Friday, December 31, 2010

U2 - New Year's Day LIVE

"The Seeds of 2011"

The sun is starting to set. I am resting on the couch after a jam packed week of hosting my sister. As I stare up at the ceiling, I am going through the past year in my mind. I had some successful firsts: first time to Disney World, first time driving from Austin to Phoenix, I took the GRE (and passed) and my sister visited me in Austin for the first time since I moved here. I had some setbacks too: I didn’t get nationally certified, had a minor, but scary car accident and work has continued to demand a lot of me.

After a first brief round of thinking, I decided that this year hasn’t been really bad nor, really exciting. Sometimes, I have been VERY happy to see the year end. I’ve said to myself, “Thank goodness that year is over! Next year, has got to be better!” Sometimes I say, “Wow! What a year! I hope next year is as good!” But, this year was neither. It was not a spike nor a low. This year was more of a flat-line; steady and straight. Now that I have decided this, I start to ask myself all kinds of questions. I am bothered by my lack of emotion for the past year or the upcoming year. The questions start off and I can’t get them to stop: Why am I feeling so indifferent to the end of 2010? Did I just waste a year? Maybe I had a good year? Why don’t I know? What am I judging it against? Am I maturing and just getting better at handling life’s ups and downs? The questions continue and I try to explore my mind for possible answers.

I don’t have all the answers to my questions, but I do have some. I decided that I earned a good, solid, steady year. Like most people, I have had my share of ups and downs. Moreover, it was kind of nice to have a year where my drama (or my family’s) was not the main topic of conversation. This, I should be very thankful for. Like the saying goes, “It could be worse.“

That takes care of the stuff that life throws at you, but what about the positive things that have happened but just were not “crazy good”? I decided to take a different approach to this. Rather than thinking of this year as a 2.0 on the Richter scale, I decided that this was a year about “planting seeds” and getting ready for what 2011 has in store for me. “Planting the seed” is a term I hear quite a bit in teaching. We are always hoping that once a piece of knowledge is introduced to a child, it will be planted in their minds and hopefully grow as they learn more. I like this idea and I am going to use it for myself. Thinking about the events of the past year as “seeds” that will grow to be much more fruitful for 2011, sits well with me and helps me remain positive.

The question I still don’t have an answer to is, “Am I indifferent because I didn’t stretch myself more”? Yes, that one I still need to work through. I really wished I had taken more risks. Once again I have to go back to my “seed theory” and tell myself that this year, I planted seeds for greater things to happen in 2011.

Coincidentally, just as soon as I clarified my thinking, the universe talked back to me. It tells me my thinking is right on track. I found this out after a random check of my email. Right there was my “Thought For The Day” email and here is what it said:

“Maybe this year...walk through the rooms of our lives not looking for
flaws, but potential." -Ellen Goodman

How apropos is that?!

look for the potential, not the flaws

Thursday, December 30, 2010

U2 - with or without out you lyrics

The Unforeseen Tragedy

Have you ever thought you really knew someone and then something completely changed your mind? I think we all have. I believe we all are judgmental from one degree to another. First of all, unless your initials are J.C. (GOD), you aren't perfect. Beyond that, everyone is bearing a cross or two.

Ever heard that saying "be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some sort of battle"? I once knew a fellow and his wife pretty well. The fellow, I knew very well. The wife I had met on several occasions and spent plenty of time with. I've always considered myself a good judge of character and I had her pegged as well suited for my esteemed friend. I was glad to see that he had found the one for him. They went on to start successful careers, buy a nice house in the suburbs, and have a couple of beautiful kids. Things were moving along just as I expected. Everytime I got an update on my buddy he was happy, healthy, successful and climbing life's proverbial ladder.
Years went by and while I talked to him infrequently, we had common friends that kept us updated on each other's "status" - to get a Facebook reference in there. It was always the same. You know "Patrick", he's always doing well.

Then, out of the blue I got a call on my cell at night from a mutual very good friend of ours. What he had to say absolutely floored me. It began with what was described to me as completely unsubstantiated allegations made by my friend's wife that he was cheating on her. This, combined with other strange behavior, including crazy accusations against my friend on the phone told me all I needed to know.

SHE had lost it. It flipped the switch from glad to mad. She sought a divorce and pursued full custody of the kids. There were threats of taking the kids and going on the run. Are you kidding me I thought? I had to sit down and just take it all in.
I just knew my buddy would not cheat on his wife. That's just "not how he rolled". He's a good guy. I wanted to help my friend who had been blindsided by all this, but knew there was not much I could do other than say I was here if he needed someone to talk to. He was not one to reach out for help, but I KNEW he would work his way through this.

My pal is someone who always appears happy. He's witty, intelligent, and a happy go lucky sort. Throughout our long history of being friends, he seemed to have it all. He was good with the girls, had lots of good friends, and was highly intelligent. He married an attractive woman, had beautiful kids, and had recently bought a nice brand new home in the suburbs.

Now THIS had happened. In a good way, I thought of him as "The Teflon Don". Nobody is immune from life's curveballs.
Just so you know, my friend has bounced back well. Just as I would have expected, he's come back with flying colors. You just can't keep a good man down.

you just can't keep a good man down

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Santa KWL

Santa is a hero.

Some people call him Saint Nick or even Saint Nickolas .

Do you love Santa ?
I really love him. He is amazing.

He does so many things for us.

He gives us presents, he's a great role model and most of all he cares about us know matter what .

Now I don't know exactly how ,when or where he was born .

But I do know ... That he has magical reindeer here are their names are Dasher, Prancer,
Conner, Blitzen, Dancer, Vixen, Comet and Cupid.

