Tuesday, March 31, 2009


"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
-- Anne Bradstreet, 'Meditations Divine and Moral,' 1655

As a Minnesotan, I agree wholeheartedly! Our Minnesota winters drag on, and on, and on, and on. And when we see those first robins - we rejoice! And then it snows. We have that first day of going for a walk without a jacket - we praise God! And then it snows. We see the first green shoots from our daffodils - we smile all day! And then it snows... BUT, when at last the sun and warmth "sticks" - life is celebrated everyday in the great outdoors! I'm eagerly awaiting those splendid, dazzling, summer days!

I also agree with the need for adversity in our lives - to truly appreciate the prosperity. It's been a year since my scare with cancer - and I am thinking about it every day. A year ago, I was doing my best to be strong and fearless for those around me. I was learning everything I could about fighting and standing up to cancer. I was inwardly wondering what life would be like when the scare was all over. I was ready and willing to make any changes I needed to. But, it was only a scare. A simple procedure took care of it, after weeks of tests and uncertainty. I had some recovering - but life would go on as normal.

My daily life changed. I eat healthier and exercise more - and when I hate it, I think, "this is so my body is ready for anything!" I LOVE to spend time with family and friends - and I try to tell them that all the time! I am thankful for the little things - it may seem silly to write down 10 things everyday that I am thankful for - but let me tell you, it's life-changing. Days can be hard and frustrating... But when you're focusing on the good, and remembering the not-so-good, you realize how lucky you really are - EVERY DAY.

I've faced adversity in my life - last spring being the most dramatic example; and I've faced prosperity in my life - every day. I have a good life, and I cherish it. Even the dragging winters of Minnesota - because, eventually, spring does come. And when it does, it's GLORIOUS!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. It didn't snow today! (Bummer... It was snowing when I left book group...)
2. Bananas.
3. Laughing about a block of cheese at work!
4. A flexible work day.
5. Finishing my book for book group - just in time!
6. Bailey cuddling with her toy. 7. Homemade pizza for dinner.
8. Flowers in my kitchen, blooming!
9. Moisturizers.
10. Birthday money to go shopping for spring clothes! LOL
11. Book group - so fun, lots of laughs, good friends.
12. Johnny Lang, Angel Taylor, and David Grey on the radio on my drive home...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Simple Woman's Daybook, March 30th edition

For Today... (and my 100th post!)

Outside my window... it's another gray day in MN. Snow is on it's way...
I am thinking... that I can't believe I've kept up this blog for 100 posts!!!
I am thankful... for support and encouragement from friends.
From the kitchen... frosted shredded wheat and orange juice for breakfast, leftover pork tenderloin and mango chutney for dinner. Maybe some sweet and salty cookies will be mde today, too...
I am wearing... my jammies. It's still early and I'm working from home today - so, why not?
I am creating... a photo memory wall in my living room. I got the frames, now I'm picking out the pictures!
I am going... to work out today. It's been awhile...
I am reading... Sarah's Key for my book group.
I am hoping... that I can get my butt in gear and start being serious about my weight loss again! (Maybe this answers whether cookies will be made today...)
I am hearing ... the Today Show, a dog barking, my dog snoring, car doors closing, my own heart beating...
Around the house... projects are started. Spring cleaning and projects are underway!
One of my favorite things... is the hubby saying, "I love you," before he leaves every morning.
A few plans for the rest of the week... taking it easy as much as I can! Next week is Holy Week, and I will be very busy!
Here is picture thought I am sharing...
(This is how my Natural Resources husband told me he loved me! Ha ha ha. That was almost 10 years ago...)

Visit the Simple Woman’s Daybook, for more women's answers to these questions! I rarely post there, I just like the simple questions.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Sleeping in... a little.
2. Getting back to "normal."
3. Doing my devotions this morning.
4. Working out - and feeling good.
5. Back on Weightwatchers.
6. Going for a walk with the hubby and the dog!
7. Hearing from Kathryn!
8. Almost done with my book...
9. The hubby wanting to go on a "date"!
10. The forcast for snow tomorrow is a lot less than previously forcasted!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


Today was a good day. Sundays usually are - I work at two churches and love Sunday mornings. I get to see and talk with so many people, teach confirmation class, catch up with some of the older youth - it wears me out, but I love it!

Today I was blind-sided by a little plot between my pastor and one of my youth. At one of my churches, they are currently campaigning to raise money for me to go full-time in ministry at just that church (the other church has to let me go in July due to financial reasons). So today, one of my youth (who I have worked very closely with since I started five years ago) got up in front of the whole congregation and gave a short speech about how I have affected her life - and that's one of the reasons the church should take me on full-time. I cried. A lot.

Working with children and youth you don't often hear if, or how, you have influenced their lives. I've worked with a lot of young people over the last ten years - many of whom I still keep in touch with over many miles. That means the world to me. It's also amazing to hear it put into words. Kelsey has no idea how she has influenced my life as well. We're lucky gals to know each other.

I've decided to post some of what she said here - not to embarrass her, or brag about how great I am... Simply to put into in my "electronic scrapbook" - so I can always look back at it when I need a "pick me up."

"...I met Megan Adams in 8th grade. I was the only confirmand in 2006 so I got to spend plenty of one-on-one time with her and formed a friendship quickly. She became someone I could talk to about whatever was going on in my life. I knew I could talk to her about anything: problems I was having with friends, who I had a crush on or how my psoriasis was acting that week. Even though I am done with confirmation, we still meet regularly. If the walls at Caribou (Coffee) could talk, they would know a lot about the past four years! Megan has helped me through some of the more difficult times in my life, being a shoulder to cry on; and someone to share the joys with. Last spring, I realized how much she was a part of my life when she had her cancer scare. Imagining how much things could change was frightening for me.
I admire Megan's strength, ability to laugh, her good listening skills and fresh ideas... Megan has played a big role in my spiritual development, as well as my development as an individual. Because of Megan I have realized what is truly important in life: taking a risk every now and then is good for you and the need to cherish the people closest to you. The impact Megan has made in my life will last forever..."

