Archive | November, 2011

52 FEATS – NUMBER 48 (Shutting Up)

29 Nov

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

As I’m nearing the end of my year of Feats, it’s about time I tried this one:  Shutting my piehole.  Clamming up.  Zipping it.  I hate those moments when I’ve realized I should be listening instead of talking.  I’m not sure if I’m occasionally trying to fill awkward silences, or if I’m trying to prove something to someone, but sometimes I just don’t know when to shut up!

I noticed this a week ago when I was on a business conference call.  Much to my chagrin, it seemed like my mouth was talking before my brain had even formed anything concrete to say.  A couple times I completely lost my train of thought, and I wondered later if I came across as a total nincompoop.

I also have this problem with my kids, though in a completely different way.  When they misbehave and I get upset with them, I tend to go on and on and ON AND ON in correcting them.  I know I’ve read in more than one parenting book not to keep beating that dead horse.  Say what you need to say, and end it.  But in the heat of the moment, I tend to run off at the mouth until I’m sure I’ve put them into a stupor and the lesson is lost.

And I think the most important thing is, when you’re talking, you’re NOT listening.  Instead of seeing what you can learn or absorb from the situation, you’re stomping all over it.  So this week I’m going to concentrate on holding my tongue.  Who knows what I may learn?

“Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you’d have preferred to talk.” ~ Doug Larson

Inspirational Yoga

23 Nov

I am frequently inspired in yoga and this weekend was more of the same, only different.  There is an instructor at The Yoga Project that I have grown to love.  I say “grown” because I used to fear her and her Sunday morning class. I only continued to go, because it was literally the only class I could fit into my busy schedule.

To illustrate my point, her nickname among yogis has become “The Velvet Hammer”.  She works you on a physical as well as intellectual level.  She challenges you to go further, work harder, find more, never settle, all with ease, grace, and balance.  The kicker is that she does it all with a big smile on her face and a bubbly, friendly tone of voice.

While I feared her before, I love her now.  While I was sweating away this morning, focusing on the negative voice in my mind, telling me I should cry, I should just give up, I can’t do this; I heard a snicker.  I quickly realized the snicker was actually a giggle and it was coming from the woman practicing beside me.  In that moment, I shifted my perception.

In that moment, hearing the laugh, I felt gratitude; gratitude that I am able to practice yoga, gratitude for the opportunity to challenge myself, gratitude for some time to myself doing something I love, gratitude for the ability to shift my perception.

In every given moment, we have the ability to shift, to move, to change our perception.  We fight against ourselves when we allow those negative thoughts to control what we think about ourselves and our environment. The only thing required for peace and happiness is a shift in perception.

Transitions and shifts in awareness on the mat translate to change in real life.  This morning yoga helped me to realize that it was only my perception this morning that caused me to feel I wanted to cry.  Perception is not reality.  The moment I changed my perception, was the moment I could move forward with the class in joy and gratitude!

52 FEATS – NUMBER 47 (Zooming Out)

22 Nov

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

OK, I realize that the phrase “Zooming Out” may seem a little bit odd.  Please bear with me while I try to explain.

I am a very task-oriented person.  Not goal-oriented, necessarily, but task-oriented –  living and dying by my calendar and to-do lists.  I am constantly writing new things on my list, and checking them off is one of my greatest personal thrills (sad, I know).

But the problem I’ve noticed recently is that I’m totally bogged down by the minutiae.  I’ve become fixated on every little thing that needs to be done, repaired, or cleaned.  I’m in a rut.

For example, I am so focused on the crumbs under my kitchen table that I don’t even notice the table itself, a treasured heirloom from my deceased grandparents.  I’m so worried about decorating for the holidays that I overlook the fact that I already have a beautiful, warm home.

It’s like when I’m driving – I’m constantly staring at the road right in front of me, lost in thought about all the things I need to do that day, never bothering to look around a bit.  Yesterday I decided to “zoom out,” and noted with surprise that we do in fact have some lovely fall colors right here in north Texas!

I suppose it’s like the saying about not seeing the forest for the trees.  I’m so busy with the endless small details of life that not only am I having trouble enjoying it, I’m having trouble even seeing it for what it is.  Time to change my perspective and spend some time admiring the big picture!

Merry Thriftmas!

17 Nov

My daughter with autism has 27 teachers, aides, therapists and bus drivers who interact with her on a daily basis. My son has 16 teachers from school, church and various activities. With Christmas around the corner, I’m trying to think of creative ways to stretchy my giving dollars so that everyone feels the appreciation they truly deserve.

Last week, I caught my dad chucking a bunch of old sheet music; his mother was a piano teacher and church organist. I snatched the weighty stack out of the recycle bin.

“What are you going to do with these?” he asked.

