Thursday, February 28, 2008


In 2006, I quit my "dream" job to move closer to extended family and to spend more time with my husband and daughter. My job was not my identity, but some of my identity was in my job. It was a more difficult transition than I anticipated.

When we moved, I did not have clear direction on what I would be doing. I knew I needed a sense of purpose in whatever I did. For almost two years, I struggled to find that sense of purpose. I wanted a plan; I like plans.

During this time, I often analyzed how every little thing might fit into a plan. What could it mean? Where might it lead? What should I do next? I began to realize my purpose could not be fulfilled through my plans. I had to change my perspective.

One of my favorite illustrations of perspective is from a scene in the comedy Analyze This, starring Billy Crystal. His character is a psychiatrist, Dr. Sobel. In the scene, three men in black suits enter Dr. Sobel's office or home. They identify themselves as Agents from the "Federal Bureau Of Investigation, OCD." Dr. Sobel asks, "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?" (From his point of view, the acronym represented a psychiatric condition.) The Agent replies, "Organized Crime Division."

Perspective can be defined as a particular evaluation of a situation or facts, especially from one person's point of view. Trying to assess my future from my view was the source of much of my struggle. I have found peace in seeking God's guidance each day. Instead of trying to plan where I am going, I trust God to take me there.

How about you? Can you identify an area in your life that could be positively impacted by changing your viewpoint? Did altering your perspective help your assessment of your circumstances? I would love to hear about it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Teddy Graham Crackers Peanut Butter Sandwich

This is the making of a "great sandwich" in the mind of a 4-year-old. Here are some excerpts from our exchanges about the "great sandwich."

Me - You have to eat this if you make it.
Pumpkin* - It will be so yummy.
Me - Why don't you leave off the saltines?
Pumpkin - Then, it won't be perfect.

She takes a bite and says, "MMM, mmm. Mommy you have to try it. "

Me - No, thank you.
Pumpkin - Remember, if you try it, you'll like it.
[I hate when my words come back to haunt me.]
Me - What if I don't want to try it?
Pumpkin - That means I really didn't do a good job.
[Wow, she's very persuasive.]
Me - Okay, I'm a little scared, but I'll try it.
Pumpkin touches my arm to comfort me - It's okay. I'm right here. It's delicious. Just try it.

I take a bite and don't gag. It is actually pretty good.

Pumpkin - Thank you for trying my sandwich. Let's do a dance. THE GREAT SANDWICH DANCE! Take your socks off. Sandwiches don't have socks. You have to have bare feet to do the great sandwich dance.

We did a little dancing, took a few more bites, did some more dancing. Then, I asked if she wanted some more of the great sandwich.

Pumpkin - It's not so great for me anymore. Yuk! Do you want to see the yucky sandwich dance?

Although the name was a little long, I thought the "Teddy Graham Crackers Peanut Butter Sandwich" might catch on. How many sandwiches have their own dance? Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

*Name has been changed to protect the innocent. :)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Safety Saturdays (#2) - Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online and Offline

Blog Safety Tips for Teens

Many teens enjoy communicating and expressing themselves through social networking sites and blogs. They may not realize how the information could reach an unattended audience. Communicating with people they have only met online and giving out identifying information may put them at risk.

Knowledge and communication are essential tools you can use to keep kids and teens safer online. Clearly define rules and guidelines for internet use with your children. If you allow them to use social networking sites and/or have blogs, let them know you will be monitoring this privilege. Here are some specific tips to discuss with your children:

  • Your child should never post identifying information, such as last name, address, school name, phone number, hang outs. It is important to avoid posting what could be used to locate her/him.
  • Make sure photos do not have identifying information on shirts or in the background, such as school name, car's license plate, name of a mall, school sport's team. Your child should avoid posting anything that could be used to locate her/him.
  • Your teen should be careful about information posted about her/his friends. Teach them to follow the first two tips for friends also and to make sure friends are not posting information that could put her/him at risk.
  • They also should not post specifics about plans and activities that could be used to located him/her.
  • Tell them to never respond to rude or harassing comments, to delete such comments, and block the "friend" if needed.
  • Check the privacy settings for the service they are using. It is best to set it so that your teen has to approve who is added as a friend and that only approved friend's can view profile. For these settings to be effective, your teen must only add people they know as friends.
  • Explain to your teen that people looking to harm them could use information posted in blog to gain their trust or to pretend they know her/him.
  • Talk to your teen about never posting inappropriate comments about other teens.
  • If your teen already has a blog, you may want to review it together and remove any information that could put them at risk.