Another thing that is amazing is how
we show him how much we love him. We are giving him cookies (with milk) or praying and saying thanks to him. Or even putting Santa decorations up to show him that he inspires us and is a great role model.

Here are some things that I want to know about Santa/Saint Nick?

1. How in the world can he go around the world and give each kid presents?

2.Where was he born ?

3.How big is that naughty or nice list?

Well I would love to tell more about Santa, but I'm just a kid so don't expect that this story is going to be top notch anyway. I hope you love my story.

i hope you love my story

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ray LaMontagne - That Spirit Of Christmas

The Movie It's a Wonderful Life

As the holiday season is upon us all once again, I find myself trying to look back upon the last year, reflect, and try to come to some logical reasoning for the events and experiences of the past year. My wife and I have just recently (16 months now) returned to live in Australia, to be nearer to her family, as well as raise our own. Life has a certain slower rhythm to its pace here “down under” and we are glad to be here again.

As I am sure many of you would agree, moving house has its unique way of turning your life upside down, things get misplaced, things are broken, and unfortunately items get lost. This is frustrating enough when one moves across town, interstate, or across the country, but let me assure all of you, when one puts their life in a 53’ container, and ships it to a new hemisphere.......well, it’s a whole new ballgame my friends.

Because of the hot housing market here in Australia, we waited almost a full year until we purchased a home. This allowed us time to suss out the important details such as schools, nearby shops, public transport...etc. It also meant that we did not “see” our belongings (except what came aboard the plane) until July of this year. Needless to say, we had our own little Christmas in July, just with familiar gifts. Amazingly, nothing, not a thing, was damaged or broke in the shipment. This was a happy moment.

With the holiday rapidly approaching, we have just in the last week unpacked the last of the boxes labelled “Christmas”. As we reacquainted ourselves with the ornaments, stockings and other trappings from decoration land, I came across our copy of the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”, usually I would wait until Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day to watch this classic tale, but being curious and impatient, I slid it into the laptop and watched attentively. After it ended, I began to think....why has this film supplanted all other holiday stalwarts, including, The Grinch, Charlie Brown, and A Christmas Carol as the standard bearer for our viewing pleasure?

As a tale of redemption, it is no better than so-so; the revelation that George Bailey’s world was better off with him in it has none of the social message or the moral urgency of Scrooge’s ghost-bed conversion. The whole angel gets his wings message is at best, silly. And while the actors involved all play their roles quite adeptly, this still does not explain the almost mythic stature the film enjoys. It seems that Christmas, after Christmas, one finds themselves tearing up almost on cue, without knowing why? I suppose one could take the angle that the film is an anti corporate parable. Without George Bailey and the community conscious building and loan, the overbearing Mr. Potter may have well turned Bedford Falls into a soulless company town. But I doubt that people respond to this movie as a protest against takeovers.

I think the movie’s success lies in the toast that George’s brother Harry, momentarily home from the war, raises to George as the townspeople have come to help him out of his money problems. “To my brother George,” he states. “The richest man in town.” Clarence, the angel, adds an unnecessary celestial message about no man being a failure as long as he has friends, in case we don’t get it. But the key moment is the toast, because while it appears to pop up from out of nowhere, it has been building steadily through the picture. Just when George thinks the world has abandoned shows up to declare its love for him.

This I think is what the picture is truly about. The subtle and casual surprise of friendship. It is easy from time to time to go along clouded by the suspicion that we are alone in this world. Then, every once and a while, we are proved wrong. Friends appear at our door, an invitation arrives in the mail, and we are saved. This reversal of emotion is as blindsiding as it is moving, especially at this time of the year when the deserting light can leave us alone in the dark. Suddenly all seems right, suddenly, it’s a wonderful life.

Going back through the picture, with the exception of Mr. Potter, nobody acts remotely poorly to another at any time. They do what friends are supposed to do, which outwardly, is not all that much. Most noted writers have tried unsuccessfully to define friendship because, unlike romantic love, the emotion is basically undemonstrative; it is hallmarked by the things we do not do—betray, belittle, be harsh. When it does manifest itself, we usually do not see it coming, which is where friendship gets its power—from the slow, cordial, dance of ordinary life.

A parallel can be drawn in relation to George Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the island of La Grande Jatte” each item in the painting seems to have an existence independent and outside of the whole picture, which eventually they will compose. We gasp at the picture, not because we do not expect it, but because, while expecting it, we somehow cannot believe it. So hard it is to trust our dreams of life being whole and beautiful that we focus on the particles, as paltry, and wintry as they are. When life seems to come together from time to time, we find ourselves under the same spell, we knew it could happen, but somehow we cannot understand how it did. Call it the suspension of belief.

For those of you reading this back in the USA, the past few months have been about troublesome things; unemployment, a turbulent economy, political teeth gnashing, the threat of terrorism. But most of us live in bits of small talk about nothing much, the accumulation of which, when well intended, staves off the cold.

So there’s our George, standing by the piano with his family while his friends close ranks around him, and Harry breaks through the crowd to say a few words. Gets us every time.

merry christmas from australia!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Temptations - Silent night

The Sharecropper and Her Crops

When Jewel Orex Todd Fletcher was raising her seven children in the piney woods of east Texas in the 1940s and 1950s, expectations for blacks at that time weren’t very high. Fortunately for the Fletcher family, Mrs. Jewel didn’t really care about the expectations of other people.

Infused with a love of learning instilled by her school-teacher mother, Mother Dear, as she was called by her children and grandchildren, was determined to see her kids succeed academically where her own academic career was thwarted.

She finished high school and even managed to finish her first year at Mary Allen College, the local Negro college in nearby Crockett. But when her dad fell ill, she left school to work to help the family. She then met and married Tally Fletcher and soon gave birth to what would be the first of eight children (one died in infancy). Never a stranger to hard work, she did what was necessary, working alongside her husband as a sharecropper in addition to tending their own land. She took on domestic work in town with area white folks and even took in ironing. When the local hospital was built, she worked there until her retirement.

