Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thinkin' On Lovely Things

I don't think it's any coincidence that, in this age of Justin Bieber-mania and (insert your favorite sports icon)-worship, the Mutual Theme for our youth for 2011 is the Thirteenth Article of Faith:

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul -- We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." (Joseph Smith)

The footnote to this Article of Faith references Philippians 4:8, which has been my FAVORITE SCRIPTURE for years and years. You will see how similar they are, but pay special attention to the word "any" (used twice) toward the end of the following verse:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

I love this perspective on how to view life. It is so easy to feel frustrated, even sickened, with all of the filth and crudeness that assault us on every front. But we don't have to wallow in all that -- the Lord has asked that we stand on a higher plane, that we not only "think on" but "seek after" that which is virtuous and lovely. Even when it is darn hard to find, if there is ANYTHING PRAISEWORTHY in ANY SITUATION we find ourselves in, we are to hold fast to that.

And guess what? Seeing the good in things, and seeking out the lovely, can be an acquired habit. I know because I'm testing it out. It seems that the more I look for wonderful things that are of good report, the more there are that show themselves. When I choose to focus my virtue-lenses, I see good stuff nearly everywhere!

Examples of what I mean? Well, here's a list from my desk that I've been adding to for the past few days ... as Maria would say, "these are a few of my favorite things" right now, that are making my life a little more beautiful:

1. The photo above is of a fabulous poster on my 13 year-old daughter's bedroom wall. She may have initially preferred a poster of Justin with his new haircut or Taylor with her guitar and amazing eye make-up, but her mother prevailed.

In the back of a recent LDS Living magazine, I found a link to a website that sells posters created by artist Steve Nethercott. The poster you see above depicts this year's Mutual Theme, and I love it because not only does it present the words so beautifully, but the young woman is modest, happy, and her body looks like that of a real girl. The subliminal message to me (and I hope my daughter) is: real joy comes in living a virtuous life and in seeking after the best of things.

On the website, there is also an extensive series of "Who is Your Hero?" posters, with Nethercott's rendition of heroes from American History, the scriptures, and Church history. They are terrific and might be a welcome addition to any child's bedroom wall. (www.realheroposters.com) Check it out! Bonus: Nethercott's products are hugely affordable.

2. Let's be honest, what is our main criteria when we are choosing a shampoo?? Isn't it all about the SMELL?? I am loving my new Organix shampoo and conditioner in "Moroccan Argan Oil" formula. I have absolutely no idea what that means, or why this oil from the "southwest region of Morocco" is so special. And, I can't even testify that it does, in fact, create hair that is "soft, seductive, and of silky perfection". But it does smell so divine that I want to bathe in it. Purchased at Walgreen's for $7 each (light blue bottles with gold caps). Mmmm!!!

3. My husband and I have a new favorite ice cream: Haagen Dazs Five. The "five" refers to its short-list ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and vanilla. What, no guar gum or dextrose-anything?? No, ma'am, it's ice cream straight up, just like it was intended to be.

However, the "pint" isn't even a true pint, but rather just 14 ounces at the same price as the other HD pints, and that really fries me! We try to really just eat a "serving" each (1/2 cup) and it lasts for a couple of evenings between the two of us.

My husband loves macerated strawberries (smooshed with the back of a small glass with a tad of sugar) on his ice cream, and I have been eating the opposite: ice cream on my strawberries: lots of strawberries with just a half-scoop (really!) of ice cream. This way I get the delicious taste of the five yummy ingredients melting down into the strawberry goodness, but I'm not eating the entire pint myself (in one sitting) like I did in the "good (?) ol' days"!

4. I have rediscovered my shelf of nineteen books by my favorite-author-of-all-time, Alexandra Stoddard. I've realized that I am who I am today because of three main influences: the Gospel of Jesus Christ, my mother, and Alexandra. She is a lifestyle expert / author / speaker, and her perspectives and insights would be just about perfect if she had the influence of the Gospel weaving through her brilliant writings on living beautifully. But despite that, she is still so incredibly inspiring! I have absorbed many of her philosophies over my years of studying her books.

