Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Cool Web Site -

I love, love, love finding a new website that makes my life easier. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my latest discovery:

This site does so much for you it's difficult to explain it all. But in a nutshell, it provides a single-site look at all of your financial accounts - credit cards, investments, checking and savings accounts, student loans, etc. All of them, in one place, with one log-in. And it automatically reviews your data and helps you keep track of your spending trends, identifies potential savings, and alerts you on account activity.

Did I mention it does all of this automatically? And you can be set up to go in under five minutes?

So, so cool.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Nothing and Everything

I feel this year like I have nothing. I have no cards to send out, no presents to wrap and give away, and no plans for holiday parties or Christmas celebrations. Ric and I are still unemployed, temp work barely pays the bills, and we can't afford to spend money we don't have. What little family I have is scattered across the country. Most of my local friends are traveling elsewhere for Christmas, and my long-distance friends are, unfortunately, still a long distance from me. Yep, it reads like a whole lot of nothing.

And yet, I also feel like I have everything. As I type this post, my husband is in the kitchen working frantically to get a gingerbread house made from scratch. Why? Because I said earlier today that I thought it might be fun on Christmas Eve to invite a friend or two over to the house and make something for the holiday. I asked him, "what do you know about a gingerbread house?" He said he didn't know anything, but he would figure it out. And he did. He has spent hours tonight making the basic shape, so tomorrow evening we can all decorate it with candy and frosting and drink too much wine and eggnog and laugh too much at how silly we all are. My simple request became his quest, to give me the one thing I asked for this Christmas. I have everything because I have such a husband.

I have everything because my friends, be they nearby or far away, would still move time and tide to be by my side if I was in need. They love me and worry about me and make me feel like I can do anything in this world. My friends are my foundation and my strength, my roots and my wings. There just isn't anything to be bought that could ever mean as much as true friendship.

I have everything because the family I do have is in good health and high spirits this holiday season. We have all struggled through so much this year, but we go on. Others are without family, but I am blessed to have my grandfather, mother and step-father, brother and sister-in-law, uncles and aunts, and cousins. It's such a simple statement that means so much: I have my family.

I have everything because my own rough times are still miles away from the true struggles that others endure. Each day, I have a roof over my head, food to eat, warm clothes to wear, and people to worry and pray for me. I have the safety and security of my own place in this world, made better by those who love me.

Yes, this Christmas, I will feel blessed and be grateful for all that I have. I will remind myself that I have everything. And I will laugh and smile and even shed a happy tear or two.

Merry Christmas to everyone, near and far. Please know that you are in my heart now and throughout the year.

Blind Man Sees With Subconscious Eye

Scientists are reporting the remarkable case of a blind man who can see.
This link shows a brief video of the man "seeing" obstacles and walking around them, though he has no conscious awareness of doing so. Absolutely amazing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama and Warren: Strange Bedfellows, indeed

President Elect Obama has chosen Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. I know this is all part of Obama's "reach out" strategy, but this is one too far for me. Author David Corn sums it up better than I:

But Warren's opposition to gay rights is more than a mere policy dispute. It is an act of bigotry. Sure, Warren does not believe he is being discriminatory. But that's what it is. He is denying rights to certain Americans because he disapproves of how they love. By handing Warren this prime slot at the inauguration, Obama is saying that he recognizes Warren as a spiritual leader and is reaffirming Warren's position as such. This is an insult to gay Americans and those who support equal rights in this nation.

Simple question: would Obama allow a minister who opposed granting equal rights to interracial couples to deliver the invocation at his inauguration?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

For Ric, on his birthday

Happy Birthday to you, Husband. My birthday wish for you:

I wish for you the happiness I feel when I'm with you,
To know I look at you and see a heart and soul so true.

I wish just once you would believe what others think of you,
And how proud your Mom would be to see the man you grew into.

I wish you knew the difference that you make in every day,
For those of us who know you, and those you meet along the way.

