Sunday, September 30, 2012

12 in 12: September Update

During 2012, Sophia, Olivia, and I are doing a special challenge that we've named 12 in 12. We are doing 12 different activities that help people in need, animals, or the environment. 

This is how we did during September: 

- Take 1 bag of food to the food shelf. We donated two bags of food to the food shelf during September. The food shelf benefits two local communities.

Olivia and Sophia with bags of food
for the food shelf.

- Volunteer 1 hour at a community organization that is chosen each month. This month we volunteered about 2 hours to help make 500 sandwiches that were donated to The Sandwich Project.

The philosophy behind the organization is that there's a lot of support on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but what about the other 363 days? The food that is donated to The Sandwich Project helps provide support on those 363 days.

Sophia and Olivia helping to make 500 sandwiches 
for The Sandwich Project.

Sandwiches are made and then donated to The Sandwich Project. They, in turn, provide homeless shelters around the Twin Cities with the sandwiches that are made by various organizations, corporate groups, and individuals.

- Donate 1 bag of clothing to a second-hand shop. We donated two bags of clothing to Family Pathways this month.

Two bags of clothing donated to Family Pathways.

- Donate 1 bag of toys and other non-clothing items to a second-hand shop. We donated two bags of non-clothing items to Family Pathways. With the exception of two stuffed animals, the bags contained a variety of household items.

Two bags of non-clothing items
donated to Family Pathways.

- Donate 12 books that we no longer read to organizations needing books. We found 53 books that were in the hobby shed that we donated to Family Pathways.

53 books donated to Family Pathways.

Although we are collecting books for the African Library Project, these were ones that were not ones that fell in the preschool-fourth grade reading level. Others were books that were specific to the U.S. (e.g., Girl Scout books and activity guides, cookbooks with American units of measurement).

- Donate $12 to an organization that helps individuals, animals, or the environment. We chose Northwoods Humane Society as the recipient of the donation for September.

Sophia is holding $12 in cash to donate to
Northwoods Humane Society.

There were all new kittens, cats, puppies, and dogs when we visited.

One of the many cats who need a home.

This time, there were many animals that tugged at our hearts. It was difficult to walk away.

Athena was found in a ditch alone with a litter of 12 puppies.
Although she has every reason not to trust humans,
she is gentle and just wants to put her head in your lap.

However, we know that Northwoods provides food, shelter, and attention to these animals until a loving family is found for them.

Jewel is another one that was so eager to get attention.
She is about 7-8 months old, and a mix breed.
If we didn't have two dogs already, 
she and two others dogs would have come home with us.

The girls paying attention and playing with two of the dogs
waiting to be adopted at Northwoods.

- Write 1 letter to someone who has made a difference in our lives. I wrote a letter to Olivia's speech therapist who has worked with her now for a couple of years. Olivia enjoys going to speech with Laurie, and has made huge strides in terms of clarity of speech.

Laurie - Olivia's Speech Therapist
Olivia with Laurie, her speech therapist.
(The photo was taken on February 18, 2011.)

Each year, goals are set for the upcoming year. Hopefully, Olivia will be able to reach the goals set for her by the end of the year. Who knows...perhaps she will "graduate" from speech therapy by the end of the year!

- Donate 1 bag of pop cans to places that collect them to raise funds. The girls and I wanted to donate to Northwoods again this month.

Putting the cans into the collector.

When we drove up we noticed that the collector was recently brought in. We wondered how much money they received by collecting cans.

This 10-year old dog came to Northwoods via Animal Control. 
His owner died, and he had nowhere to live.
Boota is such a sweet and gentle dog.
I hope he finds a home soon.

Whatever they raise certainly helps pay for the food, medicine, and care each of the dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens receive at Northwoods.

Princess was another dog who seemed to thrive on attention.
She'll be a loving companion to a family who adopts her.

- Donate 1 bag of Purina Kitten Chow to Northwoods Humane Society (where Gretel was adopted). Olivia brought in the bag of Kitten Chow to Northwoods (see photo above outside the humane society).

This kitten enjoyed playing with my fingers.

There were quite a few kitten this month, so we know that the food will be put to good use.

A trio of kittens waiting for a new home.