If you're interested in checking out a book by Alexandra, I would especially recommend two: one I just finished last night in bed, "Choosing Happiness", and then her first book from the 1980s called "Living a Beautiful Life", which literally changed my life. If you hunger after things of beauty, and strive to make your home and life a reflection of this, I don't think you'll be disappointed. Alexandra has a way of putting into words what my spirit longs for and seeks after.

5. Oh! Before I go any further, CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WINNER OF THE DRAWING from two blog posts ago: (drumroll...) Amber from Maple Valley!!! Amber dear, I know where you live, and I will be sending you your very own Jonathan Adler "Inspire" journal with one of my favorite writing pens. Thank you for your wonderful comments on how you create productive mornings for yourself. I especially love that you completely shower and dress before your children leave for school so that you can hit the ground running right when you kiss them good-bye.

Thank you to the other fabulous women who posted comments both on the blog and in my facebook inbox. You inspire me! I am going to offer some sort of giveaway on a regular basis here on the blog, so keep coming back!

6. If you love to cook OR love to create, have I got the magazines for you!! I was just perusing the QFC racks, minding my own business, when the cover of "Where Women Cook -- The Heart & Soul of Cooking" jumped out at me. I grabbed it, started leafing through, and felt my heart start to race. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!! YES, YES, YES!! Inside were gorgeous photos of women food bloggers' real kitchens, a favorite recipe or two from each, lush photos of women's restaurants, packaging ideas for sharing homemade food with friends, an article about food fresh from the farm, and text written blog-style by these women themselves. And a Blackberry Coffee Cake recipe that my older daughter has already made and served to her friends. There were so many ideas packed into that magazine that it will take me months to process it all. Serious goldmine.

Also, there was a sister magazine perched right there beside it called "Where Women Create", which is the same idea only portraying the crafting areas of highly-creative women bloggers. I'm not much of a craftser, but if you are, you might really love this one.

Drawback: the magazines are $15 apiece, but the quality is top-notch and I will not be tossing it in the recycle bin anytime soon.

7. I'm really trying to purchase fresh, seasonal, and local produce these days. My greatest find today at Tracy's stand: Yakima cherries, which are half yellow / half red, and absolutely delicious. Far and away better than standard red cherries, I think. I lined a rustic bowl with ice cubes and put the cherries on top (to keep them cool), put a tiny bowl next to it for discarded pits, and set it on the kitchen counter ... my daughter and I keep finding ourselves there reaching for another couple of sweet jewels. (The other bounties I came home from Tracy's with: local asparagus, Romaine lettuce, and a half-flat of ruby-red-to-the-center strawberries)

8. My family loves to watch movies, and it is always a challenge to find good ones to rent that are appropriate for us all. I noticed recently on the covers of two terrific videos ("Invictis" and "Flipped") that they had both been awarded something called the Heartland Truly Moving Picture Award. I Googled that and found a site that recognizes especially inspiring movies with positive values. My kind of movies!!

If you visit their site, click on "Find a Film" and there are pages of movies (in order of release year) that have received the HTMP "inspiring" recognition. Many of my favorites are there, along with lots and lots of others I haven't seen ... a great reference when ordering Netflix or when searching for a "good movie" at the local rental store.

9. Here's a cute idea that I swiped from the latest Martha Stewart Living magazine. I had been asked to bring a salad to a potluck dinner recently, and wanted to do something different and healthy.

In clear, plastic, disposable cups (not tumblers, but a little taller with a more narrow base) spoon in 1" of your favorite healthy dip. Peel and cut a variety of colored vegetables into 6" spears: carrots, celery, cucumber, red/yellow/orange peppers. Into each cup's puddle of dip, press one spear of each different veggie. Toss in half a large radish for good measure. Finely chop fresh parsley and put a little sprinkle into each cup. Add a twist of freshly-ground pepper and a scant pinch of Kosher salt. Serve cups gathered together on a large basket tray.

