Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zee End

Yep, I know Zee is not a real word.  Live with it!  I actually stole the (fake) word from The Sweet Tooth because I wanted to blog about my experience with this challenge, but 30 minutes of internet researching later I could not find a Z word that felt right to me, so the made-up word wins! 

Thank you to Alex Cavanaugh for creating and organizing this challenge.  Thank you to Bz for introducing me to the challenge.  I am so excited that my friends Trevor and Jami decided to join the challenge as well.  The best thing that came out of this whole month/challenge was that Troy decided to start his own blog so he could participate and throughout the month he discovered that he loves writing.  There is something therapeutic about writing and knowing that someone, somewhere, is going to read it.  I'm glad he discovered this joy for himself and am looking forward to what the future of his blog brings. 

I enjoyed the A-Z Challenge, but it was harder than I expected.  I started the alphabet off trying to make each letter fit into the theme for my blog.  How can I make each topic relate to Encouraging Sweetness?  This proved to be too difficult for me and I finally gave in and just wrote about whatever inspiration I could find that started with the appropriate letter.  It made the challenge much easier for an amateur like me!

Now that the month is over here is what I have learned.
  • I am not cut out for daily blogging.  I put out 26 posts in the past month.  20 mediocre posts and 6 poor quality posts.  (that's an estimate...don't go looking for the 6 bad posts)  None that I am really proud of.  I need more time/space in between posts to get out words I am proud of.  I felt like I lost myself as the month progressed.
  • I enjoy blogging most when I am writing about things that have inspired me in my daily life.  I like to find things as I go about my day and write about them.  I pushed a lot of those things aside this past month because they didn't relate to my letter of the day and so they got pushed away for something else.  I am excited to be back to where I want to be.
  • I enjoy having people look for my blog every morning, as part of their routine.  My favorite blogs are ones that post on a regular basis, even if it's not every day. 
  • Sometimes it's fun to just write about whatever is going on in my life, or tell a story from my past instead of focusing so much on my Encouraging Sweetness theme.  I enjoy telling people about me :)
Good news for you: I am starting a weekly post called Thankful Thursday.  I will still post a couple times a week as I feel inspired, but every Thursday there will be a post about the things I am thankful for from the past week.  I will also sporadically be mixing in some totally random posts just because I feel like writing about it. 

Thank you for sticking with me through the A-Z blogging challenge! 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Young

We have baby birds!  As I mentioned last weekend we discovered a birds nest with three blue robin eggs in it and we have been checking in on it daily.  Today we have babies!  Typically the momma bird flys away when she sees us approaching.  She will stand in the neighbor's yard, a safe distance away, and keep her eye on us as we quickly peek in on the beautiful eggs.  This morning Troy was doing some work on that side of the house and noticed that the momma let him get incredibly close before she flew off.  A quick peek inside revealed two babies.  Momma did not go very far away this time and she yelled at us the whole time to get away.  We were not trying to disturb them (Troy was picking up some trash nearby), but since she had left the nest we took advantage of the opportunity to quickly look at the precious babies.  There were two little ones in there and they looked like they had just popped out of the eggs.  Hopefully the third one will soon be following in their footsteps.

I can't believe how tiny (and featherless) they are!  Even though they are small, so small, I am still amazed that they came out of those itty bitty eggs.  I would imagine a good stretch would feel good after being cramped inside there for so long.  Our babies look just like the ones in the photo, mouths open and all.  I did not take a picture because I wanted to get out of momma's way as quickly as I could.  It is her job to protect and care for those babies and I'm doing my best to stay out of her way so that she can do that.  I wish I could just sit and watch them all day. 

Here is a You Tube video of baby robin's hatching for those who are interested.  Looks just like our babies!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is for Xenial

What a xenial young lady! 

Yep, I had to pull out the dictionary for today's post (well the online dictionary...I don't have the actual book in my house).  How many X-words do you know?  X-ray and xylophone.  Yep, that was all I could come up with too.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Xenial is an adjective which means to give gifts to strangers.  Xenial people are usually very helpful.  I saw a xenial young man helping an elderly lady across the street. 

Here are some suggested random acts of kindness you could try out in hopes of becoming a more xenial person. 
  • Send someone a card in the mail for no reason at all.  Yes, in the mail.
  • Put money in the vending machine for the next person to find.  People love getting their guilty snack food for free!  It almost makes you feel better about eating it :)
  • Give something away for free instead of holding it for your next garage sale.  Free stuff on Craigslist!
  • Invite someone over for a homecooked meal, unless you are a terrible cook, then take them out to a restaurant. 
  • Do your spouses least favorite chore for them (laundry!).
  • Write a glowing review for a company you use often.  Yelp! is a great place to start. 
  • Compliment a stranger.  Doesn't it just make your whole day when someone you don't know tells you that you're lookin' hot today? 
  • Allow someone else to shine.  Stop being selfish and just stay in the background as someone else has their moment.  Let them take full credit on this one. 
  • Teach your children to hold the door open for others.  Strangers will silently thank you some day for raising such a thoughtful individual.