- Spend 1 hour outdoors doing projects that help wildlife. We continued to fill the bird feeders and bird bath throughout the month.

Sophia adding some meal worms to the feeder.
The birds devoured them within a day.

Now that the birds are starting to migrate south, we added some new items for extra energy. These food items also will help the local birds who need energy as the days and nights become cooler.

The girls filling one of the feeders.

We have been rewarded with a constant stream of bird-traffic; and have seen so many varieties of birds which has been exciting.

Red-bellied woodpecker at the
hummingbird feeder.

One of our favorite visitors is the red-bellied woodpecker who announces his visit with a loud squawking sound, and then proceeds to eat from the hummingbird feeder.

- Make and randomly drop off 1 toy for a child to find as part of The Toy Society. I made a toy elephant this month is light-blue wool felt. The inside is stuffed with wool from sheep I raised, and is sewn closed with cotton embroidery floss.

Blue wool felt elephant I embroidered.

We put the toy at a county park in Lindstrom that is near a historic Swedish site.

The play area where we put the toy.

Olivia and I thought inside one of the tubes would be best. In that way, it is protected...just in case it rains before someone finds the toy.

The elephant is waiting in the tube 
for a child to find it.

- Share 1 time the gift of music (piano and/or harp) or singing with others. The girls sang at church on September 30th at the 9:45 a.m. service.

Olivia and Sophia singing a song at church.

They practice once a week with the choir, and then perform at least once a month. During December, there are significantly more times that they sing with the holidays.

If you ever need a helping hand,
it is at the end of your arm.
As you get older you must remember 
you have a second hand.
The first one is to help yourself.
The second hand is to help others.
~ Audrey Hepburn ~

Take a Stitch Tuesday - Knotted Buttonhole Stitch - Week 39

The 39th week for Take a Stitch Tuesday features the knotted buttonhole stitch. I enjoyed learning this stitch. It's basically two buttonhole stitches that are close to one another connected with a knotted loop.

I chose an embroidery floss that had different shades of orange because it reminded me of the leaves that are changing. The maples - with the their golden, orange, and rust leaves - are beautiful at this time of the year.

As with past weeks, I included the sampler in my TAST embroidery journal. It includes a personal reflection, gratitude list, name of the stitch, and collage of images of that represented the week.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

P52 Photo Challenge - Collections - Week 39

Every year for the county fair, Sophia, Olivia, and I enter items into the "collections" category. We've entered postage stamps that represent different themes, poetry, short stories, and dolls.

For the 2013 county fair, Olivia will be entering a new item: her feather collection. For several years, she has been finding feathers when we have gone on nature walks. With the exception of the peacock feather, most of them are ones that have been found right here at the farm.

Olivia's collection of feathers.

Seeing the variety of feathers in a collection - each with their own, unique pattern - makes us appreciate the diversity of birds that have visited the farm.

A closer view of some of the feathers.
The dark feathers are stronger than white feathers.
The dark pigment melanin provides strength, 
according to Kate St. John on KQED's Outside My Window.

The Raptor Research Center notes that "...the number of feathers on a bird varies from species, size, sex, age, health, season, and temperature of habitat. Most songbirds have between 1,500 and 3,000 feathers. The lowest recorded number is 940 for a hummingbird and the highest is 25,216 for a swan. Most birds have more feathers in winter for additional insulation against the cold."

The next step of the collections project is to determine from which type of bird each feather came. Categorizing and grouping is something that Olivia enjoys this next part of the project should be very interesting for her. It's a great way to combine science and math with something she likes: feathers.

Project 52 - p52 weekly photo challenge with Kent Weakley

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Important Qualities in Friends

As an introvert, my circle of friends isn't huge. I'm okay with that. When I was younger - in elementary, junior high, and senior high school - I believed that popularity was an important quality or trait. I envied the "popular" kids because they had so many friends.

However, as an adult, I realize that simply having lots of friends isn't as important as the quality of the relationships that you have with your friends. I would much rather have individuals with whom I can connect with on an emotional or intellectual level than have a large number of shallow relationships.

Girls with Suttons
Sophia and Olivia with family friends (Maureen, Larry, and Heather) 
I've known since the 1960s.
(Taken on June 27, 2009.)