Bonus: no worries of "double dipping" as each person has her own dip-in-a-cup! These were a hit at last week's BBQ. Thanks, Martha.

10. I was driving home from my mom's today and was looking in my console for something inspirational to listen to. I found a lone Disc 3 from an Audio Book called "The Broken Heart -- Applying the Atonement to Life's Experiences" by Bruce C. Hafen. Even though it had chocolate sauce stuck to it, and crumbs stuck to that, I cleaned it off and popped it into the CD player. Oh my goodness! Have you read / listened to this book?? I felt like this chapter, read by Elder Hafen himself, just SPOKE TO ME ... you know how that happens sometimes?

I would highly recommend "The Broken Heart", particularly Chapter Ten, ("Hope") where Elder Hafen discussed what he calls "The Gap", or the distance between the Real (what is) and the Ideal (what ought to be). It is for everyone who, like me, is trying to better line up those two things in their own lives. Good stuff!! Can't wait to give it another listen.

11. (Excuse me while I go grab a few more cherries...okay I'm back) Have you ever used a counter top cleaner spray in your kitchen? I have been lately, and I'm hooked. My favorite is the Cucina brand, in the Coriander and Olive Tree fragrance. I love using this as a last step in cleaning up the kitchen after each meal. Just a little "ta-da" as I finish up that not-very-fun task.

12. Do you have Chipotle Grill "fast-food" restaurants in your area? If so, you are lucky! This is our hands-down favorite place to stop as a family when we're out and about ... Chipotle has won the award repeatedly for freshest, healthiest fast food, and all of their tortillas, beans, etc. are made on-site daily. My favorite thing to order right now is the steak salad, which is a bed of chopped Romaine, black beans, pico de gallo, grilled chopped steak, a sprinkle of Jack cheese, and if I'm feeling a little wild and crazy, a scoop of their INCREDIBLE fresh guacamole. Then, they give you a little container of chili-lime dressing that is practically drinkable. My mouth is salivating just thinking about the dressing.

13. The last "lovely" thing for today: through a favorite blog, I discovered some yummy summer lotion and ordered tubes for myself and for my older daughter. We both love it! It is the energizing body butter by Illume, and the fragrance is a peppermint/grapefruit combination called "Yuzu Mint". It goes on smelling citrus-y, then morphs into a cool mint. Don't know how it does that, but it is fresh and clean and, as promised, energizing. Google Illume if you're interested in learning more.

I hope something in this list made you say "Oooohhh, I want to try that!" Don't you love it when things come highly-recommended from a friend? Many of my favorite lovely things life have been found this way.

What things are you adoring right now? Have you made any terrific discoveries lately? What things add beauty to your life? Share, share, share!!!

I hope you are enjoying your summer week ... stay busy with fun things as well as responsibilities, and don't forget to make time to soak up a few precious moments of sunshine with a glass of fresh lemonade in hand. I'll be back VERY soon with some thoughts on creating a home that is a refuge by focusing on the six (yes, six) senses.

And an update on my Excellent Experiment.

And if you're not an official follower of this blog, but check in regularly, would you leave me a comment here or on facebook and tell me what keeps you coming back? I'd love to know who's reading and why.

As always, loads of love to you.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Know This Woman #2: Julie

I am thrilled to be able to introduce you to another phenomenal person, who I am blessed to call my friend. This lovely woman is also probably the most credentialed gal I know: she attended the University of Washington before joining the LDS Church at age 20 (she grew up RLDS), then transferred to BYU where she earned her undergraduate and law degrees. Julie was a practicing attorney for years, and just recently took down her shingle to focus her complete efforts on her husband, four lovely daughters, and her home. She is a published author of both articles and books, has been our ward Gospel Doctrine teacher extraordinaire, and is now our Primary president. She is the PTA president at her girls' elementary school, and in all her spare time, (whew!) she's an accomplished artist and athlete. Julie has a phenomenal mind, which I lovingly call her "steel trap" ... nothing gets by this girl, and she remembers everything.

