30 Day Challenge…May

30 Day Challenge.

Most of you who’ve been on the journey with me, know that I’ve been doing 30 day challenges since turning 40 in September of 2017.

The challenges are meant to push me in ways that I wouldn’t typically push myself.

We are fast approaching May, so it’s time to make the announcement for what my 30 challenge will be for the month of May.

30 Day Challenge.png

May Challenge.

I will be traveling for two weeks during the month of May, therefore, I knew that it would need to be a portable challenge.

I also wanted the challenge to be physical in nature.

With all that in mind, here is the May 30 day Challenge:

30 Day Yoga Pose Challenge

Yoga Crow pose Bakasana

Yoga.

I have only been practicing yoga for a few years. I wrote about how yoga was good for my soul in this post.

When I decided that I wanted to train for a 5k (which I have not participated in as of yet), I needed to open up some time in my schedule for running. I achieved this by cutting out the yoga classes (similar to power yoga) that I had been attending.

Yes, I could have created or found a flow to do at home. Or even completed some rounds of sun salutations. But the fact of the matter is that I didn’t.

Reverse Warrior Yoga Pose

Yoga Poses.

I’ve missed my yoga time.

Granted I have stayed physically active with my Pilates classes and have stayed mentally centered with my meditation practice.

However, I’ve been wanting to incorporate more yoga back into my life.

I’ve opted for the yoga pose challenge because I am realistic about the time I have to afford placing anything extra into my life when I am traveling.

If you are interested, I am using this infographic for my challenge. I am not doing the challenge referenced in the article. I will only be completing the daily poses. This is technically a 31 day challenge. May does have 31 days or you could easily squeeze two poses into one day.

Yoga Namaste

Follow Along.

As many of you know, I leave Virginia on May 9th and will return on May 22nd.

It’s very likely that I will try to include a photo of me attempting some of the poses on my Instagram stories.

I pack lightly so we’ll have to see if there’s room for workout clothes that I’d be willing to share publicly.

As much as it may appear that I like the limelight because I have a blog and share things on Instagram, you will not find my poses being performed in front of some beautiful tourist attraction.

Sorry to disappoint you.

Once we make it to the UK, the only way you’ll see the pose outside of the hotel room is if we’ve found a semi-remote place to achieve a photo…even then, some may not be shared.

…and try not to laugh too hard if, instead of a graceful swan, my poses look like an injured chicken.

I’d love for you to join along on this 30 days yoga pose challenge. Or any other yoga pose challenge that you find that you might enjoy.

Are you in?

Let me know!

When life seems overwhelming...pure bedlam...find a quiet place, close your eyes...and just breathe. -Amy Lyon Smith

Let your light shine!

Amy

Friday Faves Edition 60

Friday.

It’s Friday! Did ya’ll miss me last Friday? I missed all of you!

That Thursday was full day of travel for us.

We arrived at the airport in Aruba early since we knew that U.S citizens go through customs at the airport in Aruba instead of when they land in the U.S.

Based on our time waiting in customs at the D.C. airport after our return from Europe last spring, I’d have to say this process was much quicker.

We also only took carry-ons (raise your hand if you audibly gasped). I’ll be sharing some things I learned about that in a future post. We had a direct flight down to Aruba, but had a short layover in Boston on the return. After landing in D.C., we made our way to our vehicle for the 3 1/2 hour drive home. We collapsed into bed around 1 a.m. Friday.

Friday Faves.

Of course I have so many Friday Faves to share.

Aruba.

We spent spring break in Aruba.

I did share some of our travels on my Instagram stories.

I’ve saved some of them to the Aruba recap on my Instagram highlights if you’re interested in seeing those.

Easter.

We arrived in Aruba on the day before Easter.

That day we had a leisurely day.

Easter Sunday, we had a snorkeling excursion booked.

Just prior to our vacation, I read this post on Becoming Minimalist. It talks about jumping while you can. It resonated with me because this year for me is about pushing comfort zones even more. It is about learning to dare greatly.

And so I knew that I would attempt new things.

Snorkeling.

I have snorkeled before. I did not enjoy it. I always felt like I was struggling for air (which makes me feel claustrophobic). I swim, but would not consider myself a “strong” swimmer. However, when we went over the Antilla wreck, which is in 50-60 feet of water (well out of my comfort zone from a depth perspective) I decided to go in the water. I didn’t dive below the surface..and I didn’t stay in as long as everyone else

…but I jumped.

The second snorkeling spot was 10-12 feet deep and was my favorite of the three. The water was so clear and the fish were stunning. Miss Sunshine captured a video of me at this location.

Rope Swing.

At our third snorkel stop, which was about 14 ft deep, you had the option of swinging from the rope swing into the water.

I didn’t think that I was going to attempt it.

But then I remembered about wanting to push myself…I remembered how I was so fearless when I was younger

…and I jumped.

(yes there is a video of that. no I won’t be sharing it)

I plan to do a longer post about our snorkeling trip in the future, but we absolutely loved it (minus the fact that I was the one person on the ship who got a bloody nose when jumping from the rope swing. (note to self: if you plan on holding your nose, take the nose ring out)

img_6899

Safari Tour.

If you saw Wednesday’s post where I shared some photos from Aruba, the one above will look familiar. This was from our safari tour. I’ll be sharing more about that in the future, but it was an awesome day out as well.

snapseed-458

Tube Ride.