How will you be a xenial person today?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Watermelon-ing

Watermelon-ing: faking your way through a song you don't know the lyrics to by mouthing the word "watermelon" over and over.

This is mostly for those times when you are standing in front of people and it will be obvious that you are not singing along with everyone else.  It works amazingly well!

Levi recently learned this little trick (we use it at church quite often) and was using it in full force as he sat in front of the whole congregation at church during a song he didn't know.  We locked eyes and he knew he had been caught watermelon-ing his way through the song.  It was hard to hold back the laughter, but we did our best - we were in the middle of church! 

Next time you are supposed to be singing in a group try watermelon-ing your way through a verse or two.  For practice sing watermelon to the tune of "Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee"

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Vacation

Vacation - a period of time devoted to pleasure, rest, or relaxation.

I am constantly thinking about my next vacation, and I'm sure I am not alone on this.  Vacations are typically full of activities that we enjoy.   Hiking, surfing, amusement parks, sleeping in late, or hunting down every cupcakery within a 60 minute drive.  I'll leave the surfing to others!

Troy and I take a vacation from work every year on our anniversary and Thursday we will be celebrating 4 years.   The first year was just a coincidence because we were booking a trip to Jamaica and the cheapest rates just happened to be during the week of our first anniversary.  What a way to celebrate!  Since then we have made a point to take time off work and spend a few days reconnecting and enjoying each other.  It really doesn't matter what we do, or where we go, as long as we are spending our anniversary together.

So what's on the agenda this year?  Five days of anniversary celebrating!  We are staying home this year so that means renting movies, a full day (or two) of geocaching, laying in bed reminiscing about our wedding day, and perhaps a cupcake or two (or three)! 

I hope our yearly April 28th vacation tradition continues for as long we both shall live.  I will give up the rest of my birthdays if it means we will always get to spend our anniversary together....acting like newlyweds :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Understanding


I understand that I am naturally a morning person and no matter how late I stay up my body will still insist on rising bright and early.

I understand that I will always cry at funerals, even if I do not know the person. 

I understand that if there is chocolate in the house I will eat it. 

I understand that quiet time is an important part of my day as it helps to keep me sane.

I understand Troy is the sexiest man in the world.  (He helped me with that one)

I understand that I create my own happiness and I am the only person to blame for those moments when I am not happy. 

I understand that I relate better to quiet/shy people easier than those who are more outgoing. 

I understand that I am still learning things about myself and that makes me happy because it means that I am still growing.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Tiny

Found in our yard this afternoon

About a week ago Troy found a birds nest on top of our hose reel.  We took note of it and forgot about it.  This afternoon Troy noticed the nest again as he was working in the yard.  It had taken on a more definitive bowl shape and so he got closer to check it out.  It was quite a surprise to look inside and discover three tiny blue eggs.  So delicate and incredibly precious. 

I snapped a couple pictures while Momma bird stood nearby and chirped at us.  We were careful not to touch the nest or the eggs and got out of the way as quick as possible.  I did not want Momma bird to be scared any longer than necessary, but I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to photograph such beauty.

As soon as we were a safe distance away from the nest Momma bird flew in to protect her babies and keep them warm.  I guarantee the first thing I will do on Easter morning is rush outside to check on our beautiful blue eggs!

Happy Easter!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Siblings

In a Troy-esque post I have decided to write about my siblings.  I am the oldest of 5.  Is 5 a lot?  It has never felt like a lot. 

Here we birth order. 

Me, John, Shelly, and Brian

John - a jack of all trades.  He has a natural talent for finding the beauty in nature, whether it's building furniture or taking pictures of his family.  What I most admire about John is his ability to somehow make everyone in the room feel important.  He is great about being able to talk to anyone, anywhere, anytime without making it feel like idle chit chat.  It takes a smart, confident, kind person to be able to relate to so many people with such ease. 

Shelly - the only thing bigger than her eyes is her heart.  She wants to help everyone and almost seems drawn to the people who need a little more "Shelly" in their lives.  When people compliment me on my kindness, friendliness, or like-ability I always respond with "you should meet my sister."  She wants to help everyone and has touched more lives than she will ever realize.  I think God gave her big eyes because she is constantly taking in her surroundings and looking for opportunities to offer assistance. 

Brian - works hard, but never stops laughing.  He has such a great sense of humor and is always the first to laugh at himself.  When he is working, he works hard, but knows how to relax and have fun once the work is done.  I am so impressed with Brian's ability to relate to kids, especially younger ones.  He is a great uncle to his two nephews and will be an amazing dad someday.  Brian deeply cares about people and is always there to help out his friends and family. 


Levi - melts my heart.  He is so smart and has a depth of knowledge that just amazes me.  He has discovered that he enjoys learning about science and history (my worst two subjects) and he soaks up every little bit of knowledge he can.  He is constantly teaching me things.  This boy has a big brain, a big heart, and a big smile that I just can't tear myself away from.

