Darkroom Techniques For Platinum Printmaking From Digital Negatives

This article discusses the "magic" moment, ie when you already have your negative, paper, materials and everything is ready to make the fine print. What follows is not how to do it, it is how I do it, and it is intended for beginners. Your technique may vary. The article, however, asserts that you will be printing in platinum / palladium or just palladium, from a digital negative, using Potassium Oxalate as a developer.

Coating the paper.

Start mixing the solution in a short glass. For an 8×10 "print I use 15 drops of ferric oxalate, 15 of palladium / platinum, and 1 drop of Na2 at 2.5% Many books recommend more solution. I do not think it is necessary, for 30 drops of solution will cover an 8×10 "print very well even with a brush.

You may think that the percentage of Na2 should vary depending on the print and one can not just say "one drop of Na2 at 2.5%". This is indeed not true, for you already have the correct contrast sorted in the (digital) negative, hence ALL you images will print well with just ONE drop of 2.5% Na2 contrast agent. Also, ALL your prints (on the same paper) will print with the same exposure, in my case this is ~ 4 minutes but this time of course depends on the UV unit and you will have to find your own time.

With digital negatives, the printing process itself is almost routine and can not go wrong, because the negative is, in fact, spot on and perfect. Of course, getting this 'perfection' in the negative may take some time and tweaking.

Also, some may think that just one drop of 2.5% Na2 may be too little and the prints will show some fogging. I have never experienced this problem, probably because of the small quantity of oxalic acid which I add to my ferric oxalate solution. Keep in mind that Na2 is a very powerful contrast agent. If you want, you can use one drop at 5%, this will also leave some room your should print show too much contrast. If you decide to do so, of course, you will have to modify slightly your Photoshop curve. Personally, I have always been using one drop at 2.5%.

Once you have the solution ready, fill / empty the syringe in the glass 3 or 4 times to mix the solution thoroughly. Get the brush and pour some little water on it, then dry it with a tissue but be sure to leave it a bit moist. Take the sheet of paper and the negative that you are going to print. Lay the negative on the paper and look at it for 5 seconds to make a visual image of where to coat (this is sufficient, you do not need to draw amateur pencil lines or make templates to limit the coating area). Remove the negative (put it back in its envelope and do not leave it exposed near the coating area or small drops of solution will inevitably land on it when coating) and get the brush, with the same hand also get the syringe. I am right handed so I quickly squirt the solution in a line from left to right along the long side of the paper.

You want to form a nice long bead in the center of the paper, this does not work well if you pour the solution from a glass, hence the syringe (no needle of course). Immediately pass the empty syringe to the other hand (which you will also use to hold the paper down too) and start coating in large vertical stripes first, then horizontal and repeat until the entire area (of which you still have a visual image in your Mind) is perfectly covered. No need to push hard on the brush, its own weight will be plenty.

Be accurate and swift in this procedure, for the goal is coating the paper well with less solution as possible of course. If you end up with huge black borders it obviously means that you are over coat, if the negative can not fit the covered area it means, of course, that you are under coating. Some experts recommend a chemical called Tween20 to facilitate coating, which has always proved to be totally useless. You can get yourself started practicing with something not expensive such as coffee and photocopy paper. Soon you will be able to cover the entire area leaving a nice and thin black border all around the print all by eye.

After this is done, leave the freshly coated paper to dry (I cover it temporarily with a cardboard lid for protection from light, bugs, dust etc). After about two minutes (just to allow the solution to penetrate the paper) put the sheet under the hot drier for another two or three minutes. Do not leave the paper to air dry too long or the solution will 'go through' the paper and the image will look weak. On the other hand you must allow some time before hot drying to allow the metals to penetrate and give the print the famous 'platinum presence'. You will have to experiment a bit with these times, also depending on your climate and time of the year, humidity etc., not that it makes such a huge difference anyway. Just, as always in a darkroom, be consistent and keep following the same procedures and timing.

While the paper is drying, you can wash glass, brush and syringe, ready for your next print. What if you break a rule and do not wash them: in this case, your next print will require (considerable) less solution, like 11 drops instead of 15, a great way to save money. This is possible because, as said, all our prints use the same mix (contrast agent etc). Or, you can group the prints with the same contrast / mix before starting your printing session. However, even though it does work, I do not do this, because when I started there were no digital negatives and each negative would of course require its own (different) contrast mix, and I am used to that procedure. Also, it makes me uncomfortable (sort of cheating?). Consider this not a recommendation but a possible working trick to save some money especially when making additional prints from the same negative. Be careful: whatever your procedure, if the print has not received adequate coating, it will look quite anemic and weak. You can experiment making a test print (maybe along with a step wedge) with more or less solution and see if there is any difference.

Once the paper is dry, briefly inspect it, it should exhibit a nice and uniform orange coating. If there are flaws, like maybe small dots, you will take care of these when spotting. In fact, whatever you see on the covered paper now, there is little you can do about it. If you see a bristle from the brush, you can try to lift it off with a scalpel, again, when the paper is dry. I have never experienced this with my Grumbacher brush though. With Cranes paper, my favorite, depending on the batch, sometimes some small areas look lighter when seen through the light. These spots will disappear once the print is made and dry, so do not worry. If there are major flaws, like thin uncoated areas, it might be a good chance to experiment with double coating, for example.

Now place the paper on the contact printing frame, then the negative and the glass and put them inside the UV unit for the required exposure. During this time you can coat another sheet for your next print or, if you are not so busy, just relax.

Developing.

Now it is the moment for some magic. Just take the exposed sheet of paper and slide it swiftly in the developer tray from one side, you want it to "cut" through the surface of the solution. Some people keep the solution in a jug and splash it over the print but honestly I can not even understand the reasons to go through this extra step. Others tilt the tray to leave a dry area at the bottom where they lay the paper and then allow the solution to cover the paper, I would not do this either. From now on, please keep in mind that we are working with water color paper that is not recommended to stay almost one hour in chemicals and running water, since it will become very fragile, so take extreme care when handling. Once the sheet of paper will be submersed, the image will develop immediately.

It is generally recommended to let the print in the developer for one to two minutes, I have found that one minute is sufficient and there is no change in the image keeping the print longer than that (this is not silver printing). I have, however, standardized my procedure to 1.5 minutes. The temperature of the developer will have some effect on the final color (higher temperature = warmer color). I have a sort of big dish warmer under the tray even though I use it, because I like the color I get at room temperature with the added benefit that of course the developer will last longer.

After developing the print, lift it and drain very well and take it to the washing tray for a quick wash, this will make the clearing solution last longer. Then we can start the clearing process passing the print from the first to the third tray (4/5 minutes each, rocking them gently every now and then, especially in the first tray) and finally in the washer for no more than 30 minutes. This clearing procedure is good with citric acid, three teaspoons per 1,5 liters. If you use Kodak hypo clearing agent, I believe three minutes in each bath will suffice. After washing, drain well, then get two sheets of blotting paper and gently and carefully absorb all the water from the print. If you press too much the blotting paper will leave marks in the print. At this point the print is ready for air drying on a mesh (face up, another difference from silver printing).

You can inspect it but keep in mind that once dry it will be considered darker, especially the highlights. If the print looks OK wet, you can be sure that it will look too dark once dry. If you see any flaw in the print (black spots, dust, hair or whatever) do not even try to touch its surface with anything because it will leave a mark on it. Put the bloting paper sheets to dry too, do not use them again with your next print. By the way, do not buy those blotting paper books, they tend to develop mold and will become all warped. Buy loose sheets and take care of them, or replace often. After this, you will be ready to make another print, or if you are done, just put the developer back in its bottle and wash the trays. Every printing session, I also clean my contact printing frame glass.

I usually leave my prints to dry overnight. If you are in a hurry, you can dry a print in the same hot air drying unit used with coated sheets, but it will not dry very flat and also it will stress the paper fibers. I hot dry sometimes to quickly evaluate some prints. After the print is dry, you can assess it. The first print from a new negative, of course, needs a full evaluation, additional prints from the same negative, if you are consistent in the darkroom, will only need a quick check. To evaluate, I mask the black borders with an off white bevel window cut sheet from my usual mounting board, to avoid ruining the shadows in the print. I generally check the print in average light conditions, certainly not under a strong fluorescent light and definitely not in the darkroom. If I am happy with the print I proceed with spotting (once flat), if I am not, it means that there is something wrong with the negative so back to Photoshop to make another one. We are chasing to get a good, easy to print negative. I use Pictorico film which is not particularly expensive, so I find more convenient to make another negative.

Of course, you still have some control in the darkroom. If the print is flat you can use more contrast agent, if it is too dark or too light you can change exposure time a little. If the print is too punchy and contrasty the only solution is to make another negative. If there are areas in need of burning or dodging, which is an annoying procedure when contact printing under UV, it is better to do the corrections in Photoshop and make another negative.

Sometimes you will find that technically the print is OK yet it does not work, which means that you must develop an aesthetic correlation between what you see on the screen and what the finished print will look. In some way, what Ansel Adams famously called "pre-visualization". His method was pre-visualizing the actual print when looking at the camera's ground glass, in our case, it is something similar but we are looking at a computer screen. A last thought on assessing platinum and especially palladium prints: the print should be beautiful and with good "presence". The shadows should be thick and juicy, and the highlights should almost glow, ie be "light". If this is not the case, often the problem is that you are printing too dark. Often people, coming from other printing processes, especially silver, follow the same visual accomplishes that were used to, with harsh contrast and deep shadows, which in my opinion is wrong in pt-pd (although there are many different schools on this). Often the mid tones are printed too dark, they get muddy, easy to fix with Photoshop. Especially with portraiture and landscapes try to stay less contrast than you think, more "delicate".

Coming to platinum printmaking from silver, I immediately found the darkroom part of the process far more relaxing and enjoyable. If you are a photographer considering switching to platinum (or any other alternative process) but still uncertain, I would consider this a big plus in my decision.

Selected Weekend Match Previews

Premiership

Arsenal vs Aston Villa

Arsenal have not had the best of times recently culminating in the dreadful injury suffered by their striker Eduardo Da Silva at Birmingham but I expect them to get back on track and win this game.

Aston Villa by contrast are going through a purple patch but I just cannot see anything other than an Arsenal victory as they would want to put the last few weeks behind them.

They have answered their critics every time with bouncing back with wins and this should be no exception.

The only drawback is that they might be distracted by the fact that they have to play AC Milan on Tuesday.

Birmingham City vs Tottenham Hotspurs

Both teams would be coming into this game with confidence after having rather interesting and headline grabbing weekends.

City would be buoyant as they grasped a draw from a game they should have lost and Spurs would still be on a high from their Carling cup success.

All would depend on how much celebrating Spurs have been doing and if the exertions of playing on Thursday and Sunday including extra-time would affect them.

If they are fresh and mentally attuned enough then I expect Spurs to win, if not then a draw is on the cards.

Fulham v Manchester Utd

This game should be anything other than an away win as Fulham are just a dreadful side and are now genuine relegation candidates.

It would not be a 5-1 victory as United enjoyed against Newcastle because Roy Hodgson is more astute than that but I expect a win nonetheless.

Newcastle United v Blackburn Rovers

I bet when Kevin Keegan was appointed as manager of Newcastle that none of the fans would have envisaged that he would have gone this long without a win.

