Wednesday, February 29, 2012

It's a Leap Year...

so, I had to go and do something different.  A format change may not seem like much to those of you who are computer savvy and think your site should reflect the current season.  But, you aren't me.  Non-technical me.  Afraid of my computer's shadow, me. 

Yes, changing the format was tantamount to pulling the goalie and seeing if we could score ourselves a new, little Nowell life.  A bit scary at first, but well worth the effort.  And, geez, who doesn't like hockey?! 

So, I goofed around, shook things up a bit, crossed my fingers, and hoped the blog wouldn't come out looking like some contemporary art piece that skinny people dressed in designer clothes stare at for five minutes before pronouncing it good.  Yes, that's the same art I look at and think "A three-year-old could have done THAT!"

Now that it is all done, I'm glad I got up the nerve to shake things up on this Leap Year Day.  I don't think it looks half bad.  Of course, I'm into bland oftentimes, so I'm hoping the lack of blue won't bum some of you out.

In other news, I weigh in today for the first time since Lent started.  It has been a stellar week partnering with the fine engineers at Weight Watchers Online, who left no stone unturned when they created that website.  I could be eating some bizarre Ethiopian dish and I'm 99% confident their search engine wouldn't only find it, but would also record, with crazy accuracy, the exact point count with or without a side of injera.

Of course, check back later in the day, to the right of this post, for the new "Pounds Lost Since Lent Started", which will chronicle with black-and-white accuracy how much effort and restraint I've actually had each week.  In other words, if I totally screw-up and eat a dozen donuts, I'll blow up like a weather balloon and have to throw myself on the mercy of the readership of this here blog.  In case you didn't know it, and wouldn't have signed up for it had I told you, you are my reason for staying on task.  Besides Jesus, you are, that is.  Because Lent really isn't about YOU, in case you didn't get that news flash.

My weight replaces the lovely "Rat Count", which had become starkly boring the last few weeks.  For those of you who care:  ten.  That was the total.  Oh!  And one that I haven't seen in a while, but who knows I mean business and I think is steering really, really clear of me since we made eye contact in the pool house and I screamed like the second coming was eminent and I wasn't wearing a stitch of make-up.

That about covers it on Planet Nowell.  Enjoy the "extra" day and go do something crazy like trying something totally foreign and scary to you.

First person to comment "I licked a public toilet seat because you dared me" (and has proof) gets an Ethiopian lunch on me. 

Then you can find out what that pesky injera is without having to Google it.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A True, American Hero

This is a picture of a man doing the job he loved, caring for children in Afghanistan while he is separated from his own children...

This is an article about his life.

But it is also an article about his death.

There is no picture for the grief his family is feeling.
There is no turning back the clock and changing the outcome.
There is simply putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

I think the Afghan people had it right when they bestowed the Pashto name Esan on him.  He WAS  generous.  I think his entire family earned the right to fall under the umbrella of the Esan name when he deployed. 

In his death, they earn the right to grieve and remember and ask lots of "Why?" questions. 

Our country has lost a hero.  Our family has lost a brother, father, brother-in-law, son, uncle.  Our world is short a person who made a difference.

Please join me in lifting up the Loftis family in prayer as they say their final goodbyes to their beloved Darin this week.  

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.   For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ."  2 Corinthians 1:3-5

Friday, February 24, 2012

Afternoon Project

Start with this declaration in the car, on the way home from school, by The Babe:

"I want to build a city for show and tell".

Get him hooked up with an architectural website to choose his pictures.

Discover he wants this*...

and this*...

and, about an hour later...WAHLAH!  You come up with this**...

You can gripe at me later, those of you who know the REAL layout of New York City, about the poor placement of the lady on the pond.  And be thankful with me that the little guy didn't insist on tiny windows for every building.

Me?  I'm just basking in the glow of knowing I may have a future architect on my hands.

And the fact that I'm partially responsible for tomorrow morning's "Coolest Show and Tell"?  That's just gravy, people.  Just gravy.

*Credit where credit is due:  Philip Colla at  Great pictures from great cities.

**Picture totally taken by me.  You can tell by the fuzziness and horrible lighting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Lenten Promises

If there was a prize for gaining weight POST-HOLIDAYS, I'd win it.  And my acceptance speech would go like this:

"I'd like to thank Braum's and that donut store that sells apple fritters and Kroger for making those double doozy knock-offs.  Without you guys, I'd be standing here about 7 pounds thinner.  And, I'd like to apologize to God for totally trashing the vessel He gave me the day I was conceived.  I promise to do better, Lord."

Yup.  That sums it up.  No control.  Didn't care.  Totally used food to comfort me.

In short:  bought, hook-line-and-sinker, into the Devil's plan to screw up my life.

In the immortal words of Homer Simpson:  "DOH!"

So, starting yesterday, I righted the ship.  Turned that puppy around in the middle of a big old gigantic storm.  And found out THERE IS DAYLIGHT OUT THERE!  I remembered that life may be full of white-caps and threatening weather and scary moments, but there is a way out.  For me, that out was the beginning of the Lenten season.

Lent has been such a good thing for me for about the last ten years or so.  It really focuses me on sacrifice.  And the more I sacrifice, the more I appreciate how little I am able to do in comparison to what Christ has already done for me.

Starting Weight Watchers seems like a big thing to me.  Tracking every morsel of food that goes into my pie hole is a complete pain in the butt.  Making sure I stay within my daily allowance of points is daunting.

But, in the big scheme of things, it isn't saving all people for all times.  It really is the very least I can do for 40 days.*
And the end result is that I feel better, look better, and am able to more fully participate in life.  My mind is less cloudly.  My body feels less sluggish.  My desire to do life is stronger.  That's something I think Christ would give me a high-five and two thumbs up for.