As I was writing about each of my siblings I realized that I wanted to say the same things about each of them.  They are all great with children, so patient, and not afraid to make a fool out of themselves if it keeps the child entertained!  Striking up a conversation with a stranger is not a big deal to them and they do it with ease.  They are all kind, funny, inspiring people to be looked up to and they push me to constantly be a better version of myself.  I am lucky to have been placed in the same group as them. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Race

Minority Photo - mixed race hands stacked together 

I tend to have a hard time choosing sides because I can see both points of view.  I am easily persuaded and can quickly get excited about the same things you are excited about.

There are a few things in life that I just can't seem to understand and one of them is judging people based on their race.  How can you decide what you think about a person based on the color of their skin, what part of the world they are from, or something their ancestors did many, many moons ago?   What happened to "do unto others as you would have done unto you"?  The Golden Rule was not made to be broken.

What amazes me the most is that there are still so many issues with race going on today.  I remember hearing about a high school when I was in college (10 years ago) that had separate prom's for black and white kids.  My jaw dropped open when I learned about this school.  How could this still be going on, when I had read about it in my history books?  It was in my HISTORY textbooks; that means it happened in the past...not currently.  Just last year a judge had to tell the state of Mississippi that segregation was no longer allowed in schools. 

Really?  For real, people need to be told that this is illegal?  It blows my mind...

I understand that one of the great things about this country is that we are all raised with our own set of beliefs.  Our parents teach us to believe in the same things they believe in and we follow them with blind faith.  At some point you have to decide if you still have the same beliefs you were raised with.  Some we keep and some we discard in favor of things that feel more "us".  It amazes me that there are people out there that decide to believe that they are better that others just because they are a member of what they see a superior race. 

Be proud of who you are and respect everyone else.  I am easily persuaded, but you will never be able to persuade me that any one race is better or worse than another one.  We are individuals and I refuse to judge an individual based on preconcieved expectations of their race. 

Black is Black.
White is White.
Life is always
A racial fight.
Don't date her.
Don't Marry Him.
He doesn't match
The color of your skin.
Why does it matter?
Why do we care?
Would you see a difference
If the skin wasn't there?
They may use a language
We do not speak
They may have beliefs
We find unique.
But deep down inside
Beneath that thin shell,
You may just find someone
You know very well.
Friends come in all sizes, colors, and shapes,
And you might miss a lot
If you see only a face.
Each culture has something
Unique we can learn
To make our lives better,
Our souls much more pure.
So cast off your prejudice
Replace hate with love
And look on each person
As does your Father above.
 -Author Unknown

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quiz

For those days when you need to create some happiness.

I spent my lunch break yesterday taking online quizzes to learn more about my own happiness.  The Authentic Happiness Website has lots of tips, resources, and questionnaires to help you achieve a more authentic happiness.  Here is what I have learned so far.

On a scale of 1-5 my Authentic Happiness is 3.21.  Kind of middle of the road - average.  I appear to be normal.  I am in the 50th percentile, which means that half of you are happier than me and half of you are sadder.  It's an OK place to be.  I am not excited, but not disappointed in my result either. 

My top strengths are (equally) love, kindness, humor, gratitude, and forgiveness.  I agree with those results and feel that they are in the list of common words used to describe me (by myself and others).  I also agree with the lowest scoring category of bravery.  It's something to work on.  I do not agree with the placement of "open mindedness" in the half-the-time category.  I feel like that one should have been a little higher, but maybe I just need to be more open minded about my results and work on being open to new ideas. 

I scored a 5 out of 7 on compassion.  Yep...I think that sounds about right. 

Authentic: real or genuine.  Real Happiness, not the fake smile we sometimes hide behind, or the "great" we offer in response to "How are you doing?" The genuine smile you don't even realize is stretched across your face, the sparkle in your eyes, and the little bounce in your step.  Genuine happiness...not the fake stuff. 

How much real, genuine, authentic happiness do you have?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for Perfume

Do you have one perfume that you wear all the time, or do you wear different scents depending on the occassion?  I'm a little bit of both.

I will go to Bath and Body Works for lotions/sprays in seasonal scents to wear every once in a while.  My tried and true, every day go-to, is Cherry Vanilla perfume.  It cost less than $10 a bottle and is only sold at WalMart.  I've been wearing it for 15 years and am still in love with it.  I've tried more expensive perfumes, but I like my Cherry Vanilla.  A very kind department store employee once walked me through every perfume bottle in an attempt to find a more expensive version of my scent...something more "grown up".  A lot of sniffing later I went back to WalMart and got my trusty tried and true Cherry Vanilla. 

Perfume react to the chemicals in our bodies, giving them a slightly different scent on everyone.  Cherry Vanilla works with the chemicals in my body :)

It's a perfume, not a body spray, so while it's "sweet" it's not overly sweet like body sprays tend to be.  It's cheap!  I've been wearing it for 15 years and I still get compliments on it all the time.  It is MY scent.

