"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
~Isaiah 6:8 NIV
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
~Micah 6:8 NASB

Friday, April 29, 2011

Currently Reading: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

I just finished reading the book A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I loved this movie when I was growing up.  My sister and I used to watch it over and over.  Shirley Temple was so cute with her little blond girls and I just loved the story.  Well, if you have seen the movie but you haven't read the book there are spoilers ahead.  So if you plan on reading the book, which I totally recommend, I would stop reading now.  I will try not to give too much away though.  Most of the movie and the characters follow along with the book pretty nicely, but there is one major plot point that is totally different in the book.  Just for the record, I loved the book and I don't understand why they felt it necessary to change it.  A Little Princess is a story of a girl who, even though she went through the worst of times, she never lost sight of the important things in the life.  It's the opposite of the rags to riches story.  She had great wealth but never let it go to head and then she lost in all and regained it again.

In the book, Captain Crew is not a soldier, but an investor.  He brings Sarah to the school, so he can go back to India and invest in a diamond mine with a friend.  The diamond mine, or so he thought, had no diamonds in it.  Captain Crew is so grief-stricken over losing his fortune that he dies of brain fever.  After hearing of her father's death, Miss Minchin keeps Sarah as a servant and a teacher for the younger kids.  Even though she is dealing with hard times, she still views herself as a princess and treats everyone, even "beggar children" with great kindness. Well it turns out the friend that lost all her father's money comes back and regains the fortune and finds diamonds in them mine, but it's too late Captain Crew is dead.  The friend becomes very heart sick at the lost his friend and begins to look for Sarah.  With Sarah's great kindness and the fact that he is searching for young child, she attracts the attention of the Indian gentlemen that has moved in next door.  Sarah is drawn to the new neighbor because she was born in India and he reminds her of home.  The Indian gentleman's servant showers the Sarah and her fellow servant, Becky, with secret gifts in their room.  He feels that if he helps Sarah then maybe he won't feel so bad about his friend's missing child.  This man is Sarah's father's friend but they don't know it yet.  Through the course of events Sarah meets the Indian gentlemen in person and it is discovered that Sarah is the little girl he has been looking for.  Sarah leaves the cold attic she had been living in under Miss Minchin's care and goes to live with her father's dear friend and she brings Becky with her as her servant/assistant.  Sarah again has wealth because she now owns half of a diamond mine and regains her status as a "princess", even though in her heart she always was one.  It has a great happy ending and I loved how it all worked out.  It seemed to flow very nicely and all the characters were well developed.  The ending of the book is not as "Hollywood" as the movie, but it's true to Sarah's character.

In the movie, after Sarah finds out that her father is presumed dead she is made into a servant for Miss Minchin.  An Indian man moves next store and Sarah befriends him.  He showers her with secret gifts.  The man feels sorry for Sarah and says he will help her find her father if he is still alive.  Sarah runs away to the veteran's hospital certain that her father is still alive and finds her father in a dark room and even the Queen makes an appearance in the movie.  The movie has a "happy ending", but I don't think the book had a sad ending.  Sarah is greatful and happy at the end of the book with her new friends.

I grew up on this movie and I always loved it, but in my opinion the book was 100 times better and a must-read.  I don't understand why they changed the character of her father.  Maybe they thought that having a soldier has a father was more romantic for the movie, then her father being an investor.  Maybe they thought the happy ending of her father still being alive was better than the happy ending of his friend coming to find her.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Taxes By State - 2011

Taxes by state

  • The sales tax seems to be more politically acceptable than the income tax.  ~Raymond C. Scheppach
  • Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a refund from the IRS, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with. ~Author unknown, from a Washington Post word contest
  • People try to live within their income so they can afford to pay taxes to a government that can't live within its income.  ~Robert Half
  • A fine is a tax for doing something wrong.  A tax is a fine for doing something right.  ~Author Unknown
  • Did you ever notice that when you put the words "The" and "IRS" together, it spells "THEIRS?" ~Author Unknown
How does your state measure up?  The first column is highlighted in blue if there is no income tax. In the second and third column, I highlighted the states with the lowest tax rates. 

