Monday, December 31, 2012

10 Ways to Ensure You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

1.       Make the right kind of resolutions. You have to make sure your goals are valid meetable goals. Try to follow the 5 categories of attainable goals: Your goals should…

a.       Be Specific – Don’t just say “I will be happy,” or “I will be a better person.”  Such broad and generic goals will never be met because you have no definite target at which to aim. Instead think about what kinds of things will truly make you happy. What changes in your life do you need to make to be “happy.” Or in what specific ways could you be a better person? What actions would the person you want to be do? What would they not do? Once you have your specific goals in mind, go on to the next step.
b.      Be Measureable – If one of your goals is that you will stop being so negative, how will you ever know if you’ve met that goal? If you make one negative remark, does that mean you failed? What about if your goal is to lose weight. Have you succeeded if you lose 1 pound in two months? If you really want to take your resolutions seriously, you need to be able to know if you’ve kept them or not. So, you need to write up your goals in such a way that at the end of each day, you can say either “yes, I met that goal today,” or “no, I didn’t. I’ll have to try again tomorrow.”
c.       Be Realistic – Don’t set resolutions that you know you can never keep. For example, don’t resolve to lose 10 pounds every week. I don’t know of any diet that can accomplish that, and if you find one, I can almost guarantee that it will be very bad for you, and it won’t last. Instead, think of the big picture and break it down into manageable chunks.
d.      Be Challenging – On the opposite side of this, don’t make resolutions that require absolutely no effort to accomplish. For example, don’t resolve to wake up 1 minute earlier every day. Yes, it’s good to break goals into manageable chunks, but you’ll never get anywhere if you make the chunks too small.
e.      Have a Completion Date – This one is important. You need a date that you can reach and ask yourself “Did I meet my goal?” Make this date specific. For example, by December 31, 2013, I’ll have… But don’t use the end of the year as your only completion date. As we talked about before, break the year into manageable chunks. You should have a final goal for the end of the year. A smaller goal for each month, a smaller one yet for each week and a little goal for each day. That way, you continue working on your goals day by day. Otherwise, if you’re like me, you may forget about them.

2.       Make a schedule. It’s best to do this in writing. Plan out your day and write in time for your resolution each day. Plan when you will exercise, or look for new recipes, or talk to someone whom you’ve always had difficulty staying positive around. (It’s good to practice.) It’s also good to have a back-up time planned in case something comes up. And if your goal is to stop doing something, think about the time that you usually do it, and schedule in something different at that time every day.

3.       Find a partner. It’s always easier to do something if you have someone else doing it with you. Find someone with the same resolution and work together. If you have a weak moment, call them for encouragement. Help each other to succeed.   

4.       Beat Temptation. Think of the most common excuses you’ve used in the past that have caused you to break your resolution. Find ways to overcome these when they come up again because they will. Also, you need to recognize temptation when you meet it. Many times we feel that craving and just give in to it without thinking. You need to pause, step back for a moment and recognize temptation for what it is. Name it. And then consider the battle you’re in. Only then can you make a conscious decision to lose the battle and give in to temptation or to fight and win.

5.       Study your resolution. Research your specific goal and find out how others have reached it. Just make sure you don’t fall for the instant-result gimmicks that are always out there. If your resolution was so easy to keep, everyone would have already done it by now. Be smart and be prepared to work.

6.       Find motivational pictures that will help you. If your goal is to lose weight, find a picture of someone who is the weight you want to be. It might also help to find a picture of someone who is larger than you are currently. That way, you could see what you could become if you give up. If your goal is to stop smoking, put up pictures of items that you could buy with all of the money you spend on cigarettes. Put these pictures in places where you are most likely to see them when you are tempted to give up.

7.       Don’t forget. One of the biggest reasons that I break my New Year’s resolutions is simply that I forget about them. Life gets in the way, and I put them off for a day, then another, until I don’t even think about them anymore. Put reminders up everywhere, and continually look at them.

8.       Keep them new. Find ways to change up your routine so that you don’t get bored with it. Also, be realistic about how you’re doing as the days progress. If you just can’t seem to make yourself exercise for an hour every day, then change it up to two exercise periods of 30 minutes each or 4 times for 15 minutes each. If you still have a hard time not gossiping about your boss to your colleagues or friends, try to start a PRIVATE journal where you can still say everything you want to say on paper. See if that makes it easier to keep your mouth closed. The important thing is that you don’t give up if something doesn’t work. Stay determined! Keep changing your routine until you find something that works. Also, change the location of your reminders. Change your motivational pictures, etc. Don’t get so used to things that they don’t have any impact anymore.

