New Year, New Goals

Happy New Year! We made it to 2018!

These first few days of the new year are when many of us decide to start up a new set of resolutions. The whole year stretches in front of us and holds so much potential for getting things done and making changes in our life. Three hundred sixty five days in which we can attempt to accomplish our goals, to make our dreams come true, to become a better person, and so on.

I have a love/hate relationship with goals. I love the feeling of completing a goal, especially one that I’ve been working hard to accomplish, but I hate the getting-started part. It’s so much easier to drag my feet than it is to jump into a new project that I know will take some effort. I can also overthink and over-research something, making it feel as though I am truly involved in my goal, when in fact I haven’t even done much of anything at all. Although, I must say that I’m generally a highly productive procrastinator, and have gotten much better at doing things in a timely manner ever since I had my kids.

resolutions

This is a great list!

Overall, my resolutions have been simple and fairly consistent for the past handful of years, and they are created and revised throughout the year, not just in January. In a nutshell…

I want to appreciate more, grouch less. Read more, Facebook less. Pray more, worry less. Run more, walk less. Do more, daydream less. Listen more, talk less. Explore more, shy away less.

Here are some more:

  • Seeing as I have four different cameras, I really should take more photos. It might be good to also organize the hundreds thousands of digital ones I have saved on my computer. Some are pretty good, so maybe I should also frame a few. Time permitting, maybe I can join a local photography cohort, or take a photography class at the community college.
  • I did my first ever half marathon two months ago and I thought it was something I’d only do once. Well, two days ago I just signed up to run that half marathon again in November! This time, I plan on stepping up my training, especially now that I know what to expect. I’m not going to lie, though, it’s really hard to get up in the morning to put in the miles. As a friend of mine (who’s also a runner) once told me, “…the hardest part of any race is not getting to the finish line. It is getting to the start line.” We’ll see how it goes this year.
  •  On a bookshelf near my kitchen, there sits a cookbook that has been sadly collecting a layer of dust. It has recipes from all around the world. In fact, its title is The Around the World Cookbook. I cannot remember if I bought the book for myself or if I received it as a gift. In any case, I’ve made a few of the over 350 recipes in it, but the book has mostly sat unused. It would be great if I could use this cookbook to make more delicious and interesting meals throughout the year. Maybe 2-3 a week? Perhaps tomorrow’s dinner will be “Tilapia in Tumeric, Mango, and Tomato Sauce” as made in Africa. Maybe one day I’ll make “Lamb Pilaf” like they do in the Caribbean. My daughter would probably like to bake some French “Brittany Butter Cookies” with me. For a special occasion such a dinner party, I’d like to make “Morrocan-style Roast Lamb” with “Seven-vegetable Couscous” and finish it with “Moroccan Serpent Cake” for dessert. Keep an eye on my Recipes page here; you might see more from me as I try things out.
  • Reading is my life. I love to read. Absolutely love it! And yet, I find myself struggling to find time to read. You working parents out there know what I’m talking about. So at work on my lunch break, I try to read some. At home when I find a few spare moments, I try to read some. When I’m at the doctor or dentist’s office waiting to be seen, I try to read some more. Right now I am on Winter Break and it has been so nice to have extra time to read! These days I’m reading (and loving!) Uncommon Type: Some Stories by Tom Hanks.
  • Here’s a fairly simple but important one: drink more water. It’s not that I drink soda or coffee all of the time, in fact I rarely do. It’s just that I don’t drink enough water. As a teacher, I notice my water bottle goes untouched sometimes for hours at a time. At home, I have to remind myself to drink water. I like water, but I just don’t ever think to drink it often enough.

So how about you? What are your resolutions?

goals        dreams

As always, please feel free to leave any comments and to click “Like”. Thanks for stopping by! ❤

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My two-year-old son has recently started to “feed” his action figures, some toys, and his sister’s dolls. It’s great to see him using his imagination and acting out how he interprets real life! This is the first time that I was able to get some photos of him, and he actually created quite the pretend scene!

Have a happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Feeding his toy dinosaur.

Feeding his toy dinosaur.

T-Rex is at the top of the animal cracker food chain!

T-Rex is at the top of the animal cracker food-chain.

My Mind Is Full, Not Mindful

It’s hard to be mindful when your mind is full.

You may have heard a lot about “mindfulness” these days. There are tons of websites, magazines, self-help books, etc, all devoted to the concept of mindfulness. There are even coloring books to help foster mindfulness! In addition to the coloring, they include mindful quotes or mindful meditations. I love coloring! I’ve always known how soothing and calming it is, long before mindfulness really became a thing. Maybe I should think about getting one of these coloring books, because my mind is too full and not enough mindful.

If you aren’t sure what being mindful is all about, check out this link for an explanation and video. Basically, mindfulness is a practice of deliberately and purposely directing your attention inward, in the present, and without judgement.

