Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Too Close for Comfort

Funny how I read about stuff that happens to other people, but it doesn't seem really real until it happens to someone I know. Today the news headlines say that Robin Roberts, the news anchor, has breast cancer. Robin Roberts is my "I knew her when..." celebrity. We lived down the street from each other in Turkey and were in the same second grade class. We lived in the same housing area in Biloxi and were in the same fifth grade class. She was smarter than I was--or at least harder working. Our dads were both in the Air Force, both retired from Keesler and when her dad died a few years ago, my parents attended his funeral. In short, while I'm sure she probably wouldn't recognize me, though she did tell my parents at the funeral that she remembered me, she's a real person to me and not just a face on TV like most celebrities are. I've known other women who got breast cancer, but they were old. Robin was a classmate. Guess I need to be careful with those exams.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Book Review: Heroes of the Faith: Mother Theresa

I just finished a book about Mother Theresa that is part of a series of books called Heroes of the Faith. A sticker on it indicated that it came from the chain of Christian bookstores that is in our mall. The list of heroes includes some familiar names such as John Bunyan, George Washington Carver, Billy Graham, Martin Luther and John Wesley and some unfamiliar ones like Amy Carmichaell, George Muller, Watchman Nae and Mary Slessor. It is obviously not a Catholic series and the author of this book was obviously not Catholic, often referring to mass as "a religious service". That being said, for a kids' book it wasn't too bad. I learned a lot about Mother Teresa and there was no Catholic bashing. The language was somewhat stilted, which is often a problem when books are written for kids by less talented writers. In other words, this was no classic, but it was a quick easy read about a wonderful woman. If you want it, it is on my bookmooch list.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

This Year's Photos

Last Year's Photos

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

What a Difference a Year Makes

We just returned from Pigeon Forge TN, which for those of you unfamiliar with the area, is just down the road from Smokey Mountain National Park. Last year we stayed in Gatlinburg, which is between Pigeon Forge and the park. We did a lot of the same things, including hiking trails in the park which took us to waterfalls. Last year I was huffing and puffing up those hills; this year I had no problem, and was even able to tote the three year old up one trail. I even look different--I've lost 40 pounds and cut my hair. Note the before and after pictures:

Monday, July 16, 2007


My son has been in summer school the last three weeks, taking a class he failed during the school year. I realized quickly that it wasn't going to be any better this time around, and that I needed help, since of course this is the one class I'm not capable of staying a paragraph ahead of him and helping him learn it. Unfortunatly, it took me a week to find someone, but she's been working with him for a week now. I think he is doing better, but of course I don't have all his grades yet. Tonite they were studying for the final and he had a tantrum(some people use the term "meltdown" but I call a spade a spade, and even though he is 15, not two, it looked and sounded like a tantrum). He has been having them regularly lately, particularly when overwhelmed by school. Of course, that takes valuable time away from studying. He came home with a long study guide today and I told him I'd pay for each right answer. Unfortunately, there weren't very many of them.

I have a coworker dealing with kid problems too--problems with an adult kid. It struck me that the thing driving us both up the wall is our lack of control. When the kids were little we could physically control them if nothing else. You can make a toddler pick up even if it means taking her hand, putting it on the toy and leading her to the toy box. Try that with a teen and the result will not likely be good. It is so hard when you see kids making such a mess of things. You know exactly how to fix the problem, but there comes a point where the kid has to want to do it, and if he doesn't, then all your help is in vain. I don't think my son wants to fail, but I do think he has decided he can't pass, and isn't putting forth enough effort to pass.

I've decided that I'm going to control what I can--I found and paid the tutor, and will adopt a serene attitude about what I can't control--like how well he does on this test. At least I talk a good story.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


As my regular readers know, I've been a Weight Watcher's member since January, and I've done well on the program. However, the last few months have been rough. I was hoping to lose 40 lbs by my birthday, June 25, and then by July 4...but I finally reached that level today. I've lost just about every week, just not those 2+ pounds per week.

