With a little help from my friends

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Hello again. I've been away a bit. My cold went from bad to worse and I finally had to haul myself into Urgent Care. 

Oh. No wonder I had been feeling so lousy. My cold had turned into bronchitis.

Random, gratuitous photo
Thankfully, I got some meds, and am already on the mend. I'm looking forward to sleeping in my own bed soon. I've been sleeping on the couch, sitting up, for 10 days.

And sitting there coughing, I was thinking about how nice it is to have friends. They can be a wealth of information and inspiration. For example . . . 

A dear friend told me about Feeln, a movie streaming service. For $1.99 a month, you have access to a library of light, feel-good movies, including Hallmark movies, chick flicks like Sleepless in Seattle, and old, classic movies. It was great this week, as I spent a good part of it lying on the couch surrounded by Kleenex, ginger ale, and takeout boxes. I think I've watched about eight movies on my laptop. My favorites were The Magic of Ordinary Days and Loving Leah.

Another friend who volunteers at the library told me about Overdrive. This app lets you download and listen to library books for free. I really prefer to read a book rather than to listen to one, but I'm thinking it would be nice to listen to a book occasionally when cleaning or knitting or cooking. I'm looking forward to using this.

And another friend just posted a great tip about the Secretary of State. Not sure what it's like in other states, but in Michigan our Secretary of State offices are notoriously crowded and slow. If you need to renew your driver's license and can't do it online, you can plan on a good three to four hours waiting in line. But did you know you can make an appointment? Me neither. This helped my daughter this week as she was able to walk past a line snaking out the door, with about 45 more people inside waiting, wait just 10 minutes for her number to come up, spend two more minutes getting her picture taken and paperwork done, and walk out the door. "Greatest life hack ever."

Yet another friend asked me this week whether I had a humidifier. Duh. We'd just bought a new one in December "in case we get sick this winter." Our old one hadn't worked for several years. Well, I'd stashed the new one away and totally forgotten about it. If it hadn't been for my friend, it would still be sitting there.

I could think of lots more examples, but it's time for my nap  . . . 

Got any good ideas to share?

Linking with No Place Like Home.

The habit of being grateful

Saturday, February 20, 2016

I felt like I was just one step ahead of a nasty cold all week. It finally caught up with me, though, and with a vengeance! Kind of been feeling miserable. In the middle of the night last night, after a rather bad session of tossing and turning and coughing and feeling sorry for myself, this popped into my head.

"Okay, ten things you're thankful for."

Asking myself this has become my go-to whenever I'm feeling even a little down or discouraged. 

For years I battled with untreated depression and anxiety, and this was one of the self-help methods I devised for myself. 

And even though I have since gotten help, and feel much better, I still maintain this practice of listing things I'm grateful for. It has become almost second nature. Even on really good days. On ordinary days. And especially on days when I'm feeling a little down.

I hope to make a little lemon marmalade when I feel better.
It's not Pollyanna-ish. I'm not saying to myself that whatever is upsetting me isn't real, or doesn't necessarily need attention. I'm just balancing out my perspective a little; reminding myself of all the good gifts I really do have.

And I've always thought it very important to list the "little," ordinary things, the "commonplace" blessings, not big, general things like "my family," "God," etc. Focusing on specifics helps us see better.

So last night, what was on my list? What did I feel grateful for at 1:30 a.m., coughing and blowing my nose?

** a comfortable bed with clean sheets in a spare room all to myself so I wouldn't disturb my husband

** a big box of Kleenex on hand (growing up, we used rather scratchy toilet paper -- why waste money on Kleenex? So, hey, after all these years, soft Kleenex still feels like a treat!)

