A little bit freaky and funny at the same time!
Tuesday Tip May 28, 2013
With Memorial Day behind us, summer has unofficially arrived and with it comes short skirts, dresses, and shorts. But, your legs may not have that summer glow to them yet, so here is a product I’m in love with. Simply apply it like lotion on your legs and you will boast a temporary suntan look without any orangey-ness or striping. It’s that simple! Trust me! I am not a self-tanner or even serious sun-tanner, but I do like a little color on my legs and this Jergens “Natural Glow” lotion is the way to go. I have only used it on my legs, but if anyone tries it on your arms please let me know how it works. Happy “tanning!”
We Are Free Because They Were Brave May 27, 2013
“Of the four wars in my lifetime, none came about because the U.S. was too strong.” Ronald Reagan
I’ve always loved that quote by President Reagan and thought that today, being Memorial Day, presented the perfect opportunity to use it. Today we memorialize those who paid the ultimate price – their lives – serving our country and fighting to keep our nation safe. They were brave and we are free because of them.
My dad served in the Navy and I will forever remember literally and physically jumping as they played Taps at his funeral in 1982. He is buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe; a beautiful place and one of only a select few such cemeteries. I don’t go there often because to me, he’s not there, but rather up in heaven with family, friends, and fellow veterans. Still, I do think of him on Memorial Day and wish I could place a flag on his pristine white tombstone.
“A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.
To so many, Memorial Day is simply the unofficial start of summer and a day to host backyard bar-b-ques, open up swimming pools, go on picnics, and enjoy a day off from work. What is the true meaning behind Memorial Day though, and how did it originate and why?
Celebrated the last Monday each May, what is today called Memorial Day was for many years referred to as Decoration Day. It all started after the Civil War as a way to commemorate the more than 600,000 soldiers who died fighting for both the Union and the Confederacy. It became an annual ritual to decorate these soldiers’ graves with flowers, wreaths, and flags. In 1967, federal law officially declared it Memorial Day.
The practice of decorating a soldier’s grave with flowers is an ancient custom not unique to America and is common in places as traditional as China. Stateside, Boalsburg, Pennsylvania promotes itself as the birthplace of Memorial Day, claiming women decorated graves on July 4, 1864. However, the first well-known observance of Memorial Day is said to have been in Charleston, South Carolina in May of 1865.
Today it is customary to fly the flag at half-staff until noon on Memorial Day, and then raise it to the top of the staff until sunset. The day is also usually marked with parades and personal visits to cemeteries across the country. It is important not to confuse Memorial Day with Veterans Day, however. Memorial Day is a day of remembering those who died while serving in our nation’s armed forces, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.
With recent headlines chronicling the rise of suicides and sexual assaults in the U.S. military, it’s easy to paint a negative picture of the world’s finest and most respected military, but don’t. Considering the nearly 1.5 active military members today, there are by far more upstanding members than those making those headlines. Here then, is a brief synopsis of America’s military:
Our present military is the result of the National Security Act of 1947. It was then that the “War Department” became today’s Department of Defense, which is headed by a civilian, the Secretary of Defense, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The President serves as our country’s Commander in Chief, giving him command and authority over all military forces. There are five military branches: The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Each has their respective service secretary who helps make up the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The U.S. Army’s main function is to protect and defend the United States and its interests. It is our nation’s main ground force and is the largest U.S. military service. Established by the Continental Congress in June 1775, it is also the nation’s oldest military service.
Also established by the Continental Congress, the U.S. Navy works under its main mission of maintaining the freedom of the seas and making it possible for the U.S. to use the seas where and when our national interests dictate. The Navy also supports the Air Force in times of conflict with naval aircraft carriers. In addition, the Navy is primarily responsible for transporting Marines to areas of conflict.
The Marines were officially established in November 1775 to act as a landing force for the U.S. Navy but were named a separate service by Congress in 1798. Often referred to as the “Infantry of the Navy,” Marines specialize in amphibious operations such as the capture and control of beaches. The Marines thrive on being self-sufficient and boast their own air power.
The U.S. Air Force was created under the National Security Act of 1947 and is our nation’s youngest military service. Prior to 1947, the Air Force was a separate corps of the Army, but World War II revealed solid air power was essential so the Air Force was established as a separate service. Its primary mission is to defend the United States and its interests through exploitation of air and space.
The U.S. Coast Guard is the smallest military service and draws its roots from the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. It does not fall under the Department of Defense but is considered a military service because, during times of conflict, the president can transfer its duties and assets to the Department of the Navy. In 1915 it was reformed as the Coast Guard under the Treasury Department, was transferred to the Department of Transportation in 1967, but as of 2002 it became an arm of the Department of Homeland Security. During times of peace, its main mission is law enforcement, boating safety, sea rescue, and illegal immigration control.