9.       Make yourself accountable. Now, this only works if your accountable to someone you would actually care to tell that you failed. If your accountability partner is someone that you are very close to, you might not care if they know you broke your resolution. After all, they probably already know that you messed up many times in your life. We all have. Instead, make yourself accountable to someone, or to many someones, to whom you would not want to admit that you failed. (Maybe blog about your progress or share it with your Facebook friends.)

10.   BE SERIOUS! You have to really want it! If you don’t, then nothing you can do will make you keep your resolutions. It all comes down to one thing. Which do you want more, to keep your resolution or to eat that piece of chocolate, or say that mean thing, or plop down on the couch, or smoke that cigarette, etc. You have to be at a point where you really want to change.

If you follow these guidelines, I mean really seriously follow them, then you can conquer temptation and fulfill your resolutions! You can do it! Don’t give up! Good luck. :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Day After the Winter Solstice

Today is one of my favorite days of the year, the day after the Winter Solstice. Even though I’m a night person, I thrive in sunlight, and these short days and early nights can really get me down. But today, is the day of change! Today, it all starts getting better! From now on (at least until the Summer Solstice), we can sit back and watch as the days stretch little by little. So this winter, look at the clock when the sun sets every day. Or glance at the sky at 4:30 p.m. as the days pass and watch as it stays brighter and brighter.  

Don’t let the cold weather get you down. Instead, enjoy the shortening of the nighttime and the lengthening of the lighttime. Feel the excitement!

“Yule, is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half.   Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day.  Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, much celebration was to be had…Bonfires were lit in the fields, and crops and trees were "wassailed" with toasts of spiced cider."
-   Yule Lore 

As John Donne says, the winter solstice “tis the year's midnight.” Now we can watch for the dawn.

Monday, December 17, 2012

REALITY Blog Award

I'd like to give special thanks to TSWALKING for nominating me for the REALITY Blog Award. Her blog is a wonderful source of inspiration and wisdom.
This is my first award, and since I'm pretty new at blogging, I'm especially thankful to all of those who read my blog and support my work. Thanks everyone!
Below are the answers to the questions we’re supposed to answer, and following are some blogs I recommend you check out. Hope you enjoy!
If you could change something what would you change?
I’d change the physical and mental atmosphere on the poorer Indian reservations. The Native Americans have always had a special place in my heart, and the way some of them have to live today is absolutely inexcusable. Obviously, we can't go back and undo the past, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work on a better future. 
If you could relive one day when would it be?
I would relive that day so many years ago when I gave my heart to Christ.
What dream haven’t you completed yet, and do you think you will be able to complete it?
My dream is to see my books in print on a bookstore shelf. I currently have a contract with a publisher to publish one of them. It should be out in April 2013. 
If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?
I would be Bill Gates, and I would spend all day writing checks to organizations that make a difference by helping the many needy people in this world.
What’s one thing that really scares you?
Dying without having made an impact or a difference in anyone’s life. I don’t want to leave this world thinking that my life here didn’t do any good.
My Nominees and Suggested Bloggers are:
A Song of Salvation (
Shekinah Today (
From the Brainpan (
This Whole “Mom” Thing (
The rules of the award are:
1  Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2  Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3  Answer the same 5  questions presented.
4  Nominate 5-10 blogs for the award and notify them on their blogs.
5  Copy and paste the award on your blog somewhere.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Reset Your Life!

With Christmas and New Year’s Day fast approaching, now is the perfect time to reset your life! Get rid of all the stressful, messy clutter, both mental and physical and begin the year with a clean, fresh, orderly existence.

Just like with computers, sometimes we have so much stuff in our lives that mere existence becomes slow and sluggish. When that happens, we need to reset everything. Get rid of the extra unused apps and restore ourselves to factory settings.

I began this process myself about a week ago, and I can already tell a great difference in every area of my life. It’s much easier now to decide what to prepare for dinner, to make out a grocery list, to choose what to wear, and to just find what I’m looking for without having to tear the house apart. I've even managed to discover great Christmas presents for family and friends without having to spend a penny. And on top of that, I've made extra money to use for other Christmas presents by selling some of my things that, quite frankly, haven’t seen the light of day in years. (Christmas time is definitely the best time to employ this system.) But best of all is the incredible feeling of freedom and relief that came from removing the unnecessary mess that other people didn't notice, but that I knew was there.

Naturally, there are varying degrees of involvement in a plan like this, so I’m going to list the steps I took, and you can decide which of them will work best for you. If you can, you may even want to get everyone else out of the house for a day and just tackle it all at once. If you can’t do that, try one area a day. If you can’t do that, take 5 minutes out of every 30 for a day. If you can’t do that, remove one thing from every area every time you enter that space. See, no excuses. Just remember: stay strong, keep your goal in mind, and don’t be wishy-washy! You CAN do this!