“No one owes you anything,” she’d tell her children. “You have to work hard to get what you want.”

What she wanted was a different life for her children. All of her work required grueling physical labor, subject to the whims of nature or the demands of those more powerful. She knew that higher education was the key to a better life.

Her children now say they didn’t realize that not doing well in school was even an option. As they made their way through W.R. Banks High School, the high school for the colored children of Grapeland, watchful eyes reported to their parents. Mother Dear and Daddy were well known to the teachers and well respected. The same high expectations set at home, were enforced by vigilant educators at school.

Argell, Floydia, Tally (Bob), Franklin (Val), Bennie, Gerald, and Wardaleen grew up in this strict but loving home under the watchful eye of both parents, but it is Mrs. Jewel who seems to have had the greatest impression on their schooling.

“My momma always talked about going to college,” recalls Floydia Fletcher Phillips. I grew up thinking that you go to college—it is just what you do.

Argell, the oldest, left for Prairie View A & M and Floydia quickly followed him. For a few years, there were as many as three Fletcher kids in college at the same time. Even then, the financial burden must have been tremendous.

“I honestly don’t know how she did it,” says Floydia. “I know she and daddy worked more than one job to help pay for it, but if it was a burden, she never said a word.”

As the older children graduated with their degrees, they used the paychecks from their new professional jobs to help offset costs for younger siblings.

Not all of the kids initially heeded the prodding of Mrs. Jewel. Val, worried about the added expense for Mother Dear if he joined his siblings in college immediately after graduating from high school, joined the military. Part of any money he earned, was sent to help his siblings in school. After three years in the Army, he used his GI Bill to join his sister Bennie, and brother Bob at Paul Quinn College, then in Waco. He had promised his mother that he would enroll in college immediately after leaving the service, and true to his word, after his discharge in June, he enrolled that August.

Bob delayed school as well, moving to Kansas City to live with Mrs. Jewel’s brother and work. When he returned after some time away, Mother Dear said, “You know you are going to school, right?”

Mrs. Jewel’s influence extended well beyond her own children. The Fletcher house was the gathering place for many of the neighboring children. Those children were also privy to her admonitions about the importance of education. As her children would return to school each fall, they would recruit cousins to accompany them and enroll.

Mrs. Jewel “Mother Dear” Tryon lived a long and fruitful life. She died in 2007 having seen every single one of her children graduate from college (and quite a few grandchildren as well). A few of her children also earned advanced degrees.

In rural east Texas, some thought it was silly to invest money in schooling when there was so much work to be done in the fields, but she pressed on, encouraging everyone in her path to reach higher.

The beauty of education is that it doesn’t just impact the recipient. It filters down the family tree to the children and the children of the graduate. Jewell Fletcher’s prescient persistence meant that her grandchildren would all go to college as well.

Her willingness to work two or three jobs to send her own children means that many of her descendants won’t have to struggle in the same way. For that, they are grateful.

no one owes you anything

Monday, December 20, 2010

BARBRA STREISAND have yourself a merry little christmas

The Man in the Glass

When you get what you want in your struggle for self

And the world makes you king for a day,

Just go to a mirror and look at yourself,

And see what that man has to say.

For it isn't your father or mother or wife,

Whose judgment upon you must pass;

The fellow whose verdict counts most in your life

Is the one starring back from the glass.

He's the fellow to please, never mind all the rest.

For he's with you clear up to the end,

And you've passed the most dangerous, difficult test

If the man in the glass is your friend.

You may be like Jack Horner and "chisel" a plum,

And think you're a wonderful guy,

But the man in the glass says you're only a bum

If you can't look him straight in the eye.

You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years.

And get pats on the back as you pass,

But your final reward will be the heartaches and tears

If you've cheated the man in the glass.

Dale Wimbrow (c) 1934


get what you want in your struggle for self

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nat King Cole - The little boy that Santa Claus forgot

The Almost Rapture

I was 9 years old when my grandmother told me that Jesus was going to be coming back on Christmas Eve.

My grandmother always seemed to have insider evangelical information, mainly stuff discovered from years of theological studies, but from time to time, bits of prophesy acquired from late night infomercials as well.

Either way, I recall thinking 'who in their right minds proceeds to tell a nine year old something of this nature?' As if I would be elated, having already lived a good long life, sowed my wild oats, and come to the conclusion that I wanted the Lord to hurry up and take me out of this God forsaken place already...yeah, not so much. My days consisted mostly of tea parties and amusement parks, so the last thing I was looking forward to was being "raptured."

It was a few days before Christmas Eve, and in the same way misery loves company, evidently, so does sheer panic and anxiety. There was no way I could keep this big, horrifying secret to myself, so I decided to break the news to my 7-year-old brother as well.

Needless to say our holiday vacation didn't have that carefree air about it that it used to. When Christmas Eve finally arrived I remember my brother and I were on our best behavior, not wanting to bicker or fight, or use the restroom much for that matter...I mean who wants to be taken up mid-tinkle, right?

The day proceeded to go by as usual- cooking, eating, cleaning, cooking again....but still no second coming. By this point the anticipation had consumed my brother and mine's every thought and we saw little purpose in leaving cookies out for Santa, nor wasting our time dreaming of sugarplums or the gifts that would never be opened.

Cruelly enough, our mother had decided to put us to sleep at around 8 o'clock, so that "Santa" could get an early jump on things. To her curiosity I passed up a night in my own cozy bed, instead choosing to roll out a sleeping bag on my brother's floor. I figured this way when IT happened I would know immediately, rather than risk being left behind, and not discovering said chilling fact until the next morning when I woke up to a tinsel covered ghost town.

