Saturday, December 31

Another Recipe

This recipe I unabashedly stole from Pearls, Handcuffs, & Happy Hour. (Is that not the coolest name ever for a blog?!)

Chicken Enchilada Pasta sounded too good to pass up and it tasted just as awesome as it sounded! The fact that it is quick to throw together, freezes well and is cheap to make didn't hurt either.  :0)

I won't copy the recipe here, since you should really go to PH&HH's site to see her beautiful pictures, but I will give you my recipe notes:

  •  I used homemade enchilada sauce, and highly recommend you do the same. It takes 15 min to make, is cheap and extremely healthy for you.
  •  I subbed plain greek yogurt for the sour cream and was quite happy with the result.
  • This is one of those recipes that's even better the next day so make enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day. Also, if you're making your own enchilada sauce, double or triple the batch so you can stash a batch of this in the freezer for a quick meal solution on a busy day!
  • Living Gluten Free? Serve over GF pasta and you're good to go! Can't find a GF enchilada sauce? Use the recipe below - just sub your favorite starch slurry for the flour to thicken it up.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce

2 cloves garlic, diced
3 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 cup chili powder
2 cups broth (chicken and beef work equally well)
15 oz tomato sauce
1/2 tsp salt

Sauté garlic in oil. Stir in flour; whisk consistently 1 min. Stir in chili powder. Gradually stir in remaining. Simmer 15 minutes to reduce. Enjoy!

Friday, December 30

Unusual Appetizers

Even though I know they're good for me, I'm not much of a banana fan. The texture makes me want to gag, but I fare a little better when they're cooked. My husband, on the other hand, loves bananas, so when I saw Bacon-Banana Treats in a cookbook recently, I knew we had to try them.

They were fast and easy to put together, and quite yummy. I still couldn't do more than two because of the texture, but these are versatile enough that I think they'd be a great option for a party and equally appropriate for a fancy brunch.

The recipe notes suggest you can the same with fresh - but not canned - pineapple. As always, I suggest using nitrate-free bacon if at all possible.

Bacon Banana Treats

2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp grainy dark mustard
salt & pepper to taste
2 ripe but firm bananas
8 slices of bacon, cut in half

In a medium bowl, whisk together lemon juice, mustard, salt and pepper until thickened. Cut each banana crosswise into 8 rounds, add the rounds to the marinade, stir gently to coat and let stand about 15 minutes

Meanwhile, fry the bacon in a large skillet over moderate heat until half-cooked and drain on paper towels.

Preheat the over broiler.

Wrap each banana in a piece of bacon and secure with a toothpick soaked in water. Place on the rack of a broiler pan and broil 4 inches from the heat until bacon is crisp, 5 to 6 minutes, turning once. Serve hot or at room temperature. 

Thursday, December 29

Let Them Eat Cake

Food is a big deal in our house, and we maintain consistently healthy eating habits. In the two weeks leading up to Christmas, however, we gave ourselves over to indulgence in celebration of my husband being home to participate in the holiday festivities.

Now that Christmas is over, we're happily back to our steady diet of real food. Between debauchery and being back to my normal habit of constantly expanding my real-food cookbook, I've got lots of great recipes to share!

Today I'd like to share two favorites: Black Bean Cake and Pesto Rounds.

I believe I've shared the cake before, but couldn't find the post so either it's well buried or I just hallucinated posting it. (It's been known to happen.) You may have seen this cake other places, but if you haven't tried it yet you must - asap! It is an incredibly simple recipe (GF too!), high in nutritional value and decadent to eat. (No one will know it's good for them if you don't tell.) You can dust the top with powdered sugar, but I throw my favorite buttercream frosting on top and love it! If you throw frosting on top, feel free to reduce the amount of sugar in the cake itself. (I used half the suggested amount and subbed honey and it was perfect.)

The other recipe I encountered at my godparents' Christmas party - Pesto Rounds! (Sorry, no pictures - I was too busy licking my fingers!)

These are quick, easy and impressive. Slice thin baguettes into rounds and top with a tablespoon of warm pesto (homemade or your favorite brand). Place a thin slice of Brie cheese atop the pesto and finish off with a sun dried tomato. Line the rounds up on a cookie sheet and pop in the oven just long enough for the cheese to melt. Slide onto a platter and watch people gobble them up! (You can definitely make these ahead, store them in the fridge and bake as needed.)

Both of these recipes have made their way into my recipe collection. What recipes did you pick up this holiday season?

Wednesday, December 28

Post Christmas Wrap-Up

Back in my catering days, my team and I always scheduled time to review the events of week and compare notes. We celebrated all that had gone well and examined things that hadn't gone smoothly for ways to do better next time.

This week, I've felt compelled to do the same kind of review on Christmas. We rarely "do" Christmas here, since my husband is usually deployed this season. Having him home put an entirely different spin on things and has given me a lot to think about.

The science of positive psychology tells us that reflecting on good experiences is emotionally and physically healthy; it actually makes us stronger. Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, taking note of the less-than-great experiences as well can go a long way towards helping us avoid them next year.

So this week, I'd like to encourage you to take a few minutes to sit down with a steaming mug of your favorite coffee (or coffee alternative), grab your laptop or a pen and think about the last couple weeks. (If you do, leave me a comment! I'd love to hear what you come up with.)

Here are a few things that popped up in my post-holiday assessment:

  • Stock up on holiday goodies now. There's very little I'd like to be doing less than shopping right now, but there's no denying that this is the best time of year to get holiday themed stuff for dirt cheap. From wrapping paper and stocking stuffers to half-priced holiday scented candles, I can do myself a huge favor by heading out now and snagging all the things I know I'll need next year to stash in a closet so next November I can start ahead of the game.
  • Update the gift idea list. Gifts are not one of my love languages, so I really struggle with giving them well. But seeing what people's best loved Christmas gifts were or getting an inside look at their favorite color schemes, coffee brands, candle scents, etc.  during Christmas parties can be a great prompt for me in planning birthday, graduation or wedding gifts that I know I'll need to buy later in the year. Of course, the time to write down those prompts is NOW while it's all still fresh!
  • Start crafting a strategy. While it's not good to dwell on what didn't go well, an honest assessment of rough patches and a little constructive planning can go a long way. What was your biggest challenge? Splitting time between families? A tight budget or too-packed calendar? Start thinking (and talking) to your friends/family now about ways to do things differently next year. [This is especially important if you want to introduce a significant change such as whose family you'll visit or stepping down from a social obligation you've traditionally filled like running the kids' holiday program at your church.]
  • Follow up. In the back-to-regular-life rush of this week, it's important to me to make sure I don't forget to follow up. Email friends or relatives to ask for that great recipe they made for their holiday party (pesto and brie rounds - yum!), send a note telling an out of town friend how wonderful it was to see them, or send simple thank you notes to the people who poured their time and energy into making Christmas special. 
  • Steal good ideas. Every year I struggle to figure out what I'm supposed to bring to $5 gift swaps or as a hostess gift, and every year I see something brilliant that other people have thought of. This year I'm going to be the brilliant one and write them down! (Or, more accurately, start a board on Pinterest to reference next year.) Nerf guns, mini-marshmallow launchers, pocket size flashlights in fun colors and little travel scent packs (for cars or hotel rooms) - next year I won't have to wrack my brain to find the guaranteed popular items!
  • Write a bucket list. Stick it in your planner. Whether you pick things you didn't find the time to do this year or focus on things you did this year and loved best, write yourself a list of must-do activities. (If you have a spouse or kids, be sure to include them in this part!) Then stick it in your planner or calender - early (think July or August). Life doesn't come with guarantees, but this is probably your best shot for making things happen. [If money tends to be the main reason for not doing something, consider stashing an envelope or jar somewhere with the total estimated cost of the activity written on the front and start tucking money away now. You won't miss a few dollars here and there all year, and the payoff at the end will be so worth it!]
What pops up in your post-holiday reflections?

