Well, it's been a month. A whole month of blogging. Who knew that I had so much to say! When I started, I didn't even think that people would be interested in my random musings--but a month later, I've developed a loyal following.

It's been stressful, but also fun. It's been challenging, but also fulfilling. It's been nerve-wracking, but also liberating. In short, I'm having the time of my life. I wish I had discovered blogging years ago.

The most challenging part of it, by far, has been coming up with new topics daily. I've tried not to pigeon hole myself--my blog is not just for women, not just for Black folks, not just for parents, even though I'm all of those things. I've tried to present different aspects of myself, and hope that I've done a good job in this.

Thanks for reading, thanks for commenting, thanks for all the words of praise. I appreciate it!

Your comments--priceless!!
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This is one of my favorite charities. I found out about it a few years ago when the youth from the High School Ministry at my Church stood outside the sanctuary on Super Bowl Sunday, holding soup pots, collecting money. They were collecting money to fight hunger and poverty in my local area.

When I got home, I read more about this organization and I must say, I was very impressed. It is Christian based and uses all of the Super Bowl hoopla to their advantage. Even more impressive, is the fact that 100% of donations go towards the fight, none is used for administrative costs. They are able to do this, partly because 10 NFL owners have made significant financial contributions. The teams whose owners are involved are--Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Houston Texans, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars. They also have corporate and community partners.

Their vision is to become the largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving. Right now, the efforts are heavily concentrated on the East Coast, but there are significant gains in other parts of the country. The youth group decides what charity they want to contribute to before they even start.

This is truly something that I can get behind. If you see kids around this weekend, collecting in huge soup pots, dig deep for something to give them. I know times are hard, but how much harder would it be if you didn't have food? Also, if you are involved with a youth group, I would highly recommend considering it as a group activity for next year. Again, I was very impressed and I'm not easily impressed.

What do you think about this? Is it something you could see the teens in your life doing? Why? Why not?

Your comments--priceless!!

Did you all see "Hot" Rod Blagojevich likening himself to Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela? Is he serious?

Ghandi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world." What part of selling a Senate seat is being change??? Seriously, Dude? Seriously?

He's done nearly 20 interviews with the media in the last couple days, rather than attending his own impeachment hearing. He's pleading his case to whoever will hear it. He claims this is all a big misunderstanding. He is the epitome of "not being accountable." But he's not alone. There seems to be an epidemic of elected officials falling off of the morality wagon.

Who is responsible for this? Is it the American people? Are we responsible for this? Have we escalated our lawmakers to celebrity rock star status? So much so that they feel that they are above the law?

Is it their peers? Certainly they know what their colleagues are up to, right? Are they their brother's keeper? Do they have an obligation to police themselves?

Is it the demise of the family structure? Is this what happens when we stop eating dinner together daily? What IS this about? I'm way confused--except I do know this--Hot Rod is NOT Ghandi!!

Your comments--priceless!!

A month ago, when this blog was in the planning stage, I needed help. I knew that I wanted to write a blog. I knew what I wanted to say. I was committed to daily writing. I just didn't know "how to blog." How did i set it up? Would it cost me money? Did I need hosting and all? Etc. Etc.

What did I do? I called my trusted FOJ, Marc, who I knew had a blog years ago. I've known Marc nearly 20 years. We've seen each other grow and change. But we've never been on a date. We've never done anything even remotely romantic. And there's nothing wrong with him, he's cute, he's smart, works hard, etc.

That started me thinking--I have MANY guy friends that I have that platonic thing with--Marc, Drake, Mooney, Kelly,et al. We hang out. We have deep, meaningful conversations. We know wayyy too much about each other's personal business. Yet, I still hear, often, that men and women can NOT be just friends. Am I an anomaly?

And another thing--IF I am an anomaly, then clearly my husband is as well. He has many friends of the opposite sex as well. In fact, many of them call him with their issues and problems, and he helps them figure it out. I don't mind at all. He is very good at solving things.

To me, a friend is a friend, no matter what gender, race, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation. True friendship is such a gem to find, why limit it to only folks of the same sex? Guy friends have given me different perspectives on things. Nobody better to help you interpret the actions of a guy than a guy, right?

There are those that say that there's always one person in the platonic relationship that really wants to be more than friends. Somehow I don't think so. I don't think any of my guy friends are hiding secret desires for me. Maybe my glasses are too rosy, but I just don't see it.

So..AM I an anomaly? Can men and women be "just friends?" Am I fooling myself? Do you have any friends of the opposite sex? Are you secretly harboring romantic feelings towards them? Please share.

Your comments, priceless!

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Write daily about what you are grateful for. Try not to write the same thing everyday, explore your gratefulness.

2. Remember the bad--the contrast may encourage gratefulness.

3. Ask yourself 3 questions. Choose a person that you know. Consider what you have received from them, what you've given them, and what trouble you may have caused them. This may lead to discovering that you owe others more than you thought.

