The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...

The driver of tomorrow is not thinking Green...
He's thinking Classic. (click on photo)


Blog Archive

Dec 18, 2009

The Today Show 2009

I love The Today Show. Since we no longer watch (or have time to) TV, I don't get to see the show. I stumbled across this 2009 overview they produced and wanted to share. Enjoy!

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Dec 17, 2009

Apple's new Magic Mouse review...

The video review:

The short review:

The good: Sexy design; vertical scrolling works like a physical scroll wheel; pairs easily with Mac computers; ambidextrous.

The bad: Awkwardly narrow profile; doesn't work with Windows PCs; laser sensor not as advanced as Darkfield and BlueTrack competition; horizontal swipes don't feel as natural as thumb buttons; can't customize swiping functions; no pinching.

The bottom line: Apple's new wireless Magic Mouse gets a sleek makeover and even has multitouch controls, but it's better as a portable laptop companion rather than a full-size desktop accessory. The swiping gestures add interactivity to Web browsing and media, but the awkwardly narrow single button design leaves us reaching for better mice from Logitech and others.

Dec 16, 2009

Parental Revelation continued...

Last night I stumbled upon a video of Ryan in 2005. Matt & I were at the pool with Ryan, McKenna and Kayla. As I was watching the video, I was blown away by how little Ryan was. He was just a baby. Still had that adorable baby face, cheeks, talked with that sweet, inquisitive voice. He had just turned 4 a couple months before. He was in the kids pool with his towel, which was totally soaked. Matt was asking him if he'd wrestled a snake. Ryan was tickled at the thought it was a snake. You can just see his wide eyed excitement and brain working it all out as he tried to lift this huge, wet, heavy towel out of the water, wring it out & drag it to the side of the pool.

My eyes then swelled with tears. Because all I remember thinking is how angry I was at him because I had told him not to put the towel in the water. I was too concerned about him not having a towel to dry off with, the hassle of having to get in the car to drive the short distance to our apartment, the fact he would want a towel and then be upset that no one else would give him theirs. I looked at him, remembering what a handful he was at that age. Running into the parking lots without thought, constantly moving moving moving... pushing, inquiring, testing. Going through the divorce and being a single parent for a long time, I remember being tired, worn out and full of frustration in trying to quell this little bundle of pure boy energy.

I truly wished last night I could go back 5 years and do it differently. Hand out more love, patience and interest in where and what he needed to explore. Join him in his pure delight at the wet towel and the "snake" he wanted to show Matt.

My dad once told me to live a life on no regret. To make decisions that don't have consequences that you can't live with. I've thought about that often and have found myself at times living moments of regret. Sometimes regret is simply consequence of living life and learning the hard way.

I think we get so caught up in our current race we really forget to cherish the age of our children now. Even video from last Christmas, McKenna looks much younger then today. I feel time slipping away and thought this morning, I need to really try and make the most of every day with the kids from this point out. I do wish I could recapture some of Ryan's toddler years, not full of the pain & difficulty of divorce. I did not get to enjoy it very much. I wish I had been a better mom. If there is any period where I've fallen short for both kids, it's been the past 5 years as I've tried to learn to parent 5 kids, blend a family, obtain stability in life, heal the wounds of all of us and establish some order and family. This is very difficult for me to admit because being a great mom and parent is the one thing I wanted to be more than anything and to know I could have done it better, could have not failed at one simple thing - time and love and patience, at times is painful to look at.

I guess that is probably part of the constant generational change, as we stretch and grow in different or the same ways as our parents - our kids will see our failures and attempt to do it differently. In part they will succeed, in part they will maintain the same struggles - at some point in the future, will a generation do it perfectly? ;) Only in Heaven I believe.

Dec 15, 2009

Dec 10, 2009

Luce: Parenting is a Sacrifice

Parenting was never supposed to be easy. No one ever called it simple, effortless or painless.

If you ever put your kids on remote control because you have all sorts of “electronic baby-sitters” available to occupy their time, you can say that it really doesn’t affect your kids, but are you sure? The bottom line: parenting equals sacrifice.

“But I don’t have time,” a parent may say. “I have so many pressures at work; I am trying to provide for my family.” That is a seemingly rational explanation, but the question is: What are you providing?

Are you providing for all of your kids’ financial needs, but not giving them the time, attention, and love they are really hungry for? Wouldn’t you rather provide a safe, loving environment to impart your values to your kids?

It’s undeniable that as a parent, you will sacrifice something. You can choose to sacrifice up front: time, sleep, career, and hobbies while your kids are small. If you make those sacrifices early, I guarantee that you will also reap joy and delight as they grow up. You will gain a lifetime of intimately knowing your kids and the privilege of helping them grow into seasoned, productive, godly adults.

If you don’t sacrifice up front, you will sacrifice later. Think about scenarios such as your child getting pregnant (or getting someone pregnant) as a young person, multiple times. Imagine living through your child’s divorce (perhaps several times) and playing the visiting game with divorced in-laws for the rest of your life. Can you picture a 35-year-old old couch potato camping out on your futon because he can’t hold down a job?

Your kids will be old a lot longer than they are young. I know people in the older generation who have had grown kids causing them misery and regret for their entire adult life. Boy, now that is a sacrifice. Even if you do it for purely selfish reasons, sacrificing up front to raise your kids well will protect you from life-long sacrifice.

With Christmas just around the corner, I challenge you to make as many sacrifices as possible for your kids. Not financial sacrifices to get them the latest and greatest presents. Instead, sacrifice your time and your love to give them a holiday season your entire family will never forget.

Published on Wednesday, December 2, 2009 @ 9:57 AM CST,

Dec 9, 2009

Recessions Silver Lining: Man Up

Matt is great with the kids at home. If I was laid off, there probably wouldn't be any question or raised eyebrows to my time at home while on unemployment. I find it interesting people's reactions to a "man" staying home with the family. I enjoyed this article. It also addresses the pressure to maintain a "non maternal" persona in the work place. So ridiculous, the pressure we create on ourselves in society. Child rearing is important! They are the next generation so why do we have them if we as a society don't place a great importance on actually partaking in the rearing, whether mother or father? I don't think McKenna will need counseling when Matt attends her field trip in my place on Monday, or Kayla will be debilitated because I take her out to lunch instead of her dad. Parents are teams working together for the same outcome - stable, individual, directed and well loved young adults.

By Kathleen Deveny | NEWSWEEK
Published Dec 4, 2009
From the magazine issue dated Dec 14, 2009

Like many people who work in industries that have been battered by the recession, I am absolutely thrilled to have a job. And like many who fear the next round of layoffs, I am on my very best behavior at work. (Click here to follow Kathleen Deveny).

Which means that when I have to take my daughter to the pediatrician or cut out early to attend her school's winter concert, I will probably lie and say I have to go to my own doctor instead. I am lucky to have reasonably flexible work hours, and an extremely flexible boss. But in an era of rampant job insecurity, it seems indefensible to request time off to hear my kid sing an Italian folk song—or get her a flu shot. Wouldn't that time be better spent doubling my productivity or developing new revenue streams?

Other working mothers sometimes employ the same strategy. When I heard that a friend had gone home sick recently, I e-mailed her to make sure she was OK. "I just had to take [Junior] to the doctor," came the response. "What was I supposed to do?" she asked, when called on her deception. "I'm worried about my job, but my kid has had a cough for four weeks!"

With schools winding down for the holidays, the flu season picking up, and unemployment topping 10 percent, anxiety has never been more acute for many working parents. That is especially true of working mothers. America is approaching a milestone: women are about to hold more than 50 percent of jobs for the first time, in part because men have been hit harder by layoffs. And yet women still shoulder the bulk of child-care responsibilities because of retrograde family roles, school-event schedules, and employers' attitudes. All of which can force an otherwise honest woman to fib.

In part, the reaction is rational. Maternal profiling is real. When a working father takes time off to watch a ballet recital, he's seen as noble. When a working mother rushes out of the office to care for a case of head lice, she's more likely to be labeled undependable. Mothers looking for work are less likely to be hired, are offered lower salaries, and are perceived to be less committed than fathers or women without children, according to a 2005 report by Shelley Correll, now an associate professor of sociology at Stanford University. And according to a 2007 survey by Elle/, female bosses are twice as likely than their male counterparts to be seen as having family obligations interfere with work.

Sure, working dads do more chores around the house than their fathers did. But the waiting room at my pediatrician's office is still invariably packed with women. Working mothers spend 60 percent more time each day on child care and household tasks than employed fathers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And when a father faces unemployment, he is likely to spend just one minute more per day—just one minute!—on child care. (He will, however, carve out 83 more minutes to watch TV.) Unemployed mothers, on the other hand, spend nearly twice as much time as working moms taking care of their kids, all while they too look for work.

I would like to believe that for families who can get through this economic slump in one piece—without losing jobs or health insurance or homes—these hard times might encourage a rebalancing of responsibilities. Women's salaries are now critical to the well-being of more than 40 percent of American families, and so men must do better on the home front, doing the dishes, yes, but also planning the dinner that precedes them. "I hope this will lead us past the mommy wars and to the parent wars," says Stephanie Coontz, a professor at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash. "We need to get away from the idea that one person has to do all the parenting."

