Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Word Filled Wednesday: Sheep

IMG_6036John 10:14 I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.

Do you ever wish someone was there to guide your path in life, help steer you in the direction that is best, someone steadfast, reliable, true?  If you are a Christian, then you do have someone, you have Jesus.  Many times, the Lord is referred to as a shepherd.  And what does a shepherd do? He guides his flock, and protects them.  Just as Jesus wants to do for you and me.

One of my online friends asked just the other day, how do you know what is just a thought, and what is a gentle nudge by God to point you in the right direction?  Discernment is key when trying to remain a loyal member of the flock.  As animals, sheep have a tendency to stay among the group, and rely on each other, as well as the shepherd.  As member's of God's flock, it is important that we also rely on each other, to help us determine what is the leadings of the Lord, and what is is our own will telling us to make a decisions.  We need to rely on each other for purposes of accountability, support, care, and love.  Jesus, like any good shepherd would, pulls his sheep together to accomplish this.  We find fellow sheep in our churches, families, peer groups, and even on social networking sites.  As animals, sheep are often distressed when separated from their flocks.  As a Christian, I feel the same way.  I rely on the other members of the flock to lift me up when need be, and I relish in being able to do the same for all of them.

So I urge you, the next time you feel a little lost, just call on the Good Shepherd to lead you back to your flock.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

It Made My Day: Care Package

Today, for the second time this month, I got a little care package from my mom.  Often she will send me healthy snacks that I might not be able to find at my local stores, and that is what she did earlier this month.  But imagine my surprise when I opened the door today to find another care package from Mom!

I could not wait to open it up!  But first, I had to make note of the adorable address labels Mom had!

Unable to wait any longer, I opened it up.....


ooooh this looks promising!


Happy Spring!


Oh my goodness I could barely wait to try this!  The packet also contained a book Mom had told me she was going to give me, with some helpful health info in it!  YAY!

I took some time to call Mom and thank her for the surprise.  Then after we chatted for a bit, I of course had to go try out my new bath stuff!  It smells heavenly!

Thanks again Mom, for the care package.  It totally made my day!

Small Town Elements: Country Roads

Not only do I currently live in a small town, but I was also born and raised in a small town in Ohio.  When I was a kid, before we had air conditioning, and before cable reached my township, one of our favorite ways to keep cool and enjoy some nice family entertainment was to go for a car ride.  We lived in a somewhat rural area, with sprawling county roads just waiting to lead you all through the hills.  I loved going for rides, and as an adult, I love it even more.

Since being bitten by the photography bug, I find myself going out more and more, exploring the roads of my county and neighboring counties.  And one never knows what one will find when venturing down a new road.  Yesterday, I ran errands, and stopped on my way home for gas.  I saw a sign for a nature sanctuary, which we had tried to check out once before by did not get out of the car.  It was clearly calling me.

After parking my car, I got out to investigate.  And by investigate, I mean hike in the freezing cold.  But.... it was totally worth it.

I did not stay long, half an hour at most, because, well, it was freezing cold, and so muddy that I slipped and got mud all over my jeans, but..... yeah, still worth it.


After this I wanted to head home, but, once again, I decided to venture down country roads, instead of taking the highway.  The greatest thing about driving on random country roads?  You never know what you might stumble upon.


You can see more pictures from yesterday's country road excursion here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bowl for the Kids 2011

Recently, I was asked to join the board of the Community Action Mentoring Program in Armstrong County. This is a wonderful program that provides several different types of mentoring for kids. I joined just in time to help with the annual fundraiser which took place this past Sunday.


The event was Bowl for the Kids, and it was a fundraiser where people get groups of bowlers together, and each bowler gets sponsored with donations. The teams then attend the event, and prizes are awarded to the top fundraisers. There were really amazing prizes, including a bike, Steelers preseason tickets, a zoo membership, and lots of fun themes baskets.

We got an awesome donation of pizzas from Vocelli,

and other people donated lots of cookies,

as well as the use of a popcorn machine (and the time of the man to run it!)

A lovely folk duo came and played.

And everyone had a wonderful time!


I had such a blast watching all the people bowl, socialize, enjoy their prizes, and be so joyful about helping support such a wonderful cause.

I am really proud to be a part of such a great organization.  Thanks to everyone who volunteered time, donated money, supplies, and prizes, and helped make the event such a success! 
You can see my full photo set here.

