Sunday, July 31, 2011


from this...
We had three days of chain saws blaring, branches thudding to the ground, light revealed through previously hidden sky. A branch from the neighbor's tree falling onto our roof instigated this severe pruning spree. The full, beautiful pines that shaded our yard and sang in the wind are now a sparse shadow of what they were. Yes, I understand it is healthier for the trees and safer for those underneath them, but it is hard to watch the stripping away of all those green branches.
Pruning is a tough job for me.  I like an overflowing abundance of greenery and flowers.
Severe pruning has value, though, and is necessary occasionally.

to this

This is a good lesson for me. My first impression watching this drastic cutting back is sadness and pain. Like throwing open the curtains to let the morning light flow into a dark and dreary room, the expanded views, the revealed light, all hidden before, covered by the dense branches, are now open and wide. The lesson is about editing. Less is better. Cutting back is good. Trimming down the stuff and the pounds and the fluff of life. Whether it involves overflowing stuff in the house, excess pounds, wasted energy or written words, editing, revising, and condensing are good things. Another lesson to pay attention, (and once I get used to the change), a reminder of the beauty of traveling lighter.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

One of Those Moments

Last week, I typed in that day's 1,000 Gift List, clicked "Publish" just like I have done every day since February, and clicked "View Blog" just like every other day. Instead of the last entry at #932, the latest entry was #63. Uh-oh.
869 markings of steps on my journey toward gratefulness and seeing the Lord's blessings, gone. Erased like the ocean waves washing out footsteps on the sand. Gone.

My little laptop has moments of efficiency and effective work (like me).  But also, (like me) it has moments of complete random shut-down and slow incompetence. Losing my gift list was one of those moments. Our computer literate daughter checked the files for me. Her verdict? Gone.

My trustworthy hard-copy hand-written duplicate notebook came in very handy. Fortunately, I wanted a written copy to keep open on my desk to easily add to the list and to be easily portable to carry with me.

Each day now, I set the timer for twenty-five minutes and type, re-posting the list on to the computer. Instead of being a point of frustration, the time spent is an enjoyable review of the hundreds of blessings documented over the last six months, full with rich memories and hope.

A measure of my days is how alert and aware I am to the blessings that surround me. Is my focus on all that is wrong in this moment, or am I able to focus on the gifts of the moment.  I want to see, really see the abundance that overflows into my life. This task of re-typing the gifts has helped me to slow down, enjoy re-reading and remembering, and appreciate the gift moments of life.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Sometimes, when life looks crazy,
look for whimsy:

relax, breathe,

enjoy your family,

find the beauty in simple things,

keep busy,

take one step at a time.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The One That Got Away

We own several fishing poles, and even though we have lived in some popular fishing areas, fishing has not become a high priority in our family. Partly, I guess, because I am the only one who enjoys eating fish.

My problem, though not directly related to fishing, borrows from the sport. "Yea, but you should have seen the one that got away! That fish was this big!"

What I "fish" for, is ideas.  Ideas float around in my mind while I'm washing dishes, watering the garden, going for a walk, attempting to sleep, even while I'm writing something else--anytime. If I don't jot down the phrase, the concept, the thought, the character immediately, it is gone forever. Sometimes I'll create an entire scene, sure that I'll remember it later because it is so clear and vivid. Later, with paper and pen in hand, I cannot for anything even come up with a clue for what it was about. Frustrating.

Wish I had a fraction of the ideas that swam by my boat, just below the surface, taunting me with a flicker of the tail, lingering just long enough to give me a glimpse, but not to catch it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Gift from the Sea

Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, is a book I have mentioned before, one I enjoy reading and re-reading. Her perspective on balanced, healthy living, written long before either of those topics was popular, challenges and encourages me.
She quotes a term, "Zerrissenheit," translated from German as "torn-to-pieces-hood." Does that describe any of your days, your life? She talks about life today (this was written in 1955)..."the feverish pursuit of centrifugul activities which only lead in the end to fragmentation...shattered into a thousand pieces. On the contrary, she must consciously encourage those pursuits which oppose the centrifugul forces of today. Quiet time alone, contemplation, prayer, music, a centering line of thought or reading, of study or work. It can be physical or intellectual or artistic, any creative life proceeding from oneself...Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day--like writing a poem or saying a prayer..."