For additional information on blog safety, be sure to check out "Blog Beware" from NetSmartz Workshop and Teen Guide To Safe Blogging at Taking precautions and keeping communications open between you and your child can help your child safely enjoy blogging and social networking sites.

In future "Safety Saturdays" posts, I will continue to address safety issues surrounding what teens post online. Several posts will include short video messages that can also be viewed by young people.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if there is a particular topic that you would like to see covered in a future post. (If you are not familiar with blogging, you can still leave a comment below. Just click the anonymous button and type your comment in the text box provided.)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Eeewww! Ignorance WAS Bliss!

When travel requires an overnight stay in a hotel, I prefer the room to have a coffee maker. It usually isn't great coffee, and I wish there was liquid creamer. But at least I can enjoy a cup of coffee while I get dressed. Not anymore!

Last night, my husband was channel surfing when he heard a teaser for a story on Inside Edition about hotel cleanliness. Due to similar exposés I have seen in the past, I refuse the sit on the comforter/bedspread, which is not washed frequently. Who knows what someone did on it? The first thing I do is to turn down the comforter/bedspread. At least the sheets and towels appear to be washed. I also will not walk around the room barefoot. Yes, I have some issues.

Inside Edition left dirty glasses and coffee mugs in rooms of several hotels, where you would expect the rooms to be clean. Then, they placed hidden cameras in the room. Apparently, for some of the hotel staff, cleaning the cups means rinsing them out in the bathroom sink, not bothering with soap, drying with a dirty bathroom towel, and not worrying about a little leftover lipstick stain. Yuk!

The hotels tolds Inside Edition that was against hotel policy. I would hope so! Glasses and cups were removed and cleaned properly in many of the rooms. I don't remember the exact percentage, but just thinking about the possibility of the cup not being washed ruins that cup of coffee. Maybe next time I travel, I'll bring a travel mug and liquid creamer packs to enjoy that cup of coffee sitting in a chair, wearing a HAZMAT protection suit.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Safety Saturdays - Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online and Offline #1

Kacie Woody Kacie Woody is the reason why I am so passionate about internet safety. At 13, Kacie was a 7th grade honor student, who loved to sing and write poetry. She lived in a small rural area in Faulkner County Arkansas with her father, a police officer, and one of her older brothers. (Kacie's mother died in an automobile accident when Kacie was 7.) Because they lived in a rural area, it was long distance for Kacie to call many of her friends, so they communicated through the internet. They also began frequenting chat rooms.

In a Christian chat room, Kacie met an 18-year-old teenage boy, Dave, from California. After talking frequently online and by phone for six months, Kacie considered him her friend. Kacie was trusting and naive - probably more like our children than unlike them.

Kacie's School LockerDave was not Kacie's friend. He was a 47-year-old man from the San Diego area. On December 3, 2002, he abducted Kacie from her home and murdered her. Her death had a tremendous impact not only on her friends, family and community, but also on the investigators who worked on the case. I was one of the investigators in the San Diego area. In December 2002, I taped a printed copy of the picture of Kacie, posted above, on my computer to remind me why I worked to stop internet predators.

Kacie's story* continues to have an impact. Her father, Rick Woody, started the Kacie Woody Foundation to help fight internet predators. On their website, Mr. Woody states, "Kacie truly was an angel. It is my goal to educate as many parents and children as I can about the dangers of internet predators so this does not happen to someone else's little angel." I share Mr. Woody's goal.

I have my own little angel now. I no longer work in law enforcement, but Kacie's picture is taped to my computer. Now, it inspires me to use my knowledge to teach parents and children about safety issues. One of the ways I plan to do this is through a weekly post on my blog "Safety Saturdays" that will contain tips for keeping kids safe online and offline. (The tips will start next Saturday.)

"Regarding angels, he (God) says, the messengers are winds, the servants are tongues of fire." (Hebrews 1:7 - The Message) Kacie is an angel. Her story ignites passion to bring about change. I hope you will share Kacie's story and the "Safety Saturdays" tips with others to make a difference in a child's life, while there is still time.

*On the Kacie Woody Foundation website, you can read "Caught in the Web," a series of articles, written by Cathy Frye of the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, detailing Kacie's story.