We might also want to abandon the notion that attending every single school event is pivotal to our children's happiness. What if I told my 9-year-old that, much as I would love to attend her class holiday party, I have to work instead? She would be upset—I would be upset—and then we would get over it. I can't imagine it would come up in future psychotherapy sessions.

Maybe the recession is good for more than just rebalancing family roles. Maybe it can bring a new level of sobriety to parenting itself. "I love this recession for families," says Wendy Mogel, a clinical psychologist and author. "It's helping kids learn to tolerate disappointment and frustration." I'm not sure I love the recession. And I'll probably go to the class party anyway. But at least now I'll admit it to my boss. Maybe.

Find this article at

The Truth About Balancing Children and Career

If the wealthy have that much difficulty, with all their "help", how indeed, do the common folk do it? We no longer live next to family. Those that I know that have family, have active participating parents in their lives, if not actually in their homes, helping care for kids while the parents work. We have 5 and we do it on our own and it's an incredible amount of work. I am thankful during the period of unemployment so one of us can concentrate 100% on home & children. It's a blessing for now.

MSN Article:

Recently, many in the media and wOwosphere have been debating whether a mom with young children has any business having a demanding job. Some say it delegates the responsibility of raising the children to other people; others have argued that it actually ends up benefiting the kids, who in turn are more independent.

What is the truth about the difficulties of balancing children and career? What are the true sacrifices? Rewards? What lessons have you learned? What would you do differently? What worked? What is your advice for women going down this path?

Candice Bergen: OK. At the risk of being politically incorrect, I think if you are going to commit to the decision to have a child, you owe that child your best. And I think the old saying "Quality time is better than quantity time" is a self-justifying adage that over-worked women use to assuage their guilt. A guilt I think is valid.

When I was doing "Murphy" and my daughter was little, I would do nothing else but her and the show. Take her to school, drive carpool, put her to bed (which took hours), take her everywhere on weekends. Sometimes just the two of us would go to Santa Barbara, or Carmel. Dates, we'd call them. The night she got chicken pox, thank God, I was with her and we sat up all night, watching movies, giving her baths in Aveeno. I went to work the next day exhausted, but thank God I was there when she needed me.

With work roles changing so drastically over the years, I think women's options have expanded while children pay the price. I was there for my daughter as much as possible. This was selfish on my part. It was where I wanted to be. But I was raised in a time when parents put their kids in the trust of nannies, and I didn't bond with my mother till very late in my life. I was always envious of caricatures of warm, close, tumbling families. Italian families. Jewish families. Unafraid to express their feeling.

I always made a point of showing and telling my daughter that she was the love of my life and I think she benefitted from that. Obviously I made huge mistakes. And there were times I wasn't there when I should have been. But not many. I do not think you can have it all without someone paying the price and that shouldn't be your child. I do think we can have A LOT, and I am grateful for that. And I didn't work till my daughter was four (and then because my husband and friends pointed out that I was getting nuts just being with my child). So it's delicate. And of course there's a balance. But she always came out on top. She always will.

Whoopi Goldberg: The truth is it is very hard to balance career and family. If you have money, of course it's easier. But it doesn't compensate for birthdays, graduations and the like. If you don't have money it is incredibly hard and you are constantly worried that you can't cover whatever costs you have. The truth also is that each family is different and it may be easy for some, except for the guilt of not fitting the perfect mother pattern.

Mary Wells: I had two daughters while I was working around the world, flying home weekends. I didn't worry about it. I took them everywhere I went when I could and when I married my husband, Harding, he involved them in everything he could. They grew up flying Braniff, my husband's Dallas airline, with the Dallas Cowboys, and are still such fans they fly to at least one game a year. They sometimes grumbled that their weekend house was in France while their friends' weekend houses were just a hop someplace but they grew up speaking French and one married a French man. My mother was their guardian angel as well as my own but my girls and I have been together on the same wave. I can't imagine two women I admire more. They, too, have two children each – great joys – and work very hard and long hours in their own ways.

Everybody has problems sometimes. Everybody has confusions and misunderstandings and hurts and furies. We had our share. But we loved each other deeply. There was never any doubt between my girls and I know that. And that mutual love got us through our share.

There are small moments I regret but would have trouble remembering. They are my greatest gift in life. Recently when I told my daughter that I love her she said, "I know you do, mom." So good. And recently, sitting in a car between the two of them I had a feeling of stunning satisfaction. I couldn't get that any other way, I know. I'm lucky.

They're lucky. We are meant for each other. There was no mistake.

Liz Smith: I am definitely a working kind of woman, always have been, since age 16. Married several times, I have never been gifted with children–However, all of my friends have children and I am the active godmother to at least one little boy in Manhattan.

So even though I only "have charge" of him sporadically, I just puzzle and wonder how women everywhere do it. His mother is one of the hardest-working women I've ever met and also one of the best mothers I've ever seen. But, look, does the average woman actually have any choice?

Most of the women I know are wage earners and always have been. Most women feel they "have" to work nowadays to get by. The stay-at-home women of my mother's "housekeeping" era are now rare. Today, the women I know who don't work and have children are usually married to big money-making guys. They can pick and choose, hire multiple nannies and help.

The lesson I've learned in making a choice between my godchild and my work is – he has to come first. This sometimes makes for sacrifices and hard choices. But children are very sophisticated these days and quite adept at understanding mom's problems and making their own adjustments. Honestly, I don't think it's much different from when my mother opened the screen door in Texas and let us out to go our own way in the summer. We never checked in back home until suppertime. Nobody suffered and we all survived and loved each other.

When a woman has inordinate work responsibilities, plus a lot of children to worry about, I am sure I don't know how she pulls it off. (Women who don't believe in birth control have to make huge adjustments and sacrifices.) With kids and work, I am certain that a woman almost always feels somehow the child is getting slighted. I know I can never "be there" enough for my little boy; I can never come up to his own mom, I am always checking my shortcomings and trying to do better for him.

So maybe that's all there is to it. I don't presume to give advice to real mothers. You just have to do the best you can if you "want it all" and most of us do "want it all."

Joan Cooney: I did the kids and career thing in stages. During my first marriage when I was building my career, I had no children. My husband was a virtually disabled alcoholic during the later years of my marriage so there was a lot of balancing, trying to run a company, travel to business meetings and cope with him. In my second marriage, I inherited five stepchildren, the youngest two of whom divided their time between their mother and father. By then I was at the peak of my career which made it a lot easier than it would have been for a woman at an earlier stage because by then I could control the amount of travel I did (as little as possible) and I could make my hours somewhat more flexible than when I was younger.

On the other hand, I didn't have the children full-time (I used to say that God actually intended for there to be two mothers so when one got sick of the kids, the other took over) and they weren't very young (nine and 14 in the beginning). My stepdaughter who eventually became my rock was hostile to me underneath a veneer of pleasantness, and my youngest stepchild, Michael, was and is one of the great loves of my life. It broke my heart when he went to boarding school in his sophomore year of high school but we remain closer than ever. I was continually distracted on the job and decided at 60 to step down as CEO of my company and become Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board. Maybe I grew up in the wrong generation but I found it very difficult to have a demanding marriage, career and children. I don't think I'd do anything differently except I wish I'd been more relaxed about it all, but I was very anxious trying to do everything well at work and home, and be available to husband and children. Having it all ain't a walk in the park.

Judith Martin: I have been answering these very questions for more than 40 years. During that time, there was a great wave of feminism, and middle-class mothers entered the work force in large numbers. (That poor mothers have always worked is usually overlooked.) Wouldn't you think that conditions might have changed just a little?

Then, as now, the working world was designed for people with no personal responsibilities, which originally meant men whose wives ran the entire domestic side of life for them. So both were short-changed: the mothers, who did unrelieved child-care during the years that they might have been building careers and were considered unemployable when the children had grown; and the fathers, who had little time to develop close relationships with their growing children. If anything, the work place is now worse, with ersatz socializing after hours and constant technological availability expected in many jobs. And then, as now, women who take care of their own children full-time were venerated but offered no help, while women who did it professionally were given little money and less respect.

Individual women must still cobble together whatever arrangements we can. I had a full-time job, a well-run house and two children who had plenty of time with un-frazzled parents and round-the-clock loving adult care. But when I was asked how I "juggled" (sometimes with admiration but more often with suspicion), I had to dispel the idea that it was because I was a clever little super-charged manager.

It took four of us adults living in the house and dividing our time between regular jobs and home: myself, my husband, our housekeeper and her husband. They were a child-loving but childless couple with whom we have had a lifetime relationship. (My daughter's fiancé is aware that their engagement is provisional until our next trip to North Carolina, when he can ask approval from our housekeeper's widower, 96 years old and living in retirement on the farm he now owns, where his parents had been sharecroppers.)