They certainly would not have banked on Dennis Wise being appointed director of football and Chris Hughton at football coach. Neither of this 2 men have an affiliations with Newcastle whatsoever.

The fans are entitled to wonder just what is going on at the club. The good news is that they have a decent record over Blackburn and if they do not win this 1 then they are in big trouble.

West Ham v Chelsea

It would be interesting to see just how Chelsea bounce back from their disappointment in the Carling cup final.

This is not going to be an easy game for them and it is 1 they cannot afford to lose either.

I think this may end in a draw or Chelsea may even nick it whilst boring the pants of the viewers but it all depends on how fit they are and which players Avram Grant decides to put out.

Bolton v Liverpool

Amazingly Bolton have a good recent record against Liverpool and it would not surprise me in the least if they come away with a good result against the Reds.

A lot would depend on what side Rafa Benitez decides to put out and also the effects of Steven Gerrard’s outbursts with his frustrations of their not being nearer the title chase thereby undermining the manager’s work so far.

SerieA

Juventus vs Fiorentina

This is the game of the day in Italy as the 2 sides will be battling out for the champions league spots that are still up for grabs as it looks like the championship is staying for another year at Milan with Inter Milan.

Juventus should be billed as favourites but they tend not to play well whenever they have had a midweek game because of the age of the squad.

They would be looking to bounce back from 2 disappointing results in the last week whilst Fiorentina would be looking to hammer down their credentials for a champions league spot with Ac Milan bearing down their throats.

The loss of Adrian Mutu is huge for them but Juventus would be missing key players in Christian Zanetti, Giorgio Chiellini and Pavel Nedved; all sitting out bans.

It should end in a draw.

Ac Milan vs Lazio

Milan have had a very wretched season so far and trying to predict the outcome of their games is extremely difficult as they draw games you expect them to win easily and then win big in games you expect them to struggle with.

Lazio have had an even worse season thus far and are looking at the real possibility of relegation and I expect Milan to win this even if they would have 1 eye on their games against Arsenal.

Then again they could draw this game like they always seem to do at home.

Roma vs Parma

Roma have had a mixed weekend as they defeated Fiorentina on Sunday only to be denied at the death against runaway leaders Inter Milan with the game ending 1-1.

They have not been playing well, especially captain and inspiration Franceso Totti who is struggling for form and fitness.

They also have 1 eye on their champions league 2nd leg tie against Real Madrid in Madrid to come.

They should win this game though.

Napoli vs Inter Milan

Inter have been dicing with defeat for a few games now and they are bound to lose sometime.

They are not playing well at all at this point in time and Napoli are very strong at home but I do not think they would lose against Napoli but they would be once again unconvincing and would be hoping for no more controversies involving their games.

La Liga

Atletico Madrid vs Barcelona

Barcelona are in relatively good form as they demonstrated against Valencia and Celtic whilst Atletico are not.

Atletico are a very strange side as they good football for about 15 minutes and that’s about it. They either score against the opposition then do nothing for the rest of the game or struggle to create chances if they have not scored yet.

They have so many good players that you wonder why they should struggle so much and going out in the UEFA cup to a team like Bolton must be very embarrassing to their fans.

They however have a good record against Barcelona and could nick a draw at least from this game.

Recreativo de Huelva vs Real Madrid

Real Madrid have lost 4 games out of 5 in la liga and champions league and that is not a very good sign.

They have not been playing all that badly in games but have not exactly set the world alight either.

They would want Robinho to be back as soon as possible as they are missing his creative spark.

Recreativo have had an up and down season so far and would not be pushovers but Real’s needs might be the more forceful of the 2 sides and they just might want it more.

Deportivo La Coruna vs Sevilla

This game is too hard to call as it could go either way because both sides are in very good form with Sevilla being perhaps the most in-form side in Spain at the moment.

The 1 thing that may turn it in the home side’s favour is the fact that Sevilla would be distracted by their champions league tie against Fenerbahce during the week as they trail 2-3.

Espanyol vs Valencia

At long last Valencia are in good form and that has coincided with the return of star striker David Villa to the side and goal scoring form.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said for Espanyol, who just seem to be in free fall as they are just losing matches everywhere and it is difficult to fathom why.

Valencia though do not score a lot of goals so they may either win narrowly or even draw this game.

Poole Pottery – A Potted History

The history of the Poole Pottery can be traced back to 1873, when Jesse Carter purchased the East Quay Pottery in Poole from James Walker, after that gentleman's pottery business went bankrupt. Jesse Carter's background was as a successful builders merchant in Surrey, but he believed that the architectural ceramics business offered a profitable future and determined to put all his efforts into this. Moving to the area with his family, two of what were to play a major role in the future of the pottery, he began to work. By the 1880s, Carter & Company had become very well established locally, overshadowing some longer established local companies and beginning to encroach on the territory of some of the well known Staffordshire potteries.

At this time, the output of the Poole Pottery was revolved around decorative tiling and other architectural pottery, such as fire surroundings. Carter & Co's wide range of decorative tiles were being widely used in shops, pubs and hotels, as well as for advertising and mosaic flooring.

Growth of Decorative Output

Following Carter's death in 1901, control of the pottery fell to his two sons, Charles and Owen. Over the next twenty years, the output of the company changed to include a growing variety of decorative wares, and the end result of this was the formation of Carter, Stabler & Adams in 1921 as a subsidiary of Carter & Company.

Harold and Phoebe Stabler and John and Truda Adams brought between them a wealth of creative experience in design, modeling and decoration and the mission of the CSA company was to produce decorative and table wares from the East Quay works in Poole.

Over the next forty years, the Carter, Stabler & Adams company proved very successful, producing a very wide variety of decorative and domestic wares. One of the most easily recognizable and successful CSA styles is that of the red earthenware body with a white slip ground and a clear glaze.

From Red Earthenware to Freeform

This style was used until the mid-thirties, when CSA moved to using white clay bodies, probably because they were more suitable for tableware than the red earthenware bodies were. The decorative pieces were all hand painted with patterns that were large the work of Truda Adams. These colorful and stylish patterns played a key part in the success of CSA and have endured superbly, still looking fresh and attractive today. CSA's output during the 20s and 30s also included a range of skilfully modeled pieces, often by Harold Stabler or John Adams. Today these models have become highly collectable and hard to find in perfect condition.

As the nation recovered from WWII, and pottery production began again, the ranges of white earthenware that had been so successful in the past were now seen to be almost unmanageably complex. These were now rationalized, to become known as traditional ware, with three levels of decoration – elaborate, medium and simple.

Just as in their time, the Truda Adams designs had captured the Art Deco style of the 1920s and 30s, something new was needed to reflect the new styles of the 1950s. Several new ranges were introduced, but by far the most striking and successful were the Free Form range of patterns and shapes. Poole Pottery freeform was distinguished by a very modern new range of shapes, mixing angles and curves to create completely new shapes, as well as variations on more traditional shapes.

A New Generation of Talent

Alfred Read and Guy Sydenham were the driving force behind this range of shapes, and many of the early freeform patterns were also Alfred Read designs, with both Read and Sydenham being responsible for throwing the new shapes. Especially notable were the decorating talents of Ruth Pavely and Ann Read. Ruth Paveli was Head of Painting at the Poole Pottery for many years, and her mark can be seen on some of the finest Poole Pottery pieces of the 1950s, as can Ann Read's.

Freeform proved to be just what the doctor ordered for the Poole Pottery, and was very successful through the 1950s. Today, fans of 1950s design are keen to collect Poole Freeform shapes and the better examples of these pieces command strong values.

The Launch of Delphis & Aegean Ware – Studio Pottery From A Factory?

In the early 1960s a new range of studio ware was released – the Delphis range. This featured bold, colorful designs on new shapes created by Poole's new star designers, Robert Jefferson and Tony Morris. The Delphis range proved popular and once more in keeping with the spirit of the times and remained in production, with many variations, until the mid-1970s.

Delphis ware was followed by Aegean ware. Designed by Leslie Elsden, it provided a fitting culination to his 50 year career at Poole Pottery. Much of the Aegean range was decorated using either the silhouette or sgraffito techniques, and the extensive use of browns, oranges and yellows made the Aegean pieces a very distinct character. While some shapes were shared with the Delphis and other ranges, both Delphis and Aegean ware have very distinct and easily recognizable characters.

The Future For Poole Pottery

Poole Pottery sadly went bankrupt for a second and final time in December 2006, and although its remains have found a buyer, it looks like pottery production in Poole has probably come to an end. Fortunately, today's collectors are lucky enough to have a huge legacy of pottery to draw upon, which will hopefully be preserved for future generations.

Jacques Tissot – Painter Who Was Both Controversl And Successful

Jaques Tissot was born in 1836, at Nantes a French Seaport. He was always interested in things nautical and this can be seen in the accuracy of the rigging and ship scenes that he later painted. His father was a successful shopkeeper and a devout Roman Catholic and Jaques was sent to a Jesuit school. His father was not at all happy with Jacques choice of career, but he did eventually relent.

He was able to enter the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris in 1856, where he met and became friends with James McNeill Whistler. He changed is name to James in order to draw interest to himself. He had learned the business of trading from his father and used this experience to sell his works. He traveled extensively plying his craft and surviving well, especially among the wealthy English patrons, and even exhibited at the Royal Academy. He returned to Paris and with the outbreak of war (Franco-Prussian War) fled to England in 1871 where he had many friends. James was hard working and shrewd and quickly became a success in London. His paintings were of excellent quality, but sometimes controversial – this probably assisted in sales rather than the reverse. Many paintings were of women in unbelievably beautiful costumes. The famous art critic John Ruskin was particularly indifferent and called his paintings “mere photographs of vulgar society”. His French friends were envious of his success in England. He lived life to the fullest.

In 1874 Edmond de Goncourt wrote sarcastically that James Tissot had “a studio with a waiting room where, at all times, there is iced champagne at the disposal of visitors, and around the studio, a garden where, all day long, one can see a footman in silk stockings brushing and shining the shrubbery leaves”.

He met Kathleen Newton and Irish divorcee with two children and a colorful past. She was his model and mistress, and together they inspired each other. James and Kathleen lived as man and wife but within a few years her health started to decline and in 1882, she cheated consumption by committing suicide. Throughout this time James remained totally committed to her.

James was heartbroken and within a week left the house and never returned. He did not marry or have any more long term relationships. He dabbled in Spiritualism and tried to contact Kathleen. He moved to Paris and continued the style that had been so successful for him in London but it was not so successful in Paris. He had a “religious experience” and became extremely devout and began painting religious scenes.

He died in 1902 in Bullion.

Secrets of Growing Killer Tomatoes

Tomatoes have always been my favorite garden vegetable to grow and to eat. I have had success with the other standard garden vegetables, such as cucumbers, bell peppers, cauliflower etc. but tomatoes became my specialty over the years.

I start my seeds indoors approximately 5-6 weeks before the last expected frost date. I use a commercially available starting flat that will hold 72 seedlings. I prefer plant the Tomato Park’s Whopper(TM) Cr Improved, VFFNT Hybrid which can be ordered from Park Seed Co. This is a large, luscious, disease resistant tomato that I have seen grow to excess of 3lbs.+. It makes for an awesome BLT since a slice of one of these beauties will hang off the toast at least one inch or more all the way around!!!!!

