Things I Learned This Fall

Things I Learned This Fall

I thought I’d take some time to join in the fun over at Emily Freeman’s as she hosts the What We Learned fall link up. I’ve learned lots of things in the last nine months of being in Atlanta and away from my normal life, back in the working world…but who wants to hear about bookeeping and working in a workplace full of men. Other than learning of all the amazing restaurants in Atlanta (one of which is pictured above), here’s a few other things I thought I’d share….just for the fun of it and because it’s been ever so long since I’ve been in this space. I’ve missed it.

 

the grass is not always greener

1atlI’ve always been intrigued by vibrant cities with their seemingly endless opportunities for new and exciting adventures. I often find myself wanting to do all the things in all the places. Atlanta is one of those places. Since our son has lived there for the last eight years we’ve made several trips, but they’ve always been like a tease to me since we never stayed long enough to experience all I knew the city had to offer. This year that changed. In March we decided to set up camp. We’ve been exploring, enjoying, and eating our way through A-town ever since. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great fun, and the memories we’ve made with our son I wouldn’t trade for the entire world. Nevertheless, after nine months of seeing and doing, I can honestly say it has additionally served to make me appreciate our usual residence even more. Turns out I haven’t necessarily been missing out. God knows what truly satisfies me even better than I do. I’m so thankful for the chance to experience Atlanta, but I’m more thankful for St.Pete and the God given, tailor-made blessing it is to me, than ever before. (I do suspect I’ll need to revisit this post when the inevitable cravings for some of the most amazing food I’ve ever eaten make me salivate with longing)

 

…..about a surprising royal romance

flags-38754_1280One of my very favorite TV shows is the legal drama Suits (if they would just clean up the language it would be perfect). The story line centers around a young “lawyer” who, unbeknownst to most everyone at the firm, never even attended law school. As the show’s seasons progressed this “lawyer” meets, falls in love with, and is now engaged to a beautiful paralegal played by actress Meghan Markle. Recently, I noticed a girl who looked just like her pictured on the cover of a magazine with Britain’s Prince Harry. “Wow,” I thought, “she’s the spitting image of that girl on Suits!” I opened the issue only to discover she didn’t just look like her…it was her! And according to all reports, she suits the charming Prince just fine.

 

….Donald Trump might, in fact, be really good at choosing the right people for a job

1americaIt turns out the most recent news-making choices our President-Elect is making are not his first. There’s another list of men and women he chose, before he even won the election, that could make an enormous difference in the way our country runs. They are those that make up his evangelist advisory board. The members include such notables as James Dobson, David Jeremiah, James Robison, and Michele Bachmann, to name but a few. (See the entire list here) Personally, I find it comforting to know there are biblically sound, seasoned men and women of stellar integrity surrounding our soon to be president. May we too do our part as we obey the admonition in I Timothy 2:1-2

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

 

….about a wonderful artist

img_5342While attending an art show in Atlanta last month, I discovered a terrific artist whose art I simply adore. Karen Libecap’s Tiny Art drew me into her tent and kept me there perusing a seemingly endless display of the most ordinary, everyday things drawn with incredible detail and even more incredible tininess. I dare say nearly everyone could find at least one of her pieces that would speak to one of their own unique interests or meaningful memories. To me that’s what art is about…finding that personal connection that speaks to you. I left the show that day without making a purchase, but my husband contacted the artist and surprised me on our anniversary, having bought my two very favorite drawings….a huge tiny suprise! To see her delightful work click on Tiny Art here.

 

 

….I made a classic sibling slip-up

1elbs5-bronte-sisters-set-front-1200-1-700x700I’ve loved reading classic literature. Austen, Thackeray, Hawthorne, Tolstoy. Reading time-honored literature from another era gives me a distinctly different feeling than any other type of book. Upon finding myself with nothing to read on one of our trips this fall I combed through the selection at our hotel’s book-lending library. It was slim pickings, but to my delight I thrilled at the sight of a title that was not only a classic, but also one I had never read…Jane Eyre. Score! There’s nothing like a new old book and lots of time to read it. My enthusiasm was suddenly dashed though once I noticed who the author was. Brontë. Years ago I had begun Emily Brontë’s  Wuthering Heights but didn’t enjoy it. However, I was desperate to have a book to read so I decided to give it a whirl. I was riveted. I didn’t want to put it down. It gave me that wonderful feeling I get only when reading a classic. Oh, the joy. As I approached the end, dreading it coming to an end, I began to think maybe I should give Wuthering Heights another chance. It was when I got online to see about getting it that I discovered that for all these years I had somehow missed the memo. There are two Brontë sisters. And this Jane Eyre Brontë was not the same Brontë of Wuthering Heights. How did I not know this? Every time I’d seen that surname I had lumped it in the same Brontë basket and figured I wouldn’t enjoy anything authored by her. And I now know there are not only two, but three Brontë sisters who have written books. Okay, so I might be one of the few people who didn’t know this. Think of the joy I have to look forward to in getting to know these siblings on a first name basis!

 

That’s all for now. Happy Holidays….

What I Learned in January

What I Learned in January

keep time…that I don’t spend time like I thought I did ~ On the last day of 2014 I discovered Toggl, an app designed to track how you spend your time (and yes, it’s running right now). Originally designed to allow users to track billable hours for clients, it’s likewise useful for tracking all the hours of your days. Since our lives are made up of time, this app can basically give you a picture of what you’re doing with your life. During the month of January I tracked my time religiously, and I was shocked at what I saw.

