Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Fallen Friend - A Heart Like His

The splendor of Israel lies slain on your heights.  How the mighty have fallen (2 Samuel 1:19)

What has GOD shown you during seasons of grief?  What have you learned about Him, about yourself, and about your own expectations of what life really means?

When my father died earlier this year it was very difficult.  His death opened wide the chasm between my siblings and I.  I looked upon my father as the glue that held this fragile family together and I saw his death as the final fracture of what remained of our family.
I was blindsided by my overwhelming emotions and bewildered by the whirling confusion of grief.  At times I could scarcely breathe with the force of it.  

Knowing the Lord and knowing His comfort did not take away the ache; but it helped to know that God was there for me. I am never alone.  He comforts me with his presence, and helps me find peace in my pain.   

How has grief changed your relationship with Him?
God is at our side during our loss, often not speaking yet knowing our pain and sharing in our suffering. He knows the pain of having a child despised and rejected, and killed.
Jesus is our best role model for combining faith and grief, as revealed in John 11:1-45. When He saw Mary and Martha in anguish over the death of their brother Lazarus, He wept and groaned. Although Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, He still allowed Himself to feel – and express – the depths of human sorrow.

We can take comfort in knowing that Jesus has experienced all of our pain, including loss, rejection, betrayal, and dying. As our Savior and Redeemer, He took all our sins to the cross and forgives us when we ask. As our Good Shepherd, He leads us safely through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4b). Remember, a shadow indicates that there is a light on the other side!

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Debt Of Gratitude - A Heart Like His

When the residents of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all their brae men set out, journeyed all night, and retrieved the boy of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan (1 Samuel 31: 11-12)

Think of some of the specific kindnesses sown you and the sacrifices made by the people in your life.  How could you express your thanks to them over the next few days? 
GOD has put many people in my life who have helped me in large and small ways.  Looking back I may not have acknowledge the sacrifices they made for me. It’s important to give credit to other people for our successes. In the next few days I will call those who have been there for me by calling them just to say thank you and letting them know that I appreciate the things they did for me. 

What barriers or distractions need to come down in your life so that you can easily keep your responses of gratitude flowing?
I suppose my biggest barrier is the fact that like many people I tend to dwell on the negative.  This negative bias tends to set my focus on the problems, irritations, and injustices in my life rather than focusing on being grateful for the events or people in our lives that are working and we feel good about.

Sometimes the difficult times in your life can blind you to the things for which you should be grateful.  It is important to be grateful to everyone. I need to be grateful to those who have helped, to those who have hindered as well as to those who have been indifferent. Be grateful to all, because these individuals helped shape the person I have become. 




Thursday, October 25, 2012

Austin Sigg Makes His First Court Appearance

"Who knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men?" These were the word that would begin the radio show, The Shadow along with an ominous laugh. I don't think that even the Shadow could have guessed what evil was lurking in the heart of Austin Sigg.

Austin Sigg made his first court appearance today, remaining calm as the judge announced that he will be tried as an adult.

Sigg looked down at his hands the entire time he was in court, only twice glancing behind him at his family and Jessica's family.

The charges against Sigg are for Jessica's death and for the alleged attempted abduction of a jogger in May 2012.

Though Sigg will be tried as an adult, if convicted, he is not eligible for the death penalty or for a mandatory life sentence without parole, under Colorado law.

The defense argued that a bond be set for Sigg, as he had no prior criminal history. The judge ruled that Sigg can't overcome the assumption of his alleged crimes, meaning Sigg will continue to be held at the Mount View Juvenile Detention Center without bond. He may eventually be moved to the county jail.

If we had the ability to look into the heart of this young man and learn the answer to the question what would we find?  Was he driven by a sexual or aggressive drive to exert power and control by killing another human being?  Was he abused as a child, sexually, emotionally, physically, or psychologically?  Did he know the difference between right and wrong, but dismisses it as not applying to him.

According to a report, family members confirm that Austin had been treated for an addiction to pornography when he was just 15 years old. Is there a correlation between this addiction and the dehumanization of women in general? 

At the end of each episode The Shadow reminded listeners that, "The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay.... The Shadow knows!"   We may never know why Austin murdered and dismembered Jessica but I would agree that his crime bore bitter fruit that poisoned many lives. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

There's Been An Arrest In The Abduction And Murder 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway

Cases that involve the abduction and murder of a child are reprehensible to most people. We can't imagine what evil lie in the heart that could allow another human being to snuff out the life of an innocent child.

Generally we view this person as the proverbial boogie man. We imagine them walking about dressed in tell-tale trench coats looking very much like Quasimodo.  The sad fact is that a person who could do this looks much like your neighbor, your boss, or even your own son.

Jessica, a fifth-grader with blond hair and glasses had been abducted when she was walking to school in Westminster, Colorado. I could scarcely look at her photo because she reminded me so much of my own granddaughter.

After an extensive search, her body was found in Partridge Park in Arvada by police. Sadly her little body was not intact. It had been mutilated, requiring DNA tests to confirm her identity.

What sort of monster could have done this? Who would snuff out the life of this little girl and then dismember her? The answer to this troubling question was just about a mile from Chelsea Park which is where Jessica disappeared.

Then today we learn the answer to that question. Seventeen year old Austin Sigg told his mother that he was responsible for the murder of Jessica Ridgeway. Sigg’s mother did the right thing and called Westminster Police to tell them about his involvement.

According to the police report Sigg cooperated with officers and waived his rights. He then confessed to police in great detail about what happened to Jessica. He also told them that human remains were inside a crawl space under the home.

Nature or nurture, that's always the question isn’t it? Was Austin born a killer or did he become one because of the environment in which he was raised. I don't think I am smart enough to answer this question but it is interesting to note his troubled home life.

Sigg’s father, Robert Sigg, has a long arrest history, including multiple DUIs, assault, domestic violence and drug-dealing arrests.

