Mind Your Own Mortgage by Robert Bernabe

Another BookSneeze book. This time a practical book called Mind Your Own Mortgage by Robert Bernabe.

I liked this book. The information seemed sound and encouraging in an area of finances too many of us ignore. The writing was well done. The pages were not overcrowded, but had headers and sidebar quotes, and tables and diagrams that all helped to keep interest in what can be a boring subject. They also provided just the right support to demonstrate the points, without getting too crowded.

The book starts with a great overview of financial responsibility and why we should shop for a mortgage and treat it seriously. He also talks about the downside of consumer debt and pulls in some very good descriptions of what was happening before and during the recent economic crisis.

It contains some sound advice – shop for what you can afford, not what you qualify for. Buy on the total price, not the monthly payment. Pay attention and be in charge of the largest debt most people will ever have. This book was very timely as we are thinking of refinancing. We’ll definitely put the principles of this book and the tools at mindyourownmortgage.com to work.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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We did it!

Sunday, May 2, 2010, was the New York 5 Boro Bike Tour. We drove up to NY on Saturday and we’re driving back home on Monday so it was a quick trip. And at times it felt as like it was as crazy an idea as it sounds. But it was well worth it and a lot of fun.

First good thing: No cars on the road while we’re cycling. But, that isn’t as perfect as it sounds. First, they had to allow some traffic so at times in Manhattan we were bunched up and waiting while they let traffic through a particularly busy intersection.

Plus, there are some places that just can’t handle the traffic of so many bicyclists at once, so we ended up walking. A prime example was the entrance to Central Park.  We walked at least half a mile, maybe more and stood around a lot as well. We got through Manhattan and were in the Bronx before we felt like we were really riding our bicycles.

Ah, the Bronx. It is a 5 Borough ride, so we had to hit all 5 boroughs. But we weren’t eager to spend too much time in the Bronx. We looked at the map and saw that we were only there for a short bit. Actually riding it was pretty funny. As I said, coming off the Madison Ave bridge was the first time we felt we had some space and had actually started riding. They had a rest stop with some folks playing the drums but we opted to keep moving. So, we rounded the corner after the rest stop and we were headed back into Manhattan already!

In Manhattan we got to ride on the FDR down to the Queensborough bridge. That was pretty cool. We ended up walking on the exit and then slowly made our way up and over the bridge. Then braked all the way down the other side.

Coolest parts – the FDR and the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn where we hit speeds of 15 or 16 mph, passing some but mostly just being able to move. The Belt was great because the wind coming off the water was so cool if felt like air conditioning!

Worst parts – trying to maneuver between so many people and keep some momentum going up the hills as we entered the bridges. Neither of us fell or ran into anyone, but we had some close calls.

Best part of the worst part 🙂 is that my weakest point is slow riding. Keeping my balance, steering in tight quarters, and starting and stopping. I got a lot of practice at that today and I saw a lot of improvement.

Downside – my upper body is much more sore than my legs. Staying forward and keeping hands on the brakes almost the entire time was tough. I also kept my left foot unclipped much of the time as it was truly stop and go traffic. My right foot went to sleep a few times but otherwise, I handled that well.

I did fall – but not until the very end. As we were entering the festival area I prepared to stop but the bike tilted to the right instead of the left and the right foot wasn’t unclipped yet. Now I have a goose egg and scrape that looks almost exactly like my injury from a ride (or two) last year.  But I’m skilled at falling now. I got back up quickly and kept going (walking).

Timeline:

Up at 5, out of the hotel before 6, at the ferry by 6:30, waited in line and got onto the ferry by 7:00. (Port-o-san at the ferry had no paper.) Cold ride on the ferry (perhaps a jacket just for that part of the trip if we do this again.) Off the ferry and in place at the end of the crowd at the starting line by 7:30. (Port-o-san here had plenty of paper.) Still standing in line at 8:00. Still standing at the same spot in line at 8:45, talking to a guy from Fayetteville who had lived in Austin and now lived around the block from Trinity Church where we were standing. Started walking at 9:08. Walked 3 or 4 blocks and actually got on our bicycle. Somewhere about here we crossed some invisible starting line. We rode for a few block, and stopped at an intersection for pedestrians to cross. We rode a few more blocks and stopped again for more pedestrians. We eventually got to Central Park where we stopped and stood and walked for quite awhile.

