30 Days Of…September Challenge

Yesterday I shared what I learned during my 30 days of no alcohol.

As promised, today I’m announcing what my September “30 Days Of…” Challenge will be.

30 Days of no single-use plastic shopping bags.

Now before you roll your eyes, I did promise that this one would be somewhat easy.

I realize that quite a few of you live in cities, states, or even countries where these are banned or have a surcharge that makes them very unappealing.

That’s awesome! That means that you will be able to crush this challenge!

I have never lived in such a city.

I have been using reusable bags for probably 10+ years. I’m really good at remembering to take them to the grocery store.

However, sometimes I don’t bring enough for my purchases at big box stores. I don’t know why because I own enough. One big box store will put 1-3 items per plastic bag. This is a massive pet peeve of mine. So after many times bitching  informing my husband of my irritation, I began using the self-checkout lane. I know how best to pack my reusable bags and if, on occasion, I don’t have enough then I will cram that plastic bag full. I don’t care if its seams are about to split. I know that I can cradle it like a little baby for the few steps from my car to my house.

But where I notice my big failing is when I head to department stores. It doesn’t always occur to me to carry a bag inside.

I am getting a better about  it, which is why I chose this as my first challenge.

By making it a challenge, I will be more mindful about always having a reusable bag available.

Recently I read an article about how Americans use 500 million straws per day

Yes, you read that right.

500… MILLION…PER…DAY.

I can’t find the exact article, but you can read about the problem and the initiative to eliminate the massive amount of straw consumption at The Last Plastic Straw.

I was in shock. Straws were not something that I ever even thought about. I don’t keep them in our home, but if I eat fast food or at a restaurant, I’ve always used a straw.

A one-time use item that then ends up in landfills and our oceans.

They say that knowledge is power.

So the question became… now that I had the knowledge, what would I do?

I haven’t had much of a chance to put it into play, but I have forgone the straw when possible (I didn’t on Mr. D’s birthday dinner because that was shortly after I read the article and it didn’t occur to me that they would bring the drinks with the straw already inserted. Lesson learned: inform the waitress upon ordering that I don’t need a straw).

So if I’m talking about plastic straws why is my challenge about plastic bags?

Honestly… because I need a win.

It’s my birthday month and the beginning of my official “30 days of” personal growth challenges.

In a recent conversation with my daughter about that wastefulness of the plastic shopping bags and plastic straws, she pointed out that sandwich bags are one time use as well. I have some reusable items, but not enough to cover each component of three lunches that I pack each day. Then there are the prepackaged items like single servings of yogurt.

When it comes to the environment, it’s easy to think “I’m just one person, what I do doesn’t make a difference.”

But it does.

And if you’re vocal about what you’re doing, you just might see a trickle effect. When I told the hubby about the straw article, he was in shock too. And then he began forgoing the straw. I have always been better at “no plastic bags” than him, but new knowledge about the sheer amount of plastic waste and the insane amount of time it takes to decompose (I found an infographic here) has prompted him to be more conscientious about his role in bettering the environment as well.

I understand that environmentalism and sustainability and green living are things that millennials and post-millennials have been exposed to their entire lives. I have not. The internet has made the spread of knowledge about the harm that we are doing much more readily available, but you still have to be searching for the knowledge.

My 30 days will be based on plastic shopping bag usage, but I will also be monitoring my consumption of one-time use plastic.

While I may share what I discover across my household…

The only person that I can change is myself.

I hope that you’ll join in the challenge. I’ll be sharing how it goes after the 30 days.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world. -Desmond Tutu

Let your light shine!

Amy

What I learned from 30 days of no alcohol

What I Learned From 30 Days Of No Alcohol

30 days of no alcohol.

[blankly stares off into space. nope. not me.]

That’s what I thought when I first read something about it being the perfect time to try a month of no alcohol as we were heading into Virgo season.

Obviously, it was on some astrology site. I can’t even remember which one now.

I know there are a lot of people who don’t believe in astrology. I’ll be honest. I’m not even sure what I believe when it comes to it. If my faith were to be placed into the box that it’s supposed to neatly fit into, then it would say I’m not allowed to believe it. However, I don’t believe in legalism when it comes to religion…and that’s about as far as I’ll delve into religious beliefs.

