mums and pumpkins

10 Things I Learned in September 2016

mums and pumpkins

Another month and another ten lessons. I continue to be amazed at how near the end of each month I consistently feel that I will not have enough items to write about, yet by the time I’m done, I usually end up with a sufficient list. If I’m on top of things, I keep a running list of what I’m learning (the best way to remember all those little things we learn without thinking). But even if I create my list in somewhat of a last-minute fashion, it never ceases to amaze me how much new knowledge I’ve acquired each month!. It really is true that we should never stop learning!

 

10 Things I Learned in September 2016:

 

1. We are actually more productive when we take breaks.afternoon nap on couch

I’ve probably known this to some extent for a long time, but I never realized that it has been backed up scientifically. I will say that the longer I live, the more I know this to be true in my own life. While reading online this month , I came across a link to this informative article, which explains scientific reasons to prioritize breaks as well as other helpful tips on recharging to be more productive.

2. Chlorine is really bad for jewelry (the second worse element?).

I recently heard this while dropping off some jewelry for repairs at our local jewelers. You can read more details in this article (by a different jeweler online). Chlorine or bleach cause a chemical reaction that breaks down the alloys in jewelry. So before you stick your precious hands in a bleach cleaner or jump into that pool, please remove your rings!

3. I really, really dislike throwing out food and deciding if food is still safe to eat is one of my most “un-favorite”decisions.

Recently I had some ground turkey thawing in the refrigerator; two pounds to be exact. As life sometimes goes, I got busy and didn’t cook it quite as soon as I had planned. One evening I warmed up my big frying pan, got out the turkey, and threw a pound in to cook. It was already late and I was tired, but I figured at least if I cooked the meat, it would be safe to wait another day until I could make the recipe I was planning.

But when I opened the second pound to add to my hot pan, it didn’t smell right to me. Knowing that it had been out maybe a day or so longer than recommended, I immediately became worried that it may have been starting to go bad. I was so upset and confused! I hate wasting food; perhaps because we try to stick to a tight food budget, and also because of the way I was raised by my family. My grandparents lived through the days of the depression, and their generation especially learned not to waste anything.

I often work hard to scrimp and save and try to make do with what I have, so throwing a whole two pounds of meat did not make me a happy camper. Even if my money allowed, I would still have a problem with wasting food, as I aim to be a good steward of all God has blessed me with.

So this was really emotionally difficult for me, magnified, I’m sure, by the lateness of the hour and my tiredness. I finally just made the decision to throw out the whole two pounds, just in case it was unsafe to eat. I wrapped it all up in plastic shopping bags and immediately stomped it out to my trash. I was really upset.

I had to realize that the risk of food poisoning or sick stomachs is not worth a couple of pounds of ground turkey meat, yet I was surprised at how upsetting it was to me. It took me a surprisingly long time to get over the incident. This is just another example of something that needs to be in balance, and for which I need to allow myself some grace.

The time I burnt my chicken dogs to a crisp, however, it was obvious even to me that they were trash!

2016-05-22 Chicken dogs burnt to a crisp (literally).

My chicken dogs, literally burnt to a crisp!

4. When I go downstairs to get something, I almost always forget what it was.

Does this happen to you? (If you’re anywhere near middle age or older, I can bet that it has.) Since we’ve been middle aged, it seems that my husband and I, more often than not, completely forget the item(s) we’ve gone for as soon as we make it down the stairs to our basement.

Did you know that this is “a thing”? It really made me feel better when a few months ago an older friend at church told me that there was a logical explanation for forgetting things when we cross a threshold (or go downstairs, I guess). It’s referred to as the “doorway effect” or the “boundary effect“, and these articles provide a thorough explanation that will probably make you feel a little less crazy, as it did for me.

Now what was I saying?

5. I can do a two and a half minute plank (and probably many more things I thought were impossible).

At the beginning of September, someone in my online Pilates subscription group posted a challenge to do a plank every night in September before bed. On week one we were to start with one minute, and add thirty seconds each week, ending the month with a week of two-and-a-half minute planks! Well, I agreed and started doing one-minute planks. It was great, and by week two, I felt good, but also quickly realized that the two-and-a-half minute goal was going to be TOUGH! I kept going, though, and must have gotten physically stronger and more determined as I went along. By the last week, it wascat on exercise mat difficult, but I was able to manage a two-and-a-half minute plank for five total days!

So what’s my point? That I’m a super-athlete? Not even close!

My point is that often we can do much more than we think is possible! This is true both physically and emotionally/mentally/spiritually. Sometimes it will be hard; it may even feel (or appear) impossible, but more often than not it can be done. If we are determined, accept the help we need (from others & God), and do the hard work, we can do much more than we give ourselves credit for!

