Sludge at the Whitehouse

I just read this post and my heart was broken. First Lady Obama attempts at educating the public about the goodness of organically grown garden vegetables were sabotaged by the gardner from a previous administration. This brings about an important point - Beware, if you have started a garden in a new location. A soil test is easy to obtain and not very expensive. You can locate a company in your Yellow Pages. Below is the story...Let me know your thoughts on this post.

New homes are full of questions and possibilities. What color to paint the walls? How to arrange the furniture? What to plant in the garden? The Obama family must have asked a lot of those same questions when they moved into the White House. However, the first lady's dreams of growing an organic vegetable garden have been dragged down by a previous resident that refuses to leave: sludge.

Various sources within the Buzz are reporting that Michelle Obama's "organic" garden has been besieged by icky goo in the ground. As a result, the veggies aren't quite what the first lady had in mind. According to Daily Finance, the National Park Service tested the soil in the vegetable patch and found "highly elevated levels of lead" due to sewage used as fertilizer.

So the question is: Who to blame? While dumping sewage into the ground sounds like a crime worthy of Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons," the actual perpetrators were none other than the Clintons. Yep, back when Bill and Hillary were living it up in the White House, their gardening team used "sewage sludge for fertilizer." The fiends!

Sounds gross, but it's actually fairly common. However, it does mean that the highly touted "organic garden" will never "attain organic status." The certification process doesn't allow "the use of sludge as a fertilizer substitute." And there's another problem: If Malia and Sasha weren't into eating their veggies before, it's going to be that much harder to get 'em to eat 'em now.


Do you have a Mentor?

Successful mentoring relationships start with a clear agreement about goals, procedures, and limitations, says mentoring expert Lois Zachary.

Too often mentors and mentees start off without doing enough preparation and end up with an unsatisfactory experience, she says. Zachary, author of The Mentor's Guide and the recently published The Mentee's Guide to Mentoring, provides guidelines for setting the groundwork for great mentoring.

Preparing for a mentoring relationship

Zachary suggests seven steps in an initial conversation between potential mentor and mentee.

1. Take time to get to know each other. To start out, share career journeys.

2. Talk about mentoring. Talk about individuals who have had a profound impact on your development and learning. Discuss previous mentoring experiences.

3. Share your goals for the process. What does each participant hope to achieve from the relationship?

4. Determine what each partner needs and expects. Be honest about what you need, says Zachary. A brain to pick? Someone who can help you get your arms around a problem? Someone to give you a kick in the pants?

5. Candidly share personal assumptions. As an example of mismatched assumptions, Zachary offers the following example: The mentee assumes that his or her mentor will be a sounding board, help with day-to-day challenges, provide quick answers to questions, and introduce him or her to his or her network. Meanwhile, the mentor assumes that his or her role is to be a guide, asking questions that help the mentee find answers. Unless the two talk their assumptions through, they will be at cross purposes.

6. Share limitations. Each of us has limitations, whether personal, time related, work related, or physical, says Zachary. It's best to share them early on.

7. Discuss personal styles. For example, you may have data from Myers Briggs or other instruments that indicate your need for structure or your resistance to "touchy-feely."
Create a Specific Agreement

After an initial discussion, you are ready to prepare a formal agreement, Zachary says. Here are her required ingredients for such agreements:

* Well-defined goals (What does each participant want to accomplish?)
* Success criteria and measurement (How will we know if we have succeeded?)
* Accountability assurances (How do we ensure that we do what we say we are going to do?)
* Ground rules (What are the norms and guidelines we will follow? Who will be responsible for what?)
* Confidentiality safeguards (What do we need to do to protect the confidentiality of this relationship?)
* Boundaries and hot buttons (What are the not-to-exceed limits? What hot buttons exist?)
* Protocols for addressing stumbling blocks (What process should we have in place to deal with any stumbling blocks we encounter?)
* Consensual mentoring agreement (What do we need to include to ensure that this agreement works for us?)
* Mentoring work plan (What are the steps for achieving our goals?)