But we're not going to focus on any of that. The thing that I love the very most about Julie is her talent in being a devoted friend. Some of the most uplifting, Spirit-charged conversations I've ever had have been with her. We say that we are kindred spirits because we share such similar love for all things spiritual. Many a Sunday evening you will find us on the phone together, talking over the events from Church that day. Julie is one of those rare people who easily sees the good in all people and situations. We give each other synopses of the lessons we heard / taught that day, and marvel over the way the Gospel is working in our, and our ward family members', lives.

For years Julie has gently nudged me toward a more healthy lifestyle. She hooked me up with my first pedometer years ago and has been my walking buddy, usually with one or more of her daughters in tow. Rarely do I leave her home where she isn't coaxing me to try some new dish that she has created, or plucking a home grown veggie of some sort from her garden for me to sample. In my eyes, Julie is a Word of Wisdom EXPERT (and a self-described "foodie"), who is on a constant quest to create foods for her family that are both healthy and delicious.

I thought it would be fun to do a real "interview" with her, so that you might glean from her insights and passion, too. Following are five questions that I emailed to her, and in italics are her responses. I have taken the liberty of bolding key points that particularly struck me.

If you aren't familiar with the Word of Wisdom, it is a revelation received by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1833, in response to his inquiring of the Lord about the use of tobacco by the brethren in early Church meetings. This Word of Wisdom is found in the Doctrine & Covenants, Section 89. There are 21 verses, and you can go HERE to read it in its entirety.

Following the interview, stick around at the bottom of the blog post for a list of ten yummy things that Julie has shared with me.


(Julie) For me, the critical question was one we all have to ask ourselves when we move away from home and start trying out our own wings: "What is this going to look like in my life?" At some point after leaving the nest, we all have to make those critical decisions about how we are going to live our individual lives.

Tossed into a system where sleepless nights, high stress levels, and nutritional apathy were the norm, it took me a little while to figure out what choices I was going to make on the eating spectrum. I had decided early in my life that most of the "abstinence" list (contained in the Word of Wisdom) were things I had no desire to touch. I found the biggest transition involved learning to put 'what I was going to eat' on the radar far enough in advance to ensure that there were Word of Wisdom-friendly foods in my apartment. This made it possible for me, in the time crunch, hectic, grab-and-go collegiate life, to grab things friendly to my body. When I didn't do this (which happened more frequently than I'd like to admit), I could feel a difference in my energy levels.


(Julie) The blessings for me that come from living the Word of Wisdom mirror blessings I have experienced from following any principle or law Heavenly Father gives us. I came from a family where I saw early-on the devastating effects that addiction can wage on individuals and families. I had a relative who struggled unsuccessfully to battle an alcohol addiction his entire life. Though our contacts with him were infrequent, they were enough to vividly impress the freedom that comes from avoiding the addictive substances outlined in the Word of Wisdom. As I have grown, every experience I have had has reinforced that truth to me. We are blessed with freedom to choose. Following the Word of Wisdom helps us to retain that freedom.

As an adult, as I read, ponder, and try to implement the Word of Wisdom, I find that many of the blessings promised in the revelation have come to me as a result of those efforts. I will read a section, and find specific thoughts and promptings come to me through the week, as I try to follow what I have read. The "wisdom" and "treasures of knowledge" have come frequently. I also find that when I am closely trying to follow ALL of the Word of Wisdom, my energy levels, attitude, and ability to accomplish my busy schedule are all significantly helped.


(Julie) Unlike the agrarian generations in the past, where the Word of Wisdom diet (lots of grains, seasonal fruits and vegetables, supplemented by a bit of available meat) mirrored the available resources, following the Word of Wisdom today requires effort. We live in a "non-friendly" Word of Wisdom culture. The scope of available food offerings and plethora of prepared and fast foods makes following the Word of Wisdom diet impossible without effort. We have to read labels just to figure out what we are eating. (Is this product that looks like a grain-based product actually grain, or is it mostly additives??)

