Monday, January 31, 2011

The Rear View Mirror

Recently, while out driving, one of the kids pointed out a car that had a huge rear view mirror, probably 12 inches by 4 or 5 inches.  We'd never seen one so big.  Maybe she needed it to see the kids in the back seat, but it got us thinking about the difference between traveling through life with the rear view mirror in focus, or  focused forward through the windshield.  Seems much better to go through life looking ahead rather than behind.

One of the books I'm reading, The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson, says on page 72,  "[successful people are] too busy moving toward the future to be staring into the rear view mirror....Review the past, but only for the purpose of making a better plan. Review it, understand and take responsibility for the errors you've made, and use it as a tool to do differently in the future."  It was pretty cool to read that right after we'd been thinking about that and had seen such a good object lesson.

Are you living life through the rear view mirror, living by regrets or should have dones or could have beens?  Or, are you looking ahead, taking steps and pacing yourself to achieve your goals?

So, as we pull up to an intersection or a crossroads, we glance in the rear view mirror for safety, we check cross-traffic for those moving in other directions around us, then...

Green light, clear road ahead!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spring Ahead

Even though we are in Southern California, it is an early spring.

Spring color, camellias from my parents' yard

Shooting star hydrangeas from our yard

Ornamental Pear tree from down the street

      Ready to spring ahead, traveling forward.
      Spring is about fresh changes, new fruit, and growth.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Being an Amateur

Yesterday I was reading "A Parenting Manifesto of Joy" by Ann Voskamp.  I printed out her page of "10 Points of Joyful Parenting" and read it while I sat at the table with our youngest, who was doing his math.

Distracted (of course), he asked me what I was reading.  I told him, "Things that will help me be a better mommy."
     "Why do you need to read that?"  Encouraging.
     He asked, picking a random number, "What's number three?"
     I quoted, "Today I will not have any emergencies. There are no emergencies. Only amateurs hurry."
     "What's an amateur?"
     "Someone who doesn't do their job really, really well, or who still has a lot to learn and practice."
      Then, thinking of other meanings, began to explain it from a different angle.  He interrupted, "Then I guess you are still an amateur."  Not so encouraging.

Later, I looked up amateur in the dictionary: #1, a person who engages in some art, science, sport etc. for the pleasure of it rather than for money...

That would be me, an amateur mommy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Exercise and Motivation

This week we are finishing up the first month of a three month stretch with Chalene Extreme, a program of weight lifting and two days of cardio training each week.  If each month steps up the pace, we are in for a heavier load next month.  We exercise in the morning - it is actually great to have it done early, with the whole day ahead of us, getting off to a good start. Don't worry, you're not going to see me on the cover of the latest muscle magazine, this is strictly a lean fitness program.

Also from Chalene Johnson is a program I'd highly recommend.  Her 30 Day Challenge is a condensed time-management, motivational, goal-setting program.  She has taken all the best from a wide variety of motivational experts and presented it in a 30 Day course.  Each day covers a short video, with a written section and a mini project to apply the lesson.  It is free, check it out at
It is good to be exercising the mind and stretching my life skills as well as physical exercise.

Spring trees at our local park

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


We went to the thrift store this past weekend.  Mostly we bought books, of course.  Also found this really cool lampshade for $3. 

We've needed a few new lampshades, but didn't want to pay $20 or more for new ones.  I liked the leaves printed on the inside of this one, which is why I got it. 

 Didn't realize how awesome it would look when it was turned on - love it!

The lamp reminded me of an interesting blog I found when I was researching to start this blog. Ali Edwards writes of beginning five years ago to choose a theme word for each year, and to spend the year thinking about the meaning, the implications and the heart of the word.  She challenged each reader to think of their own key word for this year.  The word that came to me, my theme for 2011, is LIGHTEN.  It's a verb, determining action, and has a wide variety of interesting applications.
 In her blog, she asks, "Where will your "ONE LITTLE WORD" take you in 2011?" 
What word would you think of for your year, 2011?

The new lampshade does its little part in making our living room more cheerful and bright, lightening up our lives.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pruning the Excess

If I had known the gardeners (paid by our landlords) were going to prune the roses this week, I would have taken a before photo.  It is such a drastic contrast.  I know that it is a routine, annual procedure, but it is painful to see.  Since we moved in last April, I have been able to cut at least one fresh rose for a vase in our bathroom almost continually.  Some of them have strong fragrance, others are just there for their good looks or colorful blooms.

 The severity of the pruning is frightening.  From a bushy, full, green leafy plant several feet tall with bright blooms, to bare stubs less than a foot tall.  A dramatic, shocking surprise when I stepped out the front door. As a gardener, I understand the process, but it still startled me when I saw it.

