Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 45 - Scat Cat!

Well when you read this I'm either on my way to, having the, or recovering from my first colonoscopy.  So I felt the right thing to talk about today is feces, poop or scat.  I never knew that animal poop was called scat.  I thought scat was what you said when you told someone or an animal, "SCAT" to mean "get out of here."  So now I know.  We have plenty of that in our backyard.  Some we don't mind and others we do.  Our backyard is a Certified Wildlife Habitat so we get plenty of creatures.  The National Wildlife Federation certificate states, "This certificate recognizes the establishment and maintenance of an official wildlife habitat."

This is the right thing to do for us.  We plant flowers for the bees and butterflies.  We have bird baths for the birds (although the raccoon and our neighbor's cat drink from it too.)  We put out sunflower seeds for the birds but the squirrels, flying squirrels and raccoons like these just as well.  We put out one bowl of cat food out each night too.  Crazy right?  Well this isn't so crazy when I tell you.... as Paul Harvey would say....the rest of the story. Before I begin, click on the sound files below first.

Play sound 1
Sound 2

We heard this the other night and being the brave stupid fools that we are, grabbed the flashlight and went searching for the source of the sound.  In hindsight, we should have known better when we saw the reflection of two pair of eyes in the trees.  You know you are in danger when the raccoons leave the ground and run to hide in the trees.  At first I thought it might be a boar, that is the only animal sound that I had a point of reference to from experience.  We had heard our first nighthawk the night before so maybe it was a predatory nocturnal bird.  The clang of the fence links followed by a whimper told us it was obviously out for a drive thru dinner for meat. No bun, pass the salt and I'm out of here.

Now that we have verified the sound with these links on the internet, we have concluded that it was a bobcat.  Bigger than a house cat, smaller than a panther but a cat with a god awful sound.  In daylight, we followed the trail that the raccoons have made to our backyard and discovered scat that doesn't look like it came from the raccoons.  If I were to guess, it looks like it came from a swift fox.  But I know for sure it wasn't the bobcats as we had never heard this sound before.  It reminded me of the time the guy at the local garden store told us that people always come in and say, "How do I get rid of the fox in my yard?"  He asked the customer, "Well tell me about your yard, do you have a water hole or something like that?"  The customer replied, "We just put in a koi pond."  To which the attendant responded, "There's your problem. Get rid of the koi pond to get rid of the fox."  If we put out food to feed one type of animal, the predator of that animal will soon follow.

I'd like to get a picture of the bobcat but that will take some doing.  They are known to be in this area but not usually in our backyard. I'd love to add a photo of the bobcat to our collection.  You know I could invent a word that perfectly describes the hobby of making a scrapbook of our wildlife, Scatbooking. I imagine I would have to start taking some photos of their poop and learn to identify the scat of each animal.  Ahhhhh, maybe not, I'll just let my doctor take the photos today while I make this on the link below.

BJ in the surgery room

Last words are for fools who haven’t pooped enough    ~Karl Marx

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Day 44 - ENTJ, HSP, POTUS, USA and other Acronyms that Define Us

Who are you?  In young adulthood we begin to understand what we're made of and who we are.  The tribulations and tests that define us make us aware of who we are.  In the comfort of home when we are young, there is no need to question or inquire ourselves about this notion of self-identity.  As we get older, the notion becomes much more important and pertinent.  As I've grown older, I have discovered that I'm and ENTJ with HSP who is not OCD.

My mother bought me a pillow on one of her visits to Florida which had a saying embroidered on the front.  Mirror, mirror on the wall, I've become my mother after all.   I think she found that amusing.  I found it questioning the truth.  In some respects I believe we parent like our parents subconsciously.  I say things that after they're out of my mouth I think, where did that come from?  I didn't even know I remembered that from my childhood!  Things like, "Go play in the road. If you had a brain in your big toe you would be dangerous. They must be on drugs! I'm the parent, you're the child." and many many more.  We call this family folklore.  Things in your family that being part of the family everybody understands but somebody outside of the family doesn't have a clue what you are talking about.

But truth be told, I'm nothing like my mother when it comes to personality.  There are sixteen personality types defined by Myers Briggs Type Indicators (MBTI) that are common across not only America but across all cultures in the entire world.  You can type yourself by googling the MBTI personality test and answering a few questions.  I am an ENFJ.  I'm in good company with three POTUS (Presidents of The US) Lincoln, Reagan, Obama, Oprah and Andy Griffith.

ENFJ's are summarized as: ENFJs are lively and enthusiastic facilitators who apply warmth and vision to helping people and meeting their needs. They are aware of people's aspirations and develop plans of action to make those aspirations into reality. They like organization and closure. They are at their best facilitating situations that require interpersonal sensitivity. ENFJs are tolerant and appreciative of others, seeking involvement with them in life's tasks. They are able communicators who are liberal in showing appreciation for others. They are deeply hurt by a cruel or thoughtless comment and can shatter when a parent, teacher, or other yells. Percentage of the US population: 3-5%

Notice only 3-5%!  I know that I get along with many people but my own family can seem like strangers. As I began to understand the dynamics a family has as the personalities develop within the family, there was a clearer understanding of why relationships within my family sometimes were smooth or sometimes caused friction.  It's frustrating not being able to find somebody else like me.According to the best type of relationships I only get along with 29-40% of the population which are mostly made up of small percentage groups combined for this total.  In other words, it's hard for me to find these small groups individually let alone more than one or two of them.  Now add to this, my boyfriend has additionally diagnosed me with being a HSP. Highly-Sensitive Person. He read what some PhD wrote:

Elaine Aron, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist based in San Francisco and author of The Highly Sensitive Person, first identified what she calls the "Highly Sensitive Personality" in an academic paper in the early '90s. She spent the next two decades getting her message out. According to Aron, what all HSPs share is an uncommon ability to pick up on subtleties that others might miss - a look, a feeling, a message embedded in a seemingly straightforward statement. "It's like they're wearing an extra pair of glasses," she says. HSPs are hardwired differently than the rest of the population.

Yup, that's me, I notice EVERYTHING.  A look, a grimace, an eye movement, an itch, a pause in speech.  It's uncanny. What amazed me up until this diagnosis is that very few others notice it as well! I thought that everyone could see these things and couldn't understand why other people would say things that clearly hurt other people. Now that I found out why not everyone sees this too I don't feel like anyone ever understands me.  This isn't necessarily a bad thing it's just combined with the need to be understood as a strong part of my personality, it's frustrating when people don't try to understand who I am.

That being said. Most of us when we type the families we are in now or the families we grew up in, we find that we are not like our parents at all.  And our children aren't exactly like us either. We may repeat things we learned in our childhoods but the core of our being is dramatically different.  The right thing to do for many of us is to type ourselves and really know who we are.  By doing this we then can solve problems in our relationships.  Particularly as parents of teenagers, I encourage this strongly.

