Monday, February 28, 2011

Silver Lining

Every cloud has its silver lining.

The light we so desperately, eagerly seek is behind the dark storm cloud.

The light we desire is on the other side of this difficulty, challenge, confusion, stormy chaos.

We cannot see the light itself, but we can know it is there.

Shining, glorious, unhindered, unblocked, unclouded, magnificent.

The light is there, though all we can see is the tip of its glory shining around the edges of our life's storm clouds.  Trust. Hope.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lighten your Day

                        Lighten your day
                        Wear bright socks

Adding color to the early morning exercise sessions helps cheer us up and motivate us - makes us laugh.

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Safe Haven

On our walk, I saw up ahead, a mockingbird duck into a tall tree bush.  So quickly I almost missed the movement, it flew into the roundly manicured shape, and I saw the black and white flash as it pulled its long tail in behind it.  
As I walked past the little tree, I couldn't see in among the branches at all.  What a perfect, private, protected, hidden, safe, secure spot for its nest.
I put the camera in through the leaves to get a bird's eye view

Just what I want for my family, for the home I'm building for them: a haven of love and shelter and security and comfort and safety.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lighten the Load

OK. So, I wrote yesterday about traveling lighter, and my process of learning to carry a lighter load.  Here is where it gets tough - I have to put feet to my thoughts, and actually do something about it.
I said I love books, and the result of that is having too many.  My family laughs at me when I acquire new books and they groan every time we move. "The weight of all these books does not feel like traveling lighter!"  I justify - I re-read them, we use them with various subjects with the home-teaching, etc. But, they are right, I do have too many books.  I decided today to get rid of fifty books. Ouch.

Two of the blogs I like to read, The Nesting Place, and Small Notebook, both have discussed thinning out, and learning to "loosen the grip of stuff."  OK, OK, I am listening.  Can you tell this is a struggle for me? I wrote a post on January 26, that my word for this year is "lighten."  This is where my feet have to start walking.

Decisions: do I absolutely love this book?
                 will I read it again?
                 could I get it at the library ?
                 is it a practical reference book for our schooling?
                 do I have a duplicate? (embarrassing)
The result: 63 books on their way to the thrift store.

For fun, I decided to weigh them, to see how much I actually lightened.
Today, I lost  41 1/2 pounds!!!
Yes, family, I can hear you cheering.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Traveling Light

     A library sale. The books at a thrift store. A book sale anywhere.  Amazon on-line. If you're looking for me at the store, I'll be in the book section  (or the plant nursery, but that's another story). I do not enjoy shopping, unless it involves books (or plants). I love books, of all different types, with knowledge and adventures and advice and inspiration and humor and vicarious life and wisdom hidden between their covers.  
     I found this little gem, Traveling Light for Mothers, by Max Lucado, at a library sale. It's a cute little book, only 5x5 inches, but don't be deceived by its diminutive size.  It is power packed. This book is the inspiration behind this blog, and behind the direction I've been setting in my life.

     After I'd read the book several times, I took the theme of each chapter and listed them in my journal on the front page.  I listed the spiritual side, like letting go of past hurts and regrets, and the practical side; getting rid of stuff, clearing out the closets and cupboards of hidden stuff.

     For me, this continues to be a very revealing exercise, and it opens up ways to pay attention and put actual footsteps to my thoughts. I have re-copied this into each new journal as I fill up the old ones for several years now, adjusting a few points as I go, but the list has stayed pretty much the same - always new levels, new layers, more progress to be made in the process of learning to travel lighter through life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


 Playing with the camera in the kitchen...
Early morning view, fog in the valley

Afternoon sunshine, dishes relaxing in the sink
Lace curtains shadowed onto the cabinets

Enjoying the beauty even when the kitchen isn't clean enough for a photo-shoot...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Story Cubes

We picked these up when we were Christmas shopping, and I admit I kept them for myself as a writing prompt, a warm-up exercise, like running through scales on the piano, and just for fun.  We have used them as an impromptu game, either taking turns with the cubes to keep the story going, or comparing ideas of how we would create a story from the symbols on the cubes. Nine dice with fifty-four images makes for a whole lot of idea possibilities.

A roll of the dice...
I had trouble with the scales, but here is my first attempt.
A man jumped out the open door of the plane and floated to the ground with his parachute. He landed on a lawn near a fountain.  After he unclipped the parachute, he walked to the closed door of the house and listened.  Looking through the keyhole of the lock with one eye, he saw a little boy sleeping on the couch, his hand on the open book, a scale next to him weighted down with chocolates.
Hmmm, that doesn't really work, does it.