4. Pray. A ritualized form of giving thanks may help increase gratitude.

5. Use your senses. 80% of people say that they are thankful for their health. If you are in that number, then use your five senses to see, hear, smell, taste, and touch the world.

6. Use visual aids. You may need a note to yourself to remind you to be thankful.

7. Swear an oath to be more grateful. Promise on whatever you hold holy that you'll be more grateful.

8. Think grateful thoughts.

9. Acting grateful is being grateful.

10. Be grateful to your enemies. It's a huge step to be thankful to those that you most despise. But this is just the kind of thing to set off a change in yourself.
--as adapted from PsyBlog

Your comments--priceless!
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On Friday night, I went over to Circuit City's pseudo sale, and got a great deal on a new laptop. So, yesterday, I decide to hit up my local wifi spot, and blog. This would be my first time blogging away from home.

I read that I could connect to all AT&T hotspots because I have AT&T DSL at home. So I hit up Barnes & Noble's cafe. Well, after about 15 minutes, I gave up on that. It wouldn't accept my login and password. Ok fine!

Those that know me, know that I always have a backup. So I went to Plan B and connected using my trusty friend, Blackberry. My Blackberry Bold can serve as a modem, and be used as the phone at the same time. How cool is that?

Anyway, I didn't like the blogging in public. There was too much commotion going on. The noise from the espresso machines, folks chattering, babies crying. I sit beside a huge wall of windows that looked out onto the parking lot, and even that was distracting. I saw some woman take off her shirt and put on another one in full view of everyone. It was not pretty. My creative juices were stifled. Besides that, their was nothing on the menu that interested me. And for there to be NOTHING on a food menu of interest to me is really saying something.

Nevertheless, there were many folks there studying, and looking very busy on their laptops. Did they just tune the noise out? Did they start off like me and then get used to it? How are they able to concentrate with strangers walking to and fro? I guess it's meant for me to blog from the comfort of my own home. Apparently, I need a controlled environment.

Your comments--priceless!

I used to have a great memory. Lately, however, things have been slipping through the cracks. I'm forgetting little things (to grab my lunch before I leave in the morning), as well as big things (like a dear friend's birthday) What is that about?

I use a Blackberry and put everything into it without fail. The problem lies in that once it's there, it is both out of sight and out of mind. I've started using the Reminder feature so that my phone nudges me at a set time prior. Even then, I find myself suprised that the event has come up so quickly and am usually ill prepared. At work, I have millions of lists, complete with highlighted items, --lists of things to do today, lists of things I should have done yesterday, lists of things not to forget to put on a list. But again, if something doesn't make it to a list, it might be overlooked.

Is it age that has crept up and made me start forgetting things or is it simply procrastination? Could it be that I'm simply trying to focus on too many things at once? Is it the onset of Alzheimers (gulp)?? Is it just anxiety--perhaps the same anxiety that contributes to my sleeping problems?

What about you? Having bouts of forgetfulness? What do you think it is? Are you using memory aids? Are they working?

Your comments--priceless!

My first giveaway!!!! YAY!!!!! It was a blast. The comments are awesome...And the winner is...Amarque! Thanks for playing and look forward to next month's giveway. It could come anytime in the month, so you might want to think about subscribing either in a feed or by email (both links to the right). Thanks again!

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I haven't been sleeping well--some nights I sleep too little, followed by a stretch of sleeping too much. It's being caused by a mixture of stress, anxiety, fear, and excitement. I have so much going on in my life right now.

I don't seem to have a problem falling asleep, my problem lies in staying asleep. I've cut way back on caffeine products and have even stopped watching television in bed. So far, I've stopped short of sleep aids, which I understand are highly addictive. I may, however, try something more holistic, like acupuncture or aromatherapy.

A recent poll found that more than 70% of adults experience a sleep problem at least a few nights a week. Unfortunately, not sleeping well will start to affect every area of your life--your work, your health, your overall attitude, etc. The human body can not function properly without proper rest. This is really becoming a problem for me. My body is starting to shut down during the middle of my work day, because I've been up 12 or 15 hours already.

Are you in that 70 percent who also has sleep problems? Is your problem falling asleep or staying asleep? How do you combat it?

Also--today is the last day for entry into the drawing for this month's giveaway--the $25 Macy's card. All you have to do is leave a comment on any post since last Saturday. The winner will be announced in tomorrow's post. At this point, there are less than 10 people entered--your chances are good!

Your comments--priceless!
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Do you ever feel confused? Like nothing is how it's supposed to be? Like you somehow got off the right track and now all the tracks are scrambled and it's hard to tell which is the right one now? Clearly, I'm on the wrong track. Clearly, I got derailed somehow. I know where I am and I know where I want to be--it just seems that I'm on the incorrect course.. or something.