So go out and take a baby step and watch how much you grow.

6. Most commercially canned pumpkin is not made from the traditional carving-type pumpkins we are used to seeing, but is still real pumpkin.

According to this Snopes article, which gives a lot of interesting information about squash and pumpkins, most canned pumpkin is made from “a specific cultivar of pumpkin called Dickinson.” It is not as “pretty” as the pumpkins we associate with all things fall, but is still a variety of pumpkin and was specially cultivated for the purpose of canning pumpkin.

Furthermore, squash and pumpkins are not only in the same family, but can be used in most recipes interchangeably. In my summer/fall of working on a local farm this year, I’ve learned that certain people actually request Hubbard squash to make their “pumpkin” recipes.

What I really find interesting (and slightly disturbing) is how upsetting this has been to some folk. One person (quoted in the same Snopes article), who believed that canned pumpkin is really a mixture of squashes stated that it made him question everything in his life. Really?

I understand and agree with the fact that we, as intelligent, free consumers should know what we are actually purchasing, but if we’re losing sleep over which variety of squash or pumpkin resides in our store-bought can, I suggest we take up gardening, grow our own pumpkins and squash, and never have a worry again.

CSA farm share vegetables and fruit

7. Stored potatoes actually need a certain amount of humidity (and I thought they needed a dry climate)!

I just learned today that if your potatoes tend to begin to shrivel as mine often do when we keep them for awhile, it’s not because it’s too humid, but too dry! I guess I should have come to this conclusion myself, since shriveling is generally due to losing water, but somehow I missed that.

Our basement tends to be a little humid, especially in the summer months, so we generally run a dehumidifier. My friend who happens to be my boss this summer on the farm (also where we get our CSA farm share), told me that the dehumidifier is actually the problem when it comes to making my potatoes last! Hopefully this information will help us to store our potatoes better and not waste as much.

Here’s an article which includes some great potato-storing information, especially for winter-time. (Make sure you follow the link included for other innovative potato storing tips, even if you, like me, don’t have a root cellar or ideal storage area.)

8. The area which makes up the top part of our chest (right beneath our neck), is called the decolletage.

Well, that’s roughly how my friend described it. This came up in a conversation amongst a group of my woman friends the other night.

Accordingto Wikipedia, the decolletage is,

“the upper part of a woman’s torso, comprising her neck, shoulders, back and chest, that is exposed by the neckline of her clothing. However, the term is most commonly applied to a neckline that reveals or emphasizes cleavage.”

decollatage

Interesting. And this:

“Décolletage is a French word which is derived from décolleter, meaning to reveal the neck.”

Since it’s getting colder these past few first fall days, I think I’ll be keeping my decolletage under cover. I’m so relieved that I now know the correct name of the body part hidden beneath my infinity scarves.

9. We really do not care for turban squash after all.

As much as we generally like squash, and try to be open to trying and appreciating different types of foods, we as a family decided that we really don’t care for turban squash.  I’ve probably tried one each fall, as I like the variety and trying new foods, but I honestly don’t recall our previous experiences. All I can tell you is that I’m just not sure it’s worth the time and effort to try to find a way to prepare turban squash in a way that we enjoy.

It’s such a pretty, colorful squash, and there are many recipes that call for somewhat elaborately stuffing this interesting gourd. But since I’m still not convinced we will like it, I may just pass on that and call it a day. I learned growing up (and have continued to feel strongly about), not wasting food and learning to eat and appreciate as many healthy foods as possible, but I think in this case, I have to give myself permission to dislike or refrain from eating turban squash.

If you happen to have a favorite recipe for turban squash that you’re just dying to share, please let me know so I can give it one last-ditch effort…..or better yet, invite me over to your house and prepare it for me!

turban squash pile

10. “Among” and “amongst” mean the same thing and are both acceptable, but they may be viewed differently by others.

In writing this post, I had to add one more item (causing my “type A” personality to feel so much more comfortable with this nice, even number).

I’ve noticed that when I type the word, “amongst” on my computer, it underlines it as an incorrect word. So today I decided to look it up.

It seems that both words are valid and mean essentially the same, but according to this OxfordWords Blogs post, one may be more common depending on where you are speaking, and it’s even possible (at least in the US), that the word you chose may affect how you come across to your listeners. The post states that:

“in US English, amongst is now seen as old-fashioned, and even ‘pretentious’. If you are a US English speaker, therefore, and you don’t want to come across to your audience as out of date or, heaven forbid, linguistically la-di-da, then it’s advisable to opt for among.”

Well, that clears things up, and while I do not wish to appear haughty in any way, I just added the word, “amongst” to my computer dictionary. Now I will not have to be amongst those who are questioning whether it’s a word anymore.