For the potting mixture, I use equal parts of a good quality potting soil and vermiculite that makes the soil light enough so that the seeds will not have difficulty sprouting and growing. I know your probably saying to yourself right now, WOW, 72 tomato plants, I don’t need that many, well look at it like this…out of the 72 that you start, some will not develop for whatever reason, and once they are planted, some will die, the birds will get some, the animals will get some and yes, the bugs will get some regardless of how hard your try to keep them out. So out of that 72 plants, you could wind up with just the right number in the end for your garden. Of course it is possible to wind up with 72 very healthy, untouched by animals, disease or bugs, tomato plants, as happened to me one season, then you will have more tomatoes than you can possibly eat, can, sell or give away!!!! But that is a whole ‘nother story!!!

I have grown tomatoes in all types of soil, from rocky, hard packed clay to rich dark loam so loose you could push your arm elbow deep into the soil with no effort. It has been my experience that almost any soil will work with most only requiring minor amendments.

If you need to add amendments to your soil to loosen it, I recommend a mixture of aged sawdust and sand in equal parts. The sand can be obtained in bulk from your local concrete company for a small fee or you can buy it in bags from your local hardware store. One note about the sawdust, DO NOT use fresh sawdust, as this is much to hot due to the nitrogen being released during the breakdown process. Plants placed in this sawdust; even with the mix of sand and soil are much to tender to withstand the high concentration of nitrogen.

If fresh sawdust is all that you can obtain, pile it in one corner of your garden and let it age for new season.

Your local sawmill, if you have one close by, should have a good supply of old sawdust on hand that they will let you load up and haul away for free. If you do not have a sawmill or any type of manufacturing facility close by, such as the Ames Co., that makes wooden handles etc. you can check with your local county extension agent and he or she can tell you where you may acquire the sawdust. Speaking of the county extension agent, when you go to consult with the agent, take along some soil samples from different places in your garden and ask that they be tested for the proper nutrients. This is a free service provided by some counties while others may charge a nominal fee, regardless, you can have the results back in just a few days.

Once you have the sawdust and sand, spread equal parts over your garden until it reaches a depth of about one inch or more depending on the type of soil. Too much and the soil will be too loose and the water will drain away to quickly, not enough and the sun will bake it to a hardpan during the dog days of summer.

Work this mixture into your soil as deep as possible using your rotary tiller or the old fashioned way, by using a spading fork or shovel Once this mixture is worked in properly then it is time to consider what type of fertilizer is needed.

Armed with your soil test results, you will have a good indication of what kind of fertilizer is best for your particular garden. In most cases, a good all purpose fertilizer known as Triple 10 or 10-10-10 will do the job very well. Your soil test results will give specifics of any additional nutrients that you may need and should also include coverage rates.

Once you have completed the fertilizing, give your garden a moderate soaking with your sprinkler or hose nozzle to dissolve and distribute the fertilizer through out the soil.

When I begin to set out the tomatoes I have somewhat of a unique approach, I dig the planting hole, approximately 10-12 inches deep with a post hole digger, which also helps to determine the spacing for each plant ( 2-2 ½ feet apart or about ½ the length of the handle of your post hole digger) I use the post hole digger for several reasons:

1. Its much easier on your back, you don’t have to bend or kneel to dig the hole.

2. The larger and deeper hole means that more of the tomato plant itself can be placed deeper into the ground and the more plant you can actually place in the ground the stronger the plant will be, because every bit of the seedling that is placed underground will develop into the root system, thereby you will have deeper and stronger roots from the very beginning.

3. The loose backfill in the hole allows for the developing root system to get a firm foothold.

After you have gotten all your holes spaced out and dug, go back and sprinkle just a bit of Miracle-Gro into the bottom of each hole then add just a small amount of water to the hole. Gently remove your seedlings from the flat and place it as deep as possible in the hole. I recommend leaving no more than 1 – 2 inches of tomato above ground. Yes, it will take longer for your tomatoes to produce by doing this as compared to setting them out at that same depth they were in the seeding flat, but you will have stronger plants and plants that virtually never need watering because at that depth moisture is pretty much constant unless it is an extremely dry summer. Believe me, if you set your tomatoes out at the flat depth, you will be watering them at least every other day.!!!

The next thing we need to address is the method used to control the sprawling plant. Some people like to place straw down around their tomato plants and let them sprawl across the ground. I believe this opens the door for more pest problems, such as the tomato hornworm. The method I recommend is using concrete reinforcing wire to make your own tomato cages. The wire can be purchased at most any hardware or do it yourself store. The wire has large 6″ openings that you can easily pass your hand through when picking time comes. The wire is about 6 ft high which makes a very sturdy cage for even the biggest tomato plant. To make the cages, count off seven of the squares and then, using a cutting torch or a study pair of wire cutters, cutoff the bottom of the seventh square which will give you six 6″ spikes that will make the cage as steady as a rock when they are pushed into the ground. I place my cages around the plants as soon as the plants are in the ground. Once you make the cages they will last of years and years to come.

Our last area of concern is pests and diseases, specifically the tomato hornworm and blossom end rot. The tomato hornworm is nasty little creature that will surround and chew through your plant at just below ground level. To prevent this from happening push a very large nail into the ground right next to each tomato plant. This will prevent the hornworm from surrounding your plant and eating through the base.

If you see the end of your tomatoes beginning to rot as they grow, then it is surely a case of blossom end rot, which can be easily stopped from overtaking your entire tomato crop. Go to your local pharmacy and get some potassium chloride, then place two heaping tablespoons into a garden sprayer and fill with water, shake to mix then spray your plants well. Do this weekly until no new end rot appears.

If you follow this guide and use a little TLC you will have some of the largest and best tasting tomatoes one could ever ask for.

You will definitely be the envy of the entire neighborhood!!!

The Tobin Tax – Making Wall Street Pay Its Fair Share

“Regular people know that they got done in by excesses on Wall Street, and they see a Democratic administration shoveling trillions of dollars to the same Wall Street banks that caused the mess…. What is overdue is a little bit of populist retribution against the people who brought down the system – and will bring it down again if the hegemony of the traders is not constrained.”

–Economist Robert Kuttner

In the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression, Goldman Sachs is having a banner year. According to an October 16 article by Colin Barr on CNNMoney.com:

“While Goldman churned out $3 billion in profits in the third quarter, the economy shed 768,000 jobs, and home foreclosures set a new record. More than a million Americans have filed for bankruptcy this year, according to the American Bankruptcy Institute. A September survey of state finances by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank found that state governments faced a collective $168 billion budget shortfall for fiscal 2010. Goldman, by contrast, is sitting on $167 billion in cash….”

Barr writes that Goldman’s “eye-popping profit” resulted “as revenue from trading rose fourfold from a year ago.” Really. Revenue from trading? Didn’t we bail out Goldman and the other Wall Street banks so they could make loans, take deposits, and keep our money safe?

That is what banks used to do, but today the big Wall Street money comes from short-term speculation in currency transactions, commodities, stocks, and derivatives for the banks’ own accounts. And here’s the beauty of it: the Wall Street speculators have managed to trade in practically the only products left on the planet that are not subject to a sales tax. While parents in California are now paying 9% sales tax on their children’s school bags and shoes, Goldman is paying nothing to sustain its gambling habit.

That helps explain Goldman’s equally eye-popping tax bracket. What would you guess – 50%? 30%? Not even close. In 2008, Goldman Sachs paid a paltry 1% – less than clerks at WalMart.

SPEEDING TICKETS TO SLOW DAY TRADERS?

All this suggests a tidy way we the people could recover some of their billions in bailout money. The idea of taxing speculative trades was first proposed by Nobel Prize winning economist James Tobin in the 1970s. But he acknowledged that his proposal was unlikely to be implemented, because of the massive accounting problems involved. Today, however, modern technology has caught up to the challenge, and proposals for a “Tobin tax” are gaining traction. The proposals are very modest, ranging from.005% to 1% per trade, far less than you would pay on a pair of shoes. For ordinary investors, who buy and sell stock only occasionally, the tax would hardly be felt. But high-speed speculative trades could be slowed up considerably. Wall Street traders compete to design trading programs that can move many shares in microseconds, allowing them to beat ordinary investors to the “buy” button and to manipulate markets for private gain.

Goldman Sachs admitted to this sort of market manipulation in a notorious incident last summer, in which the bank sued an ex-Goldman computer programmer for stealing its proprietary trading software. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Facciponti was quoted by Bloomberg as saying of the case:

“The bank has raised the possibility that there is a danger that somebody who knew how to use this program could use it to manipulate markets in unfair ways.”

The obvious implication was that Goldman has a program that allows it to manipulate markets in unfair ways. Bloomberg went on:

“The proprietary code lets the firm do ‘sophisticated, high-speed and high-volume trades on various stock and commodities markets,’ prosecutors said in court papers. The trades generate ‘many millions of dollars’ each year.”

Those many millions of dollars are coming out of the pockets of ordinary investors, who are being beaten to the punch by sophisticated computer programs. As one blogger mused:

“Why do we have a financial system? I mean, much of its activity looks an awful lot like gambling, and gambling is not exactly a constructive endeavor. In fact, many people would call gambling destructive, which is why it is generally illegal….

“What makes Goldman Sachs et. al. so evil is that they offer vast wealth to our society’s best and brightest in exchange for spending their lives being non-productive. I want our geniuses to be proving theorems and curing cancer and developing fusion reactors, not designing algorithms to flip billions of shares in microseconds.”

Gambling is an addiction, and the addicted need help. A tax on these microsecond trades could sober up Wall Street addicts and return them to productive labor, and transform Wall Street from an out-of-control casino back into a place where investors pledge their capital for the development of useful products.

THE TOBIN TAX GAINS MOMENTUM

Various proposals for a Tobin tax have received renewed media attention in recent months. President Obama gave indirect support for the idea in a Press briefing on July 22, when he recommended that the government consider new fees on financial companies pursuing “far out transactions”. UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who has resisted pushes for a Tobin tax in the past, said at the G20 meeting in Scotland on November 7 that a tax on financial trading could prevent excessive risk-taking and fund future bank rescues. It “cannot be acceptable,” he said, that banks enjoy the rewards of their successful trades yet leave taxpayers to pick up the cost of their failures. Governments spent more than $500 billion in the past year bailing out banks. U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner opposed the tax, but the fact that it was being seriously considered was a major development. The French finance minister said, “It’s not so exotic and it even seems reasonable.”

In the U.S., a bill called “Let Wall Street Pay for Wall Street’s Bailout Act of 2009”, proposing to tax short-term speculation in certain securities, was introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) last February; and a different bill to regulate derivative trades was approved by the Financial Services Committee in October. Derivatives are essentially bets on whether the value of currencies, commodities, stocks, government bonds or virtually any other product will go up or down. Derivative bets can cause shifts in overall market size reaching $40 trillion in a single day. Just how destabilizing short-term speculation can be — and just how lucrative a tax on it could be — is evident from the mind-boggling size of the market. The Bank for International Settlements estimates that in 2008, annual trading in over-the-counter derivatives amounted to $743 trillion globally – more than ten times the gross domestic product of all the nations of the world combined. Another arresting fact is that just five super-rich commercial banks control 97% of the U.S. derivatives market: JPMorgan Chase & Co., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.

Promoters of international development have suggested that a mere.005% tax could raise between $30 billion and $60 billion per year, enough for the G7 countries to double international aid. Other proponents favor the larger 1% tax originally proposed by James Tobin. The much-needed income from a U.S. tax could be split between federal and state governments.

