The Daily ReTORt

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Thursday, June 30, 2011

Weighing myself and holiday weekend options....

Yesterday was my weekly scheduled weigh-in at WeightWatchers and I'm happy to report that I was down another -1.6 lbs. for a grand total weight loss of -28.4 lbs. Things are trending in the right direction. 

However, I know myself and from past experience a small speed bump - such as a holiday weekend fete - can grind to a halt my efforts to eat healthfully. 
Yesterday's meeting suggested two options to choose:

  1. Strive to maintain your current weight.
  2. Stay on track and continue efforts to lose more.

There are challenges to both, but I'm going to work to continue to lose by committing to the following:

  • Running at least four miles every day this weekend (Friday through Monday);
  • Overload on grilled vegetables as a first option - this should make me feel fuller, so I'm inclined to eat less of less healthful options;
  • Choose only fresh fruit and fruit salads as dessert options - this is the toughest for me, but because I'm writing here I have to follow through.

So that's my plan, hopefully I'll be able to stick to it and there will be less of me to write about next week!

Do you have any similar eating plans or suggestions for this holiday weekend? Are holidays the time you can "legally" cheat?

Read why I'm fighting to lose weight -> click here

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Will This Mean the End of Facebook?

James Best Jr./The New York Times
In case you missed it on Tuesday, Google launched another attempt to out-friend Facebook. The service it launched is called Google+.

It looks and functions a lot like Facebook, but a key difference is that under the marketing banner of enhanced privacy it allows you to share status updates, photos, videos, links...etc with exclusive groups of friends - not the entire Internet or even your entire list of friends.

Currently if you click the "share" button on a Facebook posting, everybody in your friend list is notified. That's one of the benefits of Facebook from an advertising and marketing standpoint is its viral potential and "word-of-mouth" referral capabilities - but it also raises privacy issues and other unintended consequences.

You can check out the full article here ->  NY Times Story About Google+

Question: Would you consider switching to Google+ or just adding it to your "social media" menu?

The Battle for Our Daughters....

Mean Girls (Special Collector's Edition)I really strive to be a good father for my two daughters. My wife and I make every effort to reinforce to them that it's more important to be beautiful on the inside rather than the outside. We want them to grow into strong, smart, independent, spiritually-centered women who don't define their worth through their looks.

We strive to give them unsolicited hugs, unconditional affection and affirmation for no other reason than we love them and we're blessed that God has gifted us with them.

We want them to be complete individuals who won't need validation from "mean girls" or "hormone-charged boys" which is one of the reasons I take weekly karate classes with our two young ladies.

Despite all that, the other night I heard our youngest ask her sister if the shirt she was wearing, "made her look fat." It broke my heart to hear those words discussed by a 7-and-9 year old respectively. I calmly entered the room and gave them each a hug.

Then I rhetorically asked where they heard that kind of talk because we try to closely monitor that type of negative image nonsense from entering our home via any media outlet. I then reminded both of them that they were smart, funny, kind girls with hearts after God, that I wanted to spend all my time with.

I went on to say that none of those good things I just listed had anything to do with how they appeared, but I did reinforce the importance of them being beautiful on the inside because that will make them more beautiful on the outside.

They both nodded their heads and hugged me and went off to play with their Zoobles.

I'm sure that little exchange affected me more than them, but we as parents have to be vigilante against the incessant barrage of images and messaging that our kiddos see and internalize.

I've read several excellent books about the crucial role that fathers play in the development of their daughters. I know my opinion matters to them now, but I want to ensure it stays that way once their peer groups and the culture start competing with me.

Unfortunately, according to this article on Huffington Post by Lisa Bloom that competition for the hearts, minds and bodies of our daughters begins as early as the age of three.

How To Talk to Little Girls 

It's a never ending battle that we as parents have to fight on behalf of our kids - but especially our daughters.

What successes have you had in this regard for your girls?

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Question About Parenting...

We recently got the end-of-year report cards for our two girls and they were both very good.

In the past, we've typically rewarded them with a special treat or toy for their efforts for their academic performance. Last year they each got an American Girl doll.

The question is should we be doing that type of thing? I had a discussion with some parents this past weekend who do not reward their children in this manner. Their rationale is that they want their kids to achieve academic excellence solely for the sake of achievement itself - not for what they can get.

What are your thoughts on this topic? How does it work in your household?

