Evil Shadows by Rick Hallock (Review, Non-Fiction)

Evil Shadows is a true story of the extremes of identity theft that can lead to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of the victim. It shows how the author’s identity was stolen and how that theft ultimately led to his financial ruin and closure of his successful business enterprise, all the result of actions of federal agents and prosecutors. After an exhaustive investigation, the author lays bare the whole story of how his identity was stolen and how it was used as cover for commission of other crimes. The story tells of his becoming the primary suspect in a worldwide federal investigation for those crimes and how federal authorities leveled their awesome and destructive powers directly at him in their zeal to make an arrest. It details the destruction of his successful publishing company and of how he narrowly avoided being arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The story concludes with self-help chapters on the subjects of Prevention, Detection and Recovery from identity theft.

Review:

EVIL SHADOWS is more frightening than the scariest suspense thriller you could ever read because it is a true story. Being a victim of identity theft is frightening enough without the added trauma of finding out it is your own government doing the stealing. Who do you turn to? What do you do? Who can you trust?

Rick Hallock had his identity stolen from him and was financially ruined by greedy government agents. We live in the United States and we go about our daily lives with the naive assumption that we are relatively safe. We know the government doesn’t always act in our best interest, but we do not expect them to target our very identity.

My husband is one of the many who are perfectly content living his life without a computer or any other electronic gadget – and no, he’s not old. I, on the other hand, love technology. Never before have his words hit me as seriously as when I was reading this book.

I like to think that I’ve taken as many precautions as I can to protect myself because of the information we put out there everyday through social media, etc., but in reading this book, I have truly been deceiving myself and you, no doubt, are as well. I may have my bank cards and credit cards set with fraud alert and other precautions, but if the government (or anyone) decides to target you, you really have no defense other than your common sense and instincts.

Case in point – (book quote) “In early March the first red flag warning of really bad times ahead appeared and just as quickly vanished. Had I taken the time to consider it then, perhaps I would have realized something foul was happening. In my haste, I blew it off as some kind of mistake or computer glitch. The indicator came while InterNIC was processing a new domain name registration request.”

Rick Hallock was contacted by his credit card company to confirm a charge. He did not recognize the charge and the domain being setup was not authorized by him or his company. The fraud had begun with a simple transaction using his stolen credit card number even though he disputed it. The charge was taken off of his account and he went on with living life. Little did he know that he was being set up, by our government’s employees no less, for identity theft. To quote Rick, “Warnings of identity theft can be just this simple: a routine email message I wrongly interpreted to be an indication of a mistake or computer glitch was in fact the first indication that my identity had been stolen. Coincidences are planned events, and had I simply followed that rule, I would have questioned the event and probably learned of the theft of my identity and fraudulent use of my credit card and, armed with that information, I might have been able to avoid complete destruction of our business and my personal financial ruin.”

I don’t know if I would have explored any further before reading this book. I have had one credit card cancelled and re-issued four times throughout a number of years because of fraudulent charges that the credit card company found and notified me of. I now know that should it happen again, I need to document further, but how many times have we had this happen and not gone further? The charges are removed and we go along our merry way, not questioning the incident other than breathing a sigh of relief and thinking – “wow, glad the company took the charge off of my card.”

There was a second charge which he also handled and had removed, none the wiser at what was happening. A third incident, one the ordinary person would not find odd, “In late May (May 26th, to be exact), a third, less-obvious red flag appeared in the guise of a supposed survey taker who came to the house, knocking uncharacteristically on the front door. Uncharacteristic inasmuch as anyone could see the front porch and entrance to the home were for entertaining and not for primary entry. This message was communicated by there being no walkway covering the substantial distance from the drive to the front porch. The parking area of the drive, however, was adjacent to a side door that served as our primary entry. Other than this survey taker, I couldn’t recall anyone else ever making this mistake.” He goes on to describe an awkward scenario where the survey taker stood sweating in the hot sun rather than come into his office, as well as asking only a few questions.

“The survey-taker’s visit, I would later learn, coincided with Agent Johnson’s sworn affirmation that, ‘on May 26, 2000, at approximately 12:30 pm, SSA Johnson surveyed the 194…’The guy who visited us that day was a survey-taker, of sorts. But it would be years before I learned his true motives were to survey and case our home and my office in preparation for an attack. While I had heard of ruses of this sort, never had I considered that a federal agent would actually pull a “Rockford Files” stunt like this. This event was yet another red flag of warning and foreboding and another missed opportunity.”

In the book, the reader will learn how a search and seizure warrant was procured by concealing pertinent information from the judge and then hampering the author’s ability to prove his innocence by sealing the court documents. It is scary to realize and read in black and white that our government can find and use any and all our personal information however they chose to, even ruining our lives in the process. Because, who is the government? The government is made up of many, many unscrupulous human beings who think nothing of ruining another human’s life. And, we have almost no recourse.

There is a huge amount of information from the investigation the author did on his own. The cover-up that the author found is frightening and could happen to anyone. The book is well-worth reading and there is information in the back on how to handle identity theft.

I recommend reading the book. I am giving the book 5 stars. I did find that parts of the book could have been combined, perhaps condensed, but the story is well documented and easy to read and follow.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase on Amazon: Evil Shadows

My Morning Exercise Debacle

I call it my daily exercise routine but perhaps I should refer to it as my daily comedy routine. Leslie Sansone and I have a daily date; only difference is, she is exercising and I am just trying not to injure myself while attempting to follow her. If she only knew the revenue she was missing out on by not offering a DVD that is simply a warm-up – well, let’s just say, there would be one on the market tomorrow!

     After three months I have that warm up down pact! Okay – almost. Some days even that is just too fast a pace for me to follow. Now picture this (of course, your mind may not let you): We’re walking, little steps now, just warming up. Now, we’re gonna do side to side steps. We’ll start with the right leg. What? Which is my right again? Oh yeah, my left hand makes an L and I write with my right hand. I’m doing it! Just like her. Whoops! I’m off a leg. OK, back on track. Now, let’s take those legs a little farther out and let’s do small lunges. Excuse me, Leslie; this is me we’re talking about. You want me, Lucille Ball‘s protege, to do lunges. Oh! That’s easy. I can do it. I’m doing it. Hey! I’ve got the hang of it. Oh, now she wants to walk again. I can do that; walk, walk, walk. Oh goodness, now she wants me to do kickbacks. I don’t do kickbacks. I’m an honest person. Whoops! There goes the ottoman halfway across the room. Wow! Look at the scratch  on the wood floor. Back to a walk now, I’m getting the hang of it. Right, left, right, left. Does it really matter if I’m on the wrong foot? Whew! I made it through the warm-up. I am doing good. Now it’s time for the real stuff!

     Ok. We’re picking up the pace. We’re walking, and walking, and walking. Wow! We are going to hold weights as we walk. Cool. (She really has no idea who she’s dealing with.) Now she wants me to raise my arms straight up and down as we walk. Up, down, up, down, up… Ouch! What was that?! I hit the fan! Utoh – now it’s missin’ a blade or two or three. That’s alright; less in my way (I’m sure my husband won’t mind – he says the fan makes him cold – guarantee that won’t be happening anymore.) Up, down, up, down. That works for me. The fan has the same pace as I do with those missing blades; back to walking.


     We’ve done our mile. My favorite time again; cool down.  Warm up, cool down. I think I just caught on to that phrase. Small steps now; walk, walk, walk. Small kicks now; kick, kick, kick. We’re cooling down. Now we plant our feet wide – not too wide – and do mini squats (now tell me, are there any other kind?) Turn to the left (right?) and stretch the calf muscles by balancing yourself with your hands on your thigh. Does she have any idea who she’s talking to? I grab a couple of chairs and put one under each arm. OK – I’m stretching. I’m cool. Lean further into the stretch she says. Whoops! I don’t think I’m supposed to be on the floor; another scratch.

And, as I peer up from my precarious position on the floor, I see my dog, Sentry, is at the door. From the look on her face, she seems to be wondering if we’ve had an earthquake and no one informed her.  Serves her right for all the times she has hit every pipe under the house in her eagerness to chase the mail truck. Okay, I’m cooled down and stretched out.  The floor has been mopped with sweat and buffed shiny by my not so delicate fall from grace. I think I’ll just watch the rest. Hope I enjoyed the workout, she says. She hopes I’ll come back tomorrow. What the heck. See ya tomorrow Leslie!


     And people complain about exercising……

The New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints NFC Championship victory in...
New Orleans Saints NFC Championship victory in the Superdome which will take them to the Superbowl. Right after the winning kick! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went for my morning walk today and as usual, no one knows what thoughts will be entering my head. This is so true because why on earth would I be thinking of the New Orleans Saints? Decorating, yes. Baking, yes. Organizing, definitely yes. But, the Saints? Go figure that one out. But true to form, this is what came to mind.     

Is it safe to be from Louisiana, more specifically South Louisiana, and not be a diehard New Orleans Saints fan? I was contemplating the validity of this thought and decided that I can dare say it can be quite intimidating at the very least.                

