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.