Sunday, December 16, 2007

Reality of the Christmas Story, how human it is

Today at our church, I had witnessed my first born's first participation in a Christmas Pagent. This year, her group were sheep, and were lead on stage during the hymn "Upon a Midnight Clear" by one of the older 3rd grade shepards. My near 4 year old, who's name happens to be that of one of the cast of characters in the pagent, was carrying her baby doll, thinking that she was holding the Christ child. Of course, the main cast of characters were on stage with their baby doll. The doll "magically appeared" from under the manger. After the grab, I was noticing how the young Mary figure was holding a caring for the baby. Then I was looking at the program of the pagent which was decorated by drawings the children in our church did. All the drawings depicted both Mary and Joseph smiling almost as if the baby magically appeared.

Of course we adults know the whole reality of birth. It is not always an easy process. In our day and time, it is almost at requirement to have a birthing area, whether in a hospital or a home, in a sterile condition during the labor and birth. And to think of giving birth in one of the most unsanitary places, a barn, is unthought of today. On top of all that, imagine putting your child in an animal feeding trough! I don't like the fact my 10 month is playing with the cat food, let alone let her actually to lie in it. Jesus was definately not born in the most kosher of situations based on Jewish law. I am sure there were bugs, fecal matter, and smells that we think are horrid in this time and age and of that. I would imagine the possiblity of disease and birth mortality rate were higher then than now. It is a miracle that someone had survived such a birth in those conditions.

Today with our organic moms and disinfectant dads, imagining to actually be in that situation is out of our scope. Yet with our set ways, a cozy birth is very picturesque. Bringing life into this world is already something everyone deals with anticipation and know that change in inevitable. Sometimes we have to really be out of comfortable situation to see God at work. That is something to ponder this Christmas season.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas time again, lets keep it CHRISTmas

I knew it was Christmas time a couple of weeks ago when my daughter pulled out the ToysRUs Sunday insert and was pointing at all the things she wanted. It seems like it changes everyday what she wants "I want Barbie...I want a Belle doll....I want a Aquadoodle pad...I want that game" it seems like a never ending of "I want." I know somewhere in our society, the meaning of the season has been lost. It is now a list of "I wants" and not always "you need." If there is one thing I want my girls to learn from their parents is that giving is better than receiving.

Charaties this time of year are always working on making people's Christmases blessed events. At our church, there is the Christ Child Project, given less fortunate ones the opportuntity to shop for high-end toys and clothes at an 80% discount with donated items. The Heifer Project comes out every year with celebrity endorsements, asking for donations to help Third World communities with basic agricultural supplies like oxen and sheep. Another contribution our family does is sponsor a girl from a girls shelter in Honduras called "Our Little Roses." Every year I have my daughter pick out Christmas and Birthday gifts for our girl. We want our daughters to have a connection with our sponsored child, and have the opportunity one day to meet her.

I think giving not getting is the key to Christmas. I have here a favorite contempory Christmas song by Dave Matthews Band "The Christmas Song." I think this simple song says it all.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Motivate Me, PLEASE!!

I know I have set myself for something, which I know I can do, but at this point I don't know IF I can do it well. A couple of weeks ago, I signed up to participate in a 5K, the MADD Red Ribbon Run in Fairfax, VA on December 31. I wanted to set a goal for myself, that I would get my post-baby body into shape and try to beat my last time of 31:23. So far, the training for this event is lagging. When planning my home training for this, I wanted to make a goal to run/walk 3 times a week and weight train with "The Firm" system at least twice a week. So far this week I was only able to walk 2 miles and run 1mile. I did not do my Firm DVD at all this week. Now, I have no motivation.

It has been a dreary week this week, all this rain in the Northern Virginia area. So my wanting to go outside for a neighborhood run is off. My treadmill is in fair to poor condition. My tread belt still has its problems. As long as I don't go 7.0 mph on it, it would be okay but that is not ideal for training, especially since it is recommended to an occasional sprint in your runs. Popping in a DVD has not come about this week, somehow trying to do lundges and squats has not appealed to me. The only time of day I have allowed myself to train is in the AM hours. This means setting an alarm for 4:40 am and hopping to it. So far, I have only wanted to get out of bed at 5:30 am, eliminating 50 minutes of workout time. I guess I could schedule this during my lunch breaks or in the evening, but I have not allowed that because I view my lunch time as sacred in time to come home and tidy up the place. Evenings are out because I want to squeeze every minute out with my family, plus I am too exhausted to try to do the treadmill at 9 pm.