Second attempt: The plane listed heavily to the side like a pair of old-fashioned scales with all the weight on one side.  The pilot ejected from his seat like a fountain shooting out water.  As he fell toward the ground, his hand locked on to the catch to open the parachute.  He thought of all the times in class he had slept when his eye should have been studying the open book before him.  The procedures came back to him, though, even now, and he knew the proper steps to take in order to land safely.
There, that at least makes sense.
Next roll...
The clouds drifted across the moon as the storm built up.  The teacher closed the schoolhouse door behind her and looked up at the sky, questioningly.  Quickly, she put the apple and the letter into her bag and smiled as she felt the toy parachute man she had confiscated from Jimmy that day.  She would have to remember to give it back to him tomorrow. She hurried to her car and the rain drops began to fall.  As she turned the car onto the road, the lightning, attracted to the schoolhouse like a magnet, zapped the sky.  One second later the thunder applauded as the storm broke like a scattered handful of dice rolling across a wooden table.

As my husband said, this is like life.  What may seem just a random roll of the dice, with a bunch of jumbled circumstances, really can fall into place and make sense.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My (Dream) Garden

This print was stacked in a grocery store bin many years back, for ten dollars, and I am so glad I snatched it up.
This is my dream garden.  Just imagine an adirondack chair, a glass of lemonade, a well-worn book and some kids playing a game in the grass.  Oh, and the big dog soaking up the sun nearby.  The house would have cut flowers in almost every room, and though you can't see it, there is a productive vegetable garden behind the hedge at the back of the house, and something fresh available to eat every day.  Ahhh...
Of course, there are weeds and pruning and bugs and weeds and more bugs, but that is all part of a great garden.  Oh, and a few chickens in a cute little coop next to the vegetable garden.  They can help with the bugs once in awhile.
I've wondered what the front of the house looks like, but my mind keeps wandering back to the garden, and idling away moments in the dappled shade, sitting on the rock steps, enjoying the birds and the breeze. This is my spot to run to when I need to hide out for a few minutes, to renew and breathe deeply and remember to enjoy the simple things in life.  Then, I can get back to the real life and the real people (and the real weeds) around me, and enjoy and appreciate them.
Ten dollars seemed like a lot at the time, but the painting has given me many pleasant moments.  There is no artist's signature, but to whomever did the painting, thank you.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Say What?

This is our daughter's work; see some of her other work at

Life Is Full Of Surprises!              

Thursday, February 17, 2011

An Olympic Moment

     I call it the Olympic Moment.  The moment when you know you have done your best, given it all; when you have worked and pushed and tried as hard as you possibly could, and succeeded.  Not necessarily won, but for you, you have done your absolute best and accomplished what you set out to do.  The sense of achievement, at that moment, is complete.

     Perhaps it is finishing a really tough class or a challenging task.  Or finding a new limit to push yourself to as you exercise.  Or digging deep within yourself to find the strength to make a tough choice.  Or running a marathon. It may be something official like a graduation or a promotion, or it may be something only you recognize.  But even on a private level, it can still be a major, memorable moment.
     When our daughter graduated high school as valedictorian, she received a medal that now sits on her dresser, a reminder of the hours of long, hard work it took to achieve it.

     This quote that I have on my desk reminds me that success is not about fame or popularity, but about determining and recognizing what is success for me.
"The real moment of success is not the moment  apparent to  the crowd."
             -George Bernard Shaw

     Personal Olympic moments are not about the notoriety or glory, but about achieving individual best. They are about the long hard road with many small skirmishes and victories along the way. About stretching your limits. About conquering an inner struggle and endeavoring to excel.
     On a small scale, it might be getting through the day with quiet calmness - for me that takes strength and effort. Or, making good food choices all day long - that also takes consistent, purposeful effort.
      And the result, will be a moment when I know it has all been worth it, when I know that my efforts have been successful, when I will pause, like that moment at the Olympics when everyone pauses to honor the national anthem, and know, absolutely know, the anthem of personal victory.
      What are your Olympic moments?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Journaling Journey

     These blog posts are a type of journal entry each day.  I have kept a devotional journal and a personal journal (most days) for several years.  Adding these posts to my journaling helps me pay attention to little daily details, observing what goes on around me, listening and appreciating and enjoying life as it happens each day, and learning to articulate and share them.

     I recently read a quote by Gwen Diehn in her book, The Decorated Page: "Keeping a journal is truly a journey.  The very words come from a common root: the Old French word journee meaning 'day'.  A journey originally meant the distance traveled in a day; a journal was a book in which one would record a day's events."