I have always believed that I am characteristically a Virgo. Plus, I am an extremely curious person who wants to know everything about every thing. So in that curious process I looked at my natal chart and discovered that the Virgo personality does claim to be strong. My Sun, Moon, and Mercury are all in Virgo, which is my 9th house. I don’t really know what that means…but if that’s you’re thing and you wanna share some insight, feel free to leave it in the comments.

Anyways…

That was how I stumbled upon the idea of no alcohol.

I really wasn’t sure if I would succeed.

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Which is why I didn’t bring it up in Friday Faves until later.

I don’t drink heavily or even drink every day, but there’s enough times that I knew that 30 days would take effort on my part.

Especially because the hubby was not joining me on this particular experiment of mine. And yes, I call it an experiment. That’s because I often do these mental or physical experiments or research projects in which I am the subject.

That's what I do. I drink and I know things coffee mug

I’m not gonna lie, the hardest day of each week was Sunday night when the hubby and I would sit down to watch Game of Thrones. It is the only show that I stop what I’m doing to sit down and watch with him. We usually have our wine or our beer and decompress while watching this epic storyline before heading into the work/school week.

My detox did end prior to that season finale though!

Since I know some of ya’ll are still catching up..no spoilers from me.

But…oh…my…goodness!

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So what did I learn?

I thought that I would have some epiphany or mental clarity once the supposed brain fog lifted.

Nope.

But what I learned is that I have the mental fortitude to push through to the end of a goal that I set for myself…. even when no one is watching.

It would have been easy to say “I don’t feel any different”, “my skin isn’t clearer”, “I haven’t lost any weight”…”why am I doing this again.”

And there were moments when I wanted to do just that.

But I didn’t.

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I do want to keep pushing my comfort zones. In recent conversations, I’ve discovered that I have a strong fear of failure and so quite often I just don’t try.

In keeping with the “30 days” concept, I’ve decided that each month of my 40th year I will do a “30 days of…” challenge. I haven’t figured out what each challenge will be, but they will likely focus on mental health, fitness, nutrition, hobbies, or the environment.

To keep things more streamlined, I will start them at the beginning of the month. I plan to let you all know what each challenge is a few days prior to the new month, just in case you are interested in joining me. It’s very likely that I will have failures during some of the challenges and this will be hard for me, but I feel like it’s the next step in my growth.

Check back tomorrow where I’ll announce my September challenge!

p.s.- The first one shouldn’t be too hard. My 40th birthday isn’t until the 12th, so technically, I’m starting 2 weeks before my 40th year. Plus, you gotta succeed for your birthday month. Right?!

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Street Corners of Amsterdam

Street Corners of Amsterdam

One thing that I’ve noticed about traveling to new places is that around every corner there are exciting things…unfamiliar and yet, exhilarating.

So today, I thought we’d take a stroll around the street corners of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam was the first place that my feet trod on foreign soil (outside of the German airport layover…but we’re talking “literal” soil).

If you’ve been reading my blog for sometime then you know that I traveled to Amsterdam this past April… a mere 4 1/2 months ago.

If you’d like to read some of my other posts from Amsterdam, you can find a few here, here, and here.

One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to just stroll along the streets.

I love to see the architecture.

Europe has much older architecture than in the United States so it was a treat to see the historical buildings as I walked along in Amsterdam.

While I admire architecture, I am not well versed in recognizing the period in which the styles came into construction. History, as well as geography, were never my strong subjects. I was a math and science girl with a little creative writing thrown in to round me out. It wasn’t until I became interested in traveling that I began to take interest in history and geography. Given that I’m still new to foreign travel, I have quite a bit to learn.

Amsterdam’s history dates back to the 13th Century.

At the time of my visit, I did not realize that I too have a history that winds its way through the streets of Amsterdam.

My 10th great-grandfather was Jan Frans Van Husum (Van Hoesen, Van Huss, Vanhooser). He was from Husum in Schleswig, which was part of Denmark at the time. He married Volkje Jurrians from the island of Nordstrand. Little is known about them prior to their marriage, but there was a great flood in 1634 that was devastating to Nordstrand and the coast of Denmark, including the city of Husum.