I have over 40 categories (the app calls them projects) some of which are Bible, Prayer, Exercise, Internet, Bills and Paperwork, People, TV, Instagram, Writing, Reading Books, Errands, Household Chores… you get the idea. Before seeing the truth that this app provides, if someone had asked me how I spend my time I would have said that Internet and Reading Books would have been fighting for the lead while TV and People would have been trailing (well, except for cooking which my husband does nearly all the time). But you know what? I was so wrong!

Never in a million years would I have believed it about myself, but my #1…People!  Seriously? I’m not a phone chatter, company haver, and most of my friends are 1200 miles away.  At first I felt aggravated by this revelation, but upon further reflection I realize this is a good thing. How would I expect to fulfill the commandment to love others if I’m never with them?

Another surprising revelation…other than Bible and Prayer, my #4 was TV! What? I feel like I never watch TV, not even the news or Christian TV. Let me tell you, I now realize watching TV can waste time like nobody’s business. Sure, I have my favorites…Blue Bloods and Elementary (which I usually fall asleep halfway through….timer adjusted upon awaking), Suits (on only once this month), The Voice (not on at all this month), so all I can think is that it’s those insidious little half hour reruns of The Big Bang Theory (which I’ve just recently discovered) that are piling up and resulting in a neck and neck race with my time spent in the Bible and prayer. Really? I can hardly believe it. What I think I’ll do is create a new category for when I watch Big Bang. I’ll name it ‘Laugh‘. I wouldn’t mind seeing that in the top three. Let’s see…  Bible and Prayer ~ People ~ TV (Big Bang Theory)  = Live ~ Love ~ Laugh. Yeah, I like the sound of that much better…

Keep-calm-and-carry-on…that something I thought modern and trendy is actually a bygone relic ~ We see them all over the internet, those popular Keep Calm quotes encouraging any and every activity known to man. They’ve become a part of our modern-day culture, but did you know they actually originated in 1930’s England as a poster designed to comfort and encourage British citizens facing the perils of World War II? The British government chose the simple message “Keep Calm and Carry On” as one of three designs containing different messages. The third, the Carry On design, was never used and never publicly seen until discovered fifty years later in a bookstore in England. The complete story of this iconic symbol can be seen in this utterly delightful video. The story of this poster’s history is more inspirational than the posters themselves. The fact that it was never used is a testament to the incredible spirit of the British people for, without ever seeing the poster we see everywhere, they did carry on.

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…about a little known fact that helped win WWII ~ Speaking of WWII and the British, I was fascinated to learn about Alan Turing, the man who broke the code of the German cryptographic machine called Enigma. Enigma was used by the Nazis to send daily encrypted messages about war activities with the code changing daily making it nearly impossible to crack. Against all odds Turing and his team built a machine that cracked the code which turned out to be one of the main reasons for Britain’s victory. The story is told in the recent movie The Imitation Game. Another little known fact…the producers hid a URL in the movie’s trailer that would lead to a site offering a crossword puzzle similar to the one Turing required applicants to his team to solve, allowing them only twelve minutes to complete.

keep right …that UPS trucks don’t make left hand turns ~ You might know this (if you watch more TV than I do) since the show MythBusters tested and confirmed this is no myth. UPS created their own GPS to determine the most efficient routes for their trucks to take when delivering all those packages. It turns out (no pun intended) that turning left against traffic results in long waits in turn lanes, wasting time and fuel and leading to more accidents. In low traffic residential zones you might witness a left turn, but it’s estimated that 90% of the turns are to the right. Take note Nascar…

 

Linking up with Emily Freeman and the gang sharing What We Learned in January…

Today begins a new month of Mark 4:30 Photo a Day. Try the photo-a-day challenge with the focus on God’s Word. Find out how to play along and see February’s inspiration list here

What I Learned in October

What I Learned in October

DSCN4604eEmily Freeman is hosting her What I Learned link up again this month, one of my very favorites. The great thing about this link up is all the additional things I learn by reading others’ posts…outstanding blogs I wasn’t aware of, not so trivial trivia, fun facts, inspiration, and so much more. Head over to Chatting at the Sky to peruse. For me…here’s what I learned in October.

 

….something I didn’t know about how women who show up show up 

So…everyone’s already reading Momastery, Glennon Doyle Melton’s terrific, truth-telling blog, right? (Sometimes don’t you feel like you’re late to the game and everyone already knows the stuff you’re just discovering? Well, just in case you’re not privy, I’m just sayin’….) Maybe I appreciate Glennon so much because my OneWord focus this year is HONEST and she is nothing if not that. Or, maybe it’s because she’s actually implementing the very thing I still struggle with…doing things afraid. I can’t tell you how long I’ve had this displayed in my house, yet have shied away from heeding its advice. When I have heeded I’ve succeeded. I’ve sucked it up, quit being a chicken, jumped in, allowing no time whatsoever to talk myself out of it, and in those rare times, low and behold, it’s proven to be a wonderful experience. Nevertheless, it is not happened enough…not nearly enough. So why am I talking about all this? Because Glennon has made an amazing discovery concerning this, and I want you to hear her share the powerful truth of it. Oh my goodness, how terrifically terrific these wisdom words are…especially for people like me. If you too have been waiting, searching, wondering when or if you’re ever going to begin living the life you were meant to live, listen to this short video. Hear and heed. And if you’re like me and you’re still paralyzed by fear or insecurity or doubt or excuses, or whatever it is that’s holding you back from being brave, then at the very least you might get just a wee bit closer to throwing caution to the wind and _____. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take all the help I can get. Watch Glennon here.