“I’ll think of something,” I said with a slight shrug.

Here’s the something thanks to google and the design guru behind the blog “Primp,” I have inspiration! Behold!!

Vintage Sheet Music Wreath Tutorial

I thought a vintage sheet music wreath would be a perfect addition to my evolving piano room. This one turned out similar to my first book page wreath. It was a very fun and addicting project, made with supplies purchased from either the dollar or thrift store. Total cost= $5!

Here’s what you need:

  • foam wreath
  • cream ribbon
  • glue gun
  • vintage sheet music
  • masking tape
  • a small cup

Let’s get started.

You could use any size foam wreath but the only one the dollar store had the day I went was this really wide one, so…

I just cut it right in half with a knife.

If you buy a thick one like me, just save the other half for when you want to make another book page wreath. Trust me you will–they’re addicting.

Wrap the wreath with a wide ribbon, glueing occasionally as you go. Or you could skip this whole step, especially if your wreath is white or cream.

This one was made out of florist foam and flaked every time I touched it so I definitely wanted to wrap it.

Now tear out about 50 pages of vintage sheet music. This is where it gets really fun. Once you get the idea of how to form each sheet into a cone shape it goes really quick.

This is how you do it:
Take a sheet and place your fingers on the two corners on the long side of the paper.

Keep your left hand still and with only your right hand wrap that corner around.

Continue to wrap in a forward motion.

Twist.

Twist.

Twist.

Keep twisting.

Now twist your left and right hands in opposite directions to tighten the cone.

You can twist a lot to make a skinnier cone or twist less and leave the cone opening bigger. Then secure with a small piece of masking tape.  I used a combination of skinny and big ones.

Once you have a big pile of these you are ready to glue.

Put your cup right in the middle.  This will help you get a nice size circle opening in the center.  You can vary the cup size depending on how big or small you want the opening to be.

Go all around the wreath hot gluing a single layer of cones to the wreath form.  Don’t worry if there are spaces or if it doesn’t look perfect, this layer will be covered up.  Continue with a second layer.

Hang using a piece of ribbon or fabric threaded around the back of the wreath form.  Right now my wreath hangs simply from a small nail but I envision it one day hanging in the middle of a shabby door or gate hung just above the piano.

52 FEATS – NUMBER 46 (Smiling)

15 Nov

I tend to be a moody, morose, and melancholy person.  I’m not trying to spread gloom and doom…that’s just what seems to take over sometimes.  It’s in my head and inadvertently comes out.  And yet, I absolutely adore people who seem genuinely cheerful.  I feel like that could never be me, but lately, I’m knocking the same phrase around in my head, over and over:

Fake it ’til you make it.

What if I just pretend to be chipper?  What if I put on a smile and see if my mood follows?

I tend to have a grumpy puss, and I know that when I’m stressed, my face is particularly expressive.  (Not in a good way.)  I also firmly believe that attitudes, good or bad, are contagious.  I go through that experience every time my husband comes home from a terrible day at work – within minutes, me and the kids are cranky, too.  He passes the negativity on to us, while still hanging on to it himself.  What a neat trick.

As a way to banish the blues, this week I’m going to work on simply smiling.  I may end up looking like Sookie Stackhouse (shout out to True Blood!) with a dimwitted grin stuck to my goofy face, but at least that might be less toxic than letting my stress seep out everywhere.  I’m going to see if plastering that smile on the outside will help to improve my mood on the inside.

Thanksgiving and Beyond: Easy Entertaining Tips

10 Nov


My mom made it look so easy.

She’d whip up a four-course Thanksgiving dinner with the bird thoroughly cooked and yet not dry, gravy with nary a lump and nothing scorched.

Alas, not so with her only child. I sweat, swear and singe my way through the biggest meal of the year. When it’s over, I want to take a 6-hour nap.

But my mom’s failing health has meant the mantle (or, rather, oven mitt) has been passed. In this terrifying new world, I decide the menu, buy the ingredients and cook like crazy.

I’m getting better, too, if only for having three successful Thanksgiving Meals under my belt. But I’m always looking for shortcuts and quick tips. Check out these…and please say a quick prayer for me the morning of November 24!

Make a plan

Take some time to really plan out the event. How many are coming? What’s on the menu? How should the house look? Make a to-do list and set deadlines. Doing as much as possible in advance will make the day of the party that much easier.

Gather your tools

Once the menu is set, review your tableware, serving dishes and cookware to make sure you have what you need. Borrow or purchase what you’re missing. Among today’s options is a growing array of cookware designed to go seamlessly and beautifully from oven or stovetop to even the most formal table, saving time, money and clean-up.