PROS AND CONS

Opponents of the tax, led by the financial sector, argue that it would kill bank jobs, reduce liquidity, and drive business offshore. Supporters respond that Tobin tax profits could be used to create new jobs, and that while the speculative market would shrink, the small size of the tax would hardly affect overall cash flows. More than raising money, the tax could be an effective tool for discouraging short-term traders, who often make money on very small margins. Dani Rodrik, Professor of Political Science at Harvard, writes:

“The beauty of a Tobin tax is that it would discourage short-term speculation without having much adverse effect on long-term international investment decisions. Consider, for example, a tax of 0.25% applied to all cross-border financial transactions. Such a tax would instantaneously kill the intra-day trading that takes place in pursuit of profit margins much smaller than this, as well as the longer-term trades designed to exploit minute differentials across markets…. Meanwhile, investors with longer time horizons going after significant returns would not be much deterred by the tax.”

Besides technical questions about how to implement the tax internationally, the offshore argument probably presents the most serious challenge. Should a Tobin tax pass in the U.S., investors would be likely to move to other markets beyond its reach. The U.S. could penalize traders for doing business abroad, but governments in major markets like Germany and London would no doubt need to endorse the tax for any meaningful shift to be seen. Some experts have argued that the Tobin tax would be best implemented by an international institution such as the United Nations. But other observers see any international tax as a move toward further strengthening the power of the global financial oligarchs. Just the fact that the United Nations, the G20, and the Bank for International Settlements are discussing this option, however, suggests that we the people need to jump in and stake out our claim, before we lose the proceeds to international bodies controlled by global bankers. The tax needs to be collected by the U.S. Treasury and go into U.S. coffers. It needs to reach Main Street, where it can be used to stimulate local business and investment.

Officials from the International Monetary Fund insist that implementing a Tobin tax would be logistically impossible. But Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize winning economist and former World Bank leader, disagrees. In Istanbul in early October, he said that a Tobin tax was not only necessary but, thanks to modern technology, would be easier to implement than ever before. “The financial sector polluted the global economy with toxic assets,” he said, “and now they ought to clean it out.”

Economist Hazel Henderson proposes a computerized system for imposing a graduated tax that is designed to kill “bear raids” (organized attacks by short sellers). Bear raids directed at vulnerable currencies have been known to collapse whole economies. She writes:

“Such a currency exchange tax would be simple to collect using a computerized system, which can be installed on trading screens, such as the Foreign Exchange Transaction Reporting System (FXTRS). This system operates like an electronic version of Wall Street’s venerable ‘uptick rule’… to curb naked short-selling. The FXTRS computerized uptick rule would gradually raise the tax up to a maximum of 1% whenever a bear raid starts attacking a weak currency. Such bear raids are rarely to ‘discipline’ a country’s policies, as traders claim, but rather to make quick profits.”

Henderson notes that world economies have become so interlinked that such win-lose strategies are no longer sustainable:

“In systems terms, the global economy, by virtue of its real-time technological inter-linkages, has become a de facto global commons, a common resource of all its users. Such commons require win-win agreements, rules and standards applicable to all users. If normal competitive behavior (win-lose) continues, the result is lose-lose as competition between players leads to sub-optimization and the system itself absorbs risks and eventually can break down, as witnessed in the current crisis.”

The financial rescue operations to date have been win-lose, with Main Street being sacrificed at the altar of Wall Street. Some 48 states have faced budget crises in the past year, forcing them to cut libraries, schools, and police forces, and to raise taxes on income and sales. A sales tax on the exotic financial products responsible for precipitating the economic crisis could help level the playing field and put some points on the populist side of the scoreboard.

[For links to sources, see author’s website below.]

Weight Transfer

This article focuses on the third Concept Golf principle, weight transfer. Before I explain weight transfer and its importance, I would like to discuss the whole Concept Golf idea of what the golf swing is really all about.

The five Concept Golf Swing Principles are the definition of the golf swing. They create a total, complete definition of the swing. They create an understanding that allows you, the golfer, to make an effective swing without thinking about your body or the process. The focus of the five principles is never on the mechanics of the five principles; it is always on the understanding of the total idea of the athletic motion or, in this case, the golf swing.

With that being said, let’s examine the weight transfer principle. The first two principles, Address Position and Alignment, are the static principles that take place before the swing motion begins. Weight transfer is the first of the dynamic principles.

Weight transfer is the foundation of the entire swing motion. Without proper weight transfer, nothing else in your entire swing will work properly! This is the foundation upon which the whole golf swing is built. If the foundation of your swing is made of quicksand — such as the several hundred so-called “perfect” positions in which you “must” hold your body — a slight shift in the wind will cause the entire swing to crumble. If your swing is built on a rock-solid foundation comprised of sound, fundamental ideas, you can withstand all that the world throws at you and still hit good shots.

The great players have that solid foundation. Nicklaus, Hogan, Nelson and a few others have that unshakable underpinning that they can’t be talked out of. When the principles of the swing make sense and work, it is very unlikely that you will try to “fix” your swing because of a few bad shots — or even a few bad weeks.

Weight transfer is simply the moving of the body’s weight to the back foot and then back to the front foot. The baseball pitcher moves his weight to the back foot and then to the front foot in order to utilize the strength of his body and his legs in moving his body around. In the same way, you must use the strength of your body to move your body around. You use your legs to cause the trunk of your body to move, which in turn causes your arms to be moved so that they don’t have to move themselves.

Virtually all athletic motions are based on the legs using the feet to move the body. Once again, consider the earlier example of the pitcher throwing the ball. What does he use to cause the body to move? He uses his legs, through his feet. The ground provides the resistance for the feet so that the legs can do all of the work. The arm does not move itself in order for the pitcher or the golfer to be effective.

Without proper weight transfer the other principles are meaningless. The whole purpose of having the feet and legs move the body is to keep the arms relaxed and allow them to have maximum speed and consistency, returning the club through the ball for a true shot. Most bad shots are a result of the arms trying to do all of the work.

If the arms try to work independently of the body and move themselves, the muscles will tighten and thus move more slowly. When the arms tighten, the immediate result is a real loss of club speed which results in poor shots. Very frequently the club will hit the ground before it can get to the ball.

For good, consistent shots the arms must be followers, not independent leaders. The arms can (and will) follow the body effectively because they are attached at the shoulders. They will be swung along the path through the ball to the target. Weight transfer is a simple concept: weight to the back, weight to the front. When working with students, I have them assume a good address position, then simply pick up the front (left) foot, followed by the back (right) foot in order to understand the concept and the rhythm of the weight transfer motion. One hundred percent of your weight goes to the right foot, and then one hundred percent to the left foot. This creates the swing; the arms simply follow.

Some will say that the problem is that the head is moving with the body and not staying perfectly still. Now, that is a real problem — especially for Curtis Strange, a back-to-back US Open winner. He has a very generous lateral movement of his whole body to the right. We’ve been told that the head MUST stay perfectly still during the swing or you will miss the ball. Or worse than that, your buddies will say, “Youlooked up.” I think we have been taught this “Myth of The Still Head” because the good ball striker “felt” like his head didn’t move when he swung. This myth started before the advent of movie cameras and it became a “law” that the camera could not undo. People tend to accept what they are told — not what actually takes place — as truth. We have accepted the myth of a perfectly still head because it has been told to us so many times. However, it is not true and never has been — so feel free to move your head with your body as your body moves to the right and to the left. NEVER try to keep your head still; it will ruin your whole swing.

Proper weight transfer is a pure lateral movement to the right and then to the left. It’s a very simple motion with no attempt to turn. Don’t try to turn the body, just move your weight over to the right foot and then over to the left foot, keeping the front of your body facing the ball. Some of you may ask, “That’s just fine, but don’t I have to try to turn?” I would say, “No.” Most golfers think of a turn as the whole body (the shoulders and the hips) turning. The shoulders will rotate without you consciously attempting to make them turn. There are a couple of reasons you don’t want the hips to turn.

The “coiling” (creating greater strength) of the body comes when there is resistance. The shoulders rotate but the hips and lower body resist and the body gets stronger. You want the hips to remain facing forward so that the right leg and foot can stay in a position of strength. If the hips turn, they will pull the right foot out of position and put your weight and pressure on the outside of your heel, rather thankeeping it on the inside front part of your right foot. You cannot throw a ball with any speed or power if your weight is on the outside of your right foot; it deadens the lower body. Try throwing a ball and getting your weight to the outside of your right foot. You have no power. You don’t want to try to turn the entire body; just let the shoulders rotate.

Since proper weight transfer is so important, how do you begin? Stand as if you were having a conversation, but with your feet spread shoulder-width inside your heels. Next, simply pick your left foot up in the air. Notice how all of your weight goes to your right foot. Now lift up your right foot. Notice how all your weight goes to the left foot. It’s not overly complex, but it is very effective. That’s all there really is to the weight transfer principle. Stand on the right foot, then stand on the left foot — without any attempt to turn.

If you are still convinced that weight transfer is not for you because it breaks too many “rules,” let’s examine a swing with the body turning and one that uses the proper lateral motion of weight transfer. With the “turn swing,” the swing is made with a conscious effort to turn in one spot while keeping the head still. Notice the path the club travels with that type of swing. It goes inside very quickly and returns to the ball, then back to the inside very quickly (See the illustration below). It is on line to the target for only a moment.

The “turn swing” also makes you have a reverse weight shift: weight to the left, then to the right. A reverse weight shift is a “power robber” and has the club on the line to the target for a very short time. On the other hand, proper weight transfer makes you powerful and will keep the club on the target line a long time. This works (See the illustration below).

Weight transfer is one of the five fundamental principles which form the foundation of an effective golf swing. In fact, it is the foundation of the entire swing motion. Without proper weight transfer, nothing else in your entire swing will work properly! Build your golf game on the rock-solid foundation of the five Concept Golf swing principles.

Concept Golf is a revolutionary golf instruction system unlike any other, producing immediate, life-long, dramatic improvements in any golfer from beginners to Pro’s.

Cloudy With a Chance of Misinformation

Let me ask you a question. What if the weatherman says it is going to snow tomorrow morning and, when you wake up, it is sunny and dry? Is your world not turned upside down? It’s not, you say? Then let me ask you one more question. Why, if information such as this is not life-altering, do so many people make it the topic of discussion every time they open their mouths?

What is it about the weather that makes it the default for 97% of all communication with strangers in our society? Is that really the only thing we believe we have in common with one another? And what is it about elevators that make us talk about the weather?

“Hello.”

“Hello.” Brrr, it’s cold out there!”

“It is. And I hear that it is supposed to snow all day.”

“Geez. Gotta love winter.”

“Yeah! 4 more months of this.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Well, have a good day.”

“You, too. Stay warm.”

I honestly do not recall ever having a conversation in an elevator that did not revolve around the weather forecast. It seems to be one of those things in our society that we latch on to like an old, smelly security blanket, ridden with holes. For some reason, we MUST know what the weather is going to be like at all times. Not only can we turn on our local news 7 times a day and see what is happening with our weather, but we can actually watch The Weather Channel and never miss a single forecast for the entire world! 24 hours a day, 7 days a week… all weather, all the time! Oh, for joy!

If that is not bad enough, we love to make sure the weather is a part of the negativity that we so embrace in our culture. Have you ever stopped to think that a “20% chance of rain” often means that there is an 80% chance of sun? I have yet to hear any meteorologist say it that way.