about a new perspective on purpose 

While we’re on the subject of searching for the life you were meant to live, may I also suggest a terrific book I’ve read recently? Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker Palmer provides a refreshing perspective to the frequent perplexity involved in searching for one’s purpose. This book takes that search from the mentality of discovery to one of realization, thus the title…let your life speak. Could it be that, like most things we go questing for, it’s right under our noses but we’re too busy looking for something out there…somewhere outside our self? Palmer says, “Vocation at its deepest level is, ‘This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.’” What am I already doing? What is that thing…no matter how unremarkable I deem it? Explore that. Let Your Life Speak is a short, easy read that packs a powerful punch…uncommon wisdom and inspiration that I’ve decided will have a permanent home on my bookshelf. You can read an excerpt or listen to a sample of the Audible audio edition here.

that God, in His great mercy, keeps finding ways to tell me to r-e-l-a-x 

Pretty quick here you’re going to start seeing a pattern tipping you off to what’s been on my mind of late, and thankfully lots has been crossing my path about it lately. I told my niece recently that I’ve had this feeling like the clock was ticking and I had to hurry up and discover what it was I had to do to say I’d lived a life of meaning. Menopausal musings? Maybe. My mind’s been racing like a hamster on a wheel getting nowhere. It’s what’s caused me to seek out books, music, new habits…any and everything that promotes peace in the midst of this mental mayhem. Finding that elusive thing we call “meaning”, that thing we’re all searching for, well how much peace could that bring?  These fabulous words, also by Glennon Doyle Melton (again…I’m just sayin’) were so. very. heartening.

about a unique, creative way to document life 

Thanks to my sons (one who brought the sales pitch and the other who bought the phone) I’ve joined the ranks of iPhone owners. Learning my way around the new operating system hasn’t been much of a problem but replacing my favorite Android apps with similar iOS apps has been a bit time consuming. Nevertheless, while searching the AppStore I did discover a terrific little app called Stellar, which allows you to create beautiful visual stories to document your travel adventures, favorite photos, recipe creations, family fun or simply your everyday life…all using your own pictures, videos, and text. There’s lots of inspiration to explore by viewing what others have created (you can follow and like the people and projects you admire) to get your own creative juices flowing or to just be entertained. I’m no expert in photography or in using this app, but here is my first little creation documenting our most recent motorcycle trip. If you create an account let me know so I can follow your “stellar” life.

…that there’s no shortage of corn in America 

On the spur of the moment my husband and I decided that, rather than using a transport company, we would fly to Iowa to pick up his new(est) motorcycle and drive it back to New York…a 12oo mile road trip on a not-any-wider-than-an-alligator seat through the heartland of America. The weather forecast for the next 10 days was picture perfect along the entire route so we bought the tickets and set out for what we hoped would be a wonderful adventure. Thankfully, it was! Totally terrific. With no particular agenda but not wanting to tax ourselves too much we set out, making time on super highways while still making time for scenic byways.  We saw lots of sights along the way, stopping spontaneously at charming shopping villages, classic car shows, interesting eateries, and even the little Illinois town where we first met over 37 years ago. But what we saw the most of….corn! Field after golden field for miles and miles, combines rolling state after state after state…harvesting some of the 87 million acres of corn grown each year here in the United States of America…six of which we saw under the spacious skies and across the fruited plain that is America the beautiful…riding on an alligator seat.

corn1

 

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What I Learned in May

What I Learned in May

three_red_applesFIt’s that time again. I’m joining the fun over at Chatting at the Sky where once a month a great group of bloggers share some things they’ve learned during the calendar month. From the paltry to the profound, this month, as in every month, there’s an abundance of terrific tidbits to be enjoyed as each one of us share…

 

What I Learned in May

 

proust….of Alain de Botton, a simply superb writer ~ I really love this guy’s writing. I began the month of May reading The Art of Travel, a treatise on travel which explores the reasons we do it and why at times it delights yet other times disappoints. Each keen observation also showcases a notable historic figure who exemplifies the subject de Botton expounds. History, humor and helpful insight all in one terrific read.

There’s nothing like a great author to leave you yearning for more so I next chose How Proust Can Change Your Life, de Botton’s profound commentary on lessons to be learned from what may have contributed to Marcel Proust’s one-of-a-kind writing style. The chapter How To Take Your Time rivaled two of my favorite reads this year, Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts and Shauna Neiquist’s Cold Tangerinesby encouraging the practice of finding the extraordinary right in the middle of ordinary, albeit from a very different perspective. I don’t agree with his theology (he doesn’t believe in the God who has obviously gifted him), but his writing is rife with truth and, as I learned in March from Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art,”There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred.” Yes, this month of May, I learned de Botton is de-lightful!

pie….something I never knew about my husband ~ Over 35 years of marriage and I just learned that cream pie is my husband’s favorite dessert. Know this…I’ve made a lot of pies over the years. Within the first months of marriage, having moved from the city life of my home state of sunny Florida and finding myself isolated for eight hours a day five miles up a remote mountain in upstate New York during a winter that boasted record-breaking temperatures, with no car, no cable and no company, I found one way to occupy myself…by trying my hand at making homemade pies from recipes found in the one wedding present we hadn’t returned as a result of needing money more than Melmac…a Betty Crocker cookbook. (Whew…Proust is rubbing off on me)  Apple pies, blueberry pies, pumpkin and pecan pies. I made them all..all except cream pies. I got pretty good at it too, becoming the one assigned the task of making the pies for three decades worth of family Thanksgivings. Yep, I do pies. But never, ever, not even once did I make a single, solitary cream pie.

