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

apple book

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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What I Learned in August

Today I’m linking up with Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky to share the…

 

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