Want to know the weather? Look outside! You know where you live… you know the season… you know the 2-3 possibilities of what the weather will bring on any given day. I have worked with enough Meteorologists to know that there is a reason it is called weather “prediction.” Why do we feel the need to check the weather several times a day? There are times when you would like to plan for something that is weather dependent… I get it. However, simply put a “plan B” in place and move on!

OK, what is the point of all this?

Well, for one, we let things we cannot control take over our lives. In addition, we let inconsequential things affect whether we are miserable or happy. The problem with that is that we often discount the positive things that would make us happy and empower the negative things that make us miserable by dwelling on them.

So, how do we change this? Let me assure you that it is as easy as flipping a switch!

Here are 5 sure-fire ways to go from negative to positive in 10 seconds flat:

1. Stop making your life so difficult when you do not have to. If you are focusing on something over which you have zero control, stop and focus on what you have total control over. Then take action.

o An example of this might be you fretting over a weather forecast of a blizzard in the morning during rush hour. Your thoughts go straight to “I have a meeting at 8:00am! I’m going to be late! It’s going to throw off the entire day! Everyone will be miserable from the drive in!” Blah, blah, blah. Hold on… let me wipe away the tears. You have no control over the weather or over how other people may or may not react to it, right? Yet, if we focus on those things, we get all upset. Upset = miserable. SO, let’s “flip the switch.” Over what do you have total control here? Can you leave a half an hour earlier than you normally do? Can you get your stuff for the meeting ready tonight instead of trying to collect everything in the morning when you are already rushing? Can you choose to listen to something funny on the way to work instead of the depressing and rarely insightful news? SURE YOU CAN! YOU have total control of those things! Control = happy.

2. You will never change others. Stop trying! Shake your head if you must and move on. Rarely are the things we are shocked about truly shocking. We are who we are and we will never be who we are not. If you have issues with someone else, have the integrity to be honest, be respectful, and to agree to disagree.

3. You can always change yourself. Start taking inventory! If you have issues with many people, you may consider looking in a mirror. At times, it certainly may seem like you are the only sane person in the room. However, when enough people look at you funny when you give your 2 cents worth, you may need to figure out how you are appearing in the world. If you get stuck on this, go ask someone you can trust to be honest with you. It is said that sometimes the truth hurts. You need to decide if the truth hurts more or less than a negative appearance in the world.

4. Always ask yourself “could this be worse?” Chances are it could be MUCH worse! Everyday, you pass an accident on the side of the road, or you hear a helicopter and look up to see Life Flight, or you hear about someone you know of or care about receiving challenging news, such as a death or layoff or illness. Life happens. Be in the moment. Be grateful. Be happy. It could always be so much worse.

5. Think of your plan B whenever you commit to a Plan A. It just makes life so much easier if you were proactive enough to say “what if?” Even if you do not do something about it, you will be more prepared if you have given it a thought when something (you cannot control) happens to thwart your Plan A.

Getting to “happy” is attainable by anyone. Getting rid of the mind clutter and minutia is an integral part of that. Here is a challenge from The Identity Coach: try going with your very own weather instinct for one week. You may be amazed at how often you are right. And how often you are less stressed about what “might” happen.

The takeaways here are simple: Life happens. There are things over which you have no control and there are things over which you have total control, focus on those things over which you have total control. Take a little time away from looking at others to look at you. Be proactive sometimes instead of being reactive always. Lastly, something I heard my grandma Estelle utter often,” this too shall pass.” Go find the joy in your life!

Travel Oahu – Experience Hawaii Like A Local

Every year millions of visitors from Japan, mainland USA and beyond land at

Honolulu International Airport ready to begin their vacation in paradise. Soon after

landing, most visitors hop in a cab or bus sent from the hotel and begin the journey

past downtown Honolulu and on to their reservation at a Waikiki hotel.

The allure of Waikiki is immediate. The packed streets, sounds of the beach, and

exotic histories call to the traveler who soon hits the streets. Venturing out in

Waikiki can be quite exciting. The streets are filled with foreign languages, throngs

of tourists are dressed in their beach best, and the beginning of surf history can be

seen at the end of the street. Waikiki can be so exciting that many visitors never

escape its imaginary borders. Approximately 6 million of these visitors miss the very

sites that locals find so endearing, remaining within the two square miles of Waikiki.

For those travelers interested in seeing Oahu through its residents’ eyes, please

read on.

Magic Island Beach Park – This popular park is located just west of

Waikiki, across the street from the Ala Moana Shopping Center. The park includes

two beaches, a three mile jogging path, tennis courts, and more. A walk around the

park will expose the center of Hawaiian culture – the family. Large extended families

gather around hibachis, spending the day together with a good food and plenty of

sun. The beaches are significantly less crowded, so for a great day, grab a barbecue

and head down to the beach at Magic Island!

The Contemporary Museum Honolulu – This small museum is located

high on a ridge at Makiki Heights Drive. The drive up the ridge offers amazing vistas

that would otherwise be missed by most Oahu visitors. The relatively small museum

offers changing exhibits in its five galleries. After traversing the galleries, visitors

can wander out onto the sculpture gardens. This is where the true glory of the

museum is revealed. The 3.5 acres of sculpture and meditative gardens are open to

the public and offer some of the most amazing views of Honolulu.

Leong’s Cafe – Many visitors look to a lu’au for more than entertainment;

they are after some great Hawaiian food. However, if you’re interested in real local

style Hawaiian food, you can’t beat Leong’s Cafe located at 2343 North King Street.

As a favorite for plate lunches, kalua pig, lu’au stew, lomi lomi, and more, locals

have been visiting this cafe for over 50 years!

Champion Malasadas – The local treat called Malasadas are so popular

that Fat Tuesday has been re-christened Malasada Day throughout the Hawaiian

Islands. One of the best and most famous bakeries is Champion Malasadas located

at 1926 South Beretania Street. These light portuguese hole-less donuts come with

and without filling and are absolutely worth the effort in getting them!

Honolulu Chinatown – A walk through the streets of Chinatown in like a

walk into another time and place. Whether you are looking for dim sum, fresh

produce, handmade leis, or the new hip lounge, you are sure to find it in Chinatown.

The streets and shops are exotic, offering items not found in a typical american

grocery. Guided walking tours are available for this historic district, but often the

best way is to simply meander through the streets, stopping whenever your interest

has been piqued.

If you are interested in seeing Oahu through a local’s eyes, be sure to spend some

time outside of Waikiki. Stop by some or all of the spots listed above and see some

of what truly makes Hawaii special.

The Cabin

The schusshing from her skis was the only sound in the long alpine valley. The snow sparkled in the full moon, the peaks surrounding her enhancing the glow and helping to light her way. Lost in the rhythm of movement, her legs kept the stretch-glide-kick-stretch-glide-kick in an even, terrain-crossing tempo. She tried shrugging her shoulders to adjust the pack’s weight and felt the knot that had been growing there for hours burn. Wanting to make the cabin before sunrise and realizing she still had at least an hour to ski, she gripped the poles, pushed and propelled her burning thighs to a faster pace.

The down side to two weeks out in the middle of nowhere in Alaska was that you had to fend for yourself. There was no friendly neighbor to reach out to for nearly 100 square miles – and that was just the way she had wanted it. When she had called Danny and asked if she could use the cabin, he was quick to remind her that it was hardly used anymore and he had not been up there since early fall. She had not even tried to bother to explain that right now all she wanted was away from people; Danny was a people person – he would never understand and then would spoil it by showing up because he thought she needed company. She smiled wryly inside her faceguard as she remembered the melodramatic hurt in his voice when she promised to shoot anyone who showed up, even the owner. She sure hoped he got the message, good-hearted kid that he was, she was never sure if he listened or not.

Coming to the last rise before the cabin, she stopped at the top of the hill. Peace engulfed her like a blanket as she looked out over the valley. Crisscrossed with moon shadows and moose trails it was the epitome of peaceful serenity. This was where she needed to be to figure out what she was going to do next, and how to let the hurt go. But, first, there were the practical considerations. She arrived at the cabin just as the sun was hitting the west side peaks lighting them with pink morning glow.

She easily fell in to the chores to get the cabin ready for the habitation, hoping that the movement would loosen the knot registering her muscles’ complaints to carrying the pack. It had been a few years, and she still knew the way, but her muscles were telling her they had forgotten what it felt to carry a full pack on an all-night ski. She knew she would pay for it in the morning, but for now a fire, some food and the bed were what she needed. Picking up the kindling for the stove, she took a final look at the sunlight on the mountains before heading inside. The way her foot automatically slid back to put the draft stopper in place at the bottom of the door made her feel like the cabin was welcoming her home.

That was what she loved about coming here. Nothing changed inside the cabin; it was always the same, timeless. Dividing the single room was a rope with clothespins for drying outer garments that draped higher over the pot-bellied wood stove. The old rocker and the small frame bed took up the back part of the room. Smiling wryly, she looked at the cabin’s “kitchen” which consisted of two metal tubs, some shelves on the wall with an assortment of candles, matches and survival rations above and a small table that was kept level with a folded matchbook cover just below. She could still see the gouge marring the back of the chair from the weekend she and Rich had decided to have a knife throwing competition. Shaking her head to dismiss the reverie she opened the flue and knelt to start a fire.

It had only taken her a couple of hours to do all the chores to settle in and make the cabin comfortable, yet the sun was casting an orange/peach evening alpine glow on the eastern peaks as she started to use some of the newspaper as chinking for the holes in the cabin walls. She used one of the candles from the kitchen stores as a way to find where the cold was coming in and was soon efficiently plugging the worst of the holes. Completing the last wall, she tossed the remaining paper on top of the wood in the woodbin and set the candle in the holder on the table.

A soft smile crossed her face as she remembered the night Rich had nailed the tin candleholder to the table. No more sober than he was at the time she could not argue the logic behind the act as they had been talking about people taking everything that was not “nailed down.” She sighed and gave a few moments thought to what could have been, and then, turning from the memory altogether, began preparing a dinner for one. She did not even bother to light the lamp, she blew out the candle and ate in the flickering light escaping from the woodstove before falling exhausted into bed.

Shivering, she pulled the covers tighter around her shoulders. Damn it was freezing! Why doesn’t someone turn up the heat? It took her a moment to realize where she was. Remembering how she hated the “middle of the night feed the stove scamper,” she was careful to pull the covers over the warm spot as she slid out of bed. Stealing a moment in the blissful heat emanating from the stove she waited until the wood fully caught before closing the door and turning down the damper. Hoping it was going to be enough to last the remainder of the night she climbed back between the covers and attempted to recapture what warmth was left.

Freezing her head mid-turn as she was snuggling down into a chilly pillow, she strained to hear. Surely, her ears were playing a trick on her. She had almost convinced herself that she had been wrong when… Yes! There! Distorted by distance and faint as the breath of a night wind she heard it. Smiling to herself, she snuggled down into the growing warmth of the bed. She had not expected to hear the pack tonight as she had seen no sign of them on the trek in and it normally took them a few days to come see who was at the cabin. The pack were old friends and their distant but distinct presence helped her slip back into slumber with a soft smile on her lips.

Picking up the boxes she set the powdered eggs and pancake mix on the table before grabbing the snow pail and going outside for more to melt. “Oh! Well now!” She stopped short as she shut the door behind her. “Just how are all of you? I didn’t expect you guys until this afternoon.”

