Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Emotional Month of Reading

I've had a book titled (Not) Keeping Up with Our Parents by Nan Mooney on my reading list for several months - probably a year. I spotted it at our local library a couple of weeks ago, and snatched it up.

I was quite surprised at the emotional response this book evoked in me, especially since most of the book reads like a report or thesis (complete with end notes), with a few anecdotes thrown in. I expected more interviews and anecdotes. Mooney introduces topics with anecdotes, and supports their experiences with research and general observations of American culture today.

What emotions did this book elicit? Relief - my husband and I are not alone in my struggles in this economy. Sadness - that people in my generation are facing these issues. Relief - again - that I was able to graduate from college without any student loan debt, unlike almost everyone interviewed in this book. Sorrow - again - wondering what assumptions and expectations do we have as a generation and as a society that we feel so 'on the brink' of survival?

Mooney's message throughout the book is that we, as a society, need to pressure the government to continue to pressure the government to provide health care, child care and retirement funding so that people can feel safe. She scoffs at the individualistic spirit that America is founded upon.

I think that America was more founded upon individual responsibility within a community than individualistic spirit. In our homeschool for the past year and a half, my children and I have been studying American history. I have been struck by the intense sense of community in the books we've been reading. While people generally felt a high sense of personal responsibility, I've noticed that rarely did people live in isolation from some sort of community. Even in The Little House on the Prairie, the Ingalls depended upon their neighbors.

Perhaps part of our underlying sense of panic - financial and in general - is a result of our isolation from community - our near neighbors and our faith communities. Before our parents' and grandparents' generations, our families and our faith communities gave a sense of security. The idea that no matter what happened, we could get through it together.

That changed with the Great Depression, when collectively, society looked to the government. Today, however, the government has proved it's not a great steward of money and responsibility for our personal financial security. No matter how hard it is for my family to make it financially, I do not want to hand over more taxes to the government, assuming that they'll take good care of my children, my health or my future.

Bottom line: our security should rest in a personal relationship with Yahweh, not in our government.

After reading this book, I am all the more committed to working with my children to get them through college without any school loans. From what I read, in most of the people's lives profiled in this book, the student loan payments are the proverbial 'straw the breaks the camel's back.' That, and child care costs. Which is why it makes sense for a parent to stay home with their children when they're young. It's certainly worth crunching numbers.

After reading Mooney's book, I see similar symptoms not only in my family, but also in those of my friends. However, I think the cause of those symptoms are different than her conclusions. As a society as a whole, we've shifted away from local, faith-based communities, we have high, perhaps unrealistic, expectations of what our lives should be like, we have become dependent upon debt to finance that life which has left a huge burden on our shoulders, and we have shifted away from the traditional family model of society - mother, father and children at home with a loving parent or family member as a caretaker.

In my case, we've made some choices with hard consequences, which has made it hard for us. Plus, we live in a high-cost area, which squeezes our dollars more. However, my faith is in Yahweh, who sees me, my family and will provide in ways I cannot see. And just because we cannot save right now for our children's college education doesn't mean that we won't have the income to pay for it when the time comes. Especially if we can continue to be disciplined in managing our expenses.

Speaking of income - if you feel a sense of affinity with Mooney's book, I'd recommend to you also read Rich Dad, Poor Dad and Cash-Flow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki. A new economy requires new thinking.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


I thoroughly enjoyed this little book from Seth Godin. It's more of a theoretical book about how and why tribes are formed rather than a 'how-to' guide to building your own tribe.

You may be wondering, "What exactly IS a tribe?"

Good question. According to the book flap, a tribe "is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea."

Tribes are nothing new, but using technology to create tribes is a rather new concept, and one that Godin explores in this book.

There are no chapters in this book, which I found a little frustrating because I wanted to go back and review and think over some things more. However, it's so small, that re-reading the entire book is not overwhelming.

In fact, I want to do just that.

The interesting thing for me was recognizing examples of tribes in my own life.