Miss Sunshine had already convinced her dad and Big Mr. to go on a tube ride earlier in the week. We had loved our snorkeling tour so much that we had booked another one for the day before our departure. Unfortunately, they had some technical difficulties and had to cancel our trip. Miss Sunshine really wanted me to tube with her. I really didn’t want to tube

…but I decided to jump.

Even though I was petrified most of the time, I can say that I’m glad that I did it. The ride itself wasn’t scary…it was tons of fun. I was worried about flipping into the water (which had happened on their last tube ride).

We used to have a boat and a tube. I have a distinct memory of flying out of the tube and having the wind knocked out of me as I landed into the water.

I was in my early 30’s then…how much worse would it be at 40!

My secondary…yes secondary…fear was that a shark might be lurking below the surface. The last time I had fallen out of a tube was in Lake Placid (Florida) and my fear of alligators is stronger than that of sharks.

I held on for dear life on this tube ride. So tightly, that my biceps hurt for the next two days and I’m still sporting a friction burn on one of my knuckles.

…but I jumped (metaphorically).

snapseed-475

snapseed-478

Memories.

While I absolutely loved the sunshine and the salt air, one of my favorite parts of the trip is that we made so many memories.

I cherish these moments with my children. Big Mr. heads off to college after this summer. Mr. D is only a year behind. Miss Sunshine is around a little longer, but I know that it too will pass quickly.

These are fleeting moments with all my children still living at home and I am searing them into my brain.

snapseed-385

snapseed-397

Sunshine and Salt Air.

But I’m not gonna lie, the sunshine and salt air did make the memories a little sweeter.

These photos of my teens were taken at Baby Beach. I wish we’d have spent more time there, but it wasn’t in the cards that day.

 

IMG_6900.PNG

Instagram.

While this week has mostly been playing catch up on emails, reflecting on last month’s challenge, going to soccer games, taking care of household stuff, and finishing up some loose ends for my trip to London and Scotland next month, I did give myself a gift.

If you saw Tuesday’s post, then you already know that day was my 19th wedding anniversary.

Your Instagram bio is supposed to be important for people deciding whether or not they are interested in following you. I’ve always struggled with exactly what I’d like it to say. You only have so much space.

Not long ago, I took out the section that stated where I had lived to add the lines with #travel and #nature and the wannabe photographer and wordsmith. The hubby thought I should take out the word “wannabe”. While I did agree to some level, I also left it there to keep my fear of failure satisfied. If I said “wannabe”, I was acknowledging that I have a long way to go.

…but I also wasn’t giving myself credit for how far I’ve come.

Or giving my dreams the fair shot that they deserved.

So on my anniversary, I gifted myself with the removal of that word. In doing so, I felt that I gave myself permission to keep growing and granted my soul a belief in myself.

Do you have dreams that you want to pursue, but you let fear hold you back?

Music.

This week I’ve chose a song by Sleeping at Last. I love his music and had a hard time choosing which song. I chose this song because it reminds me of the commitment that I made when I chose to have children. Those commitments have been at the forefront of my thoughts this week.

I hope that you have a soul filling weekend and smooth sailing throughout next week.

IMG_6930.PNG

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

30 Day Challenge… April

#thisis40.

We are fast approaching the 8th month in my year of #thisis40 thirty day challenges.

Those of you who’ve been following along since the beginning know that I turned 40 in September of 2017. Eek! I can’t believe that we are well past the halfway mark of my 40th year!

Even though I had been pressing outside of my comfort zones since beginning this blog at the start of 2016, I felt like 40 was pinnacle for further pushing. Instead of dipping my toes in the water’s edge, I’d move out into the deep.

The only way for me to learn who I truly am is through trial.

My September Challenge taught me to be even more mindful about the environment. That one person’s changes CAN and DO make an impact.

My October Challenge taught me how to center myself. It taught me new ways to deal with my anxiety and how to change my focus.

My November Challenge taught me to try new things.

My December Challenge taught me that there is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Some days take a little more looking, but something can always be found.

My January Challenge taught me to be mindful about what I put into my body.

My February Challenge  opened my mind to worlds unknown.

While I’m still in the process of my March Challenge, I have learned that my body is capable of so much more than I have given it credit for.

30 Day Challenge…April.

So what challenge do I have in store for April?

30 days of practicing a foreign language

for 15 minutes per day.

Foreign Language.

Given that I hope to have a lot more travel in my future, I would like to become more fluent in some foreign languages.

Over time, I would like to learn multiple languages other than my native English.

Spanish.

For the month of April, I will be spending my 15 minutes a day learning Spanish.

I have specific reasons for starting with learning Spanish.

First and foremost, is that I took two years of it in high school.

Not that I’ve retained much of it.

However, if you’ve read about my past then you know that I graduated from Immokalee High School in Immokalee, Florida. I don’t know what the demographics were when I was in high school in the 90’s, but the main percentages from the 2014-2015 data that I found at U.S. News don’t sound far off: Hispanic 73%, Black 22%, White 3%.

Along with my classes, I picked up some other words here and there.

Mostly ones that I can’t repeat here.

One of my besties in my early teens was named Carlos. He was Cuban and lived nearby.  He taught me many inappropriate phrases. I can still remember some of them and some of our jokes. Sadly, he died in our early 20’s.

Study.

I’ve also chosen Spanish because Miss Sunshine is in her first year of study. Mr. D is in his 4th year of study and plans to continue with a 5th year during his last year of high school. At that point, his high school diploma will have a bilingual seal.

I figure that I will be able to bounce words and phrases off of them as I study.

My teens have recommended the DuoLingo app because that is what most of their teachers recommend. I will probably incorporate the usage of this and other study methods for a total of 15 minutes each day.

