Monday, October 20, 2014

Texas Early Voting Has Begun

Early Voting in Texas runs October 20-31 in 2014
Early voting in Texas begins today Monday, October 20th and runs through Friday, October 31st.  There are many reasons to early vote or to wait until election day, but registered voters in Texas are allowed to early vote in person for any reason at any voting location within their county of residence.

Because you can vote at any location in your county of residence during early voting and most location include weekend hours, it is usually the easiest time to vote.  Harris County alone has over 41 early voting locations that are open on the weekend!     

You can check the early voting locations for your county and their times by visiting the Texas Secretary of State Online Voter site here or on VoteTexas.gov.  

November 4th is the Texas General Election.


Don't forget your TX ID to vote - the US Supreme Court ruled Saturday allowing the Texas Voter ID Law to remain in place for the November general election, which means it is in effect for early voting as well.  

A Texas voter will be required to show one of the following forms of photo identification at the polling location before the voter will be permitted to cast a vote.
Texas Sample Election Identification Certificate
TX Sample EIC
  • Texas driver license issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
  • Texas Election Identification Certificate issued by DPS
  • Texas personal identification card issued by DPS
  • Texas concealed handgun license issued by DPS
  • United States military identification card containing the person’s photograph
  • United States citizenship certificate containing the person’s photograph
  • United States passport
If you do not have one of these forms of identification, you can obtain an Election Identification Certificate from a DPS office (which many are open on Saturdays to obtain an EIC) or from a EIC mobile station which may be found in a city near you in the next two weeks.  

Even though it is not a presidential election year, there are several key statewide Texas races that need your vote.  Senator, Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, US House Representative and several more.  In your excitement to vote for the races you see commercials for every night on TV, don't forget about your local or down ballot races.  

Your county races are just as important as the gubernatorial and other high-profile races.  It might seem overwhelming to go through page after page of judicial and local elections, but who is elected to those positions might affect you just as much or more than the Attorney General of the state of Texas.  If you aren't sure who to vote for in all the down ballot races, you can vote straight party ticket, ask a trusted friend or do some research with organizations who you believe represent your interests. 

I'm not going to give you a long lecture on why US Citizens should vote.  I believe most of us realize how important it is to do our civic duty and show up at the polls, but I recognize that it is easy to get distracted and put it off.  Don't put it off for later.  Just go Vote!  




Monday, October 13, 2014

Parenting Young Athletes

Throughout a long weekend with two children playing in a soccer tournament, my mind kept coming back to the book Changing the Game.  It seems the perfect time to share my reflections on the Changing the Game and the difficulties in raising young athletes. This post originally appeared on CatholicMom.com  
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Over 21 million kids in America are involved with youth sports programs and 70% of these kids will drop out of organized athletics by the age of 13. We as parents have so much to learn about this increasingly competitive and intense world of youth sports if we are to keep our children playing longer and playing because they enjoy the sport. So where do we as parents turn to educate ourselves on raising athletes in today’s world?

Changing the Game by John O'Sullivan A good friend of mine with three successful athletes who always seems to handle the competition, disappointment and expectations with grace told me to read a book that really helped their family. It is the national bestseller, Changing the Game: The Parent's Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids by John O’Sullivan.

Reading through it I kept shaking my head at things I’ve struggled with over the last nine years with my kids in sports. There are so many things I’ve never really thought about when dealing with the day-to-day reality of practices and games.



My top five reflections from reading Changing the Game.

1. Why Play Sports? - What do you want your children to take out of playing a sport? It can go beyond just teamwork and fitness. The list of life lessons to learn on a field, ice rink or swimming pool include – discipline, gratitude, perspective, fairness/unfairness, jealousy, humility (in victory), gracefulness (in defeat), commitment, relationship and sometimes failure.

And the great part about kids learning about these in sports is that we as the parent also get to learn from them.


2. Core Values & Life Lessons – Are my actions on the field, at home and at practice reflecting the values I want my child to embody? Am I grateful for the trainers, do I say thank you to the parent volunteers, do I have patience in the learning process and can I keep it all in perspective?

Reflecting upon my answers to those questions helped me realize how much I have to learn about parenting athletes.


