various miniature winter trees

When Christmas Feels Different

I am happy to link this post with many others at Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is, different.

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various miniature winter trees

This Christmas feels a little different.

It’s been an interesting year. I started the year sensing the word, “cherish”. But as the year progressed, it felt less like a year to cherish and more of just getting through.

In the spring, I accidentally cut my finger while slicing watermelon and severed the tendon, which resulted in surgery and a surprisingly long recovery time. Loss of the use of my finger set me back in many household responsibilities, but in the end, I am mostly healed (still needing to do a bit more strengthening as of yet!).

In October, after feeling signs of something being not quite right in his chest, my husband was scheduled to have stints put it to open blocked arteries, but was kept in for bypass surgery instead. Thankfully, things went extremely well, and he is well on the road to recovery.

While I am so thankful that things didn’t turn out worse (believe me, it could have been much worse!), I also have had to grieve the loss of time and order in my home and life that just hasn’t been the same. I have felt overwhelmed and behind in so many areas for most of the year, although we have survived quite well.

So I come at this Christmas from a slightly different perspective.

I love all things Christmas, so giving up some of my long-held, much-loved traditions to care for myself, my home and my family has been a sacrifice. It doesn’t feel quite the same.

But of course, it has been feeling different all along, as time and age and memories rush past in what seems like ever-increasing speed.

For those of us who cherished the childish sensations of the holidays, it’s a bit difficult to grow up, be responsible, and enjoy the holiday without all of the same feelings.

And this Christmas has come all too fast for my liking (although a touch of snow on the ground doesn’t hurt), but has it really?

I’ve read and heard it said that if the meaning of Christmas doesn’t affect us all year long, then it isn’t the real thing. I’ve heard of more than one friend who actually decided to leave up their nativity sets all year to be mindful of this fact.

I will probably always love the sights, sounds, emotions, traditions and memories of this special time of year. As long as we keep these good things in perspective, I’m sure God doesn’t mind our celebrating his birthday too much.

But let us remember that Christmas really doesn’t come just once a year. Rather, it comes and is here with us always in the form of God’s only Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit whom he left to stay with us.

His presence is ever real, and if I can really begin to understand this timeless truth, then Christmas really isn’t that different this year after all. Some things never change.

I have and will celebrate the important things in life: my faith and God’s special gift to the world, my family and loved ones (whether near or far), our health and strength, a warm, happy home and so much to be thankful for, the countless blessings that grace my life each day even when they go unnoticed, the festivities and fun that the holidays bring, and yes, even the hard stuff that causes us to stretch and grow.

So eat a cookie, listen to some holiday tunes, enjoy those you find around you, sit in the stillness, ponder the gift, enjoy the candles and Christmas lights, but most of all, be thankful.

This Christmas may be different, but the gift is the same.

And if we choose to embrace Christmas in whatever form it appears, perhaps we will look a little different, too.

*****

St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

What I Learned this Fall

 

 

St. Elizabeth's Hospital window view

It’s one of the times I look forward to each quarter when I pause to look back and share what I’ve learned with you. I’m especially thankful to be linking up to Emily Freeman’s What We Learned post along with many other bloggers.

Life has been a bit crazy around here, what with the almost sudden need for my husband to have bypass surgery just over a month ago. Thankfully he’s recovering nicely and we’re getting a little closer to “normal” again, but needless to say many things have been shelved for the past few weeks. I’ve so wanted to write on my blog so many times and only managed once.

I’ve probably learned more in this intense time than I’ve had time to record, but perhaps this will help me to process some of my experiences as I write.

And so I’m thrilled to be able to share with you today some of the things I’ve been learning this fall, whether serious or silly.

*****

 homemade iced coffee

1. Iced coffee was NOT invented in the US (or New England, for that matter!).

For how much folks around here love  are utterly devoted to their iced coffee, I thought for sure that it was invented in the US, and surely somewhere in New England, but it isn’t true.

The first “iced coffee” beverage was probably invented in Algeria, and the iced coffee we know and love today in the United States came much later.

 

2. I will usually fit an activity or responsibility into whatever time-frame I have available.

I guess I’ve been learning this my whole life.

It started back in college when I would stay up some nights and write (freehand, of course; computers were rather new and hardly used), a term paper in one copy, because I had left it until the last minute, forcing me to get the job done in the most efficient manner.

Recently, I’ve been cranking out my quarterly posts in record time, causing this “recovering perfectionist” to throw caution to the wind and just do it, as life has been full these past few months.

 

3. I’m learning how to brew good coffee in a french press.

With the sudden “death” of our Kuerig coffee maker, I temporarily used my French press to make coffee several times. While I am certainly not a pro, I found some good help and succeeded in making some decent coffee before purchasing our new coffee system. My French press skills may still come in handy when we are without power or a decent machine.

I found an article containing a great detailed description of French press coffee brewing methods, and for a more simple approach, I found a handy guide. I used both in my quest for good French press coffee.

Bodum French press

4. I learned the difference between licence and license. 

“Licence” is a noun, while “license” is a verb. According to this article, it’s very similar to the difference between practice and practise (although not in the USA, where “practice” is used for both noun and verb). I feel like I must have been taught this in English grammar class at some point, though I don’t claim to remember.

 

5. I knew that almonds were good for you, but now I understand why.

In this article, Dr. Axe shares the details of why this nut is such a popular healthy snack. Almonds contain healthy fat and boast many other significant health benefits. Raw almonds (and almond butter) are probably my favorite snack along with an apple or some dried fruit.