Needless to say, those were the longest 4 hours of our entire lives. My brother and I were both glued to the clock, watching as final minute, after final minute ticked by. At which point I'll acknowledge that yes, it was a given Christ worked according to Central Standard Time. We were small children and didn't realize He had any other options.

And then, finally, the moment came. The clock read 11:59. It was J.C.'s last chance, and man, had he really drug this whole debacle out...but who can blame him, you only get to orchestrate a second coming once, right?

I don't think either of us took in one ounce of oxygen for that entire minute. When the clock finally struck 12, and the blue started to leave our little faces I remember wondering how my grandmother must be feeling right at that moment. Was she embarrassed by her miscalculation? Was she up pacing and feverishly writing Robert Tilton hate mail? Or had she perhaps simply shrugged it off and headed back to bed thinking "oh well, maybe next year?" Did she even realize that she had completely robbed her two precious grandchildren of the joy of Christmas that year?

All I know is we never told our mother, in fear that she would never let us go back over to grandma's house again- so obviously her positives outweighed her negatives in our eyes.

By the way, that Christmas she gave me a bike and $200 dollars, which goes to show you she had somewhat thought ahead and couldn't have been all that invested in this whole "rapture on Christmas Eve" premonition.

Years later when I asked her about this landmark moment in my childhood, she simply laughed and told me she'd just gone to sleep that night, same as any other...just as I had suspected.

happy holidays!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Welcome Croatia, Italy, Spain and Kuwait! Spread the word.

T hin K

Fire And Rain - James Taylor with lyrics

The Halmunee's Beads

Let me tell you about my Halmunee (grandma in Korean). She was this tiny little old woman who by looks can deceive you at how fast and strong she really was. She lived with us until she passed away. I remember she used to pray every day to Buddha. Every morning she would wake and pray for an hour with her prayer beads. Now, we grew up in a Catholic home, and though she never forced her faith upon us, neither did we try to force our faith upon her. She was strong in her faith all her life.

Halmunee passed away December 14, 1984. She was 71. At that time, I didn’t realize she left behind testimony that HE does exist. I didn’t realize that, until the anger and pain of losing her faded, quite a few years later. It was going to be my 13th birthday that month, so I was still very young and had faith that only God can move mountains.

I remember Halmunee had a seizure and was rushed to the hospital. We were told she had a stroke. She was in a coma for 7 days. Mom and I stayed at the hospital all day long only going home to sleep. The morning of the 8th day, the hospital called and said Halmunee was awake and asking for us! We rushed right over. She was awake and it seemed all would be right. She was weak but alert, speaking to Mom, my sister, brother and myself. She told us she loved us and we told her to get well, so she could hurry home. I remember telling her not to forget it would be my birthday soon and I was going to be a teenager finally! We all stood around her talking to her and letting her know how much we all loved her and wanted her to get well and come home.

It wasn’t an odd request, I mean, we didn’t think much of it at the time….but she asked to be baptized. She wanted to be saved. Mom called her friend and asked her to bring a priest. When he came, we all prayed. He baptized her and prayed over her. The day was going well. Everything was going to be okay. Halmunee was awake and alert and talking and now she was saved! We all kissed her and said our good byes and went home to let her rest. She passed away the following morning.

I remember the anger I felt, God betrayed me! I had bargained with Him! I asked him to save her! And I thought everything was going to be
okay! But he let her die! I couldn’t believe he lied to me! I was so angry I turned away from Him for so many years. I didn’t want to believe in Him anymore. Halmunee was my mother’s mother and she was as good as a second mom to us. We needed her and now she was gone. Her garden was right outside my window and some nights I could swear I could hear her out there. I missed her so much!

As years passed, I continued to be mad at God. Thinking if there was one, He
wouldn’t have let Halmunee die. And I thought of her often. One day it hit me though… like a ton of bricks. HE exists!

We never found her prayer beads when we packed up all her things. It simply disappeared… How can a little old lady who all her 71 years of life, who prayed to Buddha every day, devout in her faith, wake up one day and ask to be baptized and saved? She came back for one day. That alone was message enough. HE exists! I’m not a “holy roller” or a “bible
thumper” I still have a long road ahead of me and I’m still not right with God. But I know he’s there.

I had a hard time writing this. I share this epiphany with very few people because of how deep and personal this story means to me. But when Kevin asked me to write a true story, I knew it was time to share. To all those who believe and especially to all those who don’t… HE exists.

he exists

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Mission

The A.E.S.O.P tells thread weaves a tapestry of inspired persons through their tales. Everybody HERE comes from SOMEWHERE.

T hin K
T an K

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Michael Jackson - Man In The Mirror

The Follower

Traveling to Africa changed my life. I expected to see and feel things that would awaken me but I did not expect what came about. You could say that my eyes were opened when I was 35 years old. I spent the years leading up to that time in contented complacency. My life was good. I was good. I tried to fill my time doing good things. But something was missing.

You would never call me a risk-taker. I was more of a follower. I always wanted someone else to try something first. I would watch carefully and then could make a good decision about my next actions. It worked when I decided to jump out of a tree when I was 8 and it worked when I bought my first car. I was cautious and very proud of it. So, I was shocked when I heard my voice say yes when my sister asked me to go on a mission trip to Africa. I
didn’t know anyone who had been before and I didn’t pause at the thought.

Our mission was to go and serve orphans. We would work in orphanages and love on the orphans and their caretakers. I knew there was an orphan crisis. I knew that disease and poverty had taken its toll on the country of Ethiopia. Visions of famine and Michael Jackson singing We Are the World ran through my head. My logical side
didn’t know how going and working in orphanages would help. It seemed that it would just be a drop in the bucket of what was really needed. Thankfully, my doubts did not deter me as I felt the gentle nudge to go anyway.

