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Here’s another product I will be getting free in exchange for reviewing it on behalf of U.S. Family Guide. ¬†I was SO excited when I saw this product but I’m not going to tell you which one I ordered until it arrives.ūüôā

As always, the company wants me to share some information about this product with you:

3DLIGHTFX 3D Deco Lights are the perfect gift this holiday season. They have a full range of comic book, super hero, Disney Princess, sports and car lights that look as though they are popping right out of the wall! They are battery operated and cool to the touch so you can place them any where in the room! Your kids will love having these in their rooms and they’re also the perfect editions to a den, family room, man’s cave or office!

You can purchase these lights at Target and Target.com at the following link: http://bit.ly/TargetUSFamily

Now look at see how cool these are!

I’m here today to give my honest review of the AdoramaPix photobook I told you¬†about several weeks ago. ¬†I worry that you won’t trust a review that is as glowing as the one I am about to write. ¬†But I assure you that even though I received this product ($50 value!) for free, I am giving you my honest opinion, as always.

So the way this works is, you head over to the AdoramaPix Website and select the type of book you want.  There a variety of designs and templates depending on what kind of book you want to make.  Are you commemorating a special occasion? Collecting vacation photos? Making a gift book for someone special? The design I chose was specifically for highlighting iPhone pictures.

photo-book-4

Yes, y’all, I made my very own coffee table book and I could not love this thing more. ¬†And it was so easy. ¬†The hardest part was figuring out which pictures to use. ¬†The second hardest part was laying them out. ¬†There are tutorials on the site to explain how the process works–for that matter, you can let the program lay them out at random. ¬†You can even import a layout from your own program if that sort of thing makes sense to you. ¬†It’s not something I have any experience with so I let the program do it for me and then moved them around until I got them where I wanted them.

My book is incredible.  Does that sound vain? You would never believe I took the pictures with an iPhone.

I waited too long to post this review so the coupon code I had to offer has expired. ¬†HOWEVER, AdoramaPix is always running specials, and they have sales going on for the rest of the month. ¬†And I don’t know if y’all remember, but I also ordered some metal prints from them that were incredible. ¬†So don’t limit yourself to the photobook.

Here are more pictures but they don’t do it justice. ¬†The colors are beautiful.

photo-book-1photo-book-2photo-book-3

Do yourself a favor and take a look at the AdoramaPix website and be sure to let me know if you buy anything!

Just jumping off of politics for a minute to offer you a fun deal for Christmas.  Obviously, this is a sponsored post and I will be receiving a free product in exchange for my participation which I will review honestly after I receive it.

If you would like to take advantage of this¬†FREE 12×8 Canvas Print, all you need to do is to click the website link, upload your favorite picture, choose 12×8″ canvas, and enter the voucher code from the website in the basket. ¬†¬†Give it as a Christmas gift, or keep it for yourself (that’s what I am going to do!).

Be aware that you will have to pay shipping on your otherwise free purchase.  Please share the offer with your friends and let me know what you think of The AMAZING FREE CANVAS FOR AMERICA CAMPAIGN.

Good People?

My high school French teacher,¬†Sister deLellis, had a favorite saying that popped into my head today: “Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are.”

For the past year, many of my friends who termed themselves reluctant Trump supporters¬†assured me repeatedly that all his flaws would not matter because once he was in office he would “surround himself with good people.” ¬†Since the election, they keep saying, “Give him a chance.”

In the disorganized mess that is the Trump transition, rumors abound, each one worse than the last. ¬†But I don’t deal in rumors. ¬†So far Mr. Trump has made only a few¬†official appointments that I am aware of. ¬†Are they good people? ¬†Let’s take a look at some of them:

Stephen Bannon, Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor

If you haven’t already read more than your fill about Mr. Bannon and his alt-right associations, this opinion piece provides a fairly balanced view with links to more.

Jeff Sessions, Attorney General

Mr. Sessions was denied an appointment¬†years ago to a federal judgeship for alleged racist remarks. ¬†He has denied the remarks, but he can’t deny that he said he isn’t sure that¬†grabbing a woman’s genitalia is¬†sexual assault.

