Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Living Waldorf Doll

Is not this the absolute cutest thing you've ever seen or what?! I don't know what's more adorable, the baby or the hat.

Somebody make me one of these for Bethy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

*Really* Short Attention Span

"I get burned out faster than a piece of wood."
-Michael, talking about sticking to projects

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Merry Tossmas!

A friend just sent me this link, and I gotta tell you:

Stuart Shepard is the man.

Listen up retailers! Pay close attention to the question he asks at the end...

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Grief and Why?

I find myself bawling for a toddler whose mother was killed last year simply because she complained about the noise from a construction worker who was having a bad day. Why was that poor baby robbed of her mother? She was too young to remember her. She will never remember her mother. She was three. Who remembers their mother at three? Sophie Ostroy will only have the movies her mother made and stories - she will not have real memories; she will not have her mother...because some 19 year-old Ecuadorian illegal immigrant was having a bad day???

Why is this fair? Why didn't God stop it? Why didn't He let her live? Protect her? I always had a pragmatic view to people asking why God allows bad things to happen. I've always had the pat answer about free will and natural consequences,...but that's not good enough for the grief I have for this poor baby that will never know her mother. That's not enough when I think about my baby, just two. How do I make sure I'm always here for her, for her brother and sister and father? How do I guarantee that they will have me - the real me, not some video or stories? I can't. There's nothing I can do to make my existence a certainty. There's nothing any of us can do.

And that's what makes me want to go pull my babe from her bed and bury myself in her little sleep-sweaty neck for eternity; to whisper in her ear that Mommy loves her and will never leave her; to hold onto her forever and never ever let her out of my arms.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What I'm Doing for Mahalo These Days

I'm listing every holiday TV special that I can find - see what's on today and watch the list grow!

Check out the

***Christmas Special Schedule***

Know of a great site listing Holiday/Christmas TV specials? Send the link to Crystal (at) 3 Stairs (dot) com.

I'm also writing pages for a bunch of those wonderful Rankin/Bass Christmas specials we all adored as children, so keep an eye on my profile to see my latest work.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Calling All Bloggers!

Stories Needed for new book proposal(s):

Book titles:
Bloggable: Fifty of the best MOMMY chronicles found on-line
Bloggable: Fifty of the best MARRIAGE chronicles found on-line
Bloggable: Fifty of the best FRIENDSHIP chronicles found on-line
Bloggable: Fifty of the best HUMOR chronicles found on-line

Concept: The best blogs now in a book!

This is a book that will compile the best of the best inspirational blogs on the world-wide-web. Submissions should be inspiring, faith-filled, and based on true experiences - no fiction, please. Think of comment-worthy blogs readers forward to their friends.

Blogs must be previously published on the Internet and submitted by the author. If you have a favorite blog you've read, pass on these guidelines and encourage the blogger to submit!

1. Send submissions to tricia @ as an attached WORD document in 12-point Times new Roman font. (Up to three submissions per blogger.)

2. Please include the author's name, your blog address, and contact information on the first page of every submission.

3. Blog submissions should be non-fiction, ranging in length between 300-1200 words.

4. If your blog is published in this book, you will be paid $50 upon publication and two free copies of the book.

5. Please include a link to your story published on the Internet.

6. When you submit, you will be asked to sign a release form, giving me permission to use your blog. Submissions will not be considered until the release form is signed and returned.

Post a comment with your site link when you submit!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Erin McKean is My New Heroine

(as in hero, not drugs - that's heroin! You'd be surprised how many people miss that. Now on with the post...)

As we all know, I love words. We also know I like sewing, when I can manage to get to the sewing table. Several months ago I found a wonderful little blog about those gorgeous frocks from the early- to mid- twentieth century and fell in love with the photos, the Secret Lives stories, and the cleverness of the writing - so much so that I quoted it here.

Well, as if I didn't love Erin enough, she had to go and be a lexicographer! I knew she read books as part of her work, but never really delved into what she actually did for a living. As I made my daily visit to the Dress a Day blog, she mentioned her other blog.

Other blog? More intelligent, clever, funny writing? Let's go see! I click with bated breath, and what to my wondering eyes doth appear?

Dictionary Evangelist!

I read with glee as I discover words like ambigram (with an illustration!), ygology, and ossicusp. I revel in the retro line drawing for the avatar. I snicker as I read "Erin McKean really likes dictionaries." I think, "God, I love this woman - she is a fellow dictionary-reader!" I find nothing really informative on the profile link and remember seeing something about "The Official Biography," so I return to read that link.

What? No mere dictionary-reader? NO!

She writes them, God love her!

Oh, for a thousand tongues that I could verbiate the new words I'll be learning!

You! What are you doing still here?! Go; read; now!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

What Do You Want to See?

It appears a lot of people want to see Vanessa Hudgens nude. Me? I could live without that experience. Another experience I could live without? Skull eastereggs for Halo 3. Well, long live democracy, the people have spoken! And now, a la David Letterman are:

Today's Top 10 Pages on Mahalo

Stay tuned for my top 10 from Mahalo!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Meeting of Anni Adams Blog Tour and Prize Drawing!

The Butterfly of Luxembourg

Story Recounts Metamorphosis of Survival

to finding American Dream

(Holly Hill, FL) Imagine living a life of security and comfort while traveling throughout central Europe with a famous professional gymnast--who just happens to be your father--with just one twist. You were born in 1926, and at the age of fourteen your entire world changes because of the Nazi invasion. Anni Adams survives the poverty, humiliation and uncertainty of the refugee camps and eventually returns to her home, where life is not the same. She quietly resists the submissive lifestyle of the Nazi rule for four years. Here she becomes a Catholic war bride to her American GI husband, following the liberation of her country.

The Meeting of Anni Adams: The Butterfly of Luxembourg
shows how family and faith fuel Anni's survival through her evacuation into France and the years of German occupation of Luxembourg when she and her family are placed in labor camps and government prisons. Anni goes on to live a remarkable life in the United States, where she displays an uncanny ability to meet people of renown in the most unlikely circumstances. Anni's story is only one of countless others from this time period; she personifies the guts, grit, fortitude, faith and hope of that era. These virtues in the face of adversity create a beautiful butterfly. Each breathtaking "stain glass" pane of the butterfly's wings is yet another story of how Anni overcomes tremendous odds--the truest form of the American Dream come true.

Amazon's #1 Reviewer, Harriet Klausner, gives The Meeting of Anni Adams a FIVE STAR review. From Harriet's review:

This fascinating biography enables the reader to see how a teen survived WWII Nazi occupation. Anni does so by mentally going in and out of her cocoon made up of loving family depending on circumstances. She as "the butterfly of Luxembourg" gives the audience a deep insight into life under the German occupation. The American segment of her journey is also well written and rounds out the bio, but like the early years pales next to the four years under the Nazis. THE MEETING OF ANNI ADAMS : THE BUTTERFLY OF LUXEMBOURG is a deep look at how people survive the most harrowing nightmarish experiences caused by inhuman humans.


Author Lonnie D. Story (right), with Anni Adams (middle) and Bob Gaul, President of the Iowa Luxembourg American Society August 2007

Author Lonnie D. Story's recounting of this part of Luxembourg's WWII history has been recognized by the Ambassador of Luxembourg to the United Nations, H. E. Jean Marc Hoscheit, the Ambassador of Luxembourg to the U.S., and H.E. Joseph Weyland. In fact, Story's work was lauded by the Luxembourg General Consul, Georges Faber, as a "magnificent, historically correct accounting of the hardships suffered" during the time period of his country's occupation and suppression.

Story is a freelance writer residing in Holly Hill, Florida. He is currently working on his second book, Without A Shot Fired: The Dustin Brim Story, a true story about a U.S. soldier deployed to Iraq in full health who returns to discover he has aggressive, terminal cancer.


Anni Adams with the Arch Bishop of Luxembourg Fernand Franck (holding the book) at Luxembourg Fest, August 2007.

Interview Questions:

Where did you birth the idea for this book? When? How did it come about?

The idea originally came from a business venture (idea.) I wanted to fill an niche market that no one appeared to be addressing and a need that left a large, untapped void. I thought I would write biographies for a living by limiting just to family members and that kind of thing. A biography of a person just for private use and not publishing. It appeared to be a chance encounter, but, I am fully persuaded that there is no such thing as coincidence. I met Anni in a flower shop in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where she worked part-time. She had wonderful stories to tell about her life and I found it so intriguing that I volunteered to write her biography for free as sort of a "guinea pig." The more we met and conversed the more convinced I was that she had all the potential, material and stories that would make a great book and then some! Thus we began the long, arduous, unseen adventure to "bookland."