They say scent is the strongest sense tied to memory, and I wear this scent almost every day.  Someday you will smell (well, if you know me in real life) Cherry Vanilla on someone else and without realizing it, your mind will travel to thoughts of me.  I hope they are good thoughts!!!

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Out on the Town

Daydreaming of a fancy night out on the town...


Romantic Dinner

galaxy starry sky night graphic
Star Gazing

Sunday, April 17, 2011

N is for Nagging

Finger pointing photo

I am terrible about nagging Troy to do things.  It's not something I'm proud, I mean who wants a trophy for world's most annoying nagger?  Not me!  It especially bothers me because Troy's Love Language is "words of affirmation".  He feels love the most through words and here I am using negative language with him.  I need to work on this!

My sister recently told me about The Happiness Project and the title alone was enough to make me drop everything and look it up.  I still have a lot of reading/research to do to find out what it's really all about, but I'm very excited about it.  The very first article I read on the website was titled "Fourteen Tips to Avoid Nagging". 

How ironic...or meant to be...that I go to a website to learn tips on how to be happier and the very first thing I read is how to stop nagging.  You know the saying Happy Wife = Happy Life?  Perhaps it should be Happy Spouse = Happy House.  The less complaining nagging I do the happier both of us will be.

Here are the 14 tips listed on the website.  Go here to read more about them for yourself.

1. Suggest tasks without words
2. If you need to use your voice limit yourself to one word
3. Don't insist that a task be done on your schedule.
4. It's better to decline a task than to break a promise.
5. Have clear assignments
6. Sometimes, do your spouse's task
7. Assign chores based on personal priorities
8. Do it yourself
9. Settle for a partial victory
10. Rethink the way you think about chores
11. Don't push for the impossible
12. If you want something done your way do it yourself
13. Could money buy happiness (and stop the nagging)?
14. Do your part / set the example

It's not going to be easy.......

Have you read the sweet post Troy wrote about falling in love with me?  Read it, and then feel free to mentally scold me for being such a nag to a man who is so incredibly kind.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for MS Walk

Ok, so technically it's Walk MS, but I switched it around to make it work for my letter M.  Last weekend five of us participated in this walk to raise money and awareness for Multiple Sclerosis. 

MS is a disease that attacks the central nervous system (CNS).  Since every function of our body is controlled by the CNS the symptons of MS are different for each person.  This means that while one person may require a wheel chair, another person will be able to walk just fine because the MS is attacking the CNS in different area's, giving them different symptoms.  Unfortunately this also makes it very hard to diagnose and many people will undergo years of tests and unanswered questions before they are diagnosed. 

My mom has MS and so this year we formed a team and walked in her honor.  This was our first year and we had a small team (my husband, sister, and sister-in-law), but lots of heart!  Walk MS is a three mile walk that loops around the Plaza and has two rest area's along the way.  It was a warm morning, but a steady breeze helped to keep us cool.  I actually heard one woman say that every time she started to get hot and feel like the walk was going to be too much the breeze would pick back up to cool her off and energize her to keep going. 

Whenever I participate in one of these fundraising walks there always comes a point when I think about sneaking out of the group and heading back to my car.  My money has already been turned in so there is no need for me to continue on with the walk.  No one will know if I finish (or if I even started). 

Walk MS had a smaller group of people than other walks I have participated in and over the course of the three miles we got more and more spaced out.  This allowed me time to think about why I chose to participate in this walk and how important it is to actually follow through.

There were many people on the walk that (it seemed obvious) had MS.  They were walking with canes, had a limp, or were even in wheelchairs.  Knowing that MS effects everyone in a different way, I am sure there many more people there with symptoms I did not recognize.  Every time I would come across one of these people I would be reminded of why I was walking.  The National MS Society uses the money we raised for research that leads them closer to finding a cure.  The money is also used to support those living with the disease today by helping to pay for medical treatments, braces, canes...

I'm not just walking for a cure: I'm walking to raise awareness of MS.  Whenever a crowd is gathered (and walking a three mile course) you draw attention of people passing by.  The more people are made aware, the more people who will participate, and the more money that will be raised.  The more money we raise the more people we can help.

We will be walking again next year and I am so excited for the number of people who have already said they want to join our group.  It's going to be even better when we have a large group walking together!!!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lawn

We do not spend a crazy amount of time or money to keep our yard looking perfect.  We try to keep it (mostly) green and mow it as needed.  We don't have an inch of landscaping.  Not a tree, rock, or flower to be found...yet.  Someday we are going to cross our fingers and attempt to turn our thumbs green.  Hopefully that day will come sooner rather than later!

Our lawn is currently sprinkled with lots of yellow dandelions, or as some may call them...weeds.  I know we are supposed to rush out and get some chemicals to kill them, or if we are really "green" pull them each out of the ground.  Small problem though; I kind of like them.