Or..perhaps I'm on the right track but there are forces that don't want me on the right track. It's better for them that I'm in a state of turmoil. It delights them that I seem disoriented. They would much rather see me adrift. Well, in the words of my dear 12 year old son--TOO BAD..SO SAD!!! I'm proceeding directly and purposely towards my goals. I have proclaimed 2009 as MY YEAR. And I won't be stopped!

Your comments--priceless!
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The hoopla is over. The deed has been done. Now it's time for us to take heed and get to work. If you are not already, NOW is the time to get involved in your communities and to hold our elected officials accountable for their actions. Here's how--

1. Figure out what you stand for. Define your values. You can NOT get involved if you don't know who you are!

2. Find things that you are interested in--schools/education, pets/animals, eldercare, crime, affordable healthcare, etc. If you are new to dabbling in activism, choose only one thing and learn all you can about it, at your local level. Know who the players are on both sides of the issues.

3. Locate an organization that both shares your values and your interests. If you are interested in education, then perhaps that might be your local PTA. Check out their website, see where they stand on the issues. Are their views inline with your own? If so, go to a meeting. Volunteer for something. It doesn't have to be a huge role--put stamps on envelopes, or hand out flyers. Commit your time and/or your money. Again, it doesn't have to be much--$20 a month is more than 200 dollars a year. That's significant for a small organization. If you can not find an organization whose agenda you agree with, start your own! Find like minds and have at it! It's easier than you think.

3. Seek out your local elected officials. Call your councilman, alderman, or neighborhood representative's office. Tell them you are a constituent and you want to meet with them. Go to their office. Ask where they stand on the issues. Tell them where you stand and why. BE RESPECTFUL. Engage them in meaningful dialogue. Ask what the most pressing problem in your community is and how you can help with it. NOTE: You do NOT have to be in agreement with your elected officials, but remember that they work for YOU. Let them know that you will be holding them to task for their decisions. Trust me, there is something to be said for being on first name basis with an elected official.

4. Repeat step 3 at the city level.

5. Repeat step 3 at the state level.

We can no longer sit back and let others make the decisions that affect our lives. If the decision goes against us, let it not be for lack of effort on our parts. Obama won a historic election in a country where 5 years ago, nobody even knew his name outside of Chicago. It can be done--YES WE CAN!

Your comments--priceless!
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Wow, what a day! What a day! I'm thrilled at the possibilities that today's events will bring. But, as always, I'm concerned. I'm concerned that some people have unreasonable expectations. After all, he's still a man, right? He's still mortal, right? He still puts his trousers on one leg at a time, right?

I'm concerned that some folks think that 1 minute after noon today, their lives will change drastically. I'm concerned that when they find out they are expected at work on Wednesday, at the regular time, doing the same work for the same rate of pay, they will be disappointed in the new President. I'm concerned that when they find out that they will still have to pay their bills, as usual, they will become discouraged. He will disappoint us, he will do things we don't agree with. In some ways, he will fail us, but I don't think it will be intentionally. I just think it might be a bit difficult to please every single American every single day. What's good for me might not be good for you.

He's done very well in repeatedly saying that we have a long, tough road ahead of us, but I don't think everyone hears him. We STILL have responsibilities--to ourselves, our families, our communities, and our country. Do not put the weight of the world on this man's shoulders. He uses the word "We" a lot. Who do you think he's talking about? He means US! We have to do our part. No more excuses.

Did you happen to catch Earl Graves, Sr on CNN yesterday? He spoke about there being no more excuses. It was reminiscent of Bill Cosby's controversial "Pound Cake" speech. Mr Graves called out, among others, Black professionals who assert racism while doing mediocre work. He also spoke on young Black men who have been allowed to "embrace the sin of low expectation" It was all I could do to stay seated and not kiss my television screen.

Let's work with the new President. Let's help him with change. And most of all, let's not criticize his efforts. Let's trust that he's doing what's right for us. And let's get involved.

Tuesday's Tips will be Wednesday's Wisdom (just for this week). And in case you didn't guess, it's all about GETTING INVOLVED.

Your comments--priceless!

One morning in 1968, I woke up to find my mother crying. She was standing in front of the television. She turned to me and simply said, "They killed Martin Luther King." I'll never forget those words, even though I had no idea who "they"were or even who Martin Luther King was. I was 4 years old. I just remember how sad she was, so I cried too.

This is my earliest memory of MLK. It would be years before I discovered his contributions to the world. While his name is synonymous with "race relations," I think his greatest wish was simply for "peace."

You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would publicly say, "I don't agree with MLK or his thoughts." Everyone is on board with MLK and his teachings. Except. Except?

Except it's been less than 10 years that all 50 states have celebrated a federal holiday in his honor, even though the bill was signed in 1983.

Except the planned Martin Luther King Memorial on the Mall, near the Lincoln Memorial and the Jefferson Memorial, keeps running into obstacles.