After doing my research and giving it a (short and completely unscientific) try, here’s what I know about mindfulness in my own life:

  • My life feels frantic too much of the time.
  • When our mind goes on autopilot, we sometimes get some pretty good ideas. However, the majority of mine seem to get lost in the fog of not being alert.
  • I really have no idea how to lessen the amount of ideas, concerns, plans, worries, and thoughts in my head, nor quiet all of the other inner dialogue happening in there.
  • Even while trying to be mindful and focus on writing this piece, I’ve already caught myself:
    • losing my train of thought countless times
    • debating when I should wrap Christmas gifts
    • thinking about the Foo Fighters concert I went to recently (It rocked!)
    • planning dinner for later tonight
    • wishing I could go out of town for my birthday, which is coming up really soon
    • worrying over whether something I ordered online will be delivered soon, or if it got lost in the mail
    • feeling bothered that it’s taken two weeks just to get this blog post done.
  • Having young children who are constantly asking for me or need my help makes mindfulness low on my list of priorities.
  • I really want a mindfulness coloring book… and some time to actually sit and color it.

Happy holidays! If you have any easy tips that I can attempt toward mindfulness, please let me know. Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Life’s Gifts

Recently someone asked me what I wanted for Christmas, if I had a wish list. What more could I possibly wish for, want, or need?

I have been blessed with two of the most wonderful children in the world! Emily is so kind-hearted and artistic and smart! She has such a positive attitude! Logan is curious and cuddly and fun! He loves figuring things out. They have brought so much joy and love to my life, and I am so honored to be their mother. Watching them play together warms my heart, and hearing them laugh is the best! They truly are the greatest gifts I’ve ever received!

This year, I celebrated 10 years of marriage with my husband. He offered me a piggy-back ride the day I met him back in 2003, and his playful nature was definitely something which set him apart from others. We’ve had so many adventures together! The man I love is smart, funny, clever, imaginative, strong, and has an intrepid spirit. We have conversations about all sorts of topics and he encourages me to dream big. He was there to cheer me on at a critical point of my half marathon back in November. He’s made my world so much more amazing.

My health is a gift. The older I get, the more aware of this I’m becoming. I don’t get sick too often, nor am I plagued with aches and pains. I was able to do a half marathon and it didn’t kill me! Hooray! I’m actually thinking about doing it again next year to see if I can finish it faster.

There’s still a lot I can learn, but in general, God has given me the gift of talent in photography. There’s pride in seeing my work on display or having it praised by others in the photography field.

My family and friends are reliable sources of love, fun, and support. I’ve got a rewarding career working with children, and have some great coworkers. This blog’s readership has steadily grown over the years. My home is cozy, humble, and comfortable. I’ve been on some incredible and truly memorable trips around the world.

My life is a gift. This one didn’t really sink in until my brother passed away, and then it was a hard truth that every day we have is precious. Since then, I’ve tried to live a life that has more adventures and less regrets, more love and less bickering, more doing and less wishing, more spiritual guidance and less selfish pursuits. Life’s not always easy, but I pray for God to guide me to make the best decisions and to take the right paths in life.

Thanks for stopping by! Happy holidays! ❤

Incidents of Coincidence

Coincidences happen all the time. Sometimes, they happen so subtly that we barely give them any thought. We may pause for a second, trying to grasp at the connection, but by then the moment is gone. Other times, the coincidence is so startling or obvious that we are stunned with clarity, and at the same time confusion, as the chain of events and life’s details surrounding this crazy event all came to be.

The older you get, perhaps the more you start to see coincidences playing a part in your life. Is it Fate? Intuition? Destiny? God’s plans? Are they merely random incidents to which we want to assign meaning and make important? My husband is very scientific and he views coincidences as just indiscriminate occurrences. I’m much more spiritual and so I feel that coincidences are not random at all, but intentional. God or the Universe is trying to make me take notice.

Here’s an example of a coincidence that happened to me. Prior to getting my current job, I was confused. I wasn’t sure if teaching was for me. I was exhausted from trying to teach a class full of inner-city students who didn’t seem to care. I was upset about not having my contract renewed. I was worried about my finances. I was miserable from job-searching for a new teaching position.

And then I got a call for a job interview at a small, nonreligious, private school in my city that I had never even heard of, but I had applied for anyhow. I prayed to God, telling Him that I was skeptical and that I was nervous. I drove up to the place, and not knowing where the school’s office was, I accidentally parked in the back of the school. I got out of the car to try to locate the office, and immediately noticed a holy cross on one of the buildings. The coincidence of seeing that cross made me smile, somehow relaxed me, and I aced the interview! Eleven years later, I am still working there!

A trouble is that we can try to make everything into a coincidence, when really it’s just the daily minutiae of life happening. It can be hard to find a balance when we want to feel like we are following the right path in life, but feel lost, and so we search for coincidences that just maybe aren’t there. Perhaps coincidences really are merely random events that just happen to connect to each other? Maybe they are life’s way of making things that don’t make sense to make sense.