Robert Sigg has also been involved in numerous civil actions, most recently he was convicted in 2006 for involvement in a mortgage fraud scheme after he was arrested by the FBI.

Sigg had an interest in crime scene investigations so much so that he took second place with a team competing in a CSI event in HOSA's 2012 competition. He was also a finalist in forensic science at that same competition.

He dropped out of Standley Lake High School and went to Arapahoe Community College for mortuary sciences. He attended Warren Tech as well for forensics.

Some people will point to his addiction to violent video games as a precursor to such a violent act. After all correlational and experimental studies have revealed thhat violent video games lead to increases in aggressive behavior and aggressive thinking and decreases in prosocial behavior.

Much has been made of the fact that Sigg was a Goth but I don't see this as relavant.  Over the years I've taught many students who associated themselves with the Goth culture.  Plenty of Goths lead healthy lives, they just prefer  those particular trends in fashion, art, and music.

Two mothers are grieving tonight. One grieves for a daughter who's life was brutally snatched from her. The other mother grieves for a son that committed this heinous crime.  Let us pray that both mothers find peace and healing and let us pray for justice for Jessica.
Westminster Police asked that if you recognize Sigg, and have any information you feel may help officers, please call the tip line at 303-658-4336 or email:

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Alone With GOD – A Heart Like His

David was in a difficult position because the troops talked about stoning him, for they were all very bitter over the loss of their sons and daughters.  But David found strength in the Lord his GOD (1 Samuel 30:6) 

GOD often transforms painful times in precious times when we realize we are all alone with Him.  How have those seasons of life forged a bond between you and the Lord?
 GOD never intended for the trials that I have faced to destroy me. He uses these challenges to bring me closer to Him, not farther away. I am trying to learn to be anxious for nothing and take my troubles to Him in prayer.  I am learning to have absolute confidence that He Is THE Answer.  He will use this as an opportunity to strengthen and mature me in my faith.  When I place my faith in him, He will give me His Peace that surpasses all understanding!
What are one or two encouraging thoughts you could share with someone who’s going through a valley right now?
God has not forgotten you.  He promises that He will never desert you, nor forsake you.   
I know that you may be thinking, "I don't know how I could ever get through this." or you may be battling powerful feelings of despair, suffering, confusion, fear, worry, and even anger.  
Remember that as difficult as this life storm may be, GOD cares very deeply about you, and is attentive to every detail of your life—even those things that burden your heart. He hears your cries and sees your pain.
In the midst of sadness and uncertainty, His hand is there to guide you; His strength is there to support you. You are never out of His reach.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sin Magnets – A Heart Like His

 Saul disguised himself by putting on different clothes and set out with two of his men.  They came to the woman at night, and Saul said, “Consult a spirit for me.  Bring up for me the one I tell you” (1 Samuel 28:8) 

What are the general moods or circumstances or times of day when you find yourself most susceptible to familiar temptations?   

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)   All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God and I certainly count myself in that number.

I always found myself susceptible to temptation when I felt most alone and defeated.  It is at those times I find myself tempted so sin either explicitly or complicity.  I may fail to love or forgive others, or fail to do things I ought to do—and that is sin.

GOD has expectations of his people.  He has made a tremendous investment in our lives and made us well able for whatever challenges and difficulties life may hold for us. 

How could you use this information to guard your heart from sin’s most convenient, compelling playgrounds?
When I sin it does not mean I am no longer God's children. My fellowship with God may be broken, but my relationship is not. 
I remind myself that God stands ready to forgive me and I need to turn to Him immediately. God wants to help me to avoid sin in the future.  To do so I have to make a conscience decision to live according to God's standards and values. 

Friday, October 19, 2012

Silence – A Heart Like His

He inquired of the LORD, but the LORD did not answer him 1 Samuel 28:6
Has GOD been silent in your life lately?  Is He not appearing to answer your prayers?  What do you think He may be meaning by this?

There is a difference between being convinced that God is not listening and God actually not listening.  God answers the prayer of the believer but sometimes we don't see the results for weeks or even years.  If you are alert to His presence I will find Him all around you.

 GOD is very much there and is always listening and acting on my behalf even when I think that he has turned his back on me. GOD promises that all things will work together for the good of those who love Him.   
What does His silence make you want to do?
When God is silent, we go through a myriad of emotions. We ask questions like, "What am I doing wrong? What do I need to fix in my life? Where are you, God? Do you even care?"

Even though it may be hard to do, I keep holding on to His hand.  Even when I don't understand, I know I WILL find Him and I WILL hear Him again.  He really is there and closer than I could have ever imagined, hoped for, or thought.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Case Of Overkill – A Heart Like His

So Achish trusted David thinking, “Since he has made himself detestable to his people Israel, he will be my servant forever” (1 Samuel 27:12)
Think of a time when the pressure of life really got to you and you did something rash or irrational in response.  What was the fallout from that?
It’s hard to just pick one incident but I will try.  I was so tired of being single and alone that I jumped into a relationship that was not a good one for me or my children.  The relationship was an attempt for me to tread water but instead I felt like I was drowning.  I found the courage to leave despite the difficult circumstances in my life but in the end I felt more like a failure than I did before the relationship.  I still beat myself up over the whole thing but I realize that while the decision to rush into the relationship was not a good one I did come out of it a stronger person. 
How do you handle things when your faith is starting to run thin, when GOD’s face is particularly hard to see and His voice hard to hear?
I try to remember Paul’s command in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 to “pray without ceasing.”  Sometimes I must remind myself that GOD is actively involved and engaged in my thoughts and actions even if I don’t always see it in the moment.  Prayer is an essential part of my life with Christ.  I try to make prayer my first response to every fearful situation, every anxious thought, and every undesired task that God commands.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

There Too Many Faces Of David's Love - A Heart Like His

When David’s servants came to Abigail at Carmel they said to her, “David sent us to bring you to him as a wife” 1 Samuel 25:40

What sins and temptations regularly draw you to places where avoidable trouble becomes predictably inevitable?
Inevitably my prideful insistence that I can control things in my life over which I have no control gets me into trouble.  I have only to look back at my life for examples of times when I insisted my way was the right way even when I knew that the choices I was making went against GOD’s word. 
I know God answers prayer and now I look forward to what he is doing in our lives. I know it is for good.
Where do you usually feel the tension first when your ways and GOD’s ways begin to part? 
I feel tension and panic when GOD’s plan and my plan are divergent.  Sometimes it is difficult to walk by Faith and not by sight.  This is why it is so vital to first present our plans to Him and ask for assurance that God is in favor of our decisions.