So there you have it, a brief history of our distinguished and peerless armed forces. As you enjoy your hot-dogs, potato salad, and cold beers today and as you serve your guests at your cook-out, take a moment to remember all those who served a much more vital item: our country. Thanks for serving and thanks for keeping us free.
Shut the Gates! May 25, 2013
Dateline Austin, Texas 1986. That’s when I officially moved to capital city of Texas. I was a newlywed working in the media and loving life. I also loved Austin. It was a medium-sized city with a small town, funky feel whose main attraction was (and still is) a colony of bats that fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge at dusk. I reveled in the fact that the “never overdressed in Dallas” mantra was instead “never underdressed in Austin.” My husband and I frequented the many live music venues, ate at all the “in” places, and lived in a desirable neighborhood. Life was good.
Fast forward 27 years and that desirable neighborhood, which at the time was considered “northwest Austin,” is now pretty much smack dab in the middle of town. Actually it’s now a city; a really big and crowded city. Our home was near a convenient north-west artery called “Mopac,” which is now sadly called “Slow-pac.” A very pretty (as freeways go) alternative to the parallel nightmare known as I-35, Mopac (or as newcomers call it, Loop 1), was designed by Lady Bird Johnson to be full of bluebonnets and free of billboards. Just next week major construction will commence on creating commuter lanes and sound barriers on Mopac. It’s just more proof that Austin being named the 11th biggest city in the country came as no surprise to its residents. It does come with some trepidation though.
Yes, today’s Austin enjoys a healthy job and real estate market, an enviable quality of life, and a young and educated population, but with the nearly 100 people who move here a day has come treacherous traffic, crowded restaurants, and a loss of what made Austin, well, Austin. Today, Austin is in many ways, just another big city, albeit with pretty landscaping and plenty of bike lanes.
I am not alone in this feeling. Blogger David Landsel at Airfarewatchdog.com, recently wrote about his “Ten Terribly Overrated Destinations.” Asking the question “have you ever traveled somewhere that everyone told you was the absolute best only to find yourself wondering, is that all there is” (I felt that about San Diego myself), Landsel says the cities that made his list trade on reputations they no longer deserve and have fallen victim to hype. Guess what city topped his list? Yep, Austin! Calling it a “legend in its own mind” and “one of those unfortunate places that seems really smashing on paper” but where “everyone walks around looking so stressed,” Landsel says Austin may be entertaining but is still a “city whose entire purpose for breathing is to not be like everything else around it.”
Don’t tell that to all the contractors building high-rise after high-rise of condos in downtown Austin and the owners of the multiple hot and trendy restaurants. Downtown Austin is now similar to any big city downtown. Simple and family-friendly Aquafest has morphed into the world-famous and ginormous South by Southwest and Austin City Limits is not just a classic TV show in a small UT studio, but a fortnight of concerts and a TV show in a beautiful theatre adjacent to the ultra-trendy W hotel. Money talks, and in Austin, it’s screaming! Job hunters and economic gurus love it and see Austin as example “A” of how to successfully emerge from a recession stronger and bigger. The whole region surrounding it boasts the same.
In fact, the 70-mile stretch between Austin and San Antonio (the nation’s 7th largest city) is busting at the seams. San Marcos is right on Interstate 35, is home to Texas State University, is in the middle of the two metro areas, and had the highest growth rate among all U.S. cities with at least 50,000 residents. My own little Cedar Park was the 4th fastest growing “small” city, while eight of the 15 fastest growing “big” cities were in Texas, with five making the top 10: Houston at #2, San Antonio at #4, Austin at #5, Dallas at #7, and Fort Worth at #10. These are the fastest growing cities, in terms of most populous, Texas boasts 3 of the top 10 and 4 of the top 15. Say what you will national media and pundits, but we must be doing something right in the Lone Star State!
How though, can a city as unique as Austin hold onto some of that uniqueness and quality of life while branding itself as the place in which to live and work? Maybe we can just shut the gates. Not likely. Maybe improvements could be made in traffic. Another list Austin found itself on recently is that of having the 4th worst traffic in the nation, ahead of infamous driving nightmares like New York City, D.C., and even Boston. As it stands, Austin (the 11th biggest city in the country, remember?!) has no east-west thoroughfare and thanks to our very “creative” and alternative hours type workforce, Austin traffic is not just during normal rush hours, but 24-7.
