Thursday, April 30, 2015

Common Sense Rule #40

Just because it says "Gift Card" does not mean it will work anywhere. 

Every once in a blue moon, someone will stop in at the truck stop and not speak English.  I know, surprising, right?  We get truckers from all nationalities and even some of the locals have limited English skills.

I had a hard time holding back the sarcasm when I gentleman handed me a card and asked if it would work there.  Here is the gist of our conversation:

Man with thick Spanish accent: Do you take this?
Me (looking at the card): No.
Man: Why? It’s a gift card.
Me: Because it’s a gift card for Red Lobster.

That’s me. The bearer of bad news.

Friday, April 17, 2015

To The Citizens of the United States of America (Part 3):

(This is a research paper I wrote for a class at BVU, just my thoughts, sorry if the citations are written incorrectly, but I'm a music major, not an English major. Enjoy the information for what it represents.)

I promised I would also provide ideas on what we, as both individuals and a community can do to help reduce waste, and take a stand to stop global warming.

My favorite is to help our neighbors and ourselves. Many families like to have garage sales, but instead of a garage sale, set up trading communities where you take your gently used items that you have outgrown and trade them for items someone else has outgrown. These are very popular, especially when you target families who are less fortunate. I have organized a clothing swap where families were encouraged to bring their gently used clothes of any size and able to do “shopping” for “new-to-you” clothing for their family. There was no charge for the event and any items left over at the end were given away (toddler clothes went to the local preschool, adult clothes to Goodwill, baby blankets to mission groups, etc.).

This doesn't have to simply be done with clothing. Like music? Set up a music swap where you bring in CDs that you no longer want. Sporting equipment not being used? Take it to your next practice. Tired of the same movie or book? There are so many different ways to share our resources with each other!

Another idea is to get rid of the garbage truck. Instead of making it so convenient for people to throw their trash away, make it more convenient for them to dispose of their recyclable products! Where I live, all I have is trash service. If I want to dispose of my recycling, I have to bag it up and drive to the nearest recycling place and sort it myself. This is not something I have time for so everything makes it into the trash, where it goes to the landfill. Recyclables can then be sold by the community to help off-set the cost of the additional labor. The additional labor means lower unemployment rates and potentially less people living in poverty.

For the real “garbage” make it a pay-as-you-throw system, so much per bag. People will be more willing to recycle (or even turn leftover waste into compost for their garden) if it costs more to throw your garbage away.

Speaking of compost, are you looking for fresh local fruits and vegetables? Start a community garden! Every town should have their own acre of land in an easily-accessible location where everyone is able to come, plant seeds, help with the care of the garden, and harvest what they will use.

After harvest, incorporate a time where the community hosts a “canning party”. Many people want to can their vegetables that they have grown but sometimes the job can be too taxing for one person to do on their own. Why not have people bring their crops in, combine them, and work together to do the canning, everyone taking home a share of their labor and maybe even making a donation to the local food pantry!

As always, many ways to conserve energy and resources start at home. Make sure unused lights are shut off when you leave a room. Unplug electronics that aren't being used. Switch your light bulbs from incandescent to compact florescent light bulbs. If you can afford it, LED bulbs last 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs and provide more light for less power ( Programmable thermostats allow you to keep your house warm or cooler based on your family’s schedule. Take advantage of energy audits if they are offered by your electric company.

Another thing to take advantage of through your electric company would be energy rebates. Check with your provider to see what they offer if you upgrade your less efficient furnace for a better one. Do they have something for people who move from window air units to a central air system? While these items still use electricity, their efficiency is better meaning less carbon dioxide emissions from your home!

These are just a few suggestions as to what we could do to help our nation grow stronger and help fight global warming. There are so many different thoughts and ideas. It only takes one small sound to start an avalanche. See what you can do within your home and community to make this happen!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

To The Citizens of The United States of America (Part 2):

(This is a research paper I wrote for a class at BVU, just my thoughts, sorry if the citations are written incorrectly, but I'm a music major, not an English major. Enjoy the information for what it represents.)

Renewable energy sources are not new concepts at all. They have been tried at different times over the years, usually less than successfully. With advances that have been made in technology, renewable energies are making a comeback and showing much promise.

Wind energy dates back thousands of years, beginning with the drying of a loin cloth to a simple sail on a boat. It has been used to power grain mills. It has been used to power pumps for wells, bringing water to the surface. The potential for wind energy is huge!

Did you know that one megawatt of power equals a reduction of 2,600 tons of carbon dioxide? Or that the same megawatt will save 1,293 million gallons of water? What about the fact that, in 2004, each resident of Massachusetts produced 4.5 tons of carbon dioxide through their use of electricity (

Between 2008 and 2009, wind energy increased 31%; however, it still only produced 1.9% of electricity used in the United States. 38 states currently have wind farms and of those, 14 states produce more than 1,000 MW a year. The top five wind energy states produce enough electricity to power the state of Colorado (!