Best of all?  I'm seeing positive signs that some of you are praying for us.  Even though you were relatively silent after reading this post, I know that is a true statement.  In the past couple of days, Mike has been able to get off work a little earlier than in the last several weeks.  We've discovered that Nickels will be playing soccer with one of his besties from way back at Bowie Elementary.  And there are other, minor moments of grace that I can't quite put into words.

So, THANK YOU.  I love each of you, whether you've had my back in prayer or not.  But, those who even said a little prayer when you read the post?  I ADORE you. 

I keep learning the lesson that my past likes to jump up and bite me in the butt.  I keep being reminded that so much of what I do in life is related to my intense fear of rejection.  I keep learning that God is the only way out of whatever box or corner or prison I've walked into that is stopping me from truly living life for Him.

I would love to say that this is the last time I will go through this cycle, but I sincerely doubt it.  I would love to say that I've had a Paul-like conversion and that my life has been so radically changed that I won't relapse.  I'd truly love to think that I've overcome all the demons. But, I know that isn't true.

I'm a work in progress.  I'm the first draft of a novel that needs a ton of editing.  I'm a pool that constantly has to be checked to make sure it is perfected balanced or it becomes horribly overrun with funk.

I'm imperfect, often the anti-thesis of the Lord I love so much. But, with His help, and with your prayers, I'm making a major step toward "better" this Lent.

So, here's to Lent.  Here's to 40 days of the best sacrifice we can give.  But, most importantly, here's to the season of remembering that God has our backs, in all situations and in all times.

*And, probably, beyond.

Monday, February 20, 2012


When you lose sight of the prize, you often lose the fight.

That would summarize my life for the past few weeks.  And, often, when I get in a funk, I just stop writing for lack of inspiration.  That's partially why this blog has been pretty silent for several days.  Like a big, red, painful zit, everything just seemed to come to a head.  But, that bad boy wasn't popping;  it was simply festering.

I hit the year two slump many people go through when they've lost a close loved one.  In many ways, getting further away from Mom being gone is more painful than when she first died.  I tried to busy myself with details and happy thoughts but, like the tide under an otherwise still body of water, there was this underlying sense of discord.  It permeated everything in life:  my attitude, my eating habits, my sleeping habits.  EVERYTHING.

I was hit by information from all sides about the kids.  And, when my kids hurt, I hurt, no two ways about it.  Even being proactive on the issues the boys were dealing with didn't seem to help.  I felt like I was simultaneously stepping on the gas pedal while someone was mashing on the brakes.  I was just burning rubber, making no forward progress.

But, the last issue seemed to be the hardest to deal with.  Unlike so many American workers right now, Mike is busy with no end in sight.  In fact, things just keep getting busier.  That, of course, means more of me has to be available longer hours with a stressed, exhausted, short-fused husband on the side.  And while I am immensely grateful for gainful employment, I am also being pulled time-wise, energy-wise and emotionally in ways that aren't healthy or sustainable.

This is a time-worn thing for us and I'm sure for so many:  when work duties crank up for one person, family duties necessarily shift from one person to the other.  Often, this happens so slowly it isn't immediately apparent.  But, when I start shouldering much more work than usual and the burden gets too heavy, resentment begins to set in.  And that creates more stress where the stress level is already high. 

Sadly, because the process was so gradual, there wasn't conversation along the way about this being "temporary" or "ending on such-and-such a date".  There was simply a change that felt permanent to me.  And, in my crazy state of thinking, I could no sooner see an end to this or figure out how to juggle the changes than I could see that this would all work out better if I would just turn it over to God.

I realized all this over the weekend.  I felt myself spiraling down.  And, because I've hit the bottom of a long, ugly, painful spiral in the past, I decided to throw my legs and arms and back into it and try to stop the free-fall. 

So today, I'm fessing all this up and asking you guys to pray for me and my family in earnest.   

I'm getting back into a Bible study in just a few days and have started praying daily for everyone around me, especially my family and neighbors, who are affected by my funk, either directly or indirectly.

I'm using Lent as a way to treat my body as the temple God created it to be by changing the lousy eating habits I've been using to comfort myself.  Oh the irony of using junk food to "feel" better....

I'm pressing forward regarding the kids, asking God to give me a clear picture of what needs to happen in all the circumstances I have concern.  I can't do it all, but I can do some of it.  And what I can do, I can do well because God didn't give me these boys by accident;  He wants me to succeed in parenting them.

I'm praying that Mike and I can establish work boundaries that are healthy for both of us.  Maybe that means some non-critical things will fall by the wayside for a short period of time.  Some things I find important may have to take a back burner, too.  It might mean that I have to learn to be a single-parent for a few weeks or months.  I don't know exactly what it will look like, but I do know something has to give.

I share all this because I know I'm not the only one.  Your issues may not be exactly the same, but I'm sure you have some.

I'm not looking for pity.  I'm not wanting people to try to help by stepping in and taking over.  I don't want anyone feeling sorry for me (save that for someone who is truly in need.)

I'm wanting my family to pull together and figure this one out, with the prayers of the faithful under girding us as we go through the process.  I'm looking for signs of God along the way, answering prayers and directing and guiding us.

I'm wanting to find myself conquering this latest battle with minor depression.  I'm expecting the blanket of "can't" that comes from the Devil finds itself thrown by the wayside, replaced with the light of God and the spirit of "can", as in "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength".  I'm wanting to come out of the other side of this grateful for the journey.

Thank you for being a part of the process.  Thank you, in advance, for your prayers.  Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, even when you disagree with them and they piss you off and make you wonder how in the hell we are friends/related/acquaintances.

Thank you for being your authentic you.