The Myth of Multi-Tasking

I read this book in about an hour in the van on the way home from a family trip. It's a very easy read, told in story form, but with helpful forms in the back that you can copy and use.

In it, a consultant works with a CEO on becoming more effective in her job and in her life. The author explores topics that I've been thinking about recently - how I'm working on three things at once and it's taking me three times longer to get them all done, plus then I'm ignoring my children or having to ask them to repeat a question three times because I switch my focus in the middle of their question.

Before I even read this book, I was trying to focus on one thing at a time, keep lists for things I need to do later and divide my days into segments in which I can focus my attention on one person or project. Obviously, a difficult thing when I'm teaching four children at home. However, reading this book enforced what I am trying to do, and gave me hope that I am on the right track.

If you're a strong believer in multi-tasking, this book is a definite must-read. It might even change your thinking!

Word-of-Mouth Advertising

I found many useful tips for creating buzz for my own business in Lynn Thorne's book with the really, really long title: Word-of-Mouth Advertising, Online & Off, How to Spark Buzz, Excitment, & Free Publicity For Your Business or Organization, With Little or No Money. Honestly, it almost seems like the title was search-engine optimized (read the book if you're not sure what that is).

I particularly enjoyed Thorne's sense of humor. A couple of times I laughed out loud. It made the book an easy read, and got her point across.

I would not say Thorne has introduced any new ideas as much as consolidated current thought into an easy-to-read how-to guide for word-of-mouth marketing.

She even includes a chapter for non-profits in particular, which I found interesting.

Another thing I appreciated about Thorne's book is that she includes a discussion of ethics in marketing - really common sense things for anyone with common sense. But since so many of us don't exhibit signs of common sense, she covers them in Chapter 10 just to make sure.

The Table of Contents is very detailed so you can find the topic you want to read about very quickly. Plus, each chapter includes an "Afterwords" - a summery of the main points covered in that chapter - great for skimming.

I picked up the copy I read at the library, but I think this would be an excellent reference book for my personal library.

A Family Favorite

My children were the first to find these "Rabbit Ears Treasury of..." CDs at our local library. This is the one we checked out - "Rabbit Ears Treasury of Fairy Tales."

Honestly, my first impression was, "What a rip-off!" There were only four stories and each one takes about a half-hour to tell because of all the musical interludes they include.

But, by the time we finished the entire treasury (2 CDs), I had completely changed my mind. We all LOVE these CDs! I cannot call them books on CD, because they're not. The librarian who checked us out thought they were movies, which they are most definitely not. They're tales, told by celebrities with original music composition to accompany them.

On this particular CD, my favorite is 'The Talking Eggs' set in the bayou of Louisiana. Sissy Spacek brings the story to life and the music by BeauSoleil sets my feet to tapping. I could listen to this story again and again. In fact, I have.

There are a whole bunch of titles in the "Rabbit Ears Treasury of..." series. So far, we've also enjoyed the "Tall Tales" (Nicolas Cages' Davy Crockett is outstanding! and my kids love Garrison Keillor's Johnny Appleseed), "World Tales" and "Fables."

I would not hesitate to pick up any title in this series, because I'm sure that we would all enjoy them - from the five-year-old to the 10-year-old to the ??-year-old mom - and that's quite a feat.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Climate Confusion

I marked so many pages in this book, that I hardly know where to start!

I thoroughly enjoyed Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies that Hurt the Poor by Roy W. Spencer. That's a really long title, but the book is quite readable.

The title was so long, in fact, I hestitated in picking it up at my library when I saw it on the shelf. But I couldn't help it when I saw the 'pandering politicians' and 'hurt the poor.' I decided to give it a try at least.

Spencer is the Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. A title which would make you think that you'd go cross-eyed reading a book he's written unless you, too, were a climate research scientist. Au contraire!

Spencer is smart, no doubt about it. He's thoughtful, logical and, can you believe it?, funny too. He's a scientist who hasn't let his intellect go to his head. He writes in a very accessible style, rather sarcastic at times, but very clear. I easily followed his logic, and his humor. Many times I laughed out loud at his characterizations of the media and politicians. They were so true - I know because I was a political reporter for a short while, and was a TV news producer for several years.