*****

What have you learned this month? Do you have anything to share about vegetables, necklines, forgetting and/or taking breaks? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

 

Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

What Am I Choosing to Collect?

Today’s post is written for Five Minute Friday, a fun and inspirational link-up with many other bloggers who write for five minutes, unedited, on a given prompt.

(Confession time: I’m working on sticking to the five minute, unedited “rule”, imperfectly, but have grown towards these goals as a “recovering perfectionist”. That’s one of the reasons I chose to participate in this weekly challenge.)

Today’s prompt is, “collect”. I hope you are encouraged or inspired, too.

*****

Coffee, candle, pumpkin on table

 

What am I choosing to collect?

A life is full of collections, some of physical things, such as stones, shells, books, stamps, jewelry, coffees or mason jars.

But every day we are collecting things we cannot see.

What am I choosing to collect … emotionally, mentally, even spiritually?

I often make poor choices (or automatic, it seems), to collect regrets, discontent, complaints, stress, grief, hurt or negativity.

But I wish to collect something better, a collection of unseen gifts that I can share through my life with those around me, and pass on to my family and future generations.

With God’s help, I would rather be intentional about collecting good things.

I choose to collect thankfulness, cheerfulness, peace, happy memories, good thoughts, positive words, grace … simple treasures that I wish to keep.

I do have a choice as to what I collect.

 

” And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” 

– Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

 

 

We can make a positive impact on our own lives, and of those around us.

 

 

” The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

– 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (MSG)

 

 

What are you choosing to collect?

*****

 

 

five-minute clock photo

What Can I Do in Five Minutes?

five-minute clock photo

Today’s post is for the link-up of five-minute, (mostly) unedited writings at Five Minute Friday. Enjoy!

*****

Five minutes.

It isn’t very long. (Just ask me and other bloggers who are attempting to keep these posts to that short time limit!)

Perhaps because I’m being challenged in the area of time management, I feel inspired to write about five minutes (for the prompt of the word “five” today).

What can I do in five minutes?

I have a LOT of five-minute increments in each and every day, but how can I use them?

I can “waste” time browsing on social media (not that I consider all social media time a waste), I can mope around or wander aimlessly without a plan, I can get distracted or focus on the difficult or challenging things in my life.

I could wolf down a few handfuls of chips or unhealthy snacks.

I can chose to feel badly about myself or my situation, or just plain loose track of time.

That precious five minutes.

But I can be intentional.

I can make a choice.

I can spend five minutes reflecting on things for which I’m thankful.

I can pray and think and plan. I can write a to-do list.

I could spend five minutes doing “nothing”, but using the time to rest and rejuvenate my body, emotions, mind or spirit.

I could write that email, mail that card, make that phone-call.

Maybe I can put away five minutes of clutter or take a baby-step for that big project I’ve been procrastinating.

I could make something healthy to eat for myself or to share with my family.

Other options may include five minutes of exercise, writing a quick post on my blog, starting (or switching) the laundry, wiping down a bathroom, or watering my plants.

I can share a smile, give a compliment, or say something to encourage someone around me.

The choice is up to me.

I pray that I learn not to waste my five minutes.

When you put a whole lot of five-minutes increments together…..it becomes a life.

*****

What Can You Do in Five Minutes?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sun's rays shining through tree branches with blue sky and clouds

Listen.

Sun's rays shining through tree branches with blue sky and clouds

 

Today’s post is linked up with others at Five Minute Friday, where you may enjoy the five-minute, mostly unedited writings of other bloggers on the prompt, “listen.”

*****

As I think about the word, “listen”, many thoughts come to mind. That, in itself, should tell me something.

Do I really listen?

Are there too many thoughts, ideas, concerns, “to-do’s”, emotions, reactions, and distractions for me to even hear at all?

Sometimes I can’t hear myself think.

Often I don’t really listen to what others are saying to me.

At times, I feel it’s so difficult to hear God’s still, small voice.

And so, I need to stop.

I need to clear away the cobwebs from my mind and heart.

I need to “pull the log out of my own eye”, so that my ears will also be open to hear others.

I need to stop striving and trust the One who holds it all together, yet created me and knows the innermost thoughts and feelings and longings of my heart.

Let’s practice stopping…..and really listening.

May we be surprised at what we hear.

*****

 

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned in August 2016

I was hoping to publish this before I go to bed tonight. See, I didn’t realize what the date was until I got to church today, and where I was reminded that it’s 9/11. The thing is, at first I thought, “How can I publish a blog post today that’s not specifically honoring that first, fateful 9/11 day?” I will probably write a more specific, serious post on that theme in the future (when I’m not caught totally off guard), but today is not the day.