We biked slowly (between 5 and 10 mph) with a few stretches of 12 mph through Central Park. We got to uptown and stood in line for quite awhile as traffic was going down 5th or 6th Avenue and we had to wait for the light. A few lights later we got through and were moving over the Madison Ave bridge into the Bronx. On the FDR we hit 16 mph and it was fun. Anthony set the pace and I was chasing him through the crowd. Much of it was in the shade which was nice as it was getting close to 90 by now.

We walked again at the exit to the Queensborough Bridge. We had gone 14 miles in 1.45 hours. We made it over the bridge (trying not to run over people on the way up, and sitting on the brakes all the way down. Rest stop here to get more water and listen to the steel drum band! Also reapplied sunscreen. Note to bike ride organizers – the best goody I’ve gotten from a bike ride is a small bandaid carrier and a single-application container of sunscreen. Both got used today. That wasn’t from the New York Ride, though, we got it at one last year.

We actually rolled well through Queens and Brooklyn, it was fun setting the pace knowing Anthony was keeping up with me. We passed a lot of people but still got to see the sights. Some cool plans for the Brooklyn Bridgeway (or whatever that place is going to be called). The Belt Parkway was pretty flat but long and sunny with no breeze for much of it. I stopped us for an upper body stretch and refuel. About here we started differing in mileage from the official posts. We said 24, they said closer to 30. Maybe they redirected us somewhere. Anyway, the stop and go had been rougher on me than a regular hilly ride in NC, so I wasn’t complaining.

Wonderful right along the short as we approached the Verazzano Bridge. Anthony almost took out a kid who rode is bike right across our paths. But we dodged successfully and kept going. The bridge was long but not as bad as some hills we’ve conquered before. I kept going, while A stopped to get a picture. That means he missed my fall as we entered the festival right at the bottom of the bridge. We caught up with each other much easier than expected and grabbed a hotdog and drink. The last 3 miles to the Staten Island Ferry were tough – the body had sort of stopped while we ate so the sit bones and legs were sore and unhappy. But we made it. We found the truck – yay! And we didn’t have a ticket – yay! (Not that we should have, but it’s been a consistent experience in NYC for me.)

Got it all packed back in and then on to showers and a rest before dinner. Having a hotel and parking on Staten Island and taking the ferry in the morning was definitely the right way to go!

General thoughts – 32,000 sounds like a lot of people but somehow I thought we’d be able to get away from some of the crowd. While I did handle the start and stop way better than I feared, we were ALWAYS in the middle of a huge crowd of people with fairly limited maneuverability. The stop and go through Manhattan was enervating, a rough way to start a ride. I am really glad we did it and learned a lot if we were to do it again, but (at least right now) I’m not excited enough to do it again.

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Review: Girls Gone Wise

I was eager for the opportunity to review the book Girls Gone Wise In a World Gone Wild by Mary Kassian, and I was not disappointed. As a woman and friend to women with young daughters (and aunt to 6 boys that are rapidly approaching the age where they notice girls) I am interested in how to lead young women and even some not quite-so-young woman to think about their choices.

This book is written to provide thoughtful advice and alternative options to what the world provides. It is suitable for women at college age or above, and has helpful information for mothers of younger girls. She lays it out there in a few examples, never beyond acceptable, but it is probably not useful for younger girls to read those details, protect their thought-life. The book is also very useful for women of all ages. Given the bombardment of the media and the feminist messages, I believe we all need some corrective reminders of what scripture says and what is truly wise.

The structure is identifying contrasts between the wild girl and the wise girl. The writing is clear and keeps the subject interesting. The chapters are short enough to allow for some real contemplation of what is being discussed, and there is a companion website with questions that can be used by an individual or in a group to spur deeper thought.

I will be recommending this book to friends. I even thought that I’d love to share it with my nephews so they can see the truth behind the wild girls no matter how fun they may look, and really appreciate the wise girls of the world.

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Disclaimer – I did receive a free copy of this book to review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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Fun in the sun, with a sporty tam, and haggis pockets!

Saturday was the annual Loch Normal Highland Games at Rural Hill. I’ve been to the games once at Grandfather Mountain and once at Rural Hill. I was looking forward to this year’s games and Scottish Festival and scheduled the date with my aunt.

The night before, my mom and my aunt came over, along with her husband and 2 step grand-children ages 5 and 8. There was much laughter, jicama and humus (or is that hicama and jumus?), the movie Cars on the big screen, flames in the fire-pit and tiki torches by the patio, wine and Guiness, and the usual refusals to go to sleep at a decent hour.