How do you as a writer put together a book like this? Did you outline first or did you write down anecdotes and stories and then organize them into book format, or ???

I started with an outline but as time progressed and more stories came forth, the outline changed and metamorphed into the final working outline and finished product. Actually, I would write about one chapter a week, sometimes I would go weeks without writing anything. Once I had the "feeling" to write it was irresistible and I would write the entire chapter in one sitting, usually taking long hours into the wee hours of the morning such as 4 or 5 a.m. having started around 6 p.m, the evening before. I took a shotgun approach and only wrote what, where and when the feeling for a particular chapter manifested itself.

What sort of research was involved in writing this book?

There are no adjective or, at least, not enough here for proper English to express the intense, horrid, voluminous, meticulous, time-consuming research required for this work. I had to cover very minute details and print tons of pictures, maps and such and then screen it through Anni to get the story exactly right, factually, historically and evidentially.

How long did you take to write this?

I worked 12-16 hours a day (mostly 14-16 hours), 7 days a week for 7 1/2 months. I put aside all holidays, family gatherings, social invitations/engagements, etc. I stayed locked away in my one little bedroom at my sister's house only coming out to go to the store for supplies (food, water, etc.) and back to my "cave."

If your book is turned into a movie, which actress should play Anni?

Anni at 14-18: AnnaSophia Robb Anni middle years: Laura Linney Elder Anni: Glenn Close

What takeaway points do you hope the reader pulls from this book?

Never give up. Never quite, persevere, push, press and pray. I mean pray HARD!! Don't let go of God and don't stop nagging Him, pleading with Him, praising Him, thanking Him and wrestle with Him to the desire for death rather than giving up. Beside that, learn lessons the first as often as able, stay positive, hopeful, faithful and enjoy the shortness of life, each moment. Savor friends, family and life experiences no matter how good or bad. Faith, hope and love.

How did you become a writer?

Somehow it was there all along. I started reading and writing at age 4. By the time I started school, I was well ahead of my classmates. However, being ahead of the classmates caused me to be less "covered" by the teachers. The teachers rationed their time, typically, to the other students that needed more help. Because of this, I was less attentive in class and my mind wandered a lot into fantasies, visions and mental adventures. If I had the chance, I would write some of these things down or draw pictures of them.

Can you share something with our readers about what God has been teaching you lately?

If you can call 4 1/2 years "lately", then I would say PATIENCE! Other than that, I have had a supernatural development in my faith levels. I have always dreamed big, reached big and even failed big. But the God I serve is a big God. Bigger than my hopes, dreams and wishes, so the big answer more than anything else?? TRUST!!! Not in people, only God. Put confidence in people but never trust them, love them but don't rely on them. These are treasures for God only.

Please share a little about your family, your church and community involvement.

During the writing of the book I spent most of my time alone. I did take time out to call family or go to Anni's (which was usually 3 times a week), but mostly stayed sequestered. After the manuscript was finished I spent some time catching up but it was a very difficult thing. At the time both my brother and sister were terminally ill. I was the youngest of the three, the "baby", but also the one everyone turned to for help, advice and high expectations. My only community involvement was after the book and these were all events to bring awareness to Anni and the book. I donated hundreds of books to veterans for Memorial Day and Veterans Day, radio stations and churches, church organizations, etc. Because of what I had been through the year before starting the book, I took a long sabbatical from church. In place of this, I devoted many, many hours in prayer, deep, very deep study of the Bible and listened to Charles Stanley for hours on end each day over the Internet. At that time, his website had four years of cataloged sermons and I listened to all four years worth!! And many times each new message for the day, I would listen to 4-7 times in an afternoon or evening! Thank God for Charles Stanley!

Lonnie, tell us about your radio program--what does it consist of, and what format does it follow?What book are you reading now?

My radio program came about mostly out of frustration, hope and prayer. I missed being on the air (before my life's disaster, I had a Christian program for approx. 5 years), I felt it was a good venue to move forward and push harder the message on both my books. The program is called (of all things LOL) "Lessons Learned." I wanted it to be a talk news show. Very interactive with the listening audience. Taking our life experiences, historical events and history in general, teachings from much older generations and look at what we think the near future holds and try to turn it into applicable, valuable news for today. As for books, only one: My Bible. (I do have a stack I wish I could get to, I am dying to have some time to read but that is a dream and a wish. I won't let myself "taste" that reward until my mission with this book and the next is satisfied and successfully launched into readerland. When the income makes me debt free and time rich.)

What book is coming next?

The next book has been in the making for more than a year and a half. Like the first book, I entered it very naive, just when I thought I was capable. Uh UH!! The next book will have to be read about over the Internet, not enough room here. Just google "Dustin Brim," look for my name and read ALL about it.

Author is Available for Interviews. Click HERE to contact publicist for more details.

Want your own free copy of the book? Post your comments and I'll have a random drawing for the winner on Friday, September 28.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


You know they say to pick your battles.


But you have to pick at least one in your life. Just once in every person's life, we need to find that one thing that makes our blood boil, that thing to which we stand and seethe, "No more! This shall not pass!"

Logic and reason have their place. In fact, I concede that logic and reason are by far the nobler approaches to conflict and its resolution.

But once - if only once in 70+ years of life - passions must ignite. Passionately, devotedly, unabashedly declare your quest and follow it as the grail, never stopping until at last you grasp hold of it in your hand or die with your fingers reaching achingly towards the prize.

A life is not a life which does not have its grail.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Please Do Not Try This at Home...

So you're familiar with're there everyday. An eBayer you are; a web designer you are not. I've seen way too many people get pulled into the lie that if you can sell on eBay, you can design, update, maintain (do anything to, really) a website. eBay has made millions by making selling easy. Follow a few steps, and la-di-da, you're done. But you've only created a paragraph of code in an encyclopedia of HTML.

If you don't know what HTML is, you've just had your first clue that you need serious training before attempting anything with a website. Check out "Words to Live By" at Unless you know all of the terms listed there, Please do not try this at home!

Monday, September 10, 2007

PC Life

- If you messed up your life, you could press "Alt, Ctrl, Delete" and start all over!

- To get your daily exercise, just click on "run"!

- If you needed a break from life, click on "suspend".

- Hit "any key" to continue life when ready.

- To "add/remove" someone in your life, click settings and control panel.

- To improve your appearance, just adjust the display settings.

- If life gets too noisy, turn off the speakers.

- When you lose your car keys, click on "find".

- We could click on "send" and the kids would go to bed immediately.

- To feel like a new person, click on "refresh".

- Click on "close" to shut up the kids and spouse.

- To undo a mistake, click on "back".

- If you don't like cleaning the litter box, click on "delete".

Friday, September 7, 2007

Document Sharing & Editing Finds a Home on the Web

Okay, who out there has never shared or e-mailed a file? Now, how many of everybody has needed to edit a document that's been shared or e-mailed to them and send it back? Let's count the steps, shall we?

1. check e-mail

2. open link to document

3. edit document

4. save document

5. e-mail document back

6. bang your head on the desk when something else needs to be edited

Now, with this cool new online file sharing site:

1. check e-mail

2. click link and enter text verification code

3. edit and share to your heart's content with a cool patent-pending widget (those cute little bubbly things you see everywhere that do awesome new things)

Wow! You just cut your steps in half! With Driveway, there's none of the editing, saving, attaching (when your connection will actually do it), e-mailing, blah, blah, blah, blah-blah, blah, blah... Just share and edit.


Monday, September 3, 2007

Military Intelligence

On some air bases the Air Force is on one side of the field and civilian aircraft use the other side of the field, with the control tower in the middle.

One day the tower received a call from an aircraft asking, "What time is it?"

The tower responded, "Who is calling?"

The aircraft replied, "What difference does it make?"

The tower replied, "It makes a lot of difference. If it is an American Airlines flight, it is 3 o'clock. If it is an Air Force plane, it is 1500 hours. If it is a Navy aircraft, it is 6 bells. If it is an Army aircraft, the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 3. If it is a Marine Corps aircraft, it's Thursday afternoon."