Thank you, Kelsey. So much.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Loving and supportive friends.
2. Getting to watch youth grow into beautiful adults.
3. Kelsey's speech.
4. Curt was home.
5. Carissa joined us in class - and she remembers stuff from 2 years ago!
6. Dinner on the grill.
7. Playing ball with the dog outside. 8. Finley is ok - my niece went to the ER the other day.
9. Trail mix - thanks, Em!
10. A lazy afternoon with the hubby.

Saturday, March 28, 2009


"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle."
--Thich Nhat Hanh

We got to spend part of our day today with our God-daughter, Elly, and her parents (some of our dearest friends). It was so fun to see the miracle of Elly - all her wonder, excitement, energy, determination, intelligence, curiousity, playfulness... the power of her lungs and desire for attention! Ha ha ha.

We are very lucky to be a part of this little girl's life. We love her dearly.
Elly's mom sent this to me while I was in Ireland - I love it! (Mike and I love "Life is Good" products, and I, of course, love monkeys!)

Things I am thankful for today:
1. Sleeping in.
2. Cinnamon toast and coffee.
3. A clean house.
4. Groceries!
5. Emily and Jeremy - wonderful friends.
6. Little Miss Elly - so fun!
7. Basketball, blogging, and napping away the afternoon!
8. Paninis and sweet potato chips.
9. Catching up on Grey's Anatomy episodes.
10. Feeling at peace.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Today was a busy day! After spending the night at my parents' house, Mom, Kayla and I were on the road by 8am for a day trip to my mom's hometown to visit some older relatives. I hadn't been to Belmond in a couple of years (since shortly after my Grandma died) - so it was bittersweet, to be sure. The drive felt longer than ever before... But was fun to chat with Mom, while Kayla watched movies and slept in the back seat.

When we got to town, we went to the "Pizza Ranch" - one of the only restaurants in town - to meet my Mom's aunt, Elsie. I hadn't seen her since Grandma's funeral - so it was nice to hear how life was treating her (and to see my grandma in her eyes, and feel her in her hug). We enjoyed a long lunch with her hearing how all the other aunts and uncles, cousins, and grandkids were. (Honestly, I don't know who half the people are - but she enjoyed sharing the news!)

After we said good-bye to Elsie, we went to my Grandpa's brother's house. Dale (Pink) and Nadine are always a joy to see! They love company and you can't escape their hospitality! After a full lunch at the Pizza Ranch, we were treated to donuts and coffee! Pink has mannerisms that mimick my grandpa's - so I always smile to see him! And Nadine is funny as can be with her dry sense of humor and sharp remarks. My mom's cousin, Tony, stopped by too - I always like to see her. She's fun and kind and quick to laugh. I like her a lot.

After visiting, we drove around town - looked at new buildings, were saddened by the loss of old buildings. Checked on the old landmarks remembered from visits past... And glanced down the street at my mom's childhood home. It's amazing how quickly things can change - even in a small town.

As we left Nadine's house, she handed me $5 for ice cream on the way home - a late birthday present for me! LOL I love it! We stopped for Dairy Queen blizzards and listened to music all the way home... I'm sure in our laughter, we were all quietly processing the day... A lot of emotions swirling around.

I'm thankful for my mom's attention to her family. For her small town roots. For her need to stay connected. It helps me to feel rooted, too.

It was a good day.

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A beautiful day for a drive.
2. Belmond, IA - will always be a town of good memories.
3. The tree - one thing that will always stay the same (I hope!).
4. Elsie - so happy to see us.
5. Elsie's story of her marriage to Wilbur! (A good Christian man - but she doesn't mean to brag!)
6. Pink and Nadine - always great.
7. Tony - wish I knew her better.
8. Kayla - full of interest in music!
9. Birthday dinner with my family!
10. Watching basketball with the family - fun! (Even if I was routing for the wrong team...)

Thursday, March 26, 2009


"Long before I am near enough to talk to you on the street, in a meeting, or at a party, you announce your sex, age, and class to me through what you are wearing - and very possibly give me important information (or misinformation) as to your occupation, origin, personality, opinions, tastes, sexual desires, and current mood. I may not be able to put what I observe into words, but I register the information unconsciously; and you simultaneously do the same for me. By the time we meet and converse we have already spoken to each other in an older and more universal tongue."
--Alison Lurie, from The Language of Clothes

This week's readings in A Simple Abundance, all center around our clothing choices and how that reflects, or fails to reflect, our authentic selves. It's really making me wonder what people think of the way I dress! I tend to be one who thrives on being warm and comfortable - with just a touch of trendy? Ha ha ha. I live in jeans - if I ever couldn't wear jeans on daily basis I think I would shrivel up and die. (Ok, that was a bit melodramatic...) I love jeans. I love sweaters - all kinds! Turtlenecks, cowl necks, cardigans, sweater jackets, crewnecks, etc. And all colors! I love mid-heel boots. I love ballet slippers. I love Keens shoes. I love ankle socks - and fuzzy socks. I love soft fabrics. I love comfort.

I don't love over-sized sunglasses. Skinny jeans. Flourescent colors. Belly-baring shirts. Short shorts and mini-skirts. High-wasited pants. Knee socks. Nylons. Stilletos (what's sexy about not being able to walk properly?).

I've always been practical in my clothing choices - but I still have fun with dressing up. I like to feel good, feel pretty... Feel like I'm still me - and not an imitation of someone else. I think that's what's important in the long run. Isn't it?

I'm curious - what clothing trends do you love and hate?

