Thursday, March 31, 2011

Weekly Savings Time

Yesterday, our son was commenting on how fast time is flying by.  The days rush together, the blur of the hours becomes the whiz of days and the whir turns into another week gone by. We've added quite a bit to our schedule lately, and it makes for whirlwind weeks. He had a great idea:  "We have Daylight Savings Time, why don't they set up a Weekly Savings Time?" 
How would we do that?  How about once a year, we "lose" a week, like we "lose" an hour?  Instead of Monday the 28th, it would be Monday the 21st again.  Ahhh, a chance to slow down and do it over, a chance to appreciate the details that were lost in the fleeting moments.

But, as I think back over last week, there are plenty of moments I would not want to "lose."  One son joining Civil Air Patrol and beginning what he plans as a career path.  Another son, also in a career path in a Sheriff Explorer Academy. Picking the kids and the dog up at the park after a muddy, several mile run through the hills (how I wish I'd taken a photo of that moment, them all sitting together, mud plastered up their legs, laughing and enjoying each other - "bring more towels, Mom!"), finishing a good book, phone calls with distant kids, projects actually completed, pleasant walks together, computer skills ventured, eating a yummy stir fry with chopsticks, shopping outing with my husband,...the more I think about all that happened in the last week, the less I want to lose it. Like a collage of photos all clustered together, the montage of last week's days becomes a piece of art displayed in my memory, bits and pieces of a treasured scrapbook of our family's journey through life. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


This morning I wanted to catch photos of a glorious sunrise. Didn't happen.  It was a hazy, milky kind of sky, nothing spectacular.  Just a slow perception from darkness into gray light.  In a way, that was a better illustration of the point I wanted to make.

Any day is a fresh start.  No matter what we did-or didn't do-yesterday, this morning we begin again.  Keep on keeping on.  Do the next thing.  One foot in front of the other.  These phrases may seem a bit trite, but they are reality.  Keep working, keep trying, keep plodding forward. Put discouragement behind you and plow on. Even through the mud. Take baby steps. Keep moving.
It's a wonderful new day, even without a spectacular sunrise, and it gave me a reminder that life is not about the spectacular.  It's all the little, ordinary, every day things that are beautiful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Reading Mom

   On Saturday, as we were driving to pick up our son, we drove by a vacant schoolyard.  Out on the grassy playground, a mom and a little boy, probably two years old, were together.  The boy leaned against a walk-along plastic toy sit-on car, the type he would push with his feet. He was climbing on to it, trying to swing one leg over the seat. Close behind him stood his mom, one foot on the back of the little car, balancing it, ready to push him along once he got on.  What impressed  me, caught my attention, was the book she was holding open, reading, while her son played at her feet.  A busy mom, with a busy toddler, making the time for herself to read.
     I firmly believe that the best way to raise reading children is to:
1. read aloud to them, and
2. be a reader yourself.
    Let them see you reading and enjoying books.  Read and enjoy books together with them.

embarrassing, but I'm actually reading all these
    So far this year, our children are far out-reading me (and they finish their books).  The books I've been working on are slow, savor-them types, ones that I like to read, little by little.  Since some of them are library books, I have to finish those first to take them back on time.  Last week, I had to divide up the pages left on one of them, and figure how many pages to read each day.  I finished it on Friday, on target. Now, there are two more I'm finishing up before we leave on our trip next week.  And, a few others I'm still reading, interwoven as time allows.  The concept of reading one book at a time eludes me.

     On our trip, we'll be visiting our grandchildren.  I will be sure to sit and read with them, as many times as possible.

Monday, March 28, 2011


     How many times do we say we want to do something, rather than just doing it?  I want to lose weight, I want to exercise, I want to clean out that cupboard, I want to call that old friend, I want to read that book...The art of switching our thinking from 'out there someday' to 'now' is a challenge.
     If we want to change, we need to think about the changes needed in order to make the change. If I want to change things in my life, I have to change the way I do things. Is the way we've been going a dead end, not getting us anywhere?