Sunday, September 2, 2007

My Favorite Season - the End

Being the cheapskate I am, I love the ends of seasons. Nothing thrills my heart more than seeing red or yellow signs trumpeting "Clearance!" My heart palpitates at online clearance - being a cheapskate in my pajamas - what could be better? Buying big, heavy stuff in brick-and-mortar stores is a pain, what with the lifting and the fitting in the car. Which is why I'm shopping for yard art for my mom at Online Discount Mart. They've got everything from the whimsical to the serene, and everything in between (sorry, couldn't help it). Now to set a budget and try to not blow it...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fashionable Festivities

"There's festive, and then there's festooned. There's a difference."

-Erin over at Dress A Day, on Christmas adornment

Monday, August 27, 2007

Strawberry Shortcake Woes

We're going to revisit the castle cake for Sarah's princess party, so that's an easy one. I'm trying to figure out what to do for Bethy's Strawberry Shortcake party in November. I can't decide if I want:

the bakery-shop-looking layered cake with fondant decorations,

the Strawberry Shortcake shaped cake,

or a cake that looks like a chocolate-covered strawberry.

What do you think? Post your vote in the comments.

Brandon's Happy Feet Penguin Birthday Cake

Okay, so I'm two weeks late on this, but here it is. This is by far my favorite cake we've had made for the kids!

Isn't he adorable?! Stephanie used the Wilton bear pan, cut off the ears, attached one to the face as the beak and one to the back as the tail. I'm hoping Mom has a picture that shows the tail - I'll post it later if she does. He was kind of small, so she made these cupcakes. I oohed and ahhed (how do you spell that, anyway?) over them both the whole time.

Now That's Thorough Title Research!

A New Orleans lawyer sought an FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan for a client. He was told that the loan would be granted if he could prove satisfactory title to a parcel of property being offered as collateral. The title to the property dated back to 1803, which took the lawyer three months to track down.

After sending the information to FHA, he received the following reply: "Upon review of your letter adjoining your client's loan application, we note that the request is supported by an Abstract of Title. While we compliment the able manner in which you prepared and presented the application, we must point out that you have only cleared the Title to the proposed collateral property back to the year 1803. Before final approval can be accorded, it will be necessary to clear the title back to its origin."

Annoyed, the lawyer responded as follows:

"Your letter regarding Titles in Case No. 189156 has been received. I note that you wish to have Titles extended further than the 194 years covered by the present application. I was unaware that any educated person in this country, particularly those working in the property arena, would not know that Louisiana was purchased by the U.S. from France in 1803, the year of origin identified in our application.

"For the edification of uninformed FHA bureaucrats, the title to the land prior to U.S. ownership was obtained from France, which had acquired it by Right of Conquest from Spain. The land came into possession of Spain by Right of Discovery made in the year 1492 by a sea captain named Christopher Columbus, who had been granted the privilege of seeking a new route to India by the then reigning monarch, Isabella.

"The good queen, being a pious woman and careful about titles, almost as much as the FHA, took the precaution of securing the blessing of the Pope before she sold her jewels to fund Columbus' expedition.

"Now the Pope, as I'm sure you know, is the emissary of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And God, it is commonly accepted, created this world. Therefore, I believe it is safe to presume that He also made that part of the world called Louisiana.

"I hope you are satisfied. Now, may we have our Title?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mr. Rogers Saves the Corporation for Public Broadcasting

How's this for inspirational?

Now, go to and give your support to your local Public Broadcasting Service!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Hate doing the hula trying to dodge all the junk in search results? Yeah, me too. Michael turned me on to a new search engine called Mahalo. Every search page has been researched and written by a real-live human being! The results pages are broken down into logical categories, and there are even symbols to clue you in to the researcher's favorite sites that have the best information. There's a great toolbar to help you make the most of Mahalo - download and use it for 30 days and see if you don't start saying "Mahalo" (thank you in Hawaiin) yourself!

Download the Mahalo Follow Toolbar Here

Drop me a line and let me know what you think of Mahalo!

Chestnuts Roasting on an Open August

Our house is about one hundred years old, has no insulation, and no underpinning around the bottom outside, so needless to say: it's cold in the winter! Even in the mild Texas winters, when it's 19 degrees outside, it can get down to the mid- to low- forties in our house. That makes for some very cold little noses. We start thinking about winter preparations about now to make sure we have plenty of warm jammies, lots of thick blankets, and enough money for the monstrous gas bills.

Despite three years of pleading with the landlord, there is still no underpinning around the house (there's no room in the walls for insulation, so underpinning is our only option), so we have to rely on room heaters. We've considered adding a fireplace to the living room, but decided we didn't want to invest that much into a house that wasn't ours.

But boy, do gas logs look gorgeous! I'd love to have a beautiful mantel and one of those fireplaces that have vents and fans to circulate the warmth around the room.? Desa has nice mantels, all the accesories I want, and prices that look good. I may have to start bugging the landlord for a fireplace instead of the underpinning!

Monday, August 20, 2007

My Will

The relatives of the family's rich dowager gathered for the reading of her will after her long awaited death.

"Being of sound mind," read the lawyer, "I spent every last cent before I died."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting the Ink on Incorporation

When Michael and I started all of this entrepreneurial stuff ages ago, just filling out a DBA was scary. Heck, the first time I heard it, I didn't know what it was ("Doing Business As," by the way), so naturally I was terrified to do it, not to mention clueless. And that was just to start a small home-based business with just the two of us - forget something big with employees and all of that fun stuff.

Getting help to start your own traditional business is a must in my book. Did you know that there are states that are better to start a business in? I had no idea. For instance, Florida has no personal taxes, no corporate taxes for S Corporations, and no requirements to be a United States resident or citizen, so Florida corporations are at an advantage over many other states right out of the starting gate. Nevada corporations enjoy no state income taxes, and stockholders, directors, and officers don't have to live or even have meetings in the state! Texas corporations receive benefits like no corporate income tax, no personal income tax, and no tax on intangible property.

So if I'm so dumb about all of this stuff, where did I learn these business jewels? - they've got all the information you need to incorporate in any state in the Union, including benefits of doing business in that state, answers to frequently asked questions, and quote comparisons of other businesses that offer incorporation assistance so you can be assured you're getting the best value for your money.

I dare you, go pull that dream of your own business off of the shelf and take it over to IncParadise.

Outrageous Names are Where It's @

In memory of Elvis Aaron's passing, Superman has left the building...@ is now here. Yes, dear readers, there's a new name in Annals of Misnomers (talk about a misnomer!). The misnaming disease has spread in a north-westerly direction to China, where a young couple have attempted to register the symbol "@" as the name of their new son.

Explains the father: "The whole world uses it to write e-mail, and translated into Chinese it means 'love him." (Chinese couple tried to name baby "@", Reuters.) Okay, I will concede that in this instance the local language makes the pronunciation sound like actual words rather than a web colloquialism. Does that make it any better of a name than Superman or 4Real?

Don't count on it, Got2B.

Learning About Lap-Band Surgery

It's been all over the news since Starr Jones "spilled her guts" on Larry King Live - lap band surgery. What is it? How is it done? Where do you go to get it done? More importantly, is it for everyone? Who is eligble for the procedure? Is it safe? There are tons of questions, and now there's a place to find all the answers, including where to go to have it done. Journey Lite has created a great website that answers all of your questions in a clear, concise way without a lot of hype or commercials. There's even a video that shows an animation sequence of exactly what is done during the surgery.

You have questions; get answers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Blog Things Pegs Me Again

Your 1996 Theme Song Is: Breakfast at Tiffany's by Deep Blue Something

And I said "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?"
She said, "I think I remember the film,
And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it."
And I said, "Well, that's the one thing we've got."

What's Your 1996 Theme Song?

My first concert was a Deep Blue Something concert in a bar on my honeymoon (I was a late bloomer). I told one of the guys afterward that they were my soundtrack in college. I'm not sure exactly how that came across (it sounds bad in retrospect), but it was meant as "Your music defined and expressed my life during that time, and I think you're awesome!" Of course, it was one of the two times I've been tipsy in my life, so it's natural to not make sense, right?

A REAL Role Model for Girls!