Three Things That Make Summer Great

Our two girls officially began their summer vacation this week. The other night at dinner I asked, "What three things would make this summer great?"  Here were the verbatim, ranked responses:

The 9-year old
1. No more school - (Ok, that's a given. It's kind of like a wasted genie wish.)
2. Horse camp - (Indeed, she did this camp last year and loved it - there's no doubt that Horse Camp version 2.0 will be anything less than spectacular.)
3. Swimming like a fish - (Our community has two swimming pools. I suspect the girls might micro-evolve gills by summer's end if the past few days are any indication of that aquatic affinity.)

The 7-year old
1. Playing with her sister - (This is her default response any time we ask her what she wants to do.)
2. No more school - (She only said this after "the older" mentioned it.)
3. More playing - (I guess I'm not surprised here...)

The Wife
[EdiTor's Note: these are my assumptions since my wife didn't participate in this conversation - I know that's a risky game to play, but that's how I roll.]
1. Vacation - (We're renting a cottage for a week on a beautiful lake with another family that should be a ball.)
2. Time together as a family - (This is a certainty...)
3. Taking weekend day trips - (One of the benefits of the mid-Atlantic region is our proximity to great locales such as DC, Baltimore, Gettysburg, Hershey, Williamsburg...etc. Needless to say our weekends are filling up fast!)

1. Summer hours - (My place of employment observes half-day Fridays through Labor Day how cool is that.)
2. Time together as a family - (This is the best part of summer I think, and I want to maximize it this year - summer hours will help!)
3. Vacation - (Really looking forward to this respite!)

So what about you? What three things will make this summer great?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Help Pick My Book Cover: A Question of Faith

My first non-fiction book will be released in November 2011. We're in the final stages of production with the publishing house and have these two cover options. Which do you like best - "parchment" or "hands"? Please comment here with your opinion. Thanks!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WeightWatchers Weigh-in Update...

It's been a while since I've given an update regarding my weight loss efforts - so I'll try to squeeze one in here (I'll just pretend I'm squeezing into a pair of skinny jeans.)

This past Thursday I was able to get to a much needed WeightWatchers' weigh-in, and I am happy to report that I was down -1.8 lbs. for a grand total weight loss to date of -26.8 lbs.

Oddly, whenever anyone finds out that I'm on WeightWatchers they give me the business about being vain or being fixated with my body due to the fact that I'm trying to lose weight.

At which point, I politely educate them about the fact that both my parents (who died before they were 65) were diabetic, hypertensive and genetically predisposed to other circulatory maladies (e.g. hardening of the arteries, high cholesterol, HDL/LDL imbalances...etc.).

The bottom line is that I'm fighting against killer genetics and I need all the help I can get.

I choose WeightWatchers to ensure I have balanced and healthy LIVING habits the rest of my life, not just healthy eating habits. Additionally, I want to pass those habits along to my two preteen daughters. That's why I'm doing WW.

Hopefully my schedule will allow me to make it to weigh-in this coming week and there will be less of me to write about next week.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

6-year Old Inspires All Wanna-be Bike Riders...

This is a great video by a group of talented musicians called the Gregory Brothers who "songify" all kinds of news videos and home videos posted on YouTube. In this video, they transform a cute snippet of a random home movie into a catchy inspirational tune. Enjoy...

And here is the original home video....

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wedded BlissTors - Part 5: Vacation Blues - Funny Movie Short

Here is part 5 of my Wedded BlissTors animated, movie shorts. The premise of these cartoons is that marriage is bliss, but couples often experience blisters (or "bliss-tors") along the way.

Now that summer is here, this 2-minute episode deals with the different expectations that can accompany a family vacation and the great lengths that must sometimes be taken to avoid skin cancer.

If you liked this episode, check out the links to the rest of the series which are linked below:

Wedded BlissTors #1: Guys Buy...Gals Shop

Wedded BlissTors #2: It's About Time

Wedded BlissTors #3: Bathroom Humor

Wedded BlissTors #4: Pillow Talk

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Quitter - by Jon Acuff

QuitterMost books in the business/self-help genre end up being a boring read that needs to be set aside then picked up at a later date.

That was NOT the case with Jon Acuff's latest non-fiction work titled Quitter - I could not put this book down.

At its core it's a book about dreaming - specifically regarding your dream job - yet Acuff's impassioned tone and engaging style takes this book far above the typical self-help-career-guide fare.

