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A 2-Minute Cartoon On How Mutated Capitalism Hurts All Of Us.

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Just spent three whole days at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference. What a fabulous weekend! I met so many wonderful writers. It is both amazingly inspiring and scary. There are so many talented writers out there but it also makes me wonder if they need one more. When I look at al the work being created I cannot imagine being able to compete.

One of the editors from Philadelphia Stories talked about how many submissions his magazine received in a given month–hundreds. I asked, “How many are wrong, bad, not appropriate for you magazine?” I mean, seriously, I have to be seen as better than hundreds? I was hoping to hear the the majority of what he received wasn’t right–instead, he said that only 10-25% wasn’t right for their publication. Great. So now I’m only competing against 400 instead of 500? Now I feel so much better.

But I came home so much more inspired. I connected with women from a writing class I’d taken and we’re going to start a writer’s group. Don’t tell my husband that though, I feel like I’m out of the house enough as it is.

So now my trick is actually using the ABC method that I’ve spoken about in the past. I really think that Facebook was invented by Satan. I say to myself, “Oh, let me just check and see what everyone is up to. It will only take a minute.” And then I find myself turning off my laptop after three hours of Solitaire. How did this happen?

I don’t want to delete my account or turn it off–I just need to have the willpower to not live on it. Enough is enough. There is a time for Algerian Solitaire and time to write. Or knit. But more knitting and writing and less Solitaire. Less Facebook.

And I need to exercise more and eat more vegetables, too, but let’s take one vice at a time shall we. See, the problem is, I don’t have any self control.

Until now. Now I have self control.

And it was free too.

But you can only have it if you have a Mac. Can you hear me saying neener-neener? Sorry. It just seems like I have so many people saying (incorrectly), “Eh, you can’t do that on a Mac.” Well, this you can only do if you have a Mac.

Here is my Self Control. Isn’t it cute? It looks so innocent and simple. Only it’s not. It’s not innocent at all. There is a little button over there called “Edit blacklist” and when I type, “www. facebook.com” I get this:

Not going here right now...

And now I can turn off Facebook for an hour or two (or 5) and get some work done. Once I’ve turned on my Self Control there is no turning it off. No deleting it. No pausing it. No nothing. Once I hit “start” I am off Facebook (or any other site) for the balance of the timer.

Steve Lambert is my new best friend.

Now, I have some writing to do.

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I’ve been slow to blog about my personal commandments because I really want to make sure I’m able to accurately express what my commandments mean to me. It’s one thing to believe something. It’s another thing to be able to accurately share it.

Today I became aquatinted with a woman I will never meet. Because she passed away yesterday.

This is one of the things I love about Facebook. You are able to connect to people who you wouldn’t ever be able to connect with in real life.

Here is the back story…

One of my old friends on FB (and by that I mean, I’ve known her for a long time, not that she is old) posted “Taking a step back to focus on what really matters.” Awesome. Love it. Wouldn’t our world be better if we all did that every once in a while. I “liked” her status and because I “liked” it, I was updated when others commented on her status. Finally, someone commented that they were sorry for my friend’s loss and I went to her page to see what might have happened.

She’d posted a link to Celeste Martin Rast, the friend who had passed away. I really don’t stalk people. Honest. But I clicked on the link to learn more about this women who’d touched my friend.

I was thoroughly overwhelmed by what I saw. So many people wrote such wonderful things about this woman. She’d just celebrated her 82nd birthday and let me tell you, this woman did NOT look 82. Or rather, I hope I look like this when I’m 82. She had a sparkle in her eyes that showed mischief, wisdom, love and peace. And from everything I read that people posted about her passing, she practiced everything her eyes reflected.

As I scrolled through her wall postings, it amazed me how Celeste took the time to comment back to everyone who wished her a happy birthday. And it wasn’t just a “thanks” it was truly personal:

“Thank you, Courtney. I have had a fine birthday, and your greetings make it complete. Love to you. Celeste”

“Thank you Tommy. Indeed I did have a perfect birthday. And it all started in the chapel with your Ryan reading one scripture and you the other. Then there were parties and meals and on and on. Then your greetings have made my day complete. You are so good to me. Celeste”

“Warm wishes and thanks are flowing across the airstreams from me to you. Thanks for remembering me. Celeste”

“How special that not only did I get your greetings, but a live hug as the rains began to tumble down from the sky.”