Basically, I feel like I need to go the long haul with someone on this. I need someone to help me get out of bed and do those morning jogs on the treadmill and do those tough weight workouts. Since I don't belong to a gym, I don't have network of support. My husband has bad knees, so running is not an option for him, plus we don't have enough room for 2 treadmills in our house to workout side by side. Other than looking for Divine Intervention, motivation is not there. I guess I need to work this out on my own and find my motivation. Any takers?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Recalls, Recalls, Recalls...what is a mother to do!!

Here we go again with the Made in China label. It seems like every time I turn on the TV nowadays, there is a Made in China product being recalled. Checking out our government sponsored website, , the latest recall lists Target distributed products from doll strollers, necklaces to children's tools and chair sets, having large amounts of lead violating our federal standards. Now, Target is my store of choice when it comes to purchasing toys for my children. Everything from my daughters board games to clothes, Target is my one stop shop, a God-send for busy mothers. However, given the quality of products coming out of the Target-only distribution, from toys to cribs, they are good for the value, but stamped with the Made in China label.

Now, I know that Target is not the only carrier of Chinese toy products; our whole marketplace is littered with Chinese made products. Toys R Us, Babies R Us, Costco and Wal-Mart - just to name a few - will all see discontented parents returning toys that their children have grown very fond of. Looking at everything that is going on with the recall issues, making choices of what to get and not to get is going to be very hard, now with the Christmas season at our heals. Today my 3 year old looked at the Sunday newspaper pull-out for Toys R Us and commenting "oh, I want Santa to bring me a Barbie doll!." How can I tell her that Santa is hesitant to give her that because his elves are using lead paint, and that it is a bad thing because your baby sister likes to grab things and put things in her mouth all the time and touching Barbie might get your sister sick. Hmmm. What to do...what to do...

Taking an inside look into this, I know our government is overwhelmed as is in putting all enforcements in place to prevent these problems. Working with the agencies as a Customs Broker, I have seen some of the problems that come out of our government at work. Customs is under staffed to fulfill their obligations to the public in securing our borders. FDA is understaffed to investigate all food and drug issues, imported and domestic. Looking abroad, trying to regulate issues with the Chinese government are going to be tough because we don't have permission to go in and inspect the conditions of the products coming to us. Essentially, all powers that be have tied hands to this issue.

Given all of this, parents can voice their opinion with purchasing power. With the power of the pocketbook, parents can change the behavoirs of businesses to concentrate efforts on better quality, healthier products, not just the bottom line of cheaper labor. I know that there are going to be some parents who want to buy USA made products for Christmas. It think it is going to be a tough sale to kids who have their hearts on that Barbie or model airplane for Christmas. But, with time, maybe that Barbie or model airplane would be more premium in the marketplace because the manufacturer took the time to see all the materials and labor were the best. Of course this would drive up prices, but it would be a good starting point help us all secure safety and priorities into our lives. Paying for quality, not just quanity of things. That is a thought going into Christmas this year :)

Friday, September 7, 2007

Picky eaters - time for the good stuff

This whole week, I have noticed more and more how my 3 year old is very picky with what she eats. Every meal that has been prepared for her, she would automatically say "Ew! That's yucky!" without having ever placed it in her mouth. She automatically judges based on the site and smell to see if it good. I know that I want to expand her palette beyond McDonald's chicken nuggets and chocolate milk. I have tried very hard to see that she gets good nutrition and a variety of choices.

Yesterday evening, I was trying out a recipe in a new crockpot recipe book, a chicken tortilla soup. I thought it has chicken (which she likes) tomato sauce (which she likes) tortillas (she could out do me on a bag of chips anyday) and cheese (yummy). Anything a kid would like, right? Wrong! She smelled it and curled her nose YUCKY! I told her she had to have at least 2 bites before she left the table. She had two tiny bites and opted for the small box of Trix instead. Okay, I know the Trix is wrong choice, but I felt like she had carrot sticks and a banana in her lunch box that she ate at school, so it is not all that bad of trying to feed my child well!

