Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WHERE...

...I CAME FROM

I've been reminded of my belief that you can't judge people by their families. I learned the hard way that families do dumb and embarassing things, sometimes without knowing it and other times without caring.

Just because a mother and father are one way does not been their children are the same, either for the good or the bad. Now, there are definitely cases where parents learned valuable things from their parents and built their lives on that foundation for the better. I'm just saying, that's not always the case.

I also believe people are who they are because of their influences. But sometimes those influences led people in opposite directions. As much as I love my mom, she's not a planner. That's frustrating to me. I think growing up I was frustrated so many times that given the chance I now like to plan things. See, influences go both ways.

...I AM

Goals are good. I've got a few these days.

One, Greg and I decided to do better about eating at home. Although it's time to go to the grocery again to keep some meals for the coming days, we did well last week. It's partially motivated by a desire to save money, and partially by the desire to eat healthier.

I also am trying to swim three days a week at MSU's wellness center. So far so good, and I'm in week three.

My new goal, or at least thought, is to eat less sugar, mainly meaning straight up dessserts. Now, I'm not giving them up completely, just for the record. So here's the status on that one: I haven't had any dessert-type food since Sunday, when I had an ice cream cone. I personally think that's pretty good. But Peggy said she's bringing me over some of this cake I love, so maybe I'll have some dessert tomorrow. Still, I'm just trying to develop some better habits with eating.

...I AM GOING

Sometimes I dream about writing a book. I especially want to write one about random people in baseball parks, like the grounds crew. I know I've talked about that on here before.

In the short term, I think about how I'd like to write more columns. I finally was "inspired" to write about yard sales. That's coming soon in the paper. I knew I didn't need a big issue to write about as much I needed something little to prompt me. And, sure enough, a good yard sale Saturday and a Sunday morning driving to Louisville was all it took.

I also dream about owning a card store with handmade cards from creative people I know. The idea of owning my own business simultaneously intrigues me and freaks me out.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Girls


Here we are posing for a picture way too early on a Sunday morning. Sydney (You can read more about Sydney here.) couldn't resist trying to be one of the girls.

Sydney at Graeter's




Katie, Greg and I liked our Graeter's ice cream, but Sydney seemed the most eager to lick the next-to-nothing remains of Katie's peach ice cream.

new computer ... yippy!

We got a new computer at home. It's fabulous, and I thought I was going to be disappointed it wasn't an iMac.

It wasn't about them anyway.

A version of this Mother Teresa quote hangs in my endocrinologist's office in Louisville. I like a lot of things about it.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

CD mixes

I was listening to some CD mixes -- a couple someone else made and a couple I made -- on the way up to Louisville on Sunday. Mine made me wonder...

I go through music phases. Is is possible to be in an Indigo Girls and Dave Matthews phase at the same time as a Caedmon's Call and Third Day phase? According to a couple of my CDs, the answer is yes.

Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney was good in concert Sunday night at the state fair. Uncle Kracker was his guest for their duet "When The Sun Goes Down" and then stayed to sing his two other songs. I say his two other songs because I think "Follow Me" and "Drift Away" are his only other songs. I like them both and know them both; so Uncle Kracker was strangely a good surprise. Anyway, Kenny was great, and he played for two hours. He's crazy on stage -- jumping, dancing and moving all around. But the concert was fun because I knew all but one of his songs, although not quite as well as the two guys in front of me. They knew every word to every song, and I think they probably lost their voices by the end of the night.

Here's The Courier-Journal review.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

weekend tidbits

Last night Greg and I went to Clarksville to see Cassie's game. The only problem was the lightning caused the game to be canceled. So after much waiting for nothing, we went to O'Charley's to eat.

Peggy and I found a few good bargains at some yard sales this morning. Since lunch, Greg and I have been cleaning out closets and other organizing tasks. The local thrift store will quite a load at the beginning of the week.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

"the little things are just that, little"

I'm having trouble relaxing these days. I'm not sure why, so don't ask. I just know I am obsessing over things like getting things done, planning too many moments and wondering what's next. I'm going to drive myself crazy, not to mention the people around me.