The best example I can give is when Felipe and Jula arrived in our home. Remember MBTI types are international.  We typed them as soon as we felt their english was good enough to understand the questions on the personality tests.  We learned that both were type P as it relates to controlling the world around themselves.  P's control their world inside their mind.  We were both J's so we control the world around us by creating list(s) and then organizing the lists.  The difference results in J's expecting P's to do things as soon as they are told.  Well P's aren't wired that way.  The most effective way to parent a P is to tell them what is expected of them, set a deadline and a consequence for not meeting that deadline.  The J children will do the task immediately and check it off their list and the P children will wait until the last possible minute and still complete it on time.

This used to drive me crazy but once I understood who they were it was kind of like being a mind reader because you would know them better than they knew themselves.  Now that I understand this I wish my mother would as there are many times I know she doesn't know who I am. Over the years I have taken on physical characteristics that make me look like my mother. Defined by WHO I AM however,  I am not like her in many more ways than I am like her.  I'm sure my kids think the same of me.  And I'm sure they think I need one more acronym just like I think my mother does. Of all the acronyms that define us, the only one I wish we as mothers would be graced with is ESP!

Nurture by Nature: Understand Your Child's Personality Type – And Become a Better Parent Barbara Barron-Tieger and Paul D. Tieger 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 43 - Two peas in a POD

Just what actually IS a pod?  Webster defines it as: Pod: b) a straight groove or channel in the barrel of an auger.  An auger is defined as: any of various tools or devices having a helical shaft or member that are used for boring holes (as in wood, soil, or ice) or moving loose material (as snow).  And an auger effect is based on an electron changing into something other than what it was before it encountered some sort of energy. So the summation I get from this definition is that a podcast should somehow have an effect on us as to make us better or somewhat changed after we listen to it.  

The day I started writing this blog was the day that after reading my chapter on technology, I set out to find out what a "blog" and a "podcast" were.  I kept hearing these terms, "blogging" and "podcasts" but I didn't quite understand either of them.  I got so excited about the expression of freedom that a "blog" allows that I started this blog and forgot about the podcast.  Later in the week while in my computer software class, I asked others.  They explained I could go on iTunes and look up different podcasts and download them onto my iPod. Once you have downloaded the series, anytime you plug the iPod into your computer to recharge, the iTunes automatically downloads the weekly podcast [like broadcast] into your iPod. You can also just listen directly in itunes to a podcast on your computer, one doesn't necessarily need an iPod to listen to a podcast.

Avatar for Smart People
Being a fan of NPR, I started in this area and stumbled upon a brand new podcast called SmartPeople.  The avatar [icon] for the podcast is a chimp, now I know I'm smarter than a chimp so I decided to check it out.  What I found were two young adults Chris Stemp and Jon Rojas who were out of a job and currently trying to do the right thing by educating themselves while simultaneously allowing us to listen as they learned.  After listening to the first podcast where they interview a different person who specializes in their field, the auger effect naturally occurs.  We are changed from the energy of the podcast into something different than what we were before we listened to it.

I wrote a review about SmartPeople and in it I described it being like my first love.  I'm infatuated by it.  I may move on to bigger and better podcasts or I may grow old with it, the future holds the answers.  But like the James Taylor song begins...."The secret of life is sharing the passage of time." 
Right now, Smart People Podcast and I are enjoying the secret of life.  Chris and Jon really enjoy hearing from their listeners and if there has been an auger effect on their listeners. These two people are doing the right thing for them, venturing out, trying something new, in a different medium they were unfamiliar with and now succeeding in. Inspiring us along the way. With this new confidence, not one pea is born, but two or more are growing in the pod with them.  We gain confidence too by just knowing more than we did or feeling different than we did before we listened to it.  Like the pod of an auger...moving loose material in our brains or at minimum boring a hole. What we fill the hole with after that is left up to us.

To listen on the internet first before subscribing try it online at: SmartPeoplePodcast Click Here

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 42 - The Skydiving Groupon

Today and tomorrow I'm going to be discussing some new technology that is coming our way.  Today is the website  It is a website that you can check daily for your city.  Once you log on, you select your nearest city and see what the coupon is for the day.  The idea is if a group of people reaches the minimum number of buyers predetermined by the advertiser and groupon, the deal is on.  Most savings are 50%.  So you purchase the groupon from the website and then print it out and use it at the advertised location.  I mention this because recently for my boyfriend's birthday I gave him something I didn't think I could EVER afford.  It was wrapped in a box with a diaper.  He opened it and said, "What is this for?" I responded, "Because when you see your present, you're going to S@*t!" It was a coupon for a skydiving jump!!!!  I purchased it on Groupon.

The whole thought of skydiving is one big leap of faith.  For me personally I subscribe to the philosophy of why would one want to jump out of a perfectly good running airplane?  Sometimes it's the thrill or the bragging rights to say, "I did this and didn't think that I could.  A new confidence is born!"  Other times, its something on your bucket list you want to check off as having done.  But the whole process of spending three hours learning, another hour prepping and another hour thinking about it as you get in the plane and then moving to the end of the open door on the plane and then in one fast swift motion, saying to yourself, "I can't back down now."  And jumping into a free fall like a bad dream that you can't wake from.  Only this time it's real and it feels great, fresh, exhilarating, like a bird.  You had faith in the people, the plane, the pilot, the equipment and more importantly yourself.

So trying any new "thing" is one big leap of faith. I first tried groupon with a purchase of a $120 canvas of my photo of the smoky mountains shown on this title page of the blog.  I bought the groupon for the 16x20 canvas print for $45 which included shipping.  I love this photo so I went to the website of the advertiser, and uploaded the photo.  Entered my groupon code and the canvas arrived in 10 days and is stunningly perfect.  Since this first purchase I have bought a $10 groupon for 2 tickets to the local movie theatre that included 2 free popcorn and 2 free large sodas, that's a savings of twenty bucks right there!  The second groupon was for our trip to New Orleans for $10 we got $20 worth of food at Tully's Pizza. You can look in cities where you will be traveling and purchase a groupon to use on your stay or visit in that city. This was by far the best value ever.

I had been talking about one of my childhood memories of my first job as a newspaper delivery girl.  I worked all month and collected at the end of each month all the money from my 50 house route.  I was in high school and still got up every morning at 4AM to deliver papers.  I pulled a red flyer wagon on Sundays attached to my bike in the snow to make my deliveries.  It was hard work, I earned $30 for the month and I rewarded myself on payday with a $5 pizza from Bova's Pizza.  The pizza was out of this world and I had never found any place that made the sauce like Mama Bova did.  When we used the groupon at Tully's I was so surprised to find that they used the same recipe as Bovas.  I loved this place.  I would have never relived this childhood dream without groupon.