 

6. I learned about wheat pellets.

I had never heard of this popular Mexican snack food, but something caused me to look it up online. It is made of puffed wheat and often flavored. I have yet to try such a snack, but if so many people like it, it might be worth trying. This blog post contains some helpful information along with some personal experience if you’d like to learn how to prepare this interesting snack.

 

Boat in the golden hours

7. The best lighting for most outdoor photography takes place during the Golden Hour.

I’ve been taught years ago that the best lighting for outdoor picture-taking is just after sunrise or just before sunset, but just recently learned that photographers have given it a name: the golden hour. Bright sunlight looks nice in real life, but it can be difficult to get a nice photo in such harsh, bright light. In the golden hour, the light is softer and warmer, and you’ll find it easier to get beautiful photographs in this light.

Pumpkins in the golden hours

8.  I was 10 when “Slime” was invented.

In 1976, Slime was born. This sticky, slimy, fun substance was thought up by some brilliant mind at Mattel, and was originally green in color and sold in a little green trash can. Over the years many variations were invented (such as Slime with worms), and people have even figured out how to produce their own Slime.

 

9. Jon Bryant is a Canadian musician I’d like to listen to.

I heard this song by singer and songwriter Jon Bryant, and learned he’s a Canadian based in the Maritimes.

From the sounds of this lovely piece, I think I’d enjoy listening to more of his music.

 

10. I researched a little more about the health benefits of oats.

I also learned the differences between some of the different types, such as steel cut and rolled oats. This page from LiveStrong contains several posts explaining everything from the different forms of oats, to health and nutrition benefits, to how to prepare them. I have been including oats in many of my breakfasts and enjoy eating them in many different forms, such as baked oatmeal, overnight oats, and breakfast cookies.

 

11. Here’s the “miracle” method of removing clear oil/grease spots from clean laundry.

In a recent phone conversation with my dear sister, we got on to the topic of laundry, more specifically those pesky little “grease” spots that seem to appear on too many freshly laundered items. I’m still not sure exactly where they all come from, but now I know one solution! (Thanks, Becca!)

Simply take an old (cleaned) toothbrush and gently work a little baking soda into the clear grease stain. Leave it in for about five minutes. Then brush out the powder with your toothbrush and either shake to remove more particles (or rewash if it’s hard to remove).

That’s it! I’ve tried this several times since she shared this simple trick, and am happy to say that it works like a charm. Good-bye you greasy little spots!

 

12. You can make decent mashed potatoes in a slow cooker.

On this year’s unique Thanksgiving Day celebration I was commissioned to make mashed potatoes for about 30 people. Since this year the job would fall mainly to me (with help from my sons while my husband was recovering from surgery),  I began to search the internet for ideas for making potatoes for large crowds and/or in advance, and came across several methods for making them in a crock pot.

The beauty of using a slow cooker is that you can make them ahead of time and they’ll stay nice and warm. The other big draw for me was that they can all be made in one pot, without the need to drain and wash multiple pots and sieves.

So I pulled out my two trusty slow cookers and set out to cook about 15 pounds of potatoes.

After perusing and pinning several recipes to consider, I finally settled on this more basic, but good slow cooker mashed potato recipe.

Making mashed potatoes in the slow cooker

Making mashed potatoes in the crock-pot

13. I finally learned the history behind why (my) part of Canada (and a few other parts of the world) enjoy their milk packaged in bags.

For a good part of my growing up years in Canada and to this day on our visits to Canada, I’ve had milk served from a plastic bag in a little plastic pitcher.

It wasn’t always this way; I do remember having a milk box for delivery of jugs (plastic, I think), but later it was mostly sold in bags. I don’t remember the change and certainly hadn’t thought up why this practice began. I guess it had mostly to do with converting to the metric system (which also happened in my growing up years).

I did always wonder if it was a practice for all of Canada, or more limited to the area where I grew up (in the Niagara Peninsula). Since my sister posted about this on Facebook, we were able to glean responses from many folks from all different locations. We discovered that it is not used in all of Canada, but even more surprisingly, that some rare parts of the United States and even different countries such as South Africa sell milk in bags as well!

I guess it’s really true that great minds think alike! 😉

 

14. I really can depend on my GPS and drive in difficult places.

Since my husband’s bypass surgery “adventure”, I’ve had to learn to depend on my GPS and drive where I’m not comfortable. I had friends go with me and even drive me on hard days, but am proud that I progressed beyond my driving comfort zone.

 

15. God provides the people we need just when we need them.

You can read more details in my last post, but it was confirmed to us again and again through this traumatic event that friends, family, acquaintances, and medical staff come through when you need them. We had such support in both prayer and practical ways all along this interesting journey. My natural family is far away so they could only pray and chat with me, but those who are near us surprised us with their love and help. We are truly thankful.

 

*****

 

 

St. Elizabeth's - Brighton, MA

In Our Time of Need

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday, and the word prompt for today is need.

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St. Elizabeth's - Brighton, MA

 

One week and a day ago my husband was admitted to the hospital to have a stint put in place to open blocked heart arteries. He had had some symptoms checked out by his primary physician and in the course of tests, doctor appointments and the all-telling stress test, his procedure was scheduled and then moved to the very next day.

It was a big deal to us, since we’re both only 51 and in relatively good health. Although it’s considered minor and would only require an overnight stay, it felt a little scary, as anything to do with the heart does.