I found one sure-fire way to stop an animated point by point, play-by-play conversation cold in the middle of the church aisle (a Catholic church at that) was to interject an excited statement of my own about the joys of going to a movie or shopping and having the theater and stores all to myself (it’s not that I don’t like people, I just prefer the quiet.)The looks of complete and utter bewilderment I received were worth putting my life in peril.      

At this point, I will stop to thank the Saints for making it to the playoffs. People who would not speak to each other are now holding each other in rapturous conversations. And did I mention the ear-splitting, window-rattling rendition of The Saints Go Marching In that followed the bedazzled priest out the door after mass. Who would have ever thought we’d live to hear a priest include a prayer for a football team and a “GO SAINTS” in his final blessing before joyfully marching down the aisle to the above mentioned song? Not me!     

It almost isn’t safe to attend church if you are not a Saints fan. Who knew there was so much Saints paraphernalia that could be worn, held, walked on, spit on, listened to(you get the picture)? One enters the church these days with much trepidation. Even the prim and proper little old ladies are sporting Saints t-shirts under their jackets while giving out Holy Communion as well as sporting Fleur-de-le earrings in their sagging ear lobes!     

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am not a fan of the New Orleans Saints; I am just not a fan of football. I, for one, am more than a little happy that football season has come to a close for the year. Fans have finally begun washing  their well-worn lucky t-shirts and are placing their lovingly folded clothing in the drawer for a much-needed break before next year’s season; at which time those Who Dat’s will surely spur up the emotions of South Louisiana once again. 

Reprinted from March 3, 2010

A Slight Change of Plan by Dee Ernst (Review)

Kate Everett is about to begin her “second act.” She’s been a widow for eight years and thinks it might be time to start looking for someone to share her life with again. She quits her high-pressure job for something that will allow her more leisure time. She gets rid of the huge family home and moves into a fabulous condo that’s smaller and easier to manage. She’s pretty much got the rest of her life figured out. All she has to do is sit back, relax, and let the pieces fall into place.

But her real life never gets the memo. First, her son moves back in with her—along with his girlfriend. Her dream job falls through, leaving her unemployed. Her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken to in years, can no longer live alone and has to move into her basement. And her only daughter is planning the smallest and simplest wedding in the history of all weddings, much to Kate’s dismay.

Kate thinks that she and Jake, her former college love who has reemerged on an online dating site, of all places, can build something real, and that maybe her happy ending is in front of her at last. But the arrival of Edward, her daughter’s future father-in-law, presents Kate with an unexpected choice.

It looks like real happiness may require a slight change of plan.

Author:

Dee Ernst was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Morristown. She attended Marshall University, where she majored in journalism. Several years, career changes, and a few daughters later, she was listening to the Joan Hamburg Show, where a guest made the suggestion that if you want to be happy, you should go back to what you were doing when you were ten and try to make it a career. Since Dee was writing stories when she was ten, she decided to give writing another go. After three novels and many rejection letters, she self-published Better Off Without Him.  It became a success and was optioned by Unique Features for possible development.  Her next book, A Different Kind of Forever, was released in April of 2012. In the spring of 2013, she signed with Montlake Publishing, which re-released Better Off Without Him and launched her third title, A Slight Change of Plan, that fall. Though Dee finds a lot in common with all her heroines, she is happily married and living in New Jersey.

Review:

A SLIGHT CHANGE OF PLAN is such a funny book. Everyone should have a best friend like Cheryl! Past 50 years of age and growing pot in the middle of your roses on the patio? to be discovered by your adult children?

A phrase in the book that perfectly describes life (and the book) is “There’s an old saying – man plans, God laughs. And let me tell you, he has an interesting sense of humor.”  Kate has it all planned. She’s sold the huge house, purchased a condo, and then God laughed!

Suddenly, she has adult children moving back home, she’s beginning to date again, and her ailing mother moves in. Add to that one cooky best friend and the pot starts growing!

A SLIGHT CHANGE OF PLAN is a book about life and what life can throw at you. When Kate comes across her one and only true love, the one who dumped her, on a dating site, she finds that he can still take her breath away, but in the end, is he still the same guy and is the same guy the one she wants to spend the rest of her life with.

Dee Ernst writes a book full of humor and laughter and clearly shows how art imitates life. I have to include a few quotes because they are too good to pass up. I highly recommend the book, especially if you’ve hit the  50 something time period. You will totally appreciate every page of the book.  By the way, I’m giving this book 5 stars. If I were to read books more than once, this would be one of them.

Quotes:

(Talking with an old college roommate after seeing old boyfriend on dating site)

“Kate! Hi!…let me sit and get comfortable…And the kids?” “Jake Windom just waved at me” I blurted. There was a moment’s silence. “From where, honey?” “I signed up for an online dating service,” I explained. “Well, that’s fine. You’ve been alone for a long time. But I still don’t understand. Were you driving in a car and he passed you?…” “He’s on the same dating site. He must have seen my profile. So he expressed an interest. It’s called waving.” She was quite again. The best thing about MaryJo was her patience. She was originally from Atlanta, and always had that slow, Southern way about her. She could never be rushed. “Kate, you know I love you. And I want for you to be happy. That man broke your heart. If there had been any justice in the world, he would have been struck down dead for all the pain he caused you. He is not worthy of your time or energy, not now, not ten years from now. Do not even think about waving back.”

There it was, the worst thing about MaryJo: She really held on to a grudge…”Didn’t you once tell me that you still dreamed about that man?” Ah, yes. The other worst thing about MaryJo: She never forgot a word anyone said. Which tied in perfectly with the whole grudge thing. “He looks exactly the same,” I told her. “Well shit. Not even bald?”…”I’d love to know if he ever married that stupid Penn State bimbo he left you for.” I laughed. “See, if I waved back, I could ask him.” MaryJo did not laugh. “Honey. I am so afraid that if you see him, all that old stuff will come rushing back…The final worst thing about MaryJo: She was one smart, savvy woman.”

Conversation with friend Cheryl (pot growing cohort)

I pulled over…”Where were you last night?” “At Tom’s. What happened?” “Really? Already?” she said “Cheryl? You called me, remember? Like, a million times? What happened?” “Can you come over? I had a little sexual adventure my self last night, and I may never recover.” I turned around and headed toward Cheryl’s.

And, if all of that is not enough, Kate can’t help but goad her daughter’s future mother-in-law every time she calls by pretending not to have caller ID.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase on Amazon: A Slight Change of Plan

Cocktail Cove by Jennifer Saints (Review)

When life shakes you up and pours you over the rocks…

Socialite Nikita Derringer is hiding from the mob because of a deal her ex made with the devil, that she accidentally did her ex in with her designer heels, is… beside the point.
Guilt ridden developer Ben Harding walked away from his lucrative big city job and is searching for redemption in the quiet solitude of his grandfather’s sacred fishing cove. But fate has something else in mind for them at cocktail cove. Throw in sex therapy for the masses, a bear of a dog, the deep end of passion and you’ve got a potent mix guaranteed to ignite your senses and fill your heart with love and laughter.

Author Jennifer Saints:

Under a barrage of nagging by BFF’s, I’ve been told my bio was boring, not at all a reflection of just who I am beneath the surface, which is a compliment…I think. So, what can I tell you about me?
I don’t play video games or watch horror because I can’t take the heat, but give me a kick-ass thriller every minute of every day and I am there. Be prepared for a Hoover Dam meltdown if you’re with me and the movie is sad. So, to avoid disaster, I love romantic comedies.
Never coffee. Always tea. Never beer. Always champagne. There’s more, but hey, gotta save some secrets until after the first date, right?
I grew up in Miami. Went to nursing school in Georgia, where I now reside. I wrote for nine years before I sold a book, which made me a firm believer that a person should NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS.
Besides great kids, family, and friends, that perseverance has so far garnered me a USA Today Bestselling tag. I write in a number of genres and have won a number of writing awards, two National Choice Awards, three Maggie Awards, a RT Book Club Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Marlene Award, and the Golden Heart Award to name most of them. I work with several amazing women in a charity to raise money for a shelter that helps abused and homeless women and children and also contributes to the Angels of East Africa. I’ve revived my nursing career after a long hiatus, and currently work in a surgical clinic.
I write romance because I believe that when you take a human being to the very core of his existence, then you will find that what matters more than anything else is to be loved and to give love.

Review:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jennifer Saints, but I assure you that it won’t be the last. It was laugh out loud funny. It had adventure. It had a clumsy, but terribly mean hitman. It had love and twins and more twins, and love on the rocks, and love…well, love everywhere.

Take two proper British lads studying psychology and insert two American twins with mental telepathy and interesting things began to happen. Add in an overly protective brother, a grandmother, two maidenly aunts, and a dog and you’ve got trouble.

The book is well written, including the sex scenes – which by the way, left this Southern gal reaching for a tall glass of sweet iced tea many times. This writer can write and you won’t want to leave the front porch swing until you’ve devoured every page.

I’m giving Cocktail Cove five stars.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase on Amazon: Cocktail Cove: A Southern Steam Novel (Frankly, My Dear)

Happy Cows – Do they really all come from California?