Since then we've gotten $10 free chocolate, more canvases, restaurant groupons and more.  There are other sites trying to be the same as groupon such as and you can use these for traveling also.  The point is for us to say that technology isn't for us and we don't "get into all that computer stuff" is like throwing money away.  If you drive a car, wake up to an alarm clock, watch tv and call people using a telephone, I've got news for you, you already are using "computer stuff" and don't know it.  So have a leap of faith and try out one new thing, and then another and another.  You can save money and try new things you wouldn't have known about.

For me the right thing to do is to watch the skydive from the ground and video it with my camera from below.  But I will confess, I would try it if it was in the Smokey Mountains and I got a view of this sunset again while jumping. Then I wouldn't care if I died of a heart attack or if I landed with a splat!  How's that for a true leap of faithless?  If only I could get the predetermined number of buyers for this kind of leap, then we could do it together....we'd call it a groupoff!

And if you are suffering, at least the pain is familiar. Because if you took the leap of faith, went outside the box, did something unexpected… Who knows what other pain might be waiting out there. Chances are it could be even worse. So you maintain the status quo. Choose the road already traveled and it doesn’t seem that bad. Not as far as flaws go. You’re not killing anyone… Except maybe yourself a little. When we finally do change, I don’t think it happens like an earthquake or an explosion, where all of a sudden we’re like this different person. I think it’s smaller than that. The kind of thing most people wouldn’t even notice unless they looked at us really, really close. Which, thank God, they never do. But you notice it. Inside you that change feels like a world of difference. And you hope this is it. This is the person you get to be forever… that you’ll never have to change again. ~ Everwood 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 41 - New Orleans vs Nawlins': The Professional & Unprofessional

Houmas House
Fultron Street during Christmas Time

Bourbon Street

There is a lot of time that goes into planning a good vacation. So the trip to New Orleans for Christmas was no exception.  What gets tricky is what is open for Christmas Eve and Christmas.  Luckily we picked the right spot to be for Christmas.  After we were already there, the television news broadcast stated the city of New Orleans is the 2nd best place to be on Christmas.  I'm not sure but I think San Antonio was listed as number one.

The great thing about having a small budget is we can stay at Hostels all over the world including the United States. I have not been to one yet but it is on my list of things to do.  Most are super but there are a few that may not be suitable for children. $10 per person is the average price per night.  Not only is it a bargain, most people only need a place to lay their head anyway.  Not a place to leave valuables but a great place to meet others from all over the world and possibly make new friends for life.

Here is a link to the top ten Hostels in America:

So when I was planning the trip to New Orleans we planned a tour of two plantations.  One was the Houmas House which I personally think is the best and highly recommend it to anyone who is planning on traveling to the area.  The mansion has been bought by Dr. Kelly and he still lives in the house.  As a result the house is in tip top shape.  Living in a house always keeps it in better shape.  There are no ropes keeping you away from the rooms, you are encouraged to sit on the furniture.  An interactive plantation tour if you will.  Our tour guide, Judy Whitney Davis must have been a former drama major as we were delighted with a performance as she sat down to play the old piano while singing a Christmas Carol.  Wonderful!

St. Louis Cathedral on the square
The other plantation was the Nottaway Plantation.  Their website enticed us to drive an additional hour out of the way to have Christmas Eve dinner there.  We wanted to maximize our time so we called before we left Florida to double and triple check that we would in fact be able to tour the house prior to the dinner due to the date being Christmas Eve.  Tours ended at 5:00 PM and we were concerned that the employees/volunteers would want to leave early to be with their families.  Understandable but we were assured that they were not going to be leaving early.  We called again before we left New Orleans and were assured once again, no problem.

Nottaway Plantation
Long story short, we arrived, the people had left and we didn't get to tour the Nottaway Plantation. The price of the tour was included in our price of the Christmas Eve Dinner.  Management had left so there wasn't anybody to talk to that evening. Basically we paid for something we didn't receive. We tried to suck it up as it would be another seventy minutes back into the city and everything would be closed by then.

I separate all situations into two categories: Professional and Unprofessional.  The ones that turn into problems are always due to unprofessionalism.  If an experience starts unprofessionally, it normally ends this way too.  No exception in this case either....the rolls were burnt, the rice was set out in a cold bowl and thus cold, the meat was hard, and the leaves of lettuce were wilted in the salad.

Two Masks:  White Eyes Only and Full Face
Beignets and Hot Chocolate
The city of New Orleans sent us an e-mail survey after we returned.  Very professional, it was sent to find out why people are not coming to downtown New Orleans after the flood and if when they did, would they come back again.  We had a great time.  We loved the Cafe du Monde experience with Beignets, the Mardi Gras World Experience, Live Jazz, Bourbon Street, Mother's Cafe, Beignet Cafe, the electric trolley, the St. Louis Cathedral and Market Street. We told them about the first night when we nor the other hotel residents in any of the city weren't happy that the city [not the hotel] turned off the water so we couldn't take showers. Nor were we happy with the hidden charges of $30/day parking. We are big boys and girls and can handle the additional cost if we're told in advance and can budget for them. The Wyndham Hotel did the right thing and gave us a relatively small credit for the inconvenience..Professional.

I wrote a handwritten letter to Nottaway Plantation telling them that I think due to the fact that we were told the house tour was included in the price of the dinner and we didn't get to tour the house through no fault of our own, that we felt we should get a partial refund.  It's been four weeks, no response. This just confirms my theory...if the experience begins unprofessionally it will end this way too.  Interestingly enough on the way to New Orleans we stopped at a Panera Bread.  It was only after we had gotten fifteen miles away that I began eating my order and it was actually not what I had ordered. I wouldn't have been able to spot this as the order "looked" the same but it clearly tasted different.  I wrote to the manager and received a $4 gift certificate for the next time I returned.  The experience began professionally and ended professionally.  What's right for me is that ONLY professional entities get my return business and my free positive advertising.

“When the customer comes first, the company will last”
~ BJ Winchester

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 40 - The Blimp and Highjackers

We live near Daytona Beach so yesterday was the final day of the Daytona 500. We also live a stone's throw away from the Palm Coast Airport. The Goodyear Blimp uses this airport to land all week while it is here to get aerial television shots of the race. Subsequently it goes directly over our house every night and every morning the entire week before the race.  The sound is unique, I know when it's here.  The low rumbling of the engine like a lion roar, you can actually feel it in your body. And because it's slow, the rumbling lasts over five minutes when it is close. I've seen it before being a former NFL ticket holder, but it's different when it's so close that you can feel it.  Saturday night before the race, I had laid down to sleep and the rumbling became louder and louder.  I realized that the blimp was directly over our house!  I got up and sure enough it had just passed our house and I watched it continue its decent to the airport.

The local airport is infamous for being the place in which Muhammed Atta and other 9/11 highjackers were trained to take off in a plane. They were asked if they wanted to learn how to land to which they replied, "We don't need to learn that."  How strange, somebody's antenna in flight training should have tuned into these odd statements.  In hindsight only now do we know why they said that as they were training to run into the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the White House on September 11, 2001.