Step 1
Disposal of Items – Decide on the methods of disposal you will wish to employ. For me, I divided mine into: donate to family/friends, donate to resale stores/charities, sell on eBay (you need a backup plan for items that don’t sell. Otherwise, you run the risk of them ending back up in your closets), sell at consignment shops, put in keepsake box. (For me, this keepsake box is a cedar chest. I’ve allowed myself to keep as many memories as I can fit in that chest. Once the chest is full, I have to take something out before I can add anything new.)

Step 2
Clothes – (This was a two-step process for me.)
1.       Go through and pull out everything that you haven’t worn in a while or that you don’t like. Remember, you’re trying to lighten your load, so be brutal! Be decisive! Keep your goal in mind!
2.       After you do that, turn all of your clothes hanger hooks the opposite way. (If this is done correctly, you’ll have to remove the hanger from the bar towards the back instead of the front.) When you wear something and rehang it (after washing, of course), hang it back the right way. Now, next year, when you do this again, you can get rid of anything that is on a backwards hanging hanger because you’ll know that you haven’t worn it in a year. (I did this with my shoes as well. I turned the toes to face the wall, and when I wear them, I turn the toes out.)

Step 3
Jewelry – Don’t forget these items. You can go through them the same way you did your clothes, and if you have room, hang or place all of them you want to keep in a separate location, so that you can move the ones you use and know, next year, which ones you can get eliminate from your space. If you have nice jewelry that you don’t wear, but you don’t want to get rid of because they’re nice, either give them away as Christmas presents or take them to a jewelry store that does consignment. Or, if you’re an EBayer, sell them that way.

Step 4
Toys – repeat the previous steps. If after you get rid of all of the toys that your children don’t play with, you still have too many for the space, try putting half of them in a plastic container and storing them in an attic or basement. In six months, bring those back out and store the other half. Your kids will enjoy seeing their old toys again. They’ll almost seem new.

Step 5
Food – This one was very enlightening. I never realized just how long I've been holding on to some food items that “last forever.” I discovered the truth one day when I opened a pouch of cheese to make shells and cheese for supper. It didn't take much to realize that the cheese packet had expired. One look at the greasy, gooey mess told me all I needed to know. That led to an examination of my pantry. I went through and began throwing away expired boxes and cans left and right. From there, I tackled the condiment shelf in my refrigerator. (Apparently ketchup isn't immortal either.) From the refrigerator, I progressed to the spice cabinet. About an hour and two full trash bags later, I paused to lament over the amount of food I’d wasted by “having something else to eat instead” so often.

Step 6
Recipes – Surely, I’m not the only one who has a drawer, box, cabinet, or bookshelf full of cookbooks and/or recipes that I can’t get rid of because “I might want to try them someday.” I decided to tackle those as well. After all, I don’t think I've gotten more than 5 new recipes in as many years. (Not counting the Pinterest ones on my computer, of course.) That means that all of the ones I currently possess have been sitting there for longer than that. If I haven’t prepared them by now, most likely, I wouldn't  Soooo, the unused ones had to go. (If you aren't sure about some that you really do want to try someday, consider putting them on your computer, so they don’t take up room in the house. This also works when you have a few recipes you like in a cookbook. Put them on the computer and get rid of the big cookbook.) I must admit that I was a little surprised at just how old some of my recipes were. I've copied my favorite below. (It must have been from my old high school home ec. days.)

2 pieces of white bread
2 tsp. of table fat

Toast bread on both sides. Spread table fat evenly on both sides. Serves 2.

Yummm!!! Table fat. ;)

Finally, Step 7
The Junk Drawer – Admit it; you have one. Don’t we all? That drawer in the kitchen where you throw everything that doesn't have a specific place of its own: twisty ties, stray tacks, pencils, the odd bendy straw, “to do” notepads,  clothes pins for potato chip bags, and bunches and bunches of random stray papers with everything from phone numbers to reminder notes jotted down on them. Clean it out! Put the important phone numbers, notes, etc. in your smart phone or on your computer, get an organizing tray to put in the drawer and separate the twisty ties, pencils, etc. that you actually use. Throw everything else away.

Some other areas you might want to tackle: desk and paperwork, cookware and dinnerware, bathroom make-up drawer/spa-like indulgences,

When you finish, and this is very important to the process, get a glass of your favorite drink, hot chocolate is good this time of year, and sip on it slowly as you walk through your house admiring the clean and organized new space.  Don’t worry if you feel an upwelling of satisfaction surge through you. This is normal, as is the huge grin that will appear on your face. Just enjoy the sensation. You deserve it!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Who Am I? Who Are You?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about culture and what exactly it means. As a generic who-knows-how-many-generations American, my culture isn't quite as defined and obvious as that of many first or second generation Americans’. For example, what is it precisely that makes culture cultural?