Tiffany's Soapbox: Let little girls be little girls

Sexualizing children is nothing new. But it never ceases to be highly troublesome to me.  Back when Britney Spears first started sexing things up, I found it uncomfortable that little girls were emulating her overt sexuality.  What ever happened to little girls looking like little girls, and not tramps in training? The same effect can be seen with the millions of Mylie fans.  I get that these "music artists" (I use the term lightly) are trying to break out of their little girl molds, and be taken seriously, but when you pander to the pre-pubescent market for years, then suddenly go all spongebob slut pants, little girls are still going to be looking up to you, following your lead.  The result is a bunch of girls, too young to even be considered tweens, who start to think their body is the only way to catch a person's attention.

I remember a while ago, when a youtube video surfaced of a dance troup of 7 year old girls gyrating to All The Single Ladies.  There was public outcry that the dancing was too sexual, but many are defending it, saying that is just how dance competitions are.  Should dance competitions be encouracing little girls to grind their hips, while wearing fishnet stockings and barely more than a bikini? The world is full of very sick and twisted people, and I think it is frighteningly easy for these little girls to get exploited.  That video is a prime example.  To locate it, I googled "controversial little girls dance".  There it was, first listing, but there were others of girls dancing, as well as videos of so many people saying, it was just taken out of context.  I say, change the context.

The list goes on and on for me.  Little girls painted up in beauty pageants.  Revealing Halloween costumes for little girls.  Sexy clothes for pint sized fashionistas.  It scares me.

The latest thing to spark controversy is the fact that Abercrombie and Fitch is now pitching padded and push up bikini's for the 7 year old set.  Is it any wonder girls have so many body issues?  Is it any wonder eating disorders, cutting, and teen pregnancies are starting younger and younger?

While in all these cases, the girls may not be doing anything wrong, you have to, as a parent, be concerned with how others will perceive the girls. These are children, helpless to defend themselves from potential pedophiles.

Why be in such a hurry for your little girl to grow up? The world can be a scary place, why not keep her innocent for as long as you can?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Change of Heart

I am not sure where I first heard about the A Change of Heart program, but I know it was just before Valentine's Day.  February was American Heart Month, with a focus on improving overall heart health.  I somehow found the A Change of Heart program, which was created at the University of Kansas Hospital.  The program was created by women, to focus specifically on women's heart health,

Some of it, like the Heart Health Assessment, is aimed specifically at women in the Kansas City area, where the hospital is located, though I am sure your family doctor or a local doctor could do the same thing no matter where you live (depending on your insurance of course).

The program also lists a lot of great resources regarding heart health.  And the coolest thing, the thing that I requested and got in the mail today, was a heart health advocacy kit.
What a cute, colorful package this is!

The kit includes tips and heart healthy recipes, a pedometer to track your steps, and the coolest thing of all... cards to give out to raise awareness.
Goal: 10,000 steps a day.

The kit includes 4 advocacy awareness cards, and I think I will use them in the near future for a Secret Agent L kindness mission.


But the cool thing about my blog is, this entry can serve as a "virtual advocacy card" in a way.  Since you can see all the info, and I included a link to the program and the advocacy kit request page, you all can take advantage of this opportunity to strengthen you heart health and help raise awareness.

So, I urge you all, join me in this commitment to a healthy heart.  We all have people who love us with all of their hearts, lets make ourselves healthy so we can love with our whole hearts for a lot longer!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sweet and Sour Tiffany: Casey Heynes

Sweet Sour  By now, most everyone has heard of Casey Heynes, the Australian teenager who was videotaped standing up to a bully.  If you have not watched the video yet, I strongly recommend you do so here before reading on. Casey is the larger child being punched before fighting back. Many people the world over are calling him a hero, a champion of the bullied and downtrodden kids everywhere.  But something about this whole situation just does not sit well with me.  So let's examine it, Sweet and Sour Tiffany style, and talk about what is right, wrong, and questionable.

The Sweet
Who among us has never been teased, left out, tripped, called names, bullied, or abused by others at some point in our lives?  I would venture to say none of us.  And children are the most susceptible.  I would imagine every bullied child fantasizes about standing up to his or her attackers, fighting back, fighting for respect.  Casey did just that, and it would seem that this would give hope to many other bullied children.

While schools have a "zero tolerance" policy on many things, often including bullying, it is very difficult to actually squash bullying.  If a kid reports to a teacher that he or she is being bullied, there is often an investigation.  Since bullying is hard to prove, many times the bully gets off scott free, only to torture the child in question for going to a teacher or adult in the first place.  So, often the situation seems helpless.  Casey's reaction validates that bullying needs to be addressed in a new way from school administrators.  His actions are reportedly the culmination of several years' worth of anger from being bullied. The school failed to address the situation, and failed to provide a safe environment.