Never give up on God. Never allow yourself to be determined solely by what ordinary perception tells you. Rather look with the eyes of Faith and see what God is up to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Surly Man And One Smart Woman - A Heart Like His

My lord should pay no attention to this worthless man Nabal, for he lives up to his name:  His name is Nabal, and stupidity is all he knows (1Samuel 25:25)

Abigail sought to defuse a tense situation caused by two men whose anger is spiraling out of control.  When have you found yourself in that kind of peacemaking role?

As I mentioned before, I grew up in a very dysfunctional family.  I was often thrust into the role of family peacemaker in which I was responsible for everyone’s emotional well-being.  At other times I was the scapegoat allowing the family focuses on my behavior rather than give attention to the real issues that need to be resolved.

One of my most vivid recollections from my childhood was my mother and father fighting and my Dad said he was leaving us and not coming back.  I was all of six years old and I begged him to stay.  I wrapped myself around his leg, tears streaming down my face pleading with him not to leave us. 

There was another time when I was about eight years old when my father was beating up my mother and had her backed up against the wall.  I was screaming for my father to stop but he didn’t and my mother fell to the floor while my father continued to beat her.  I pushed my father and wound up catching one of the blows to my head in an attempt to rescue my mother. 

As I grew up it was easy for me to accept blame for all that was wrong around me.  It lead me down man blind paths in which I accepted behavior that I never should have accepted because I felt I didn’t deserve anything better.

When is peacemaking the hardest to do? 

Most of us would prefer to have our conflicts resolved fairly without violence or animosity. We would like our differences settled at the least cost and stress to ourselves, or our families.  Negotiation is good way to try to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.  Sometimes communications break down, differences increase and that’s when conflicts arise.

It’s important to move toward the person we are in conflict with not with fists clenched, but hands and arms opened and exposed.  There will be no peace when we take short cuts and accept a quicker solution where there is a winner and there is a loser.  The idea that there is always a winner and a loser is flawed thinking.  Sometimes a change in approach makes a world of difference. 

Once the fighting has stopped, there is much more work to be done, in order to build lasting peace.  It’s not easy.  When we put our wants before Gods and stop asking Him for guidance things will never be the way God wants them to be, and we’ll never be at peace.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Chance For Revenge - A Heart Like His

Look at the corner of your robe in my hand, for I cut it off, but I didn't kill you.  Look and recognize that there is no evil or rebellion in me.  I haven't sinned against you even though you are hunting me down to take my life" (1 Samuel 24:11)

How easily does a vengeful spirit creep in on you?  What have been some of the more recent things that have set it off or at least made it feel like a reasonable option? 

It was easier to thirst for vengeance when I was wronged before I was saved.  Now I find myself working to put my beliefs into action. 

A recent example happened when I visited my Mother last month.  At the end of my visit my sister Debbie lashed out at me for no apparent reason.  I knew my sister Mary had a hand in it but I didn't know exactly what her role in the whole incident was. 

In the past I might have called my sister Mary to confront her to find out why she was angry only to have any and all words I would have said twisted beyond recognition and repeated back to my sister Debbie.  This would only ramp the argument up to another level.

Instead I prayed on the whole confrontation.  I prayed not for vengeance instead I prayed that my sister find some peace.  Each and every day I prayed for Debbie and my sister Mary rather than fantasize how I would get even with them.

Then without warning a few weeks later when I called my Mom she handed the phone over to my sister Debbie.  Debbie was asking questions about a situation one of my nieces was facing in her classroom and without missing a beat I gave her advice to help her daughter that was
pedagogically sound.

A couple of times she let slip things like "You know crazy parents like Mary" or "This parent is super crazy like Mary".  Oh how easy it would be for me to agree or say thank goodness you see that she's crazy after all that my sister has said and done to my children and I.  Instead I said a silent prayer  and ignored these comments.

Then I started to say to my sister, "Look I don't care how long you stay in that house.  You can stay there for the rest of your life as far as I'm concerned."  That's when she interrupted me.  Out of the blue she apologized to me and began to tell me what Mary had said to her.  I learned she told her that my brother Bill and I were going to push that she sells the house immediately when Mom dies. 

Why would we do that when there is already a will that specifically allows Debbie to remain in the house for a year after Mom's death.  I personally could care less if she stayed there longer if she needs to do that.

Mary told Debbie that Billy and I have ALWAYS been rich and because of that we would demand that Debbie move out immediately.  That in and of itself is hysterical since we all grew up in the same lower middle class household.  I had spent a few years on welfare so I guess I missed those particular rich years that I'd always had.  Debbie bought in to all of this though and was extremely upset. 

By waiting and allowing GOD to handle the situation everything worked out better than it possibly could have otherwise.  You see Mary went on to find out how much similar homes in the area were valued.  She then called Debbie and gave her some figures and then asked her how much she thought we'd get for Dad & Mom's house.  She even sent a realtor by the house to get his opinion.

Why would you do such a thing unless you thought there was going to be a pay-off soon.  After all Mom is still alive and the home's value depends upon a lot of factors that we can't possibly know now.  She showed herself to my sister who has now reached back out to both my brother and I. 