And, I promise, in the very near future, with your prayerful help, I'll be back to my happier, grateful, authentic me.

See you on the other side.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

I'm Digging the Duggars

My Yahoo Mail opened to the home page story that the Duggars had made a "startling" announcement on the Today show yesterday.  Intrigued, I clicked to see the news.

Turns out that, after the miscarriage of their 20th baby Jubilee, they are open to God allowing Michele to get pregnant again.

What is so "startling" about that?  They've already birthed 19!  And, they've made no bones about never using birth control.

This is clearly a family who takes care of themselves.  They've never once sucked a penny off the public coffers.  They've clearly raised children who are respectful and hard-working.  They've instilled values, including the supreme importance of God and family, in all of their kids.

And, for that?  They've been criticized to the bone.

Personally, stopping at three made a whole lotta sense.  When I realized I didn't have enough hands to correct all of my kids simultaneously?  We immediately put the kibosh on trying for a fourth.*  More than one or two children may be one-or-two-too-many for some, but it was perfect for us.

Yet, apparently Ann Curry had an opinion, and it didn't match the L.O.V.E. printed at the bottom of her dress.  If her body language were given voice, her cross-armed, smirky interview would have said "YOU ALL ARE BAT-SHIESSE CRAZY".** 

A miscarriage is a miscarriage.  Losing a baby, even after countless pregnancies, is still a loss.  Even if you disagree with the Duggar's philosophy of creating enough children to double the population of some small, West Texas town, you should be sensitive to that.

And, if you haven't had enough fun with the drama yet, just hold onto your hat:  Jim Bob and Michele were ALONE IN NEW YORK ON VALENTINE'S NIGHT.  Surely, that meant a little more than hand-holding and a nice dinner out.  According to my calendar, Duggar number 21 should arrive in early December.

If that isn't a fitting Christmas gift for the entire clan, I don't know what is.

*And, no.  My third pregnancy was NOT an attempt to have a girl.  If I had a dime for every time I was asked that inane question....

**And calling Jim Bob "Trouble?"  Really?  If I had been Michele, I might have found my left hook coming in handy.  Instead, as usual, she responded with laughter and grace.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine for You

Once you start experiencing God, you are ruined for every thing else.--Priscilla Shirer

This is one of the most genuine, true, resoundingly accurate quotes I've seen in a very long time.

I think many of us are sitting in the grandstand watching God perform all around us, thinking we ARE experiencing Him because we are watching the show.  Yet, we haven't gotten out of our seats, walked down onto the grass, and asked Him if we could show Him how important He is in our lives.

We aren't living what He's teaching because we won't slow down and listen.

We aren't being blessed by what He has to offer because we are too consumed by what the world is giving out and we continuously miss His open hand generously giving the best we could ask for or want.

We aren't working toward the qualities He counts as good and right because we haven't cracked our Bibles open or sat in a pew or had open dialogue with a person about living for Jesus in so long we can't remember.  Or, maybe worse, we are doing those things but discounting the voice of God telling us we aren't on the right path.

God is all about experience.  He made a world for us to enjoy.  He made other people for us to love.  He made hearts for us to share.

But, without Him in the equation, all the experiences are for naught.

Look upward today.  Remember the God who loves you sacrificially.  Remember that you are the best version of you He could possibly make.

The world around you is going to fight and disagree and be generally corrupt.  Refuse to worry about it, instead praying over all of it.  Experience what God knows to be true:  your prayers don't fall on deaf ears.  Never confuse worry for prayer;  one is of this world, the other of our God.

Let it start with something as small as going for one hour offering every worry up as a prayer.  Experience the peace.  Let it soak in.  Drink in God's voice when you turn down the radio and silence the TV and become in tune to Him.

Before you know it, that one hour will blossom into a day.  And you'll find yourself seeking God again and again and again.  You'll work toward finding Him, the way He seeks you every second of every minute of every day of your life.

This Valentine's Day, drink in the gifts He has bestowed.  Accept whatever earthly gifts are given you this day, without expectation or hesitation.  Give back generously, with hugs and kisses and sweet reminders of your love to friends and family. 

When you seek God in your life, give up worry in favor of prayer, and focus your attention on those you love, contentment follows.  What better Valentine could you ask for than that?

Monday, February 13, 2012


Let's start by getting the obvious out there:  this is a baseball movie.  That means there is lots of guy talk.  And guys in baseball like to throw curse words almost as much as they like a good curve ball or spitting Skoal drool into a cup.

So, this ain't no cutesy story designed for a family movie night.  This is more grab a beer, a piece of pizza, your favorite spouse and worry about your singed ears later kind of show.

I went into this thing thinking "Mike really wants to see this.  I can endure this two hours out of love for him."  And I left, surprisingly thinking, "I LOVED that."

Admittedly, Brad Pitt lost some of his hunkiness somewhere about the time he married Angelina Jolie.  I'm not sure if those two events coincided on accident or if she needed a vial of blood to wear around her neck and sucked it straight out of him, rendering him a little, um, less attractive.  But, regardless, it happened.

Yet, this movie brought him back in style.  Redford style, to be exact.

I swear, there were about a half-dozen moments where he struck a pose and the camera caught a few seconds of time where Mike and I were all "Holy Butch Cassidy! I swear that is Bob Redford!"*

Boy got his sexy back.

But, in case you are a dude and could care less about Brad Pitt's looks, let me actually review the movie, too.

This movie is very reminiscent of so many plots we love where the little guy comes from behind and saves the day.  Yet, it manages to put a little twist on the theory that every movie like that HAS to end with a last second goal.

And, if you've read any of the other movie reviews I've done lately, you know that I hate nothing more than when the movie ends without being tied up in a nice, neat, little bow.  Even if it is a sad ending, I want my movies to have an ending.  And, Moneyball, delivered.