Except the King Center in Atlanta has fallen into a state of disarray and disrepair.

Except every Martin Luther King Street, Avenue, or Boulevard that I've ever been on in any city in America, looks war-torn.

Is this how we honor someone who made great strides worldwide? Is this how we hold someone in high public esteem? Something just doesn't seem right...

Your comments--priceless!

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Ever heard the old saying, "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade"? What exactly does that mean? I think that they were trying to say "take life as it comes" or "do the best you can with what you have," but how often does the life lemon come looking exactly like a lemon?

More often than not, my life lemons have come looking like an opportunity to make extra money or a "great deal" on something. How come my life lemons never seem to look like a lemon until I try to take a bite out of it? Only then do my jaws get tight. Why are my lemons being disguised as hundred dollar bills? Why can't they just be round and yellow and have the little LEMON sticker on them?

Well, I'm beginning to think they looked like lemons all the time, but my mind's eye refused to recognize them as such. I was so blinded by what I wanted from the circumstance, that I simply refused to identify it as being something harmful. But of course, hindsight is 20/20 and looking back in my life's rearview mirror, I should have recognized each situation as the lemon that it was. In some cases, while I didn't see the lemon right off, I did get a whiff of a lemony scent, and even then, I demanded that my mind put that thought away immediately. In those cases, I ended up getting burnt, with no one to blame but myself.

How have you dealt with life's lemons? Do you always see them coming from miles away? Or are you like me and have to actually be burnt before you back away?

Your comments--priceless!!
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You know how everybody's sitting around and an innocent side comment starts meaningful (and sometimes heated) dialogue? Then you find out that your opinion on the subject differs from most folks in the room. Has that ever happened to you?

Well for me, the topic where my opinion is nearly guaranteed to differ is marriage. Now before you start throwing canned tomatoes at me, please remember this is MY blog and I can write whatever I want. Refer to the paragraph above, in the dark pink box.

Anyhow, I know exactly what to say to start the eyes rolling and the necks swiveling. All i have to say is--"MY HUSBAND IS THE HEAD OF MY HOUSE". Those 8 words can set it off! Some women say to me, "You mean to tell me that he is the boss of you? Girlllllllllllll, I wouldn't EVER let a man run me. You must be crazy."

Now this is not to say that it's a dictatorship, but there simply can't be two bosses. There has to be someplace where the buck stops. And in my home, it stops with him. Again, I don't wish to imply that I don't have a voice. Anyone who knows me knows that I speak loud and clear. There is discussion of pros and cons, and sometimes we don't agree. A decision needs to be made and that decision rests with him. I completely trust that he will do what he thinks is best for the family. And sometimes, it's the wrong decision. In that case, we just back up and go another route.

And ya know what? I don't mind one bit. I've been the decision maker, the bread winner, the disciplinarian, etc. and it wasn't fun. I've relinquished all those roles to him and I can focus on other things. I don't miss them. I don't know how it works in your home, but this works wonderfully in ours.

Your comments--priceless!

The Queen, also known as ME, has declareth that every month, there shall be a giveaway. This month's giveaway is a $25 dollar Macy's card.

The rule is simple--You must leave a comment on any post between tomorrow and next Friday. The comment must be published. Please do not TRY me, by leaving one character or one word or gobbledygook, etc. It must be a relevant, meaningful comment. If your comment is not published, you will not get a entry for that day.

Everyone that leaves a comment will be entered into a drawing. You may enter once per day. The winner will be announced on next Saturday's post. Of course, anonymous postings will not be considered. If you are outside of my circle, using a name that I don't recognize, please send me an email advising what name you are leaving comments under, along with a valid email address for you. If your name is chosen and I don't have any way of contacting you, I will deem you unworthy and move on.

Good luck!!!
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I'm a native Washingtonian. DC is my hometown-born and raised. I love that city. From Anacostia to Friendship Heights. From Georgetown to Barry Farms. I embrace it. From Ben's Chili Bowl to Citronelle. From H.D. Woodson to Sidwell Friends. From Fort Totten to Deanwood. From the Tidal Basin to the Frederick Douglas House. From the Carter Barron to Fort Dupont Park.

It's where I was born (Walter Reed). It's where I went to kindergarten(Rudolph Elementary). It's where I went to high school(Coolidge High School). It's where I saw my first play(Pearlie at the National Theatre). It's where I had my first kiss (Haines Point). It's where I had my first job (McDonald's Mazza Gallerie). I LOVE THIS TOWN! I loved it through the riots in the 60s. I loved it through the sorrow of 9/11. I loved it through the terror of the Snipers. My love is unconditional.

But I'm also afraid. I'm afraid that when the cameras start rolling, we'll show off in front of company. That we won't be on our best behavior. That we will embarass ourselves. And that would be tragic. That would take the spotlight off of the historic events.