I just went for my morning walk, okay, late morning walk.  As much as I would like to be a morning person, I just am not; unless, you want to consider taking all of my late night, early morning hours in to count. If I had my druther, the day would begin somewhere around 10 in the morning and run until 2-3 in the morning. Now, that would be a perfect day! I somehow accomplish more in the hours between midnight and 3am than I do any other time. Anywho, getting back to my walk, the weather is cold. Not so cold that a warm jacket, hat and gloves will not take care of the bite. There is something about the crispness of the cold that makes you feel like it is a whole new start to life. Just breathing in the cold air is cleansing.

After my wonderful walk, I came in and did what every other red-bloodied American does, I turned the television on. Happy cows. Now there is a topic worth discussing. How do people know that happy cows come from California? Do they smile differently? My favorite of the Happy Cow commercials is one of the earlier ones. “Do you think cows are pretty?” I suppose it is a favorite because I consists of a few too many pounds myself and somehow find myself commiserating with this happy cow. I simply can’t help asking my husband while spinning around in front of him, “Do you think cows are pretty?”  Is it too much to ask for him to say “yes?”

I do have a couple of other favorite commercials. I could sit all day long and watch Miss Piggy get hit in the head by a 2×4. Deranged I know, but for some strange, unexplainable reason, it makes me laugh out loud. I do try to redeem myself by not laughing when impressionable children are around. The other commercial is a Windex commercial. Two birds ring the doorbell of this poor unsuspecting man who is sunning out by his pool. Meanwhile, they have closed the (you guessed it) freshly Windex’ed (made this word up) patio door and he runs straight into it. Not ONCE, but twice! And yes, I roll on the floor every single time.

Why do some commercials just hit the mark and others don’t? I guess we all have our own sense of humor. So, here’s to Happy Cows (and guess what? They don’t all come from California!)

 

A tribute to Sentry

Sentry passed away three years ago right before Christmas, after being a loyal companion for 7 years of my life. I found this story while perusing my other blog and decided to post it. There were a lot of adventures involving Sentry. I got Calypso and Ryka two months after Sentry passed and they have been a blessing,  but I sometimes wish Sentry could have known them. I miss her dearly.
How do I start except for saying my poor dog. First, she fell off of the wharf on Sunday and last night she got locked in my husband’s workshop for the night. I was teaching religion and while I was gone, it started thundering, which Sentry is deathly afraid of, so she kept following my husband, Jeffery, in and out of his workshop. Once she observes a routine, she becomes complacent so she must have stayed inside for a while and when he closed up, she got locked in. That was around 7pm last night because that’s when I drove up and I assumed she was under the house because of the rain. 

     This morning I went out to walk and I called and called and rang the bell – no Sentry. I looked under the house, in her house, in the barn – no Sentry. By this time I am getting frantic (remember, I am SO good in a crisis) and I am almost in tears telling hubby that he has to come and help me because I can’t find her. THEN, the idea came to me that she may be in the workshop (has happened before) and so I knocked on the door and she started whimpering. She doesn’t bark when I call her; which I do not understand. It would make my life so much easier. I wouldn’t have to panic quite as often. 
     
When I opened the door and out she ran, she followed my trail back and forth and round and round before she came to me. That trail was a definite indication of how frantic I was quickly becoming. She is perfectly fine now but probably won’t go in to the workshop for a while. It’s strange how every dog I’ve had has managed to get themselves locked in the barn. You would think that would be the first place I’d look!

Getting back to our Sunday event when Sentry toppled off of the wharf – what a frantic time again! My husband and I were sitting in the swing on the wharf enjoying the slight breeze and peacefulness. Sentry was lying in her usual spot – the edge of the wharf – watching the fish jump and the minos swim by. She is fascinated by them. It all happened so quickly that I’m not sure what exactly happened, but the next thing I knew is that she was in the bayou! She just seemed to roll right off of the wharf and SPLASH!

     Of course, I am sooooooo very helpful in a crisis. I did the only thing I could think of – I started screaming! Now, we all know how much that helped. My husband was sitting right next to me – I am fairly certain my screaming did nothing to alert him to what he had already ascertained – the dog was in the water. Now most people probably wouldn’t panic. They know dogs can swim but you have to remember – this is MY dog and she’s never been in anything deeper than the ten inch ditch in the back yard; and that, she just splashes in. She still had her leash on – thank goodness – so we (make that hubby, not screaming me) were able to guide her around the pilings and the crab trap and the fishing line, 20 feet down the wharf to ground. None the worse for wear, she shook a few times and went right back to her spot, you guessed it, on the edge of the wharf. 
     Fortunately, life went quickly back to normal and we went back to swinging. (Little did I know that there would soon be another crisis…….)

 

The Twisting Knife

I began this story at the Anhinga Writer’s Conference in Gainesville, Florida in August 2009. I finished work on it in December 2009. The lecturer was an animated woman by the name of Beverly. She was very good at getting us to think and to write on the spot. The difference between me and everyone else in the class is that my brain didn’t quite think like theirs. This is my story. I guess I should also add that I write nonfiction.

The Twisting Knife (December 2009)
      The lecturer stood poised behind the podium and for a moment looked as though she were about to begin her lecture. Suddenly, she pulled a butcher knife from under her notes and began wielding it at the class.
     As she stepped from behind the podium and began advancing towards us, a demonic look overcame her ordinarily placid face. Her mouth was moving and from previous experience with this lecturer, I knew she was giving instructions to write, but my mind had already taken me elsewhere. As I was fading from the present I imagined what direction my fellow writers might take, already knowing my mind was taking me somewhere far different.
     As I watched her advancing towards me, my eyes were transfixed by the blade of the knife gleaming under the intense fluorescent light. It was as though the knife was set on its own course and that course was my delicate heart.
     The sounds around me began to vanish as the blood began pulsing in my ears, my vision receding as if I were barreling backward into a dark tunnel. I was being transported back in time to a place long since hidden away in the recesses of my very being. The knife appeared to leave her hand set on reaching its destination; and as it pierced my heart, it began to twist and the remembrance of emotional pain taking my breath away as it had that night so many years ago. I began to feel dizzy as I was transported, if only for a moment, to a place in my past and the voice I was hearing was that of my abuser, his words tearing apart my heart. As swiftly as the knife penetrated my heart, it was also withdrawn, leaving me breathlessly in the present. 
     As the others began to read their hastily written, humorous stories, I knew I was right. Mine would be very different.

 

 

Romance through the Ages (Cover Reveals & Giveaways)

Romance Through the Ages

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Ends 2/1/14

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Organizing my week and Bullet Journaling (Video)

I’ve been hearing a lot lately on bullet journaling. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, so I decided to Google it. After all, doesn’t Google know everything?

I was quite surprised to realize I already a use bullet journaling technique. I am a list maker. I like making lists. I like my lists – get the picture here? I used to make lists with little dots in front of them – never knowing that people actually teach this sort of thing. To me, it was an easy way of distinguishing each task on the list.

Then, I graduated to using numbers. I’m the first to tell you to do your own adding and subtracting – and Heaven forbid anything more complicated than that – for yourself. I’m a writer (not claiming to be a good one, just one) not a number person. I am one of those people who freak out at counting change in public. I would rather break a dollar than count change. But, in this instance, I like numbers. Numbers are orderly, and my brain likes orderliness.

I found a video on-line on bullet journaling, and while his bullet journaling technique looks and sounds like great, it is just not how my brain works. Ryder Carroll uses boxes, circles, and dots in his journal book. I liked the little boxes and the idea of checking them off. Scratching through items is messy and too chaotic for my brain, and after a while makes it difficult to see what has been accomplished and what hasn’t. And, like him, I use the star method to draw attention to important to-dos. But, my brain likes pretty-pretty and writing in a graph book is just not going to do it for me. Also, for my personality, I need less cluttered structure.


I would love to know Ryder’s personality type, one, because personality traits fascinate me, and two, because I am interested in the correlation between his personality and his chosen methodology – bullet journaling.

I have recorded my very first video blog about my week, rather than using pictures. It’s not at all professional, but it shows my week. Hope you enjoy it.

In my planner, I have a pretty week on two pages that I love. It’s colorful and cheerful and adding colorful washi tape and stickers draws me in and makes me want to sit down and plan my week. What works so well with the particular week on two pages that I’ve chosen is each day is broken up into boxes and columns. I can label columns and put tasks or appointments relating to the column heading into the appropriate box. It allows me to compartmentalize, which in turn keeps me focused – really helpful if you have zero attention span – as I do.

I also use a daily sheet. It has a place for phone calls and a little to-do spot as well as a time frame list. This works with my brain. I jot down things on my week on two pages and each day I transfer what I need to do. I also add things as they come up. Using the daily sheet keeps me focused because I only have to look at one page. There are also weeks when my days aren’t so busy and I actually use the same daily sheet for a couple or three days. I am also able to schedule my time. I need this to stay focused and be able to accomplish things. If not, I wander around doing whatever grabs my attention and miss doing things that may be important – just ask Hubby. Poor man! I drive him crazy!

