About the blog

Welcome to my blog. This is a place where, as time allows, I will post comments, inspirational words, favorite things and short essays about daily life. I get to meet and interview interesting people through my job, so why not share some of it with all of you? If you like what you see, please forward a link to your friends and family.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2012 will be a "happy" year

My friend Joy told me about an interesting book and web site called The Happiness Project the other day. Started by a New York lawyer, Gretchen Rubin, the web site began as a venue for her to work on being a happier person. Along the way she has inspired others to work on their own happiness.

The site is all about being happy, what it takes to be happy and how you can find happiness in things large and small.

It made me think about my own emotional state right now: happy, but with too many fluctuations. I believe that no matter what we may think other people are doing to us, our happiness is really in our own hands. Do others sometimes make me unhappy? Sure. But how I react to others can make things right -- i.e. happier -- in a hurry.

So here are Gretchen Rubin's 12 personal commandments, adapted just a bit to fit everyone.  (Personally, I plan to pay more attention to Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 9. What about you?)

1. Be yourself
2. Learn to let things go
3. Act the way you want to feel
4. Do it right now
5. Be polite and fair
6. Enjoy the process
7. Spend out
8. Identify problems
9. Lighten up
10. Do what ought to be done
11. No calculation
12. There is only love

Friday, January 20, 2012

Serita speaks out for women

Serita Jakes is the soft-spoken wife of Potter's House powerhouse Bishop T.D. Jakes, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have anything to say. Just the opposite.

Serita Jakes (Photo credit: The Potter's House)

Serita has made fighting domestic violence a priority at the Jakes' Dallas-area megachurch, with some 30,000 members. In addition to a counseling center that helps churchgoers and others copy with all kinds of problems, the Jakes work hard at promoting stronger self esteem in women  as well as strong, appropriate family roles for fathers.

The West Virginia native was on the Dr. Phil Show this week to talk to a woman coping with a violent relationship. She related a story from her own childhood: She was raised by an aunt and uncle in a coal-mining community. Often their disputes were settled with shouting, broken glass and physical abuse. So when she met Penny, a women on Dr. Phil's show who was there to talk about her own situation at home., Serita Jakes counseled her to reach out for help and safety for herself and her children.

Find more information on the Rahab Ministry at the Potter's House here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We all want "More!"

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Osteen Comes. I'd say that she's the younger sister of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, but that would sound like Lisa isn't important without that connection. In fact, Lisa Osteen Comes is an amazing woman who as just written a new book "You Are Made for More!" that has already made me stop and think about my own life.

The Osteen family pastors Lakewood Church, the largest church in America. So they live lives of privilege compared to the way most life, but Lisa is transparent when it comes to the real problems she's had in her life: born with a birth defect, divorced in her 20s, infertile in her 30s and low self-esteem for much of her life. Having been raised by deeply religious parents who also were pastors didn't make her immune from the very real problems that affect the rest of us.

But it did help her have context for them. Instead of letting them rule her life, she moved beyond them. She told me that her divorce was a complete shock and, to this day, she doesn't completely understand it. After receiving divorce papers in the mail, she holed up in her parents' home for six weeks until a kind person told her she had to get up and get out. "Turn your scars into stars," he told her. And she did.

Today she's a married mother of three and, now the author of a terrific book that will make you see your glass as half full. You'll see the good in the world and in your life.

Lisa Osteen Comes, author
of "You Are Made for More!"

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jimmy Carter, the most famous Sunday School teacher

I read a story today about former President Jimmy Carter's newest book, "Through the Year with Jimmy Carter: 366 Daily Meditations from the 39th President," and remembered a time, more than 20 years ago, when I attended an event where Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter were being honored.

Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, has written a daily devotional,
based on his years as a Sunday School teacher. Photo credit: Time Inc.

It was when I was the education writer for the South Bend Tribune and someone from the p.r. office at the University of Notre Dame called to tell me that the Carters were being honored and there'd be a big event for them. My mother lived just a few hours away and she greatly admired the Carters.