As I thought about it, I decided that this “looking back” post about what I learned last month is actually somewhat appropriate, even for a serious day such as this. I’m beginning to really like these posts, as it’s a lesson in stopping and considering what new things I learned in the previous month. I usually start out thinking there won’t be enough interesting things to fill a blog post, but then surprise myself by ending up with plenty. I enjoy this habit, as it causes me to reflect on my days.

So even though some of my points are less than serious, I’m thankful today for all the moments of my life, especially in light of all the sacrifice and loss that so many experienced on that unforgettable September 11th. In gratefulness to all those who came together in unity, kindness and strength on that day, I wish to stop and reflect on my own life; the troublesome and the mundane, the pleasant and the remarkable.

part of watermelon house flag with sun rays

What I Learned In August 2016:

 

1.”Unthaw” is actually a word, and means the same as “thaw”.

Recently I came across the use of the word, “unthaw” in a recipe, and proceeded to think that the author obviously did not have a clear understanding that the proper term should be, “thaw”. Logically, it makes sense, if “thaw” means for something to go from freezing to room temperature, then wouldn’t “unthaw” mean the opposite? And is it even a word? (My spell-checker doesn’t seem to think so.) I’ve seen others comment on this as well, so it’s not just me. But wishing to know the truth, I took a few minutes, and discovered to my surprise, that EITHER is acceptable, and they mean the same thing! Here is a dictionary explanation. So now we can stop judging others for their use of either term, and we can all be friends.

relaxing with feet up on kayak on lake shore

2. I really seem to “need” time in nature.

I’ve always known this, but I’ve really felt it recently, especially for the last half of this summer. Maybe it’s because we took an earlier vacation this year, or possibly because it was shorter and we jumped into “real life” again before I was fully rested. Either way, I have felt such a strong desire which can only be described as a “longing” to get away, or at least go out and spend some quality time in nature. Whenever I do so much as take a hike in the woods, or spend time near water, or even enjoy a simple campfire, I physically and emotionally give a sigh and feel relaxed. For the ultimate satisfaction for my desire or “need” to be outdoors, my preference is to spend a week or so in a cabin by a lake. (We have one favorite, in particular, but several that have been great.) I feel so refreshed when I have ample time for just “soaking it in”. The longer I wait between such lovely vacation visits, the more it seems I need my nature “tank” filled. I guess I just really enjoy and am thankful for God’s wonderful creation.

 

One bridge at Dufferin Islands

3. Raising young-adult children is more challenging than I thought.

Yes, I have two older sons, one 17 and one 19, and yes, it is physically much, much easier than when they were little. We really enjoy having older children, but have definitely noticed two things. One, our conflicts are much more complicated than when they are little, and two, it’s really hard to allow them to grow up and accept their own consequences in order to grow to maturity and not live “enabled” lives. It’s often hard to know when to require obedience because they live under our roof, and when to let them make their own decisions (as adult or almost-adult individuals), and let them fail or fall. Often, I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle, but I now know that it all requires my trust in God and a great deal of wisdom and prayer!

 

4. When cutting ANY hot peppers, use gloves!

Why oh why, did I NOT remember this lesson from approximately this same time last year???!!! I got some little jalapeno peppers from the farm stand, and although we’re not avid “hot pepper eaters”, we occasionally enjoy recipes with a little “kick”. Knowing that jalapenos were not considered that hot (I have enjoyed them in restaurant recipes often), I proceeded to cut them up to freeze for later use……with my bare hands. After a few minutes, I started to feel the burn, and wondered if I should have worn gloves. As the minutes ticked by, I realized too late that it was starting to really hurt, but at that point there seemed to be no point of turning back. So I suffered needlessly (and stupidly, I must say!), even though I had already learned this lesson in the past. I guess that is a lesson in itself: Remember (or record?) the lessons you have learned, and don’t repeat the same dumb process that got you there!

 

5. When microwave reheating in containers with a plastic lid, if you don’t allow steam to escape, the lid will be ruined.

This is another simple lesson I should have known from past experience. If you don’t allow for built-up heat and steam to escape, the lid “sucks” down into the container and usually is bent beyond repair. (Sigh.) I did it again.

melted/warped plastic lid

glass storage with bent, melted lid 2

6. We really are not “beach people”.

My family loves nature and the outdoors, and we even really like spending time by water. When we do go swimming, we really enjoy it a lot. But the reality is we don’t get to as much as we’d like, and when we have a choice, going to the beach is usually not our first “perfect summer day” of choice. Sometimes swimming doesn’t seem to make it to the top of our list. This summer we swam a grand total of one time (unless you count “creek-walking”, in which case we’ve gone twice).

creek-walk with family

7. You can freeze tomatoes whole without blanching them.

I haven’t a lot of experience with freezing tomatoes. I’ve made some sauce and some homemade soup to freeze, but I don’t believe I’ve ever frozen plain tomatoes. This summer at my farm-stand job, a customer was looking for plum tomatoes to freeze. She said they are best for this purpose because they have less juice. I asked her about her method, and she said she just halves them and throws them in a freezer bag. Huh.