But low and behold, when the heart doctor went in with the camera to begin the procedure, it was determined that my husband in fact would need heart surgery. There were just too many blockages and bypass surgery would definitely be the best option for his long-term health. He was not allowed to return home because he was at too great a risk for heart attack.

So after adjusting to this news, we simply began the long plod through information, emotions, and the day to day necessities that would be required to make this happen.

It’s only two days after this difficult and frightening surgery, but he came through fine and improved rapidly, despite looking and feeling like he had been hit and run over by a truck the next day. In fact tomorrow, just four days after this invasive, but life-saving surgery, he is looking forward to being discharged and coming home.

In all of this, it has been strongly confirmed to me how real friends come through in times of need.

I truly believe in the all-knowing wisdom, never-ending love and faithfulness of God, and have had my faith and trust tested probably even more this time than in all of my half-century of life, and I don’t know how I could go through hard times without him.

But in the day to day harsh realities and moments where I feel too much or nothing at all in our time of crisis, those who truly love and care for us come through and are invaluable.

These people come in all shapes and sizes:

  •  family who live near and far
  • church friends and even just acquaintances
  • community/small group friends with whom we’ve developed deeper and more personal relationships
  • “old-time” friends whom we haven’t had the chance to spend time with recently but will always care in a deep way
  • far-away family, friends and loved ones, connecting through social media, telephone and text
  • medical personnel of all sorts – skilled and caring surgeons and knowledgeable doctors, nurses in ICU and hospital rooms who act as ministering “angels”, and random hospital personnel who help with a smile, by answering our many questions, or even by just leading the way to the correct corridor in the maze of hospital hallways.

I can’t thank God enough for sending us these people. They have helped in invaluable ways, from the very practical to the very real spiritual.

These are some of the gifts they have given us already in this time of need:

  • prayers, prayers and more prayers, whether in person, on the phone, or promised through texts and Facebook comments
  • encouragement in the form of a hug, a positive comment, simply listening and letting us vent or ask questions, or sharing valuable insight from their own experiences
  • meals for my family, so at the end of a long day when all I have left is nothing, I can still have good food to nourish myself and my older sons at home
  • rides to the hospital when it was just too much for me, or company driving to and from and providing a “secondary brain” for me there
  • finding practical solutions and helps for us and delivering them to our door with love
  • passing along updates and information when I don’t have the energy to make one more call or answer one more text
  • providing pleasant distraction, providing us with small, happy breaks in what is otherwise a long, exhausting and unpleasant journey
  • sending cards and flowers to add a bit of cheer to our crazy days

I have gone some over my five-minute mark today, but needed to express my thankfulness and deep gratitude in this small way to those who have blessed us and continue to do so.

I pray that one day we may pay it forward and provide some of these same helps and show God’s love to others in their time of need.

We will be forever changed by the words and actions of all these wonderful people.

We couldn’t do it without you.

Thank-you.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

close-up of grasshopper eating my mums

Discover

close-up of grasshopper eating my mums

I’m writing this post (actually on Friday, no less!), for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is discover.

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Discover.

The word evokes feelings of adventure, of something exciting or unknown; not generally something I find or experience every day.

And why not?

Have I become so busy doing the mundane tasks of life that I won’t allow myself the simple joy of discovery?

The answer, sadly, is mostly yes.

My personality tends towards thinking about what has to be done, what I should do in a given situation, the responsibilities that are so necessary, yet don’t often provoke wonder.

I so love that there are times to purposely observe something new or different or exciting (like on vacations, on a simple walk in the woods, or in the middle of an inspiring worship service), but I realize that most of life is not lived this way. We are simply trying to get by and sometimes just get through a day.

But what if our views were bigger?

What if even in the midst of busyness and responsibility and “to-do’s” we would choose to stop, take a moment to breathe, look up and see the wonders that are all around us?

What if I were to awake with the attitude that this is a new day, full of wonder and awe, even to be found in the middle of loads of laundry, piles of dishes, family discussions, organizing and cleaning, or going to my average job?

I pray that I will take the time, change my perspective, and look for the extraordinary in the ordinary.

Because all of life is to be lived to the full.

All of my days were planned before I was even born.

 

You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.” – Psalm 139:16, NLT

 

Even on a hard day or in difficult circumstances, I have a choice to look up and trust that God is for me and my good life.

And that brings me gratitude, hope and joy.

 

“…singing a song of thanksgiving
    and telling of all your wonders.” – Psalm 26:7, NLT

*****

 

 

 

 

 

across the street from a farm

Why I Threw Out the Beef – A Post About Caring for Myself

across the street from a farm

 

 

I confess……I did it.

I threw out over 3 pounds of ground beef today.

After agonizing for at least a half hour, re-reading information about food safety (which I pretty much had already committed to memory) in hopes of finding one decent shred of information to convince me that it was safe, and realizing how ridiculous it was to feel so emotional about a simple kitchen decision…..I just threw over 3 pounds of ground beef in the trash.

It was one of those times where the busyness of life kept pushing me to put off cooking the beef until the next day, then another day, and then another one…..until finally today when I got my courage up to look at the “sell by” date. It was already past the standard information about cooking ground beef after only 1-2 days in the fridge.

In the end, I just couldn’t take the risk. It wasn’t as obvious as the time I burnt the hot-dogs to a crisp. Even though I still think if I had cooked it well enough we probably would have been fine, the risk of four of us throwing up with food poisoning was just too great a consequence to chance.