Mike Flynn, National Security Advisor

A retired general and a registered Democrat, Flynn is on record as having made extreme remarks against Islam–not just radical Islamic terrorism but the religion itself. ¬†‚ÄúIslam is a political ideology‚Ķit definitely hides behind this notion of it being a religion,‚ÄĚ Flynn said in a speech at the annual conference of ACT for America, the largest anti-Muslim grassroots organization in the US. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs like cancer‚Ķa malignant cancer in this case.‚ÄĚ

Predictably, these picks have raised an outcry of rage from Democrats, but¬†several prominent Republicans are not brimming over with enthusiasm over Bannon’s role¬†in particular either.

But guess who does like Mr. Trump’s appointments?

Bannon, Flynn, Sessions — Great! Senate must demand that Sessions as AG stop the massive institutional race discrimination against whites!

Tell me who you go with and I’ll tell you who you are. ¬†

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Tennessee is on fire and Donald Trump is the President-Elect. ¬†The haze that hangs over Knoxville matches the haze in my head and my heart. ¬†It’s hard to think and hard to breathe.

On Election Day  many of us headed off to the polls excited about a bright new world full of promise and possibility and without glass ceilings.

The next morning we awakened¬†to¬†an America we didn’t recognize, a country we used to love but feel that we don’t even know any more.

We are grieving and we are discouraged and the conservatives I know (translation: almost EVERYONE I know, here in red East Tennessee) think we are crybabies and want us to get over it.

In October, I cleared out our fire pit, planning for crisp November evenings.

The pit remains empty and cold.  My bonfire dreams are dead like so many other dreams seem to be. Most of East Tennessee is under a burn ban, and this will continue until just a few days before winter begins.  Tempers are flaring too, and those flames may be harder to dampen.

I am intimately aware of the destructive power of fire.

But fire, controlled, also warms and illumines.

I love candles and every evening before we sit down to watch our show I light several.  I wait for the moment when the flame from the lighter catches the wick and the candle begins to burn on its own, its flame swelling to life.

My family visited Mammoth Cave recently. After gathering us in a large room, our guide turned off every light and left us to wait in complete, impenetrable darkness.   Then he lit just one match and the entire cave was illuminated.  Our eyes can grow accustomed to the deepest darkness.  One small flame becomes enough to see by.

Dark nights of the soul are steps along the journey to spiritual enlightenment. ¬†By all means we SHOULD curse the darkness we see in the world around us right now. ¬†But that doesn’t mean we can’t light candles.¬† We can burn. We can shine.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light . . .  (Ephesians 5:8)

 

christmas-window

No joke, y’all, I¬†started seeing houses¬†with their Christmas lights¬†up just after Halloween. ¬†Is it any wonder that there will be Christmas trees lying on the curb by Christmas night, tossed out by people who have celebrated themselves out before the guest of honor even arrived?

But the reality is, that’s the world we live in, and being all sanctimonious about it (IT’s NOT EVEN ADVENT YET!!) isn’t going to help. ¬†We could shut ourselves away from the world and refuse to participate, but that’s not much fun, is it? ¬†The Christmas concerts and television specials, the tree lightings, the pageants and parades–they will all be over after Christmas Day.

So how to reconcile what the world teaches with what the Church teaches? ¬†How do we keep Advent when the world says it’s already Christmas? ¬†(And how do we celebrate Christmas when the world says it’s over? ¬†Perhaps I will post on that at the proper time!)