Imagine my curiosity as I read "Thinking girls' role model." I scroll down to see Danica McKellar, all grown up from The Wonder Years. Turns out she's all about girls and math. Hallelujah! She's written a book for teen girls, Math Doesn't Suck about math and girlhood all mixed in together. She graduated summa cum laude in Math from UCLA! This is one smart chica - and she's gorgeous (and not rail-thin, either!). Take a note moms and girls (and boys and dads, for that matter):

Smart is beautiful!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Getting Money Wize

Being a family of five on a freelance income means serious stewardship requirements. Investing has always been a tricky endeavor, and knowing as much as you possibly can is not even a suggestion - it's an absolute, don't-even-think-about-investing-without-it, need-it-more-than-air necessity. And let's face it, my brains are canned from having three kids. I can still manage the budget (What's 3-2 again?), but figuring out the labyrinth of investing may as well be the same as asking me to find Al Qaeda.

Well, I just found a investing (sorry, patriots). Wizetrade is a blog full of information to save my investing hide. From tips and tricks, to a YouTube channel with training videos, and lessons about trading, it looks to be a future treasure trove of investing brains.

Now if only I could find a way to store that much information about how to get my kids to behave outside of my brain...

Monday, August 13, 2007

If "Lucy" Fell

or Why Paleontologists are Worried About the Lucy Fossils Touring the United States

Well, she's still single and she's supposedly way over 30, but we're not talking about Sarah Jessica Parker or the Brooklyn Bridge. It seems "Lucy" - the 3-foot-tall Grandmomma of us all - is set to travel the US for six years, and some people are quite upset about what might happen if "Lucy" fell...or in any other way got damaged in transit.

Paleontologist Richard Leakey is beside himself with the fear that "Lucy" will be damaged during the tour. He calls the United States tour of the only-twice-seen set of fossils as "prostitution" (Fossil hunter condemns Lucy tour of U.S., By Khaled Kazziha, Associated Press Writer). Of course, he also says that keeping "Lucy" in Ethiopia would bring in money, er, tourists. Aha - I believe we have found the crux of the issue here.

Gee, maybe they don't want "Lucy" to tour because the millions that would flock to see the old bones would realize that they're just the bones of a chimp and that the theory of evolution is a fallacy and mockery of God. Why do they call it a theory, anyway? The Free Dictionary defines "theory" thusly:
A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

The problem is that evolution in any form, including Darwinism, has not been "repeatedly tested" - it is rather the latter definition of "widely accepted" and falls into the definition of
"An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture."

And yet, this is what we teach our children in the public school system. Textbooks must be written every year to "keep up with new information" that scientists keep "discovering," though we never seem to see the study reports or any tangible proof of experimentation or testing. And all the while, we have a text that is nearly 4000 years old that scientific study and testing has proven again and again. The funny thing is that the scientists are always shocked when the tests they conducted to disavow Biblical science proves it unequivocally.

I think the funniest part of the reports is that they refer to the set of fossils of "Lucy," "her," and "she," as if they were somehow a living, breathing human, like an aged grandmother. They have bestowed upon these glorified rocks a soul, a personality, a sacredness that has no root in fact. The only "facts" we have to substantiate these claims is a notoriously inaccurate carbon-dating process that more and more scientists are rejecting as a method of dating.

It's time to read between the lines of the outrage of those in the "industry" and start seeing the "proofs" of evolution for what they are: money-making schemes and mockeries of the God of heaven, the Creator of "heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." (Exodus 20:11 KJV)

Fantasy Shopping

I'm one of those nuts that will start listening to Christmas music in September or October if I could get away with it (in fact, I almost turned on the Ally McBeal Christmas album getting ready to write this). And don't get me started on the actual Christmas shopping - I start that the day after Christmas when everything goes on sale. Give me a 50% off sign and I'm a happy gal. Give me that sign and coupons and I'm delirious. Throw in being able to do it on the computer, and I'm hysterically, ridiculously ecstatic.

I've been on a daydreaming, "what if I had my druthers" kick lately, so I applied it to shopping today. I decided I'd engage in a little "Fantasy Shopping" instead of Fantasy Football. For Michael, a ginormous gift card to Best Buy, so he can have a hey-day buying up all the electronics his little heart desires. Well, for that matter, I'd send Brandon with him, too, so he can get software for the computer we gave him today for his birthday. Sarah's a no-brainer: I'd go off to Disney to buy every princess thing they have - the girl is a princess freak! Now, for Bethy...hmmm...OH! Magic Cabin, for all the Waldorf dolls and gnomes that I've dreamed of getting for her...okay, me, too. Then on to PetsMart, of course, for Boots (who wouldn't shop a place for "pet parents?") and I'm done!

Now if only Christmas shopping really were that easy...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My Retirement Plan

With the average cost for a Nursing Home per day reaching $188.00,there is a better way when we get old & feeble. I have already checked on reservations at the Holiday Inn for a combined long term stay discount and senior discount of $49.23 per night. That leaves $138.77 a day for:

1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner in any restaurant I want, or room service.

2. Laundry, gratuities and special TV movies. Plus, they provide a swimming pool, a workout room, a lounge, washer, dryer, etc. Most have free toothpaste and razors, and all have free shampoo and soap.

3. They treat you like a customer, not a patient. $5 worth of tips a day will have the entire staff scrambling to help you. There is a city Bus stop out front, and seniors ride free. The Handicap bus will also pick you up (if you fake a decent limp). To meet other nice people, call a Church bus on Sundays. For a change of scenery, take the Airport shuttle Bus and eat at one of the nice restaurants there. While you're at the airport, fly somewhere. Otherwise, the cash keeps building up.

4. It takes months to get into decent nursing homes. Holiday Inn will take your reservation today. And you are not stuck in one place forever, you can move from Inn to Inn, or even from city to city. Want to see Hawaii? They have a Holiday Inn there too.

5. TV broken? Light bulbs need changing? Need a mattress replaced? No problem. They fix everything, and apologize for the inconvenience. The Inn has a night security person and daily room service. The maid checks to see if you are ok. If not, they will call the undertaker or an ambulance. If you fall and break a hip, Medicare will pay for the hip, and Holiday Inn will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.

6. And no worries about visits from family. They will always be glad to find you, and probably check in for a few days mini-vacation. The grand kids can use the pool. What more can you ask for?

So: As I reach the Golden age I'm facing it with a grin. I'll just check into the nearest Holiday Inn!

Love and Grace Without Inclusion and Tolerance?

- The purpose and manner of the church social committee

Here's an issue I've been dealing with lately: Liberals in the church want to preach about love and grace and "we've got to learn to get along with each other" all the time...except during a meeting. These same people during a meeting will repeat that the execution of an item doesn't matter to them, and that it's no big deal to them, then turn around and refuse to allow it to be executed in a manner that makes some more comfortable. My issue is: if it doesn't matter to you, but it does to someone else, why not do it their way?

It seems there is a legalism to liberalism. We are so caught up in our grace and freedom from the old law, that we cannot, under any circumstances, do things in any way that even remotely hint at legalism. Liberals preach love and grace and tolerance and not being a stumbling block to their brothers and sisters, then turn around and exclude their conservative brothers and sisters, saying, "Well, if they don't want to come, they don't have to." The thing is, though, that their conservative brothers and sisters want to come, just on a different day - and there are six others to choose from, or in a slightly different method (and there's no way to count those). But those same preachers of love, grace and tolerance cannot tolerate to do things in any way other than their own - all the while claiming it doesn't matter.

Most recently, I saw this issue in a Sabbath-keeping Seventh-day Adventist church where a planning session was being held for the social committee. It had been agreed that a swimming party at a local pool would be in order. The issue came when it was time to decide the day for the event. You see, there are many in the Adventist church that believe that swimming is not an appropriate Sabbath activity (in fact, it has been a commonly-held view of the church as a whole since its inception). The majority consensus at the meeting was that it didn't matter whether or not you swim on Sabbath. When it was pointed out that there are some in the local congregation that wouldn't be comfortable coming to the event on Sabbath, the response was, "Well, if they don't want to come, they don't have to." The thing is, though (as mentioned earlier), that those people want to come, just on a different day. The overwhelming attitude of the preachers of love, grace, and "we've got to learn to get along" seemed to be a resounding, "We'll do it on Sabbath, and they can just stay home." I'm forced to ask, "But I thought you said it didn't matter to you?" If it doesn't matter to you, and it does to someone else, why would anyone not want to do it in the way that makes the most people comfortable participating?