Like any selfish traveler, I worried about myself as I prepared to go. I had to find just the right shoes, clothes, and gear to spend two weeks in Ethiopia. I also knew that I had to prepare mentally and emotionally as I read and learned about the things I would see. I got the correct shots and malaria medication. I felt prepared. Little did I know….

The 15-hour plane ride was long and filled with anticipation. We met other people going to Africa. As they told about their missions, I was humbled. Some were heading to Sudan on medical teams. One college student was spending his summer teaching English in a remote African village. I was amazed that people were traveling so far to meet the needs of others.

As we arrived in
Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, my senses were awakened. The air smelled of smoke and stung my eyes. The rain was a surprising departure from the hot Texas sun. I loved that the nights were noisy. You could hear roosters crowing, calls to prayer and animals on the street. Oh so different from home. The land was fertile and green. Each cup of coffee was full of warmth and hospitality.

I quickly discovered that the people of Ethiopia were as warm as the coffee they served. They were beautiful people and many had to endure difficult circumstances. They work hard, very hard. It did not take long to learn that God was at work in Ethiopia. I got to see that first hand.

We spent time in an AIDS orphanage. The kids were happy and full of energy. I was struck that the kids looked like the kids in my school. They laughed like them. They played like them. The difference was that they had AIDS or HIV. Another stark difference was that they had no parents. That was sobering. I carefully watched the nannies that took care of them. Some of the women shared that they
couldn’t tell their families where they worked because they would be shunned. The work that the nannies did was pure and good. The women who served these kids were making a difference.

We visited another orphanage and I was halted by what I saw. As we were given a tour of the facility, we briefly stopped by the infant room. It held nine newborn babies. They were swaddled three to a bed, in a room the size of my very own closet. Ouch. They were cared for by sweet nannies that stood by them ready to answer their cries. I saw angels in aprons serving those babies.

Wherever we went in Ethiopia, we met amazing people. When asked what they needed, they would simply ask for prayer. I learned most about Ethiopia by loving on kids in orphanages, playing soccer with street boys in the rain, and by observing how God can use one person to make a difference in another person's life. Believe me, I was humbled by all that I saw and experienced.

All the experiences left me very emotional and with a heavy heart. I observed individuals making a difference in Ethiopia. I met selfless people who were caring for others. I
couldn’t escape thinking about my own responsibility. Now that I have seen the need, what was my part to play? What drop do I put in the bucket?

In typical fashion, I looked for someone to follow. I decided to follow the tug I felt when I decided to go to Ethiopia. That tug was to follow Jesus and the example He gave us. I must tell you that the last few years have been an incredible whirlwind and adventure. God has guided me to go back twice. I have been blessed to work with street children, teachers, and wonderful ministries there. I am still a follower. That’s just who I am. I thank God for the amazing journey He continues to take me on.

what drop do i put in the bucket?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

T in Uganda K!

Excited and humbled to see readers in Russia, the U.A.E., and Uganda!

It's a festive time at A.E.S.O.P.! We're all very busy. So we will be going a bit light until after the holidays.

Things are picking up, not slowing down here. Stay tuned! We have a host of new stories to share with you. We will mix in a couple during your holiday season.

Moreover, we're gonna hit the ground running hard in 2011! If you want to tell your 'tell' don't hesitate we are lining 'em up.

Send to

T hin K

R.E.M. - Supernatural Superserious

Thursday, November 25, 2010

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Two Books and a Bucket...T hin K

The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket: "The Theory of the Dipper and the Bucket"

Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it's empty, we feel awful.
Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people's buckets -- by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions -- we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from others' buckets -- by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions -- we diminish ourselves.
Like the cup that runneth over, a full bucket gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic.
But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will. That's why every time someone dips from our bucket, it hurts us.
So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another's buckets, or we can dip from them. It's an important choice -- one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness."

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


This tell begins with social networking.

Once upon a time, I posted a random remark about stem cell research. Not many people bit. I was fishing for a response. One person did - Kev.

We began a chat and became quite close through this means of modern communication. We exchanged ideas, music links, and book topics. I even referred to him as my BFFB, if such a person exists, Best Friend / FaceBook.

Kev asked me to read a particular book. He had mentioned it before and had even emailed me his test results from the book's personality assessment. I promised I would and asked him to read a book in return, Think & Grow Rich. We agreed to have the purchases in hand before the next week.

Saturday night rolled around... I forgot.

When I remembered I ran to the store and purchased the book. With just enough time before picking up my daughter, I entered the code and took my personality or strengths test. The results were tallied. Hmmm. Things I knew, things I suspected.

My daughter, the mini-socialite, lingered at the house of a well known bank's president, which forced me to have a conversation. Not really forced, I like the family quite well. "Have you guys ever heard of Strengths Finders?"

"One year all of the bank's management had to take that test. It changed my life, it did. Changed my life."

It was at that moment I became completely intrigued.

We left for home. I spent the rest of the evening referencing the book and my strengths, setting up my profile, and thinking. Then it occurred to me to look at Kev's profile. Surely, we weren't the same. Or were we?

I rarely delete an email. Currently, I have 2000 and counting, that have not been transferred to folders. I have a friend that freaks out if she has more than ten emails. Strengths Finder assesses your strengths and elaborates to tell which type of personalities complement your strengths to make you stronger.

I looked at Kev's strengths, not a single same one. Then I saw it - analytical. I remembered for my strength of ideation, it is encouraged that I work with someone with a strong analytical component. My 'aha' moment. I put our strengths side by side. Together, through our many differences we make a complete business model. On the next chat, I disclosed my findings. He had already speculated the results before my test.