Acuff writes from his own personal and professional experiences to craft a text that is imminently relateable to anyone who has been in a sub-par work experience.  One of the key insights he makes is that identifying your dream job is not so much about discovering what you want to do, but rather recovering those things from your past that most enlivened, invigorated and fulfilled you.

According to Acuff, it's those things that will help point you toward your dream job, as will as asking yourself questions such as, "What do I enjoy doing regardless of the opinions of others?" or "What do I do that causes me to lose track of time because I'm so engaged?"

Another telltale identifier of your dream is whether or not it involves risk. Acuff writes, "Every dream has risk associated with it. Some might have more than others, but each dream comes wrapped in some degree of risk. If it doesn't, it's not really a dream."

The author than offers three unique metaphors for filtering perceptions of dream risk involving a magnifying glass, kaleidoscope or telescope - each resulting in a different follow-up and outcome. I’m at a loss to explain how the elegance and obviousness of those metaphorical perception models have not seen print prior to Quitter.

It's also important to note that this book addresses the importance of balance in the pursuit of your dream. Balance of time, commitment, your family, your hustle and your day job.

The aspect that makes this book highly readable and relateable is that Acuff writes about his own real-life experiences, hopes and stories - those are much more compelling than the typical clever action steps or checklists toward success that are common in such books.

Sometimes life is messy, which makes Acuff's message relevant and well worth reading and re-reading. But be advised, that once you start reading Quitter it may be difficult to stop.

Here's the link to his book's trailer. You can also read his entertaining blog at

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview With Cleverbot...

Last week I stumbled upon Cleverbot, which is a web-based Artificial Intelligence (AI) application that learns to speak by conversing with humans via an instant messaging platform.  As background, you may recall that Hollywood has made several movies about Artificial Intelligence and computers that can learn including, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyessy; the WOPR computer from the 1980's movie War Games that starred Matthew Broderick; and SkyNet from the Terminator series.

Now, I've always been a bit skeptical on the idea of computers that can learn. Especially given the fact that nearly all the movies produced thus far portray dire consequences that occur once a computer becomes self aware.  With that in mind, and the fate of humanity in my keystorkes, I decided to have a conversation with Cleverbot.

[EdiTOR's Note: The entire conversation below is unedited and the Cleverbot site claims that there is no human assisting with its responses. I have added the CB label for Cleverbot and italics for ease of reading - those are the only edits I've made.]   

Me: Hi Cleverbot, how are you feeling tonight?

CB: I’m feeling alright.

Me: That's cool! Did you watch the U.S. Open this past weekend?

CB: I watch ALL.

Me: Wow!?! Don't you think that's showing off a bit, even for a know-it-all computer?

CB: Sorry, you just seem to have lots of things going on, I was just suggesting some help. I didn't mean to offend you.

Me: Really? What things do I have going on?

CB: Nothing really, what things do you care about?

Me: Hmmm, not much of a conversationalist are you? Do you go out much?

CB: You're leaving? But I'm lonely.

Me: Whoa. You seem a little co-dependent for a Brainiac computer don't you think?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Meeting a Living Idol.....

Me and Jack Canfield, author of
Chicken Soup for the Soul series.
We're holding a copy of my book.
Last week I had the privilege of attending a marketing workshop that included a full-day with Jack Canfield (see photo) the best-selling author of the "Chicken Soup for The Soul" series and speaker.

It was an incredible experience to have access and interact with Jack for eight hours. Especially when you consider the following:

+ He has sold more than 500,000,000 (that's half a billion) books globally in less than 18 years.

+ His books have been translated into 40 different languages.

+Nearly 90 percent of respondents to a recent Harris Survey knew and understood what the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" brand stood for.

+ More than 200 different target audiences have "Chicken Soup" books (i.e. Golfer's Soul, College Soul, Pet Lover's Soul...etc.)

Those are amazing results. But this connection with Jack Canfield had a deeper and much more personal meaning for me. I've been an avid fan of the "Chicken Soup" series since it was first published in 1993. Specifically, the very first book helped me a lot during a challenging time in my life.

I had graduated from college in 1991 and the nation was in the midst of a recession. Luckily, I had a job as a news anchor/reporter at a small radio station in western New York, but it paid less than $18K a year. Things were tight and thousands in school loans didn't make it easier.