The next morning we tempted everyone out of bed with bacon on the grill (the good news – no bacon smell in the house 2 days later, the bad news – no bacon smell in the house that morning), French toast with powdered sugar, fresh strawberries, eggs cooked to order, and lots of coffee. We loaded the dishwasher, packed up some of the stuff, and headed out!

We parked and waited in line to buy tickets (the cash line moves faster than the credit line, just a suggestion). First thing in the gate was a booth from the Raptor Center so we got to see a hawk and owl. Then the boys got to do a bungee/trampoline thing. By now we’d missed the opening ceremonies (pretty cool if you get a chance to see them) so we headed off to get something to drink for the wee one. I had forgotten to pack water bottles as planned. I bought my first haggis pocket of the day (yum!).

We got passports for the kids and had them start working around the clan tents getting the passports stamped. We were briefly stumped by the Clan Donnachaidh (or something like that) but were happy to see Duncan on the same banner. Then it was time to walk back toward the entrance to the rock music tent where Albannach was playing. The music was loud and rowdy but wonderful! The 5 year old loved all the drum work.

As that performance ended we began the walk back toward the field to see the massed pipe bands. This is a wonderful display, but we missed it this year. We got to the field after the crowds had thinned out a bit, in time to see a bit of the Heavy stone Lift & Carry and the flag retirement ceremony. This went well until the 8 year old made the 5 year old think about how sad it was the flags were burning and made him cry. We quickly left the field and went in search of some distraction. The boys were interested in the pieces of the kilt uniform, especially the sporran (a purse that hangs around the waist, like a fanny pack but cooler). Due to our wandering and trying to chase down the boys, we also missed the sheep herding demonstration, a truly fascinating skill to watch (think Babe).

The boys’ parents still hadn’t arrived, it was getting close to time for Albannach to perform again but neither boy wanted to sit still for that again, so we headed to the car for lunch. We could hear the band from there and I made sandwiches for everyone, including the parents as they showed up with the baby (food works like a magnet every time).

We did pass a fairy a few times – the 5 year old was very well aware that it was just “a costume” but he let me call her a fairy anyway. (The Irn-Bru wagon is where you buy haggis pockets. And Irn-Bru, a softdrink.)

After lunch, the boys and their parents headed in to explore. We who had been with the boys headed to find a seat and listen to some traditional music and eat another haggis pocket. Then one more set with Albannach, no more haggis pockets (they sold out), and the boys were heading home, so we did too. Tired and happy and carrying 4 cans of haggis.

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Review: The Revolutionary Paul Revere

My latest BookSneeze book is The Revolutionary Paul Revere by Joel Miller.

This was a great read. The cover has a great feel to it, so it’s comfortable to hold. The chapters are fairly short and easy to read. This period of history has so many people of interest. The author does a good job of introducing people, reminding us who they are when it’s been awhile since they were first mentioned, and explaining how they intersected with Paul Revere’s life.

This is obviously not an in-depth scholarly biography. It is a well written, easy to read description of the character and history of a man we all know of, but don’t know much about. This is a great book to learn about what life was like for the residents of Boston leading up to and during the American Revolution, but it is never boring. Highly recommended.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Reading Classics

I try not to turn this into a blog just about my reading, so lately most of the reviews have been my BookSneeze books. But I have continued in my effort to read more classics. Here’s a summary of progress made so far in 2010.

Just last week I read Utopia by Sir Thomas More. It is interesting to see that even now people can’t quite tell if he was serious or sarcastic. It is fascinating to see that things we struggle with and argue over today were being discussed in the 1500’s. The writing is easy to read and the book isn’t overly long, so I recommend it. I read it for free on my Kindle. One thing that struck me was that the perfect society was on an island with some separation from other countries and was not suffering from a gigantic population.

Related, and from 1976 so not an old classic, I read The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. LeGuin. This is Utopia with a science fiction spin on it. A good story showing the differences between a socialist society and one man’s experience in a more capitalist society and how the two relate to each other. The socialist society is on a barren planet which the idealists populated so they could begin with a society set up the way they wanted. I am still struck by how the geography and origin play into the concept.

I also read Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville. This is a novella, so a much quicker read than Melville’s Moby Dick. I’m not sure most people even know what a scrivener is, but this story of an assistant to a lawyer who stops doing more and more until he is doing nothing is really interesting.

One of my favorite reads this year is Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. What a fascinating, and sad, story. I had heard of it but never read it. I recommend it highly. The chapters are short, but that is necessary to absorb what just happened in each one. Wow.