A rich couple's solution? When the children were young, we were living on one government salary and one journalism salary, which was not only pitiful in those days, but adjusted down for women. Most of it went into paying decent wages and benefits, the first our housekeeper had ever heard of – let alone received – paid sick leave and vacation and a retirement pension.

Why can such an arrangement hardly be found at any price? People who envied us often asked if our employees could find them anyone equally warm, reliable, intelligent, hard-working and devoted. But when I inquired about the salary that would be offered, the reply was always the same: "What's the minimum wage now?"

Dec 8, 2009

NYT: Millions in U.S. drink dirty water

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.

That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.

Regulators were informed of each of those violations as they occurred. But regulatory records show that fewer than 6 percent of the water systems that broke the law were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials, including those at the Environmental Protection Agency, which has ultimate responsibility for enforcing standards.

Studies indicate that drinking water contaminants are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year.

In some instances, drinking water violations were one-time events, and probably posed little risk. But for hundreds of other systems, illegal contamination persisted for years, records show.

'Top priority'
On Tuesday, the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will question a high-ranking E.P.A. official about the agency’s enforcement of drinking-water safety laws. The E.P.A. is expected to announce a new policy for how it polices the nation’s 54,700 water systems.

“This administration has made it clear that clean water is a top priority,” said an E.P.A. spokeswoman, Adora Andy, in response to questions regarding the agency’s drinking water enforcement. The E.P.A. administrator, Lisa P. Jackson, this year announced a wide-ranging overhaul of enforcement of the Clean Water Act, which regulates pollution into waterways.

“The previous eight years provide a perfect example of what happens when political leadership fails to act to protect our health and the environment,” Ms. Andy added.

Water pollution has become a growing concern for some lawmakers as government oversight of polluters has waned. Senator Barbara Boxer, Democrat of California, in 2007 asked the E.P.A. for data on Americans’ exposure to some contaminants in drinking water.

The New York Times has compiled and analyzed millions of records from water systems and regulators around the nation, as part of a series of articles about worsening pollution in American waters, and regulators’ response.

An analysis of E.P.A. data shows that Safe Drinking Water Act violations have occurred in parts of every state. In the prosperous town of Ramsey, N.J., for instance, drinking water tests since 2004 have detected illegal concentrations of arsenic, a carcinogen, and the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, which has also been linked to cancer.

In New York state, 205 water systems have broken the law by delivering tap water that contained illegal amounts of bacteria since 2004.

However, almost none of those systems were ever punished. Ramsey was not fined for its water violations, for example, though a Ramsey official said that filtration systems have been installed since then. In New York, only three water systems were penalized for bacteria violations, according to federal data.

The problem, say current and former government officials, is that enforcing the Safe Drinking Water Act has not been a federal priority.

“There is significant reluctance within the E.P.A. and Justice Department to bring actions against municipalities, because there’s a view that they are often cash-strapped, and fines would ultimately be paid by local taxpayers,” said David Uhlmann, who headed the environmental crimes division at the Justice Department until 2007.

“But some systems won’t come into compliance unless they are forced to,” added Mr. Uhlmann, who now teaches at the University of Michigan law school. “And sometimes a court order is the only way to get local governments to spend what is needed.”

A half-dozen current and former E.P.A. officials said in interviews that they tried to prod the agency to enforce the drinking-water law, but found little support.

“I proposed drinking water cases, but they got shut down so fast that I’ve pretty much stopped even looking at the violations,” said one longtime E.P.A. enforcement official who, like others, requested anonymity for fear of reprisals. “The top people want big headlines and million-dollar settlements. That’s not drinking-water cases.”

The majority of drinking water violations since 2004 have occurred at water systems serving fewer than 20,000 residents, where resources and managerial expertise are often in short supply.

It is unclear precisely how many American illnesses are linked to contaminated drinking water. Many of the most dangerous contaminants regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act have been tied to diseases like cancer that can take years to develop.

But scientific research indicates that as many as 19 million Americans may become ill each year due to just the parasites, viruses and bacteria in drinking water. Certain types of cancer — such as breast and prostate cancer — have risen over the past 30 years, and research indicates they are likely tied to pollutants like those found in drinking water.

Informal methods
The violations counted by the Times analysis include only situations where residents were exposed to dangerous contaminants, and exclude violations that involved paperwork or other minor problems.

In response to inquiries submitted by Senator Boxer, the E.P.A. has reported that more than three million Americans have been exposed since 2005 to drinking water with illegal concentrations of arsenic and radioactive elements, both of which have been linked to cancer at small doses.

In some areas, the amount of radium detected in drinking water was 2,000 percent higher than the legal limit, according to E.P.A. data.

But federal regulators fined or punished fewer than 8 percent of water systems that violated the arsenic and radioactive standards. The E.P.A., in a statement, said that in a majority of situations, state regulators used informal methods — like providing technical assistance — to help systems that had violated the rules.

But many systems remained out of compliance, even after aid was offered, according to E.P.A. data. And for over a quarter of systems that violated the arsenic or radioactivity standards, there is no record that they were ever contacted by a regulator, even after they sent in paperwork revealing their violations.

Those figures are particularly worrisome, say researchers, because the Safe Drinking Water Act’s limits on arsenic are so weak to begin with. A system could deliver tap water that puts residents at a 1-in-600 risk of developing bladder cancer from arsenic, and still comply with the law.

Despite the expected announcement of reforms, some mid-level E.P.A. regulators say they are skeptical that any change will occur.

“The same people who told us to ignore Safe Drinking Water Act violations are still running the divisions,” said one mid-level E.P.A. official. “There’s no accountability, and so nothing’s going to change.”

Griffin Palmer contributed reporting.

This story, "Millions in U.S. Drink Dirty Water, Records Show," originally appeared in The New York Times.

Copyright © 2009 The New York Times

Dec 1, 2009

15 Life-Changing Trips - MSN

We reached out to our network of trusted tour operators to create custom itineraries for T+L readers that promise to transform travelers and destinations alike. They’ll have you seeing the globe in a whole new way.

By Yolanda Crous, Jaime Gross, and Darrell Hartman, Travel+Leisure

Volunteering: Rio De Janeiro

Why Go: Few travelers get to do more than scratch the surface of this city of disorienting contrasts, where a golden coastline and buzzing night-life districts abut gritty, overcrowded favelas—home to about 20 percent of Rio’s 6 million residents. This 10-day trip from U.K.-based operator Hands Up Holidays gives volunteers a deeper look at the city and a chance to make a difference.

The Trip: An experienced voluntourism outfitter, Hands Up Holidays excels at balancing unexpected sightseeing expeditions (sunset on Arpoador Beach; hiking in the wetlands of Marapendí; Portuguese-architecture walks) with four days of volunteering in the city’s favelas. Tours of the popular nightlife district Lapa and the bohemian Santa Teresa neighborhood, where a boutique hotel of the same name is your base, add a level of luxury to days spent in the favelas of Vila Canoas, Pereirão, and Rocinha. There, you’ll help residents paint street murals, or spend your time teaching English, art, and soccer (depending on your skills). Hands Up also takes volunteers to visit Project Morrinho, an arts and culture nonprofit, to see a replica of the famous “mini favela” that was built from bricks and other recycled materials by local youth and displayed at the 2007 Venice Biennale as a way to raise awareness of the city’s impoverished districts.

The Details: T+L Transformation Vacation by Hands Up Holidays; 201/984-5372;; Dec. 9–18, 2009, March 3–12 and June 9–18, 2010; from $3,250, double, excluding airfare.

4 More Trip Ideas

Volunteering: Hawaii

The Operator: Habitat for Humanity (10 days)

The Trip: Build a house for a family in Kauai.

Highlight: Cabin accommodations in lush Kahili Mountain Park. 800/422-4828;; Dec. 6–15, 2009; $1,510 per person.

Volunteering: Mexico

The Operator: Ritz-Carlton, Cancún (1 day)

The Trip: Restore furniture and a garden at a school in a Mayan pueblito.

Highlight: Intro Mayan language lessons are included. 52-998/881-0808;; Year-round; $115 per Ritz-Carlton, Cancún hotel guest.

Volunteering: Cambodia

The Operator: Pepy Tours (7 days)

The Trip: This itinerary (by tuk-tuk and bicycle) pairs voluntourism with stays at inns and lodges.

Highlight: A field trip to Angkor Wat with schoolchildren. 914/458-4262;; Dec. 27–Jan. 2, 2010; from $100 per person per day.

Volunteering: Kenya

The Operator: Micato Safaris (12–18 days)

The Trip: Spot lions, then plant trees at a community center in Nairobi.

Highlight: Learn how the center’s advisers save lives through AIDS education. 800/642-2861;; Year-round; from $7,670 per person.

Cultural Odyssey: Vietnam

Why Go: More than two decades after Vietnam embraced free-market principles, the pace of development here is dramatic. But even as new stores and restaurants open in the cities and luxury resorts line the coast, traditional Vietnamese culture remains just beneath the surface. Asia Transpacific Journeys, a 2009 T+L Global Vision Awards winner with over 20 years experience in the region, is the ultimate guide to the country’s history and culture.