On the other side of rough wood deck railing sat three large canines, wolves, large and intelligent. Six inquisitive eyes watched her as she crossed to the side of the porch and filled the snow pail with a practiced scoop. Turning back towards the door, she addressed the animals and asked her usual questions of greeting: “So, where is he? Did you bring him back to me?” Holding the door open, she called to the canines: “Artemis. Arthur. Amber. Come!” At the slap of her hand on her thigh streaks of black, brown and amber shot past her, leaping into the warmth of the cabin. She laughed at their antics and shaking her head, followed them into the now much smaller feeling room. The wolves bounded from one side of the room to the other.

“All right you three! Settle down.” Setting the pail on the back of the stove to melt she dropped down on her knees and with a flick of her fingers gave Amber the “okay to approach” signal. Burying her face into the amber ruff she inhaled. Fresh air and must mixed with cold tickled her nostrils. Amber returned the affection by promptly knocking her flat on her back. Knowing she had no choice and laughing so deep it nearly hurt, she gave herself over to a tangle of fur, tongues, paws, cold noses, shrieks and giggles as Amber’s brothers took the opportunity to turn the welcome into a game of pile on the human.

“Oooof! Okay, off. Off! OFF!” she scolded as she finally pushed the animals away. Clapping her hands in command, she scrambled up to her feet. Obeying faster than their wild nature would indicate, the wolves laid down sharing the area near the stove. “I guess I better make some extra pancakes, but not too many.” Shaking a finger at the group, she continued “You eat better when you eat what you hunt.” Feeling no fear at turning her back to the three one hundred twenty-five pound predators, she pulled the mixing bowl down from the shelf and began adding ingredients to it. Turning to the stove to retrieve the snow-melt water, she shook her head and wondered “How do you three look so darned cute? You’re wolves. Don’t you know you’re supposed to be ferocious?” With a warm smile she made sure to give pats, lingering on each for a moment to marvel at the warmth and intelligence she felt there.

The wolves were really the only connection she allowed herself to have with Rich. It was hard to believe that tonight he will have been gone five years. But it was the summer they had spent together at the cabin while he did his research as a biologist for the state that kept her coming back. She had come to love the wolves as much as she loved him.

It had been a summer of magic, exploration, making love by the heat of the fire and the light of the moon, long hikes and skinny dipping in water so cold it turned their lips blue. Touching, exploring, learning and knowing each other in ways no one else ever tried. That summer had been idyllic. He had proposed down by the beaver dam with a ring of woven reed grass and they had left the valley the next morning, “heading back to civilization and people” as he had called it. He had gone to South America in the fall to do some kind of study in the Andes, she was never sure what it was other than it had something to do with little mammals. He had been so excited when he left – for a small town boy from Chugiak, Alaska a trip to South America for six months was so very exciting. Then, that phone call.

A whine and Amber leaned heavy against her leg and brought her out of her reverie. Reaching down she gave the ginger colored canine a grateful pat on the head. “Thanks sweetie. Sometimes some things just shouldn’t be thought about anymore.” With a decided change in tone, she addressed the other two wolves: “Okay. Artemis? Arthur? Are you boys ready? Let’s make you guys some pancakes, shall we?” Grabbing the bowl and flat grill she set to the stove and stirred the ingredients in the bowl giving time for the griddle to heat. The wolves, taking up most of the floor space, watched as she began to cook.

Outside in the real world it was hard to remember, but here it was easy. It was easy to remember the scents of sandalwood and patchouli, his favorites. Here she could remember his smile, the broken front tooth that did not mar his good looks. It finished off the scar that seamed his cheek, he had told her it was from a childhood incident and made it clear that was all he would say. Here she could remember how secure it had felt to take on more physically demanding challenges with him. Who else could have gotten her to go rappelling?

Her thoughts flipped with the pancakes and brought her back to the present. Life wasn’t so bad, she had friends, she had family, but damn… she was lonely and she missed him. That was why she had to come here… to be able to keep him alive in her thoughts. She was terrified she would lose her ability to remember him if she did not keep coming back. As she removed the first round of pancakes, waving them cool and dropping them on the floor for the wolves, she forced herself to think of her future… something she did not do much anymore. She was always living in the present and had been since receiving that phone call from Danny. But she knew she was wearing that like a shell and somehow she needed to find a way to break out of it. A part of her never wanted to leave the valley, but life was not like that. No matter how many times she came back here she could not make that summer happen again, she could not make Rich come alive, but she could remember him! Finishing her breakfast, she tossed the last of the pancakes to the wolves and using hot water from the stove, made quick work of cleaning the kitchen.

“Alright, I gave you fattening human food, now it’s time to run.” Reaching up for the harness on the wall, she stepped into her ski boots, snapped them on, and pulling on her parka and gloves opened the door. As the wolves sauntered out she teased: “Okay, if having them makes you move that slow, no more pancakes for you.”

When they hit the porch the wolves leapt into the snow and began rolling, playing and nipping at one another like puppies. Their bright eyes and quick response to her “here” command let her know they had not forgotten. Artemis squirmed in anticipation as she approached him; Arthur, the most wolf-like always watched her with a wary eye; while Amber, the last into the harness waited patiently until the final buckle was done then licked her in the face a long happy lick. Looping the reins of the harness over the railing, she put on her skis, then grabbed the lead. Bracing herself she gave the “Hi-yah” command that Rich had taught them. Starting from when they were puppies being hand raised because their mother abandoned them, the harness had been more of a game than a chore. She remembered how she and Rich had made it a game for themselves too by making a racecourse around the valley and challenging one another to see who could make the best time. A wry smile crossed her lips as she remembered his frustration that her time on the “wolf track” was always shorter. Promising herself not to cry, but losing the battle anyway, she gave the wolves their head and felt the rush of air as they broke into a full run. Ice prickled the skin at the outside of her eyes as her tears froze to her skin in the arctic air.

The air bit into her flesh as the wolves hit their stride and settled into the trek around the valley. It was a path they knew well. It started out being the path Rich had taken to check for bear in the summer. Loving the run, the wolves ran with the grace of the wind and the joy of abandon and she had to focus on holding her balance, enjoying the quick views of the mountains surrounding her. Tell’s Peak, the highest, was in the East and Crevit’s Crag answered it in the West. The others she never knew the name of and did not really care… they were beautiful, solid, always right there… they were… mountains.

The healing energy of the valley began to seep into her body as the wolves loped along their habitual track, tongue lolling from wide canine smiles. The cold seemed to be burning deep inside her, yet it cleansed somehow clearing the pain away. Or, maybe, the cold, being cold, just deadened it a little? She did not want to think hard enough to know the difference. She just wanted to be in the now: hear the wolves breathing, the pad of their feet on the snow, the feel of the cold air in her lungs… she just wanted to live, the last thing she wanted to do was think.

It was nearly dusk when the wolves returned her to the cabin. That was always the nice thing about letting them have their way. Like horses who knew the way home to the barn, they knew when it was time to come home and the best way to get there. Rich had teased her that it had nothing to do with actual intelligence and everything to do with knowing when and where it was feeding time. He had tried to explain something about this guy Pavlov, but she could never quite understand why someone would do that to a dog and all Rich could do was shake his head at her and laugh, then he had kissed her on the forehead.

Petting the ruff fur of each animal as she unstrapped them from the harness, she sent each animal off with a pat on the head. On her word “go” each of them headed off in their own direction. Artemis determinedly sniffing a moose trail, Arthur rolling over onto his back in the snow before heading into the trees. Amber giving a soft whine before quietly turning away. She knew they would be back in a matter of just a few minutes – they liked the warmth of the fire and human food.

Slam! She dropped the mixing bowls on the floor. SLAM! What was going on!? She ran to the door yelling: “Who’s out there? Who are you?” Taking the.41 from the holster by the door she unhooked the latch and opened the door a crack just in time to see Amber running towards the cabin. Slam! The wolf had thrown herself against the wall of the cabin full force!

“What are you doing Amber? Amber!” She dropped the gun back in the holster. Not even having time to get her coat before Amber’s brothers entered the cabin, she was completely passive as the boys each took gentle hold of her wrist in their mouths and pulled her toward the door, an echo of the “out please” game she and Rich had played with them as pups. She knew better than to fight them and let them lead her outside into the icy air. As soon as they were outside the boys let her go and all three wolves slowly walked away from the cabin.

They raised their muzzles to the sky and howled at the sheets of white, yellow, green, and red of the northern lights. Running across the sky from horizon to horizon, strips of color were lighting up the night. The lights were so bright they reflected off the peaks in a pearlescent echo. The swirling colors moved with sheets, rays, and flows holding her captive. She watched them dancing, swirling, moving. Somehow, the mournful tone of the wolves’ howling was the perfect accompaniment for the glory in sky and the depths of her thoughts. She was never sure when she started feeling him behind her. She was afraid to turn around. Sandalwood and patchouli! Oh God! Warmth, as if he melded his body to hers. Was it real? This was always the part where she doubted her sanity. His chin on her shoulder, his breath on her neck, warm and smelling like the rose hips he always ate. His voice whispering in words just beyond hearing; she did not care if he was real or not! It felt real and for this, for now, that was enough. She gave in. There was nothing else she could do. She watched the lights, she felt him with her and that he was watching the lights with her as they had done so many times. She just stood there, not thinking, just feeling; she knew she would never feel him like this again. She was not sure, but, just as the cold had started to register and break the spell, she thought that could have been his voice in a whisper of night air giving her the gift of a goodbye.

A flood of tears chilled her face as the emotions held behind a brittle veneer of fear for five years finally burst forth freeing her. She stood there in the cold as long as she could before turning to the warmth of the cabin. She was different, changed. She knew now. She knew she could go on, that she wanted to find something beyond herself and her memories of him. Glancing over her shoulder, she could see that the wolves were leaving… Amber turned one last time to howl mournfully before disappearing behind her brothers into the trees. She knew they would never be back. They had shared that one final time with she and Rich and now they had returned where they belonged – the wilds of the upper vale.

When she saw Danny show up the next morning she was glad, not irritated. Watching as he made his way across the valley, she had hot chocolate, fried potatoes and beef with gravy on the table when he arrived. For the first time in years, they sat and talked about the big brother he had loved so much and the man she had hoped to spend her life with, laughing and crying late into the night. In the morning, they closed up the cabin and left, knowing they were finally able to leave the grieving and pain behind. Rich would always be there with them, in their hearts, right where he belonged.

Fun And Easy Crockpot Recipes

There are many food items that can be created in crockpots and thanks to the different sizes and shapes of slow cookers that have been created, the cook is able to make the amount needed for the family or guests. Sometimes a filling soup is just right for lunch or dinner and there are quite a few crockpot soup recipes available. While looking through different easy crockpot recipes, check for some of the flavorful soups that cook in two hours, such as taco soup.

When you cook soup in the crockpot, the flavors blend as it cooks. The soup will not boil, which can cause ingredients to overcook and spoil the flavor and the texture. If you are looking for an easy and unique flavored meal, many of the taco soup recipes include corn, onions, kidney beans, beef, and fantastic seasonings to make a slightly spicy incredible South of the Border taste.