Bullying happens to all kids, and this situation helped raise a little more awareness.  Recently, Dan Savage began the It Gets Better Project, which I think is awesome, to help encourage gay, lesbian, and transgendered youth that life gets better, and is worth living for, in response to the huge upswing of suicides among gay teens.  I love the project, but what about all the other kids?  The fat kids, the poor kids, the freckled kids, the special needs kids.  ALL KIDS GET BULLIED.  Casey says he contemplated suicide.  This has to stop.

We are a culture of free speech at any expense.  I am exhibiting it now, actually.  And there is a huge rise in snarky humor websites that pretty much poke fun of, and in a sense bully, all kinds of people.  Based on the crafts you make, what you wear to Walmart, what you post on Facebook.  Everything.  And the vitriol on these sites is overwhelming. If bullies are merely insecure, then there are a lot of insecure, miserable people out there.  And the internet allows you to bully in new, anonymous ways.  Clearly bullying is a problem that needs to be addressed. Casey did so in the only way that made sense to him.

The Sour
While Casey acted on impulse, something many of us would also probably do, there are real consequences to such behavior.  He got suspended from school, as did the bully.  While people are outraged at this, I think it pretty fair.  The child could have been really harmed, I am amazed his ankle was not broken. Kids have to learn there are consequences for all behaviors.  What if that child had hit his head and died? Would we still be hailing Casey? The action would have been precipitated in the same way, so would we still be cheering him on?

I find Casey's interviews quite disturbing.  He seems so removed, so disconnected, as does his father. I think that both boys need to get some counseling, because there is clearly a lot of pain, anger, and sadness in both of them.  Casey could be a great role model, if this is handled correctly.  Or, if handled incorrectly, he could end up an angry defiant man.

The internet has hailed this kid as an icon.  But what he is, really, is a vigilante. And people tend to love vigilantes. Just pick up a comic book to see how much vigilante justice is ingrained in our culture.  But when played out in real life, things get bloody awfully fast. Perhaps I am a starry eyed optimist, or simply just an eternal rule follower, but I see vigilante justice as a stop along the way to anarchy and chaos.  Rules are put in place for a reason.

In some ways, I admire Casey, for defending himself, and I really do "get it" why so many people support him.  The bottom line is bullying is awful, and needs to be addressed.  Schools and parents need to get more involved and find a better solution.  Otherwise, more kids are going to commit suicide, and more kids are going to try to be Casey, with fatal results.  How many children need to die before we address the real issue here?

So that being said, if the Sweet and Sour didn't completely fill you up, move along to the fortune cookie.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Found: One Rainbow

Tonight Hubby and I went for a walk with the doggies. On our walk I found this picture lying on the ground. Perhaps someone thought I could use a rainbow for encouragement. What a great end to a great day.

Jumpin Jamba!

I will admit it, I am a energy drink addict. But I hate how much sugar they have, and many have an unpleasant aftertaste. So, I am always a little hesitant to try a new brand. But take it from me, no one should hesitate to try Jamba Juice.

I had an opportunity to try the Strawberry Banana flavored Jamba Juice Energy Drink.

The first thing I noticed was that this seemed healthier than many other energy drinks. At only 90 calories, this fit in well with my current weight loss plan, and was a nice addition to my afternoon snack. There are 20 grams of sugar in the drink, which is lower than other energy drinks, but with other energy drinks, I usually opt for sugar free.

Now, I am sure you are thinking, ok, but how did it taste... well, as I opened the can, I was not sure what to expect. It says serve chilled, so since I only refrigerated it for a couple of hours, I poured it into a glass with some ice.

 I immediately noticed the delicious smell, and that it was not clear, but instead opaque. I hesitantly took a sip and realized that this was delicious. No "chemical" taste, no artificial essences to it. It tasted crisp, and was bursting with flavor.

I savored each drop of the juice. In terms of an "energy drink" I felt about the same as I did with other drinks, caffeine does not always affect me too much. People sensitive to caffeine might feel the pep a lot more, and this might not be the right drink for them. Also, the drink is not intended to pregnant women (probably not anyone nursing either) or children.


My only caution is do not confuse this with juice; it is so tasty that you might easily drink too much of it, and ingest a large amount of caffeine. Before buying, definitely take a look at the sugar, calories, and caffeine per serving to make sure this is the right choice for you.

As for me, I would love to try some of the other flavors out there, and see if they are as delicious as this one!