I’m being a bit transparent here, but when push comes to shove, and for whatever reason I find myself in that place of having once again to decide whether or not cooking and consuming some food or meat is safe for my family, I hate it. I find this to be one of the most difficult life decisions that comes around now and again.

It feels like some kind of a failure.

You see, I pride myself in not wasting, whether it be food, money or other stuff. It’s important to me to be a good steward of all I own or am given charge of, so yes, it really bothers me to throw out food. I have at least one grandparent who taught me to not waste a thing. Actually, I learned from all of my grandparents who went through times when money was tight.

These stories, along with how simply finding an orange in their Christmas stockings was a rare treat, how they made do with, re-used, and foraged, the ways that they toiled over gardens, canning and cooking, and cleaning really impacted me. When I hear of how they scrimped and saved so that not only was their family provided for, but we even benefited years later as children and grandchildren, it’s made me really dislike wasting food.

When I was a teacher’s aide, one teacher friend of mine used to compliment my skills in being able to save, make do with, or “fudge it” with whatever materials we had on hand, and it made me feel good.

One of the very purposes of writing this blog is to help others by sharing how I make do with what I have, thus saving time and/or money and minimizing waste. I like to use produce (like bananas), stale bread, and leftovers and make something good to eat out of them, as well as help us to preserve the food we buy, so throwing food out is always painful to me.

Now you may be thinking by now that I should get a life, that obviously I have things too good or that I should hang around some people going through something really difficult, and on one hand you’re right. I have gone through my share of life’s difficulties, although I’m thankful they haven’t been “worse” (on the imaginary scale we all have in our hearts and minds of situations that we deem “awful”).

But in reality, sometimes it’s the day to day “little” things that can be really hard for us.

In my fifty-one plus years of living, I have often felt more successful in making some really hard decisions or in my mature response to a really difficult situation than how I’ve sometimes handled the seemingly petty ones that surreptitiously plague me on a regular day.

It’s just that I spend time scrimping and saving in little ways (that I believe add up in the end), and so a “big” waste like this seems to devalue some of the time and energy I’ve spent on smaller things.

The final straw today was when I figured out how much time and emotional energy I was spending on what should have been a day off. I decided then and there that I was worth more than three pounds or so of meat.

One of the lessons I’ve never forgotten was lovingly presented by my sister when she was here with her family for a visit some years ago. I’m not sure if she even realizes that I still remember and think about what she said. I must have been stressing over rinsing out a salad dressing bottle for recycling; the one little thing that at that busy moment was emotionally pushing me over the edge, when she said something to me.

She told me that I was worth more than a dirty salad dressing bottle.

Sounds simple enough, but how often have we let guilt, pressure or what others think about us dictate our doing that one more thing that ultimately in the end was really less important than our health and well-being? I know I’m guilty of this. I naturally tend to be a people pleaser, and on top of that, I can be my own worst critic and put undue pressure on myself.

While I certainly believe in and normally practice recycling, reusing and generally not wasting, there are times where I need to make the simple choice to prioritize myself over an inanimate object.

It may sound stupid, but I see myself and many women striving or tormenting ourselves over things that may be important, but are much less important than us.

There are times when throwing something out or letting it go to waste is actually the right thing to do.

I may or may not have actually shed a few tears about my decision today, but if I did, it’s because I had come to the end of my emotional rope with just a few too many responsibilities weighing me down lately. Thankfully, life is actually going well right now, but there has just been a lot going on with many changes and the usual challenges. And I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and behind lately, especially since I lost several months of use of one hand when I cut my finger tendon.

So today was a day I needed to let myself off of the hook.

My dear husband came to my rescue by offering to take me out to dinner. We decided instead to stay at home and order some food to enjoy here, since I may have had puffy eyes and not enough energy to get myself looking decent enough for enjoying time in public. It’s rainy and very humid, so a bad hair day, too.

So I accepted his gracious offer and enjoyed sitting comfortably beside him thankfully enjoying our dinner made by someone else. We watched a couple of television shows and just chilled.

After dinner, I did a couple of things to get ready for another busy week. I took a frozen turkey out of my freezer (which needs desperately to be defrosted later this week), in hopes that I will be more successful in getting to cook that meat.

I now feel I may just have the strength to do this week better because I took some time to care for myself.

And I am worth it.

 

Here are some simple ways you can prioritize care for yourself:

  1. Stop and breathe or stretch.
  2. Take a walk or get some exercise.
  3. Enjoy a warm (or cold) drink.
  4. Let it go!
  5. Do something fun.
  6. Listen to music.
  7. Take a nap or go to bed early.
  8. Leave it to someone else.
  9. Do it later.
  10. Settle for  “good enough”.
  11. Spend some time with someone you love.
  12. Have some “alone” time.
  13. Take a warm bath or a cool shower.
  14. Simplify your responsibility.
  15. Ask for help.

 

Although these are just some quick ideas I came up with, I’ve written in more detail about ways we can care for ourselves when we’re feeling run-down or our emotions are frazzled. 

We all need to realize when enough is enough. Sometimes we may need more help or even the counsel or advice of a professional.

Most of the time we just need to cut ourselves some slack, and prioritize our own care.

Then we can have the renewed strength to be our best for God and others.

*****

 

 

 

 

Oxtongue Lake bridge at sunset

Support is NOT For the Weak

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and the word prompt for the day is support.