Couple the effort required with the fast-paced life we live, where the whole concept of preparing dinner is becoming antiquated, and it becomes another item on the "to do list". I think many Latter-day Saint women are struggling just to get the 'check list' of things we must do each day done. It becomes easy to fall into the "comparative righteousness state": "At least I'm preparing dinner ... which is better than what she's doing."

I think that sometimes LDS women also feel like in their hectic lives, it's hard enough even to get the scriptures open. If given a choice, many aren't going to delve into the Word of Wisdom with that precious spiritual time. The interesting thing, however, is it is one of the principles in the scriptures that has the greatest promised return for one's effort! The blessings promised for obeying the Word of Wisdom are huge and miraculous: the Passover blessing (preservation of life) given to the Jews of ancient Egypt are promised, spiritual blessings are promised, and physical blessings are promised. These blessings are promised to ALL who follow the Word of Wisdom. As LDS women, if we establish a household which serves Word of Wisdom-compliant meals, those blessings apply not only to us individually, but to our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, and any who eat at our table. It is not hard, and the blessings are immense.


(Julie) I'm really focusing on the part about eating meat sparingly right now. Many of our modern meals are planned around "meat as the main dish". Part of that is tied to our economic prosperity. Interestingly enough, in a lot of other cultures, meat is used as more of a condiment or flavoring, augmenting the grain and vegetables which is the main offering. I am enjoying exploring some of the recipes of other cultures to see how well I can implement some of their dishes.

I think men, especially, sometimes wonder if a meal where meat is not the center star can be "satisfying". I am enjoying experimenting to create dishes that are "great" and not just "a great dish without a lot of meat".


(Julie) I think it has to start with a careful, prayerful reading of Section 89. Like any other rightous desire, if we want to follow the Lord's commandments, He will help us. The initial read might prompt a small change, followed by progressive changes.

We cannot apply the Word of Wisdom without knowing what we are eating. Label reading is a must! I also think thoughtful grocery shopping is crucial. Having fresh (or freshly frozen) fruits and vegetables on-hand is important
. Having whole grains available in your pantry is also critical. When we need a last-minute supper (which, for many of us, is all we have time for), we will use what we have on hand.

Hooking up with friends for great, quick recipes (or even surveying your own recipes for Word of Wisdom-friendly choices) will increase the chance you will use them when you need a quick "go-to" meal, and will decrease the likelihood of an all-out rebellion in your home if this is a big departure from what you have been serving.

Thank you, Julie!! Isn't she terrific?? This is one woman who truly practices what she preaches. Below are a few of the many food combinations or preparations that Julie has taught me about:

1. Roasted vegetables, in nearly any combination (in the oven or on the grill);
2. Couscous with fresh veggies, feta, toasted almonds, lemon juice and olive oil;
3. Using a little orange juice as a sweetener, or flavor enhancer in savory dishes;
4. Buffalo burgers (very low-fat, had my first one at their cabin on the lake);
5. Home-grilled fish tacos with the appropriate garnishes (chopped cabbages, tomato salsa, and homemade yogurt white sauce), brought to our family last month after my husband's emergency appendectomy;
6. Whole wheat pita pockets spread with soft herbed cheese, filled with greens tossed with balsamic vinaigrette;
7. Angel food cake spread with a thin layer of lemon curd, topped with fresh berries;
8. Slow-cooked oatmeal with nuts/seeds/dried fruit bits (also at the lake);
9. Pureed sweet potato added to homemade chicken noodle soup to thicken and add richness;
10. Shaved Parmesano-Reggiano as a secret ingredient to salad of field greens and balsamic vinaigrette.

Finally, at Julie's recommendation, I have been following AND LOVING Skip Hellewell's fabulous blog called "Word of Wisdom Living". Check it out!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Reclaiming the Morning - Week #17

Welcome friends! Come on in and visit ... I've been waiting for you!