The Trip: This journey takes you to some of Vietnam’s greatest landmarks—old Hanoi; the Perfume River—along with lesser-known places such as the hill-tribe villages and markets of the northern highlands. From exploring the royal palaces of Hue, the former imperial capital, to venturing into the Viet Cong tunnels of Cu Chi, Asia Transpacific will give you the full historical tour. But what makes this trip truly extraordinary is the opportunity to engage with residents and hear their perspective on the country: you’ll meet artisans and relatives of the former royal family, participate in a cooking class with local chefs, spend time with an American Vietnam War vet who has dedicated his life to removing land mines, and attend dinners and recitals in private houses. After 17 days in Vietnam, you can opt to continue to Rangoon, Burma, and the village of Twante to see the Asia Transpacific Foundation’s award-winning clay water-filter project first-hand.

The Details: T+L Transformation Vacation by Asia Transpacific Journeys; 800/642-2742;; March 5–21, 2010; $5,395 per person, excluding airfare; $300 per day for Burma extension.

Cultural Odyssey: Santa Fe and Taos

The Operator: Classic Journeys (5 days)

The Trip: An exploration of the pueblos in the American Southwest.

Highlight: See Anasazi cliff dwellings and adobe architecture. 800/200-3887;; May 30–June 4 and Sept. 19–24, 2010; $2,595 per person.

Cultural Odyssey: Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize

The Operator: MesoAmerica Travel (14 days)

The Trip: Trek through national parks and pre-Columbian sites.

Highlight: See Mayan hieroglyphs at the Copán ruins in Honduras. 504/557-8447;; year-round; $2,550 per person.

Cultural Odyssey: Provence

The Operator: Tauck Culturious (8 days)

The Trip: Southern France through the eyes of Cézanne and van Gogh.

Highlights: The Mediterranean views and a chance to sketch a masterpiece. 888/840-1852;; year-round; $3,490 per person.

Cultural Odyssey: Japan

The Operator: Butterfield & Robinson (8 days)

The Trip: Bike rural Japan and meet bonsai tenders and kimono makers.

Highlights: Drink with a tea master and relax in an onsen. 866/551-9090;; May 12–19, May 26–June 2, and Sept. 30–Oct. 7, 2010; $9,459 per person.

Eco Escape: Glacier National Park

Why Go: Next year, America’s fourth-largest national park—more than 1 million acres running along the Canadian border—celebrates its 100th anniversary. But this milestone isn’t the only reason to head there now: it’s estimated that the park’s glaciers will vanish by 2030 because of climate change. Austin-Lehman Adventures, voted the top tour operator by T+L readers in our 2009 World’s Best Awards, guides travelers through this evolving landscape—and helps them better understand the forces altering it.

The Trip: Accompanied by Austin-Lehman’s expert wilderness guides, you’ll spend six days in the park hiking through cedar forests, biking alongside alpine meadows and 10,000-foot-high mountains, and sleeping in timber lodges that date to 1913. Half-day walks pass through the Two Medicine area (site of the 30-foot-high Twin Falls and mountain-shadowed Two Medicine Lake) and the North Fork area, home to mountain lions, bighorn sheep, black bears, and moose. Austin-Lehman guides will teach you about the local ecosystem and how to travel light, while professional outdoor photographer Dennis Coello, who also joins the trip, will instruct you on how to shoot both the park’s wildlife and its panoramic vistas, including those iconic, millennia-old glaciers.

The Details: T+L Transformation Vacation by Austin-Lehman Adventures; 800/575-1540;; July 25–30, Aug. 1–6, Aug. 8–13, and Aug. 15–20, 2010; $2,498 per person, excluding airfare.

4 More Trip Ideas

Eco Escape: Western Canada

The Operator: GAP Adventures (14 days)

The Trip: Take a greatest-hits tour of British Columbia and Alberta’s rugged wilderness.

Highlights: Stay in a tepee and a mountain lodge. 800/708-7761;; July 11–24, Aug. 8–21, and Sept. 12–25, 2010; $2,699 per person.

Eco Escape: Peru’s Amazon River

The Operator: Earthwatch (15 days)

The Trip: Help scientists gather data via riverboat.

Highlight: Play researcher for a real-life conservation effort. 800/776-0188;; Nov. 16–30, Dec. 4–18, 2009, and Jan. 1–23, 2010; from $3,750 per person.

Eco Escape: Madagascar

The Operator: Geographic Expeditions (13 days)

The Trip: Journey to the world’s fourth-largest island for wildlife seen nowhere else.
Highlight: One word: lemurs. 800/777-8183;; June–Oct., 2010; $7,300 per person.

Eco Escape: South India

The Operator: Sierra Club (15 days)

The Trip: Spend time birding and searching for the Bengal tiger.

Highlight: Talk tigers (and elephants and leopards) with Indian environmentalists. 415/977-5522;; Jan. 10–25, 2010; from $4,975 per person.

Nov 30, 2009

Would Jesus Play The Beatles: Rock Band?

No seriously, would Jesus play The Beatles: Rock Band?

Tell me this question gets you thinking, or at least pondering this concept. As you know, this video game has taken the world by storm, outsold Guitar Hero 5, and thousands, if not millions, of teens are being introduced to the Beatles magic that stormed the world the first time nearly 50 years ago!

To recap, 4 mop-topped lads from Liverpool, England, put a little garage band together and within a few years, were the first group in history to play in sold-out stadiums around the world. John, Paul, George and Ringo became household names and to this day, we can see the continued ripple effects from the incredible splash The Beatles made when your parents were infants.

Yes, I think Jesus would play The Beatles: Rock Band and here’s why:

There was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”

“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”

But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold 20-30 gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.

When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”

This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in Him (John 2:1-11, NLT).

This was the first miracle Jesus performed and it revolved around keeping the party going. How? Well, wine in that day was symbolic of joy and celebration and if the groom’s after-wedding party ran dry, it was a serious offense - in fact the people could have had him arrested! Notice that Jesus not only attended the party, but He made sure the joy and celebration continued - which tells us several critical things about God’s one and only Son.

First, it is obvious that Jesus loves to connect with people. When He wasn’t preaching or teaching, He was hanging out at social events that seriously offended the stuffy stuck up religious folks. They weren’t mad because He went to parties; they were ticked because He had such a great time at them! Can’t you see Jesus and the disciples laughing it up over a video game if they had a 1st Century PS3? I sure can…only the lyrics then would have been “God loves you, yeah yeah yeah.”

You know what else? This account shows us that the reason Jesus went to parties and hung out with “sinners” was not to judge or condemn them - in fact, it was just the opposite. Jesus got involved in people’s lives so He could let them know there is a way to find true and lasting joy and celebration that isn’t found in a bed or a bottle. This kind is guilt- and consequence-free, and the freedom it brings turns the bitter waters of life into a spiritual wine that never runs out.

And guess what? Jesus offers the same miracle to us!

He can he turn depression into joy…

He can turn fear into hope…

He can turn emptiness into contentment…

He can turn sin into grace…

Most importantly, He can turn death into life.

The Beatles brought a feeling of happiness and enjoyment to a world in need of an escape from the turbulent 1960s, but I’ve got a feeling you too would like to say hello goodbye to yesterday and get back to feeling fine. The same Jesus who turned water to wine can quench your spiritual thirst and bring joy and freedom that no rock band has ever known. Trust Him for salvation and don’t keep the good news to yourself. You have friends that need more than just a little help - they need the true message of salvation.

Here comes the Son!

(Dare2Share weekly letter)

Nov 25, 2009

Cultural Challenge of the Week: Marriage

(I would think Matt would say being married to me is full of frustration at times, LOL. And our kids would agree. Here's to God's strength, so we all can hang in there ;P ) - Rebecca M

Here's hoping you are getting to spend quiet, reflective time enjoying God's blessing of "family" and thanking him for each member of your own family. Given that my own boys have just flown in to join us for Thanksgiving, I'm going to keep the newsletter brief this week -- I've got lots of cooking to do!! :)

In addition to celebrating Thanksgiving and God's many gifts to us this week, my hubby and I are also celebrating our 25th anniversary. Naturally, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on the wonderful blessing that marriage can be. Our popular culture totally degrades the sacred institution that marriage was designed to be, and can be, if we would be understand and remember the promise of marriage:

Culture Challenge of the Week: Marriage

I am a very blessed woman: This week I will have been married to my wonderful husband Andy for 25 years. He is a very patient man!

Before we were married, Andy made it clear that he would walk by my side for life – that he would love and stick with me through thick and thin, no matter what. I also made the same promise to him.

It has to start with that – a sacred vow between two people before God.

The promise is supposed to be kept not based on how you “feel” at any given moment, or whether or not it becomes “convenient” to see it through. The promise is kept because you made it – simply because you said you would. I’m convinced that one of the reasons so many marriages fail is because our culture doesn’t value the basic principles of honor and integrity and what it means to give your “word.”