 Do you know what Albert Eintstein said about insanity?
 "The definition of insanity is doing the same things and expecting a  different outcome."  
     Ouch. If we want a different outcome, we must stop,

move in a different direction.
     Think of a change you want to make.  Can you think of steps to take to do something differently to achieve that outcome?  Begin in little baby steps: eat a little less, exercise a little more, clean out three things a day from that cupboard, look up the friend's phone number, read ten pages a day of that book. Move in the direction you WANT to go, and guess what?  You'll get there!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Announcing!  One of my goals in writing this blog is to create a platform for the short stories I write.  To make it work like I wanted, I couldn't configure the pages on my current blog, so I started another blog, WordsbyMo.  Click on this for the link, or click on the WordsbyMo phrase in the title bar at the top of this page.  Due to the length of the material and the type of content, I won't be updating it daily.  My goal is weekly.  I hope the new blog will be a constructive forum for comments and discussion.  Let me know if you have ideas you'd like me to explore for a story.
"The Crown Jewel" was written a few years ago, brought out of the file, edited and updated for my first story entry.
Yes, I will be continuing posting with Traveling Lighter, resuming on Monday.

Also, on the right, I added the "Follow by e-mail" tab.  Plug your e-mail in if you wish to subscribe (free), and you will receive an e-mail notice when I post to this blog. You will be able to read it as an e-mail, rather than going directly into the blog, if you prefer it that way.

So much to learn, new avenues to explore as I travel lighter through life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Nuance of Spring

     According to the calendar, it is officially Spring.  People say that here in Southern California, we don't have four seasons, or if we do, they are rain, mud, fire and earthquakes.  I used to think that, too, while I grew up here. We have also lived in Colorado, Central California, and the mountains of California with  snow and ice (and fires), all three areas with distinct seasons. Now that we are back in Southern California, I appreciate the nuances of the seasons.

     We don't have the snow or freezes or dramatic storms of other areas, but we do have seasonal changes.  The sun moves higher and lower in the sky just like anywhere else, the low winter sun shining directly into our windows casting long fingers across our floors.  In the summer, the sun is high, its path directly over the roof, illuminating different parts of the yard in different seasons. I move my flower pots around through the seasons to better catch the sun or shade, whichever those plants need.
      The length of the days changes here like anywhere else.  The long days of summer are hot and bright with no rain, which necessitates lots of watering to keep plants green and productive.  The shorter days of winter don't have enough sunlight for most vegetables, even without the freezing temperatures. Plants respond differently to the changing light which causes seasonal limitations as to what we can grow. Even though a plant is still green, it may be dormant, in a holding pattern, waiting for more sunlight. We do have a long growing season, but it is not year-round for all plants.
    Rain comes between October and May (in the good years). Our desert climate desperately needs the rain for our depleted water resources. After the rains come the mudslides, especially after an area has been swept by fires in the drier years. Thus, our reputation for unique seasons.
     In defense of Southern California seasons, they are distinctive and varied, if you watch for their subtle changes and appreciate them.  I enjoy watching what flowers flourish in each season: the pinks, whites and lavenders of spring, the reds and yellows of summer, the orange, purple and rust of fall. Yes, these are generalizations, but the blooms do tend to follow a color theme for each season. That's one of the reasons I like to wander through the plant nurseries, just to see what is currently in bloom. As with other facets of life, how we pay attention, the way we appreciate, slow down and notice the subtle changes around us, make the seasons, and life, more beautiful.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I could go to the store and buy a little spiral notebook, but I like using something I've made myself, that is personal to me.
We learned to make these mini-books in our home teaching, and have used them for vocabulary words, multiplication tables, learning the presidents, etc. etc.
Now, I make them for my food journal: to write down everything I eat, calories, our exercise sessions, the water I drink, and progress when I reach certain weight-loss goals.
For this example, I'll use three pages, which yields a ten page mini-book.

I like to use colored papers. Fold them in half, cut along the fold.

Fold in half again, insert together, in two separate piles.

Mark one inch from each edge, on the fold.

Cut one pile from the edge to the mark from each end, top and bottom, on the fold.  Cut the other pile between the marks, trimming just along the fold, from mark to mark.

Loosely fold the pieces with the edge cuts (not creasing) and tuck them inside the pieces with the center cut out.  Push it half-way through, then unfold, tucking the cut part over the center pieces, top and bottom.  Smooth out the folds. If necessary, trim edges to match.