Drastic. Severe. Shocking. Painful. Pruning.  A reduction, a trimming down, a thinning out for the purpose of growing a strong healthy plant and beautiful blooms and fragrance.  Of course, it is the same for me. Weight reduction, trimming, thinning and hard pruning for the purpose of strength and health and productivity. 

The fragrance analogy doesn't quite fit though - the exercise we do doesn't exactly create a pleasant fragrance...

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Lighter Desk

This is my desk.  Before.  I resisted the urge to straighten it up before I took the photo - embarrassing, I guess.
Happy chaos.  Which is really the way I prefer to work.  Among and around the piles, with multiple projects going at once.  Random item list: my planner (note the sticky notes - I love sticky notes of all sizes and colors), cell phone, water, empty coffee mug,  empty battery container, notebook with a manuscript inside, embroidery project, more water, my son's math book and notebook, laptop, notes for a project, journal, reading glasses, notebooks of several more projects, another journal, yarn for a black dishcloth I'm knitting, kleenex, a flowered box with my Bible, devotional book and journal inside, a box of colored pens and markers, several mugs with pens, scissors, etc., a small jar of tiny pencils sharpened to near non-existence (a collection the kids started), a  lamp, a green decorative jar, and on the window sill, a plaque ("With God all things are possible"), my daily calendar with the little blocks I switch around each day, my small bulletin board, and a scent diffuser.
Boring you to tears, I imagine.

And, the AFTER photo.  After organizing, putting things where they belong, having out only one project at a time, with room to spread out a book and not be afraid of dumping over my water.  Much nicer.  But, an on-going process as I'll  get out another project, pile it on top of the first one, and be on my way to a cluttered desk again. For a little while, though, it is a nice change.  Much better, really.  A visual reminder to travel lighter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Enough Balance

Recently at a routine doctor visit with our son, the doctor made the statement, "You should not have anything that you are eating every single day." He was referring to sodas and sugary drinks, or hot chocolate or coffee...on that score we don't do very well.  We don't drink sodas, but coffee is a standard here - more creamer the better for most of us. I did give up my hot chocolate passion, but I guess replacing it with something similar didn't exactly accomplish the purpose.  The doctor's comment made me think, though, of better balance and variety in all our meals and snacks. Especially the snacks -the afternoon pick-me-up or the munchie attacks.

The standard snacks around here are much different than they used to be.  Used to be a constant supply of chocolate chip cookies, brownies and sweet goodies (anything chocolate).  Now, the kids make lots of yogurt, fruit and protein mix shakes, apples (with peanut butter), handfuls of nuts and chocolate chips and raisins, crackers and popcorn.

Many of the new recipes we are using come from The Flat Belly Diet Family Cookbook.  I am not following an actual diet, more of a general overall plan of five, three hundred calorie, meals (this amount is for me, not the kids), eating often enough to not get too hungry.  Of course, some days are better than others, and I fix meals filling enough for growing kids.  That's why I like the Family Cookbbook - their recipes are, for the most part filling and yummy.

One of the snacks from the Family Cookbook is a new favorite here: Marshmallow Cereal Bars.  Not bad for a diet recipe cookbook!
3 tbsp margarine
1 bag (10 oz) marshmallows
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
4 cups cornflakes
2 cups Cheerios
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Coat a 13 x 9 baking pan with cooking spray.  Melt the margarine in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the marshmallows and vanilla and almond extracts.  Cook, stirring, until melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the cornflakes, cheerios and the chocolate chips, stirring until well coated.  Transfer the mixture to the baking dish.  Press down with the back of the spoon to flatten.  Cool completely until the chocolate sets.  Cut into 24 pieces.
The total dessert is 3,400 calories, divided into 24 squares, 142 calories each piece.  Yummy, and fixes the chocaholic "needs."

As the doctor said, being careful to add a lot of variety, different types of foods each day, looking for balance and a changing mixture of colors and textures keeps eating interesting and appealing.  I heard a word recently that is appropriate for this: a Swedish word, lagom (la-home) for enough, just the right amount, in moderation, sufficiently, or even appropriate.  That sums up our goal in our daily menu plan.  Being able to eat and feel satisfied and "lagom."

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dirty Dishes

Thank God for dirty dishes,
     they have a tale to tell.
While others may go hungry,
     we're eating very well.
With home and health
     and happiness,
I shouldn't want to fuss;
For by the stack of evidence,
God's been good to us!

We have plenty of evidence in our kitchen that God's been good to us!
We do not go hungry, as seen not just in our stacks of dirty dishes, but also in my weight.  If I am hungry, it's not because we don't have any food to eat, and I am very grateful for that.
I thought of three reasons why I do get hungry:

1. The obvious, I do need to eat something nutritious and in line with my weight loss goals, the right amount at the right time.

2. My brain says to my stomach, "Need more chocolate," or, "Need some munchies," or, "That second helping looks really yummy."  To which my stomach can say, "I am still full from the last meal, it is just a thought, or an emotion, not an actual physical need to eat something".