Written during a seaside vacation, her analogies are related to the ocean, seashells, the beach. She relates lessons of life to lessons from the sea.
Another term I enjoy thinking about is her idea of having "island eyes." The ability to see through a lens to examine your life, your priorities, your choices; especially to be able to see the beauty all around you and how our lives are touched by that beauty:
"I must remember to see with island eyes."
 For her, the ocean helped her step back and see values, significance, signposts, and find balance for her life.

Lessons as we observe nature and the beauty of this world help us to understand the complexities of life.

What part of nature helps you to see more clearly?  Do you have mountain-eyes, garden eyes, desert eyes, or as Anne Morrow Lindbergh, island eyes? Wherever you prefer;
remember to see, really see, with [your] eyes.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Let's Play in the Sprinklers

A halo of tiny rainbows

What's a good romp in the sprinklers without mud in the toes?

Monday, July 18, 2011

Infused Water

Last week I wrote about drinking enough water, enough quantity. Sometimes, plain water seems, well, too plain. A simple, healthy alternative is to prepare infused water. Simply put, it involves soaking fruit or vegetables in the water to give it flavor. Most simply, think a slice of lemon in a glass of water. Infused water has varied possibilities.

  • Common infusions are lemon and orange
  • Also try strawberries
  • raspberries
  • melon
  • peaches
  • cucumber
  • mint
  • ginger
  • frozen fruits can be used, also
The varieties are limited only by your taste preferences. If you go to amazon and plug in water infuser, several different pitchers come up, with perforated channels to contain the fruit.  Of course, you can just dump the fruit or slices in the pitcher, but the separate compartments help contain pulp, seeds or any floaties. I took the container from the blueberries, filled it with cucumber, lemon slices, a blob of ginger (comes fresh in a toothpaste-like tube in the produce cooler section), and immersed it in the pitcher of water.

Kept in the refrigerator, the water makes a cool, refreshing drink (remember, eight cups a day).  The water can be replenished over the same fruit or vegetables for several days as long as it is refrigerated.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Page Turns

"How I Learned To Live A Better Story" is the subtitle for A Million Miles In a Thousand Years, by Donald Miller. The book is about choices, mistakes, purpose and responsibility; about recognizing the brilliance and beauty of life.
Are we aware of the story we are living?  Most of life is not like the intense climax scene when the character runs in slow motion through an exploding brilliance of colors in an imploding crisis of personal desperation.  He storms through the flames and comes through to the other side with courage, confidence, and blood spattered battle burns. The danger is averted, either to himself, the gorgeous gal or his treasure.

Sometimes, for us, the drama is heavy with disappointment or grief, when an hour ticks by in a thousand years.

As we "read" through the story of our lives, as in a book, we turn the pages, we reach the end of the chapter, move on to new parts, and eventually reach the end of the book, hoping our character has achieved his purpose. One big difference: in a book we can go back and re-read the good parts, the words we want to read again. In life, we turn the page and have to move on, unable to go back. We can only go forward.

This week, pages have turned for our family. Changes. Adjustments. Shifts. A room empty, an empty place at the table, the realization of "never again as it has been." From now on, it will always be different.  They will come back, of course, not as guests, still family of course, but different, grown up.

Somehow I always thought the kids would grow up.  Turns out I'm the one who still has to grow up, who still has to work to accept the brief, fleeting, impermanence of life.  I want to hoard them all, to keep them close, to treasure each of them now and forever.

Instead, I find another lesson to travel lighter.  To let them go. To give them wings and trust they will know the roots are always there. We have a family story, but each of them also has their own story to write and live.  Their own character to create, turning the pages as they bring that character to life, beginning new chapters, reading through their own story. And hopefully, none of them will have to run through fiery explosions (we have come close, twice). Just being the characters they are is good enough. Hopefully they will live their stories - with choices and mistakes, with courage and confidence - illuminated by the beautiful brilliance of life.
Trying not to be a basket case

Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's a Good Infection

Don't you love it when things you read or hear from a variety of sources end up having the same message?  Sometimes I wonder if it is just because I am already thinking along those lines that I "see" the same thoughts in something I am reading.  In this case, two authors from totally different genres and perspectives used exactly the same term, but illustrating it a bit differently: Brenda Ueland wrote If You Want To Write in 1938; still in print today, still considered a classic go-to book for writers.  Mere Christianity, by C.S. Lewis, also still in print and considered a classic in Christian literature and theology, was written in 1943. Miss Ueland's book is more toward the liberal, artistic, creative self-expression side.  C.S. Lewis writes with intellectual, logical expression, and seeks to glorify and honor the Lord Jesus Christ with his life and words.
Their common subject? Infection.  We can catch (and share) good things as well as bad things from others.