Some people like their soups thick and others enjoy the more liquid broth results. When you make a taco soup in the crockpot, you can easily adjust the texture by adjusting the recipe. Watch for recipes that give options, or for more liquid, exchange a can of diced tomatoes instead of tomato sauce. If you prefer to lessen the tomato taste, use beef broth instead, either from the can or you can make it yourself with bouillon cubes and water.

Garnish the soup with sour cream, grated cheese, and green onions, and put some corn chips or tortilla chips on the side. Have hot sauce available for those who want to spice up their soup. Like other crockpot recipes using ground beef, always brown the beef before putting it in the crockpot. Crockpot recipes for Mexican food are easy to follow and leave many options for side dishes. Warm tortillas with melted butter are a common side and for variety, place corn chips on the bottom of each bowl and dish the soup over them. Remember the salt content in the chips will add a special flavor of its own.

Easy Crockpot Recipes For Families And Guests

If you like the idea of taco soup, consider making one of the many recipes for crockpot chili. Attend a chili cook-off in your area and sample the many different flavors and ideas. Sometimes the contestants will share an idea or two with you, and you will be surprised to see how many people participate as contestants or visitors to these events. Try several recipes that you find while looking through crockpot chili sections and invite your family to help make a chili recipe unique to your family. Some of the ingredients that they mention might be black beans, sliced jalapenos, yellow peppers for color, mushrooms, peppercorns, or tomato paste.

Sometimes guests will be coming over for a celebration or to watch the big game on TV. Perhaps you and your friends want to have a movie marathon. Have each person bring an item for the crockpot chili, which can be added to the crockpot as they arrive. Once everyone is there and the chili is ready to go, start the crockpot, and enjoy a couple of movies or the game. Soon the chili will be ready and everyone can enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of chili. Some of the best chili toppings can be available on a small table or tray, including sour cream, corn chips, diced onions, cornbread, and avocado slices.

Fitness Mistakes and Weight Loss Secrets

Mistake # 1: Avoid these fitness mistakes

A common mistake made quite often is not including a weight routine and doing only cardio! The key to increasing your metabolism is developing lean muscle mass. As we age, muscle mass drops by 6% decreasing metabolism, lean mass and overall strength. This is especially true after the 40 years of age. Keeping your heart rate up and working out none stop, while you work your entire body, will increase fat burning.

Mistake # 2: Doing a hundred or more sit ups a day to lose belly fat.

It's a fact you can not spot train any part of your body, including the abs and doing thousands of sit ups will not trim your waistline. The focus has to be on reducing your overall body fat percentage. We all have six-pack abs, but they are hidden underneath fat. Since men naturally have a lower body fat than women, it's harder to do for women. It is important, however, to develop a strong core for lower back support and to prevent injury, but crunches are not the only way to do that. Try total body moves like planks and weighted wood chops for maximum results, and eat less calories than you burn to get the best results.

Secrets to Fitness Success # 1 – Set Your Goals

This may sound a little cliché, but it is very true. In order to achieve something that you set out to do, you must … 1. Clearly visualize what this "something" is 2. Know how you are going to go about measuring it. 3. Have a plan laying out your ways in which to get "it" 4. Know when it is that you are finally going to achieve it.

Always have a short-term goal and a longer-term goal, (Lack thereof is a major fitness mistake) and always writing your goals down with a clear map. The more motivated you are to reach your goal, the higher your chance of achieving it. What really drives you to lose 20 lbs? What is your reason for gaining 5 lbs of muscle or losing 20 lbs of fat? If your reason for the goal is not motivated enough for you to see the positive reward at the end of the tunnel, you might find yourself on the path to non-achievement. Be true to yourself be aware of these fitness mistakes, and be realistic about what you want to achieve, draw out a plan for how you are going to go about it, and keep your plan visible so that you are constantly reminded of it. Sometimes, I even tell my closest friends and family about my path to my goals so that they can encourage me along the way. Better yet, invite a friend to join you. Develop a routine!

Secret to Fitness Success and Weight loss # 2

It would be safe to say that diet is almost 70% of the weight loss battle, where as exercise is 30%. You'll be amazed at just how many calories you are eating in a day, or how few you are consuming. One of the biggest problems that people have is that they do not eat enough, or frequently enough. Most people do not eat enough of the food that is going to get them lean or they are uneducated about the nutritional value of most foods. A good rule of thumb is to keep a balanced diet of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. A good split in a 2000 calorie diet would include a breakdown of 40% carbs, 30% protein, and 30% fat. If you want to lose 1 lbs a week, you must eat 500 calories less than you burn for 7 days and a total of a 3500 calorie deficit equivalents 1 lb lost. NEVER SKIP BREAKFAST !! And if you are going to eat carbs, try to eat them at this time of day, and around the time of your workout. Try to eat 5 to 6 small meals a day, each meal maintaining of 200-300 calories. Increase the consumption of high density, low calorie foods, such as vegetables. It's good to have some lean protein and veggies for dinner. Limit the amount of sugars you eat, reduce consumption of alcohol. Increase the amount of water that you drink.

Note: You do not need to starve yourself in order to lose weight.

I Have a Plan For You

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."

Would not you just love for someone to say that to you? I know that I get tired being the leader in our family and just want to sit back and have someone else be in charge.

I have it all planned out.

Those are powerful words. How many times do you wake up and think, I'm not sure what direction to go in. Sure, you know how to get up and ready for work and how to drive there. But is that the direction you want your life to take? Is it the path you imagined when you were young and fresh out of college or high school? Did you get derailed somewhere along the way?

There have been days, weeks, and months in my life where I feared taking another step. Like Pavlov's dog, I'd learned the hard way what would happen if I moved in a particular direction. I'd experienced failure, disappointment, criticism, and embarrassment. There were days when it felt safer not to take any steps because at least that way I knew what would happen. The fear of the unknown was paralyzing.

If only someone had said to me, I have it all planned out, plans to take care of you.

I got married at a very young age. My friends and family said, no do not. You are just starting your life – you are only 18. Get through college, experience life before you settle down. But I knew best. I can remember saying, "I want a partner to go through life with and experience life together when we are young and can enjoy it." At that time my 20's and 30's seemed like old age and I imagined that when I was in that stage of my life a walker would have been required to maneuver my way through life. I needed to grab life while I was a teen before it was over.

So I married; A fresh out of boot camp Marine and we moved to a trailer off the Camp Lejuene base. I had no friends. We had no money. My contemporaries, the other military wives were younger than I and most were pregnant or already had a child. Life had made the decision for them.

I had a plan. Over time I came to realize it was not a very good plan. Let's be honest. We married on Saturday October 16, 1976. The following Thursday, while we were still on our honeymoon I realized it was not a very good plan. I had not even written the thank you notes for our wedding gifts and I was regretting my plan.

Within our first year of marriage he took off on a six month trip. It was during that time that I grew to grow up. No job, no hopes of a job because of the number of people looking versus the number of jobs available. Our car was reposed, we had no phone, and I had no money for food. He had the pay check go to him in case he wanted to site see while he was in the Mediterranean.

I found I could not take a step. Well, that's not true. I could walk to the 7/11 and buy a bottle of Lambruso wine and a carton of cigarettes.

What plan was this? I was very alone.

For seven years we did our best. After the Marines, the government and I put him through college. I did not have a degree but worked three jobs to make sure he did.

How I would have liked someone to say, I have plans to take care of you. Nope, I was on my own.

Over time he began to abuse me. I had allowed myself to become so low as to believe I deserved the path I traveled. But one day I woke up. I learned that he was abusing others and although it was okay in my mind for him to treat me poorly, it was not okay for him to do that to others. I took action. Swift. Someone spoke in my ear and led me on. Within days I 've taken legal action and found a new path, a new direction.

Over the years since then I have had hills and valleys in my life, but none so low.

The day I dated Johnny Bench. A definite peak. Loosing my Grandfather. A bad boss. Having my children. We all have hills and valleys in our lives. Some higher or lower than others. But do I have a plan?

I was raised to believe in God and I learned the stories in Sunday School but I was never a scholar of the Bible. As I grew older, I found I wanted to learn more about what was in that book. In particular when I was expecting my daughter – 40, over weight, fearing for her health, I turned to the Bible for comfort. I looked for answers. I prayed, asked for her safe birth and when she was born healthy, I moved on with my life.

God, for me, was someone you turn to for forgiveness or to ask for something. But basically I relied on myself for the plan and the path I would take.

This past year as I lived through some uncertainties in my life, I knew I needed a plan. But I was afraid. I've been taking the same path for so many years. I'd worn a rut that I was comfortable with. I felt as though control had been taken from me and I was afraid for our future. And then my Dad told me something that has changed my life.

You were never in control, Deborah. Never truly in control. God has a plan for you. Each time you try and take control you jump the tracks and find yourself stranded on the side of the rail. Like a toddler who scores of walking and raises their hands to be lifted and transported by their parents, when you reach out to God to take control, He puts you back on the tracks and sets you on your way never out of reach.

Read Jeremiah, 29:11. You'll find comfort.

"I know what I'm doing, says God. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."

I look back over my life and see the times when I turned away from God to booze or food for the answer to my troubles. He waited patiently for me to wake up and realize that I can not go it alone. I do not have the plan.

I will not abandon you.

I will give you a future with hopes.

Such powerful words.

I still try to be in control. That's just the type person I am. I do not need anyone. I can do it myself. But I find when I give in, when I let Him take control, a weight is lifted from my heart. I do not have to have all the answers. I do not have to be in control.

He has a plan for you too. He has a plan for every person who reaches up and says, I can not do it anymore. I do not want to be alone. I'm tired of making all the decisions. I'm afraid.

Reach out.

"I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out – plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for."

Master Your Light Switch to Set Love-Inspired Boundaries

Invisible dimmer switches are everywhere. They turn down the beams in the most unsuspecting moments- when our light is shining brightly and we are feeling good.

Most of us have had the experience of feeling great, until we run into someone who has an invisible dimmer switch in their pocket. We feel light and happy and then… pow… we are on a downslide.

Every moment of every day our emotional and personal space is impacted, subtly, and often subconsciously, by the energy of people around us. We connect with these vibes in coffee shops, at work or over the phone. Even a person thinking about us affects our energy field, whether near or far.

Do you remember a time you felt great and met a friend who was unhappy, irritable or complaining? Most likely, you felt your own well-being deflate, even if you didn’t exactly realize what was happening at the time. Negative emotions spread like a virus, impacting the energetic field, and decreasing the vibrancy of everyone they infect.

At times everyone needs to blow off steam or have a little gripe fest. Yet, people who chronically offer up behavior that impacts others in a negative way are a nuisance. Who likes to cozy up to a downer or someone with crazy-making behavior anyway?

People who aggravate with their challenging behaviors are people who are hurting. They don’t know how to connect with their internal happiness or connect with others is an intimate way. They’ve become hunters who use their behavior to help them feel better, often at your expense. Whether they are looking for an ability to feel safe, in control, important or alive; people who are hurting scramble to connect with themselves.

Often these behaviors begin as a result of childhood trauma, neglect or extreme life stressors. They arise from a need to survive, and later those same survival patterns create hard-to-deal-with patterns.

You will see these behaviors in the drama queens or kings, chronic victims, controllers, the “me” people, abusers, incessant talkers, bullies, interrogators, gossipers or the emotionally fragile. These behaviors create dense emotional energy.

People with these tendencies are not bad people, yet their habits tend to dishearten everyone around them. If you stay plugged into people with these aggravating energy patterns, you will feel drained; you’ll feel your life force diminish and your own energetic reserves depleted.