Located behind the daily page is a week at a glance where I keep my blog information. While all of this may seem redundant to some, it works in keeping me focused – remember, zero attention span. It works with my mind (as you’ve heard me say before) and not against it. I like to look at the project page (which is what I call it) and see at a glance the next book that is up or the next post I need to write. I also have space to jot down ideas for future blog posts.

And, as if all of my pages wouldn’t drive someone else insane, I recently added a card to the mix. It is ongoing information or a list of things that need to be done but don’t necessarily need to be done immediately. I can move the card from week to week, or take it out and use it when I run errands. I recently purchased a Sizzix machine and I can now make pretty little cards for this purpose. I am more likely to sit down and write my to-do list if I have a pretty place to write it down; a plain piece of paper just wasn’t working for me.

While I really liked the bullet journaling video and will probably watch it again to see if there are any additional pointers I can translate into my own system, his way of bullet journaling is not going to work for me. Yes, it is an easy system and I could see myself following his method, but it wouldn’t be fun for me. It would seem like a chore. I like my pretty papers and my cards and stickers.

So, for me, I think I’ll stick with my Day-Timer and the inserts I’ve found. It’s a good system and one that I have stuck with for many months. The important thing about choosing a planner is to figure out what system will work for you, how much information you are willing to document and how much time you are willing to devote to it. My system involves several pages, but in real-time, it doesn’t require a lot of my time to set up each week. I also find comfort in sitting down to plan my week and enjoy the creativeness it takes to decorate my planner. There is just something cathartic about putting colored ink to paper.

If you are looking for a quick, simple way to organize your thoughts and life, I encourage you to watch the video and try the bullet journaling method. I’d be curious to know how it works for you.

Looking to become part of a planner group? Check out my group on Facebook – Southern Charm Planners. We Southerners consider everyone a friend so don’t let that deter you from joining.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/LouisianaPlannerGirls/

Letting Go by Belinda Tors (Review)

Margery Arturo has two children and an abusive husband, Tony. Finally, summoning her courage and her meager resources, she leaves her husband of twenty years while he is away on a business trip out of state. With her teenage daughter, Lola, Margery manages to find an apartment and get a job at a women’s shelter as a counselor. Things are starting to look up. But Tony continues to follow her wherever she goes and turns up at their daughter’s school. He makes threats and refuses to give her child support and monies he owes her in a divorce settlement. Margery soon learns that leaving a violent husband has more risks than possibly getting beaten up or killed after she departs. Will Margery be able to make it on her own?

Letting Go is a compelling novel that takes a hard look at the obstacles women face when trying to escape an abusive relationship—and one woman’s determination to break the cycle of abuse once and for all.

About the book:
Letting Go by Belinda Tors
ISBN: 9781478722175
Publisher: Outskirts Press
Date of publish: October 31, 2013
Pages: 234
S.R.P.: $12.95

About the author:
Belinda Tors is a retired social worker and journalist who has published widely in newspapers and literary journals. Under the name Barbara Fifield, she is the author of two women’s novels, Photographs and Memories and Lucifer Rising and a self-illustrated book of poetry, Passion’s Evidence. She is a member of several writing groups, including the Florida Writers’ Association, the Tomoka Poets, and the Ormond Beach Writers’ League. Ms. Tors resides in Port Orange, Florida.

Review:

Parts of the book, particularly the beginning, were difficult at times to follow with the switch back. I found myself reading about one person and then in an instant I was reading about another wondering why the story wasn’t matching up, and then had to re-read. The author did not transition well at these points.

While the book is grammatically sound, I felt the story was shallow. In the beginning, I liked Margery and understood her plight. Then, a pattern of neglecting her children began to take develop, even though it was at times for the greater good. I felt as a social worker, she was too lackadaisical about some of her daughter’s behavior and lacked rules and discipline making skills.

I think the book would have benefited had the author chosen a few key points to delve into, rather than glazing over them. In the end, I was totally blown away when the mother, again a trained social worker, told her boyfriend she didn’t want his kids living with them, rather than opening her heart and trying to be a positive influence in their lives. I really disliked Margery at this point of the book. I lack understanding how a mother can see unwanted children and not feel the need to at least try and give them a stable home, especially the children of the man she claims to love. I, personally, could not reconcile mother and social worker.

The ending was abrupt with a complete turnaround of the ex-husband “letting go” and moving on without sufficient storyline to allow the reader to process the change. I feel the story lacked depth and hesitate to give this book anything higher than 2-3 stars.

I was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase on Amazon: Letting Go

The Cats of Savone by David-Michael Harding

Cats Cover FINAL“Most novels begin their lives as short stories.  Writing, much like any gift, skill, habit, or hope, is strengthened through practice, training, and exercise.  The short story is the stretching and dedication to a running regime long before the marathon.  It is the repetition of scales on the piano, years before the recital.” – David-Michael Harding

The Cats of Savone is an exemplary collection of stories from the pen of historical fiction author David-Michael Harding.  Eight short stories and novellas make up his first installment in The Completely Abridged Series – Short Novels for Busy People.  The title story is the PEN International Winner, The Cats of Savone, which follows a pregnant cat beneath a mammoth steel gate into the exercise yard of the Savone Correctional Facility.  The hardened convicts in the maximum security prison adopt the cat as much as she adopts them.  But an accident in the prison leads to murder and a host of tough choices for tough men – inmates and guards.

Black Men in Bright Blue traces the steps of ten-year-old Rachel Justice in 1864 while she explores her father’s plantation in South Carolina.  As she learns of slavery beneath the shadow of the Civil War, her secret knowledge of the underground railroad pushes her family and her young mind into decisions none are ready for.  Eavesdrop on the captain and crew in Forever Beneath the Celtic Sea as the story follows in the cold wake of the World War I German submarine the U-20, and its deadly encounter with the luxury passenger liner Lusitania in 1917.

The History of West Texas According to Henry Brass sits beside the bed of a of a old soldier, trapper, and patriot who is dying from consumption.  He hasn’t lost his sense of humor however as he relates story after story to a young man who cares for him in his last days.  Henry lived under most of the six different flags that flew over Texas and weaves wonderful tales for his caretaker whose own agenda is taken up by the old man.  Then move from West Texas in the 19th Century to another continent and another time in St. Alden’s where a classic fight between good and evil comes to life on a university campus.  An aged Guardian of the campus needs to pass down the secrets of a mysterious silver and the power of goodness to his grandson before night demons put an end to a magical spring and its unique life giving water.

Additional stories provide glimpses into the life of a man who has gone through a lifetime of labels – retarded in the 50’s, handicapped in the 70’s, and now with special needs – Jonny Archer finds himself on an unlikely trip in The Junket.  The Jazz Bridge chronicles the history and anniversary of an ordinary bridge in an ordinary town as something extraordinary happens.  The collection is rounded out by My Boo Radleyand the high school baseball pitcher who learns lessons from an old fan who the world viewed as a monster.

The Author:

David-Michael Harding is a life-long writer whose work has appeared in national publications and has been recognized by the international writing community. He is a collegiate writing instructor and former semi-professional football player. His experiences provide readers with well researched, crushing fast-paced action. Most of his days are spent writing from the cockpit of his sailboat, Pegasus, somewhere off the Nature Coast of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.

Review:

Savone is a hard-core prison. The cat comes to live at the prison. Why read a story about a cat that comes to live at a prison? The truth is, a story about a cat and the effect the cat has on hard-core prisoners may not be enough to draw the reader in. What does pull the reader into the story and then weaves a spell around them is the author’s writing. The writing captivates you and all of a sudden the cat and its role have you within its grasp and the story reaches your heart.

David-Michael Harding writes in such a way that the reader becomes enchanted with the story. He uses the cat and the effect that a kind and gentle animal can have on hard-core criminals; murderers. These animals bring out not only fierce tenderness and loyalty, but also the anger and violence that each of these men harbor down inside; and how the death of an innocent little cat can cause deep enough rage to make a man kill in revenge.

The Cats of Savone is a story about a cat in a prison.  There are also more stories in the book and the review, while not mentioning each individual story, is an overall rating of each. The writing is outstanding, and my rating is five stars…

Purchase at Amazon: The Cats of Savone (The Completely Abridged Series)

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The Father’s Love by Dave Moore

Moore-C-XXXX-1Amid a Frantic Search for His Son, a Father finds His Faith.

The drive home seemed to be endless. My mind was a battleground of extremes. Ideas of what to do next to help find David seemed to constantly flood my thinking. Yet the negative side, thinking the worst of what might have happened to my son, was always occupying my mind. Though sleep was dearly needed, it was not welcomed, for even in sleep I was tormented. Confronting depression, fatigue, and evil, Dave Moore goes on a cross-country search for his missing son. Becoming increasingly desperate and having done all that is humanly possible without results, what will he do? Who will he turn to? In this amazing true story, you will experience Dave Moore’s anguish in going through a father’s worst nightmare, a missing child. Through his fear, Dave confronts his soul’s emptiness and learns the heavenly Father‘s Love.