Despite all of this and despite being a Sooner, I do feel fortunate to live in Austin. I rarely go downtown though because it’s so crowded and “Aspenized” but every now and then I enjoy doing so. Most days I prefer to stay up in Cedar Park and in the northwest corridor of town. Oh no, but wait, that’s all growing too. Maybe it is time to shut those gates after all.
Think About It Thursday May 23, 2013
The Golf Balls of Life
A professor stood before his philosophy class and picked up a large, empty jar. On the table beside the jar were containers of golf balls, pebbles, sand, and water. The professor filled the jar with golf balls and asked his students, “is the jar full?” Half the class said “yes” but half said, “no, there is still space between the golf balls.”
The professor then poured the pebbles into the jar and shook it so they settled into the open areas between the balls. Again he asked the students if the jar was full. Once again half said “yes” but half said “no, there’s still space between the pebbles.”
The professor then poured sand into the jar and asked the students if the jar was now full. This time most of the students said “yes” but one insightful student said “no there’s still some space between the grains of sand.”
The professor smiled and poured a significant amount of water into the jar and asked, “what if I put the water in first or the sand or the pebbles? The golf balls wouldn’t fit into the jar without something overflowing. Think of the jar as your life. The golf balls are the important things in your life like God, family, health, friends and your favorite passions. Take care of them first. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, and your car. They are important, but they shouldn’t be what make your life matter. If you put the big stuff into your jar of life first – the stuff that really matters – the small stuff will find a way to fit in and if it doesn’t, maybe it doesn’t need to take up so much space your life. The sand is everything else – the small stuff. If you put the sand in first, there won’t be room for the pebbles or golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that really matter.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Hug your family. Call your parents. Hold hands with your spouse. Go to church. Get medical check-ups. Exercise. Eat well. Laugh. Take time for yourself. There will always be time to clean the house and tweet a status, but take care of the golf balls in your life first. The rest is just sand. Don’t get trapped in it.
Class Acts May 22, 2013
Today marked the last day of teaching my class this year. It’s always such a bittersweet day, as I’m ready for some time off but I’m going to miss all my little friends and their wonderful moms and dads. I love my job and my eyes were tearing up all day long. It didn’t help that I was up late last night watching the horrific news out of Moore, Oklahoma or that my daughter is having surgery tomorrow. I was an emotional basket case in need of keeping it together in front of 11 little angels.
As many of you know, I’m an Oklahoma University grad, my daughter currently attends OU, and the state is near and dear to my heart. I have many friends who live there and I was in Moore a mere three weeks ago. To say I’m heartbroken is an understatement. The fact that two elementary schools took direct hits from the twister is enough to twist the insides of even the strongest person.
Once again however, teachers came through. Much like we did in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy, we are learning just how courageous and critical teachers were in Moore, Oklahoma. As my director said during our morning prayer today, teachers are the true heroes of society, not the athletes or movie stars who make millions of dollars. We have severe weather drills in our school once-a-month, but I can’t even imagine having to go through the real thing. I can only hope I would be as brave as those in Moore, Newtown, and in cities across America.
I am not a teacher by trade but I am proud to call myself a pre-school teacher nonetheless. As they say, teaching is the profession that teaches all other professions. Teachers literally shape the future and they literally save lives. In honor of those heroic teachers in Moore; for my sweet students who made my year special; and for all the good, dedicated, and tireless teachers out there, I’d like to close with a piece written by Donna Dargis that I give my students at the end of school each year. It’s called “If There Could Be One Thing.”
If there could be only one thing in life for me to teach you, I would teach you to:
Respect others so that you may find respect in yourself.
Learn the value of giving so that if ever there comes a time in your life when someone really needs you, you will give.
Act in a manner that you wish to be treated.
Be proud of yourself.
Laugh and smile as much as you can in order to bring joy into this world.
Have faith in others.
Stand tall and learn to depend on yourself.
Only take from this earth those things that you really need so there will be enough for others.
Don’t depend on money or material things for your happiness.
Fine peace and security within yourself.
To you my child, I hope I have taught all of these things, for they are love and I love you.
The Mother of All Holidays May 12, 2013
In honor of my mom and all moms out there, here are just a few of my favorite quotes about moms:
“A mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take.” Cardinal Mermillod
A good mother is like a quilt: she keeps her children warm but doesn’t smother them.
A worried mom does better research than the FBI.
“Women who make a house a home make a far greater contribution to society than those who command large armies or stand at the head of impressive corporations.” Gordon B. Hinckley
“It is difficult to know what counts most in the world but I am beginning to see that the things that really matter take place not in the boardrooms, but in the kitchens of the world.” Gary Allen Sledge
“Children are the hands by which we take hold of heaven.” Henry Ward Beecher
A daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend.