Greg and I have been talking about strategies to save money. I even planned out several meals this week in an attempt to not eat out so much. We've done good. (Yes, I admit, for a planner I have a hard time planning meals. Ironic, I know. But if I liked to cook more it might be a little easier.) We have so many projects we want to do at home, and we recognize that we have to work toward having the money and time to do them. So that's where we are.

Personally, I set a goal to swim three days a week, progressively more each week. So far so good. (That's the results of a week and a half, though!)

But I think it's more important I adjust my attitude. I'm so critical of so many things, especially myself. I spent a good deal of lunch nagging Greg about things that really weren't that important. I'm the queen of picking unnecessary fights. Thanks to his encouraging e-mail that followed my babbling venting of frustrations and life, I decided to work on a more joyful attitude. That's the person I want to be. I don't want to be the one who is constantly drudging up frustrations because that's all I see. In reality, frustration isn't all I see, but I tend to dwell on it quicker than I dwell on blessings.

So, here's my solution: I'm going to keep a notebook of good things. Little things. Big things. Things only I appreciate. Things only I see or feel. Just a list that I carry with me to look to when I want to gripe about management at work, busyness at home, the grass being too tall, the sun not shining enough.

Like I told Greg, swimming laps is good, saving money is good, but changing my attitude from the inside out is going to make all the difference in the world.

take two

I just blogged a long entry, and the silly Internet quit. Just unexpectedly quit.

So I'm starting over.

I went to bed at 8:57 last night. I think I was probably asleep by 9:04. And the saddest part is my body felt like it was late. I've worn myself out this week trying to be productive. And I've gotten a ton of little things done, but I still have a list off which I'm working.

I swam 28 laps (that's 700 meters, which doesn't sound that far now that I type that). My new laps-counting method worked well. I used 14 hair rubberbands on my right wrist. As I completed two laps (thus getting back to where I started), I moved a rubberband over to my left wrist. It was really nice to swim without having to constantly remind myself what lap I was on, which is what I spent all my time doing the other three times. After dinner (taco soup ... mmmm ...) I walked with Jaclyn. I exercised so much that I didn't have to take any insulin with dinner — a rare moment for someone who has poked herself in the stomach with every meal since Jan. 28, 2004.

On an unrelated note, I found out yesterday I get to go to a two-day seminar called Carrying the Capitals to Your Community on Sept. 9-10. It's about developing connections in state and federal government and just other resources available for such reporting. It's in Somerset, I guess to epitomize rural journalism. I'm just looking forward to gaining a fresh approach to things.

(Rewinding ...)

I never blogged about last weekend, so here I go:

Greg and I went to Louisville on Saturday in time to have lunch with my mom and grandpa as well as Kim, Bill, Jennifer and Jeff (my aunt, uncle and cousins visiting from New Jersey). It was good to see them and catch up a little. Jeff plays baseball at St. John, so he told us so funny stories from his summer league in Watertown, N.Y.

Saturday night we hung out with Katie. (Brad had to play a gig most of the night.) We ate Donato's Pizza and Graeter's ice cream. Hanging out with Katie is so great because we've been friends long enough that there's no pressure to say certain things or be doing anything special. We're pretty content to just camp out on the couch and talk and laugh. We spent a great deal of time with Sydney, the Kerns' new Australia shepherd dog. (I think that's what it's called, hence the name Sydney.) I'm not much on having a pet myself, but there are certain pets that belong to other people that I like. Sydney is at the top of that list now.

Mom and I ran some errands on Sunday (I found a Speedo swim suit for $21, compared to the usual $60 or so!) and then had lunch again. This time Kevin, Laine and Milla joined us. Milla is so fun. Every time I asked her a question (Do you want some milk? Where's Bailey? Do you want to go outside?), she answered with appropriate answers. She picks up on new words all of the time, even though she can't express herself quite as well as she wishes she could.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

To change or not to change ... sometimes they both just happen

I used not to want to write so-called hard news. In college, I wanted to be a copy editor. Then in Richmond I enjoyed my role as an education reporter. That leaned a little more toward features (except of course when an elementary school principal was arrested for indecent exposure at a Lexington park).