Let's not conduct ourselves inappropriately. Let's be hospitable to our guests. Let's show them why we are the most powerful city in the world. Let's put on our Big Girl/Boy underwear and sit at the Big People's table. It's never been more important...

Your comments--priceless!

Recently I saw the movie, Seven Pounds. It's one of those flicks that you either absolutely love or absolutely hate. Most reviewers hated it, though most regular people that I have talked to loved it. What is THAT about?

At one point in the movie, a man questions why another man is doing such a tremendous deed for him. The deed giver replies, "because you are a good man, even when nobody is watching." That line has stuck with me ever since. I keep asking myself, "Is that me? Am I good when nobody is watching?"

That started me thinking about other things, like--When I'm gone, what do I want people to remember about me? What will be my legacy? Granny used to say that she wanted folks to say, "She did what she could." That's pretty simple, but it sure is a mouthful. Am I doing what I can? Is it enough? Should I be doing more? If the answer is yes, why aren't I?

I've claimed this as my year of change. Unfortunately, change can never come without critical examination. It's January 14th, time for self examination. I'm looking at every aspect of my life. There will be changes made and sometimes the changes won't make sense to those who are watching. Just know that I'm working on some things.

Have you ever given thought to what your legacy is? What will you leave here when you've moved on? If you left today, would you be happy with what you've accomplished? Is there more work to do? Let's get busy, folks...

Your comments--priceless!

1. Take lots of pictures to increase your chances of getting just the right shot.

2. Move in close. Stand about 1-2 feet from your subject.

3. Shoot at the subject's eye level. For pets and small children, this may require stooping.

4. Watch the light. In sunlight, move around so that the sun beams on the subject. Inside, turn on extra lights.

5. Use a plain background. Make sure there aren't trees growing from your subject's head or cars dangling from their ears.

6. Try different angles.

7. Discover your phone's capabilities. You may have picture messaging or the ability to use a favorite picture as your phone's wallpaper.

8. Stay still. Jittery hands cause blurring.

9. Set the resolution to HIGH. The quality difference may not be apparent on your phone's display screen, but you'll see it on your computer screen.

10. Be courteous and legal. Ask permission before taking pictures of people. Places like airplanes, courthouses, concert venues, and military bases don't allow cameras or phones. Abide by their rules.
--from Kodak's website
Your comments--priceless!!
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The new season of American Idol starts this week. I understand that they have made some changes, including adding a new judge. But I have a complaint--Why do they begin each season with the most awful auditions that they can find? Is it comedy? I think it's just plain WRONG! It's public humiliation at it's worse.

They go before the judges and seem to think that they really have a shot at stardom. Now some might say that the contestants aren't forced to do it, and that is true. But does it make it less wrong to prey on them for the sake of advertising and ratings? It's apparent even before most of them start to sing, that they have some internal issues. I always think, "Wow, somebody in this person's life should have sat them down and told them that singing wasn't their thing." Was there no one? NO ONE? Once the judges have berated and belittled them, they come outside where Ryan interviews them. But it's not over yet--the cameras usually follow them outside, further documenting their disgrace. The whole thing turns my stomach.

What about you? Do you watch those auditions? Do you find them humorous? What's your take?

Your comments--priceless!
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This week, I had the pleasure of speaking to a woman that I haven't seen in about 5 years. I was notified through LinkedIn that she had a new job. I fired off an email to her, congratulating her on the new position, and offering her a lead (she's in sales, like me). This email to her inspired about 5 back and forth exchanges between us that day--catching up and sharing information. During the exchange, she said, "Wow Jewel, I see your name EVERYWHERE!"

Now of course my name isn't EVERYWHERE(thinking of the bathroom wall), but I do use 3 of the social networking sites regularly. Most folks pick one but I've found that I use all 3, for completely different reasons. I'll explain--

LinkedIn is used for business purposes, almost exclusively. This is where I stay on top of new trends, and get ideas for strategy. I also get job announcements from connections that I send off to those that I think are interested. I use the Groups feature to network with like minds. I belong to many groups--from Christian Professionals to Florida Marlins Fans--and get a digest everyday from each. It usually takes me about a half hour a day to go through the digests, make comments, etc. But, the BEST benefit of LinkedIn, for me, is mining for prospects. I search target companies and get names of people, along with job titles. This is invaluable to a salesperson. A bonus is that I'm then able to see who I know that knows them and may be able to get an introduction or a referral.

Facebook is personal. This is where I've connected with long lost FOJ from elementary school, old neighborhoods, even old jobs. These are the folks with whom I share what I had for breakfast and when I have insomnia. It is a much more personal group. It's where you trade pictures of family and parties, and you engage in things like snowball fights and scavenger hunts.