Why do you think GOD calls us to such a high standard of peacekeeping with one another, even at times when we seem to have grounds not to?

The longer I walk in faith the more I understand the truth in the old saying that revenge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

It is not unusual for humans to feel the desire for vengeance against those who have wronged us.  It is what we do with them is what matters. Don’t allow the anger, bitterness, and/or unforgiveness to fill our souls.
It is important to remember that forgiving does not mean that we let those who hurt us “off the hook.”  When we forgive we may let them off our “hook”, but they are still on God’s “hook!” Remember the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine.” So, let Him do His work. He dispenses justice in His own time.  God knows the heart, mind and motives of our enemies. We don't. God is able to heal, restore, or use the wrong that has been done against you for good.
As difficult as it may be we should try to pray for the salvation of the person who wronged us, the thing that they did, and ask God to not only work in their life, but keep them from doing harm against others.
It is not possible to be at peace with all people (Romans 12:7). As Christians we feel that we are required to fix every broken relationship and live in harmony with everyone. Unfortunately, some relationships just will not work out. It is OK to leave them behind and go on with others.

Friday, October 12, 2012

You Can WIN A Bag Of Hershey's Candy On The Adventures of J-Man & Millerbug Blog

Attention Hershey fans.  Twenty (20) lucky J-Man and Millerbug readers will win a Hershey’s bag of candy that is sure to make your Halloween sweet! Entry is simple! Just head on over to The Adventures of J-Man and Millerbug to enter to WIN.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Sweepers Not Welcome!

I recently read a thread on Online-Sweepstakes about how PDXLAN decided at first to disqualify a person based solely because their hobby is "sweeping".  PDXLAN assured their follwers that they were ready to replace if they discovered this person at all cheated.  They are also considering amending the rules to disqualify FB profile pages that are not "personal" or "nothing but sweeps".

At first glance one could actually understand that PDXLAN was using this promotion as a way to reach out to their core constituancy, hardware enthusiasts.  Ideally organizations use demographics to identify the ideal consumer for a product or services and develop marketing strategies such as product packaging, advertisements, business location and pricing. Demographics can help organizations avoid costly mistakes in their marketing plan.

Certainly PDXLN is well within their rights to limit their sweepstakes to "hardware enthusiast" but doing so would require them to identify exactly who or what a "hardware enthusiast" is.  For example if you love building your own computers I might say you are a hardware enthusiast, but how does one prove what one does as a hobby?  Do I send you a photo of computers I have built?  Do I send you photos of my work bench filled with computer hardwares in various stages of completion?  How many computers must I have built in order to be classified as a "hardware enthusiast"?

I suppose PDXLN could make the contest only open members of their forums or require that they have made a certain number of posts in order to be eligible.  I can think of a particular movie site that requires you to be a member and have a certain number of recent posts.  This would discourage all but the dedicated entrant.

The fact that they called the winner and others who sweep as a hobby contest junkies misses out on some factors PDXLAN may not have thought about.

For example, I will admit that my hobby is sweeping.  I am not a "professional sweeper" nor do I know one but I'd like to share with you why a company offering sweepstakes as a form of promotion is not wasted on me. 

First of all many sweepers including myself tend to be brand loyal.  When I need flour, cake mixes, etc. my first choice is generally Pillsbury.  The reason is quasi-subliminal for me.  I associate the brand with their $1 Million Bake-Off and I imagine myself baking something worth of a million dollars.  Have I ever won the Bake-Off?  No?  Would I like to?  Absolutely!

Imagine for one second if the people at Pillsbury explicitly disqualified entrants who baked as a hobby or entered baking contests at the county fair.

Second of all, you may want to understand that sweepers provide "WOM" adversing.  For example, when I won a year's worth of flowers from 1-800-Flowers, I review each arrangement with photos on both my blogs as well as on Twitter and Facebook.  Everyone who sees my flowers asks me who sent them and I ALWAY mention 1-800-FLOWERS. 

I am also receiving a year's worth of meat from Stockyard Meats and when we get our delivery we often  invite someone else to share the tender steak, succulent lamb chops, or delicious pork ribs.  When people comment about how great the meat was we tell them where it came from and how they can order it. 

When I was younger I lived in Washington, DC so there were many radio stations to chose from and one of the factors I used to decide as to which station to listen to was the contests.  This was true for years before I ever began sweeping.  It was always so exciting to hear people win concert tickets, trips, etc.  I imagined that I might win even when I wasn't even entering.  How's that for crazy? 

When I did start playing radio contests I would excitedly tell people about new albums or upcoming concerts that I was trying to win.  When you're excited about an upcoming concert your friends probably are also and I always knew when tickets were going on sale or albums hit the store and always shared this information with my friends.

When a company uses a sweepstakes in conjunction with the introduction of a new product or a special promotion.  Often when my husband asks me about where I'd like to eat or what movie I would like to see, my mind immediately jumps to sweepstakes that promote them. This is true even though the rules don't require a purchase. 

The fact is that companies can increase their brand awareness with sweepstakes.  Companies can use them to increase their social media presence.  In the end PDXLN has to make it's own decisions as to how they will procede from here.  Hopefully they will take into consideration the points I have made before they write off "sweepers". 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Scale Must Be Wrong

I've been avoiding weighing myself figuring that things are probably going well since I am walking about three or four miles a day.  Last night I decided to step on the scale fully clothed just before I went to bed.  This was a pretty daring thing considering usually I do it first thing in the morning before I eat sans clothes. 

The numbers on the scale blinked back at me 129.  What?  Not bad I consoled myself mentally trying to calculate how many pounds my clothes weighed. 

This morning I woked up, had breakfast, and decided to do the same thing.  Hop on the scale to get an idea as to what I truly weighed.  Once again the scale blinked back 129.  Now I was a bit upset.  After all this was the beginning of the day.  Of course I was still fully dressed and I had just eaten breakfast but come on 129? 