I can't wait to move to Texas. They have a lower sales tax then Indiana, a lower gas tax than Indiana, and no state income tax. :o)  It will feel like a got a raise.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fun Parenting of Twin Tips

Several of our friends and family members had twins this past years, so I thought it would fun to write some fun tips for parenting twins.
1) Names: You do not have to name your twins names that rhyme or are very similar to each other, like Sarah and Kara, Matt and Pat, Christian and Christopher, Michael and Michaela. Your twins are going to spend the rest of their lives being called the wrong names even if they not alike, why make it more difficult for people. My sis and I have very different names and people still can’t seem to get them right. I have been called Erica, Elizabeth, and of course Erin, because someone thought I was Erin and I have been called Brittany, Becky, Brianna, and even Jennifer, Heather or Rachel. It’s not fun to always be called the wrong name, so try and make it easy on people.

2) Identity:
It's important that you treat the twins like separate individuals and not half of a person. Calling them "The Twins", "The Girls", or "The Boys" all the time, instead of using their names, can makes them feel like they are not important as an individual, but only as a team. Try to remember that they are two people with different interests and many times very different personalities and do not always need to be lumped together as one person. They already feel insecure and not important as an individual since nobody can remember and call them by the right name. My sis and I have a great relationship now and the best thing we did, in my opinion, is go to different colleges with different friends, so we could actually figure out who we are as individuals and not just as "the twin." I had friends at Bethel that knew I had a sister, but did not know I was twin and that's ok. I have to admit this was party to avoid the questions outlined in point number five.

3) Interests:
I alluded to this in the earlier point, but sometimes the twins have different interests. One twin might be interested in math and baseball and the other twin might be more interested in music and tennis. THIS IS OK! They do not always have to do everything the same. If they have similar interests and friends, that's great, but it's not necessary. You also should avoid always comparing them to each other. Saying things like, "Your sister likes math and is good as baseball, aren't you supposed to good as math and like baseball too" does not help their self-esteem. What they hear is "You are so stupid. Why can't you be smart like you sister? Aren't you supposed to be clones of each other and do everything exactly the same?"

4) Gifts:
You have two separate kids, so you don't always have to get one present “for both of them” for every occasion. Sometimes, it's ok to get two presents, one for each separately, that could even be different from each other. And if you have other kids and you spend $50 on a present for Sibling-non twin, then it's NOT OK to spend only $50 for the one present you bought for both twins. Do you see how that is not fair? You spent twice as much on the sibling-non twin, than you did for the each twin. This causes conflict because the twins will start to feel that you love the other sibling more and it will cause the twins to resent the other sibling and see them as spoiled. Or worse yet, they may start to resent being a twin and wish they weren’t and that can really hurt the relationship between the twins.

5) Questions:
Start to prepare your kids really young for the really stupid questions and comments they are going to asked throughout their lives no matter how old they get. This is including but not limited to: There are so many more: Here are some more.  Apparently, we are not the only twins that have been asked these questions.

* Did your mom always dress you alike as a kid? (Answer: Of course...)
* Did you try to switch places during classes to confuse your teachers? (Answer: No, this only works on TV or in movies)
* I think it would be cool to be a twin? Do you like being a twin? (Answer: No, I hate it....she says sarcastically)
* Do you ever wish you weren't a twin? (Answer: Of course, I wish every day my sister would die....she says sarcastically)
* Oh my gosh, I just say someone who looked just like you, are you related? (Answer: No, Oh my gosh I must have an evil twin out there that I have never met before. That is so cool...she says sarcastically)
* I think I'm seeing double, do you know you guys look really alike? Are you twins? (Answer: Oh my gosh, you are right. I never noticed that before. No, I have never met her before in my life. (Again usually said sarcastically)
* Who's older? (Answer: For us, we hate this question because we born via c-section so the answer is a few seconds, but why does that always matter to people. Most twins are born within minutes of each other, so who cares who's older.)
* Do you want twins when you get older? (Answer: I want healthy kids...and just one at time. If God blesses me with twins, that ok but it's his call, not mine)
* Do you think you will have twins since it runs in your family? (Answer: This is a common misconception. Identical twins are not genetic. They are random. The fact that I'm a twin and my mom is a twin is merely a fun coincidence. Fraternal twins are genetic and tend to skip a generation, on the female side.)
* You have the same birthday. Are you twins? (Answer: Duh!)
* My favorite one I get is: Does Steve ever get you two mixed up? (Answer: NO!)
Just in case someone reads this and gets the wrong idea, I do love being a twin.  I'm sure Erin is laughing her head off while she is reading these questions and I'm sure she is thinking of others too.  I know I was cracking myself up while writing it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our Response From Delta

Delta sent me an email asking for some feedback about our flight.  I got this response in my email today.