So my mom and sister drove up for the event -- it was open to the public -- I asked Notre Dame p.r. folks if there was going to be any kind of meet-and-greet at which my mom could meet them. Believe it or not, it hadn't occured to them that people might want something like that, and the Carters were such a low-key couple that they'd never ask for or expect it. But my friend said he would check to see if there was time in the schedule for my mom to meet them.

When the day of the event rolled around, my mom and sister arrived and we learned that just before the event, my mom and our local Congressman, Tim Roemer, would be taken back stage to meet the Carters for about 10 minutes. As we waited for a Secret Service man to signal the two to come back, we talked about what my mom would say and do. She was nervous and wondered what on earth she could say to such important people. This was a big deal for my mother, a very religious woman who was raised on a small farm in central Indiana. 

Notre Dame had prepared beautiful programs for the event, so I urged her to get autographs from the Carters in the three programs we had between us. Suddenly the man in a dark suit and an ear bud in one of his ears peeked from behind a black curtain and made a "come here" motion with his index finger. My mom, just 5 feet tall, sashayed down that aisle like she was floating on air.

My sister and I giggled a little, wondering what must be happening. Soon enough, the curtain parted and my mom and the Congressman emerged. Both were grinning from ear to ear. Never in my life have I seen my mom so excited. She talked a mile a minute, telling us how nice they were. She could barely remember what anyone said, but she did remember to get their autographs.

Apparently the small group just stood in a holding area just off of the stage and chatted. When it was autograph time, Rosalyn couldn't hold the program and sign it and juggle her handbag at the same time. So looked over at my mom and asked her to hold her purse for her. "Can you believe it," my mom told us excitedly. "I held Rosalyn Carter's purse! I feel like Elizabeth Taylor tonight."

I'm certain the Carters understand the impact they've had on the world. They've lived a life of honor and integrity in their post-White House years. Through the Carter Center they've eradicated the horrible guinea worm that leads to blindness in Third World countries. They've stood for peace and justice in places where dictatorships and chaos reign.

And the most famous Sunday School teacher and his wife gave my mother something to smile about for the rest of her life.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Cookies say 'Thank You' ... with chocolate

Last week I had an ugly encounter with a virus. Not the kind that people are calling the creeping crud: the bug that makes you hack, cough, sniffle, sneeze and makes you feel like the equivalent of a wet dish cloth. It was the kind of virus that renders your laptop useless. Sort of the same feeling, minus the Dayquil and Kleenexes.

Anyway, my husband was surfing the net and suddenly said: "Something is wrong with the computer." Those are not words you want to hear. So I took my laptop to work the next day, hoping that a friendly co-worker in our IT department could help.

So this very nice man named David took my computer and with the help of a few of his co-workers tricked the virus into letting them kill it. They are my heroes. (David is the same guy who did CPR on my work computer when the Dell "blue screen of death" took me by surprise.)

I thanked them all profusely, but mere words are not enough. I like to say "Thank You" with baked goods. My dilemma is, what to bake? Mexican wedding cookies, chocolate chip cookies or maybe some jam-filled thumbprint cookies?

Mexican wedding cookies are one of my favorites. My recipe is ancient ... dating back to when I was in elementary school -- or was it junior high? -- and I was in 4-H. (Funny aside: My friend Kathy calls them "Nun's Farts." It seems her mother called them that, so she does too. I'll have to find out why, because the back story has to be funny.)

Chocolate chip cookies, on the other hand, are a universal favorite. My husband Steve LOVES these and even has adopted the Jacque Torres recipe for chocolate chip cookies as his favorite. He makes huge batches of them and freezes dough balls so he can pull them out a few at a time to have fresh-baked cookies whenever he wants. (Who am I kidding? He never eats just a few!)

Chocolate chip cookies are best when you use real butter, Madagascar vanilla and the best chocolate chips you can find.