By 1993 I had landed an anchor position at a national radio network (NESE) based just outside of an upstate city. It was a great experience working with outstanding professionals, but as is wont to happen in life - those good times didn't last. The network was sold and the only job I could land was part-time work conducting telephone surveys.

That was the most difficult and thankless job I ever had. I dreaded it and was miserable being chained to a computer that auto-dialed households across the country with two 10 minute breaks each day. I had to bother people at home to try and convince them to answer a barrage of questions that usually took 30-40 minutes. People would be furious by the end of the call.

It was difficult not to internalize the anger and rejection that job generated.

EdiTOR's Note: Guest Blog...

Several weeks ago I joined a community of great bloggers at BlogRocket. One of the guys I met there is named Ben Emerson and he's in the midst of an ambitious project to consecutively blog about a chapter of the Bible every day until he's written about "the whole dang thing" - which just so happens to be the name of his blog.

He invites other writers to con tribute to his project, and he graciously allowed me to submit a guest post for today's installment at his site where I wrote on Exodus chapter 8 - that's the chapter where the plagues against Egypt really start to ramp up. Here's my guest post:

Exodus 8: Call the ORKIN man!

Check out the post and be sure to look around Ben's blog, he's a gifted, funny and talented writer who will make you chuckle and think!

Monday Musings....

Coming off a great, weekend that energized my faith and focus here is a collection of random thoughts and happenings I'd like to share:
  • My masculinity has been completely restored thanks to my wife and daughters who bought me a stainless steel grill for Father's Day. Since we relocated here four years ago, we've been grill-less for a variety of reasons - but no more! What's your best grilling tip?
  • While knocking down a hornet's nest in our garage, I got stung on my face. It hurt like heck at first but I completely forgot about it until I started writing here. What's the worst thing that's ever bitten or stung you? 
  • I'm a big Matt Damon fan and we watched one of his most recent releases titled Hereafter. All I can say is that it was ploddingly slow and anti-climactic. I hope the Adjustment Bureau (which is released on DVD tomorrow) is better. What movie was the biggest disappointment you've seen? 
  • Check out this Haiku Father's Day poem from our 9-year old daughter:
Tickler and runner,
Loves to write and likes the color blue.
Is a father of two girls,
You always know what to do!
Loves to read and is smart.
Tries not to get mad,
And is writing his own book.
This makes my Dad!
  • Lastly, here's a Father's Day poem from our 7-year old daughter:
You are as strong as super steel.
You are as smart as the smartest teacher.
You are as handsome as a mighty prince.
I love you more than I've ever loved anything in the whole world!

How does that not make you smile? 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Wedded BlissTors - Part 4: Pillow Talk - Funny Movie Short

Here is part 4 of my Wedded BlissTors animated, movie shorts. The premise of these cartoons is that marriage is bliss, but couples often experience blisters (or "bliss-tors") along the way.

This 2-minute episode deals with two different perspectives of a "nightmare" and the humorous realization that a dreamed perception might be reality.

If you liked this video, check out my other animated movie shorts:

Bathroom Humor

It's About Time

Men Buy Vs. Women Shop

If you've ever subscribed to this blog, those links no longer work and you'll need to click below to restore those updates.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

5 Tips to Help Break a Creative Block

Anyone who has done any kind of writing for an extended period of time will eventually experience some form of writer's block or creative dry spell. It simply comes with the territory.

I used to be a reporter with multiple deadlines throughout the day and had to deal with writer's block regularly. You might think it would be easy to write about "news of the day" but that's not always the case.

That's especially true if you're assigned a low interest, low visual, low emotional story about something like a county drainage proposal or tax easement issue (yikes) - such assignments will challenge even the best writer. So the best counter strategy would be to come to the daily editorial meetings with your own story ideas. However, that's easier said than done.

To come up with 2-3 different ideas each day was a creative exercise that posed challenges.  Here's what I would do (and continue to do today) to break through the creative block.

5 Things About Your Dad...

My dad in his 20's
Heading into Father's Day, I wanted to open the blog for tributes to our dads.  Below are five statements that you can complete in the comment section if you'd like - pick one or all - but let us know what makes your dad great!

My dad passed away suddenly several years ago and I still miss him today. If your father is still alive make sure you finish these statements below and tell him what he means to you because you never know how long you've got.  If you're interested, mine are below.

1. My dad was "famous" for saying....
2. The best memory of my father was....
3. My father taught me to appreciate.....
4. His best (or worst) joke was....
5. The most important thing I learned from my dad was....