Author:

My name is Dave Moore and I am the author of this award winning, amazing true story of my cross-country search for my missing son David and how I found my faith in God. You will be drawn into this story and experience every parents worst nightmare-a missing child. It will change the way you relate to your children, and will testify to the love, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of God. I wrote this story of “The Father’s Love” to tell the world about the frantic search for my missing son and the complete transformation of my family because of the miracle working power of God and prayer.

Dave Moore is a chaplain serving through the Church of God in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Dave volunteers to pray with the sick and the lost in hospitals, nursing homes, prison, and jails. He is married to the love of his life, Dorinda, and has three sons, Shane, Adam, and David.

Websitehttp://www.thefatherslovebook.com/
Facebook fan pagehttps://www.facebook.com/THEFATHERSLOV
Goodreadshttps://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5139621.Dave_Moore
Linkedin; http://www.linkedin.com/profile/edit?trk=hb_tab_pro_top

The Father’s Love won the Bronze Award for Christian Non-Fiction Book of the Year 2012 with Readers Favorite http://readersfavorite.com/review/6569 

Dave Moore was voted one of the 50 Greatest Authors You Should Be Reading 2012
http://www.wnbnetworkwest.com/WnbAuthorsShow50Writers2012-VoteClose.html

Review:

THE FATHER’S LOVE by Dave Moore is both a heart-breaking and a heart-warming story. The reader follows Dave on his journey, both physically and spiritually as he searches for his runaway son. The reader sees the devotion Dave has for his son and how it translates to God and his faith.

THE FATHER’S LOVE is a perfect book for the Christmas season; a season of miracles and rebirth. It will keep you perched on the edge of your chair as you read and become a passenger in his journey to find his son and his faith. I am giving this book five stars. It is definitely a book you will want on your bookshelf.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase from Amazon: The Father’s Love

Blinded by the Light

Lightning
Lightning (Photo credit: Pete Hunt)

Last night, while traveling home from my writer’s group – which by the way, is a wonderful group! – I had a very frightening experience.

None of us had expected the weather that ascended upon us last night. I guess that translates into none of us bothered to check the weather. Believe me when I say I wished I had checked it.

When I left my friend’s house to drive home, it was sprinkling. You know the one, the aggravating, not quite rain, which can make a person crazy because it’s hard to see at night with the windshield wipers on a dark night kind of sprinkle. About eight or so miles from home, the lightning and thunder began to roll across the sky in front of me, and then the rain began to fall in earnest. I mean literally pouring down in sheets of rain where you couldn’t see the road. I found myself looking for cats and dogs.The rain was bad enough, but then came the thunder and lightning.

The thunder does not bother me so much, although it can be quite disconcerting, especially when accompanied by driving rain and lightning. What I didn’t expect, and had never experienced before, was the all-consuming lightning. Those are the only words that come to mind to describe what happened. When it lightened, it was as though it made a cone around the car and it was blinding. I’m sure you have had a car with blinding lights – those bright blue-white lights – driving towards you where the headlights were blinding. That is what the lightning was like, only I it surrounded me; the same eye piercing light that the eye doctor shines in your eyes, and we all know how that feels. My entire world, at the moment of the flashes, was a blinding white light. It is so difficult to put into words what the experience was like for me.

The lightning flashes happened about five times. It was so scary that I lost count; there may have been more.

The weather abated as quickly as it began about a mile from home. The road went from slick with rain to absolutely dry. At that point, I quickly hit the gas and went from 30mph to 65mph in no time flat. I wanted to be home, through the gates, and in my house where I hoped to feel safe if the weather was heading south.

Looking back, when I reached the gates to our yard, all I can remember is that my hands ached from gripping the steering wheel, my stomach hurt from nerves, and my mind was exhausted from praying.

Have you ever experienced weather that just completed engulfed you?

Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh

Full Anthology Blitz Banner

Full Anthology Book Cover

Put love on your wish list with the romance anthology “All I’m Asking For.”  Included in this holiday anthology are three romantic holiday novellas: Tinsel My Heart, Season of Second Chances and Mine Under the Mistletoe.

Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth: This Christmas, the producer of a small town holiday spectacular is swept away by a handsome Hollywood director.

Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh: Being stranded in a snowstorm offers a couple a second chance at a future together.

Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham: An American in London helps a brooding Brit put the ghosts of Christmas past behind him.

Wherever you are, however you celebrate, this collection of three festive novellas will bring warmth to your holiday season.

Stories also available for purchase separately.

Book Details

Included Novellas:

  • Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth
  • Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh
  • Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham

Edition: First Edition
Format: eBook
Publication Date: December, 2013
Publisher: Carina Press

Author Info – Brighton Walsh

Author Brighton Walsh

Brighton Walsh is a storyteller at heart. Whether through words or pictures, she’s been weaving tales for as long as she can remember. After decades of cultivating her writing, she finally decided to give life to the voices in her head and set forth to write her first novella. 

Love is her first love, and writing about it is a dream come true. When she’s not overwhelmed by the incessant chatter in her mind, she can generally be found with her nose buried in a steamy book or partaking in some retail therapy. The setting of her life story takes place in the Midwest, characters including her very own real life hero she found in her supportive and swoony husband, and her two energetic kids who (fortunately) know nothing about the naughty things she puts down on paper.

Twitter: @WriteAsRain_

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/brightonwalshwrites

Website: http://www.brightonwalsh.com/

Review: 

What the reader will find between the pages of a SEASON OF SECOND CHANCES is a wonderfully crafted holiday season romance that will not disappoint. It is well-written with lovable characters. The romance is sweet and intoxicating. It is the perfect book with which to sit beside the fire with a cup of hot cocoa to enjoy.

I am giving the book five stars. I love romance and this is a great one.

The Christmas Star by Ace Collins (Review)

Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas the final decoration Madge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal. Rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed that shining star represents loss, pain, and suffering.

Yet a letter delivered by one of Robert’s fellow soldiers and a mystery posed in that letter put a father’s sacrifice and faith into perspective and bring new meaning to not just the star hanging on the Christmas tree but the events of the very first Christmas. Then, when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that the boy has never known.

The Author:

Ace Collins is the best-selling and award-winning author of more than 60 titles, including The Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, Darkness Before Dawn, and Lassie: A Dog’s Life. Ace frequently speaks across the country and on radio and has appeared on national television shows, including Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, Fox and Friends, Entertainment Tonight, The Early Show and more. When not writing, he works as a magazine editor and graphic designer, as well as host for a charity organization radio and television broadcast. Ace and his wife, Kathy, are based in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.

Review:

First, the cover of THE CHRISTMAS STAR caught my eye. It is a beautiful cover and accurately sets up the time period of the book as well as setting the mood.

I enjoyed the story of Jimmy and his mom and their struggles, both with grief and for Jimmy, learning to cope with the loss of his father and then making decisions between right and wrong, and finally deciding his path in life. It is an endearing story and a perfect story for this time of year.

At times, the story lagged due to the descriptive narration the author used. I tend to enjoy a book more when I can use my imagination rather than read an in dept description of an object or scene. I like when an author sets the scene and moves on with the story. A story takes on a different meaning for the individual reading the book and describing conversations in detail (tones, emotions) does not allow the reader that option.

I think it is a good book and one many will enjoy. I am giving THE CHRISTMAS STAR four stars.

Purchase on Amazon: The Christmas Star

 

One Imperfect Christmas by Myra Johnson (Review)

Graphic designer Natalie Pearce faces the most difficult Christmas of her life. For almost a year, her mother has lain in a nursing home, the victim of a massive stroke, and Natalie blames herself for not being there when it happened. Worse, she’s allowed the monstrous load of guilt to drive a wedge between her and everyone she loves—most of all her husband Daniel. Her marriage is on the verge of dissolving, her prayer life is suffering, and she’s one Christmas away from hitting rock bottom. Junior-high basketball coach Daniel Pearce is at his wit’s end. Nothing he’s done has been able to break through the wall Natalie has erected between them. And their daughter Lissa’s adolescent rebellion isn’t helping matters. As Daniel’s hope reaches its lowest ebb, he wonders if this Christmas will spell the end of his marriage and the loss of everything he holds dear.

  • File Size: 469 KB
  • Print Length: 281 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1426700709
  • Publisher: Abingdon Press (June 1, 2009)

Author: Myra Johnson launched her writing career in 1985 when she sold her first short story while taking a course through the Institute of Children’s Literature. Myra later joined the ICL staff as a magazine writing instructor, teaching hundreds of students the fundamentals of story and article structure, plotting, character development, and market analysis. She now writes full-time and is active in her church as well as local and national writers groups. Her manuscripts have placed in several contests. One Perfect Christmas won first place in the 2008 Winter Rose (Mainstream with Romantic Elements); Pearl of Great Price took third in the 2007 ACFW Genesis (Contemporary Fiction); and Autumn Rains won the 2005 RWA Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Romance Manuscript. Myra and her husband, Jack, have been married since 1972. Recent transplants from Texas to Oklahoma, they share their home with two love-hungry dogs and a snobby parakeet. The Johnsons have two daughters, both married, and five grandchildren. She currently lives in Broken Arrow, OK.