Again tonight, a "healthy" pizza from Pizza Hut (the thin crust Chicken Supreme is something the South Beach Diet even endorses) loaded with green peppers, chicken, onion and mushroom. And do you know, even with a food like pizza, and the tomato paste crust, the child turned her nose to it!

My 7 month old is starting to become picky..well I know she is only 7 months and she had only started to eat solids for a couple of months now, but even the foods she has tried and seem to like, she does not like anymore. Green beans puree was a delicacy for Ella. Now she frowns and cries when she has it. I think the only food she had consistantly liked is my breastmilk.

Have I set a bad example for my daughters in actually trying to get them to try new foods? I know that I have moods when it comes to food, I mean after a stressful day, I could eat a whole bag of chocolate chip cookies! Perhaps they are in moods, and want some sort of control and defining for themselves what they like and don't like. They still have alot of growing up in the taste buds and in the belly!

I know when I was young, I could not stand spinach, though my parents consistantly put it on my plate, whether I ate it or not. Now it is one of my favorite foods! Maybe my daughters will start eating healthy if I just gave it to them as an option, constantly. Maybe they will be picky enough to try those "yucky" foods and think of it as a great alternative. Maybe I should get rid of those chocolate chip cookies and start eating those same carrot sticks I put in my daughter's lunch box when I feel a stress spell. Maybe I need to "grow up" my palette too!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Life with a hyphenated name

My husband and I have been married for almost 11 years now. From the beginning of our relationship, before marriage was the option, I had always wanted to keep my name. After the proposal and the wedding day was nearing, I had an internal debate on what to do. I knew the traditional route was not for me because my name is my IDENTITY after all. It was either keep my name all together or hyphenate. So months of contemplating on what I could live with for the rest of my life, I chose the hyphenated option. If I had only known how uneduated some people were when it comes to hyphenated names, I might have chosen to keep my name period.

First of all, in the technical age that we have, in some programs that people use for driver's licenses or making arrangements with a travel agent, the hyphen is a foreign symbol. So instead of "Breeman-Rhodes on my drivers license it is "Breeman Rhodes" Using the hyphen in some programs just makes things go batty. When I was trying to get my name established with my job's network, my boss was hestitant to put my hypenated name on it because apparently a hyphenated name screwed up something once before. For the longest time, I was "Amy Rhodes" in the network, making me cringe everytime I saw it. Finally, with the help of the IT guy, I got straight; it took my full name and did not crash the computer!

Another thing about hyphenated names people don't understand is the filing you file it under B or R..anyone? file it under the BBBBBBBBBBB!!!!!!. Okay, that maybe a little too dramatic, but you file it under the first of the two names because you treat it as one word. I found this website with someone else having the same issue with a hyphenated name I can't tell you how many times I have had to educate pharmasists and doctors offices because they did not treat it as one word. Though things are getting better now and I don't have to lead the way all the time.

Another issue is your initials. I just don't think everyone realizes that when you hyphenate your name, you keep your initals too because you keep your middle name. My true initals are office still has me as ABR..YIKES!

One thing about hyphenated name, though my husband's last name is part of the package, I still view his last name as HIS, not mine. MY last name is different. I would think after 11 years of marriage, that the feeling would go away, but it does not. I am proud to have my name though some people might be confused by it. I have had some people compliment saying "That's a good name." I am glad people respect it :) My daughters share their father's name, which is fine with me. When it comes a time in their lives keep their names or give it away, it will be their decision. Maybe it will be easier for them than me in going against tradition.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Getting paid what you are worth?

I have been thinking of this issue for a while, and am just now putting in on paper. I know with past jobs, I sure did feel like I was underpaid. But looking at situations, I did end up "settling" with what I was willing to take. Regardless of my MBA and experience, I was willing to take something to live by. Looking over my whole experience in salary negotiations, I have shot myself in the foot on alot of occasions and regret it either by not negotiating, and negotiating on a higher level.

