To Be Perfectly Honest by Phil Callaway- Book Review

How many lies do you tell every day? Yes, we’re counting the “white” ones. Could you go an entire year without telling a lie? Neither could the author of To Be Perfectly Honest, but he made an effort. The results are quite as extreme as in the Jim Carrey movie “Liar, Liar”, but they’re pretty hilarious just the same.

The real impact comes from the author’s honesty with himself and his readers, although he does have some interesting experiences with friends and family. We get to read about his PacMan addiction, his email conversations with a spammer, and his obsession with Mormons. I’m not sure when I last read a book that made me laugh out loud (many times) and cry. I’ve never been entertained and convicted quite like this. To Be Perfectly Honest isn’t just about telling those around us the truth. It’s about trusting God and being honest with him and ourselves.

Rank this review for a chance to win a free copy of To Be Perfectly Honest.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review. All opinions are my own.

Overwhelmed

All that’s in my head right now is that I feel overwhelmed with tragedy this week. There are the hundreds dead from tornadoes, and all the homes and businesses lost. Wednesday, we found out that one of my step-son’s closest friends had died. Wednesday night, the sister of a good friend was involved in a bad car accident and is currently in ICU.

I know there is a lot more going on in the world than this, but this is what’s on my heart right now and it’s one of those days when you just wonder why there is so much sadness out there.

Tornadoes in the South

I grew up in central Arkansas, where bad weather and tornadoes were just part of the package. There were a lot of power outages, occasional damage and the rare fatality. Then my dad’s job sent him to east Tennessee where they have their share of storms, but tornadoes are rare. I looked up the statistics, because I’m just a geek like that. Faulkner County, AR has a tornado activity “significantly above Arkansas state average.” And that’s pretty high. The activity is also 8.6 times the overall U.S. average.

Cocke County, TN, on the other hand has a tornadic activity 1.3 times below the overall U.S. average. When my dad’s job transferred him back to AR after three years, his boss was transferred too. She had lived in Cocke County all her life and the tornadoes in AR really freaked her out, because she wasn’t accustomed to them.

I went to elementary school in Vilonia, AR. Unless you’ve been living under a rock (which may be the safest place right now if you live in the South), you know Vilonia was hit by a tornado Monday night. It’s spring, so of course, in AR, that means tornadoes. So when my facebook feed started filling up with statuses about the coming storm and tornado warning, I was concerned for my friends and family in Conway and the surrounding areas, but I had no idea how bad it was going to get. I’m in Georgia, and my computer and TV were off, so all my information was coming from facebook. My first clue that things were ugly was when a former classmate in Vilonia posted that her family was okay, but her bathroom was gone. It went downhill from there. Power outages, damaged homes, trees down, roads blocked. I thought about not posting this because any fear I felt for my friends (by then I knew the tornado had missed the area where my family lives) can’t possibly come close to what they felt sitting in closets and bathrooms with their families. But all I could do was pray and watch it all unfold on my phone screen.

Vilonia is still cleaning up and will be for some time. There were four fatalities, but I haven’t seen the names anywhere, so if it’s someone I know, I don’t know about it. As far as I know, everyone I know made it through, although several have damaged homes.

Tuesday evening, when facebook again lit up with tornado warnings, I called my mom in Conway and stayed on the phone with her until the storm passed so I could make sure she was okay. I had my laptop on that night and I was switching back and forth from weather maps to facebook so I could follow what was happening “on the ground”. There were some tornadoes in AR that night, but no damage near Conway or Vilonia.

Wednesday night, I went to bed about nine, in the midst of a tornado watch and severe thunderstorm warnings. I woke up a few minutes after eleven with my text alerts going off, the tornado sirens going off and the sick baby whimpering and crying. Because everyone needs a sick child in the middle of a storm. (He has a fever and a cold. He’ll be okay.) I’m not sure which one woke me up or if it was a combination of things.