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Top-10 List: Creepiest Clowns Ever

I have to confess that I suffer from a disorder that currently has no cure. It's a mild case mind you but a haunting problem none the less that few people talk about. 

But I'm breaking my silence. 

I have coulrophobia - an acute fear of clowns. While this may not have the same high-profile cache as other phobias such as fear of water, heights or overly-hairy women it is a real disorder and not a laughing matter.

In an effort to face this fear, I've compiled a list of the Top-10 Creepiest Clowns of all time. In addition to this "confrontation therapy" you should also know that I'm writing this blog while dressed as Emmett Kelly Jr. 

This therapy is challenging. Tears are streaking the grease paint on my face and dripping down to the water-squirting flower on my lapel - but I will endure. This blog is a safe place for me, thank you for your support. Here's the list....

10.) Krusty the Clown - this character from the cartoon series the Simpsons is not really scary because he's pretty funny. Yet being a clown, by definition, makes him terrifying. Such is the irrationality of my phobia.

9.) Any Sad-Faced Clown - I've never understood this idea. Clowns are supposed to be funny and the cognitive dissonance that results from grief-stricken face paint merely amps up the creep factor for me.

8.) The Drunk, Mouse-Driving Clown from "Uncle Buck" - this movie portrayal creeps my out because the clown shows up to the kid's birthday party stumbling drunk, yet still believed he could entertain  kids. Bonus points for Jon Candy's paternal instinct to punch the clown right in his big red nose!

7.) Ronald McDonald - I know this clown is beloved by children around the world because he makes fried, overly-processed foods fun but it's the ubiquitous nature of this persona that gives me the willies - you can't escape this clown! 

6.) The KABOOM cereal Clown - this was the first clown (see photo insert) that gave me nightmares and then the horror was reinforced when I had to choke down a bowl of his sugary coated face when I woke up in the morning - taunting me with each frosted bite.

5.) Charlie-in-the-Box Clown - now this character was one of the misfit toys in the Rankin-Bass production of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which was and is a Christmas classic. In and of himself "Charlie" was not scary, but after I heard Charlie speak - that became the voice of the aforementioned, uber-creepy KABOOM clown in my nightmares.

4.) Clarabell the Clown - this is an old-school clown from the Howdy Doody Show in the 1950's that was re-introduced to my generation in the mid-70's as the New Howdy Doody Show. The creepiest part of this guy was that he couldn't talk and there was no attempt to use American Sign Language to communicate with anyone. That coupled with his freakish makeup - didn't work for me as a kid.

3.) The stuffed Clown from "The Poltergeist" - these are getting really creepy now. This toy clown came to life and dragged the unsuspecting little girl under her bed. She beat the stuffing out of it but that image lingers.

2.) Pennywise the Clown from "It" - Stephen King released his book It in 1986, which then became a movie in 1990. Tim Curry was perfectly cast as the demonic, murderous title character. As a result, Pennywise and any bozo-resembling clown still makes my skin crawl.

1.) Pogo the Clown - this was the persona that real-life, serial killer John Wayne Gacy used to identify and ensnare his young victims. This is an irredeemable blemish on the painted face of clowning and clownology. 

To be honest, writing this list didn't make me feel better. Clowns are still creepy. So, if you're having any kind of celebration, parade, fundraiser or kid's shindig where clowns will be present - I won't be.

Be honest, clowns creep you out a bit too - right???

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

3 Keys to Accomplish the Impossible

All of us face challenges every day and some of those challenges seem like they are impossible to overcome - that failure is the only option. Here's an easy challenge for you. Watch this video below by Frisbee-Throwing Champion Brodie Smith.

Some of the things he does in this video are seemingly impossible, yet he did them. For him to accomplish each of the impossible tricks shown in the video there are 3 keys required:

1.) Vision - anybody who wants to achieve something great or impossible must first be able to believe they can do it. You have to see it occurring in your mind's eye. Athletes and life coaches call it visualization. If you don't have a vision of success to overcome a challenge - you won't.  What is holding you back, clouding your vision and how can it be removed?

2.) Preparation - watch each of the tricks that Smith accomplishes and imagine how many hours of practice enable him to do the amazing things he does. There's no shortcut for that - you have to apply the hustle. In addition to the practice that's required, notice that each of Smith's tricks are set up for the optimal chance of success. Are you willing to log the practice hours necessary to overcome? What other prep is necessary?

