April 23, 2014

Sweet Tea Tuesday: A woman’s worth

She rolls the mile; makes you smile, all the while being true.
Don’t take for granted the passions that she has for you.
You will lose, if you choose, to refuse to put her first.

-Alicia Keys

Last week over coffee, a gal pal and I discussed current events, specifically the divorce of a certain rich golf guy and his (sung just like the line in Alanis Morrissette’s, “Ironic“) be-a-u-tiful wife. Now, I gotta tell you, I steer away from celebrity gossip because there is a fine line between fame and infamy that is often, and quite sickeningly blurred, but this topic wasn’t about fame and fortune for me, truly-it was about principle.

Underneath the Spanx, ruffles and chintz is a woman, at some point before the single ladies toss all dignity to the wind, and get down straight derby style for the bouquet, there is an agreement; a contractual obligation. Please highlight “obligation”, in the US there is a 65% chance you will come back to this line.

Marriage is a union “…that establishes a family: a social unit whose functions are to regulate sexual activity, to produce and raise children with a particular social identity and cultural skills and to constitute a basic economic unit”. (Heider, 2007) Historically, and to this day in some cultures women have been and are still maimed and murdered for marital transgressions: potential, real and imagined.

Following our lively discussion, my gal pal becomes entangled in the same discussion on the 4th of July, at grillside. The stench aroma of charred flesh, free-flowing spirits and men, this is not exactly home court advantage. She called me later to tell me of the men’s position, not surprisingly, they felt it wasn’t her money, that she didn’t deserve that much money.

Don’t get me wrong, I agree it is quite a large sum of money no matter which of the numerous settlement quotes you go with. To that end, it still befuddles me that hitting a ball can generate that kind of income, I digress. Part of me hopes she’ll start a fund for the wives of less fiscally fortuitous, fornicatin’ (insert alliteratively apropos expletive here). But the other, more serious part of me feels that even in the most simplistic tribal cultures, there is a price and a set of responsibilities which must be adhered when starting a family; a price that has led to genocide of female babies, and the inhumane treatment and murders of many women. These acts have been carried out as a deterrent, and as a means to protect marriage as both a sacrament and a basic economic unit.

Why then, when women here in the “civilized” US of A set out -in accordance with societal norms and legal governance- to do exactly that- is their worth in question? Is worth relative? Is only women’s worth relative? Is the big payout the cultural evolution of stoning, what say you?

T. Allen-Mercado

T. Allen-Mercado

T.Allen-Mercado is a mixed media artist, award-winning essayist, student of anthropology, blogger, wife and, mother of two.

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Cakes She Makes

Since I was young, I can remember helping my mother bake cakes, cookies and pies in our kitchen.  I never thought in a million years that I would be using the skills that I have learned to start a home-based-business.  It started about 11 years ago, when my oldest daughter was turning 8 years old.  I wanted to give her a cake that was all for her and about her.  She had become a big sister for the first time, and she needed to know that she was still mommy’s sweetheart.  I decided to make her a barbie themed cake.  I have to admit, I didn’t know the first thing about fondant, or how to make frosting from scratch. I knew nothing of the types of things you see today in my cakes but I did my best.  As long as my baby loved her cake, I was satisfied.  Needless to say, she loved it.

With each cake I make, I try something new.  I started working with fondant but at first had no idea what I was doing.  The first cake I made proved unsuccessful, though it looked very pretty.  I noticed that people were peeling the fondant off before eating the cake (the fondant really didn’t taste good at all).   I then searched far and wide (internet) for a remedy to this problem until I came across a recipe for Marshmallow fondant. I started to work with this new fondant and the peeling stopped and it was definitely tastier.  I decided that from now on, that would be the medium I would use.

Having an art background, I felt that designing and sculpting cakes were not a difficult task at all.  I made anything from bears to hats, a bus, pumpkins, and other artistic things that come to mind. What really pushed me into a career of making theme cakes was the father’s day cake I made for my husband.  I wanted to make him a cake that put him in his element.  Him being a Pisces who loves taking bubble baths, I made a jacuzzi cake with him in it, of course. He loved his cake so much that he showed everyone he  met.  From that cake, I gained new clients and I began taking classes at the local Michael’s store not only to brush up but to learn  new cake decorating skills to please my clients and challenge myself. I have also considered taking culinary courses in the future, so that I can be certified in the pastry arts. Working with fondant is now one of the most popular mediums I have worked with, but now I work with chocolate as well. I have made so many interesting cakes but, to this day my husband thinks the pizza cake I made for a friend at Comedy Central is the best.