Some of the things I keep in mind and continually try to work on are:

=> Trying to ask meaningful questions to give insight into a person's character and life.

Olivia with Cloverbud Judge
Olivia answers questions that the judge was asking 
her about the painting she did.
(Taken on July 14, 2010.)

=> Being a good listener by letting others talk and be heard by me. It's better to ask a friend to go into more detail about a story or experience they are talking about rather than immediately sharing something about my life.

Jam and Baked Goods Judging
Sophia listening to what a judge was telling her at the 4-H County Fair.
(Taken on July 14, 2010.)

=> Thinking before I speak so my comments are more meaningful towards others. It also helps prevent me from saying some things that I may regret saying.

=> Avoiding controversial subjects.

Voting in an Historic Election
Talking about politics is something my parents 
told me to avoid when with friends. 
They believed political discussions divided 
rather than united people.
(Taken on November 4, 2008.)

=> Being myself. I try not to act like an expert on certain subjects just to impress others.

=> Developing some personal interests and hobbies that I do on my own. These solitary pursuits can help spark some interesting conversations with my friends.

4 White Window Stars
Origami window stars that I made.
(Taken on January 11, 2010.)

=> Doing activities with a more limited size group of people or one-on-one so stronger relationships can be built.

Whey Beyond the Naked Truth

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Favorite Pets

I have been happy to have had a variety of pets as an adult - dogs, cats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and horses. Out of all the pets I felt the greatest connection to, though, it had to be Casey. 

In Loving Memory of Casey - April 20, 1995-February 13, 2008
Pictures of Casey with Sophia, Olivia, and Montague.
(Collage created on February 14, 2008.)

Casey was  adopted from a humane society, and was one of several puppies in a litter. When I went to look at them, she came right to me. I liked the distinctive white mark on her chest. It stood out against her black fur.

For the first few months of her life, she lived in Minneapolis. Then, she became a farm dog. As livestock was added to the farm, she was equally intrigued and amused by the animals - sheep, chickens, turkeys, and horses.

She was an incredibly gentle dog and none of the poultry, lambs, sheep, or horses felt threatened by her. In fact, mother sheep would allow Casey to get close to their newborn lambs. 

When I was offering a children's camp, many of the children who lived in the inner-city were frightened of dogs, particularly large dogs. At 60+ pounds, Casey probably looked very scary to them.

Yet, the children who were fearful of her at the beginning of the camp week, were hugging her when the camp program ended at the end of the week. Truly, she had changed their attitudes and helped them overcome their fear of dogs in only a few days.

Casey died when she was 12 years old from complications of a twisted stomach. Prior to her death, she began having seizures which was frightening to watch. The only thing I could do was comfort her and be there for her when she came out of the seizures.

That is such a short period of her life...and, by thinking about it, I am not remembering the happier times. So, I think about how she and Sydne (and later Montague) would play and "pretend fight" in the backyard. These dogs - who did not know one another - became close companions. They enjoyed going on walks, exploring the backyard, discovering interesting scents that wildlife left on the nature trail, swimming in the river, and sleeping on the bed next to me.

The current dogs here are Montague and Gretel. They are, likewise, a great team. When Montague was grieving the loss of Casey and wouldn't leave the deck...or would look out the window waiting for was clear he needed someone else.

Montague in Black and White
Montague in the pasture.
He and Casey would run in the pasture together.
They would enjoy finding tracks of rabbits and deer; or 
discovering pheasants who would fly out from the tall grass.
(Taken on September 29, 2007.)

Gretel was adopted from a humane society, and became Montague's life line. He was able to move through his grief thanks to Gretel. 

It has been fun to raise a dog from the puppy stage again. (Sydne and Casey were both adopted as puppies while Montague was adopted as a 1 1/2 year old adult dog.) The humane society thought perhaps Gretel was a German Shepherd-Basset Hound mix. As she has grown up, it looks like she is more of a German Shepherd-Coonhound mix.

Gretel Listening
Gretel listening. 
One of her favorite toys when she was a puppy is nearby.
(Taken on March 28, 2008.)