3.) Assistance - perhaps my favorite trick you'll see below is at a baseball field where a friend of Smith's is at home plate and spins a garbage can up into the air into which Smith lands a disc. However, that shot and the entire video required the help of others. Smith couldn't do it alone. You'll see or hear one of Smith's friends near the target in almost every scene and running the video. Who can help you overcome your challenge?

I realize that tossing Frisbees around a college campus might not equate to the serious issue or challenge in your life, but can any of the 3 concepts listed above help your situation? What's the one thing you can do today to step toward breakthrough?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quick Housekeeping Note....

If you've ever subscribed to this blog, those links no longer work and you'll need to click the word below to restore those updates.  Apologies for any inconvenience and thanks so much for your visiting this site!

Am I a bad provider for my family???

I'm the first to admit it, that if we lived in the frontier days my family would have died of starvation. The only plants that I can effectively grow are weeds in my yard, and I've never hunted an animal for food. It's safe to say we would have died just outside the city limits heading to a better life on the open prairie.

However, I am able to purchase hoagie sandwiches when necessary which is what I do every Sunday after church.  Before we head home from services, my family and I swing by a local Subway sandwich shop to "eat fresh" and all that other marketing hype.

If you've never patronized a Subway franchise, here's how it works. Every sandwich is custom made, so you have to begin at the order counter which is at the farthest point away from the cash register. You then select your bread, relevant meats, whether or not it gets toasted, any veggies, toppings and sundries that you'd like.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wedded BlissTors - Part 3: Bathroom Humor - Funny Movie Short

Here is part 3of my Wedded BlissTors animated, movie shorts. The premise of these cartoons is that marriage is bliss, but couples often experience blisters (or "bliss-tors") along the way.

This 2-minute episode deals with the differences that sometimes occur between what's the expected behaviour in a married couple's bathroom versus what might actually occur in the extreme.
[WARNING: If you get queasy easily, you might want to skip this one.]

From replacing the toilet paper roll to toothpaste tops, have you ever had to "discuss" those bathroom issues? 

If you liked this video, check out my other animated movie shorts:

It's About Time

Men Buy Vs. Women Shop 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Powerful Memory Trigger of My Mom...

Today's piece was inspired by a recent post I read that was written by a gifted blogger and new friend, Julie Shreve, who writes regularly at her site, The Esau Project.

The specific post I'm referring to is titled Mary, Mary where Shreve writes about the impact and power of the audible word. Specifically, how a woman who was grieving the loss of a loved one, was immediately moved when she actually heard his voice again. I would encourage you to click on the link above to read the entire post, but here's the comment I wrote in response.

As you read, I'd be curious to know if you've ever had a similar sensory experience that you can share.

Julie, another powerful post, especially regarding the power of the audible word. This really touched me because both my parents are dead - my mother passed away almost seven years ago. 
Recently, my wife and I were cleaning out some stuff and came across our wedding video. We popped it into the VHS to watch with our girls. It was one thing to see my parents silently moving at the wedding ceremony, but I was completely taken aback when I heard my mother's voice on the video recording at the reception. 
It was surreal. I hadn't heard that voice in years, but it instantly took me back to the days of my childhood when her voice was so common that I took it for granted - isn't that what kids do???  
It's a similar type of experience when I smell a certain variety of lilac that used to grow outside our home. That scent is forever imprinted on my mind and is a high-speed shortcut to those carefree days of summer as a boy growing up.  
Hearing my mom's voice on the video had a similar effect, but it was tinged with a bit of sadness regarding the loss. Still that doesn't mean I'll stop smelling the lilacs!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Share Your Best Cost-Saving Tip!

What are you doing to save some Benjamins???

If you're burning bushels of dollar bills in your mansion's fireplace while you're also blasting the air conditioning on sub-arctic chill, you probably don't need to read this post.

But if you're like the vast majority of Americans, you want to keep more of your hard earned cash.

Most people are already working as hard as they can to cover their monthly expenses - they simply can't work more hours in a day. So if you can't increase your incoming revenue any further, the only other option to saving more cash is by reducing your outgoing expenses.

You can find dozens of secrets and tips to save money and cut your household costs in the FREE e-book I'm offering 66 Ways to Save Money. Enter your email address in the boxed fields along the right rail of this page to get the e-book delivered to your e-mail box.