Sooooo, what were we going to do? He said he would leave that up to me, since I had ideation. I thought for few days. Then, it happened. Mr. Analytical not Ms. Ideation - had the idea - an ordinary person telling extraordinary stories. With my weird brain twisting I saw A.E.S.O.P. as an acronym and voila. The blog was born.

The 'tellers' lived happily ever after.


Send your 'tell' to

Michael Jackson - Black Or White


It's 5:50 AM on Wednesday July, 21 2010. Why am I up so early? I've never been known for the saying "early to bed, early to rise." I woke up with an urge to write. Going back just a few short months to the early spring of this year, I can say that I was pretty content with life. I was mentally and physically healthy. Married happily for almost thirteen years and becoming closer to my quickly maturing eight year old daughter, I was in a good place. I was settling into a relatively new job, improving, and making some new friends at the office.

I was however, struck by a sense of apathy. It was nothing serious like depression, but there was a void. I could tell there was something else I needed to do to fill that gap, but had no idea what that was. Then, I started a very long chat on Facebook with a high school cheerleader friend of mine. I was intrigued with Teffanie before the chat even began. We were already "friends" on FB, but we didn't really communicate. I looked at her page and saw success, uniqueness, and variety in her. To use a British word, I "fancied" her style. How many African American, dread lock wearing, principals of a charter school do YOU know that date a farmer?

I have never looked at color, race, nationality or anything of the sort to pick my friends. I like to treat them all with positivity. If I seek you out and you give some of it back, that in turn fuels my fire. This was a lesson I learned from a former co-worker. I admired his ability to put a smile on almost everyone's face when he came around the corner.

My problem is I have to get to know you before I'm able to do that. I'm "shy" until I really feel like I know you enough to speak comfortably around you. As I've told many of my friends, I look down in the elevator. Why would I want to to talk to a stranger? I don"t even know them and would really just throw out a superficial hello.

I do however, have a strength that my former company would call "individualization." What is that? Here's the official definition: "People strong in the Individualization theme are intrigued with the unique qualities of each person. They have a gift for figuring out how people who are different can work together productively." So in layman's terms, I am fascinated by the differences in people and love to sit down and really get to know you one on one.

Group talk is a whole other thing. Put me in a room with a bunch of people I don't know that are talking and I'll be the one that says nothing, but analyzes everything said......So back to me initiating a "chat" with Teffanie on Facebook. As I remember it, I reached out to her. I don't remember exactly what was said after that. The only thing I can tell you is that the chat had chemistry.

It went on for a good while. By the time it ended it she had convinced me to read a book and I had convinced her to do the same. Fortunately, she was faster to meet our agreement than I was. By the next weekend, she had read the short book and taken the accompanying "Strengthsfinder" test to go along with it. While I had bragged about the test and it's positive effect on my life, I didn't know how accurate she would feel it portrayed her.

The next time we chatted, I got my answer. She said it was spot on. It was after what she told me next, that I threw out a very vague proposal to her. She said, and I'm paraphrasing, "That was amazing. What was even more amazing is that one of the things the test told me was to partner up with someone who had certain strengths." (The test tells you what your top 5 strengths are). I had all 5 of those strengths. There are 34 official "strengths". I mean what are the odds of that?

I said well then let's put our heads together and think of something we can work together on. It could be philanthropic, a potential business, a book or whatever. Okay she said. Let's think on it. The next time we communicated, she threw out the idea of a blog. By the way, her number one strength is "Ideation." She's the idea woman. I asked her on what topic? Her answer: "I don't know." I did, however. I almost immediately came up with what has grown into A.E.S.O.P. "tells". I wanted to have a reality "text" that wasn't programmed or fixed. How about a forum for people to tell their story?

"EVERYBODY" has a story, just very few get to hear it. It didn't have to be your life's story, it could be an interesting story about something that happened to you or someone you know. You could be anonymous or up front with who you were. The potential material was absolutely unlimited.

And so it was. She began to work on the creative side (the look of the blog), which is her strength and I began to recruit people "individually", a strength of mine. Approximately four months later, we have had over 1400 people read our stories and a host of others submit theirs, be it solicited or unsolicited. It has at this juncture become a passion.

I may not get paid monetarily for this, but the stories, the lessons and seeing in text the raw emotion or the strength of people to overcome is ample pay. My void has been filled. My wife might argue that I have a second job now that brings in no money. However, I married Michelle for a reason. She sees the passion and encourages me, rather than complaining that I spend so much time on it. It's like a bush that grows very quickly. The branches are growing branches and it's fun to watch the flowers bloom.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

This Track

From my earliest recollection, I was running. Mind racing, blood pumping, gazing the horizon for something different, something better, something worth running to. I literally ran out of the womb. It didn’t matter that it was ten weeks early. At 3.5 pounds I was restless. And ready to move.

My mother was restless too. At the impulsive age of 18, she clung to my father like a life raft. He would get her out of the misery of living with a  French speaking - war scarred- mother, and an equally wounded vet of a father who sought solace in the bottle. 

But as I said, mom was restless. Dad with his bell bottomed jeans, kind heart and willingness to please couldn’t keep her. She ran. Ran to the interesting, brooding man who also liked the bottle. He also liked to hit. We ran from him. Ran in the middle of the night, hitched a ride and relied on the kindness of acquaintances. She then found another man. He liked the bottle too. 

By the time I was nine, I was living with my aunt and uncle. It was hard to breathe in that house; stifling with rigidity and forced smiles. I was to be seen and not heard. I understood that. After almost a decade, I knew how to play the game.