The restaurant at this airport serves the best wings.  It's a slow wait but the food ultimately makes you forget about it [the wait].  Or as New Yorkers say, "Forgeeeettttt about it."  I wonder what the relatives of the Americans killed in the 9/11 attacks and the NYFD responders would say about the name of the restaurant.  The name is Highjackers. The owners of the restaurant were planning on opening on or about 9/11 2001.  When the pilots highjacked and flew their planes into our NY buildings, they collectively made a decision to keep the name to show the International world that nobody would tell them as Americans what to do.  They write about this decision on their menu.

There is a Kabalarian Philosophy that states there is power in a name.  They explain that as humans, this separates us from animals (or in the case of 9/11 - monsters). "The one thing which separates human beings from the animal kingdom is [the] human mind, which has the ability to reason on a conscious level. The link between human intelligence, mind, language, and the order of the letters in the alphabet is the key to measuring human mind and solving the major problem of mental discord and imbalance.....The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, and religious ceremony. Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name. The question is: how does a name influence a person's character? Let us consider what a name is. It is the grouping of several letters of an alphabet, or other symbols, which represent the identification of a person or an object."

I feel like the name Highjackers was maintained to show the character of "we are strong because nobody is going to tell us what to do."  To the family of all the victims who died as result of the Highjackers I feel that apologies are in order.  There are so many ways to show good character than to have maintained that name.  I'm hoping that the New York Times will pick up this blog and suggestions can be made that I will personally deliver to Highjackers for a new name, a better name, one that shows a better character.

I'm not sure keeping the original name was the right thing to do.  Maybe it was right for them but what about all the New Yorkers who lost loved ones in this tragedy?  They don't know but I wonder what they would say if they did know.  Would they ask them to rename the place and give them their suggestions?.  I'd personally like to see the name changed to something like The Phoenix, Wings of Angels, Never Again or Forget This! Or maybe because it's the place where the Goodyear Blimp usually docks, A Betteryear.  Or maybe Not Your Fast Diner (NYFD), where wings are on fire! Or I wonder if they would just say with the New York accent, "Forgettttt about it."

 Name is a fence and within it you are nameless.  ~Samuli Paronen

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Day 39 - Big Red, Penny and the Coin Toss

We watched the movie Secretariat the other day.  It started and ended with a quote from the book of Job

"Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray. He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword. The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance. In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds".

Job 39:19-24 (NIV)

I learned so many things from this movie that I hadn't remembered or hadn't known about the owner's story and Secretariat.  Penny Chenery married into the Tweedy family.  Because her mother died about the time Secretariat was about to be born, she left her kids in Colorado with their father to follow her heart.  She traveled back and forth from Virginia to Colorado to be at school functions for her kids.  She also knew that her dad had paired Something Royal who had stamina with  Bold Ruler who was known for his speed. A coin toss of a silver dollar determined the fate of this horse and Penny was left with Secretariat because she lost the coin toss.  She had originally named him Big Red for his color.  But it seems that the name of a racing horse has to be approved by the committee of haughty-ta-name-approvers. Big Red wasn't good enough.  So the secretary to Penny's father who had stayed on and became her secretary submitted the name of Secretariat and thus his now infamous name.

I never understood why people want to change their names.  Nor have I understood why someone would want to change somebody else's name. You've heard the examples:  Cassius Clay becomes Muhammed Ali, Stephen Victor Tallarico becomes Steven Tyler, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta becomes Lady Gaga. These people all chose to have their names changed either for religious reasons or fame. Big Red didn't have a choice, the committee made his choice. Yet he stood as a giant of fame because he ran his race.  Not only did he win the first Triple Crown in twenty-five years, he won it by thirty-three lengths! A record time that no horse has come close to ever.  He ran his race.  The right thing to do is to run our own race. When people tell you your name isn't good enough and therefore you aren't good enough, leave them in your dust.  Run your race.

My cousin Anne knew this.  She died in a car accident at the young age of twenty-one.  At the grave site, the church pastor read Anne's bible.  He said he always read the passages of the deceased at his or her funeral.  It was odd that in this case, Anne only had one passage underlined in the entire bible.  [Anne had a strong upbringing in the church so it wasn't like she never opened her bible.  Her sister went to Seminary school and her mother went to church with Anne every week.]  The pastor read her underlined verse from 2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.  Such profound words from such a young soul.  What will be read at your funeral? We know what we would like to be said about us, but this is one way to ensure that loved ones know what we wish to be read. The words we found important enough to underline in a chosen book because we wanted to remember them and thought others should know them too.

Penney knew she had run her race when she made it from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness and now finally to the Belmont (the third leg of the Triple Crown). Getting to this beginning of this race was her race.  She had a silent moment with Secretariat before the race and told him, it was his turn, "I have run my race, now it's your turn. Run your race." During the Belmont, the sportscasters incorrectly called her by her maiden name Penny Chenery and not her married name Penny Tweedy.  So her name was changed with no choice also.  Maybe she should have underlined it on their FAQ sheets with a Big Red Marker!

"Three things tell a man: his eyes, his friends and his favorite quotes.”

~Quotes Daddy

Updates: Olive Garden sent an email telling us they forwarded our e-mail to the local store where Frenchie works and they are going to recognize Frenchie.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

Day 38 - Claim to Flame

Yesterday I spent about ten hours studying. Some people break their studying up into sections of a couple of hours, take a break and then return to study for a couple of hours.  I prefer to just steady the wagon and ride the long ride.  First I have to be in the mood, have a clean space and then dive right in or as they say hit the books. After about five hours yesterday I got a phone call from one of my IT professors.  I had asked him earlier if he would write a recommendation to the scholarship committee that would be reviewing my application for a scholarship.  [There are plenty of scholarships for high school students but not so many for old divorced women who already have their first degree that isn't worth that much anymore.]  He agreed and this alone was something I was grateful for.
However, he called to ask me if it was ok if he nominated me for Outstanding Student Award. I told him, "Are you kidding me?  Yes of course, but to be honest, I'm so honored that you even thought about me that if you just filled out the form and threw it in the trash right now, I'd be happy.  I've already won!" The acknowledgement for your own effort from someone who you look up to is priceless.  No award or trophy replaces this feeling.

He laughed.  He told me he knew the accomplishments I had made to his classroom but was there anything else I had done that he could add to the nomination application.  I told him with a slip of the tongue, "My claim to flame, I mean my claim to fame was rewriting a brand new edition of the PHP programming textbook by creating a nine-page error data sheet with the publisher ."  I laughed at my Freudian slip.  Claim to flame.

I have no idea where this came from.  It still amazes me that our mind thinks so fast that our tongues don't move fast enough to keep up with it.  We sometimes stumble and our words become something other than what we intended them to be.  This is in complete contrast to what young children do.
Their vocabulary is smaller so they use words that they know to describe the things that they see. They know exactly what they are talking about!