Throughout the book, Spencer makes his case about the climate confusion - how our society and world is getting caught up in the global warming hysteria, but the science behind it is anything but solid. And, when our society bases policy on bad science, we hurt more people than we help.

I would highly recommend Spencer's book. You'll enjoy reading it, and learn something too.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My Sweet Husband

My husband loves me. He really does. He showed me just how much this week when he went to Sam's Club for me. I gave him a specific list of what we needed: milk, OJ, eggs, cheese and a few other things. He came home with several more items, one of which was a big, I mean HUGE, bag of Dark Chocolate M&M's.

"What's that?" I asked him, trying to be oh-so-nonchalant and calm.

"Oh, honey, I got these for you, because I know how you love them," he replied, giving me a hug. "I can take them back if you don't want them," he added with a knowing smile and a twinkle in his eye.

I wanted to scream, "YES! Take them back! Have you not noticed I've been up early every morning for the past week & a half working out? Have you not heard me when I told you I'm trying to watch what I eat?"

But I couldn't. He loves me enough to bring me an XXL bag of Dark Chocolate M&M's.

So, I smiled and said, "Wow, thanks for thinking of me."

I put away the rest of the groceries, leaving out 'the bag,' and left the room. I thought I'd leave them on the counter and take them to my mother's, where I could share them with the rest of my family.

But every time I went into the kitchen to refill my water, they were just staring at me - big purple M&M bag. I swear I saw the yellow one wave at me and beckon me closer.

I ended up putting them in an empty Cinch shake canister (a meal replacement shake - catch the irony here? - but a handy hiding spot), so my kids wouldn't get on a sugar high in the morning. They wouldn't all fit though, so I had to eat a couple of handfuls before I went to bed.

I put them in a custard dish to eat out the different colors - the only way to eat them! - and by the time I got through with brown, blue & yellow, I didn't want any more.

Seriously, I didn't want anymore. I was really quite shocked. I put the rest in a baggie for later. Which ended up being much later. Like over 24 hours later. And that wasn't a huge self-control issue for me either. I went through my day, knowing I had a handful just waiting for me - all green, orange and red - and it didn't tempt me.

So, in all honesty, I think it was the best gift he ever gave me. It taught me that life IS GOOD without dark chocolate M&Ms. Who knew? I sure didn't.

Tonight, I'm taking them to share with a lot of other people - Cinch container and all. Whatever's left over goes to my mother's. Just in case.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Corpse Walker

I just finished The Corpse Walker: Real-life stories, China from the Bottom Up by Liao Yiwu. It was a fascinating read. I found myself pulled into the stories of 27 people Yiwu interviewed - from the migrant worker to the former Red Guard to the 103-year-old Buddhist Abbot.

These are "voices from the bottom of Chinese social outcasts," whom Yiwu talked with over several years. This book is just a few of the interviews he's done, taken from his original work in Chinese which spanned three volumes.

These are first-hand accounts of the famine of 1959-1962, the Cultural Revolution, Tiananmen Square, and other events in recent Chinese history. Theirs are heartbreaking, shocking experiences of torture and abuse at the hands of government officials and the fanatical following of Mao's words which turned the culture upside down and ruined the countryside.

Yiwu does an excellent job of honestly recording the interviewees voice, viewpoint and experiences. As a result, some interviews are full of swear words. However, if you want an unwashed view of how the Chinese have survived the past 50 years, this is a book for you to read.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Lasting Contribution

A Lasting Contribution is the title of book by Tad Waddington. This guy is one smart dude. He's got a masters of divinity from the University of Chicago and a PhD in something about statistics. You can read all about it in the back of the book. His emphasis at UC was the history of chinese religions, and it clearly shows in this little book.