The true moral character of GM Billy Beane shown through like the sun during the last minute of the film, when a couple of sentences shown on the screen, right before the credits, wrapped every thing up.

Billy is the kind of coach you wish your son would get and the kind of guy you wish would be teaching your son lessons about tough decision making.  And that made watching Moneyball worth every second.

Of course, the pizza and beer didn't hurt either...

This review wouldn't be complete without giving a five-star general salute to Jonah Hill.  Some of you may know him from the likes of Superbad and Knocked Up.  Since I try to steer clear of movies whose plots consist of jokes and pranks that would make 12-year-old boys giggle, I can't comment on how far he has come.  But, I'm guessing a cruise over Mt. Fuji from there to Moneyball would describe it.

Let's just say:  leave your preconceived notions of who Mr. Hill is as an actor at the door.  He walked away with from the Golden Globes with hardware as Best Supporting Actor.  He'll have a chance at taking home Oscar in just a few days. 

Moneyball, while it won't take a best picture statue this year, is a solid movie that moves effortlessly, engages its audience in baseball AND the chemistry of creating a good team using solid math/statistics**, and leaves you wanting to know more.

More about the statistics that are so fanatically kept throughout the season, more about baseball in general, more about the people behind the players.  And if that gets more people to take an advanced math course or buy a ticket to a game this spring, then not getting best picture isn't going to matter one bit. 

Moneyball gets one and a half-pinkies up, simply because I could have done without all the cursing.

No kleenex needed, unless, like me and Mike, you find yourself needing a place to wipe pizza grease.

*Yeah.  We know him SO well, we call him Bob. 

**Mike and I were cheering like a geek squad when they were explaining the math/stats behind all this hiring business.  It was AWESOMENESS!

Sunday, February 12, 2012


Susan?  Meet Barack.  Barack?  Meet Susan.

You have one thing in common:  you create policy to break it.

And I, for one, just can't understand where on God's green earth you are coming from.

How is it possible that policy one moment is up for negotiation the next?  I'm just wondering if all the sudden the Komen Foundation is going to tuck tail and run for the hills of, say, researching and curing anal gland issues in my dog.

And, what is next, Mr. President?  Deciding you really aren't a Democrat after all and running against Romney in the primary?

Truly?  All it takes is a little gritching and you back down?

Well, hell.  If I raised my children like that, they'd have TV's in each room, complete with video game set-ups, refrigerators, and access to whatever channel they like.

They'd eat Doritos at breakfast, lunch and dinner and sugar by the cupful in between.

They'd skip school when "day" was at the end of the word and require me to chauffeur them to LMFAO concerts, with MIA as the opening act.

I'm pretty sure, at the ripe old age of 13, when they each hit puberty, I'd be hiring prostitutes for them.

I refuse to parent like that.  I have to stand up and take a stand every single day of my life.  I'm not always popular.  I'm not always right.  But, I have a set of values and morals that guide me and on those?  I.don't.back.down.

I want my America run like that.  We have a constitution that is supposed to guide us.

I don't want charities with good causes run like that.  I want financial decisions to follow the mission statement and the mission statement to guide the decisions.

I don't want American companies run like that.  I want corporations to think about the best interest of the shareholders AND the good of the country. 

I want George W. at the helm of everything.  Against excruciating criticism, that son-of-a-gun held his ground.  He didn't win points.  He didn't make friends.  He didn't win the war.  But, by-golly.  He.never.backed.down.  There was no doubt where he stood.

I want that.  I want someone who knows who he is and is going to tell everyone around them to go to hell if they don't agree.  I want Billy Beane* on my team.  Ain't no mamsy or pansy in his blood.

I want Jesus in the mix.  I want Him holding His ground and explaining, for the billionth time, why his closest friends should listen and follow.

I want that for all of us.

But, what I darn sure don't want is more of this wishy-washy, easily thrown off my game, pandering.

Susan?  Barack?  Man up.

America?  Listen up.

Pick your values and stick with them.  And, if someone tries to take you down?  Explain why it is your way or the highway.  And, if they don't like your stretch of road, they can cruise on down.

Stop playing politics.  Get a life.  Get a set of balls. 

Get in the game.  Know that not everyone is going to like the rules.  But, refuse to do anything but play by them.

When the ball is in your court, are you hitting back?  Or trying to change the rules because you can't get to it on time?  Or blaming the guy in the stands for distracting you? 

Personally?  I'm giving it everything I've got, running and flailing my arms, hoping to make contact.  I'm playing by the rules, no excuses, every time.


*GM of the Oakland Athletics and subject of the movie Moneyball.  Review coming soon.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Standing Up

Here's the thing:  I am a woman who grew into adulthood from the mid-60's to the late 80's.  If there was ever a crap time to grow up, it was then.  Or now.  Or maybe, sometime in between.  But, I was squarely in the middle of it all.

I listened to the cries of feminists that I wasn't being given a fair shake.  I heard women tell me I COULD, indeed, have it all.  I heard women tell me my body is my own and what I do with it is my choice.

I was told a hugely unfair, gigantically unethical, morbidly outrageous pack of lies.

As a result, I grew to mistrust those in authority, who were mostly men.  I believed I could balance a career and a family and a house with no issues.  I bought into the mantra of being liberated sexually.

And, you know what that got me?  Heartbreak.

Had I been taught the lessons of the 1940's, I would have known that there is no shame in marrying someone you love, who wants to take care of you financially, and staying home to raise your kids.

I would have understood that my college career would lead to a job that would fulfill me until my children were born, when I would fall head-over-heels in love with them and every neuron in my body would fire pain through my system when I had to leave them.