I’ve made the challenge 15 minutes of “foreign language” study in case you decide to join along and want to choose a different language.

Travel.

Before Mr. D heads off to college, I would like to travel to a Spanish speaking country so that he can have real life practice in using the language that he will have worked so hard to learn. Right now, I am thinking we will travel to Spain some time next year. But we will see what the future holds.

Until then, I will be working on re-learning the Spanish that’s hidden in the recesses of my brain and forging ahead on learning all that I do not know.

Bilingual.

Do you speak more than one language? What languages do you speak?

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

Let your light shine!

Amy

Lessons learned during my month of being a vegetarian 30 day challenge

Lessons Learned During My Month of Being a Vegetarian

Vegetarian.

I hadn’t heard the phrase Veganuary, until well into the month of January. Otherwise, I might have gone Vegan for the month. As it was, my January Challenge was to become a Vegetarian for 30 days.

Along the way, I learned a few lessons.

Lessons learned.

Likely, the biggest lesson that I learned was :

  • Be Prepared.

Originally, I had anticipated going vegetarian for the month of February. When my husband asked me to move it up to January because he wanted to participate, I did. However, I had not mentally (knowledge-wise) prepared.

Which brings me to the next lesson learned:

  • Know your daily nutrient needs.

I did not look in to my daily nutrient needs prior to beginning the month of vegetarianism. It was a busy time for me so I didn’t do the running and/or yoga that I do on the days other than my M-W-F Pilates class. But it wasn’t just because I was busy, it was also because my muscles were sore for longer after my Pilates classes. This may have been due to them being a harder workout for me, or possibly I wasn’t getting enough protein (which is my husband’s educated guess). Our bodies also need specific vitamins and minerals and I wasn’t monitoring any of those.

Pineapple Avocado Smoothie

  • Keep your house stocked with choices.

If you failed to heed lesson #1, you may find yourself craving different types of food. While I am no expert, my opinion on this is that your body is asking for a certain nutrient. You should keep your house stocked with choices to satisfy your hunger in the moments.

  • Adjustment.

You should also be aware that it’s likely your body will need an adjustment period to any big changes in diet. I’ve shared in my varying purposes for taking on this challenge. In case you missed them, I’m sharing them again. Heart disease runs in my family and I am endeavoring to lower my risks. While I haven’t tested positive for a specific autoimmune disease (of the ones tested), I did test positive for autoimmune antibodies. The main reason, however, was that I have had digestive health issues for the majority of my life.

I was hoping that going vegetarian would miraculously cure them. Instead, the first five days, my stomach was in more pain than in the past. Some people will say that this is a detox period. I don’t know if that is the case. There was a shift on day 5 in which my body decided that it would cooperate with this diet. I should also mention that I was eating vegan the first 5 days. My goal was to cut out dairy and so I just included the other components of eating vegan.

  • Food Choices.

After that first week I found myself relying too much on bread and cheese. I could have made much better food choices. I did spend the entire month being a vegetarian and learned that meat was not that important to me. Sure, there were a few moments when I stood before the refrigerator or pantry and thought, “Oh, that sounds good for lunch. Oh wait, that’s meat!”. This mostly goes back to being caused by failing to heed Lesson #3 and partially Lesson #2. Otherwise, I was very happy with the food choices available to me.

 

Cream Cheese Stuffed Date

  • Take-Aways.

After a month spent as a vegetarian, I had a few take-aways other than just the lessons I’ve shared. One such take-away came in the form of an article that my husband sent me about NFL players going vegan. I was already familiar with the fact that Tom Brady and Gisele Bündchen were 80/20 vegetarians. However, I was surprised by the number of athletes who are vegan.

I was quite fascinated by the 300 pound Vegan, David Carter who is a former NFL player. It made me feel confident that I can work harder at vegetarianism and possibly veganism if I focus on my nutrients.

I’m still not sure if I’ll move toward 100% vegetarian or if 80/20 is a better goal for me. I think with proper nutrients I could be 100% vegetarian locally. Where the 20% comes in for me is that I love to try new foods when I travel and some local delicacies include meat.

Who knows?! Perhaps if I fully shift to 80/20, I will begin to view it all through new eyes.

If you’re wondering if I’ve eaten meat since the end of the challenge…I have. Mostly due to the fact that there are leftovers from making meals for the teenagers and I still struggle with food waste.

I’m still working on the balance.

We are all works in progress.

Let your light shine!

Amy

A Recycler’s Journey

Recycling.

Recycling is defined as the process of converting waste materials into new materials and objects.

But you probably already knew that.

Recycling has become something that is a mainstream topic of conversation.

In the United States, the EPA uses the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle“.

And I think that we can all agree in the importance of recycling.

According to this article by recyclenation.com, the EPA estimates that about 75% of the U.S. waste stream is recyclable, but only about 30% of the waste stream is actually recycled.

You might be questioning why this is the case.

Recycler’s Journey.

I will share the embarrassing truth about this recycler’s journey and why I have not been a very good recycler.

I’m lazy.

When I started my #thisis40 challenges back on my 40th birthday in September, I chose one that would be easy for me. 30 days of no one-time plastic bag usage.

I hadn’t been using plastic bags for many years and knew there would only be a few moments of needing to say “I don’t need a bag”.

I also had stumbled across facts about the consumption of plastic straws (the U.S. alone goes through 500 million straws per day) and began to work on limiting my usage. If you’ve been reading my blog for some time, it should come as no surprise that I devour knowledge. One of my past career dreams was to be a research scientist. Instead, I read articles and try to sift out reality from bias. My love for facts is why I try to find credible sources before sharing with you.

