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Thank God for Patriots Like Tyrone Woods

Like so many Americans, I was sickened as reports came out about the terrorist attack on Benghazi, Libya.

As I watched news reports trickle out, I asked friends, “Where was the Jack Bauer hero?” We’ve all seen the movie where the hero, like Jack Bauer, or John McClane, or Jonas Blane from the Unit recognizes the bad guys need to be stopped, risks it all, and tries to rescue Americans? Except the movies and TV shows had a somewhat happy ending.

Where was the Todd Beamer of Flight 93?

Where were the many heroes like the Hoosiers who raced forward to rescue others immediately after the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy? Those who run towards the danger, putting the needs of others ahead of their own.

There were heroes who came forward in Benghazi, Libya. We have just neglected to honor them. Some have neglected to share the story of their heroics.

One of them was Tyrone Woods, who saw that the Libyan embassy was under attack, and help was desperately needed. He ignored two orders to “stand down” and went to try to rescue Americans under attack, as he had been trained.

For the next six hours, Woods and his companions fought alone, at times calling for help that never came, even calling out coordinates of where the terrorists were attacking them. Their calls were unanswered. They never quit fighting, and Woods died in that fight.

We hear so much about avoiding making this tragedy political that we have forgotten to honor the heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice for others.

How can we honor and show our appreciation for their selfless heroism? Where is the push to give Woods a Medal of Honor?

Every single day, law enforcement and military personnel lay their lives on the line to protect our lives and our freedom. Twenty-five years ago, I had the privilege of spending a day on an American carrier for a family day, where I saw thousands of dedicated soldiers and their families sacrificing their family time and their lives to help us all.

Veterans Day will soon be here. I sincerely hope that by that day, Tyrone Woods will receive the American honors he so deserves.

His story deserves to be told, and his heroics merit our appreciation.


Turnips and Onions

I never liked eating turnips. Each year, I tried to find a way to fix them that I could eat and serve to my family. Finally, this year, I succeeded. With our membership in Seton Harvest, this year I tried roasting vegetables more and discovered my family liked eating vegetables more too. Another reason I like oven roasting them is that it is faster.

So this fall….we tackled the turnip. I was pleasantly surprised that they were the best tasting turnips I had ever tried. Purists won’t like the whole recipe, but my teen-aged son and husband do.

  • 3-4 sliced turnips
  • 1 sliced onion
  • Steak seasoning (with garlic and pepper or whatever your favorite herb mix is)
  • Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon bacon grease (ok – so this isn’t purist. However, it adds great flavor.)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Spray a metallic pan (it caramelizes better). Put the turnips and onions into a bag or bowl. Stir or pour in the oil and turn until they are completely coated. Layer the turnips and onions in the pan.

Sprinkle spices. Bake the turnips about 10 minutes and then turn them. Continue baking them until the turnips are tender and are starting to brown.

Serve while warm.

When Grace is Amazing

When I have chats with God, I doubt Jesus gets bored because I tend to say exactly what I think.

This Sunday morning, we started one of our more colorful chats when I got to church. I ran late and slipped into the pew with my family during the first hymn. Things like that give a bad start to a morning of worship. As I sang and the service began, I started my divine chat…

“God, I’m never going to be Mrs. Mommy Perfect Wife who does everything right. I run late, I lose my temper, and sometimes I walk in these doors feeling like a misfit toy in the land of normal. If the Pharisee Squad were given the opportunity, I’m sure I would be the first one they would shoot because I’m irreverent, and I’ll never fit into their boards of square pegs.

“While they sit on the throne of perfection, I think of the people I’ve seen this week who are lost, hurting, and who just need someone – anyone – to tell them they matter. I’ve walked their walk and know how they feel and know exactly how badly they need to be loved and to   know the hope of Jesus Christ.”

As this freight train of a self-doubting conversation roared through my head during my chat with God, I felt as though I wasn’t worthy to be there and resisted the urge to flee.

Resting my eyes upon the crucifix, my prayer grew more intense as I begged Jesus,

“Lord, show me why I’m here. Help me focus on you and stop the doubts that pound at me from every direction.”

The sermon ended, and it was time to sing a hymn during the offering and presentation of gifts. As the hymn’s title was announced, I nearly jumped with surprise. We were singing “Amazing Grace.”

Jesus answered my prayer. “Amazing Grace” is my victory song and motivator. Every morning on my way to work, the first thing I do is sing “Amazing Grace,” followed by the “Star Spangled Banner.” Those songs are my muse, that help me start each day in a mental frame of thanksgiving and patriotism. Only in America, and only by the grace of a gracious God, could someone like me, with my background break the chains that bound me and build a simple, quiet life.

As I began to sing, I remembered the story of how John Newton wrote “Amazing Grace,” after he was rescued in a storm.

An amazing grace, that passed all understanding, set him free. It set me free.

And whenever those doubts rear their heads, or when I get distracted by members of Pharisee Squads, I must remember not to let them interfere with my relationship or chats with God.