Twitter is a communications forum where you have to speak in "tweets" of 140 characters or less. It moves quickly and you get information in real time. For instance, I wasn't lucky enough to go to CES this past week, but I got constant tweets about it and was always up to date on which companies launched what exciting new gadget. It also affords me one on one conversations with people that I never would have met otherwise. In the past few weeks, I've had a conversation with MC Hammer about the Oakland riots, with the CEO of Zappos about his new obsession with baked potatoes filled with macaroni and cheese, and CNN's Don Lemon about the economy. This simply couldn't have happened on LinkedIn or Facebook.

So, you see, I use them all. I have different audiences and targets on each, and show totally different sides of me. That's not to say that some contacts don't overlap, but somehow the worlds don't really intersect. Which social networking sites do you use and why?

Your comments--priceless!
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I've never met a stranger. Chatting and small talk come quite easily to me. I'm comfortable in most social situations. Because of this, I meet a lot of people. I probably meet more people during the course of a day than most meet in a week.

Are these people "friends?" Uhhhh, absolutely not! They are folks that I met. When do they become friends? Is it automatic upon meeting the second time? If we've shared a meal or a taxi? Does that make you my "friend?" Because you know some other people that i know (and they aren't friends either)? Because I run into you regularly? Because I "friended" you on Facebook? Because I've known you for years? Because we share a common enemy?

I take FOJ very seriously. You are either FOJ or you're not-there's no middle ground. Rarely do I have new friends, though I do have new acquaintances. Friendship is formed over time. There's a respect that comes with true friendship. There's the desire to want what's best for the other person. There's affection. There may even be some rifts, but when you hit a rift with a true friend, mutual integrity is still intact. There's an old saying that friends walk in when everyone else walks out.

Recently, I saw the devastating fallout of a woman discovering that someone she considered a friend really was not. The other person never considered her a friend, but merely an associate. So when she got clowned, there were severely hurt feelings.

BE VERY CAREFUL who you give the "friend" badge to. Don't throw out the term so loosely. Be mindful of who you let into your inner circle. True friends bring value to your life--if the person isn't bringing anything valuable to you, they probably are not a friend.

Your comments--priceless!

Being the Blackberry addict that I am, I'm always looking for applications that will further help me organize my life. Yesterday I came across a program called EveryHour. It's pretty simple, every hour on the hour, my Blackberry screams out "cuckoo cuckoo," just like an old fashioned cuckoo clock. I set it to notify me when the clock strikes every hour from 6am to 10pm, even on the weekends. It drove my coworkers mad during the day yesterday and last night, my kids looked at me sideways--every hour on the hour.

Everyone wanted to know WHY? Why do you want it to do that? What purpose does it serve to know that it's the top of the hour? I didn't really have an answer. Well, I did have an answer, I was just embarrassed to say it.

My grandmother used to have a cuckoo clock in her dining room when I was a small girl. Every hour, the cuckoo came out the tiny door on the face of the clock, chirped vigorously, then retreated back. The clock broke at some point, and though the bird no longer popped out, it still hung on her wall for years. When I first heard the cuckoo sound yesterday, I thought of her and smiled, then got a bit misty eyed. You see, Granny passed away 3 years ago and it still feels just like it was yesterday. In fact, I'm more than a little emotional writing this post.

My Granny, Marjorie Hood Scott, was the most amazing woman and I miss her immeasurably. When the clock cuckoos each hour, I think of her and smile. Once yesterday, I think it may have been the 7pm cuckoo, I thought I smelled her spaghetti and meatballs.

So family and friends, I know the cuckoo is annoying and perhaps at some point in the future, I will get rid of it. But for now, please let me have these moments. I miss her...

Your comments--priceless!

A few years back, my family started taking annual vacations that include multiple generations. I never, ever would have thought that it could have worked (you've got to know my family), but it actually does. Of course, it takes lots of planning and lots of flexibility. Even then, there's always a ridiculous argument--generally during the first 24 hours, followed by a wonderful time!

We generally plan many months in advance--who's going, who's not going, who wants to go but showed off last year so they are blacklisted, etc. The hardest part of the planning is determining dates that work for everyone. Once you have the WHO and the WHEN...the rest generally falls into place. Since I live in South Florida, the WHERE is a given.

Of course, we've learned quite a few lessons along the way--like the older folks don't really appreciate venues without elevators, and the younger folks don't seem to care for casinos (you've got to be 21 to enter). Also, you can NOT speak to my Mom or even look in her direction while the plane is in the air. She just sits there white knuckled, staring straight ahead, braced for some imagined collision, any moment. (shrug) And, what may be the most important lesson of all--my Dad will NOT leave his hotel room for ANY reason until EVERY judge show on television has gone off--including Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Wapner(reruns), the Texas Judge, the Divorce Judge, etc. There is no reason to even plan an activity before every single case has been settled. Hmmmm..what is THAT about? Really..WHAT is THAT about???