When my oldest son was three he would always tell me when he rode in the car with me waiting at the red light, "Mom, the eye is green you can go now."  If you looked at the older traffic lights, they had a lid over the light and it did look like an eye.  My three year old was a genius!  He also would always tell me before he was two, Paco du.  Paco du momma Paco du!  I had no idea what he was saying, but I tried to let him know, I as his mother surely would understand what my son was saying.  I replied, "Paco duuuu! yes Paco duuuu!!!"  He would walk away from me happy.

About two weeks later, we pulled up to the Taco Bell store to eat dinner.  He yelled, "Paco duuuuuuu!!!!!"  I said, "Oh Taaaaacoooo Belllllll, yessss of course Paco duuuuu!" Paco du meant Taco Bell! So when  he was walking away from me before, he wasn't happy because I understood, he was happy because he thought I was going to take him to Taco Bell.  He didn't know that I didn't understand him. I felt so bad that I hadn't known what he meant.  So my claim to fame may be that I was nominated for the Outstanding Student Award, but my claim to flame surely was not understanding my own child.  I'm sure I'll wear that title for the rest of my life, but I'm going to die trying to rid myself of that title.

“A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.” ~Marthe

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day 37 - SUPPORT BRA a story for all men

Now with a title like this you may think this is just for women, actually it's for all the men who have women in their lives.  So men, have faith, and keep on reading.  I believe that people grow throughout their lives.  Some people grow faster than others or differently than others.  The struggle with relationships is to grow individually...together.  I look at it [clearly from a women's point of view] that if a man loves fishing and I mean really loooooves fishing and isn't using it for an excuse to "get away" from the family or his partner than the partner should support it. My love is basketball and becoming an official allowed me to pursue the dream of still being part of something bigger than myself. I started late in life as a basketball official.  Most referees are groomed right after college.  At thirty-six, I was fourteen years behind right out of the gate.  I decided after only doing games at the YMCA, that I wanted to learn how to do it right and signed up for SEC camp.

Fox 40 Whistle - only for Basketball
What most people don't know is at these basketball camps, the teams pay an entrance fee averaging $375, and the fans pay to attend each of the games and the assignor of officials is paid $20 per referee per game.  So at $60 game and an average of 16-20 games happening at different venues every ninety minutes, the assignor can walk away with $20,000 at MINIMUM for each camp.  The referees then PAY the assignor for the privilege of working and "being seen" by the assignor an average of $500 each.  At 200 average referee campers, this is an additional $10,000.  Yes that's right the referee pays to referee and have fans scream at them ~ludicrous!  It's clearly a rip off for referees.  So the first camp I attended, I realized that I had never done what we call 3-person officiating.  I had only worked at the YMCA doing 2-person.  I wasn't even a certified high-school referee yet.  During the orientation meeting I began to get increasingly nervous.

I remember calling home to my husband after the first night and saying, "I don't think I can do this."  He responded with the most loving thing I could have ever heard. "Remember what you told me when I went to firefighter school and called you after the first day and said I don't think I can do this, I'm in way over my head?"  I said, "No."  He said, "I'm going to tell you the same thing you told me.  Sleep on it and get back up in the morning and just do it, I know you can."  And that is exactly what I did.  There is nothing like someone else having belief in you and your dream.  The support is better than the best bra.  No bra can support us like that!

After officiating at Duke, my first major achievement, the next milestone in my career is receiving the call to officiate the scrimmages of the WNBA players who made up the USA Olympic Womens Team. They were coming to town to practice before the Olympics.  I hung up with the assignor who had called me at work and screamed as I ran out of the office and through the parking lot.  Screaming and jumping with joy.  WOW, it was like officiating the WNBA All-star game as you had all the heavy-hitters on one court.  I was told, no autographs, no photos, no cameras, no sharpies, no nothing.  I shyly asked, "Can I bring my husband?"  He had just had knee surgery and the assignor asked me, "Can he play, they need men to play against?"  I said, normally he could but he's on crutches right now.  The assignor said yes begrudgingly but Thank God he knew me or my husband wouldn't have been able to share in this next triumph of my avocation. Just being there when a milestone occurs in your career is HUGE!

Over the years, that support faded which came to a head when I had finally made it to the High School State Final after only six years.  Some officials NEVER get to officiate a state tournament game. I was so excited, I asked my husband if he was going to come to the game as it was to be held on a weekday around noonish.  He had over twenty-one vacation days accumulated at work so I knew it should not have been a problem.  He said at first, "He would have to check his schedule."  As an indirect communicator, this was his way of telling me no.  I was shocked and very very sad.  The man who had started this dream with me had stopped running the marathon early in the race.  I was to finish this race alone.  I took off from work and heard from "T."  She also had been selected to officiate her second state final.  We went together.

I never finished the race but had many many wonderful times with friends I'm sure you'll hear about in later blogs but not achieving the ultimate goal of officiating Division 1 games was one of the few goals I didn't reach.  At first I beat myself up and the system up pretty bad.  I've now come to realize that it wasn't my time.  Remember luck isn't luck, it's when preparation meets opportunity.  I had always been prepared but my opportunity never came.  Nor was I lucky.  As women when we have a passion, we need support at the beginning, in the middle and in the end. Sometimes if the bra gets old and worn to the point that it doesn't support our dreams, we need to buy a new one.

I heard a song today that made me feel better about the journey even though the dream has come to an end.  The title is Its Who You Are by AJ Michalka. The right thing to do is to realize the journey not the goal defines us.  It is what makes us who we are. There is no better way for a woman to show the men in her family what a woman really is than by following her dream. So the next time the man in your life wants to go fishing, or golfing, or whatever other passion he dreams to achieve, offer to go with him.  He may or may not take you up on the offer of your support but always remember if it's what he loves to do, it is who he is.

Its Who you Are - AJ Michalka     Click here to hear the song.


It's not the price
It's not the game
It's not the score
It's not the fame
Whatever road looks way too far
It's not what you have
It's who you are

It's not how fast
It's not how far
It's not of cheers
It's who you are

In darkest night
You make your sun
You choose your race
And then you run

It's never the glory
It's never the score
It's not about seeing who's less and who's more
Cuz when you find out how fast and how far
You'll know it's not how much you have
It's who you are

You lose the moon
Then be a star
It's not too soon
Be who you are
Whatever road looks way too far
It's not what you have
It's who you are


When you have found
How fast you can run
When you have found
Your place in the sun,
It won't be just you that you'll find
Has made the run and the climb
It's everyone

Learning to bend and not to break
Living to give more than you take
Dying to live
Living to try
Feet on the ground
Dreams in the sky

It's never how much you have
It's who you are

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 36 - Jehovah Witnesses and Spinach Fritatta

Chou Romanesco
Last week the Front Porch Pickins' company sent me an email to remind me to put my cooler out on the front porch so they could leave my fresh produce at my scheduled time.  In this e-mail they sent a recipe for spinach fritatta.  [I'll share this with you at the end of this blog] When I returned home from class, I was delighted again with my delivery.  Bananas, 10 red potatoes, 2 bunches of green onions, a huge bunch of spinach, a head of romaine lettuce, 3 bartlett pears, kiwi, a carton of strawberries, and a chou romanesco ( it looks like a green cauliflower but is actually a part of the cabbage family).  I decided that I would try to make the spinach fritatta.  I had made brown rice the day before so it was easy and fast to make.  The flavor was outstanding.