Timing was on my side when Greg and I moved to Murray. I barely had time to panic before I was offered a reporting job here, covering city government and police. I went home thankful to have a job with benefits (I really needed to go to the doctor ... Long story short, that led my diabetes diagnosis in January 2004.) and something to do. (I mean, come on, my house was really clean and as much as I loved "Dawson's Creek reruns, I wanted to be productive.)

So here I am, covering city government, Murray State administration, the hospital board (which is important because the city and county jointly own the hospital here), courts and police. I also cover state politics when that's relevant and a variety of other things that crop up.

And, I admit, I like it. I prefer these stories over the feature stories, although those serve as a breath of fresh air from time to time, especially if it's a subject that interests me. This is small-town journalism, no doubt about it, but it's a lot more satisfying than I anticipated. Keep in mind, I pledged never to move back to Murray and especially never to work at the Ledger & Times during my senior year of college and in subsequent conversations with Greg about our future.

Never say never, I know.

So here I am. It's funny how things changed, almost without me knowing.

Then there are the things that don't change. I put my contacts in the same way every morning, I choose the same bathroom stall every time I use the facilities at work. I drive to certain places the same way because no other way really seems faster.

I do a lot of day-to-day things the same way because it's one less thing to think about. And that's OK.

Change freaks me out, really. But not changing scares me too. That's quite the internal juxtaposition.

Friday, August 19, 2005

dwelling on the good

So, I had three distinct frustrating moments yesterday for no real good reason. I was in a funk of letting people's comments and actions (or lack there of) rub me the wrong way and cut more personally then they should. But there were plenty of good things to be said for the day:

* I talked to my mentor and hero Rochelle Riley to get some column-writing motivation and inspiration.
* I booked cheaper-than-expected flights for my mom and I to go to Portland in October for Elizabeth's wedding. We're taking a side trip to Seattle while we're out there.
* I swam 18 laps at the MSU wellness center pool. It was so nice to be in the water and do something good for me. I think it was 18 laps. I lost count and Greg got tired. But starting this afternoon, I am going to do this workout that builds on the number of laps to build up to 1,650 yards, which I guess is close to a mile.
* I had a long conversation with a friend who I had been feeling removed from. I think the conversation was good partially because of my attitude adjustment as well as my decision to address the matter.
* I feel asleep babbling to my tired husband because I just felt like reliving the high points and not complaining about the nonsense that always passes. (I only briefly how I thought about how silly I am for thinking things are bigger issues than they really are.)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

ROCHELLE RILEY: Life changes in a blink

Once again I just get sucked in reading, then wishing that one day I will be just as crafty with words.


BY ROCHELLE RILEY
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST

It's been four weeks since my last column. A friend called and said that I'd better not leave again: Too much happens. My newspaper was sold. A black publishing magnate who taught us that black America has its own upper class died. And none of it mattered when my mom was rushed to a hospital.

When Malcolm Gladwell wrote "Blink," a book about the instant decisions we make, he also could have written about what happens in a blink.

One minute, I was working for one newspaper company. I blinked, and then I was working for another.

One minute, John Johnson was the eternal head of a family who brought the stories of famous and ordinary black folks into our homes through Ebony and Jet. I blinked, and he was gone. But his legacy remains eternal. At a time when newspapers rarely documented the daily achievements and lives of the black experience, he gave us Jet, where, every week, we could see young couples in newly wedded bliss, learn black history and celebrate artistry.

It wasn't segregationist. It was additionalist. It was necessary gravy. After letting People or Vanity Fair wow us with the rich we were taught to envy, I let Jet show me celebrities who looked like me, and news of civil rights advances with the bold headlines they deserved.

There were hundreds, no, thousands, of names through the years that I couldn't find in a daily newspaper, but learned about from Jet.

And then one day, I picked up a copy of Jet to see me. I was president of the Washington Association of Black Journalists, which hosted a reception at the National Press Club for Anna Perez, then the first African-American press secretary to a first lady, Barbara Bush. No matter what I'd achieved hence or since, for the folks in my hometown who measure success by an appearance in Ebony or Jet, I had arrived.