Now, I just got a new job. Not getting too much into the actual numbers, this one is making exactly the same salary I was making at my last job PLUS the chance to make commissions, something I never had the opportunity to do before. What I was making on my last job, I thought was good because I was still learning the ropes of importing and was waiting on my customs brokers license. With this job now, I never really been an "account manager" and did not know much about the industry that the company represents which is tradeshows. Looking back, I probably could have asked for about $5000 more, but I did not want to rock the boat. It was a job offer, and I took it after 6 months without a job.

Back in May I started to learn about the negotiating game. One company in particular offered me a job. It was close to an hour away from home, and they were asking $10,000 more than what I was making from by last job. But they were going to throw in an additional incentive for "compliance" with the possiblity of making another $10,000 additional. On paper the deal looks good, but it was an hour a way from home, means a new car, new car seats, price of gas. Well, thinking of all the extra costs involved, I went ahead and stepped up the negotiation to the max..I countered with the $20,000 more I was making. I did not care much about the incentive at that point, I just needed something to cover the extra costs especially since it was an hour away! And do you know what, those people are still probably looking at my counter offer because I never heard from them again. Truly in my heart of hearts, I KNOW I am worth that salary that I countered back with. I just think they were taken back with my persistance in getting it up more to a level I wanted.

Now, I am at a salary I think could be fluffed more. But, you know what, compared to other things I have been offered and work environments, this one seems best. Maybe I can earn that extra $5000 next year after my review. But we will see. Perhaps I can earn a ton on commissions and it be a moot point.

Women being underpaid is very common. I see articles reinforcing that fact. This one is a good one to read on that fact. I also saw another article that said if you want to earn more money these days, you have to work longer hours.

I will make what I am worth one day, but looking at all aspects of life, raising a family and their importance, I think that will be closer to my empty-nester years when the girls are away from the nest and I can concentrate on a long-houred career. It may raise risk of illness, but I would make it! Some type of motivation, huh?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Make the Monsters go away!!!

My 3 year old has a habit, annoying to her father and I but something quite common for her age, of coming into our room in the middle of the night because she is "scared of monsters." We have begun a ritual at night of checking her room and seeing that all the monsters have gone away. Needless to say, once the lights turn off, her fears come back and she insists to come sleep with us. I don't know when the last time my husband and I had a quiet night. Our 6 month old sleeps through the night so she is the least of our worries. But the older one, knowing that the world may not always be secure, thinks of monsters when she does not know what is there.

She has also done this with her bath. Wanting only a "teeny-tiny baths" because she has become scared of water. And the sound of the water going down the drain in the tub leads to a great leap out of the tub, and screams of "There are monsters in the tub!"

Being an adult, we can always explain "what goes bump in the night" We even as adults have fears and nightmares because we are in situations beyond our control. Debt, unemployment, addictions, homelessness can all be monsters in our life, and if we don't have control of them, they control us. I know that my husband and I have been through that nightmare. Now, with both us being employed and finally getting paychecks, we now can have control of what was uncontrollable. In a way it is blessing to have that control now, but sometimes we know those monsters may reappear. God may throw a monster in the closet to remind us that sometimes there are things that scare us and we cannot explain. This can lead us to Him, like our daughter coming to us in the night, looking for Mommy and Daddy to comfort us.

I know this is just a phase with my daughter, but I hope she never outgrows coming to us if she has fears, no matter what it is.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, back to work I go!

Wednesday this week was the first day of my first job since I had my second daughter nearly 6 months ago. The night before, I started feeling the pangs of anxiety of leaving my second born with a sitter and me not seeing her bright smile through out the whole day. Everything turned out great and all went well with me and with her. Of course, this separation from my first born was not as traumatic since she had ready been going to daycare. But with this new system of pumping breast milk twice a day a work helped me keep my bond with my daughter, almost giving me comfort that I was doing something for her while we were apart.

Work, on the other hand, is definitely a blessing from God. This is the first job I have had in a long, long time where I don't feel anxiety when I walk through the door. The people are genuinely happy, and never sour in attitudes or work ethic. The atmosphere is sooo relaxed. There is even the encouragement to wear flip-flops on days where the temp is over 90 degrees. Also, did I mention that this job is only minutes from my house! Granted, the daycare centers are not that close, but I don't have to drive 45 minutes one way to get to work, like I did with my last job. I also get the option to earn commission with this job, unlike some of my other occupations, so it gives me motivation to push a little harder.