They were married in 1639 in Amsterdam and were living on Tuinstraat.  Little did I know while I was visiting the Anne Frank House, that across the canal and up a bit, once had lived my 10th great-grandparents. I do not know how long they lived in Amsterdam prior to their marriage, but a few months later they would set sail for America.

They sailed for New Amsterdam, which was the southern tip of Manhattan.

In 1662, he would purchase hundreds of acres around Claverack from the Mohicans.

He was the first of his name to come to America. All variations of his last name eventually make his way back to him and Volkje.

My line would make it’s way down to North Carolina and eventually Kentucky. I once read that the family name change from Van Hooser to Van Hoose was a disagreement between brothers over sides during the Revolutionary War. There are those much more knowledgeable than me into the genealogical history of the name that would know the details.  My 6th Great- Grandfather was John B. Van Hoose who was married to Mary Bryan. There is great debate and mystery over her heritage as the Van Hoose’s did travel to Kentucky with the likes of the Boone’s and Bryan’s.

But, nonetheless, that heritage that would travel to my maternal grandmother, Reva Van Hoose, would start with a marriage that took place in Amsterdam.

I wonder what the street corners looked like as they strolled along them?

Did they wave hello to Rembrandt as they made their way across town?

Did they stop and admire tulips or were they not in Amsterdam prior to the Tulip Bubble burst of 1637?

Street corners hold thousands of daily tales.

Do yours have any to tell?

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

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Friday Faves Edition 28

If you read Wednesday’s post, then you know that my teens went back to school this week.

They started Wednesday so it’s a short week for them.

So a whole lotta faves this week for this mama.

Over the weekend, Miss Sunshine had a soccer tournament. It was blazin’ hot! It was a home tournament, so no traveling… yet! They were playing up an age division and knew that it would be hard.  They didn’t win, but played with some good skill. He switched up the line-up some on the second day, so Miss Sunshine played an attacking mid in part of that game. She ended up with a couple of assists…and…a goal! Of course, I didn’t bring my camera, but I woohoo’d it from the sidelines.

As part of some of the changes I’m anticipating for this year, I decided that I was ready to change it up with my hair.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to do until I sat down in the chair at the salon. I had a very strong urge to do set of thick bangs since I have an ongoing internal “bangs or botox” debate. I opted not to do bangs because apparently I have a cowlick that might be a little too stubborn.

I spent a year being a brunette…which is my natural color, but I decided to go with some heavy highlights and add in some layers.

After a weekend of soccer, Miss Sunshine had Monday’s practice off.

Which was good, because…

She got braces!

The pain is finally subsiding, but I’ve been packing her soft food lunches this week.

Amongst the shipments for back to school stuff, I ordered something for myself.

A new tripod!

I couldn’t justify the expense for a carbon fiber tripod. Maybe if I ever get to the point of selling my photography, I’ll spring for the lighter weight. The reviews for this Vanguard Alta Pro were really good. I wanted the travel size with a ball head.

I haven’t had chance to try it out yet.

Maybe this weekend!

Of course, my faves for back to school week wouldn’t be complete without pics of my babies.

I made Miss Sunshine take some more photos for me when she got home from school.

Big Mr. and Mr. D were surprisingly cooperative with standing there while I snapped some first day pics.

I still can’t believe that the boys are Juniors and Seniors in high school.

I blinked my eyes and up and up they grew.

I also was able to make it Pilates and Yoga once they returned to school.

This morning I met a girlfriend for coffee at this great local coffee shop called Mill Mountain Coffee. The weather was cooler than it’s been and we were able to sit outside and catch up.

I left our coffee session, came home home and smudged my entire house.

I just feel like this is gonna be a good year.

So my song choice this week is twofold: One reason is because I know lots of people who will be watching Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather fight this weekend.

But the overriding reason for my song choice is that I hope that whatever path my children choose to take in this world, they give it their all and that they are passionate about the path that their feet walk upon.

I hope that you have a light -filled weekend!

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. -Soren Kierkegaard

Let your light shine!

Amy

Back to School

Back to School

Today was back to school day for my teenagers.

It’s always such a bittersweet day for me.