So where had I become lazy?

Well, when I moved to Virginia from Florida in 2013, curbside recycling was not part of the county’s trash collection. I had been spoiled with having owned homes with curbside recycling for the prior 14+ years. After the move, I found the local recycling drop-offs and was pretty good in the beginning. Those drop-offs didn’t take glass, but I figured I was still doing pretty good. However, most times that I would load up my car and drive to these drop-offs, the bins were so full that people had left their recycling on the nearby ground (I’m not even sure that gets recycled as the drop-offs are giant trailers that get hitched to a truck). So I’d end up just taking it back home and collecting more. Then I noticed that I slowly began to just throw it away.

It bothered me that I was choosing to do this because I felt like I was living completely outside of my personal principles. You know that whole brain-gut connection? Well my gut was making me feel guilty.

Curbside Recycling.

I knew that I could hire a private company to pick up my curbside recycling. I just didn’t. Why? It came down to needing a paradigm shift.

I remember the first time that I ever heard the term paradigm shift. I was 16 and was a senior in high school. It was in a class called advanced reading (which we got college credit for… under “introduction to college” and “speech”). We did pretty much that… read books and analyzed them, gave speeches, and practiced college interviewing (I’m sure there’s more, but the introvert in me remembers speaking in front of the class).

Paradigm Shift.

A paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. His simplistic example was when you are vacuuming and you go over and over the same spot, hoping that it will pick up the paper on the floor, when if you just changed your thinking, you could bend over and pick up that piece of paper and move on with the rest of the vacuuming.

My resistance to curbside recycling in Roanoke County was because I had to pay a separate company to do something that for years had been handled by the county in which I lived. However, in Florida, I was still paying for curbside recycling. It just was part of my property tax bill. While I’m not going to delve into the ridiculous taxes that they collect in Virginia compared to when I lived in Florida, most people are familiar with the fact that Florida’s property taxes are not low. So ignoring the other taxes I pay and just focusing on the property taxes, I was able to justify (not everyone has this issue of needing to justify their spending. Yay you!! You are so lucky! However, I work with the personality I was given) hiring a curbside recycling company.

Shift Complete.

And that’s just what I did! I hired a company at the beginning of this year. Already, there is noticeably less trash going out on collection day. He also takes glass (so those wine bottles aren’t ending up in the landfill!).

Reusable bag from Publix grocery store. We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. - Native American Proverb

Progress.

Part of the reason I’ve been hesitant to share this blog is because even though I’ve made changes, there are still many areas of recycling or reducing or reusing in which I fail. My existence is still spoiled and I often make choices that go against my environmental desires. I would not want anyone to think that I have managed to completely change in all the areas that are possible in creating a smaller footprint.

I still consume…a lot.

However, as I learn more and more, I find it hard to ignore the facts.

According to the article that I shared, recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to power a TV for up to three hours. The EPA  shares that recycling 10 plastic bottles saves enough energy to power a laptop for 25 hours.

Natural Life pouches made from recycled plastic water bottles

Pollution.

This article from National Geographic states that 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. Much of that plastic ends up finding its way into the ocean. Research published in 2015 estimates that amount of plastic at 8 million metric tons EVERY year. This is the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash for every foot of coastline around the globe.

Many of us have heard about the garbage patches in the ocean. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that the term “garbage patch” doesn’t paint an accurate term about the marine debris problem because there is more dispersion throughout the ocean than just in the “patches”.

I do think that much more information is readily available than in the past. However,  I still stumble across information that I didn’t know. Such as the fact about plastic straws, but also recently learning about the existence of plastic microbeads. According to this article on the UN Environment website, as many as 51 trillion micro plastic particles (500 times more than the stars in our galaxy) litter our seas. Some estimates state that by 2050 oceans will carry more plastic than fish and 99% of seabirds will have ingested plastic.

Carolina Beach, North Carolina

Accountability.

I think that far too often it’s easy to think that “what kind of difference will I make? I am only one person.” But going back to recyclenation.com, it’s estimated that the average individual creates four pounds of trash per day, which adds up to 1,500 pound of trash per year.

Obviously, 1 person can make a difference.

As I continue to gain knowledge about environmental problems, I have a responsibility to accountability. It can no longer be thought that my actions and choices don’t make a difference when the facts point otherwise.

I will continue to fail and to make poor choices, but I will also continue to make even more good choices and gain victories.

If you’ve learned some facts, I hope that you’ll progress on the journey as well.

If you have any tips or knowledge that you’d like to contribute to the commentary, please do.

Look closely at present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming. -Alice Walker

Let your light shine!

Amy

30 Days of...

30 Days of…February Challenge

That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don’t quite know what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power against evil – widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with darkness narrower. -Dorothea in Middlemarch by George Eliot

Reading.

I love to read. I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. Anybody else with me on that?! There are distinct memories of reading The Secret Garden and A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, in our playhouse. I remember being fascinated by the imagination in Five Children and It by E. Nesbit. There also was the family who would come down to live in the log cabin that they had built by hand. The mother had books lining the shelves and she would let me borrow them. I remember my love as I read Little Women by Lousia May Alcott, and how it moved to the position of my favorite book. The feeling of delight when Mrs. Parker gifted me that copy from her shelf. I was that girl who asked for the hall pass to library during lunches. In seventh grade it was so I could read series, namely The Babysitter’s Club by Ann M. Martin and Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal . 