Without too much fanfare, (Oh, now, what is that I hear?? BELLS? WHISTLES?? MARCHING BAND??? CHEERLEADERS????) I must say at the get-go that I have finally lost 30 pounds!!! I have been working hard to get here, and it has taken nearly four months. It feels tee-rrific.

What's the best part, you ask? I'd have to say that I no longer openly cringe every time I catch my reflection in a mirror. I'm pretty much down to one respectable chin now, but I've added some new calf and thigh muscles, so quid pro quo, ya know? What was the hardest part? Trying to eliminate snacking after dinner. Which I haven't yet completely conquered. How has my life changed? I am medicine-free, joint pain-free, sleeping well, running 12 miles per week, and plain old feel a whole bunch closer to what I'm supposed to feel like. Most fun change? I catch my husband smiling at me at random times, and his eyes light up as he tells me I look great. Not gonna lie, it's pretty amazing.

It's true, I've "miles to go before I sleep", but today I'm celebrating. Thank you SO MUCH for the encouragement, support, and love you've given me throughout the first part of my Excellent Experiment. The greatest compliment you can pay me is that what I share here has made some kind of difference in your life, too. It is wonderful knowing that we're in this together.

One overhaul that I'm making in my life, that goes hand-in-hand with my "get healthy" journey, is capitalizing on my morning hours. I began to see that if I didn't have somewhere to be first thing, I'd drag around the house in my jammies, talk on the phone, sit at the computer, watch a DVRd TV show ... before I knew it, it was 11:00am and the lovely morning hours were gone and my day was off to a schlumpy start. As I have set out to RECLAIM THE MORNING, everything in my life has improved.

Og Mandino sums it up perfectly:

"Welcome every morning with a smile. Look on the new day as another special gift from your Creator, another golden opportunity to complete what you were unable to finish yesterday. Be a self-starter. Let your first hour set the theme of success and positive action that is certain to echo through your entire day. Today will never happen again. Don't waste it with a false start or no start at all. You were not born to fail."

By now you know that I'm a list-maker. The idea of my List of Dailies has seemed to resonate with some of you, so I offer up my Ideal Morning Plan in the hopes that you'll find something else that will inspire you to improve in some way. Or, if you've got this "down", I'd love to hear what YOU do to make the most of the first part of the day.

The following Plan is based on the assumption that I have nothing going on on this particular morning. I am home until after lunch time. If this is the case, then what you see below is what I am using as my routine, or morning ritual. On the frequent days that other duties call, though, I do what I can -- it is extremely helpful for me to have a concrete list of what I know works for me in the morning, and I use whatever time I have to do what I can to start the day off right.


Awaken ... good morning! Take a moment to mentally embrace the day ahead and to let myself be EXCITED for the possibilities it holds. Smile a big cheesey smile ...force it, if necessary ... it's amazing what this can do to jump start my attitude. Do a couple of easy stretches before my feet hit the floor.

Throw open the bedroom drapes and the window, regardless of the weather. Let the sun shine in!! Take a deep breath of fresh, morning air. Hello, day!! What sounds do I hear outside?

Most likely my handsome husband is already up and out for a morning surgery or a run, or he is pounding out emails in his office down the hall. Cheerfully wake up my beautiful 13 year-old daughter if she's not yet up.

Wash face with invigorating cleanser, brush teeth, brush hair ... take a deep breath, exhale, and hop on that scale to see where I'm starting today. No matter what it says, remember how far I've come and commit to staying strong today. Wipe off bathroom counters. (in honor of Eileen)

Tidy room, put away folded, clean clothes on dresser, make bed. Look around and feel good about how the bedroom and bathroom look. Dress in clean exercise clothes.