On one hand, I’m happy to get back into routine…and have some silence.

On the other, it marks a moment in time of being one step closer to having my little birds fly from my nest.

I have taken “first day of school” photos from the moment their tiny fingers left my grasp to enter into the preschool building.

Miss Sunshine wasn’t sure if she was riding to school with a friend. When she discovered that she was, there was a mad dash to collect her backpack and race out the door.

I grabbed my camera to snap a photo before she raced away. I forgot that I had been playing with the camera the day before and the settings were completely incorrect for this shot.

I quickly tried to switch to auto mode for one last chance…

I didn’t make it.

I’ve already told her, that after school she will have to pose so that I can to collect my memory shot.

However, for me, this photo sums up this phase of my motherhood.

This passage of time.

Like a river flowing.

Movement.

Fighting the distractions as I try to breathe these moments into my soul.

My children are becoming more and more independent.

As they should.

I am keenly aware of the marking of days until Big Mr. will leave the confines of high school. I have heard that his his Senior year will fly by.

And as it does, those days will sweep my other two children along as well.

Suddenly, we will be at the precipice,  looking out at the horizon, and my first bird will be flying. Mr. D will see his moment. He will be there in eager anticipation knowing that he is only a year behind. And on that precipice, even Miss Sunshine will see the changes. A brother leaving, the other one planning his flight, and her entering into high school.

Too soon they will no longer be my little birds.

This fleeting phase of motherhood coming to an end.

I think about that future…

Who will they become?

Who will I become?

But for today, I will breathe and sit with the present.

I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will. -Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

WPC:Ooh, Shiny

 

 

 

 

Friday Faves Edition 27

Friday Faves – Edition 27

Happy Friday Everybody!

I hope that you’ve had an amazing week so far.

Mine has been pretty packed.  We are on the countdown until school begins. Next Wednesday is the day.

We did our big purge over the weekend. And while we definitely made massive headway (think… I can see the floor of the garage and the storage room), I’m still hoping to make another push.

On Monday, I decided to Google myself because every now and then I like to be sure that everything out there associated with my name is legitimate.

I discovered that one of my Instagram pics was on one of the University of Glasgow’s pages. It rotates through various Instagram pics so it took a bit for me to discover which one. It was definitely an uplifting moment as I’ve been feeling ambivalent about that social media platform. The algorithms are not in my favor and I have no interest in paying a company to get me noticed.

In fact, I’ve spent more time away from social media in the past few weeks because I was devoting a lot of time there and not seeing any growth. That is time away from focusing on my family…and if they are my main priority, then I am not honoring my priorities.

Everyone had their annual checkups this week.

The fun part for me is getting an official measure on my teens, not just my marks on the wall (I do use a level though!).

Big Mr. is 6’5 1/2″.

Mr. D is 6′.

Miss Sunshine is 5’4 1/2″.

They don’t see how tall I am, so I’m just gonna keeping on claiming my 5’8″ [I may have shrunk a little from giant babies compressing my spine, but I’m saying I’ve lengthened it back out with yoga and pilates ;)].

Maverick started puppy training classes this week. He’s a little afraid of other dogs, so I was prepared for it to be overwhelming. However, he just sprawled out and almost took a nap while the instructor talked.

The first class is pretty easy. We worked on sit. He already had this down so he happily received treats from Miss Sunshine for demonstrating what he knows!

He’s pretty well potty trained. Or he has us trained. We take him out often, but I don’t feel like he really lets us know when he wants out, which has led to some accidents. Numerous people have told me about getting potty bells, so this week I did that.

You hang them from the door and each time you take the dog out, you ring them. I put his paw on it to ring them. The idea is that he will learn that the door opens when he rings the bell. I have heard that some dogs will do this just to go outside, even if they don’t need to use the bathroom. We have a fenced yard, so as long as he gets the idea of ringing the bells, I don’t care if it’s just to go out and play.

Yesterday was Mr. D.’s birthday.

16!

We always let the birthday child pick dinner. I used to make their request. Now we go out. He decided on Kabuki. It’s a Japanese Steak House. The kind where they cook the food in front of you and toss shrimp in the air for you to catch in your mouth. They also make a volcano out of onions and light it on fire. I shared a little of our experience on my Instagram story.