I didn’t fit in so well in my new school. Most of the students were fairly privileged. I knew more, understood more, had seen more. Looking back I can see that to children’s eyes, this didn’t make me interesting. It made me strange, and perhaps a little frightening. 

When I was in seventh grade, a PE teacher reached out to me. In a moment that was likely insignificant to her, she said “you are a pretty good little athlete.” Oh how that simple sentence of praise and encouragement made me glow from my insides. Perhaps, despite it all, I had value in something. I was soon running my first track race; the 1200 meter run. Three full laps where I had the undivided attention of my coach, my teammates and the spectators. Though the other girls were much more experienced, I had to beat them. This was my one shot at significance. I won that race, and no one but my coach knew that to achieve it, I pushed so hard that I urinated on myself. That is desire.

Running became a rebirth for me. I was no longer the girl with crappy lineage, uneven teeth and discount jeans. I was a runner. I continued on; I ran myself to newspaper articles, to state championships, to a college scholarship 300 miles away.

Circumstance and a predilection for interesting, brooding men threw my running off course. While I had always been running toward something, I found myself running away. Running away from abuse, abandonment and rejection through promiscuity, bars and sleep. 

But my mom didn’t raise a quitter. I found a life raft in two friends whom I will never let go. I found a husband with the kindness of my father. I found strength in a career that lets me reach out to kids who know more, understand more, and have seen more. 

I still run. I step out my door and run for pleasure, for health and to decompress. I find myself racing around the globe, trying to learn more, experience more, impact more. Still running. Always running. Forever running.

Tom Petty - Runnin' Down A Dream (+lyrics) HD

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Move Closer

I was born in Ohio on January 27, 1974. My mom was pretty much a stay at home mom but would branch out and try other jobs as we got older. She had a daycare at her house one time and also did a bit of real estate. My dad was a hard-working, never missed a day of work in his life, 100% dedicated to the company, Executive. Eventually, he climbed the corporate ladder and became Vice-President of the company. He won numerous manufacturing awards, and was even featured in Wall Street Journal. I remember a couple of years ago riding in my dad’s car and the CEO of Apple Computers called him on his cell phone.

My family history goes something like this:

My two younger sisters and I grew up in a small suburb outside of a mid-west city. We had softball in the spring, basketball in the winter, parades for 4th of July and of course St. Patrick’s Day, a good elementary school, and fun things to do with your family on the weekends like visit the zoo or go swimming at the club.

I attended CCD class each year. I made my communion and it was a big deal in the family. I got a 10-speed bike.  We had a cake, and family from around the state came. My mom was Catholic and my dad was Atheist. He has since had a change of belief.  He celebrated holidays as just holidays without the religious side to it. My mom took us to church on Sundays while my dad stayed at home.

I remember my dad as being like every other day in the neighborhood – dependable, stand-offish sometimes, but overall a very caring guy that you could trust and wanted to please. In the winter, he would take us sliding and out for hot chocolate at McDonald’s after by himself -just him and three young girls. He was the guy who took us to our practices and games. He even coached some of our games. He planted a huge garden in our backyard. He was the guy who painted, fixed, and made our house the way it was. He really enjoyed holidays and celebrated every holiday to the fullest! Every daughter got a birthday party to be held at their choice of location, every Christmas we had 20 presents each to open, every Easter we had our own egg hunt and our own basket. We got bikes, video games, clothes, jewelry, Barbies, games, roller-skates. I look back now and can’t believe it all – if I had three kids there is no way I could afford to give them all of that now! I like to remember my dad like this.

Columbus was great but in the 7th grade I noticed that a lot of the girls were “growing up fast” and I wasn’t ready yet. The girls became very materialistic and very boy crazy. I didn’t care about the things they cared about and I just didn’t feel comfortable at school anymore. I started to think less of myself. I wasn’t popular and even though we had a lot – it wasn’t enough to keep up. So when my dad said we were moving to Brownsville, Texas, I was actually a bit relieved; until I realized what I was truly in for.

Brownsville, Texas was a cultural shock! We moved there in 1987, in the middle of my 7th grade year. To be honest and blunt, I hated it at first. Everything was new and way too different for me. It was hot too many months out of the year. It didn’t have the small hometown feel I had always known. It was a poorer community than were I grew up. And also, we were a minority there. Going to the mall or the local HEB, my family stuck out. I went to a public middle school were I was again “not part of the group” or any group for that matter. Just like the mall or HEB, I stuck out at my school. Since we lived in what was pretty much a retirement golfing community 20 minutes away, I didn’t have anyone I knew at school from my neighborhood. I spent most of my 7th grade year alone and focused on school work and my only two  friends. I wasn’t the only one. My mom had no friends and this move was VERY hard on her because her family and everyone she knew was “back home”. My sisters did a bit better because they went to a small Montessori school. My dad was on the other hand was loving life.

In school, things did get better my 8th grade year. I met more friends and while I didn’t get involved in anything but band, I was happy again. We had new neighbors across the street and they had four girls so we hung out A LOT. In 9th grade, I found my nitch and had a group of friends. I played tennis and that kept me plenty busy. Things were going good.

Then…. In the middle of my 10th grade year in 1990, we moved to Windsor, Canada. I cried because I adjusted to life in south Texas and didn’t want to leave. In Canada, I attended St. Anne’s Catholic School. In the Windsor area, you can choose if you want to go to a public English school, a public French school, or a public Catholic School. My mom chose the Catholic school because that was where most of the kids in my neighborhood went. I wore a uniform and I took religious class.

We stayed in Canada until I graduated from high school and then my family moved down to Harlingen, Texas in 1992. I cried again, because I had adjusted to life in Canada and didn’t want to leave my friends. The move took place the summer before I was to attend college. In the fall, I started at Southwest Texas State. My sisters were in high school at the time. I missed my family a lot and tried to come home often that first year. Eventually, I found my niche and a boyfriend at SWT.