Turn on swing-arm lamp over bedside table. Sit down on Chinese stool at bedside and think about how the light symbolizes the Heavenly Light that is available for me this day if I allow myself to access it. Say morning prayers, remembering to ask for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Open Inspiration Journal and make a quick plan for the day ahead. Briefly organize meals, exercise, housekeeping To Dos, places to be, people to remember, errands to run. Leave mental room for ditching everything if the Spirit prompts me in a different direction at any point during the day.

Go downstairs. Put on a cute apron. Be happy about the job I've chosen to sign up for. I am a wife/mother/homemaker!! Take it seriously!

Open windows, put load of laundry in the washing machine, sweep front and back porches, water flowers on porch. Turn on News Radio so that I'm abreast of what is going on in the world today. Remember what I've planned for dinner ... does meat need to be taken from freezer? Do I have all ingredients? Is it a crockpot day??

Make breakfast for family. Choose placemats, pretty glasses, flowers for table! No matter how simple the meal, little details make it special and lovely. Say blessing together. Talk about who's going where and when. Make a mental note to be at the day's crossroads for my family.

Take daughter to school. Make an effort to have a real connection about what is ahead in her day. Laugh together. Tell her I love her. Tell her how nice she looks. Give her a hug. Remind her that I'll be in the usual place at 2:35pm. Watch her walk in to school and be in awe of how terrific a young lady she is.

Back at home: Touch bases with handsome husband if he's still home, or via text/email if he's off and running, about what he needs me to do today for him. Errands? Phone calls? Change in his calendar? Dry cleaning? Make sure his items are near the top of my list today.

Yoga time! (without the apron, of course) Unroll purple mat in family room, light candles (because it just seems yoga-ish), and turn on wonderful AM/PM Yoga DVD. Be aware of sun streaming in window, or rain pounding on patio, or breeze blowing the curtains. Center here, and recommit to the things I prayed about earlier. Remember the sacredness of my physical body ... it is a temple ... ease into stretches and concentrate on breathing. Feel inner health improve. Acknowledge peace.

Feed Harry Doodle, and have a cup of warm herbal tea. Study the scriptures for 20-30minutes, if possible. Seek inspiration relating to what is on my mind.

Apron back on. Spend one hour on the day's housekeeping. I am on a mission to prove that it is possible to keep a house quite nicely with just one hour of work per day. Not including laundry and dishes. More on this later.

Head out for a run if it's M, W, F, or Sa. If not, shower, dress, and tackle the rest of the day. Think about all I've accomplished this morning ... let it make me really, really happy. Know that my stage is set for success today.

If you are like me, having an Ideal Plan to refer to might bring you peace and help you feel more accomplished. If you are not like me, you may think all of this is utter nonsense! And that's okay! I know that for me, if many of the above things are in order in the morning, I am able to concentrate on living my life for the remaining hours of the day. If I'm struggling to play catch-up until dinner time, I feel frazzled, frustrated, and unaccomplished. And I really, really don't like that feeling.

Now. As a little treat because you actually read this far down my blog post, I am going to offer a little give-away. I have an extra copy of the beautiful little inspiration journal that I have been using to plan with. If you will answer the question below by posting a comment before June 19, I will put your name in a lil' drawing and you'll have a chance to win my extra journal. Sounds like a win-win situation for us both! You inspire me with a few of your words of wisdom, and I just may send you a prize. Here's the question:


Hope to hear from you! See you back here really soon. xoxoMacy

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Poet Enough - Week #16

Hello, friends! I am into Week #16 of my Excellent Experiment and have set up what feels like permanent camp on this darn plateau. I have not been able, for the life of me, to lose another pound since my birthday weekend. I am holding strong at negative 29. Can you believe it??!

Glass half full: I haven't gained an ounce! Wo-hoo! Glass half empty: Sheesh. (imagine head shakes) Major frustration. A dose of discouragement.

BUT!! The cool thing is this: despite the "situation", I have not lost hope. Well, I momentarily did yesterday, but my amazing husband talked me down from the proverbial ledge. I have reevaluated, reprayed, and recommitted to myself to win on this battlefield. I WILL NOT GIVE UP!!! Nope, not gonna.