July 3rd is my grandmother’s 83rd birthday, and my Aunt has asked me to make her something fabulous and that defines her life experience.  Since she was born in Harlem in the 1920′s, a Harlem Renaissance themed cake was the theme we came up with. Being a person who is very interested in Harlem in that era in history,I was so thrilled to create a cake in honor of this positive time in black history.  I have been drawing and researching images so that she can have the perfect cake for her party.  Out of all of my cakes, this is my most anticipated because I am anxious to witness it’s outcome.

I am in the process of making a website where my cakes can be seen. I also have a blog dedicated to my cake making adventures.  cakeshemakes.blogspot.com/

The fall of the gracious winner and the reflective loser

There is nothing that bothers me more than a parent who believes that their child can not engage in healthy competition for fear of losing. It’s sad really. Competition has become such a feared thing that parents will do whatever it takes to ensure that losing is a thing of the past.

Take, for example, the movement to reward every child with a trophy despite his or her actual level of skill/progress/contribution. As someone who played competitive sports for much of her childhood and well into her adult years, I find this to be rather appalling. When I was younger I played softball, volleyball, basketball, and I ran track. I also threw the shot put, participated in the long jump, the high jump, and in the triple jump. And while basketball volleyball and softball came somewhat naturally to me, distance running was not my forte, and I was below average in jumping. The truth is that I lost some of the events in which I competed. Yet, I succeeded in others and never once did I or my mother demand that I am rewarded when my skills were not up to par. And what is wrong with that? What does that teach? I grew up knowing that in order to be rewarded for anything in life, you had to work hard, you had to show progress, and that often times there would be people who were far better at things than I. That is called character. That is called reality.

Parents have decided that children are far too fragile to learn some of the most basic and necessary lessons in life. We have become a culture that celebrates mediocrity and provides children with a false sense of perfection. In essence, we are creating what is rapidly becoming our own downfall. We are no longer raising individuals who were strong in character and possess the strong work ethic that once made this nation great. We are raising children who were growing accustomed to everything being easy and to being rewarded for doing the minimal amount of work possible.

I have numerous trophies and medals that I won while participating in competitive sports. They are in my closet in a crate and serve as a reminder that if I work hard I can achieve great success. My daughter, who recently turned four, loves looking at them. One day she said to me, “Mommy, I want a trophy.” I responded as most mothers would have, by saying, “here, have one of mine.” Her response made me realize that my husband and I are doing a good job. She said, “No Mommy I want to win one of my own.”

This is the approach that I want to cultivate, and this is the attitude that I wish more parents would pass down to their own children. This approach, when combined with the understanding that winning isn’t everything, fosters a feeling of satisfaction. It motivates children to be gracious winners and reflective losers. When we teach children that hard work has its rewards and that no one wins all the time, we can encourage them to work hard to accomplish their goals. Helping children learn that they are better at some things than they are at others is a lesson that will give them confidence and strength to at least try.

Kristina Daniele

Kristina Daniele

Kristina, Founder and Oz of We of Hue is one of many doing it across hues-homeschooling, wifing, mothering, and business building. She is a web designer and social media consultant with a love of building communities on line. She looks forward to intelligent conversation that is eye-opening and statement-making.

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Passion, Cash or Fame

by Stephanie Elie

Did you start blogging for the money or fame or are you driven by passion alone. Well the truth is most blogs fail before they even really get started. Why? Because some bloggers are expecting overnight success, you know you’ve heard the stories. Did you hear, “Joe Blow, made a million bucks in a year all from his blog about socks!”

The truth is success doesn’t happen overnight, if you’re expecting fast results you’ll run out of steam before you even get started. It’s important to set realistic goals so you do not lose site of the big picture. People often dump a project and start something new before they understand what was wrong with the first project.

The problem with that is it’s easy to “start” something, but keeping the momentum is the REAL challenge. Passion will only take you so far, you still need a game plan if you want to become a successful blogger.

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Identify theft prevention safety tips for tax time

by Kris Cain

As millions and millions of America’s prepare their income tax returns, tons of identity theft criminals are also getting busy looking for loopholes and carelessness so that they can gain information that helps them steal an unsuspecting victims identity. It’s important to protect yourself, especially at this time of year.

Check out the below tips to keep your important information safe. These tips (see below) are from Thomas Oscherwitz, chief privacy officer for ID Analytics, Inc. and former U.S. Senate Legislative expert on identity fraud, offering the following precautions to safeguard their identity and assets this tax season.