I believe this is a first step in lots of roads I have crossed in the past few years where I feel like I am going somewhere in my career. In the past, I have working as a paper pusher, problem solver and deed doer with no reward. Now, other people are hired to do that kind of work while I just concentrate on working with customer service, find the niches, look for opportunities to grow. I will have to update this as this goes along. I might be off of cloud 9 by then --lets hope not.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Price of New, and the Cost of Old

Ok, has anyone bought a treadmill lately? Any idea of what a good one costs, or the price of the best one on the market? Well, it is not any decision to make. My husband and I bought a treadmill a couple of years ago. It was on the cheap side of the market, a Proform 400. From the beginning, it had its problems. It was loud, squeeking, and the belt was constantly shifting, moving to the right side of the tread, causing it to burn a grove into the the side of the floor console. Needless to say, after our every attempt to shift the belt everytime, the belt finally gave in and started to shread( This was after my husband was making an honest effort to work out).

In my attempts of trying to get back into shape and having a workout routine in place once I get back to work, I revisited that dusty treadmill and made a phone call to a local "treadmill doctor" to get an estimate. I guess that I had hope that a couple a hundred dollars would solve the problem. After rattling off the costs of the diagnostic, parts and labor, totaling near $500, the guy on the phone said "Your better off buying a new machine." He definately knows that these Proforms do'nt have a good reputation. To anyone out there in treadmill market land, I suggest you not to venture into that waters of Proform, unless you plan on getting a replacement within a year.

So, thinking about this $500 I am out, and thinking about what a gym membership would be, the $500 is actually a cheaper deal. I had joined on a trial basis with Bally Fitness. It has a 30 day deal for $19. What's the harm, right? I tried my first day on Tuesday at around 2:00. So I was there at non-peak hours. This Ballys has a pool (both upstairs and downstairs). Has alot of equipment --maybe 40 treadmills and 40 ellipticals available to everyone to use. It also has a good layout of weight machines on the upstairs. One downside to this place is the smell of chlorine throughout your workout. I talked to one of the trainers there to see the bottomline of joining. Basically, if you want just a no-frills membership you pay about $50 a month, the family together is an extra $20 (not bad) but the clincher is that there is an enrollment fee of $150 and the contract has to be 3 years...Okay. So, I can't guarantee that I will be here for 3 years. What if we have to move? What if we decide to move to a different part of town and it would not be convenient to got to this gym. This whole idea sucks. I don't want to be in a contract for that long with a gym. $2520 + 150 is a contractural agreement is what I would agree to pay. I might as well buy a $1500 new treadmill for my own home, with my 16%APR credit card, buy a 3 year warranty and hire a personal trainer to come to my home once every 6 months. That all totals about the same.

I am still out of my $500 bucks and out of a good deal. I guess health is not cheap.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Personality Test, Anyone?

I saw an ad on television around 11:30 last night telling about how important education (duh) and that you can go their website and do a personality test, and they will spit back what online courses would be best suited for you. Interesting concept, but worth a look at. Could not for the life of me remember the web site address this morning, but I decided to take a personality test for the heck of it..why not, right? So, I did. They came up with my results, and here they are on this site.

If anyone wants to take it for the heck of it, give it a try. The results may surprise you. It is based on the OCEAN personality test..Openness to Experience/Intellect, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. According to the results I am 24% Open - find that hard to believe. Thought I would be more in middle of the road. I am 79% conscientious - not a big surprise. I believe myself pretty reliable. 15% in extraversion - I have always been rather reserved. 87% agreeable. I seem to be a forgiving person by nature, so no big surprise there. And 32% neurotic. Not a very-high strung person by nature.

So, with exception of the Openness category, no new information of knowing who I am. But did I really gain anything by knowing this information. At least it reinforces what I know, and what I don't know about myself. I guess it would give insight on how I deal with others and how others view me. Do I even want to be this person? Do I want to be more open to experiences, do I want to be less reserved? Do I like me?