She has a goofy personality and is very vocal. I've never heard a dog "talk" as much as Gretel does. She also will rub her head on my arms, legs, back, side...wherever she can wedge herself next me. She does this to others in the family as well...not just me. It's as if she wants us to know we're part of her pack and she's part of ours.

In addition to the dogs, I've had six cats since 1990. I also had one shortly after I graduated from college. I didn't have that cat for long due to behavior issues it had.

The six cats I've had came at different times. There have never been more than five cats at one time in the house. Honestly, that's plenty of cats.

That being said, seeing the personalities of each cat develop from being a kitten to cat has been fun. There are cats who enjoy playing and resting next to one another while others prefer to be rest and spend the majority of their day alone.

Meenie, Eenie, and Lucy
Meenie, Eenie, and Lucy sitting together.
(Taken on November 17, 2010.)

Each cat has something distinctive about her/him. Maggie, the solitary cat, prefers to rest quietly either on top of the DirecTV box or heating vent in the floor (both nice warm spots). She sits next to me while I eat and will gently put out her claws and tap me if she sees some food of interest. The only other cat that has done that was Boo (who was adopted in Charlotte, North Carolina).

Maggie on November Nature Table
Maggie playing with different items on the nature table.
(Taken on November 22, 2007.)

Shadow wandered onto the farm (just like Lucy and Maggie). However, he spent the majority of the days sitting on the fallen log in the pasture or in the hobby shed. We would put out food for him so he had something to eat, and would feel more comfortable around us.

As the weather became much colder in the winter, he trusted us enough by that time to allow us to bring him indoors. After the weather warmed, he wanted to go back outside.

Shadow Sitting by the Purple Flowers
Shadow outdoors in the pasture.
(Taken on November 1, 2008.)

He stayed outdoors until the following fall, and then wanted to come indoors. He has been an indoor cat since that time. Out of all the cats, Shadow has the most mellow and easy-going personality. He gets along with all the cats, especially Eenie and Lucy who enjoy running around the house together and playing.

In July 2009, we adopted a pony and miniature horse from the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation. Both the pony and horse came from neglect situations, and were quite underweight. Both had not been in pastures - they were in dry lots with limited space to move.

Needless to say, it was a long process to transition their stomachs and bodies from dry alfalfa to pasture grass. To see them at first be confined to the barn and a small area behind the barn - to gradually spending time in the pasture - to seeing them gallop together throughout the pasture has been a joy.

Bailey by the Pond in March
Bailey walking in the pasture through the snow.
She's on the east side of the pond.
(taken on March 27, 2011.)

What makes Bailey and Hoss' relationship special is that we found out (after they were adopted) that Bailey is blind in her right eye. Her left eye has a pigmentation and other vision issue that potentially could render her completely blind. 

Hoss, despite being only about a third of her size and weight, watches out for his companion. He stays next to her when they go out in the pasture together. When he has to stay out of the pasture (so he doesn't over-consume grass and get sick), he keeps a watchful eye on Bailey. When he can't see her, he will call to her to make sure she's okay. 

Hoss in the Woods
Hoss in the wooden area in the pasture in the spring.
(Taken on March 29, 2012.)

The minute he is let out in the pasture, he runs at full speed to her, and eats right next to her. They are inseparable.

The latest addition to the home is Phoenix Star, a hedgehog who was adopted on June 29th. It has been interesting to watch him during the last few months move from the baby-hedgehog stage to the adult-stage as he lost his baby quills and grew permanent ones in. Imagine teething...except all over your body. That's what happened to Phoenix.

Phoenix at about 8 weeks old.
(Taken on June 30, 2012.)

Through adoption, I have seen cats, dogs, horses, livestock, and a hedgehog all live peacefully together. Seeing them grow up and play together is a daily joy for me.

I can't imagine just having one dog...or one horse. Seeing how important companionship is to the pets here only makes me that much happier that they are part of a pet-filled home, and that each one gets to experience the love, care, and playfulness that another animal can bring to her/his life.

