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.

*****

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.

*****

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.

*****

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

What I Learned this Spring – March to May 2017

sky photo with white tree blossoms and daytime moon

Welcome to another collection of What I Learned, an assortment of things I’ve noticed or learned that are serious, silly, interesting or emotional. It’s been a busy spring, and I’m grateful to have another opportunity to link up with Emily P. Freeman on her quarterly What I Learned page.

I’ve somehow managed to record quite a collection of miscellaneous points (20 in all!), but since my finger is still healing from a tendon injury and typing remains tedious, I’ll attempt to work against my natural inclination to detail, and be concise. Links will often be provided for you to peruse further information. I hope you enjoy this read, and learn a little or laugh a little with me.

*****

potted mint

 

1. Mint really likes growing in a pot on my windowsill.

I enjoy growing fresh herbs, and have tried to keep some on my windowsill throughout the colder months, as well as planted some in my outdoor garden in the warmer weather. Previously, I put the herbs on my sunny windowsill in their original little green plastic pots. They lasted for awhile, but eventually died, not surviving the winter.

Last summer I worked on a local farm and took advantage of that resource, probably outdoing myself with the number of herbs I purchased or received. I turned a small garden at the end of my driveway into an herb garden, and proceeded to re-pot others to try once more to help them survive the winter.

Well, I think I either chose more cooperative herbs and/or they just needed more growing room, as they mostly made it through the cold months in their roomy pots. In fact, my mint in particular (chocolate mint and spearmint) looks really happy and thriving.

indoor herbs in sunlight

 

And to top it all off, most of my herbs (the perennials) came up again in my garden early this spring!

 

herb garden in early spring

herbs outdoors in late spring

 

2. We tried a Galia melon for the first time and liked it.

While grocery shopping with a friend at Trader Joe’s this spring, I saw a melon that looked very similar to a cantaloupe, but is called a Galia melon. The inside was lighter in color, and the flavor mild. My thoughts were that the flavor seems to be somewhere between a cantaloupe and a honeydew.  According to this post, I guess I was very accurate! It was the first time we had ever tried or even heard of a Galia melon, but it was tasty!

 

3. I finally learned the meaning of the word “paroxysmal”.

I’ve had some dealings with that unpleasant condition known as “vertigo” over the past few years. The type I have been diagnosed with and treated for is known as BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. It’s basically a condition of dizziness caused by crystals in the inner ear becoming dislodged and moving into one of the semicircular canals, causing a feeling of dizziness when the head is moved.

Although I’ve known the name of the condition for some time now, I never understood the meaning of the word, “paroxysmal” in the title. A paroxysm is “a severe attack or a sudden increase in intensity of disease, usually recurring periodically”, which helps to explain the sudden and intense nature of this condition.

Thankfully there are treatments available to help ease or eliminate the symptoms, and most therapists or doctors will teach their patients to do these exercises at home. I’m sure thankful for these medical helps.

 

4. I’ve learned of a cheaper and therefore appealing online mattress company.

After experiencing confusing and less than satisfactory mattress shopping, Tuft & Needle was started by two men.  Their aim is to cut out the middlemen and unnecessary expenses, while still delivering a high quality product. It is delivered to your door in a compact box, and the mattress will expand once opened. They even give you 100 nights to test your new mattress!

Sounds like a product worth checking out!

 

5. The Baikal seal is the only true freshwater seal species.

One of the smallest types of types of seals and the only seal species that live exclusively in fresh water, the Baikal seal lives in the waters of Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia.

 

6. I’m not sure the story about babies being raised without affection and dying is even true.

Haven’t you heard about a so-called experiment in which a group of babies had all their physical needs met but were not shown affection, and the result being that many of them died? Well, according to this writer, we’re not the only ones who have been told such an account. But apparently the tale is lacking solid sources. As I began to look into it, it appears that although there is evidence that humans need physical affection, there doesn’t seem to be an account of such an experiment.

How do these stories get started and passed around for so long?

 

7. There is a scientific reason why orange juice tastes bitter after brushing your teeth.

It is thought that it’s because of sodium laureth sulfate, which is used as a foaming agent in most toothpastes. Apparently sodium laureth sulfate suppresses or reduces the taste receptors that allow us to taste something as “sweet”.

It could be another reason to use a more “natural” toothpaste.

 

8. I’m learning a bit about how to care for succulents.

After purchasing two cute little succulents in pretty handmade clay pots from some local high school students, I realized that I know little about how to care for them. I found a blog, Succulents and Sunshine, that seems to be a great resource if you are interested in growing this type of plant.

plants from high school sale

 

9. The Giant’s Causeway is an amazing natural wonder.

It’s hard to believe that this amazing set of rock formations on the north east tip of Ireland was created as a result of volcanic action. It looks like a truly remarkable place!

image of the Giant's Causeway

 

10. I’ve been waiting far too long between coats of nail polish.

I’m no professional when it comes to painting nails, but I do like to keep my toenails colored during the warm months when they are exposed. I’ve always thought that it was necessary to wait a long time (like 20-30 minutes?), between coats of nail polish. Well, it seems I’ve been completely wasting my time! According to one nail expert, two minutes is all you need!