Through many dangers, toils and snares…we have already come.
T’was Grace that brought us safe thus far…
and Grace will lead us home.

Cream and Sugar Writing

Encouraging a single person with kind words can be just as important a job as proclaiming universal truth from the highest mountaintop or commanding an entire army to defeat the forces of universal evil.

I was called to lift people up with encouraging words and occasional joke – what some may refer to as “Hallmark card writing” as a disparaging term. That’s ok.

I have seen too much tragedy and suffering in this world and experienced too much of it first hand. Because of those experiences, I am fulfilled as a Hallmark cream and sugar writer who seeks ways to make the challenge of everyday living easier with a few kind words that might sometimes be funny.

Others may be called to lead armies, run multinational businesses, or inspire political movements.

I was called to something more ordinary – to be there for my friends and family when they need me, to help them solve problems as needed. And to try with cream and sugar words to inspire people to aim higher, work harder, and find common ground with one another.

For me, the beauty of being a cream and sugar writer is that I see the extraordinary in the common – the hand of God at work in every day lives, in small ways. And I try to share that vision with other people.

If we spend all our time proclaiming truth from mountaintops, however right that truth may be, we might just not notice the walking wounded we passed on the road up that mountain – those who needed a friendly smile, a pat on the back, and an encouraging word. If the walking wounded are bleeding to death from broken hearts, then proclaiming truth and judgment at them, no matter how right that truth is, is not going to save their lives. They need personal care and attention mixed with a heaping dose of love.

And sometimes that helps comes by way of  words in a cream and sugar Hallmark message.

St. Therese of Liseux wrote of the wonder of doing small things with great love.  That’s what I hope I do with words.

In a world where manners are in great demand and low supply, wouldn’t we be better off with a few more Hallmark writers?


Enough Already With the War on Women

I hope for a change in tone – as in a time when we can make a deliberate decision to remember the dignity of each individual person and drop the gotcha insults. It is only when we stop the ad humanem attacks that we can build one another up or maybe, just maybe, engage in constructive conversations to make good things happen.

Earlier this year, a commentator went off on a woman he disagreed with and called her names. Now a political operative tried to re-ignite the Mommy Wars by saying a mother of five had never worked a day in her life.

What? Both were wrong and out of line. They are on other sides of the spectrum but are using the same destructive tactic.

It’s common sense 101 that name-calling and insults don’t set the stage for productive dialogue. A name-calling, insult-driven rant may make for good television ratings, but it also builds walls between people and has no productive outcome.

Why do professionals who should know better stoop to conquer by insult? They do it because we watch it. We clamor to give a Jerry Springer “fight fight fight” tone to every debate. When we watch the shows, the ratings go up, ads are sold, and our national conversation stoops to even lower levels.

So what can I do to change the tone and raise our level of national dialogue? What can you do?

We can resolve to personally remember and respect the dignity of every single person we know. If we raise the level of our personal conversation, perhaps that can inspire others to do the same.  Then we can get something done and make a difference – as in a positive difference.

Leave those who prefer to mud wrestle and insult to play their game, call their names, and fight with each other.

I choose not to.


Ending Writer’s Block with a New Perspective

I’m working through a boat load of writing assignments right now. As I struggled to get through my checklist of projects, writing came slower and slower.

In frustration, last week, I turned my laptop around. Instead of sitting at my desk that faces a wall, I changed seats, turned around, and faced in the opposite direction.

With that simple change in perspective, my writer’s block dislodged. Out poured the writing and the projects.

That made me think of what we do with a clogged drain. We try one approach to clear it and then another.  If we run a snake down the drain and it doesn’t work, we might shift the direction a little to see if that helps. Sometimes, it does.

So the next time a problem stumps you, try shifting your perspective. Looking at the problem from a new angle can make all the difference.


Global is the New Local

As technology advances, the size of our planet shrinks. It takes less time to conduct business with partners on the other side of the planet.

We can talk in real time, share projects, and more. Smart businesses will analyze their product mixes and determine if there is a way they can broaden their reach to other geographic areas. Social media, blogging, and web design that are fully integrated can make that happen.

This morning, I’m giving a talk, Global is the New Local to an area business group. Local entrepreneurs and businesses in my area are making wise use of social media to grow their business bases and develop strategic relationships. Because of their savvy efforts, they have a crisis management team in place in the unfortunate event it might one day be needed.



Santa’s Naughty & Nice List for Business Networkers

Santa Claus is making a list, checking it twice, seeing who’s naughty and who has been nice at your local business networking function.

We all know the ones on the nice list get the coolest toys, or in the case of business networking, more business referrals.

So….what puts you on the naughty list or the nice list?

