Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fave Fives, January, Take #4

Happy Friday!  It's time to reflect back this past week and remember with gratitude the blessings.  Usually, it's the little things that matter most.  Flowers. Moons. Books. Jokes.  Here are Friday Five Faves from Willow's Week.

1.  Look what I found in my garden!

2.  Usually we take our daily walk later in the evening, but the evening before the full moon we were out earlier and I caught this snap shot of the moon rise.  I love photography!

3.  When you have a cold, take Airborne.  It helps.

4.  I have listed the books I am planning to read this year.  The current count is thirteen.  These are the books I had already started reading or chose to put on my reading table last year.  I had noble ideas of choosing a book and reading it through to go through my list in a tidy and organized manner.  That didn't last long.  I am almost finished with Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, but then I picked up Louis L'Amour's Education of a Wandering Man and begin reading it because I have the beginnings of a cold and wanted something light.  I thought I was going to be reading a casual autobiography which is just right for a fuzzy cold brain. But it's not quite like that.  However, I found a wonderful quote by L'Amour:

"It is often said that one has but one life to live, but that is nonsense.  For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time."

5.  For your amusement:  One of my students told me a joke this week.  When he heard it, he memorized so he could tell me in class:

What is the difference between a cat and a comma?
A cat has  a paw with claws.
A comma has a clause with a pause.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Book List for 2016, Episode One

As promised, I am posting a list of the books which I have determined to finish reading in 2016. Of course, these represent only a minuscule portion of the books on my shelves.  For various reasons, these books have made their way onto my reading book stand.  Some have been there a while.  Others have moved in to the house in the past month.  It's time to read these!

As you can easily see, I have very diverse reading interests.  My plan is to choose one book and just read it through and FINISH it.  Currently I am reading Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, Alona Pulde & Matthew Lederman and am nearly finished with it.  I think my next book will have to be Mini Farming, Brett L. Markham mainly because it is a LIBRARY BOOK and I have had it checked out over and over and over way too many times.

Gardening books:
5 Acres and a Dream, Leigh Tate
Mini Farming, Brett L. Markham LIBRARY BOOK

Gifted Hands, Ben Carson
Education of a Wandering Man, Louis L’Amour
Vet in Harness, James Herriot (British edition)   borrowed from neighbor

Bonhoeffer, Eric Metaxas LIBRARY BOOK
The Life of St. Francis of Assisi, Saint Bonaventure

Christian History and Encouragement
Turning Points, Mark A. Noll
What I Wish My Christian Friends Knew about Judaism, Robert Schoen   borrowed from friend
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering, Timothy Keller

Finance and Simplicity
Your Money or Your Life, Joe Dominguez & Vicki Robin (reread)
Simplify Your Life, Elaine St. James (reread)

Keep It Simple, Keep It Whole, Alona Pulde & Matthew Lederman

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Quiet Weeks Can Be Good

Friday's Fave Fives from Willow's Week.  Some weeks are just...there.  Some weeks have no exciting, defining events to mark their passing.  This was one of those weeks.  That's ok.  In fact, I appreciate such weeks.  As I pondered what this week's blessings have been, I realized this was a quiet week of quiet gratitude.

1.  This week marks the half way point of the school year!  I'm half done!  I enjoy teaching, but it's still 'a job'.  I love knowing I've accomplished half my goal.

2.  Do you have a pile of books lying around waiting to be read?  If you do, you're like me.  The fave part of this is that I have decided that this is the year I am going to focus on reading those semi-abandoned sadly ignored books.  I'm making a list (and checking it twice) and prioritizing the order in which I will read them.  Once I am sure I have located all the books, I'll post my list.

3.  Got my camera back!  Here's proof.  Photos of us practicing (yes, we are that old).

The three original members of the group with our director

4.  Happy Birthday, Dr. Mike!  It was Son #2's birthday this week.  Although he is a long, long way away, we talked on the phone and were able to wish him a happy birthday and promise him that his gift would be waiting for him next time he comes to visit-- dinner at his fave pizza place.

5.  This week our small group from church started again.  The format is nine weeks with a short break--this time, we didn't meet during the busy Christmas season.  It's great to be back with our group of thirteen.

Bonus:  Rain!  Not wild, torrential rain like we usually get, but soft, misty rain like Oregon and Washington. [remember that song's lyrics---It never rains in California, but girl, don't they warn ya, it pours, man, it pours].  And then we had a couple of warm sunny no coats no gloves no hats days.  As we were walking one evening, I commented on how 'cold' it was after sunset.  The Professor's response was, "If you say that to your three kids who live on the East Coast, we will be able to see the explosion all over the Eastern sky."  Take care, all of you in the snow covered places.  Be safe.  Be warm.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Healthy Dose of the Beach

Some days you just need a visit to the beach.