It was amazing to not only read the wonderful things she said to other people, but the comments she made (and didn’t make) about her life. Scrolling all the way back to February (yeah, I know, I really am a stalker), she wrote, “Right now I am in my 6th floor room of a beautiful hotel overlooking the waterfalls surrounding the Spa. Trees went down on my mountain yesterday with the weight of the ice storm and took my power with it. Good to know how to celebrate in the midst of adversity don’t you think! This resort is world famous, and less than ten minutes from my home…..they have their own generator!”

No complaining or whining about no electricity, simply acknowledging the beautiful hotel overlooking waterfalls.

Even being trapped on a plane for more than two hours resulted in this report:

I have a story to tell. I am at a friend’s house close to the airport. I stayed at the airport from nine in the morning until seven at night. I sat on a plane for 2 1/2 hours with a seatmate that needed ever square inch of her seat plus 1/2 of mine. The pilot helped me down the icy steps when they finally cut the engines without a gate. At seven, and I won’t bore you with all the lines, promises, interplay with other passengers and friends I called until my cell expired, a friend got me to her home. The snow when I stepped out the cab of a truck was 14 inches, and it wasn’t a drift. I try again Sunday morning.

Seriously!? On a plane with no seat room and this is her report. No swearing, no writing snarky blogs, no joining a FB group, “Let’s make the airlines pay” or “no fat people on airplanes.” I can promise you my entry wouldn’t have been nearly as gracious. I would likely have NOT had to sit on a plane for 2 1/2 hours because federal agents would have come onto the plane and removed me.

I wish I could have known this woman. I know I could have learned so much from her. But it isn’t too late–not to know her, but to learn from her.

Celeste is a storyteller. For real. She looked for, and found, stories everywhere she went (I have a feeling, she is going to have some great stories to be telling now). And from everything I’ve seen about her and her life, she did it with grace and humor.

Celest shared her grace and humor with everyone she met. The pictures of her on her Facebook page show a woman who had discovered the secret to happiness–knowing herself, knowing a greater truth, knowing what was important in life. Celeste embraced life and chose happiness.

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Quick, lock the doors! Hide your children! Close the curtains. Or…

You could just stop posting private information up on Facebook.

And you could actually only “friend” people that you know. I realize that might make farming, running your mafia and maintaining your zoo more difficult, but it is an option.

Or you could just stop posting private information.

Seriously?

I’m lucky, I learned from a young age–of say, 40, that it is unwise to post ANYTHING on the Internet (and email “is” the Internet) that you wouldn’t want your mother, pastor, or grandmother to read or see. So perhaps you might want to untag yourself on some of those “girls gone wild” photos while you are interviewing at conservative financial organizations. Employers have started checking Facebook, mySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn before making job offers. Posting, “Hate my boss, can’t wait to steal all the office supplies when I go” may be frowned upon by potential employers.

And this new social “joining” or “personalization” that pops up when you go to other sites can have consequences. Do you really want your mother seeing how you voted on HuffPo’s “Funniest Parenting Fails of All Time?” Worse, do you want them to see the picture of their child as one of the examples in the Top 10? For the record, this is NOT my child (although we’ve considered this option on more than one occassion)

We Wouldn't EVER Do This

Come on, be honest…I know you’ve considered it once or twice too. But do you want Granny to know? She thinks her grandchildren are perfect.

The next bit of privacy you might want to consider is not inviting bad people to rob your house. When you post, “Can’t wait to hit the islands” or “Thanks for watching the dog while we are out of town for the weekend” are just, well, STUPID. Hello! There is actually a web site that is trying to remind you this is a bad thing: Please Rob Me. Although they’ve temporarily (?) closed their site, their message was frighteningly clear: Twittering, Facebooking (it’s a verb?) and FourSquaring (that was always just a game at camp when I was a kid) yourself is a bad thing.

You may think that “Chillin at the 4th and Market Starbucks, drinking a half-caf, double down, 20,000 calorie  beverage” is just your way of checking in with your peeps, but it’s also an invitation for bad people to GO ROB YOUR HOUSE BECAUSE YOU ARE AT 4TH AND MARKET. True, you might have a vicious guard dog at home, or a husband who knows karate. But do you really want to take the chance?

Do you know this man?

So many of my friends have cell phone numbers and addresses on Facebook and if it isn’t locked down, the creepy guy sitting next to you at work who is a “friend of a friend” of yours on Facebook KNOWS WHERE YOU LIVE. Granted, there are many ways to discover this info if he’s “really” creepy, but do you want to give him any help?