I hope you know that it is you I cherish and adore.
And given a hundred years, I'll surely want a hundred more.

Know that I will always be so proud to be with you,
And know that I feel loved by all the kind things that you do.

But most of all, my wish for you, is simple but sincere.
To know you have my heart and soul. Happy Birthday, dear.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

It's that time again...

I wasn't really feeling the season, yet, but today we put up a small tree, added some lights and decorations to the front room, and turned on the Christmas music. It worked. Even without the "too much is still not enough" decorating of years past, I am finally enjoying the Christmas season.

Now, if I can just figure out what to get Ric for Christmas...

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wild Wisdom

Animals As Teachers

Since prehistoric times, animals have acted as companions to humans on their journey toward enlightenment. Animals as disparate in character as house pets, birds, sea creatures, and insects have been our mentors, teachers, and guides. There is much we can learn from animals, as they offer us the unique opportunity to transcend the human perspective. Unlike human teachers, animals can only impart their wisdom by example, and we learn from them by observation. An animal teacher can be a beloved pet or an animal in the wild. You may even find yourself noticing the animals in your backyard. Even robins and bumblebees have lessons to share with you.

Animals teach us in a variety of ways about behavior, habit, and instinct. House pets embody an unconditional love that remains unchanged in the face of our shape, size, age, race, or gender. They care little for the differences between us and them and simply enjoy loving and being loved. Our pets encourage us to let our guards down, have fun, and take advantage of every opportunity to enjoy life. You can also learn lessons from the animals you encounter in the wild if you take the time to observe their habits. Cold-blooded animals show us adaptability and sensitivity to one’s environment. Mammals serve as examples of nurturing and playfulness. Animals that live in oceans, lakes, and rivers demonstrate the value of movement and grace. It is even possible to learn from insects that live in highly structured communities that everyone plays a vital role.

Animals teach us about life, death, survival, sacrifice, and responsibility. If you find yourself drawn to a particular animal, ask yourself which of its traits you find most intriguing and think about how you might mimic those traits. Think of what you might learn from observing the little bird on your windowsill or the mosquito buzzing around a picnic table. Animals express themselves with abandon, freedom, and integrity. It’s natural to be drawn to the wisdom offered by our animal teachers, and in doing so, discover what is natural and true within you.

There is nothing that compares to the love and support that I get from our two dogs, Idgie and Ruth. If I so much as glance at them, they give me their complete attention. They are so excited and happy to be with me, always there to make me feel better. When I am ready to run around with them in the backyard, they are ready to go. When I want to sit down at my desk and putter on the computer, they are perfectly content laying here at my feet and napping.

It's an old expression, I know, and not one I can claim as my own, but here it is, anyway:

Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.

Tip It!

If you haven't seen Kathy Griffin live, add it to your list o' things to do. I saw her show last night in Los Angeles (thanks for the ticket and the company, AJ!), and she was absolutely fantastic.
  • The show was at the Kodak Theater, home to the Oscars and the American Idol finales. It is a beautiful theater and really feels like a piece of old Hollywood.
  • It was the second night of a four night run and all of the shows sold out.
  • She was onstage for a full two hours, and the jokes and stories and comedy never slowed down.
Go, go, go see Kathy Griffin. The reality show and specials are great, but they don't capture the magic of a live performance. Oh, and "tip it!" is Kathy's Mom's expression when she wants Kathy to get the very last of the wine out of the box. She shared that during a long portion all about her Mom, Maggie, that had tears rolling down my face from laughter.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fully Committed to Now

Why We Are Not Shown the Big Picture

Sometimes, we may find ourselves wishing we knew what our lives are going to look like or what gifts and challenges are going to be presented to us in the coming months or years. We may want to know if the relationship we’re in now will go the distance or if our goals will be realized. Perhaps we feel like we need help making a decision and we want to know which choice will work out best. We may consult psychics, tarot cards, our dreams, and many other sources in the hopes of finding out what the future holds. Usually, at most, we may catch glimpses. And even though we think we would like to know the whole story in all its details, the truth is that we would probably be overwhelmed and exhausted if we knew everything that is going to happen to us.

