Monday, January 26, 2015

30 things I’ve learned in 30 years

I turned 30 yesterday, and thought I'd capture the event with a fun and inspirational blog post.
These might be things I've learned as a child, a teen, or in my 20s. I might have learned them in family life, or by living alone, in married life, or by living overseas. But one thing is sure: they're all things I've learned for myself in the past 30 years of my life!

  1. Books are magical and once you open one, anything is possible.
  2. If you're craving chocolate, don't hesitate to buy a few quality ones. You'll be satisfied much sooner with much less than if you'd bought an equal amount of cheap chocolate, and you'll feel much better, too.
  3. Hymns are precious. Sing them often. Savour their words and hide them in your heart.
  4. Once you learn what makes you happy in life, invest in those things and don't worry about all the rest, the ones other people think will make you happy.
  5. Love people and places, and don't worry about the fact that, in so loving them, your heart may eventually be broken. It is always worth it. Especially if those you spent time loving are children.
  6. 10+ years is too long to live as a foreigner.
  7. Be open and willing to try new things. But, once you've tried something once and know it's not for you, don't be afraid to say so and stick to your own thoughts and ideals if people try to convince you against your will.
    (This goes for everything from food to organizational methods and everything in between.)
  8. Travel. Near and far. Fancy or budget. In car, plane, boat, train, bus, subway, RV. It doesn't matter how or where. Just go. And take your kids with you often. It will be the best education you could ever give them.
    (If you travel in a foreign country, try to use the local language and currency as much as possible, and please research local customs and cultural practices ahead of time and do your best to respect them.)
  9. Find a favourite Bible verse, or chapter, or book of the Bible, or Bible character, or all of the above, or some of all of the above. Reminding yourself of your favourite verse or Bible story when you need to hear it is invaluable.
  10. Learn your love language and tell others around you what it is. And learn theirs, too. The best gift you can give someone is a gift in their own love language.
  11. Always choose quality over quantity. (Thanks for teaching me this, Mum!)
  12. Always bring a book with you on errands or pretty much whenever you leave the house. It will save you from boredom time and time again. (This is for any kid readers out there, although I've found it to be very true in adult life as well.)
  13. Stop using the word "bored" or any derivative of it. If you're bored, find something to do that will keep you from feeling that way. (Thanks Mum and Gram for teaching me this!)
  14. Such a joy and freedom comes from ceasing to watch TV or follow the news. Life becomes so much sweeter and worries fade away.
  15. Learn an instrument. Any one will do. Learn a bunch if you want. And learn how to read music. It is a skill that you will use for the rest of your life.
  16. Camp. Camp in all kinds of places. In absolute wildernesses and in your backyard. Take your kids. Teach them how to be self-sufficient in the wild. And for goodness sake, teach them how to make a fire!
  17. Stop using the word "busy" or any derivative of it. If you're so busy that you feel the need to tell people about that fact all the time, it probably means you need to slow down a bit...
  18. Keep all facets of your life organized. It will be so much sweeter and more joyful if you do.
  19. Listen to the advice of those you love and trust. They only want what's best for you, and often times they know a good deal more than you.
  20. Find a mentor. It could be a family member, someone from your church, a teacher, a neighbour, or someone from a club or group you attend. It's never a bad idea to have more trusted adults in your life to talk things over with.
  21. Spend as much time as you need to choose your future profession. Research careers, do tons of job shadowing, spend a year or two at the start of college doing generals within a lot of different majors. You will not be wasting your time, but rather using it very wisely.
  22. Never hesitate to pause for a good picture. The memories it will bring are precious. But don't get so hung up on taking photos that you forget to enjoy the moment in real life as well.
  23. Sing as a family. Sing melody all in unison. Sing in harmonies. Just sing. Hymns, praise songs, kids songs, silly songs, learning songs, pop songs, songs in other languages. Doesn't matter what kind, when or where. Just sing.
  24. Read as a family. Read a lot. And listen to audiobooks on long car rides and road trips. The memories from reading and hearing those books will last a lifetime. (I highly recommend the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. Hours of quotable quotes and great stories that truly tap into what it's really like to be a kid! The audiobooks recorded by Stockard Channing are amazing.)
  25. Keep some kind of record of your life. Use a diary, journal, blog, photos, a combination or anything else. These records are so precious to look back on months and years later.
  26. Spend time every once in awhile being creative. There are so many different outlets, so many ways to show creativity. Choose one, embrace it, let it embrace you. Move on to another if that one isn't working. Or choose a few methods if you need more than one way to express yourself.
  27. Take time to explore in the woods, play in the rain, stomp in the puddles, build in the sand, swim in the water, climb up the trees, make tracks in the snow, hike up the mountains, and just be out in nature. Time spent this way is never wasted.
  28. Make time for God. It can look completely different for different people, but take some time every day for communion with Him.
  29. Build a community. Get to know those who live near you, who go to your school, who attend your church, or who you meet in any other way. Connecting with others is always beneficial.
  30. Love your life and live it as fully as possible!