I also found this article useful for more nail polish mistakes and how to avoid them.

 

11. Sharp knives really are considered more safe to use than dull ones (but they’re still scary).

I really don’t want to dwell on this topic (I didn’t even want to look at a sharp knife for some time after it happened), but since I cut my tendon on my left index finger and had to have surgery recently, I had to do just a little research to see if sharp knives really are more dangerous. The incident happened when I slipped while cutting watermelon, and resulted in my having to return to the hospital for surgery to repair the severed tendon.

I had at least one person tell me that they learned that you should keep your knives a little on the dull side. I had always heard the opposite, and interestingly enough, the knife that hurt me had only been sharpened a couple of weeks before.

After watching this short video and reading this article, I still think having sharp knives is the better way to go. But needless to say, I will never again handle a knife without caution and respect, and encourage us all to learn and practice safe knife use techniques!

index finger in splint and bandage

 

12.  It’s amazing how many wonderful and useful things you actually can do with one hand…..and how many simple things you can’t!

As a result of my injury, surgery, and current recovery process of my index finger, I have been amazed and frustrated by how much I depend on the use of one little finger! It’s interesting to see what jobs I have adapted to quite easily, while so many tasks require more mobility and/or strength than I have yet regained and remain difficult.

Never would I have imagined the work and inconvenience caused by a simple mistake in the kitchen! I won’t take it lightly when someone mentions that they are in physical therapy (now that I know how much time, effort and discomfort are often involved!) And as I progress in my therapy, I am growing more appreciative of simply having a body that works normally.

injured finger

 

13. I now know the meaning of “fractionated” coconut oil (sort of).

I won’t even begin to try to explain the details on this one, but will refer you to the “experts”. This article does a great job explaining what fractionated coconut oil is along with it’s uses. Fractionated coconut oil is defined nicely in this post , which is also informative in comparing it with extra virgin coconut oil. Here it is in a nutshell, according to the same post:

“Basically, it is a form of the oil that has had the long-chain fatty acids removed via hydrolysis and steam distillation. Just this one change makes the oil liquid at room temperature, and extends the product’s shelf life.”

 

14. Chiffonade is a special technique used to thinly slice basil and other leafy green herbs and vegetables.

This method is used to slice basil (or other leafy greens) into pretty, thin, ribbon-like strips by stacking and rolling the leaves. You can read more details and view helpful photos here.

 

15. I have discovered that there are no federal laws governing food expiration dates.

This interesting article in the Los Angeles Times taught me that there no federal laws governing food expiration dates, many dates are not based on science, and that the resulting confusion leads to a lot of food waste (about 40 %!).

This is frustrating, to say the least!

 

16. Thankfully, cherries are really healthy!

I’ve always loved cherries. they are one of my favorite fruits! Over the years, I’ve been pleased to discover that these sweet, tasty treats have many health benefits as well. So when it comes to cherries, eat up!

 

17. Baby butter beans is another name for Lima beans.

A recent recipe I was making called for “baby butter beans“, which I had never heard of. It turns out that this is simply another name for Lima beans.

 

18. After 50 years, I’m still a bit of a “wimp” when it comes to injuries and medical procedures.

As mentioned in the above points (#11 & 12), I’ve learned a lot about myself through this experience with injuring my finger. I have always found  injuries and certain medical procedures frightening. I have had to learn to relax, believe the truth and trust the doctors and medical experts who have cared for me, but it hasn’t been easy.

I thought I had come so far (and I have), but like many weaknesses in our lives, I still have a way to go. It was disappointing to me to still feel so afraid and nervous at so many points in this process, yet I’m also encouraged as I see myself growing to trust God more and learning how to better deal with difficult circumstances. I guess we never really stop learning and growing.

 

19. I really liked sharing a different little part of my life with my (far-away) sister.

Recently, I participated in another free challenge offered by Robin Long of The Balanced Life. I have been enjoying doing her Pilates workouts for over a year now, so much so that I joined the Sisterhood (her online subscription service) and have found it to be a wonderful part of my fitness and health journey.

My dear sister and I live about 500 miles apart, and as a result, we don’t often get to participate together in many of the daily activities that we love. I invited her to join us for a free, simple healthy eating challenge, and it was so fun being able to connect online with my sister and do this challenge together. It was also special to “share” some of the community and resources that I hold dear and find so helpful and enjoyable in my life, as well as to have my many online friends (“sisters”) “meet” my own flesh and blood sibling.