Spinach Fritatta
I only had one constructive criticism to give myself.  Although I had washed the spinach leaves, I guess I didn't wash them good enough.  The right thing to do would have been to individually scrub each huge leaf as I had washed the head.  Due to the fact that the spinach head was literally pulled from the earth hours before it arrived on my porch, it had more dirt in it than what I had anticipated.  As a result with each bite of the fritatta, the taste was great but the chewing was gritty.  It just didn't feel right.  I now know why my mother-in-law always said, make sure you wash the greens real good.  I should wash any leafy vegetable real good before cooking it.

So the presentation, taste and overall flavor was pleasant, but the grittiness was evident in every bite.  Coincidentally, today I had a similar experience with two women who came to my door as Jehovah Witnesses.  I remember as a child being horrified one day when my mother opened the door and two Jehovah Witness men were outside and she screamed, "I am a witch!" slammed the door, and unemotionally went into the living room and laughed.  I never understood this.  I remember her laughing as she told her friend on the telephone that night about this experience.  I just couldn't imagine what these people did that would make my mother behave this way.

Throughout the years I have come to answer the door when I have time to hear what they have to say. I love the literature they leave and trying to do the right thing, I do read it before throwing it away.  If I don't have time or am in the middle of homework I don't answer the door. We began a nice conversation and as I tried to say anything, I was met with "scripture quotes" from the bible.  I love my faith, and really try to be a good person.  The struggle to be non-secular in a secular society is a daily battle to which I often lose.

The conversation was like the fritatta.  It looked good, had good ingredients, was full of flavor, but the grit ruined the message.  I work very hard and often fail at trying to seek first to understand and then to be understood.  This is one of my struggles I'm reminded about by my boyfriend daily. But yesterday I think I did a good job at seeking first to understand which is why I was so frustrated when it was my turn to be understood.  I learned that they don't believe in the trinity. They are three different entities. Period. And to mention a suggestion to read any other book other than the bible is sacrilegious.  So I agreed to disagree with them and told Kathy the head speaker of the two, that I was really disappointed that she kept talking and wouldn't listen to me long enough to finish a sentence.  I asked her, "Do you really think the twelve disciples didn't debate and listen to one another before they made their conclusions of the validity of the son of God?"

Again Kathy opened her bible, to read a scripture.  My problem was that I feel that when Jehovah Witnesses come to "witness" they don't listen.  There is no dialogue.  I was told that nowhere in the bible does it say that there is a trinity.  I did not know this but told her I would do some research.  This is what I found:

If, as the anti-Trinitarians maintain, the Trinity is not a biblical doctrine and was never taught until the council of Nicea in 325, then why do these quotes exist?  The answer is simple: the Trinity is a biblical doctrine and it was taught before the council of Nicea in 325 A.D. Part of the reason that the Trinity doctrine was not "officially" taught until the time of the Council of Nicea is because Christianity was illegal until shortly before the council.  It wasn't really possible for official Christian groups to meet and discuss doctrine.  For the most part, they were fearful of making public pronouncements concerning their faith.

So maybe they won't understand it next time when I don't answer the door. The grittiness of the inability to have an intelligent conversation without always quoting scripture is just a show. In my opinion, a show of  "I can quote the bible and you can't."  Even if I could, I don't believe Jesus would want this, he wants us to create moments of love and create a feeling of acceptance of one another. He himself, told parables.  He was the greatest story teller of all eternity. He didn't preach to the meek and the mild, he reached out and taught with human intimacy.  I certainly don't feel loved or accepted after their visit. I actually feel more alienated.

Now I know why my mom was a self-proclaimed witch that day, she reads other books in addition to the Bible. As for me, I too am probably going to hell for reading my recipe book a little closer.  I'm washing the spinach leaves one by one and showing them some individual attention and love.  I want my spinach fritatta to have the clean ingredients to be perfect next time.  Jesus, God and the Holy Ghost may be coming to have dinner with me, I'll set out two plates.

Spinach Fritatta
2 Tablespoons butter, sautee onions (scallions are better here) and 1 cloves of garlic
Add chopped spinach (take out the stems just use the leaves)
Stir until leaves have cooked down.
Add 3 cups of brown rice (cook brown rice in chicken bouillion), 4 eggs, 1/2 cup of cheddar cheese, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup milk, 2 tsps salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.
Pour into casserole dish, sprinkle with cheese, bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until cheese has melted on top.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 35 - The Walls we Build - Brick by Brick

I heard Condoleeza Rice speak the other day.  She said something that peaked my interest.  "History has a long tail."  She was in the Bush administration on 9/11 and also in the Reagan administration on 11/9.  She felt that 9/11 was the beginning of a long tail of history. To be at the beginning means history is yet to unfold in our lifetimes. She said that it's easier to be at the end of the long tail of history than the beginning.  The end she was referring to was on 11/9  hearing Reagan's famous quote, "Mr. Gorbachev, Tear down that wall."  According to Rice this was the end of a long tail of history starting with Truman in '45 - '47.

The symbolism of tearing that wall was representative of the end of a long cold war era. Not only do governments, administrations and leaders build physical walls, don't we build invisible walls too?  And the reason for doing this is the same.  Protection.  Unfortunately, the invisible walls are the hardest to detect, understand and ultimately to be torn down.  I've built my own walls of protection and I don't know if others would consider this to be the right thing to do.  I do know that it is for each of us to decide what is right at a particular time no matter what others think.  Sometimes our values are diabolically opposed and we have to look at the two values to decide which one is more important to us. Sometimes it's not importance, the choice boils down to which choice will allow ourselves to still look in the mirror with the least amount of regret?  In these cases, it is often a painful process to make any choice.  [This is why in my opinion the choice to do nothing often erodes at ones self esteem.]

A "friend" of mine [who was also a fellow basketball referee, we'll call her "T"] and I were inseparable in the beginning of our officiating careers.  We went to camps together, talked til 2 AM in the morning on our six hour drives home from games [to make sure each other made it home safely] and occasionally found time to go to dinner in our spare time once a year. I supported her as she passed me in our careers and arrived on the Division 1 scene.  I went to her first Division 1 game in celebration of her accomplishment. Our friendship was very important to me on and off the court.  It also was a big source of contention in my marriage.