Whatever the case, my interest in coincidences has made me so much more curious and mindful about the events in my life. They’ve also made me curious about the coincidences of others, and so I’ve been reading up on all sorts of them on the web and in books. One of my favorites is about a novel written by an author named Morgan Robertson. This novel is about an “unsinkable” ship, named the Titan, which collided with an iceberg in the month of April and sank. This story was written in 1898, which was FOURTEEN years before the real ship called the Titanic met the same fate of being called unsinkable, colliding with an iceberg in April, and sinking! Incredible!

I’d love to hear about any of your curious coincidences! Feel free to leave them in the comments. Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Photography Challenge

As some of you with a Facebook account may have seen lately, there’s a seven-day black and white photo challenge that has been going around. Every day for a week, you’re supposed to post one black and white photo of your everyday life, as well as “nominate” a friend to try the challenge. Some versions of the challenge state that you’re not allowed to give an explanation of the photos, others state that you aren’t allowed to include photos of people. It would be fun to know who starts these things and makes up the rules.

After only a few days, my news-feed has been flooded with black and white photos. Some were rather random, and some were really quite impressive. Black and white photography usually has a way of making the mundane look more intriguing. Taking away the color encourages us to see the image in a different way.

Well, I got “nominated” to do the challenge, and being the amateur photographer and amateur writer that I am, I’ve decided to put my photos here with a few words about them underneath each photo. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this seems like the perfect time of year to do this challenge. To look for the little things in life and appreciate them more. So without further ado, here are seven black and white photos of my current everyday life. I hope you like them!

Leaves

Fall is my favorite season. I love stepping on crunchy leaves. I love how stunning the trees look right now. This one was taken along one of the sidewalks at my work.

Souvenir

I got this souvenir from Portugal when I studied abroad there in 2003. It’s the famous Galo de Barcelos. They’re supposed to bring good luck. Behind it is a fun mouse pad I made with photos of my daughter, husband, and myself, when it was still just the three of us. Both of these items are on my desk at home, where I sit, stare at the computer screen, and somehow come up with things to write for this blog.

Medals

These are finisher’s medals for some of the races I’ve done. They’re hanging up in my living room on a nifty display/holder thing, along with all of my race bibs.

Bath Time

No reason for this one, really. I just thought my children’s rubber ducky sitting in the bathtub looked cute.

Fridge

I love how my refrigerator doesn’t just hold food and keep it fresh. It keeps important documents handy, proudly displays pieces of artwork, reminds me of fond memories, and shows the love in our home.

Shoes

These running shoes have been with me for over 500 miles. I’m babying them because Brooks doesn’t make this style anymore.

Caldo Verde

It’s fun to cook, and this is a photo of the beginnings of Portuguese kale soup. This is one of my favorite comfort foods to eat. It’s called caldo verde and it has linguica, kale, potatoes, garlic, and other delicious ingredients.

Challenge done. Thanks for stopping by! ❤

Half Marathon, Full Heart

I did my first half marathon this past Sunday. Another thing to check off my bucket list! In a nutshell, the early morning was cold, my legs began to ache at around mile 9, and I finished just slightly better than I had hoped, although still pretty slow. There were a few great signs along the way. I think the best one I saw said, “I woke up early, too! Just to make this sign!” My trusty MP3 player kept me company along the many, long miles and I finished the race to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation.” How amusing it was to see women running their races in full makeup, and I think one woman was even wearing false eyelashes! I got passed up by runners who were clearly much older than me, but I figured that it made them feel good to pass up someone young. All was balanced in the world.

This is going to sound odd, but the best part of the race wasn’t crossing the finish line, it was when I got my finisher’s medal. I had crossed the finish line (Running, not crawling!) and with fatigued legs, made my way forward to get my hard-earned medal. All sorts of volunteers were doing the honors of handing them out, but then someone caught my eye. There was this old, Asian woman, a good six to eight inches shorter than me, and she had the medals all tangled up on her arm. Something about her seemed so genuine, that I skirted around the other volunteers with shiny, new medals in their outstretched hands, and headed straight toward her.

She seemed embarrassed as she tried to detach one of the medals for me and she sheepishly apologized. I told her it was no problem at all, and she got one loose from the bunch. I bent my head down graciously, and as she placed it over my head, I couldn’t help but smile. Somehow, it was as if this old woman was bestowing her wisdom upon me. It was as if all her years of life were brilliantly radiating out of her. It was as if she was blessing me with joy and warmth and grace. I don’t know if she ever ran a race in her entire life, but in those few seconds, we had some sort of spiritual connection. In those few seconds, it felt like she somehow lived vicariously through me, and I was beyond honored and humbled to have shared in that wonderous joy with her.

I actually got a little teary eyed at that very moment. It made me think of life, of loss, of pain, of love, of courage, of possibilities, of coincidences, of breathing, of my late brother, of sunshine, of beauty…of just so many things and all at once. From months of training, to finally crossing the finish line, it was the most perfect moment of this entire half marathon experience.

Half Marathon

My race bib and finisher’s medal.