So how, after nearly 36 years with this man, did I come to realize it was his favorite dessert? Finally, I asked. But only because our wonderful neighbors wanted to surprise him on his birthday by making him his favorite dessert, asking me what it was. And then I realized…I had no idea. And since it was, after all, to be a surprise…I couldn’t ask him. So they made what they made without asking…like I had for all these years. Birthday night arrives and it was a surprise, but not as much of one as I got when a week or so later I finally asked my husband, “By the way… what’s your favorite dessert?

And so…I made him a belated birthday dessert. And now, back in sunny Florida after all these years and having procured my husband’s personal pie preference, I’ll be once again trying my hand at making homemade pies…cream pies, that is. Better late than never. And Honey…I’m sorry I never asked.

baking….that I will post content I never thought I would ~ You’ve never seen it before and might never, ever see it again, but I’ve finally found a reason to post a recipe here on my blog. (I know my sister-in-laws’ jaws just dropped). It was super simple and got great reviews, so I’m sharing the Coconut Cream Pie recipe I used when making that belated birthday dessert. I did make two changes to the recipe by using 1 can of coconut milk and then half and half to add up to three cups, and I used fresh whipped cream. Simply delicious! And by the way…this blog content will never happen here again. It’s more my style to hand out book recommendations so check out Teeny’s Tour of Pie: A Cookbook, a delightful, informative, inspirational kind of cookbook/find your passion/make you want to make pie must have for anyone even slightly interested in baking pies. And…for the month of June her ebook, Let Them Eat Pie is available for download free over at Noise Trade.

 

stain glass tsunami MGD©….that migraines are misunderstood ~ Who knew that migraines don’t always come with pain. New research has found that migraines present in a variety of ways. Having had an ENT doctor eliminate ear problems and an MRI eliminate any serious neurological problem as the cause of the dizziness I’ve been experiencing lately, my doctors are suggesting the cause might be migraines. There’s still testing being done, but based on the fact that things such as dizziness and vertigo, light, sound and motion sensitivity can be attributed to painless migraines, I suppose it’s a possibility. If not, at least I’ve learned something new.

 

Gao….of a simply a-mazing NYC-based photographer ~ I happened on Alice Gao via Instagram and I’ve been enjoying her feed immensely. Since I began my Bible-based photo a day challenge (you’ve never seen anything like this one so check it out here) I’ve taken notice of the talent required to produce a great photo and believe me when I tell  you…this gal’s got that talent. If you want inspiration for composing photographs or just want some beautiful images to peruse, Alice Gao is your girl. Find her here and here. Enjoy.

 

So long days of May and happy June to all! I’m planning on laying low for the coming month…traveling, spending time with family, and trying to relax. We’ll see how it goes.

“The way I relax is I think, ‘I haven’t got anything coming up.’ I like to know there are months ahead when I’ve got nothing.” ~ Julie Walters

 

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What I Learned in April

What I Learned in April

The_Hart_One-Room_School_Circa__1860Linking up with others over at Emily Freeman’s site Chatting at the Sky for the always entertaining, enlightening monthly link up where we’re sharing What We Learned in April…

 

 

foil1…about a little piece of information that could have saved me lots of frustration.  Did you know there are tabs on the ends of boxes of aluminum foil and plastic wrap which when pushed in keep the roll from coming out of the box? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

 

 

HApp…about a handy little writing app.  Before you publish your writing you might want to run it through the Hemingway app. Among other things, this helpful app highlights weak adverbs, unnecessarily long or complex sentences, and identifies reading levels. It’s a great way to catch some things in our rough drafts we might otherwise miss.

whpeacock…that there’s such a thing as a totally white peacock.  Talk about beautiful! My sister-in-law shared this video with me on her recent visit.  Witnessing one of these gorgeous peacocks in full display is a sight to behold. While looking for the image I added to this post I found what to me might be even more beautiful….pigment and absence of pigment all in one amazing creature. Check it out here.

 

scrabble…that there is a National Scrabble Day.  I couldn’t agree more that there should be an entire day set aside to acknowledge this fantastic word game! Scrabble Day is celebrated on April 13 in honor of the birth of Alfred Mosher Butts who created the game in 1931. I got so excited when I discovered this that I made a huge blunder on the daily prompt list for my Bible-based photo-a-day challenge, bumping Palm Sunday to the completely wrong day. Oops. Fortunately, I discovered and fixed my mistake just in time, hopefully saving any participants from celebrating Palm Sunday on Saturday. (I’d love for you to join in the May Photo-a Day)

St.Pete…of one more reason to love my winter home.  Since I was born and raised in Florida I’ve always been aware that Florida is known as the Sunshine State, but I did not know that the city of St. Petersburg, where I now reside during the winter months, is known as the Sunshine City. St. Petersburg holds the  Guinness World Record for the most days of consecutive sunshine…768 straight days! It hails a reputation for averaging approximately 361 days of sunshine annually. Quite a contrast to my summer hometown which ranks #5 in the 48 contiguous states for least amount of sunshine annually. So, let’s see….if I continue to be privileged enough to live the blessed life of a snow bird then I am living in the truest definition of Sun-day funday….every day of the year.

bible…that indulging is better than abstaining.  I had never observed Lent before, but this year I decided to participate in a challenge to read through the New Testament during this 40 day religious observance. Modern day observers of Lent often give up an action considered to be a vice, but I know from years of experience that my efforts to abstain from any form of bad habit or behavior have failed miserably. What I have learned is the truth that the way to overcome evil is with good (Romans 12:21), that light dispels darkness (John 1:5), and that it is when we first “awake to righteousness“(that we’ve been made the righteousness of God in Him), that we can then go forth “and sin not” (I Corinthians 15:34 KJV). But instead we religiously choose abstinance, thinking we’ll benefit. Here’s the truth though…

If you have died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, why… do you submit yourself to decrees, such as,”Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!”…in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Colossians 2:20-23

Simply put…do not’s do not work! Why is it we’re always trying to clean up the outside instead of acknowledging that He has already cleaned us up on the inside? Reading the entire New Testament in just 40 days helped remind me to do just that.  Yes, for Lent, instead of abstaining I indulged…indulged myself in reading His Word…and let it do the work.

