Friday, July 31, 2020

Trust in 2020

For the last couple of years, inspired by other bloggers, I have chosen a personal word of the year. Just a single word to return to throughout the year, to keep a particular idea or goal in mind when I need a simple reminder to return from the drift.

Early in 2020, one word, as a likely candidate  for my word of the year, didn't come readily to mind. Since it didn't come easily, I didn't force it and I didn't write a 'word of the year' blog post. Sometime during the weeks, (or was it months?) after the beginning of the new year, a word surfaced that resonated for me. That word that kept surfacing was 'trust'.

Appropriately, given the adjustments to our new family configuration of teens and young adults moving out of the house (mostly), I was in a new season. I needed to trust the process, as I re-imagined and restructured my life with more options for myself with time to pursue my own individual goals. Somehow during that process in the early months of a new year, I skipped writing about and sharing my 2020 word choice.

Fast forward into the second half of 2020... now.

Here we are - all of us, myself, my husband, my young adult children and undoubtedly, you, too, in the wildest overtly most uncertain year of most any - in our lifetimes.

My unacknowledged word of the year has come in handy and not in the ways I initially imagined it would. I have turned it over and over in my mind. I have turned to it regularly and clung to it. It might have begun as a word to focus on, as a hopeful hedge against the concerns of my children's forays into their new beginnings, or as simple motivation to keep taking the next step myself, as I restructured my own time and goals, but for obvious reasons, it became a word, a thought, a concept that has meant much more. Trust in those expected areas of transition, in the first few months of 2020, was it seems now, relatively easy. Looking back, those changes were just par for the course, hardly an overwhelming challenge. Trust - no problem - I've got this!

And then..... mid-march, it all hit the proverbial fan. Pandemic, bring and welcome all three kids back home, additionally my husband began to work from home, online work from home for everyone, online classes to complete the year's educational goals for two, including dance classes via zoom in the living room for my daughter. No in person church, gatherings or even meetings with friends,  shopping for groceries equals a whole new adventure. Each of those experiences individually haven't been too hard, but piling them up, one on top of another has caused some trembling.

You know - you've been adjusting to the same things.

“Scared is what you're feeling. Brave is what you're doing.”
― Emma Donoghue, Room
Somewhere, in the midst of all of this, is when my word of the year, chosen but somewhat forgotten and not publicly shared, became internally louder. It remains, my one word hold on peace. I think it, I speak it, I pray it - daily and not because it is automatic for me to do so. I use it against the other word that comes more readily and unbidden to mind.

I use my intentionally chosen word against the word that comes more naturally, viscerally invading so much of  my experience these days. I use it against that word, that feeling, that comes oppressively heavy handed in 2020. Trust, repeated again and again. Breath in, breath out - trust - to fight the thief, and replace the the word that is, fear.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Shelter In Place Low Cost Meal Ideas

We began stocking up on staples a week or so before the official #stayhome directive. The most important ingredients on our grocery lists were inexpensive, easy to store, healthy ingredients to keep on hand. (We weren't really thinking toilet paper, at that point). The following recipes (loosely defined)  and the listed ingredients are all ones that we have generally kept on hand in our family larder. Beans and and rice have consistently been a staple in our kitchen because of the low cost and easy storage.  They also provide substantial nutritional value especially for the price.

If you happen to be a Dave Ramsey follower, you will know that he frequently recommends "rice and beans, beans and rice" as a low cost meal suggestion to reduce food costs and assist in attaining financial goals. I don't know how many people take his suggestion literally but we've been using those two ingredients in our family's diet long before we ever knew who Dave Ramsey was.

We have always included beans and rice as regular meal items in our family menus. Dried beans are inexpensive and healthy. Thy are an excellent source of protein that store well for long periods of time. The only downside of dried beans, in my opinion, is in the planning and preparing side. Dried beans need to be soaked in advance to allow for a shortened cooking time, so failing to plan ahead can lead to a change in plans for a meal. One fail to plan back up is to keep canned beans on hand as well as dried.

A few of the basic meal ideas that we start from are below. Most include the extraordinary high value per $ power of dried bean nutrition. All are easily adapted to personal taste or what is on hand in the pantry.

Kidney and/or black beans. Canned stewed tomatoes.
Diced peppers and onion sauteed lightly.
Frozen corn kernels.
Ground turkey or ground beef.
Season with chili powder, garlic.

Navy Bean Soup
Navy or white beans.
Sliced carrots. Cubed potatoes.
Saute onions and garlic.