I check out the lawns in our neighborhood and I actually prefer ours with the little specks of yellow in it.  Embrace more color!  I know that eventually the pretty specks of yellow will turn into those white poofs and while those are fun to blow into the wind, they are not so pretty to look at.  Maybe then I'll embrace the "green is better" theory, but for now I'm choosing to see my "weeds" as flowers and enjoying the fact that for once I have the most colorful yard on the block!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kiss

kissing from here

Troy and I do not shy away from public displays of affection.  We try not to gross people out and I don't believe anyone has ever told us to "get a room".  It's not like we are making out in front of people, just quick pecks.  (Ok, sometimes there's more than one peck in a row) (Ok, sometimes they are long pecks, but we try to save those for when no one we know is around)

Do you remember your first kiss?  Not the kid your friends dared you to kiss on the playground in third grade, but your first real kiss?  Of course you remember, that's a big moment in life!  What about the first time you kissed the person you are with now?  Remember the butterflies, the giddiness, and the smile it left on your face?  Do you remember your first kiss as husband and wife?

Kissing is one way that we express love.  We teach children to kiss when they are young and we endure the open mouthed slobbering for months until they figure out the proper way to pucker their lips.  They understand that this new action we have taught them is for love and they go crazy kissing the dog, their toys, and whatever else babies love.  We show affection with our lips. 

As we grow older it becomes less acceptable to kiss everyone (and everything) we want to show affection to and kisses are replaced by hugs, or even handshakes.  Kisses are saved for special relationships and therefor take on more meaning as an adult. 

Who are the special people in your life that get kisses? 

Troy wrote about KISS for his K word too!  Click here to see what he had to say.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Journey

 (fall,red coat,walk,journey)
On the Journey, from here

Not the band... I know there is a band named Journey, but don't ask me to name one song they sing.  Nothing against Journey, I just suck at pop quizzes related to music.  I couldn't tell you if Journey is a jazz, pop, or country group.  Yes, I'm that clueless.

Journey: progress from one stage to another.  The journey of life. 

If you could describe your journey in one word, what word would you choose?  Has your journey been interesting, fulfilled, or exotic?  My word is blessed.  On this journey of life I have been blessed.

I was literally blessed as a baby.  I wore a beautiful white dress, people prayed for me, and a lot of pictures were taken!  I was blessed with two parents who have played equal parts in raising me into who I am today.  In a world full of divorce and death I consider myself blessed to have parents that have been married for 33 years, but that is a topic for another day. 

I have been blessed with a large family.  I am the oldest of 4 siblings, too many cousins to keep track of, and (so far) 4 nieces and nephews.  I always had playmates growing up!

I was blessed with the opportunity to go to college where the most important lessons I learned were not taught inside a classroom.  I made amazing friends, and learned a lot about myself during this time.

I have been blessed with a church family and although the faces have changed over the years, the feeling of family has always been there. 

I am blessed because I have Troy, who truly loves me for who I am. 

I am blessed to have a job, a house, food, hot water.....the list goes on and on.

Blessed describes my journey.  What word would you choose to describe your journey? 

P.S. Troy and I have the same word for letter K.  Check back tomorrow to see what the word is and get both of our takes on it!

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Individual

Yesterday I helped the youngest (3-5 year olds?) Sunday school class decorate cupcakes.  They slapped some icing on, licked most of it back off, and crammed as many sprinkles/decorations on top as they could get.  I understand the desire to lick the frosting off, but the sprinkles just don't appeal to me!

The kids zoomed through these cupcakes like pro's!  Spread the frosting, throw on some sprinkles, and yell "NEXT"!  They wanted to decorate as many as possible because they got to take each decorated cupcake home.  The faster they worked the more sugar they got to eat later.  You're welcome parents!

One little boy seemed oblivious to what his peers were doing.  He had a plan for each cupcake and he patiently worked to make sure each intricate detail was accomplished.  Each cupcake he decorated included at least a small amount of each kind of sprinkle that was provided.  He made smiley faces that were eventually covered up by the need to get the star shaped sprinkles and red glitter sugar on there somewhere.  He was not just casually throwing decorations on top of his cupcake, he had a place for each one and he would not let anyone rush him along.

He chose to do his own thing  He did not need to follow the crowd and do what his peers were doing.  He participated, yet had his own unique way of doing things and was happy. 

As we grow up we start to feel peer pressure to do and act like those around us, but this boy stuck true to himself.  He observed what the other kids were doing, told them their cupcakes looked good, and continued on with his own method.  I tend to cave in to peer pressure, or do what's "popular" instead of being my own unique self.  I need to be more like this little man.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hammock

Hoping you have a happy, healthy, healing Saturday!
 See you Sunday for something much more Interesting :)

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gratitude

Photo from here

I've mentioned this before, but I start every morning with a positive reason to get out of bed.  What do I have to look forward to that day?  Perhaps it's payday, or I have a new makeup brush to use.  I get out of bed for blueberry muffins, nice weather, and to enjoy the quiet before Troy and Mya wake up.  There are no rules: my positive reason can be anything that I want it to be. 