3. Unconditional Love - Does my child know that his performance on the field does not affect my love for him? Does he know that I love him unconditionally? Does he know that even if he fails I will always be proud that he took the risk?

Sports are a great avenue for a child to gain confidence partially through marked success and abysmal failures. They ultimately learn to not only fail gracefully, but how to succeed by overcoming failure. In order for him to take risks and fail or succeed, he needs confidence that his parents love him no matter what. That love will give him the support and encouragement he needs to take those big risks.

After all, where else besides youth sports can kids fail and learn to overcome without serious consequences?


4. Communication - How am I communicating with my athlete? Do I ask him what he hopes to get out of the training or season? Why does he play? What are his goals or expectations in the short and long term? Do I ask and do I listen?

After a disappointing game, do I give him time to absorb the experience and then help him figure out the lesson when he’s ready? Am I giving him the tools he needs to deal with the coaches, players and referees?


Parenting Athletes 5. Their Game - How do you encourage your athlete to play their hardest, when do you push and how do you handle a disappointing result or performance? The book helped me to realize that my athletes need to be playing the game for themselves, not performing for their parents. My child needs to be released to the game.

The sport is HIS experience, not mine. We, as parents, are the spectators and the kid is in control of the outcome. I am simply a fan during the game. The #1 fan of course, but still, just a fan. It is our job as the parent to help our athlete set his goals and expectations and then discuss as a family how the athlete’s goals/expectations match up with those of the parents. Once we have the goals, we as a parent can push our child to meet his specific goals when they need the extra support. 


Players receive training in a sport. Coaches receive training in a sport. Parents most of the time do not. We as parents need training in how to nurture our young athletes to develop a high-performing mindset and ensure a life long love of the game.

What do you struggle with the most parenting youth in sports?

What has been your greatest influence in learning how to parent athletes?




Friday, October 10, 2014

I'm Not "Just" a Blogger

Blog Elevated 2014 Conference

If you follow us on social media, you probably noticed that Shelly and I attended Blog Elevated Conference in Galveston, Texas. Blog Elevated started hosting their conference last year in Houston and I’ve felt really blessed to attend both years. Last year I left the conference blown away at the idea that blogging can be a business in the way they presented. As a predominately faith-based blogger, I wasn't sold then on the idea of turning Of Sound Mind and Spirit into a business.

This year I approached the conference a little more open to the idea of how and if we should blog as a business. Shelly and I attended together so we could really be on the same page discerning the next step forward for our blog.

CONFERENCE TIME

Blog Elevated!

First, let me say that the ladies behind Blog Elevated really KNOW how to put on a conference! Lisa and Bobbie understand what is important to bloggers and how to make it happen over a 2 1/2 day event. They planned everything beautifully with so much attention to detail from the moment we checked in until the closing speaker.


They chose the Moody Gardens hotel, which provided that special tropical-vacation feeling, even though we were only an hour from home. Our beds were comfortable, the room clean and well decorated. The staff went out of their way to provide service with a smile, the meeting rooms were top notch, and the Food was excellent. The opening luau reception even included a fire pit with smores! How’s that for attention!

SESSIONS

Information from the keynote speakers, panelist and the breakout speakers was plentiful.

Dayna Steele kicked it off by reminding us to believe in ourselves and identify our goals. She also pointed out that sometimes goals are attainable because you helped others on your way. Her most valuable piece of advice? Don’t write a word in the morning until you check the news! You may not know this, but Dayna used to be a huge morning DJ in the Houston market. She kept us hanging on the edge of our seat with all her anecdotal stories about rockers like Sammy Hagar and Billy Idol.


Marie Bonaccorse from P&G gave me a new way to think about identifying the voice of a brand. While I could never possess the potty humor necessary to tweet for Charmin toilet paper, the voice she created for Charmin online is creative and attention getting in a memorable and out of the box way. I love her hashtag #tweetfromtheseat!

Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum really opened my eyes to what is possible for a blogger wishing to turn their blog into a business. A successful business. He and his wife were very generous in supplying the audience with practical, helpful steps and include specifics on how to make money with a food blog online for everyone.  

Matt Cherry from iBlog Magazine was available to the audience for questions at any point after giving us his 30 easy changes for big blog growth. Watch our space as we implement some of his recommendations.