Perhaps that last one is the one that rings truest to me today. My daughter is a little girl who’s grown up to be my friend; in many ways my best friend. At the same time, my mom is today my trusted friend. I still rely on her for so much wisdom and prayer and I see better today all that she sacrificed for me and know I am safe and healthy because of her prayers. She is so faithful to the mother of us all, Blessed Mary, and I know Mary is protecting me as I go about my days. Thank you mom for all you’ve done for me and thank you Kristen for making me proud. Most of all, thank you God for putting the two of them in my life.
Happy Mother’s Day!
Tuesday’s Tip May 7, 2013
Facebook and Beyond
Just yesterday, my daughter Kristen changed my Facebook profile photo because she didn’t like it. No, it wasn’t a bratty or disrespectful thing to do if you know the story behind it, but it got me thinking: could I do the same to her FB page? The answer is yes, but that might not be the case with so many parents out there and even with you, my dear readers. Do you know your child’s passwords? ALL their passwords? Are you familiar with the vast array of social media sites kids are using today?
First of all, it’s important to know that Facebook is just one social site that kids today are logging onto. What’s even more important to know is that Facebook is not deemed the coolest of sites by those same kids. As reported by the Associated Press recently, Facebook is considered the “school-sanctioned prom” to teenagers and all the others apps are the “much cooler after party.” No, Facebook hasn’t gone the way of MySpace, but it’s certainly feeling the heat from rivals such as Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, Kik Messenger and even YouTube and Pinterest. Haven’t heard of them? Read on…
I think most of you have an idea of what YouTube and Pinterest are, but here’s a breakdown of some of the other sites your kids may be using:
Facebook: I won’t go into any detail on this popular site because you’re more than likely on it yourself or at least familiar with it, but did you know a user (your child!) can use custom settings on their FB account to control who sees what on their profile? In other words, I probably don’t see as much on my daughter’s friends’ sites as she does, even though I am “friends” with them.
Twitter: Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and receive text-based messages of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets.” To me, “tweets” are very similar to Facebook status updates, except that they are done much more often. Users seem to tweet everything they do and think and love the fact that they have “followers,” those invited to “follow” their tweets. Today it’s estimated there are more than 500 million registered Twitter users, including many celebs, and more than 340 million tweets are generated daily. Unregistered users on the popular website can read tweets, but only registered users can post tweets. It is extremely popular with college students.
Instagram: Instagram is free software that digitally enhances photos and posts them to an online account. It is considered fairly safe as long as users keep their privacy settings very limited and don’t post any questionable pics. Problems tend to arise once those Instagrammed photos are posted on sites like Facebook, which ironically bought Instagram last year.
Flickr: “Flicker” is a photo and video hosting website and online community owned by Yahoo. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by bloggers like me as a source of photos and images. There are reportedly more than 6 billion images and videos available, which can be accessed without an account but an account is needed to upload content onto the website. Widely used on computers, Flickr also has a popular mobile app.
Snapchat: One of IPhone’s top 10 most popular free apps, Snapchat lets users send a text, photo, or video that self-destructs within 10 seconds of being opened, leaving no room for tracking or tracing. But, users need to keep in mind that anyone who receives their Snapchat post can use those 10 seconds to take a “screenshot” of it and save it indefinitely.
Kik Messenger: The most inviting thing about “Kik” is that it permits anonymity to its users. It also allows unlimited texting and is a free app. Use a random nickname or user name and a person’s real name, identity, or phone number may never revealed.
Sound scary? They are, especially when you consider that fact that many mobile apps don’t require a cellphone or credit card. They’re all free as long as there is a wireless connection available. Some parents are opting to shut off their home’s Wi-Fi after certain hours but many of those same parents admit they are not the sharpest tools in the high tech shed when it comes to social media. In many ways, today’s “tech talk” is yesterday’s “sex talk” with your children…it’s that important. In the same vein, technology education for parents is comparable to sex education. Study it. Learn it. Live it.
It’s a tough thing to stay on top of though, and I’m right there with you. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are more than 800,000 apps available through Apple and nearly that many available on Google Play. Many parents aren’t even aware that their children use any or all of these sites until something goes wrong and trouble comes calling.
So, just because you don’t see racy pics or posts on your child’s Facebook page, don’t stop there. And no, it’s not a matter of control or privacy. It’s a matter of safety and care. If you’re doing it just to be nosey, stop right there. But if you’re worried about something in particular, check it out. They could be tweeting or Snapchatting as you read this!