Safety Saturdays

Tips for Keeping Kids Safe Online and Offline
Links to All Posts

Introduction to Safety Saturdays - Kacie Woody's Story
Online Sexual Exploitation - The Exchange (includes short video)
Think Before You Post (includes short video)
Think Before You Post Photos (includes short video)
Cyberbullying (includes short video)
Cyberbullying (includes short video)
Tracking Teresa includes video detailing how someone can track you through a little information online
Take 25 - program to promote child safety discussions
National Missing Children's Day (includes short video about receiving Amber Alerts on your cellphone)
Safety Rules for Grades K-6 (includes video for kids)
Back-2-School Tips (includes video for kids)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Would you like fries with your boneless person?

Imagine you are a teenager taking orders at the drive through window of a fast food restaurant. You turn on the speaker to take someone's order, and you hear this:

Child, "What does boneless chicken wings mean?"

Woman, "Chicken that doesn't have any bones, like nuggets."

Child, "Do all people have bones? Because there was a boy on T.V. with no bones."

Woman, "Yes, all people have bones. I was talking about the chicken being boneless."

Child, "I wasn't talking about the chicken. There was a boy on T.V. with no bones."

Woman, "Okay, I don't think so. People are not boneless, but we need to decide what to order."

Child, now talking over her mother, insisting not all people have bones.

Woman, "We can talk about it in a minute. Do you want chicken or a biscuit? We need to order. People are waiting. Let's just get biscuits. (Towards the speaker to order) That will be two egg and cheese biscuits and a medium sweet tea."

Somehow, the young lady was able to hear the order in all this. I wonder if she actually heard everything we were saying. If so, was she really puzzled? She did not hear the conversation continue while we waited for our order.

Me, "I'm not sure what you are talking about on T.V., but I don't think people can live without bones."

My daughter, "Mommy, the boy on T.V. did not have any bones."

Me, "I'm not sure about that."

My daughter, "Mommy, I'm telling you. It's true; the man said the boy had no bones."

Me, "Okay." I could tell I was not going to win this argument. I guess it is okay that she thinks some people have no bones. I would love to know what she is talking about.

I did a google search for "boy has no bones." There was a story about a 12-year-old boy in Vietnam. He can twist his body in such a way that some people think he must be boneless. Could this be what she heard? Oh, to be in a child's mind.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Are You Limiting Yourself?

What's Really Holding You Back by Valerie Burton
I am reading What's REALLY Holding You Back? by Valerie Burton. Through the first several chapters, Valerie encourages readers to look behind the reasons for not taking action. For me, I found insecurities behind the excuses, masquerading as justification.

For over a year, I have talked about doing safety presentations for children and parents. I made contacts and gathered materials. I volunteered to do presentations for an established organization and through the youth ministry at my church. I was met with enthusiasm. Several dates were set for presentations. Yet, I have not made one presentation. Why?

Although the organization and youth ministry are genuinely interested in my presentations, there has been no follow through. After months of disappointment over no progress, I wondered, "Why isn't this coming together? I have such a passion for this. I know I am supposed to do this. How can bring it about, if other people do not follow through?" I was met with this question, "Why are you waiting on other people to make it happen, when you can do it yourself?" Why was I?

Behind the mask of delays from others, I found personal insecurity. Despite the fact that I know I have the qualifications and drive to accomplish this, I was afraid to take the chance to do it on my own. As Valerie's book suggested, I considered what could be the worst outcome and best outcome if I took action.

  • The worst = no one schedules a presentation, or no one shows up for the presentation.
  • The best = someone schedules a presentation, and the information helps at least one child to be safer.

I asked myself, "What will happen if you do nothing?" By inaction, I waste my knowledge and abilities, instead of using them to potentially impact a child's life and prevent harm. Doing nothing is not an option.

In the midst of the delays, I saw the setbacks as obstructions. Now, I see them as pathways from insecurities to sureness, delightful evidence of God using the experience to empower me to act to help others.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Lessons from My Child

My daughter, 4 years old, was intently watching me brush my teeth this morning. She said, "You're doing it Mommy, like I showed you." She smiled, patted me on my back and said, "Good job, I knew you could do it."

This was quite encouraging because the night before, when I was helping her brush her teeth, she told me, "You're doing it all wrong. Let me show you." Apparently, I was not using her particular technique. You would think after 30 some years of brushing, I would know how to do it.

I just love that she took pride in teaching me something and wanted to praise me when she saw that I could do it. If she only knew just how much I am learning from being her mom....

