Monday, May 20, 2013

A Passion for Cookies

I have a passion for eating cookies. So it’s not a big surprise that I found myself at DessertFest, a recent Saturday afternoon gathering featuring cookies, cupcakes, frozen treats and live music.

I came to this dessert party for delicious HeartSong Cookies and I also found myself enjoying a great local band, Chevy Van Gogh. They belted out original ballads and traditional Rock standards with a smooth Southern sound. The band added a great soundtrack to DessertFest, but Kathy’s cookies were the star of the show.

Kathy (founder of HeartSong Cookies) works a full-time job, but still finds time to bake cookies on nights and weekends. She hand makes each cookie with fresh ingredients for the love of dough…cookie dough.

Kathy’s known for three things--her big smile, her warm hugs and her melt-in-your-mouth sweet cookies. You really can’t eat just one HeartSong cookie! It’s clear that Kathy is passionate about creating distinctive cookies that leave a smile on your face and a song in your heart.

In his new book, “Life Code,” television psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw talks about how to be the star of your life. Dr. Phil says a star is someone who is doing something they’re passionate about, something that makes them light up and nurtures them (mind, body and spirit).

Yes, it only takes one bite of a HeartSong cookie to know that Kathy has found the key to Dr. Phil’s “Life Code” (rules for winning in the real world). She’s passionate about baking cookies, creating each chewy treat lights up her life, and her cookies nurture your mind, body and spirit. If you want to enjoy a HeartSong Cookie, look for Kathy’s Moo Truck at the Maitland Farmers Market. I have a soft spot in my heart for cookies, but I think there’s a cookie monster lurking in all of us!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Teaching Me More Than Music

Growing up in New Haven, CT during the 1920s my mother had only one dream. She always wanted to be a teacher. She can still remember gathering her four best friends in the back yard to play school. Little Helen was always the teacher. And her dream came true. She was the first member of her family to graduate from college and earn a master’s degree.

For more than 50 years children came to our home in Baton Rouge, LA to take piano lessons from her. And she taught hundreds of college students how to be teachers as a music education professor at Southern University from 1960 to 1995. Yes, my mother lived her childhood dream in the classroom, at her living room piano and as a role model for her three children.

 She taught me, my brother and my sister lessons every day. If my mother had a lifeclass on the Oprah Winfrey Network viewers would learn these five lessons:

·         HONESTY – Always tell the truth. Helen Morton Gist is brutally honest. She never shies away from telling it like it is.

·         FAITH – If you want something bad enough, you can find a way to make it happen.

·         PROFESSIONALISM – Keep your professional skills up-to-date.

·         CARING – Take care of friends and family (your children, nieces, nephews, cousins). She never forgets them on birthdays, holidays, graduations and always.

·         SERVICE – As one of the first Head Start teachers in the state of Louisiana in the 1960s, she is a living example of the importance of community service. In 2006, the Southern University chapter of the Professional Association for Educators gave her a “Service to Education” award for using music as an educational tool to help children displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

My mother is known for being direct, no-nonsense and hard-working. Although her communications style is more like Iyanla Vanzant than Oprah Winfrey, she shares Oprah’s love of education. It’s part of her DNA and mine. Thank you, mom, for always teaching me more than music.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Speaking of Youth...

I’ve evaluated many speeches in my 10 years as a member of Toastmasters International, but few speakers have taught me as many lessons as the 10 elementary and middle school students I judged last month in the Orange County 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Contest.

The fresh-faced fourth, fifth and sixth graders—three boys and seven girls—spoke on a wide range of topics, from war and peace to basketball and Australia. Connor explained what it’s like to be a twin, Taylor revealed how it feels to be the natural-born child in a family who cares for foster children and Marisol shared the joys of being a hearing child with deaf parents.

The teachers, family members and volunteers in the audience were impressed. They laughed, were in awe and were proud of the youth who gave voice to their hopes, dreams and family values. As one of the contest judges, I evaluated each speaker on their use of language, speech delivery and choice of topic. In turn, each speaker gave me a pearl of their wisdom.

Brooke Sheaf, who won the middle school contest, delivered one of the most powerful messages—the best way to overcome your fear is to jump in with both feet! Brooke overcame her fear of swimming by jumping into the deep end of the pool. What’s your biggest fear?