Now it's your turn. What are some things you've learned along your life journey so far? I'd love to hear from you and glean nuggets of wisdom from your experiences!

*Idea from this post on Making Room

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My wish...

Today marks one year since my Grandma took her last breath and went to sleep until Jesus comes. In some ways it has seemed like a long year, but in other ways it has really flown by.

If I could have one wish, it wouldn't be to have the opportunity to tell Grandma I loved her more often or to have spent more time with her or anything like that. She knew how much I loved her, and I knew how much she loved me. We repeated that to each other over and over again whenever we talked during the last few months and weeks before she died. Also, we probably spent more time together than most grandmothers and granddaughters do. I grew up only a few streets from her house. It was my second home during my childhood and teen years, and I always visited her and my Grandpa every time I was able to be back in my hometown. I had nearly 29 years of her in my life, which is more than many can say.

No, the thing I would wish for is that I could have had the privilege of being able to tell my Grandma that I am pregnant. Or even better, that I could have been able to see her hold and love my child. That I could have had one of those generation photos taken with her, my Mum, me, and my baby all together. That my children could have met her, gotten to know her, love her, and be loved by her.

I don't have that chance anymore, at least not in this world. But I absolutely cannot wait to find her again at the second coming and introduce my kids to her, to enjoy the prospect of them getting to know each other for all of eternity.

"Even so, come, Lord Jesus." (Rev. 22:20b)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Reading material

We have some new reading material.

Now we've definitely got our work cut out for us! :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Common Ground Country Fair

My brother and his wife invited me to join them at the Common Ground Country Fair yesterday, which we all went to together last year as well. (Unfortunately, Jonathan couldn't come last year because he was in class on Friday when we went, and this year he had to work...) Despite forecasts of rainy, stormy weather, we lucked out with just a bit of mist and light rain as we arrived, which soon stopped. By the early afternoon, the clouds had disappeared, the sun came out, and before too long we were a little bit frustrated at our outfit choices (sweaters and shoes/boots), although delighted at the wonderful warm weather. We spent our time at the fair looking around at the booths, enjoying the sights and smells and tastes, and making a few purchases. I did a good bunch of baby/kid-watching (one of my favourite sports :) ) and saw so many parents with babies and young children. Most of the kids I saw seemed to really enjoy the tactile activities available and just being able to run and play in the open spaces. And, while we didn't stop in at the animal buildings, I know those are always interesting for kids, as well. If you're ever in the area, I really recommend visiting the fair and taking in all it has to offer!

Throughout the day, I snapped some pictures on my phone (smaller to carry and less obtrusive to take pictures with than my camera, although the pictures are worse quality). I'll let the photos share a glimpse of how we spent our day.

A native man demonstrating how to carve a paddle
Beautiful native basket
Simple, homemade wooden coffins, an idea that I've thought for several years makes a lot of sense

Amanda heard singing not long after we entered the fair grounds and we quickly found the tent it was coming from. It was a shape-note singing demonstration, which Amanda and I were thrilled to join. I don't know much about shape-note singing and fumbled my way through the first 'verse' of each song (a practice verse of sorts where the singers read the shape notes to sing the melodies in 'sol, fa, la' style). Once that first verse was completed, though, we had usually picked up on the tune and could make it through the rest of the song. It was so much fun to join in the sing and I hope it's not the last time I can try my voice at shape-note singing!

This hymnal is going on my wish list :)

Tyler took a more professional-sounding recording of another song. Click here to listen.

Loved this clever idea for a "price tag" (but no, I did not buy a carved chunk of granite for $900...)
I thought this was a very clever idea for a shed with natural lighting
Tyler and Amanda looking at the lavender
One of my favourite flowers in one of my favourite colours. Love the bright fall look!
My favourite booth at the fair, the succulents. I bought one last year and miraculously, it's still alive!
Selection of bonsai trees
Last year Tyler bought a jade bonsai tree, and this year he bought another, a ficus bonsai tree, to keep the first one company.
Loved these handmade wool stockings! When we eventually get family stockings,
these are the kind I'll be looking for, handmade with beautiful, unique designs.
This was such a bright and pretty display of painted bird statues.
It made me think of my Mum and Grandma and other relatives, who love birds.