Our friendship was fine until my then sister-in-law planted an erroneous seed in her brother's mind that I had suddenly become a gay woman after fifteen years of marriage and a lifetime of heterosexuality.   My ex accused me of being gay, trying to hide it and "promoting" the lifestyle.  The truth was that I instilled in my children from the day they were born that people were different and we should all support each other and especially our friends.  The bible was used as the "last word" regarding homosexuality but when I found other quotes about Christian love, it was decreed that my new testament quotes were not as valid as his old testament quotes. [That is another blog]  Brick by brick the wall that was built in my marriage was being dismantled.  This was a long painful and drawn out process but the beginning began with this absurd accusation. Ultimately my choice of sanity and the strength in my convictions were stronger than my oath of death due us part.  A decision I will struggle with for the rest of my life.

"T" retired from officiating before I did and moved across the country to pursue her new dream.  A dream which I whole-heartedly supported.  The solid wall of friendship [or so I thought] was to last a lifetime.   I know the saying about people coming into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime, but most people that get to the status of "friend" in my life are lifers.  So when after two years of leaving the state without returning my attempts to contact her via phone, e-mail, voicemail, skype, texting, or old-fashioned Christmas cards, I had written the friendship off as not really a friendship at all.  The brick wall protecting our friendship I soon realized  had no mortar. The bricks were kept together by gravity not cement. 

I remember one time I really needed a friend.  I had sent one correspondence that during a period shortly after my divorce about the cruelty in which my immediate family had displayed towards me during this time. Her response was, "You knew how they were."  This was such a cold non-empathetic response I decided right then and there that I didn't know this person anymore. Because we know how people are, doesn't stop us from believing they will be better, be nicer, be honest.

Fast forward two years to this week.  "T" sent me an e-mail out-of-the-blue stating that she is coming back for a conference in a nearby city and wants to visit.  The long tail of history tells me that I'm setting myself up to be hurt again. Because "I know how she is."  So the conflicting values I struggle with are the choice to be a true friend to her and give her another chance vs. the choice to be true to myself.  The choice to protect myself from the pain of believing her words of I will be your friend.  The choice to tear down the brick wall or put up a barbwire fence? We both have extended olive branches but only the future will tell us if we are at the beginning of the tail of this friendship's history or the end.  If it's at the end, I disagree with Condoleeza Rice that it's easier to be at the end of the long tail of history. The pain from the end of the horse tail stings. The end of the stingray's tail killed the famous Australian Croc Hunter Irwin. Or maybe she meant "tale?"

If it's at the beginning, I only hope our heads will do the same thing that the head of the American eagle did after WWII.  The American eagle's head turned away from the arrows and toward the olive branches.

Real friendship is a rare and precious gift, strong, stable, yet fragile, and never to be taken for granted.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Day 34 - Wine, Salad, Seafood Pasta and Dessert

Remember those free gift cards we received  for donating blood that I mentioned on day 1 for $40 at any Darden restaurants?  We attempted to use them Monday night, but called ahead to make sure we weren't heading for a long wait and ultimately a disaster when we planned a Valentine's dinner in Daytona during Race Week (Daytona 500)  Bad news.  Glad we called.  So we waited another day and made a pit stop on the way.

We had a coupon to the local chocolate factory that said if we purchased a heart of chocolate, we would get six chocolate covered strawberries for free.  We had called before leaving to make sure they had enough of the seasonal strawberries and that the Valentines day customers had not wiped out the 3600 they had made for the holiday.  The owner assured me he would have them but informed us he was out of the hearts so that meant it would be cheaper for me to buy a pound of homemade chocolates.  Well twist my arm! So we swung by Angel and Phelps Chocolate Store [a must stop for anyone visiting Daytona Beach], bought six of the dozen or so remaining strawberries and then headed to Olive Garden.  It had been years since I had been to the all-you-can-eat-soup-and-salad Italian Restaurant, not to mention the fact that you get dinner too!

Chicken Gnocci
With all the hassles that usually occur on my trips to restaurants, I was shocked to have the most pleasant waiter I have had in years!  His name was Richard, but we could call him Frenchie.  He provided a complimentary taste of white wine that was out of this world.

We have a tradition of asking our servers what is their favorite item on the menu.  Sometimes we go with their recommendation and sometimes we don't.  We told him what we were in the mood for and he recommended the Pear and Gorgonzola Ravioli and Shrimp with Potato Cream Soup for my boyfriend and Capellini di Mare (Shrimp, clams and mussels sautéed in white wine, garlic and a zesty marinara sauce. Served over capellini and topped with fresh basil.) with Chicken Gnocci Soup for me.  An appetizer of Caprese Flatbread and all you can eat garlic bread sticks rounded off the meal.  It was out of this world.

Capellini di Mare
After the soup, he returned to an empty bowl and said, "I see you thought it was terrible."  I said going along with the joke, "Yes it was."  Frenchie asked, "Do you want a second bowl of this terrible soup?"  This was so refreshing to see somebody enjoying his job or at least making us feel like he enjoyed what he did.  He continued to create an evening of laughter and entertainment throughout the entire meal.  This was so rare in my numerous outings at restaurants, I asked the Manager upon leaving what was the best way to make sure that Frenchie was rewarded  for his above-and-beyond service.  She gave me a card with the corporate website suggested sending an e-mail to the corporate office.  By sending an  e-mail to the corporate office, the executives would see it and pass it down the chain until it got back to her, the manager.

To finish the evening, upon leaving the restaurant, a shabby male teenager entered the restaurant wearing a t-shirt and jeans. He took one look at us, did an about face, and went back to the entrance door to open it for us to walk through.  WOW, now that young man was taught some very good manners!  I don't know why he did it and I pray to God that it wasn't because we looked old but just because we looked olderThere is a difference.

So often I'm quick to fire off e-mails of insufficient or inferior service, it seemed like the right thing to do. It also was a good feeling to be able to do something that may bring this young man some financial reward.  He deserves it, for not only doing his job but for creating RAVING FANS in the process.  It refreshed and renewed my faith in young adults.  Although there wasn't room for the chocolate covered strawberries we bought from the chocolate factory in our stomachs after this superb dinner, we didn't need  to eat them. The courtesy of two young men this evening was our dessert without calories!