There is so much potential in wind energy. Wind turbines are actually placed on a mere 1% of the total land designated a wind farm. This means the loss of land for grain farming or pasture land is minimal, giving farmers and ranchers the opportunity to “double-crop” their land. One acre of corn generates $1,000 worth of ethanol in a year, but by putting a wind turbine on that same acre, you have just produced $300,000 worth of electricity, plus your corn crop (World on the Edge)!

According to, “Wind is a clean source of renewable energy that produces no air or water pollution. And since the wind is free, operational costs are nearly zero once a turbine is erected. Mass production and technology advances are making turbines cheaper, and many governments offer tax incentives to spur wind-energy development.”

Another renewable energy is solar power. 173,000 Terawatts of solar energy hit the Earth every day: 10,000 times the world’s use ( We will never be able to absorb that much solar energy to convert into electricity, but that shows how much potential there is in solar energy, especially since we are currently only producing less than 1% of the world’s power usage (

Solar energy works by light reflecting off mirrors to boilers which contain water.  When the water boils, it produces steam that turns a turbine, creating electricity. The largest solar project is being built in the Mohave Desert in California: 350,000 mirrors. When this project is completed, it will provided electricity for 140,000 homes (

If you were to put one 10kw solar panel on your home, it could provide enough electricity equal to reducing 11.7 tons of carbon dioxide in one year (! They can be easily placed on your home, both on and off the grid. In some states, if you place them on your home “on the grid”, you are able to sell the portion of the unused energy to the power company at a rate determined by the state. Even though this rate is generally less than what you are paying for electricity, if the power isn't used or stored, then that power is simply lost (

Like wind power, the start-up cost for solar energy is higher while the continual operating costs are minimal once the technology is in full swing, unlike fossil fuels, which have a “lower” start-up cost, but the operating costs associated with them are higher.

Geothermal energy is another renewable energy which comes from the earth’s heat. Most of the geothermal activity takes place in the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean, and also along fault lines, near volcanoes, and hot springs. There are many other areas where it can be produced as well if you are willing to dig wells to tap into the hot water supply found a mile or more underground.

Geothermal energy has much greater start-up costs, but can essential heat and cool your home for less than 10c/kw. It burns clean with little greenhouse emissions and is currently supplying less than 10% of the world’s energy (

Every year we increase our use of these renewable energies decreases our reliance upon fossil fuels. The subsidies that go along with fossil fuels also hurt us as a nation. While there are some things that are good about subsidies (LIHEAP or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), the one thing that I think hurts us the most is that by continuing to offer subsidies to oil and gas companies, we are basically telling them that they do not need to change their ways. They become stagnant and do not try to come up with new ideas for saving our planet.

The United States provides oil and gas companies with approximately $4 billion in subsidies every year ( While proponents of the subsidies have valid reasons for keeping them ($570 million goes towards LIHEAP), one thing to consider would be, if we were not so dependent on fossil fuels for our heating and cooling, the cost of our electricity could be cut down to better reflect the cost of renewable energy, which would make heating and cooling more affordable for those with low income, thus leaving them less likely to need a program such as LIHEAP.


Brown, L. R. (2011). World on the Edge. New York, New York: WW Norton & Company.

Geothermal Energy Facts. (n.d.). Renewable & Non-Renewable Energy Sources. Retrieved November 10, 2012, from

LED Bulbs, Lighting & LED Energy Savings | Home Lighting Facts | The Home Depot. (n.d.). Home Improvement Made Easy with New Lower Prices | Improve & Repair. Retrieved November 12, 2012, from

Looper, L. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "10 Incredible Wind Power Facts". HowStuffWorks "Science". Retrieved November 7, 2012, from

Rapier, R. (n.d.). The Hard Truth: Even Liberals are Big Fans of Oil Subsidies. Consumer Energy Report. Retrieved November 4, 2012, from

Selling Residential Solar Power to Your Utility Company. (2012, March 7). Solar Energy Authority. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from ttp://

Solar Energy Facts | Renewable Green Energy Power. (n.d.). Renewable Green Energy Power. Retrieved November 13, 2012, from

Top 6 Things You Didn't Know About Solar Energy | Department of Energy. (n.d.). | Department of Energy. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from

Wind Power Information, Wind Power Facts - National Geographic. (n.d.). Environment Facts, Environment Science, Global Warming, Natural Disasters, Ecosystems, Green Living - National Geographic. Retrieved November 7, 2012, from

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Wednesday, April 15, 2015

To The Citizens of the United States of America:

(This is a research paper I wrote for a class at BVU, just my thoughts, sorry if the citations are written incorrectly, but I'm a music major, not an English major. Enjoy the information for what it represents.)

I want to encourage you to think about how our current tax structure can impact our global climate, how renewable energy sources can move us away from the use of oil, and provide ideas on what we, as a society, can do to help improve the situation we find ourselves in as far as global warming and a loss of our natural resources.