Is it how others see you? As a southerner, I certainly hope not. We usually get a bad rap in the media.

What about traditional clothing. Is that what makes a culture? Maybe in some cases, but I don’t think that really applies to us. The only traditional clothing that’s easily recognizable as “southern” isn't something that we wear at celebrations or formal events as it is with Native American cultures or cultures from other countries.

We can’t really even say that our language is part of our culture since it’s spoken in so many other countries that have distinct cultures of their own.

So what is it that defines those of us that live here in the south? What is our culture? I've put together a little list. Even though we may not all do all of these every day. They are, I believe, what describe “the south.” What do you think?

A southerner has…
1.  A love of sweet tea, friend chicken, watermelon, goober shakes and biscuits and gravy
2. Colorful local colloquial expressions such as: fixin’ to, bless your heart, over yonder, be back directly, y'all (you all – plural, not singular), etc.
3. No fear of dirt or hard work
4. A true appreciation of pickup trucks and football
5. True hospitality and an understanding of when it’s appropriate to say “yes, sir, yes, ma’am, and sweetie”
6. A good time sittin’ on the front porch chattin' with friends (on a porch swing or in a rocking chair of course)
7. A good imagination when it comes to fixin’ things (gotta love that duct tape)
8. At one time eaten a moon pie with an R.C. cola
9. A love of country music
10. An understanding of firearms
11. A rule not to leave the house without “looking how you would want to look if you were to meet the man of your dreams”
12.  And last but not least a deep love of God and country

All of these make up our culture. It’s a part of who we are, and even though it may not be as noticeable as some other cultures, it’s enough for me. So, who are you?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Top 10 Things for Southerners to be Thankful for

10.  Duct tape: It can fix anything!

9. Sturdy paper plates and cups: They hold lots of food, and with them you dont have to do as many dishes.

8.  Country Music: The voice of the heartland

7.  A deep fryer: The only way to cook a fried turkey

6.  Football: The heartbeat of the south

5.  Sweet Ice Tea: Yummy! (Need I say more?)

4.  School plays: A chance for everyone to get their 15 minutes

3.  Turkey: Again, Yummy!

2.  The men and women who give up their Thanksgivings to protect ours

1.  A loving God who gives us all things

Friday, November 9, 2012

Outsider Perspectives on American Indian Dances

As some of you know, I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) at the university. One great thing about this job is that I get to learn about the many different cultures of the international students in my classes. It’s really opened my eyes to the rest of the world and how they think. That can be both incredibly interesting and disturbing at the same time. :)

Another wonderful thing about this job is that I get to share our American culture with people from many different countries. Sometimes our cultural differences aren’t too different, but at other times, I can see the incredulity and wonder on their faces when we talk about some of the things that Americans think or do.

This year, I have the opportunity to teach the American Culture through Cinema class. (I had to fight Mrs. Blackburn for it.) Since I believe that in order to really understand people, you need to know about where they come from (culturally, mentally, emotionally, etc.), we began by looking back at, among other issues, the history of our country and the First Peoples. Days later, we ended this portion of the class by watching the movie Smoke Signals (great movie, by the way). Curious as to what my students thought, I wanted to get their perspective on Native American culture. One of the ways that I did this was to give them a homework assignment that required them to go to YouTube and watch Native dancing at a powwow. They then had to write a short paragraph about their impressions.

With their permission, I’ve copied a few of the paragraphs below. (One note: all of my students in this class are from China.)

At the beginning, I feel the music is so loud and strange. But I still can accept it. People who sing try to press their throat in order to make a variegate voice. The language they sing is so different, and it makes me think about a wild forest life. When they sing together, I can feel it’s powerful and strength, and a little mysterious.

Tonight I saw a video about “Powwow” on youtube. It is “Gathering of Nations Powwow.” I think the powwow in India (I’m sure this was a typo. They know we are talking about American Indians. J ) is just like hmong people celebrate themselve’s festival in China…They dress up and wearing jewelry, ear-rings and some prepared, particular feather. And they just walk in a circle, dance, play drum. In China when I traveled to Southwest where they have hmong people, they performan to me. I think it’s a little similar. But not same. Actually, I like the lifestyle they lived. They treat Powwows as a big day and well prepared to coming.

The music has strong sense of rhythm, but I can’t understand what they are talking about. I think they focus on the beats. The costume is different. I think they like to use feathers to adorn themselves. There are small bells fastened on their ankles. So when they are dancing, it sounds ring ring. I think it is interesting. In addition, I think they will have a sore throat if they sing a long time as that.