Soft Tacos served with rice.
Pinto beans in tortillas (flour or corn).
Serve with rice and other yummy additions, like sliced avocado, sliced sauteed peppers, cheese for individual garnishing.

Split Pea Soup with potatoes carrots and onions.
Yellow or green split peas. Add chicken broth if you have any.

Garbanzo beans, sometimes referred to as chick peas blended with the following;
Olive oil
Optional additions: Pumpkin. I try to keep canned pumpkin on hand.
Serve with bread.

Other low cost, easy to store ingredients to create from:

Pasta. Any kind of noodles.
So many possible variations:
All the options can include serving with veggies on the side or over the top.
Saute veggies to add. Frozen veggies are easy to store.
Make a pasta salad or a casserole that includes tuna.
Serve noodles with a peanut sauce; so simple, heat peanut butter with added water. Add soy sauce to taste.
Serve noodles with spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes.

Dried Oats for oatmeal
Add peanut butter & sliced banana. Both affordable and easy to store.

I'm sure by now, most visitors here have adapted to the current normal. Even within the stay safe  restrictions, most of us can eat healthy and remain within a budget that helps our finances stay healthy, too. If you situation makes that extremely difficult, please reach out for assistance in your community. We are all in this together!

Friday, March 27, 2020

Slow Projects

As someone who has a variety of artistic interests, I have often found myself wanting more time to spend pursuing an art or craft idea. Designing and making things is fulfilling. I have in some years, particularly while in the thick of homeschooling my kids, found it difficult to consistently block out time to focus on my art.

I always have a backlog of creative projects waiting for me. I enjoy creating designs for embroidery and stitching them. There is usually a hat, scarf or baby blanket on my knitting needles. I frequently have an idea for a drawing or painting floating around in my mind.

Our new lifestyle of an empty nest has opened up the prospect of bigger blocks of time for me to follow through on more of those ideas. Over the last several months, I have been developing the routines I need to really dig into my own creative pursuits again.

Now with the social distancing and shelter in place directives our home has suddenly returned to full and overflowing. Even with a full house, I have been able to utilize the forced time at home productively and creatively.

While it is currently a scary time in the world with social distancing and shelter in place orders in effect in Illinois, I can't say that I mind the slowing down aspect of it all. Even with the return again to a full house, I am have been able to utilize the forced at home time productively and creatively.

So far I have completed one, left from last year (lol) Christmas project, made progress on a pieced baby blanket and worked on more than one painting. I have also enjoyed getting out the watercolor paints for shared time creative experimentation time with my 18 year old daughter. Sharing the creative process with her is such a delight. We have been working on sewing some clothing items for her, as well.

For myself, an ongoing creative project can begin with a favorite image I've captured with my camera. I enjoy exploring a variety of ways to present an image. Using different mediums to create the same or similar composition allows me to emphasize different aspects that are interesting.

I am missing my forays out into the world with my camera but I  have plenty stored and ready for some editing. Many have been taken as a way for me to record an image idea for future inspiration and use as a catalyst for new ways to explore an image. Below are a few visuals from one of those adventures.

One thing leads to another...

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

New Reality

They just keep coming, transitions, adjustments and overall new realities in our lives. In our home, we recently experienced a big taste of an empty nest as each of our three launched into the big wide world. One set out on his own with a job and into an apartment. Another for his final two years of college, at a university about a 100 miles away, the third and 'baby' to pursue dance training in a city about 500 miles away.

And then the return began, with the awareness  of COVID-19. The threats it presents have been shaping a new reality. Due to the demands for health and safety for, ourselves, our neighbors and communities, they have all three dove back into the nest of our home. It is in many ways, lovely to have them here. Due to the surprise of it, it is in many ways a more impact-ful change than their leaving was. It is lifestyle altering again for each of us individually and for all us as a family. From a family perspective it is a return to a former stage of family life but not of parenting.  From an entire life, work and world perspective, it is a new reality, beyond what any of us have confronted before.

For how long? Who knows? Make plans? Live in the moment?

As a former homeschooling family with three young adult graduates, I have been used to having everyone home. Some seasons included more inside all together time than others. Some seasons were filled with activities, schedules and commitments.

There were weeks of jam packed schedules with activities of travel, work, sports participation, volunteering and other obligations. Other seasons, there were quieter times of stay at home art projects, outdoor nature wanderings, backyard picnics, lots of read aloud time. They were in our homeschooling years frequent days of unstructured time without a schedule.