I started doing this a long time ago (Jr. High? High School?) and for a long time it was as natural to me as breathing.  My mind automatically went to my happy thought every morning as soon as I woke up.  No need to remind myself to do it, I just did.  I still think of my positive thing every morning, but sometimes I'm in the shower before I remember that I forgot to think about it.  Perhaps I'm getting forgetful as I get older. 

Now I am adding to my routine and ending my day by thinking about the thing that I am most thankful for before falling asleep at night.  My moment of gratitude!  Start and end my day with happy thoughts because life is better when you focus on the positive.  I do a lot of  negative things during the day that I regret, but I always go back to the positive. 

This new routine forces me to think of the positive things in my life.  I can't dwell on the negative for long when I have to get to my thankful moment before I drift off to sleep.  I sometimes amaze and surprise myself with the things I choose as the moment I am most thankful for from my day. 

  • The warmth I felt when Troy reached over and put his hand on my leg in the car
  • The easy conversation I had with a friend
  • Realizing that I made someone else smile
  • Sore muscles from work
  • My quick typing fingers
  • Warm socks on a chilly morning

It reminds me of what's important in life.  The things I choose as my moment of gratitude for the day are usually small little things, but are so much more important that than those negatives that I stressed over and turned into big things.  No matter what emotions I experience during the day I choose to end my day by reminding myself of something great.  What do I have to be thankful for today?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Foreign Exchange Students

Map of the World from here

My family was the host family for foreign exchange students when I was in high school.  We hosted a total of 6 students from 5 different countries from the time I was in high school through my early college years. 

Marc from Spain
Lena from Germany
Guilherme from Brazil
Maria from Guatemala
Akiko from Japan
Daniel from Brazil

Guilherme and Daniel are brothers, but they were not here at the same time.  Daniel came a couple years later (after he heard about how cool we were from his older brother). 

Hosting foreign exchange students is such a big learning opportunity, but more importantly, it's a lot of fun!  I always had fun taking them trick-or-treating.  Yes, we were too old to partake in this child's activity, but when someone is only visiting the country for 6 months you go for it.  Ignore the grouchy old lady who says you are too big, because this is the only chance your friend will get to participate in the American tradition of stuffing a pillowcase full of chocolate bars!  I wouldn't want anyone to miss out on that!

I remember building lots of snowmen, and one very intricate snow fort.  We went sledding and ice skating, and there was even some camping when the weather got nicer.  We all learned about the different ways Christmas is celebrated around the world.  They would occasionally cook for us, but mostly they adjusted to eating American food; this was harder for some than it was for others. 

Growing up I remember my mom saying many times that she wanted our family to be a foster family for kids who needed a home.  We never became a traditional foster family, but we were a family to six high school kids that needed a family to love them while they visited a foreign country.  I got along with them all and became amazing friends with many of them.  Their home countries are places that I want to visit simply because it is the home of my foreign brother/sister. 

I have spent endless hours imagining what it would be like to move in with an unknown family in a foreign country.  How would I cope with being away from my own family for 6 months to a year?  Would there be traditions I didn't understand, or wasn't willing to participate in?  What if I didn't like their food?  Would I be able to keep up with the conversation?  I think that is a scary situation for most adults to go in to, let alone a kid.  Imagine the ball of knots that must have been in each of their stomachs as they boarded the plane to come here.  Excited and nervous.  They were brave, much braver than me.  I applaud each of them for taking on such a big challenge in life and coming out stronger because of it. 

I know that they all struggled at some point.  You don't take on a task this big without having your share of good and bad days.  I believe (I hope) that in the end they each had a good experience here in the United States.  I greatly enjoyed having each of them come into my life and they will forever have a place in my heart. 

Thank you Marc, Lena, Guilherme, Maria, Akiko, and Daniel for accepting the challenge to become foreign exchange students and teaching me a little about the world along the way.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for E-reader

Bookshelf from here

I love many things in life and books are high on the list (just below people...and cupcakes).  I fell in love with reading in 1st grade and the love has just kept growing.  I enjoy having a collection of some of my favorite books that I go back and read over and over again.  To buy or not to buy an e-reader has been a long lasting debate inside my head.  Here is my list of pro's and con's:

  • Carry all my books with me in one sleek, stylish, compact e-reader
    • If I'm not feeling the romantic novel I can easily switch to something different
  • They are super cool
  • Some have internet capabilities so I could check my email, or blog
  • Many free books
  • Share books with other e-readers

  • It's not a book, and I would miss the feel of a hard backed book in my hands
  • While there are many free books it still does not compare to the list of free books at the library
  • New books would always be available at my finger tips and the temptation to buy would be great. 
  • The list of people I know with e-readers is very short, so there would not be a great opportunity for sharing

My thoughts on e-readers have been all over the place.  I remember when I first heard about this new fangled electronic device that would replace books and I thought it was crazy; kind of cool, but crazy.  Would people actually buy this?  Did I want to buy one?  I was intrigued, but didn't think that it was for me.  I even checked it out as soon as it came to my local Target and was quick to decide that it was a waste of money.  Only the rich people with money to throw away would buy such a thing!  Little did I know...