Website: http://www.myrajohnson.com; Active blogger on http://www.myra.typepad.com andhttp://www.seekerville.blogspot.com

Click to purchase on Amazon: One Imperfect Christmas

Review:

How often do we wish we’d just said yes to someone and felt guilty because we put ourselves first? How often does the person suffer a debilitating stroke that if we had been there, we think we could have prevented? Such is the guilt that Natalie suffers from when she turns down her mother’s request to help put away Christmas decorations. What happens next is how the guilt can tear a family apart, and only forgiveness of one’s self can mend the broken-ness.

Guilt can eat away at a person’s soul and Myra Johnson’s ONE IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS is an accurate depiction of real-life drama. We all play the “Monday morning Quarter-back game” and Natalie is consumed by the guilt game of would’ve, should’ve, could’ve.

This story is about a mother’s stroke and a daughter’s guilt. It really could have been any story. There are any number of scenarios that could be used with the same result. Guilt eats and destroys us and until we find forgiveness within ourselves, we run the risk of destroying those around us.

The book was very well written with a wonderful story. It was a story of Christmas forgiving and healing, and is perfect for holiday reading. I am giving the book five stars. Although some readers have indicated they thought Natalie was really selfish, I think it is an accurate depiction of human nature. Each person handles grief differently and must find their way through to the other side. ONE IMPERFECT CHRISTMAS was such an example.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble…Wednesdays with Donna, A Little Southern Comfort

It’s that time of the week again! Hope everyone had a wonderful week. Other than loads of rain the past few days, there hasn’t been much going on.

 

Hubby had to make a trip Sunday afternoon to Lowes for paint. He’s trying to finish up a rent house before the building permit expires next month, along with the Builder’s Risk Insurance. I normally go with him, but this time I had something different in mind.

 

Remember the Planner Addicts group I belong to on Face book? Well, Michael’s is just across the way, so I managed to inquire (with a very passive face) if he would mind dropping me off so I could browse while he made his trip to Lowes. Silly, silly man. He told me yes. I don’t know if that expression or plea will EVER work again!

 

 

The automated doors opened up and the entire store was there, waiting for me to descend upon it. I’m sure Hubby wasn’t to the Lowes parking lot before my buggy was showing signs of distress under its load. I picked up a few more of the $1 items for gifts at my annual cookie swap in December. I thought it would be nice to have loads of little gifts this year instead of a few more costly items. That way, everyone could win at the games. But, that wasn’t where I stopped. I headed over to the Project Life isle. I have a plain brown binder and I was looking for something a little more colorful. Sure enough, there it was! A beautiful, colorful, chevron Project Life album sitting there waiting for me. I picked it up and gave it a place of honor in my buggy before heading on to the Washi tape.

 

I had begun decorating my planner for October and realized that I had no orange or black Washi tape. I didn’t want to use another color because I have the cutest Halloween stickers that I am using. After gathering the items I had come for, I took the opportunity to just wander up and down the aisles. Michael’s is a huge store and there are so many goodies! As I was coming back down one of the isles, I happened to look up and noticed the line of Sunday shoppers at the checkout counters, so armed with my 40% coupon (which I planned to use on my Project Life binder) and an additional 20% off my entire purchase coupon, I took my place in line.
I called Hubby to see how his trip was faring and he was in the check out line at Lowes.

 

About the time that I was walking out of Michael’s, he was driving up to the door. That was great unplanned timing. And, he never missed a beat as I loaded my HUGE bag of a “few little things” into the back seat. You have to give him credit. He didn’t blink an eye. Men just have to know that if they drop their wives off at ANY store for any length of time, that she’s going to come out with a bag, and it just may be the biggest bag that store has to offer.

 

Monday is normally mow the yard day for me. That is, unless it’s raining, which it has been practically the entire summer. My schedule has been – mow the grass when it’s not raining. I had just begun mowing the front yard when it began drizzling. I checked the sky and saw that we were in for rain, but as long as there was no lightning and it was only a light rain, I continued to mow. It wasn’t long before my mind was doing its normal thing – wandering. At some point in my “wandering” I realized that I was getting a little wetter than I should be and happened to tune in to my surroundings and realized that it was raining pretty hard. I mow with my big straw hat and it was acting as an umbrella so that I didn’t realize it had gone from a drizzle to an almost downpour. You ask, “How did I not figure that out?” Folks. This is me. Need I say more? (In my own little corner in my own little chair?)

 

By that time, I figured I was already wet so as long as the mower was still blowing grass (meaning the grass wasn’t so wet it was clumping up under the mower instead of blowing out of the tunnel) I would continue mowing. About the time I finished up the front yard and was heading to the side and back yards, it had stopped raining and the sun was in all its glory. By the time I finished up, I was dry.

 

The next project up that I was about to just ignore was washing the bottom of the garage door. Calypso chases her tail and has made it a habit of cornering it against the garage door. She is not the cleanest dog around as she loves the swimming pool and the mud holes. Combine that with rubbing against a white garage door and it won’t take long to realize it’s not a pretty picture. Hubby kindly told me – my dogs, my mess. That meant clean it. Not that I mind. Poor man. He works long days and he’s tired at the end of the day.

 

I gathered up the bucket and soap and a water hose and went to work. It is now a pale gray at the bottom and I’m thinking I shouldn’t have cleaned the top too, because now it is really noticeable how much its stained. Then, as soon as I finished, that silly dog went back to chasing her tail next to the door I had just cleaned. So much for that job being successful!

 

Now I am on to a rant. Our church just recently instituted a family of the month and minister (lay) of the month program. The recipients this month are close friends of mine, and if anyone was a deserving family, they are. They are wonderful people and I feel blessed to a part of their lives. This “rant” of mine is in no way meant to diminish the honor I am certain they feel for receiving this award.  In fact, I had already written this post when I saw on Facebook that they had been chosen as family of the month.

 

Ever since this program has been in formation, Hubby and I have been discussing the merits of it. Neither one of us think that the program should exist – for a litany of reasons. We also decided that if our names ever came up (which after this rant, I’m sure they won’t) we would decline the award.

 

There is already so much division in the church and we feel that this will cause even more division – the people you “see” doing versus those who quietly do. The question is – should the church be bestowing awards on its congregation for what they should already be doing – and that is, being good stewards of faith?

 

There are many ways to serve in the Catholic church; altar servers, lector, commentators, Eucharistic ministers, organizations, etc. I choose to be a lector, not because of the recognition I might receive, but because it is my way of serving God. I am a good reader and that talent is God-given and I know that I should use it to serve Him. Hubby is part of the music ministry and he will be the first to turn the praise from himself to others. He is a very humble man who is quietly carrying on the legacy of his mother. I will not expound on the deeds that he does because that is between him and his God. It is not my place to praise him to others, although in the privacy of our relationship, I do let him know how proud of him I am.

 
That being said, not everyone is comfortable being in an organization or reading in front of people, etc. Because no one sees them, does not mean they are not good stewards of their faith. Should those who are unable to put themselves out there not be recognized as well? Not being from the area, Hubby has pointed out different people and told me their stories and how they help people. There are many humble people out there who wish to remain anonymous, and they should be allowed that anonymity.

 
After I published this post, my friend (award recipient) messaged me. And, no, she wasn’t upset with me. I think she would be okay with me saying she actually felt the same. In her words, “I do it for God and for love of my community.” And she does. She is a quiet, wonderful human being with a huge heart and a faith that I admire.

 

I also found out that it is a committee that nominates, and this again, struck me as being so wrong. I want to stress that this is my opinion, but to me, that is judging and it is not our place to judge. I would not want to be a part of a committee sifting through the congregation to determine who the humble are.

 
The question is, should we single out any one person over another? What about those who do things only for the attention they receive? Should they be recognized over someone who sits quietly in the pew Sunday after Sunday, but helps his neighbor every day? We are called to be humble servants of God, not “awarded” servants of God.
Who are we to judge who is or isn’t worthy of receiving an award here on earth? Shouldn’t our reward be bestowed in Heaven? I’ve heard it said that if we “toot our own horn” or receive our awards here on earth, then there is no reason to be awarded a second time in Heaven. It is those good deeds that go unnoticed, except by the Almighty, that will be our saving grace.

 
And, not to mock the seriousness of my rant, but this song plays over and over in my head when I think of being humble, or when I notice someone else not being quite so humble. Maybe it’s just my strange sense of humor, or maybe it’s because we all struggle with humbleness.

 

 

I’m sure I’ve stepped on a few toes – or, maybe not. So feel free to speak up – kindly though – or your remarks may be removed.

 

Reprinted from My Life. One Story at a Time. on blogspot

 

Planner Organization – Making dividers

The last few posts I’ve written have had to do with setting up a paper planner that works with your brain and organizational style rather than against it. As you set up your planner, you will want to eventually decide on the different categories you want in your planner – calendar, financial, todo lists, grocery lists, etc. Unless you happen to find one of the many sites that sell homemade dividers, the market doesn’t offer much in the way of “pretty”. I solved that problem by making my own.