The front flap says, "This book is for everyone." Perhaps everyone but me. I'm not a philosopher by nature or training, and many of the words he used were completely new to me. There's a handy glossary at the back of the book, which I discovered when I was done reading it. I guess I wasn't really in the mood to learn a whole new vocabulary in order to really sink my teeth into this book.

I wrote quite a few quotes down in my journal from his book - like:

pg 6 "...when does think before acting and when thinkers take action, remarkable results follow. When doers don't think before acting and when thinkers don't act, good people's efforts fail to acheive their full impact."

pg 15 "It's not about smarts, but discipline." - this really resonated with me because I just finished reading Carry on, Mr. Bowditch to my children in school. Nathaniel Bowditch was one smart guy, but he achieved a lot because of his discipline. It was an awesome example of this.

"Deciding what not to do is crucial." Something I need to remember.

Unfortunately, from my perspective, Waddington takes the entire book to explain why someone should want to contribute and all the causes leading to a lasting contribution... but without an ultimate reason. He clearly states in his book (pg 87), quoting someone named Bronowski, " 'There is no absolute knowledge. ... all information is imperfect. We have to treat it with humility. That is the human condition."

Well - yes and no. I believe that there is One who is Absolute Knowledge, and He decided to share some of it with us - through the Holy Scriptures and the person of Jesus Christ. We still have to treat our understanding of the Bible with humility because, as Isaiah writes, "His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways." There's a lot about God we do not know.

Ultimately, he tries to make a case for a purpose in life without the True Purpose. He writes on page 90 that 'Ethics and action are inseperable." James wrote the same thing in the New Testament "Faith without works is dead."

I like Rich Mullins' version: "Faith without works is like a screen door on a submarine." Rather useless.

I think I could sum up my impression of A Lasting Contribution with the lyrics of another Rich Mullins song, Maker of Noses:

When I turn to the world they gave me this advice

They said boy you just follow your heart
But my heart just led me into my chest
They said follow your nose
But the direction changed every time I went and turned my head
And they said boy you just follow your dreams
But my dreams were only misty notions

My response would echo that of Mullins':
But the Father of hearts and the Maker of noses
And the Giver of dreams He's the one I have chosen
And I will follow Him

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My wake up call - to a healthier me

This was Thursday, July 17th, the day I realized I had to make a choice. I've been thinking about it a long time. In the past, at certain times, I had made the choice and then quit.

Anna, my 8yo, had informed me the night before that she needed to exercise in the morning. "Mom, in the morning, can I unroll the exercise mat and you put on an exercise DVD and we can exercise together?"

"Probably not tomorrow morning, hon."

In the morning, Anna came into my bedroom dressed in her leotard and asked again, "Can you put on an exercise DVD?"

I groaned, told her to put on socks and shoes and rolled out of bed to put on an exercise DVD. I started it for her and then WENT BACK TO BED. I didn't even bother to join her.

What had happened to me?

Over the years, I've been an on-again, off-again exerciser. My longest stint was the fall-winter of 2006-2007. I exercised every morning with my exercise video (except Sundays and an occasional Saturday). When my kids woke up, they sometimes joined me. I was doing great, until it got hot and I got sick. Once I hadn't exercised for a few days, it was easier not too. So, since June of 2007, I've been telling myself I need to exercise every time my alarm goes off in the morning.

Telling myself, yet choosing to stay in bed instead. My eating habits tend to follow my exercise habits, so I started eating worse and worse.

Amazingly enough, I've kept off most of the weight I lost (about 15 lbs), but did gain about an inch or so in my waist, so all my 'new' clothes barely fit.

So, now it's time to try something new. I was lifting & doing cardio exercises with, but not intervals. I'm studying my Fit Yummy Mummy book this weekend, and plan to start Monday morning.

Honestly, I dread the learning curve. But, I see the results my friend Angela has had, and have hope for me.

Last fall, Lydia, my 6yo, asked me, "Mommy, do you remember when you used to get up an exercise? You should do that again."