Friday, December 23

A Happy Find

If you think this looks like a pile of fairly nondescript sheets, you're partially correct. But they are so much more than that - these are a sign that there is hope after all!

I have all but given up thrift store shopping in the last few years because our area has an abundance of "consignment shops" but almost no real thrift stores. (That means everything is brand name and sells for half of it's retail price - pretty much the same amount it would cost to get the same stuff brand new somewhere like Target.)

This week, however, I half-heartedly decided to stop and try one more time and came away with unexpected treasure! I got all four of these sheets for $10! 

(Yes, I know.  I'm unreasonably pleased by such a simple success.)

They're all thick and warm, which is perfect because I'm going to use them for quilt batting. I love quilting, and I love that it is at heart a thrifty craft - even if modern day quilters have turned it into an obscenely expensive hobby.

I have a stack of quilt tops I've been avoiding finishing because batting and backing get expensive quickly.  But I decided that if I went with pieced backs, I could use fabric from my stash instead of buying any more, so that kills two birds with one stone. Now that I have a batting layer, I can make some progress! What great finds are you celebrating this week?

Thursday, December 22


If you're looking for something that will open with a bang and keep you up late because you have to know what happens, you just found it! I don't read a lot of fiction, and even less that's directed towards young adults - but this was awesome.

The pacing was perfect - it never dragged or felt rushed. The characters' responses to finding themselves in crazy situations were realistic and age appropriate without being shallow and annoying; that was a rare and much-appreciated bonus.

I usually dock stars for glaring typos and editing glitches, of which there were a few, but everything else about this book was so great that I decided not to this time. For anyone who likes science fiction, comic books, or aliens this series is a must-read! (And really, how can you not like something with chaos right in the title? Lol)

Tuesday, December 20

Books Should Come with a Warning Label

Somehow, while looking for something else, I ran across Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. Even though I'm not reading much fiction these days, I picked it up and figured I'd give it a shot.

(It happens to be by Ransom Riggs who sounded familiar but I couldn't place until I found the note in his bio that he writes for Mental Floss!)

The good news is, the book was amazing. 

The bad news is that - for the second time this year - I have accidentally picked up and loved a book that was the first in a series... a series that is currently a work in progress.


I try very hard to avoid getting into unfinished series because they require patience and attention - one must wait for new books to come out and remember to be paying attention, often a year or more later, when they do.

Yes, I know I can stick a note in my planner and try to forget until then. But it is only fair to point out that my father (also an avid reader - both my parents are) actually had an author die in the middle of writing a wonderful series and was left never knowing what would have happened! How incredibly annoying would that be?! Who wants to take a chance on that?

So, I have a business proposal for book publishers: all books that are part of a as-yet unfinished series should be clearly marked with a big, bright note tell people so.

Not on the book itself, obviously, but on the page and/or the book's website. It can be removed once the series is complete, but in the meantime those of us who agonize over the wait to find out what happens next can choose to bump the book down ten or twelve places on our long reading list and come back to it when we can read the whole thing. If we fail to check the page before picking up the book, the onus is on us, but please give us a chance!

What do you think? Is waiting for the next book in a series a form of unnecessary torment or a delicious anticipation that's a savored part of the reading experience?

Monday, December 19

Operating Budgets: The Controversy

One of the perennially contentious topics in the non-profit world is funding for operational expenses. Let's face it: no one wants to fund staplers, copier ink, building insurance or any of the unglamorous essentials behind the scenes that make every organization run. It's just not as energizing and motivating as chipping in for a shiny new exhibit or jump starting a fantastic new educational program. 

If you're to believe a recent article at the Chronicle of Philanthropy, more grant makers should be called on to make no-strings-attached grants available so that non-profits have funding for whatever they need to spend it on - even if it's something as unexciting as toilet paper or staples.

Believe me when I say that as a grant writer, I know something about the frustration of trying to get an organization fully funded in the face of challenges, partners experiencing budget cuts and the sometimes bafflingly technical minutiae that can snag the money you need or get you ejected from any consideration for the rest of the year.

So I don't say this lightly, but I have to disagree with the notion that there should be lots of capital available for general operating expenses. Certainly there should be some, to help those in a pinch or who need seed capital while they branch out in new directions or transition from one focus to another. But generally speaking, if an organization is (1) valuable to it's community, (2) meeting a genuine need and (3) structured such that it can be viable long term, it should be capable of funding itself.

I have no illusions about the vast amount of restructuring many charities would need to do in order to fit this bill, but I don't think it's unreasonable or unwise to use as a general standard. Many organizations could do with much less in the way of overhead and many would benefit (despite the initial pain) from being forced to re-focus their mission, merge with a rival charity (it boggles my mind that there even ARE rival charities) or live within their means.

We are no less morally responsible for our work as stewards of the resources we have been given when they are those of an organization for which we work/ volunteer than we are when they are our own private resources. Why should we be any less expected to adjust, adapt and humble ourselves to what is needed until we can legitimately build ourselves up to where we want to be?

What do you think? How much operational support should be available in grant money, and how much should organizations be required to provide for themselves?

Saturday, December 17

Love Languages, Learning Styles and Holiday Giving

(This post is prompted by an opinion article that can be found here where two bloggers for major newspapers online argue the costs/ benefits of replacing traditional food drives with cash donations only to anti-hunger charities.)

The more I learn about how people's learning styles and love languages shape the way they interact with the world, the more skeptical I get of articles like the one in Slate magazine arguing that people should simply donate money instead of physically being involved in food, toy and other donation drives to show their support for charities.

The business major in my head completely understands the good intentions of such a request: charities can often get items directly from suppliers for pennies on the dollar, delivered right to their door and sometimes even pre-sorted. Cash also alleviates the headaches of sorting and simplifies distribution.