Classics.

I don’t recall all the books I chose to read throughout the rest of school, but I do remember all the classics that we read in English class.

A few of which included:

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • SlaughterHouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Classic Books

There were many other shorter stories, like Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome.  Of course there were all the  Shakespeare Classics as well. I also have read many classics on my own and alongside my children as they’ve read classics for their classes. They’ve even read The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, from my well worn copy, which was a gift from my 12th grade English teacher. Another classical reading accomplishment has been that I finally finished reading Walden by Thoreau during my time in the beginning of this blog.

Favorite Book.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë moved to my favorite book over 20 years ago. I don’t often read a book twice, but I made an exception for Jane Eyre. I couldn’t believe my hubby had never read it so we took turns reading a chapter before bed each night. That was when our evenings were quiet. I was pregnant with our oldest (who will turn 18 next month!). We would then be knee deep in three babies and toddlers…and then moves…and more moves. Now we are at that point where the nights are still not quiet because teenagers like to stay up late.

Recent Read.

I’m continuing with my year of #thisis40 endeavor to learn and grow through 30 day challenges. You may be wondering what all this has to do with my 30 day challenge for Februrary. Well I just finished my most recent read, Middlemarch, by George Eliot, yesterday. If you’ve been following for some time, you may recall when I announced that it had come into the library after I had placed it on hold. That post was at the end of October! Granted, in the copy I was reading, Middlemarch was 838 pages long. My hubby thought I must be torturing myself since it took me three months to read it. The reality, however, was that I loved it (some people’s stories took me longer to be interested in than others). In fact, the quote I opened with made the entire book worth it to me. That and the last sentence of the entire story (which I’ve decided not to share since that’s like opening to the last page of a book to see how it ends.) justified all time invested into reading this classic. The real problem and why it took three months was that I wasn’t making reading a priority.

30 Days of...

February Challenge.

Which brings me to my February Challenge:

Read Three Classics in 30 days.

Since there’s obviously not 30 days in February, I will be beginning this challenge a few days early.

Reading Walden

Reading Plan.

I looked up how many pages the average reader tends to read. This Forbes article says that the average adult reads 300 wpm. This website breaks down an estimation of how long some classics will take to read. I will not be reading any classics that I have read in the past. Part of my choices will factor time available and also what books are available to me. My plan is to have a 20 minutes devoted time for reading over the course of 30 days. This is 600 minutes (or 10 hours) over the course of the month.

I also plan to make sure to find a short bio on the authors. Since many of these classics were written before my time, I have relatively little knowledge about the authors behind them unless I read their works in school. The reason behind wanting to read their bio is because I was embarrassed to discover that I had no idea that George Eliot was a pseudonym for Mary Anne Evans.

Great Expectations

What I’m Reading.

I will be starting with reading A Passage to India by E.M. Forster. The main reason for this is because it is in our personal library. One of the teens had planned to read it, but didn’t get to it. I don’t think that I’ve ever finished Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (another book that I own and one of my favorite movies!). I plan to finish it, but it will not count toward my three classics. It is likely that the other two classics will come from this list of short classics that I found on Pinterest. Again, most of the choices depend on what is available to me.

Short Classics

Likely I will try to read:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  AND/OR
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley   AND/OR
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway  AND/OR
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley  AND/OR
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

although many others look equally as intriguing.

Longer Classics.

Since it is hard to estimate reading times vs. amount of pages, I will be sure to get in my three Classic novels. Assuming that they take less than the 10 hours to get through (which I am anticipating to be the case) I will continue reading classics throughout the month.

Some that I am considering are:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Opinions?

Have you read any of these? Which would you consider your favorite of the bunch?

What is your all-time favorite classic novel?

I think mine still stands as Jane Eyre.

If you’re in the mood to read some classics…or even if you’re just in the mood to read, I hope you’ll join in with this reading challenge.

Feel free to share what you are currently reading. I’m always looking for a good book to put on my list.

img_6102

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

Lessons Learned While Practicing Gratitude as part of a 30 day gratitude challenge.

Lessons Learned While Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude.

Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful. It is a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. There have been numerous recent (and probably old ones as well) studies that show how practicing gratitude each day is good for our mental health.

December tends to be a whirlwind of activity for me (and I would guess the same for many others). I have a tendency toward anxiety during stressful times. My anxiety expresses itself in many ways. I tend to nag more, to lose my temper more, to become more fearful of the “what-ifs”, which in turn makes me more controlling (see the first two items for the issue with this), and generally want to disengage from the chaos swirling around me.

Practicing Gratitude

That is why I decided that December’s Challenge would be the perfect month for me to spend practicing gratitude. Each monthly challenge forces my personal growth a little more. This month was no exception.

Tulips in the Museumplein in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Gratitude Challenge.

The best way for me to participate in a gratitude challenge was to follow a prompt. I chose this one that I found on Pinterest. I wasn’t sure how I would capture my daily gratitude only that I would capture it in a concrete way each day.

How I Practiced Gratitude.

In the end, my concrete form was a photo or video posted to my Instagram story each day. I did take photos with my camera most days as well. Originally, I had planned to keep a gratitude journal because most things I read talk about the benefits of journaling, especially journaling about gratitude. Journaling my gratitude over the 30 days did occur. The problem with my journaling scenario was that I’d think about the prompt throughout the day, journal it most days, but some days I’d just crash into bed and then journal it the next morning. Around day 20, the daily portion became even more sporadic as to when I’d fill it in. This may or may not (definitely may) coincide with the fact that my kids began their winter break and we were rapidly approaching Christmas.