On the positive side, I started walking when I started the program, and around April, I started trying to run. The track by my house is 1/4 mile around, and in April, I could only jog about 1/4 of the way around it. Tonite I jogged 3/4 of a mile, after walking a mile to get there. I then walked 1/2 mile and followed that by running as fast as I could around the track, and I made it 1/2 way around it. I just hope I can keep the activity level up after school starts.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Playing PI

I'm a paralegal by profession and part of my job is discovering useful information regarding people who are suing our clients. Much of that information is available to anyone willing to spend a little money and/or time on the project. This post will give you some resources in case you ever want to play PI, whether for geneological research, to learn about the family of or your kids' (or your) newest beau, or to learn about the family that just moved in down the street.

You can start with a simple (and free) websearch on Yahoo, Google and/or other search engines. Obviously that is more effective when researching uncommon names than common ones, but if you can find someone's blog or message board posts, or email list posts, you may discover a side of them you didn't know existed. Also able to be searched for free are websites like 411.com which allows reverse phone number searches (enter the phone number, discover the owner). Many sites like this give you a little information at no cost, and then offer to sell you more. I've bitten a few times, and have been disappointed more often than happy. One site I would recommend if you want to spring for a few bucks is Knowx. Their price list is here and it is very reasonable. They let you know before you search if the area in which you are interested is available and I've found their information to be reasonably up to date.

If you don't want to spend money, there is plenty of information available on the web, but not covered by search engines. Is the person you are researching a licensed professional? Do a websearch for your state's board of _____, filling in the blank with the appropriate profession (though doctors are usually licensed by the board of medical examiners). Some of these sites even list disciplinary action and/or verified complaints against a person. A listing of physicians can be found on the AMA's website. Does your subject own a business? If so, it may be an LLC or corporation, in which case it will be listed with the Secretary of State in your state (or the state in which the business is incorporated). Do you have a library card? Check your library's website. They may have a subcription to a service such as Newsbank which archives newspapers. I can go to my library's website and search our local paper back to the early 1990's. I can see when my kids were on the honor roll and read a letter to the editor of the paper which I wrote.

Another treasure trove of information is the local courthouse. Sometimes recent information is availabe on-line without substantial cost; however, often there is a steep set-up or monthly subscription cost. You can get around this by going to the courhouse in person. Since our firm subscribes to the records of several of the loca courhouses, I can go on-line and find out whether a person has sued or been sued during the covered periods. If they have, I can get copies of what was filed (which often gives my a person's medical history, in the case of accident victims). I can see if they own property, what it was worth when they bought it, what the tax assessor says it is worth today, and how big a mortgage was taken out. If someone had a bitter divorce, there may be interesting dirt in that file too. While you may not be able to access this information on-line, you can go to your local courhouse and find these records. If you need records from a non-local courthouse, you can request them, but the research and copying fees may be steep.

Almost everyone is covered by the Social Security system and when they die, you can find when and where in the Social Security Death Index.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Kitchen Floor

I have a Nafco vinyl tile floor in my kitchen. It is about seven years old. I chose it because it looked a lot like ceramic tile (even has beveled edges to simulate grout lines) but it isn't as cold and hard as ceramic tile (nor as hard to get rid of when I get tired of it). The pattern is mostly grey, brown and white, with a little blue-green mixed in. Over the years I have used Mop-N-Glo to clean it and over the years the M&G has built up. It wasn't anything we really noticed at first but lately we've noticed how bad the floor looked and I'd even started thinking about replacing it--though I was disappointed it didn't last longer--while it cost less than ceramic tile, it was expensive for vinyl. Well, I don't know what came into my husband but he started to scrape one of the tiles, and found the real look under all that crud. We decided to try stripping the floor and so after a trip to the hardware store for stripped, that's what we spent most of Saturday doing. It took two bottles to finish the job, and while our kitchen isn't small, it isn't huge either. It was hard work, but after all that work, my floor looked new again (unless you count the gouges where the light fixture fell).

I dont' know why, but I started thinking about this in relation to the spiritual life. Stuff, even stuff that looks nice originally (like M&G) can gradually dull our soul until one day we realize just how bad it really looks. It doesn't have to be big stuff--it wasn't any one big spill that messed up my floor--enough of the little stuff left to build up can make a real mess. Luckily a good scrubbing (Sacrament of Reconciliation) can make us good as new. I know that's not a completely accurate analogy--minor sins are forgiven at mass so they don't build up like the gnk on the floor -- but I do find the sacrament helpful in focusing my efforts to get rid of certain sins -but like stripping the kitchen floor, I don't find it enjoyable.

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