At the same time, experience proves that for most people donating cash is not at all equivalent in impact or motivational force to participating in a drive. 

For social and kinesthetic learners, it is the interaction and participation itself that makes the donation mean something and builds the connection that motivates them to give. Even visual and auditory learners will find a significantly stronger impact in physically seeing and hearing the people running/ benefiting from the charity and feeling their passion to meet the burning needs of hungry families. No website photos or video clips will ever compare.

In the end, though, it is the love languages that will prevent cash-only from being the wave of the future among successful charities.

I don't usually quote scripture on here, but a verse came to mind that seems highly appropriate here:  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:3)

We can throw all the money we want at charities, but if we do it from behind our computer screen with our credit cards and never really connect we may as well not have bothered.

And if we only give the gift of our money or the item it buys, we have missed so many opportunities to bless and be blessed through the other four love languages! What about: 

The quality time we could have invested in strengthening our families by working together towards a goal, or in sharing a cup of hot cocoa with someone who's lonely and needs a listening ear more than they needed the neatly wrapped package we came to deliver?

The words of kindness and affirmation we could have offered a busy, struggling single parent that mean so much because they come from someone other than a charity worker who's "supposed to" say those kinds of things.

The hugs, handshakes and other little physical touches that come with working together on a project or meeting to celebrate a successful drive that are so important to people who aren't loved on at home.

The simple act of serving one another that has long been proven to change hearts, reorient perspectives and improve the world one interaction at a time.

Whatever you do to give back, at whatever time of year you do it, make a point of doing it in love - even if that means you have to trade it what you've always done for something new or more challenging. It will make all the difference - for you and the world.

Friday, December 16


We don't watch almost any tv and rarely go to the movies, but when I saw the trailer for the new Muppet movie I knew we had to go. We went to a late showing on an off day to avoid any chance of crowds, and I was highly amused to see that the rest of the audience was just like us - adults... with no kids in tow. Unabashedly there just for ourselves.

It was so worth it!! If you don't get out to see this in the theater, make sure you rent it. It was wonderful - well done, funny and nostalgic.

Thursday, December 15

One Thousand Gifts

Months ago now, the (in)Courage book club (Bloom) started reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. 

 Although familiar with her writing from her beautiful blog, A Holy Experience, I opted not to participate at the time because I am on a strict, self-imposed no-book-buying policy right now. (We've maxed out the number of books we can comfortably accommodate in our current space, so all further acquisitions will have to wait since I have a pathological inability to tolerate clutter.)

I put the title on hold at my local library, however, and eventually almost forgot about it since it took so long to come in. Apparently everyone else wanted to read it too!

When I cracked the cover I knew quickly that it was worth the wait. Mrs. Voskamp tackles life's hardest, most painful questions and does it with soul-baring sincerity and grace. She never once slips into pat, easy answers or the empty "faith-speak" of repeating verses as if just hearing them should be sufficient answer.

Choosing to live the mystery that is life and faith, she invites readers along her journey of discovering the power of gratitude and how consistently living it until it sinks into your bones can reshape your entire life.

If you haven't read this beautiful and unique book, snag yourself a copy and try to read it soon - especially if you're the type to make New Years Resolutions. It could very well change your whole perspective on life.

Wednesday, December 14

My Grand TV Debut

Somehow, in a brief moment of insanity, I allowed myself to be talked into going on a local TV show to talk about the museum and our upcoming events. Fortunately, Ann Parillo was amazing and made sure I didn't make a fool of myself. Considering that it didn't turn out half bad, I thought I'd share. :0)

Saturday, December 10

Government & Taxes Are NOT the Answer

When I started reading non-profit and philanthropy books and newsletters my intention was to familiarize myself with trends and topics specific to the industry that I wasn't well versed in.

Instead, I keep finding myself appalled by the opinions and assertions of people who apparently have done little to immerse themselves in the realms of history or finance.

Advocates get up in arms every time Washington looks at budget cuts, yet non-profits allow themselves to remain dependent on government funding to keep their programs running.

Interest groups protest when the government seeks out private business to help keep public resources like State Parks open, but fail to provide realistic alternative options. (More taxes are NOT a viable answer.)

Books about how to do the most good as a non-profit blatantly announce that it is impossible to do well without lobbying the government and advocating nationally or internationally for one's issue. Yet any basic history of charity will quickly prove the opposite is true - the most efficient, effective and quick- to- respond efforts have always been done without the government.

Rather than ranting about how frustrating it is to see people blindly buying whatever line government and media sell, I would like to make a simple request - be skeptical. Truth can stand up to skepticism. In fact, it usually benefits from it, since facing questioning forces people to be clearer and more specific about their facts and makes them more prepared for the next time someone questions them. Lies, on the other hand, will fall apart or ensnare the teller.

Remember: as many far wiser than I have pointed out, we are people not "sheeple".  God gave us brains so that we can use them - not to mindlessly soak in the latest trends or majority polls.

And that ends today's PSA... Thank you for listening.

Do you notice bias towards government dependency in the way news is reported, or is it so common it just seems normal to you?

Friday, December 9

Charities, Class and Conscious Choices

Everybody's seen or heard about the waves PETA makes with their risqué ads at some point or another. I've never been impressed, so I wasn't particularly happy to hear that more charities are taking up their habit of use shock value to get attention.

I was going to write it off as just another example of charities failing to live up to the high standards they were once held to. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided it is actually an example of what happens when you reward the wrong behavior.

Like parents cultivating the habits and behaviors of their children by rewarding the good and purposefully ignoring the fits of child who wants candy in the checkout isle, Americans could choose to ignore uncouth marketing efforts and reward charities that comport themselves respectably with their donation dollars instead.

Marketers of all stripes would stop putting out racy, over-sexualized and vulgar ads if they failed to bring in traffic. God forbid we went so far as to pull current funding from organizations and businesses that run campaigns in bad taste, we'd see a complete clean-up of the market in record time!

This trend toward shock-value marketing says a lot about Americans... and not in a good way. Our youth embrace t-shirts that say "F**k Cancer" and the insanely annoying "I *heart* Boobies" bracelets because we haven't pushed and done the hard, long work in their early years to fight "socialization" trends that break down the concepts of class, good taste and modesty. Adults let the offenses pass, because we can't dredge up the time, energy or
indignation to fight them.

Let's take a stand, shall we? There's no need to cause a scene or to offend anyone at all. Just sift through your life as you live it and intentionally weed out the offensive, the crass and the disrespectful. Before you write a check or lay down your credit to buy something, ask yourself if the company or organization is living by standards and playing by rules that you are proud to be associated with. If the answer isn't a firm yes, walk away. Spend your money elsewhere.