One minute, I was analyzing these events. Then I blinked and got a call that my mother was in the hospital.

Doctors still aren't sure what happened, but she was dazed, and when asked who was president of the United States, she replied "Nixon." The episode was brief, thank goodness. Who wants to be stuck in a Watergate-era nightmare where Toni Morrison had yet to write "Beloved" and Bill Cosby had yet to become Cliff Huxtable?

The next day, she was back. But from the time she was fine until I blinked and she wasn't, a lifetime passed. I remembered the English teacher who taught me to read at her knee and understood my need to do what John Johnson had done: tell the stories of black Americans to ensure that the souls of black folks survive.

I blinked again and thanked John Johnson for being the blueprint. I blinked again and thanked God for more time with my mother.

And the sale of my newspaper? The owners don't matter as much as the stories the newspaper tells. A change in partners? If Detroit were a woman, all I could say is that the previous owner was, uh, just not that into you.

So it's time to move on. Tell the stories. Give voices to those who still fight for them. Honor those who gave me the chance to tell the tale.

Blink.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Dear Webster,

Who decides for you which words in your dictionary have pictures next to them?

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

variety packs, country music and my blog

Contrary to the lack of posts, I've been wanting to blog ...

* They (the unspecific group of people who are responsible for such things) should make variety packs of Coke (the unspecific carbonated drink, not necessarily Coca-Cola). You know, they make a big bag of small bags of chips, all different kinds. You'll have four bags of Doritos, four bags of Fritos, a few bags of Cheetos and some regular potato chips all together so you can eat the ones that most suit your mood. Well, they should do that with Coke too. That way I could but the Pepsi variety pack and have Diet Pepsi, Diet Dr Pepper, Diet Cherry Vanilla Dr Pepper, Diet Mountain Dew and even caffeine free Diet Dr Pepper. Then when Coke (the actual product this time) is on sale, I can have the same thing: Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Coke, caffeine free Diet Coke ... Surely it wouldn't be that difficult with all the Coke (generic reference) these companies produce.

* Thanks to a friend who happened up some free tickets, I'm buying two tickets to see Kenny Chesney at the state fair at the end of the month. My mom is even more excited. We're hoping the opening act, Pat Green, will be better than the last opening act we saw together. That would be Ted Nugent, who opened for Toby Keith. Granted, they both are up there on the redneck scale, but Nugent and his attempt at a comeback didn't cut it for me, if you'll recall. Last year, I went with friends to see Rascal Flatts, who performed the closing night of the state fair like Kenny is this year. Now, that was a great concert, and the opening act was even fine. Rascal Flatts are playing soon in Nashville, but I don't think I can risk being disappointed by them after how good they were last year.

* Someone who will remain anonymous for his privacy happened upon my blog. That's interesting to me. My first thought when he "confessed" his stumbled-upon findings was, "Dang, I haven't blogged in awhile." Although I didn't mention this though outloud, he did mention my Humpty Dumpty post. Maybe that was a hint. My second though was, "I wonder what I've written that he'd be interested in reading." Again, without saying this outloud, he told me he read a lot of it. OK. Moving on to my third thought, "Should I, a journalist, have a blog that people, including my sources for the lack of a better word, could happen up if they get to the seventh page of a google search?" Hmmmm.... Not sure about that one.

Here's the thing: Journalists are people. They have opinions and feelings and thoughts. (Yes, I know, hard to imagine.) But it's often these opinions and feelings and thoughts are supposed to be kept out of publication. Fair enough. Yet this blog is a publication, technically speaking. One could argue it's my personal publication separate from my profesional publication. Sure. I don't contribute to political campaigns and wouldn't consider bumper stickers for my car or yard signs supporting a person or a cause because I don't want to appear publicly committed to a side, political or otherwise. Yet, those opinions are surely expressed, both naturally and subconsciously, on here. Yet conflict of interest is a funny thing in small towns.

* Related to that anonymous person ... I wonder if anyone else has happened upon my blog. Hint: Comments are welcome.