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Time to chat with Diane today!
2. "National Create Your Own Holiday Day" - I'm celebrating Kayla, my sister, today!
3. Kayla's "speech spotlight" - she's great!
4. A nice phone chat with Penny.
5. News that more donations came in for my job!
6. Late night chats with Mom.
7. Banana, coconut tres leches cake - Yumm-a-roo, Mom!
8. Longer days!
9. Walking around my old high school!
10. Looking forward to tomorrow in Iowa.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What to Wear?

"'I haven't got a thing to wear' does not, of course, mean that we must resort to nakedness or seclusion; it means that our wardrobes contain nothing that might match our mood or offer a just reflection of our current lives."
--Kennedy Fraser

Oh Spring. I always have trouble in the spring with what to wear! I'm so excited for light, pretty colors - but my skin is so pale, they make me look sallow and sick! I love the light-weight fabrics - but in Minnesota, we're still getting snow storms in late March and early April. Open shoes are so pretty and freeing - but my chubby feet hang out the sides!

I love Autumn clothes - jeans, sweaters, jackets. I love winter clothes - more jeans, heavier sweaters, scarves, turtlenecks. I love summer - dresses, skirts, tank tops, flip flops. It's spring - I just never know what to do with it!

And so now, we start the 2-3 months of spring. Everytime I look in the closet, I think, "I have nothing to wear!"

Here's hoping you do better with spring than I do!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. The weather is so cold, seasonal clothes don't matter!
2. Poached eggs and toast for breakfast.
3. A good staff meeting.
4. Ideas for Easter Sunday.
5. Picture frames are ordered!
6. Plans to paint and improve our living room and kitchen!
7. Emily, Jeremy and Elly coming over this weekend.
8. 2 fudgy brownies in one day - so bad, but so good!
9. Feeling validated about my headaches - weather can affect them!
10. Going to bed early.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Not Perfect

"Did you know that Amish quilters will deliberately add a mismatched patch to each quilt to remind themselves that only Spirit can create perfectly? We need to remember that. We should only strive to be a first-rate version of ourselves (not an imitation of Eva Longoria, Martha Stewart, or Oprah!). And our best is always good enough."
--Simple Abundance

I've heard this about Amish quilters many times throughout my life - and whenever I get hung up on perfection, I remind myself of this fact. No one is perfect, except for God. And I am certainly not God!

My art will not be perfect, I will not always use the right words when writing, I am not a good singer - but I sing anyway, I don't always have the right thing to say, my hair is often a mess. That's life. And life is good. But not perfect.

If I can be happy with who I am - in all my imperfections. Life is great.

My wish for you today - contentment with the imperfections!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. My book group - they love me, even with my imperfections!
2. My staff - they make me smile.
3. Getting a lot of work done.
4. Mini Twix candy bars.
5. Hearing about more people reading my blog - I wish you guys would leave comments, so I know you've been here! It's so fun to see you!
6. Thunderstorms - last night on my birthday!
7. Yellow tulips.
8. Leftovers.
9. A birthday message from Emily and Finley!
10. Plans to spend Friday with Mom and Kayla.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Dear Mom and Dad,

Today is a day that you will be thinking of Colorado, a beautiful spring day, the Rocky Mountains, each other, and the day your life changed forever. Today is the day I was born. And while, yes, we will celebrate me - I want you to know that I am celebrating you, too.

You gave me the gift of life. The gift of love. The gift of family and home. You helped me to understand the joy of helping others and looking beyond myself. You helped me learn to take risks and make my dreams come true. You taught me to like who I am and feel proud of my gifts and talents - and to use them in ways that benefit others. You taught me the importance of working hard, being responsible, and having fun. You taught me to have faith, to see the cup as half full, and to look forward to surprises in life. You taught me to cry and cling to those I love in times of sadness, and to laugh and hug in times of joy. You've been examples of friendship, of neighbors, of caretakers to your parents, of people who live out your beliefs. You've demonstrated heartache, forgiveness, tough love, and tenderness. You've always been there.

I love you both.
Megan (Boo, #1)

Things I am thankful for today:
1. Life.
2. Love.
3. Laughter.
4. Friends.
5. Family.
6. Birthday dinners! (Steak on the grill, mashed potatoes, asparagus, ciabatta bread, wine. Yum! - Made by my hubby, the wonderful cook!)
7. Candles in brownies (with raspberries, ice cream, hot fudge, and whipped cream - also made by my oh-so-wonderful cook of a hubby!).
8. Cards.
9. Wishes.
10. A life to be thankful for.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Just Fake It

"When I was younger, my self-confidence potion was heavily scented with attitude, optimism, and faith; experience, knowledge, and wisdom had to come later. But even today, every new opportunity or challenge requires that I prepare a special batch of moxie for myself. I do this by becoming as thoroughly prepared as possible and by looking the part... Next, I say my prayers and ask for the Power to be switched on. Then it's 'showtime.' I act as if I'm self-confident and the world takes me as such."
--Simple Abundance

Wow. How many days have you just felt like there's no way you can measure up to the task at hand? That others will see you as incapable for the job? That you will never measure up to your own expectations? I think that happens for all of us... A lot.

But it's so true that sometimes all it takes - is faking it. Look the part. Pray. Let the adrenaline take over. Everything can be ok.

This happens to me a lot when I lead meetings, preach, meet new people, plan a new event... I feel like I won't measure up to what people are expecting. But once I'm in the situation, I find a kind of peace and calm - and begin to enjoy it! Then the next time is so much easier...