I would have understood that my body is my own, created by God, for the express pleasure of a relationship between me and my future husband.  I wouldn't have been so wreckless in how I chose to express love.  I wouldn't have hurt and been hurt.  I wouldn't have had to cry my eyes out in the shower from the sheer pain of knowing that my husband had to "share" me with all the men in my past.

And the longer I live, the more I know that I was born in the wrong generation.  But, I can't change that. 

So, I have to be a voice for those who grew up with me and after me, who have these same feelings but feel smothered by those who think old-fashioned values somehow demean women.

I have the scars to prove that living any other way isn't living at all.  So I am going to stand up. I'm going to speak my voice.  Just like those women who tried to convince me the world was my oyster and I should fight to own it.

I'm going to hope to influence others to stand up with me and speak the truth in love.

I'm going to do this and so much more because I'm tired of generations of women trying to tell me I'm being gyped. 

Because, I'm not, thank you very much.  I'm living a blessed, abundant, wonderful life as a stay-at-home housewife and Mom.

And, if you have eyes to read and ears to hear, I hope you take this to heart.  Yes, you.

Because the lies have to stop.  And I hope it is my generation that stops them.  And, I hope you stand with me.

And, if you don't?  That's your right.

Just please back away from the megaphone and let me live in peace.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Paying It Forward By Kicking Altruism to the Curb

Altruism is alive and well in America today.  And it is killing us as a nation.

Some of you are ready to throw a brick through your computer right now.  But, wait.  Hear me out on this one.

I, too, could be considered altruistic on some issues.  I've even been called a "Pollyanna" once in my life, by a man who is lucky to still be alive after expressing his very misplaced dig during a church committee meeting.

But, enough about my long-held grudge.

Altruism is a recently coined term, circa 1853, by the French philosopher Auguste Comte.  And the key to that is that Auguste was a PHILOSOPHER, meaning he looked at things from a very high-level, not necessarily considering reality.

In its purest form, altruism is the lack of selfishness.  And, in that sense, it is hard to see how that could be bad.

But, consider that altruism looks out for the good of others, who are considered by the moral compass of those who are altruists, without necessarily looking out for the true GOOD of others.

To phrase another way:  when an altruist with a heart for the poor sees a poor person, they immediately want to step in and feed that person.  That, in and of itself, is wonderful.

However, when the goal is to feed the poor, without regard for WHY the person is in that place, altruism spins out-of-control.  It tries to feed everyone who claims to be poor, even those with the means to help themselves.

True help for the poor brings them to a place of self-sufficiency and, in turn, to a place of compassion for the less fortunate.  This is the "pay-it-forward" concept, one I am so head-over-heels in love with that it makes the hairs on my body stand up when I think about a world where this idea took root.

Altruism stops at the point of feeding.  It feels sorry, it applies a moral compass of "that is wrong", it begs and often shames others to feel the same moral outrage, and then it puts a band-aid on the problem, without worrying that the problem is going to continue, often for generations into the future.

If seen through to completion, altruism results in results.  It sees the poor and strives to teach them the skills to move away from being poor and sticks with them until that is accomplished.

Sadly, our government is sinking in its altruism at the moment.  Throwing money at problems has never solved them.  A check coming from a nameless, faceless location can't give a hug and educate and motivate.  It can simply buy a few groceries.

Projections for 2026 show our altruism with Social Security, which has become the modern man's "retirement program" (something it was NEVER created to be), Medicare/Medicaid, and the servicing of our national debt will exceed our national revenue; for the first time in American history, what we take in won't cover what we have to give out.

That is a grim fact.  It is a political bombshell.  And, it is a matter that altruists everywhere will scream about, asking how people could be so callous to cut programs for the elderly, underemployed, and uninsurable.

Yet reality, stares us in the face.  And I think the reality is that we have to learn, as a nation, to stop counting on our government to be altruistic.  And learn that private funding from people, face-to-face, is what could potentially save us. 

We also have to face this reality:  while altruism feels good, seems good, and does do some to help people in the short term, it also places the responsibility for helping people squarely on the shoulders of other people.  It clearly takes God out of the equation.  It refuses to admit that God has this under control, that scripture states we will always have poor among us*, and that we have to take responsibility for ourselves.  That doesn't mean we don't help;  it means we help in ways that are life-altering, personal, and not through the mechanism of the government.

What can you do in your little corner of the world?  How can you personally offer a hand-up? 

It may start with your own budget.  Increase that bit of money you are saving for retirement today so, tomorrow, you can use your social security check to bless others, instead of waiting for it to pay your monthly grocery bills.

Talk with your kids about self-sufficiency.  Teach them compassion for those who've fallen on hard times but teach them that a loving God expects man to work and strive and find his way out of the pits, with help from others but mostly from GOD.

Start a program in your community or at your church on in your synagogue designed to help those with the most basic of needs:  vitamins, immunizations, check-ups.  As a country, we are extraordinarily generous with these things abroad, but what about here in Dallas?  There is need RIGHT HERE.

It will take a small spark to create a big flame on this issue.  And, from the state of our federal government at the moment, I don't think they can even strike the match.

It must start with US.  It should start in our churches.  It should be God-focused.

Be the spark.  Light the fire.  Be the one who kick-starts life for another. And park your altruism at the front door as you leave, replacing it with God's will for your life and the lives of those you will touch.  You can't do it all**, but you can do something.  What will that something be???

Just that one little shift in our philosophy can be the match that lights this world on fire for doing God's will.

One step, one person, one prayer at a time.

With God's help, we can do this. 

*Which I think is to keep those of us with means humble and helpful.