I’ll admit, because I blog and have a web site and my own business, it is freakishly easy to find me. This is the price I pay for using the Internet for something other than Facebook (I know that is a shock to my family and friends). But I make every attempt to keep my private information off the web.

A quick trip to mySpace (which is really a little creepy if only from a graphic design perspective) revealed some scary information.

Thanks for sharing!

I blurred out both MY zip code and the girls’ last names but COME ON Shaunice, Cairia, Ashley, and the other 235 single girls who are looking for love within 5 miles of my house (where the creepy guy above tends to stay)–do you REALLY want to share this kind of information?

There is a new program out there–ReclaimPrivacy.org that scans your Facebook page and tells you how to make it more private. They also have some links to articles that might be helpful.

I’m not saying we should hide our children and close the curtains–okay, some of you might want to close the curtains–or delete your Facebook account. I love Facebook and have reconnected with amazing people from my past (I’ve got another entry coming on that one), but in the words of Sgt. Esterhouse (wow, I’m dating myself), “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”

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original story but Margaret Wise Brown

“reinterpreted” by Rebecca Britt

*******

Once there was a little Mommy who wanted to run away.

So She said to her children, “I am running away.”

“If you run away,” said her children, “We will run after you.

For you are our little Mommy.”

******

“If you run after me,”  said the little Mommy,

“I will become a fish in a trout stream

and I will swim away from you.”

“If you become a fish in a trout stream,” said her children, “We will become fisherman and we will fish for you.”

*******

“If you become a fisherman,” said the little Mommy,

“I will become  a rock on the mountain, high above you.”

“If you become a rock on the mountain high above me,” said her children, “we will be a mountain climber, and we will climb to where you are.”

*****

If you become a mountain climber,”

said the little Mommy,

“I will be a crocus in a hidden garden.”

“If you become a crocus in a hidden garden,” said her children, “we will be a gardener. And we will find you.”

*****

“If you are a gardener and find me,”

said the little Mommy, “I will be a bird

and fly away from you.”

“If you become a bird fly away from me,” said her children, “we will be a tree that you come home to.”

*****

“If you become a tree,” said the little Mommy,

“I will become a little sailboat,

and I will sail away from you.”

“If you become a sailboat and sail away from me,” said her children, “we will become the wind, and blow you where we want  you to go.”

*****

“If you become the wind and blow me,” said the little Mommy,

“I will join a circus and fly away on a trapeze.”

“If you go flying on a flying on a flying trapeze,” said her children, “we will be tightrope walkers, and we will walk across the air to you.”

*****

“If you become a tightrope walker and walk across the air,”

said the little Mommy, “I will become a little girl,

and run into a house.”

“If you become a little girl and run into a house,” said her children, “we will become your mother and catch you in our arms and hug you.”

*****

“Shucks,” said the bunny, “I might as well stay where I am and be your little Mommy.”

And so she did.

“Will you make us lunch?” asked her children, “And help us with homework? And do our laundry? I need cupcakes for school tomorrow.”

And so she did.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I could say it’s because I like watching them froth at the mouth when I get all liberal on them (aka socialist) but in reality, I tend to be the one frothing at the mouth when the make some inane comment like Obama is the antiChrist.

I think the guy on the left is my high school boyfriend

I grew up in Tennessee and if you haven’t, you can watch a few episodes of King of the Hill to know what my life was like. We had pickup trucks, guns, confederate flags, and used fireworks illegally and irresponsibly.

When I found Facebook (which, by the way, I think may be the work of the devil) I reconnected with a lot of my friends from high school. It’s funny having conversations with people on the Internet who wouldn’t have given me the time of day back in 12th grade.

Some of the people have really changed. The shy, quiet ones have come out of their shells. The brainy ones have found their place in the world. The popular ones are now “just” moms and dads with minivans and teenagers. The freakiest thing by far is the ones who are grandparents. In my mind I am only a few years–okay, maybe a decade out of high school. There is no way any of us can be grandparents. But the sad fact is, I haven’t seen high school in, as The Boy said, “in a quarter of a century.” (Yeah, I grounded him for that smart aleck comment). If one of my friends had a baby at 20 and they had a baby at 20, it’s really easy to see how the 2 yo “baby” on my friend’s Facebook page is really the grandchild. But I still do a double-take. They are talking about being empty nesters while I am still in the potty training days.