I used my phone to check the local radar, then flipped over to facebook to see what was going on around us. I couldn’t believe it when my high school friends in TN started talking about a tornado there. Really? I know there were 300+ tornadoes this week, but what are the odds that the two towns where I spent most of my school years (I did spend a few months in Yuma, AZ and one school year in Conway, AR) would both get hit hard during the same week? Especially when one of those towns rarely gets tornadoes. Again, everyone is safe. Lots of trees and power lines down. My best friend isn’t online, so I had to check in with her this morning the old-fashioned way. I called and aside from some hail damage to the cars, she and her family are okay.

Our high school didn’t fare so well. The gym roof’s gone and the air conditioning units were apparently in a tree somewhere.

I was awake until almost 1AM, until the storm passed us here and it looked like the worst had passed Newport. Getting up this morning and reading about and seeing the pictures of the devastation all over the south, especially in Alabama, was heart-breaking. It’s really hard to comprehend that level of destruction.

If you’re wondering how you can help tornado victims all over the South, the Red Cross is accepting donations and blood. You can donate online or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10. The $10 will be added to your phone bill.
The Salvation Army is also providing assistance. Donate online or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY and designate April 2011 Tornado Outbreak. Donors may also text “GIVE” to 80888.
A facebook page has been set up as a “Lost and Found” (well, mostly “Found”, really) for documents and photos that have blown away and been picked up elsewhere.
If you live in one of the affected areas and are in a position to donate clothing, diapers, or food, you should be able to find local churches or businesses that are accepting donations.

Gotta Love the Dictionary

When I was growing up, my parents never talked down to me. I mean, I knew they were the parents; they weren’t trying to be my best friends, but I didn’t get the “Because I said so” or other vague answers. So I try to do the same with my kids. I have to admit to an occasional “Because I said so”, but when it comes to questions about various subjects, I try to answer Jeffrey honestly. I can’t see any point in hiding things from him. If he hears or reads about something somewhere and wants to know what it means, I tell him. He’s either going to learn it from me or someone else and I’d rather he hear the truth than what some other equally uninformed kid may tell him. I don’t get into details unless he keeps asking, but he usually doesn’t. A couple of weeks ago, we had a conversation about AIDS, cancer, and Asperger’s. I realized later that, contrary to my usual philosophy on things, I have never actually told Jeffrey that my dad had cancer. Twice. I just told him that Papa was sick. So, even I am not perfect. I know. I didn’t mean to surprise you like that. Sorry.

A couple days ago, we’re driving along and end up having the following conversation. We have most of our conversations in the car. It’s the only time he’s still long enough to have a conversation.

J: There’s a word in my dictionary that I don’t think should be there.
Me: What word? Why do you think it shouldn’t be there?
J: Lesbian.
Me, as soon as I was able to breath again: That’s in your children’s dictionary?
J: It says “Children’s Dictionary” on the front.
Me: Well, yeah, that’s the children’s dictionary. What does the definition say?
J: A gay woman. Now I remember that’s why I thought it shouldn’t be in there. You told I shouldn’t say “gay”.
Me: Gay isn’t a bad word. You just have to be careful how you use it. It doesn’t mean the same thing it used to.
J: So what does it mean?
Me: God made men and women to have sex with each other.* Some women prefer to be with women and some men prefer to be with men. The men are called gay and the women are called lesbians.
J: What did gay used to mean?
Me: It used to mean happy.
J: Ohhh, so that’s what they mean at the end of the Flintstone song when it says, “Have a gay old time.”
Me: Yep.
And he moved on to Pokemon or something. Then a few minutes later…
J: So if a man has sex with a man or a woman has sex with a woman, can they make a baby?
Me: No. Just a man and a woman.
J: So how do they have babies?
Me: They either don’t have kids or they adopt.
J: Oh.
And he was done.

*I’m not trying to start an argument here. This is what I believe and it’s what I told Jeffrey. I was actually very calm (considering I was talking to my 9-year-old about sex) and I didn’t say (or imply) anyone is evil or anything to that effect (probably because I don’t think it’s true).