Yeah, what an amazed feeling! I never seen this before though the powwow is very like some natural minority dance in China. I think it is used to describe a meeting like military because they carry… weapons. Yet, I really like the colorfulness. What’s more, the drum beats make the greatest sense with the Indians dance with it. It really amuses me.

So, the next time that you go to a powwow and watch the dancers, listen for the “ring, ring” of the bells and revel in the feeling of power, strength, and mystery.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Delivering Books to the Rez

I’m a little late in posting this, but better late than never, right? I want to thank everyone who donated books to the library at Windswept Academy on the Cheyenne River Reservation. I received another box today. Don’t worry. All donations I receive after my return from Eagle Butte will be either mailed or taken when I go back next summer.

My trip up there this past summer was rather uneventful until I got the brilliant idea to drive straight through the night. Being a night person, I wasn't really very sleepy when I had originally planned to stop at around 10:00. And since I hadn't reserved a hotel ahead of time like I usually do, I didn't have any need to stop. So, I thought, why not drive for an hour more. I had a book on tape that I was listening to, and since it was so interesting, I didn't feel sleepy. (Thank you Cracker Barrel for making books on tape available for bored travelers.) 

Around 11:00, I still felt fine, so, on I went. Just for an hour longer. At midnight, I was beginning to lose that wide awake energetic mood, but I still felt fine, so why not keep going? At this point, it almost seemed wasteful to stop and pay money for a hotel room. And if I did get a hotel, knowing myself, I would undoubtedly sleep late the next morning and thereby lose a lot of time that I could spend driving. Also, think about how much time I could make up if I kept going. I was sure I could do it. After all, I had just stayed awake for 40 straight hours when I came back to the U.S. from China. So, keep going I did.

I wasn't worried about any trouble that I might come across by being on the road so late at night. I have a relatively new car, and since I was on the interstate, I didn't have to worry about gas stations. Indeed, not only did I find well-lit gas stations everywhere, but I was also surprised at how many other people stopped at them at that time. It felt nice to know that I wasn't the only one crazy enough to be out and around so early in the morning.

1:00 a.m. came and went and then 2:00 a.m. The monotony of the road started to become more noticeable. Around 4:00 a.m. and a few Mt. Dews later, I started to get that tingly feeling that comes from a combination of tiredness and caffeine. My book on tape had ended, so I began looking for songs that I could sing to, loudly, to help me stay awake. It was then that I really began feeling the late hour. Of course, I couldn't stop at a hotel at 4:00 a.m. That would certainly be a waste, so even though, I was starting to become very tired, I had to keep going.

Around this time, the world started to become a little surreal. I never lost my focus on the road. I made sure of that, but at one point when I made a pit stop, for a moment, I had the feeling that I was in a dream. Do you know the feeling? That sensation that you get in a dream when you think you’re awake. Well, I had the same sensation, but since I was awake, it felt like I was in a dream. For a moment, I wondered. But, I reasoned, if it were a dream, if I were sleeping, then I was asleep at the wheel. Since I wasn't having a car wreck, I must be awake. So, on I went.

I counted it an incredible blessing when the sun started to rise. The darkness had begun to weigh heavily on me, especially around 5:00 a.m. It got a little easier when the sun came up. Not easy, mind you, but easier. More Mt. Dews, and the additional pit stops necessitated by them, helped some.

It was after lunch when I realized that I’d finally reached my limit. I pulled over at a rest stop and took a 30 minute nap. More refreshed than I expected to be, I continued my journey and made it to Anne and Ilhami’s later that evening early enough to spend some nice time catching up with them. While I’m glad for the experience of driving through the night, I don’t plan on doing it again, and I certainly wouldn't recommend it to anyone else. If you do try it, the key is to know your limit, and when you reach it, do as I did, and stop to rest.

The next day, I got to see the new school building. It looks great! And I got a chance to meet the new faculty and staff. All of the teachers and workers seemed really gung ho to get the school year started. Based on the last count I heard, they have 41 students now. I’m really excited about the opportunities these kid’s will have at Windswept this year. With this group working with them, wonderful things can’t help but happen.

I only had one full day to stay and help because I had to get back in time to begin classes at UNA. I didn't have time to do as much as I would like, but I was able to unload and somewhat organize the book donations that I had brought with me and those that others had brought earlier. Hopefully, if someone else doesn't beat me to it, I’ll have a chance to organize them even better when I return next year.