This required me to remove said garments to see exactly how much I should be deducting for my clothes.  Now the scale blinked back 128.  Oh my, it's still not where I want to be.  I look in the mirror and curse the reflection.

Alas this is the internal dialogue most of us women have with our bodies.  We want to be model thin and playboy curvy while still eating chocolate cake.  I'm past the stage of my life where I even care about how I stack up against other women.  Instead I want to look nice without a baby bump belly that hasn't seen a baby in almost thirty years.

Isn't it funny that when the scale shows us the numbers we crave we celebrate and can't help applauding ourselves for our efforts.  We celebrate by glancing in the mirror convinced that all the world will notice the pound you lost.

When the scale won't budge we curse it.  We blame outside factors like the outfit we were wearing or that maybe there's a some internal mechanism in the scale that's off.  We convince ourselves that we are retaining water.  For good measure we remind ourselves that scales are not precise. 

According to the body weight charts a woman who is 5' 5" like myself should weigh between 112 and 143.  While I don't believe I will ever see 112 again I would like to see 125.  I hopped over to the Jenny Craig site to calculate my BMI which is 21.3. (18.5-24.9 is a healthy weight for most adults)  Neither of these figures console me.  It's just a three pound difference between where I am and where I want to be but in my mind it may as well be a three hundred pound difference. 

I suppose it sounds petty when one hears stories of women struggling to lose 60 or 100 pounds but trust me the five stubborn pounds can be frustrating.  I beat myself up for them just as much as I beat myself up when I weighed 150 pounds. 

A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with a woman who is about my age but very slender.  Conversation got around to weight and she mentioned that I was average weight.  Considering that the average woman is carrying too much body fat nd falls above the healthhy BMI range here in America I felt absolutely corpulant. 

The truth is that the run-way models I so longed to look like as a teen have the BMI physical criteria for an anorexic.  The difference is when I was a young woman, models weighed 8% less than the averaage woman.  Today she weighs less than 23%. 

So why is it that I continue to beat myself up over unreal standards?  Why is it that I can't embrace those three pounds, forgive myself for the carmel apple I had last week, or I allow myself to feel comfortable in my own skin? 

Is this the curse of being a woman?  Why must so many of us embrace the insecurities of our body image?  Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to meet some idealized version of beautiful when that standard continues to change?

Today I'm going to embrace those three pounds knowing tomorrow I will step on the scale again hoping the number drops again. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Count Your Blessings - A Heart Like His

Saul searched for him every day, but GOD did not hand David over to him (1 Samuel 23:14)

What would have to change in us for gratitude to become a more ready response of ours, even in times of adversity and trouble?

Thanks come easy when all is going well. Most people tend to take for granted the good that is already present in their lives so we forget to be grateful.
It's hard to feel grateful when we get blindsided by adversity. We tend to react to with stress, negativity, tension, or anxiety rather than gratitude.  When things don’t go our way, it is important to remember that every difficulty carries within it the seeds of an equal or greater benefit.  God knows what He is doing, even if we don't.
Gratitude shifts our focus from what we lack in our lives to the abundance that is already in our lives.  I think it is interesting to note that research shows that feeling gratitude calms the nervous system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces stress. 

How have you seen thanksgiving at work in someone’s life, and what that person taught you about GOD and about yourself?
Sadly for a number of years I surrounded myself with people who were mired in pain, anguish, and helplessness.  It wasn’t because I felt superior in anyway, it was more like water seeking its own level. We were all broken and we sought out other people who were like us hoping to fix ourselves without giving thought to how impossible that was.   
When I began keeping a gratitude journal I found myself taking inventory of all the blessings GOD had bestowed on me.  I began living a happier life once I stopped taking for granted all that was around me. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Once, Twice, Three Times To Disney

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.  (Hey that would make great lyrics for a song wouldn’t it?) 
I think people who sweep tend to be dreamers.  We dream of winning cruises, cash, computers, and so much more.  In my previous posts I told you how I was able to win not one but two happily ever after trips to the magic kingdom.  Never could I have imagined that I could win another trip to Disney but I did.
When I learn about a contest or sweepstakes one thing I love to do is to read the prizes offered.  Sometimes the prizes are trips to faraway places or maybe a band new car.  I honestly can’t help but imagine myself winning even though I realize that the odds are certainly not in my favor.
I’ll be honest; the first thing I noticed about the ESPN Guys Guys Weekend Sweepstakes was that all the major prizes gave you flowers from  I simply love flowers and the possibility of winning the grand prize and receiving flowers every month for a year was so exciting. 
The fact that the grand prize also consisted of a trip to Disney World seemed too good to be true.  I’d already won two trips to Disney how could I possibly win another trip?  It was all too mind-boggling. 
To enter you had to vote each day on the Wow Moment of the Day in Sports poll question by agreeing with one of the moments or submitting your own.  I entered faithfully every day and dreamed of winning flowers.  When the sweepstakes was over I pushed my dream aside as one that was nice to imagine but it was finally time to wake up and smell the flowers because I didn’t even win the Arrangement of the Month 3 Month Bouquet Club. 
It turns out I spoke too soon.  When I had won my second trip to Disney the judging agency had tried to reach me by phone, email, and finally by Fed-Ex before they finally let me know I had won.  In this particular case, the sponsor had messaged me through Facebook several times and then as a last ditch effort wrote me an email through my Thrifty Maven blog.
When I contacted them I learned I had WON the Grand Prize.  I was so excited about the flowers I almost forgot all the other great things included in the prize.  So let me share with you what I won.

