restroom or letting them go alone if I happen to be flying alone with the kids). Speaking of the restrooms, you can check in advance, some of the lounges will have showers (with towels, shampoo, soap)…before or after a really long flight it is nice to freshen up….it always makes you feel much better to get some of that airplane/airport grunge off. 

9. Miles & Points. Everyone in our family has frequent flier accounts with all the American carriers (most international carriers have code shares and the American carrier will give you miles for your trip). It is always worth signing up for an airline’s frequent flier program – it is free and worst case scenario, your miles expire…best case you take a free trip! In fact, on one of our trips this summer we all flew to St.Louis on one airline on miles and flew back to Charleston on a different airline but also on miles! Simply entering frequent flier numbers when traveling helps make trips to visit family (or just be tourists) much more affordable! You can also pre-enter your passport info (and TSA precheck/trusted traveler info) to your profiles – just another way to make check-in go smoother! The best way to earn more miles quickly is by signing up for an airline’s credit card. They typically have sign-up mile bonuses (50K miles is pretty typical) as well as other benefits like one free checked bag, and, as of this writing, United’s card will even give you a $100 credit when you sign up for TSA precheck/Global Entry. Somewhat related, once you get off that airplane and make it to your destination you might need a place to stay! Some hotel groups have credit cards where you earn points towards nights at hotels. Our favorite card is the IHG card. They have domestic and international locations at a variety of price points (we try to pick places with free breakfast….and then eat a big enough breakfast to skip lunch). You also get one free night per year, and opportunities to earn bonus points with promotions they offer all the time. I can think of several trips we have taken where lodging was ‘paid for’ with points! If you sign up with this link:  https://www.referyourchasecard.com/251/ZFPP25L6Q7 then we both benefit – you get 80,000 Bonus Points after you reach the initial spending requirement and I get 10,000 points for everyone who discovers the wonderfulness of the IHG card!!! In addition, with both types of cards, with your regular purchases, you also earn miles or points towards future trips/stays!

Well…..I think those are my major tips for flying with kids. There are of course hundreds of tips about travel (my favorite travel pillow - Trtl – hands down)…but, just like parenting, in the end, you just have to do what works for you and your family! Thanks again for the chance to contribute to your traveling with kids series! Now to motivate everyone to book a trip somewhere….here’s a beautiful Fijian sunset photo!