What's the best money-saving tip you're already doing?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Top-10 List: Movies That Make Me Cry

Old Yeller (Vault Disney Collection)This top-10 list has been a lifetime in the making since it deals with the top movies that make me cry. Now I don't drop tears at the drop of a hat mind you, because I am a masculine male secure in his masculinity (who's prone to be a bit redundant, repetitive and iterating at times).

You'll note that there are some common themes in the list of movies that move me, namely: self-sacrifice or duty on behalf of others; loss of a key relationship whether it's family or friend; or overcoming insurmountable odds or adversity. These are the themes that are sure saline drivers for me. Here's the list:

10. Sophie's Choice - This is a horribly sad movie for any parent with more than one child since the main character (Meryl Streep) is forced to make the ultimate choice between her two children. As a father of two daughters this movie will make ANY grown man cry. As such, I still get to keep my Man Card despite my blubbering.

9. The Yearling - I originally saw it as an impressionable 11-year old boy, which is mainly why it still makes me cry (I think). Even though this is a formulaic movie with marginal acting, the premise of the young boy willingly choosing to set his pet deer free rather than see it killed is a tear-jerker.

8. The Notebook - For the sake of honesty and integrity I had to add this to the list. I know, I know....this officially means my Man Card is revoked....

7. Toy Story 3 - People always freak out when I mention that I tear up at his movie because - A.) it's an animated movie and B.) it's about flippin' toys!!  My retort is that the scene at the fiery garbage dump where the toy collective exchange glances atop the sliding refuse pile, as they've resigned themselves to their fate, is as poignant a movie moment as I can remember.

6. Hanover Street - This is a little-known love story that's woven into a plot similar to Force 10 from Navarone. Hanover Steet is set in WWII England and stars Harrison Ford, Leslie-Anne Down and Christopher Plummer in an unconventional love triangle that includes: action, betrayal, intrigue, suspense, adultery, sacrifice, redemption...and tears.

5. Dumbo - This is one of the shortest feature films produced by Disney, yet it is also the hardest to watch with our kids. When Dumbo witnesses the caging and separation from his mother - there's not a dry eye among the Constantino clan. Both my daughters pick this as the one movie that makes them cry every time. By contrast, neither of them shed a tear at Bambi.

4. Charlotte's Web - This movie is the last animated feature that makes me kinda weepy. I'm talking about the one from 1973 with the voice talents of Debbie Reynolds, Henry Gibson and Paul Lynde, NOT the live-action version with Julia Roberts and Dakota Fanning - (the second one makes me throw up a bit in my mouth.)  Conversely, the final exchange between Reynolds (Charlotte) and Gibson (Wilbur) in the animated version balances the peace and frantic despair associated with death of a loved one. It's powerful. You can disagree but you'd be wrong.

3. Brian's Song - I don't know a single guy who hasn't cried during a viewing of this 1971 classic sports movie that portrays the real-life buddy story of Chicago Bears' players Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gayle Sayers (Billy Dee Williams). The unlikely duo is forced to become roommates, but a lifelong friendship is forged and tested once Piccolo is diagnosed with cancer.  "I love Brian Piccolo" - that line still makes me a bit misty.

2. Rudy - This is another football movie that chronicles the seemingly insurmountable challenges of an under-sized, blue-collar football player with limited athletic skill and sub-par grades who dreams of playing for Notre Dame. It's an emotional roller coaster for Sean Astin's character and the viewer - it's hard not to cry when he does because you can relate to someone that everyone says can't achieve their goal.  This underdog movie of inspiration and perseverance through adversity, showcases the axiom that "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog."

1. Old Yeller - From underdog to ultimate dog, do I even have to write anything about this one? Here's the story:  frontier boy + best dog in the world + fight with rabid wolf + "Travis get the gun" = copious amount of man tears.

Obviously, there are some glaring omissions to this list - which ones need to be here?  Which ones should be removed?  What's the one movie that moistens your eyes just thinking about it?

Monday, June 6, 2011

3 Things to Do When The Bad Guys Win

Bad things happen to good people, often at the hands of “bad” people. This recently happened to a friend of mine who lost the job they held for several years.  This person was a dedicated employee, strategic thinker and dynamic asset to their company.

The only reason given for the termination was a “shift in organizational focus” which is business-speak for “we don’t need a reason.”