Monday morning I'll preheat the oven, pop in some dough balls and, maybe, the chocolate chip cookies will still be warm when I get to work.

What baked goods do you think say "Thank You" the best?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

My not-so-corny friend, Joy

Today I added a "gadget" - in blogspot-speak - to my site to start listing the blog sites of people I like to read. If you like to read what's on the mind of others or if you just like a laugh or a little inspiraton sometime, please check them out.

So the first one I added is the blog of my work-friend, Joy Sewing, one of the best-dressed people I know. She's the fashion/beauty editor at the Houston Chronicle - where we both work - and every morning when I stand in my closet I ask myself a simple question: "What would Joy wear?" She challenges me to wear less boring clothes. She challenges me to wear less black. And, because she knows I'm not likely to make great big changes to the way I dress, she challenges me to make little changes that have a big impact.

She rubs elbows with famous fashion designers such as Manolo Blahnik, Rachel Roy and House of Dereon designers Beyonce and Tina Knowles. She's written about Beyonce and her family - natives of the Houston area - many times - from their Destiny's Child days to superstardom. Here she is, with Miss T and Beyonce.

At the bottom of my blog site, I've included a recipe from Joy, called "Joy's Jalapeno Corn Stuff." She shared this recipe with me recently and when I made it for a recent get-together with friends, every person there asked for the recipe. The list of ingredients is odd, but the result is crazy good. You can add more or less heat, depending on how you like it.

From left, Beyonce Knowles with Joy Sewing and Tina Knowles.

Monday, January 2, 2012

In 2012, I resolve to "make room"

     It's Jan. 2, and I find myself facing a list of hopes for the New Year that looks remarkably similar to the lists I've made in years past. Lose weight and exercise more, shop less and save more, tackle a new project or two.

     But this year, my overrriding theme will be to slow down and enjoy life a little more than usual. I have plenty of friends and am close to family, so it's not as if I never have fun. But I recently read a book by Rozanne and Randy Frazee (pictured below)  called "Real Simplicity: Making Room for Life." Randy is senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, and shares pastoring duties there with Max Lucado.

     In their book, the Frazees offer up a blueprint for what they do best: making connections with people. Randy Frazee recounts the time in his life when he was so obsessed with his job as a new, young pastor that he had literally disconnected with his own family. When a therapist helped him realized where he'd taken his life, he resolved to find his focus again.

     The Frazees are an incredible couple and their book is a fun and interesting read. Mixed in with their story of faith, family and friends, are some of Rozanne's favorite recipes. Many are simple and easy, so you can throw together a yummy lunch or dinner without taking time away from the people you've invited to the table. The family has many dinner-time rituals, two of which I'll share here. The first is that during dinner each person at the table has to describe, in some detail, their day. Children cannot simply say: "went to school; it was boring." They have to start with getting out of bed and work through their day, hitting on enough highlights to let parents and siblings know what their day was really like. Their other ritual is that when dinner's over, everyone at the table helps clean up. That way, no one person - that would be Rozanne - is stuck with a big mess to clean up later.

     Along the way, the Frazees have made deep, meaningful connections with family, friends, neighbors and people at their church. I have plenty of people in my life, but I'm afraid that, especially lately, I haven't tended my connection to them with the care I should. This year I didn't get to visit family (spread out in Indiana, Florida and California), nor did I spend much time buying gifts. I know that people never turn down cash or gift cards, but I love the process of selecting a thoughtful gift, wrapping it and handing it to them.

     So this year I resolve to slow down a little and make room - and time - for the people who are important to me. What do you resolve to do?

     Here's a recipe from Rozanne Frazee:

Simple Spiced Coffee
5 cups of water
1/2 cup strong ground coffee
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup unpacked brown sugar (or Splenda brown sugar)
Whipped cream topping

Mix ground coffee, spices and sugar together and put in coffee filter basket. Pour water into coffee maker and brew. When coffee is done, pour into cups and top with whipped cream. Relax and enjoy!