Monday, May 31, 2010

Garden Update

Stars and Stripes

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Mortgage Help!

Pay attention to price, not payment. That is the basic premise in Mind Your Own Mortgage: The Wise HomeOwner’s Guide to Choosing, Managing, and Paying Off Your Mortgage by Robert J. Bernabe. He presents many scenarios in the book that sound a lot like this: Suppose your mortgage broker calls to encourage you to refinance and save $400 a month. Sounds like a good deal, right? He then leads the reader into some situations where saving on the monthly payment can be costly overall. Even the most uninformed reader would come away with the sense that it is important to be scrupulous in inspecting the details when obtaining a mortgage loan. There are a lot of details and numbers that might cause some readers to become glassy-eyed.

I consider myself to be somewhat savvy with personal finance, and the main ideas in the book weren’t new to me, but I learned a few things, and there was a lot of interesting(?) factual information about the mortgage industry and housing crisis. The author even mystery-shopped some smooth talking brokers whose ads he’d heard on the radio in order to identify some of their deceptive practices!

I didn’t agree with all of his ideas (specifically, the areas where his thoughts differed from Dave Ramsey!), but I agreed with the main ideas in the book. He encourages the reader to shop around for a fixed-rate mortgage by looking at rate and closing costs. He also warns that refinancing can extend the payoff date of your loan, if you just make the required payments. He encourages readers to have a plan for paying off their mortgages early by restricting discretionary spending.

Throughout the book, he directs readers to his subscription-based website, On this site, he has forms available for consumers to use to more efficiently compare loans as they talk with lenders.

I highly recommend this book for anyone obtaining a mortgage for the first time, or who isn’t sure what costs are involved when mortgaging a home.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Still-Life Photography By Molly

She's got quite the artistic eye, doesn't she?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Searching For God Knows What

I usually don’t laugh out loud at books or movies. However, I laughed through the first chapter, “Fine Wine – The Failure of Formulas” of Donald Miller’s book Searching for God Knows What. I had read this book before as well as Blue Like Jazz, also by Miller. In this book, he looks at the gospel that is central to Christianity from an artistic and anecdotal perspective. He does not skew the truth yet invites the reader to imagine with him as he analyzes and muses about the gospel. Right from the beginning, I was reminded why I love his prose. He is immediately credible to me because he is so honest with his faults. His smart humor immediately engages the reader. His ideas are intriguing and will likely resonate with your soul. At the same time, he points out the many shortcomings of the church and shows its incompatibilities with the gospel of Christ. This doesn’t come across as judgmental but accurate.

Miller loves Jesus, this is obvious. He also loves God’s word. He savors the writings of scripture and engages his heart as he ponders it, the whole while entwining stories, one-liners, and word pictures into the pages.

This is an expanded edition of the original. There is an interactive game that is included. On the pages, you’ll find clues. Sometimes you’ll encounter a letter typeset in bold. Other times, there is a symbol appearing near the page number. Beginning in June 2010, participants can sign up to receive further clues by email, solve puzzles, and win prizes. The clues were actually a little annoying while reading, but I may sign up for the emails and participate.

I received a free copy of this book to review from Thomas Nelson publishers as a part of my participation in booksneeze. The opinions are entirely mine.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Grocery Store at the Children's Museum

Ringing Up Her Purchases

She LOVES the mannequins at Old Navy

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Time for Cages

Tomato cages, that is! My little garden is loving the warm Texas spring and recent rain showers. My mom came over toting a carton of eggs and advised me to bury them beneath the plants. Apparently, they like the eggs, too. The pictures were taken two weeks ago on May 1 and again this morning.

I intended for this pot to be home to one cactus. However, the dirt I planted it in was from the compost at my Mom's. The poor cactus is being overrun by a tomato plant and two cucumber plants. Wait until the dry, hot Texas sun is out in full force. I'm sure the cactus will have the last laugh.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fifteen Years Ago

Food is one of my obsessions.  I can still taste the garlicky, lemony, minty tang of the fattoush I savored (devoured?) a little while ago.  When I was in high school, I would pride myself on eating a completely fat-free breakfast (Total cereal with skim milk and fruit) and lunch (school-lunch salad with fat-free dressing).  Then, I'd gorge myself on the homemade meal that my mom would serve to our family for dinner.  I'd eat so much that I would lay on the floor afterward  moaning, "I ate too much."  Somewhat dysfunctional, wouldn't you say?

