Friday, February 29, 2008

Tis Better to Give Than Receive

Although I enjoy receiving surprises and gifts, I'm usually more jazzed when I can give something that brings the recipient so much joy. This week I had an opportunity, with a lot of help from a friend, to make an 8-year-old boy really happy.

One of my co-workers, Brent, was sharing a story this week about how his wife surprised his daughter with tickets to a recent Jonas Brothers concert. For those of you who may not know, the Jonas Brothers are the lastest boy band money-makers from Disney. While his sister was enjoying an evening with the Jonas boys, little Ryan asked his Daddy, "Where's Claire?" And the harsh realization that Claire got a surprise sank in. As all good Daddies would do, he began a quest to give Ryan a surprise he wouldn't forget. Being a basketball fan, and a University of Louisville fan, specifically, snagging tickets to one of the last two home games was Brent's goal, but it was becoming unattainable.

Upon hearing of this disappointing mission, I couldn't resist a chance to make a Daddy a hero. One of my friends works for U of L athletics. Normally, the moment folks meet him, the next question he hears is "Hey, can you swing me some free tickets?" That's always bugged me. Poor guy...they just want him for his connections. I've assured him that I would use this ticket power in my life for good, not evil and would be grateful for anytime he could help me out. I decided this was the time to leverage the power. Amazingly, he had just been given two extra tickets for the UofL/Notre Dame game last night. Brent was all set up to surprise Ryan.

Brent's wife dropped Ryan off after work and his plan went into motion. Ryan unknowingly believed he was going to a car show and realized when his Daddy picked up an envelope at the ticket window with a Red Cardinal on it that this wasn't some ordinary car show. Brent explained what was really happening and that Ryan was going to see his first UofL game live! For a young boy who loves Louisville basketball, nothing could compare to that moment.

The game was fantastic as the Cardinals brought home a win, even with an opposing player, Luke Harangody, giving a staggering performance. After the game, Dad and Son made a trip to the Gift Shop to mark this night with a souvenir. Now that's good stuff.

Today, Brent told me aside from visiting Disney World, he'd never seen his son so happy. And, what made my day more was this picture of Ryan....decked out in his red (purposely outfitted by Mom from Dad's direction) with a big ole smile on his face. And, Ryan didn't forget to thank Mr. Wall too, the man behind the curtain with the tickets. Life just doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Today as I drove in to work, the news came on the radio about a lockdown at a local high school. I'm amazed at how this phenomenon seems to be accelerating across our educational institutions.

I remember in the late 90's the rash of this sort of thing. First, in my home state of Kentucky, Heath High School in Paducah lost 3 students after Michael Carneal broke out in fire on a group of praying students. Then 12 students lost their lives 2 years later at Columbine High School near Denver, Colorado. I fear we are repeating those years with the recent Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois shootings. What I fear most, though, is what happened to end this pattern for close to a decade.

It seemed that as the new millenium started, the violence would grow. Then 9/11 happened. And, all of a sudden, life was valued again. Now, I don't know if the murder and crime rates went down significantly, but for about 5 years, we didn't see this type of mass murder in the everyday news. My perception was the United States had seen foreign invaders destroy our innocent lives here and we weren't of a mindset to "kill our own" after that bloodbath. Since these shootings are gearing up again and growing closer and closer together, I just wonder if it will take another major terrorist attack for our American society to realize the value of life.

There is a lot of debate about the sanctity of life as it relates to abortion. I'm opposed to abortion, but this post goes beyond that. When will we begin to see life valuable at all stages? The young people of America who will be our future leaders. The senior population that are aging and looked upon to some as a nuisance or non-contributory. Those who are physically or mentally challenged that some believe have no value to society. It's a sad state of affairs that we, as a country, seem to ignore the beauty of life breathed by our Creator if it doesn't fit our mold.

Unfortunately, the presidential candidate that is probably the one I feel has the best grasp on life value, Mr. Huckabee, is slowly losing his place in the Republican race. That begs the question. Mr. Obama, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. McCain, I've heard your platforms on healthcare and taxation. Those hot topics get you great media coverage. But, tell me, what is your plan to move our country towards valuing life...all life?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Table Topics - Cars

What a week this has been! On top of the largest snow storm in three years trapping me at home for two days, my weekend included the death of my car. We'll call her "Blanche"...she's a Gold Malibu...and kinda sassy, like Blanche on the Golden Girls. After my friend Beth's Baby Shower Extravaganza on Saturday, I came out to a car that wouldn't start. I'll save you the laborious details of hitching rides, calling AAA, following Ed the tow truck guy to the gas station, and the resurrection of the car Sunday afternoon. It was a short-lived resuscitation.

Monday morning on my way to work, my temperature gauge began rising. And rising. And rising. And then it hit the top level causing the red indicator to come on and beep. I knew I was in trouble. Although I hadn't made it to work, I almost had and decided to turn around and head to the repair shop. I prayed all the way there as the car shook some and then gave a "cough" and leveled out for a bit. Thankfully I made it to the shop in one piece.

I've always been attached to my cars...well, not all, but some. The cars I'm least attached to are the ones I've had to buy when the current beloved car I'm driving is on its last wheel. I end up having to get another car at a time when I'm not emotionally or financially ready to do that. Blanche is one of those replacement cars. My beloved Blue Boomobile (A blue Malibu) was dying a slow death and my faithful mechanic kneeled at my feet one day and broke the news to me. "You need to start looking for another car." Sigh. Bye Bye Boo.