I’m so glad we could do this together!

my new mug

 

20. It feels strange to have my youngest child graduate from high school (but good, too).

We just celebrated the high school graduation of my youngest child (my second son). I’m not even sure it has totally sunk in yet. It has been strange and wonderful and bittersweet all at once.

It doesn’t seem all that long ago when he was in his first week of kindergarten. I was waking him to get ready for school, and he said something like, “You mean I have to do this again???” I don’t remember exactly how I answered, but I was thinking, “Only about another 12 years!”

Well, here we are.

my son's graduation

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading some of the many things I’ve learned this spring. Life is full of wonder and changes and growth, and I’m happy to be able to remember some of these things and share them with you.

*****

What have you been learning?

 

 

 

less is more with injured finger tendon

Empty

less is more with injured finger tendon

So this is what happened on a Friday afternoon almost two weeks ago…..

I cut my index finger right at the joint while attempting to cut some watermelon with my sharp knife. After a stressful trip and several hours at the ER, I came home with a small splint, three stitches, and orders to return first thing Monday morning for surgery to repair my severed tendon.

I admit I am not good with medical procedures and emergencies.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had a tendency to feel faint or go into mild shock when dealing with an injury. I don’t like this about myself, have worked and prayed my way through many situations, and have grown much, I think, but it still seems to be a weakness I must continue to deal with.

What makes it worse, is that I know that this is just a minor situation compared to what others have dealt with.

There are much more serious medical conditions and diseases (such as my friends and family members who have gone or are going through cancer), and many people I know have suffered great losses and pain of a more serious nature.

I have repeatedly wondered why I seem so weak.

I’ve come up feeling rather empty.

And this is the word prompt from last week for Five Minute Friday. I’m finally feeling enough strength today to write (typing with one hand), and link up with some wonderful fellow bloggers, squeaking in just under the wire before this weak’s new prompt.

I’ve been thinking about this all week, and really wanted to write.

Last weekend all over the world, Christians celebrated Easter. We remembered the life, suffering and death of God’s only Son, and rejoiced together in his victorious resurrection. (If you are not a believer, these amazing claims at least bear some serious contemplation.)

And the victory of Christ can help me in my weakness.

I know that in my brokenness, Christ can become strong in me.

Because the grave is also empty, I can find healing for both my body and my soul. Even my thoughts and fickle emotions can learn to be at peace.

I guess it’s not so bad to feel empty.

 

“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 12:8b-10

 

So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 5:21

 

He personally carried our sins
    in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
    and live for what is right.
By his wounds
    you are healed. – 1 Peter 2:24

*****

 

 

 

One God and Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus

Enough Already

One God and Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus

 

Today’s post will be linked up with my friends over at Five Minute Friday, where different authors and bloggers all join together to write their five-minute’s-worth of thoughts on a common theme. Today’s prompt is “enough“.

*****

This morning I awoke to sun. Shiny, bright and inviting; after a week of cold rain and clouds, it brought immediate help to my weary bones and heart.

I have no major complaints; I am thankful to say that life is not too difficult right now.

But some days it’s still a struggle for all of us.

I clicked on Facebook for a few minutes and saw that my dear sister posted a photo of the snow covering they awoke to today. Then another faraway friend stated the same…..the roads were worse than ever, and the snow-clearing machinery may have already been put away.

So my first thoughts when I saw the prompt for today’s writing was, “ENOUGH ALREADY!”

I know there are so much deeper and meaningful things about which to write, but that’s where I was at first.

I proceeded to get my (phone) camera and try to capture photos of the beauty around me, in order to share online with my weather-weary friends.

Then a little treat: a fluffy little bird, bathing happily in my birdbath, with other birds flitting about. I immediately started a rough video and shared that instead.

Next, I proceeded to start my quiet time. I looked at my scripture of the day, 1 Timothy 2:5-6,

For,

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus.  He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.

This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time.”

I chose a new devotional (from YouVersion), which led me to one which included music and an Easter theme.

 

Here is the song that was written about today:

 

 

So, in the end, I am writing about something more serious.

Something I believe is so important, so vital to the heart, soul and lives of myself and those around me.

The Church is already in the season of Lent, and will soon be sharing in many celebrations of Easter, the culmination of the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

It bears some serious thought, whether you are a believer or not.

I remember an Easter sermon given by my former pastor a few years back, in which he showed us a diagram, a graph sort of image that represented what happened to the world at the time when Christians claim that Jesus died and rose again.

No matter what you think about it, something happened.

The world was definitely changed.

People have testified not only to walking and speaking with him in person after his death, but for thousands of years, men and women have claimed that their lives have been changed forever by their acceptance of that single, horrible, then victorious gift.

We cannot ignore the sacrifice nor the celebration.

And it is enough, already.

*****