**Which reminds me of the heart-rending scene at the end of Schindler's List where Schindler laments the fact that he couldn't do more.  Do so much that, at the moment you have completed the journey, you are satisfied that you've completed the tasks God set before you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Keep Your Dirty Stinkin' Hands Off My Contraception

I am not Catholic.  But, I am a product of a Catholic Mother who believed abortion was wrong.  And, I am a Christian, who believes that separation of church and state is as important as our right to breathe.

I don't want anyone trying to dictate what I can/can't believe about my God.

And, that, in a nutshell, is what is happening with the Catholic church at the moment.

The federal government somehow believes it has the right to dictate* to the Catholic church that it must violate its policy of "no contraception" by forcing them to include contraception coverage in the medical insurance policies they provide.

I've never quite understood the big deal about contraception/no contraception, but I respect the right of that group of Christians to decide that is a very important part of being Catholic.  They also strongly oppose abortion, so to be a Catholic means you very well may end up with a house full of children;  again, not exactly MY cup of tea, but that is so irrelevant.  I am not being forced to practice Catholicism.

But, if you are a Christian, you should be VERY concerned about what is happening in Catholic circles.  Because, if you think this issue won't eventually touch your church, you may very well be wrong.

Think critically:  what is next?  The church must provide medical insurance that guarantees abortion services?  Must offer equal employment, meaning an equal mix of all races, sexes, and alternate lifestyles in all parts of the church, from Bishop/pastor down to the janitor?  Must guarantee "membership", regardless of the status of the person?

There are certain tenets the Christian church is founded on.  Those are called commandments, not suggestions.  Beyond the commandments, there are principles, based on scripture, that vary widely from church to church.

I don't want the leader of our congregation to be female.**  In our church, that will never be an issue because this is one of the principles we were founded on.  But, if the government were to decide we should provide equal opportunity for all, this would create a real problem.  It would run completely counter to what hundreds of parishioners agree is best for OUR church:  we want a male leading us.

In other churches, the exact is true:  they want female leadership.  But, if the government stepped in and said "equality for all", and the leadership were skewed toward women, this could open the church up to lawsuits by men.

Do you see the inherent problem here?  Once the church cedes a little power to the government, it is a well-greased slope off Mt. Fuji.  It will mean disintegration of the church as a whole, even if it starts with just one group.

You should be concerned.  You should take action, by standing behind your Christian brothers and sisters in the Catholic church and letting them know you strongly support them in their quest to keep the government our of their perfectly-legal, no contraception, policy.  You should let your voice be heard on this.  You should be praying that God would protect our rights to serve our Him in a free country, and that, worldwide, that would become the norm.

The time is now.  Because, if you don't treat this as an attack on your personal church, it will BECOME bigger than that and become an attack on our Christianity.

This great country was founded on the principle of religious freedom.  Many of our forefathers shed blood to make this our right.  To give it up without a peaceful and prayerful fight would be to turn a blind eye to an attack on the religious freedoms we enjoy.

Under One God:  let's keep it that way. 

*And, I've chosen that word VERY carefully.  And used it twice, so far, to make that point.  I do not, one bit, like the power grab that is happening in Washington right now, with the massive amount of legislation and regulation that is choking our country to death.

**I'm extremely open to your comments on this, but please leave the vitriol out of it.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pie Five

So time ago, Mike and I started this tradition of going to lunch every Tuesday.  We've discovered that mid-day talks and lunch trump the whipping an evening meal would exact on us in terms of the cost of a sitter, our exhaustion level by the time the kids are fed, homework is done, baths are taken, and we've finally left the house.  Our lunch dates may not be as romantic as a "night date", but it sure is a great break for the middle of the day and quickly became something we both look forward to every week.

We've allotted money in the budget to cover the cost and usually pick someplace really casual and fairly inexpensive. Today's choice was Pie Five.

We had zero idea what to expect, save a piece of pizza, when we entered.  The first thing I noticed was the great interior;  it spoke to my inner, simplistic decorator as everything was in black, white and red, a mix of my favorite colors.  Very clean and sleek.  And, add to that, murals of the inner workings of the pizza-making process and a list of the periodic table of toppings (cute, cute, cute) and they had me five seconds into the door.

We had the option for a salad (two sizes) and bottled water before we hit the pizza-making heart of the organization. 

Pie Five offers suggestions for combinations, but also will let you freestyle toppings for the same price ($6.49 for a pizza that is slightly larger than a "personal" size pizza)  Both Mike and I grabbed suggested pizzas, his with deep dish and mine with thin crust.  Both were really, really good.

And, the biggest boon?  Once our pizzas were topped, they were plopped on a conveyer belt, went through an oven and were ready in less than five minutes, about the amount of time it takes to pay your bill ($15 or so for two pizzas and one drink).  And, hence, the reason they are Pie FIVE (or less).  Genius name, right?

They offered us "magic dust" (which I had them sprinkle on--probably Parmesan and some herbs/spices) and red peppers before we took our pies, so once we left the register and got our drinks, we were ready to sit and dig in.

The only complaint I would lodge is the actually seating area.  It is a little compact and, for a party of two, there are way more four- and eight-tops than two-tops.  Since we were there on a date and wanted to talk at will about personal stuff, this was a little bit of a downer.  But, we certainly could have requested boxes (offered to every customer) and taken them to a park to enjoy.  We'll remember that next time.

Also, for those of you who are thrifty like us:  Kids eat a slightly smaller pie for $3.49!  BARGAIN.

There are several locations in the metroplex (click HERE to go to their locations webpage) for your enjoyment and ours.  Personally, we plan on visiting the Tollway/BeltLine location again pretty soon, maybe with kids in tow this time.

All in all, a really great experience and another fantastic date lunch with my wonderful hubby.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Breast Charity Backlash

In light of the recent controversy between Planned Parenthood and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation, I decided to dig deep and really consider how I feel about this controversy.