Tulips in the Museumplein in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Lessons Learned About Gratitude.

Over the course of the 30 days I picked up a few personal lessons about gratitude and journaling. I thought I’d share some in case you find them helpful.

  • If you’re thinking about what you want to journal, just stop and journal it. Otherwise, you might find yourself too tired and skipping journaling all the things you’d found to be grateful for over the course of the day.
  • Even though I chose to focus on a daily prompt, I still found myself thinking of all the other things in my life that brought out my gratitude.
  • If you feel compelled, list more things that you are grateful for, even if you are doing a daily prompt.
  • Don’t edit your gratitude. This is a personal journey and journal. You don’t have to share it with the world. Unless you want to…then by all means…do.
  • Practicing gratitude helps keep the anxiety levels down.
  • Practicing gratitude really does help you keep the important things in life in perspective.
  • There’s always  something to be grateful for.

 

These are just a few of the lessons that I learned during my 30 days of practicing gratitude. I haven’t given up on journaling and will continue to try to have it become a habit. Recently, I read at this website, Greater Good in Action (a collaboration between UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and HopeLab), that writing in a gratitude journal three times a week (1-3 times it says deeper in the article) might have a greater impact on our happiness than journaling every day.

That might be a good place for me to start.

Practicing Gratitude In Action.

As a result of each of these daily concrete examples of practicing gratitude, I decided to make a YouTube video of the clips from my 30 days of gratitude. I’m still learning how to make the edits, so I don’t know how to add music to a video on some clips and leave the talking on others. Maybe that should be a challenge for myself this year?

Hey… we’re all works in progress, right?!

Do you practice daily gratitude?

What are you most grateful for today?

Even though I’m on day 3 of my January Challengeit’s never to late to join along.

The Real Gift of Gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become. - Robert Holden

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

wpc: growth

 

30 Days of...

30 Days Of… January Challenge

30 Days Of… January Challenge.

I hope that all of you are having a lovely holiday season. I didn’t think I’d be back with a post until Friday. Then I realized, not only are we rapidly approaching the end of the year…we are rapidly approaching the end of December and I haven’t announced the 30 day challenge that I will be undertaking for the month of January.

Many of you are familiar with the fact that I started doing a 30 day challenge each month that started this past September in honor of the milestone of turning 40. They say that it takes 21 days to create a habit. I figured by 30 days it should be pretty well solidified if it’s going to take.

Plastic Reduction.

Even though my September Challenge focused on plastic bag usage, I also made a conscientious effort to reduce plastic straw usage. I am still maintaining that effort and will be implementing more plastic waste reduction efforts as I move into the new year.

Meditation.

I have loved discovering meditation throughout my October Challenge. I have had days in December where I’ve missed meditation. The first time I missed my day of meditation, I woke up in the middle of the night, realized I had missed it, and was disappointed. At first I was hard on myself for missing, but then I realized that it isn’t a competition, it’s a growth process. I also learned that on the days when my family is home, it’s better for me to set aside some time in the morning.

New Recipes.

The November Challenge was the most challenging physically with trying to prepare a “new to me” recipe each day. It is not a “habit” that I continued, but it wasn’t really meant to be. I still hunt for new recipes, just not daily.

Gratitude.

While I will address the December Challenge once I have completed it, I will tell you that I have acknowledged the daily prompt in a concrete form each day so far.

Well, what about January?!

My 30 day challenge for January will be:

30 Days of being a vegetarian.

Radishes

Vegetarian Challenge.

When I started the 30 day challenges, I knew that this would be one of my challenges. I just didn’t know what month I would choose. Originally, I thought we’d be traveling over the new year and had planned it for February. My husband asked me to move the challenge to January because he is interested in participating in this challenge with me. As far as how this challenge will look for me… while I won’t be choosing meat, I also won’t be asking at restaurants if my food is cooked in an animal product. However, if I make my teens bacon and eggs, I won’t be cooking my eggs in the same pan as the bacon.

I don’t anticipate becoming a full-time vegetarian after the challenge. If the challenge agrees with my body, I could see it becoming an 80/20 lifestyle. Part of the journey of the November Challenge was to seek a new way of eating. I could be very happy living on bread and cheese (the staples of my husband’s vegetarian stint in college), but I’m not convinced that my body is a fan of those things either.

Bowl of Lemons

The background for this challenge choice.

Everybody has a different reason for some journeys that they begin. Mine is a journey of gut health. There are all types of articles out that state the importance of the gut microbiome.  While my body has served me well for 40 years, I want to be sure that I am serving it well. I have had problems with foods for years. I still have never learned all my triggers. I don’t do well with milk, but can tolerate many milk-based products. I can tell the difference between the stabbing pains caused by milk and the pains from other trigger foods. I can tell you that the pains under my ribs or radiating across my back after eating certain meals have lessened over the years. I will also share that I had some testing done for other reasons in my early 30’s which showed no damage to my intestines. I don’t think I’ve had specific testing for celiac disease, but there’s no indication that I have it. When I moved to Virginia, I had some bloodwork done due to some symptoms I was having. I did test positive for autoimmune antibodies, but negative to the specific autoimmune diseases that they then tested for.

My doctor thinks I probably have some level of IBS (which in my understanding basically means…we know you have issues, we just don’t know what causes them) and has recommended a low FODMAP diet. I haven’t committed to ruling those foods out yet, but I may as I work through this process of discovering what my body requires for its optimum health.