It made for a very fun evening!

Stepping up my photo game has been on my to-do list for some time.

Honestly, I’ve been super frustrated because I could not figure out how in the world to change the aperture on my Sony Alpha 7II.

I got the camera so close to heading to Scotland that I knew I would shoot auto while there. I’m sure this caused limitations, but the quality was superior to my beginner Nikon, so I took the Sony.

I’ve watched some YouTube tutorials, but never found one that addressed changing the aperture. Depth of field is one of the things that I like to play with the most, so it was crucial for me to figure out. Otherwise, I just wasn’t going to enjoy the camera.

Since I didn’t make it a priority, it took some time to finally find a website that explained how you change the aperture on the Sony Alpha 7II. With the switch on AEL, you depress the AEL button and then rotate the knob above and to the right of the C3 button. There may be another way to change it, but I’m over the moon ecstatic about discovering how to change the aperture.

Speaking of the moon….

How many of you found glasses to watch the Solar Eclipse on Monday?

Unfortunately, not me.

I decided on a parody song this week. Somebody shared it on Facebook and I found it really funny. I figure after a week like this, we could all use a moment of lightheartedness.

Growth is a part of life.

I hope to never stop having an insatiable curiosity and desire to grow. And I hope you don’t either.

Have a peaceful and relaxing weekend!

Miss Sunshine has her opening soccer tournament this weekend, so I will be cheering her on from the sidelines!

Let your light shine!

Amy

Shine Bright

Shine Bright

Hatred exists.

Sometimes I still just have the hardest time wrapping my mind around this fact.

And yet, it's there.

You'd think that as a human species who claims to have evolved we'd have learned that hatred solves nothing.

Nothing.

Charlottesville is just a tiny fragment in the whole of this hateful divisiveness being spread.

But it begins to feel a little more real when it happens so close to home.

I have friends who have children attending UVA. Miss Sunshine plays soccer in the same league as teens who call Charlottesville home. We travel to their fields to play. We shop in the stores and walk their streets.

I wonder when it starts. This hatred. This division. And how do you find your soul so dark as to believe the lies of superiority?

And I am not just talking about a race issue. You can apply it to any number of divisive situations that you see every single time you turn on the TV.

Something I do infrequently, as I think it only perpetuates divisiveness.

Personally, I see a big difference between denouncing things that are wrong and fighting for justice versus spewing your own form of hatred from the other side.

Because the latter solves nothing.

To respond to hateful acts with hatred is to become the very thing which you despise. – John Mark Green

 

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Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured. -Mark Twain

I started this blog as a place to find myself.

That is still a journey I am on.

But it's also a place that I hope sheds a little light in the darkness.

Sunset has always been a place that I find peace.

When I moved to Roanoke, Virginia four years ago, it was the one thing that kept me grounded. This sun that I watched from my hometown in Florida. This same sun that I watched as I moved across the state of Florida. And finally, this same sun setting across the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

It offered me stability and hope that I would crawl of out the darkness that crept upon me during my move.

So when Nikki over at Flying with Water set her creative prompt as The Bright Side because she'd been blindsided by some negativity, I knew that I'd be sharing some of my sunset shots.

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Let no man pull you low enough to hate him. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

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No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. -Nelson Mandela

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What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. – Jane Goodall

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Every sunset brings the promise of a new dawn. – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

And while it should go without saying, and I have said it in the past, my space on the web is not for politics. I can and will remove hateful commentary. While politics influence too many people's opinions, I have yet to witness them be the cause of any aim for a unified collection of humanity. My personal experience is to see polarization caused by politics and have only seen unification happen outside of that bubble… when individuals decide that their voice makes a difference.

Keep writing the story of kindness.

Spread your light wherever you go.

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the the mirror reflecting it. -Edith Wharton

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

  • Photos 1 & 3 – Roanoke Mountain on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Roanoke, Virginia {Nikon D3200}
  • Photo 2 – From my yard – Roanoke, Virginia {Nikon D3200}
  • Photos 4 & 5 – Carolina Beach, North Carolina {Sony Alpha 7II}
  • Photoquote – Naples, Florida {Nikon D3200}

 

 

WPC- Elemental