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Oxtongue Lake bridge at sunset

 

As I ponder the word support, the first thing that comes to mind is how our culture teaches us to be independent. We are often told how strong we are and that we can find all we need deep inside us somewhere.

While I agree with this to a point, the longer I live, I realize my many weaknesses.

Yes, I believe I have been uniquely created with many gifts and strengths, but the reality is, I am only human. As much as we need a certain degree of autonomy to survive as a responsible adult in this world, I was not made to do life alone.

I need support.

When you think about it, support is really important. In so many aspects of life we recognize this, but why then is it so difficult to admit our need of others?

Think about large buildings and bridges.

They may be made of strong concrete, but inside there are iron supports that hold the structure together. This rebar is necessary for the concrete to be strong and durable.

The Bible speaks about our need to depend not just on ourselves.

 

Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, NLT

 

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT

 

So rather than viewing my imperfections as making me weak, I choose to use them as opportunities to grow through leaning on, learning from and enjoying the comfort and strength of others. I’m also thankful for a God who gives me power and wisdom to help me through this demanding life.

I don’t need to walk alone to be strong. It takes a certain courage to recognize that we need to lean on someone else.

Support is not for the weak.

*****

 

 

 

Algonquin Park area lake dock

What I Learned This Summer

Where, oh where did the summer go?

Isn’t that the same question we usually ask at the end of August or when the calendar flips to September? It’s been good, I wish it had seemed longer, but I’m thankful all the same.

Here’s a list of some things I learned along the way, in no particular order. I’m pleased to link up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned list again this quarter. Enjoy!

 

13 Things I Learned (June to August 2017):

 

 

 1. I learned the definition of “saccharine”.

It’s meaning of relating to or resembling sugar,or being sickly sweet leads me to the obvious conclusion that this must be where the name of a common (but not healthy, in my opinion), non-sugar sweetener, “saccharin” comes from.

 

2. You can eat radish greens.

When I acquired some nice-looking fresh radishes, I set about checking to see if the greens (like so many others, such as beets), are edible. It turns out they most certainly are, and here are some nice recipes, too.

I remember my Grandmother teaching us as children that there were certain weeds, found right in our yard or “accidentally” in our vegetable garden, that were also good to eat.

One that I thought I remembered her telling me about is Pigweed, but when I look at the pictures online I learned that the one I was actually thinking of is called Lamb’s Quarters.

Maybe our ancestors were wise to realize that while ridding their gardens of unwanted weeds, they were actually harvesting something healthy to eat.

 

3. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to type with all the correct fingers of one hand when you’re missing use of just one finger in the other hand.

I found this out the hard way when I cut the tendon on my left index finger this spring. It was some time before I could use my finger to type on a keyboard, even after the bandage and splints came off. (I’m still in the recuperating process, more than four months later!)

less hustle more grace

You would think that one could simply use all 9 remaining healthy fingers to type, and simply not use the one that didn’t work, but apparently my brain thought otherwise. I could either type normally with my right hand and pick out the letters with the left, or I could simply type with just one finger (like a kid who doesn’t know how to type yet). I became quite adept at pecking out the letters surprisingly quickly, but was relieved when I got enough strength and flexibility to carefully use my index finger to type again.

The brain is an amazing (and scary) thing!

 

4. I tasted my first cucamelon.

Last summer and fall I had the privilege of working on a local farm for several months. I planted, dead-headed and watered plants early in the season, and ended with helping to run the farm-stand when the vegetables began to be ready to harvest and sell. This year, although I have another wonderful job that I love at the library, I still have a day to work at the farm stand, a job I find rather peaceful and pleasant.

My farm boss and friend gave me a handful of these little fruits to try (and share with my family). Cucamelons look like tiny watermelons, but taste like a cucumber. I thought they tasted rather “pickle-y”, but they were fun to try. I love learning about and tasting new foods!

 

5. While visiting my sister this summer, she taught me the best method to keep berries fresh the longest.

We went strawberry picking and used this method, which she had learned and tried with great success. Using white vinegar to clean the berries and storing them carefully lined between layers of paper towels really does help to keep fresh berries for much longer than I had ever seen. Give it a try!

 

6. While the most calls are made on Mother’s Day, the most collect calls are made on Father’s Day.

While writing a short post awhile back, I learned this interesting fact. Do you remember, especially before cell phones, when collect calls were more prevalent? I’m sure I’m dating myself, but it was fun to revisit this method of communication.

It’s interesting to note that apparently people consider it important to take care of mom on her special day, but that they still rely on good old dad when it comes to needing assistance.

 

7. I heard a good tip for for making zucchini lasagna less watery.

I’m not quite sure where she learned this tip, but my sister told me that you can remove the excess liquid in your zucchini lasagna with a turkey baster, reduce it, and use the resulting thickened liquid it as a yummy lasagna sauce.

I may just try it!

 

8. (Apparently) Costco is a great place to work.

We recently joined Costco in order to purchase my new hearing aides. It’s one of those wholesale clubs where you can buy quality items at a good price, as well as many food and grocery items usually in bulk.

As a side note (and I’m not getting any commissions for this), it was a blessing to find that Costco offers great quality hearing aides at a fraction of the cost of most other vendors. (I’ve had a slight hearing loss since about second grade, and have worn hearing aides for close to fifteen years now. )

So we purchased our membership and drove a little farther than usual to take advantage of this deal.

As I was looking at some information about the store, I learned that Costco seems to be a great place to work! They appear to have figured out that if you treat (and pay) your employees well, it’s more profitable in the long run.