What's the quote? Fake it til you make it? Or something like that? Cheesey, corny... But I think it could work!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. My "cheering section" at church this morning - "Welcome back, Megan!"
2. Confirmation at Faith UMC - I'm loving it this year!
3. Coffee with Rebecca H. - so proud of her and her choices this year!
4. Watching my youth group kids grow up and mature. Such great people.
5. Time to read my book today.
6. Skim chai tea.
7. Moonroof was open!
8. Nowhere to go this afternoon- sweatpants on for a lazy day!
9. A difficult neighbor is moving out.
10. Basketball tournaments - the family competing in the brackets!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


"Many women confuse self-esteem with self-confidence. For me, self-esteem is how we really feel about ourselves in the secret sanctuary of our soul. Do we love, accept, and approve of ourselves unconditionally? Do we believe that we are worthy of the love of others and the best that life has to offer?...

But self-confidence is a special elixir that the Spirit has prepared to help each of us face and surmount the challenges of life. It's an aromatic blending of invigorating essences: attitude, experience, knowledge, wisdom, optimism, and faith...

An optimistic attitude is essential to self-confidence. So is learning from our mistakes and recognizing that everything in life can be used as a lesson once we are willing to be taught."
--Simple Abundance

I was lucky to grow up in a family where I was loved. I was lucky to have teachers and mentors who saw value in what I could do and say. I am lucky to have friends that will always stand by my side. I am lucky to have married a man who shows me love, value, friendship and partnership all in one. I am lucky to have found such a strong faith in my Creator at such an early age. I've had a very lucky life - and now it's my turn to thank all of those who have shaped who I am by passing it on.

I get teased a lot for being a "role model" to my youth group kids - but I take the role very seriously. I hope I can be a mentor that shows our kids a life of faith and fulfillment - one that doesn't need the bad influences that only fill temporary wants and needs. I hope, in some way, I can help them see how loved and valued they are - that their esteem and confidence can grow and mature. And that they know they always have someone who cares - in their parents, in God, in their friends, in me.

Self-esteem and self-confidence come from so many different places in our lives... Where have you gotten it from? How can you help someone else to see their true worth? I encourage us all, today, to pass it on...


Things I am thankful for today:

1. A retreat with the leaders of my church - very uplifting.
2. Feeling valued at work.
3. Developing friendships.
4. People seeing my gifts and talents as things that can be used to benefit the church community
5. A sunny, beautiful day.
6. Shopping with the hubby.
7. Grand Ave. in St. Paul - such a fun neighborhood.
8. Excited to see my confirmands tomorrow!
9. So nice to have a quiet night at home...
10. Life is good.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday Fun - March 20th

Back to the old routine! Here's some fun get-to-know-you questions - feel free to use them!

1. What is your ancestry or ethnic background? Contrary to popular belief, it does not involve Chinese, Native American, Hawaiian, or any of those other exciting ethnicities! I am Irish, German, and Norwegian (possibly some French as well... I'm a mutt).

2. Who is the best cook in your family? Ooooo... I think we have all come into our own in different ways! Mom has always been good at family dinners and comfort food. Dad is great on the grill - and likes experimenting with "gourmet" stuff. I've become pretty decent at yummy healthy food. And while I haven't had too much of my sisters' cooking - what I have had has been great!

3. What family member do you take after the most? My mom. We're thinkers and feelers. Good listeners. Nurturers. Peace-makers. We try to make our houses into homes. (Procrastinators...) Family comes first. We may seem quiet - but we can be forces to be reckoned with!

4. Who is the funniest person in your family? Oh, that depends on the day. Mom makes me giggle - usually without trying. Dad totally cracks me up when we are playing games. Kayla's quick wit throws us all for a loop! Emily's fun way of telling stories (especially the NJ accents) alway makes me laugh. Her husband, Karlin, is hilarious. And my husband makes everyone laugh with his honest assessment of any situation! I'm usually not that funny - I just laugh at (I mean, "with") everyone else!

5. What family tradition would you love to continue and pass on? Christmases. Summer cook-outs. Saying "I love you" before hanging up the phone. Christmas cookies. Reading and talking about books. Having dogs - and treating them like members of the family. So many things... Oh! And making random turkey centerpeices for Thanksgiving! 6. What is something memorable that you experienced that your children will probably never experience? A carefree childhood. Playing in the backyard, and running and riding bikes through the neighborhood. Not coming home til almost dark. Neighborhood games of hopscotch and kick ball. Being creative when playing "house," "barbies," and any other role-playing games. Imagination in general. Kids are so scheduled today, and so encouraged to be literal... I think they're missing out.

7. What things did you love doing with your family? Dinners. Holidays. Vacations. Going to State Parks and hiking around. Going to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Saturday mornings. Church.

8. Who is the "talker" of your family, and who is the "listener"? Ha ha ha. That's easy. Dad, Emily, and Kayla are the talkers. Mom and I are the listeners. Totally.

9. How often did you hear your parents say they loved you while you were young? Everyday. Usually before bed. Now, whenever we hang up the phone (or in random text messages from Dad).

10. When you were young, were you told you could be or do anything you wanted? Yep. It was always assumed, we would do our best in school, go to college, and live a good life as responsible adults. Originally, I wanted to live in the jungles of Rwanda, studying gorillas - and my parents encouraged me to continue learning about gorillas! Then, I wanted to go into the field of natural resources - and while I would never make good money in that, they continued to support me. And somehow, I ended up in youth ministry - and they've been nothing but supportive. As long as we're happy - I think they're happy.

Things I'm thankful for today:

1. My family.
2. Feeling a little better.
3. Mike came home early from work.
4. Catching up on missed TV shows.
5. A clean house.
6. Laundry is done.
7. Excited to see church friends tomorrow.
8. Starting a new book.
9. Kelsey's going to prom!
10. Kayla's going to State for speech!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Still sick... But maybe on my way to health. Trying to think positive!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. A good night's sleep.
2. Yo-J.
3. Cadberry eggs.
4. Visiting work today - gathering things to work on and saying hi!
5. Napping.
6. Cold medicine.
7. Sweatpants.
8. Vitamins.
9. The dog, constantly by my side.
10. Grey's Anatomy... Getting sad, but so good!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


After being home for the third day in row, feeling sick and icky with not much motivation to do anything... I came across this article. Enjoy!