The school looks great, but it still needs some work, and with the additional students this year, they will be needing additional donations to cover the extra cost. If you would like to learn more about the school or help out, you can look them up on Facebook under Windswept Academy, or you can check out their website at

Sunday, October 21, 2012

An Experiment You Can Do at Home: A Balloon-Powered Craft

An Excerpt from The Lost Laboratory of Professor Xandiver
Once all of the boxes had been loaded in the raft, and everyone had seated themselves securely beside them, one of the sailors stepped in the front and started adjusting some strange-looking valves on the platform.
“What‘s that?” asked Jake.
Anicia looked over at him. “Oh, those control the pressure inside the balloon.”
“The balloon?” asked Jake.
“Well, it’s not really a balloon,” corrected Ms. B. “It’s bigger and thicker, but the concept is the same. Professor Xandiver invented it.”
            “Who’s Professor Xandiver?” asked Molly.
Jake glared at his sister then looked up at the balloon-like contraption hanging over them. “More importantly, just what does this balloon do?”
“It runs the raft,” Anicia answered in her usual formal tone. “Do you see the bar to which it is attached?” 
Molly looked up. She hadn’t noticed the huge balloon connected to a bar floating over the raft. How did I miss that?, she thought.
“The raft is also attached to that bar. A cable runs through the middle and extends from here to the manor entrance along the stream. The driver adjusts a valve, releasing the air pressure from the balloon, and we shoot out at a great speed over the stream.”
“Wow, just how fast are we talking about here?” Jake asked.
Anicia smiled slyly. “You will see.”

An Experiment You Can Do at Home

The Balloon-Powered Craft
If you would like to make your own miniature version of the balloon-powered craft that Lord Ravenworth uses to bring goods and passengers through the caves from his ship to his manor, just follow the directions below.
Easy version:
Items needed
   Two small cotton threads (one shorter one to tie to the boat and one longer one to run the length of your tub or pool.)
   One straw (Bendy straws do not work as well as regular straight straws.)
   One balloon
   One small toy boat
   One large tub or pool
   Tape

1.  Run both of the threads through the straw.
2. Tie or tape both ends of the shorter thread to both ends of the boat to attach it to the straw. (Make sure the thread is connected to the center of each end, so the boat will float straight.)
3. Set up a mini clothesline by tying or taping both ends of the longer thread to a wall or other solid support on both ends of the tub or pool. Adjust the height so that the boat just rests on the water. Make sure the thread connecting the boat is not slack and the thread tied to the wall or supports is pulled taut.
4. Next, blow up the balloon and hold the end closed without tying it.
5. While you are still holding the balloon closed, tape it to the top of the straw.
6. Once the balloon is securely attached to the straw, let the balloon go. It will fly quickly from one end of the thread to the other.

Advanced version:
1. Follow the directions above except replace the thread holding the boat to the straw with something more solid and steady such as small light pieces of cardboard or wood. You want the boat to be firmly attached to the straw, so it is stable and moves smoothly and unwaveringly through the water.
2. Replace the thread that you use as a line with something thicker and steadier such as a leather string or small wooden or metal bar. Just make sure that it is small enough to enable the straw to slide smoothly over it.
3. Measure carefully to ensure that the boat just sits on the water before attaching the line to both ends of the pool. If it sits too low in the water, it won’t run as well.
4.  Instead of holding the balloon closed, go ahead and tie it. When you are ready to set the boat in motion, get a straight pin and poke a small hole in the boat. It needs to be big enough to let enough air escape to move the boat, but small enough to make the air last longer, so that the boat can travel farther.

Now, you are ready. Put your own miniature passengers in the boat and watch their ride.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy “National Grouch Day”

verb (used without object)
1.    to be sulky or morose; show discontent; complain, especially in an irritable way.

Don’t we all have those days when pasting a smile on our face just seems like way too much trouble. Well, for one day you don’t have to struggle to keep that happy expression in place. Today is National Grouch Day. A day when we can all let out our inner grouch. Enjoy it while you can and grouch away. Just don't go overboard. Remember tomorrow, you may have to eat your words.

“A grouch escapes so many little annoyances that it almost pays to be one.”
Kin Hubbard

A grouch by any other name snarls as grumpily.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Stop and Admire the Leaves

It seems like every year I get so wrapped up in my life and the things that I need to get done, that I miss the beautiful changing leaves that God paints the landscape with every autumn. Too often, I only stop to notice when the crunching caused by my footsteps on a thick layer of the colorful foliage becomes too loud to ignore. It is then that I look up and see the trees wagging their bare branches at me in the wind like a teacher shaking her finger at an inattentive student. Well, not this year! This year, I’m prepared! This year, I’m going to notice! It may be too late to stop and smell the roses, but it’s not too late to stop and admire the leaves.