Shelly and I split up for some of the breakout sessions. While she learned about the possibilities of Vlogging and managing a YouTube channel (the future of blogs) from Audra Kurtz, I pondered the advice of Holly Homer about the way I utilize Facebook, both as a blogger and as a social media consultant for businesses. (Just a hint, you can hear Holly give her advice on building organic Facebook growth in a recent episode of the Social Media Examiner Podcast. It's worth the listen if you manage a brand page on Facebook.)  In addition to her informative presentation on Pinterest, Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy met with me and many others during one-on-one sessions where she evaluated our Pinterest accounts.

With our Imperial Sugar and good friend Cintia 

SPONSORS

The sponsors! How can you not hold a special place for these companies who contributed so much to the success of Blog Elevated. It’s not just that we came away with incredible swag from the event, but how they were there all the time to meet the bloggers and interact. Kristal Howard from Kroger won extra points from me for participating in the popular brand panel once again this year, offering so many practical pointers on how to interact with brands and do business with them. Thank you to Moody Gardens, Imperial Sugar, Kroger, Galveston Island, iBlog Magazine, Ahalogy and many more.

CLOSING KEYNOTE

With Kristen Welch
Kristen Welch from We are THAT Family closed the conference with a Keynote speech. Check out her blog, because I’m betting you’ve read more than a few of her viral posts on Facebook. After all that talk about blogging for business, I wondered if the Blog Elevated Conference organizers knew what they were doing when they scheduled Kristen Welch to wrap things up, but honestly - she brought the experience of the conference full circle for me. Kristen told her story of being an accidental successful blogger whose life was rocked after she accepted a trip to Kenya to blog about the poverty and living conditions there. During the trip, she heard God calling her to do something more and having a successful blog was a part of it.

She was incredibly inspiring. I found myself sitting there thinking, "Why am I blogging?" Is it about me? Why do I do it? All of the same questions I find myself thinking about after attending the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) every year.

TAKEAWAY


The conference really drove home that we are not "just" bloggers. The push of the conference drove home that we should we be treating our blog as a business. The to-do lists presented to write more, drive better stats, improve referral business and maybe monetize the blog was a bit overwhelming. My mind swirled at all that I could do to get more, to do more with the blog. Man, I was getting on the bandwagon. My homework list grew with each presentation and speech.


And then I came home and thought about it.

You know, while there is nothing wrong with monetizing a blog and blogging for business, it just doesn’t feel authentic to why Shelly and I started Of Sound Mind and Spirit almost six years ago. We have kept the blog going out of a sense of calling or vocation. She and I feel called to evangelize our faith journey through our life experiences, to live out loud, the good and the bad, for Christ. We both agree that we can and should look to ways to implement what we've learned at the conference, but we don’t want to lose the heart of why we do it.

So we have many things to think about and many tools to implement. Watch our space and leave us feedback so we know what YOU want to see here. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being part of our small community. We appreciate your support.



Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Secret that Once Upon a Time is Frozen

Once Upon a Time…. there were two sisters.
Frozen comes to Once Upon a Time season 4

One of these sisters took her children to see Frozen.
The other did not and could not understand why everyone kept singing “Let it Go” all the time.
And then on the Once Upon a Time season 3 finale, Emma and Hook returned from the Enchanted Forest of the past with an unexpected stowaway in Rumplestiltskin’s urn; a woman in a shimmering blue dress magically emerged with ice crystals shooting from her fingertips. 
The first sister squealed. 
The second sister sighed…. and reluctantly borrowed the Frozen movie DVD.

Now she “gets it.”
We’re both looking forward to the Season 4 return of ABC’s Once Upon a Time with their new 11-episode arc incorporating characters from the movie Frozen. The Anna and Elsa story will likely be told in the standard OUAT format that see-saws between present-day Storybrooke and flashbacks to the pre-curse Enchanted Forest.