I went home and looked for more information online, and sure enough, this is a valid, and much easier method than the rather more time-consuming and complicated, “old-fashioned” process of blanching and peeling. Here‘s a nice blog post about this. (I actually just washed and halved mine, threw them a freezer bag in a single layer, and called it a day. A few of them stuck together a bit, but one little “clunk” on a counter and they’re good to go.)

frozen plum tomatoes without blanching

Frozen plum tomatoes “the lazy way” (no blanching or flash-freezing).

8. There is a better way to express the excess liquid from grated zucchini.

I like zucchini to cook and eat, but what I really like is to bake with it. This is definitely the preference of my non-zucchini-loving sons. I imagine you’ve enjoyed some nice, home-baked zucchini bread, but what you really ought to try is zucchini bread or muffins with chocolate! Adding chocolate chips to zucchini bread definitely takes it up a notch, and by adding cocoa, chocolate zucchini bread or cake is the ultimate in deliciousness!

This summer, I think I’ve discovered the best and easiest way to express the liquid from zucchini! You can read a more detailed description in this post. Happy zucchini-baking!!!

hand-grated zucchini in glass dish

 

*****

I hope you found today’s reflections informative or at least mildly entertaining. What did you learn this August?

 

water with rocks and foliage

Heal My Heart, Use Me to Heal Others, Please Heal Our Land

water with rocks and foliage

Today is Five Minute Friday, and today’s prompt is “heal”. I’ve decided that I’d like to write this post as a prayer. Won’t you join me?

*****

 

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
    and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

-Psalm 139:23,24 (NLT)

 

Lord, my heart needs to be healed.

I cannot mend it on my own. I need your help.

Let me trust in you to do the work.

Your faithfulness has been my rock.  Your loving-kindness has been a refuge.

Let me hide myself in you, until I am abundantly sure of your undying love for me.

I ask you to heal my heart.

 

“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”

– James 5:16 (NLT)

 

Lord, please use my healed heart to minister to others.

I don’t want to live a self-centered, meaningless life, but one that is rich in goodness and reaches out to those around me.

Here’s my healed heart, not perfect, but being perfected by the One who made me.

I offer it to you as a gift and a tool to heal those around me.

Let me be sensitive to the needs of others so that you may flow through me.

Use me to heal others.

 

 “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

-2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

 

Lord God, our land needs your touch.

Help us to humbly get on our knees and seek your face.

We ask for your forgiveness and mercy on behalf of our stubborn, rebellious land.

Only you can truly set us free.

Please heal our land.

*****

 

 

 

 

path into woods

What Path Will I Take?

20160622_102409

 

What path will I take?

There are so many choices…..or do I have a choice at all?

When I think about trying to do right, trying to find God’s will for my life, or trying to chose the path of my life, it’s sometimes overwhelming.

It can feel I have no choice, or that the options are too many and lead to confusion and lack of peace.

Will I hear God’s voice? Will I discern his direction? Will I really make something of my life?

Although we could debate on whether or not there is just one right path for our life, or whether we have many choices, I think that some things are clear.

If we have chosen to follow Jesus; if we’ve given our lives to God; if we are full of doubts and are just asking him for help…..he will not fail us.

God promises to direct our path.

He said that he would be with us.

God’s Word lets me know that he will show me the right way to go.

I just need to trust him and follow the path.

Let the words of the Psalms give you peace and courage today:

“Put your hope in the Lord.
    Travel steadily along his path.”

-Psalm 37:34a

“Lead me in the right path, O Lord,
    or my enemies will conquer me.
Make your way plain for me to follow.”

-Psalm 5:8

“You have made a wide path for my feet
    to keep them from slipping.”

-Psalm 18:36

He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
    bringing honor to his name.”

-Psalm 23:3

“Show me the right path, O Lord;
    point out the road for me to follow.”

-Psalm 25:4

“The Lord is good and does what is right;
    he shows the proper path to those who go astray.”

Psalm 25:8

“Who are those who fear the Lord?
    He will show them the path they should choose.”

-Psalm 25:12

“Teach me how to live, O Lord.
    Lead me along the right path

Psalm 27:11a

 

He has a purpose for my life.

My life does have meaning.

It doesn’t have to be so complicated.

As long as I’m following him, God will show me the meaningful and fulfilling path that he laid out for me before I was even born.

 

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.”

-Psalm 139:13-14

Lord, help me to live with intention and follow your path.

*****

This post is written for part of the Five Minute Friday link-up. Join me there to discover what other bloggers are writing about the prompt, “path”.