Your mini-book is ready for - for whatever you want.  A letter to someone, project lists, book notes, favorite quotes, daily journal, menu ideas, party-planner, garden plans, sketches.....
What could you use one of these mini-books for?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Old Friends

We had a visit last night from two old friends from several houses ago, another state.  Had a blast, laughed a lot, remembered a lot, caught up on each other's families, ate yummy pizza (cooked by our son), compared gray hairs, and enjoyed the time together. And by old, I'm not referring to their age.


Have you heard the new song by Rascal Flatts, "I Won't Let You Go"?  Click on this link to hear them sing. Confession - when it comes on the car radio, I turn it way up. These friends, last night, were a comforting reminder that, no matter what happens in life, no matter that we don't stay in frequent touch, no matter what mistakes any of us have made, no matter what directions we've gone, there are friendships that still stand strong.  I am encouraged and more hopeful that we will pull together when needed, that when things are grim, there will be someone there to stand by our side.  And, I want to be able to offer that comfort and assurance for others, too. As the song says, "I will stand by you."

Thank you, Old Friends!

Monday, March 21, 2011

More Means Less

Strange thing.  I lose more weight when I eat more, rather than less.  And, of course, I don't mean more ice cream, more sweets, or more helpings. But I do mean more:
  • more often (every two to three hours, five times a day, 300 calories or so each time)
  • more vegetables
  • more fruits
  • more protein (for me this has to be balanced with some carbohydrates or I get kind of "nutso")
  • more exercise (two times daily)
  • more water (one gallon daily, eight of these red glasses)
Lately, I hadn't been losing much, maybe a pound every week.  Still losing, but not enough.  I noticed that on the days I'd be too busy or not really hungry, I'd go too long without eating. Then I'd make bad choices and overeat or feel out-of-whack.  There seems to be an art, a trial-and-error to finding the balance point within my system, what works for me.

It's true - diets don't work.  You work.  And work hard.  It's a long, hard, day-in-day-out job, full of lots of little choices and lots of physical and mental and emotional effort to learn your body's point of balance and learn to not be overweight.  It's how I've lived for a long time, the overweight part, and it is a skill to learn to not be overweight any more.  The payoff for all the work?  Better health, energy, strength, and the confidence of knowing I can accomplish a tough, challenging task.
Brian Tracy, author of excellent motivational books like Eat That Frog! and Goals! says that,
"Persistence is self-discipline in action."
Once I realized that eating more would help me lose more, it gave me the motivation to continue attacking this weight goal loss head-on again and know that the seemingly little choices I make all day long will have the long term effects I want. Persistence.
More means more lost, traveling lighter.
*note: some people do very well on a high protein, low carb; I'm not demeaning that - the skill is finding what works to establish balance and health in your body system.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Make A Plan

     Last Saturday I wrote about disaster preparedness.  This week, I've done more reading, thought more about it, and taken more steps to make our family better prepared. Two good websites I found were:
     The first covers items recommended for a basic emergency supply kit.  The second, covers what is involved in sealing yourself in, as is happening in some areas in Japan.  This doesn't just apply to nuclear disasters, but it could be biologic or terrorist caused.  I quote from the website, "preparedness must now account for man-made disasters as well as natural ones.  Knowing what to do during an emergency is an important part of being prepared and may make the difference when seconds count."  Obviously, these are issues that apply to more than earthquake, tornado or hurricane prone areas.  This could be anywhere.

    To our stash of canned goods, I'm adding first aid supplies and a first aid book, toilet paper, plastic bags, baking soda (for cleaning, shampooing, etc.), hand sanitizer, dry milk powder, and matches. Also, a list of family phone numbers with a designated out of town contact person (they said it is often easier to make long distance calls, or to text, so if everyone contacts the same person, connections will be made), and a wind-up emergency radio that will also charge a cell phone.  I had some of this in a special bag in the back of my closet.  I knew right where it was, but it wasn't easily accessible.  Now, it is. One thing they recommend, that I've tried several times and can't seem to pull off, is saving some cash.  Since power and  banking  systems would likely be down, cash would be needed for any purchases.  We save some, but then always need to dip into it for something or other.  It's a good idea - maybe you'll be more successful at saving than we are.
     The steps toward sheltering in are fairly involved and take pre-planning.  We're not taking these steps yet, but if you haven't seen this before, it's good to be aware of what is involved.
     If events cause societal discombobulation (yes, that's a real word), preparation could go a long way toward keeping our homes and families safe and comfortable.  Make a plan.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gift Moments

     It was late last night.  Everyone else in the house had tucked themselves into bed, turned out the lights and snuggled in quietly.  I was getting our youngest settled in, and he asked, "Will you read me a short story?"