After two years into SWT, I kid you not, my dad moved the family up to Detroit! I stayed in Texas. I was tired of moving every 2-3 years. Every move was hard and every move was from one extreme to another. I had found friends and a boyfriend. I was settled and frankly sick of my dad and all the moves.

The move to Detroit was hard on the whole family. This was one of those make or break you points in our life and unfortunately it broke us. My sisters found it hard to make friends in high school. My middle sister let my dad know often how much she hated it there and how much she hated him for it. My dad became hard and distant. He put up a shield with us and I know he had lots of pressure from work – his boss, the union, etc. When I came home from college, my dad and I had nothing much to say to each other. I saw him as a greedy jerk. He became rude to my mom and he started to drink a lot more. The one good thing that came from moving so much was that it made me, my sisters, and my mom closer. There were so many months we didn’t have anyone to talk to or hang out with so we just hung out with each other.

After college, I married my husband and moved to Houston. I worked in retail. Then, I worked for a hospice, a job placement agency, catering business, a marketing survey company, then eventually to computer company that made software for the title industry. I was an administrative assistant to the CEO.

In 2000, my parent’s got a divorce. I was angry at my dad. I knew after the final move to Detroit that their marriage wasn’t going well. My dad began to drink and he was just plain rude to my mom. My mom never stuck up for herself when my dad made snide comments. I felt like we had put up with all the moves and all the crap he gave us and now he was just going to divorce us. Lots of anger was inside of me. I had my daughter the same year the divorce was finalized so no one on my side of the family really celebrated her birth. My mom was depressed over the divorce and every time she visited me she would reveal some other mean thing my dad did that would just make me hate him more. My dad moved to El Paso, Argentina, and Brownsville again, and eventually back up to Detroit.

We didn’t see much of each other until my daughter was baptized. Before my daughter was baptized, I went through confirmation. I wanted to set a good example for her and wanted to have all of my steps completed so I could help her complete her steps in life.

Once I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to stay at home with her but we couldn’t afford it. So, I decided to go back and get my teaching certificate. When she turned two, I was a teacher. I had my summers off to be with her, two weeks at Christmas, and one week in March. I was happy. We moved to a bigger house at that time with a pool. I sought a good therapist and worked through my parent’s divorce and now have a better relationship with my dad. I understand things a lot more and I want to have a good relationship with him. He is now married and living in Phoenix, Arizona.

I switched teaching jobs to be closer to home. My daughter went to kindergarten at my school and we were going fine but I will say that I ALWAYS missed my mom and sisters I made sure to see them every summer for two weeks and at least one holiday a year. My mom and sisters and I were always close even through the hard times.

It was around the second summer I had off that my faith took a turn uphill. Up until this point, I didn’t attend church regularly and besides my time at the confirmation classes, I wasn’t involved at all.  Until, I read a spiritual book. It intrigued me because of the title Live Your Best Life Now. My mom bought it and I started to read it and I swear to you, it changed my life.

Until then I never saw God or religion as a thing to turn to when things got tough. I tried the first thing it said and that was to believe that God will give you his favor everyday. So, I told myself that one day every once in a while I would say “God grant me Your favor today”, and sure enough it happened to me later that same day.

We were near a vacation spot in Michigan and my daughter had to go to the bathroom BADLY. I was frantically running to restrooms and they were both locked - the boys and the girls.

This man came up to me and said, "Do you need to find a restroom for your daughter?"

"Yes", I said.

"You can go on up to my condo. My wife is there, she will let you in."

Sure enough she did. I know it sounds small but this was big! First off, the guy was talking on his cellphone, by his boat, and his condo was an nice luxury thing near the water. He could have blown me off, and kept talking on his cellphone but he didn’t. He walked across the street and came up to me, to help me out.

I also had another experience where I was thinking hard one day about what was next in my life. That evening, I reached across and just picked up the Bible and it flipped open to Jeremiah 29:11 and in big bold print I started to read “For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. They are plans for good and not evil, to give you a future and a hope.” I was stunned and felt God talking to me. That was actually the first Bible verse I had ever read by myself in my own home.

Many times since then, I have fell to the floor, sobbing my eyes out over a family thing or a work thing, praying to God and letting him know I couldn’t take anymore. I felt comfort in doing that.

After that summer I started to attend church more regularly and I did perpetual adoration for two years on Sunday night from 7-8. I started reading Max Lucado books, praying the rosary once in a while, and praying to God every night.

In January, I told my husband I wanted to move to be closer to family. We decided to make 2008 the “Year of Change”. We put our house up for the market and left notice at our jobs. We waited and waited and waited for an offer on our house. My sister-in-law told me about Novenas. She told me to pray the St. Joseph Novena. I did and on the last night of the Novena, I kid you not, the realtor called us at 10:00 that night to say someone made an offer on our house! I called everyone I knew and told them about the St. Joseph Novena story.

Once our house sold, the next thing was to make the move to Round Rock. We did in June. I needed a job – bad. We couldn’t get a house until we did. We lived with my sister-in-law and her family. It was hard not knowing when and if you were going to get a job. One night I locked myself in the bathroom and cried hard and begged Jesus to get me a job. Sure enough – later that week I had an interview and then a job offer on Friday. Again, I kid you not!

There is this song called “Jesus Bring The Rain”. The first time I really heard that song in the car I got choked up. The song talks about this guy not minding the trials of his life because it brings him closer to Jesus. I thought to myself that maybe the move and lack of job over the summer has really brought me closer to Jesus. And how true that song really is.

God, grant me Your favor today