1. Monitor your mailbox. Keep a lookout for official tax forms, like 1099’s and W-2’s. Missing or lost documents could be a sign of identity theft and should be investigated immediately.

2. Protect your sensitive tax documents. During tax time, many of the forms consumers handle have sensitive information of immense value to identity thieves. Keep your tax documents in a safe, secure place that is out of public view.

3. Beware of scams. Tax time is a prime time for fraudsters to target consumers with phony emails asking for their personal information. Remember that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not initiate communication with taxpayers through email.

4. Track IRS communications carefully. If you receive an unusual notification from the IRS, such as a report of wages from an employer you do not know, be alert to possible identity theft.

5. Review your personal information for misuse. For the 97.5 million Americans expected to file electronically this year, take a few minutes to visit www.MyIDScore.com while online to check your risk of identity theft. MyIDScore.com is a free online service that gives consumers immediate insight into whether their personal identifiable information is being used fraudulently to obtain assets, goods or services.

6. Examine your credit report. Tax season is also a good time to get your free annual credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com. The report is provided by the three national credit bureaus and you can request your report from each bureau once a year.

7. Check your annual income statement from the Social Security Administration. A fraudster can steal your SSN and use it to get a job. The fraudster’s employer would then report the fraudster’s wages under your SSN to the IRS. Check for any discrepancies between the income reported and the wages you received. In addition, be aware that the IRS may then think you have not reported all of your income on your tax return.

8. Pay attention to duplicate returns. If someone steals your identity, they could file a tax return first using your SSN. Then when you file your return, the IRS will think you have already received a refund or that or you have filed a second copy or duplicate return. This confusion will cause delays in receiving your refund.

9. Contact the IRS if you are victim. The IRS now has a toll-free number to assist identity theft victims. They will mark affected accounts to resolve identity theft issues more quickly. The phone number for the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit is 1(800) 908-4490.

10. Prepare for next year. Begin planning ahead for 2011 by creating a file to organize receipts, official forms and documents on an ongoing basis for peace-of-mind and easy access to reference your important information in the future.

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Is it really possible to balance it all?

by Kris Cain

People often ask me how I “do it all”. Well um, usually I don’t!  I always have more things to add to my to do list than I take off, there is always laundry to be done, and it seems that I am always behind… in everything.

You see, I work full-time and have for the past 15 years. I have daily fantasies about being a stay at home mom, but unfortunately I don’t have that luxury. Well, not until I win the Mega Millions anyway. But umm, I guess I would actually have to remember to play to win. Moving on… If I stay home, there would be no home! I also run my own photography business.  The worst part is the editing and processing after a shoot, that takes up a fair amount of time. But I absolutely love doing it. I also do web design. This used to be an occasional thing, but lately everyone wants a site. I have a waiting list. I did not want a waiting list! I blog for several sites. I try to get in a little money making on my site when I can. And lastly, I have 2 sets of twins. That probably says enough right there, huh? Well,  there is of course a bunch of other stuff that I do, but I don’t think I could write it down if I tried. I sometimes have that chronic “can’t say no” condition and conversations that start with “I need a….” from a friend usually result in me saying “Oh, I can do that for you!”  That’s a problem that I need to overcome.

On balancing it, I have realized that is not entirely possible. There are just not enough hours in the day. But I have learned that distractions play a huge role in not getting stuff done. Twitter, Facebook, and aimless web browsing are the worst culprits. Sure these “tools” can be useful when used for networking and promoting, but it’s the “well let me just see what so and so is up to” while on there that gets dangerous! So, I am trying to teach myself to limit my play time to very little per day. My next lesson is to actually stick to my to do list. I find that even while trying to accomplish a task on the list, 2 or 3 other things that I need to do come to mind, but instead of just adding it to the list I tend to start to try to do or research that at that very moment. And then neither of them gets completed. So what is the moral of this story?

  • Make a list. Spend a few minutes each morning, or whenever you designate “work time” thinking about everything that should be on the list. Note items that you want to get done today versus items that are ongoing or to do later.
  • Turn off distractions. Depending on what are problem distractions for you, this might mean the TV, Twitter, or just waiting until the kids are in bed.
  • Stick to your list. Pick a task and focus on that one until it’s done. Don’t jump around on the list, this will only delay each thing getting done. Of course if one task is impossible to complete at the moment for reasons out of your control, put it off and move on to an easier one.
  • Relax. Take a few minutes at the end of the evening to just watch some mindless TV, relax in a hot tub, or have a cup of tea. Try to clear your mind of all the chaos of the day, so that you can get a good nights rest.
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