Heart disease also runs in my family and at a younger age than you’d expect.

It is important to me that I do whatever I can to take care of my health.

I am not a doctor and nothing I share should be interpreted as that. My personal belief is that your body may not require the exact nutrient intake that mine requires (and I’m still trying to figure out exactly what that means for my body) and diet is a highly personalized situation.

Pineapple Avocado Smoothie

I’m a little nervous about that many meals without meat. I’m also nervous about feeling awful in the beginning of the transition. My blogger friend, Dee, over at Life Honey recently went predominately vegan (I’m not prepared to give up eggs and cheese) and said she felt lousy for about 5 days.

If you have any tips on being a vegetarian, please, please, please, share them.

If you’ve decided to join in with me for the January Challenge, be sure to let me know.

I hope you all are having a beautiful day!

Look closely at present you are constructing: it should look like the future you are dreaming. -Alice Walker

Let your light shine!

Amy

 

 

 

Gratitude challenge prompt of music

Gratitude + Music

Gratitude for Music.

Today is Day 11 of my December challenge.

I have pondered each daily prompt of gratitude. I have taken photos. I have shared little snippets on my Instagram story. I have journaled. I collected ideas and thoughts and felt gratefulness for this amazing thing called life.

When I came to today’s prompt, I knew that I wanted to make a post about this prompt… this word… music… because really music embodies so much more than a word.

Playing the guitar plaid blanket

Playing music.

I have always loved music.

My father taught himself how to play the guitar by ear. His father played the banjo and his grandfather played the fiddle (aka, the violin). My dad used to serenade my mother on the shore of the beach back in their dating days. During my youth, whenever a family function would come around, my father would load up his guitar to take with us. As the evening wore on, the adults would crowd round in chairs and the children would lounge on the floor or the ground and my dad would play and my mother would sing. I remember feeling so proud that everyone loved to hear them.

My dad’s record collection was huge and I was forever listening to them and delving into my mom’s box of 45’s. When I’d saved enough money, I started my own music collection. I still remember days of taking my 45’s and trying to find the groove that I’d just removed the needle from as I wrote down the lyrics to the songs (not all music came with the lyrics and you couldn’t just google it).

If you’d think that I got the gift of music, you’d likely be wrong.

I can strum a few cords on a guitar, but I can’t play an entire song.

Singing.

I grew up singing (not solos) in the church, but had no training. I don’t know how to maintain my key when they are playing the high notes on a piano. There came a point as a pre-teen when I just couldn’t hit those notes and resorted to singing falsetto (I didn’t even know that was what it was called, just that it didn’t hurt my vocal cords) or moving my mouth to the words, but emitting no sound.

I took chorus in both 7th and 8th grade. I did have to sing the scales for my teacher in 7th, where I learned I was an alto (kind of obvious). In 8th grade, my chorus teacher had an opportunity to take one alto and one soprano on a field trip to the University of Miami. I was chosen as the alto (Not because I was spectacular. This was a different school than 7th grade and chorus was a new program there. I was chosen because I’d already spent a year taking it.) Our teacher was listening to music on the bus ride over and she let us pop on the headphones. It was scat music and I’d never heard anything like it before. I had never visited a University before. I remember it feeling quite overwhelming (I was 12). The only thing I remember were the warm-ups where we sang “be by be, be by bo, be by bicky, bicky by bicky bo”.

I had no dreams of grandeur as I still probably couldn’t carry a tune. I spent four years of high school in drama where we did musicals aplenty. I took the leftover roles (I loved drama because on stage I played somebody else, but trying out for a part was “me” in front of my peers, something I was highly uncomfortable with and so avoided) which meant the singing was done in crowds.

But long before I sang out tunes, I listened to the words.

Song writing.

This was the first song that I ever wrote. I cringe when I read it, but hey, I was only three or four. We still lived in the school bus  and my brother hadn’t yet been born. We were listening to music and I told my mother that they just kept repeating the same thing (the refrain) and that I could do that. I asked her to write down what I said and this is apparently my genius. There’s a little more on the back, but it’s equally as cringe-worthy.

I remember a time in that 7-10 year-old range when I thought that I’d become a songwriter. I thought that everybody had those type of dreams. It was until recently in a conversation with my husband that I realized musically based dreams are not universal childhood ambitions.

What about you? Did you have any dreams of creating music?

If you’re curious about the inspiration behind my song, given that I was born in 1977 and the lyrics I’ve written, my guess is Baby Come Back by Player.

I can see the similarities. Can you?

 

Cadence.

I have sometimes felt that if I could just crawl inside certain compositions, I could be happy living there. Music calls to a space deep within my soul.

I had a recent conversation with my mother-in-law about my writing. She is the English major that I am not. I was telling her that in certain pieces of my writing (usually my introspective pieces), I try to convey my feeling through a certain cadence.

That is the only term that I can find to explain how the words move through my head.

Cadence is defined as a rhythmic flow of a sequence of sounds or words.

I think about how I would speak the words in a way that would have you journey along with me in the emotions that I am experiencing. Sometimes as the words pour out, they feel like a rushing stream, gliding over rocks and sweeping around bends. At other times, I can’t find the exact words to sweep you along the journey and I recognize that there are  spots where the stream is broken only to pick up again. I think of these moments like the skipping of a rock. Each splash creating a ripple and yet there is a space before the next.

Each concept beautiful in its own way.

Ways that I can’t do justice in trying to describe.

Perhaps this is how I express my music.

With this flowing of words, this spilling of thoughts…

Today, I am grateful.