All scriptures above are quoted from the New Living Translation of the Bible.

 

 

 

Olympic Rings 2016 (Rio)

Whose Team Are You On?

Olympic Rings 2016 (Rio)

I’m joining my blogging friends over at Five Minute Friday today to write for five minutes on the prompt, “team”.

*****

Whose team are you on?

If you’re like me, you may be thinking that you really weren’t a part of many teams, especially if you were not that “into” sports.

But think about it.

We’re all on a team. In fact, I’m willing to bet you’re part of more teams than you were aware of.

How about the team of your family, the team you work with, your large church team and smaller community/small group teams? You have a team of friends (hopefully some close ones), and a more casual team of acquaintances. Can you be a team member anywhere you find yourself, with those around you who need a team-mate?

My encouragement to all of us today is to be part of the team we are on.

Wherever we are; whoever we are with; just BE part of the team!

Be all there.

Be present.

Be a participant.

Be a cheer-leader.

Be a good friend.

Be a wonderful wife.

Be the best mother.

Be a helpful co-worker.

Be that kind stranger.

You and I are all on many teams.

Let’s do whatever we can and whatever we’re good at; let’s be whatever we are meant to be on our “teams”.

Your team needs you.

*****

 

my cat Buster and I

What Makes Me Happy?

Today I’m linking up with some wonderful bloggers at FiveMinuteFriday, writing on the prompt, “happy”.

 

my cat Buster and I

Me and Buster.

Happy.

It’s a simple word, but why is it often so difficult to attain in our daily life?

As a somewhat serious person and a Christian, the obvious way to discuss happiness is to contrast this emotion with the deep, everlasting joy that can be ours no matter what the circumstances. I would also mention that if you are not able to feel much happiness, please take care of yourself until you can, and/or get the appropriate help as needed.

But besides all that serious stuff, sometimes I feel like it’s good and healthy, and helpful to just do something everyday that makes you feel happy.

No, our true happiness isn’t based on emotion, but we are real, flesh and bone people with real, sometimes raw emotions. It’s a good practice to care for our body, mind and soul, as well as our spirit. And it’s OK to “help” our emotions along in a practical way.

enjoy the little things

So here are some things that “help” my emotions to feel happy:

  • a nice, hot cup of good coffee
  • some slow, quiet time to myself
  • ice-cream (yes; I even scare my husband with how much this helps me)
  • some “girlfriend” time
  • spending time in nature, God’s wonderful creation
  • doing something creative
  • getting some rest and/or a good sleep
  • reading a good book
  • watching a good movie or favorite TV show
  • petting one (or both) of my cats
  • doing some exercise that I love
  • looking at and enjoying photos, the memories of my life
  • wearing something that makes me smile
  • watching “my” humingbirds
  • doing something with my family

These are just a sample of things I do that make me feel happy. And when we feel happy, it helps us to move in a positive direction and do the more important things in our lives.

My Bible verse-of-the-day today is this:

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.”

– Ephesians 5:1-2, NLT

 

I believe that one way we can “imitate God” and “live a life of love” as Jesus did, is to just be happy.

It’s a decision, and one that some of us need to be more purposeful about.

Here’a to a happy day!

 

*****

Some things to think about (and comment, if you please):

What do you do to help you to feel happy? Do you notice that if you make yourself feel happy, you are more able to cope and do the things you know you should do? If you’re a Christ-follower, do you think that Jesus had a mostly “happy” demeanor?

 

 

 

 

water and sky reflection

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016

It seems like such a long time since I wrote a “What I Learned” post. Well, it’s time for a look at the past two lovely summer months of June and July. Some points are serious, some are completely not serious, and some are just other “stuff”. Here goes!

 

water and sky reflection

 

15 Things I Learned in June & July 2016:

 

1. Turning 50 was both harder and better than I thought.

I guess you could say I celebrated a “milestone” birthday this June, as I turned fifty years old. I’ve never been one to mind much about my age or getting older, but I must admit that this half century mark did hit me a little harder than I thought it would. I had a few moments (like on the evening before, when I realized that I had only hours left in my forties), that made me feel “old”. But overall, I decided to live it up and make the whole thing into an ongoing party. I announced my birthday age online (on Facebook), and invited my friends who are also turning fifty this year to join me in celebrating…..all year long! If you can make a big deal out of any birthday, I think this is the one! I think I’ve earned a little extra celebrating for living for one half century.