* Because Greg is teaching a class at MSU this fall, we can join the wellness center there for not much a semester. (It's a pretty great facility some of the student fees in my latter years at MSU went toward building.) I was all mentally geared up to swim for about 30 minutes before work. Too bad the pool doesn't open until 6:30. (The rest of the center opens at 5 a.m.) That's not enough time to shower and such before work. I don't think people will appreciate me smelling like chlorine every day, although I wouldn't mind. I bought goggles today, so I guess I have to find a time to swim.

* To people who insist on talking about football: It's still baseball season.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

INDIAN SHORES, Fla. (AP) — Humpty Dumpty doesn’t sit on the wall. But thieves are to blame, instead of a fall.

A 3-foot bronze Humpty sculpture that has adorned the beachfront home of Hugh Smith and his wife, Diana Fuller, vanished last weekend. And they desperately want him back.

“He was kidnapped,” Fuller said. “We’re waiting for a ransom demand.”

The couple ordered the piece two years ago from an artist who specializes in making sculptures of the nursery rhyme characters. They specified Humpty’s size, his expression and even the colors he should wear. They paid $5,112 for the whimsical, 60-pound piece they bolted atop a pillar of a concrete wall.

The couple is offering a reward for his safe return.

“We will not only bolt him, we will secure him back to his wall,” Fuller said. “We will pen him up. There’s always one bad egg who spoils it for everyone else.”

This leaves me with several questions, especially why exactly would anyone want a Humpty Dumpty statue, and how much are they really willing to pay for its return?

Thursday, August 4, 2005

sweet song

Greg and I celebrated our three-year anniversary when we were in St. Louis a couple weeks ago. But he surprised me yesterday when he played a song he had written for me. He wrote the words and the guitar part and played it in our living room yesterday afternoon. It was so great. I can't really do it justice writing about it, but I'll try ...

It was three verses; one about each year we've been married. It had cute examples and images that fit into the rhythm of the song. It was so sweet to hear, and leaves plenty of room for additional verses as we go along.

The whole few moments were definitely a step beyond me getting him his favorite doughnut for breakfast earlier in the day.

I forgot ... AGAIN!

My own forgetfulness is annoying me.

The newest scenario:

About 9 p.m. yesterday I could tell my blood sugar was high. I went to check it and realized I didn't have any strips for my monitor. Thankfully, I remembered Walgreens is now open 24 hours, so I could just show them my perscription thing from Rite-Aid and hopefully get it filled there. Too bad the only refills left expired at the end of July. This leaves many questions about why do the perscriptions for something I'll need for the rest of my life expire, but at that moment it was more important I found a way to check my blood sugar. So I went to Walgreens anyway, but they obviously couldn't run my insurance without a perscription. They just sold me the strips.

Usually, I get 200 strips for $35. My insurance covers a significant portion.

Last night I paid $49.99 for 50 strips.

Now my forgetfulness if costing me.

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Did I forget anything?

Two days ago, I thought I was supposed to go get blood drawn at the doctor. Actually, I was supposed to go 10 days before.

Later that day, I forgot to take my insulin at lunch.

Oh, but that was the beginning of a trend that developed further as Tuesday went along.

First, on the way to Clarksville. I found myself driving on the wrong side of the road when Jaclyn said "I think that car is in your lane." No, dangit, I'm in its lane. See, there was construction of what is seeminly going to be a four-lane road. Key word: Construction. Right now, there was only a two-lane road.

When we got to the restaurant to meet Mom and Cassie, I had to parellel park. OK, I can do that. I got really close to the curb, so I was trying to adjust in the spot better. Then I gently tapped the SUV in front of me. I think I might have just hit the hitch.

Then I noticed the parking meter. So I put some change in. Two quarters and a dime, plus the three minutes that someone kindly left me. One hour, 13 minutes. Apparently we were inside longer because I had a parking ticket waiting for me when we came back out.

OK, it gets better.

I had found a scrapbooking store in Clarksville on switchboard.com and then gotten directions from the restaurant to the store. We followed them, no problem. But we ended up at a house in a nice, new neighborhood off the main drag in Clarksville. We laughed really hard, and kept driving. Like a couple people suggested, maybe someone was running a little business out of the basement, but I wasn't about the go knock on the door and find out.