Now they are everywhere.  I went through a must-have-it phase about a year ago.  It was at the top of my wish list and I started figuring out how I would come up with the money for one.  I researched the different brands and even added some to my online shopping carts along with some fancy accessories.  I told Troy that if he was secretly saving money to surprise me with a present (he's never done that, but a girl can dream) then this was the present I wanted. 

I never got my e-reader and as time passed I realized that I was not willing to pay the price for a piece of equipment when I would still have to buy the books to put on it.  I guess I am cheap, but I'm ok with that.  I let my dream go and I got a new library card.  If I ever have a job that requires me to do lots of traveling then I may revisit the dream. 

I think that e-readers are perfect for some people, and I do envy their ability to carry hundreds of books inside their purse, but we can't have everything we want in life.  The library is not as convenient because I can't click a few buttons and have a book delivered to my lap instantly, but it's free.  I'm saving a ton of money and that makes me very happy!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dunn's River Falls

Dunn's River Falls Jamaica

When Troy and I went to Jamaica a few years ago we only booked one excursion because we wanted to spend the majority of our vacation laying on the beach.  We had paid a lot of money to go to a nice resort where all we had to do was stick our blue flag in the sand to have a cold refreshing beverage brought right to our lounge chair.  That was the type of vacation we had dreamed of. 

Our one and only excursion was to visit Dunn's River Falls: a waterfall that you climb up.  Once we got there and saw the rushing water we would be fighting against I started to wonder if I could fake a stomach ache and sit this one out.  The closer we got the starting point the more knots I got in my stomach.  I am not an athletic girl and I was by far the most out of shape person in our group.  How did we end up in the group full of athletes?  I saw several groups of people who were more like me (slow and steady) taking an easy route up the side and I finally started to feel at ease that I could do this.

Our guide had other plans for us.  You are required to hold hands (forming a human chain) for the entire climb and our guide decided that the group could pull me along, and choose a hard course, straight up the center.  I focused my eyes on the finish line and told myself over and over that I would not hold my group back.  I could do this!  We zoomed past all those (slow and steady) people I had hoped to join and the strong man holding my hand in front of me got quite a workout pulling me along.  We finally reached the finish line and I looked back on my accomplishment with pride.  I had done it...or so I thought.  Turns out that was just the 1/2 way mark, and an early exit for those (slow and steady) people who couldn't finish the climb. 

I wanted to cry.  My foot was bleeding from a rock that had decided to make my big toe it's new home, and as I looked up at the rest of the waterfall I could not see the actual finish line.  I wanted to take the easy way out and quit at the half way point.  If our guide had asked if anyone wanted to use the halfway point, easy exit I would have said yes.  Thank goodness he did not give us that choice and instead just charged ahead. 

I finished that climb and with my legs shaking like jello I proudly paid the man too much money for a video tape of my journey, because I wasn't quite sure I would believe I had ever done this if I didn't have video proof. 

Troy and I part way up the waterfall

I am proud to say that I have climbed Dunn's River Falls.  I didn't quit!!!!  I also do not hesitate to tell you that for me, once was enough.  I hope to return to Jamaica, but I do not feel the need to climb those falls again!

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Campfire


I grew up going to church camps every summer.  I loved camp so much that I would attend the camp for my age group and be a counselor at the camps for the younger kids.  My family also attended Reunion (or Family Camp) most summers as well.  Camp was the most important part of my summer and there is nothing I would trade those experiences and memories for.

The one thing you can always count on at camp is campfire.  Every night there is a campfire and I never missed a single one.  We sit on the hard ground, gathered around a fire on a hot sticky night, all smelling like bug spray, and we sing, pray, and share our testimonies.  I love campfires.  For some people a campfire may be the pile of wood you burn to cook your food over when camping.  For me a campfire is an event.  An event that leaves me feeling renewed, recharged, and refreshed.

We sing crazy songs that have us doing hip bumps with the people on either side of us.  Sometimes there are silly skits that the teenagers have prepared ahead of time.  The campfire leader slows things down with some more serious songs, and often people will share personal stories that touch our hearts.  I start to gaze into the fire and reflect on my own day, week, life. 

I have not been to a campfire since college and it has been too long!  Troy and I have been talking about attending Family Camp this summer and the thing I am most looking forward to is taking him to campfire.  Troy has never been to a church camp, or a campfire and this is a part of my past I can not wait to share with him.  I know he will love it.  I got a book of campfire songs and I have been refreshing my memory and singing them around the house.  Campfire songs are my favorite type of songs!

I don't know if it's the night air, or the hypnotizing effect of the flames.  Perhaps it's the soothing music, or the closeness you feel sharing a blanket and memories with new friends.  Campfires are magical and I miss them. 