This post is part of Blog Ease Autumn Blogathon challenge hosted by Blog Ease Facebook Group, BellaDazzle, All 'Bout Cute Designs, Giveaway Overload, Shoes Fashion Fitness, Survival Guide by The Working Mom and Roasted Beanz.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Heartwarming Animal Stories Review - "Love at First Bark"

For the ninth book in the Heartwarming Animal Stories 2012 Reading Challenge, I chose Love at First Bark by Julie Klam.

This short book (only 173 pages) includes a trio of stories about rescuing dogs. The blurb about the book on the inner cover sounded interesting when I read it at the library:

"Klam chronicles her adventures in finding a home for the world's sweetest pit bull, fostering a photogenic special-needs terrier, and diving under a train to save an injured stray in New Orleans.  

"Along the way, she finds that helping dogs in their fight to survive puts our own problems in perspective, and shows that caring for others, be they canine or human, can sometimes be the best way to care for ourselves.  

"A hilarious and moving testament to the book for anyone whole life has been changed - for the better - by an animal."

Out of the three stories, the one about the pit bull was my favorite one. The author was able to find a foster home for the pit bull after she and her husband found it on a city street tied to a post. Apparently it had been there for hours. Someone had tied and left the dog there.

When they found the pit bull, they noticed that it had cigarette burns on its paws. They speculated that perhaps someone took the dog away from its owner with the hope that someone else would find it and give the dog a new - and better - home.

The second story was about a terrier named Clementine. This story seemed to focus too much on fecally-incontinent dogs and cleaning up after them (both the foster dog as well as the author's own dogs). This, by far, is not what I consider inspiring reading.

The last story - where the author "dives under a train to save an injured stray" - was (in my opinion) more a ploy to get people to read the book than what actually happened. The train car wasn't hooked up to an engine so it wasn't moving at the time nor was it going to go anywhere. Further, no one in the rescue party was able to get the feral dog whose nose/mouth was stuck in a mayonnaise jar.

One thing I did learn in the last story was that black labs or lab mixes are euthanized at a much higher rate at pounds and shelters than lighter-color dogs. I know that happens with cats, but didn't realize it happens with dogs as well.

For a book that is supposed to be "hilarious" I didn't laugh once while reading it. The author's sense of humor and mine certainly are not the same. I found sections of the book to be banal and overly-dramatic; and found myself skimming over a few parts.

I had hoped that the dogs' stories would be more insightful and draw that comparison between their difficult lives and the triviality of some of our problems. However, that didn't happen at the level I expected.

Other books I have read this year that focus on the true stories of animals and/or their human companions have been much more interesting and inspiring. Unfortunately, Love at First Bark isn't one of those books.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

100 Days to a Better Me - Check in #2

Since September 1st, I've been doing a "100 Days to a Better Me" challenge in which I've been working on activities that seem most pressing at this time for me and are a continuation of what I have been working on during this pivotal year in my life.

I am keeping a chart for each the challenge so I can mark off and write about the 100 day journey I'm on. This also helps keep me accountable and on track with my goals.

Since the first update on September 9th, I've resumed homeschooling Sophia and Olivia. In addition, their activities (e.g., homeschool co-op, lessons, special education) all are happening. Work on the house (interior and exterior) also began to address water damage issues.

With all these additions to the schedule, trying to accomplish everything I hoped has been a bit say the least. For the most part, I was able to do everything. However, there were areas that I found more difficult to do or simply didn't have the time to do.

Here's an update about how I've done with each of the things I'm working on:

Health - Food and Fitness

- For the next 100 days, eat three servings of fruit or vegetables every day.

With the exception of a couple of days, I ate at least three servings of fruits or vegetables each day.

Side dish with a variety of vegetables
for everyone to enjoy.

As I near the end of the month the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables has decreased, so having a wide variety like I did at the beginning of the month isn't an option.

Out of this part of the 100 days, I enjoyed fresh peaches as well as chick pea and cherry tomato salad the best.

Chick pea and cherry tomato salad I made.
- For the next 100 days, get at least 20 minutes of daily exercise.

The times ranged from 10-30 minutes of exercising each day. There were some days that the day went by so quickly that it was evening before I realized that I hadn't exercised.

What I need to remember is that my day does involve a lot of walking up and down stairs; moving around the kitchen to make meals; and taking care of the dogs, cats, and horses. Although it's not as rigorous as a cardio workout at a nonetheless is some form of exercise that keeps my body moving.