"The labeling of a huge part of human experience as boring is a relatively new phenomenon. The concept of boredom -- a sense of emptiness and a lack of stimulation -- didn't even exist until the nineteenth century. Before that, it was used only in the context of a person who spoke too long or rambled off the topic: "Oh, she's such a bore!" Now it is a state of being that is a fate worse than death.

Psychologists say that the problem we think is "out there" -- in the book, movie, job, relationship -- is actually in us. Boredom, they say, is created by an inability to delay gratification and a low tolerance for frustration, both of which have serious implications for our success in life and in love.

Any time we proclaim something boring, what we really are saying is that we don't have patience for it. Rather than looking at ourselves for the source of the problem -- and therefore the solution -- we look at whatever is provoking the feeling and label that the problem.

A lot of human experience can be considered boring. There are huge stretches of parenting, in relationships, in work, where "nothing" is happening, or at least nothing obvious. We can consider those moments boring and seek to alleviate that boredom with any distraction available. Or we can see such occasions as opportunities to tap into our patience and look more deeply.

Try it yourself. Go on a fast for a week in which you refuse to consider any experience boring. When your mind begins to use that label -- in traffic, say, or on hold -- challenge yourself to find something of interest in what is going on, either in yourself or the world around you. How does that change your experience?

With attention, nothing is boring, even the most routine tasks. If you tune in to how the warm soapy water feels as you wash the pots and pans, how does that change the experience for you? Or weeding the garden, how does it feel to bend and stretch in the sunlight? What *is* the name of that gray bird with the crested head that suddenly appeared? This level of experiencing life isn’t one that we tune in to, but it is one that can bear many riches of wonder at the very fact of being alive in this amazing world."
--MJ Ryan, ijourney.org

What's the saying? Only boring people get bored? Hmmm...

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Books - not boring!
2. Toast.
3. Understanding bosses.
4. A house-sitting job = a little extra cash.
5. Leftover corned beef and cabbage.
6. The hubby doing errands for me.
7. A sweater that I've had for five year that's from Ireland (and I didn't know it!). I bought it at a thrift store for a Halloween costume... Cool!
8. Shea butter on dry skin.
9. LOST - didn't miss an episode while on vacation! Yeah!
10. In bed early.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patty's Day

I thought this was such a beautiful writing on St. Patty's Day, that I had to share it with you! Be sure to check out her blog at: Pause, by Rev. Sally Howell Johnson. She's become an inspiration to me!

Song of St. Patrick
"May the Spirit of Christ be our hope through the day,
Be our guard through the night,
Our companion on the way.
Christ be ever before us,
Christ be ever behind us,
Christ be ever within."~Marty Haugen, based on St. Patrick's breastplate

Today is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. One this day, it is said, 'everyone is Irish'. It seems everyone wants to don their greenest shirt and show up for the party. I am not saying that this is a bad thing necessarily, but that celebration of this day is much more than shamrocks and leprechauns.

St. Patrick also gave us this beautiful prayer that is said to have been his breastplate. While there were literal breastplates, those armor-like chest coverings that were used for protection, St. Patrick's is more a protection of the words of his prayer. In a sense they were his understanding of how he traveled, how we all travel, with the presence of the Holy in the world. Many hymn writers have set these words to music. Singing them can be a powerful experience, connecting us not only with this ancient saint, but with all humanity and with God.
"Christ upon our left hand watching, at our right hand guiding, Christ above, beneath us guarding, Near to us abiding.
Christ be in each holy silence, Christ be in our speaking, Christ in every work we offer, Ever in our seeking.
Let us be God's light in the darkness, Let us be God's kindness; Let us be God's justice and mercy, Hands and feet of Christ.
God Creator, bless and keep us, Christ, be ever near us; Spirit be the light before us, Gentle be our pathway."

In all the revelry of this day, when we all want to 'be Irish', it might be wise to consider the words that are said to have guided this man's life. This enfolded way of walking in the world is a sacred reminder to us all of what it means to live a life of prayer, a life made holy by walking gently with the Creator.

In the wearing of the green today, may the prayer of St. Patrick be on our lips and in our hearts.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Ha ha ha - my first full day at home, I'm sick as can be. My sinuses are so congested I can't breathe! I've tried hot showers, cold medicines, Vicks vapors, hot tea, sleeping sitting up, etc, etc. Miserable, I tell you!

So I began my daily devotions again... And today's made me laugh out loud! (Imagine me laughing - with no sound coming out, because I can't breathe... more of a wheeze...) Ha ha ha.

I'm back to reading, "Simple Abundance," and today's challenge is to look in the mirror and "lovingly" list 10 things you like about your body! Ha ha ha. Then, list 10 things you like about your personality.

So here goes 10 things I like about my body:
1. The bags under my eyes.
2. The frizzy hair that will take days to repair after so many steamy showers.
3. The skin flaking off my body from so many hot showers.
4. My dry, cracked lips... from breathing through them, instead of my nose!

Ha ha ha. Just kidding. I just soooo don't feel pretty today!

Ok, here's my serious answers (I'll pretend I'm healthy!):
1. My hair color. Everyone (even beauticians) always ask if I color it. Nope. All natural.
2. My skin - mostly clear, and a nice color when it's tan.
3. My eyes, and eyebrows - very expressive.
4. My smile - friendly and open, I think.
5. My arms - I've been working very hard to tone my upper arms, and they're beginning to take some shape!
6. The beginning of my "laugh lines" - because I truly believe they come from a lot of laughter!
7. My hands - gentle and strong.
8. My legs - able to do so much more than I give them credit for!
9. My ears to listen to friends, music, and laughter.
10. My shoulders - broad and strong.