Are you a mentor? What's has been your biggest challenge as a mentor?


Get a Grip on Stress in a Stressful Economy

If you haven't lost your job, you worry that you will. And while you wait, you've seen your workload increase, your downtime vanish, and your duties expand beyond your expertise (and any conceivable 40-hour week). If all that's not enough to make your blood pressure rise, a new Florida State University business school study shows that bosses have become more demanding, and that politicking, sucking up, and backstabbing in the office are on the rise. Stress test? The office these days is giving you your own personal version, and, in short, if you are like many employees…you're barely passing.

Stop and take a few deep breaths. In, out. OK? Now take a moment to read this. You'll feel better.

Things you will need:
* Time: Start setting aside enough hours for a full night's sleep, plus extra time each week for tension-relieving activities and self-reflection. If you are a member of a local church, join with the congregation and give thanks for your family, flowers in bloom, a rainbow, the green grass and all that makes life lovely.
* Social Support: Single out a few good friends and family members to lean on. Research shows that when lonely people are stressed, they experience higher blood pressure and more insomnia than those who have a strong social network.
* Self-Awareness: Don't avoid the problem. That will only make it worse. Failure to change your surroundings or manage your stress level can contribute to long-term health issues like clinical depression, anxiety disorder, and heart disease.

Understand Stress
Pinpoint where the anxiety is coming from.
A certain amount of daily stress is normal. Stress, after all, is simply your reaction — either positive or negative — to change, according to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. When stress places prolonged or extreme pressure on your coping mechanisms, it can become a clinical problem that requires professional help. Continually high levels of stress can wreak havoc on the digestive and nervous systems, leading to irritable bowel syndrome, recurrent headaches, and heart attacks. The psychological symptoms often come in the form of burnout (losing interest in work) and depression. The tips below are designed to help you prevent stress from taking a serious toll on your health — and your career.

There are two leading, complementary perspectives on the sources of workplace stress. Understanding the difference between the two is the first step in learning how to cope.

Internal: Stress comes from how you perceive your situation. The very thoughts you have can worsen your stress reaction, says Dr. Jeff Brantley, director of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program at Duke Integrative Medicine. For example, one day your boss emerges from a long, closed-door meeting looking upset. Then she e-mails you requesting a meeting. Do you immediately think you're facing the ax? "Your mind starts spinning a catastrophe, and it's enough to trigger your body to go into a stress reaction," Brantley says.

Coping strategy: You may not be able to eliminate the stimulus, but you can learn to change your response and calm your mind. Start keeping a list of everything in your day that causes stress. Is there something new or different in your work life? Do certain colleagues make your blood boil? Pinpoint how every item on the list makes you feel and then ask yourself, "Is my reaction appropriate or over the top?" This step is key, because once you understand where your emotions are coming from; you can find a healthier way to deal with them.

External: This school of thought holds that outside factors, like toxic work environments, predominantly drive workplace stress. Common characteristics of stress-inducing environments include authoritarian or non-communicative supervisors, socially isolating work, and jobs that require a lot of effort but offer little reward. Dr. Peter Schnall of the University of California at Irvine's Center for Occupational and Environmental Health says these factors can produce biological responses such as higher blood pressure and could possibly contribute to more serious conditions like heart attacks and depression.
Coping strategy: Eliminating the source of the problem (i.e., finding another job) may be the most effective solution in the long term. But until the job market improves, find ways to regain a sense of control over your time and your surroundings. For example, if you must endure a two-hour commute in rush-hour traffic to arrive at the office by 9 a.m., start your workday earlier so you avoid the worst time to travel. If you can't stand your colleagues, shut your office door or take your work to a conference room for part of the day.