Grand Prize: A Guy's Guy Weekend including a trip for two to meet ESPN Radio personalities at ESPN Audio's Guy's Guys Weekend at Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL from March 1 - 4, 2012. The trip includes airfare, 4 days at Disney's Yacht Club Resort, a Welcome Reception including dinner, drinks, and fireworks, a "Drive Time" night NASCAR racing experience at Richard Petty Racing, optional 18-holes of Golf at Disney's Magnolia Golf Course, a Saturday afternoon Atlanta Braves baseball game at the Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and !iViva Los Guys! "Casino" Night. The winner will also receive a 1-800-Flowers Arrangement of the Month 12 Month Bouquet Club, Stock Yards The Twelve-Month Club, and a Sony PS3 Sports Champions Move HW Bundle. (ARV: $10,498.71) 

I was in thrilled and shocked all at the same time.  I was hoping that my husband would be just as excited about the prize and he was, about parts of it at least.  You see my husband is not a Disney Dad.  I will not repeat the things he says about Disney in mixed company but suffice it to say that he would be happy to never visit Disney again as long as he lives.  I guess you could say we’re a mixed marriage.
People often ask me what was my favorite win and that can be a difficult question to answer.  I really loved when I won Redskin football tickets from a local radio station when my son was about 13 years old.  The tickets alone were a godsend considering at the time we were really struggling with me going to school and working two jobs.  The prize was even better than that because it included a limo ride to the game and we actually got to sit on the field on the press bench.  How amazing is that?
I could list a variety of just-in-time wins that allowed me to take my boys to a Baltimore Orioles game, Renegades hockey tickets, circus tickets, Ice Capades tickets, and even WWF tickets.  There was the time I won my youngest son the bike he so desperately wanted or I when I won their birthday cakes at a time when our budget was so tight it squeaked.   
 Maybe it was the time I won a trip to the Bahamas and we stayed at the Atlantis Resort.  This amazing trip even included a limo ride to and from the resort.  Our room in the Royal Towers had a breathtaking view of the ocean.  The resort’s attractions include more than 20 swimming areas, water slides, saltwater sports lagoon, 3-mile beach, health spa, casino, multiple restaurants/bars, children's clubs, and 140 acres of waterscape attractions. What an incredible trip!
If you were to ask us that same question now, my husband and I would answer simultaneously, “Our favorite win was the ESPN Guys Guys Weekend trip.  That’s saying a lot considering how my husband USED to feel about Disney.  After this trip, my husband developed such an affinity with Disney World that he actually offered to take me again one day.
So let’s start with what made this trip so fantastic that it made my husband a Disney convert. 

It all began at the airport.  Once upon a time I saw a movie where a celebrity was being picked up at the airport.  A man in a suit holding a sign bearing her name waited for her to escort her to the waiting limo.  In the back of my mind I’ve always thought of this as something very upscale, certainly far beyond my childhood expectations.  I really never thought I’d ever ride a plane let alone have a driver picking me up at the airport.  Now thanks to sweeping I’ve had this happen several times.
Since I knew I was riding Disney’s Magic Express to our hotel I didn’t expect anyone to meet us at the airport.  I was so wrong.  The wonderful people from ESPN met us with a big sign that said “Guy’s Guy’s Weekend” and they welcomed us to Orlando and told us where to meet our contact at The Yacht Club.
I simply love Disney’s Magic Express because it saves you time and money because you don’t have to rent a car for your visit.  If you plan to stay on Disney property, you should definitely take advantage of this service as well as the luggage pickup/drop off service – it helps to make your trip magically delicious!
When we arrived at the Yacht Club I couldn’t help but feel as though I stepped into the grand hotel featured in the movie “Somewhere In Time.”  This Disney Deluxe Resort has a 1880s Martha's Vineyard nautical theme. 
We met with our ESPN Guy’s Guys Weekend contacts and they were so friendly and efficient.  I just knew we were in god hands.  One thing I really loved was the lanyard with the weekend’s schedule attached.  This was a GREAT idea.  I didn’t have to worry about throwing out some piece of paper or forgetting it in the room.  Everything I needed to know was right there for me. 
On the way to our room I played one of my favorite games, finding the hidden Mickeys.  They can be found in the carpeting in hallways leading to guest rooms. 
After checking in, we decided to check out the grounds. The Yacht Club and Beach Club Resorts share one of the nation's largest sand bottom pools, Stormalong Bay. The pool is a "mini-waterpark", featuring a sand bottom swimming area, lazy river, a large slide from a wrecked ship just outside of the play area on the beach, and even sinking sand.  We decided that we would hit the pool after we walked over to Disney’s Boardwalk.
I love to window shop but I very rarely get the chance to do just that.  The Boardwalk is reminiscent of the Coney Island my Grandparents would have known.  They even had classic midway games and street performers.
One of the first places I visited was the Boardwalk Bakery.  Oh the endless choices to satisfy any sweet cravings throughout the day with assorted cakes, pies and pastries fresh from the bakery's oven.  Hubby asked if I wanted a cupcake knowing by weakness for them but I was able to resist because I wanted to save room for our dinner. 
Having said this one might wonder why I then decided to stop in the Seashore Sweets store.  This store specialties at this old-fashioned shop are saltwater taffy, fudge and other "Confections Served with Affection."  Somehow, some way, I was able to resist and walked away without even some fudge.  I’m not going to say this was easy, just that I did it.
Next we went on the hunt for the Disney Cookbook I wanted.  I love to cook and I really was excited about the idea of making some of the signature Disney meals at home. 
After we dropping off my cookbook back in the room we decided to make a quick trip to Epcot which was in walking distance.  I’d never been to Disney World without kids and I didn’t realize that it could be so much fun.  Finally it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready to meet in the lobby for the walk to Epcot.
As is our habit we arrived in the lobby a little early and eventually people started drifting down to the gathering area where we were met by a Disney cast member who walked us over to the Terrace des Fleurs.
Just as its name suggests, the Terrace of Flowers is an enchanting outdoor location filled with beds of fresh flowers. Beautiful stone architecture houses fresh floral, adding color and décor to this fairy tale setting. There were stunning views of the Eiffel Tower and the Paris cityscape, twinkling in the background. 