- For the next 100 days, instead of 2 cans of Diet Cokes or Diet Pepsi, drink only 1 can. 

This has been much easier than I anticipated. I am finding that now - 23 days into the challenge - I am reaching more for water than for pop. On one of the days, I didn't even finish a can of pop.

I am going to go through October with the same goal of drinking only 1 can per day; and then aim to completely eliminate pop starting on November 1st.


- Make it a point to learn at least one new thing each day.

I liked this part of the challenge because it seems like there is something new every day that I can learn. Some of the things I learned during the past 14 days include:

=> When grieving, if you do too much often times your body will get sick. Avoid the extreme of overwork so you don't have to deal with grief.

=> If your grief is new and raw, watch for signs of avoidance. Let the simple tasks of daily living comfort you. Find comfort in helping others and in hobbies. Find a midway point - between your mind and excessiveness. The path will lead you to a new life.

=> I learned what an Alexa rating is and that all websites are rated on their popularity...even blogs.

=> Learned how a metal rod in a person's back can be adjusted once it is in there. Saw how a child with severe scoliosis had a rod put in her back well over a year ago and the huge improvement in her posture. She now can sit upright and looks much more comfortable.

=> The pistil stitch is a straight stitch with a French knot at the end.

=> Berries will fall off the high cranberry bush if they are trimmed now. If I wait until the second freeze and then trim the cranberry bush, the berries will stay on the branches. Then, the branches can be placed somewhere else in the yard for the cedar waxwings and cardinals to enjoy.

=> A sub-flooring in the bathroom shouldn't be plywood. It should be concrete and/or have a waterproof coating so water doesn't get into the wood and rot it.

=> PEMDAS - order of math operations. Had never heard of this before. Parenthesis, exponents/powers, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction. Go from left to right if the P and/or E aren't in the equation.

=> Carpet can trap moisture and lower indoor air quality. It also is a favorite home of dust mites.

=> Chiari Malformation is a degenerative neurological condition that dogs can get. I believe that's what Sydne had since the vet said that it is not a common condition he normally sees. Her head tiled to one side, she had trouble with balance, and walking was impaired near the end of her life. There were other issues, but these were the most apparent.

=> Black labs and lab mixes are euthanized at a much higher rate at pounds and shelters because people pass them up for lighter colored dogs.

- Homeschool 5-6 days each week, and take one day off to ensure I don't burn out from teaching.

Out of the past 14 days/2 weeks, I taught Sophia and Olivia 11 days. We are pretty much on schedule for each subject that they are studying.

We learned about hummingbirds.
Each of the girls and I did an entry in our nature journals.

Within the past two weeks, I took 3 days off. Although the girls did activities and learned something on those days, there were less intense than normal homeschooling days.

On one of my days off, we went out to eat with friends visiting from Massachusetts.
After lunch, a man who was a falconer was standing in the parking lot 
with a red-tailed hawk. Sophia, Olivia, and I were able to pet it.
(Its feathers were incredibly soft.)
He captured the hawk and is raising it during its first year of life.
This time period is the most critical, with many hawks 
dying during their first year.
He will release it after the first year.

Organization and Home Maintenance

- Declutter one area in the home. (Spend an average of 15 minutes per day on this project or 105 minutes per week.)

I did about an hour of decluttering over the past two weeks. It's not much. However, I did clean two drawers in the upstairs bathroom; removed boxes and bins from the upstairs hallway from another decluttering project and put them in the trash or recycled them; and cleaned my desk.

At this point, I want to do 2 hours and 55 minutes today to make up for the time I didn't spend on this goal. This will get me back on track and moving forward with this goal.

- Work on the list of items that need to be done to address water damage. Do at least 10 items on the list (there are 74 projects) over the next 100 days.

I continue to empty the two dehumidifiers that are running continuously on the 1st and 2nd floors. I also check the big dehumidifier in the basement on a daily basis. The bucket doesn't need to be emptied since I have a hose that drains in the sump pump/well area.

The humidity level in the basement is down to 65% from 95%. This is major progress. The main floor is still at about 60% humidity (down from 75%); and the second floor is at 55% (down from 75%).