#Frozen is Coming to #OnceUponATime

We're curious how the Frozen characters will interact with our OUAT heroes, but the really exciting element is how will the show’s writers employ their classic “What If…” twist? Show creator Eddy Kitsis is already on record saying that Anna, “...is a sunny hopeful woman who always sees the good in people, but what happens when she meets Rumplestiltskin, the devil? We’ll reveal a whole new side of Anna’s personality.”
Coming to the show are Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven, Prince Hans (with his 12 brothers), and Pabbie the Troll King.
But no Olaf?! Maybe Kristoff finally told him what happens to snow in summmmerrrr!!!!!!
Another character appearing is supposed to be the Snow Queen, whose Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale inspired the Frozen movie. There's no spoilers about how she will be integrated into show, but I have read the original fairy tale and have a few ideas.
Secrets of Once Upon a Time Podcast by SQPN
If you want to know our predictions or what we think about Once Upon a Time, be sure to subscribe to the weekly SQPN podcast Secrets of Once Upon a Time on iTunes. Hosted by Fr. Roderick, David, Deborah, Inge, Lisa and I, the podcast brings together our eclectic group to identify themes, hidden Mickey's (visual references to all-things Disney), examine another layer of the show through discussion, and make crazy predictions about the direction of the story.  

Can't wait for the Sunday premiere either?  Check out the extended trailer for the season 4 premiere of Once Upon a Time.  

Don't forget to watch Sunday night at 8/7central on ABC, then tune in later in the week to the Secrets of Once Upon a Time podcast on iTunes to hear us discuss the episode.  

What's your prediction for Sunday night and this first part of Once Upon a Time Season 4?  


~Shelly

Monday, September 22, 2014

Planning a Catholic Women's Retreat

Planning a Catholic Women's Retreat
For years, I have desired and prayed about a ladies' retreat at my parish.  A retreat for women to getaway for a weekend, grow closer to Christ and enjoy fellowship with each other. I'm very, very excited to say that we are now finally in the planning stages for our first Catholic Ladies' Retreat for St. Angela Merici!!!

We have organized a team of women who represent many of the different seasons of life for women in our parish and we've begun sharing our own experiences, brainstorming, praying and discussing.

When discussing the package Catholic retreats that exist or those that we've attended, we decided to create one from the ground up to fit the identity of our parish.  St. Angela Merici in Missouri City is still in the "young" stages of a parish, but no longer a small parish.  Since our first mass in summer of 2008, we have grown to over 1300 households.  It's been quite an explosion that means we no longer all know each other or even run into each other with four large masses in a weekend.  The parish is "young" with lots and lots of children and families, but we want to target all the women in our parish with an inclusive event.  We have stay at home moms, working moms, empty nesters, professional single women, divorced women, young adults, widowers, etc...  But the one thing we all have in common - We are all called to be Daughters of God.

To create an inclusive Catholic women's retreat from the ground up, we've identified our three main goals...

1. Create a women's retreat for all women in our parish, no matter their season in life or marital status.  Everyone is welcome.

2.  Create a place where women can meet Jesus and grow in their faith, even though we are all in different places on our faith journey.

3.  Create a community where women can enjoy fellowship and connect with each other as daughters of God.

Catholic Women's Retreat St. Angela Merici ParishThose are big goals to meet in a first year event.  After going around and around with scripture and ideas for sessions we kept coming back to Daughters of God and Proverbs 31.  At that point, many of the big pieces fell into place.

Our flyer and theme then naturally flowed from Proverbs 31 and the idea that We are Called to be a Daughter of God.

We have a reservation at an archdiocesan retreat center, begun collecting emails from interested women and presented the retreat to the parish.

Some of the big early stuff is done (or started), but now there are so many details to work through in order to schedule sessions, open registration and finalize plans.

Would you share with us a few things about your retreat experience?  If you haven't been on one, there are still a couple of questions to help us out.
  • What is your favorite thing that happens at a weekend retreat?
  • What convinced you to attend a weekend women's retreat?  (and if you haven't yet, what would seal the deal?)
  • What type of swag (gifts, goodies) do you enjoy receiving at an event? Any favorite, must haves?
  • What makes a retreat special for you?
  • Do you have a favorite scripture verse or Saint quote that is great for women's groups?

We are very excited and feel blessed to have this opportunity to bring the women of our parish together to grow as daughters of God.   Will you pray for the Holy Spirit to guide our team in creating a retreat that brings the women of our parish together in community and closer to Jesus Christ?

Thank you for your feedback!  I've created a Pinterest Board for the retreat if you want to follow along with our planning.

Follow Of Sound Mind & Spirit's board Catholic Women's Retreat on Pinterest.
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