In these tight days, when everyone is looking to stretch their resources - make your money count twice. Once, for the physical good done by the donation and again for the statement it makes about what we want to see our nation be. We can change the world, a dollar at a time. All we have to do is choose to.

Thursday, December 8

Romance Novels & Porn ... Two Sides of a Coin?

I used to read fiction at a fast clip - historical, sci-fi, fantasy, romance - pretty much anything. (Except Harlequins and their ilk. I couldn't get past the poor writing and dry predictability.)

But within a couple years of beginning to date my now-husband, I made the switch to reading largely non-fiction. Being in a real relationship opened my eyes to how terribly skewed a perspective romance novels (of any kind) create in a reader's mind.

With books like Twilight bringing this subject into national public debate in recent years, I've watched with interest as people weigh the pros and cons of fictional romance. Recently, I ran across a very interesting post on this subject written by a smart lady named Mel that is one of the best written and easiest to read I've come across in ages. Take a minute to check it out and let me know what you think.

Do you think romance novels are a woman's equivalent of porn?

Wednesday, December 7

Crispy Honey Lime Tilapia

My husband has returned safely from distant icy shores, and as life begins to fall back into normal rhythms (or as close to normal as we get) I've started cooking proper meals again. As such, hopefully there will be new recipes popping back up among my posts in the near future.

Since the availability of fresh fish can be hit-and-miss around here, I took a chance and grabbed a bag of wild-caught frozen flounder fillets last time I was at BJ's. If the success of this recipe was anything to judge by, they're going to be worth every penny!

(I picked this recipe up from the How Sweet It Is blog.)

Crispy Honey Lime Tilapia
makes 4 filets

4 fresh (or thawed) tilapia filets
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon lime zest
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup flour [I used whole wheat pastry]
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
additional honey + lime zest mixed for drizzling

60 minutes before cooking, season tilapia filets with salt and pepper then lay in a baking dish. In a bowl, combine olive oil, honey, lime juice and zest, and crushed garlic and whisk until combined. Pour over tilapia and let marinate for an hour. Add flour [+ a bit more salt, pepper, and lime zest] to a bowl and set aside.

Heat a cast iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) over medium-high heat and add olive oil. Dredge each piece of tilapia through the flour until you have a very light coating. Making sure the pan is hot, add tilapia to the oil and cook until flaky and crispy on each side – about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove tilapia from pan and let drain on a paper towel for a few minutes. Serve with an additional drizzle of lime + honey.

Jamie's Notes:

I subbed lemon juice because I didn't have any lime, and skipped the zest altogether. I did not drizzle anything over the top, but served straight from the skillet as soon as it was fully cooked through.

In the future, I will marinate the fish a little longer but overall this was great! It was very flavorful, quick to throw together and quite easy.

For a light dinner, serve with a rice pilaf or confetti quinoa. For something a little heartier, pair it with baked corn and noodles (that's what I did, and the contrast of the rich, creamy side with the light entree was perfect).


Tuesday, December 6

The Fastest DIY Ever

Pinterest is possibly one of the best inventions ever. For visual learners like me, it's the best way to organize the millions of bookmarks I collect while hunting for resources either for work or fun.

And while one is on Pinterest, there is a high likelihood of running into awesome ideas you had not thought of but have every intention of stealing. Like this: the DIY Cardigan.

Pioneered by a lovely young woman named Trina on her blog (where I stole this pic from), it is one of the best DIY's I've ever seen. It is literally free!

All she did (as she'll show you if you click on the link and check out her super-simple tutorial), is pull a long sleeved tee out of her closet that she wasn't wearing much and cut the front open. Viola! Instant cardigan.

Why am I passing this on?

Because I tried it over the weekend and am delighted by the results. Instead of getting rid of a long sleeved black tee I rarely wear, I was able to turn it into a perfect, light weight cardigan that I can layer over things which, due to the tee's high neckline, I wasn't able to wear under them.

(If you're really a super-fashionable type, I imagine it wouldn't be hard to grab a tee a couple sizes too big from a thrift store and cut the bottom edge into one of the asymmetrical hemlines that are trendy right now.)

What's your favorite DIY wardrobe trick?

Monday, December 5


Just something to make you smile today. I love Dilbert...

Sunday, December 4

The FDA Can't Help You

As much as I consider the FDA a useless figurehead, puppeteer-ed by Big Food and Big Pharma, I occasionally feel bad for them when I read the news.

The FDA legitimately does a lot of things wrong, but sometimes they find themselves in no-win situations. Consider two recent cases in which the FDA has been petitioned or lambasted: outrage over serious allergic reactions to the meat substitute Quorn attributed to questionable labeling and the revelation of high levels of arsenic and lead in most major apple juice brands.

In the first case, people are petitioning the FDA to force Quorn to change it's labeling practices, since it does not clearly warn of potentially serious reactions in people allergic to eggs or fungus. (After all, who knew imitation chicken nuggets were made of "a vat-grown fungus", right?)

In the second, they face general outrage over the fact that a favorite children's beverage has been poisoning the population and there's little to be done because while there are arsenic and lead limits for bottled water, none exist for fruit juice.

While there's plenty of angles to be debated, I think that these issues take us back to the two fundamental truths of our modern food supply:

1. The FDA Can't Help You. It is simply impossible for them to regulate every little thing, or to physically oversee everything people argue they should be responsible for. With allergies, special medical conditions and new diets developing all the time it's only getting more inconceivable that warning labels could possibly cover everything in any one item.

2. People need (and have a right) to know exactly what they're eating. Obscure, euphemistic labeling practices need to be outlawed. You don't need sixteen warning labels if every ingredient and process (hydrogenation, etc) is clearly labeled on a package. The only reason we need such extensive labeling now is because you can't tell what's in something just by reading the insanely long, obtusely phrased ingredient lists.

Obviously the best way to do this is to buy close to the source, whenever possible. The relationships between buyer and seller keep people honest, and typically create the types of practices that ensure and validate trust. (Like the food companies that voluntarily test their products for safety above and beyond the FDA's regulations and make the results available to customers or the restaurants that post their health inspection results in the front window.)

Buying food in it's whole form, or as close to that as is practical, helps tremendously as well. There are other ways, as well, but they all lead back to the same point: Instead of constantly bashing or petitioning the FDA, we need to retire it. 

It can't help us, and as long as we continue to go around in circles in a broken cycle we only hurt ourselves and our children. So let's make the change. Fire the FDA, burn the books of food law, and start again - this time with an eye to common sense, personal responsibility and essential truth. We can do better. 

Saturday, December 3

Burying the Lead

Do you read something and then go back and read it again, because one little line the author tucked in somewhere makes you go "WHAT?!"

That happens to me surprisingly often, as I have a tendency to read things I don't necessarily agree with. It happened again today in an unexpected place: a very short article on how an NYC woman escaped from two people trying to kidnap her for a sex trafficking ring.