There were many days when the three kids began some self-
initiated or group project among themselves. I rarely interrupted those self initiated endeavors with my own agenda. A day of them recording their own "radio show" on an old tape recorder, home developed animated lego videos, as just a couple of examples, seemed to have, potentially, more value than would have been gleaned from a lesson from an academic program I could impose.

Even in those free for all, unstructured times it was valuable to approach the day with a routine. To begin together with a breakfast or brunch gathering, a read aloud or a check-in to see what was on everyone's list of to do lists. and pursuits.

Winter was generally a more low key for us but it also frequently, meant responding to what the weather prompted. There were ongoing commitments to neighbors to shovel snow, deliver the local weekly paper despite the cold or assess the temps that produced the right conditions to skate in the backyard rink.

All the many activities and experiences contributed to real life learning and skills; math, reading, writing, communication, project management, along with some joys and disappointments along the way.

So for now, sweet families, try to enjoy each other and your time together. Choose happiness. Choose to be positive. Choose to see the blessings. Relax, meditate, breathe, pray, read, think. Let your mind empty, wander, enjoy the quiet moment and the chaos. Be willing to see what brilliance you yourself posses and can discover in each of those you are sheltered in place with.

What the World Needs Now - for Virtual Orchestra

Beautiful Work!

Berklee College of Music Students
Produced by Shelbie Rassler

All credits on the original post. Please view and share.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Reading: 1st Quarter Goals Accomplished

Apparently recording, reviewing and sharing my own 2020 reading goals on this blog, on a monthly basis, is at this time, a little beyond my reach. My new plan for the blog is to post my reading accomplishments quarterly. First quarter list below:

I set reading goals for myself for the year of 2020.
These titles are the ones I've gotten through during the first three months of 2020. I am noticing  the rewards of being intentional with my own reading again. I've been choosing titles based on the goals I set of two fiction, two non-fiction and one audio per month. I'm feeling the rewards and the challenges of actually consistently setting aside time to engage in the printed word. Now, with the added changes to all of our lives this year, having this goal continues to be a helpful. I expected social distancing to create an atmosphere for increased reading. Despite remaining at home, the world situation has actually made it more difficult for me to focus.

Reaping the Benefits of Reading

Setting a reading goal for myself at the beginning of the new year propelled my reading back to where it has been at other times in my life. I have found sitting with a good book to still be as pleasurable as it has always been throughout my life. Immersing myself in a good story, or theory or approach of an accomplished writer is so very satisfying. Attempting to apply an approach and/or instigating conversation beyond the books has contributed to deepening relationships and added joy in my current life in only the past two short months. Honestly, it has!

My 2020 list so far.



Atomic Habits, An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones by James Clear
The Legacy Journey. A radical View of Biblical Wealth by Dave Ramsey

Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend
Taken for Granted by Gianno Caldwell
One Simple Act by Debbie Macomber
All the Places to Go How Will You Know by John Ortberg

The Enchanted Hour The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
This is my new favorite regarding the joy of reading aloud.


Half Broke Horses by Jeanette Walls
The Glass Castle A Memoir by Jeanette Walls
A bit more about these two titles on an earlier post.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

And one audio. 

I love this option from our library. Digital listening allows me to knit while listening to a good book. For ongoing inspiration, Sarah Mackenzie's was a perfect listen to read.

The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie

Social distancing has presented the opportunity for more reading. In recent weeks, when I have been able to get started with a good read, I have found the time reading to be a welcomed escape from the anxiety that currently shapes the world and has managed to intrude into our homes and lives. Taking the time to dive into a good story, individually, gives us a break from our current day to day concerns. We might discover a better point of view from which to approach our intended plans. If we are sharing the experience of reading a title with others for a book group discussion or as a read aloud we share the experience of thinking about higher ideas or another's story and have another basis for deeper connections and creating community. My hope is for my family, friends and everyone, really, to enjoy the benefits from picking up a former favorite title or a recommended new one during this unprecedented beginning to a new year.

Happy Reading!

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Reading for Me

The first month of 2020 is gone. February is flying fast right behind. I didn't and I haven't in the past made many resolutions or used the year's beginning as the only time to set goals but this year I did set some reading goals for myself. I have planned to read one fiction, one non-fiction and listen to one audio book each month of 2020. One and a half months into 2020 and I have exceeded my goal. I have been thoroughly enjoying my reading for myself based on my own interests.

While browsing at a bookstore, I discovered the Literary Journeys A Readers' Journal. A small splurge has me recording the books I'm reading this year. I indulged myself and bought the reader's journal for the sole purpose of recording my own reading progress. In the past I've keep a running list in a word doc but I have often skipped adding what I've read to the list and though I've added notes about some titles, the list method just wasn't inspiring me to keep track anymore.