And ten things I like about my personality:
1. Patience (most of the time).
2. Optimistic.
3. Respect myself and others.
4. Laugh - a lot.
5. Love - big.
6. Good listener.
7. At peace with life - whatever it may bring.
8. Faith.
9. Family and friends are huge priorities.
10. Love trying new things.

Today I'm thankful for:
Those 20 things I just listed about myself. How often do we think about what we like about ourselves? What a gift. I challenge you to do this too! (If I can do it today, while feeling low as can be - I think you can do it, too!)

Peace to you today - and hopefully, good health!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Going Home

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, cough, and a congested head. Welcome back to the States!

We spent the morning at Mike's Mom's house in Milwaukee - his sister, Kerry, and her son, Brandon, came over to hear all about the trip. It was fun to share the highlights with them - Brandon even sent us a letter to our hotel in Dublin (so fun!), so we answered his questions (good beer, didn't see any leprechauns...)

We got on the road about 10am and began the drive to Minnesota. It was a sunny, warm, 60 degree day! And so - the first day of the year with the moonroof open!!! That made the long drive worth it...
We got home about 4:30pm, ran to Trader Joe's for some quick dinner fixings, came home, unpacked, took long, hot showers... And then were ready when my parents came over for dinner! They brought my baby home (our dog, Bailey) - we were so excited to see her! We played, told my parents about the trip over dinner, and heard about what was going on here at home over the week, also.

My cold was getting worse throughout the day - by dinner time, I barely had a voice! Once Mom and Dad left, I was determined to stay up for "Brothers and Sisters" - on TV at 9pm... I made it til 9:15pm... and had to go to bed. My bed! Hallelujah!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Seeing Brandon and Kerry this morning.
2. Mike's Mom trying to help me with my cold!
3. A nice, sunny day for a drive.
4. Moonroof open!
5. Good music in the car.
6. A yummy, homemade dinner.
7. Mom and Dad taking good care of Bailey.
8. Not too many emails to catch up on...
9. Cuddles with the dog.
10. My bed!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Leaving Ireland...

Saturday morning. We pack up and look out the hotel window at Dublin for our last few glances. Downstairs, the hotel was kind enough to pack us a "bag breakfast" (it is 6:45am). We get on the bus with seven of our other tour group members. And it's off to the airport!

At the airport, we say goodbye to Tony and the other tour members (quickly exchanging emails, so we can keep in touch!), then all go off in our own directions to catch our flights.

Once in the airport, we encounter chaos! Lines upon lines to stand in - to check in, for security, to fill out customs forms, to have our passport checked, etc, etc. Mike and I counted seven different security checks before getting to our seat on the plane! Craziness! (We did manage a quick stop in the duty-free zone for some Jameson Whiskey to bring home...) We got to the airport with two hours before our flight - and got to our gate 20 minutes before the plane started boarding... We did good.

Our flight to Atlanta was nine hours on the way home - strong headwind. Ugh. We had a nice lunch, a horrible Keanu Reeves movie (...I can't even remember what it was called... but he was an alien...), the new James Bond movie, and "Flash of Genius" (a movie about the guy who invented intermittent windshield wipers), then a nice dinner, and some TV shows. I did a lot of reading and sleeping on this flight (although, I was happy to see an episode of "John and Kate plus 8")! I was reading the book, "Round Ireland with a Fridge" - very funny, about a guy who loses a bet and has to hitchhike around Ireland with a small, two foot by two foot fridge. It's true story that happened in the '90s - and the girl sitting next to me on the plane had lived in Dublin when it was taking place! She laughed when she saw the book and told me all about it! That was kind of fun...

When we finally arrived in Atlanta, it was a foggy, rainy day - I was sitting in the middle of the plane, and the little bit I could see out any windows, was just white. I knew we were descending, but had no idea how low we were - when all of a sudden we touched down! I jumped and shrieked - and so did most other people on the plane! When we realized we were just lower than we thought, everyone cheered and laughed. Goodness.

The Atlanta airport was a little crazy with all the customs checks to go through. Once again, many security checks, claim your baggage, check your baggage, go through security again - then get to your gate at the opposite end of the airport! Trying to get all four of us through this without getting seperated was very difficult - and we barely made it to our gate with 5 minutes to spare!

The flight to Chicago was short and sweet after the international flight. Had to like that! Once we touched down - we were almost home free. We went to collect Mom-in-law's and Annie's luggage - Mom's was lost... What a bummer. She handled it well, though. We got the paperwork filled out and headed for our ride to where our car was parked. This time the van was full and people were tired and cranky.

We got our car easily enough and began the two hour drive to Milwaukee. (From now on, Mike and I will be flying direct anywhere we go. The amount of travel time on this trip was insane.) I had gotten a sore throat on the plane, which was turning into a cough... So I slept most of this drive. We dropped Annie off at her house and said our goodbyes - I think we were all a little sad, and a little relieved, to have the day over.

At Mom's house, we had a snack, showered, and went to bed. We were exhausted to say the least!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Our hotel staff packing us a simple breakfast for the road!
2. Being organized and prepared for easy travel through security and customs.
3. Tony, our tour guide. Loved him.
4. Good airplane food - a nice surprise!
5. A conversation about my book with someone who remembers it happening - very funny!
6. Knowing the Atlanta airport already - making it easy to get where we needed to be - quickly!
7. Sitting next to Mike on the flights - and getting a window seat on the last flight.
8. Dozing on the drive to Mom-in-law's house.
9. A long, warm, shower.
10. Bed. So tired.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Ireland - Day Seven!

Our last full day in Ireland... and a busy day too! So much to fit in!

First, a few more sayings for the day:
"Dual carriageway" - a four-lane highway.
"I'll ring you back" - I'll call you back (they really say that!)
"Sunday a week" - a week from Sunday

After breakfast we boarded the bus for our trip to Galway. Mike and I had hoped to spend a day in Galway - and have fresh oysters for lunch or dinner... But alas, we were in the bustling city of Galway for one and a half hours... Not enough time for hardly anything!