I opened the windows of the house on the 13-15th since the weather was nice and humidity was low outdoors. I'm not sure if this helps or not, but it was nice to get some fresh (and non-humid) air flowing through the house.

The gutters were installed on September 17th. This should make a major difference in directing the water away from the foundation of the home, and preventing it from seeping through the walls and having water in the basement.

Gutters on one section of the house.

The trees around the house and yard were trimmed on the 17th and 18th.

A fan with light was installed in the upstairs bathroom. It was not working, so all the moisture from when we took baths and showers stayed in the room. Needless to say, that wasn't a good thing. The electrician also fixed the light/fan switch so now it is working.

I met with the tiling guys and looked at the jobs that need to be done in the bathrooms and kitchen. Went to the flooring store on the 20th and picked out five tile samples that I brought home to decide which one looks best.

Spiritual Growth

- For the next 100 days, make a point of doing some form of prayer each day in preparation of and during the Wellspring program.

For a more untraditional form of prayer on two days, I filled the bird feeders and bird bath; and enjoyed watching the many birds that came to eat, drink water, and take a bath. It raised my spirits to see: cardinals, house finches, robins, goldfinches, northern flickers, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, and blue jays.

Blue jay at the bird bath.

I believe the hummingbirds have now migrated south. Nonetheless, I am keeping the hummingbird feeder up until it freezes, especially since the red-bellied woodpecker enjoys drinking from it.

Red-bellied woodpecker at the hummingbird feeder.

I continued reading passages in three meditation books. Rather than reading them each day, I'm finding that I'm reading 2-3 passages from each book on a particular morning. This isn't as effective as reading only one passage from each book daily. I would like to get back to reading each day rather than when I make the time.

Another morning, I ended up simply relaxing in bed for about ten minutes and listening to the wind move the wind chimes. The chimes are all hand-cut and hand-tuned, and of varying lengths so the sound is much more melodic and beautiful than normal chimes.

Caring for and Connecting with Others

- Continue participating in the 3 in 30 Challenge as a way to stay accountable for setting three goals per month and reaching them.

For the 3 in 30 Challenge, Sophia, Olivia, and I have tried a variety of new recipes as part of the meal plan I did for the first couple of weeks of September.

Sandwiches on a stick that we made for lunch.

During the third week, I wrote a meal plan, but then balanced the checkbook and looked at upcoming expenses for the week (had quite a few due to home repairs). I wasn't able to do the meal plan as I had hoped. Rather, I will need to use what I have on hand until the end of the month. The positive thing about that is that I use food that I already have and thereby save some money.

One of the meals we made using items we had on hand.

I also have been using up leftovers rather than always making something new for each meal. In this way, we use what's on hand and don't waste food.

One of the goals I had during this time period is to organize all the fabric that I have in bins and bags. I have done this yet, but want to complete this by the end of the month.

I wrote two posts about my progress during this time period. Also commented on other participants who are doing the 3 in 30 Challenge.

- Begin participating in the 30 Days of Lists and Autumn Blog Challenge.

The 30 Days of Lists definitely has fallen by the wayside. I have completed lists through September 15th. One day I cut two pieces of scrapbooking paper for each day and glued them into the booklet. I also dated each journal entry and included the prompt. At this point, I need to do 7 lists to be current.

One of the entries for the 30 Days of Lists Project.

Out of 14 prompts for the Autumn Blog Challenge, I chose to write about four of them:
=> 3 Things that are Important to Me
=> 5 Short-term Goals to Help with Grieving
=> Phy Ed: My Least Favorite Subject in School
=> Art: My Favorite Subject in School

- Complete the 12 in 12 Challenge that Sophia, Olivia, and I are doing by December 12, 2012 (12-12-12).

We did a couple of things on the 12 in 12 Challenge:
=> We continued to fill the bird feeders and clean the bird bath.
=> Purchased 24 packages of soup to be donated to a food shelf.

- For the next 100 days, actively look for something positive in each person in my family every day, and write it down. Use these for Christmas gifts.

I have done this each day, and am enjoying this project. I think during the next couple of weeks I should begin typing what I wrote so that it doesn't get so overwhelming near Christmas when I present each person with the list of 100 positive things about them.