The best explanation I've found of this principle is found in the 2001 edition of the Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book:
Proper Sabbath observance

As an outdoor leader, you need to remember that the people you are leading will have different ways of observing the Sabbath. Most Adventist children of Pathfinder age will observe it as they have been taught by their parents, and it is important that you not undermine the parents' teaching in this regard. "Liberal" parents will not mind if you lead their children in conservative Sabbath observance, but "conservative" parents are likely to get very upset if engage in activities they are forbidden to do at home. Because of this, you are encouraged to adopt a conservative approach to Sabbath observance when you are leading them. You should do this even if none of the children in your care come from conservative homes, because if a new one joins you who is conservative, you will put that child at a serious disadvantage when you suddenly have to change the "rules". The Sabbath will then become a burden both to the new child and to the others who have been in the club for a while.

Whether or not it "matters" is not the question here. It is a question of inclusion. The aim and purpose of the social committee is to provide wholesome recreation and fellowship for the church as a whole, not just for any one segment of the congregation, whether young, old, liberal, or conservative. All members should feel comfortable participating in social events, whatever their personal beliefs on Sabbath observance (or any other church doctrine, for that matter). The social committee should aim to be as inclusive as possible. While there are some that won't come to events nomatter what, there are many that feel they are not welcome by their more liberal counterparts because events are continually planned which make them uncomfortable. Their concerns have been voiced, but no reconciliatory action has been made. Events keep being planned for days and activities that they feel they cannot, in good conscience, participate in in the manner planned.

This is not only an Adventist concern - it rears its ugly head in Baptist churches, LDS churches, and Catholic churches. If we are truly free in Christ as so many claim, why are we not free from intolerance to conservatives? They love the same Jesus we do, they worship the same God we do, and they read the same Bible we do. It seems the liberals preach love, grace, and tolerance to everyone and practice it on everyone but the conservatives.

It will not be until the liberals reach out to the conservatives in loving tolerance of their stricter beliefs that the Adventist church will finally be healed. Think about it: in society as a whole, do we exclude Jews from events because of their stricter beliefs? Muslims? Buddhists? No, not at all. Because while we don't feel those rules are necessary, those people do, and we will accommodate them in order to reach out to them and create a community. This isn't saying that the church should bow to the conservatives in all cases; it is saying that we must practice what we preach: true love, unrestrained grace, and unconditional tolerance.

Not the Best Battle Strategy

When we throw dirt and mud at each other, we're only losing ground - literally.

-Randy Peterson, on the rift between Conservatives and Liberals in the church

Energize Your Christmas Shopping

I know batteries are supposed to give energy, but man, do they drain me.? It never fails that everytime I go to get batteries from the "battery drawer" that the size I need happens to be all out - or worse, I'm short by one lousy battery.? I think I've finally found a place to fix that.? They've got a list for Panasonic camcorder batteries?that's about three miles long, and cell phone batteries for - I think - every brand imaginable.? You can buy alkaline batteries in bulk - AAs for .45 a piece.? Not bad - I think I know where I'll be doing some Christmas shopping!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What's Wrong with This Lineup?

Is anyone else terribly disturbed by this lineup of headlines? I mean, is the Mom and Pop Lohan divorce really on par with Endeavour's abdominal gash news-wise?

Now, I grant you, the meteor shower peak is technically not life-threatening or some other earth-shaking news either. However, it is really interesting to me and I probably wouldn't have just scheduled to drag everyone out of bed at 5:30 Monday morning if it hadn't been on the front page of the headlines. It's an opportunity on a secular level to study and observe Earth science, and an invitation to wonder at the miraculous creativity of God on a spiritual one.

On the other hand, what benefit is it to humanity - even one person - to learn that the Lohans are almost done getting divorced? I suppose you could say it's good news and a relief for the soon-to-be-no-more Mr. and Mrs. Lohan and possibly Lindsay, but I'm pretty sure they don't need Yahoo to tell them what's going on in their twisted little family dynamic. If they do, someone over at Yahoo needs to post this advice: seek help immediately, and focus on learning some communication skills!

As for society as a whole out here in cyberland, I think a serious reconsideration of what is truly newsworthy in our world of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons; ongoing wars that people have trouble justifying; and governments the world over that regularly strip people of their basic human dignity. When was the last time you saw a headline on any mainstream site about the horrendous treatment of the African refugees in Italy? What about all the dangers inherent in so many of today's new prescription drugs that drug companies and lobbyists cover up? How about some good, old-fashioned, real news, Yahoo (and any other outlet responsible for informing the world at large)?

Friday, August 10, 2007

I'm My Own Grandpa...Or Am I My Cousin?

My creationist, young-earth zealot side got all excited when I saw Fossils challenge old evoluton theory while browsing the headlines at Yahoo.? The heady exhilaration of vindication of my beliefs had already begun by the time I?even started reading the article.? Pity though: it didn't last long.

It appears that two great-grannies way back there before the big thaw?were sisters or cousins?rather than mother-daughter?like evolutionists have taught for decades.? Seems the homo-family tree is actually more like an oak than a palm.? Seems to make sense considering that's what modern family trees look like.?

I mean, let's think about this for a minute.? I did a paper on cheetahs as a young student.? I learned from my research that the cheetah is an endangered species because of bottle-necking genealogy.?

Laws prevent first cousins from marriage because of the effects of such reproduction.? Yet for decades, evolutionists would have us believe that our family tree followed the "iconic" (per article author Seth?Borenstein) straight-line ancestry from Ape-GrandPapa to I-Need-a-Chiropractor-Pops to Straight-and-Tall-Dad over the course of history.?

Why does Borenstein call our palm-family-portrait iconic?? According to The Free Dictionary, an icon is "An important and enduring symbol."? It is precisely because it is the most important and enduring symbol of the evolutionary agenda (propaganda?) that it is so iconic.? In the early days of the push, sensible, God-fearing people just couldn't connect what Darwin and others were purporting with what they saw all around them in their fellow homo sapiens.? So, what do you do when people just don't get it?? Draw it out for them.? It's like a flip-animation strip all lined out in sequential order for us.

The problem is this: the bottle-necking reproduction leads to anomalies, mutations, and defects that leave the cheetahs endangered, and evolution propagandizes that we are all descended from great-great-great-GrandmaProtazoa - even the cheetahs.? Common, basic logic and deductive reasoning impose the conclusion that the same linear propagation can only lead to the same results in the descendant human population.? Yet somehow, the current population of our species is at a staggering 6.6 billion.? Doesn't sound very endangered to me.

So does logic insist that I buy the new "wayward bush" family tree theory?? Study this diagram of "evolutionary proof specimens" and figure it out for yourself.

News Alert: Interaction, Not DVDs Make Smart Babies

Want your own little Einstein?? Well, don't plop him in front of Little Einsteins before age 17 months.

"But," you gasp, "little Superman will already be so far into his linguistic development by then! ?I was going to start his third language at 18 months!? How ever will I make him into the true genius I just know he will be one day soon?"

Here's the kicker, Mother Superior: interact with your baby.? According to a study just published in the Journal of Pediatrics, present-human interaction (meaning interaction with a human that is present with the baby and not one depicted on a television screen)?will benefit baby more because of the adult adjustments of speech, eye-contact, and body language to baby's reactions.? This is something mothers and grandmothers have known since the dawn of television.? I saw it in Spanish on a bumper sticker just the other day: "I am my child's first and best teacher."

Now, this isn't to say that today's teachers are under-par.? It means that the person a child spends the majority of the most formative years (ages birth to seven) of his or her life with will impart more knowledge, social skills, and wisdom to the child than anyone else in that child's life.? It means that while modern man has invented numerous devices and appliances to make life more convenient, no invention can ever replace the innate value of human,?t?te ? t?te?interaction.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

No More Summer Dain-Bramage!

Here's a scary quote for ya: "Research shows that students lose an average of one month of learning over the summer break."

Yikes! No wonder it takes thirteen years for kids to go through school. I'm looking at a program to help my kids keep the brains alert during the summer using an innovative tutor for next year. Brandon and Sarah love to learn, but sometimes figuring out what do to keep that up is hard.

This program takes care of that for me.

Yippee, now Mom can take a summer vacation too without worrying about the kids going dopey!

Name's 4Real, Mate

Okay, I know you're not going to believe this, but there is a child on this planet named Superman Wheaton. It gets worse: his parents have Superman on the birth certificate, but will be calling him 4Real. Yes, 4Real - that's spelled correctly.

So why didn't they just put 4Real on the birth certificate? The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages in their home of New Zealand rejected the name because a name "had to be a sequence of characters" according to the unnamed registrar interviewed for the newstory over at Yahoo.