The one thing about Tennessee is that (and I’m generalizing here–not making any prejudicial slurs) there are many down there who are all Guns, God and Glenn (not to be confused with Marilyn Manson’s Guns, God and Government). The recent news about that little healthcare reform project has worked some of my friends into a bit of a frenzy.

Oh, how the devil can cite scripture for his purposes. These people are somehow under the impression that healthcare reform is a sign of the coming apocalypse. And they feel that Facebook is a good place to share their feelings of doom.

So what do I do? It depends on who you ask. My husband says I’m simply wasting my time trying to convince them that I am right and they are wrong. My liberal (aka Socialist) friends say it isn’t nice to tease the slow kids (see, this is how we get a bad reputation–for saying things like that). Some warn that I’m messing with the Feng Shui of FB by continuing to fight (converse) with people whose opinions are so different from mine.

Well, I do engage them. And it usually doesn’t go well. I cite facts, they say my facts are a lie. They cite facts and when I disprove them, they call me names. It is obvious that neither of us will change our minds.

But I believe that surrounding myself with only those who agree with me is counter-productive. It make you stop asking questions. You become apathetic. The fact is, I don’t agree with everything that is in the healthcare bill. How can I? It was written by committee by people with myriad objectives and alliances. Isn’t there some quote about knowing something is a good compromise when neither party gets what they want and neither party is happy with the outcome? I would say that the healthcare bill is an excellent compromise.

One thing that is really disturbing me lately is the amount of hatred that seems to surround political issues. Unlike youth groups, we need more purple. [Sidebar: in youth group, boys are blue and girls are red. When they attended events, you don’t want any purple–e.g. blue and red touching]. In society, we need more purple. We need the GOP to see where the Democrats are coming from. I don’t even like those labels because now we have the tea party and the green party, libertarians, constitutionalists, ad nauseam. You can’t even say conservatives and liberals because there is so much baggage around the terms. I can be very conservative about some issues and very liberal about others. There are some places where I don’t think the government belongs and some places where they do need to take more of a stand.

I didn’t like how when people protested some of Bush’s actions and policies they were shouted down as being terrorists. Disagreeing with the President was seen as un-American. Now those same people who told me not to speak out again Bush are accusing my President of being the anti-Christ and saying it is their right and duty as a US citizen to protest. Where’s the fairness in that? You don’t like how much healthcare reform is going to cost? I don’t like how much the war is going to cost. You didn’t like how the healthcare bill was passed through reconciliation? I didn’t like how we went to war without Congress’ approval. (sorry, authorization of military force).

During the last election, the news sites I visited the most were The Huffington Post, The Drudge Report, The Daily Kos, and Fox News. It is a miracle that my head didn’t explode. But I felt it was, and is, important to look at more than one news source. When I would get emails like these or these (or these) I look up the facts before I “FW: Fwd: ! Please read and forward!! Urgent” I use factcheck.org and politifact.org before I accept what others are telling me. Because I research these things, I will admit, I rarely change my mind when I “talk” to some of my conservative friends. But that’s because I feel like I’ve done a lot of research before I’ve formed my opinion.

In a perfect reality, I wish the government didn’t need to mandate safe products, safe food and healthcare reform. I wish the government didn’t need to have so many regulations in place. But I don’t believe that corporations will do the right thing if it isn’t directly tied to profits.

It's funny cause it's true

For all my passion (and my counterparts’ passion) I was a little chagrined to see the following posting An Honest Facebook Political Argument. Are we really that transparent and stereotypical that we can be effectively summed up in one satirical page? Gay slur.

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So I’d like to share some of the things I learned about this project. For those of you who haven’t been following my blog, here’s the lowdown. Instead of giving up something for Lent, I decided to DO something for Lent. The act of doing, rather than sacrificing seemed to align with my thought process a little better. So the assignment was to randomly select a Bible verse (accomplished via this site), and write about my thoughts, feelings concerning the scripture verse. I don’t pretend to have any formal knowledge or Biblical training. My only education related to the Bible would be the Old and New Testament class I had to take at Carson-Newman college–and we won’t discuss the grades I got there. Let’s just say I’m glad we are saved by grace and not acts.

After I started the process, I realized that in fact, I still was giving up something for Lent: my time. And for a working mother with three kids, that is a sacrifice. Wanting to go to bed, wanting to knit, wanting to watch a show and instead writing on some scripture that I had NO idea what I was supposed to say, was a sacrifice.

And humbling.