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit - you choose. Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)

While listening to the "Points of Power" on the Yolanda Adams Morning Show yesterday, the passage listed above really spoke to me. We often underestimate the power of our words. They can encourage growth or become a destructive force to others and to ourselves.

It is easier for me to nourish others with my words. I have to make more of conscious effort to avoid negative self talk. (There was a revealing discussion on this topic at Renee Swope's blog this week.) Yet, you cannot build others up if you are torn down by your own words.

Lysa TerKeurst presented delightful evidence of the impact of words in her post on Monday. It motivated me to continue to aspire to inspire others through my words. I want to share with others the journey of my spiritual growth.

As I am still in the development process, I question myself. Who am I to attempt to connect my words with God's words? I am no religious expert, more like a novice.

I refuse to let utterances of doubt, fear, or negativity poison my dreams. I choose nourish myself and others with fruitful expressions of faith from my heart. What will you choose?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Did God just turn off the TV?

I am not addicted to television; it is just a bad habit. Under the guise of a quick escape from reality, it became a time-consuming excuse to avoid more enlightening activities. If I could stay awake to watch TV at night, why couldn't I use that time to be more productive? That reality kept creeping into the escape. I felt a nudge to reprioritize.

In April 2007, I made a commitment to eliminate all programs containing violence from my television line-up (for at least the remainder of 2007). This drastically reduced my options on TV and significantly decreased the amount of time I spent watching TV - for awhile. Although it was challenging, I did find shows to watch that did not contain violence.

I thought the Hollywood writer's strike might contribute to cuting down time spent on the mindless programs. Apparently, I was having a hard time breaking this habit on my own. Then, our TV began to just turn off at random times. Sometimes it would stay on for 10 minutes, sometimes 45 minutes, sometimes hours.

At first, I could wait anywhere between 2 to 20 minutes, and it would work again. How could I become absorbed in a story when I could not predict where in the plot the TV would turn off or if I could turn it back on before the show was over? I thought, "Okay, I get the message. I need to be doing something other than turning on the TV each night to settle down, but ........"

A few weeks ago, I moved from the realization of the need to change my habit to the implementation of change. First, I needed a push in that direction. The TV turned off and no longer came back on.

The TV is less than two years old, but no longer under warranty. I had tried everything in the manual. It is not even the only TV in our house, so we are not about to buy another one, right now. What choice did I have but to concentrate on more meaningful activities?

For the past few weeks, I have been reading, journaling, and praying instead of watching TV before I go to bed. Much more productive and enjoyable! What was I escaping in the first place? God may not have turned off my TV, but he certainly spoke to me about how to better use my time.

Friday, February 1, 2008

She Speaks In Faith, Not Fear

"It is not enough to take steps which may someday lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise," Goethe. Since 8th grade (about 25 years now), I have dreamed of becoming a published author. Over the past few years, I have aspired to write a book. On the surface, this appears to be a lofty goal. Closer examination of my heart reveals writing a book is merely one step down the journey to replace fear with faith in my life.

Lately, God has been uncovering delightful evidence of chances to practice faith over fright through Lysa TerKeurst's blog. Right now, Lysa is offering the opportunity for someone to win a scholarship to Proverbs 31 Ministries’ She Speaks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, June 20-22, 2008. She Speaks is for speakers, writers and women’s ministry leaders.

I would love to go. When I first read about the scholarship contest, I was most excited about the prospect of overcoming the financial obstacle to my attending the conference. Today, my enthusiasm radiates from what entering the competition brought to light.

See, my initial excitement about the scholarship faded a little when I read you had to have a blog to enter the contest. After all, I just started reading blogs. When I started researching blogging this week, I discovered an overwhelming amount of information just on the basics of blogging. How could I create a worthy blog and entry in a few days? Scarey!

Anxiety gripped me. Despite my apprehension, I kept thinking about what God could lead me to do through my writing. This week became more about uncovering how God is working in my life to exchange faith for fear than about creating my first blog and entering a contest.

When Lysa recently gave her blog readers an opportunity to be published in the P31 Woman Magazine, I stepped out on faith, wrote an article for submission and posted a comment about it. Overcoming my worry of rejection ignited my passion for writing. Although entering was an accomplishment, fear kept me from creating a blog at the time.

Not this time! Each movement of faith inspires me to do more. I hope my writing will encourage others to find joy and contentment through God's purpose for their life. In doing so, I achieve another goal that is a step towards carrying out God's purpose for my life as well.