Good-ish things in 2016

This past week I have seen numerous posts and articles about how bad 2016 was. I agree that it would have been nice if the most controversial debate was whether females could be Ghostbusters, but 2016 just wasn’t that kind of year. Sure, the loss of so many very talented people was heart-wrenching and shocking. And the election season (all year) was tumultuous, but there were some good things, weren’t there? Good-like? Good-ish? For example, we had the Olympics in Brazil and we dodged the worldwide outbreak of the Zica virus that we feared. There also weren’t horrible cases of dysentery, or worse, from those participating in the beach water sports that weren’t quite meeting the standards of clean water. There was an incident involving American swimmers and a gas station, and stories that wavered between vandals and heroes, but it seems like that ended up okay. Let us not forget about the launch of Pokemon Go! It was a good thing … wasn’t it? Beyond causing people to walk off cliffs, interrupting funerals, and luring peeps into dangerous situations, it provided hours of enjoyment and encouraged kids to go outside and exercise. Yes, we will cling to those benefits. Yay 2016! We learned so much about our American history this year—at least about the forming of the treasury department. That’s thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda, of course, and a little musical (originally a mix-tape) he wrote called “Hamilton,” which won 2016’s Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and multiple other awards. Maybe he can write another called “The Electoral College” since a large part of our voting population seemed to be absent when this was explained in their civics classes. Apparently, too many missed this title from the Schoolhouse Rock repertoire. Harry Potter came back in the form of a play, published as a book, called Harry Potter and The Cursed Child (Playwrights: J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany). I personally loved it! The play itself was performed on the stage in London with rave reviews. J.K. Rowling’s magical world was also expanded on the screen in 2016 with the screening of the movie Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which is still on my list to see. The year ended with the popularity of a high-touch-tech toy called Hatchimals. Cute little creatures that hatch from an egg after being played with and then continue to need the tender loving care...
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Flag Collection & Retirement Friday, July 1

Sponsored by my favorite loan officer, Dennis C. Smith, who happens to be my husband, this Friday marks the sixth time he is coordinating a flag collection and formal flag retirement ceremony as party of Long Beach Bixby Knolls’s First Friday festivities. Remember, you aren’t supposed to just toss out an old or tattered flag into the trash. You might have learned that long ago in social studies (or if you’re more mature “civics class”). You are supposed to dispose of Old Glory properly which is by flame for a cloth flag, or by burial for a synthetic flag. So if you are a conscientious patriot who always waves a flag in front of your house and doesn’t just discard of them carelessly, then donate your old American flag(s) at the flag collection area in the parking lot at Georgie’s Place restaurant on Atlantic Ave. at Roosevelt (3850 Atlantic Ave.) between 6:30 and 8:30 pm. (While you are there, pop-in to Georgie’s for some amazing chili cheese fries or my favorite, their Greek Chicken salad–it’s so American!) At 7:30, Boy Scout Troop 29 will demonstrate the proper disposal of a natural fiber flag in flame. It’s a ceremony you won’t want to miss! The young men explain what they are doing and why and honor the flag by speaking of its meaning. Other flags collected that night will be donated to the Boy Scouts to use in similar ceremonies. Nylon or other synthetic flags are buried and not burned due to the noxious fumes that synthetic fibers emit. All those who stop by can enter a free drawing hosted by Smith for two flags—one for an adult, and one for a child. The drawing will be held immediately following the flag retirement ceremony. You can bring your old flag starting at 6:30 p.m. As I mentioned, husband Dennis is a mortgage broker with Stratis Financial Corporation. For more information visit or
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Here’s some Thanksgiving tradition––a short story to make us all thankful for what we have.  ~LS “Do you think we passed it? It’s just a tiny street?” Sherrie asked, her chestnut hair swinging forward brushing her shoulders as she peered through the windows of the minivan from the passenger seat. “Street is an exaggeration. It’s a dirt road,” her husband Joel replied. “No, we haven’t passed it. It’s up here another few miles or so.” His plaid sleeves were rolled up, his burgundy sweater vest crumpled around his seatbelt. “Are you sure? I think we passed it,” Sherrie adjusted her reading glasses and looked around again, small orange and brown turkeys jingled from her earrings. “I’m sure. We haven’t even passed the restaurant yet,” Joel reassured and flicked his big, brown eyes at her, running his fingers through his short, red hair. There was one restaurant within 10 miles of Aunt Carol’s house. They didn’t visit her often, but every time they made the drive the restaurant had changed hands and had a new name. It had been everything from “The Buttercup Diner” to the “Goulash Hut.” “Why do we have to go to Aunt Carol’s for Thanksgiving?” Greg asked from the backseat. “She’s your great aunt, she’s my aunt. We’re going there because my mother died and we always had Thanksgiving with her. Carol wants to carry on the tradition and keep things the same,” Sherrie explained to her eldest son. He had just turned 15 and with his birthday came abhorrence for everything related to family. “Yeah, but Grandma Phyllis was a good cook. Great Aunt Carol always makes weird stuff that Grandma conveniently forgot in the warmer,” Greg pointed out. His dad smiled at him from the rearview mirror. “You caught onto that, huh?” his mom said with a guilty grin. “Well, it’s still nice of her to do this for us and keep things the same.” “It’s not the same! Bobby and Dotty aren’t going,” twelve-year-old Steven said about his cousins. “Don’t forget that Aunt Carol cooks like shit,” Greg reiterated. “Watch your language! She definitely finds the kitchen a challenge, but it’s hard to really botch a turkey. You just have to baste it and keep an eye on it. If it’s dry, you just add extra gravy. It’s fail-safe, really. I just hope she makes stuffing and not dressing that’s cooked separately. I...
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“Death By Meeting” – Book Review