The marriage promise is the foundation upon which happy families are formed. When a man and woman are mature and selfless enough to do what it takes to stay true to their promise, everyone wins. The social science data is very clear on the many benefits of sound marriages for husbands, wives and children. As the Center for Marriage and Family at the American Values Institute puts it, “Marriage is the good that produces so many other goods:” “Marriage is linked to higher levels of health and happiness and lower levels of alcohol and drug abuse for both adults and teens. Marriage is a wealth-creating institution: married people earn more, save more, and build more wealth, compared to people who are single or living together. There is an inverse relationship between marriage and crime: in communities where marriage is common, crime is much less common. Marriage is our most pro-child institution. It is our society’s best arrangement for helping children to thrive.”

But, if you are having trouble in your marriage right now, it’s not the social science that matters. It’s the fact that you are miserable, broken-hearted and maybe even about to fail in the single most important relationship in your life.

Don’t let it be that way.

There was a reason you and your spouse got married in the first place – a reason why you were both willing to promise your lives to each other. Find it. Find the reason, strip away the garbage, learn to forgive where needed, and start afresh to build upon the foundation you created on your wedding day.

How to Save Your Family and Marriage

If your marriage is experiencing a rough period, please take action right now. There are wonderful people and organizations that want to help you succeed. My husband and I are friends with a couple whose marriage was saved partially by attending one of the Weekend to Remember conferences sponsored by Family Life Today. These marriage-enriching conferences have been attended by more than one million couples over the years, with astounding results. You and your spouse can plan to attend the upcoming conference in the Washington, DC area by registering at . Their Web site also features life-changing advice and materials on everything from “romance and sex,” to “challenges and conflicts.”

The National Institute for Marriage is another marriage-saving resource that offers intensive counseling designed for couples who feel “stuck and hopeless.” You can download free materials at They even have a toll-free number that can help you decide what your next step should be. If your marriage is in trouble, or just less than you hoped for, then put down the newspaper, pick up the phone and call 1-866-875-2915.

Andy will probably tell you that being married (at least to me) includes laughter -- and frustration. (Like I said, he is a very patient man.) For that, and for so many wonderful days and nights, and for his abiding love, I love him from the depths of my heart and soul.

Happy Anniversary, My Love. Thank you for being a man of your word.

Why not use this Thanksgiving to reconnect and recommit to your spouse? And, if you are a single parent, please use this time to reconnect with your children in a deep and meaningful way. Your family should be filled with joy and commitment and abiding love -- and it all starts with you. Make it your top priority each day to remember the promise.


Rebecca Hagelin

Black Friday deals: You'll need to dig

Shoppers might have to work a little harder this year to scoop up the best bargains on Black Friday, the traditional post-Turkey Day shopping kickoff.

Retailers aren't slashing 75% off everything in the store, as they did last year when the deteriorating economy caught them with too much inventory. Rather, they are offering truly hot deals on only a handful of items, such as a $149 laptop computer (OfficeMax), a 32-inch LCD TV for $246 (Target) and a $579 washer-dryer combo (Sears).

Other sale items will require coupons or rebates to make them worth your while, retail observers say.

"This year retailers aren't in dramatic panic mode," says Marshal Cohen, the chief industry analyst with research company NPD Group. "There are going to be sales, but the (discounts) aren't going to be as deep and plentiful."

With unemployment high and shoppers expected to spend 3.2% less than last year, according to the National Retail Federation, most retailers can't afford not to discount at least a handful of their items heavily, just to get people into their stores.

But for shoppers, the smaller selection of bargains might necessitate a few more stops on the shopping route.

Here is MSN Money's guide to snagging the best deals on this big shopping day.

Do your research

Most Black Friday circulars have already been leaked to deal sites such as, Dealnews, BFAds and Slickdeals. On most of these sites, you'll find a list of the items in the circular, as well as discussions about how the prices compare and, in some cases, how the products perform.

We've also rounded up some of the best deals in these ads for you on our Smart Spending blog:

Best Buy
Toys R Us

When you're ready to make a list, sites such as Black Friday @ will let you select sale items and compile them online. Ditto for Dealnews' Black Friday app for the iPhone (an iTunes download is required).

But don't let the hype blind you to so-so sales. Once you've narrowed your list, use a price-comparison engine such as or Bizrate to make sure you've found the lowest prices available. PriceGrabber also lets you set price alerts that notify you when the price drops on the item you're interested in.

Then search for online coupons and rebates to sweeten these deals. For example, department store Kohl's has posted a 15%-off coupon code that makes some of its deals a home run.

And don't forget to look for secret sales. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Best Buy are known to flag unadvertised deals on their Web sites on Thanksgiving Day, giving in-the-know shoppers a chance to score some bigger bargains.

Don't camp out unless you have to

You don't have to wait in the freezing cold at 3 a.m. to score great deals this year. Many "door-buster" specials will be available online Friday morning and in many cases on Thanksgiving, says Dan de Grandpre, the CEO of Dealnews.

"It's as good as Black Friday, and the competition to get (the deals) is far less," he says. There's no grabbing, pushing or trampling involved.

If you're really worried about an item running out, you can shop online in your pajamas at 12:01 a.m. on Turkey Day at many retailers -- and then go back to bed.

Of course, some door-busters will be found only in the stores. If your heart is set on one, you'd better join the 3 a.m. line. Some stores, such as Best Buy, hand out first-in-line vouchers, so those folks are guaranteed to snag the hottest deals.

To avoid the stampedes of years past, Wal-Mart will open its stores overnight on Thanksgiving, though some deals won't be available until early Friday morning.

Toys R Us will also be open Thursday.

What's hot this year

The trick will be getting consumers to fork over their money when there aren't a lot of hot new items to entice them, Cohen says.

TVs and Blu-ray: For years, the big flat-screen LCD and plasma TVs are what have lured most people into stores. Now many people have already bought a TV and are simply looking for things to go with it. Blu-ray players, more than $200 last year, will drop below $100 for lower-end models this year.

That's not to say there won't be great deals on TVs. Target's leaked ad shows a 32-inch Westinghouse LCD HDTV for $246. And Wal-Mart's pre-Black Friday sale -- a good predictor of its day-after-Thanksgiving discounts -- had a Sharp 42-inch LCD HDTV for $498.

GPS receivers: On GPS units, popular gifts for a couple of years running, prices are dropping below $99, even for big brand names such as TomTom or Garmin Nuvi, says Mike Allen, the operator of

Laptops and netbooks: Prices on portable PCs are also hitting some new lows, such as the $149 Acer Aspire model in OfficeMax's leaked Black Friday ad.

Toys: With people expected to buy fewer and less-expensive toys, most retailers are marking at least part of their selections 50% off, and Wal-Mart is offering 100 toys for less than $10, compared with 10 for less than $10 last year.

Video games: There are also a lot of hot deals on video games and DVD movies, starting as low as $3.99. Video-game consoles, on the other hand, are not marked down but will come with bonus gift cards for as much as $100 (Wal-Mart) or a bundle of extra games.

Clothes: Store-brand apparel should be cheaper, analysts say, as retailers are able to pass along savings in production this year.

Shop early or shop late?

The question always comes down to this: How much of your shopping should you do on Black Friday? Should you hold out for better deals in December?

Retailers want you in the stores as early as possible and spending right up to the last minute. But historically, you can find equal or better deals even closer to Christmas, Dealnews' de Grandpre says.

You probably don't want to play a retail game of chicken with this year's hot toys, such as those Zhu Zhu Pets toy hamsters. If you're afraid supplies won't last, buy the toy now from a retailer that will match Black Friday prices. On Black Friday, look for the best deal and then get a refund of the difference after the mad rush is over, de Grandpre advises.

Most importantly, don't get sucked into the buying frenzy that surrounds Black Friday. Make a list and buy only those items you know to be a great deal. And if you miss out on one of these bargains, don't fret. Most likely you'll get other chances.

"This will definitely be a good season for bargain hunters," says Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation.

Nov 23, 2009

Justin Farley: Anxiety

Justin Farley: Anxiety

Parental Pledge

"Today I pledge I will fight for my children & their futures. I will not back down or grow so weary that I give up. I will remember that above all else, my goal is to show my children that I love them - enough to dare to challenge the status quo." Rebecca Hagelin 30 ways to save your family in 30 days.

Nov 20, 2009

A father's words

Is thinness worth your child's life? Then what are we doing while looking in the mirror and standing on that scale every day? What are we teaching our own children as we struggle with our own physical selves? What are we talking about in the midst of our children about someone's weight and stature, their eating habits - that lead a young one to have a wrong perspective on food and body? Maybe they link our words to our affection for them should they not "measure up". They see so much more than we realize we are showing them...

In November we'll be speaking at a couple of schools in Philadelphia. One of them recently wrote asking if we were on the NCAA Speaker's Grant List. If so, they could write a grant to offset the costs of bringing us out. As we are not on the list, I emailed the NCAA to inquire about the application process. One of the requirements was for Tom, my husband, to write a narrative of his experiences with Andrea that have helped him gain knowledge of eating disorders. He wrote it this morning and with his permission I share it with you:

When our daughter, Andrea, was 18 she began dieting for the first time in her life. My wife and I live in northern California and Andrea was attending Pitzer College in southern California—an eight-hour drive away. She was in the middle of her freshman year in college and saw dieting and increased exercise as a way to get healthy and fit and as a way to 'remake' herself in the 'new life' she felt college offered. We did not know then that although every diet does not lead to an eating disorder nearly every eating disorder begins with some form of weight loss diet. In seeking information no one ever told us that dieting can be deadly.