Just think of your life as you’ve lived it up to this point. If you are like most of us, you have probably done more and faced more than you could have ever imagined. If someone had told you as a child of all the jobs and relationships you would experience, along with each one’s inherent ups and downs, you would have become overwhelmed. With your head full of information about the future, you would have had a very hard time experiencing your life in the present moment, which is where everything actually happens.

In many ways, not knowing what the future has in store brings out in us the qualities we need to grow. For example, it would have been difficult to commit yourself to certain people or projects if you knew they wouldn’t ultimately work out. Yet, it was through your commitment to see them through that you experienced the lessons you needed to grow. Looking back on your life, you would likely be hard pressed to say that anything in your past should not have happened. In fact, your most challenging experiences with their inevitable lessons may have ultimately brought you the greatest rewards. Not knowing the future keeps us just where we need to be—fully committed and in the present moment.

I am really understanding this today. I feel like I am at a professional crossroads, and the decisions I make now will influence the rest of my life. I think I am making the right choice - grad school for my Masters in Accounting and then sitting for the CPA exam - but I can't be sure. What I am taking from this passage is that my time and energy are best spent focused on school and the journey, rather than just looking at the end results. Yes, I will have my Masters, but I am sacrificing eighteen months to get it. Better that I focus on the small steps - each class, each group of students, each lesson learned - to really get the most out of this entire process.

Finally, a plan for the blog.

I have been trying to sort out this blog and what I intend to do with it. More importantly, I have decided against creating new blogs to track my fitness and school activity. The solution is simple. One blog with separate labels to keep things sorted out.

And the labels?
  • Fitness (to track my workouts, boast about my results, and keep myself encouraged)
  • Grad School (to track my progress through the next eighteen months)
  • Reviews (music, movies, television shows... whatever catches my attention)
  • Politics (because it still matters)
  • Life Happens (friends, family, vacations, nights out, etc)
  • Daily OM (a great starting point when I am feeling introspective)
  • My Own Creations (writing, video projects, etc.)
  • Web Gems (posts, pictures, jokes, etc, that I find on the Web)
  • Military (because it never really leaves the blood)
  • Grab Bag (for everything else)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Heaven's Hands (the video)

This is my first attempt at making a video with Movie Maker, and I'm happy with the way it turned out. This has long been a favorite song of mine, and it was inspiring and uplifting compiling these amazing photos.

I hope you enjoy viewing it as much as I enjoyed making it.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Heaven's Hands

Heaven's Hands, by Nancy Wilson

I see the broken souls walking the streets.
I hear the babies cry while Mom begs to eat.
Empty hearts needing so much,
Can be filled with just the right touch.
Though it’s good to wish and pray,
That won’t take their needs away.
We must give if love is to be real.

We’re heaven’s hands,
When we give to one another, we’re heaven’s hands.
With the selfless love we reach out with our hands,
Our human hands.
And the love that we begin will create love again.

Sometimes when tragedy appears on TV,
We all feel sympathy for those in need.
That’s the love we need everyday,
If change is to come, if change is to stay.
We must not let a day go by.
We can’t look our brother in the eye,
And know that we’ve done all that we can.

We’re heaven’s hands,
When we give to one another, we’re heaven’s hands.
With the selfless love we reach out with our hands,
Our human hands.
And the love that we begin will create love again.

Whatever you do for love, will come back to you.
Know that the day will come, when you need a hand, too.
The greatest miracle our hearts will ever know
Is the love we let unfold through our hands.

We’re heaven’s hands,
When we give to one another, we’re heaven’s hands.
With the selfless love we reach out with our hands,
Our human hands.
And the love that we begin will create love again.

We’re heaven’s hands.
We are heaven’s hands.