Death by Meeting: A Leadership Fable…about Solving the Most Painful Problem in Business by Patrick Lencioni My rating: 4 of 5 stars I rounded out my vacation by reading a Lencioni parable by the pool, because that’s the kind of geek that I am! If you are in an environment where the first response to every issue is, “We need a meeting,” then this is the book for you! It demonstrates a great way to interpret the needs of a business and its employees by structuring appropriate meetings for each topic and function. Lencioni, as always, presented the material in a fun, analogous way to make it resonate with small and large business structures. As he points out, meetings can become monotonous and a huge waste of time. People would rather do anything than go to a meeting, when it really should be like playtime for executives. Matching structure to context, Lencioni devises ways for any business to change meetings from drudgery to enjoyable, productive time spent with your colleagues. This is not a book about training, or executing conferences or workshops. If you are looking for ways to keep people engaged in learning, then another choice would be better. If you find yourself scheduling meetings all day and qualify that time as different than hours when you “get real work done,” then you definitely need this book. Here’s a tip if you are not in charge of meetings and will upset the status quo if you speak out of turn about the meeting drain at your company: suggest everyone read it as a book club subject. In one fell swoop, you might just get everyone on board to restructure meetings so that they are the real work. View all my...
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Ready. Set. Vacation!

Are you ready for a break? I mean a real break. A vacation away from home. I have to say that I am more than ready. It’s been a year since we took a family vacation which is unusual for us. We almost always take a week away during our children’s school breaks—both winter and spring breaks. My husband and I took a long weekend last August and it feels like it was eons ago. The nonstop juggling of family, work, and other obligations takes a toll on my physical and creative energy. I sort of feel like a computer with too many programs running; I need to unplug and re-boot. The family and I are headed to one of our favorite resorts in Scottsdale, AZ next week. Temperatures are already soaring over 100 degrees there, but it really won’t matter. Pool time is typically offset with miniature golf, seeing some movies, dining in our favorite restaurants, a Diamondbacks game, a little sightseeing, board and card games, and completing at least one jigsaw puzzle. I can’t wait! I expect to come back refreshed, reinvigorated, and motivated for all of life’s obligations. Here are some health benefits of vacation from a website Standard Life: Five reasons to go on vacation Relieve stress
 The very first benefit of leaving everything behind and relieving your brain of all your worries is reduced stress.

Several studies have shown a direct link between stress and health conditions such as headaches, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and other types of infections acquired as a result of a weaker immune system. It has also been scientifically established that taking vacations reduces the incidence of burnout.

Relief from stress often gives us a new perspective on life, allows us to regain energy and often to find simple and sometimes obvious solutions to problems that had previously seemed impossible to solve. Improve your mental skills
 Some studies have found a positive relationship between vacations and intellectual function. A well-rested mind that is free of worry is often more effective. Improve your physical health
 Besides getting you away from daily stressors, a vacation often gives you the opportunity to catch up on sleep and exercise, two simple remedies for many aches and pains. Strengthen family ties
Too often, in our fast-paced daily routine, family relationships suffer. A vacation is a great opportunity to discover each other in a different setting and to build lasting memories....
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