Unfortunately, I continued this cycle of deprivation and overindulgence in the dorm cafeteria at college.  Unfortunate, not because I gained a lot of weight, but unfortunate due to the emotional reliance on food I developed.  Eventually, I became bulimic. 

My freshman year of college, I ran track.  I developed awesome muscular thighs.  I also turned nineteen and grew hips out of my previously boyish frame.  Not a problem until my eating continued on over-drive my sophomore year when I was no longer running on the team.  Again, I didn't gain a lot of weight, but I felt self-conscious about my body and guilty when I ate too much.  So, to me, throwing up my too-big dinner was a way of correcting it.  And, I'd always gotten a lot of praise for my skinny body.  I was no longer unique in this way but rather normal. 

I knew that it was wrong and dangerous.  I tried to stop my behaviors.  I repeated confessed my sins.  I couldn't stop.  My struggle continued for a year and a half.  I didn't throw up every day.  It never caused me to lose weight- just kept my overeating under control.  Well, my eating wasn't under control- I just undid a little of it. 

Several things happened that allowed me to be victorious over this disease and regain wholeness with regard to my body image and food:

1.  I dislocated my knee in tumbling class.  It was the only injury I've ever had requiring medical attention.  God's plan had a twist of irony.  Because of my injury, I wasn't physically able to squat by the toilet to throw up.  Also,  I realized that as humans our bodies are so valuable and yet fragile.  An injury can happen to easily.  So, why was I purposely doing something that could harm my body?

2.  I was involved in a Chiristian ministry.  Slowly I began telling others about my struggle.  I had heard that confessing a secret sin breaks its power.  In my experience, this was quite true. 

3.  God renewed my mind through His word.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Your works are wonderful.  I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14  I also had to train myself to eat more reasonably.  Sounds quirky, but before I reached for a snack in my dorm room, I made myself read a Proverb.  I also wanted to make sure my true hunger was for the things of God.

4.  I had to train my mind also to not study the bodies of other women.  I would compare parts of my body to theirs to see how I measured up.  I still longed to find my significance in my body.  I had to remind myself that my friends valued me not for the shape of my body.

5.  I became much less legalistic with my eating.  I have learned to enjoy quality foods.  I rarely reach for the fat-free option.  I try to eat foods close to the way God made them. 

Remarkably, I never had to seek professional help for my bulimia.  It helps me to share my story with others and to practice healthy habits of mind, spirit, and body. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Giveaway Winner...

is Cortney!  Be sure to check out her blog here.  (I used to determine the winner. is  great fun for math geeks like me!)  Enjoy the book, Cortney!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Heart Mender Review and Giveaway!

This love story seems so perfectly crafted that it can't be true.  The adventure and mystery of it are so gripping that it must be fiction.  However, the photographs of the artifacts found in the author's backyard are realistic, and the author's research and interviews with those having firsthand knowledge are believeable.  The author claims that it is "for the most part" true.  Oh, what a wonderful tale...

When I finished this book, I felt like crying.  I wasn't sad.  I wasn't emotional, in a Hallmark card commercial sort-of way.  I was just amazed.  A story of incredible circumstance unfolds as a wounded German soldier is found ashore on the Gulf Coast during the second World War.  The woman who finds him is in the midst of deep personal struggles.  Each has a staggering past that requires a choice between bitterness and forgiveness.  Their story is potentially life-changing for all who read it. 

It is the first book that I've read by Andy Andrews, but I can guarantee that it won't be the last.  His storytelling was magical, and I flew through the pages.  He also had to have a special divine leading to stumble upon this story in the way that he did. 

I was provided with a copy of this book by Thomas Nelson publishers to review as part of my participation in booksneeze.  They felt that this story needs to be told so widely that they sent me an extra copy to give away to a reader on my blog.  Leave a comment to this post by Wednesday May 5 at 9 pm CST in order to get a chance to win.  In your comment tell me what has been your favorite recent read.  (If  I don't know you personally and don't have your email address, you'll have to leave your email address in your comment to contact you if you win.) And, if you don't win, be sure to get your own copy of this book.  It will amaze and inspire you.