It's also a challenge to find activities that everyone agrees on. Two that always work are shopping and eating. Shopping can be anything from a cheap souvenir shop to an upscale mall. We used to split up at the mall, until it became apparent that it is in your best interest to stick close to my Dad, whose been known to whip out a credit card at the Coach counter in Macy's and buy purses for every female in the group. Now we fight over whose turn it is to "walk with GrandDad." Same with food--we can go anywhere from fast food to fine dining--just know that my older daughter always orders something she doesnt really want, asks the server for an extra plate, and then insists that everyone around the table share their meal with her and that my younger daughter will be mortified if we all get up on the table to dance, as is the custom in our favorite Greek restaurant.

All in all, even being the dysFUNctional lot that we are, I wouldn't give up these memories for anything in the world. The photo ops alone are worth the drama! What are your family vacations like? Who goes? Who plans? Who needs to watch all the judge shows? Share--

Your comments--priceless!
Do you have Seasonal Affective Disorder(SAD), more commonly known as the "Winter Blues?" The American Psychiatric Association (APA) has recognized this as a subtype of major depression, and says it affects over 10 million Americans who live in northern climates. The symptoms include sadness and depression, often accompanied by excessive sleeping, overeating and weight gain. Women are more likely to have SAD than men. Although you might think it is related to the temperature, experts say it's more likely linked to reduced light caused by winter's shorter days. UV Light therapy has been touted as an effective treatment.

The most interesting thing about SAD is that it can also affect those living in warm climates, like me. For them, winter brings the holidays and anticipated happy times, while summer brings loss of appetite, insomnia, and weight loss.

While I'm definitely not qualified to argue with the APA, I'm not sure if I buy into this. I think that some folks are just depressed, period. Wouldn't matter if it were sunny, cloudy, humid or cold--they are just down. I think it may be more noticeable to others during extreme temperatures, I don't think climate is a factor. I've been known to be wrong though..

What do you think? Do you buy it? Have you suffered from this? Which one-summer or winter? How did you handle it? Share your experience--

Your comments--priceless!

Stress affects all of us. And actually, a certain amount of stress in your life is good. Stress keeps you engaged, focused, and moving forward. But too much stress detracts from productivity and happiness. Here's how you can manage stress--

Know what stresses you and be prepared when it hits.

Say no to things that are not in line with your goals.

Learn to relax. Work hard but know when it's time for other things.

Eat healthy.

Keep a sense of humor and laugh a lot.

Ask yourself WHY? The more you understand why you are doing what you are doing, the less stress you will have about it.

Stay active--exercise.

Follow your bliss. Structure your life around those activities that you love.

Organize and prioritize. Do the worst and hardest tasks first.

Follow these steps and you'll be well on your way to recapturing your peace.

--as adapted from ZeroMillion.com

What do YOU do when you feel yourself stressing? Share your tips--

Your comments--priceless!

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I know! I know! New Year's Day was LAST week! I know!

But because New Year's Day was a Thurs, and most folks had Fri off (lucky buzzards!), TODAY is really New Year's Day.

Today is the day that we get back to our daily grind. The next holiday that I have off is Memorial Day on May 25th, so this is actually the longest stretch of work days that I will have this year.

And I have plans-boy, do I have plans! I'm going to put my head down and work. I plan to have my best year ever. I've already talked to God about it, and I think He's in agreement.

November and December were quiet, with everyone in the festive Holiday mood. All of my prospects told me to call them after the first of the year--HELLO????? That means NOW! Not that I'm racing out of the gate--slow and steady wins the race. Have you ever seen riot control police? They have their shields up and all the riot gear on and they stand in formation and take small steps towards the commotion. Over and over again they smallstep together. And they move crowds! With that little smallstep!

So I'm going to take my cue from them and smallstep towards my crowd of prospects. Perseverance and determination will get me over the finish line. What about you? Are you still in Holiday mode or are you joining me in 09?

Your comments--priceless!
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Let's face it--we are in a jam. And things will probably get worse before they get better. We all know someone who has lost their job or in danger of losing it. Gone are the days of secure employment. Sooner or later, that pink slip will have your name on it. You know what they say, chances go round.

Now is the time to boost your network. Cast some feelers out, see what your resume is worth in today's market. See how your skills match up with the current pool of jobseekers. But in order to do that, you have to "know folks." Like in that cell phone commercial, where your whole network follows you around.

Take a good look at the folks in your expanded circle. Not just the obvious friends and family, but others who you never think about. How about your neighbors, past colleagues, even fellow book club members? Just because you see her in sweats on Sunday afternoon doesn't mean she isn't a high powered executive during the week. If you collect business cards from everyone you come in contact with for a day, I think you'd be surprised what you would find out if you googled some of those names. They are probably good connections.
What you need to do is grow your connection with them past the polite pleasantries stage. Here's how--

BE INTERESTED. I go to many networking events, I NEVER talk shop. In fact, I rarely even talk about me at all. My aim is always to find out about the other person--where they grew up, their family life, anything that I can use later to show that I was truly listening during our conversation. If they mention that they are going to Costa Rica on an upcoming vacation, you can bet that during my next conversation or email with them, I will ask about the trip. Think of others in your network that THEY should know, bringing value to the relationship right from the start, and establishing YOU as someone THEY should keep in contact with. Here's an example--"Wow Danny, it must be fun to manage a South Beach nightclub. I have a client whose bringing a new brand of organic spirits to the US. You guys should probably get together."

