Monday, December 14, 2020

Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos - Whole 30 and Paleo

Last week, I made Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos. The recipe was from a pin on Pinterest that led to The Real Food Dietitians. I doubled the recipe since the package of chicken came was two pounds. I'm glad I did. It was an easy recipe to make and tastes great! 

We used tortillas. However, the Real Food Dietitians said it could also be served in a lettuce wrap or on a bed of greens. We topped the meat with onions, yellow peppers, fresh tomatoes, and salsa that we got at the local farmers market this summer. Fresh cilantro and some sliced avocado would taste good on the chicken tacos as well.

The Slow Cooker Chicken Tacos take about 10 minutes to prep and cook for four hours.


1-1 1/4 lb. chicken breast or thighs
1/2 cup organic or homemade salsa
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (more for more heat)
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Salad greens or bibb lettuce
Fresh cilantro
Toppings: Fresh chopped veggies of choice, olives, avocado, fresh salsa, lime wedge, etc.


Place all ingredients except the toppings and salad greens/lettuce in a slow cooker and cook on high for 4-5 hours. Remove chicken and shred with 2 forks (Note: I did this right in the slow cooker). Return to slow cooker and cook on low for an additional 30 minutes. (Note: I cooked the chicken for 4 hours and then kept it on warm until dinner). 

Serve chicken taco meat in a lettuce wrap or on a bed of greens, top with cilantro and desired toppings.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Christmas Cookies and Treats

I was going through drafts of posts on my blog and came across one for Christmas Cookies and Treats. When I opened the document, I realized I had almost finished it except putting the fudge recipe in it. I don't know which fudge recipe I used, so I'm just posting with two recipes for Peppermint Shortbread Cookies and Mint Chocolate Cookies. 

The Peppermint Shortbread Cookies is a recipe from a friend who I knew for many years. We happened to be visiting her and her daughters one day when she was making these cookies. She shared the recipe and we've been making them at Christmas ever since.

Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

The shortbread cookies are the ones 
with the crushed candy canes on top.


1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/4 cup cornstarch

1 cup confectioners (powdered) sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Peppermint extract
Crushed candy canes or peppermint candy


Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Gradually blend in flour and cornstarch.

The mixture will be crumbly, so it is best to squeeze the dough by hand at this point.

Form into 1-inch balls and press down slightly on the cookie sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the undersides begin to brown.

Cool 5 minutes, drizzle with frosting and sprinkle with crushed candy.


I saw a pin on Pinterest for Mint Chocolate Cookies that led to a blog. The cookies, when they come out of the oven, are soft and delicious. They turn into crisp cookies once they cool. I wish they would stay soft. They taste better that way, and it's the way I prefer them. Although I like the mint flavor, I would not make these cookies again.

The Mint Chocolate Cookies are the green cookies 
in the center of the plate.

Mint Chocolate Cookies


2 3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp mint extract
15-20 drops green food coloring
1 bag of Andes Mints (chopped) or Andes Baking Chips


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt) together and set aside. Solicit your kids to unwrap the Andes Mints. A. was more than happy to unwrap them (knowing full well, he would be sneaking some).

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and mint extract. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Add green food coloring and mix until evenly colored. Last, but not least, fold in the chopped Andes mints. Doesn't it look just like the ice cream?

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls (you may need to shape with your hands), flatten, and place onto ungreased cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let stand on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before moving them to wire racks to cool.


I had a fudge recipe for many years that I wanted to try. It called for nuts, but I didn't put them in the recipe since no one in our family likes nuts in fudge. This recipe made a very large amount of fudge - way more than what we needed. It could easily be halved or quartered and put in a smaller pan.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Honey for a Child's Heart - Book Notes

The book Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt has been on my list of books to read ever since I started homeschooling Sophia and Olivia. 

It's an insightful book about the power of books and literature on a child's life. Much of what is shared is consistent with how I raised and educated the girls, so the book is an affirmation of how I chose to teach them. 

Some highlights from the book include: 

- Few things are more important for a child than to discover the joy of reading. Give him a love of reading, and you have given him not only the most satisfying and useful of all recreations but also the key to true learning. 

- It introduces us to people and places we wouldn't ordinarily know. A good book is a magic gateway into a wider world of wonder, of beauty, of delight and adventure. Books are experiences that make us grow, that add something to our inner stature. 

- Children don't stumble onto good books by themselves; they must be introduced to the wonder of words put together in such a way that they spin out pure joy and magic. 

- Somehow a limited, poverty-stricken vocabulary works toward equally limited use of ideas and imagination. 

- "Snow is the most beautiful silence in the world." (Dobry, by Monica Shannon)

- I have never been able to resist the appeal of a child who asks, "Read to me, please?" The warm security of a little person cuddled close, loving the pictures which help tell the story, listening to the rhythm of the words, laughing in all the right places as the policeman stops Boston traffic for the mother duck and her family in Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings.