3. My stomach says to my brain, "I'm hungry and need something to fill me up."  To which my brain can reply, "No, you just had 350 calories for lunch an hour ago - you don't need anything more until an apple at 3:00."

This little plaque hangs on the edge of the cabinet to the right of our kitchen sink, a reminder to be grateful and think about all the blessings we do have!
(source of poem unknown)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


I hope I am this pleasant and cute when I grow old!

This is drawn by our daughter.  See some of her other work at 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Climb Above Discouragement

Discouragement.  A tough mountain to conquer.
When you don't see results from your hard work, it is easy to get discouraged. Frustration mounts without visible progress.  Looking at a mountain from the bottom of the climb seems insurmountable.  You have to start somewhere.

The walk we take most days is a steep climb.

The beginning curve is a tough warm-up, then it levels off for a block or two.
Then, another slow, steady climb.

Sometimes in life we can't see around the curves ahead, but we keep moving forward.

 Keep on, keep traveling forward, upward, trying new things.  Don't just give up and go back to the old, unproductive patterns and habits.  Be willing to change and grow.  Stretch those muscles.
 The climb gets steeper as we confront more challenges in life, more surprises hidden around each bend in the road.  Keep traveling on, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time.

Another climb, another corner to turn.
 Up, up and up to new heights, discovering new strengths and abilities within ourselves.

One more push, one more effort to power through.
The end is in sight!


We breathe heavily and our legs ache and tingle, but the top gives us a great feeling of accomplishment, and the reminder to climb above and beyond discouragement.  Keep moving forward toward your goals, whatever they are.  Keep climbing. The view from the top is worth it!

Taco Soup Splash

This is a recipe that has literally decorated our house and table.  I found this recipe in a little cookbook of a quilting friend.  Sorry, don't remember the name of the book.  It is a warm, comforting soup that can simmer quietly on the stove for a couple of hours, or go in the crock pot in the morning and sit on low all day.

The first incident with this recipe happened as we heated some of it for lunch the next day.  Our son, with a bowl full of hot soup, turned to reach for a spoon as I came around the corner of the island.  We collided.  The bowl went up, then crashed onto the floor.  Taco soup went up onto the ceiling, then down onto the floor, splashing the window and us as it fell.  Laughing, we cleaned up what we could from our shirts and the walls.  When we moved from that house, we still found taco soup spots as we cleaned the windows and the walls.

At our next house, the same thing happened.  The bowl of soup fell, and taco soup spots appeared all around the room.

And again, hilariously, at another house.  Now, we make this often, but we handle it very carefully and we haven't had any taco soup splashes at this house. Yet.

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, chopped
2 c (16 oz) tomatoes
2 c kidney or black beans (drained)
2 c corn
1 c salsa
1 small can sliced olives
1 46 oz can tomato juice
1 tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
Cook ground beef with the chopped onion.  Combine remaining ingredients.  Simmer, the longer the better.
Serve with tortilla chips and grated cheese (cheddar and/or pepper jack)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Gift

Yesterday I wrote about one of our cats luxuriating lazily in a puddle of sunlight. (OK, that may be over the top, but I like the way it sounds). Then, our other cat, Jaggy, caused a scene.  The warm, 80 degree January afternoon was wonderful, and we had the sliding glass door standing open onto the patio to enjoy the comfortable air throughout the house. Jaggy was outside, enjoying the sun and watching the birds. I was up working at my desk in the loft.  He came running upstairs and deposited a baby lizard at my feet, right next to my chair, then chased it as it scuttled under my desk.

I am tough and can handle a lot.  But, when it comes to small, fast moving hairy creatures with four legs and a tail or scaly reptiles with four legs and a tail, I lose my nerve and become a squealing chair climber. Embarrassing. Jaggy continued to chase the little lizard around the floor under my desk.  I suppose it was a gift for me, but I just couldn't appreciate it. He didn't understand. I had to rely on our daughter, who (almost) calmly caught the lizard in a cool-whip bucket and removed it outside.

I guess I really caused the scene with my over reaction, but I wish he would just leave the creatures outside where they belong. He can chase them out there as much as he wants - they are not welcome in the house.
The Innocent Culprit

Monday, January 17, 2011

Be an Explorer

"At any given moment,
no matter where you are,
there are hundreds of things
around you that are interesting
and worth documenting."
Keri Smith
How to Be an Explorer of the World

I love this attitude of exploration - the wonder of discovery no matter where we are or what we are doing.

Right now, sitting at my desk, the low winter afternoon sun is shining through the tree branches, scattering light and shadows onto the wall, my paper and computer.  A water bottle on the file cabinet bounces extra light onto the wall.  Tiggy, our cat, is curled up in the sunny spot on the daybed.  The sunlight warms the room and makes it glow.  Pleasant, comfortable, a happy spot as I sit here at my desk and write.