This is what I said:
The first leg of our trip was from Chicago to Atlanta. We took off on time from Chicago but landed in Atlanta behind schedule. Then we ran to our connection flight to our destination of Tulsa, OK. The flight was delayed because they were waiting for the crew to show up. We were finally in the air and ready to land and because of the storm we were rerouted in Little Rock, AR. I actually thought this part of the trip was well taken care of for us. Some other passengers were sent to really bad hotels but we were sent to a really nice hotel for a free night. We also received meal vouchers and a $200 travel voucher. I really appreciate how the pilot decided at the last minute not the land because it would have been too dangerous. The gentleman that helped us book a room seemed genuinely concerned about getting everybody a hotel room for the night. Delta redeemed itself but unfortunately the rest of the trip was not so good. On our trip back, we had a layover in Minnesota and then a flight back home to Chicago. We arrived at the airport early and got to the gate just to find out that they were overbooked on the flight or so we thought because they were looking for people to give up their seats. Our flight was not even boarded yet at the time we were supposed to be taking off. We found out later that the real reason that we were delayed was not because they overbooked, but because 3 flight attendants and pilot wanted to fly deadhead and there wasn't room for them. So Delta kicked off paying customers and delayed our flight because a flight crew wanted a free trip to Minnesota. We finally started boarding 20 minutes after we should have been taking off. On top of that, since only 3 people volunteered to switch flights they actually kicked a guy off the flight involuntarily. I don't get too upset if the delay is caused by a mechanical problem because I understand that safety is a priority, but delays caused by a missing flight crew or because a flight crew wants a free trip is not acceptable to me, especially if there no room for them and they are delaying a takeoff. Well our flight finally got into the air and we landed in Minnesota only 15 minutes before our flight to Chicago was scheduled to take off. The flight attendant told the gate number the Chicago flight was supposed to at and told us she hoped we made it. We ran through the terminal to the gate thinking we would get there barely on time anyway just to find out the flight attendant was WRONG!!! We were at the wrong gate and so we had to run through the terminal to the right gate thinking there was no way we were going to make the flight. Well it turns out that Delta's inability to take off on time worked in our favor this time. We finally got to the right gate just to find out that the flight hadn't even boarded yet due to engine troubles. Our 2:15 flight finally took off at 3:30. So where I am thankful that we didn't miss our flight, if the flight would have taken off on time, we would have because of the delay taking off in Tulsa and the flight attendant giving us the wrong gate information. This is not the first time we have had problems with Delta, but certainly the most upsetting.

This is Delta's Response:
Dear Mrs. Pitney,
RE: Case Number 3185831
Thank you for writing about your recent flight experience while traveling with your companions. On behalf of Delta Air Lines and our Connection partner SkyWest and Compass Airlines, I sincerely apologize for our flight delay and lack of assistance from one of our flight attendants. It is abundantly clear that your experience was far from a shining moment in airline travel and far from the level of service you had every right to expect. It was good to know that despite of a flight diversion on your departure flight your situation was handled appropriately.

Moreover, I understand the frustration you experienced when your plans were disrupted due to the delay of our flight for crew reasons departing Tulsa. Your report about the manner in which this was handled by our representatives concerns us. We clearly recognize that we cannot become complacent, and we are actively and aggressively seeking ways to improve all areas of our operation.

Also, it was disheartening to learn that our flight crew advised the wrong gate number for your flight. As our customer, you are in the best position to point out areas that need attention as our goal is to provide accurate information at all times. We will not tolerate discourtesy, and we do all possible to prevent anything similar from happening in the future. Your feelings are very important to us and please know your feedback will be shared with our Airport Customer Service leadership team for internal follow up.