Amanda loves knitting and I love bright, happy colours. We both enjoyed wandering through the fiber arts tent and booths.

This Angora bunny was being sheared as Tyler and I waited for Amanda to make her wool purchases.
It was fun to watch passersby smile as they caught sight of the relaxed bunny getting a haircut. :)

As we were heading out at the end of the day, we walked by the demonstration tent (where we'd done the shape-note singing earlier) and came across this happy scene of dancers learning new dances as the moves were called out.

On our way out of the fairgrounds, we got to walk through the farmer's market section. The booths were all set up so nicely with yummy-looking produce acting as the actual decor.

What a cute, little popcorn trolley!
I loved the hanging herbs and other produce
All the food looked so delicious
I loved all the different and interesting ways of displaying the produce
Apples are the epitome of autumn
Amanda and I couldn't resist the apple cider. Such a autumn drink!
(And I was so excited to see a Maasai blanket as the tablecloth)
The kids enjoyed this grass sliding hill
Hoola-hoop play never goes out of style
The Elf, an interesting-looking vehicle just near the exit

I had such a fun day at the fair and am already a little bit sad that I likely won't be in the area next year to experience it again. Hopefully I'll find an equally good fair to go to annually wherever Jonathan and I end up. :)

Thanks so much for the invite, Tyler and Amanda. It was great to spend the day with you at this fun event!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

September decluttering challenge

On Monday I came home from work and found a beautiful e-mail from my Mum in my inbox. It started like this:
"I was wondering today who I could share Jesus love with and then I thought who better than my children and nieces and nephews. So this is to let you know how much I love you and how much God loves you too."
She then went on to detail some of the ways she was proud of me, from things I helped her with as a young child to things I do now. The e-mail ended this way:
"So I have a challenge for you. The challenge is this: What will you do for the month of September that would make Grama proud of you?"*
As I finished reading the last few lines of the e-mail, I racked my brain, trying to think of something I could do this month that would make my Grandma proud of me. Something that I could actually manage to do throughout the majority of a month. I knew that promising to do something like cook three-course meals every day or stop eating sweets would only last a few days before I gave up and went back to my normal ways.

It wasn't until Tuesday night as I was lying in bed trying to fall asleep that I had a thought that might work: decluttering. For the past several years, since my grandparents moved from their house into a smaller condo, my Grandma had been working very hard to give items from her home to others who could use them and would love them anew. She made an effort to go through trinkets and other items and give them to relatives who would treasure them, and she gave away most of her precious library to her children and grandchildren, always brilliantly knowing who would most appreciate this book or that series.

After all the work Grandma went through to pare down her household items, I knew that going through my own and only keeping the things I really love and use often would have made my Grandma proud of me. And I also know that I really need to do it anyway to prepare to move when Jonathan is done his master's in December. On top of that, on Tuesday afternoon Jonathan had gotten a call from our landlady's daughter, who let us know that our 93-year-old landlady, who was previously living with her daughter, is now going into a residential care facility and her family needs to sell her house in order to be able to pay for her care. While it's likely that this old farmhouse will not sell within the next three months, we know it is a possibility, and the more we can go through and sell, donate, or otherwise get rid of, the better if we unexpectedly have to find another place to live while Jonathan finishes up his schooling.

So here I am, ready to dive into this decluttering challenge throughout the rest of September, and likely throughout the rest of this calendar year. There are many boxes and files I have purposely left alone until now because I know they will be incredibly hard to go through. I have several boxes of childhood trinkets that I don't really want to display because, although they are filled with memories, I absolutely hate dusting, and trinkets on shelves collect dust like kitchen counters collect crumbs. I have many files of high school and college papers that I've gone through once or twice already to weed out homework assignments, quizzes, tests, and notes that I can easily just look up online. I will now have to go through them again and decide which papers and essays and short stories and news articles are good enough to keep, and then scan them so I can keep a digital copy and finally feel free to recycle the hard copy. This will not be easy as I am quite sentimental about some of these items, but it needs to be done and is long overdue.

Please wish me luck! If I find or think of anything moderately interesting to write about as I go through this process, I'll consider posting updates. If not, I'll just keep plugging away. Here's to the end of 2014 finding this apartment a lot less filled than it used to be! :)

*My Grandma found out that she had lung cancer near the end of last September. In one way, it seems so long ago, but in another, it seems like almost no time has past since then.