Thinking about exploring this space and discovering this moment - without moving from this chair - helps me enjoy and appreciate and thrive, right here, right now.

This quote, from a very creatively written book, is on an index card tucked under the clear plexiglass sheet protecting my desktop.  It's a reminder whenever I sit down, to pay attention, to be alert to the little details and to comprehend the wonder of all that is around me, even just a shaft of sunlight across my desk.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Lighten Up!

While I was visiting our daughter on one of my trips, our three year old grandson was trying to figure out his new racing game on the Wii.  "Help me, Drander, help me."

We've had the Wii at home for several years, and I have always insisted that I didn't have time to play the games.  I was too busy to sit there for hours figuring out how to master them.

When my grandson needed help, he didn't understand that I had a firm policy against playing.  I had overheard enough while the older kids played to know a little bit of what to do. I figured out how to get him back on track and racing again.

He handed me another remote and said, "You go, Drander, go!"  So much for a firm policy against playing.  I was off and racing.  And we had FUN!

Lighten up.  Don't be so serious, or too busy to play.  Relax, enjoy.  Smile and laugh. Race and win!  (Ooops, my competitive side is coming out...)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Very Little is Needed

This wooden wall plaque was given to us by my brother the first Christmas we were married, 35 years ago.  It has hung on the wall of each house we've lived in since then, usually in a prominent spot, like near the front door.  Here, it is at the end of a short hall as you go toward the dining room and turn to step down three steps.

I love the sentiment, and it has caught my wandering want-ful-ness many times.  Wish I could say I have mastered the art of needing very little.

Not sure what the photo signifies.  Old wooden buckets, an axe and a chopping block, exposed pipes in a window, stacked wood, a rustic table, all in a dark, old shed.  I've looked at it closely, attempting to figure out what is lurking in the darkest corners of the shed.  Can't tell.  Doesn't seem like a very pleasant place to hang out.

The message though, is clear enough.  A happy life is enough.

What makes a happy life?  The answer, I think, is closely tied to attitude.  An attitude of gratefulness and abundance rather than want-ful-ness.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Increased to heavier weights in my workouts this week.


Becoming lighter comes with a HEAVY price-tag.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

More of the Same = Less of the Same

After Thanksgiving, I love to put out all the holiday stuff - the colorful ornaments, the greenery, the lights, and the decorations filled with memories.  For Christmas, I love the clutter and the colorful busy-ness, just like the busy days of the season.

In January, though, I love to have it all put away and have the uncluttered space on shelves and cabinets, the open space in the living room that was filled by the tree.  The pine needles were much easier to sweep up off the tile floors this year.  When we moved from the old house, we found pine needles in the carpet behind the couch from last year's tree.

January.  New starts, fresh beginnings.  A chance for progress.  Every day brings us fresh, new opportunities, but January somehow seems the most hopeful for change.

A lot of my goals aren't really new this year.  They are continuations.  Losing weight and exercising.  Thirty-eight pounds lost last year, and forty to go.  Daily writing.  Home teaching.  Developing expanded computer skills.  Enjoying more time with family.  Smile and relax more.  Continue to travel lightly through life. By doing more of the same, having less, and traveling lighter.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Living Lighter in 2011

1-11-11.  Great day for the first post to my blog.  Traveling Lighter.  I love thinking about that phrase.  Keep it simple.  I travel a fair amount each year, and it's a challenge to fit all my stuff in carry-on bags. Necessary clothes go in the suitcase. All my important stuff goes into my beat-up, old briefcase.  Especially, all the books, notebooks, magazines, pens, papers and extra books (in case I have more time) that I want to take.  Some trips I can read a whole book during airport waits and flight times, and I have to be prepared for extra time, while still traveling light.   The solution?  Take smaller paperbacks.

This year, losing weight is my big focus.  Less weight, more fitness.  Exercising six days a week with a DVD early in the morning and going for a walk in the afternoon increases my activity level.  Planning ahead for meals and snacks helps me with a sensible eating plan.  Some days are much better than others, but I'm working to achieve consistency.  Trim, fit, lean.  Traveling lighter, not just with my carry-on bags.

Living lightly at home is another challenging skill.  It takes consistent effort to keep the out-go of stuff greater than the in-flow.  Especially around the Christmas holidays.  I love to keep some empty space.  A shelf or a cupboard that isn't full to overflowing.  Empty space is restful and relaxing.  An art to achieve in our home.  Joy and relief with less.  I am working to know where and what everything is - no disguised, hidden stuff.  Edit.  Thinning out.  Pruning for more productivity and simplicity.

Traveling lighter.  Less weight.  More fitness.  Less clutter.  More space.  More focus for what is really important.  Living lighter in 2011, my goal for the New Year.