Surprisingly, I was completely calm during the conversation. Sex is part of life and I don’t think hiding it accomplishes anything. I hope by talking with him and answering his questions now, he’ll feel comfortable talking to me and asking questions as he gets older. I might even be able to stay calm through those, too. Maybe.

Made in America

For years, we’ve heard that buying American-made cars is better for the U.S. economy, but have you ever thought about the small things you buy and where they’re made? Most of us don’t. We complain about cheap toys made in Taiwan or China right before we go out and buy another one, but that’s about as much thought as most of us put into it.

A few weeks ago, I was waiting for something to come on on ABC. (I can’t imagine what, because I don’t watch much TV. Apparently, I thought it was important enough to tune in early. Not important enough to remember, though.) While waiting, I saw Diane Sawyer doing a story on American-made products. ABC had recruited a family and the object was to find items in the house that were made in the U.S.A. To their shock, they couldn’t find anything. I think after removing everything from the house that was manufactured in a foreign country, there were only two items left in the entire house. That was pretty surprising. And this family thought they had been buying American. They just never really looked.

It took me a little while to get around to it, but I decided to check our house. I couldn’t find anything on the big appliances, but some online research revealed that my Maytag washer, Kenmore dryer (manufactured by Whirlpool), Whirlpool dishwasher and stove were all made in the U.S. Honestly, I was surprised. On through the rest of the house. My KitchenAid Mixer is also made in America. Yay! (It only says assembled in USA, but I checked online.)

We didn’t have as much luck in the rest of the house, though. We got tired of looking. China was the most popular country in our search. We did find something in the playroom that was made in the U.S. The big U.S. and world maps we have on the walls were printed in the U.S.  Nothing else, though. I did find out that you can’t buy an American-made TV. There are no televisions produced anywhere in the U.S. (Go to the ABC website and find the “Click on an item to see where it is made.” Click the arrow, then select the TV icon.)

Why does it matter? According to ABC World News, “In 1960, foreign goods made up just 8 percent of Americans’ purchases. Today, nearly 60 percent of everything we buy is made overseas.” Every dollar we spend on overseas products is one less dollar in our country. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? We just don’t think about it. We’re all just waiting for the government to enact or change or rescind trade agreements. But we have the power. We vote with our money. According to ABC, economists say that if we spent just 1% (that’s just 18 cents a day) more on American-made products, it would create 200,000 jobs immediately. Maybe instead of relying on the government to solve everything, we could step up and do something ourselves.

Resources:
ABC “Made In America” site
Where to find American-made products – ABC has compiled a great list of sites, including the StillMadeInUSA.com site I used to find out about my appliances.

Egg-free Chocolate Cake & Easy Chocolate Frosting

Update 6/17/2011: This recipe makes about a dozen cupcakes. For cupcakes, follow baking directions below, but check them after 25 minutes. Depending on your oven and your pan, they should be done.

Recently, I was looking for an egg-free cake recipe and my friend Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green shared her recipe with me. This recipe made six cupcakes with a big mess left over. (I only had six cupcake tins left and I was hoping all the batter would fit in them. It did, but when it baked, we had more than we could handle. The boys enjoyed the clean-up.) So I’d say that it will probably make eight cupcakes. I haven’t made it as a cake yet. I wasn’t sure how this would turn out, but it’s actually really good.
My favorite chocolate frosting recipe is actually the Hershey®‘s Cocoa recipe. You can find it on the back of the Hershey®‘s Cocoa box. I’ve also included it below.

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup cold water

Directions

Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt with a whisk until well blended.
Pour the oil, vinegar, vanilla and water, all at once, on top of the dry ingredients.
Stir until all the ingredients are throughly blended together but don’t over mix.
Bake at 350’F for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Hershey®’s Cocoa “Perfectly Chocolate” Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
2/3 cup Hershey’s® Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions
Melt butter. Stir in cocoa.
Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating on medium speed to spreading consistency. Add more milk if needed. Stir in vanilla.
Makes about 2 cups.
With the cake recipe above, you’ll probably have frosting left over. You can double the cake recipe, half this one, or just eat the extra frosting. 😉