We stopped at the Galway Cathedral first. Otherwise known as: The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas. Whew... That's one to remember! It was a beautiful example of a "new" (50 years old) church in Ireland!

(There are small memorials to JFK all over Ireland to honor him and his Irish ancestory.)

Next, we had a very short amount of time to run around the streets of town... Finished some gift shopping, got a cup of hot chocolate, and headed back to the bus! I could spend a LOT more time in this city! (Mike loved seeing the sea of kegs in front of the pubs!)
After leaving Galway, we stopped in the riverfront town of Athlone for lunch. Mike, his mom, Annie, and I went to a restaurant and bar called "The Palace" - the Cheltenham Horse Races were on TV, and all the business men were at the bar watching the races (many of them probably had bets on the horses!). It was a lively and fun atmosphere for sure!(Our swanky booth - well, la ti da!)

After Athlone, we began the long, and somewhat boring drive, across the countryside back to Dublin. This is the only time the whole week, I let myself doze off on the bus! Good thing - the night was still to come!

When we got back into Dublin, we checked back into the Mespil Hotel and relaxed until dinner time. We decided on dinner at O'Shea's Merchant - after hearing that they had fantastic music... When we entered it was pretty empty, so we enjoyed a good meal (the only time I actually saw "corned beef and cabbage" on the menu! - And it was good!). We realized after eating, that the bar was next door - after hearing the music coming through the walls! Oh well. Lesson learned!

Then, we crossed the street to our real destination for the evening - the Brazenhead Pub. Ireland's oldest pub - established in 1198! After finding a seat at the bar - in a VERY crowded bar - the evening came to life with fun, music and laughter! I sat next to a man from Dublin (Brandon, which means "man who lives on the hill" - and he did, right up the street from the pub!) - and his first questions were, "where was I from?" and "do I have ancestors from Ireland and where are they from?" When I explained that my ancestors were from the Achill Islands - he gave me a wonderful story about how beautiful the Achill Islands are, what life was like on the islands for past generations, what my ancestors probably did, and again, how beautiful a place it is! He told me the next time I come to Ireland to be sure to visit Keel Beach on the island - and once again went into how beautiful it is! He then asked if we were there for music that night, and when I said "yes," he told me we were in for a great night! Then he said he'd be right back - he was going home to get his guitar so he could play with the band! When he came back, he brought his girlfriend with her bodhran as well - so fun!
(Mom-in-law and Annie at the pub!)

The music was fun and raucous, and beautiful and sad... (One man in the group played the spoons! A fun surprise to me - I grew up watching my dad play the spoons and have rarely seen anyone else do it. When I asked about it, I was told they are a traditional instrument in Irish music - they began with people using animal bones, before spoons, to keep rhythm! Fascinating!) (Look at his hands go! That's the spoon-player!)

A lovely evening all around of talking to those around us (from Ireland, Italy, and Norway... and a few other Americans), great music, good Guinness and Bulmer's Cider, and learning all kinds of new things! Loved it!
(The sign behind our drinks says, "How to avoid a hangover: Stay drunk." Ha ha ha.)
(The perfect poured pint of Guinness - shamrock and all!)

After another fun and enlightening cab ride back to the hotel (did I ever mention, that you should never ask for a "ride," you should ask for a "lift?" If you ask for a ride, you're asking a very inappropriate question... And may get some raised eyebrows... Ha ha ha.)... Anyway, we went back to the hotel and hung out in the lobby for a bit with Pooja and Ripple (a couple from Chicago), and Pooja's brother, Rishi (from Toledo) - all from our tour group. We compared stories from our evenings, and went to bed wishing we had spent more time hanging out with them! So many fun people!

This evening was a perfect ending to our time in Ireland, that's for sure!

Things I am thankful for today:

1. Napping on the bus!
2. Galway - got our Christmas shopping done!
3. Lunch in Athlone, watching the business men cheer for their horses!
4. Mom-in-law and Annie in good and friendly moods.
5. Brazenhead Pub - awesome night!
6. Finally getting a chance to talk to some locals in the pub.
7. Using the hotel computer to send a quick email home.
8. Starting the journey home tomorrow... It's time for this homebody to be home, in my own bed, with my dog.
9. Getting to know Pooja, Riddle, and Rishi a little!
10. Mike and I being asked if we were on our Honeymoon - what a nice compliment!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Ireland - Day Six!

After a beautiful day yesterday, mostly on the bus, today we are off for all kinds of exciting adventures! Bunratty Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, and then on to the town of Ennis... So much to do, so little time!

We woke up this morning with another yummy breakfast at the Dromhall Hotel in Killarney - pancakes (more like crepes) filled with fresh fruit and a lite maple syrup... Yum! A nice change from the traditional Irish breakfast every morning.

We hopped on the bus and began our journey to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We stopped in the town of Adare on the way - home of the oldest thatched roof buildings in Ireland (over 300 years old!). Mostly, this was just a "comfort stop" - just enough time to walk down the street, snap a picture, use the restroom, and peruse the gift shops... Then it was off again!