Being 35 and acting like a teen trying to find out who you are is like a regression. I am a very confident person in who I am. I could have raised these questions when I was 15 and not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. But, the personality test to find out the secret to what makes you happy does raise some questions. These people are really making money on this? Does my personality actually "fit" with a job, a career, a happier life? Okay, not to mock personality tests, but trying to find out who you are with the endless options this life offers, you might lose yourself. The decisions you make are the indicators to show who you are. Namaste.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Looking at Life from a Different Perspective

310 Cone Drive. That as my address when I lived in Selma. Recently, I took a peek at my former home through the birds eye, or should I say satillites' view of that address thanks to Google. Some of the streets and homes looked the same. Though I was not there to see it from the ground, I could tell things have not changed much. Edmund Pettis Bridge, the infamous bridge that brigaded the Civil Rights movement was still standing strong. The view of my old school, JT Morgan Academy still looked the same with the mowed lawns of the football field were I had witness many a football game on cool Fall Friday nights. Yes. Looking back I can see now how much I have moved forward. 310 Cone Drive housed my childhood, my world for nearly 20 years. In the past 15 years, I have changed. I had 5 different addresses in the past 15 years. Alot of moving and changing to find my place in this world.

Looking down on 310 Cone Drive, I had 20 years of living life within those walls. I remember laying down on that front lawn and would spend hours looking up at the sky, looking at the clouds and dreaming dreams of what I wanted my life to be. I dreamed of being married, having children, being someone with influence and affluence. I was naive, thinking idealistically.

Now, I have a different address, dreaming dreams again. I am married with children, but I have not yet made in the world that I wanted to accomplish starring up into those clouds on 310. Though some would say that my dreams have come true, I say that I am almost there!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Not Quite There, But It's a Start

Ok, after a day of trying the 10,000 challenge, I only got half way there. With this torturous weather, who can actually excercise. Needless to say, I did not make it much out of the house today. I got to 5089, thanks to Leslie Sansone's "Walk Away the Pounds - 1 mile power walk." Maybe I can get to 6000+ tomorrow.

Well, today was productive. I did get some objectives done. I took my oldest to preschool, I fed my 5 month old carrots for the first time, the airconditioner got fixed - finally. I attempted a Mavis Beacon typing test, doing all of those key drills for {}[] - I do that better when I am not qued to do it. Anyway, I can't get past 40 WPM. My goal is 65 WPM. Working on a laptop makes things akward for typing anyway.

Job hunting has become a part-time job for me. Today, I was looking at local and state government jobs and thinking about what I really would like to do in that arena. Ever since I had decided to make a career change to be a paralegal, my look on what I want from work has changed. I was working at the customer service end of things, now it has shift to just service. Perhaps my new focus will be my drive to find something good!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Are You Moving Forward 10,000 Steps a Day?

Well, my husband has a blog, I thought I should start one too. I have similar stories to tell but with my point of view. I figure I should start with this email from the American Heart Association (something true and dear to my heart).

I had heart surgery almost 3 years ago; I was diagnosied with an atrialventrical canal defect - try saying that 12 times fast. I was diagnoised with this condition when I was pregnant with my first daughter, who is now 3 1/2 years old. Technically, I could have delayed the surgery, the doctors stated my immediate condition was good, and health was fine. But as I would hit my 40s, I will start feeling more tired, lethargic and would eventually digress to an early death. Because I felt I had my life ahead of me, and a beautiful daughter to raise, I did not want any chances. My husband's insurance would cover costs of the surgery, my parents would help take care of my daughter during my delicate 6 week recovery. I went ahead and got it done. To say the least, I am glad I made that decision.

In April of last year, I ran my first 5K - a feat a would not had been able to do before because I had always felt out of breath. A month later, our second child was conceived. Our life was good.

Now, with my extended maturnity leave and lots of weight to lose from the birth of my second child, I need to make those same changes again. I know the nursing makes me want to eat more, and I does add some extra pounds. I feel like I need to make a change to walk more, be active more. For the sake of my kids and my health - my whole family. Does anyone want to tag along?

From: Go Red For Women
Subject: Are you moving forward 10,000 steps a day?
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