Within a matter of months, Andrea’s dieting and exercise regimen took on the feel of an obsession. Counting calories, weighing herself numerous times each day, working out to the point of exhaustion and eating less and less. We did not know that when it comes to an eating disorder, "genetics and biology loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger." Andrea came from a family where both sides have family members who have suffered with mental illnesses and addictive behaviors—this we now know made Andrea more susceptible to the development of an eating disorder. Combine this genetic pre-disposition with a culture and media that reveres thinness and a family where dieting was accepted as 'normal' behavior and we have a recipe for disaster.

Eating disorders are secretive illnesses—they thrive in the silence of their 'host.' In spite of this fact, Andrea called her mom the day after the first time she made herself throw up. She was in treatment two weeks later (the beginning of summer break) seeing a therapist, physician and dietician. We were assured she would heal as we’d gotten on it so quickly. We also assumed she could heal over one summer and then all would be fine. Now we know that it takes at least as long to heal from an eating disorder as it does to develop one and that the development begins long before the first identifiable symptom. The average length of time for healing is five to seven years—there is nothing quick about an eating disorder, except how quickly they can kill: Andrea died a mere 13 months after the first time she made herself throw up.

In the beginning of Andrea's illness I would tell her “Just stop!” I was under the erroneous conception that the illness was about food and weight. Although it is everything about food and weight, it is also nothing about these two 'red herrings.' An eating disorder is a coping mechanism. It is what saves the individual from drowning with the weight of unexpressed and overwhelming fears and emotions. This is a concept I struggled with … until I realized that unless we are taught helpful coping skills, many of us seek ways to numb ourselves from overwhelming feelings: excessive alcohol, exercise, shopping, sex, gambling, drugs, the list is endless. An eating disorder is another way to numb.

I have learned so many things from our daughter’s experience with bulimia. Sadly, the majority of my knowledge was gained after her death. My wife and I have felt compelled to share our daughter’s story and the wisdom we’ve gained because we know that there are many others like us who are ill-informed and hold the same misunderstandings about these deadly illnesses. We have a thick file full of testimonials from people all over the world (we speak internationally, but our web site and Doris’ book have allowed our message to travel where we cannot) who, because of Andrea, have found their way into treatment and credit her with helping them choose to heal. My expertise on the topic of eating disorders is not as great as my wife’s but it has been hard earned and continues to grow.

Blessings until next time,

Why is a "Fat-Talk" free environment important?

By now I would imagine that you are all aware that this is Tri-Delta's "Fat-Talk Free" week. When I mentioned this at one of our local high schools a few weeks ago the "Why?" question arose. Why attempt to end fat talk (i.e.: Do I look fat in this? She shouldn't wear that! It's a have such a pretty face! I HATE my thighs! and on and on)?

There are studies that present evidence that fat-talk actually lowers one's self-esteem which can lead to body hatred and possible problematic behaviors to attempt to feel better. There is also enough research to show that by the ages of two or three children have already developed some pretty strong prejudices about fat and fat people.

The fat talk free efforts are based on the Cognitive Dissonance communication theory adopted from social psychology. It applies to all situations involving attitude formation and change. This theory is able to manipulate people into certain behavior and by doing so these people will alter their attitudes themselves. So by presenting some pretty powerful evidence against fat-talk and by linking it to social responsibility ("Friends don't let friends fat talk") we have a strong potential to help people change their own attitudes and ways of speaking.

As many of us know, children hear everything we say ... even when it appears they are not listening. A few weeks ago I saw this truth in action when our nearly two-year-old granddaughter sat quietly playing in our family room while the adults around her carried on their conversations. Within minutes we started to hear our words coming out of her mouth, verbatim. Our conversation had been harmless so nothing she said was shocking, but she had not only heard every word, she immediately integrated them into her play.

This is one of the ways our children learn not only how to speak and what to say but also what to think. I recall when our girls were young I was very careful with the words I used in front of them--I knew they heard all and certainly did not want to hear any expletives come out of their mouths. Sadly, I applied this knowledge only to "swear" words. I failed to realize that seeping into their bones at the same time were the messages they heard from me about my own worth AND how I felt about my body. I guess I thought that since my "fat-talk" was never directed to or about others that somehow self-bashing didn't count. It did.

This week gives us an opportunity to speak and think differently for five days. Imagine if every single one of us stopped our own fat talk and then helped our friends stop theirs. I can imagine the collective sigh of relief this has the potential to bring to our culture. Let's remember, for this week and for always, "Friends don't let friends fat talk." We must start by being a friend to ourselves.

Blessings until next time,


Nov 17, 2009

MSN:New mammogram advice raises worries

Yes,the government wants to govern your healthcare and here's how it starts. First a few pointers:

Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. More than 192,000 new cases and 40,000 deaths from the disease are expected in the U.S. this year.

The task force advice is based on its conclusion that screening 1,300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but that screening 1,900 women in their 40s to save a life is not, Brawley wrote.

Benefits of screening before age 50 don't outweigh risks, task force says The Associated Press updated 5:39 a.m. PT, Tues., Nov . 17, 2009 NEW YORK -

For many women, getting a mammogram is already one of life's more stressful experiences.

Now, women in their 40s have the added anxiety of trying to figure out if they should even be getting one at all.

A government task force said Monday that most women don't need mammograms in their 40s and should get one every two years starting at 50 — a stunning reversal and a break with the American Cancer Society's long-standing position. What's more, the panel said breast self-exams do no good, and women shouldn't be taught to do them.

The news seemed destined to leave many deeply confused about whose advice to follow.

"I've never had a scare, but isn't it better to be safe than sorry?" asked Beth Rosenthal, 41, sitting in a San Francisco cafe on Monday afternoon with her friend and their small children. "I've heard of a lot of women in their 40s, and even 30s, who've gotten breast cancer. It just doesn't seem right to wait until 50."

Her friend agreed. "I don't think I'll wait," said Leslie David-Jones, also 41, shaking her head.

For most of the past two decades, the American Cancer Society has been recommending annual mammograms beginning at 40, and it reiterated that position on Monday. "This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over," the society's chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, said in a statement.

But the government panel of doctors and scientists concluded that getting screened for breast cancer so early and so often is harmful, causing too many false alarms and unneeded biopsies without substantially improving women's odds of surviving the disease.

"The benefits are less and the harms are greater when screening starts in the 40s," said Dr. Diana Petitti, vice chair of the panel.

The new guidelines were issued by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, whose stance influences coverage of screening tests by Medicare and many insurance companies. But Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry group, said insurance coverage isn't likely to change because of the new guidelines.

Experts expect the revisions to be hotly debated, and to cause confusion for women and their doctors.

"Our concern is that as a result of that confusion, women may elect not to get screened at all. And that, to me, would be a serious problem," said Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, the cancer society's deputy chief medical officer.

The guidelines are for the general population, not those at high risk of breast cancer because of family history or gene mutations that would justify having mammograms sooner or more often.

The new advice says:

Most women in their 40s should not routinely get mammograms.

Women 50 to 74 should get a mammogram every other year until they turn 75, after which the risks and benefits are unknown. (The task force's previous guidelines had no upper limit and called for exams every year or two.)
The value of breast exams by doctors is unknown. And breast self-exams are of no value.

Medical groups such as the cancer society have been backing off promoting breast self-exams in recent years because of scant evidence of their effectiveness. Decades ago, the practice was so heavily promoted that organizations distributed cards that could be hung in the shower demonstrating the circular motion women should use to feel for lumps in their breasts.

The guidelines and research supporting them were released Monday and are being published in Tuesday's issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Sharp criticism from cancer society

The new advice was sharply challenged by the cancer society.

"This is one screening test I recommend unequivocally, and would recommend to any woman 40 and over," the society's chief medical officer, Dr. Otis Brawley, said in a statement.

The task force advice is based on its conclusion that screening 1,300 women in their 50s to save one life is worth it, but that screening 1,900 women in their 40s to save a life is not, Brawley wrote.

That stance "is essentially telling women that mammography at age 40 to 49 saves lives, just not enough of them," he said. The cancer society feels the benefits outweigh the harms for women in both groups.

International guidelines also call for screening to start at age 50; the World Health Organization recommends the test every two years, Britain says every three years.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer deaths in American women. More than 192,000 new cases and 40,000 deaths from the disease are expected in the U.S. this year.

Mammograms can find cancer early, and two-thirds of women over 40 report having had the test in the previous two years. But how much they cut the risk of dying of the disease, and at what cost in terms of unneeded biopsies, expense and worry, have been debated.