Go Ahead and Vent — but Find the Right Listener
Blow off steam without damaging your reputation at work.
Understanding how stress works will only get you so far. You need cathartic relief, right? Don't hesitate to seek the empathetic ears of a colleague, but do choose your confidant wisely, says Matthew Grawitch, an organizational psychologist and professor at Saint Louis University. "The more you say to a person you work with, the more likely something will slip out at work." Grawitch says. You don't want co-workers using your misery to their advantage, so find someone outside of work who can offer a different perspective.

As counterintuitive as it sounds, in some cases your boss may be your best confidant. Sure, you don't want to make much ado about the minor, daily stresses of your job, but if you're struggling with something major that affects your performance, talk to your boss, says Grawitch. After all, managers are invested in the success of their employees. A brief explanation (keep the hairy details to a minimum) is not only fair, it's also a way to build trust.

One district manager at a global pharmaceutical company recently survived a round of layoffs. Still reeling from the stress of nearly losing his own job, he faced the task of cutting 20 percent of his own employees, many of whom he had worked with for more than 20 years. He asked his former and current bosses for advice because both of them had been through the same experience. The two empathized but, more importantly, offered some concrete tips on how to make the cuts and give employees the support they need. The conversations didn't make the task any easier, but they did help the manager cope with his own internal struggles.

If you're going to go to your boss, schedule a time to talk instead of dropping by unexpectedly when she may be in the middle of grappling with the demands of her own job. Regardless of whom you talk to, vent once, then let the issue rest. Constantly rehashing the story will force you to relive your emotions.

Don't want to vent? Relieve some tension and clear your head by doing something physical. Wear yourself out on the treadmill, go on a strenuous hike, do laps in the swimming pool — whatever you need to do. The activity will get your endorphins pumping (the brain chemicals that make us feel good) and focus your mind on your body instead of your stress.

Learn to Change Your Reaction to Stress
Stop being oppressed by your emotions.
After you've blown off some steam, you can work through stress in a more logical, clearheaded way rather than making decisions based on emotions. "Don't just be lost in negative feelings," says Brantley.

The Mayo Clinic offers a few tips on how to retrain your reaction to stress:
Rethink your standards: If your failure to achieve perfection causes continual guilt and frustration, redefine what success means. For example, if you always feel inundated with work, ask yourself if you're spending more time on tasks than they require. Adds Dr. Barbara Gray, a professor of organizational behavior at Penn State, often "we actually shoot ourselves in the foot by making the task harder than it needs to be."

Reframe your situation: Weather delays your flight to an important business meeting. Instead of stewing about the disruption to your schedule, which you can't control anyway, take advantage of the extra time to prepare for your presentation or catch up on sleep.

Reassess the significance of the problem: Will it matter tomorrow? Next week? A year from now? Emotion magnifies the difficulty of a problem in the moment; perspective shrinks it.

So make sure you stop and put things in perspective and take a moment to reflect on this quote:
Where I was born and how I have lived is unimportant. It is what I have done with where I have been that should be of interest. Georgia O'Keefe
This blog was inspired by a post from BNET.


4th of July Barbeque - It's all in the sauce!

Happy 4th of July to ALL!!!
Thanks to the men and women in uniform serving our country and maintaining our independence. Take a moment and pray for these heroes and pray for America and ask that God continues to Bless America and that America blesses God.

Well, the 4th of July is here and it is time to get the grill ready and have a good old fashioned B-B-Que. Here is my favorite Coffee Barbeque Sauce. I've tweaked this favorite recipe of Chef Michael Lomonaco, Noche Restaurant, New York, NY. Give me a shout if you try it. The flavors are rich and create a symphony of taste on your palate. The sauce is great as a marinade or as a finishing sauce for grilled chicken, pork or beef. The sauce keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. What's your favorite sauce? Ever tried coffee as an ingredient in your barbecue sauce?