** a husband who cooked dinner and built a nice fire for me to sit in front of that evening

** a daughter who had made a big pan of yummy brownies that afternoon

** gingerale and Zi-Cam and Day-Quil

** knowing I could sleep in because nothing was scheduled for the morning

** as I would be unable to go to the symphony tomorrow, being able to share those concert tickets with a friend and her daughter, and knowing this made her happy

** the feeling of clean pajamas

** hearing the wind roaring outside, and knowing we were all safely tucked up inside

** a butterscotch hard candy to soothe my sore throat

Whenever I make up these lists, it's so easy to come up with ten things. Sometimes I continue on, and I can usually get to 20 or 25 before I have to start thinking about it. This practice didn't "fix" the deep depressions in the past,  but it always helped to make me feel like there was at least something good around me. And this practice continues to help me notice and be thankful for all the many, good gifts I have every day.

Tracks in the snow -- this little critter (a vole?) is all over the place!
So many, many things . . . a chickadee at the feeder, a cup of steaming hot coffee, a good book to read, a phone call from a friend, a pretty new nail polish, piles of neatly folded clean laundry, dinner cooking in the crockpot, a new flower bud on the geranium wintering over in the living room . . . what's on your list of ten right now?

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
His mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. Lam. 3:22-23

Linking with No Place Like Home.

Snowed in

Friday, February 12, 2016

I'm up here in northern Michigan visiting a friend, as wind chill warnings and blowing lake effect snow keep us hunkered down in front of a crackling wood fire.

I drove up on Tuesday in less-than-ideal conditions . . . 

. . . and may now be snowed in up here for a while. See you in the spring, honey!! (My husband is home, hard at work during a busy tax season.) Wind chills are expected to be -15 to -30 through Saturday. 

Last night three of us friends made the trek out to Moose Jaw Junction, recently voted best bar in northwest Michigan. It's in the middle of nowhere, and the parking lot is often filled with snowmobiles in the winter and motorcycles in the summer.

We had fish and chips in front of the fire, followed by brownie sundaes. Good comfort food.

This is the kind of drive we had on the way there . . . 

People are tough up here. They all have tow straps in their cars and routinely pull each other out of ditches. 

And here's a visitor we get every day . . . 

A beautiful male pheasant.  He seems to be solo, so my friend is going to mail order a flock of pheasant chicks in the spring. He'll have a real mail-order bride.

Saying yes to the dress

Saturday, February 6, 2016

So many beautiful choices . . . 

A private room all her own . . . 

To play dress up . . .

 to twirl . . . 

No peeks here of the actual dress that was chosen. The dress that felt just right as soon as she put it on. That lit up her already sparkling eyes.

A toast to celebrate with the maid of honor. The friend who flew up just especially for a long weekend of dress shopping and happy wedding planning.

Sharing with No Place Like Home.

Grace Livingston Hill

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

A friend of mine who recently moved was downsizing and getting rid of lots of stuff, so I was the happy recipient of a bag full of books. All by Grace Livingston Hill, 49 of them.

I'm on my eighth one, and really enjoying these old-fashioned stories. Written in the 1910s to 1940s, they are decidedly quaint and moral, even for those times. They are also unashamedly Christian, with a gospel message presented in each book. The heroine is always lovely and courageous, the hero always manly and protective, the servants always loyal and obedient . . . and there's always a beautiful sunset, a lovely, floral-scented breeze wafting from the garden, and a happy ending.

While I appreciate fine literature as much as anyone, and enjoy many classic and modern novels, these somewhat sappy stories are a breath of fresh air; right is right and wrong is wrong, and there's no relativistic moral dilemmas to solve (or not), no modern-day psychological angst to struggle through, no unresolved conflicts and depressing endings.

I had thought after the first two or three I would tire of the somewhat formulaic writing and predictable story lines, but not so far. They feel homey and peaceful and comforting. Escapist, really . . . but not in the sense of your ordinary beach read. 

There's wonderful messages of grace, forgiveness, repentance, and love all wound through the stories; they're inspiring and heartwarming, especially for the Christian reader looking for encouragement in their walk.

I'm not sure these books are carried in libraries anymore, but I have found a couple to read free online at gutenberg.org if you want to give one a try. Two I've read online are Cloudy Jewel and The Enchanted Barn. Just type those into the search engine.
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