In most women, tumors are slow-growing, and that likelihood increases with age. So there is little risk by extending the time between mammograms, some researchers say. Even for the minority of women with aggressive, fast-growing tumors, annual screening will make little difference in survival odds.

The new guidelines balance these risks and benefits, scientists say.

The probability of dying of breast cancer after age 40 is 3 percent, they calculate. Getting a mammogram every other year from ages 50 to 69 lowers that risk by about 16 percent.

"It's an average of five lives saved per thousand women screened," said Georgetown University researcher Dr. Jeanne Mandelblatt.

False alarms
Starting at age 40 would prevent one additional death but also lead to 470 false alarms for every 1,000 women screened. Continuing mammograms through age 79 prevents three additional deaths but raises the number of women treated for breast cancers that would not threaten their lives.

"You save more lives because breast cancer is more common, but you diagnose tumors in women who were destined to die of something else. The overdiagnosis increases in older women," Mandelblatt said.

She led six teams around the world who used federal data on cancer and mammography to develop mathematical models of what would happen if women were screened at different ages and time intervals. Their conclusions helped shape the new guidelines.

Several medical groups say they are sticking to their guidelines that call for routine screening starting at 40.

"Screening isn't perfect. But it's the best thing we have. And it works," said Dr. Carol Lee, a spokeswoman for the American College of Radiology. She suggested that cutting health care costs may have played a role in the decision, but Petitti said the task force does not consider cost or insurance in its review.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also has qualms. The organization's Dr. Hal Lawrence said there is still significant benefit to women in their 40s, adding: "We think that women deserve that benefit."

But Dr. Amy Abernethy of the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center agreed with the task force's changes.

"Overall, I think it really took courage for them to do this," she said. "It does ask us as doctors to change what we do and how we communicate with patients. That's no small undertaking."

Abernethy, who is 41, said she got her first mammogram the day after her 40th birthday, even though she wasn't convinced it was needed. Now she doesn't plan to have another mammogram until she is 50.

Barbara Brenner, executive director of the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action, said the group was "thrilled" with the revisions. The advocacy group doesn't support screening before menopause, and will be changing its suggested interval from yearly to every two years, she said.

Mammograms, like all medical interventions, have risks and benefits, she said.

"Women are entitled to know what they are and to make their best decisions," she said. "These guidelines will help that conversation."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Nov 14, 2009

Nov 12, 2009

Watch the Drift

Last night @ church our guest speaker talked about drifting. We don't drift into an intimate relationship with our spouse, our children, our friends, God. Naturally, we drift apart. It takes work, real work and committment to that work, to "drift" in to intimacy. Today, this was the message from Blending a Family Ministry and I have seen these slow poisons erode past and present family. It brings my heart sadness. One of the great new songs @ church last night had a sentence "Break my heart for what breaks Yours". We become incredibly desensitized to things that break His heart and we accept it. I have found that one of the biggest changes of myself in the past 6 years. Sometimes I shake my head at myself for what I accept as normal. - Rebecca

Blending A Family Ministry eNewsletter - November 2009
Hi families and friends!

I was thinking today about my pack of beagles. One of my former hobbies was to hunt rabbits with a pack of beagles, and my hunting buddies and I had many fond memories on those hunts. In 1991 I sold all of them because it was getting too difficult to find a place to hunt without leasing property. That is when Paige and I got Chloe, our first Labrador retriever puppy.

When I was trying to develop a good pack of hunting dogs, I took my best male and female beagles and bred them. I got four of the most beautiful puppies from them. I gave one of the puppies to a close friend and kept the other three, and three of our children named them. One day I took them on a hunt with the mature dogs (that's how you train hunting dogs). Within 30 seconds of letting them out of the cage to start the hunt, two of the puppies start fighting over some trash on the ground. It turned out that they found a piece of meat from a dead animal. They did not have time to ingest it before I got it away from them --- so I thought.

Within thirty minutes one of the dogs began having convulsions and throwing up. About 20 minutes later it was dead.
We hunted for a little while and then left for home. On the way home another puppy started throwing up, then convulsing. Before I got home it had died.

What a loss - I was devastated. I was so proud of those puppies. I felt so defeated.
I found out later from the property owner that he had put out poisoned chicken necks in another field about a mile away to kill animals that destroy his crops. Apparently an animal had dragged that poisoned meat to our hunting field before ingesting it and dying. My dogs found it and did not know it was harmful.

I tell this story because people often do not realize when they are partaking of something that will harm them, their marriage, or their children. In our new book, God Breathes on Blended Families - Second Edition, we address how our adversary the devil uses the process of erosion to damage and destroy us. Erosion starts so subtly in our life, but can eventually bring destruction. Here is an excerpt from the Book pages 69-70:

Consider the following questions:
• When do occasional drinks progress into alcoholism?
• When does trying an illegal drug grow into an addiction?
• When does the first glimpse of pornography become a compulsive lifestyle?
• When does repeated anger escalate into uncontrolled verbal or physical abuse?
• When does a hobby become a compulsion?
• When does the enjoyment of good food become obesity?
• When does an office friendship turn into an affair?
• When do frequent arguments between a husband and wife escalate into disrespect and resentment?
• When does discipline by a stepparent become resentment in a child’s heart?
• When does hurt in a teen’s life escalate to isolation, depression, or suicide?

All of the above are examples of what can happen through the erosion process—erosion of our thought process, our emotions, and eventually our will. People lose control of their own will. Their emotions take control over their sound judgment, and their life is led by ungodly thoughts and uncontrolled emotions. Life gradually yet surely turns into what seems to be a death spiral, taking its victim further away from making right choices (righteousness)—and seeing no way out.

(End of excerpt)

Sometimes the impact of the poisons we play with, or we allow to entertain us) is sudden. Other times the impact is slow and painful.

"Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" 1 Corinthians 5:6

Leaven is the yeast that is added to bread dough to make it rise. Just a small pinch of yeast will leaven the whole loaf. Sin works in the same manner. Unrepentant sin and compromise will infect your whole life and everyone in it.

Consider your steps:
1. Be determined to walk holy with the Lord, and set standards for your family to do the same.
2. Do not become careless.
3. Be on your guard - watch for simple, subtle, little things that can infiltrate your mind and you home.
4. God is your front and rear guard, your protector. His Holy Spirit will warn you of things that are harmful.
5. Your responsibility is to be prayerfully alert.

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:1-3

Nov 8, 2009

The Energetic Man - The Art of Manliness

We love upright, energetic men. Pull them this way, and then that way, and the other, and they only bend, but never break. Trip them down, and in a trice they are on their feet. Bury them in the mud, and in an hour they will be out and bright. They are not ever yawning away existence, or walking about the world as if they had come into it with only half their soul; you cannot keep them down; you cannot destroy them. But for these the world would soon degenerate. They are the salt of the earth. Who but they start any noble project? They build our cities and rear our manufactories; they whiten the ocean with their sails, and they blacken the heavens with the smoke of their steam-vessels and furnace fires; they draw treasures from the mine; they plow the earth. Blessings on them! Look to them, young men, and take courage; imitate their example; catch the spirit of their energy and enterprise, and you will deserve, and no doubt command, success.

Oct 28, 2009

30 reasons why I Love About My Husband

1) When my daughter needs some extra support during the day, my husband says “no problem!” and goes so I can try & concentrate at the office.

2) When I am busy with another child’s function, my husband says “no problem!” and takes my son to boy scouts AND stays to participate.

3) For the below freezing night he spent in a tent with Ryan so they could experience “man time” with fellow scouts.

4) Hhe waits to watch those horror movies he likes for when I’m not home!

5) He says “what do you want to watch tonight? The Proposal?”. And doesn’t mind that I pick an action flick instead

6) He gets excited about the new 2010 Mustang and makes sure to show it to me on our 24” MAC so I can see all the bells & whistles…

7) He says “we got an offer for a free movie ticket, I’m going to find one for us to go see”.

8) He loves the same things I do – our kids, our family, music, movies, photography, fast cars, exploring, traveling, life and food!

9) He hates exercising as much as I do

10) He’s a night owl like me.

11) He can also be quite an annoying happy morning person too.

12) His positive nature balances out my negative nature.

13) When the kids need something at school, or I've yet again overcommited myself & our time, he’s willing to help out.

14) He stands by my side in the hectic, insane pace of our life and takes care of the responsibilities that come with a family of 7.

15) Because he can make a mean meal!

16) Because he loves to eat ice cream with me in bed after the kids are asleep and we watch our movie of the night.

17) He is extremely creative!

18) He is MATH-ew and our math wizard for homework!

19) Kayla, Kassady and Peyton

20) Fitzgerald (a family name with good memories for me)

21) Because he’s part of the best of my Medford Mid High and Senior High memories.

22) My family loves him more than they love me

23) When I’m emotional, he can listen and cleanly cut through the emotion, get to the problem and help work through it with empathy, logic and understanding.

24) He’s home every night with us.

25) One of my favorite moments is when he’s greasy and grimy from fixing our cars or something around the house. He’s awesome.

26) The scar on his leg from his motorcycle accident on what was suppose to be our first date in 1986.