I won't really get into my observations that the couple wasn't very smart, since six hours after she was picked up the woman escaped. Call me crazy, but if you're going to subject someone to a long-term stint of forced prostitution, you should probably have not only a plan but a secure location in which to keep your captives. One would think those would top your list of planning items when starting up such an operation.

More to point, however, was a the following single line from the article:
"The woman told police that a man and a woman approached her as she walked on a street near East New York and stuffed her into a car about 2 a.m. Monday, the sources said."

Now granted, I'm not a city girl but am I the only one who's first thought is "What the h*ll was a twenty year old girl doing walking down the streets of Brooklyn at 2 a.m. by herself?"

I know you're never supposed to blame the victim, but seriously. If you were trying to get kidnapped, raped, murdered or otherwise into a compromising situation, doesn't that seem like a great way to advertise such an intent?

Before you go ranting about how women should be able to do what they want when they want let's just remind ourselves that we all live in real life, okay? Do I think the streets everywhere should be safe for whomever wants to be out, whenever? Yes, of course.

But common sense says it doesn't work that way. I appreciate that common sense is out of vogue these days, but seriously? Just a little would go a long way.

Wednesday, November 30


It is the last official day of November already - how did that happen?!

To make up for my ranting the last two days, I thought I'd pass along something positive and fun today.  :0)

Women of Faith reminded me that observance of traditional Advent began last Sunday, November 27. 

To help families celebrate and keep focus on the true reason for celebration during the busy weeks to come, they're giving away free copies of their ebook  A Family Advent. 

They've also got  a great little Countdown to Christmas page. Every day there's a new gift to be clicked on for a fun surprise - a seasonal thought, holiday trivia, or maybe a contest or a sale . . . something new every day!

If you're up for a little Christmas cheer, check out this great resource over at the WOF blog.

Tuesday, November 29

Outsourcing Oops

A quick survey of modern aviation's most devastating and highly publicized crashes reveals a simple truth: almost all were caused by one of three things.

1. Pilot error
2. Weather
3. Improper maintenance

Of these, I have always considered the third most tragic because it is completely avoidable. Strict guidelines exist for a reason, and failure to abide by them - whether prompted by laziness, incompetence or greed - is blatantly tempting fate.

That being the case, I couldn't decide whether to be appalled or just disgusted at the news that a Boston aircraft mechanic last week noticed that an Air France A340 was missing 30 screws  in an area where the wing and fuselage join.

The plane had just come back from routine maintenance - in China.

With no offense intended to the Chinese people, it's a proven fact that China does not adhere to the same standards, codes and accountability in product production that other nations are held to.

Which begs the question - why do other nations keep outsourcing to them? Are we really so incapable of innovation and manufacturing management that we can't run a business without artificially depressed labor prices? Do we, the public, lack the ability to discipline ourselves enough to say no to toxic toys, poisoned food and other calamities unless and until they begin to dramatically kill us?

I appreciate that costs are rising and budgets are tight, especially now with Christmas soon upon us. But this is quite possibly the best time to make a change. Right now, while we're all focused on "things", money and how they compare to what's truly important. Let's determine now, while there's still time, that in the coming year we'll discipline ourselves to say NO to imported crap and make a conscious effort to really pay attention to what we're doing, buying and tacitly condoning.

Because I don't know about you, but I don't ever want to have to look in the mirror and acknowledge that my laziness or greed caused the kind of catastrophe that our constant outsourcing courts every day. 

Monday, November 28


The better part of a century ago, Albert Einstein stated that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

On the heels of this week's report that two female foreign journalists covering unrest in Egypt were sexually assaulted, then, I can only conclude that the women of modern Western media are certifiably insane.

Is it misguided feminist ideals, blind pride or genuine failure to understand the middle eastern culture that drives women to keep taking assignments that are clearly prescriptions for rape and vicious beatings?

The law has stripped men of their authority to deny women assignments or postings because of their gender, however dangerous or foolish they identify the placement to be. Therefore, it is up to women to show the common sense and grasp on reality necessary to prevent this recurring nightmare.

So where is it?

What twisted sense of logic causes them to sacrifice respect and the potential for continued achievement for convalescent leave and long-term relationships with shrinks, physical therapists and pain killers?

Good leaders clearly see and accept reality; it is the only way they can define reality for others and lead the way through it to something better. If women want to be involved in shaping truth and leading change, they need to open their eyes to reality as it exists now and make their choices accordingly.

I don't mean to sound harsh or unsympathetic - these women suffered painful ordeals. But they were entirely predictable, avoidable ordeals following a clearly established precedent.

Let's stop the cycle. Stop sending female correspondents into chaos zones where they are considered without value and prime targets. Stop pretending it's chauvinism or favoritism or anything but common sense when editors and directors give male journalists the middle eastern assignments. Insanity is a choice - so let's get off the sick cycle carousel for good.

Monday, November 21

New Units of Measure

Strictly for your entertainment, I would like to pass along a great link I picked up off of Rural Revolution.

It seems that a new unit a measure has been invented... The Kardashian (a unit of time 72 days long, in reference of one of them just getting a divorce after only 72 days of marriage).

There is even a Kardashian Calculator that you can use to see how many "kardashians" you have been married.

This, apparently, is what people with too much time on their hands do for fun... Enjoy!

Rabbit Holes & Real Points

An article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy e-newsletter caught my eye, and I couldn't help but comment on it.

Calling All Boomers: Don’t Start More Nonprofits starts with a somewhat startling fact: 12 million baby boomers want to start their own nonprofit or socially oriented business over the next decade.

Although the article gets into a number of issues from there (some valid, some rabbit holes), I felt like both the author and the comments people left missed what should have been the giant red flag waving through the whole thing:  

Current non-profits are failing.

America already has over a million non-profit organizations. Even accounting for those that aren't directly focused on impacting the public good, that still leaves far more organizations already in existence than we can possibly need.
Every non-profit involves overhead. The more NP's we have, the more time, energy and funding we bleed out into overhead that could have been applied directly to the primary causes we're fighting for. 

More importantly, people want to be involved and make a difference - but not with us.

All non-profits seek supporters, donations, volunteers and resources. If there are really millions of people out there actively looking to get involved and they can't find a single place to get on board, something is terribly, terribly wrong.

I'll end here, because if I keep going this post could go on for pages. But I think that it is non-profits, rather than baby boomers, who have the most to take away from that article. The warning signs are here, as is a precious chance: recruit the would-be competition NOW. They don't have to be your headache - they could be your strongest supporters and the next generation of visionary leaders. 

Saturday, November 19

Occupy Wall Street vs. The Tea Party

I have been largely shutting out the whole Occupy Wall Street mess because it makes me want to stab people... considering we're headed into the season of Christmas madness, I didn't think I really needed to give myself any additional motivation to violence.