Here is part of one of my favorite campfire songs.  It calms me instantly and leaves me feeling....amazing.  Everytime I start to hum/sing this song I am reminded of so many great campfires at the many camps I attended.  I am very excited to start creating more campfire memories with Troy.

It only takes a spark to get a fire going
And soon all those around
Will warm up to it's glowing
That's how it is with God's love
Once you experience it
You'll want to sing
It's fresh like Spring
You'll want to pass it on

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Beautiful Weather and Bouncing Balls

Looks like Brylly is doing a little dance in the picture above.  Dancing to celebrate the beautiful weather we had today!  My chihuahua, Mya, is a sun worshiper and seeks out spots where she can soak up the heat from the sun.  Today I felt like Mya as I kept moving closer to the edge of the deck as the sun shifted to the other side of the house and the sun line moved.  What a great day to be outside!

I spent some time outside in this beautiful weather playing with Levi and Brylly while Levi taught me a game he invented.  We had to let the ball bounce a certain number of times before it could be caught.  The trick to getting the most bounces out of your ball was to slam it into the ground as hard as you could so that the first bounce would go nice and high, leaving plenty of room for multiple follow up bounces.  I had fun, but each time it was my turn to bounce the ball I thought about what a great workout I was getting for my arms.  I am an adult, thinking about the workout.  Levi is a kid,  having fun.  I'm positive he never thought of the ball game as exercise...just fun. 

This morning I was watching some Ellen episodes I had on the DVR from the past two weeks and during the commercial breaks there are weather updates from the local news station.  I've been so busy at work that I didn't even realize we had tornado watches recently and I completely forgot about the snow we had last weekend.  Now it's in the 80's and bea-u-ti-ful!  The windows are open and there is a breeze blowing through the house.  I heard the birds outside and someone down the block mowing the grass.  What a great day to be alive!

Put aside the to-do list and enjoy the beautiful weather while it's here!

Friday, April 1, 2011

A is for Adult

What does it mean to be an adult?  The dictionary defines it as someone who is fully grown; mature.  You are allowed to vote when you turn 18...does that make you an adult?  The legal drinking age is 21, but that does nothing to help you become more mature.  Car rental companies consider 25 years of age to be mature enough to loan you a very expensive piece of equipment.  Do you become an adult when you get your first real job, or when you pay off the debt you accumulated in your pre-adult days?  Does becoming a parent make you an adult?  What about the first time you deal with a big crisis and don't call your parents for help? 

I am 31 years old and I still have a hard time thinking of myself as an adult.  When I was getting close to graduating from college my friends and I joked about entering the real world and becoming the scary "A" word.  Life sure seems a whole lot easier as a kid, even a 22 year old college kid.  I was going to have be responsible, get a job, cook my own meals, and start paying back those darn student loans I had been living off of.  Would I figure out how to survive without my friends living on the other side of a thin wall?  We joked about how scary it would be, but deep down I was terrified. 

Here it is almost 10 years later and I think I've figured it out.  No, I'm figuring it out.  We are constantly learning and growing, and I have not mastered being an adult.  Fake it until you make it....?

I look at other people my age and view them as adults, yet I still think of myself as a kid playing dress up.  I have a full time job and bills to pay.  I own a house.  I come home every night and fix dinner.  I make my own decisions, right or wrong, and face the consequences either way.  On the outside I am a full blown adult.  I don't have to ask for permission to leave the dinner table without cleaning my plate.  Chores are done (...sometimes) even without the reward of an allowance at the end of the week.  No one makes sure I get up in the morning, brush my teeth, or finish my homework before going to bed. 

I am an adult and I make my own decisions.  As a self proclaimed adult my favorite decisions are to keep acting like a kid!  The other night I had ice cream for dinner, because I am an adult and I can do that.  I sang a kids song, nice and loud, for my coworker at 7 am last week (actions and all)...and I didn't care who else in the office heard me (she acted like I was annoying, but I know that deep down she loved it).  I just asked Troy to name some kid like things I do and he laughed and said it would be easier to name the grown up things I do.  Sounds like I don't have a difficult time embracing my inner child!

Life forces us to become an adult eventually and it's not as scary as I once thought it would be, but it's also important to keep a bit of that child inside you alive and kicking.  Let go of the serious and just go with the flow every once in a while.  Occassionally get selfish and make things all about you.  Lay in the grass and try to find animal shapes in the clouds.
I sat down to write about being an "adult" because I needed something for my letter A in the A-Z blogging challenge, but I learned something about myself in the process.  I sometimes feel like life stresses me out too much and too often, and I complain that being an adult is hard!  As it turns out I spend a lot of time embracing my inner child and I am happier than I realized. 

Being an adult isn't as scary as I thought it would be, but I do miss those mandatory naps we had in Kindergarten!

***As I was typing this post Troy and I were busting a gut in uncontrollable laughter as we took turns trying to do gymnastics on the living room floor.  My inner child is alive and well!