Yes honey, I should. And I will.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Some thought-provoking quotes

I've just finished reading Nurtured by Love by Shinichi Suzuki. A piano teacher I've been talking with recommended I read it.

I realized how western my mindset is while I was reading this book. I found I had to lay it down frequently because I was irritated by the wanderings of Suzuki's mind. In one part, he started a story about an expedition he was on in Japan, followed his thoughts down many different roads and finished the story quite a few pages later.

However, he said a few things that caught my attention and made me think:

pg 54 "Whatever work it may be, the way to success is, after all, to stick to one's intentions to the very last. Everyone is able to do it; it depends only on one's will."

Pg 56 "Without stopping, without haste, carefully taking a step at a time forward will surely get you there."

pg 89 "Harmony - in order to achieve it, one person must gracefully give in to the other, and it is nobler to be the one who gives in than the one who forces the other to give in."

pg 99 "There is no merit in just thinking about doing something. The result is exactly the same as not thinking about it. It is only doing the thing that counts. I shall acquire the habit of doing what I have in mind to do."

pg 106 "Children are really educated in the home..."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Updated Thursday Night HealthBites Information

Thursday nights HealthBites are going well - I've learned a lot from my fellow presenters.

This week, May 8th, I'll be hosting the call, talking about Breathing Free with AirSource - my first line of defense in my 'Allergy Attack Plan' - for more information, e-mail me at

Here's the updated schedule -

May 8, Michelle Leichty, Breathe Free with Air Source
May 15, John Rider, Riding High on Health (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Sports Nutrition)
May 22, Kristi Gonzalez, Chronic Pain Management
May 29, Jane Borner, Asthma and Shaklee
June 5, Jessica Crouch, Why I Chose Shaklee and Organizing
June 12, Loren Wakefield, (TBA)
June 19 Dr. Kevin Eichelberger, Bone Health and chiropractic
June 26 Joanne Swinder, Healthy Cooking

Just dial in 1-646-519-5860, you'll be prompted to enter a pin and please use 6437#. Come early, at 8:55 pm
9 pm central time
Every Thurs. -April through June.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Thursday night HealthBites

HealthBites - a way to hear how this company's products are changing people's lives.

Join us for a half-hour every Thursday night on the phone - you can clean your kitchen or fold laundry while you listen (nothin' like multi-taskin'!).

Calls start at 9pm central.
1-646-519-5860, 6437#

Here's the schedule for April, May & June, 2008:

April 10: Teresa - Dealing with Cancer
April 17: Harriet - GET GREEN with GET CLEAN
April 24: Kristi & Michelle - Natural Solutions for ADHD
May 1: Shawna - Going from ear infections to wellness
May 8: Michelle - Breathe. Why Air Source.
May 15: John - Riding (as in cycling) High on Health
May 22: Kristi - Natural ways to manage pain
May 29: Jane -
June 5: Jessica - Why I choose organizing and this company
June 12: Loren
June 19: Dr. Kevin - chiropractor
June 26: JoAnne - Healthy Cooking

That's me!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Money, A Memoir

As women, we tend to be more emotional – especially about money. Liz Perle explores those emotions in her book Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash.

It’s an interesting journey, allowing Perle to exorcise many of her own demons about money and what she expects of it. I imagine that many of us have the same – or similar – emotional issues with cash. Perle does too – and proves it by an impressive array of interviews with women across the economic scale.

It’s amazing to me that no matter the socio-economic scale, the emotions were basically the same: fear, anxiety, longing for security and comfort we think money can bring us.

In her prologue, Perle writes, “for the most part, it was maturity and experience that created harmony and acceptance. … The women I found who had the healthiest relationships possessed an honesty and a clarity about what money could, and couldn’t do for their lives. They’d managed to unpack their emotions from their finances, and they took care of themselves with confidence.”

The rest of the book recounts her journey to understanding why some women have a healthy relationship with money, what precipitated her own unhealthy relationship, and in the end what she learns she can and cannot expect from money.