Amber Glow

Red and yellow painted leaves
hang idly within the trees
They break and sail along the breeze
As fires of Autumn's time

They dance and surf upon the ground
Overlap each other with ruffling sound
A setting I am glad I found
As fires of Autumn's time
The grey clouds break, the sun appears
The dancing leaves appear to sere
These flames its kept for many years
As fires of Autumn's time

Wesley Mincin

Saturday, September 22, 2012

On the Rez: The Story of Ayden

“Do NOT accept this child into your school.” “He’s nothing but trouble.” “You will REALLY regret it if you do.” Statements like these were what Anne heard when she looked over Ayden’s application to Windswept Academy. He had been dismissed from pre-school because of his behavior, but Windswept wouldn’t refuse him, couldn’t refuse him. After all, the whole reason Anne had started the school was to bring hope to the Native American children on the reservation. How could she claim that as her mission and then refuse to let one of them in. So, she accepted him. And sure enough, it didn’t take long for him to live up to his reputation.

The input he had been receiving all his life had him convinced that he was stupid. He thought that he couldn't accomplish anything, so why even try. Depression and boredom had revealed themselves the way they so often do: Ayden acted out.

Trouble seemed to sprout up wherever he went. After one day when he was particularly active (throwing things across the classroom), he was sent to Anne’s office. He knew she cared, and she wanted the best for him, and after a heartfelt talk, he left with a desire to do better. And he did. The change wasn’t total and immediate, of course, but he did start trying harder.

When his father returned home from being overseas with the military, that added to his motivation to work harder. In addition to that, Ayden accepted Christ as his savior last year. All of this combined to push him forward. When he finally really buckled down in school, it became clear that he could do the work in his classes. In fact, he could do the work very well: so much so that on the last standardized test, he scored in the top 90-99% in the country.

If he had gone to another school, most likely he would have gotten lost in the crowd and ended up being labeled as a trouble maker. He may have even ended up in special ed. for being disruptive. Chances are he would have dropped out of school as soon as he got old enough to realize that was an option like so many other children on the reservation do. But now he has hope.

Because of the faith that the people at Windswept Academy had and his new-found motivation to succeed, Ayden has discovered that he’s not stupid after all. Instead, he is very intelligent. I believe we can expect great things from him, and I look forward to watching him grow and turn into the great man I believe he can be.

For more pictures from the school, look Windswept Academy up on Facebook.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

My New Book: A Blurb

Now that I’ve signed a contract with Bluewater Publications to publish my first manuscript, I’ve had to think long and hard about finalizing some points associated with it. One of which was my penname. After much deliberation, I’ve decided that it would be better if I publish under my real name instead. As a result, I’ve had to change the title of my blog.

I hope you will continue to read and enjoy.

Below is a short blurb about the first book in the Guardian series: The Lost Laboratory of Professor Xandiver.

For many generations, dangerous secrets have lain hidden in a cavern laboratory deep below the surface of a small island in the Pacific Ocean. Despite many efforts to find and claim the incredible powers within, none, so far, had succeeded, and the story of the lost laboratory faded into legend. Until now. A dark enemy has arrived on the island, and he has heard of the wonderful power waiting to be found through the professor’s scientific creations. A power so great and unfathomable that it surpasses the magical. 

It’s up to Jake, his sister Molly and their new friends to hold back the evil that threatens to rise. To do so, they have to find the laboratory before their enemy and his minions do. With the help of the professor’s ancient journal, the group begins their quest. They must solve numerous puzzles, overcome countless obstacles, and survive perilous traps set by both the professor and their new enemy.

Even after getting stuck helplessly hanging by their ankles from the branches of a large tree, finding themselves locked in an underwater cave, and almost freezing to death inside a volcano, they don’t give up their search for the laboratory. Little do they know that their greatest and most dangerous challenge will come after they find it. It’s then that they must make a terrible decision: turn their backs on the world and let evil win, or risk losing everything they know and love, everything they are, by using the powers in the cavern themselves.  

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Hope on the Rez: A Day in the Life...

What’s an average day like in your household? If you are a mother, I would imagine that it goes something like this:

The alarm rings at early o’ clock, and you get up, take a quick shower and dress. Next, you have to wake the children, prepare breakfast, and pack lunches. Then it’s off to drop the kids at school. After a long day at school, there’s softball/soccer/ballet/whatever practice. Then you have to help the kids with their homework. You reach back into your mind in an attempt to find the complex math formulas that you forgot years ago then, when you come up empty, you search through the book frantically trying to understand, so you can then explain it to the expectant young face peering up at you. After the homework is done, a healthy dinner has to be fixed, then the kitchen cleaned up, and if you’re lucky, you’ll have a little time to relax before you go to bed.

Now, let’s look at this from your child’s perspective. Your children most likely have parents who are there to take care of them. If they don’t have extracurricular activities, they probably at least have other entertaining things, such as video and/or computer games, etc., with which to occupy their time. And even if it’s difficult for their parents, I’ll bet they at least try to help the kids with their homework whether it’s by explaining things to them themselves or by hiring a tutor. The kids probably also have a mom or dad who has at one point in time talked to them about what they want to be when they grow up. They ask them about their hopes and dreams, and if they are like the typical American, they probably tell them that they can be anything they choose to be.