Make the most of your space

The size of the meal may expand during the holidays, but cooking and serving space doesn’t. A countertop toaster oven or high-wattage double burner can be a lifesaver for expanding oven and stovetop capacity. On the buffet table, tiered servers hold appetizers and desserts vertically, rather than horizontally, saving valuable space and creating an attractive display.

Decorate for the senses

Involve all the senses in your decorating scheme. Enlist a spouse or older child to come up with a holiday music playlist or CD. Be sure to include instrumental pieces to play during dinner so it won’t impede conversation.

Fill the house with holiday scents, such as cinnamon, mulberry or evergreen. Scented candles are an easy and attractive way to provide fragrance and a warm glow to any room, and candlelight makes your guests (and one weary hostess!) look 10 years younger.

Enjoy the results

Don’t be so busy playing hostess that you forget to enjoy yourself. Forget about perfection and keep the focus on what matters – family and friends. You may find yours is the party that people look forward to throughout the year.

52 FEATS – NUMBER 45 (Helping Others)

8 Nov

For the original 52 FEATS blog entry, click here.

This week I have the tremendous pleasure of delivering hundreds of food items to two local food pantries.  Each year, my husband and I do a food drive at Halloween, and we split the bounty between these two places that help hungry people in our community.  I do this because hunger is an important issue to me, and I want to help alleviate it in any way I can.

When I’m organizing the donations, it’s not uncommon to see tears in my eyes.  No, it’s not from the backbreaking physical work of crouching down over all those cans; it’s because every now and then I lift up a food item and think about who the recipient will be.  I imagine the real person who will eat this food, and wonder about who they are and what circumstances have led to them being hungry.  I’m humbled beyond words to think that I will be helping them.

I’ve long wanted to add volunteer work into my schedule (there’s always time), but I’ve been held back simply because I can’t decide which organization to help.  Isn’t that ridiculous?!  I’m wasting time simply because I can’t make up my mind.  Meals on Wheels?  Women’s shelter?  Hospice?  Animal shelter?  They all have such a need, I wish I be everywhere at once.

But like I said, this indecision is causing me to waste time that I could be helping someone – anyone.  So this week, in addition to delivering all that food, I’m going to decide on how I want to give my time helping others.  Maybe I’ll just flip a coin.  It really doesn’t matter – I just need to get out there and do it!

Register Now for the Jack Eight Fund Poker Night!

3 Nov

Over two years ago, my cousin’s girlfriend, Jessica, came up with the idea for the Jack Eight Remembrance Fund.  It’s a fundraising organization whose sole mission is to raise money for education, support, and prevention of suicide.  The cornerstone of the Jack Eight Foundation is the annual poker night, held every November on the National Survivors of Suicide Day.  Each year, the proceeds from the annual poker night go to a different charity, chosen each year for their substantial contributions to suicide awareness and prevention.

This year, the Jack Eight Remembrance Fund is partnering with The Alliance of Hope (www.allianceofhope.org), a wonderful organization that supports the survivors of suicide loss through online forums where survivors can connect with other survivors, obtain information, and find real-world resources to support them in their journey.

For many people who still feel backed up against the strong wall of negativity and stigma surrounding suicide, an online support group can be a very important tool for opening up, sharing experiences, and obtaining help without leaving home.

Ronnie Walker founded The Alliance of Hope to fill a void in support services for those grappling with the devastating aftermath of suicide.  The online services provided transcend time and distance, reaching survivors all over the world.  We are proud to be supporting her organization.

OFFICIAL DETAILS FOR THE 2ND ANNUAL POKER AND BINGO TOURNAMENT

WHAT:  No-Limit Texas Hold’em and Bingo Tournament

WHEN:  Saturday, November 19th, 2011 at 5:00 pm

WHERE:  The Diamond Club at The Ballpark in Arlington

WHY:  Each year, the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving is National Survivors of Suicide Day.  As survivors, we have lived through a difficult, challenging loss.  On this day, we recognize our loss, take pride in our accomplishments, and raise money to help those who are struggling with the loss of a loved one to suicide.

SILENT AUCTION:  There will be a silent auction during the event.  Please bring cash or checks to cover any bids you may place.

POKER: LIMITED SEATS AVAILABLE.  Register now to save your seat.  Pass-the-deal poker, 1st and 2nd places receive prizes.

COST:  With pre-registration, the fee is $55.  If you pay at the door, the fee is $75.  Included in the fee is dinner, and entrance into either the poker tournament or the bingo tournament.

DINNER:  Registration includes a Texas Rangers themed dinner, dessert, gaming, and a chance to experience The Diamond Club.

ADDED FUN:  There will be a personal gold representative present to evaluate any gold you wish to sell, and write you a check on the spot!  So dig through those jewelry boxes, and make some money!