     I was tired, wanted just to get myself horizontal.  Gift Moment.  The phrase rolled through my mind.  Some of our children are in their thirties.  I know how fast they grow up and move on, making their own homes and lives. Like this past week, a blur, flicking by me like the lane markers on the highway as the car speeds along. "Yes, I'll read to you."  It will only take a few minutes to read, and the value of the moment far exceeds my need to lie down. Pulled out Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. A simple, fun, silly book to close out the day.  The last lines: "Today is gone.  Today was fun.  Tomorrow is another one.  Every day, from here to there, funny things are everywhere."  A simplistic philosophy.  Or, is it?  Today is gone.  What moments do you have to remember from today?  Tomorrow is another one.  What moments can you anticipate creating tomorrow, or look forward to, or take the time to see, really see?
     Except for a photo digression yesterday, I've been writing this week about moments - taking the time to see, really see, the moments of our days.  To see beauty and pay attention to the people around us. To not be in such a hurry, so busy, that we miss the value and importance of the moments of our lives.  To push pause.
     I love to get ideas from the Dictionary and the Thesaurus.  Mine are frequently used, beat up, and on an easily reached shelf behind my desk chair.  Except when one of the kids has carried them off.  When we say, "Be there in a second," or, "In a minute," we don't mean it literally.  By the time we say it, a second has already passed.  Moment can mean an instant, or a brief spark of time, a flash.  Like this past week flashing by.  Paying attention to this moment, has more to do with value, the significance, the worth of that piece of time.  Think, momentous, of great moment.

     Gift Moment.  Can we learn to see the Gift Moments scattered throughout our days?  The consequence, understanding time as a gift. To perceive the moment with the heart, not just the eyes.  To be awe-struck by the beauty of every moment that crosses our path.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Photo Phun

turned green, for St. Patrick's Day

this is our Great Pyrenees, well, she's not really pink
a black cat, turned black and white-- he was in yesterday's post
The real thing
you saw her in the sun in the post on January 17th; yes, still on the same bed

A huge thanks to littlebitzofart for her help with digital photo manipulation.
We laughed at our phunny animals.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This Moment

     Hit the floor running in the morning, and rush headlong through the day.  It's easy to do.  It takes effort to stop, pay attention, to notice the beauty moments and the young people filling our home - young people growing and changing faster than time itself.
     Boys and a daughter, gathered around the table, each working with their own schoolwork books, notebooks, computer, papers, pencils.

One dog snoring, the other crunching on her rawhide bone.  The cat meowing at the back door, "Let me out," and he just came in two minutes ago, meowing outside the door.

The phone rings.  A lady machine wants to clean our air ducts.  I could stay on the line and wait to talk to a real person to tell them we're on the no-call list.  Or, just hang up.  The timer goes off.  The rice is done, let it sit for five minutes.  The gardeners arrive, get the cat  back inside, quiet the dogs from barking.  There are "strangers" in the yard, can't blame them, but we did tell them to stop barking.  The washer and the dryer hum, someone's buckles clang in the dryer. Write lists: packing plans for a trip, for the son's next essay ideas, for another son's multiplication practice.  Think of an item for the grocery list, jot it down. Sirens off in the distance, someone having an un-ordinary day.  A question, "What does this assignment want me to do? I can't figure it out."  Read the computer page, try to understand, together.  Timer goes off again,  move the rice off the stove.  My planner sits open with today's list and space to write in more as it comes up.  Another cup of coffee, get out the creamer.  Something is dripping in the refrigerator.  The package of chicken is leaking down through two shelves. Gross. Add clean the refrigerator to the list (needed to be done, anyway).  And it's not even the middle of the morning.
     This moment. It is all we have. An ordinary morning, nothing spectacular. Or, is it?
     Being together.  Being home.  Being home together.  This is one of the key reasons we teach the kids at home.  To be together.  To be with them in the myriad light bulb moments.  Not just as they learn to crawl and walk and talk, but when they see multiplication as a shortcut to adding, or the construction of an essay with form and pattern, or a tough solution becomes clear.  "Oh, I see!"