For the first time, I set a New Year's reading goal for myself for the new year. Entering 2020 with an empty nest, I have felt the need to establish more than a few new routines. Reading has brought me hours of joy through out the years so it's time for me to intentionally return to that experience intentionally and regularly.

It's been awhile since I've read a novel just for the sheer joy of reading. The first novel for my reading year was Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls.

Half Broke Horses led me straight to another title of Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle A Memoir. This recounting of her life story was fascinating and in some spots a little to close to home. In particular her description of her father's process of detoxing from alcohol, an experience I witnessed with my own father when I was a teen. Despite the fact that this is based on the authors life story I found myself frustrated with the ongoing dysfunction of her parents. Had this been a fictional novel I would have put it aside for the lack of resolution. Given that it was someones real life, I kept reading. Thankfully the story does have some redeeming resolution. You'll have to read it to discover the outcomes for yourself.

To add to the fun and my own sense of accomplishment, I'm keeping track of the titles by recording what I've read in a reading journal. While browsing at a local bookstore, I discovered the Literary Journeys A Readers' Journal. The small splurge of purchasing the journal has me listing the books with the sole purpose of recording my own reading progress. In the past, I've keep a running list in a word doc but have often skipped adding what I've read to the list and though I've added notes occasionally about some titles, the list method just wasn't inspiring me to keep track anymore. With space provided in the journal to include notes, other titles by the same author, writing down thoughts inspired and quotes by authors in one place, it is helping me to see my reading journey as a process of growth and the motivation to keep it up.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

There Will Be Gaps

Over our years of homeschooling, I commonly heard phrases from others that were often somewhat flattering to me, but quite honestly, mostly unfounded. I heard things like "You must be very patient." or "You must be really smart." There have been many commonly asked questions too, for example; "Are you a teacher?" "What is your education?" "How do you teach multiple ages?" And the most often repeated reaction to my being a homeschooling mom is, - (homeschool moms, I know you've heard this one at least as much as I have) - "I could never homeschool my kids!" That statement is frequently followed by an explanation from them as to why that is an absolutely irrevocably true, beyond any shadow of doubt fact!

My typical response is usually that it really isn't as hard as they imagine. For me, that is the statement of fact that continued to ring true throughout our days of homeschooling. (I may expand on my experience of that in another post.)

If such a conversation continues, (often they don't) and deepens, (less frequently) leading to a real discussion about education, learning and family it evolves into a discussion of who loves and is the best example and teacher to the children in all of our lives, assuming relatively stable families, of course.

Another protest I have also commonly heard is about all of the potential learning gaps that will afflict the poor homeschooled children due to their parents lack of expertise in all the many areas needed for academic success. Again, if the conversation still continues (even rarer at this point), I attempt (trying to remember to do so delicately) to point out that no system of education, public or private, will provide enough exposure and understanding of all of the potential areas and subject matter that will be needed by our children over the next decades and over their own lifetimes.

Giving our children the basics to access the world of academics is vital. Basic math and reading is obviously important so that they will be able to move forward in pursuit of more understanding in any subject area they choose. The basics are necessary so that they will possess the ability to search and discover answers and solutions on their own. A firm grasp of those same basics are important so that they will be able to take the steps they will absolutely need to move forward in their lives with confidence.

However, no matter where they are being educated, no matter who their teachers are, they will have gaps. All of them will have gaps in some area of expertise and without confidence in their own ability to find info, explore the ideas of others and create their own solutions, they will be living not with simple gaps in information but in a chasm of fear and uncertainty. Mostly, they will need to accept that ongoing learning is part of life. Ideally they will possess a love of learning that will not only sustain them but will bring them joy throughout their lives contributing to their ability to thrive in relationships and in the work they choose.

The most important attribute I have observed in homeschooling parents is an interest and delight in ongoing learning for themselves. Whatever your choices are for the education of your children, share your own love of learning with each of them and with all of the children you have contact with. Acknowledge your confidence in them that they will be able to find answers and make decisions. Remind them that learning lasts a lifetime. Celebrate sharing the journey of ongoing learning with them. Provide an example of working diligently to fill in your own gaps!

Monday, January 6, 2020

Into 2020; Family, Parenting, Change and Love

Through all of the stages of parenting most of us have our favorites, some of us enjoy the babies, others of us enjoy the early childhood years of exploration and intense learning, others love the teens, (well, there must be someone, somewhere) though I have actually enjoyed watching the blossoming of my children during the teen years.