It’s just one more reason I’m happy to support this business.

 

9. Forelle pears are beautiful and tasty!

At one of our trips to the above mentioned warehouse store (see #8), we purchased some pears I had never heard of before. It turns out Forelles are a new favorite of mine, with their crisp but sweet flavor. I’m thinking they are more rare (and the following article supports this), as I’ve never seen them before or since.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for this delicious variety in the future!

 

10. I learned about the importance of “Whitespace”.

For many years now, my church has had the privilege of being a host site for a well-known leadership conference. When we are able to participate, we enjoy hearing from many amazing and wise leaders from many walks of life speaking on a variety of helpful subjects.

One of the seminars that impacted me the most was Juliet Funt’s teaching on Whitespace. I truly believe that this idea, along with so many others about “leadership”, could positively impact not only our workplaces and businesses, but our churches, homes, and families as well.

It shouldn’t be surprising that creating space in which to slow down and process information will cause us to be more creative and productive.

 

 

11. You can freeze string beans (and many other veggies) WITHOUT blanching first.

Did you know that you can freeze string beans without blanching first?

When I was growing up on two acres my family grew a large vegetable garden. Consequently, my mother filled a huge chest freezer with the products of our labours, to be enjoyed all year long. Corn, beans, beets, tomatoes, and strawberries were just a few of the things we enjoyed, even through the winters.

Back in the day as I recall, before freezing, produce had to be blanched. I was taught it was a necessary step, lightly cooking the vegetables in boiling water before putting them in the freezer.

As an adult, I keep learning that many of the vegetables I thought needed to be blanched first can certainly be frozen as is, without blanching!

Here’s a helpful post to fill you in on all the details of blanching string beans.

Anything that can save us valuable time and energy and still produce a safe and healthy product is a win-win in my books!

 

12. I clarified why I’m stuck somewhere between metric and Imperial systems.

I grew up with my family in Ontario, Canada, and consequently, at some point was caught up the the transition from the older Imperial system of measurement to that of the metric system. When I became an adult, I went across the border to attend bible college in New York state. There I met and married my American husband, and reside with him and our sons in New England, where he grew up.

I’ve had to use both metric and Imperial over my lifetime, and I find myself feeling confused and not completely on top of either system.

I remember learning metric in school and can easily work with this system on paper, but think mostly in terms of old Imperial measurements when it comes to lengths and distances. I’ve driven in both countries, so am familiar with both kilometers and miles, but understand distances in miles better. As for temperatures, apart from the more obvious freezing point (0 degrees Celsius), and boiling point (100 degrees Celsius) of water, in day to day life I only recognize temperatures in Fahrenheit. I have been told, but never remember the corresponding temperatures in Celsius.

So why do I find myself in such a quandary?

I recently looked up exactly when Canada made this change from one system to another, and low and behold, it all happened to me from the ages of about five to ten or eleven years old! 

No wonder I am so confused! Right through much of my formative years, I was in the middle of a giant, country-wide transition!

I’m not sure if it makes my reality any better, but at least I know I have a reason for knowing bits and pieces of each system, and being a master of neither.

 

13. I really NEED quiet times of peace, especially in nature.

I’ve always loved spending time outdoors and being in nature.

I grew up with a big, two-acre yard in the countryside, with farms and space around me. I also had a father who was a teacher and a mother who worked at home for most of my childhood, and because of this, we were able to do so much in the summer, including a long camping vacation (or sometimes more than one!).

As a married adult, my husband and I, and subsequently our family have always valued and loved most our quiet vacations spent in nature. We love being near or on water, and my favorite places are in what I would affectionately call, “cottage country” (or “up north”), where one can drive for miles through areas of trees and lakes.

One of my most favourite places on the planet (if not the most favourite!), is a large provincial park in northern Ontario known as Algonquin. I grew up going to this area for many of our vacations, then brought my husband there and eventually our kids. It’s a bit of a drive, but we love to spend vacation time there as often as life allows, often being joined by my parents and sometimes my sister and her family.

Even when home, I find that a simple hike in the woods, sitting by or boating on a quiet lake, or even enjoying the ambiance of a campfire are some of my favorite past-times. But not only that; I’m recognizing more and more that these types of activities bring life to my soul.

I cannot accurately describe the feeling I get when I am able to soak up the peace and beauty that nature provides. Something within me calms, rejuvenates, and releases a contented sigh.

On the way home from our early vacation to a cottage in Algonquin this summer, I was trying to express to my husband how much I’m realizing that I actually need these peaceful and life-giving experiences.

I want to intentionally include them more often, even daily in little ways. Things like taking the time to sit outside in the sun, walking peacefully through falling snow, or even sitting in my kitchen with a hot beverage in hand, gazing out of my window can bring needed revitalization in the midst of everyday life.

I’m so thankful for the blessing of God’s creation and times of peace and solitude.

 

Cottage neighbour's boat near Algonquin

 

Adirondack chairs at lakeside campfire

 

peaceful evening boat ride

 

Colourful evening skies on Oxtongue Lake

 

Wilderness lake near Algonquin

 

Flower on the water taken from canoe

 

fox near Algonquin road

 

firepit at Oxtongue Lake cottage

 

Morning quiet time view from cottage dock on Oxtongue Lake

 

*****

I hope you’ve enjoyed what I’ve learned this summer. Perhaps you learned a little something new or even something about yourself!