For the word of God is living and powerful… Hebrews 4:12a

What Did You Learn in April?

 

What I Learned in March

What I Learned in March

file000884974361SOnce again I’m joining Emily Freeman over at Chatting at the Sky for her monthly What We Learned link up. You can learn quite a lot of interesting things by reading the participant’s contributions to this always fun, factual, and sometimes frivolous exercise. As for me, here’s…

What I Learned in March

 

Snapshot 2014-04-02 09-33-3721…that I had a different identity and didn’t even know it!   …or 

…why I haven’t been able to comment on blogs with my WordPress.com account

Several months ago I created a website on wordpress.com to give my Bible based photo challenge a bit more exposure. It hasn’t exactly succeeded in that regard, but I found it would at least prove useful in allowing me to leave comments on wordpress.com blogs requiring I be a registered user logged into my account. Not! Whenever I commented and proceeded to enter the required info (author, email, URL), I got an error message saying “You do not own that identity“.  Frustrating.  I Googled, I consulted support, signed out, signed in, I tried and re-tried…and still the same message saying, yet again, “You do not own that identity“.  Excuse me cyber-police, but I DO own that identity!!!  Then, one day in early March I some way, somehow happened to notice a teeny, tiny mistake I made when creating my site, and as it turned out…I, in fact, DID NOT own the mark430photoaday.wordpress.com identity. Of all times to make a typographical error, I apparently made one when I created the site, leaving out an “a” which made me the owner of mark430photoday but not mark430photoaday. Like the Patriarch Isaac, I was guilty of a case of mistaken identity. All was not lost though, since, as a result, I learned yet another thing in March…

Snapshot 2014-04-02 09-50-20that you can rename your wordpress.com website if you want, or, as in my case, need to

All fixed. I had so much fun creating this site that I couldn’t bear the thought of deleting it when I realized the name was wrong. I doubt any of you would find yourself in a  similar situation, but in case you do want to change your blog name, or find yourself with a mistaken identity in the blogosphere, go here for all the how to information.

 

Screenshot_2014-03-01-06-50-263…that on your Android smart phone or tablet you might be able to see a fun, hidden animation telling you what operating system you’re using

I know…you probably couldn’t care less about what operating system your phone uses, but this is still fun to see. Go to Settings on your Android device, tap on “About phone/tablet” and then tap repeatedly on “Android version…” until you see the fun, colorful animation you didn’t know was hidden inside that smart phone of yours. Ready for more fun? Long press on the animation and see what happens. If your phone/tablet is running Jelly Bean, you can even move these surprise visitors around once they show up.  I’ve also heard there are times a hidden candy cane might appear in the mix. I haven’t seen it, but my husband saw it on his first try. Useless, but fun.

 

Snapshot 2014-04-02 10-36-352that people might be reading my blog more than I realized

While perusing my Pinterest feed one day I noticed a graph and accompanying blog post discussing bounce rate. Honestly, I have no idea why I clicked through to the website since I was only vaguely familiar with why this mattered, but I’m so glad I did. It turns out that bounce rate is related to something I have been puzzled, not to mention discouraged by, on my blog…visitor engagement. On any given day I might have as many as 50 visits to my blog, but honestly it hasn’t mattered much to me since most of the time I notice the visits are short-lived, not even registering on the blog Richter scale. My analytics page reveals that many of my visitors remain on site a whopping 0.00 minutes. Really? I’ve assumed their search landed them on my site only to discover it’s not appealing or applicable and off they go. “Even if I got thousands of visits, who cares if they’re bouncing out so fast they never read my content”, I concluded. Ah, but not so fast (no pun intended). Who knew that Google Analytics doesn’t measure the time someone spends on site unless said visitor visits more than one page. Since so much content is contained on the landing page of blogs, visitors could be reading for quite a while yet still be recorded as remaining on site for zero minutes. What can I say…I was so encouraged by this piece of information that my heart’s “bounce rate” spiked with the news.  Need the same encouragement? Find out more here.

 

DSCN03612…what an Arnold Palmer is

While lunching seaside with our wonderful neighbors one day, I heard them ask the waitress if they served an Arnold Palmer. A what? Is it because I never followed golf that I had no knowledge of what this drink request was? Having just finished reading I Don’t Know, a short book with the telling subtitle, In Praise of Admitting Ignorance, I decided to admit mine and ask. Answer: Iced tea combined with lemonade. Simple, delicious, and one more thing I learned in March…as a result of being willing to look ignorant.

So, once again, I leave you with the quote that might just be one of the most important things I’ve been learning these last few months….