My theory is that whatever stage a family is currently in, it is often the phase that feels the hardest as parents - we look back at previous stages with fondness, easily forgetting the difficulties, only viewing the past through a sentimental lens. We can look forward to the future stages of development of our children with the hope and anticipation of smooth sailing when they are bigger or when a child acquires whatever skill might be next that it will make our life as a parent easier. We imagine that when the stage we are in passes, everything will be easier and better because... (fill in the blank). The phase of parenting we are in at the moment; with a ever growing, ever changing family can feel as if it is the most difficult, whether it is weaning a reluctant little one, potty training, learning to read, counseling a teen through a friendship crisis or encouraging a young adult  through college applications and course work.

We are all in, at any given moment and that one stage of development of any member of a family can feel like the most intense and the hardest to be in and to support our children through. This parenting journey is a look to the future kind of gig while also always being all about the moment to moment experience of being present with our children as often as possible. Some days we just make it through, other days we rejoice and high five our spouse. Also, unfortunately there are those days where all we can do is weep. And the oft used phrase "The days are long but the years are short." hoovers around the edges or becomes a mantra for the experience.

Here in our home, we have launched three amazing young adults into the world. We are proud of each of them. We are thrilled that they are all doing well and we also miss the daily interactions. If you aren't this far along on the journey - you might imagine that this is a phase comes with less worry and anxiety. Once you make it this far there isn't much to struggle with or complain about. We're done, it's all good - until....

Until the college kid comes home, just a few days before Christmas to share the virus that's been circulating on campus, exposing the rest of the family for the holidays. Or another, comes home with huge doubts about their chosen course of study. Or another, on the easier side, joins the family celebration still needing assistance with a ride to the mall, a haircut and work done on their vehicle. It is all still a labor of love and our presence as parents (recognized or not) continues to be an important aspect of supporting our offspring and each other through another phase of individual and family growth. We are still all in - deep.

Every phase of family life has it's joys and challenges, every year has it's change of seasons, accomplishments and setbacks, every decade has it's holding on, letting go and new adventures.

"To everything turn turn turn there is a season and a purpose under heaven and a time to every purpose under heaven." Ecclesiastes 3:1

Happy New Year!
2020 - here we come!

Friday, December 13, 2019

Encouraging Gift Ideas for a Dancer

The thick of the holiday season is upon us! For our teen daughter that continues to mean Nutcracker performances. For the rest of our family it means the excitement of seeing her perform after many hours, days and weeks of hard work in classes and rehearsals as a dancer. It also means providing  encouragement along the way; with reminders to eat well, rest and generally take care of herself. For me it also means continuing to be available for the conversations that include listening, communicating loving support and positive feedback. This year for the first time it means offering that in whatever ways I can from a distance because she is now pursuing this dream hundreds of miles away from us.

We will be traveling to see the Nashville Ballet's Nutcracker and bringing her home for our Christmas and New Year's celebrations, in the meantime, I've been researching, reading and acquiring resources to share with her over the holidays. Posting the beginnings of that exploration here, for any other dance moms, looking to enjoy the season, calm themselves and support their dancers.

Dancers spend an enormous amount of time moving and being physically active. Along with the physical stamina needed there is a significant amount of mental activity involved. The heightened awareness of the brain and body connection that dancers and other athletes have is usually keen however with the demands of performing in a competitive environment they are often likely to ignore the need to take some time to rest and relax.

Some down time that requires another approach to the kinesthetic mental and physical activity seems like a good idea to this mom of a ballerina.

Reading and instilling the love of reading has been one of the ideas I've worked to implement to counteract the tendency for the competitive young athlete to keep pushing through without taking the necessary break for recovery time. I've put together some favorites and some newly discovered reading resources that will hopefully lead to some relaxed, informative and inspirational reading time for all the dancers in your life.

First for the littles:
These are filled with delightful inspiration for the littlest ballerina. We read our Angelina Ballerina books over and over when our daughter was young.

This little Angelina board book is so cute!

Books for for older teen and young adult dancer:
(Keep scrolling, there's more).

Also, an excellent online resource regarding nutrition, that I recently discovered is; To the Pointe Nutrition. Created by Rachel Fine, a nutritionist and dancer she has written nutritionally sound and well researched ebooks for dancers. Look for more about her here on the blog; I'll be posting a longer review of her work in January. All of her work is available at:

Here's to a vibrant and happy holiday dance season for all the families attending the wonderfully joyous performances associated with the season! Hang in there. Some rest is soon to follow!