I know it's killing you, so I'll tell you. They decided to name the baby 4Real after seeing the first sonogram and coming to the realization that their baby was....well, for real.

You know, some things are just so weird no one could have made it up.? There's another epiphany here: some people just should really not have kids.

I can appreciate wanting to give your child a unique name, really I do. But there are limits imposed by common sense and any feeling of love or compassion for a child. I mean, it's hard enough to go through elementary school with a normal name, but what will little 4Real have to deal with? And who of us that goes by their middles names can remember the humiliation of being called by their first name as the teacher calls roll on the first day of school? What will he feel when Teacher calls out with all sincerity (albeit twinged with disbelief and confusion), "Superman?"

Are Pat and Sheena Wheaton unfit parents? Are they devoid of love and compassion? I daresay absolutely not. I imagine they are much like other first-time parents - enamored, mushy, ever-present and ever-caring of their little wonder. I would say that they are young, impetuous, and probably not possessing of much foresight. Thankfully, these are things that can change, and drastically - and quickly, with imposition.

I just hope for two-month-old 4Real's sake that they change before he learns his name.

Cinderella's Second Honeymoon

Our honeymoon consisted of spending the night in the Fairfield Inn not far from our apartment.? As we approach ten years of marriage, Michael has been thinking of doing something "big" for our tenth anniversary.? He's mentioned week-long cruises, cross-country trips, and the such.? I'm thinking?Kauai vacation rentals?after looking at this website that allows you to rent places from the owners.?

The house listed in Kauai is more than twice our home's size, has not one, but two California-King beds, and a hot tub.? And, there's an opportunity to have someone else clean the 2500-square-foot expanse of pecan hardwood floors!?

?Suddenly, my fear of flying seems to be going away...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Seven Warning Signs of a Bad Boss

Jokes about bad bosses aren't made up just because they're so funny - they're so funny because they're so relatable.? When you're analyzing your effectiveness as a manager, knowing the warning signs of a bad boss will save your company a lot of money, dignity, and employees.? It could also save your job.? In today's world of relational values, bosses that keep employees happy and feeling valued climb the corporate ladder at an exponentially faster pace than their tyrant counterparts.? While there other possible contributing factors to some of these warning signs, do not underestimate the impact of your management style.


High employee turnover

One of the most prominent red flags is high turnover.? Workers stay where they feel valued and appreciated.? A supervisor that rarely gives compliments or is difficult to come to with problems will leave employees with the proverbial bad taste in their mouths.? Long, drawn-out lectures over mistakes also lead staff members to seek a more friendly work environment.



While many would never think of using profanity, it has nevertheless become an issue.? In attempts at creating a more ?open? workplace, profanity is finding its way into the offices of America.? However, there is still a concurrence that profanity is not professional; and professional is what your employees want.? Even if it's only when there's a problem, profanity will lessen the outcome for which you're aiming.


Dropping Revenues

One of the most overlooked warning signs is company revenue.? Lower production from discouraged employees translates to lower sales volume and income for the company.? Poor management is not the only contributing factor to decreasing revenues however, so look into the other warning signs if you suspect you may need some improvement.


Losing Clients or Customers

Believe it or not, your clients and customers can feel the relationship between you and your team.? Even if they don?t see you interacting with them, your comments about those you work with tell a great deal.? People like to work with highly ethical, integrity-based companies.? If clients and customers are going elsewhere, consider what impression you?ve given them of your supervisor/employee relationship.


Lower Bonus Payouts

Bonuses can be another often-overlooked indicator.? If employees are unhappy, they won't work as hard to make bonuses.? Lower bonus payouts can be a helpful clue to the bad boss analysis.? Review your bonus requirements ? are they hard to meet?? While standards should be high, so should motivation and help for your staff members to meet them.


More Work-related Injuries

Work-related injuries can also point to a lower sense of satisfaction among the workers.? It has become common knowledge that stress adversely affects the ability to focus.? Distracted employees are frequently clumsy employees, which can be fatal in some workplaces.? Anger and frustration can also lead to injury.? If your team members don?t feel they have a voice, it can often end up exploding in a potentially harmful outburst.


More Sick Time Used

The mixed-up weather may not necessarily be to blame for all those summer colds going around.? The medical community has revealed that stress levels compromise the immune system, making it easier to get sick and harder to get well again.? Missing work from illness creates yet more stress for employees with the catch-up work to do and a relentless cycle is begun.? Observe the patterns in the call-in logs to catch this sign.

You may have noticed a pattern in these warning signs.? Most of them point to the relationship you have with your employees.? Offices of yesteryear may have tolerated and even encouraged a tyrannical, iron-fisted rule, but today?s societal mores require a more relationally-based approach to management.? Carefully consider your management style and look for these warning signs.? If you recognize more than two or three of them in yourself, seriously consider becoming a better boss.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Blonde Ambition

A lawyer and a blonde are sitting next to each other on a long flight from LA to NY. The lawyer leans over to her and asks if she would like to play a fun game. The blonde just wants to take a nap, so she politely declines and rolls over to the window to catch a few winks.

The lawyer persists and explains that the game is really easy and a lot of fun. He explains" I ask you a question, and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and vice-versa." Again, she politely declines and tries to get some sleep.

The lawyer, now somewhat agitated, says, "Okay, if you don't know the answer you pay me $5, and if I don't know the answer, I will pay you $500," figuring that since she is a blonde that he will easily win the match. This catches the blonde's attention and, figuring that there will be no end to this torment unless she plays, agrees to the game.

The lawyer asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" The blonde doesn't say a word, reaches in to her purse, pulls out a five dollar bill and hands it to the lawyer. Now, it's the blonde's turn.

She asks the lawyer: "What goes up a hill with three legs, and comes down with four?" The lawyer looks at her with a puzzled look. He takes out his laptop computer and searches all his references. He taps into the Air phone with his modem and searches the Net and the Library of Congress.

Frustrated, he sends E-mails to all his coworkers and friends he knows. After over an hour, he wakes the blonde and hands her $500. The blonde politely takes the $500 and turns away to get back to sleep.

The lawyer, who is more than a little miffed, wakes the blonde and asks, "Well, so what IS the answer!?" Without a word, the blonde reaches into her purse, hands the lawyer $5, and goes back to sleep!

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Urgent Prayers Needed!

Please pray for the victims, survivors and rescue workers in the Minnesota bridge collapse.?

For those that don't know, an entire span of bridge over the Mississippi river collapsed at 6:10pm CT this evening (Wednesday, August 1).? There are three confirmed death so far (8:45pm CT).?

There was also a school bus with children on it.? An eye witness that was next to the bus helped the children off and they are okay.? They were aged 8-12, he guessed.? Please pray for these children as they cope with the trauma.

Three Steps to Being a Better Boss

There's an old joke that goes something like this: The boss is finally old enough to retire from the company. On his last day of work, he ordered a farewell party for himself. The boss wanted everyone to express their good feeling about him by writing on the farewell card, so later he could remember how his staff "miss" him. Most people are writing standard phrases like, "Without you, the company will never be the same," "We will always remember you," etc.

Obviously the boss was not satisfied. "I need something from the bottom of your heart, something really touching, you know. Okay, John, you have been working with me for the last 20 years. You are my best staff. I am retiring now. What do you have to say?"

Slowly but firmly, John wrote, "The best news in 20 years."

Are you this kind of boss?? When you leave, will your employees breathe a sigh of relief?? The company suffers from a manager like this.? High employee turnover raises costs with paperwork, drug tests and advertising for new employees.? Production suffers because morale is low, which affects energy and quality of work.? Money is lost hand over fist when unethical procedures are discovered and fines are levied.

Analyze Your?Method?

If you're a manager or otherwise have the title of "Boss" you need to take a very close look at how you manage your work and your employees.? What will they say about you when you leave?? Will you even have someone there that's worked for you for 20 years??

Take stock of your team.? High turnover is a glaring red flag that something's wrong.? Survey your workers - do they feel valued and appreciated?? Do they sigh when you say you need to talk to them?? When an issue arises, how do you act?? Do your employees have to endure a diatribe for every mistake?? Is profanity used in the workplace?? Are your team members reluctant to come to you when something happens or they need advice?

Look at your bottom line.? Have revenues been dropping?? Are you losing clients or customers?? Bonuses can be an often-overlooked indicator.? If employees are unhappy, they won't work as hard to make bonuses.? Lower bonus payouts can be a helpful clue.? Work-related injuries can also point to a lower sense of satisfaction among the workers.? Have you noticed an increase in sick time used?? It's not necessarily the weather, boss.