Decadent Coffee Barbecue Sauce

1/2 cup brewed espresso or strong, dark coffee
1 cup ketchup (make sure it is organic - no high fructose corn syrup)
1/2 cup Apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped, about 1 cup
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 fresh hot chili peppers, such as jalapeno, or hotter if desired, seeded (roasted
2 Tablespoons hot dry mustard mixed with 1 tablespoon warm water
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 Tablespoons ground cumin
2 Tablespoons chili powder

Put espresso or coffee, ketchup, vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, chili peppers, dry mustard, Worcestershire sauce, cumin, and chili powder in a small pot, stir them together, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Lower the heat so the mixture is just simmering and let simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, let the mixture cool. Yields about 3 cups

If you prefer, you can then puree it in a blender or food processor fitted with the steel blade.

Chicken Drumsticks with Decadent Coffee Barbecue Sauce

12 chicken, drumsticks, well rinsed, patted dry
coarse salt, and freshly cracked black pepper
vegetable oil, for brushing grill

1. Heat a grill on medium heat.
2. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Brush grill with oil.
4. Grill chicken for about 8 to 10 minutes per side or until chicken is cooked through reaching an internal temperature of 175 to 180 degrees F, brushing with the sauce.

Serve with your favorite barbeque side dishes.


Got $$$ For School? Scholorships Available for College

$$$ For School
Passing along this info....forward to all on your list.
The application period is open (July 1-29, 2009) for any graduating high school senior or college student that plans to study technology-based curriculum in college. Please share this scholarship information with any students or parents in your sphere of influence. It is a tangible benefit of membership in this social network ... you might not have know about this opportunity otherwise.

Here are some online links you can use if you need them:

* Announcement -

* Past Winners
2007 - Daniel Puente, Dallas, University of Texas
2007 - Lee Reed, Chicago, University of Michigan
2008 - Khalia Braswell, Charlotte, North Carolina State
2008 - Christian West, Philadelphia, Northwestern University

Have questions? Contact Chris Johnson (BETF Scholarship Cmte chair, know if you have questions or wish to discuss further.

Wayne Hicks, Executive Director
BDPA Education & Technology Fdn
v: 513.284-4968 f: 202.318-2194


Under the Boardwalk

That song continues to ring in our ears as we return from a day trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. What a great midweek getaway. The weather was great as the fog lifted mid afternoon the kids played in the ocean for a few hours; chasing the waves and making sand castles. Then we hit the boardwalk and rode the rides.

The Big Dipper Roller Coaster is the best! What a beautiful view of the ocean…that is if you keep your eyes open as the Dipper reaches the summit of the lift hill and the train begins to drop, catching speed as it descends the 65-foot first drop to reach a top speed of 55 mph!

After the first drop there are a variety of hills, and twisting turns, with an occassional pop of airtime. The Giant Dipper's double out and back layout features plenty of up and downs, with several crossovers and one large fan turn at the end.

On Monday and Tuesday the Boardwalk is celebrating 1907 days with special prices on food items and after 5:00pm all rides are 75 cents.

So I followed a few of my tips to Save Money on a Vacation and we had a fabulous time:

1. Don't eat on the "main strip" – We packed a picnic lunch of sandwiches, chips, fruit and the best ever chocolate chip bars ( I will post the recipe).

2. We made it a day trip and left at 10:00am to avoid the traffic and returned by 10:00pm. No hotel bills and no traffic. So if you are in northern California wondering what to do – try a midweek day trip to the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. It will bring a smile to your face an renew your energy. Now back to work!

The Drifters – Under the Boardwalk
From the park you hear the happy sound of the carousel,
You can almost taste the hot dogs and french fries they sell,
Under the boardwalk, down by the sea,
On a blanket with my baby, that's where I'll be.

Under the boardwalk, (Out of the sun)
Under the boardwalk, (We'll be having some fun)
Under the boardwalk, (People walking above)
Under the boardwalk, (We'll be falling in love)
Under the boardwalk, (Boardwalk!)