- Continue with Foodie Penpals as a way to introduce others and myself to healthy food options.

I mailed a box of food and recipes to my Foodie Penpal and she said she received it. She seemed very excited about what I sent. She will post about it on October 1st. My penpal said she mailed the box to me on the 15th, but it has yet to arrive. I'm hoping that it comes on Monday.

Creative Expression

- Continue with Take a Stitch Tuesday; and do a weekly journal entry which includes the stitch of the week, personal reflection, and gratitude list.

There were two stitches to learn during the time period - the pistil stitch and the drizzle stitch. The former stitch I learned and enjoyed.

A trio of flowers done in the pistil stitch.
They are included in my embroidery journal.

The latter stitch I didn't even attempt. The stitch requires a lot of threading and re-threading of the needle and sits up from the fabric in a rather unattractive manner. I wouldn't use this stitch in my embroidery in the future, so didn't want to waste my time learning it. Instead, I picked an easy stitch that I knew I could remember and use in the future.

I did both journal entries which include a personal reflection, gratitude list, and collage of images that represent the week: Week 37 and Week 38.

- Continue with the Embroidery Journal Project and do one embroidered quilt square for each month (September, October, November, and December).

I did not start working on this yet. As I noted on the 9th (when I did the first update), I usually wait until the third week to start working on the EJP because I want to see what stands out as the most important and meaningful things that happened during the month. Then I search for images to reflect those things, and begin doing the embroidered square.

My embroidery floss box.

- Complete Coloring Mandalas - For Insight, Healing, and Self-Expression.

I did 2 mandalas during this time period - on the 13th and 19th. I'm keeping up with this goal.


- Don’t buy anything that I don’t absolutely need for 100 days. Use any money I save to do one of the following:
=> Pay down my debt.
=> Put it toward my six-month emergency fund.
=> Put it toward a car to replace the one with 214,000+ miles on it.

Out of the 14 days, I didn't spend anything on 6 days (43% of them)! I'm very happy about that.  There were even days that we went out and did free activities. Even though there were things that I could have purchased, I chose not to do so. It was a good feeling.

Olivia buried herself in a soybean pit.
The pressure of the soybeans is great for kids 
who have sensory processing disorder (which she does).

There were days that I did spend money on things that we needed:
=> Food - only the groceries that we absolutely needed or could freeze or can (thereby saving money during the winter and spring when produce prices will invariably go higher).
=> Gutters - only on the critical areas where water goes over the edge and seeps into the basement.
=> Tree trimming - for over 3 years I haven't had the trees trimmed. It may be even longer for some of the trees and bushes directly by the house. These were aggressively cut back to allow more air flow against the side of the home and help dry out the ground which is saturated in some areas even though we are in the middle of a drought.
=> Gasoline - for the car.
=> Electrician - to fix the switch that controlled the fan/light in the bathroom; to fix another switch by the bed; and to install a functioning fan/light in the bathroom. The first and last items are critical to keeping the humidity low and moisture out of the bathroom. The fan hasn't worked for years so the level of moisture in the bathroom was very high. The walls were blistering in some areas, indicative of water damage.  This small expense now will help save money in the long run.

There was so much trimmed from the trees that a forklift
had to be used to haul the branches to the burn pit.

Some of the things that I purchased that I didn't absolutely need were:
=> A meal at church festival for Sophia, Olivia, and me.
=> Food and postage for my Foodie Penpal.
=> Two small gifts for Sophia and Olivia that will be put aside until Christmas. One was a pair of earrings ($2) and the other a handmade scarf ($5) that were at the craft sale at the festival.
=> Harp lessons for Sophia. Technically, this is an educational expense so I consider it a need. In reality, it is something that is a luxury...a "want." To balance the expense, she has performed for no fee at a nursing home and church. She is practicing a song "On Eagle's Wings" to play for her grandma in memory of her grandpa (my dad) near the one-year anniversary of his death. We are hoping that she will be able to play the piece at a day-time mass in his memory.


All in all, I'm very happy with the progress I'm making. It's good to have these goals and be making a conscientious effort to reach them.