In response to requests to demonstrate how I made dividers for my planners, I will attempt to explain with the aid of many photos. It is a fairly simple technique and hopefully I can explain without making it seem more difficult than it is.

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My supplies

For the following two dividers, I used a double-sided card stock. Normally, I would not laminate a card stock, but for the purpose of demonstrating the laminating technique, I will laminate these two dividers. I also use a paper-cutter, tab punch and tabs, Martha Stewart single hole punch, a round-edge punch, and Avery self-laminating sheets.

Use one of the pages from your planner to determine the size of the divider. A page width is normally sufficient because you will be adding the tab, which will stick out beyond the page for easy viewing. If you are not using a paper cutter, use this page to trace the divider on the card stock.

A note before trimming your dividers. If you are not using one of the tab punches, you will need to trace a tab on your divider before trimming it and laminating. If you do not have confidence in your ability to free-hand a tab, grab a file folder and trace the tab and cut it out with scissors. If you do not have a cutting board (and the variety and price of the many on the market range from very cheap to expensive) just use a good pair of scissors (one that cuts) and cut along your trace lines.

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Trimming to size
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Trimmed edge
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Avery Self-laminating sheets

Once the card stock (or decorative paper) is cut to size, lay one sheet of the laminating sheet paper side up on the table. I use laminating sheets and have found that these serve my purpose quite nicely. There are a number (loads) of laminating machines on the market, both hot and cold. I do not laminate many things and have not felt the need to purchase one.

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Paper backing – will be removed

Peel the backing slowly working from the top left-hand corner. Be careful not to touch the sticky side unnecessarily because it is very sticky. The sheet will lie flat on the work surface. Once it is exposed, lay each piece of card stock (one sheet of decorative paper if making large dividers) down on the laminate. This size card stock allowed for two to a page of laminate. I placed them side by side.

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Peeling backing

Next, pick the sheet of laminate with the two pieces of card stock up and lay it to the side.

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Place a second sheet paper side up on the work surface. Peel the backing off as before. Place the sheet containing the card stock on top sandwiching the card stock between the two sheets of laminate matching the white strip at the end. Smooth out all wrinkles by running hands over the card stock. Matching up the two paper edges that remain on the end after removing the paper backing make this task very easy. Match the paper edging and hold with one hand while you roll the dividers down until the papers are stuck together.

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Sandwiching – use these paper strips to align
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Trimming to size

After smoothing the laminate and making sure the bubbles are worked out, the next step is to cut the extra laminate away.

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Trimming laminate

After trimming the excess laminate, set the pages aside to work on the tabs. If you do not have a tab maker, you should trace a tab on the divider before cutting and laminating so it will be one piece (see above). I use a tab maker and the laminating tabs that come with it.

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Tab punch

I punch the tabs looking at the bottom of the punch to cut as close to the edge as possible to avoid waste. This leaves the rest of the page for another project.

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Place the cut tab onto the tab laminating sheet and stick to one side of the divider page.

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Adhering tab to tab laminate

Fold over the top of the tab and adhere to the top of the divider page. Press to seal.

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Folding top over

This is a little messy, but you can unstick and redo. It was a little difficult trying to do the project and photograph it at the same time.

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Completed tab

After the tabs are done, use the edge rounder or scissors and round off the inner corners. Then using another divider as a guide, punch the holes in the new divider and place in planner. I really like this particular single hole punch. The hole in the bottom allows you to line up holes when punching. It is a Martha Steward tool and can be found anywhere her products are sold. It is also heavy duty and easy to grip for those of you, who like me (I have arthritis) need that extra help. Using a labeler or felt-tip pen write the name of the category you have chosen.

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Punching

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I hope this tutorial has helped solved the mystery of making dividers with tabs for your planner. It is fun and easy and now you, too, can make your planner match your personality. There is no limit to the different papers and decorations available and for those of you who also scrapbook, this should be a really fun project. I am thinking of doing a set of seasonal dividers next…

If you have any questions, please leave a comment. As always, thank you for visiting my blog. And, if you are looking for a planner group in which to plant yourself, check out Southern Charm Planners on Face book! https://www.facebook.com/groups/LouisianaPlannerGirls/

All products used were found on Amazon or at Michael’s.

Tab Punch (comes with a set of tabs): We R Memory Keepers Tab Paper Punch, Bracket

Tab brackets: Tab Stickers-Bracket

Martha Stewart heavy duty punch: Martha Stewart Crafts Heavy Duty Paper Punch

Martha Stewart rounded corner punch: Martha Stewart Crafts Corner Punch, Rounder

Avery: Avery Self-Adhesive Laminating Sheets, 9 x 12 Inches, Box of 50 (73601)

Fiskar’s cutting board: Fiskars 196920-1001 Portable Paper Trimmer, 12-Inch

Day-Timer Malibu Planner: http://www.daytimer.com/daytimerstore/mwv/product/Malibu-Leather-Snap-Tab-1%22-Portable-Size-Planner-Cover/8177?searchClickId=0159137938%2C861&catId=&prodId=8177

Organization Destination Fascination

I’ve long been fascinated by personalities, which has been evident by the number of posts I’ve done on my blog about the subject. And, within the confines of personality, I have been fascinated (there’s that word again) by the organizational skills and habits of others. I equate that with driving by houses at night that leave the lights on and the curtains open. I’m not a peeping Tom by any means but having the opportunity to peer into someone’s house to check out their decorating skills while having to wait for a traffic light to change, well, that is like dangling candy in front of a child – or my Hubby. I just can’t help myself. I want to know what color they’ve painted the living room. By this same token, I am absolutely enthralled with how others organize. If someone dares to open their planner near me, beware because I am all eyes.

I want to see what you write and ask about your system of organizing your thoughts. Do you use numbers or bullets? Do you doodle? Yes, I become a child again and my curiosities take hold. And, today, with everyone blogging and bragging and showing off their planners, it’s a candy paradise out there in plannerland.

I have long since been a fan and user of organizational tools, Day-Timer in particular. It’s been so long that I couldn’t even tell you how I first became aware of them (Day-Timer). I do, however, remember the very first time I saw someone’s planner. I was working at a local university and had taken a newsletter to the printing department to speak with one of the workers there. As we began to set up the dates that my boss would need the newsletter by, she pulled out her brown leather planner and opened it up. The minute she put the pen to paper and I had the time to observe this interesting book, I was hooked. It had a calendar! I lost all interest in what she was saying as my mind began ticking away all of the ways this little book could help me stay organized. After much discussion and a showing of the other sections in her planner, I couldn’t sit still. I was going to look for a planner of my own.

And I did. I found one that very afternoon. It wasn’t expensive or elaborate, but it was mine! The color was navy blue and it was beautiful, at least to me. The size was what I now know is a desk size. My love of planning had taken hold. I began that very night adding in little details on the calendar that I needed to track. I also began my to-do list for the next day. My life was transformed by that little navy book and I carried it everywhere. This same woman invited me to my first American Business Woman’s Association meeting (ABWA). Joining this organization was a pivotal moment in my life. It literally began my transformation into a confident young woman. (Thank you Kelly.)

Joining ABWA and then a couple of other organizations quickly filled up my little planner and I moved on to a larger size in order to accommodate the paperwork that came with holding offices in each of the organizations. That was the beginning of my planner using days, which have continued through today, except for that brief interruption by technology in the form of an iPhone. I guess you would have to be a fan of paper planners to know the comfort of having a little book to thumb through and write your thoughts down as well as your schedule…which brings me to the point of today’s post – other than nostalgia.

As well as my desk size planner that stays on my desk at home – which is where I work from these days – I have switched to a matching personal size (Day-Timer Malibu) that travels with me. I use it as a planner wallet.

What I find so fascinating today is so many woman are enjoying their planners and sharing them with other women (and some men!) Each of their unique personalities comes out in the way their planners are set up and arranged. And, you can gleam a lot from looking through someone’s planner. Mine are set up – everything has a place and everything in its place – much the way my entire life is set up. This was never so evident as in the way I went about decorating the Christmas wreath hanging on my front door. As I stood back and observed, I had to eventually laugh at the realization that my attempt at “organizing” my wreath wasn’t working. It became quite evident that organizing and decorating are two distinct different entities.

And, as I posted a photo on Facebook with a caption stating that I could organize anyone’s life and not break a sweat, my talents definitely did not lend themselves to decorating a wreath. I guess I wasn’t too surprised when my loyal friends began laughing and commenting that it represented my personality – umm laugh right along with them? Yes, until I cried! It really was true (and funny). It’s odd how our personalities show up in the oddest places. And, lucky for me, my friends came to the rescue. One old friend came to “mess it up a little” and one new friend came to “fix it up a little” and the end result is magnificent to me. It really touched my heart that they would do this wonderful thing for me.

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And getting back to the subject from which I digressed, here are a few pictures of my personal planner/wallet. It is a pretty red color and snaps closed. On the inside cover is place for business cards or credit cards and identification (which is not how I organize mine, but the option is there). There is also an open pocket and a zippered pocket that doesn’t show in the picture. I keep my change and money there.