The First Step

So you've asked the questions, and the answers were less than satisfactory.? How do you reverse the trend?? First off, you must decide if you truly will change your methods.? Do not proceed unless you plan to see your plan through to completion.? It is worse to begin to improve and then revert than to never have started.? It will harm you even more.? Your employees will get their hopes up when they see you start to do better.?It is a crushing blow not only to your workers, but to your business if you go back to your old ways once you set off on the trail of good management.

The Hardest Step?

Once you've decided to embark on the path of the better boss, have a couple of meetings.? The first will be with your supervisors or management team, then you'll meet with everyone.? This will be the hardest step for you: apologize.? Smooth the way by letting your employees know that you've realized the error of your ways.? You will gain credibility and respect, and morale and cooperation will be increased tenfold with that one simple (but difficult) step.? Be warned, however, that a false apology will garner you more trouble than it's worth, and don't think you're that good of an actor.? If you were, you'd be in Hollywood.? Make sure you mean it.

Continue the meeting by laying out the game plan.? Tell them specifically how you're going to improve, and set up a system of checks and balances.? Find some way to make yourself accountable to your team.? Code words or signals can be helpful.

Now go out and be a good boss!

Almost There

You may think you're now the world's best boss.? Don't let your ego get in the way of true improvement.? While a system of checks and balances is good, you must follow up.? Check in with your team and ask them how you're doing.? Review is good for the soul.? Don't discredit the value of analysis.? Plan for a meeting every six months or after a particularly hard or stressful project.? Time and stress can weaken the greatest efforts without our even realizing it.? Be honest and encourage the same in the people with whom you're meeting.? If you've messed up, admit it, apologize for it, and move on.

Enjoy Your Success

With a tougher job market, higher employee turnover, and career-hopping running rampant in today's workforce, a great boss is an invaluable asset to any company.? The skills to keep morale and production high and turnover low will garner great bonuses, a higher salary, and improve your chances for promotion.? Higher ups look for managers that can handle people well, and in today's drive-through society, you'll stand out as a rare commodity.? Follow these steps and watch everything improve, from your bottom line to the production line.? And avoid getting told that your leaving is the "best news in 20 years!"

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Managing the Mortgage Maze

Most everyone has a mortgage.? Most everyone else wants one.

Well, they don't really want a mortgage, but they want the house that goes with it.

The problem is that?when it comes to mortgages, most people don't have a clue where to start.? Well, let me help in that department.? I live in Texas, so I'll start at home.? Texas mortgages are a snap at Personal?Home Loan Mortgages.? You can find mortgage brokers, title companies, and real estate brokers listed, as well as housing statistics.? An informed consumer is a smart consumer, and you'll ace the mortgage test if you start studying here.

You can also find the same listings for specific cities in your chosen state.? And not just the wimpy major-metropolitan-area cities, either.? Even my beloved Tyler is listed for Texas!

Don't live in Texas?? No problem.? Wanna check out Colorado? Colorado Mortgages?are just as easy.? I just better not let Michael see the listings for Elizabeth.? Who knew there was an Elizabeth, Colorado???

There are mortgage calculators (can you really afford that spacious estate?), top headlines about mortgages (did you know there is actually mortgage news?), and a mortgage watch newsletter you can sign up to receive.? There's also a glossary for the mortgage-ignorant and a quick application for those ready to move into that spacious estate.

Before you step into the maze of mortgages out there, make sure you visit the mortgage mavens at Personal?Home Loan Mortgages.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Listen Closely in Vienna

A daring vacationer in Vienna is walking through a graveyard when all of a sudden she hears music. No one is around, so she starts looking to see where it's coming from.

She finally locates the source and finds it is coming from a grave with a headstone that reads, a oeLudwig van Beethoven.a

Then she realizes that the music is the Ninth Symphony and it is being played backward. Puzzled, she leaves the graveyard and persuades a friend to return with her.

By the time they arrive back at the grave, the music has changed. This time it is the Seventh Symphony, but it is also being played backward.

Curious, the ladies agree to consult a music scholar. When they return with the expert, the Fifth Symphony is playing and the expert concludes that the symphonies are in fact being played in reverse order.

By the next day the word spread and a huge group gathered around the grave to hear the Second Symphony being played backward. Just then the graveyard's caretaker approaches the group. Someone in the crowd asks him if he has an explanation for the music.

"Oh, it's nothing to worry about" says the caretaker. "He's just decomposing!!"

Friday, July 27, 2007

My Right-Hand Man

I've suffered from joint pain since childhood that we've never been able to diagnose.? When an episode occurs, all the joints along one limb hurt and I get the urge to constantly stretch and "pop" the joints.? Usually the only thing that helps alleviate the pain is a scalding hot shower or bath.? I'd tried Ben-Gay years ago and the stinging and smell made me swear it off forever.? I'd also experimented with a slew of other "cures," from medications to nutrition and nothing seemed to work.? So, summer or winter, home or away, I resigned myself to having to live with the pain or stripping down and getting in the tub to get rid of it.

I'm now happy to quote Madame Blueberry: "No more!"

I recieved some samples of Freeze It, a topical pain relief gel, in the mail about a week and a half ago.? I put it on the desk?with the thought that I ought to try it the next time I had an episode, then proceeded to have no pain for a week! Ah well, such is life.?

As expected, the pain struck Tuesday night (the bouts have been hitting frequently lately) along my right arm.? That's not good considering I'm right-handed.? I got a hand towel from the bathroom to get ready for the slime fest and set about going through another disappointing trial.

The first surprise came when I opened the packet - it was a green gel.? I'm not sure what I was expecting and I shouldn't have been surprised when it says plainly on the packaging that it's a gel, but there you have it.? As I applied the Freeze It, I was relieved to find that the smell reminded me of vapor-rub (a comforting scent for me) and not the hideous Ben-Gay smell.? Michael said he thought I had put on some Off from across the room.? The smell did go away within about 15-20 minutes, so I don't consider it a drawback.

It rubbed in easily, and I could tell how much and where I was applying the Freeze It?because of the color. Within minutes, I had free range of motion and lost the urge to stretch constantly.? As it really started to penetrate the skin and take effect, I could feel it working, but it wasn't that unbearable stinging of the other creames that always resulted in my washing it off.? The Freeze It?also didn't get torturously hot like Ben-Gay.? I actually had Michael feeling my arms because you can't tell you have it on your skin!

At a cost of 9.99 for a four-ounce tube,?Freeze It is worth every penny for the relief of my joint pain!? There's also a three-ounce roll-on bottle, which is great for those of you who don't want to get any on their hands.? When you take everything into consideration and then add the fact that I can get it during my next visit to Wal*Mart (which I'll be doing), Freeze It?is my new right-hand (left hand, right leg, left leg) man!

Texas Teacher Journals Summer of Mission Work in Italy

Most teachers take the summer off, just relaxing and doing nothing. One teacher here in Mineola has taken the teacher's road less traveled by doing something. But Julie Erb didn't do just anything - she taught all summer. While this says much of her passion for teaching, when you hear the story, you'll see that it says much more of her passion for God's forgotten children. Julie, a first-grade teacher at Mineola Primary School, spent the summer in Italy teaching Eritrean refugees of God's unfailing love for them.

Julie's parents, Susan and Geoff Pennock, had spent most of the time from September to November 2005 sharing the gospel and passing out religious books in Italy. While there, they came upon a park in Bari full of refugees from Eritrea, in Africa. These young people fled their country to escape being forced to fight and kill their countrymen. After a grueling journey to Italy in which many died, the refugees were left homeless, without documentation, and unable to find work, homes, or even dignity. Susan and Geoff returned home at the end of March for a six-month stay, but couldn't forget the bright young men and women that had left universities and studies for park benches and homelessness back in Bari Park. When they announced their plans to return to Lecce, Julie began planning to leave as soon as possible to help. She began by contacting The Live it Foundation, a nonprofit corporation in Bell County, Texas that the Pennocks had been working with during their stay in Italy. They named the project CIAO, for "Caring Individuals Aiding Others." The Live it Foundation set up a blog for Julie to share her experiences, as well as an avenue for people to donate to the cause of the Eritrean refugees.