There were high tide warnings.  The birds were cautious, perching on the rocks above the waves.

Looking away, we saw the cliff looming above us on the other side of Pacific Coast Highway.

But nothing soothes the soul like a sunset at the beach.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Better Late Than Not at All

Friday Fave Fives.  A lot late.

1.  This is a picture free post.  That is not my fave.  The fave is that my camera was lost but has been found.

2.  The reason I was separated from my camera.  The Professor and I attended our alma mater's reunion Thursday night (which is also why my Friday Fave Fives are so late).  Because I was an original member of a singing group started by the director of the music department the year I was a freshman, I was invited to sing in a mini concert with others in the group from all the years it was in existence.  The Professor and I took lots of photos but somehow in all the excitement of seeing so many old and long time friends, we put down the camera but neglected to get it back in my bag.  That college reunion was The. Best. Time.  We reconnected with people we haven't seen for ahem-ahem years.  [FYI, the name of the college was changed after we graduated, so few people remember the college before its name change, Los Angeles Baptist College and Theological Seminary]

3.  The Professor's father was registrar and teacher at the college for many, many years.  So of course The Professor knew more people than I did.  He reconnected with a man who he has known since they were one and three years old.  [Yes, we have made plans to see them next weekend!]

4.  I can still sing.  If you don't sing much, you may be bored with this fave.  Here it is:  I usually sing second alto.  Although I have a wide vocal range, I am most comfortable singing alto.  So my friend and I practiced the alto parts over and over, both on our own and together, until we felt a little bit confident that we had the music down OK.  Then when I arrived, the director asked if I would switch to soprano.  I agreed.  It wasn't too bad... (A little hint here: if you can't sing it, fake it.  Mouth the words.)

5.  Facebook.  Earlier in the week, a former second grade student posted an old photo of me with her.  She is holding her student of the month certificate.  Her caption was thanking me for being a blessing in her life.  Lots and lots of people 'liked' that picture -- more than 70.  Having students return and thank me makes all the difference in my attitude about teaching.  Of course I teach anyway, but being thanked just makes my day, week, month, year, life.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Looking Forward into 2016

Welcome to 2016!  My first Friday Fave Fives of the year.  Thanks to Susanne for faithfully hosting Friday Fave Five every week.  How long has it been? [I just checked--I think my first FFF post was in September 2008.  That's amazing!]

How can I choose only FIVE?

1.  Having Daughter #1 and New Boy (he's certainly not new anymore--he's nearly eight!) for 10 days was wonderful.  New Boy is turning out to be a great lover of 'walks'.  Nearly every day, we walked our usual three mile route around the neighborhood.  We also spent one day at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and another day at the Huntington Library and Garden in San Marino.

2.  Son #1 and his wife and PAL joined us for two days!  Oh what fun!  I adored watching the cousins interact.  Our son has revived the family tradition of baking limpa, a Swedish Christmas bread.  He produced enough loaves to provide every family unit in our extended family with one.  We sent them across the country, near and far, to nearly twenty households.  The feedback from family was very positive and appreciative.  Here is PAL enjoying her first taste.

Now that she walks runs, there's no stopping her and nearly every photo is simply a blur of motion.

3.  Son #2 flew in from the East Coast where he is working in a post doctorate research position.  Since he is a Stanford alum, he decided to bless his dad with tickets to the ROSE BOWL!

As you can see, they are wearing Cardinal colors.  I quickly grabbed some red yarn and knitted up two hats for them.

4.  Alas, even wonderful Christmas season must come to an end.  We dropped Daughter #1 and New Boy off at the airport and decided to alleviate our acute feelings of 'missing them already' by 'walking it off' at Will Rogers State Historic Park.  After a short visit to Will Rogers' home (no photos allowed), we hiked up to Inspiration Point where we could look over Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and out to the Pacific Ocean.

5.  Now it is very quiet at Willow's Cottage.  That can be good, too. We are focusing on those little projects that we put off during the semesters.  The Christmas decorations are put away.  The candy is completely consumed.  We are walking every day.  I do love New Years because it brings with it a refreshing anticipation of what this new year will bring.  As I wrote in the previous post, this year I have chosen SIMPLE as my word.  Simple exercise, simple food, simple wardrobe, simple schedule.