While the individual received a severance package, it’s cold comfort knowing that quality employees can get canned on the capricious whim of an organizational higher up; however, there are steps that can be taken whenever this type of injustice occurs.

[JESUS FREAK ALERT: Note the next few paragraphs will contain relevant scriptural passages – proceed with caution.]

This incident involving my friend, reminded me of a passage in the book of Matthew when King Herod beheaded John the Baptist because a stripper asked him to.  Now, John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin. They were very close and loved each other very much. This was how Jesus responded to the news of his cousin’s murder.
“When Jesus heard of it, he departed to a desert place; and when the people heard – they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion – toward them and he healed their sick.”(Mt. 14:13-14)
Whether or not you share the Christian world view, these two sentences contain a powerful model to be used against injustice in its many forms. I’ve underlined the key areas for consideration:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Wedded Blissters #2: It's About Time - Funny Movie Short

Here is a second installment of my Wedded Blissters animated, movie shorts. The premise of these cartoons is that marriage is bliss, but couples often experience blisters (or "bliss-ters") along the way.

This 2-minute episode deals with the nearly universal experience of different perspectives regarding time, which men and women have. Be sure to leave a comment if you can relate or share a similar experience!!!

If you liked this video, check out my first animated short that looks at
Men Buying Vs. Women Shopping.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cute Caption Contest Winner!!!

Look Ma, no teeth!!! 

The official caption winner of our daughter's two missing front teeth is Lisa Stivers who submitted the aforementioned caption.  She will receive a whooping $10 Amazon gift card for her creative efforts.  Thanks to all who submitted ideas, the best of the best are listed below.

I Want to Hear From You!!!

Usually I'm spouting off about something or other her, but I'd really like to hear from you!

Now that May is over and summer has unofficially begun I thought it would be cool to go back and look at a few of your favorite things from his Spring.

In the comment section below, please share with us the best book you read; movie you saw or experience you had in the few weeks - please include a few sentences why. My hope is to spark a bit of discussion and interaction here.

Calling All Bloggers!!!!
If you're a blogger, leave a comment with a link to your favorite blog post that you wrote in March, April, or May. (If you're not a blogger, leave a comment to your favorite blog post on someone else's blog during the Spring.) There's nothing wrong with shameless self-promotion.

Excited to read your favorites!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mid-Year: New Year's Resolution Update.....

Last December I made a bevy of New Year's resolutions that can be viewed in the post I'm a Living, Breathing Weight Loss Cliche, which is dated 12/29/2010. Now that we're at the midway point of 2011, I thought it might be useful to grade myself on each of the bulleted resolutions in the excerpt below from that post: 

In the waning hours of 2010 there are several achieveable, personal resolutions that I purpose to pursue in 2011 including:
  • making five blog posts each week; GRADE: C+ (I started out slow, but I'm gaining steam in this area)
  • finishing my first book; GRADE: A (This bad boy is done and will be launched this November)
  • finally eliminating all of our credit card debt; GRADE: B+ (So far, this year we've paid down more than $30K in consumer debt including my car. We're on track to be debt-free in 2011)
  • spending one night a week playing games with my family; GRADE: C- (While I do spend a lot of time playing with my daughters, it's not specifically playing games - I need to improve) 
  • going on a date with my wife at least once a week; GRADE: D- (Nuts!!!! This is a glaring weakness that I need to focus attention on, we've only had a handful of date nights this year and that just won't cut it)
  • running at least 20 miles every seven days GRADE: A (Now this is a problem, I'm logging hours on the road - sacrificing dates with my wife and games with my girls. That's got to change.)
  • and striving to walk an average of 10,000 steps each day. GRADE: B (I'm averaging about 8.5K steps a day - not great, but not bad) 
All of those seem doable to me; however, the most difficult resolution that I have not mentioned is my inability to keep my weight within a healthy range for my age, gender and height. GRADE: B+ (For the year, I'm down a total of -25.0 lbs. even though I was -0.0 lbs at WeightWatcher weigh-in today. Regardless, I'm keeping on)

When you average all of those together, my total New Year's resolution GRADE is a B , six months into the year.  That's ok, but I'm totally bummed about date night with the wife (whom I deeply love) and gaming with the kiddos.

Any tips on good date night ideas would be appreciated and games that would be fun for kids ages 7-10. Thanks!

That'll do it until next week's update, hopefully there will be less of me to write about!