REGISTRATION:  Pre-register now to reserve your spot, and save $20!  Register here, or send an e-mail to jessica@jackeightfund.com to register.  Please include the names of your attendees, and whether you prefer to play in the poker tournament or the bingo tournament.  You will receive an invoice for your payment through Paypal.  Alternatively, you can write a check to The Jack Eight Remembrance Fund, and mail to 1229 Alliance Blvd, Rhome, TX  76078.

**If you choose to pay at the door, we will accept cash or checks.  NO CREDIT CARDS OR DEBIT CARDS WILL BE ACCEPTED.

***There are a number of ways you can help.  Get your friends, your spouse, or your neighbors and COME to the event!  It’s at a great venue, with great food and great entertainment!  Make it a girls or a guys night out!  If you don’t play poker, play bingo!  If you can’t come, sponsor someone else to come!  Maybe you know someone who’d like to come, but can’t pay the entry fee!  What a gift!  You can also help by sending this note to people you know via e-mail or FaceBook, or adding it to your own blog!  Tell people about it!  Go to the Jack Eight website and make a direct donation!  http://www.jackeightfund.com/  Thank you in advance for your support!  Both of these organizations mean a lot to me!  It’s not easy to lose someone you love to suicide.  It’s devastating.

Welcome Home, Charleston!

3 Nov

Two-and-a-half weeks ago, we brought a new being into our home: a black-and-tan Shiba Inu named Charleston.  Unlike Sami, our 7-year-old female red Shiba, Charleston is a rescue pup.  During the summer, we’d applied to the Shiba Inu Rescue of Texas to adopt a shelter dog, in large part because so many are in need.  Why the fascination with Shibas, a small Japanese breed with a reputation as headstrong yet loyal?  Because they don’t make much noise, a big consideration for our teen daughter with autism.

Charleston has transitioned almost seamlessly into our family life.  He’s playful, sweet and loves love!  (He’ll nudge you if you forget to pet him.)  Our 6-year-old son is utterly besotted.  Princess Sami seems to enjoy sharing her domain with this new, furry pal.

Now with Halloween behind us, I’m thinking toward how he’ll react to Christmas and the attendant hullaballoo and décor.

I’m not alone.  According to CSA International, a global testing and certification organization, 60 percent of pet owners are concerned about their pet’s safety when leaving them alone in a house.  Three in 10 Americans have either experienced or know someone who has experienced a holiday decorations-related accident with a pet that required a trip to the vet’s office.

Here are thoughts on safeguarding your home:

  • Up, up and away: When decorating a tree or other indoor areas, place breakable ornaments and electrical decorations up high to protect both small children and pets.
  • Other potential problems: Keep potentially deadly ingestible items out of pets’ reach like chocolate, poinsettias, tinsel and colorful ornaments that may look like a ball or toy.
  • No sparks for Sparky: Whenever possible, protect family and pets from electric shock by connecting all outdoor lighting into receptacles protected by weatherproof ground fault circuit interrupters.
  • Cat and canine candle concerns: Don’t leave lighted candles unattended.  Pets may burn themselves or cause a fire if they knock candles over.  Be sure to use appropriate candle holders, placed on a stable surface, and keep away from combustibles.  And if you leave the room, blow the candle out.
  •  Safe storage: Keep pets away from packages as well as your gift wrapping area.  Swallowed string, ribbon, plastic, and even wrapping paper can lead to intestinal blockage and require a trip to the vet.

52 FEATS – NUMBER 44 (Not Worrying)

1 Nov

I had a lovely conversation with a friend this weekend, in which we talked about the wasted energy of worrying.  She has finally come to a point in her life where she can just let it go.  Hope/pray/meditate about whatever is going on, and then just step back from it.

Personally, I’m on a first-name basis with worrying; I’ve always been that way.  But deep down, I know that it’s just a worthless attempt at controlling things that cannot be controlled.  And when you put it that way, doesn’t it sound foolish?

I feel like there is definitely a burden on my shoulders right now that could be a cause for full-on, losing-sleep worry: my husband is heading to the orthopedist today with severe shoulder problems; my son needs to see a GI specialist for chronic stomach aches; my dog has to start some new medicine so maybe she can walk without pain again.  JEEZ.  But like my grandfather used to say, “It’s nothing until it’s something.”  So I’m just not going to get worked up about the “what-ifs.”  I’m going to let it go.

This is definitely easier said than done for me – but when I make a conscious effort to do it, it feels like flipping a switch in my brain.  I feel the worry, and I just turn it off.  My house is a wreck and I have to host book club tomorrow night – who cares?  So what if the furniture is dusty and the food isn’t home-cooked?  We’ll still have a good time.

It seems like this is a lesson better learned sooner in life rather than later!

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