 

“I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

 

 

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What I Learned in February

What I Learned in February

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Emily Freeman’s “What I Learned” link up is one of my favorites. Maybe it’s the teacher in me…I love learning and sharing what I’ve learned. This isn’t necessarily profound or life changing, but it might slightly entertain, give a wee bit of information, and a slight peek into my February, the month I learned…

 

Exercise…that exercising isn’t nearly as grueling if you do it while watching Downton Abbey  I had been hearing so much about this show that I actually put it on a list of things to check out.  I almost didn’t make it past the first episode and began to doubt the good taste of the sources that had raved about it, but now, I too am hooked. My favorite character…Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham. Could it be because she is the embodiment of my One Word for 2014? Since the series is one of thousands of titles I can watch free with my Amazon Prime membership (go here to get a free month), I’m viewing it on demand every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning while I work on being as svelte as the lovely ladies of Downton.

 

ReadSpeed…that I don’t read as fast as I thought I did  One of the only post-college classes I’ve ever taken was a speed-reading course, but it must not have worked. I do remember feeling as though I would miss some of the joy of reading if I followed the method suggested. I am progressing through quite a bit of reading so far this year though, so it must be that I’m devoting quite a bit of time to it, giving reading more space rather than increasing its pace. I did discover that, at my reading speed, I could read the entire Bible in just 38 hours and 56 minutes. Not as daunting a task as I would have believed. Curious? You can test your own reading speed by going here.

 

Story…that it’s not a waste of time to read fiction  I know, I know…this sounds like sacrilege to those of you who love fiction.  Nevertheless, for me personally, I much prefer reading non-fiction. It’s not that I don’t ever indulge in a great novel, but when I do, it feels like just that…an indulgence. I admit it, I feel a bit as though I’m wasting time.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read many of the classics and am an ardent fan of Jane Austen, but for the most part I have felt as though it were a bit, dare I say, frivolous. Now before my tens of followers abandon me here on the spot, let me say this…I’ve repented!  Remember, this is about what I learned, and I learned that my thinking has been wrong.

Unfortunately, as far as my now grown children are concerned, this is something I learned about 25 years too late. Looking back on their childhood years I remember thinking that fairy tales (no matter how famous) or other childrens stories would be of little benefit to them, so I stuck with Bible story books almost exclusively. I do think I referred to Aesop’s The Boy Who Cried Wolf once or twice though. It seemed more palatable than “Liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone….”  And that is precisely the point, the one I somehow never thought through. Stories can make the bitter truth a bit easier to swallow.

So how did I finally come upon this revelation after all these years of reading? It was with the help of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art. In it L’Engle states, “Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth…it’s no coincidence that Jesus taught almost entirely by telling stories”. In this thought provoking book L’Engle explores the relationship between faith and art and adeptly teaches something I am very late in learning. “There is nothing so secular that it cannot be sacred.”

marchphotoaday2014FPrev…that I’m not as easily discouraged as I might have thought  In assisting people to find their passions, life coaches often ask the question, “What would you do if money were no object?” In other words, how would you spend your time if you were never compensated or rewarded? This thought process came to mind recently as I pondered the reason why I continue month after month to create the inspiration lists which provide the daily prompts for my Bible based photo a day challenge. It’s not an exact correlation since there is no actual monetary compensation involved, but in my situation I would equate the concept of “reward” to “participation”, and I can’t help but conclude that poring over the scriptures and making lists must be a bit of a passion since I continue to do it no matter the resulting participation (I do so appreciate those of you who have participated) or the popularity of my idea. You’ve heard the quote, “I just want to make beautiful things even if nobody cares”? Well seemingly, seven months into Mark 4:30 Photo A Day…I just want to make Bible things even if nobody hardly anyone cares.

GreatIdea…just how creative the minds at Google are  Type “askew” into the search bar and look closely at the results page.  This works for another word too, one that rhymes with “quilt” and “built”. I’m trying not to give it away here. What fun! And even more fun… type “do a barrel roll” into the search bar. Yep, creative minds.

 

 

 

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What I Learned in January

What I Learned in January

 

file0001186514517SI do love learning. I’m usually pretty intentional about it. But more often than not learning happens just because of living. The schoolhouse located on the landscape of our lives might be where most of the real learning is done. For a while now I’ve reflected on things I’ve learned during the latest life month and shared them here with you.  Here’s my latest offering.

 

 

bequietThat I might be an introvert  I’ve been reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain, and surprisingly I’m seeing spot-on descriptions of myself in the pages of this book. Well, maybe I’m not so surprised. Several years ago I was told I had miscalculated my personality type, but I wasn’t sure I believed it even though it came from a certified personality coach.  Now I’m thinking maybe she was right. While reading Quiet I caught myself sighing as Cain tells of attending a retreat designed especially for introvert types where attendees were informed they would stay in rooms designated for “napping, journaling, puttering, meditating, organizing, and reflecting” . To me (other than the napping), it sounded like heaven.  Other signs I might be an introvert: Introverts are sensitive to coffee (check), noise (absolutely), interruptions and distractions (without a doubt).  They’re averse to small talk (yep), enjoy solitude (oh, so much), and prefer listening to talking (please…tell me your story!). Nevertheless, when Cain addressed the subject of public speaking, people’s number one fear, I thought I might be disqualified from the introvert club since I feel like a fish in water at a podium, but surprisingly for the introvert it isn’t public speaking that causes anxiety, it’s extemporaneous public speaking! This is me, for sure.  Insight into an introvert’s preferences concerning entertaining and hospitality explained some things about myself that have puzzled me for years.  Thanks to this book I’ve gained some enormously helpful information not only about myself but about others too. I’m feeling much less “flawed” as a result, and am realizing how to make some adjustments that might prove quite liberating. Something’s already changing since my shopping of late has consisted almost entirely of choosing items needed for entertaining.  Yep, I think I might even designate my dining room as just that…a room for dining and entertaining instead of the office it’s been for years. Be patient with me though, friends, because according to Quiet, introverts approach change slowly and with apprehension. Baby steps…