APPEAL TO THEIR EGOS. Ask them for help--say something like, "Yanno, things are getting tight at my job and I don't know what the future holds for me there. You are someone that I trust--could i buy you a coffee on Thursday night and have you critique my resume. I'd like to be able to hit the ground running, if the axe should fall." Who wouldn't accept that offer? Heck, I don't even drink coffee and I'd do it. Value EVERY connection, no matter what their job title is--you'd be surprised how much clout a receptionist has.

FOLLOW UP! This is the most important. If you do everything else right, and never follow up, you won't get anywhere. I follow up with folks I have coincidental encounters with (like sitting next to them at a luncheon), as soon as I get back to the office. Since I probably didn't tell them what line of work I'm in, I shoot off a quick email just saying that I was glad to meet them and here's what I do and if I can be of help to them, let me know. I also give them contact info for whoever I promised to introduce them to (after securing that person's permission). I also connect with them on linkedin.com and/or twitter.com. Even after that, I don't forget them. If I run across an article that might be of interest to them, I email it. If more connections come to mind, I send them. My goal is always to be on the "owed" end of the favor seesaw.

Boost your network. In the job market, it's not always what you know, but who you know. Who do you know?

Your comments--priceless!

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Did you know that the education system in America is in shambles? Did you realize that school systems across the nation are facing unprecedented budget cuts? Do you understand that in some states, high school sports programs are being slashed? Do we accept that textbook purchases are being delayed? Do we give our consent to school district employee layoffs?

Why don't I see much about this in the media? Why is there more emphasis on analog tv going away than Title I going away? Isn't education just as important as bailing out the auto industry? Does Sarah Palin's new grandson take precedence over education? What about Heath Ledger's death or Beyonce's wedding?

Why are we taking this lying down? Why haven't we joined up with the local/state/national PTA to fight this? Why aren't we staging sit-ins on School Board meetings and State Legislative sessions? Why aren't we marching? Why aren't we contacting our Congressmen, Governors, State Reps & Senators, Mayors, Councilmen, Aldermen, etc. etc.? Don't we care?

Your comments--priceless!
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I don't know about you, but for quite some time now, I've been marching in place.

Marching in place is frequently confused with progress, because there is movement involved. The movement brings on perspiration and fatigue, fooling us into thinking that we have done something, although we haven't advanced at all.

There are some areas of my life where I have not advanced, and most often, I've pointed the finger at someone else--" If 'he' hadn't done this..If 'she' would have said that..." You know, the old blame game...

Well, it stops today! I AM MOVING FORWARD! And if you are an obstacle in my path, prepare to be trampled...

Your comments--priceless!

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One of my goals for this year is to try to see blessings in every circumstance. As I look back over my adult life, I must say that one of the blessings that I most often overlook, is friendship--specifically the friendships of other women. There are some things that ONLY another woman can understand.

At each bump in the road, there was a girlfriend, along with God, who helped me through it. I imagine that it's not an easy task to be a FOJ (Friend of Jewel) and I want to thank all of you for your friendship, support, guidance, words of wisdom, and quips of criticism. I can only hope that I've been as great a friend to you as you have to me.

I have been blessed with many wonderful women in my life, and want to introduce you to some of them. I'm sure you will see more of them, as I post about my daily life...

Cathi-I have no idea where she came from, she just appeared one day and it was as if we had been lifelong friends. She's like Santa--she knows when I've been good or bad! She's taught me so much and I can't imagine daily life without her. Thanks for your friendship, Cathi!

Denise-She's my country girl Betty! We've shared so much that I HAVE to stay friends with her, there's way too much at risk. I miss her a lot--we've both moved to new cities, but the love will always be there for her and for her family.

Gina-She's more like a sister than a girlfriend. I've known her since the day she was born. Though she is the youngest, I definitely look up to her. She's gorgeous and smart and walks in the Light. Just looking at her life makes me strive to do better. I love you Gina!

Jackie-This is the friendship of a lifetime. I've known her for years and we are definitely two peas in a pod. She's one of the few folks that I can call in the middle of the night and know that she won't yell at me. She has an answer for any question and her answer is usually, "Jewel, you KNOW the answer to that!"

Are there people in your life that don't know how special they are to you? Remedy that today! Let's make some calls, send some emails, text some folks--tell them how much you appreciate them. We have no idea who won't be with us on Jan 1, 2010.

Your comments-priceless!
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