So, I did a little research.  And here is what I came up with:

A whole lot of inconclusive, but a bit of hard data, from a website that I trust (Charity Navigator) and some from the newspaper (Dallas Morning News) that I take with a grain of salt the size of Idaho.

Here are the goods:
Both Planned Parenthood and Komen have very large net asset bases sitting behind them:  respectively, PP has $104 million and Komen has $166 million.

In 2010, PP had $86 million in revenues and $80 million in expenses, adding ~$6 million to its assets.

Same year, Komen had $312 million in revenues and $316 million in expenses, subtracting ~$4 million from its assets.

As best as I can tell, with my searches on the Internet revealing less than I hoped for, less than $1 million dollars per year, and possibly quite a bit less than that, moves from Komen to PP annually.  In fact, the article in the Dallas MN stated that "$700,000 in national funding from Komen this year alone" (2012) would be lost.

Let's put that into perspective:
By making the decision to de-fund PP, Komen has pulled .008% dollars of their annual revenue from them.

Or, put another way:  if your boss demoted you by the same percent and you were making $50,000/year, you'd lose ~$1.10/day.

Sure, it would piss you off.  Sure, you might consider whether or not to buy your coffee at Starbucks or drink the swill provided by the office.  Sure, demotion isn't fun and you might consider your employment options.

But, is it life-altering?  NO.

Has this decision changed the ultimate fact that both charities stand to benefit women? One, through research, education, and assistance (Komen) and one through free or low cost breast exams (PP)?  NO.

Really, the amount of money we're talking about is miniscule for organizations that swim in the million of dollars of revenue each year. 

So, why such a backlash?  Politics.

On both sides of the fence, from the minute PP and Komen became financially-tied together, people have been claiming "victory" or accepting "defeat" in the all-out war on abortion.

In the end, the sad part for me is that this is just another ridiculous example of how polarized this country has become.  How company's and charity's decisions, which generally are about the bottom line, are grabbed for political gain and twisted and shaken and used for self-serving agendas.

And, I bought into this group-think, until I read the news about PP being defunded by Komen.

How about this stance:  The only standard one can reasonably expect a charity to live up to is the principles on which the charity was originally founded and the policies it puts forth to protect its assets and mission statement.   If you are going to contribute, it is your job to understand what those entail.

If Komen was being hypocritical in pulling funding from PP, it would be because they were working against their founding mission statement or stated policies.  In this case, Komen is following its policy of withholding money from any agency being investigated by local, state or federal authorities.  And, whether or not PP likes it, that is the position it finds itself in.

As best as I can tell from their mission statement, Komen doesn't have a pony in the race of the pro-life/abortion movement.  So, trying to make them the bad guy in this equation is just ridiculous.

When you factor in what PP stands to lose as a percentage of its revenue, the backlash can't simply be about money.  That would be preposterous.

And, if I hear one more person say "It's a matter of principle", I'm going to throw up.  This is a matter of policy.  And PP stands in violation of a policy explicitly stated by Komen.  Period.

And, while I agree that portions of this debate are surely a matter of Christian values, we should lead in love, not hate.

Once again, I see our country working to divide itself into camps, instead of trying to find the common ground.  If you put a critical eye to the situation and ask yourself "What do these organizations truly have in common?", you'd find...


Sounds pretty darn American-pie to me.

So, stop making it political.  If you ethically disagree with a charity, don't support it.  Choose a charity you ethically agree with and send your money that way.

The bottom line is that our disagreements may stop vital progress on breast health for all women in this country, simply because we can't figure out how to get along.

I, for one, can think of few things more ridiculous than that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


I had two choices on Wednesday this week:  clean the house or go on a thrift store crawl with a girlfriend of mine, in search of an elusive soup tureen I need for a project.

Let me tell you, in case you are thinking "cleanliness is next to Godliness":  when you discover that the end and sides of your nose are covered in cold sores due to stress or sugar or wine or some combination of all of those things?  It's time to let the dust bunnies have a convention and take the damn day off.

I left the house in semi-shambles and did the logical thing:  Googled "thrift stores in Dallas" and wrote down about 15 possibilities for the day.

I have to tell you that Dallas is adrift with tons of stores that make you wonder "why did I pay full price when I could have been doing THIS all along?"

So, for ease of grading these shops for you, I'm going to use a scale from 0 to 10:
Wow factor is the selection/variety of items being offered for sale.  The higher the number, the cooler the place.
Price is a comparison against the rest of the thrift stores and what you'd expect to pay if you went to a regular retail store.  The higher the number, the better the bargains.
Purellish is the skeevy factor.  If I felt like I needed a shower after leaving the place, the number will be high. 

We started with a resale shop on Belt Line (southeast corner of BL/Preston--sorry, no name) we'd both been eying for a long time, one we pass by on a relatively regular basis but that just never seemed to be convenient for either of us to stop at.  It is really an estate sale paradise with plenty of silver things and furniture, but some little bargain type things, too.  We also found several mink coats, though I have to admit that they were still in the pricey range.

Even though there were employees working the register, talking with other customers, we were ignored.  But, typing that, it might seem this was a sore point;  it was not.  We were able to take our sweet time looking through the store without feeling any pressure at all.

Purchases:  zero.  Wow factor:  6.  Prices:  2.  Purellish:  0.  Great light from banks of glass on 2/3 of the store.

Next stop:  Recovery Resale Shop off Spring Valley at Coit.  This was the find of the morning.  Their mission is "to provide job skills and vocational training to individuals with mental illness so they can develop the ability to become productive members of society."