I’m one of those people who has an opinion on everything and is willing to share it with everyone. But some of these scriptures were really hard. There were times I really wanted to hit the refresh button and get a new “random” scripture. But that would have been cheating. I had to believe that there was something about the verse that I got each time that was either supposed to teach me or my readers (all six of them since Viagra and I broke it off ).

Some of the verses really made me think (Oh, NO! Don’t mix thinking and faith–that just isn’t right!). Some verses that on first glance, made me think I wouldn’t have ANYTHING to say, turned out to be the most interesting and prolific entries. Others that I thought would be a piece of cake, left me speechless (I know, that’s hard).

The other thing I learned is that I can’t count. Somehow, I always seemed to be ahead (rarely) or behind (usually) of where I thought I should be. Don’t ask me; ask the Tennessee Public School system.

The process was frustrating. There is nothing more inspiring that having a million really important things that have to be done immediately, that cause a writer to have a million and one enlightening ideas that can’t be acted upon. There is nothing more uninspiring that having nothing on your plate– no children, commitments or obligation, and nothing but an empty screen and open keyboard to suck every creative thought from your brain. Let the phone right with a new deadline and the creative juices flow. I never did (and probably never will) solve that process but I certainly got to practice.

Someone, I think it was Rick Warren, or maybe my grandmother, said that if you pray to be a certain way–more patient, a better writer, a better parent, that God doesn’t give you the skill or trait. He puts you in situations to develop that skill or trait. So when I pray to be more patient, I’m put in situations that require me to practice patience. If I want to be a better writer, He gives me assignments that require me to stretch. When I prayed to be a better parent, He gave me challenging children. And as frustrating as it is–it works. I am infinitely more patient in my thirties than I was in my twenties. I’m sure I’ll be even more patient when I turn forty (okay, I might have already seen 40–more than once). I am a much better parent with The Baby at 2 than I was with The Boy and The Girl when they were two.

Me, during Nanowrimo

Practice makes perfect. Having a topic and assignment forced me to write or admit that I wasn’t writing. Every year (and by that I mean the last 4 years) I participate in Nanowrimo. Every November, writers from around the world (yes the whole world) get together to encourage, bribe and cajole each other into writing a 50,000 word novel. I completed the assignment 3 of the 4 years. Where the novels good? Hell no. Of the 50K words, I’ll probably end up keeping about 1500 of them. Actually, I’ll probably keep all the words, I just have to put all of them in an entirely new order. The whole roomful of monkeys writing Shakespeare idea.

The point of Nanowrimo and my Lent assignment is that a writer doesn’t need plot, structure, characters or dialog to write a novel. What a writer needs is a deadline. For twenty years, I stopped writing because, well, I could. I didn’t have a deadline. And it isn’t just writers that are prone to this trait. Do you need to lose weight? So do you carefully monitor your food intake and calorie output all year long or only three months before swimsuit season or the important reunion? Do you look for jobs with better pay, benefits and opportunities while you are employed or after you are laid off? Do you pay your bills as soon as they arrive or right before they are due? We need deadlines to accomplish things.

As Christians–and people in general–we have an ultimate deadline: death. Hollywood has cashed in on our end of life deadline by making The Bucket List. Web sites, self-help gurus and groups are springing up all over, encouraging all of us to create and complete the items on our personal bucket list.

Even before I started my Lenten project, I tried to give myself self-imposed deadlines in order to keep writing. It is much easier to accomplish something when you have to do it everyday. Habits need consistency. Studies have shown it takes approximately 12 weeks to start or stop a habit. And it is most successful when it is practiced everyday. Can you really quit smoking by only smoking every other day? Do you lose weight eating healthy 4 days a week and eating whatever the other three? Can an alcoholic be sober every other week? So my self-imposed deadline was to write everyday–even if it was only 15 minutes. I really REALLY try to do it here because it provides a record and accountability. While I do write many (many, many) words for my job, I don’t feel like they “count” because…well, just because. I wanted to say, “because they are boring” but that isn’t always true. Some of my stuff is very interesting (I hope) to my audience. I wanted to say, “because I’m doing it for someone else” but that also isn’t true. My work writing is, to some extent, done for me. More importantly, my personal writing–this blog my short stories, novels and non-fiction works are to some extent, written for you (you being the global you of society as a whole). I think I want my blog to be what “counts” because it is my Hebrews 11:1 NKJV. I particularly like the New King James Version of this verse–maybe because it is the format I first found the scripture. My writing is faith in action. My entries are the substance of things hoped for– the evidence of things unseen.

Ice crystals under a magnifying glass

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