Last night I went to Walgreens to by Greg an anniversary card (three years today...), and I found a great card with a great quote and a nice picture on it. Sappy, not funny. Too bad it was a birthday card. Goodness. Thankfully, I realized before I bought it and then found an even more appropriate anniversary card that wasn't as sappy.

You are at the top when ...

You clearly understand that failure is an event, not a person, that yesterday ended last night, and today is your brand new day.

You have made friends with your past, are focused on the present, and optimistic about your future.

You know that success doesn't make you and failure doesn't break you.

You are filled with faith, hope and love; and live without anger, greed, guilt, envy or thoughts of revenge.

You are mature enough to delay gratification and shift your focus from your rights to your responsibilities.

You know that failure to stand for what is morally right is the prelude to being the victim of what is criminally wrong.

You are secure in who you are, so you are at peace with God and in fellowship with man.

You have made friends of your adversaries, and have gained the love and respect of those who know you best.

You understand that others can give you pleasure, but genuine happiness comes when you do things for others.

You are pleasant to the grouch, courteous to the rude and generous to the needy.

You love the unlovable, give hope to the hopeless, friendship to the friendless and encouragement to the discouraged.

You can look back in forgiveness, forward in hope, down in compassion and up with gratitude.

You know that "he who would be the greatest among you must become the servant of all."

You recognize, confess, develop and use your God-given physical, mental and spiritual abilities to the glory of God and for the benefit of mankind.

You stand in front of the Creator of the universe and He says to you, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."

—Zig Ziglar

Monday, August 1, 2005

You'll be changed ...

Yesterday's sermon was on relationships and how we react around people. Rather appropriate for me. Greg leaned over at the beginning and said, "You should like this." He was right.

The following is ideas from the sermon incorporated with my random thoughts.

Basically, Ken Galyon (who goes to our church and ocassionally speaks there) talked about how God uses relationships to make us better people by showing us our faults and weaknesses. I found myself asking if I react in the way I should or the way I wish I did.

Thing is, we're all free to change. I shouldn't think, Oh, I wish I was that way or this way. I should just be. Easier said than done.

Ken said there are two reasons relationships are challenging. One, we, as people in general, turn to them for security and signifigance, even though that's not where we should place our worth. Two, we tend to blame people for our inner struggles.

OK, back to one. Whew, I know about that. He talked about how often we expect too much from people, we expect to gain so much security in people, that we're only setting people we love up to fail with such expectations. Hmmm, I know a little (OK, a lot) about that!

Secondly, relationships bring out our insecurities, fears and anger. Then someone will frustrate us and we blame it on them. I can't count the times I've said "Greg frustates me when ..." or "He disappointed me..." No, he didn't frustrate me and he didn't disappoint me. I held up these expectations and was demanding. OK, so sometimes people still do unfair things or treat us less than we should probably be treated, but Ken had a good point when he said we still don't have to react accordingly. There's strength in being the one to forgive and love. That's the kind of person I want to be.

No one can make you mad. Nobody controls your emotions like that. It's not the person, it's you. —Ken Galyon

I have to take a deep breath after that. It's hard for me to swallow sometimes.

He also defined forgiveness as giving up judgment. That's the best definition of such an abstract concept I've ever heard.

Sometimes people's reactions are rooted in past experiences. For instance, someone may be hurt when others are critical because they spent their childhod never quite living up to their parents' expectations. Or someone may not like to talk about themselves because one too many people didn't respect their thoughts and feelings at other points in life.

Too often I think how people are has to do with me. Sometimes I forget there's a whole history rooted in their hearts and minds — both good and bad. The joy of relationships, at least for me, is allow new people and ideas to influence what's already there and hopefully add to it some.

Still, instead of blaming inner struggles on other people, I should take responsibility for reactions, recognize patterns and find out where they come from. More importantly, I shouldn't be satified comforming to the past just because that's the past. Although some experiences are worth holding onto for life, I should be open to moving on to better moments, knowing there's always room to grow.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. —Romans 12:1-2 from The Message