I've had Blanche about 3 or 4 years and after this recent event, I'm beginning to plan for my next ride. In the past 2.5 years, I've had to replace a fuel injector ($600) and this repair was the intake manifold and a bunch of other things related to that totaling $780. Every time I have to plunk down that kind of cash on a car, I begin to weigh the option of getting a new one or sticking it out a little bit longer.

That leads us to our Table Topic today - When do you decide it's time for a new car?

I'm not driving to the car lot today to look for a new car. I have some other purchases I need to make before a car is considered. Plus, unless it totally dies, I'm not at a place to engage in a discussion about a new vehicle...or at least new to me. But I am curious your thoughts on this topic. And, a bonus follow up question....what car would you recommend that will last a long time? I'm pretty much over these cars that start konking out at 90,000 miles.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

When Pigs Fly

Do you ever feel like you are living in Bizarro World? The things going on around us these days make me think I've surely relocated without my knowledge. Let's recap, shall we...

The Presidential election is so odd and disheartening that I hardly believe it. Let's review the candidates...on the Republican side we have McCain, Senator and POW, Romney, former Massachusetts governor and Mormon, and Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor and Southern Baptist minister. Sadly, as a conservative, none of those guys are a powerful force to bring to the November election. I heart Huckabee, but God will have to certainly intervene to get him to the dance. Romney is probably my second choice, but he reminds me of a Game Show Host. And, the front runner, McCain is somewhat underwhelming to me as the leader of the free world. Moving to the left side we have the wife of a former President who had challenges with defining "is" and another candidate that when you say his name it sounds like you're coughing up a hair ball. Somehow the lesser of two evils seems to ring true here.

Then we have the never-ending writer's strike. There is talk that it may be coming to an end soon, but, too late, we're all numbing from the B level shows the networks are pulling off the shelf to have something new to run, not to mention the onslaught of more reality television. Don't get me wrong, I watch a lot of reality television....but "My Dad is Better Than Your Dad"...hmm, I'll pass. All the shows I love that have been on hiatus since long before I went Christmas shopping have become a faint memory and I feel the need to watch those all in reruns just to get back up to speed. I've lowered myself to watching Dance Wars with Bruno and Carrie Ann. Well, it's either that or non-stop election primary coverage (see above).

The real kicker is the weather. In my neck of the woods, we've had three tornado warnings between January 1 and today. And, this week brought the sad news of three lives lost in Western Kentucky along with the other devastation suffered across the South. Wow, it's winter time and we're experiencing tornados...I hope the snow doesn't Fall on Memorial Day. Bizarro.

The other night around midnight when we were dealing with tornado warning #3, I hit my panic attack. Normally storms don't bother me too much, but having so much damage and devastation so close to me from the last storm, I had become all too familiar with what could happen. As I lay in bed contemplating jumping into the bathtub for safety, I just kept reciting the Bible verse my Mom taught me as a child whenever I was afraid...and that happened a lot. It was probably the first verse I ever committed to memory and it sticks even today....

"What time I am afraid, I will trust in the Lord." - Psalm 56:3

So simple, yet so profound. Even when my lips couldn't form a prayer, I could recite that verse from God's Word and know what I needed to do. The future is unknown, and sometimes very scary, but knowing in Whom to trust when I'm afraid makes walking through the storms a whole lot easier. that a pig I see flying by?....

Friday, February 01, 2008

Blueberry Heaven

I love blueberries. More accurately, I love the flavor of blueberries. I recently discovered this smurf-like pattern when I realized how much blueberries are a part of my life. The bonus of this affinity is the nutritional and health benefits of this tiny fruit. They are high in Vitamin C and low in fat. And, of 60 different fruits analyzed by Tufts University, they came out as the number one fruit to provide antioxidants.

How do I get my regular doses of blueberry? Well, I won't count the random Blueberry Pop-Tarts I consume, although those are scrumptious. One of my favorite drinks at Starbucks is a Berry Blossom White Tea Misto. My friend, Liz, stumbled upon this treat while we were at Starbucks one night and now I'm a believer too. A Tea Misto is merely a tea brewed with half water and half steamed milk. I tried it with another favorite herbal tea - Wild Sweet Orange - but, it curdled the milk. Milk and citric acid don't mix. On this night, Liz tried this new tea flavor and my Misto suggestion and became enthralled with the taste. She said, "It takes like a liquid blueberry muffin!" And, it really does. A venti-sized cup is not only less calories than a venti-sized anything else at Starbucks, it's also cheaper. I can walk out of there with a Venti Berry Blossom Tea Misto for under $3. That's less than a dollar per word of the description.

My other blueberry passion is a little gem I found at my gym's cafe. Many times when I go to the gym in the early morning hours, I stop off at the cafe there for a muffin to go or other delicacy for breakfast. They have a vast array of smoothies in all flavors, so I decided to try a few to see if any of them suited my fancy. They have all the fruity flavors you can imagine, and even a Peanut Butter flavor, but my taste buds crave the one called "Blueberry Crunch." This smoothie had me at the first sip. It includes blueberries, milk, sugar-free almond flavoring, maybe a banana, and the secret ingredient....granola! I literally crave these things. I think if I ever get pregnant, this is what I'd want all the time. It makes an early morning workout worth it.

I could go on and on....blueberry yogurt is my favorite flavor.....but I don't want to appear to be too obsessed. I definitely found my thrill on blueberry hill.