50 Years Well Lived

 

2. An hour or so on (or by) water will make up for several hours of stress.

When I originally wrote this point, I had just spent a couple hours with one of my girlfriends, part of which consisted of a lovely hour kayaking on a local “pond” (think “small lake”). I don’t remember how I was feeling at the time, except that afterwards, I was so de-stressed! The combination of some good exercise, the relaxing atmosphere, and time spent catching up with a friend were invaluable and very therapeutic! I’ve always known this about spending time near the water, but especially noticed on that day what a positive change it caused in my body, mind and soul.

kayaking with water fowl in background

3. Bunnies are so cute!

OK, who doesn’t think bunnies are cute??? (Well, there are probably a few gardeners or farmers who are not particularly thrilled with their eating habits, but besides that…..) Each spring and summer, we seem to have a few rabbits who live in or at least near our yard. We really enjoy watching them. One evening while we were eating our supper, we saw one, then two…..then three bunnies hopping and chasing each other all over our neighbor’s yard. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. They seemed to be having an awfully fun time!

three rabbits on the lawn

 

4. I like almond milk better than “regular” (cow’s) milk.

A few months ago, I started regularly purchasing a small quantity of almond milk for myself. I think I had heard that it was easier to digest than regular cow’s milk, so I figured I’d give it a try. I quickly grew to like it. I also discovered that it has twice the calcium and less sugar than regular dairy milk (just read the labels), so it seemed like a good thing. One day when we had no almond milk, my son poured me a glass of 1% cow’s milk. I was surprised to have the realization that it tasted “different” now, and I no longer liked it as well as my almond milk, even though I grew up as a (cow’s)”milk drinker”. Luckily, my three men haven’t acquired the taste, so it remains affordable enough for me to keep on hand.

5. Some quality friendships are only for a season, but that’s OK (and it doesn’t make them any less special).

I’m not sure what made me think of this exactly, but it is a more positive way for me to think about relationships that seem to have grown “stale” or that are simply too distant in physical miles to maintain on a regular basis. I’m a faithful person by nature, and also feel very sentimental about any relationships I’ve had in my life, especially those with friends with whom I’ve been fairly close. I have come to realize that just because a close friendship seems to have “ended” or is just not practical for this stage in life, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a “real” or meaningful relationship; it may just have been special for a time. I can live with this.

2016-06-15 01.32.32

6. I really like my Himalayan salt lamp.

Have you joined the craze of owning a Himalayan salt lamp yet? I tend to be somewhat cynical of ads about products like this having real health benefits, but after a little research, it seems there may just be something to it. I read an article on WebMD that gives some interesting information, after my online Pilates instructor wrote a post about her thoughts on Himalayan salt lamps, and I decided to give one a try. Since it was birthday time, I asked for it for a gift, which my sons graciously purchased for me. I’m not sure, but it seems like I’ve awakened feeling a little less groggy after using it in our bedroom at night, perhaps. I am still formulating an opinion as to whether or not it really works, but at the very least, it creates a nice ambiance in our room (and makes a great “night-light” if one of us comes up to bed and the lights are already off).

7. A thoughtful surprise gift means so much to me.

When it comes to love languages, gifts has always been one of mine. I love to both give and receive gifts, and I’ve known this about myself ever since I was a child. Shortly before my fiftieth birthday this June, a friend I met through an exercise program online asked me for my address, and wouldn’t you know, on the exact date of my birthday, I received a small package from her. She learned about my special birthday and wanted to bless me with a piece of handmade jewelry. She sent me a cross necklace, with the words “faith” and “believe” on either side of the pendant. I was so touched and blessed and had to share my precious gift on social media. This is a great reminder to go ahead and just do that thoughtful thing when it comes to mind, because you never know how it could make someone’s day. I know that this gift sure made my day special!

surprise birthday gift in mail

(If you’re interested in seeing my friend’s line of hand-made inspirational jewelry, here’s a link to her Etsy shop.)

8. Almond milk creamer should NOT be used as infant formula.

I couldn’t resist adding this one! For the record, I do NOT have an infant right now, and furthermore, even as a young mom, I would NOT have tried this. But on the back of my almond creamer container (of a well-known brand), I noticed this interesting disclaimer in red letters:

warning on almond milk creamer

“NOT TO BE USED AS INFANT FORMULA”

Well, duh!

I guess someone, somewhere must have thought it was a good idea at some point…..or else the company is just proactively avoiding a crazy lawsuit. So just in case you’ve ever wondered, don’t try this one at home, kids!

9. You can pack a lot of fun into a one-week vacation. 

This summer our family vacation was special, but a little shorter than usual. Due to the fact that our sons were both working, we shortened our time to just one week away (while my husband and I took some extra time off during the next week at home). We were happy that they were able to take the time off to come with us, as we know that our family vacations with them are limited as they grow older.

To some, this may sound like plenty of time, but due to the distance we usually travel to visit with family (a day’s drive to get to my parents’ home in Ontario), we end up losing the two days spent traveling to and from our destination. This time, we arrived at my parents’ house before they came home from a trip in order to have some “alone” time with just our sons (and to keep an eye on cats and plants). When my parents arrived home, we welcomed them and enjoyed a couple days with them. Next we crossed back over the border and spent the last couple days with my sister.