 

tubing at Darien Lake with family

The Serious Value of Play

Today’s short post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, and the prompt of the day is “play“.

*****

tubing at Darien Lake with family

Lazy River ride at Darien Lakes amusement park. (Yes, that’s me on the right.) 🙂

 

Children love to play.

So why is it that as adults, we find it so difficult to stop, let loose, and relax or have some fun?

I know we’re busy, especially if you have a spouse and/or a family. Our culture seems to thrive (or thinks it does) on being busy.

Perhaps you’ve learned along with me that we have to make time for the things that are really important to us. It will not just happen.

And I’ll bet that most of us as adults don’t appreciate the serious value of play.

Playing or enjoying leisure time and activities does much to relieve stress, helps our bodies (and minds, and emotions, etc.) to heal, allows us time to create and imagine, and rejuvenates us. It helps us to simply enjoy life.

Play and rest from work give us needed strength and renewed motivation to tackle our responsibilities, pressures, difficulties and joys with new vigor, both physically and mentally.

My personality tends to easily get caught up in getting things done, but when I don’t take time to stop and rest and enjoy my life, an important inner need is not met.

We just returned from a wonderful family vacation.

The weather was far from perfect, but we played indoors while it rained, enjoyed simply being together, and made a point of taking advantage of every sunny moment. We even went out to play under the clouds almost every time the rain stopped.

I was talking to my husband on the way home about how we need to work on taking time each day (even if it can only be a little), and more often each week or month to do fun things both individually and as a family.

My online Pilates group has a monthly health mission, and for July our assignment is to find time to play.

I know I need to purposefully create precious pockets of time (both big and little) to do things that refresh me and bring life to my body, mind and soul.

So forgive me if I sound like a kindergarten child, but I need to ask you a question.

Do you want to come out and play?

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

The Worth of a Father

 

One of my favorite family photos from my childhood!

Dad watching his upside-down daughters (I’m the older one), as we climbed a mountain trail on family vacation.

Today I’m joining the crowd at the Five Minute Friday link-up (a little later, obviously, since it’s Sunday already). The word prompt for this week is “worth“, and I’d like to dedicate my writing on this Father’s Day to my own father, and to include mention of some other important fathers in my life.

Special thanks to my sister for providing me digital copies of several old family slides mostly taken by my mother of us as children. They have brought me joy today and reminded me of many special childhood memories.

I may be pushing the five minute mark again just a bit (OK, a lot, but it’s important!), but will keep things mostly unedited in the spirit of the challenge.

Happy Father’s Day to you, Dad!

*****

What is the worth of a father?

It can’t be put onto words, but the value of a good father is reflected in his children and in how he affects the lives of those around him.

My Dad & I many years ago

Dad & baby Ann (many years ago!)

We can mostly agree that while a good father influences others for good, in the same way a father can negatively impact his children for the rest of their lives.  We’ve all seen examples of children who really struggle in areas of life or sometimes need inner healing as adults from the turmoil of a poor father-child relationship (whether “negative” or just nonexistent).

I’m thankful for my own good father, as well as some other special fathers in my life. Though imperfect, they have impacted those in their lives in a positive way.

My husband is a wonderful father to our now almost grown sons. He has led them through his life and changed them with his love. He manages to keep us all laughing and enjoying life in the process.

My husband’s late father loved his family and fought for them, both in family life and in the Second World War. His life ended after a valiant fight with cancer, but the honor of his memory and the love he shared will always bless his family as well as many others.

My sister’s husband showed up just at the right time, to “rescue” her after the death of her first young husband, and has brought much joy and love into her life, as well as being a superb father to their three sons. He is a gifted musician, and also “fathers” many other lives in his role as an associate pastor.

My husband’s sister also married a wonderful man, who has been not only father to their now-grown son, but has always been one to reach out and care for our family. He would do anything to help out using his talents in construction and house-building, and he has cared tirelessly for his wife for years.

Even though my father’s father (my grandfather) endured the fear and hardship of becoming blind as a young man, he was truly one of the happiest, most fun (even silly!) people I’ve ever met! He always found fun in each circumstance, and “saw” more than most of us with two properly functioning eyes. He would often jokingly respond in our conversations with the words, “I see”, accompanied by a smile and his usually peaceful demeanor. Even though he couldn’t provide for his family in the traditional sense, he gave them an exceptional example of joy and courage, and even creativity. He wrote and performed folk music for many years, even performing before the Queen Mother when she visited Ontario many years ago.

Now I’d like to focus for a few minutes on my own father on this Father’s Day.

My Dad was a big part of many of the family memories growing up that were shared in the post I dedicated to my mom.

Dad played a lot with us when we were children, and we enjoyed his being silly with us through the years. Laughter and fun seem to follow wherever Dad goes. He spent much time outdoors with us, either teaching us about gardening or playing in our large, two-acre yard, or taking us camping as a family (often twice in a summer; one of the perks of being in the teaching profession).

Dad pumping water for my sister and I to drink

Enjoying a cool camp drink.

He was always teaching us, whether it was the facts of science, the wonders of nature, or the things of God. I often had my English corrected in our home, but even if I didn’t always appreciate it at the time, I now realize the benefit of knowing how to speak correctly.

Dad was a lover of animals, whether that meant teaching us how to care for and enjoy our pets (mainly cats), instilling in us an appreciation for the animals of nature, or on rare occasions, having to “help” an animal by making the difficult decision to let them go.