(I just found the Kindle edition of Quiet for only $2.99)

 

file6681269982727That the rule has changed concerning how many spaces to leave after a period   Am I the last person to know this?  Where was I when it changed?  Granted, I haven’t written a manuscript and thus haven’t been worried about the exact format required to impress a would-be publisher.  I daresay though, if I had, I’d have still missed this fact. As I type this now I catch myself double-tapping that spacebar. No doubt, this is going to take some getting used to. Although there will be a myriad of saved keystrokes, I’m sure my typing speed will take a downturn, my brain having to engage where once it performed the task without thought. As it turns out there is disagreement over whether there’s a right or wrong concerning this, and the history cited in explaining the reasoning behind the antiquated two space rule is somewhat flawed. Nevertheless, it’s something to be aware of, which I wasn’t. Thanks to my sister-in-law for this piece of typo trivia.

 

libraryThat I can learn a foreign language for free through my local library  Mango Languages is an online language program quite similar to Rosetta Stone. Interactive audio, pronunciation helpers, and even an app for your smartphone, this language program is a pleasure to use. I just wish I’d known about this during my years of homeschooling. If you’re interested in learning another language or are headed to a foreign country and need some conversational skills, it might be worth your time to check it out.  To find out if Mango is available through your library go to http://www.findmango.com

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DSC00270CSEMore about our newest Florida neighbors   Since we are seasonal Florida residents we had only spent a few months with these new neighbors, but we knew quickly that a quality friendship was in the making.  Having accepted their invitation and spent a week visiting them at their alternate residence in Mexico, we now know much more to appreciate about these very special people. It is undeniable that the kindness and generosity they extended to us is in no way limited to their invited guests, but is extended to simply everyone they encounter…from the prominent to the poor, the aged to the adolescent, from the footloose to the footmen.  We also got much more of a glimpse at and realization of the wealth of talent resident in these two accomplished individuals. Only time will tell of the joy our association with these newfound friends will bring.

 

DSC00056SEJust how fascinating Mexico is  This country and its people captivated us during our recent visit.  The countryside, climate, and culture,  the colors, craftsmanship, and cuisine… all were an unexpected delight.  Our adventure there was truly a rich experience that I’m so very grateful to have had. Once again, our utmost thanks to our magnanimous hosts for indulging us so.

 

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“I’ve seen how you can’t learn anything when you’re trying to look like the smartest person in the room.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver

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Things I Learned in December

Things I Learned in December

IMG_20131213_192129_864That we have the best neighbors ever  We’ve lived next door to one another for several years now, each of us enjoying the privilege of escaping winter in upstate New York to enjoy the warmth of the Sunshine State.  I think we began appreciating each other because we didn’t invade each other’s privacy…it is close quarters, after all. Now though, as the months have turned into years, we’ve inched closer and closer into each other’s space and what a lovely space it is.  Our time together is pure delight.  There’s been laughter and tears, listening and being heard, sharing and caring. The joy and entertainment of time spent with these marvelous people is creating a tapestry of memories we will cherish for a lifetime. Our other neighbors are more recent but have already found their way into our hearts. We are looking forward to many years of cherished times spent together, and we are thankful for these neighbors of ours every single day.

 

IMG_20131230_104427_171That I have a new respect for photographers  Since I’ve been participating in Mark 4:30 Photo A Day, the unique photo challenge that’s different from the rest, I’ve been inspired not only from the fact that it keeps God’s Word in my mind daily, but a few of the photos I’ve taken as a result of those daily scripture prompts have been an inspiration in themselves.  I’m finding that my right-brain is kicking into gear a bit more with this daily photo taking so I decided to experiment some more with photography and bought a DSLR camera.  Ever since I got it out of the box I’ve realized why there are all those “For Dummies” books.  It’s not often that I feel completely stupid, but this world of cameras and photography has succeeded in doing just that. Maybe next month my “What I Learned” list will be filled with my new-found knowledge and my photos inspired by the January photo list will be incredible… but for now let’s just say that this new camera has given a whole new meaning to photo challenge.

 

IMG_20130612_093057_176That I need to stop apologizing for my taste in decorating  For the holidays our city’s historic district hosts a candlelight tour of homes allowing the public a rare chance to peak inside some of the most charming and elaborate residences of this exclusive neighborhood. As in any home, the décor in each was unique, a reflection of the owner’s personal style.  Each one was simply amazing in its own way, but when I walked into one particular home I literally sighed out loud…throughout the whole entire house.  Room after room decorated in the same exact color pallete….beiges and taupes, creams and browns. My taste exactly! For years I’ve felt bland and boring that I am drawn to this monochromatic style. Even the dictionary defines it as “lacking in variety, monotonous”.  But during this tour there were other people oohing and ahhing too.  What can I say….it helped me.  It’s silly, I know, but I’ve finally settled it…there’s nothing wrong with me and I’m done apologizing for my preferences.