 

 

Art washes aways from the soul the dust of everyday life - Pablo Picasso

Let your light shine!

Amy

What I Learned From 30 Days of Preparing A New Recipe Each Day

What I Learned From 30 Days Of Preparing A New Recipe Each Day

November Challenge.

Phew!

I made it through my November Challenge. At the end of 30 days, I prepared a total of 36 “new to me” recipes. I found this challenge to be…well…challenging. I’m busy running a household and raising three teenagers and trying to keep a puppy from demolishing every scrap or paper or piece of plastic he finds.

If you missed the earlier rounds where I shared the recipes that I prepared, you can find them here: Round 1, Round 2, Round 3, Round 4.

I knew that I would always need a super simple back-up plan for a recipe on the days when life got in the way…and it did. Soccer season was still in full effect for part of the month and other things come up as they often do.

So I had smoothies fill that void.

I love smoothies so I wasn’t disappointed when I needed them to be my back-up, but I also didn’t want them to consume the majority of the month. In the end, I made 8 smoothie recipes. That is a little over 22% of the total of recipes prepared. I was happy that it fell way below 50% because going into the month, I thought there was a distinct possibility that it could be that high.

As promised, here are the final four recipes that I prepared. I intentionally did not prepare one smoothie. I have linked the recipes to my Pinterest account, which is where I stored them to easily find them on preparation day. I’ll share any substitutions that I made and how I felt about the overall recipe.

On with the remainder of the challenge!

November 27th.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip.

At this point, I was really hunting down recipes that would use items that were in need of use from the fridge. My biggest issue with fresh spices and vegetables is trying to get them all used up before the rot. I am trying to be conscientious of not creating so much food waste. I had fresh spinach that needed to be used. I love spinach and artichoke dip so you’d think that I’d have made it myself prior to this. And after this, I likely will! The only substitution I made was that I had sliced mozzarella and swiss left from the chicken cordon bleu casserole that I had made. I placed it liberally across the top in place of the 1 cup of mozzarella. I knew that since it was being melted, the fact that it wasn’t shredded would not likely be a problem. The dip was amazing! I ate it with some pita chips that I had bought to go with the feta dip, but I bought Tostitos the next day (since they are my preferred chip to dip) to eat the leftovers.

Assessment: Yummy win!

November 28th.

Quick and Easy Creamy Herb Chicken.

I needed to cook some chicken as well as use more spinach. We eat a lot of chicken so I am always looking for tasty ways to cook it. I had fresh tarragon and oregano and parsley that needed used, so I substituted that in place of the rosemary and thyme. I served it with mashed potatoes. It was so good. I don’t know why I don’t make gravies more often!

Assessment: Win!

November 29th.

Butternut Squash Brownies.

Yes, I am still working in that butternut squash. I thought it might be fun to do a dessert. I am a lover of brownies. In fact, as a teen, I would have my mom make me brownies instead of a cake. Miss Sunshine has followed in my footsteps. This recipe was quite frustrating as everything was given in grams. I understand why they did it. Apparently cups in the U.S. and the U.K. are not the same. I am not the type of baker who owns a scale.

The comments said that you could find conversions on google. I could not find one for the puree. At that point it was too late to abandon the project (had I not been doing this challenge, I would have abandoned it). I ended up using a cup of butternut squash puree. There’s a strong possibility that it should have closer to 1/2 cup, but to be honest, by this point I didn’t care.  I’m not 100% sure what “plain” flour is, but I used unbleached all-purpose flour. My conversion was 2/3 cup (pre-sifted). I used 1/2 cup (pre-sifted) unsweetened cocoa powder. I did sift the cocoa, flour, cinnamon, and baking powder. Can salt really be sifted? I had poured into the sifter without thinking. It did not sift. I measured the cocoa and flour pre-sifted because that way is less time consuming and I already had doubts about the recipe.

So how was it?

Surprisingly, they tasted fine. A little too dense. I added vanilla ice cream to the top of it. Would I make them again? No.

Assessment: Meh.

November 30th.

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Tenders.

I had some more chicken to cook and our house is almost never without bacon.  All I can say is that these were Ahh…mazing! And so easy too!

Assessment: Total Win!

…and that’s a wrap on this Challenge.


So what did I learn?

I learned that food preparation and meal planning is time consuming. I already knew that, but that was why I was tending to fall back on spaghetti and tacos as my easy fix. I did find quite a few recipes that I will begin to make on a more regular basis. Even a few that were quick, yet added variety instead of always heading to those fall back meals.

Unlike my October Challenge where I am still meditating daily, or even my September Challenge where I am still conscientiously trying to reduce my plastics consumption, this challenge will take a much smaller role moving forward.

I still plan to make “new to me” recipes, but the pressure of it daily made me sometimes choose a recipe that I would not normally make. I feel better on a lower gluten diet and yet there were days that I chose to make pasta or a flour-filled dessert because I needed a new recipe for the day and that was the easiest one to create on that specific day. Had I not been challenging myself, I just would not have made a new recipe that day. There would have been more time to sift through recipes instead of settling.

The other side of that is that the challenge opened my eyes to so many new options and I found recipes that I’ve yet to make. I thought my grocery bill would skyrocket because I was buying so many fresh ingredients and some of the herbs and spices were not cheap. Yet my bill stayed the same, even perhaps slightly lower, and we were eating less processed foods. A win all around.

For me this was an arduous challenge, but one that forced growth.

And growth is the journey that I am on.

In any given moment we have two option: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. - Abraham Maslow

Let your light shine!

Amy