Once when I was caring for my best friend’s hamster while she was on vacation, my dad was a great support to me. I walked into a room to find that yes, one of our cats had somehow got into the cage and killed her hamster. Although they were both peacefully laying on the floor, I was devastated at what had happened to my friend’s pet, especially under my care. I’ll never forget how Dad came and gently picked up the hamster, stroking his fur as we prayed (just in case God saw fit to bring him back to life).

We often had the benefit of enjoying his class pet at home (usually a hamster, but including chickens and other animals), to care for it over school vacations.

My mother did most of the Christmas shopping, but as a young girl, I vividly remember some of the special gifts that Dad picked out especially for me. He would buy us just one more thing that was just from him, even though the shopping was supposed to be finished. One such gift was a special scented soap (Yardley, I believe), in a yellow case that he chose for me one year. We also made it a fun habit to work on a craft sort of project since we all had time off during the holidays, even though many times it sat unfinished when school started again.

Dad liked to take impromptu drives to look at nearby Niagara Falls and then eat at Joey’s Pizza, and we sometimes drove the almost two hours to watch airplanes take off and land at the Toronto airport. We also drove to many provinces and states during our summer camping trips.

climbing a dam wall with my dad

Dad, Rebecca, and I climbing a water dam. Kind of depicts our personalities…

I have some fond memories of helping Dad to decorate his school classroom and make copies on the ditto machine. We also grew up drawing on the clean side of the many extra school papers that Dad brought home for us to use.

He has apologized to me as an adult, for trying to make me “too perfect”, to which I generally joyfully respond, “Well, you succeeded!” I never felt my parents were too strict; but rather raised me lovingly with firm values that I have carried with me all of my life. I appreciate the many times Dad would humble himself to apologize when he felt that he had failed, a practice that I have learned to do with my own children.

In my adult life, my dad has continued to be a support to myself and our family.

When my mother had cancer, dad loved her and served her well, learning to do many of the household chores that she usually did as a stay-at-home mom. Later he was a tremendous support to my sister and her first young husband throughout his battle with Hodgkin’s disease. He also thoughtfully cared for both of my grandmothers as they aged, often driving them to their appointments. He has been, and remains a faithful friend to many.

We still have a lot of fun together, and my father continues to be a support to us all. He has managed to remain sensitive to our hurts and griefs, yet always maintains an attitude of unshakable faith and almost childlike trust, through all of our difficult times. I know he has prayed for us throughout these many years.

He has kept himself “young” over the years by participating in magnificent church plays and singing in choirs and worship teams (carrying on in his musical father’s footsteps), by remaining active physically (riding a motorcycle and more recently a scooter); he’s participated in missions trips and run several businesses from home since retirement, and still enjoys driving a small school bus (enjoying the fun of the school children without all the grading and disciplining of running a classroom).

He continues to grow and learn and become a better husband, even as a senior. He has taken steps to overcome fears such as height phobia (such as flying in a friend’s little airplane and driving on scary mountain roads with steep drop-offs), as well as shown me that we can learn to not let anxiety (about medical things and blood), rule our thinking and emotions. When I was a child, he completed his Masters degree at night school while being a full-time teacher during the day, and still managed to spend ample time with his family.

I’m sure I will think of more I would like to share, but suffice it to say that I’m proud to be my father’s daughter. I am thankful that God placed me in this family, and that now my own family has been sharing in the blessing of knowing my dad.

Thank-you for the worth and value you’ve added to our lives, Dad!

You have helped us to appreciate both the silly and the important things of life. We look forward to continuing to learn, grow and love together, as we add to the special family memories we share.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

blue evening sky with clouds and trees

Expect

blue evening sky with clouds and trees

Welcome to another Five Minute Friday post, where a bunch of writers write for five minutes on a chosen prompt, without over-thinking or editing.

While I admit that I usually go a little over the five minute time suggestion, and perform a few minor edits, it’s still been a great exercise for someone who naturally tends to be too detailed and a bit of a perfectionist. Because I am learning to allow myself to not be perfect, this is why I have refrained from using a strict timer, or marking on the post where I’ve started and finished.

Join me today as we ponder the prompt, “expect”.

*****

What exactly do I expect?

It’s natural and not necessarily bad to have expectations.

I have expectations for my life and those of my family. Our youngest son just graduated from high school and our oldest son is already in college, so our thoughts and feelings have been more about their futures and what they will bring.

I am still on the long road to finger recovery since my recent knife mishap, and I tend to easily be concerned about how all that will turn out.

I like to look forward to things, but often find that people and events often do not live up to my expectations. I most surely do not always live up to my own expectations.

But what if I were to let go of expectations and hold on to hope?

The Bible informs me that hope does not disappoint.

 

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

– Romans 5:3-5, NLT

 

 

I also read many great stories of faith in Hebrews 11.  Those who live by faith have put their hope in a sure place, or namely the person of God.

 

 

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.

– Hebrews 11:1, NLT

 

 

So rather than cling to my feeble thoughts of what my life should look like, instead of living in fear that things will not turn out the way I planned for my family, rather than constantly finding myself in a state of disappointment because people don’t do what I think they should, I will choose to hope.

Hope allows me to look forward with expectation, but helps me to trust in the One who cares for me most, even when difficult or unknown circumstances ensue.

Hope causes me to extend grace to those around me, and pray for their growth and peace.

When I live in hope, I can give grace to myself, as well.

I no longer have to worry about all the things I expect, but can live in the peace of entrusting all to God, who cares for me.

*****