I received a sample of this product for review courtesy of the Amazon Vine program. All opinions are 100% honest and original.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


it's all about being in the right place

at exactly the perfect


Word Filled Wednesday: Love as Christ Loved

Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

I am a very lucky woman.  I have a wonderful husband.  I know, I know, I talk about this all the time, but I just can not help it.

I would have thought that by now, the "honeymoon" period would have worn off.  Everyone said what hard work it is to be married, so I would have thought by now, it would seem a little like work.  But it has not, it has never seemed like anything but an immense blessing.  Sure, there have been unpleasant things to deal with, there always are.  But  never have the unpleasant situations been created by one of us lashing out at the other, hurting the other.  Never is there anything but love between us.  Sure, we might annoy each other because we snore and wake wake each other up (both of us), or I might be disappointed that Hubby's work schedule prevents us from doing things we would like to do sometimes, and goodness knows my choice of television is not always what Hubby would prefer (Glee anyone?), but that never gets in the way of our love for each other.

The thing with Hubby is, he loved me before he ever even dated me.  Before he ever had a romantic feeling for me, he loved me as a person.  All throughout our friendship and courtship, I would tell him my amazement for the depth of his caring.  I had never experienced that from anyone other than my family.  He would get angry when people hurt me, and would demand better for me when I was mistreated, simply because he loved and respected me as a person.  Once real romantic love entered the picture, that loving, protective nature grew exponentially.

I have often thought of what a wonderful example of Christian love my husband has been.  Starting with helping me when I was a relative stranger, his love and care grew into friendship, and then romance.  But he would have, and for several years did, love and care for me with no expectation of romantic reciprocity.  He loved me because it was his nature, not because he expected anything.  Do you know how rare that is?  If ever I feel I need to see Jesus at work in my life, I need only to look at my husband.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Thankful for.... disappointments.

I am the kind of person who really gets her heart set on things.  I get my hopes up, and when things do not work out perfectly as planned, I get a little, well, grumpy.  Such was the case on Saturday mornings.  Hubby and I had the day all planned.  We were dropping his car of to get inspected, and while we were waiting, we were going to  head to a used book store to trade books in for credit.  Seemed like a great plan.

When we arrived at the garage for the inspection, they were not yet open.  Our appointment was for 10 am, and right around that time, the mechanic showed up, looking puzzled.  It seemed that the office manager never told him about the appointment, and he was actually just there to pick something up, not to open the garage.  He was on his way somewhere with his daughter, so there was no way he could do the inspection, which is due by the end of the month.  Since Hubby does not get home until late, this was pretty much our only option.  The guy did offer to stay late on Monday to do it, as a way to make up for it.  But still, we were disappointed, as this would now change our routine for Monday.

So, we still went to the used book store.  I had a ton of books to trade.  All brand new, many were hardback.  And all relatively newer releases.  I had at least 25 books in the box, and hoped to get about $30 dollars in store credit.  I was sad to learn, once the store owner evaluated the books, that my store credit would be less than $12 dollars.  I decided to still take it, as I needed to get rid of the books, but I was not pleased at all.

Not surprisingly, after this, Hubby and I were a bit, well, grumpy.  Nothing was going our way.  I talked him into us just going to a ride, looking for photo opportunities.  I do this a lot, and it was fun for him to come along.  And I certainly did get some great pictures.

Check out this 88 Oldsmobile, my guess is from the 60's.

Symbolic of the death of quality television perhaps?

Miniature waterfall, on some random back road.

So, we were a little perked up a little.  And then, as we were driving, we saw a historical site that we decided to stop at, for more photo ops, and lo and behold, we stumbled upon a geocache!  I was so stinking excited!


Geocaching is a hobby we both enjoy, and had just been saying that the weather was improving enough for us to go soon.  This is the second time we have found a geocache when we were not actually looking for one.  Finding this one really energized us to get back into geocaching.  We usually do one each time we take a trip anywhere, so on some upcoming trips I am sure we will be hunting for some.

It is funny, but finding that geocache really turned our day around.  We were laughing and having fun.  We had a great lunch, and later we did some work in the yard, including putting out some bird feeders.  So, I am convinced that had we not had such a disappointing morning, we would not have appreciated the afternoon nearly so much.

As the giant moon rose last night, I once again remembered to be thankful for all my blessings, even the disappointments.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The 3/50 Project

This whole blog was created to help celebrate my life in a small town.  I blather on and on, to anyone who will listen, about how wonderful I think Kittanning is, and how I want to give back to my community.  Through the Secret Agent L project, I have done several random acts of kindness missions aimed at showing love to my community.  And now, I have found yet another way to spread some local love, and encourage everyone, everywhere, to do the same thing.