We weren't two feet in the door before we were greeted by very friendly staff members.  They were marking items down 50%, including one of my finds of the day, two cheery birds that now grace the large cabinet in our living room.  About ten feet from that discovery was a perfect steamer basket, all of $2, to replace the one I received years ago from a friend. 

My shopping buddy found a little girl figurine for her daughter, complete with a birthday cake with her soon-to-be new age on it.  $2 for that find.

The Jewish gentleman from New York behind the counter was one of two employees who made our list of people we want to go revisit.  Sweet man!

Purchases:  4.  Wow factor:  6.  Prices:  A perfect 10!  Purellish:  2--a dark old space that, clearly, the employees are proud to do their best with.

We continued on to Value World Thrift (2223 S. Buckner), one of the top rated thrifts in the city according to those who are thrifty and do lots of thrift shopping.

Let's just say that this shop did not disappoint.  It was HUGE.  And, if you had the time to really sort through the clothing, you would find that designer jeans could be found for pennies.  Lots of clothing to be had. And, tons of housewares.  Dozen of glass items, small appliances and such.

You might have to do a little digging in this store to find what you are looking for because it is a bit overwhelming.  And, the employee throwing broken glass into a large plastic garbage bin?  Kinda set my nerves on fire.

Friend almost pulled the trigger on a set of really cute, glass stars, but ran out of creative juices at the eleventh hour, so we left with nothing.

Sidenote:  By this time, our child-birth-weakened bladders both needed a good bathroom.  Let's just say that Value World would rank as one of the worst places to ask if a bathroom is available.  Sign on the door indicated bathroom "NO working" and we should have taken that as hint number one.  But, our bladders weren't backing down, so we checked to be sure the toilets would flush and were happy to find they did.

But, no toilet paper (found an alternative in the adult wet wipes on the shelf, thank goodness).  Hand towels, other than old-fashioned cloth ones that had been heaven-knows-where, also weren't around.  So, we used our pants to dry off.  And then, after exiting the restroom, copious amounts of Purell (what else?)

Purchases:  zip.  Wow factor:  9.  Prices:  A perfect 10!  Purellish:  7 (the bathroom drove this number up dramatically)

As we were walking to the car, a cute little shop with a big Valentine on the top caught our eye.  Since it was directly across Buckner we added it to our list. 

Turns out (no name again, sorry), this is a store to benefit a homeless shelter for dogs/cats.  GREAT store, but not really thrift.  They have tons of yummy-smelling candles, a mix of donated and purchased goods for sale, and a great cause (did I mention the dogs/cats?)

This would be a fun place to shop for the pet lover in your life and include a card from the store so s/he could visit and purchase something for THEIR friends.

Purchases:  nada.  Wow factor:  9.  Prices:  2 (if you are TRULY thrift shopping)  Purellish:  0.  Bonus:  they offered a cup of cold water and animal crackers (kind of ironic, if you ask me) to all their shoppers.

That's when we realized we were hungry and, conveniently, were right next door to Sali's Italian.  And here is your restaurant review tucked in the middle of your thrift store review!!!

Sali's is a clean, decently decorated restaurant that seems to have a following of folks for their $6.50 lunch specials.  Friend and I decided to order off the regular menu and both had a salad with the Caesar dressing.  Word on that:  if you are looking for the "regular", creamy-white version of that dressing?  You ain't going to find it here.  This was more like a strange Italian-hybrid, but it was really good.

I ordered the spinach and cheese calzone.  When I saw it sitting on the counter, I said to my friend "That looks to be the size of a small dog."  And, up close?  It WAS.  And packed full of fresh spinach and ricotta/mozzarella cheeses.  My biggest complaint was that I was pretty full of salad and I couldn't finish the whole thing!  Truly, two could make a good meal of that and a plate of salad.  Friend enjoyed a piece of pizza the size of a large textbook with sausage.  Said every bite was delicious.

Our server was very attentive, on top of our drinks when they needed to be refilled, and offered to split our lunch ticket.  Bravo!

Way to go Sali's!  We hope to see you again on a future crawl!

Next to Sali's was another thrift shop.  Pretty large space (again, sorry, no name) that seemed to have everything but the kitchen sink to offer.  Housewares seemed to occupy most of the floor space on one side and a few pieces of furniture and clothing the other.

Purchases:  nothing.  Wow factor:  4.  Prices:  6.  Purellish:  3 (just an old space)

I hadn't been to the Garland Road Thrift Store since a friend of mine, back in the 90's, used to drag me there to see a fortune teller with a lazy, cloudy eye who was remarkably accurate about my friend's ridiculous love life.  So, that was our next stop.

What a disappointment.  Where the place used to be set up in "booths", by seller, as a consignment place, it was now one big gigantic store.  Tons of clothing, lots of electronics, some housewares.

Overall, though, just yuck.

Purchases:  zilch.  Wow factor:  2.  Prices:  8.  Purellish:  8.

At this point, we realized we had to start heading home but had time for one stop on the way:  ReSell It! on Ferndale and Northwest Highway.

FIND OF THE DAY!!  Loved everything about this shop, including the owner, who had a wicked-good sense of humor about funerals (yes, we got to talking about funerals).

Great selection of everything BUT clothing, which was refreshing.  Lots of furniture, knick-knacks, costume jewelry.

Purchases:  1.  Wow Factor:  10.  Prices:  10.  Purellish:  0.

Huge bonus:  The music was all old-school Frank Sinatra like (and after listening to the Khloe Kardashian show in the Garland Road Thrift Store (no, I'm NOT kidding), this was a WONDERFUL surprise.) 

And, that, as they say, was all she wrote.

Did you notice:  no soup tureen?  Oh well, there are still five more thrift stores we weren't able to visit on our list.  Expect future reviews and a picture of the finished product in future posts!!