Yesterday my mind kept running through this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke:
"If your every day life seems poor, don't blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not a poet enough to call forth its riches; for to the creator, there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place."

I decided to ditch the grumpiness and access my inner poet, to create for myself a little slice of loveliness and gratitude right smack in the middle of a too-busy afternoon. You can see in the photo above what I did: opting to let the sunshine affect my mood, I took with me out to the patio a basket containing the following things:

1. Thank-you note cards and envelopes, cute stamps, and my favorite Pilot G2 .07 writing pen;
2. An old book that I had just pulled off the living room shelf called "Choosing Happiness" by my favorite author of all time, Alexandra Stoddard;
3. A cup of Fuji apple slices and a goblet of iced lemon water.

I was behind on thank-you notes and loved the idea of focusing outside myself, and on the kindnesses of my friends ... to set my mental stage, I read Alexandra and found some wonderful quotes from wonderful minds on how to be happy. I liked a few so much that I wrote one on the back of each colored envelope! An hour and a half later, notes were written, apple slices were eaten, disgusting tennis ball had been repeatedly thrown for my faithful Doodle, and evidence of the long-elusive sunshine now showed on my arms and legs. I felt great!

I have always loved to write and receive letters. I have bundles of ribbon-tied, special notes tucked away here and there. You know the feeling you get when you pull the mail out of the mailbox and you catch a glimpse of the corner of a colored envelope with someone's REAL HANDWRITING on it?? So exciting, especially amidst all of the junk mail and bills.

My first penpal was my father's mother, Grandmother Dorothy, who lived in Florida, 3,000 miles from my home in southern California. When I was eight, she and I began writing back and forth ... she was delightfully interested in my little-girl life, and would always follow-up with questions based on my last letter. Her lilac-scented letters in her quirky cursive writing were always written on floral stationary. Each was filled with sentences accentuated heavily with exclamation points, smiley faces, and little doodles in the margins. Every one was a gift, and despite our age difference, we became real pals.

Grandmother and I both loved to write about the "mysteries" (books) we were reading (me: Nancy Drew, her: Agatha Christie), and one time she surprised me by sending a box full of her favorite old, dusty paperbacks. This is especially tender to me now, as I never got to meet Grandmother Dorothy in this life. But I still have a little stack of her notes and a few of her mysteries. Both are precious to me.

One more personal experience with a letter received:

In fifth grade, I was chosen to be the narrator for our 5th/6th grade chorus' patriotic program. We performed right in the middle of our town's local mall, and I remember stepping down from the risers in my blue gingham long dress, my hair back in a bun, and nervously approaching the microphone. As the chorus behind me softly sang the first verse of "This is My Country", I delivered my first lines: "What difference if I hail from North or South, or from the East or West? My heart is filled with love for all of these..."

A week after the performance, I received a beautiful little light blue envelope (with a bird sticker on the back) in the mail. The mother of a girl I didn't really know had seen our show, and she took the time to write TO ME to tell me what a nice job I did on my part. AND she told me that I looked lovely in my dress and that she was sure that my parents must be very proud of me. I unfolded, re-read, and folded that letter over and over during my tenth year. Someone I didn't even know had taken a bit of their time to communicate kindness to me. I was in love with this idea of sharing through the handwritten word.

In today's world of fast-fast-fast emails, texts, IMing and the like, we are sacrificing the art of letter-writing. I want to hang on to this practice, to drop a note to someone when I feel impressed to. I want to be able to feel the little rush of excitement when I open MY mailbox and see something personal, just for me. Writing a note is on my list of "Dailies", and I try to send at least one per week. Dropping those stamped envelopes in the local mailbox almost guarantees a smile on the receiving end, as well as a happier heart for me, the sender.
"Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." (Marcel Proust)

What are your earliest memories of letter-writing?? Do you make time to send notes through the mail?? If so, how do you keep this art alive in your life??