 

IMG_20131115_144042_062About two new salads to try at home  Oh my, these salads are incredible.  The first is the under 600 calorie Quinoa Arugula Salad at California Pizza Kitchen Ingredients: quinoa, arugula, red onions, sun dried tomatoes, asparagus, feta cheese and pine nuts.  Equally delicious is the Sweet Cranberry and Walnut Salad at Moon Under Water in downtown St.Petersburg  Ingredients: cranberries, walnuts, tomato, cucumber, red onion and crumbled blue cheese served over mixed greens with a maple vinaigrette.  I’ve tried the Quinoa salad but have yet to perfect a dressing that compares with the original, and the ingredients for the Sweet Cranberry and Walnut salad are in the fridge.  I’m excited to be excited about salad after all the holiday eating I’ve done!

 

IMG_20131218_180124_718About my new favorite outdoor eating spot  If you’re in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area make sure to visit downtown St. Petersburg.  You’ll quickly become a member of the I Love the ‘Burg fan club.  With shopping, dining, museums, cafés, historic hotels, year round events, and stunning waterfront views there’s something for everyone to enjoy.  Recently we discovered The Canopy, a marvelous spot to enjoy a breezy, balmy Florida evening overlooking Beach Drive and the waterfront district of this charming area. Perched atop The Birchwood, a restaurant where we joined friends for Thanksgiving dinner, this stunning open-air gathering spot is perfect for relaxation and conversation. It has officially been added to the list of places we will be taking every single guest who visits us in Florida during the winter months.

 

I’m linked up over at Chatting at the Sky, where a group of lovely women share what they’ve learned each month. 

Twinkling lights photo credit: Flickr rachel a. k.  

 

Things I Learned in November

Things I Learned in November

Today I’m joining others over at Emily Freeman’s Chatting At The Sky  for her monthly “Things I Learned” link up.  Here’s a few things I learned in November….

apple and books …that there’s a name for my writing stlye.  Sometime this month I read a blog whose author said she preferred reading didactic writing above all other types of writing.  Didactic?  I wasn’t quite sure what it meant so I consulted the dictionary.  I learned that didactic writing is writing that is primarily designed to impart information and is intended for instruction and teaching.  Yep, that’s me…definitely didactic.  Come to find out one of my favorite authors, Leo Tolstoy, wrote many didactic works. Although it has its place, unfortunately, it is also said that didactic writing can tend to be dry and boring.  Oh my!  I might need to take a lesson or two by reading from another thing I learned about in November…

 

EmilyThomasButton …about a simply delightful blog that I want to share with just everyone  Talk about a breath of fresh air…this girl is that and so much more. Emily of Emily Thomas Writes has the unique gift of combining mirth and a message. I literally laughed out loud the first time I read her blog. Totally relatable and spiritually relevant, this woman is a true gift. Get ready to be entertained and encouraged as you partake of Emily’s wit and wisdom.

 

attic …that 25 years worth of accumulation can’t be cleared out in 6 months.  I can’t say as I enjoyed my summer this year.  Normally we spend the season travelling, taking motorcycle rides, and gathering for family cookouts…but not this year. I spent the majority of the season on a long overdue project; to finally clean out my huge attic.  I was determined to accomplish the task before leaving for Florida for the winter.  It didn’t happen, but it certainly wasn’t from lack of effort.  I spent day upon tedious day for months sorting, sifting, examining, and eliminating. Once back in Florida I was discouraged, feeling as though I could have done more. But then I realized something. I remembered that I didn’t amass this mess overnight.  No, it happened gradually, over many years, bit by bit. It therefore seemed unrealistic to expect that all would be cleared quickly.  So maybe the real lesson learned is that I need to remember to deal with things as they arise instead of shoving them in a corner, allowing them to build up to the point that they rob me of a whole season of life that I could have otherwise enjoyed. And by the way…click on my messy attic picture if you want to see what I’m shooting for in that attic.

 

December Photo a Day …that I really like making charts.  It must have something to do with the fact that I love organizing.  I’m forever arranging things in some ordered and systematic way, whether clothes in a closet, paperwork in files, or books on a shelf.  Seemingly this penchant for order also applies to information since charts are simply information displayed in a systematic arrangement using columns or rows. How delightful!  I realized this odd quirk about myself while deciding whether to continue my Mark 4:30 Photo A Day challenge (complete with monthly charts displaying the daily “Word” prompt). I made up my mind that in spite of minimal participation, for now, I would continue. Why?  Because, along with a few other weightier reasons, I realized…I really love making these charts!

 

freewrite …to not always write with the end in mind.  Realizing my Florida library card was mistakenly sent to NY and desperate for something to read, I picked up a copy of Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg from a community lending library where we live.  It’s not a book I would have intentionally chosen (for a variety of reasons), nevertheless, I have gleaned some interesting thoughts about writing that I think might prove helpful in the future.  In her chapter Writing as a Practice Goldberg made a statement that impacted me immediately. “Write…without a destination“.  It struck me because when I thought about it I realized that I never do this. There’s always some point I’m trying to make, some truth I’m attempting to share.  Basically, I always start at the end.  Maybe it’s that didactic thing. At the conclusion of the chapter she encouraged her readers to, “Sit down right now. Write whatever’s running through you. Don’t try to control it“.  For two days I had tried to find inspiration for Lisa Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday “fly” prompt. I had no message to convey or lesson to teach….just that word “fly” flying around in my head with not one thing of meaning attached to it. So I decided to take her advice.  She had said to sit down and write whatever was running through us (in my case it was the word “fly”), so I did.  I threw caution to the wind, let it fly..and here is where it landed.

It’s always fun to take time to reflect on what we’ve learned.  Maybe you’d like to do it too. Feel free to share in a comment.

 

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