Have you considered your hopes and goals for the year?  Have you chosen a word to focus your thoughts and actions in 2016?  Have you considered the amazing blessings you experienced during the Christmas season?

Friday, January 01, 2016

A Simple Life

I have often mentioned in my writings here at Willow's Cottage that I am interested in simplicity, simple living, minimalism, whatever-you-want-to-call-it.  So I thought I would put down in words and on this page my thoughts about it.  When did I become interested in minimalism?  What were the factors which prompted my interest?  What have I done to pursue and maintain this lifestyle?

In my early growing up years, I don't think I ever entertained any thoughts about simplicity or simple living.  Certainly, I enjoyed gardening and helped my parents and my grandmother in the gardens they planted every spring.  I know that I loved camping in our travel trailer and sleeping in the small tent with my brother.  We lived in a small house and later in various apartments while my father's job took him to different cities all over the US.  During my post college years, I watched my mom and dad continually downsize as they tired of moving all their stuff from Oregon to California, to Illinois, to South Carolina and to many other places.   I think that my first introduction to 'simplicity' came when my mother-in-law gifted me the More-With-Less cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.  By that time, we knew we would be moving overseas to a remote location, most likely one which had little in the way of material goods available.  Strangely, the prospect excited me.  I read the cookbook cover to cover and discovered a whole new world of simplicity and self sufficiency.  During our years of living in Indonesia, we traveled by small plane and helicopter and often carried in and out of our jungle bush house village only the things that would fit in one suitcase per person, weight on the helicopter being of strategic importance.  Living light was just our way of life.  After returning to the US and being confronted with western materialism in its appalling, pushiest form (advertising), we determined that we would not be sucked in to the typical American Dream.

When we moved to Oregon in August 1990, we owned two used cars and only the things which would fit in them, including our four children.  We had shipped many boxes of books from Indonesia, but when we moved into our home, we had no book shelves on which to place them.  We six all slept on the floor until we were able to purchase mattresses.  My parents and other family members shared their excess with us--bedding, tables, chairs, plates and bowls.  Truly, we had what we needed.  My favorite appliance?  The washing machine.  No more hand washing our clothes.  Our first Christmas, the children each received a treasured gift--bookshelves!  I think it was that same year my parents gave each of the six of us (and my brother's family too) fleece blankets.  When I visit my children's homes now, more than twenty years later, I still see those blankets folded on their beds and being used to cuddle the next generation of little ones.  Certainly, my blanket is still used every night on my bed.  Why do I remember bookcases and blankets?  They were given with great consideration by people who loved us and knew what we truly needed.  Because we had so little in material possessions, what we did have we treasured and cared for.

As we moved through the Nineties, guiding our teenagers through high school and into college, and our financial situation improved, we were continually challenged by our environment to indulge our desires for more stuff.  Quickly, I realized that having more stuff meant more cleaning and organizing.  I remember the day I stood in my little kitchen and declared, "I would rather have a peaceful and uncluttered home than keep all the things which constantly slither through the front door."  Sandra Felton's book The Messies Manual became my new favorite book.  I interviewed my friends who had uncluttered homes.  Best advice:  Count the number of items you want to have on your bathroom or kitchen counter and NEVER exceed that number.  For example, if you normally keep THREE items on your bathroom counter, if you find FOUR things there, immediately put one away.   I chose ONE spot for bills and checkbooks.  I finally learned to file.  Maybe these actions seem simple to most people, but I had to learn them.

Among my friends, I became known as the Simplicity Lady.  I read simplicity books.  I taught simplicity classes.  My possessions have swelled and shrunk through the years, but I have maintained the simple life which I chose nearly forty years ago.

Now that we are empty nesters, we have downsized to two bedrooms, two baths in our home.  I continually monitor what comes in the house and make sure that at least the same amount goes out.  The past few years, minimalism and the tiny house movement have become more mainstream.  My nephew builds tiny houses and it seems to be a thriving business.  I notice more and more people commenting that they need to downsize.  There are blogs and books to help no matter where you are in the process.  I regularly read several blogs-- Becoming Minimalist, Miss Minimalist, Be More With Less, To Simplify, to name just four among the many.

Simplicity/minimalism is, simply, my way of life.  At times, my focus shifts a bit, but always I return to Less Is More. A Simple Life allows us to live debt free, to work a bit less, to enjoy traveling.

I think that this year 2016 my word for the year is going to be Simple.  I wrote about Simplicity in January 2011, but I didn't make it my word of the year.   Now that I have chosen Simple, I will be considering how I can incorporate Simple into all areas of my Life.