Nice List:

  • Make referrals to others in the networking group.
  • Do a good job on follow up on referrals you receive.
  • Listen more than you talk.
  • Observe the group’s structure and rules. Some groups welcome guests; others have a procedure. Show respect for other group members by honoring their structure.
  • If you don’t fit with a group’s structure, leave. Don’t fight and cause division. There are plenty of other networking opportunities which might better fit your style.
  • Follow time guidelines and meeting agendas.
  • Tell the truth at all times.
  • Encourage other group members at all opportunities.
  • Make a point to attend regularly.

Naughty List:

  • Don’t refer to others in the group.
  • Drop the ball on referrals you receive. Don’t call back, do shoddy work, or don’t finish the job.
  • If you hire someone in the group, fail to pay them. Ask them to give you their work for free.
  • Ignore the group’s structure and rules. Those guidelines are for other people, not you.
  • Sow seeds of discord to get your way. Pit people against one another. If there is conflict, dig in your heels and do what it takes to reach your end goal. The end justifies the means.
  • Ignore time guidelines and agendas and talk as long as you please. But insist others follow time guidelines.
  • Go after the target markets of other members of the networking group. Cut down their product and announce you’ll do work better than they do.
  • Consider the truth a guideline goal to be pushed aside when things need to happen to get your way.

You will get out of business networking what you put into it. If you follow the points of the nice list, good things will come your way.

If you instead follow the naughty list, you won’t get a bundle of switches in your stocking. However, over time, you will get fewer referrals and less business.

Hang your stockings and work your business networking with equal care for the future.

How 4-H Helps With College & Scholarship Applications`

“My 4-H achievement record is a waste of time that no one will ever look at,” a teen grumbled at me this summer. I disagreed.

Now that I’m the mother of a daughter on the quest for college acceptance letters and scholarship offers, I can back up my disagreement. Each college has its own questions on its application. They want more than the grades and test scores; they want to see a well-rounded person. As a youth development program, 4-H can make that happen.

Each year, we update my kids’ 4-H achievement records. It’s a headache and a pain. I rank it as being just as pleasurable as filing income taxes and having my toenails yanked off one at a time.

However, that lifetime 4-H record is a lifesaver with college and scholarship applications. Different applications ask information about activities in different ways. Whatever they ask, the 4-H record has the answer:

  • Membership and offices
  • Community service
  • Awards
  • Workshops

For years, in our 4-H achievement record workshops, we hav encouraged members to include outside community service and other activities on their records. Now that I see my daughter completing these applications, I see even more benefit to this practice.

As a high school senior, it’s hard to remember every accomplishment and activity for all 4 years of high school. The achievement record gives a quick reference that answers questions, saving time and improving the overall quality of the application submitted. Further, with varied essay questions, the 4-H record offers substantive background. College and scholarship applicants can illustrate with concrete examples a strong depth of involvement, beyond the club name and office title.

Hint to 4-H members and their families: make the time to do those achievement records well. It is definitely worth it come college application time.

Technique + Ingredients are Key

Learning to make great scrambled eggs can teach businesses important lessons on how to leverage blogs and social networking with their marketing.

A scrambled egg sounds simple to make: stir up the egg and cook it. Anyone can do it. Fantastic scrambled eggs involve some key steps:

  1. Start with about 4 to 6 eggs in a much larger bowl. If you add a tablespoon of milk, you’ll have a creamy egg. If you add a tablespoon of water, you’ll have a fluffier egg. I prefer the milk.
  2. Start to heat your pan at a 3 setting on the stove.
  3. With a whisk, tilt the bowl to an angle and whisk. Use a figure 8 type motion to whisk the eggs, whisking air into the eggs. You want to see air bubbles. It takes at least 3 minutes of whisking to get the eggs properly mixed and enough air bubbles for light eggs.
  4. Spray nonstick spray in the pan and then pour the egg mixture into the pan. You want a hot pan to pour food in. You don’t want the nonstick spray to sit in it too long by itself or it will change colors and change the color of the eggs.
  5. Use a large wooden spoon to stir the eggs. Here’s where more technique matters. Let the eggs set for just a moment. Using the spoon, carefully pull eggs from the outer edge of the pan towards the center. Then turn them in the center, ensuring all eggs that were on the bottom of the pan have now been turned. Continue to carefully turn the eggs until all are nearly set. Make sure you stir the entire pan so eggs don’t stick. Sprinkle with pepper.
  6. Put about 1/4 cup of shredded cheese on top of the eggs and cover the pan. Turn off the burner. Let the cheese melt on the eggs, stir them, and serve hot.

Sometimes I get in a hurry and skip a step. The eggs are not the same. If I use a fork or small spoon instead of the wooden one, the texture of the scrambled egg is different. This is the style and shape of egg that is most popular with my family.

Other recipes often show the ingredients but leave out the small techniques that separate the great food from the edible.

Lesson for business marketers: websites, social media, and blogs make great ingredients for marketing. However, they must be mixed properly, in the right order, to achieve the best result. How they are mixed depends upon your target audience and your business.

Do you just throw ingredients together and stir, or do you learn what works best and make the entree that your customers really want to try?

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