Bunratty Castle was so much cooler than I thought it would be! It's right along the freeway, and from everything I read, I thought it would be just a silly tourist trap (which, maybe at the height of tourist season, it could feel that way); but the day we were there, it was fairly empty so we had the freedom to really look around and enjoy it in a leisurely way. We started with a guided tour of the castle - so fascinating to me, since I love to read historical fiction that often involves castles and the life of people living in them! The tour guide really explained the functionality of the way castles were built and how people lived in them - very interesting, even Mike was fascinated! (Before our trip, we heard so many people say, "Ah, if you've seen one castle, you've seen them all!" - I thought Mike would agree... But he admitted he liked them!)
(This is the eating hall - where they hold nightly Medieval Dinners.)
(Beautiful details above the window in the Great Hall.)
(This is the Priest's spy hole - the priest could spy on what was happening in the Great Hall from the stairs... Sneaky, sneaky...)
(The view from the top of the castle.)
After touring the castle, we walked around the folk park - looking at buildings in the village. Houses, store fronts, estate houses, farms, etc. It was a nice sunny day - perfect for a stroll through the village! We even stopped in the Tea Room for lunch -vegetable soup and brown bread. Warm and filling. Perfect.After Bunratty, we started our journey to the Cliffs of Moher - it was sunny and warm, a perfect day for the cliffs! (The weather forecast was "fresh breeze with a spell of sun.") On the bus, Nancy and Maria were sharing their weird flavored potato chips they were finding in the stores - today we tried, "prawn with cocktail sauce" flavored chips - they were yummy! How bizarre... They also had "squirrel and herb," "duck and hoisin sauce," and some other crazy flavors. (And by the way, "herb" is pronounced with the "h" in Ireland! That takes a while to get used to - I wanted to giggle everytime a waiter or waitress said it!)(For those of you who golf - these crazy hilly, bumpy pictures are a golf course near the Cliffs! These pictures don't do it justice - I would hate to walk these hills, much less GOLF on them!)

The Cliffs of Moher were absolutely stunning! It was quite the trek to get to the top (and Mike's mom did such a good job of making it up there! What a great day!) - and Mike and I managed to have enough time to get to the top of one side, then down and up the other side! You can tell from our pictures how far we walked... I think Ireland is a very healthy place for me: I usually get asthma attacks from climbing steep hills - but I had none! And I could've kept going! (And for those of you who know me well - I had no headaches, no stomach problems from all the restaurant food, and no problems with being tired. Maybe I should move there?) Anyway, these pictures pretty much speak for themselves.
(The museum and gift shops are tucked into the hill - beautiful facilities!)
(The climb...)
(Ha ha ha - don't fall!)
(Mom-in-law, Mike, Me, and Annie - at the top!)
(Youth group kids - pay no attention to this picture...)
(He's the king of the world - or a big dork... But I love him.)
(Mike and I tend to wear the same socks... So we started doing vacation pictures a couple of years ago, of our feet in cool destinations! I'd say this qualifies as "cool.")
(Right before we saw this sign, I asked Mike how many ghost stories he thought originated at the Cliffs... I can imagine the stories of a lonely widow woman walking and wailing along the cliffs... Creepy.)

When we finally tore ourselves from the majesty of the Cliffs, we headed toward Ennis, the town we would be staying in tonight.
(Hands of Cooperation, Healing and Faith. St Peter & St Paul Catherdral, Ennis.)
Mike and I had been excited about spending an evening in Ennis because it's known for it's traditional music... Unfortunately, once again, since we were there the week before St. Patty's Day - everything was pretty quiet. We got to town just as all the shops were closing... So checked into the Temple Gate Hotel and enjoyed some time to rest before our dinner with the tour group in the Hotel restaurant. It was a good dinner - a delicious fruit plate, pork and potatoes with a cider sauce, and chocolate chip orange cheesecake for dessert. It was good, but I was hoping for more traditional Irish food. We had a fun table for conversation, though! Mary and Diane, from New York, were so fun! I felt a connection with Mary and really enjoyed our conversations - she seems like a very special person. And Diane just made me laugh! She's full of fun stories about her travels around the world - so great to listen to!

After dinner, Mike, his mom, Annie and I headed out to see if there was any music in the pubs. After peeking in several, we finally found a guitar player setting up in Cruise's Pub. We settled in and waited for some music (have I mentioned yet, that every restaurant we went into, had American music playing over the speakers?! This pub apparently really like John Denver - I think we heard three of his songs in less than an hour...) Our singer, Kevin Martin, even played a couple of American songs "just for the Americans." Don't they get that we come into the pubs to experience Irish music?! Goodness... Anyway, we stayed here until Mom-in-law and Annie got tired - it was just as Kevin was really getting going. But we reluctantly left anyway...
After we got Mom and Annie into their room, Mike and I returned to our room - and realized we both really wanted to go back out. So, we marched right back down to the pub and enjoyed a fun evening at Cruise's! It was very interesting to watch - Kevin started playing at 10:30pm (it was advertised that we would start at 9:30pm), but most people didn't come in until after 11:30pm - and then, the really interesting part - it was a very young crowd! Probably 18-23 year olds - dancing and singing along to the old Irish traditional songs, taking turns singing on stage with the musician, and a "security" man was standing inside the door once things got busy. (Funny thing, we saw two of the young boys from this gathering at the Dublin airport when we left on Saturday! They were going to Chicago for St. Patty's Day!)

Another full and exciting day!

Things I am thankful for today:
1. Pancakes for breakfast - something different.
2. Bunratty Castle - so interesting and fun.
3. Baby goat, and 2 baby sheep. Hmmm... Can you tell I loved the sheep? Mike said if we ever moved to Ireland, I would have a sheep that would meet me at the end of the driveway everyday when I came home from work... Probably.
4. Cliffs of Moher - Awesome. (And we got our REI socks picture!)
5. Blue skies all day!
6. Fruit plate with dinner - so good, and so pretty!
7. "Cruise's Pub" - Kevin was good and friendly to us Americans.
8. The smell of peat burning in fireplaces.
9. Bulmer's Cider - much better than Woodchuck Cider in the States!
10. Sneaking out at night...
11. Getting to know Mary from New York.
12. We quickly drove through the town of Limerick - possible home of my "Ryan" ancestors, and of the book "Angela's Ashes."
13. Mom-in-law and Annie made it to the top of the Cliffs! And they had fun doing it!
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