But what if your situation were different? What if you didn’t grow up with the past that you remember? What if you grew up on a reservation, on the Cheyenne River reservation? What would the daily life of your children look like then? Well, if you were one of 78% of the people on the reservation, you would be living at or below the poverty level. That means that in the winter, you would most likely run out of money to pay your heating bill. In the summer, you may not have much air conditioning. You may not have dependable hot running water with which to bathe and wash your clothes. If you were creative, like one family I know of, you might put a space heater underneath your trailer to try to heat your water. However, if you did so, you would most likely encounter the same results that they did and have everything you owned go up in flames.

Instead of each child having their own bedroom, your children would probably sleep together in the same room on the same mattress on the floor because you don’t have money for even one bedframe. They could wake each morning crowded together clutching at their blankets for warmth. If life for them were like that of many of the families on the reservation, their mom could still be sleeping off the alcohol or drug induced stupor that she was in the night before. Their dad may not be anywhere around. They may not even know who their dad was.

They might have to get themselves and their little brothers and sisters ready for school while stepping carefully over soft places in the floor that were caused by water damage. Hopefully, they would get breakfast at school because there might not be anything at home.

Once they arrived at school, their problems could continue. There, they could face peer pressure to take drugs or drink alcohol. Some children as young as 10 years old try alcohol on the reservations. They could also have to contend with gangs.

Those who are determined stay in school and attempt to complete their education; however, 50% will drop out, and they begin dropping out as early as 12 years old. Why should they stay? School is difficult, and if their parents get drunk or high, they won’t offer much assistance or motivation to continue. It doesn’t really matter anyway. If they stay on the reservation, like most of them do, it will be very difficult to get a job whether they graduate or not.

Once school is completed for the day, instead of having a parent come pick them up and take them to some extracurricular activity, many children on the reservation are on their own. Even some elementary-aged kids can be seen walking around town by themselves. And there is very little in the way of fun activities to occupy their time. If they are really studious, they will attempt to do their homework, but their parents may not be available or able to help them if they are around, and they may not be around since alcohol-related deaths on the reservation are 17 times the national average. If they’re lucky, the kids may have a grandmother that can help, but with the life expectancy on the reservation at 45 years old, that possibility gets slimmer as the children grow older.

Hopefully, they had a big lunch at school because many of them won’t have any food at home for dinner. What money does come in, can be spent on drugs or alcohol. And since the unemployment rate on the reservation is 87.5%, not much money is coming in.

If that’s all that happens to them on any given day, they are among the small number of lucky ones. Unfortunately, a very large percentage of children on the reservation are abused every day both violently and sexually. What hope can children have if they are raised like that? Do they think about their future and what they want to be when they grow up? Most of them are busy thinking about how they are going to make it through the day. And when it all gets to be too much, they can take the way out that so many others have taken. Suicide.

What if this were your life and these your children? But for the Grace of God, there go I. Would you want the rest of the world to ignore you? Would you want everyone to pretend that you and your problems didn’t exist?

There is hope! On my first visit to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in 2009, I met an incredible lady who had spent much time there trying to find some lasting way to help the people. She had tried diabetes cooking classes, Vacation Bible Schools, etc., but nothing seemed to have a lasting effect. That’s when God gave her the idea to start a Christian school, and she and her husband moved there and founded Windswept Academy.

Obviously, they can’t solve all of the problems on the reservation immediately, but they are making a huge difference in the lives of the children who attend the school. They are giving them hope, a good education, a campus free of drugs and alcohol, help with their schoolwork and, in cooperation with one of the local churches, activities to fill their time after school and on the weekends. They are giving them counseling when they have problems they need to discuss, they are teaching them about their history, language and culture, and, most importantly, they are teaching them about God. With good guidance, these children have a chance at a better future, and through them, real change can come to the reservation.

I've been back to visit a few times since 2009, and each time I go back, I feel even more strongly the need for this school. I’ve tried to help them raise funds in as many ways as I can. Since most of the people on the reservation are poor, and the school is a private, non-profit institution, what they need most is money to pay for the teachers, food for breakfast and lunches, and the overhead. Even though the teachers are mostly missionaries, they only make $15,000 a year, the school still needs to bring in many donations to cover the costs of operation. I make this appeal to you. If any of you could help, it would be greatly appreciated. Think of the children. What if yours lived here? Wouldn’t you want someone to help?

You can find more information about the school on Facebook (just look up Windswept Academy) or on their website: