Oct 16, 2017

Weak Side - Surprise Attacks

In sports - a weak side is defined as the side of the field where there are fewer players to defend the ball.  In life, it's where we are vulnerable.

I was ill this weekend.  Not seriously but enough to keep me in the house and on the couch, doing nothing.  My neck hurt so bad it caused a headache and as tired as I was, I could not sleep.  My weaknesses all amplified by an illness.  I chalked it up to excessive travel and a grueling work schedule; I thought I was just exhausted.

This morning, I found out a colleague I'd traveled with last week was also sick, her symptoms a bit different but it had attacked her weak side.  My son was sick this weekend, different symptoms but it had attacked his weak side.  Coincidence?  Maybe, or just maybe we'd all been hit with a virus that went manifested where we are weakest.

Isn't that how spiritual attacks go?  The enemy zeroes in on our weak side.  Our most vulnerable is where the attack comes in.  Our children, our health, our jobs, our self-esteem, our security... that is where we can expect to be attacked.  The strategy is brilliant because it can go undetected, we expect to be attacked there, life is hard.  I'd ask you to take a moment though and look deeper, is it everyday life or is this an assault by the enemy?  If it is, then friends, you must stay strong and pray in the Spirit.  Pray the full armor of God and go to battle against the enemy.

If you are feeling defeated, I'd ask you to prayerfully consider that the Devil understands not only your weak side but the weapons of warfare.  He employs his own countermeasures against us, if you are struggling, please read Counterterrorism in the Spiritual Realm.

Sep 19, 2017

A Letter for Those Left Behind

Psalm 39:4 “Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered— how fleeting my life is.”

Rapture Box
The saddest thing that will ever occur is a soul that dies without Christ.  There comes a point in every person's life where they either accept or reject the free gift of Salvation that was purchased for them at the cross by the blood sacrifice of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

There was a time limit on this Age of Grace.  We do not know the exact hour or day when it will end, but the ancient Scriptures are quite clear about the signs.  Careful study shows that we are in that time.

The Age of Grace is when mankind could freely receive the gift of salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it coming to a close.  As I write these words the hour is late.

I am not a prophet and I do not claim to have secret knowledge or insight into the vast mysteries of the Lord.  I am a simple woman who inherited a love of Bible prophecy and was given a modicum of talent for writing.  As such, I felt compelled to prepare a letter for my friends who would be left behind at the Rapture of the church.  I did this originally in 2015, but given that so much has happened in the last two years, I have been compelled to update it.  I share this with you today, in the hope that you might print and share a copy as well.

Sep 16, 2017

Why Can't I Move a Mountain?

As a very small child, I believed in "magic".  There was no line between the natural and the supernatural.  In my basement playroom, the black and white TV perched on a rolling metal cart showed me Jeannie and Samantha and of course, I wanted to be little Tabitha on Bewitched.  I'd make a grand entrance through the gold and brown plastic "jewels" that hung in the doorway. and escape to my secret hideaway in the corner that to the untrained eye was a blanket fort strewn between folding metal chairs.  Down here I went to Neverland and joined the flying children in Peter Pan. Some days, I'd go to Paris and listen to swinging Jazz with the Aristocats.  Then I'd head off to London and laugh with Uncle Arthur and Mary Poppins.  These grand adventures and tales of wonder spun from my Close and Play Record Player, I'd close my eyes and imagine!

Jesus with a Little Girl
My Bible picture books and Sunday School coloring pages told me the fabulous stories of Red Seas parting, giants slaying, and fire called down from Heaven.  Loved and adored by my strong Daddy, the pictures of Jesus surrounded by little children were as natural to me as breathing.  I was His and He was mine.

Sep 9, 2017

The Equifax Hack - Laying the Foundation for Something Sinister

Could the Equifax breach be something far more sinister?

The Equifax revelation that the personal information of 143 million Americans has been stolen by hackers is a catastrophic event.

In perspective, that is 44% of the United States citizens.

Right now, Social Security numbers, birthdates, addresses, and full credit history of almost half of the country is in the hands of criminals.

In my household, my husband and my teenage son are among the number.  My child will face the threat of identity theft for the rest of his life... unless some fundamental change is made to identify and control credit, that is.

What better rationale and logical reason to put forth than to "protect" people from identity theft?  Simply have this invisible tattoo or chip on your hand... then you can buy and sell in complete safety.  

The implant technology is there, it simply faces resistance from the public in what a recent Fortune article called, the "Ick Factor".  What is more likely is some sort of biometric security mechanism that faces none of the public angst that implants do (source).  Afterall, how many iPhone users scan their thumb print dozens of times a day?

Biometric Security Implant
Imagine with me for a moment, a world which is thrown into financial chaos with the disappearance of millions of people.  Identities have already been compromised and with millions gone, there is no conceivable way to know if the person standing before the bank teller is the real Mary Smith or if Mary Smith is one of the millions who has disappeared. 

It just doesn't even seem far fetched any longer.

Sep 2, 2017

The Cautious Watcher

The Prophecy Watchers have been on alert for the last 20 years.  We have read the Scriptures, we have watched the Heavens, we have deduced the times.  We have correctly identified thousands of significant prophetic events, compelling numerical distances between dates, extrapolated Hebraic meanings from those numeric dates, and correctly concluded that we are indeed living in the last days.

With the publication of the Harbinger, the discovery of the blood moons and their historical significance, and the availability of free Stellarium softwarem the Watcher community has been on heightened alert since 2008.  As the book of Daniel has opened, our understanding of the Scriptures of the End Times has multiplied at a breakneck speed, the Holy Spirit has poured out the anointing on His Servants far and wide.

An example of this is the knowledge of the fulfilled Spring Feast at the first coming of the Lord Jesus.  Those of us who have been at it for a while take that revelation for granted these days but I have to stress that a mere 7 years ago even the most ardent and learned of Watchers was unaware of this amazing fact.  I was blown away in 2013 by the Rosh Hashanah Rapture.

Feasts of God
Prior to the Fall Feast in 2013, the Watcher Community went into overdrive.  I was absolutely part of that movement, albeit on this little blog, but I have a loyal following and regular readers and so many of you will remember when that journey began in earnest.  I could effectively compile a list in 2013 of why the Rapture could occur on the Feast of Trumpets that year.  The same held true for 2014.  In 2015, the comprehensive list was so long that it became one of the most visited blog posts in the history of Abigail and Dolley.  We so eagerly awaited Rosh Hashanah 2015, I had a countdown on my computer.  I did a great 30 Days of Birth Pangs series.  My Rapture Box was full, my unbelieving neighbor had a letter and a key to the house (in case the animals don't get Raptured) and we were ready to go!

Then the Lord sent the largest dust storm in modern Israeli history and totally screwed up everyone's "count down" clocks.  We waited, we watched, we moved the countdowns... we kept looking up and then we got through the whole Fall Feast Season 2015 and we were still here.  I do not know of a single, reliable teacher that actually "set the date" but boy oh boy we all sure did hope and pray.  It was hard and disappointing.  Many of us were in a funk for quite a while!

The events have continued to unfold, prophecies are still being fulfilled.  Even the 2016 Fall Feast had a glimmer and good reason behind a rapture that year.  The 2017 Fall Feasts have as many "proof" texts and signs in the Heavens behind them as the 2015 Season did, maybe more.  I love the excitement, I love reading about the Blessed Hope but I am very cautious these days. The Revelation 12 and Birth of the Child being the Church is an interesting and compelling interpretation of Scripture, the times, and is perhaps a unique revelation for such a time as this.  Perhaps, it is not.  It is worth noting that this particular season is marked with a vitriol and division I have never seen within the body of Christ and the Watcher community.

This is where we must be very cautious!  No mystery interpretation should divide believers.  We must not be dogmatic about anything other than the core of the Gospel as expressed in the Apostles and Nicene Creeds

The thing is, the lists we put together in all these years are STILL valid, they still mean something, just like the current signs, interpretations, writings, theories, and hopes do for a final fulfillment in 2017 do.  Friends, I have to encourage you, if we are celebrating Thanksgiving 2017 on this Earth and not hanging out at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, that will be okay, too.

Aug 19, 2017

The Key to Understanding Why the Left is Melting Down

Abigail and Dolley readers I was thoroughly confused over the uproar over the President's initial statements about the violence in Charlottesville last weekend. I thought the statements were dignified, appropriate, and diplomatic and just could not understand the hysteria around them. Until I realized that there is a fundamental difference in how both sides view the moral role of the Presidency and Government, everything fell into place, this revelation is the key to understanding what has happened in our current polarized political landscape.

Liberals (who are reasonable rational people that I can discuss things with and enjoy talking with) and their extreme counterparts Progressive Leftist (who are now rapidly evolving into violence) fundamentally believe that the government is a force for good. Thus, the head of the government, the President is the moral head of the nation. The President must be above reproach and as long as he/she is a liberal can do no wrong in their eyes because their motives come from a place of purity, the ends justify the means. Thus, examples of lawlessness by Obama or the Clintons are excused by them (and their media). Like Greek gods, their failings are seen as part of their charms but make them no less worthy of reverence.

Saint Obama depicted with Halo
Conservatives fundamentally believe government is a necessary evil. It should be small and contained. They distrust politicians and power and do not look to political figures to be a moral compass of the Nation. In general, they look to God to serve that role in their lives and the lives of the Nation.  They elect politicians they believe will be effective in making government more effective in the limited role they want it to play.  As long as a candidate seems capable of fixing issues that are important to them, conservatives will overlook personal faults.  Based on these criteria, conservatives will vote for a person they would not personally want to be friends with if they feel they are the best person for the job.

Consider the "thrill up my leg" worship the leftist media had for Obama and why they were completely unconcerned with Hillary Clinton's misdeeds.  Think about the visceral hatred the left had for George W Bush who governed along the same lines as Bill Clinton.  Obama's hectoring lecturing style always made me want to vomit and the Holy Spirit inside of me recoiled at him, yet millions of people nearly worshipped him.  In their eyes, he could do no wrong.  Those same eyes view everything Trump does as evil.

Trump Election Night
So in a moment of crisis, after the Charlottesville violence, the Left wants Obama, their moral leader, who will condemn the things they hate.  What they got was a law and order and equal protection under the law statement from a President who never campaigned or wanted to be the Nation's moral leader, and they completely fall apart. While the Right is scratching their heads and wondering what the heck is going on with the lunatic on TV tearing down statues and crying and wailing about Trump being a Nazi. It all makes sense if you consider how they view the Presidency.

It truly now all makes sense to me! The whole, "Not my President" thing. The hero worship of Obama. The violence, the wailing, and the angst all come from a place of disillusionment and fear so the false narratives have begun! First, it was the Fake News sites created a racist environment that made all the Trump voters come to the polls because we were anti-women and the "fake news" had told lies about virtuous Hillary Clinton. Then, it was the Russians who installed their puppet and stole the election. Now, were are back to Trump being a racist. It is fascinating.  They are living in a mass delusion.

Men are made to worship and adore God, when they reject the true and living God, they will find a false substitute.

There is only one true moral person, only one who lived a perfect life, only one to which to put your faith. He loves you, He died for you, He waits for you to put your faith in Him. Jesus Christ is the moral leader of the world. Don't look to anyone else, ground yourself in this truth and everything else falls into place.

Jun 10, 2017

Laws or Men - Who Do You Want to Be Ruled By?

It is the very foundation of our Republic, that we are a nation governed by laws and not ruled by men. 

This is also at the very heart of the issue we see played out before us on the nightly news because one side of the political spectrum embraces this and the other side uses it as a shield to hide the fact that they actually believe the opposite.  Let me explain.  

In the US, equal justice under the law means that all men are held to the same standards and judged and prosecuted under the same laws.  Being popular or being loved has no bearing on the application of the law, social status or position has no deterrent to the equal treatment under the law.

In a society ruled by Men, leaders are above the law.  The laws apply to others.  These leaders can break the laws if they choose to.  If these leaders are beloved, well, if they break the laws they must have a good reason.  Their fans and the power bases that they hold - Law Enforcement, Judges, Media, Academics, Religious Leaders all excuse the behavior of the benevolent leaders and will seek to bury and hide the story, cover it up, or deflect it.  

What about if in a society ruled by Men, if the leader is wicked?  Well then, if he breaks the law there is no one to hold him to account.  He is free to do whatever he wants.  There is no difference between the wicked and righteous man in a society ruled by man, for the judgment of such things in the setting of a civil government are flawed and subject to interpretation.  I might think that Mike Pence is a righteous man but my Muslim neighbor would prefer the Ayatollah Khomeini.  

This is the most dangerous type of rule on the planet, billions have been murdered, robbed, raped, tortured, and starved to death under the Rule of Man.

The Modern Left longs to be ruled by Men.  They were perfectly happy to be ruled by the perceived ultra cool Obama.  They excused every scandal, every blatant violation of the law perpetrated by his administration from Fast and Furious to the illegal ransom payment of cash to Iranians.  The list of outrageous acts that came out of the White House was vast and met with a collective yawn from his supporters and the media.  

Iranian Sanctions and Laws Against Ransom Made this Highly Illegal

Using the same logic, of being ruled by Men, the Modern Left has become absolutely unhinged over the election of Donald Trump.  Their visceral hatred of the man and their confusion over our system of government has led them to the conclusion that he is so wicked that he must have committed a crime for which they can get rid of him.  Thus, while they operate under their belief that we are ruled by Men they try to apply the rules of law to anyone that disagrees with them.  They are manufacturing crimes that never occurred to feed a narrative that he will be gone soon.  It is insane.

All the while, those who maintain that we are still a nation ruled by laws and not men, continue to stew over the abuses we have seen in the last eight years.  So many crimes have gone unpunished, so many people have abused their power and broken the law for their own political gain with impunity that the right has within it a pressure valve that is building daily as they are assaulted with 24 hour news coverage of crimes that never occurred while actual crimes are shrugged off and ignored.  It is a volatile situation indeed.

May 13, 2017

Shocking Cure for My Mystery Fibromyalgia Muscle Pain

I have been in pain for years!  My Dad called it being "Muscle Bound".  The muscle soreness symptoms fit all the markers for Fibromyalgia.  Sports journals identify it as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  My natural doctor said my body was inherently tight and suggested that I increase my yoga, we also identified several foods that were increasing inflammation (nightshades and wheat) and causing pain.  The physical therapist said the surgery scars and scar tissue were impeding natural movement and that was creating imbalances throughout the body.

They were probably all right but none of the above totally captured what was going on and neither did a single article on the internet (that I could find), so I here is the story and the surprising way I've received relief.

I begin at the beginning for a couple of reasons, first to demonstrate that this goes back a very long time, second because my Father and Grandfather had the same symptoms so no one thought this was out of the ordinary, finally in all of the possible causes above most of them are adult onset, so we had a mystery.  This aspect is particularly troubling because both of these fine men died in their early 60's of heart failure, could there be a link?  This study raises the troubling possibility.

At about 5 years old, I began having terrible pain in my legs at night.  My Dad called them shin splints and growing pains, he'd rub me down with Ben Gay and put a heating pad in the bed so I could go to sleep.  When I was about 8 years old, I had a particularly hard gymnastics workout.  Two days later I could not straighten my legs and could barely walk.  My Dad put me in a super hot bath and then made me "jog it out".

Exercise regimes were difficult because they caused disproportionate muscle stiffness and soreness that lasted upwards of a week and required massive doses of ibuprofen to function.  The older I got the worse it became.  An hour of light weeding in the garden = one week of pain.  Five Sun Salutations = three days of back pain.  It is almost impossible to motivate yourself to exercise when the result is such agony.

Was it hormonal?  I began looking at "relaxin" the hormone produced largely to relax muscles while you are pregnant.  One researcher has focused on this in relation fibromyalgia pain but his results have been inconclusive.  Hormone research is in infancy so breakthroughs on that front are still to be discovered.

Years ago, Bill Phillips developed a product called Phosphagen Elite and it worked amazingly well for me, but alas Bill sold his company and the product is no longer available.

Was it allergies?  Avoiding nightshades and wheat certainly, plays a role.  This is especially true for a body at rest but it was not the full story.

How about lactic acid?  Most experts think this is the cause of DOMS.  I made an off-hand comment to my natural doctor, "Is there some vitamin that you can give me to make the mosquitoes stop eating me alive?"  He said, well, there actually is a product that will control the lactic acid which is what they are attracted to. Takesumi Supreme.  I took it prior to going into my garden and noticed that not only did the mosquitoes leave me alone but the debilitating muscle soreness seemed to be reduced.  I mentioned it to him on the next visit and he confirmed he saw a decrease in his muscle soreness.  This offered some relief but it wasn't the ultimate answer.

Vitamins and suppliments - there is no doubt in my mind that three years of loving care by my natural doctor helped to bring my body into balance.  Of note, two suppliments seemed to make the biggest difference - Magnesium Citrate and CoQ10.  Those are integral parts of my daily regime but neithere were they the magic element.

At the end of the day, the solution and the "cure" or at least the symptom manager came from the most unlikely place, amphetamines.  Given to my Mother while she was pregnant with me to keep her weight down.  Yes, dear friends, many of your Moms and Grandmothers were given speed to help them keep their weight gain to a minimum in the 1950's to the 1970's (read here).  The implications of this go well beyond what tradition science tells you - it goes deep into the epigenome.  As I began my weight loss journey and my medicine regime I noticed immediately that I could exercise like a normal person.  A small dose of phentermine changed everything.

Gone was the debilitating muscle pain, gone was the post work out stiffness, gone was the need for dozens of ibuprofen pills after a simple work out.  Perhaps it is my specific biology, my specific situation, maybe it is just an answer to years of prayer but since I was never able to find anything online to help me, I thought it was worth a post.  Peace and Love, Friends.

May 8, 2017

The Day the Lutheran Preacher Stunned His Congregation

When I was about 14, my Lutheran Pastor preached a sermon.

That is a statement because most of the time, he gave little inspirational sermonettes.  A softly spoken, feel good, 15-minute talk designed to tell me how much God loved me and how secure I was in my position in Christ.  It was a comfortable and affirming message; promptly forgotten over Sunday lunch at the Ryan's all you can eat salad bar.  This message was different; decades later his words still ring true.

Our mild-mannered servant Pastor from the Mid-West lit into his complacent suburban congregation like a sweaty tent preacher.  Stunned and wide-eyed, nobody moved.  He convicted us for leaving the work of the church to him and to him alone.  He visited the sick, he led the Bible study, he organized the food drives, he did the counseling, he did it all and we let him.  

Being 14, I felt sorry for what he was going through, but I was a kid, I was not supposed to do those things.  That was for the adults to do, then he hit me right between the eyes with this question:

"When was the last time you told someone about Christ?"

I squirmed, I shifted - I could not recall ever directly witnessing to anyone.  Apparently, I was not alone.  Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, estimates that only 2% of Christians actively share their faith.  There are a myriad of reasons why and each believer needs to examine their own heart but at 14, I was afraid of rejection by my peers.  I was afraid to be labeled as a crazy Christian, I was not brave enough.

Over the years, I began to understand that witnessing to someone is the most sacred and loving thing you can do for them.  It takes courage.  The alternative though is to leave hurting people without hope.  To let people grieve without Christ, to face an uncertain future without eternal salvation, to risk tomorrow without the protection of the cross.  How much of a coward do you have to be to let someone you love face eternal damnation in Hell and not tell them?

Praying with the Hurting
Every encounter is different, each circumstance calls for a Holy Spirit inspired approach.  Sometimes evangelism is logical and fact based, others times it may call for discussions that are reasoned and scientific.  Some simply need to hear that there is hope in Jesus Christ and hear of His love, some need to know there is a cleansing from their sin.  Others need comfort when a loved one has died, some need to be shocked by the reality of hell. 

Cowards and fools think that all Evangelism is street corner preachers screaming at people that they are going to hell.  Do not let the judgment of cowards and fools keep you from telling others about Christ.  Be the 2%.

May 7, 2017

Defining Yourself

In a perfect world, we operate in complete understanding and self-knowledge.  We understand our motivations, we are rational in our decision making, and we do not allow emotions to override what we know to be an evidentiary truth.  In this Utopia, we are grounded in the reality of who we are and focus not on our failures but the lessons we learned from the tough times and the positive results that were achieved by rising above.  We are strong and self-confident, we accept praise from those we love and believe the good things they say about us.  Critics, while they exist here, are to cause us to examine ourselves, to course-correct where necessary but never to let them determine how we feel about who we are.  Likewise, those who reject us - employers, lovers, family, and friends are shrugged off as not worthy of us, not a good match, or unsuitable for long term companionship.

Unfortunately, in reality, the critic and the rejectors are often the very people we allow to define us to ourselves in our internal thought life.

We can allow the most hurtful insults, the most painful rejection, the lowest points of our lives to become the defining moments and characteristics that play over and over again like a broken record that refuses to stop.  The rational part of the brain knows that this is not the truth, the people that love us and encourage us, assure us that this is not reality but there is something broken inside of us.  Something that clings to the terrible.  Deep inside, we believe the critic and the rejector.

As Christians, we recognize this is the sinful fallen nature, the flesh and the blackness of who we really are without Christ.  Perhaps it is our way of punishing ourselves, definitely, it is a way for the enemy to keep us in condemnation, or at the very least it is something we do that is so buried that we do not really recognize that we are doing it at all.

There are studies that say that 80% of self-talk is negative.  How much of that comes from letting the critics and the rejectors define who we think we are?  How do these phrases that loop through your head at regular intervals frame your life?

Have you been fired from a job?  Do you hear the words, "I'm sorry but we are going to have to let you go." over and over again?

Rejected by a lover, "I just don't love you anymore.  You used to be fun, now you are so serious."

A false friend, "Sorry I haven't called, I've just been so busy.  We'll get together soon, I promise."  All the while posting picture after picture of themselves and other friends at events where you were not included or invited.

"Why aren't you more successful like your Brother Harry?"  The cruel and judgemental parent asks.

Overheard whisper at the family reunion, "Yeah, the youngest one over there, nothing but trouble.  In an out of rehab, drugs... I always knew that one..."

The exasperated teacher, "I just don't think you are going to be able to succeed in this class, Roland.  I've made arrangements with the Special Education Teacher for her to come and get you and take you to her class from now on."

These events, phrases, and times can be decades old yet they still haunt our psyches.  They still play over and over like a bad commercial, they still define who we think that we are.  Only when we recognize the pattern can we be free of it.

Consider for a moment, we take critics and rejection so personally because they are often rejecting the very thing that makes us unique - the thing that makes us who we are!  

If we try to remake ourselves into something we are not, we are not being true to ourselves. The critic will never take back their hurtful words, and new relationships that we might form are stymied because we are not being honest with anyone!

I have done this several times!  I was fired from a General Manager's job and given a list of reasons why they let me go, mainly that I was not sales oriented enough, that I was too operations-centric.  My next job?  You guessed it, full-time sales.  Several years later, I took another General Manager's job and was determined to do everything right - all the criticism the last company had levied at me, I made sure I did not do.  In the end?  You guessed it, they fired me for not being operations-centric enough and being too sales-focused!  It was bizarre.  I reeled.

In the end, we can not allow those who reject us to define who we are to ourselves.  That inner self, the inner dialogue should be defined by those who love us.  It should be filled with affirmations and love, not condemnation and regret.

May 6, 2017

Grief - Truth Serum for Toxic Relationships

An old good friend of mine died this month by her own hand.  I have mourned harder than I expected, especially considering that we had lost touch many years ago.  Events like that make you pause and examine your life, and your friends; they make you determine to draw closer to the ones that you love.

Grief has a flip side though, it peels back sentiment to reveal hidden truth.   

This is especially true for straight forward people who operate without agendas and subterfuges.  Open and honest people, who take others at their word can go through life believing that people who they love, love them back - they say they do after all.  Through grief, rose colored glasses are removed to wipe away tears; as the grieving person reaches out to loved ones, they can be shocked to find a sneering face looking back at them.

Shock envelopes the griever, both parties go through the charade, but for the first time, the griever knows it is an act.  Having operated for years in subterfuge, the manipulator never knows they have been unmasked.  

The honest emotion of grief sends the deceitful one scurrying away to the shadows where they have alway truly inhabited.   Adulters, liars, manipulators, and self-absorbed flakes can never truly give unselfishly of themselves to comfort another person, they are too broken.  The sad truth is, the only person they really love is themselves.

As the days and weeks go by, remembered conversations, flashes of memory, long forgotten events, small digs and subtle insults, hurt feelings, begin to come into focus.  With the rose colored glasses removed, the truth about the toxic relationship emerges.  Even in perfect times of peace and harmony, these relationships are selfish and one sided.  The realization is often as painful as the grief that precipitated it but facing it and dealing with it are a vital part of emotional healing and restoration.  

Every relationship has an emotional bank account. Each person makes deposits and withdrawals from the account as the relationship goes on. The depth of the relationship, the longevity, the closeness all contributes to the available funds. Those factors also contribute to the amount of "overdraft" protection the account has and how long an account in the red will be allowed to stay active before it is closed.

The most difficult thing we can do is close the account for someone we have loved deeply.  To walk away from someone that hurts us, to leave that relationship in the grave with the grief that revealed it, is the most empowering and freeing things we can do for ourselves.  Ironically, the person you are walking away from might not ever realize you are gone, but then again, that is exactly the point.

Apr 30, 2017

The Most Empowering Gardening Advice You Will Ever Receive

From novice container gardeners to master gardeners, everyone who has ever donned a pair of gloves and held a small shovel with hope in their heart can benefit from this wisdom.

It came from Paul Gautschi, the inventor of the Back to Eden Garden method and an arborist by trade.  It went something like this, "You are the gardener, you decide where things go.  You are in charge.  If you did not plant something, remove it.  If something becomes overgrown or becomes an obstacle take it out.  Unproductive and barren things will respond to pruning but dead things must be buried."

I spent about 80 hours in the garden this season, cleaning, moving, and being relentless in the application of this advice.  I have to admit up until now I have been an Adam Smith "Invisible Hand" sort of gardener.  If a plant self-sowed or the birds brought me a specimen, more often than not I was a "live and let live" kind of gal.  The result was chaotic and a mismatched jumble of discordant plants, heights, and random black-eyed Susans scattered across a neglected perennial garden.

Today, I look out across the beds and there is order from chaos and a satisfaction from a job well done.  All the black-eyed Susans are regathered in a reasonable space, the tall verbena has been replanted along the back wall instead of in the border rocks and walkway.  SIXTY feet of honeysuckle has been pulled out by hand and is relentlessly eradicated from a two hundred square foot section it had taken over.  The random Autumn Joy Sedum is in the shade instead of withering pathetically in the sun.  Those horrible bulbs that never bloomed, took up a ton of space, and always looked like they were thirsty?  They are in the trash.  The diseased raspberry canes?  I was merciless in their eradication.  The volunteer asparagus plant that sprung up at the entrance to the vegetable garden?  Dug up and moved to the asparagus patch.  Paul's advice is sound, in life as well as in the garden.   You are in charge.

Apr 15, 2017

When God is Dead - Holy Saturday

Abigail and Dolley readers I don't know if I've ever heard preaching on this subject and perhaps this is a word the Lord would have me give as it was birthed from the lowest point in my life.  The moment when God seems to be gone, Holy Saturday.  Launched that agonizing moment on the Cross when Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?"  Saturday, minus the physical horror of the cross is in some ways the darkest day of all.  This is the day that Jesus' body lay in the tomb.

To the followers of Christ, this must have been the worst day of their lives.  Think about it for a minute, forget your knowledge of the Resurrection, forget that you know the end of the story, simply go to the upper room with me and imagine.

Holy Saturday
The Apostles are hiding, certain they will be killed if found.  The fear of gruesome death and humiliation torments them.  They have lived with Roman oppression, they know what happened to Jesus.  He was the most powerful man on Earth and they killed him, how vulnerable they must have felt! Peter did not deny knowing Christ without a reason. How terrified would you be waiting for the knock at the door that signaled they had come for you?

Their friend Judas had betrayed the Lord and was gone.  He had fallen prey to the lies of the Devil himself.  With Jesus out of the way, the poor disciples who had cast out demons in Jesus name must surely know that the hoards of Hell were coming after them.  With Jesus dead, they would be fresh meat for the demons.  

Judas was the caretaker of the money for the group and it stands to reason he would have taken all of their funds with him when he left.  So they are broke, with a price on their heads, and they are trapped.  They have no way to pay off anyone to help them escape, how are they going to get food?  The followers of Jesus had scattered and the people of Jerusalem had called for the Lord's Crucifixion, without funds there is no one to help them.

Then there is the disillusionment.  These men had given up everything to follow Jesus - homes, families, business, position in the community.  I am sure there were those in their families that thought they were crazy, that condemned them for not doing the "responsible" thing and leading a normal life.  I am sure there were a few Mother-in-laws who had condemned them for leaving home and hearth to follow this rabbi.  As they sat in the upper room that day, they had to face the crushing possibility that they had been wrong and everyone else had been right.  Had they wasted the last three years?

Jesus had predicted his own death about a dozen times, but from all accounts, His words seem to have been hidden from the Apostles.  It was like Jesus had spoken in code and they had not heard or understood what He was saying.  There had been no Pentecost, there was no Holy Spirit speaking to them, they were totally in the dark.  This is demonstrated by their disbelief on Easter morning and Thomas' rejection of the testimony of the ten.  So I do not believe that they took comfort and hope that Jesus would rise again, this Saturday did not serve that purpose.

Curled Up in Grief
Holy Saturday was designed to buffet the Apostles.  It was designed for them to reflect.  It was designed to bring them to the lowest points in their lives and to prepare them for the work to come.  Holy Saturday is what Christianity would be without the Resurrection - dead.

I believe we all have Holy Saturdays in our lives.  Our dreams, hopes, aspirations and loved ones are taken away on Friday.  We curl up in hiding, mourning, and fear on Saturday.  Saturday is lonely and scary but take heart Sunday is on the way.  On Sunday there is victory, new life, and resurrection!  Praise God.  (Originally Published on 04/23/2011)

Mar 27, 2017

Dear iPhone Camera - An Open Letter

Dear Camera,

I'd like to say thank you for capturing those images of my loved ones that have gone on to be with the Lord.  Thank you for documenting the growing years of my son and the passage of time and fun memories our family has shared.  I'd like to say, though, that since you stopped being a real camera and became an iPhone, I don't like you as much.  Yes, you are convenient but I find you aren't quite the truth teller or the beauty recorder that you used to be.

At first, I thought it was just me.  My photogenic face was older and heavier and perhaps it was just the passage of time but then I began to see that almost everyone looked worse on that small screen.  Images were distorted, corrections that the eye easily makes are beyond your limited facsimile abilities.  

Your camera does not capture nuances, for example, the light and shade in hair.  When I was a young girl, my hair was indeed monochromatic, brown with a reddish cast, your grandmother, the 35mm captured it beautifully.  You are incapable of such subtlety and relegate the very interesting shades of dark brown, gold, umber, white, gray, and cinnamon to dull brown with gray at the temples.  Nor can you see the texture, curl, wave, and style - nope, just a brown football helmet.

The eyes... the eyes of the young girl held dreams and visions of the future, the eyes that look back at me from the mirror hold the fulfillment and the abandonment of those dreams and life well lived.  The eyes in the pictures you produce just look tired.  They don't capture the sparkle, nor the promise of fun things still to come.

That picture of us laughing, it does not capture the joy in our hearts or the love we feel for each other, it only shows an old filling and a double chin.  You can not hear the laughter nor the snort that followed the hilarity.  Your picture does not tell the truth.  

How many times will I let you change my memory of how I looked on a special occasion?  How many times will I believe the false message you record rather than the image in the mirror?  Worse yet, why would I trust you over the people that love me?  For, in the end, it is they who really matter.

You remember the Back to the Future movies with all the video phones?  The reason that no one uses is them is that we all look like crap on them, nobody likes you iPhone camera.  

All of Us

Mar 20, 2017

The Hard Truth - Obesity is a Chronic Disease

All my life, I have wanted to get the place and the weight where I could just be a normal weight and eat a normal diet.  I am not an overeater or a binger or a snacker - I eat moderate portions of healthy homemade food!   I knew if I could take off the extra pounds in a healthy, slow, deliberate way and exercise while doing it, once I reached my goal weight that I could continue my healthy lifestyle and keep the weight off.  It never worked.  Not once, not for a minute.  Apparently, I am not alone.

As the video describes, the moment I stopped losing, my body started gaining.  It took fewer and fewer and fewer calories to maintain the smaller size.  In 2009, I estimated it took 800 calories a day for me to retain my weight loss.  A slow half a pound at a time it started creeping back.  Resolve gives way, life interrupts, jobs change, people die, and the last thing you can do is get in the gym and eat another salad....

Several concentrated and serious efforts were made along the way to halt the progress but like a creeping flow of lava, the weight would not be staunched.

The depressing and hard fact of life is that once an individual is overweight, they will struggle for a lifetime.  Instead of viewing this journey as a destination, I have chosen to look at this as a concerted effort to get the symptoms of a chronic condition under control.

When I have lost the weight (again), I will look at it as if I were a malaria patient who was not exhibiting symptoms at the moment.  A chronic disease is one that reoccurs and has to be managed, usually under a doctor's care, and one for which there is no known cure.

It's indeed sobering; at first glance very discouraging - but upon deeper reflection, like any truth, once looked in the eye is liberating.  For the love of God, we should understand what we are up against!  Know the truth and the truth will set you free.

As such, I have placed myself under a physician's care.  I am taking appropriate medicine to help control my chronic disease.  There is no shame in seeking help, I have tried to do this on my own.  I have tried willpower, I have tried organic, I have tried homeopathic, I have hired personal trainers, I have read books, I have done every diet on the planet.  I have tried everything on my own to get this disease under control and I can not.   So Viva la Pharmaceuticals and a new way of looking at a lifelong struggle.

The one hope - the one glimmer, did you notice I put in the above sentence that there is no "known" cure?  That means that we do not give up hope, we keep pushing, we keep striving, we keep trying.

Mar 19, 2017

Being Emotionally Ready for a Weight Loss Journey

This series has been all over the place!  Getting real with the image in the mirror, coming to terms with the different sides of yourself, discussing rock bottom and the freedom that comes from that place, as well as what you need to do to get ready for a Weight Loss Journey.

Personally, it is the paradox of being the healthiest, happiest, and fattest of Your Life!

Life is good right now.  I have a great job, marriage, family, house and garden.  I've been under the loving care of a holistic doctor for three years and we've solved a myriad of imbalances and health issues.  I have learned how to cook, I mean really cook.  Not just make recipes but technique and skill and nuance and I love it.  I have friends, I like to host parties - life is good, except I am doing all of this wonderful stuff in stretchy pants with elastic waist bands and giant shirts that cover my butt.

In this frantic desire to take off the weight, I need to hang on to the things that I love about myself and my life.  I don't know about you, but I have a tendency to remember the negative.

You have to do the same.  Before you undertake any sort of journey - get right with yourself.  Take stock of where you are and where you want to be.  Get your head together.  Get your marriage together.  Are you sick?  If you are, don't attempt a weight loss program!

Is your world falling apart around you?  Go for a walk, eat good food, take care of yourself but don't try to lose weight.

This endeavor is only for the times when everything else is in place.  When life can be put a little on the back burner so you can spend the extra time and energy to fully engage.  If you ARE taking this journey then rejoice that you are in the place where you are free to do so and love the ones around you who aren't quiet there yet.

Mar 18, 2017

The Genetics and the Psychology of The Skinny You vs. The Fat You

When I was in college I sought the help of a counselor to help me overcome some baggage I was carrying around.  One of the very first issues that came up was my weight - yes, sadly it has been a life-long struggle.  Through some probing, we discovered that I thought of myself as having two very distinctive personalities depending on my weight.  The counselor asked me to bring in pictures and the difference was very very clear.  There was a skinny Dolley and a fat Dolley - no two ways about it.

I'd like to tell you that those issues were worked out in the college campus counseling room but I don't think we even began to scratch the surface.  Prior to considering the epigenetics of weight loss, I thought the phenomenon was entirely psychological but perhaps it is more complex than that.  Perhaps it is the expression of genes that is different - not only physical genes but personality genes as well.  

Get out your pictures and look closely.  Do you have a thin you and a heavy you?

I'd like you to consider if this holds true for you.  What do you like about each of them?  How are they different?  How are they alike?  Do they like each other?  Do you look like one side of the family vs. the other side depending on your weight?  Is the Skinny side of you safe?  Who makes better choices?  Who is in charge?

Are the eyes different?  How about the carriage?  The clothing and the colors - do they look like the same person picked them out?  Are they both worthy of love?  Can they live together in a new Healthy You?

From my personal experience, there is a heavy biology on one side of my family.  When I am heavy and expressing the "fat gene", I look like that side of the family.  Strangely and rapidly, within a week of me beginning to loose weight, my face begins to change.  I start to look like the thin biology side of my family.  I used to think it was because I lost weight in my face first but I have begun to consider if it is more than a mere reduction of puffiness.

Fascinating to consider, isn't it?  Does this hold true for you, too?

This is a complex subject on many fronts

These are all things that each of us has to delve into - I promised at the beginning that this wasn't going to be a diary or a "look at me" sort of thing.  Simply a journey we could take together.  This just happened to be around the corner.

Mar 17, 2017

The Science of Epigenetics and The New Frontier of Weight Loss

Epigenetics is a new scientific field, only discovered in the last 10 years, and it is blowing the doors off everything we thought we knew about... well, almost everything.  For decades scientists believed that DNA was destiny, that we were hardwired for certain diseases or traits and there was very little to be done about it.  Then along comes the discovery of genetic influences and triggers that seem to act as light switches that turn on or off certain genes and all scientific hell breaks loose.

From disease, to obesity, to learning disabilities, to addiction - the ability to influence haywire genetic signals from our bodies is revolutionary.  To discover and treat genetic triggers that are not firing (methylating) properly through diet, exercise, therapy, drugs, electric shock, or whatever means necessary can change the way we approach cancer, for instance.  Instead of trying to kill the cancer cell, we try to turn on the tumor suppression gene that is not turned on properly.  An addict could potentially find true freedom from the addiction.  Obesity could be cured.

Even more compelling and interesting is that these specific triggers are passed down from generation to generation.  This was demonstrated in Dias and Ressler's study on mice subjected to an electric shock when exposed to a cherry blossom smell.  Their pups and their grand pups, reared completely independent of the initial subjects demonstrated the same fear of the smell as the original test group.

The Science of the genome is well above my expertise but I'll try to explain in common English what I've been able to glean.  Epigenetics actually means above genetics.  If our DNA is the hardware of a computer, then the epigenome is the software telling the hardware how to run.  It can also be explained as words in a paragraph punctuated differently to change the meaning.  The words are the same but the meaning is different.  (Let's eat Grandma.  Let's eat, Grandma.)

Scientists have discovered that the health and the well-being of the mother during pregnancy has a profound effect on the developing baby - not only at birth but throughout the life of the child.  It is staggering to consider that stressed mothers have children that carry the genetic markers of their mother's stress through their lives.

I have lamented throughout my life that sometimes my weight loss efforts work and sometimes they don't.  I've likened it to a perfect alignment of the stars, burying a toad by the October moon, and hopping on one leg 34 times while wearing a birthday hat.  It turns out, I wasn't too far off the map.  It turns out that there is indeed a switch, there is indeed an on/off switch, it's in my genetic material.  They have discovered it is either on or it is off.  There is no dimmer for overweight people, which would explain why we are either losing or gaining.

Part of our journey is going to be to discover what turns it on, how to keep it on, and what turns it off and how to recognize that.  We are on a Quest!

For more about the Science, check out this video and others:

Mar 16, 2017

Let's Get Real - We Don't Really Like Ourselves When We are Fat - No Matter What We Say

Yesterday, I wrote about one of the freeing aspects about abandoning dieting and the scale for three years, now I am going to write about the biggest negative.

I have never been comfortable with the school of thought that teaches us to love ourselves as we are, something inside me always rebelled at accepting myself when I was overweight.  It felt like I was giving up, which is why I resisted it for so long.  I knew it was not okay to accept and affirm a part of me that was disconnected and dysfunctional.

That is very counter-cultural in today's society but the truth is, we can do better and accepting ourselves as failures is just plain stupid.  I don't care how loud you shout it from the rooftops, the truth is we have to come to a true knowledge of ourselves and we should not settle for less than the best we can be when it is in our power to change it.

Just as it goes against the Holy Spirit inside of you to accept sin in your life or your body, no matter what the world tells you, our conscience will not let us glorify sin.  Let's use swearing as an example.  I have a terrible habit of swearing, I always have.   It is ridiculous sin in my life, it's been part of me forever.  I can accept that I have a tendency to do it but I should never love myself and praise myself for having a filthy mouth!  I should strive to change, I should do better.

By accepting something, or glorifying it, we give up changing it.  Even if we never lose another inch or another pound to give up abandons a lifestyle that is far healthier than one of fat acceptance.  Neither is really about appearance, fat love or fat hate, it's about choices and health and showing up in your own life and trying.  We hear a lot about self-love these days - I think it's okay not to love the things about yourself that aren't great.

Trust me, I've spent the last three years try to accept that I was just a short little middle age fat woman and that was all I was ever going to be.  It never worked.  I got good at living in denial.  I became profoundly disconnected with my body.  I really did not love the image in the mirror.  I think we do ourselves a disservice when we settle.

Mar 15, 2017

Freedom from Food Taboos - Weight Loss Journey Series

What did I learn in the three years I did not diet or weigh myself?  I stopped obsessing about food.  It was perhaps the best and most liberating thing I could have done for my long term health.  My first diet was at 8, so I figure that I'd been on a diet or watching my weight for the better part of 37 years.  I had all sorts of "red light foods", these were foods that I could not have in the house because I would eat them until they were gone - so I brought them in the house and ate them.  Don't get me wrong, I am not a binger and I am not an overeater but I let myself enjoy previously considered "taboo foods".

I ate whole avocados.  I bought dry roasted peanuts every time I went to the store.  I ate the skin off the chicken.  I ate the fat off the rib eye steak.  I ate pork rinds.  I ate homemade bread with salted butter.  I melted cheese and butter on broccoli.  I ate all the high-fat foods I loved and had denied myself my entire life - I ate as much of them as I wanted and you know what?  Now they are just food.  They are no longer the forbidden fruit and have lost their power over me.  I can take them or leave them.

As a matter of fact, the biggest "red light" food I had was dry roasted peanuts.  After three years of allowing myself to eat them, I don't even like them much anymore.  They make me feel weird, so I avoid them.

Going three years without diet or weighing myself erased any kind of food issues I was carrying around.  When an orange stops becoming punishment it becomes glorious.  When a roasted Brussels sprout is the best part of the meal and not part of a strict regime, it is savored and enjoyed for what it is.

So perhaps if you are following along on this journey, you should contemplate if there are specific foods you have "issues" with.  Do you have "taboo foods"?  Do you look on healthy foods with a healthy attitude or are they tainted with years of dieting?

By giving myself the freedom to stop punishing myself with endless deprivation and diets - I freed myself from lifelong bondage.  This adult journey I am undertaking is without the hang-ups and the baggage - I'm a grown ass woman and ain't nobody got time for that.  Perhaps you can do the same.

Mar 14, 2017

Stop Listening to the Experts - YOU are the Expert

Have you been reading the series waiting for me to get to "The Plan"?  You know, the magic silver bullet plan that is going to solve this obesity problem for me and for you - forever?  Hmm, just $39.95 for our series of videos and an additional $99.95 for a month's supply of Dolley's Miracle Fat Burner.... Nope.  Not going to happen.

I learned something very valuable after my radical hysterectomy in 2013 - every human body is different.  There was absolutely no right answer to my question about hormones.  It was like trying to pin down the wind, ever blowing, ever changing, impossible to determine with any degree of certainty what was right dosage and combination.  I eventually had to stop trying to find the information from outside sources and listen to my own body.

I want you to consider the following very clinically, without the emotions and the pain.  Distance yourself and be an objective observer:

Think about your weight loss success stories?  What did you do?  How did you exercise?  Where did you work?  What music did you listen to?  Where did you live?  What medicine did you take?  Did you have a partner?  Did you track your food or did you have a list of things you ate?  Was the diet pre-planned for you or were you free to make choices?  What were the keys to your success?  What pivotal moments did you have along the journey that made you successful?

Now, consider your failures.  How were they different than the successful times?  Did some event happen that derailed your effort?  Was the diet designed according the latest fad?  Was the diet permissive or restrictive?  Why did you give up?  Were there things about the failed diet that you liked?  Can you incorporate them into a more successful lifestyle change moving forward?

For me personally, I was wildly successful on the Weight Watchers Program from the early 1990's based on food exchanges.  I have insulin resistance, so I have modified that plan to reduce the "carb" servings and I've increased the fat exchange by one.  This is just what works for me.  I have a friend who does great on low fat, another who does great on low carb, and another who cuts dairy and sugar.

God created each of us individually - you are the expert on you.

Nobody knows what you have gone through, nobody knows what you are capable of, and nobody knows what you really need to do.  Besides most of the people who write books, publish videos, and are in the fitness business do not have a clue about being fat.  These ecto/mesomorph's think they can apply what works for them to us endomorphs and when their stupid programs don't work, it's obviously the fault of the fat girl... because it works for them, you must not be trying hard enough.  So throw their Skinny Bitch book in the trash, think about your life, your body, and what YOUR plan needs to be.  Be the expert on YOU.

Mar 13, 2017

Do You Need to Take Down the Mirrors and Stop Being Vicious to Yourself?

Paradoxically, for the last two days, I've written about facing the truth about where I am weight wise.  We all know that this is a critical component in the starting phase.  This blog is not about being in denial, this is about self-care.  This journey is about understanding yourself.  What works for you might not be the same as what works for me.

What I do not need is to become derailed by the image in the mirror, especially in the gym mirror.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, will defeat a workout more than catching a glimpse of my gigantic sweaty body in the mirror.  Far from motivating, I become full of self-loathing, I critique every jiggle, I obsess on every bump, roll, and ripple - there is no more vicious person in the world than me to the reflection in the mirror.  I often say that I would not let any other person near me who says the things to me that I say to myself.  It is truly horrible.

I know this about myself, so you know what I've done this week?  I have avoided the mirrors.  Where possible, especially in the gym, I work out to my back to them.  I am doing what I need to do and not giving power to the demon voice inside me.  A good friend told me to turn the voice into a cartoon character's voice, it loses it's condemnation and power.  That works pretty well.

The old saying goes, if you can't say something nice then don't say anything.  Well, if you can't say something nice to yourself in the mirror, then stop looking,

You, on the other hand, might be completely motivated by watching yourself workout.  It might inspire you, it might cause you to push harder.  For others, this might now be an issue at all.  Perhaps men do not judge themselves as harshly as women?  Age, fitness level, background - are all going to play into this question.  So consider where YOU are in this discussion and then make those changes for yourself.  Peace.

Mar 12, 2017

Living Outside Your Body - Weight Loss Journey Series Part 2

Do you live outside of your body?  I know that is an unusual question but I would like to you consider if you have disconnected part of your brain from your body?

Is your body in pain?  Have you suffered an injury or an illness?  Do you have chronic fatigue?  Are you stiff, sore, or inflamed?

Do you connect with that or do you just set it aside - take a couple of ibuprofen and push through?  Are you full of such self-loathing that you can not even comprehend what has become of you?

In some ways, I think people with weight problems become very good at disconnecting their brains from their bodies.  It's uncomfortable to be fat, it's hard to move around, it makes your knees and your feet hurt - to get through life the mind most assuredly disconnects.

When we stop listening to our bodies and live a life disconnected from them, the ramifications are far-reaching. We live a half-life, a life of condemnation and denial of reality.

We see pictures of ourselves and do not recognize the person in the picture.  That can work both ways, when you are fat or when you are thin.  Overweight people tend to have an extremely distorted view of what they actually look like and I think that may be in part because of the tendency to live outside of their own bodies, to be disconnected in a very unhealthy way.

We have to face the hard facts and we have to begin living inside our own bodies.  Everybody is different and perhaps I am not on to a thing here but perhaps somebody other than me can recognize the need to get back in touch and reconnect mind and body as we proceed forward.

Mar 11, 2017

Hitting the Bottom and the Start of a Journey Back - Weight Loss Journey - Part 1

Abigail and Dolley readers as social creatures we tend to share our success and our triumphs and hide our failures in the closet.  I've written before about my struggle with my weight but always about the success stories, never about the failures, never about the frustration, and ultimately never about the misery of having a lifelong weight struggle.

As a writer and a thinker, it helps me to share.  So perhaps over the course of the next several months, we will share a journey, no doubt one we've undertaken thirty times but perhaps this time, with time, persistence, and a lifetime of experience under our belts it will be different.  I am not going to post workouts, I am not going to post pictures - this isn't about making a show of me.  This isn't about glorifying the AFTER, this is about the journey and the pain and the frustration of living with chronic weight problems.

There are a lot of things I want to write about in this series, subjects I have been researching and studying for months, like DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), Insulin Resistance, Epigenetic Triggers, and the Psychological differences between the fat and the skinny people living inside us.  I'd also like to write about the complexities of the human body and how each of us knows what works for us and what doesn't.  Those are just a few of the subjects swirling around my brain but today I need to tell you about hitting rock bottom.

Where I Fell From

After a lifetime of ups and downs, my most recent transformation came in 2008 when I lost 45 lbs.  I went from a size 14 to a size 4.  I kept it off through 2009 but it started creeping back and by the end of 2010, I'd regained about 15 lbs.  Inexplicably in 2011, no matter what I did (extreme diet, exercise running 4 miles a day x 5 days a week) I could not lose a pound.  I was gaining a 1/2 lb a month.  I am not an over eater, I don't binge.  I don't eat out.  I don't eat junk.  I eat whole, fresh, homemade food.  I don't drink soda or much alcohol.  

I hired a personal trainer in 2012, worked out 5 days a week, ate fish, salad, water for 30 days and did not lose a pound.  I lifted weights and worked out religiously for 9 months with not a single pound lost.  I was now 22 lbs over my initial weight loss.

In 2013, my health went off the rails and I ended up in the ER a couple times and had three surgeries in 8 weeks.  I was a wreck and regained all the weight, all 45 lbs.

By 2014, I had regained all of my 2008 weight loss plus 5 pounds.  I was desperate and went to a holistic doctor.  He put me on the hardest diet I'd ever been on, it was awful.  Full of rules and deprivation and no coffee.  I lost 4 lbs the first week, 1/2 lb the second week, zero lbs the third week, and the fourth week I regained the 4 lbs I'd lost the first week.  I quit.

I quit it all.  I was done.  The 2014 diet had proven in my mind that no matter what I did I could not lose weight.  Complications from my surgery immobilized my back, scar tissue developed all through my abdomen and I gave up.  I'd take a stroll here and there.  I work in the garden.  I'd watch what I ate but I would not diet and I would not weigh.  I got on the scale backward at the doctor's office and told them not to tell me.  I was finished with the whole damn thing.

My Journey to the Bottom

The sad part is that I continued to gain that pesky 1/2 lb per month.  It's not noticeable from month to month,  I started seeing signs though that this was getting out of control.  In April of last year, I bought a dress for a client visit.  I caught a glimpse of myself in the restaurant glass door - I had a fat girl's leg.  Instead of going on a diet, I stopped wearing dresses.

In October, my son snapped a picture of me at an unflattering angle, I was enormous.  Instead of going on a diet, I deleted the picture.  In November, I had to give my measurements for a bridesmaid's dress, I nearly fell over.  I started seriously considering a diet then.  In February, my wedding ring stopped fitting and I had to take it off after 26 years.  Last week, the bridesmaid's dress arrived and it is the hugest most hideous thing I will ever wear, yards and yards and yards of sleeveless rose gold sequins.  I look like a sparkly naked cow.  I was done.

I went and saw the doctor that had helped me take off the weight in 2007/2008.  I was ashamed when I rolled in there.  She was shocked.  Instead of making excuses and telling her my tale of woe, I told her my plan.  I've got the meds, I've got the plan, I've got the motivation, and now I am ready.

My Plea to You

There is beauty in rock bottom.  A cleansing and a self-examination that does not come when you are in denial.  Rock Bottom is a place to stop and a place to start again.  We all get there in our own time but I would encourage you if you are in an avoidance situation, face it sooner rather than later.

Jan 28, 2017

Trump's Trade Policy - Striking the Right Tenor

The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 is widely regarded as the tipping point that sent the world into the Great Depression. Punitively high duty rates were applied to all import shipments into the USA. (If you are interested, the law was never repealed and the high duty rates remain in the US tariff book under Column 2, picture below). The world quickly retaliated and protectionists barriers caused markets to dry up, prices to skyrocket, and rewarded inefficient bloated domestic industries. The result was a worldwide economic disaster.

Snap Shot of the US Tariff and Duty Rates
The other end of the spectrum is a TPP style trade deal where national sovereignty, regulations, and duty collection are sacrificed on the altar of "free trade". Trump rightly called the Congress and the Obama administration on the carpet for this disastrously crafted agreement. (Note in the picture, Free Trade Agreements have duty rates listed under "Special" above).

With the election of DJT, the pendulum seems to be swinging back. The balance is usually somewhere in the middle. Decades of bad trade policy can not be undone quickly - to try and do so will be a disaster. Before we institute punitive tariffs, we have to rebuild our manufacturing base, we have to encourage companies to build factories in the US, and we need to make sure we have a workforce ready to take on the jobs.

It is interesting to note that modern factories are mobile, especially compared to the abandoned relics of the 20th century. Factories can be relocated in today's world. After the 9/11 attacks, I had a unique job of driving around NC/SC to visit and tour manufacturing facilities, Plant managers were so kind and took pride in escorting me through the premises to explain their processes.

What became very apparent to me was the modernity and leanness of the manufacturing process. Drive around industrial parks in this nation, you won't see belching smokestacks and railroad tracks behind hulking red brick manufacturing plants, you will see non-descript buildings, quietly producing all manner of products.

Modern Manufacturing Facility - Lincolnton NC
So consider, if you are an American company that has relocated light manufacturing in Mexico, it is not that difficult to move back to the US. An improved business environment, repatriation of money, and the threat of increased US Tariffs is EXACTLY the correct environment needed to swing that pendulum firmly in the middle, where it belongs.

Jan 27, 2017

The Reality of NAFTA - A Customs Broker's Perspective

Given the recent headlines on US and Mexico Trade Negotiations, a practical approach is needed to cut through the rhetoric.  Allow me to present a brief analysis of the issue from a day to day operations perspective.

I have a degree in Economics, have worked in Intl business for 27 years, and am a Licensed Customs Broker. I have been an advocate for free trade all my life.  Thus having established my bonafides, I will comment on the threat of increased import tariffs for Mexican products and hope to inject real world practical examples into economic and political theory.

In a vacuum, which all economic theory functions, increased US tariffs prop up inefficient and unprofitable US industries, and inflate prices for US consumers. When US exports are charged a high tariff, our US goods are more expensive and we sell fewer items. In this scenario, high tariffs hurt everyone.

This is the economic model in which ALL trade agreements start and why they have been so popular since the 1940's. It is in general why conservatives and moderates are "Free Traders". This was the thought behind the bi-partisan support of NAFTA.

Life Before NAFTA

What the general public does not know is that prior to NAFTA, the US had a free trade agreement with Mexico that went "One Way". Their goods came into the US largely duty-free. Our goods exporting to them had an average import tariff of 25%.

NAFTA was supposed to bring down Mexican tariffs and eliminate "pre-shipment inspections".  The US already had a zero tariff for their goods and no pre-shipment inspections were required.

When NAFTA was signed, Mexico had a number of years to implement the reduction in US tariff rates. What the trade agreement did not address was Mexico's VAT tax on all imports

Nor did NAFTA address "Non-Tariff Barriers to Trade"

Non-Tariff Barriers are more incidious than tariffs, they are designed to frustrate, block, and hamper trade while escaping the attention of clueless trade negotiators.  Here are some examples:

Licenses:  The Mexican government requires that Mexican importers obtain import licenses for a vast number of products.  The license is an application to Economics Secretary and is generally valid for 9 months.  A permit has to be reapplied for repeatedly, it does not automatically renew, and requires a new full application and proof that the previous permit was used.  Each branch of the Mexican government can require their own departmental permit, for example, medicine has to have an import permit AND Health permit.

Permits:  Some products don't require a license but need a permit which is a governmental written approval process to import products.  This can be lengthy and arbitrary.  Mexico can effectively not take action on applications which the prohibits large classes of merchandise.

Restrictions on Ports of Entry:  Permits are also limited to specific ports of entry.  Thus, if an importer has an import permit in Mexico City, he effectively can't import through Laredo.  This means, for all practical reasons, the only way this client can import from the US is via Air Freight, which is much more expensive that truck freight.

Approved Importers:  There is a cartel type industry in Mexico where small importers and exporters can "use license and permits" of "approved importers".  So in our example above, the Mexican Importer with a permit in Mexico City can engage an "Approved Importer in Laredo" for a truck shipment.  The rates these outfits charge are so outrageous that most just give up and try to find other markets to sell their products.  They prey on the hapless exporter and importer who import a single AA battery without a permit, their $50,000 shipment is held up over a battery.  Thousands of dollars in storage, delays, and penalties ensue.  (I speak from experience...)

Prepayment of Duty and Taxes:  Mexico also requires that all duty and taxes be paid at the time of border crossing and clearance.  This slows down the process and can make for an arbitrary environment where corrupt officials decide the duty due.  If the parties do not agree on tariff number or valuation, the Mexican Customs official refuses the entry, the cargo is turned away to sit with storage.  The delay fees that often outweigh the payoff.

Mexican Customs Brokers can not be forwarders or trucking companies.  There are always two or more parties involved in the clearance into Mexico. This doubles the handling costs, causes inefficiencies, creates delays, and removes the streamline that complicated supply chains need to function.

What Mexico accomplished with "Non-Tariff Barriers" is they effectively made it impossible for the small and medium US exporter and the small and medium MX importer to do business together. The imports from Mexico flow in like a fire hose while exports into Mexico flow in through a stingy coffee stirrer with a hole in it.

Importing into Mexico is expensive, complicated, difficult, and utterly corrupt - by design. 

What's the real cost:  While Mexico reduced their tariff from 25%, they still subject US goods to about 10% duty + 16% VAT + Other fees and tax.  Mexico then levies an estimated 28% tax on US goods.  By contrast, the USA levies an average 1% duty plus a 0.365% processing fee.  Thus, a 20% tax on Mexican imports is still lower than the effective rate they charge us!

Contrast the USA:

The import environment of the USA is free from almost all of the restrictions I described above.  We have a beautiful free market.  Our companies and individuals are not required to obtain restrictive and costly import permits.  We are free to import just about any legal product into the US, in any port of entry that we chose. Of course, there are regulations and laws, but these are pretty simple and applied across the country by rule of law.  Importers have ten days to pay their duty and this is fixed by law so there is no specific agent making his share!

An importer in the US can expect to pay about $200 in fees and taxes on a small shipment from Mexico and have clearance and delivery within 48 hours.  The same transaction in Mexico cost $1500 and takes about a week, assuming all documents are in place.

Mexico has never lived up to the spirit of the North American FREE trade agreement

The weak, ineffective, globalist US Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama never uttered a word. All the while in the US, they raised minimum wage laws and put such a regulatory burden on manufacturers that producing in Mexico became very attractive. Consider the hostile business environment the USA has become: Unions, EPA, OSHA, Obamacare, high corporate taxes, high payroll taxes, and regulatory compliance that often requires a team of extremely high paid employees to manage, you have a perfect storm. The large multinationals have flourished - they benefited from cheap labor and lax regulations in Mexico while the famous Ross Perot "large sucking sound" was heard across the nation.

Pillowtex Worker Learns the Company is Closing
So, US workers HAVE lost jobs due to NAFTA, not because free trade is bad, but because NAFTA did not accomplish free trade between our nations. It was a parasitic deal that has been perpetuated on the US workers by passive US leadership, cunning Mexican politicians, and multinationals.