     Keeping a daily journey-record causes me to slow down enough to listen, to see, to smell, to taste, to touch, to think, and enjoy the gifts discovered as I travel across my days.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Oriental Chicken Salad

This is a recipe we developed from similar salads at a variety of restaurants.  It is very flexible according to taste, and quite simple.  I cook up a big batch of chicken in the oven, then cut it up and freeze it in smaller portions - quick and easy to grab out of the freezer and thaw.
Oriental Chicken Salad
cooked chicken, in bite size pieces
romaine lettuce, cut up
spinach (I buy the ready to eat bags of fresh)
mandarin oranges, one can, drained
chow mein noodles (crunchy)
sliced almonds
chopped green onions
grated carrot
sliced red sweet peppers (or orange, as in this photo, but red is prettier)
No quantities, mix and choose according to taste.

We prefer Newman's Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing with this. Some of us do, anyway, the others are die-hard Ranch lovers.

I have a new appreciation for food photographers.  Food doesn't wiggle or close its eyes, but it is still a challenge to get a great, yummy looking photo.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Heart Rock

Appropriate for Valentines Day are photos from some of our Heart Rock hikes.

Near the house where we used to live in the San Bernardino Mountains, is a fairly short hike down a canyon, alongside a stream crowded with trees and shrubs and the quiet of tumbling water and wind brushing through the leaves.

 At the end, a half mile or so, the rocks drop off and the rushing water has created a heart shape indentation in the rocks.

 Below that is a deep pool which overflows into a stream that continues on down the canyon, and lots of rocks for the kids to climb around on and play.

 We loved the hike, to get away from all the people noises of town and absorb the sights and smells and sounds of nature, just a few minutes from the house.
          Happy Valentines Day!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Inner Strength

     The best way to build outer, physical strength, is to begin with inner strength.  By creating inner strength, we can achieve outer strength.
     How?  For me, right now, I love the concept of not hurrying.  Chalene Johnson, our DVD exercise mentor works us through slow, controlled weight lifting.  No quick movements or momentum to help us lift weights.  Calm, concentrated.  Creating our own resistance, pushing ourselves harder, learning to do more than we think we can do.  And it works!

     I think of a clock without the second hand racing around each minute. Just a slow, composed ticking off  by the minute hand.  If you stand there and watch, progress with the minute hand is hardly noticeable.  Look later, though, and hours will have gone by, each minute methodically counted off, progress made.

     As I build a stronger inner self-discipline, I am able to purposefully exercise and control my eating and push myself to new limits. This is a mental process (I'm not talking spiritual here, that's a whole different facet) as much as a physical action, little by little.
     No hurry.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Yard Humor

We call these our Dr. Seuss trees. Can't you see Horton sitting on them, hatching his egg, waiting for Mayzie the lazy bird?  Horton Hatches the Egg, Dr. Seuss

Here is Fido.  He never barks at us when we walk by.

This looks like Puddleglum's hat from The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis

I have a couple of funny face pots.  Here is Pete, with his petunia hat.

This is Lizzy, with impatiens (also known as Busy Lizzies) and her strings of pearls, more like Medusa, I guess. Looks kind of like Nanny McPhee.

I could also plant Johnny Jump-Ups and call him Johnny.  Or Alice and plant it with alyssum.  Or Rosie and put in a miniature rose.  Or Mary, with a colorful marigold...........

Take a little humor with you as you travel through life.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

View from the Top

We hiked back up to the top of the hill today, and the view was incredible again.  Amazing, that Catalina can be so clear, when it is 26 miles from the coast, and we're probably another 30 miles inland.

Thirty Story Building

the perspective from the top of the walk
  A while back I wrote about the walk we take, and the climb involved.  We took the altimeter and measured the change in elevation - only 300 feet!  I was discouraged by that, as it feels like so much more when we're walking it.  Later, when I commented about it, my construction minded guy pointed out that is the equivalent of a thirty story building.  How would I feel if I walked the stairs in a thirty story building?  Gasping for air, I'm sure!

     Would be nice to have a picture here of a stair well, climbing up and up, but I don't hang out in too many high rise buildings. You'll have to imagine it, how you would feel.

     Yesterday when we got to the top of the road, it was a windy, crystal clear day so we hiked a little farther up the dirt fire road to the top of the hill and we could see the ocean, Catalina Island, and even the island out beyond that!  A rare opportunity around here - a beautiful sight!