With our current income tax structure, we are essentially being taxed three times on our income: once with our federal taxes that are taken from our paycheck, once from our state if we work in state that has an income tax, and once when we take our leftover income and go to the store to purchase items.

In this situation, a family in Iowa that earns $60,000 a year before taxes is required to pay 28% in federal taxes ($16,800) ( and 15% in state taxes ($6,480) ( leaving them with a net income of $36.720. This money is then used for purchases, most of which are taxed (at 7% in Iowa). If a family lives within their means, this could be up to an additional $2,400. That $60,000 has been brought down nearly 50% to $34,318.

Consider a proposed Fair Tax. Fair Tax is based on consumption or use. Under this system, there is no longer a federal income tax, and in many instances no state income tax due to benefits that will be discussed.

In this situation, the same Iowa family with a $60,000 yearly income will go home with $60,000. If this family lives within their means, they have $60,000 of income to be used for purchases. A federal sales tax would 23% ($13,800) and most states with a sales tax would simply choose to piggyback on their own sales tax, which in Iowa is 7% ($4,200) (, giving this family almost an additional 20% of income to make purchases with.

Under Fair Tax, all purchases of new items will be taxed while used items would not be. This would help with waste in our nation. People who shop at second hand stores such as Goodwill and other places where they sell used items: clothing, movies, books, games, sporting equipment, household items, would not have to pay sales tax on these purchases. These items will be more likely to be “recycled” rather than thrown in our landfills.

Under the current system, taxes are placed on companies in many areas, requiring them to raise prices in order to cover their costs. With Fair Tax, the “final product” is what is taxed, so businesses are able to save money to get to that point, which may offer them the flexibility to lower prices (

The current system also requires businesses to pay additional taxes for their employees. With Fair Tax, those taxes would be abolished, which may allow employers to raise their wages ( This leads to raising income levels and bringing more families out of poverty and allowing them to save more money.

Consumption tax is not a new idea. The idea for this tax has been around for almost 500 years. In fact, Alexander Hamilton wrote in his Federalist #21 paper “There is no method of steering clear of this inconvenience, but by authorizing the national government to raise its own revenues in its own way. Imposts, excises, and, in general, all duties upon articles of consumption, may be compared to a fluid, which will, in time, find its level with the means of paying them. The amount to be contributed by each citizen will in a degree be at his own option, and can be regulated by an attention to his resources. The rich may be extravagant, the poor can be frugal…” (

With a consumption tax, not only could incomes be raised and prices for goods fall, but there would no longer be a need for filing personal income taxes, saving resources and money. Under our current tax code, which is over 73.6 thousand pages long, loop holes and other means of evading your portion of income taxes cost individual tax payers $2,500 every year ( and compliance measures cost businesses over $600 billion every year (


Bartlett, B. (n.d.). Consumption Tax Theory. Free Republic. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from

Brown, L. R. (2011). World on the Edge. New York, New York: WW Norton & Company.

Fair Tax: FIre Up Our Economic Engine. (n.d.). Fair Tax. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from http

Hamilton, A. (n.d.). The Federalist #21. Index. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from

National Sales Tax Debate. (n.d.). Political Debates and Polls Forum. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from

Raggio, G. (2012, September 26). A National Consumption Tax. We Consume Too Much. Retrieved November 6, 2012, from

Street, J. (n.d.). Report: What Tax Bracket Will You Be In For 2013? | CNS News. CNS News. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from

Taxes Plus : Newsletter. (n.d.). Taxes Plus : Home. Retrieved November 5, 2012, from

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Truly Brave? Not Me, Not Really

Mashups. Love 'em? No. I have not been a fan. Nelly jumping into the country scene jamming with my beloved country singers really put a damper on some of my favorite songs. I'd go to sing along and all of a sudden there would be an extra voice, extra words, extra melody. I hated it.

And then I heard Hoda Kotb's story and how she got Sara Bareilles and Cyndi Lauper together to do a mashup with "True Colors" and "Brave".

Skeptical at first because I love both these songs individually, I gave it a shot. Mainly because cancer has been such a huge part of my life over the last five years when my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Shortly thereafter my cousin was diagnosed with cancer which very quickly took her life.

I also decided to listen because I do love these two songs so much. Cyndi Lauper was one of my favorite artists growing up and Sara Bareilles is now.

Not knowing what I was really getting myself into, I watched the video.

And fell in love.

Yes, the children in the video are all cancer babies. But that wasn't where my heart was.

My heart was with my heart baby and all the other heart babies and angels. Why?

Because that is what I know. Babies with congenital heart defects. Those babies are just as strong and brave as the babies in this video.

My mind goes back nine years ago. To a time when my baby was laying in a hospital bed. Needles and wires attached to him. Watching him cry because he didn't understand why I couldn't hold him and comfort him.

He was so small, so helpless, so confused. And I had no words for him. Just love.

Through it all, he was truly brave, without even knowing it.