The menu for the Welcome reception included:

• Tomato, Mozzarella, Balsamic and Micro Basil Martini. 
• Pan fried grilled vegetable fritter with sweet pea puree, and balsamic reduction
• Seared Wagyu Beef Tenderloin, with Mushroom Ragout served open face on Grilled Ciabatta
• As well as beer, wine, and soft drinks. 
I had NEVER stayed in any of the parks for their fireworks but away from all the hustle and bustle of people jockeying for position I always avoided them. This venue made watching the fireworks the most romantic and enjoyable thing to do.

Actually to simply call IlluminNations: Reflections of Earth night time show fireworks is missing the mark.   The show utilizes fireworks, pyrotechnics, laser lights, fountains, and fire to create a visual production on the park's World Showcase Lagoon. 
When we arrived back in our room we found a huge gift suitcase waiting for us with hats, t-shirts, lots of snacks, a deck of cards, and even a stuffed Mickey Mouse.  If my trip had ended the next morning I would have felt I lived my dream win.  Little did I know what was yet to come.
The next morning Darryl and I head over to Kouzzina’s for breakfast.  I began the day with Steel Cut Oatmeal with Bananas, Walnuts, and Honey Drizzle.  Darryl had the Stacked Kouzzina Breakfast – Two Poached Eggs, Kalamata Olive Toast, Artichoke Spread, and Sweet Potato Hash with choice of Bacon or Chicken Sausage.  It was the perfect way to start the day.
Since we didn’t have to meet for the Exotic Car Racing Experience until 12:30 we decided to take a dip in the pool.  I have to admit that I felt guilty because I was there swimming in this great pool while my grandkids were in school.  The guilt didn’t keep me from having a great time.  My favorite part was the little ducklings that were swimming around the pool with their mom.  They were only a couple of days old and their mother had built a nest by the pool.  I could have just watched their antics for hours, but we didn’t have hours because eventually we had to go back to the room to get ready for the big event.  

I say big event because the Exotic Car Racing Experience was the part of the trip my husband had looked forward to since the moment I told him about it.  We were taken to the Richard Petty Racing facility for a day of racing.
Our racing adventure began with an explanation of how our groups would proceed through the day’s activities.  There would be an opportunity for each of us to drive an exotic car and participate in go-cart racing before participating in a team building activity.  
Before driving the exotic car you go through a 15 to 30 minute safety class and I wonder if I was the only one who felt like they were back in their Driver’s Ed class.  I was worried that they might wreck the car let alone scratch it in some way. 
Once our safety class was over everyone got to draw for their cars, changed into our jumpsuits, and the experience began.  I drew the Lamborghini Giallardo Superleggera.  I’m going to admit I am not a car person.  My husband and my sons laugh at me because there are only three cars I can identify by sight.  That’s it.  Everything else is a blue car or a red car.  
I was aware that a Lamborghini is a very expensive car.  This made me even more nervous about taking the wheel.  I suppose if my husband had told me that the base price of such a vehicle was $237,600 he would have had to peel me off the ground before placing me inside the vehicle. 
When it came down to my Lamborghini driving experience I would evaluate my personal performance as poor.  I felt sorry for my driving coach who must have been bored by my top speeds of less than 50 miles per hour.  I drove like the little old lady from Pasadena who only drove her car to and from church on Sundays.  As a matter of fact, I’m willing to believe that I personally hold the record for the slowest driver at that track ever.   I don’t care if they tell everyone how slow I went because when it was over I realized that this really had been an amazing once in a lifetime experience for me.
On the other hand my husband truly appreciated the fact that he was driving a Ferrari 458.  My husband is the kind of guy who can appreciate and Italian car.  He realized that his ride’s base price was about $229,825 and he couldn’t wait to get it out on the track.  After the first lap he had that vehicle cruising around the track at 119 miles per hour.  As a matter of fact his driving coach told him how really impressed he was about the way he handled the vehicle. 
My husband had an ear to ear grin that was permanently part of his face the whole day.  If you know my husband, then you know that while he’s not a dour man, he’s not Mr. Smiley either.  Not that day, he looked as happy as a little boy who discovered that Santa had left him EVERY SINGLE THING he’d ever wanted for Christmas under the tree.  
I had brought some of the snacks we got with us but I need not have done so.  Once again Holly and her people had seen to everything.  There was ice cream, soda, peanuts, and my new favorite, hot dogs on pretzel buns.  
My favorite part of the experience was the team building activity.  It was a drive along experience with a twist.  Everyone was divided into groups and each group was competing against each other.  Every group member had a job and each person had to do their job well in order to get into the winner’s circle.  
Darryl was the first one in the passenger seat and when he finished his three laps he was on an adrenaline high.  Everyone wanted to know what it was like and he was more than happy to tell them.  I think I was the only one afraid about the opportunity to travel over 100 miles an hour on a race track.   I remember screaming when the car took off as if I were on the scariest roller-coaster.  I wanted to close my eyes so I wouldn’t be so afraid but I convinced myself that I should keep my eyes open because this was a one of a kind experience.  

After our team’s big win we celebrated at the Drive Time Dinner Celebration.  Once again the food was absolutely amazing. 