I did read my planned classics – Pilgrim’s Progress for book club discussion, and Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini. This last was a great swashbuckler pirate story.

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Movies

I am not a big movie-watcher. I like movies, but I’d rather curl up with a good book. But watching movies together is my husband’s idea of good together-time, his love language. So, I watch a few movies that would never have been in my personal watch list.

One we recently watched is from 1982, a movie I don’t think I had even heard of as a teenager, but it was a big movie for my husband. Tron is about computers and video games – of course it was huge for him. Well, there is a sequel coming out this summer and he keeps showing me the trailer – a sure sign that I will be watching the movie with him at some time in the future. I mentioned that it would probably be a good thing to see the original before we see the sequel so I’ll have some clue what’s going on. That’s all it took, he bought Tron the next day.

I have to admit, it was pretty good. I had no clue Bruce Boxleitner had been in movies before the tv series Scarecrow and Mrs. King (which my husband had never heard of – how did he miss such quality tv programming? 🙂 It was also interesting to hear that Jeff Bridges spoke without a speech impediment at all. The effects were old (it was 1982) but not too cheesy. The plot was pretty interesting for what it was. So, now I’m ready to see Tron Legacy.

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The other movie I watched recently was The Hurt Locker. It came out in 2008 and won awards in 2009. It’s about an elite Army bomb squad in Iraq. I think it was fantastic in showing the stress and intensity, being surrounded by people and not knowing who you can trust. And dealing with explosives, IEDs, and bombs all the time. It was powerful and tough to watch.

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Movies I need to watch. I borrowed a copy of Pride and Prejudice that I need to make time to watch. I also have a copy of another movie from the 1980’s, Between Two Women with Farrah Fawcett and Colleen Dewhurst (woman and mother-in-law) who have a changing relationship as the mother-in-law gets ill and dies (oops, spoiler). I remember Farrah Fawcett is a runner in the movie and it ends with her running. My husband picked up a copy for me but I haven’t made time to watch it yet.

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Review: Chronological Guide to the Bible

My latest BookSneeze book is The Chronological Guide to the Bible from Thomas Nelson.

This year I am reading and following a blog set around The One Year Chronological Bible from Tyndale. While looking for this a friend and I also came across The Chronological Study Bible from Thomas Nelson. When the companion Guide came available I realized it would be a great addition to my library. I am very pleased with the contents of the Guide.

I read the entire Old Testament last year and found it very interesting to read through the books all at once. I was curious what it would be like to read the the books on the kings and the books by the prophets all in chronological order. This Guide is a great companion to provide some context. It can  be used to guide your reading order with any Bible.

The book itself is small, but high quality. I love those thick glossy reference book pages with vivid colors. The introductions do a great job of explaining how one goes about putting the Bible in chronological order. Issues and concerns are well addressed so the user knows what they are getting. Each section is about a different epoch and describes the state of the earth, a list of and description of the books of the Bible that relate events during that epoch, and major points of history and of the biblical accounts. There is also a chronological reading guide for each epoch or sub-epoch. These are placed in each chapter. My one recommendation would be to repeat all of those as an appendix.

The level of detail is really wonderful, and the format makes it very approachable with time lines, lists, and well delineated sections of informational paragraphs. In reading the first few epochs, I found the text a little heavy on showing how other cultures had rituals or explanations that were very similar to the Bible. I agree with the facts and think the finding is interesting. But sometimes the book seemed to interpret the biblical event as just another instance of this, rather than as relating the people of God acting as God directed. This doesn’t happen too often, and other sections are much clearer in this respect.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Review: Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God

My latest BookSneeze book is Beautiful Things Happen When a Woman Trusts God by Sheila Walsh.

The title says it all. This is a book about how hard it can be but how rewarding it is to trust God. The author uses real life examples and people from the Bible who faced similar examples to show how God is always faithful and it is never too late to trust. The writing is well done and the points are well made.

I am learning that this is an author I can always trust. She is biblical, relevant, practical, and true. In this book she reveals a bit more of her own story, presenting lessons and struggles that are common to so many of us. Then in each chapter she addresses this concern or issue through the life of a person in the Bible. She assumes the story is somewhat familiar but clarifies some good points and shows how their life story reflects trusting God (well or not so well, early or late).

I am encouraged and convicted by this book. I recommend it to all women seeking to live godly lives, dealing with brokenness, or needing fulfillment.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A response to the voices

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