I found Money, A Memoir somewhat uncomfortable to read personally – I don’t have the emotional attachment to money Perle does/did. Instead of putting my trust in money, I'd rather put my trust in God – the personal, loving God of the Bible whom I know through Jesus.

Bottom line, it’s worth the read. It prompted me to examine my thoughts and feelings about money.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Learning to Let Go

This is something I wrote several years ago - but a great reminder for me today as I look at my family, my volunteer work and my business....
Oh, letting go is hard - especially for perfectionists! But, if you're going to build a successful business, then you've got to learn to let go.

Let go of the perfect house.
The dishes may sit a little longer than usual.
The toys may pile on occasion.

Let go of the perfect business.
You won't have all the time in the world to work. Pick your priorities carefully.
Some things will not get done, or will not get done as well as you'd like.

Let go of the perfect family.
Determine to take time to make memories with your children, but don't feel the need to be their entertainment. It's better for them developmentally, and better for you emotionally.

Learning to let go is hard. Today, decide one thing you can let go, so you can focus on your family or on your business.

Mine: I'm taking the rest of this afternoon off to take my children to the pool. We'll create memories, and be so exhausted we'll all drop into bed tonight. I'm letting go of clearing out my e-mail box today, which is clogged with e-mails from the weekend.

What are you letting go?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Twinkie, Deconstructed

Most books I’ve read about our food supply are written by those who moan and groan about all the processed foods we Americans eat and advocate eating locally. Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle comes to mind.

Steve Ettlinger’s Twinkie, Deconstructed is not one of those books. The subtitle is telling: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.

His journey started with a simple question from his daughter about an ingredient in her ice cream bar one summer. His perspective is certainly sympathetic to the processed food industry – amazement that technology today can turn something mined into an ingredient that makes the Twinkie a Twinkie.

But I can’t agree with his awe of technology in food. Well, at some level I can, but it is rather horrific reading. I’m not a huge fan of Twinkies, but I can’t say I will ever eat one again after reading this book.

Ettlinger takes us on a journey through the ingredient list from top to bottom, taking us on tours of manufacturing plants and mining operations, explaining how each element makes a Twinkie a Twinkie.

Throughout the book, Ettlinger reveals his support of the processed food industry – just a sampling follows.

Chapter 4: “it is actually harder to extract B vitamins from natural sources than it is to create the synthetically. Even though they are chemically identical, lab-made vitamins are better because they are consistent in strength and quality.” (for enrichment maybe, but certainly not for vitamin supplements!)

Chapter 8: “Besides making Twinkie ingredients, pockle [phosphorus, oxygen, and chlorine] makes an unlikely group of products that includes pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and dyestuffs – but, as industry members say, has been used safely in food for fifty years.” (I’m just wondering, just how does the industry define “safe?”)

Chapter 10: describing soybean processing “The flakes… become shortening, lecithin, or soy protein isolate … - but only with the help of a mildly toxic, explosive solvent, hexane, which is obtained from natural gas and is a common component of gasoline.” (What? Most soy is processed this way, but not all. Don’t you think it’s worth searching for a company that doesn’t use a toxic solvent?)

Chapter 12: describing process of making cellulose gum “[R]olls of “blotter paper” … are ground up and tossed into a reactor vessel to be cooked in a chemical bath containing lye and sodium monochloroacetate, a pungent, toxic, while petrochemical generally associated with making dyes and herbicides rather than a snack food. The resultant mush is washed with water and solvents until it has been transformed into a water-soluble food product.” (I don’t know about you, but I’m thinking YUCK.)

There are more, but I’ll stop there. I found Twinkie, Deconstructed interesting and rather alarming too. Honestly, it made me want to follow in some of my friend’s footsteps and grind my own flour and make my own bread.

One other caveat – I think that a more scientifically-minded person would have found it easier to follow the details of this book. I’m not a scientist, particularly not a chemist, and had to skip over some of those details.

Despite that, Twinkie, Deconstructed was certainly worth the time to read – it made me think and I learned a lot about the processed food industry in our country.