But a friend of mine has written an insightful and startling post on the situation. Check out the basic, scary numbers involved and then go read her awesome post.

UPDATE: Occupy Wall Street Groups are now APPLYING FOR NON-PROFIT STATUS!! 

Friday, November 18

The Lucado Inspirational Reader

Something of a mash-up between a devotional, Cliffs Notes and Chicken Soup for the Soul, this book is surprisingly well put together and easy to read. The author took portions of his other books, some as small as a few lines and others closer to half a chapter, and arranged them together by subject. Subjects were straight-forward but poignant including: the Bible, the Church, comfort, creation, encouragement, faith and family among others.

This book was, as it was intended to be, very encouraging and inspirational. It was convenient to read in small snippets, but also flowed smoothly when I had time to read more. Having read it, I have fresh interest in reading the author's other works from which these pieces were pulled.

The author had some great insights that I have not run across in any other reading. His style was friendly and personable and I would be comfortable giving this book to anyone as a gift. I can see it being a great source of encouragement on difficult days, or a good gift for a new grad.

Monday, November 14

Decor that Multi-Tasks Like You Do

I am very grateful for the apartment in which I live. It is conveniently close to almost everywhere I need to be on a daily basis, they allow us to have our beloved dog and being on an upper floor is built-in protection against both floods and zombies.

But one thing apartment dwellers learn early on is that space will always be at a premium. There are no attics, garages, mudrooms or other extraneous spaces to store extra stuff - especially limited use seasonal decor. Being the type of person who doesn't handle clutter well to begin with, I find this reality only sharpens my focus on picking pieces for my home that (1) we really love, and (2) transition gracefully from season to season.

My latest find happily meets both criteria: the God's Goodness Wooden Pedestal from Dayspring.

Inscribed with the words to live with joy is to see God's goodness, it is appropriate to any season and a valuable daily reminder to check [and sometimes adjust] my attitude.

The dark wood is a perfect match for our dining room, and the lighted, flower wrapped wine bottle my neighbor made has been a nice, neutral centerpiece the last couple weeks.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, I thought something more festive might be in order. So in less than five minutes, I swapped out the bottle for a simple vase with a trio of cranberry-colored candles.

This is exactly how I like my decorating: fast and nearly free. The candles were maybe $2 at Christmas Tree Store, the stones (or their equivalent) can be picked up at any dollar store, and the vase I've had for years and rotate between rooms as I find need of it.

Come Christmas, I can wrap a simple garland of (fake) flowers around the vase and base of the stand and I'll look super festive!

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I must also point out that this lovely stand would provide a great place to display a charger full of cupcakes, Christmas cookies or other delectable treats on a busy holiday buffet. 

This is the second home decor item (see the first here) I've gotten from Dayspring, and I'm very pleased at how well both pieces balance form and function. Although I was slow to wrap my head around the idea that my favorite card company does a lot more than cards, I will definitely be looking to them in the future before I go anywhere else. Somebody over there understands and appreciates the essential balance of durable, beautiful and flexible that I need to make home decor work for me!

Who is your go-to company for home decor? What pieces do take with you from season to season?

[Disclaimer: This item was already on my wishlist when Dayspring provided it to me without charge in exchange for my honest review. I genuinely love the item and all opinions are my own and unbiased. Don't believe me? Check out my other product reviews... they aren't all nearly so positive! ;0)  ]

Sunday, November 13

Before You Make Your New Year's Resolutions

Before you make your new year's resolutions this year, grab a copy of this book.

If you are happy already, it help you understand why.

If you're not happy, you'll the tools here to make the changes you need to get to happiness. Not superficial cheerfulness either - real, core-deep contentment.

If you have or work with children, this is one of the best investments you can make - teach them now to adopt these habits and you will change the course of their lives.
The habits of happiness may be instinctual or long ingrained in you, but knowing the hows and whys will allow you to be more intentional and give you the words to share them with the people in your life for whom they're not so automatic.

What I most enjoyed about this book was the way Dr. Cloud aligned scripture with modern scientific research to show how they fit together perfectly and direct us to the same patterns of behavior and thinking. It is such a mind-boggling blessing to know that God laid out exactly what we need to know and do long before we were equipped to "prove it" under our own power.

This is a quick read, but definitely a must.

Saturday, November 12

Frozen Oceans

To my Prince, on our Anniversary.

I love you.

Friday, November 11

Dig Your Well... Now

We all know born networkers - those people who seem to be able to talk to anyone and who know everyone.

Then there are the rest of us. The ones who wish vainly that life had come with instructions or that we had somehow been born more gregarious, less introverted, better connected. The ones who genuinely don't understand why less prepared, less hard working and less nice people get the internships, scholarships or jobs we wanted.

This is the book we've been looking for. Harvey Mackay's Dig Your Well Before You're Thirsty is a friendly, honest book about how to network for those who've never understood the how's or why's of the idea. You don't have to be a pushy creep and you don't have to sit by and wonder why you're getting passed over or skipped by. This is a quick, easy read no matter what your educational background and it will be worth every minute of your time.

And may I make a suggestion? As a former business major who's read extensively, I can testify that books like this are drastically more valuable to a student or new graduate than warm-fuzzy feel-good titles of the Chicken Soup ilk. This one isn't even brand new, so you can find good condition, second-hand copies for next to nothing. Consider snagging a few and keeping them on hand for stocking stuffers, graduation gifts and promotion presents. Your contacts will thank you and who knows... you just might expand your own network in the process!

Thursday, November 10

Absolutely Freaking Amazing Book

I have a confession: I don't usually read books that are part of a set unless the whole set is already in print and available.

Patience has never been my strongest virtue and I've never seen the point of unnecessarily frustrating myself.

Then I found this: A Discovery of Witches.

I picked it up on a whim not knowing it was the beginning of a trilogy until I was nearly done. A quick peek on Amazon promptly led to a few bad words. The next book in the series doesn't come out until July!! 

Ugh. *sigh*

I don't tend to read novels much any more, because my obnoxiously high standards usually leave me disappointed. But this book blew me away. Intricate and enthralling, while simultaneously quick paced and charming, I couldn't wait to get to the next chapter.

(Incidentally, although the audio book is excellent, listening to it at the gym may lead to laughing out loud and earning strange looks from other gym goers. Attempts to explain that the vampire on your headphones said something uproariously funny usually just compounds the problem. Consider yourself forewarned.)

The very, very short summary of the book is as follows:

Hereditary witch Diana Bishop long ago turned her back on her magical heritage and stubbornly lives her life as a normal human scholar, studying the scientific history of alchemy and teaching at Yale. On a routine study trip to Oxford, she accidentally encounters a lost and heavily enchanted book that tips the entire balance of the magical world.