Our family participates in many treasured Christmas traditions in the community, even though they start in November. ¬†We can’t control how the rest of the world celebrates. ¬†But we can control HOW and WHAT our family celebrates this time of year. ¬†Here’s what we do:

  • We remove the harvest/fall decorations, and leave the mantel bare except for¬†candles.
  • We wait much longer than everyone else to decorate for Christmas, putting up most of our decorations ten days or so before and the tree only a few days before.
  • We play special Advent music.
  • We attend our parish’s annual Advent Workshop.
  • With varying degrees of success from year to year we have an Advent wreath, a Jesse Tree, and Advent Calendars.

advent wreath

If you are just getting started with the idea of keeping Advent, start small.  Pick one activity and make sure you do it every day.  Kicking yourself for not doing a better job of celebrating Advent is probably not productive.  Last year was a rough one for me in this area, so I am resolving now to be more intentional about Advent this year, even as we continue to take part in the early Christmas revelry around us.

I love Advent, and have written a lot of posts on the topic.  In addition to those I linked above, check out the links below for more:

Advent Memories

Tragedy and Traditions

Christmastime Is Here–Not!

This post is part of the the Siena Sisters Monthly Blog Hop. ¬†This month’s theme is Keeping Advent, Advent. ¬†You can read the rest of the entries here.

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The first year we had health insurance via the ACA, I updated y’all frequently and promised to keep doing so. ¬†I realize¬†that’s a promise I didn’t keep. ¬†Now that the law’s very existence is threatened, it seems like a good time to share how it’s been going for us in the almost two years since my last post.

I’m listing here for comparison some numbers I just crunched from the three years we have been covered thus far.

2014

  • Premiums paid: ¬†$3,796.75
  • Physician¬†Charges: ¬†$41,191.17
  • Prescriptions: ¬†$9,581.96
  • Our portion after insurance: ¬†$5,454.47
  • Total health care costs: $9,251.22

2015

  • Premiums paid: ¬†$7,558.68
  • Physician¬†Charges: ¬†$10,083.20
  • Prescriptions: ¬†$7,603.03
  • Our portion after insurance: ¬†$2,668.16
  • Total health care costs: $10,226.84

2016 (to date)

  • Premiums paid: ¬†$7,239.24
  • Physician¬†Charges: ¬†$16,849.10
  • Prescriptions: ¬†$6,492.23
  • Our portion after insurance: ¬†$2,613.13
  • Total health care costs: $10,452.37

You will probably notice a couple of things:  Our premiums went UP, and our physician charges went DOWN.

Well, it’s no secret that premiums are going up across the land, which many people blame on ObamaCare. ¬†Ours would be unaffordable by now if it weren’t for the generous government subsidy we receive thanks to the size of our family vs. the size of our income.

Our physician charges went down because for one thing we didn’t have a major medical issue as we did the first year when Jake required surgery for a severed tendon, and the first year we also all went to the doctor a lot to make up for years of not being able to do so. ¬†One of the things that has been driving costs up has been exactly this–people who hadn’t been able to access care, some of them very sick as a result, finally getting the care they need. ¬† Presumably some of that will improve as time goes on, as it has for us.

So our experience continues to be positive. ¬†We love our doctors. ¬†We love that we can still provide insurance for our two adult children who are not in school. ¬†We love that whenever anyone is sick we don’t have to worry about paying for or accessing care. ¬†We love having regular preventive care and psychological care too. ¬†And we love the lack of sticker shock at the pharmacy.

None of that is to say that there aren’t problems that need to be fixed. ¬†Because insurance companies now have to cover those who they used to be able to reject, they haven’t been able to make a profit for the past three years. ¬†Premiums continue to rise. ¬†And Blue Cross has pulled out of Knoxville so we have to find another plan for next year. ¬†Any day now I will have to devote a couple of hours to the hell on earth otherwise known as Healthcare.gov–which has only improved marginally since the last time I was there.

Now that I’ve got you all caught up, count on seeing more–a LOT more–on this topic over the next few weeks.

 

And here’s the rest of our ObamaCare story:

The $64,000 Question, Answered

Who Are the Uninsured?

Uninsured No More

ObamaCare Update

ObamaCare Update 2

ObamaCare:  My Latest Update

ObamaCare Revisited

More on Our Journey to Health, Brought to You by Obamacare

It’s Good to Be Insured: An ObamaCare Update

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