27) The scar on his hand from electrocuting himself while trying to sell our big screen TV when we couldn’t fit it into the house, which resulted in my first experience of watching skin stitching at the ER. I didn’t even pass out!

28) He went with Kassady to Girl Scouts last night while I stayed home and spent time with the rest of our brood.

29) Whatever I need on a computer, Matt figures it out! He’s a genius!

30) That he gets up every day and continues to try to improve our life in some way.

Oct 27, 2009

FOTF: Your teen & pediatrician

I completely agree - this has been an issue lately with McKenna and some serious drugs the doctors are trying to "encourage" (more like push her in to it) her to take, without any regard to me as the parent. Pretty silly because 1) who do they think will be "buying" the medication? 2) picking AND PAY for the prescription; and 3) making the determination what doctor she goes to? It doesn't make sense with her at 13, for a doctor to alienate a loving, responsible, involved and cooperative parent.

Should a parent expect to be informed of their child's conversation with their doctor?

Teenagers are typically sensitive and modest about their bodies — especially when their parents are around — so I can understand the need for privacy during a physical exam. The larger issue here, however, is the physician's accountability to you as the mother, and at this point, I agree entirely with the position you have taken. Other parents have expressed similar concerns to me.

I'm reminded of a mother who told me that she took her 14-year-old daughter to their pediatrician for a routine physical exam. The mother was aware that her daughter was beginning to develop physically and might be sensitive to her being in the examining room with her. She offered to remain in the waiting room, but the girl objected.

"I don't want to go in there by myself," she said. "Please come with me." After arguing with her daughter for a moment, the mother agreed to accompany her to the examining room.

When the exam was over, the doctor turned to the mother and criticized her for intruding. He said in front of the girl, "You know, you really had no business being in the examining room. It is time I related directly to your daughter. You should not even be aware of the care that I give her or the medication I prescribe. Nor should you know the things that are said between us. My care of your daughter should now be a private matter between her and me."

The girl had been going through a period of rebellion, and the mother felt her authority was weakened by the doctor's comments. It was as though he were saying, "Your day of supervision of your daughter has now passed. She should now make her own decisions." Fortunately, that mother was unwilling to do as she was told and promptly found a new doctor. Good for her!

I have discussed this conversation with several pediatricians, and they have each agreed with the doctor in this case. They emphasized the importance of a youngster having someone to talk with in private. Perhaps. But I object to the autonomy demanded by the physician. Fourteen-year-old boys and girls are not grown, and their parents are still the best people to care for them and oversee their development. It is appropriate for a physician to have some private moments with a young patient, but he or she should never forget to whom accountability is owed.

Furthermore, if greater authority is to be granted to the doctor, the parent had better find out just what he or she believes about contraceptives for minors, premarital sex, spiritual matters and the like. Be careful whom you choose to trust with the body and the soul of your child.

The pace of living is so frantic today that we have become dangerously willing to accept surrogate parenting from a variety of professionals who meander through our lives. Educators, youth ministers, athletic coaches, music instructors, psychologists, counselors and physicians are there to assist parents in raising their kids — but never to replace them.

Oct 15, 2009

Minority Report in real life

Minority Report. The movie that had touch screen technology, before there was touch screen technology. I said "it's coming, it's kind of cool" - some scoffed. And hey, here it is.

Minority Report. Eye recognition as you walk through your life, marketing on the side as the recognition technology identifies you and markets to your personal choice. You still don't think that's happening? Cameras are starting to be placed in towns with face recognition software for "security" (yea, right...). Facebook and all it's little cute tests & quizzes that asks to access not only your information but the information of your friends - profiling. We are inundated with information gathering technology everywhere. Phone number in the Safeway line, for your club card networking... (sometimes I feel like they are cloning me somewhere and I've got to stop answering all those nonsense questions!).

Matt Fitzgerald - predicted 20 years ago that Pete Chadwell would one day use a computer for his drawings (how's that MAC working Pete?) and that music, all our media data would be held on a tiny chip (IPod) and he has told me, a few years ago that he can see a time where a chip will be implanted into our heads and we will simply receive our calls, our media data through that chip...

So it chills my blood a bit when I read something like this...and I dare say, it's a few more then a "smattering" of religious fundamentalist that have a problem with this.

Pay with a wave of your hand?


It's a simple concept, really: You inject a miniature radio frequency identifier the size of a grain of rice between your thumb and forefinger and, with a wave of your hand, unlock doors, turn on lights, start your car or pay for your drinks at an ultrachic nightspot.

The problem is, the whole concept is a little geeky for most of us, nauseating for some, Orwellian for a few and even apocalyptic for a smattering of religious fundamentalists.

Forget the science of it -- and yes, it does work remarkably well. Forget the convenience of it. Forget that similar identifying technologies, from bar codes to mag stripes, overcame similar obstacles and are now ubiquitous.

Radio frequency ID implants face a hurdle the others did not: ickiness.

"There is sort of an icky quality to implanting something," says Rome Jette, the vice president for smart cards at Versatile Card Technology, a Downers Grove, Ill., card manufacturer that ships 1.5 billion cards worldwide a year.

How RFID devices work
The RFID technology is un-yucky, however. The implanted tag -- a passive RFID device consisting of a miniature antenna and chip containing a 16-digit identification number -- is scanned by an RFID reader. Once verified, the number is used to unlock a database file, be it a medical record or payment information. Depending upon the application, a reader may verify tags at a distance of 4 inches up to about 30 feet. The RFID implant has been around for more than 20 years. In its earliest iteration, it provided a convenient way to keep track of dogs, cats and prized racehorses. Few took note or voiced much concern.

Then, in 2002, Applied Digital Solutions (now Digital Angel) of Delray Beach, Fla., deployed to its foreign distributors a beta version of its patented VeriChip technology for human use. Two years later, the VeriChip became the first subcutaneous RFID chip to receive FDA approval as a Class 2 medical device.

One VeriChip distributor in Spain sold the concept to the ultratrendy Baja Beach Club, which offered its patrons in Barcelona and Amsterdam the option of having an implant inserted in their upper arms to pay for their drinks without having to carry wallets in their swimsuits.

Judging by the ensuing outrage, you would think VeriChip had given the pope a wedgie.

'Mark of the beast'?
Web sites sprouted like mushrooms, accusing VeriChip of being the biblical "mark of the beast" predicted in the Book of Revelations as a foreshadowing of the end of the world.

Video: Protect yourself against credit, debit card hackers

CEO Scott Silverman was equally vilified as being tied to Satan or, worse, Wall Street. Big Brother was surely coming, though he'd have to get pretty close to read your implant. Claims that the tags cause cancer based on lab rat tests upped the amps of outrage.

Were people suddenly curious about RFID implants?

Continued: Reaction to the product mixed

"Curiosity is probably an understatement," Silverman concedes. "People have always taken interest in VeriChip. Part of the lore and part of the trouble of this company over the past five years has been just that."

Though VeriChip played no part in using its implant as a payment device, the company quickly moved to calmer waters. Today, it markets its VeriMed Health Link patient identification system to help hospitals treat noncommunicative patients in an emergency. Its future may include more advanced medical applications, including a biosensor system to detect glucose levels.

"A lot of the negative press that we received was a direct result of people having a misconception of what this technology is all about," says Silverman. "We believe that the medical application was and still is the best application for this technology.

"That said, if and when it does become mainstream and more patients are utilizing it for their medical records or for diagnostic purposes, if they want to elect to use it for other applications, certainly they'll be able to do that. But it's going to take a company much larger than us to distribute the retail reader end of it into the Wal-Marts of the world." Versatile's Jette has watched contactless RFID battle for acceptance in the credit card arena. Just as Silverman suggests, the dynamics and scale of the payment industry tends to work against widespread deployment.

"Mobil Speedpass tried to do it; they got some traction and decided to see if there was any mileage to take this to a Walgreens or McDonald's. You used to be able to use your Speedpass at McDonald's, but that ended because, at the end of the day, you still only have two gigantic payment processors out there, Visa and MasterCard," he says. "To me, the idea of any kind of payment device having ubiquity requires an awful lot of back-end cooperation, of people willing to say, 'I don't need my brand in the customer's wallet.'"

Although the coolness factor is effective from a marketing standpoint -- American Express Blue with its smart (if largely unused) chip is a good example -- Jette says most cardholders would balk at the very thought of a needle.

"With the implanting in the nightclubs, there is (some) cachet of exclusivity there, especially among a certain demographic where people are piercing themselves and getting tattoos. But those are things that really only 20-somethings do a lot. I really doubt that there will be any market for injectable RFID tags or even any single point-of-sale payment device."

Video: Protect yourself against credit, debit card hackers

"A lot of times, the technology is a solution looking for a problem. Sometimes people fall in love with the technology for its own sake and then try to evangelize a home for it. My business group is just smart cards, and I never forget that although we make money with smart cards, the bills are paid with mag stripe cards. As backwards and old-fashioned as they are, that is still the bulk of what the transactions are going to be in America for a very long time."

This article was reported by Jay MacDonald for

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