In that single week, we managed to cram in a lot of pretty good stuff.

We relaxed and read some, watched a movie, visited my Grandma, shopped for special Canada “treats”, ate out a lot, drank more than our fair share of Tim Horton’s coffee, picnicked at Dufferin Islands near Niagara Falls, visited Bird Kingdom in Niagara Falls (part museum; mostly tropical bird emporium), enjoyed a leisurely shopping day in quaint Niagara-On-the-Lake (including driving by the house where my dad’s parents lived), “caught up” with a dear friend,  shared a day out with my sister (out to a nice dinner for my fiftieth birthday, spending time near the lake, visiting and photographing my cousin’s church and eating wonderful homemade ice-cream), picked fresh blueberries, had a campfire, learned how to “creek walk” (see next post), made some cards, created some music, and enjoyed real buffalo wings at least twice. I can’t believe how much fun we packed into our vacation week!

Dufferin Islands sign

Dufferin Islands, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Entrance to Bird Kingdom, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Bird Kingdom

Niagara Falls barrel photo

homemade ice cream

Sisters together at Crystal Beach, Ontario

10. “Creek-walking” is a blast!

While visiting my sister and her family in the state of NY, we learned the skill of “creek-walking”. We piled into our two vehicles, made our way to an access point at a local creek, inflated several inner tubes, and began to take turns floating down the shallow river. It was fun, mildly exhilarating at times, and quite funny (the larger adults like me ended up getting stuck on the river bottom in shallow areas). Some of the older boys managed to get so far ahead down the river that we sent my husband and a helper out after them; not knowing they cut through and walked back, we nearly lost each other. But in the end it was just good, clean, country fun! We only lost one tube to the jagged rocks and sticks that were poking out, which was a fair trade off for a memorable adventure together.

floating down the creek in tubes

Learning to “creek-walk” with our family was a blast!

11. A good boss is better than a “first-choice” job.

This is a lesson I’ve been learning myself these past couple of years with my various job changes. My husband and I are also teaching this to our sons right now, who are training for one of their first summer jobs. Although there are parts of the job they do not care for, we have been discussing the fact that the good supervisors they seem to have outweigh any parts of the job that they currently “dislike”. Sometimes in work and even in life we have to accept the “bad” or “imperfect” along with the pleasant and the preferred. We are thankful to be working for bosses who seem to genuinely care for their employees and treat them well.

12. Amazon really looks like they’re “taking over the world”.

Here’s the photo “proof”:

three Amazon delivery trucks

It looks like Amazon is taking over the world! 😉

This was the view outside of our window one fine Sunday afternoon. We order a fair amount of product from Amazon, but not enough to justify three trucks showing up all at once in front of our house. Since there was nothing for us this time, we never did quite figure out what was going on that day. It sure gave us something to talk about.

13. It’s really important to check your sales receipt.

I can’t say that I always do it, but I try to check my sales receipt after shopping, especially for grocery orders in which I was supposed to receive a certain discount or cash back award. Recently, I have been shopping at our local supermarket a bit more, due to lack of time to travel to a further store, and because I seem to be getting some pretty decent deals (see next post, as well). I noticed that on several of the last few trips I did not receive the correct price or in one case, a sizable cash-back offer, but thankfully their customer service reps took care of it without question. It makes me happier to shop there knowing this, but I will still have to be sure to try to check each receipt. Mistakes can happen!

14. Getting a huge gas discount makes grocery shopping worthwhile.

One of the the benefits we’ve been taking advantage of recently, is the “gas points” earned for spending money at our local supermarket. They have a gas station next door, and depending on the amount you accumulate in purchases (along with some “special” awards for extra points), we have been able to save a decent amount on some fill-ups. The best one we earned so far was 90 cents off, and we just missed a whole $1.30 discount, because we didn’t realize when some of the points were expiring. I’m finding out that even if this is not always the cheapest store for grocery prices, the gas discount is a worthwhile additional savings!

15. Your poop reveals a lot about your health.

Sorry for the “TMI”, but recently I had seen this chart online, which I guess is frequently used in medical situations to determine the “quality” of one’s bowel movements. After the second time, the chart caught my attention, and somehow (please don’t even ask), I got to reading some interesting and informative posts about what our “poop” reveals about our overall health. It turns out this “everyday event” can be a real indicator of some health concerns. For some reason, it’s not something we ordinarily like to discuss, but it may be worth a read……especially if you are prone to reading in the bathroom. 😉

*****

Well, once again I have surprised myself with how many new things I’m learning. What have you been learning and discovering this summer?