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Front cover, pebble-grain leather
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Inside front, slots

Next up is my first category. I have card sleeves here where I have a few favorite photos. I also carry my insurance card and driver’s license in one of the card sleeves.

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Tabbed dividers
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Pictures

Next up I have a plastic sleeve with a few stickers for use in my calendar, then a plastic sleeve where I keep a few one dollar bills that are easy to reach. (FYI – The notepaper is concealing private information.)

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Sticker sleeve
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Left – Drs. License, Right – money sleeve

Located behind my credit cards is a pocket folder for receipts when I shop. Next up is my calendar.

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Pocket folder for receipts
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Divider for calendar

Located behind my calendar are sections for note paper and grocery lists, menu planning and coupons as well as a pen holder.

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Notepaper, Menu Planning
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List making

To make my planner/wallet more personable, I made colorful dividers and added pretty monogrammed note paper. I am a girly girl and love my pretty pretty! This system works quite well for me. I have everything I need at my fingertips and I love the organization this planner affords me.

I hope you found this post informative and helpful in your own organizational needs, or maybe it has inspired you. Have any questions? Please leave a comment and I’ll do my best to either answer it or address it in a future post.

Now, for the question! What system have you found works best for you as a wallet?

Want to see how planners are taking the world by storm? Find out at Southern Charm Planners on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/LouisianaPlannerGirls/

Are paper planners making a comeback?

Or, did they never really go away? With technology, it really is a legitimate question these days. I used a Day-Timer to plan my life for 25 years and then I purchased an iPhone. That was the end of the paper planner, at least for a while. Now, don’t get me wrong, my iPhone is still my first defense against the world, but there is just something cathartic about writing in my planner. The thought process slows down and the hustle, bustle fades away – which can be a very good thing in today’s fast-paced society.

Recently, I’ve come across a huge resurgence of planner addicts as they are referring to themselves. (I confess to quickly become one of them.) While scrapbookking has never tempted me, other than drooling over the many cute stickers and Washi tape and stamps – well, you get the picture, decorating my daily planner days has become one of my favorite past times. I would like to add here too, that there are many planner groups that have sprung up on Facebook. I am the administrator of one such group, Southern Charm Planners. Women are coming together to share their ideas and find new ones. I invite you to stop by. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you find. https://www.facebook.com/groups/LouisianaPlannerGirls/

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Charm says “Keep Calm and Carry a Planner”

Sitting in my own little corner, in my own little chair (Rogers and Hammerstein‘s Cinderella) with my crafting scissors and scrapbookking supplies brings me a certain degree of comfort.

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Desk size Day-Timer Malibu in Teal

Not only has scrapbookking made a new name for itself in the planning world, but so have planner designers. Whereas in years gone by, one had to pick and choose from structured Day-Timer, Filofax, Day-Runner (and other similar) formats, that is no longer true. With the internet and the ability to download PDF files, the possibilities are endless. Where one had two or three sterile options available, the are now hundreds (perhaps thousands) of bloggers and Etsy store owners who have developed colorful options that make planning your day a joyful experience. Instead of the confines we used to have, we are free to pick and choose the colors and formats that best suite our lives and personalities and the way we plan. I personally mix three different styles to achieve what I feel is my perfect planner.

I currently use a Day-Timer desk size Malibu planner. The leather is not rigid, but very pliable, which is why I chose this particular planner.  I also love the size and gone are all the boring guts. (Sorry Day-Timer and everyone else.) I’ve replaced them with colorful pages that speak to my heart. I write freely each day in a different color flair pen and use brightly colored post-it notes, stickers, and Washi tape. My planner is not only a necessity in my scheduling, it is a fun place in which to spend time.

photo 3 (3)In the above photo is an example of what my week/day normally looks like. I like this weekly layout (the second half is covered up with my daily page) because of the little sections that allow me to label the column. It is working very well and at a glance I can see what is going on for the week – appointments, personal, blog, work, exercise, phone calls, etc. There are weeks when the headings change, but not often. I also enjoy the colorful set up. It is really not necessary to decorate because it is already filled with happy colors.

To the left is the first half of my week setup with my daily page to the right. The daily page allows me to break my day up into a time schedule. I can list my ToDos and phone calls in separate spaces because for me, they are separate things. Some people like listing them together and that is what is amazing. You can find set ups to work with your scheduling needs and personality. In the long column I can break my day up with a time line.

Because I use a daily page, having the second half of my week hidden doesn’t bother me. The only time I normally refer to it is at the end of the day when I schedule my “Today” page for the next day or if I need to add something to the schedule. My topics on that page usually contain exercise, blog information and personal. These are topics I do not necessarily want laying open on my desk. Also, when I glance down at the week, the things I really need to see are available to me on the right side of the week.

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Week at a Glance page
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Daily Schedule page

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Next up and located behind the Daily Page is a “Peek at the Week” page. I use this page to schedule my blog. I schedule my book reviews and stories for the week. There is a section where I write ideas on posts. When I have ideas or thoughts that I may want to have the flexibility of moving around, I will write them on post-it notes. This method allows me to move things from day-to-day or week to week. And, there are so many colors and styles available on the market today that everyone can find a color that they like or different colors to color code. Personally, I do not color code my pen colors or sticky-notes. I like the freedom of choosing whatever my mood dictates.

If you look at the next two photos, they will show how I trim the pages so that they are contained within my week. Trimming the pages also makes it easier for me to flip to the second page of my week when needed.

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Right hand page of Week

As I mentioned earlier, the second page of my week is more personal. It contains my Exercise chart and weekly weigh in, anything personal I might have going on, and what’s going on on my blog. I keep track of my upcoming book reviews on this page with sticky notes. If something unexpected arises and I have to move a book review, it is easily done. It may look redundant because I use another week peek to schedule reviews, but for me it is not. This is a flex page, the other is not, and contains spaces to jot down notes. It is a system that works with my mind and not against it; and that is the key to being a successful planner.

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Header tabs

I did not start out with many different sections in my planner, mainly because I like to see everything in one place. Lately, I have found myself venturing out in to different sections. I have even made my own dividers to section off my categories. That in itself was a creative and enjoyable process.

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Monthly tabs
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Header tabs

In days past, I was not a blogger, nor did I host a yearly Cookie Swap, nor did I do much menu planning. I find myself doing these things now and did not want my week cluttered up with these tasks, nor was it necessary, so I created separate sections in my planner for them. I also filled them with colorful papers to make the tasks fun.  Some of the different categories I use are (to repeat a few) are Cookie Swap, Menu Planning, Book Review notes, Blog post ideas, Notepad Paper (yes, for pretty paper when needed) Financials, and Year at a View.

These are the categories that fit with my lifestyle and activities. You will find different categories in every planner you visit. As I mentioned before, to be successful in utilizing your planner to its fullest and making it work for you, it is important to find a system that works with your personality and organizational skills. Start off small and then work your way up into different categories, if and only if, you have a need for more categories.

And, just a little note to say that you can find many, MANY planner pages for free on the web. Just try Googling and you will be quite surprised at how many come up.

I’ve recently developed a new and simple system of scheduling book reviews. I have used a spread sheet in the past, but with my “picture” mind, it wasn’t giving me a true picture of the number of reviews I had scheduled for a certain month. There were times when I overbooked without realizing it. My new schedule is in its own little calendar and has been working quite well. Post-it notes also give me flexibility in re-scheduling when life gets in the way of the best laid schedule.

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Book Review Book
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A month at a view

Hoping for a little audience participation, I will ask you this. What system do you find works best for you? I look forward to hearing what you think. Thanks as always for taking the time to stop and visit my blog. Links to the products used are listed below.

Day-Timer Malibu, Desk size: (Teal) http://www.daytimer.com/daytimerstore/mwv/product/Malibu-Leather-Snap-Tab-Desk-Sized-Planner-Cover/8176?pageSize=9&rootCatId=Collections_80&goToPage=1&catId=Malibu_80&prodId=8176

Weekly undated inserts: A Bowl Full of Lemons: (Blank weekly calendar, 2 pages) http://www.abowlfulloflemons.net/2013/09/the-rainbow-planner-products-page-2.html

Daily ToDo Page: PolkaDotPosiePrint (Etsy): https://www.etsy.com/listing/170968988/2014-small-size-printable-planner-pages?ref=shop_home_active

Peek at the Week: Iheartorganizing (free printable):(Scroll down page) http://iheartorganizing.blogspot.com/p/free-printables.html

Planner charm: (Keep calm) (Etsy): https://www.etsy.com/shop/shellybelly4evr

Check out Ruby for Women, an on-line Christian woman’s magazine. (I have an article in it.)
LINK to the winter issue of the Ruby for Women magazine:

http://issuu.com/ruby4women/docs

LINK to the December Book Giveaway:
http://rubyforwomen.com/2013/12/december-book-giveaway-our-hardcore-battle-plan-for-wives-winning-in-the-war-against-pornography/