"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”~Henry Ford quotes

Footnote:  The lady actually put 8 strawberries  in the box! More dessert!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 33 - Land Unfill: Recycling

It's a fact that although every family in our state can recycle only 28% do on average.  The original goal of Florida was 30% and we are almost there. The new goal, established by then Governor Charlie Christ was 75% by the year 2020. (*note from a previous blog...a goal with a deadline!)  My neighborhood is probably about 60%.  It is easy to do and good for the environment that any effort outweighs the burden of having to recycle. Recycling is the right thing to do only if we want to do it.  It will make a big difference in the lives of our children.  Here are a couple ways I've found to make a difference in our house:

  1. Take the hair from your hair brush and throw it outside for the birds.  They use it in their nests.
  2. Unplug unused appliances.  The toaster is the first one we can start with and prevents house fires.
  3. Crumble your egg shells and coffee grounds and put them out on the rose bushes. The protein helps the roses and the birds.  The coffee grounds takes the acidity out of the soil.
  4. Start a compost pile with left overs.  Place lots of worms in it, worms are amazing creatures.
  5. Stop buying and drinking bottled water.  It is the single biggest problem in landfills now.  It used to be newspapers but plastic bottles have taken over.  Buy a container and reuse it.
  6. If we see something that could be used in the yard as decoration for example iron work, recycle it from the trash.  Paint is the wonder drug here.  You can paint anything.  We found a bird cage in somebody's trash that they put out a day early.  It is beautiful and the birds love it in the back yard. They are free however to come and go as they please as the door is open.
  7.  If we have a magazine subscription, we can drop them off at the doctor's office or hair salon after reading them.  Maybe someone in your family if they would like to read them.  A magazine should get a minimum of three readers from it.  Great if it's more than that.
  8.   Old wood can be nailed together and put on a tree for a nice bird house.  A square opening is just as efficient as a round one.  No worries if you don't have any tools but a saw, a hammer and some nails.
  9. Shower every other day instead of every day. If we need to shower every day, we can turn off the water while we soap up. 
 10. Wash laundry with cold water.
11. Turn off a light or the TV when it is not in use.
12. Pick up a few cloth bags and keep them in the car. Plastic grocery bags are not necessary then.

This last item is interesting.  In Europe this is common as every person is charged for their plastic bags if they don't have a cloth bag.  I imagine if American stores started charging all of us for the plastic bags, we would switch immediately.  So the money we can see that we are spending will change our habits but the money we don't see won't.  It still costs us not to recycle.  We can't see the money to build more landfills, pay for more plastic bottles, and pay for health issues resulting from landfills in our neighborhoods to name a few. The costs are hidden, but they are there.  With a few modifications to our daily habits, we can control the garbage before it controls us.

There is a sense of empowerment we feel when we recycle.  Being unemployed gives us an unnecessary feeling of lack of control.  Our society places such an identity strength on our occupations.  "I'm a recycler," is a great response to,  "What do you do?" when we're embarrassed to say we are currently unemployed.  It's a lifestyle change and it may take time.  To date I've had to overcome ripping the cardboard into 4 x 4 pieces, washing the jars and aluminum cans, removing the labels, separating the paper from the plastic and glass, and knowing which plastic is recyclable and which is not.  Plastic bags are not recyclable in our city but plastic food containers are.  Try empowering yourself by doing one thing on the list each week.  Eventually we'll all recycle our old way of thinking and empower ourselves to make a difference.

Check out this website for more ideas:

 Energy and Recycling Facts
  • One recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to power a television or computer for 3 hours or a 100-watt light bulb for 20 hours. A six-pack of recycled aluminum cans saves enough energy to drive a car 5 miles.
  • Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to light a 100-watt light bulb for 4 hours.
  • Recycling a one-gallon plastic milk jug will save enough energy to keep a 100-watt bulb burning for 11 hours.
  • Recycling one pound of steel conserves enough energy to light a 60-watt bulb for 26 hours.
  • Recycling a one-foot high stack of newspapers saves enough electricity to heat a home for 17 hours.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Day 32 - Guarding your money with an Umbrella

Mark Twain had it right when he said, "A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain." The recent dealings with credit card companies has been a real hassle.  If you have been recently laid off due to circumstances beyond your control, you know what I mean.  I have always paid my bills on time and always more than the minimum payment yet I was shocked when a got a letter stating I had a choice. I could keep my 4.9% rate on my Capital One Credit card and no longer have access to use it or I could use it and the rate would increase to 21.9%.  I filed a better business bureau complaint and the Vice President called me.

I recommend this to everyone by the way.  Sometimes the proper chain of command does not get resolution to your satisfaction so a complaint with the BBB goes right to the top.  99% of the time a fair resolution is made once you can reach someone empowered to make a good customer service focused decision.  The Vice President agreed by silence that this particular decision in my case was unfair but stated I had a choice.  I told him, "This really isn't a fair choice but you've left me no other choice as a smart business person but to close the account to continue the lower interest rate."  I know many people who have had no chance to even make a decision.  If they are trying to balance their money and still feed their families, they opt to pay what they can.  Suddenly ALL of their credit cards are shut off.  Even the ones they are paying on and keeping up to date.  How fair is that?

I know people who called their mortgage companies to work out a temporary solution while they were out of work and they were told, "We can't do anything for you until you are three months behind on your mortgage."  So at the advice of the bank, they default on three months of mortgage payments and call back.  They then tell them, "We can't do anything for you because you are behind on your mortgage payments!"  WTF.  They then filed a BBB complaint and waaallaaaa. They are magically in touch with a loan refinance solution specialist and they work out a solution, only to find out that the bank has rolled an additional $8000 into the loan modification which is illegal.

I constantly scan  my bills to find additional charges that suddenly appeared on the bill for no apparent reason.  I call the cc company and they remove it.  So how many other people don't do this and are charged illegally for no reason?  Thomas Jefferson (remember this was 200 years ago) knew this challenge.  He wrote, "I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies." Deregulation has been the slippery slope which has enabled all of this to happen. What about all the senior citizens that don't know to look for these hidden charges.  It's disgusting what the financial institutions are doing to their customers.

This is why when a special offer comes in the mail to make money, without guilt or hesitation I jump on it.  We received a letter from Buick that if we test drove a car, we would receive a $50 gift card from Visa or American Express [I can't remember which.] We drove the car, came home and entered the code online.  $50 bucks easy.  We received an offer from American Express that if we applied for a "PASS" card and recharged it once, they would reload it with $25.  Ok, Another free $25.  Online purchases offer $5 off each item if we subscribe to a magazine to which we can cancel within 45 days.  As soon as I get the item, I cancel the subscription to the magazine I didn't want to begin with.  Another saved $5.

I'll admit it's a struggle to "guard my Fort Knox" which is really like the piggy bank these days, but every penny counts.  There are a lot of wolves out there and occasionally a company won't honor its offer.  They are wolves disguised as sheep. I usually report them to the BBB or to the company that referred them and they quickly go away.  Diligence and awareness are the right thing to do when protecting your money.  I need the umbrella for the rainy days and I know the sun will shine again soon.  I also have enough experience to know a wolf when I see one and I'm not lending him my umbrella! I know I won't get it back until it the sun comes out after it stops raining.

When a person with money meets a person with experience, the person with the experience winds up with the money and the person with the money winds up with the experience ~Harvey MacKay