When she got to Rome, Julie discovered an abandoned building with over 400 people living in "deplorable" conditions. She reports in her post of June 17, "There are seven floors. Two bathrooms per floor. Cold water. Electricity only if someone can rig something up. Seven or more people per room. They sleep in shifts, I was told. But one person told me that more and more people are so discouraged and depressed that they just sleep all day and night." The majority of the refugees are from the countries of Eritrea and Ethiopia. The two countries have been at war with each other since 1961. Eritrea declared its independence in 1991, but war broke out again in 1998. Each child, male or female, must join the Eritrean army in the 6th or 7th grade. Many flee having to join the "killing forces" by crossing the Libyan dessert, then sailing across the Mediterranean Sea. The refugees tell stories of 34 people packed in a small car crossing the dessert, and tiny plastic boats overflowing with people crossing the sea with no food and no water.

According to the refugees, upon entering Italy, they are fingerprinted and registered, for which the Italian government receives money from the United Nations to help them. Julie shares what she has been told by the refugees: "After being fingerprinted, the people are housed in refugee camps for a short time. Then they are turned out to "live" in Italy for different lengths of time, depending upon what their paperwork says. For some, they only get permission to stay in the country for eight or fifteen days." Most refugees arrive without documentation, which means they cannot work or find housing. Some escape to other countries, and even find work and live well, until they are discovered and sent back to Italy, where they were originally registered. There they are registered again in Rome and given 30 Euros for train fare back to the refugee camp, only to be subsequently put back on the streets again. In each city they enter, they must register with the local police. If they do not have paperwork, they cannot register, so they are sent back to Rome, where they have to begin the process again. The refugees believe that the Italian government receives money from the United Nations for each day one of them is in Italy.

Julie has spent her summer trying to help these refugees break this cycle of unethical "help" and to find their lives again. She is also teaching them, and the Italians, that "Jesus loves me, too!" Shirts bearing the message in Italian are handed out to the refugees, as well as food, water, Bibles, and Christian literature. She, Susan, and Geoff also pass out Bibles and Christian literature to anyone that will take them on the streets of Italy. They take every opportunity to teach others about Jesus' love and sacrifice for them. Much money is needed for this work, so the Live It Foundation that named the CIAO mission project has set up a CafePress online store to sell the "CIAO, Jesus loves me, too" shirts. Donors can also mail checks to Live it Foundation, Inc., c/o Treasurer, 335 Schrader Road, Killeen, TX 76542, or give via PayPal.

Those that know Julie are familiar with her compassion, caring, and eloquence. To many of us, this trip came as no surprise. To so many others in our town, it is just now coming to their attention, thanks to the ad published in the Mineola Monitor on June 27. Her journal at has provided many faces to the tragedy of the refugees. There are stories that will make you cry in pity, some that will make you angry at injustice, and still others that will make you praise God for His wondrous works. While Julie is returning home soon, Susan and Geoff will stay on, continuing the work. Julie promises to continue posting updates to the blog as she receives them from the Pennocks. The Live it Foundation will also continue to take donations. For anyone that thinks the Paris Hilton jail saga is big news, go read the CIAO blog to read the real news.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Beethoven Meets Baseball

The Boston Symphony was performing Beethoven's Ninth. In the piece, there's a long passage about 20 minutes during which the bass violinists have nothing to do. Rather than sit around the whole time looking stupid, some bassists decided to sneak offstage and go to the tavern next door for a quick one.

After slamming several beers in quick succession, one of them looked at his watch. "Hey! We need to get back!"

"No need to panic," said a fellow bassist, "I thought we might need some extra time, so I tied the last few pages of the conductor's score together with string. It'll take him a few minutes to get it untangled."

A few moments later they staggered back to the concert hall and took their places in the orchestra. About this time, a member of the audience noticed the conductor seemed a bit edgy and said as much to her companion.

"Well, of course," said her companion, "Don't you see? It's the bottom of the Ninth, the score is tied, and the bassists are loaded."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

America Described

"Welcome to America, where everything is made somewhere else."

-Michael Arcand commenting on emigrants being given small American flags made in Korea

Sunday, July 22, 2007

'Let It Be' for the Computer Age

When I find my code in tons of trouble,
Friends and colleagues come to me,
Speaking words of wisdom:
Write in C.

As the deadline fast approaches,
And bugs are all that I can see,
Somewhere, someone whispers:
Write in C.

Write in C, write in C,
Write in C, oh, write in C.
LOGO's dead and buried,
Write in C.

I used to write a lot of FORTRAN,
For science it worked flawlessly.
Try using it for graphics!
Write in C.

If you've just spent nearly 30 hours,
Debugging some assembly,
Soon you will be glad to
Write in C.

Write in C, Write in C,
Write in C, yeah, Write in C.
BASIC's not the answer.
Write in C.

Write in C, Write in C
Write in C, oh, Write in C.
Pascal won't quite cut it.
Write in C.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm Off to My Sleeping House...

I was in the backyard hanging the laundry when an old, tired-looking dog wandered into the yard. I could tell from his collar and well-fed belly that he had a home. But when I walked into the house, he followed me, sauntered down the hall and fell asleep in a corner. An hour later, he went to the door, and I let him out. The next day he was back. He resumed his position in the hallway and slept for an hour.

This continued for several weeks. Curious, I pinned a note to his collar:

"Every afternoon your dog comes to my house for a nap. "

The next day the dog arrived with a different note pinned to his collar:

"He lives in a home with 10 children - he's trying to catch up on his sleep."

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Something Wicked This Way Comes...

Recently one of my friends, a computer wizard, paid me a visit. As we were talking I mentioned that I had recently installed Windows on my PC, I told him how happy I was with this operating system and showed him the Windows CD. Too my astonishment and distress he threw it into my micro-wave oven and turned it on. I was upset because the CD had become precious to me, but he said 'Do not worry, it is unharmed.'

After a few minutes he took the CD out, gave it to me and said 'Take a close look at it.' To my surprise the CD was quite cold and it seemed to have become thicker and heavier than before. At first I could not see anything, but on the inner edge of the central hole I saw an inscription, in lines finer than anything I have ever seen before. The inscription shone piercingly bright, and yet remote, as if out of a great depth:

4F6E65204F5320746F2072756C65207468656D20616C6C2C 204F6E65204F5320746F2066696E64207468656D2C0D0A4F 6E65204F5320746F206272696E67207468656D20616C6C20 616E6420696E20746865206461726B6E6573732062696E64 207468656D

'I cannot read the fiery letters,' I said.

'No,' he said, 'but I can. The letters are Hex, of an ancient mode, but the language is that of Microsoft, which I shall not utter here. But in common English this is what it says"

'One OS to rule them all, One OS to find them, One OS to bring them all and in the darkness bind them...."

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Wonderful Idea

So please, oh PLEASE, we beg, we pray
Go throw your TV set away
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.

From Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Friday, July 6, 2007

What Does Your Fellowship Look Like?

"It doesn't bother the world that we sin; it bothers the world that we act like we don't...and it hurts our fellowship."

-Mark Hall, singer for Casting Crowns

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Unheard Voice

One of my writing prompts today was to "write about a voice." Here's what I think.

There is a collective voice of silenced, desperate souls crying out for rescue, dignity, and life. It is the voice of the Eritrean refugees trapped in Italy. They risked their lives crossing the Sahara, fleeing from Libyan traffickers, and sailing the Mediterranean Sea, only to land in Italy to begin a merry-go-round nightmare of processing and registration. Being fingerprinted and registered, they are place in refugee camps temporarily before they are set out onto the street.

Those that made the trip with documentation intact find jobs and move on with their lives. Those that barely arrived with their lives, let alone anything else wander lost throughout the city, looking for work, food, a home, some semblance of human dignity. Sadly, they don't find it - they have been stripped of all humanity. They are nameless, homeless, outcasts that aren't to be touched by the "real people" that surround them.

They are illegal and leprous in their social effect. None dare help them for fear of retribution. They are immediately reported, arrested, sent back to Rome, re-fingerprinted, re-registered, re-dehumanized. There is no breaking their tortured cycle of unwanted-ness. The Italian government will not help them, but does not allow them to leave because they are paid by the United Nations each time they are registered again. The Eritrean refugees in Italy have become the government's own little human trafficking sideline.

There's a voice crying out in the dark streets of Rome - do you hear it? And do you have the courage to help them? Go to to read the stories, see the faces, and donate to give the voices a sound and the hearts a hope.
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