Miss Ueland's chapter, Art is Infection, quotes quite a bit from Tolstoy.  How am I to condense Tolstoy and Ueland (and C.S. Lewis) into a short blog post?
 "Art is infection.  The artist has a feeling and he expresses it and at once this feeling infects other people and they have it too," said Tolstoy.  When Miss Ueland taught her writing classes, she told her students, "...if you want to write, for example, about a man who is suffering from boredom, just quietly describe what your own feelings are when you have been bored.  Don't say the boredom was 'agonizing, excruciating,' unless your own boredom was, which is doubtful." 
 "I saw in their writing how whenever a sentence came from the true self and was felt, it was good, alive, it infected one no matter what the words were, no matter how ungrammatical or badly arranged they were.  But when the sentence was not felt by the writer, it was dead.  No infection."

This reminds me of an art lesson we had once.  If you are attempting to draw an eye, it is natural for us to draw the image we see in our head.

 To convey a true eye, an artist would draw every shadow, shade, line, wrinkle, hair, reflection of light, color, shape and freckle that would appear as the true-to-life eye of a specific person or animal, not a preconceived concept.
Don't you want to melt when you look at these eyes?

Or laugh when you look at these?

C.S. Lewis calls his chapter, Good Infection. He says, "Good things as well as bad, you know, are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire: if you want to be wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, power, peace, eternal life, you must get close to, or even into, the thing that has them. They are not a sort of prizes which God could, if He chose, just hand out to anyone.  They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you: if you are not, you will remain dry. Once a man is united with God, how could he not live forever? Once a man is separated from God, what can he do but wither and die?"
" He [Jesus] came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has--by what I call 'good infection.'"

Infection is a term we tend to think of in preconceived terms, catching something we do not want.  These authors and thinkers use infection as a good thing, something we want to spread to others, whether it is art, as in a drawing or the written word; or in our faith in the Lord Jesus, wanting to infect others with the love and joy and peace of the Lord.
Catch something good today. Draw close to the Lord, absorb some of His joy and peace and love. Look around you and see, really see the people and scenes.  Feel the emotions, not in a generic sense, but as perceptively as you can.

This is getting long, but one more thing.  Michael Hyatt, an author, and the Chairman of Thomas Nelson, a Christian publishing company, has a website available to bloggers using social media. Bloggers read the new books and write a review to post on their personal blogs, twitter or facebook.  As they looked for an appropriate, catchy title, the publishers came up with this phrase,
                          "Great Books are Contagious."

                            Their website?

A HUGE thank you to littlebitzofart for her articulate drawings.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Do You Drink Enough Water?

You have probably heard how much water you are supposed to drink each day. When I began this weight loss journey, I was encouraged to drink a gallon a day of filtered water.  I would fill up a gallon pitcher in the morning, and drink and drink and drink through the day until it was gone. At that point, water was the only liquid I was drinking - no coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milk, juice,, I am a little more lax and have two cups of coffee and infrequently, a little bit of milk, juice or lemonade when we eat out. Generally, though, water is my drink of choice.

What is the daily recommendation?  64 ounces of water, or 8 8oz cups.  It is a lot, and takes an effort to be sure you drink enough. There are many variables, many factors to consider, differing opinions and facts floating around.  The best thing I can recommend, is, that if you don't drink that much now, try it, for at least a week. Fill up the gallon pitcher, or fill up 8 glasses in the morning and drink them throughout the day.