Her world changes overnight as demons, vampires and witches converge on Oxford trying to get to the book, convinced that she is the key. Her carefully constructed world imploding, Diana finds an unlikely ally in the 1500 year old vampire Matthew Claremont. While they struggle to find get to the bottom of the mystery surrounding the book, Diana's erratic, long suppressed magic begins wreaking additional havoc.

Ancient animosities, old secrets and unexpected bonds clash and tangle as the two fight - first to survive and then for a cause much bigger than they ever imagined...

So go read it. Now. 

PS - I totally want the Bishops' house. Who doesn't want a house that adds on its own rooms when it knows you're expecting company?

PPS - There are no werewolves or insipid, Twilight-esque vampires. If you liked Twilight, don't read this. It will destroy your ability to ever like Twilight again. Thank you.

Wednesday, November 9

Leave Skin on the Table (A Little Midweek Motivation)

As I was cleaning up my desk this morning, I found my notes from the Women of Faith Event last weekend.

From the beautiful Lisa Harper's session, I found the following simple notes:

Go Big or Go Home
Leave Skin on the Table
You matter to God and you're meant for more bigger things. 

Do you ever have days where you feel like you're not living up to your potential? Days where you wonder what you're doing and what the point is?

Consider writing a couple of these ideas in your journal, on notecards taped inside your cabinets or anywhere else you'll see them every day to remind you in the dark moments to be courageous and (if you're a type A personality) maybe even a little brash. We only get one lifetime - let's make sure we use it well!

Got a minute for something fun and encouraging? Check out this video of Lisa:

Need a little kick-butt music to get your blood flowing? Try this (when I become a MK director, this is so going to be my unit's song!!):

Monday, November 7

How Many Monkeys Do You Have?

Dr. Henry Cloud was one of the speakers at the Women of Faith event I attended this past weekend, and he said some things I think we all need to be reminded of sometimes.

Dr. Cloud explained to us that researchers have done a study in which they stick a monkey in a cage and proceed to scare the dickens out of it. Bright lights, loud noises, rattling the cage - they continue until the monkey is literally terrified.  

Then they stick a second money in the cage. And the first monkey's stress levels drop by half. 

The chaos outside hasn't stopped, but just having a friend to be with them in the middle of it makes all the difference.

None of us were meant to walk through life and its crazy times alone. We need to have - and be - friends.

Don't be too proud to let your friends walk with on the hard days. And don't shy away from just being with a friend in need because you don't think you know what to do or say - sometimes it's enough just to be there.

Who are your monkeys? Take a minute this week to give them an extra hug or send them a note thanking them for having your back and reminding them that you'll always have theirs.

Sunday, November 6

Women of Faith: Imagine Tour

This past weekend I got to attend the Women of Faith Conference. It was quite an experience, and I've tried to organize all the thoughts I want to share into a couple basic categories:
Things Worth Knowing

Let's jump right in to Content!

Being a Type A personality, I looked up a few of the books published by the keynote speakers various places before going to the event. I didn't see any that looked impressive... and I now think that everyone who wrote the summaries I read needs to be fired!  

Sheila Walsh, Dr. Henry Cloud and Lisa Harper were phenomenal. They literally made you both laugh and cry (and if you're like me, take lots of notes so you wouldn't soon forget the powerful truths they had to share). I will now be systematically reading ALL of their books - I can't wait to hear more from these sweet, hysterical and genuine individuals.


The arena the event was held in did many things well. They converted all the men's bathrooms (except one) to ladies' rooms to try to handle to massive traffic flow, they set up multiple identical sales tables, there were several food vendors on hand to supplement or replace the lunches included in the ticket price, and the event was nursing-mother friendly. 

That said, with between 8,000 and 10,000 women at the event at any given time the place was mobbed. The lines for the restrooms were always excruciatingly  long, the line to pickup lunches actually took you outside the building (which could be a nightmare in bad weather) and those of us who don't tend to like crowds to begin with started to feel rather claustrophobic.

It's also worth noting that the event website clearly states that the venue has the right to search your bags and refuse to allow any outside food or drink. Fortunately, our venue opted not to exercise that right, but since I'd been unable to get a response from anyone about special dietary needs in the weeks before the event, it could potentially have been a problem.

When You Go: Things Worth Knowing
(1) 85% of the women who attend a WoF event come in groups of 10 or more. If I were going again, I would definitely try to be one of them. The group attending from one of the local churches made available maps complete with directions, the best parking option and its pricing. They also provided maps of the arena with seating section numbers so you knew where you were going to be and where to look for friends coming with other groups. Those were invaluable resources!

(2) Many church groups made a weekend of it, staying in local hotels and doing the adult version of a slumber party - this definitely added to their flair and fun. If you have to travel to an event, make the most of the trip!

(3) I was pleased to find out that WoF does smaller-scale, single day events, usually in cities not hit by the main tour. If you're not a fan of crowds or can't quite budget weekend event ticket prices, I highly recommend checking out these alternatives. (See the main tour page for more info.)

(4) Talk to your other half about your budget before you go. There are lots of great package deals and shiny extras at the sales tables, but they start at $50 and run up from there. The event also features partners like World Vision and encourages participants who can to consider sponsoring a child. All that is good, but if budgets are a big deal in your house you'll want to do a little thinking or extra saving ahead of time.

Have you been to a WoF event? What would you include on this list that I've overlooked? 

Note: I completely spaced bringing my camera to this event which, if you know me, is not the first time... So sorry! There are tons of awesome pictures and video at the WoF website, and I encourage you to check them out!

Snack Solutions

 It's the middle of the afternoon, and I'm tossing yet another box of granola bars back onto the grocery store shelf in disgust. I don't think it's that unreasonable to ask for an individually wrapped snack bar - of any kind - that isn't loaded with soy, hydrogenated oils or neuro-toxic fake sugars. But here I am batting zero while my shopping companion patiently listens to me mutter and rant about the ingredient lists.

Then, I find these: Kind Brand Fruit & Nut Bars

Some of them have soy in them, but several do not and I take a chance on them. Imagine my surprise when I discover that they are amazing!

I stuck them in my purse en route to an all day event (more on that later) and they did not mush, melt or otherwise get gross like so many bar-style snacks do. They were all clearly labeled (many Gluten Free), and at about 130 calories per bar they won't blow your diet.

If, like me, you find yourself occasionally in need of ready made, on-the-go food that isn't completely out of line from your otherwise healthy eating habits, I strongly recommend snagging a box of these and hiding them in your cabinet (or glove compartment).

(I am not being compensated in any way for this review - I am just a happy customer. Thank you. )

Tuesday, November 1

The Post-Halloween Plan

Seeing as Halloween is officially over, some people would happily start playing Christmas music today and keep going right on through until New Years. (You know who you are!)