The Menu Included:
• Sugar Caned Skewered Warm Water Lobster Tails with Crispy Slim Jims
• Sun Dried Cherry and Leek Chutney sprinkled with Dry Butter Powder
• Mini Corn Dog Brochette with a Budweiser Mustard
• Barbeque Rubbed Pork Ribs
• Mashed Potato Fritter Bar Toppings included:  Crawfish Tails, Bacon, Meatballs, Roast Chicken, Grilled New York Strip Steak, Broccoli, Peppers and Onions, Chives, Smoked Gouda, Pepper Jack Cheese, Chili, and Smoked Cheddar Fondue. 
• For dessert there were Caramel Milk Chocolate Shots with Graham Cracker Crusted Marshmallows

There was also beer, wine, soft drinks, music and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves  Then my husband, you remember him, the anti-Disney guy, nudged me and in a very excited voice said, “Look Cathy there’s Mickey and Minnie Mouse.”  How exciting and we even got to take pictures with them.  This photo is one of my favorite photos of the two of us because you can see that the smile is still plastered on his face.
I remember saying to Holly, how wonderful everything has been.  I couldn’t stop thanking her.  Then she said wait until tomorrow.  I insisted that there was no way they could top that day but I soon learned that the word NEVER does not exist in Disney World.  

The next day was a chance to see the Atlanta Braves play the Detroit Tigers at the ESPN Wide World of Sports.  I like baseball.  For me half the fun is sitting in the stands and people watching.  If the weather’s nice then it doesn’t matter whether my team wins or loses I’ve still had a great time at the old ball game.  I didn’t expect my husband to be so excited about the game though.  After all he’d only been to three games in his life and he really didn’t seem to enjoy them the way I do.  What I didn’t know was that his day at the races had changed everything for him.
Usually when I went to games I sat in the cheap seats.  This does not mean I never sat in the good seats.  As a matter of fact one time I had a date with someone from the Toledo Mud Hen’s and he got me a seat in the player’s wives and girlfriend’s section.  I think we were both impressed with the opportunity to sit in the luxury suite at the Champion Stadium at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. 
Once again our meal was catered and there was plenty to eat and drink.  

The menu included:
• Ropa Veijas Braised Shredded Beef with Cuban Bread
• White Corn Arepas stuffed with Shrimp Enchiladas
• Tripletas Sandwich with Beef, Pork, and Chicken topped with Fried Potatoes
• Pepperoni Pizza Dip
• Cilantro Lime Salsa
• Border Slaw
• Guacamole
 They even remembered the peanuts and the cracker jacks! 

I usually get so nervous meeting people but now it just seemed so easy to meet the others in our group and it had been so long since I’d ever felt so good about being at an event or party.  Everyone was just so friendly.  Then just when I thought things couldn’t get better Mickey came to visit us.  Oh and I think it bears mentioning that Mr. UnDisney was just as happy about the arrival of the mouse as I was. 
By this point I just couldn’t imagine that anyone or anything could make this trip more memorable for us.  I don’t think I could have wished upon a star for such an amazing trip.  We still had one more party to attend and I could scarcely contain my excitement.
We left the game a little early to catch a nap and boy was that a good idea.  There was just no way I could have imagined the lengths the sponsors went to to make !iViva Los Guys! "Casino" Night one of the most memorable nights we’ve had in a long time. 

When we were led over to the ballroom where the party was to be held we were greeted at the Currascaria with a Caipirina. A Caipirina is a cocktail is made with nature cane rum and fresh muddled lime juice. It was oh so good.

While Darryl and I had imagined a steak and potato meal we proved once again that we didn’t have a Disney level imagination. We were going to experience a churrascaria. If you’ve never been to one Passadores (meat waiters) come to the table with knives and a skewer, on which are speared various kinds of meat and you tell them if you’d like some or if you’ve had enough.

Our passadores came by offering us Brazilian Picanha Beef, Parmesan Crusted chicken, Garlic Grilled Shrimp, Brazilian Coffee Rubbed Pork Loin, Brazilian Sausage, and Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Lamb Chops.

Soups were Feljoada which is a sausage and black bean soup and Sopa de Legumes which was a vegetable and rice soup.

Accompaniments included Brazilian Cheese Bread, Sweet Fried Bananas, Arroz de Rodeio, Esquites ( a warm corn salad), Chimichurri (made with chopped fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and red pepper flakes). and Red Salsa. There was also an open bar.

I really enjoyed the people at our table. We had a very interesting political discussion and while we didn’t always agree I felt that these were definitely people I’d like to see again.
After we’d eaten to our hearts content it was time to gamble. While I do sweep, I seldom gamble. I’m far too cheap to do so. My husband loves to play cards but I don’t feel confident enough in my ability to play for money. Fortunately for me there was no money involved. I could win or lose to my heart’s content. Darryl was in his element and I just wanted to hug Holly for making this evening, no day, no entire trip so perfect. Did I really have to go home the next day?

The evening ended with drawings for autographed sports paraphernalia. We wound up winning two autographed baseballs. Then all too quickly it was time to go back to our room and get some sleep.

The next morning we tried to sneak over to the Polynesian for breakfast but I didn’t realize that this was a character breakfast and of course it was all sold out. Instead we went next door to the Grand Floridian and had breakfast at the Grand Floridian Café. Darryl had the American breakfast that included two Eggs served with Bacon, Sausage, Biscuits, Breakfast Potatoes, and a choice of Juice. I was able to order oatmeal with bananas, pecans, and brown sugar so I was happy except for the fact that it was time to leave the magical kingdom.

I said nothing to Darryl but Darryl leaned in and asked me about going back to Disney again. Really? Go to Disney again? Christmas time? Really? I thought you hated Disney? Well it turns out my husband is now a Disney convert. Who knew?

We were thrilled to be part of the team for four days of fantastic hospitality and the ultimate“Guy’s” activities. The people who worked to put this all together did a truly amazing job and I just can’t say enough about how thankful we both are.

The other benefit of winning this prize is that the fun keeps coming. Every month I receive an arrangement of flowers from 1800Flowers and a shipment of meat from Stockyard Meats. Don’t forget we also got that Sony PS3 Sports Champions Move HW Bundle.

The morale of this story is that when you wish upon a star, or dream about winning a sweepstakes, your dreams can come true and sometimes be even better than you ever imagine.