Mrs. Pitney, as our valued customer, you are an integral part of our customer base and we are always interested in your feedback. Thank you for taking the time to write about the flight disruption and poor customer service. Your business is important to us and given the opportunity of serving you in the future, I am confident Delta will not only meet but exceed your expectations.


Henry P. Torrence, Coordinator, Customer Care
Delta Air Lines/KLM Royal Dutch Airlines

Monday, April 18, 2011

Our Tulsa Vacation was Definetly Memorable

So we had a pretty eventful vacation.  I'm going to call this vacation, "If it can go wrong, it probably will."  I am going to premise the story by saying that I really hate to fly.  I get nervous and have a small panic attack at take off and with even the smallest turbulence.

Thursday: We left for our trip around noon and headed to Chicago.  We met up with Damian and got to see him for a little while and he brought us to Midway.  Midway is pretty good airport.  We don't normally have a problem with flights going out of Midway.  Our flight was on schedule and we headed to our layover in Atlanta.  I don't know if it's Delta or just the Atlanta airport, but we never seem to have flight in or out of Atlanta be on time.  Some how we took off from Midway on time, but landed in Atlanta late (which is typical).  We ran to our connection flight and of course if was behind schedule because they were waiting for the crew to show up.  We finally took off and we should have been in Tulsa an hour and a half later.  The pilot told us that we were on our final decent and that we should be in Tulsa in the next twenty minutes.  Apparently, it was storming in Tulsa and the pilot came back on the speaker and said that he didn't feel that it was safe for him to land during the storm (which we found later was probably the right decision), so we were on our way to Little Rock, Arizona.  The rest of the flight was nothing short of terrifying.  The plane shook and it felt like at any moment it would break apart.  Now as much as I will complain about Delta in this situation I thought they did a great job.  The Delta representative gave us hotel vouchers for a really nice hotel.  Apparently some on our flight were not so lucky.  A few of the passengers were given vouchers for a hotel called Roadway Inn, which we found out later is similar to the Wooden Indian Inn.  Those passengers showed up at our hotel and luckily were able to get a hotel room.  One lady said her cab driver refused to even take her to that hotel and brought her directly to the hotel we were at. 
Friday: The storm followed us to Little Rock and the tornado alarms were going off all night.  Friday morning, they gave everyone a breakfast and lunch meal voucher and $200 flight voucher for our next flight.  I don't know if a lot of people complained or if they just felt really bad about the situation.  Getting 109 people booked in different hotels at 10pm is probably not easy after all.  So by 9:30, we were on our way to Tulsa for the second time.  I was so tired by the time we actually got to Tulsa.  When we picked up our rental car and finally got settled into our hotel room, we met up with the Steinbachs and helped them finish setting up the hotel.  I was good to finally see Liz and her parents.  I have missed them.  If I can find a bright spot so far the Little Rock issues did give us a free hotel room for a night and one less day for the rental car.  That saved us at least $100.  We went to dinner at the same restaurant they had the rehearsal dinner. We weren't with the party, but we sat at a table near them. 
Saturday: Saturday, we did some shopping around the city and got ready for the wedding.  Amy was a beautiful bride.  After the reception, we helped clean up and hung out at Liz's house for a little while with her family. 
Sunday: We showed up at the airport on time. Of course, per normal Delta, the flight was delayed.  We only had a 40 minute layover in Minnesota, so I was getting nervous that if we didn't take off on time that we would miss our flight home.  We thought the reason the flight was not taking off was because Delta overbooked the flight because they were asking for volunteers to leave the flight.  We actually considered it because they were going to give us $400 each but they couldn't get us on a one-way flight to Chicago until after 10pm, so wouldn't have gotten home until long after midnight.  Since we had to work today, they wouldn't work for us.  We found out later that they actual reason we were waiting was because three flight attendants and a pilot wanted to fly deadhead on the flight and there wasn't room for them, so Delta kicked paying customers off the flight because some employees wanted to fly for free.  I don't mind waiting if there is a mechanical problem because I understand they want to keep us safe, but waiting for flight crews to arrive or kicking off passengers for a non-paying flight crew is unacceptable in my book.  We finally boarded the plane almost twenty minutes after we should have been taking off.  Only three fliers volunteered, so actually had to kick one guy off not voluntarily.  He did not look happy at all.  We landed in Minnesota with fifteen minutes to spare before our flight to Chicago was to take off.  We asked the flight attendant for the gate of our connecting flight and ran to that gate just to find out that the attendant was wrong.  We were at the wrong gate, so we ran to right one knowing that we probably would get there just in time to watch the plane take off.  That however was not the case.  They hadn't even boarded the plane yet because there was an engine issue with the plane.  This time the delay actually worked in our favor.  Our 2:15 flight finally got off the ground at 3:30 and we were on our way home.  Damian picked us from the airport, we drove home and went to bed. 