     There are the spectacular moments.  Our son and his wife are visiting the Grand Canyon this week.  That is spectacular.  There is art in finding the spectacular in the common, ordinary everyday. Ann Voskamp, in One Thousand Gifts,  A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, does a beautiful, sometimes heart-breaking job of delineating the ordinary beauty in a day, even under painful circumstances. She is willing to face the tough questions head-on and look, really look, at life, and with vulnerability, stand her claim that grace is always there.  With a heart open to see the grace, we will find it.
     Her book is number nine on the New York Bestseller List this week. As she wrote her own list of one thousand gifts, and wrote her journey into a book, I don't imagine she had any idea how hungry the world would be for her message of beauty.  Her words, sometimes difficult words, of light shining into dark days.  Her challenge to live fully among the dishes and the messes and the clamor and the conflicts. The blessings she discovered along the way.

     This moment.  It is full and rich, if we have the eyes and the heart to see it, really see it. Does our heart have eyes?  I think so.  How we perceive, is skewed by our heart - with bitterness and regret and resentment, or with hope and love and acceptance. We can learn to perceive with love and grace, find the gifts and the spectacular in any moment. To see with our hearts, the beauty in this moment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How to See

      An artist must look, really look, and see the details in order to duplicate what she sees on to the paper or canvas.  

A writer paints a picture with words, constructing a visible image in the reader's mind.  

A musician creates mood, emotions and utilizes the sense of hearing.

All of these creative people use the abilities and tools they have to create an awareness of a particular scene: what the artist captures, the writer describes or the musician evokes.
     Every day, scenes happen around us.  Nature plays out many scenes, from the sky above to the earthworms in the garden dirt.  People around us act out (or "act up" in some cases), and display their characters and dramatize reactions to their circumstances.
     Our reactions to these scenes and characters says a lot about the color of our days.  Do we stop to notice and appreciate the changing skies or the crawling earthworms?  Do we take the time to appreciate and recognize the value of the unique characters in our lives?  I know I get too busy, too narrow minded, too introverted, too unaware and insensitive to all around me.  I appreciate those who remind me to wake up and pay attention to the beauty that is around me if I take the time to slow down and look, really look.
     I wrote yesterday that I would be mentioning two authors that challenge me to stop, take a moment, and notice the small, tiny touches of grandeur and beauty in my daily life.  One of those authors is Lee Silber, who wrote Time Management for the Creative Person: Right Brained Strategies for Stopping Procrastination, Getting Control of the Clock and Calendar, and Freeing Up Your Time and Your Life. 

     I am not an overly organized, compartmentalized person. I try, but I'd much rather wing it through my day. See what happens. Pile it, don't file it. His book has many ideas for creative organization: using colored pens, writing in various directions on a page, using a variety of forms, not trying to see the whole picture, but seeing just the small task at hand, colorful post-it notes to jog your memory, using a planner in a way that works for you, etc.  On page 22, he says, "This book is about time management and organizing your life.  Not so you can do more, but so you can be more."
     His book has helped me see many ways to creatively organize and manage my day.  On his website,, he has forms available to help with planning.  One of my favorites is titled "Magic Moments."  On his chart, hexagonal shapes connect, building a small beehive that fills the page.  Each shape contains a mini-chart.  To Do Today, with several lines underneath and a tiny Done check-box.  Scattered about the page are random, heavily outlined hexagons labeled, "Magic Moments, Making Time for Things That Matter Most," with lines inside the shape to describe in brief detail the moment worth remembering.  The idea is to pay attention to the details and not miss out on the many tiny joys of life.
     This afternoon, instead of grabbing another one of our daughter's banana chocolate chip muffins (which were great), or another cup of coffee, I sliced up an apple and peeled an orange for the munchies. I stopped to realize what a blessing it is to be able to choose the type of food I'm eating, to have many choices available, to appreciate the colors and the texture as I sliced them with the afternoon sunlight shining through the lace curtains.  It was art, and I'm glad I stopped to notice it.
                What scene of beauty can you stop and see today?