These crazy, um, enthusiastic people get baffled and frustrated by scroogy Thanksgiving loving people like myself who argue that it's completely unreasonable to start with Christmas already. After all, Christmas has it's own month, doesn't it? There's no reason for it to gobble up the whole month containing Thanksgiving as well!

When Christmas devotees and Thanksgiving lovers share a house, where's the compromise?

Here are my best tips:

Love the idea of sharing s'mores kits!
1. Start Thanksgiving traditions. Really what most Christmas lovers want is festivity. So add a little extra festiveness to your Thanksgiving plans! Plan a beautiful table-scape for your big dinner and intentionally seek out Thanksgiving-themed decor that you love. Having some fun pieces you only use one month a year will make it much easier for everyone to hold off on pulling out the Christmas stuff. Consider planning an afternoon of hot cocoa, popcorn and decorating to swap from Halloween to Thanksgiving just as you normally plan a day for getting/decorating a tree in December.  

2. Use transitional decor. Look for pieces that can transition easily from Thanksgiving to Christmas: fat cranberry- colored pillar candles, red and gold napkins or dishes, and ribbons or flowers in classic colors like white or silver.

3. Incorporate advance planning. There's a fantastic list over at The Complete Guide to Imperfect Homemaking of ten things you can do in November to prepare for Christmas. These great ideas (like hitting the salon and writing your gift-giving list) will provide plenty of fun to tide your Christmas-lover over until Black Friday without frustrating your Thanksgiving lover.

4. Remember what really matters. Regardless of which holiday you prefer, it's hard to argue with the fact that they both center on family, friends and counting our blessings. If we bicker and gripe (or selfishly ignore our loved ones' happiness) we miss the point and ruin the potential of everything. So do what you have to do to keep your head on straight as we dive into the two craziest months of the year, but don't let yourself - or anyone else - forget what really matters: Loving on one another.

Monday, October 31

Halloween Makeup

Not Kandee, but the same idea
Hello All - Happy Halloween!

Probably by now, everyone who's "doing" Halloween has a costume ready to go, but if you're not dressing up but wish you could do a little something (or maybe starting to plan for next year already), I thought I'd pass along a great resource:
Kandee Johnson's youtube channel.

Kandee is a makeup artist and does amazing things with makeup! Everything from the Chesire Cat and Queen of Hearts to spider webs and gothic eyes - if you need a fun makeup look for any holiday or a night out, check out her tutorials!

Sunday, October 30

A Year With Jesus

Using the NIV translation, author R.P. Nettelhorst has put together a devotional that is both simple and direct. Each reading consists of a short passage of scripture featuring Jesus' own words followed by a brief reflection or insight on what the passage teaches us. Readings are grouped by theme: love and hate, truth and lies, etc. Each reading is a single page long.

Each reading was only a page long, making it accessible to devotional times fit into a tight schedule. I liked the grouping of readings by theme and that each reading was focused on Jesus' own words, which might increase the range of people interested in reading the book.
A few drawbacks: the themes were loose, lacking the depth and organization of the mini-studies they had the potential to be. The reflections were accurate and sometimes quite interesting, but most lacked any hard-hitting or inspirational messages likely to give you anything to chew on. There were no additional related verses or resources to read if something spoke to your heart, and no interactive questions or activities to prompt prayer or discussion.
Great for someone seeking simple, quick to do devotions, or those studying the words of Jesus. Ultimately less satisfying for those seeking a serious devotional to engage with, however.


Do you have a B.H.A.G. ? 

(If, like me, you'd never heard of that before, check out It's Not About the Coffee by Howard Behar.) It stands for :


I still have goals and dreams on the brain from a Mary Kay retreat I went to a couple weekends ago, so when Behar started talking about how essential it is to have goals that stretch us and speak to our souls I was right on his wavelength.

Most people won't start thinking about goals under New Years when they're feeling exhausted, fat and blah from too much partying, too much snow and spending too much money.

Really, isn't that a terrible time to set goals? Consider taking some time to evaluate your goals in the next couple weeks.

If you could do anything and know you wouldn't fail, what would you do? What is most important to you right now? Does your life reflect that? Honestly?

As someone who's done some serious goal re-evaluation and priority alignment recently, can I encourage you to make the first step towards changing whatever you may need to right now?

The holidays are coming. A time of magic and family and hope and joy. Wouldn't you rather spend them with priorities in focus and launch yourself into next year with fresh optimism and momentum?

Do you dream vibrant dreams?

Saturday, October 29

Out of the Mouth of Dilbert...

Such truth, so clearly stated. Does anyone else ever feel like this the approach our government likes to take to things?

Strangled by Ribbons

Once upon a time, there were yellow ribbons. (Remember the song?) They stood for supporting the troops. That's good, right? Nice, simple idea.

Until we blinked and they started breeding like tribbles.

Now it seems that every time I turn around, there's yet another ribbon for one more cause. Solid colors were run through quickly, most carrying as many as three meanings even after being split into gradients (like violet). The newest ones were forced to become ever more complex - stripes, patterns, puzzle pieces. Some have gone to the extreme measures of being worn upside down to differentiate themselves! (Don't believe me? Check out one of the many charts explaining them all.

At the risk of sounding judgmental, the whole thing has really gotten rather ludicrous. For example, there is discussion about using purple ribbons with white polka dots to represent anti-bullying awareness...

Really? Does anyone actually believe that bullying is an independent problem that can somehow be solved without addressing the root issues? (Which, by the way, are often the same or highly correlated root causes for half a dozen other problems, each with its own ribbon: suicide, domestic violence, child abuse, self-injury, hunger, diversity, religious tolerance and terrorism to name a few.)

I'm not against ribbons, per se. When used to open conversation opportunities about a topic close to one's heart, they can serve a purpose. But I think that collectively they tell us something important about ourselves and our nation: We're getting tangled in our underwear.

Isn't that a great phrase? I encountered it in Howard Behar's book It's Not About The Coffee. It refers to getting lost in the details and trivial minutiae of a task and losing sight of what really matters - the people involved and the big goal. Understandably, sometimes this happens by accident and we just need a friend to give us a little kick and help us refocus.

Other times we do it on purpose; it is the ultimate avoidance mechanism. How can you work on something without actually having to do the hard, painful or scary stuff it would take to be successful? Dig in to the unessential detail work! You'll look impressively busy and go absolutely nowhere.

What if we just bit the bullet and got to the point? Our favorite causes don't need us to sport their ribbons or toss a few dollars into the pot during the annual appeal. They need us to use our backbones and common sense in every day life.

Live with character and by a solid moral code. Train up your children (or any children you have the privilege of influencing to do the same. Reach out and help your neighbors. Listen to others more, and talk less. When you do talk, say positive, constructive things.

(Need more ideas? Go read Patrice Lewis's book.)

Okay... now that I've ranted, what do you think? Would common sense and a return to good values solve most of America's problems?