It was a crazy vacation that involved a near nervous breakdown, but Steve knows my comfort food and he got me some ice cream while we were waiting for our Chicago flight to board.  He is such a great husband! The positives are that I got to see Lizzy and her parents and we did save some money on hotel and rental fees, but the rest of it...Let's just say that I'm glad to be home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sears Hometown Store Grand Opening Weekend

This weekend was a great weekend.  Saturday was the South Bend Sears Hometown Store's Grand Opening.  I worked from 9am to almost 6:30pm.  We were really busy, which is great.  I loved watching all the people supporting the new store.  I was surprised that I didn't see anyone from the other Sears come and support the new.  It's privately owned family business, so when you shop at the Hometown Store you are supporting a local family and the couple that owns the store is super-nice.  Anything that is available at the mall Sears can be ordered into the Hometown Store, so instead of going to the mall you should come to the Hometown Store on South Michigan. :o)  I was pretty exhausted when I got off work.  I thought the day went really smoothly.  After work on Saturday, I had to babysit for the girls.  Saturday was also my dad's birthday, so I picked up the girls and brought them to my parent's house and we had some dinner and birthday brownie. 

Sunday was another busy work day for me.  We got up and went to small group before church.  Then Steve stayed at church, but I had to go to work at Sears.  Steve decided on Saturday night that he wanted to have a cookout on Sunday for his birthday, so while I was at work he had to invite people and get things set up.  We had to babysit again on Sunday and since I had to work till 4 and Shere has to leave for work at 2, Steve volunteered to watch the girls for a few hours all by himself until I got off work.  He survived the craziness of two little girls just fine.  When I got home, I took the girls and we did some cookout shopping while Steve went to go pick up Damian from the airport.  The girls and I bought some chicken, hot dogs, and chips.  We even got some cake and ice cream.  I think were excited to help pick out what we were going to eat.  We got home and I cleaned up the house and got it ready for the cookout and girls played outside in the front yard.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day yesterday.  It was a perfect day for a cookout. 

Today is Steve's birthday!  Happy Birthday to my amazing husband!

Friday, April 8, 2011

An Amazing Song: Blessings By Laura Story

Laura Story

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family
Protection while we sleep

We pray for healing
For prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand
to ease our suffering

And all the while
You hear each spoken need
Yet love is way too much to give us lesser things

Cuz what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you’re near
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom
Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness
We doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
Lord, that we’d have faith to believe

Cuz what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you’re near
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not
This is not our home

Cuz what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you’re near
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life
The rain
The storms
The hardest nights
are your mercies in disguise

Friday, April 1, 2011

Megamind Movie Night

After dinner, Steve and I were sitting on the couch trying to what we were going to do for the rest of the evening.  First, we had our Budget Committee Meeting so we could finalize our March numbers and create the April budget.  Then I remembered that our bank started this rewards program and I had a coupon on our debit card for 10% cash back on a redbox movie, so it would be like paying only 90 cents for a movie.  Woohoo.  We decided on Megamind because there really wasn't much else to choose from that we really wanted to see.  Steve went to go pick it up and I made some popcorn.  I really like the rebox program because instead of a movie costing us $8 a person for the ticket, plus another $10 for popcorn and drink, movie night only costs a few dollars.
Megamind was a pretty fun movie and it had a good life lesson in it.  "When there is evil, there will always be good to stand up to it."