I am not sure how I first learned about The 3/50 Project, but once I learned about it, I know I wanted to promote it here.  The 3/50 Project is designed to help support local independent businesses.

So, where does the 3/50 come from?  Well first off, think of 3 local independent businesses that you simply adore, could not live without, and would hate to see leave your community.  But do not just "think" about them, go visit them.  Purchase items, do some business, support the business to help insure they succeed.

Next consider this.  If half the population spent $50 each month (which would be so easy to do) in locally owned independent businesses, the result would generate over 42 billion dollars of revenue.  Let that number sink in for just a minute.  42 billion.  Think of the jobs that could be created.  Think of the impact that could have on the community and the business owners.  Think of all the possibilities.

So let's say you spend $100 dollars shopping today.  How you spend it can have tremendous impact.  Let's say you spend it shopping at a local business.  Of that $100, $68 which is almost seventy percent, of the money will return to the community through taxes, payroll, and other expenditures.  Now, let's say you spend the money shopping at a big box national retailer; only $48 dollars will go back to the community.  Now, let's say you spend the money shopping online; NOTHING comes back to the community.

While sometimes shopping at national retailers and online sites is unavoidable, think of all the times you pop into a huge, overly lit superstore, or click a few mouse clicks, to make purchases that could easily have been gotten at the mom and pop store down the street, or you local bookstore.  The great thing about The 3/50 Project is you don't have to boycott national chains or online stores.  The idea is to balance your shopping so that you increase local expenditures, but you never have to stop shopping anywhere you like.

The economy is first and foremost in everyone's minds these days.  Unemployment is soaring, and times are clearly difficult.  But this is a way that you can help have a real impact.  Please, I urge you, visit the 3/50 website, and start contributing to this wonderful movement.  And please, if you are an independent business owner, register with the site, and help spread the word.  I especially aim this at Armstrong County business owners, because as of right now, NO businesses in Kittanning, and only 1 in Ford City are listed as registered supporters of this wonderful cause.

So, to show you I have my money where my mouth is, I am now going to highlight 3 of the many independent businesses we support in Kittinnaning.

First of, Dizzy Lizzie's.  Nothing is quite as delicious as local eateries, and this is one of the best around.  Dizzy Lizzie's has the best breakfast, hands down, in town.  The waitresses are always friendly, and often, the owner can be found walking through the dining room, or near the front door wishing everyone a good day.  Small town at its finest.

The Market on Reynolds.  Our presence at this store will increase greatly over the coming months, because it will soon be ice cream season!  Hubby and I love this little store.  It has a couple of aisles of groceries, a small deli area, and some of the most awesome ice cream ever.  In addition to hand scooped ice cream, they have a soft serve machine that swirls colorful and flavorful stripes on your ice cream.  No joke.

In8 Massage.  I just discovered this place last fall, and I fell in love.  Wonderful staff and affordable massage prices make this place a must for some pampering and personal care.  Hubby even got me a massage gift certificate for Christmas.

As I said, these are only a few of the local businesses we frequent.  We are all about supporting our community!  So consider this my official pledge to spend at least $50 a month at local independent businesses.

Are you ready to take The 3/50 Project pledge as well?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Do you remember... going steady?

Photo Credit

We all know I am a huge fan of the Cosby Show, and I have been watching it on Netflix lately.  I am now on Season 2, and yesterday, I watched an episode where Robert asked Vanessa if she wanted to go steady.  I was instantly thrust back into junior high school.  Do you remember going steady?  I remember the first boy I went steady with.  It was 7th grade, and he broke up with me because I would not kiss him.  I would not kiss him because he had braces, and I did not want to cut my mouth.  Ah, young love.

Photo Credit

In high school, going steady took one whole new meanings thanks to class rings.  As a freshman, I dated a junior, and since you got your class ring your sophomore year, he gladly gave me his ring to wear.  For 2 years, I diligently wrapped that huge honking ring in colored thread that matched the stone (and also our school colors).  In one of the pictures in my yearbook, you can see me with this ridiculously large ring on my hand.  I was so cool.  I dated 2 boys in high school, each for 2 years, so I never needed (or wanted) my own class ring, I always just wore theirs.

Eventually, we did not call it going steady anymore, and sadly, I think the term has gone out of fashion.  Now it is just "going out" "talking" or maybe "dating".  I remember the butterflies I felt the last time I realized I was someone's steady girl.
Even several years later, he still give me butterflies.