- But the pleasure doesn't end with small children who like to sit on your lap. Growing-up children are just as much fun. Reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books of pioneer adventure on the prairie, our family could feel the warm cabin, smell the freshly baked bread, hear the blizzard raging outside, and experience with Laura the close family feeling of Pa's singing and fiddling by the fireside.

- Books do impart a sense of security. Children meet others whose backgrounds, religions and cultural ways are unlike their own. 

- Geography invades our living rooms as children visit families from other countries, and the world seems quite friendly.

- We are concerned about building whole people - people who are alive emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. 

- A young child, a fresh uncluttered mind, a world before him - to what treasures will you lead him? With what will you furnish his spirit? 

- Parents unconsciously teach their children what is valuable by the way they spend their own time. 

- Families do have to repeatedly make conscious decisions about what is valuable and then choose the best over the mediocre. 

- Erich Fromm in his book The Art of Loving speaks of a child's basic need for milk and honey from his parents. Milk is the symbol of the care a child receives for his physical needs, for his person. Honey symbolizes the sweetness of life, that special quality that gives the sparkle within a person...To give honey, one must love honey and have it to give. Good books are rich in honey. 

- A busy schedule is the enemy of reading.

- Exposing him to a variety in art helps him to choose what he likes. 

- Good books are written not so much for children as written by people who have not lost their childhood.

- C.S. Lewis says that no book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally worth reading at the age of fifty. 

- Real books have life. They release something creative in the minds of those who absorb them. 

- A good writer has something worthy to say and says it in the best possible way.

Some books that we haven't read that would be worth reading:

- The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

- Adventures of Richard Hannay

- Mary Poppins (written by Pamela Travers)

- The Day We Saw the Sun Come Up (Alice Goudey). Also the author's books on nature for older children

- May I Bring a Friend? (Beatrice S. de Regniers)

- A Pocketful of Cricket (Rebecca Caudhill)

- Five Chinese Brothers (Claire H. Bishop)

- Sam, Bangs, and Moonshine (Evaline Ness)

- Moy Moy (Leo Politi)

- Melindy's Medal (G. Faulkner)

- The Moffats (Eleanor Estes)

- The Empty Schoolhouse (Natalie S. Carlson)

- My Borther Stevie (Eleanor Clymer)

- Silver Chief: Dog of the North (John O'Brien)

- Lassie Come Home (Eric Knight)

- My Side of the Mountain (Jean George)

- Freedom Train (Dorothy Sterling)

- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

- Swallows and Amazons (Arthur Ransome)

- Onion John (Joseph Krumgold)

- North to Freedom (Anne Holm)

- The Wishing Tree (William Faulkner) 

- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

- The Adventures of Huckkleberry Finn

- The Prince and the Pauper

- Shadow in the Pines (Stephen Meader)

- Winter Danger (William O. Steele)

- Moby Dick )Herman Melville)

- Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

- Hound of Baskervilles

- Suki and the Invisible Peacock

- Suki and the Old Umbrella (Joyce Blackburn)

- Little Pilgrim's Progress (Helen L. Taylor)

- The Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

- Jungle Doctor Series (Paul White)

Monday, November 9, 2020

The Art of Noticing - Book Notes

 There's a book that I read recently that had some intriguing ideas about creativity. The Art of Noticing - 131 Ways to Spark Creativity, Find Inspiration, and Discover Joy in the Everyday by Rob Walker had many ideas that I would like to try doing. 

Since the pandemic began back in March with a lockdown, I've struggled to get in a regular pattern of creative exploration and doing things that I enjoy - like pottery, sewing, writing, and quilting. 

Iris folding.

I'm hoping that by doing some of the activities in this book, that I will start doing these things again. (However, pottery will need to wait until the art center opens again.)

- My ambition is to provoke them [students] into thinking about what they notice, what they miss, why it matters, and how to become better, deeper, and more original observers of the world and of themselves. 
- A broad range of professions and pursuits relies on the creative process. The scientist, the entrepreneur, the photographer, the coach: Each relies on the ability to notice that which previously seemed invisible to everybody else. 
- The stimulation of modern life, philosopher Georg Simmel complained in 1903, wears down the senses, leaving us dull, indifferent and unable to focus on what really matters.
- In the early 1950s, writer William Whyte lamented in Life magazine that "billboards and neon signs," and obnoxious advertising were converting the American landscape into one long roadside distraction. 
- "A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention," economist Herb Simon warned in 1971. 
- Polyconsciousness is what one researcher termed the resulting state of mind that divides attention between the physical world and the one our devices connect us to, undermining here-and-now interactions with actual people and things around us.

The girls next to one another...but, unfortunately, in their own worlds.

- When you actively notice new things, that puts you in the present...As you're noticing new things, it's engaging, and it turns's literally, not just figuratively, enlivening. (Ellen J. Langer)
- Windows are a powerful existential tool....The only thing you can do is look. You have no influence over what you will see. Your brain is forced to make drama out of whatever happens to appear. Boring things become strange. (Sam Anderson)

Thanksgiving window stars.

- The quieter you become, the more you can hear. (Ram Dass)
- Appreciate the random participation of others in our lives. (Speed Levitch)
- Our life experience will equal what we have paid attention to, whether by choice or default. (William James)

Ideas for noticing:

 - Conduct a scavenger hunt.

- Spot something new every day.

Lake Waconia - someplace new I visited in October.

- Take a color walk

- What are the colors that you become aware of first?

- What are the colors that reveal themselves more slowly?

- What colors do you observe that you did not expect?

- What color relationships do you notice?

- Do colors appear to change over time?

 - Start a collection (e.g., search images to hunt and document: arrows, public clocks, manhole covers, geometric shapes, specific architectural details, footprints, signs and objects prohibiting specific behaviors)

- Count with the numbers you find. The game is to find unexpected shapes, sizes, and contexts. Start at 1 and work your way up or start with 100 count down. 

- Document the (seemingly) identical - a developed named Jacob Harris regularly takes pictures of blue cloudless sky - near-identical squares of blue. He calls the series "Sky Gradients." Other ideas - sidewalks, parking lots, grass, tree trunks - both human-made features and natural ones offer endless possibilities.

Seed pods on a tree in the backyard.

- Look slowly. An example is Slow Art Day. Look at five works of art for ten minutes each, and then meet together with someone over lunch to talk about the experience. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York concluded that its patrons spend a median 17 seconds in front of any given painting. 

- Look up and then look farther up - this means slowing way down or stopping moving altogether.

- Repeat your point of view - occupy the same spot for 15 minutes every day and study passersby. 

- Look out a window - spend 10 minutes looking out the window you most persistently ignore. 

Two deer who frequently have visited our yard this Summer and Fall.

- Reframe the familiar - make a Polaroid-size frame, acrylic with a dry-erase surface - like portable windows. Hold the frame up to an object or scene and write a one- to two-word description on it (e.g., beautiful, vacant, cloudy). Then shift the frame to focus on a different subject, leaving the original description. How does the earlier description influence what you're looking at? 

- Cover 4'33" - John Cage composition in 1952 involved a 4'33" "song" of no music. Set the timer on your phone for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Set it to vibrate or chime, place it somewhere screen-down, and don't watch the clock tick. Close your eyes and just listen. 

- Make an auditory inventory - collect sounds and write down what they are. 

- Digital silence - observe a week of digital silence. 

- Stand - "Standing with Saguaros" project - stand for an hour in the proximity of one of the cacti there. You can also sit. Adapt to your area. Pick one thing and really attend to it for an hour. 

- Spend a day of traveling your hometown without spending a dime. See what happens when you take money out of the equation. How does it change where you move, what you look for, how you orient yourself. 

Staying by the hummingbird feeder for a long time yielded some photos 
I enjoy looking back upon now that the hummingbirds have migrated south.

- Play Big-Box Archaeologist - look for and document products you couldn't dream up if you tried as you go through a big-box store. What is the most absurb product you will see? The most poetic? The saddest? The one most revealing of 21st century America? The funniest?

- Read the plaque - read public plaques. They often tell fascinating stories hidden in plain sight. See for examples. 

- Apply the SLANT method: Sit up, Lean forward, Ask and answer questions, Nod your head, and Track the speaker.

- Ask five questions, give five compliments - this requires an alert attentiveness toward other people and what they're saying.

- Find something to complain about - without complaining, there can be no progress. The trick is to treat negativity as a means, not an end. 

- Meet a friend halfway - pick a friend and calculate the exact geographic midpoint between where the two of you live. See

- Be alone in public - it's not a penalty to spend time alone. It's an opportunity - to exist totally free of anyone else's expectations or your smartphone. 

A stand of pine trees on a trail that I 
explored by myself one morning.

- Care for something. Caring is at the very heart of it all. These exercises help you decide what you want to care about - and thus what and whom you want to care for and attend to.

A river in Wisconsin that I have enjoyed visiting several times.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Healing the Divide - Poems of Kindness and Connection

Recently I read Healing the Divide - Poems of Kindness and Connection which is edited by James Crews. 

There are quite a few poems in this book that I liked or that I wanted to read multiple times. Below are some of them. 


Carol Cone

What do you see when
your baby comes home at fifty?
Do you remember the child
who couldn't sleep a single night
for two endless years
who wouldn't eat most foods
who pushed your hugs away
who gave kisses to no one?

Slowly, the years passed without
a hug, a visit, a Christmas card, yet
whatever brought the epiphany - 
his father's death, a mid-life crisis
or realization that half a life
had passed him by, much too fast - 

he came home at fifty,
erasing years of separation.
Just a visit, an experiment,
still prickly but ready to talk,
to reach out an inch or two 
perhaps to build a fragile bridge
across those missing years.



Danusha Laméris 

I’ve been thinking about the way, when you walk 
down a crowded aisle, people pull in their legs 
to let you by. Or how strangers still say “bless you” 
when someone sneezes, a leftover 
from the Bubonic plague. “Don’t die,” we are saying. 
And sometimes, when you spill lemons 
from your grocery bag, someone else will help you 
pick them up. Mostly, we don’t want to harm each other. 
We want to be handed our cup of coffee hot, 
and to say thank you to the person handing it. To smile 
at them and for them to smile back. For the waitress 
to call us honey when she sets down the bowl of clam chowder, 
and for the driver in the red pick-up truck to let us pass. 
We have so little of each other, now. So far 
from tribe and fire. Only these brief moments of exchange. 
What if they are the true dwelling of the holy, these 
fleeting temples we make together when we say, “Here, 
have my seat,” “Go ahead — you first,” “I like your hat.”



Alison Luterman

I stalked her 
in the grocery store: her crown 
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip, 
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness, 
watching the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket, 
beaming peace like the North Star. 
I wanted to ask, "What aisle did you find 
your serenity in, do you know 
how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone, 
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess 
some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—" 
But we don’t request such things from strangers 
nowadays. So I said, "I love your hair."



Wesley McNair

Why, when we say goodbye 
at the end of an evening, do we deny 
we are saying it at all, as in We’ll 
be seeing you, or I’ll call, or Stop in, 
somebody’s always at home? Meanwhile, our friends, 
telling us the same things, go on disappearing 
beyond the porch light into the space 
which except for a moment here or there 
is always between us, no matter what we do. 
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens 
when the space gets too large 
for words—a gesture so innocent 
and lonely, it could make a person weep 
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown 
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel 
patting and stroking the growing distance 
between their nameless ship and the port 
they are leaving, as if to promise I’ll always 
remember, and just as urgently, Always 
remember me. Is it loneliness, too, 
that makes the neighbor down the road lift two 
fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes 
day after day on his way to work in the hello 
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised 
fingers do for him, locked in his masculine 
purposes and speeding away inside the glass? 
How can our waving wipe away the reflex 
so deep in the woman next door to smile 
and wave on her way into her house with the mail, 
we’ll never know if she is happy 
or sad or lost? It can’t. Yet in that moment 
before she and all the others and we ourselves 
turn back to our disparate lives, how 
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag 
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for 
in spite of what pulls us apart again 
and again: the porch light snapping off, 
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.



Stella Nesanovich

It can happen like that: 
meeting at the market, 
buying tires amid the smell 
of rubber, the grating sound 
of jack hammers and drills, 
anywhere we share stories, 
and grace flows between us. 

The tire center waiting room 
becomes a healing place 
as one speaks of her husband's 
heart valve replacement, bedsores 
from complications. A man 
speaks of multiple surgeries, 
notes his false appearance 
as strong and healthy. 

I share my sister's death 
from breast cancer, her 
youngest only seven. 
A woman rises, gives 
her name, Mrs. Henry, 
then takes my hand. 
Suddenly an ordinary day 
becomes holy ground.



Carmen Tafolla

The earth below us shifts
and the joints of houses ache
with hairline fractures that grow
into faultlines on the walls.

The motors burn out
first the fan and then the garbage disposal,
on my way out the door
to job or bank or nursing home.
The only two burners still lighting weakly
on the stovetop flicker at me.

Things fall apart
sometimes people too 
as crisis-after-crisis beats us down.
Deaths and Close-to-deaths
Loss and Deeper loss.

You can no longer swallow, 
or pronounce.
You reach a hand of bones
to lift my hand to your lips.
Your eyes catch my eyes with kindness,
carry the message as softly as you can 
against this harsh sky.

The song you heard playing before I did,
Por Ti Volare, I recognize.
You sang a million times, before this disease.
I didn't know the English title
was  Time to Say Goodbye.
You pull a shining smile out of this stiff
Parkinson's mask
and gently
release me

Composer Study - Amy Beach

We're a bit behind with composer studies this year. However, I'm excited about the composers we will be learning about and hearing their music. I am choosing more composers who are women this year since, in the past, they have been predominantly men. 

This month, we focused on Amy Beach.

According to Wikipedia, Amy Beach was born on September 5, 1867, and died on December 27, 1944. She was both an American composer and pianist, and the first successful female composer of large-scale art music. "Her 'Gaelic' Symphony, premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1896, was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman.

"She was one of the first American composers to succeed without the benefit of European training, and one of the most respected and acclaimed American composers of her era. As a pianist, she was acclaimed for concerts she gave featuring her own music in the United States and in Germany."

One thing that is impressive is that Amy could sing forty songs accurately by age one, she could improvise counter-melody by age two, and taught herself to read at age three. At four years old, during one summer, she composed three waltzes for piano without having a piano. She was able to mentally compose the pieces and then played them when she returned home from her stay at her grandfather's farm.

Wikipedia stated, "A major compositional success came with her Mass in E-flat major, which was performed in 1892 by the Handel and Haydn Society orchestra, which since its foundation in 1815 had never performed a piece composed by a woman.

"Her father, Charles Cheney, had died in 1895. Beach felt unable to work for a while. She went to Europe in hopes of recovering there. In 1912, she gradually resumed giving concerts, Her European debut was in Dresden, October 1912, playing her violin and piano sonata with violinist "Dr. Bülau," to favorable reviews....Demand arose for sheet music of Beach's songs and solo piano pieces, beyond the supply that Beach's publisher Arthur P. Schmidt had available for German music stores."

Amy was the first American woman who could compose music of excellence reminiscent of European music. In 1914, she returned to America, not long after the beginning of World War I. 

Using her status as the top female American composer, she furthered the careers of young musicians. During the early 20th century, Amy worked as a music educator. She coached and gave feedback to young composers, musicians, and students. Wikipedia said, "Given her status and advocacy for music education, she was in high demand as a speaker and performer for various educational institutions and clubs, such as the University of New Hampshire, where she received an honorary master's degree in 1928. She also worked to create "Beach Clubs," which helped teach and educate children in music. She served as leader of some organizations focused on music education and women, including the Society of American Women Composers as its first president.

"Despite her fame and recognition during her lifetime, Beach was largely neglected after her death in 1944 until the late 20th century. Efforts to revive interest in Beach's works have been largely successful during the last few decades."

Below are six pieces that Amy Beach composed and Olivia's thoughts about them.

Four Sketches, Op. 15: Fire Flies

Olivia thought:
- It didn't really remind me of fireflies. It sounded more like bumblebees - like "Flight of the Bumblebees" when it went really fast - except like maybe not as as fast. This was more soft. It was still a bumblebee, but not nearly as fast.
- The part where it changes in the middle - it was like the bumblebee or firefly was settling down and taking a little break. 
- I think it would be easy in notes - especially during the really fast part - it repeats a lot. There's a chord that you are going up and down on. It would be hard in terms of rhythm and counting, and that both hands lined up. 
- I liked this one. It was nice. 

Olivia thought:
- I think I have heard this one before...or maybe it has the same name, but it is done by a different composer.
- It is like something you'd hear during a ballet. 
- At about 2:30, it sounds like people hopping down the stairs. 
- It is very different than the first one. It is much slower. It is a much more soothing melody. 
- It's pretty. It reminds me of something I may have played...but not the full thing.

Canticle of the Sun

Olivia thought:
- Very mystical. 
- Sounds like something you'd hear at the beginning of the orchestra or a the background story of a character.
- One part sounds like it's a sad march or procession.
- Not really a fan of the opera. I don't really care for it. 
- The beginning part was fine...until they started singing.

The Fair Hills of Eire, O!

Olivia thought:
- I don't really care for this one because it seems like it is meant to be really sad.
- It is going a little slow in parts and it's in minor keys.
- In one part, it's just repeating a lot of the same notes.
- Towards the end, it is getting better. It seems like it is a little bit happier because it changed positions on the piano or maybe it's just because it's louder.

From Grandmother's Garden, Op. 97: Honeysuckle

Olivia thought:
- The beginning part sounds like "Fireflies."
- The middle part seemed a little bit more relaxing. I can picture someone sitting in a patio or gazebo with the trellises of flowers around them. 
- I could see myself playing this one - I think it sounds kind of the same as "Fireflies" - but it sounds like it is a bit easier.
- It sounds like it goes from one time signature to another and then back to the first one.

Piano Concerto in C-sharp Minor, Op.45, Mvt. 3, Largo

Olivia thought:
- The beginning sounds dismal. 
- It is interesting - not sure what the chords are doing. It sounds like it is descending in several parts. I'm not sure what they were supposed to do. 
- It sounds like something you'd hear when the prince finds the princess and is walking up to her to see if he can wake her up again. It doesn't sound like he's been able to wake her up yet.
- I'm liking it better - a little bit.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Notes from "Life Reimagined - Discovering Your New Life Possibilities"

This Summer, I heard Richard Leider speak on a webinar and was intrigued by his message. He mentioned that he is author, so I ordered some of his books from the library. I just finished reading Life Reimagined - Discovering Your New Life Possibilities that he wrote.

Below are some of the things that resonated with me and I want to refer back to:

- The old story: each of us starts off fresh and new, ready to learn and grow and discover our individual potential. We are upward as we go through our early years, and we continue to grow until about the time we hit middle age. At that point, we've reached the apex of our lives, the top of our parabola. After that, as we pass middle age, we begin the process of decline that takes us into retirement, then old age, and eventually death.
- The new story: arcs upward until it reaches a point at the top. But instead of falling back down along a symmetrical curve like the old image, this one dips a little and then goes back up. It continues to rise gently for an extended period, then levels off, and finally falls at the end.
- The journey of your life is like a series of twists and turns, choices, and challenges from birth to death. When you're on a flatter part of the spiral, your life is on a plateau. At those moments, things seem like they're under control. You have good work, good health, enough money, a solid base at home, a network of friends and colleagues with whom to share your life. At times like these, you may feel like you have this whole thing figured out. But then, inevitably, a trigger knocks you off the plateau.
- A trigger is a wake-up call - when the game changes and we have to adapt to the new game.
- A Life Reimagined mindset: you're exercising choice, demonstrating curiosity, and acting with courage.
- "Inner kill" - the condition of dying without knowing it. People with inner kill often feel that they either don't have enough or aren't good enough. They get stuck living in comparison with others or with some idealized, unattainable version of themselves.
- You have inner kill when you've stopped growing, when you've given up on yourself, or when you find yourself always taking the easy, safe way.
- Inner kill is the death of self-respect.
- Choice is not a choice. Choice is required. We are all challenged to choose, to reject victimhood, and to be choice makers.
- Curiosity is change. Curiosity is the way to open up life. It allows you to see the world differently - and to see yourself differently.

One of the sculptures at the Minnesota Goose Garden 
in Sandstone, Minnesota. I have wanted to 
go here for many years and finally went 
this past weekend with Olivia and Paige. 
It was a fascinating place that has 
hundreds of native flowers, trees, and shrubs; and 
informational signs about 
their significance in Ojibwe culture. 
There also are many sculptures throughout the 5-acre garden.

- Courage is a commitment. Courage commits you to doing something. It requires courageous conversation and bold action, whether large or small.
- Starting where you are, what would be the simplest first step you could take? Who is someone who could take the first step with you?
- The majority of people feel they can't talk about what really matters to them with those closest to them. You may bury your feelings, but they live on, eating away from the inside.
- In the process of reimagining your life, fear is the enemy. Fear of the past and fear of the future. Fear of losing what you've worked so hard to gain and fear of failing to gain new things.
- A Life Reimagined - six practices: reflect, connect, explore, choose, repack, and act.
- Reflect - pause before you start the journey and at various steps along the way. Look at what worked and what didn't work in your old story. See what you might want to pull forward into your new story in this new phase of life.

I've always enjoyed the connection 
between art and nature.
This is one sculpture that Olivia and I saw at 
Franconia Sculpture Park on September 6th.

- Connect - request feedback from trusted friends and guides.
- Explore - testing different possibilities.
- Choose - narrowing of options in which you focus on your priorities. Explore a smaller number of choices to see which fit your emerging sense of what's right for you.

Throughout the years, we have adopted pets 
from the humane society, taken in pets who have been abandoned, and 
adopted livestock/outdoor animals from neglect and abuse situations. 
I have especially enjoyed adopting older dogs, like Danny and Scooby,
who both came from a domestic abuse situation, and 
giving them an opportunity to live a more peaceful life. 

- Repack - deciding what's essential for the road ahead - what to let go of and what to keep.
- Act - taking action doesn't drain energy, it releases energy through the optimism that comes with choice, curiosity, and courage.
- Write in a journal throughout this process
- Someone who focuses on who they "used to be." They're not living in the present or the future; they're not living who they are now or creating who they could become. Simply replicating your past is a prescription for inner kill. Repetitive patterns deaden your curiosity. Reflection means resharpening your curiosity. It means exploring the future. It is when hindsight and foresight come together. It's blending the story of your past with the possibility of your future.
- Focus on fulfilling time, not just filling time.

Something that is fulfilling for me is taking photos of nature and
sharing them with others. 
Are my photos the greatest? No. 
However, as in this case, they capture a time in my life 
when I was surrounded by beauty and 
was grateful and joyful for the life I have been given.

- Connecting creates a sense of well-being for all of us in every phase of life.
- Family get-togethers at holidays or special events help build a feeling of belonging and community.
- Workplaces bring people together.
- It's also ordinary for connections to fray as we move into this new phase of life.
- The reality in this new phase of life is that it's all too easy to end up with a wealth of casual acquaintances and poverty of real friends.
- People have fewer meaningful relationships.
- Social isolation can take up to seven years off of your life. Isolation contributes to heart disease and depression; it influences your immune system and leads to faster aging and advanced health problems. The antidote is community or connectedness.
- At this point in my life, what gives me energy and what drains me?

What gives me energy at this point is seeing wildlife at our farm.
There's a mother deer and her fawn who are visiting us 
rather regularly now. I put out apples, carrots,
a bit of shell corn, and seeds for them.
They - along with rabbits, squirrels, opossums, birds, and cats - 
all are visiting the feeder to eat. 

- A Sounding Board is made up of people who get you and care about you. Are you open to having courageous conversations with them? Are they committed listeners? You could even have a decreased person on your Sounding Board - like a late mother or father, whose wisdom you respect.
- A person who embodies Life Reimagined has a formula that they go by: G+P+V. Gifts+Passion+Values
- Gifts - where you should begin when you're exploring a choice, change, or possibility. What are your strengths? How can you explore using them?

One of my strengths is homeschooling and education. 
This is something that I've done since the early-2000s.
Here, Olivia is holding a Green Darner Dragonfly
that was in our backyard this past Summer.

- Passion - What do you care about? What needs doing in the world - or in my community? Consider putting your gifts to work on some area of need that you care about.
- Values - how you see yourself operating in the world. What lifestyles and work styles fit your style? Your temperament? Your values?  
- When the elements of the formula G+P+V are in alignment, you live your best life. YOu're using your gifts on something you believe in, and your environment supports your effort. 
- Pay attention to things that grab your attention. When the challenges arise, that's when we learn who we really are.
- Transitions - and the art of repacking - have to do with the gradual falling away of the old and the qually gradual emergence of the new.
- Stuf that we collect can be tangible items that decorate our homes. It also can be memories, dreams, regrets - experiences and emotions that decorate our inner lives. Stuff can be habits, beliefs, ways of communicating, ways of relating to others, or a self-image that we've carried with us for years. 
- The stuff we collect comes to represent who we are - or at least who we've been. It reminds us of the jobs we've had, the interests we've pursued, the people we've connected with on the journey of life up to now. 
- Family photo albums filled with old pictures of kids raised, vacations taken, holidays celebrated, validate the way they've spent their lives. 

We took a family trip to Alaska in April 2019 to
celebrate Sophia's upcoming graduation from
high school. It was a wonderful trip!

- Repacking it to look carefully at what we're carrying: what's absolutely essential for the journey and what's not. 
- To repack is to decide what to lose and what to take. It is an expression of choice, curiosity, and courage. It is a practice that challenges you to lighten your load. 
- What are the chapter titles you'd give your life story? Where would the story begin? How would you organize the episodes? 
- Don't confuse who you are with what you've done. Your story is not the sum total of the titles you've held or the positions you've earned. Build on your story, but don't be limited by it.
- If you have an idea, a dream,a  hope, an aspiration, and you never act on it, you'll never know what could have been.
- Take one small risk a day. Start with something easy. Start with something you usually do -or don't do- because it's too ordinary.

I tried my hand at paper-cutting after 
seeing the work of the artist who taught this class. 
It gave me new appreciation for the work involved in her pieces.

- For the next five days, take one risk each day - and then write about it in your journal.
- We need to live our lives with choice, curiosity, and courage at all ages.
- In a world of change, there are two constants: having your own purpose and being connected to others.
- We are each an experiment of one. There is no one-size-fits-all answer for the new phase of life.
-The ultimate discovery each of us can make is self-discovery. 
- Don't go it alone. Isolation is fatal.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Good Among the Great - Book Notes

Recently I read a book called The Good Among the Great by Donald Van de Mark. People who are great tend to possess similar qualities that the author noted in his book. One person he said embodies all of the qualities is Meryl Streep. Each person, though, is able to work towards these qualities.

Below are the qualities and information from the book that I thought was interesting.


- It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction. (Warren Buffett)
- We are a product of choice, millions of choices that we make throughout our lives.
- It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are. E.E. Cummings
- Individuals who are on their own paths...not copycats or followers. And they certainly don't worry about what others think about them. They're rarely insecure about their appearance, behavior, or life choices. They seem assured, independent, and even sometimes detached or aloof. They rarely depend on anyone but themselves. They often don't subscribe to the norms and fashions to which most adhere.
- Try to make things right with those you've wronged.
- If your routine is drudgery and if you're afraid or feel exhausted, then you are not on your path.
- They've often worked very hard for their money and consider wasting it foolish, even sinful.
- Be honest with yourself about your evolving needs, wants, likes, and dreams.
- Respect and feed your animal appetites - eat, love, and exercise.

August 2008

- Plan and then make shifts so that you spend more time being where you want to be, working where and with whom you want to work, being with whom you want to be.
- Encourage others, especially children, to follow their dreams, large and small.

Sophia with a hand-beaded necklace she made in 2018.
She won a Grand Championship award at the State Fair for it.


- Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. (Lao Tzu)
- No one has the time and energy to truly love more than a handful of people at any given point in his or her lifetime.
- They tend to be kind to nearly everyone, especially children.
- There are other places to focus your energy: work, animals, nature, art, and being creative.

Olivia and Sophia seeing a butterfly they raised ready to be released.

- Show love by respecting your children. Give them freedom as well as support.
- Demonstrate rather than declare your love.


- People who are unethical have to compartmentalize their choices, their thinking, and behavior.
- Your reputation is your personal currency among everyone who knows you.
- Every time you are called to make a decision, remember that many choices move you toward or away from being a better person and having a better life.

Choosing to volunteer at the nursing home was incredibly rewarding.

- Measure your choices by your inner, higher values more than the world's material values.
- Focus on creating a whole and integrated personality, routine, and existence.


- Those who feel and stand apart from the rest of us are the ones who lead us.
- After you're away from the media for an extended period of time, you will be startled how silly and invasive many media messages feel.
- Commit to taking a sabbatical once a week from electronic media.
- Take a minimum one-week holiday every year from the news.
- Escape societal chatter by going to parks, beaches, and the wilderness.

Canoeing at Gunflint Lodge in 2013.

- Don't be afraid to stand up and say, "This is wrong!" even if no one stands with you.
- Do what feels true to who you are - not what appears cool or fashionable to anybody else.


- Prize and protect your privacy with vigilance.
- Spend at least several hours each week in your own company without the distractions of the television, the internet, or other people.

I spend time looking at the flowers growing in our yard.
Taken in August 2020.

- If you are seeking satisfaction through recognition, you are not seeking it from within.
- If recognized, remember the cycle of human commentary - if you're celebrated today, you'll be torn down tomorrow.


- Quiet your internal mind chatter with meditation, nature, creative pursuits, music, and exercise.

A monarch we raised and released in August 2020.

- Don't be afraid of appearing detached, odd, or aloof; intense concentration may make you appear this way to others.
- Don't smother your children. Respect them enough to honor their independence. That's respectful, not needy love.


- Organize new adventures for the whole family.

We had fun go-karting on August 16, 2020, in
St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin.

- Try a new route to work.
- Take your next vacation in a place you've never been.
- Choose one night a week to cook and taste new foods.
- Read a book in a genre you've never read.
- Wear a piece of clothing that is distinctly foreign.
- Take a class in some subject you've always found intriguing.


- Resist the urge to always have an answer; practice saying, "I don't know."

I don't even pretend to know the answers about baseball. 

- Don't exaggerate or understate. Precision in language will tighten your thinking and improve your judgment.


- Relish the present instead of questioning past choices and events or rushing toward "what's next."

It's hard to believe that this was just two years ago in September.
We were enjoying a stop at Eichtens to sample cheeses and dips, 
and doing other fun fall-themed activities. 

- Resist the tendency to predict. Many forecasts are born of fear and discomfort, not knowledge.


- We work to become, not to acquire. (Elbert Hubbard)
- Create a daily routine tailored to your wants and talents, not just your needs or the needs of others.
- Be alert to what excites you.

Trying my hand at new types of art excites me.
This is my fused glass project before it went into the kiln.

- Seek and learn to enjoy time along.


- Treat everyone with respect - especially your subordinates.

Volunteers who helped with Olivia's 4-H OWLS project.
She planned this public garden that has native trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and grasses.
The plants all benefit early-migrating birds, pollinators, butterflies, and
other wildlife. (Taken on August 22, 2020.)

- Being smarter or more capable does not make you better. There's much more to being a better human being than being clever and accomplished.


- Laugh at your aches and pains.

Getting ready for surgery - October 2019.

- Observe and enjoy comedians who get laughs without being hostile, aggressive, superior, or smutty.
- Never make jokes at other people's expense.


- Empathy is the first step toward anticipating others' needs and wants - invaluable in business and all aspects of service to others.

Sophia after foot surgery in July 2017.

- Being sensitive to others is not a sign of weakness but a sign of awareness, which is a strength.


- Duty is born of a sense of kinship with all humanity.
- No contribution or bit of honest effort is too small.

Volunteers at the Service Project Sampler Day that I coordinated.

- Help out in areas where you already have desire and skill.


- Be grateful that while much of life is not in your control, much is.
- Appreciate what you don't know, how much you can learn, and how much remains a mystery - and in that lies great possibility, hope, and risk.

A beautiful sunset in October 2018.

- Regularly take ten minutes to be outside. While you're out, fully engage each and every one of your senses and appreciate those natural things that delight you.


- Find quiet time alone regularly.
- Encourage and participate in artistic endeavors, no matter how simple.
- Keep a notepad or recorder in the car.
- Sensory experience suspends analytical thing and spurs creativity. take a hot shower, go outdoors, take a long walk, swim, or immerse yourself in nature.

One of the newest flowers in our backyard garden.

- Schedule time for daydreaming and time with no purpose.
- If you have children or pets - let them choose the game or activity and encourage them to create games of their own making.
- Change your routine routinely.
- Use your hands.

A window star I made in March 2020.

- Think of the creative process as one of allowing rather than doing.


- Celebrate surprises and successes immediately.

Celebrating Olivia's success with overseeing the planting of 
two public gardens in town. 
She has 4 more gardens that she is overseeing as part of 
her 4-H OWLS (Outdoor Wilderness Leadership & Service) project.

- Observe and participate in games and creative and physical pursuits.


- Resist detailed career planning. Allow yourself to stumble to the top by doing what you want to do.
- What do you really want and what really makes you happy?

Spending time with dogs makes me happy.
This is my brother's new Corgi, Bear.

- Life is short. Don't waste a breath on things or people who are tedious or irritating.


- Get outdoors.

One of the new flowers by the west side of our garage. 
It is the only flower that begins with the letter "K" 
that we could find that grows in our area in Minnesota.

- Train and exhaust yourself physically.
- Retreat on your own without distraction. Take the time to be still and listen to that small voice deep within you about what you're meant to be or what path you ought to follow.