We’re all susceptible to people who hook our attention and interact with us in challenging ways. It takes awareness and our life force to deal with them. When our own energy reserves are low-when we’re sick or tired-we’re more susceptible to the dimming affect they provide.

If you scan your current life, who comes to mind that may be an energy drain on you? Do you have people who don’t respect you or your space? Or, people who chronically emotionally abuse you?

Sometimes we take on the negativity of others and feed it to our self.

  • A parent criticizes you ~ you judge yourself and feel shame.
  • A friend becomes upset when you say no ~ you feel guilty.
  • Your partner tells you what to do ~ you feel pressured and resentful.
  • A sibling complains about you ~ you believe her and you suffer.
  • A colleague gossips incessantly ~ you want to be a “good friend” and join in.
  • You live with someone who is chronically angry ~ you blame yourself and feel depressed.
  • A colleague chronically stresses about the bad conditions of the world ~ you take that on and worry consumes you.
  • A friend is in chronic drama ~ you feel burdened.

It is not that people with energy-draining habits should be judged or shunned for the effect they create- yet, with compassion for their state or plight, you must honor and respect yourself as well. Setting healthy boundaries around negative behavior is an essential and loving action.

Being loyal to yourself in the face of people whose habits bring you down is necessary for your well-being. It requires you learn to speak up, make loving choices and take action to set love- inspired boundaries… that is, You Loving On You!

Healthy boundaries release passivity, reject abuse and support you responding to your life. As you set clear emotional and physical boundaries you are saying what you are willing, or not willing, to accept or tolerate. Boundaries that support life are the Yes’s and No’s spoken from self-respect.

Self-love sets clear and healthy boundaries, and in turn, setting these boundaries creates more love within us.

With love infusing our system, we know how to take care of our needs, feelings, body, heart and safety. Without self-love, our reactions based in fear-waffle, attack, acquiesce, shut down or manipulate to get results.

When healthy boundaries are in place, you trust yourself. You know you can take care of yourself wherever you are and with whomever you contact. You open to new possibilities and expand into more freedom. You feel safe, comfortable and connected in your world and you easily embrace the unknowns of life. When you trust yourself you have a deeper capacity to create true intimacy.

When our energetic field is formed by fear-based survival habits, we tend to go to one of two extremes: we become too concrete or inflexible, or too permeable and flexible. As we take care of our self through setting clear boundaries, we can hold a middle ground of well-being and experience Just Right!

Fine-tune your boundary setting-radar by seeing and sensing an energetic egg about two feet around your physical body. This field emanates an energetic resonance that stems from your thoughts, dreams, emotions, values and beliefs. This is your personal energy, an ethereal cushion of comfort that is yours to experience. It is the life force you cultivate and your most precious commodity. You have the right to choose what you experience in your egg. What will it be? Force, Abuse and Disrespect? Or, Flow, Loving Kindness and Respect?

If you have tendencies to be too concrete, you tend to implement inflexible black and white rules. These rules limit your ability to truly connect and emotional isolation sets in. Others may see you as aloof and distant. The security that allows you to interact with people isn’t available. As isolation becomes familiar, you shut down and retreat into your own safety zone. Here, your world contracts. Reaching out for support and connection is challenging.

If you meet life with weak boundaries, your permeability absorbs energy too easily. You may tend to merge with others, often instantaneously. You may become immediate fast friends, enmeshing through story. Or, as lovers you hop into bed before friendship and common values are established. Without healthy boundaries, you feel confused as to where you begin and end.

You may genuinely love helping others, yet the tendency to give too much of yourself causes you to go against yourself. Excessive care taking and super-responsibility lives here. The real care-taking that needs to be done is within you. Who might you be, if you weren’t available for others all the time? What might you have to attend to if you focused on valuing you, your time and life?

When you value yourself, you send a message to others to value you as well. You teach people how to treat you. As you set love-inspired boundaries you gain an increased ability to be guided by your internal wisdom, that GPS of truth. You stand up for yourself, speak what is true for you and ask for what you need you are saying a big ‘Yes’, a big ‘I Count’ to yourself.

When you recognize any of these symptoms below, you know it is time to adjust your light to the person you are interacting with.

Dimmer-Switch People Affect Your Vitality

  • Your mood dampens and your energy drops. You feel agitated or impatient. You lose your own center. You stop listening, shut down and want to get away.
  • You don’t feel so good about yourself after you leave their company.
  • Be willing to tell the truth, ask for what you want and need. Be willing to walk away any time someone doesn’t respect you or your choices.

Setting loving boundaries that arise from loyalty to yourself doesn’t make you a bad friend or an unkind person. It sets the space for respecting your self, which ultimately increases the respect you have for others. Others may not change or be happy with you when you are clear and direct with them, yet they just might respect you.

Mastering your light switch means having an ability to recognize when people act in ways that dim the field. It means having enough loyalty to yourself to set those boundaries that keep your life force burning brightly. As you learn to hold your own space with people who dim your vibrancy, your own brilliance will shine.

Difference Between Thoughts and Beliefs

One of the most important things to know about the mind and reality is the difference between thoughts and beliefs. The difference between a thought and a belief is that you may have thousands of thoughts going through your mind but none of them have any power except those that are beliefs. A belief is a thought that you make real, or accept as true. Choosing to make a thought real or not is a decision under the very power of the will.

It is important to understand that is not our thinking that creates our circumstances, but the emotion that is attached to our thoughts. Thoughts things but not all thoughts become things, only the thoughts that are accompanied with strong feelings and emotion.

Thought is first a conscious suggestion, then it becomes a subconscious memory, working day and night. This is what operates the law of attraction, because the laws of attraction and repulsion are entirely subconscious. Thoughts may be conscious to start with, but they are subconscious as soon as they are set in motion. Now suppose I did not say I was poor, but came into the world with an unconscious thought of poverty. So long as that thought operated, I would be poor. I might not have understood the Law, but it would have been working all the time.

The subconscious mind is the seat of emotion and the storehouse of memory, therefore memory is tied to emotion. Emotion is energy in motion. The more emotion a thought has, the more it is able to move things. Weak thoughts have little emotion. Strong thoughts have much emotion.

The things we create in our life tend to come from our subconscious beliefs rather than our conscious thinking. If we believe everything we think about is going to manifest in one form or another, we'll probably walk around terrified because most of us are not thinking positive thoughts all the time. If we have the idea that whenever we think a thought, it will create our reality, then we will be afraid to even think of anything at all.

Emotion is energy in motion, therefore all activity is emotional. The subconscious mind as the seat of emotion is the operational aspect of the mind. All activity is transported out by the subconscious mind which is the creative faculty. The conscious mind only directs and instructions, therefore the subconscious mind always works in harmony with the conscious mind. The coming together of conscious and subconscious mind in order to create reality always involves the element of will and emotion.

A conscious thought only has effect as long as it is being conscious thought of. But when the thought is intensified with emotion until it generates enough momentum to continue flowing on its own and become perpetual. The thought becomes a memory and subconscious programming that runs the whole mind. Every true belief is not just conscious but subconscious and is tied to emotion. A belief is an emotionalized thought.

It is a fact that almost no one can maintain a conscious focus on anything for more than a few seconds. When you focus as fully as you possibly can on maintaining an image or thought in your mind, notice how long it takes before something else pops into your mind. If you're at least modest observant and honest with yourself, it will almost certainly last for only a few seconds. The interference comes from your subconscious mind because it is always in motion.

Thus, it's necessary to ensure that your subconscious mind keeps the focus on your target since your conscious mind simply can not do it. When you emotionalize the thought instead, the parts of the brain that excel at maintaining a focus which are the frontal lobes, are energized in a way that contains the necessary subconscious focus. The result is that, subconsciously, you "keep your eyes on the ball," on your target all of the time, even when you're sleeping.

No negative thought can ever manifest except you emotionalize the thought and accept it mentally. Refuse to entertain the suggestion of fear. Therefore no harm can come to you. The way to overcome fear is to mentally move to the opposite. When fear arises, there immediately comes with it a desire for something opposite to the thing feared. Place your attention immediately desired. Get absorbed and engrossed in your desire, knowing that the subject always overturns the objective. Whatever you fear has its solution in the form of your desire. Love is desire. Focusing on your desire is the love that cast out fear.

The feeling of health produces health, the feeling of wealth produces wealth. Your know your vibration by your feeling. Feeling is conscious perception of emotion. An emotion can run without your conscious realization until you become aware of it. Thinking and emotion are symbiotic. If you think thoughts of health or wealth but do not really feel health or wealth, it means you are thinking but not really thinking. You may be thinking the same words but you're not thinking with the right frequency.

Faith is positive expectation. Faith is not knowing how you are going to get there but you just know that you are going there! You expect to get there. It is a knowing feeling that is strong. Fear is negative expectation. The thing you fear does not exist except as a thought in your mind. Thoughts are creative. Expect the good, mentally concentrate on the good, and know that your subconscious mind answers you always. It never fails.

Faith is an action. Your mental and physical actions produce vibration and feeling. When you act as if your desire were a reality, you are acting in faith. Your actions of faith will produce the subconscious feeling and vibration of your desire being a reality. Your subconscious mind is the intelligence of your body. When your bodily actions are of faith, the vibration and emotion of your subconscious mind will also be of faith.

Your imagination is your mental image in action. Your mental image is your faith. It is the evidence of things not seen and the substance of things hope for. Your mental image in action will translate into physical action of your desire coming to pass in the material world.

Faith is also a feeling. Your feeling of having received what you desire is the vibration that attracts it into manifesting.

Your subconscious mind is your heart, the seat of emotion. Your heart's desire is your prayer. Prayer is intention. Prayer is making known to God what you want. To block your prayer is to hinder your intention with limiting beliefs. To open your prayer is to release your intention with liberating beliefs. God hears your prayer according to whether your belief blocks or opens your prayer to him. You have conflicting beliefs about something when you have conflicting emotions about it.

You receive your heart's desire or what you pray for with your faith. Focus on your heart's desire and then see or feel it happen in your mind. Let your physical actions be as though your desire is a reality. Delight yourself in the Lord by feeling the joy of being loved and blessed with his goodness. Detach from the result by committing your way to him and trusting in him. This is how your desires come to pass. God answers your prayer according to you faith.

Your subconscious mind can only accept and work on affirmations that you find believable. That is why affirming that you have something when you are not yet really able to believe it will not work. The whole idea is to create the feeling of experiencing what you want. Therefore choose to use affirmations in the forms that can create those feelings in you. Refrain from using certain affirmations that you can not really believe in until your understanding of metaphysical workings have progressed to a stage where you have the capacity to believe them.

Faith comes with understanding. Faith comes from hearing and hearing the word of God. Hear and understand. The key is to understand otherwise hearing is in vain. The understanding can be conscious or subconscious. The reason why people can be healed even with their lack of faith or disbelief is because they are put into a state where their conscious mind is bypassed and their disbelief is suspended so that the suggestions can fall into their subconscious mind and carry out its work .

Subliminal messaging and affirmations have to be designed in such a way that the subconscious can process easily. The word of God as the seed sown flourishes when it falls on good ground. The ground is your heart, the subconscious mind. When your subconscious mind understands the message it receives, it takes root and becomes set in motion. The thought becomes emotionalized, internalized and turns into a belief.