 Pay attention to the changes in your body.  I was very surprised at the changes, big and small.  I had rough scaly patches on one ankle and my elbows which I would douse with lotion every day even though it never made any difference.  Once I was regularly drinking enough water, the rough patches disappeared. And have not returned, except for one time when I stopped drinking enough - stopped working at drinking enough - and the patches came back.  I was convinced. Weight loss comes much more easily when we drink enough, partly because the water gives us a sense of fullness, and partly because our body isn't in the dehydrated, starvation mode and can do what it is supposed to do.

Another tip I have heard, is that if you are feeling thirsty, you are already becoming dehydrated.  Drink before you get thirsty. Lack of water in our bodies creates dehydration and accumulative problems. Our bodies are 75% to 80% water; obviously water is critical to our bodies' functions and maintaining a state of health.

One issue I still have is to get the kids to drink enough water.  That is a challenge I haven't quite figured out yet. Especially now in the summer, when it is hot and they are playing outside more, I need to figure out a way to convince them to drink more water.  Any suggestions?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Colorful Possibilities

Our thirty-three year Lego collection: ready for planes and ships and helicopters and race cars and trucks and building hours of fun. It may look like a mess, but think of it as a pile of possibilities...

One of the reasons I love to walk through a home improvement store or a craft store or even a grocery store is to enjoy the sheer potential of the raw materials, the creative possibilities.  You and I could walk together through the same aisles, yet we would come up with different ideas, varied inspirations. Isn't that exciting?  Keeps things interesting.

What do you see here?  A messy pile, or...?
(Dump it all out on a sheet - makes picking up much easier)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pilgrim's Progress

                    The Pilgrim's Progress,
From this World to that which is to Come,
            by John Bunyan.
This classic in Christian and English literature is familiar to you, I'm sure.  It became a standard reference for students, and many of the English classics, like Little Women, refer to it. For now, I am re-reading some of the old devotional classics, favorites I read years ago. This copy, retrieved from someone's discard pile on its way to the thrift store, is missing its publication date, but the inscription in the front is dated June 1st, 1909.

In the beautiful handwriting of their day:
"Presented to
Miss Ida
As First Prize
in Spelling Class 'A'
By [her teacher]
Chickasaw, O
June 1st, 1909"

Somewhere in Oklahoma, in 1909, a young woman studied hard at her spelling and won this book, which I now hold in my hands, as her reward. There is no town of Chickasaw listed for Oklahoma.  The Chickasaw Tribe was one of the five Indian nations given territory in what is now Oklahoma, which became a state in 1907. Perhaps Miss Ida was from one of the families who settled in the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1800's. Or, was she a young Indian, learning English in a tiny prairie schoolhouse?

I love the evidence that she read and turned each page, marking favorite lines as she progressed through the book.
The illustrations by J.D. Watson, engraved by The Brothers Dalziel, are dark and sometimes frightening, typical of art from that era. The drawings support the message that Pilgrim's journey was fraught [a good Old English word] with danger and adversaries, yet also with those ready to help him along his way.
This book has to be handled carefully.  The binding is loose, the spine is falling off, the pages are yellowed and brittle. Each morning, I balance it carefully on my lap, one edge supported on the desk so as not to put extra weight on the weak binding.  The pages must be turned slowly, gently - a reminder to enjoy and appreciate and savor the precious [more Old English] words inscribed by John Bunyan from his prison cell.

This paragraph is from the Memoir of John Bunyan, by George Offor, in the front of my book.

"In The Pilgrim's Progress, the world has acknowledged one train of beauties; picture after picture, most beautifully finished, exhibiting the road from destruction to the celestial city; our only difficulty in such a display being to decide as to which is the most interesting and striking piece of scenery. The learned have ransacked the literature of all ages and countries to find the storehouses from whence these ideas were drawn. But vain have been their researches. Human wisdom is humbled before an unlettered artizan who never felt his own brilliant allegorical powers. His soul had been baptized into Scriptural truths conceived in the imagery of the Bible. His whole mind was deeply tinted with the sublime scenery of Job, of Isaiah, of our Lord, and of all the inspired penmen. This alone was his ample storehouse. The researches of nearly two centuries have proved the truth of his perfect claim to originality."

As I slowly read through the book, a few pages each morning, I think of Ida and hope she found her way to the celestial city as she traveled through life, ending her journey in this world with the assurance of knowing the world which is to come.