Tonight, I went to a Taizé prayer service at my church. It is a simple, meditative, and ecumenical form of worship focusing on mantra songs, short readings, and silence. The only time we got up was to put our petitions into a bowl of water and let them dissolve. The lights were dim and the choir and musicians sat on the altar. People were socially distant in the pews, allowing some true alone and quiet time away from distractions. Several times during the service I closed my eyes to more fully focus on the silence and my prayers.
My church also has family adoration nights which combine dim lights, praise and worship music, and adoration of the blessed sacrament. I seek out these services because they allow me to devote some intentional time to silence.
I often crave silence in a world that can be too loud for my mind and soul. Sometimes at home, I ask my family to just leave me alone so that I can go sit in a bath by myself and be quiet. From my talkative child to my loud, barking dogs to the always blaring TV, it can be a challenge to find peace and quiet within the home.
Sometimes, I like to go outside and lay in my hammock and just listen to the sounds of the birds. I need to create more time to intentionally sit in silence, however. It has been awhile since I took time to meditate (and I often fall asleep while doing so). Silent prayer is powerful and let’s you hear more of what God has to say to you, if you can just make time for it.
Many people are uncomfortable with silence and feel the need to always fill it. In my training as a counselor, we were taught to be comfortable with the silence. Giving people time to quietly think can create some really good insights.
I’m going to set a goal to spend at least five minutes in silent prayer every day. I know that it will be a challenge, but also a powerful and purposeful endeavor.
Back at the end of May, when our nation’s focus was on George Floyd and racial injustice, I decided to start a study of social justice issues with my 6 year old through the use of picture books. There are many, many picture books out there about every topic that you could think of.
Sometimes books bring up uncomfortable topics, but they are useful for sparking conversations. Together we have learned about different people in history who have worked for change.
It can be hard to explain to her how or why certain things happened, since she doesn’t have the historical and social knowledge to put it in context. But I hope the main thing she takes away from our book studies is to always treat others with respect and to work and advocate for change in our world.
This is certainly not a comprehensive list of the books available on these topics, but I wanted to share the list of books we read. Perhaps they will inspire you to check some of them out and learn some new things.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Thompson
Disability advocate in Africa.
Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music by Margarita Engle
A Cuban musician who broke down gender barriers
Free as a Bird: The Story of Malala by Lina Maslo
Advocate for the right to education of girls
I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes her Mark by Debbie Levy
Fighting for change as a supreme court justice
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Malala’s story in her own words about standing up for what you believe
Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders
Advocate for gay rights
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson
A singer during the Harlem Renaissance who used her voice to help others
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
Kindness towards everyone
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Seeing gratitude everywhere in the world
We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures Put out by Amnesty International with different contributing artists
My Two Blankets by Irena Kobald and Freya Blackwood
A refugee moving to a new country and having to adapt to a new world
Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter
One woman who made a difference by planting trees
Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel
Advocate for worker’s rights
Martin and Mahalia: His Words, Her Song by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney
Shows how both MLK Jr. and Mahalia Jackson used their voices for change
We March by Shane W. Evans
A short book about marching for rights
Be the Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story by Arun Manilal Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
Extreme nonviolence, including passive violence as taught to him by his grandfather
La Frontera: My Journey with Papa by Deborah Mills and Alfredo Alva
The story of crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S.
Same, Same, but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Pen pals from across the world compare their lives
A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson
Story of children going to a protest march
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom by Tim Tingle
A story of Choctaws rescuing slaves
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthina Levinson
A story of the youngest girl to march against segregation and be arrested
Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus
Arun, Gandhi’s grandson, learning a lesson about using your anger in a positive way
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko
The family that made it to the supreme court to allow interracial marriage
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul
A woman who learned to recycle the plastic bags in her community
Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago
A simple story about a girl and what she sees on the journey as a refugee
My Heart Will Not Sit Down by Mara Rockliff
A story of sharing with those who need it even when they themselves have little
Dreams of Freedom: In Words and Pictures by Amnesty International
A collection of quotes about freedom paired with art
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
A story about the Statue of Liberty and how she is walking to welcome all to our country
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey by Margriet Ruurs
Told in English and Arabic and illustrated with stones arranged artfully
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
Tells the story of Mandela and his fight for justice in South Africa
Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of young John Lewis by Jabari Asim
John Lewis preached to the chickens as a young boy
Steamboat School by Deborah Hopkinson
Inspired by the true story of a freed slave who started a school for black children in Missouri
As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Joshua Herschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson
Shows the parallels between the stories of MLK’s life and Herschel’s life as a Jew in WWII Europe and how they come together to walk in Selma, Alabama.
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker
About Katherine Johnson, an extraordinary mathematician
Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin
A young girl who wants to play Snow White in the school play even though she is “too tall, too chubby, and too brown”
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence
A granddaughter learns from her grandfather how his native language was taken away from him
My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner
A slave turned influential speaker
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and Shane Evans
An old woman reflects back on the history of voting rights as she prepares to vote
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
A story of two girls who become friends despite being from opposite sides of the fence
Dolores Huerta: A Hero to Migrant Workers by Sarah Warren
A teacher who works tirelessly to help migrant workers go on strike for fair working conditions
The Girl with a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague by Julia Finley Mosca
A woman of color who became a successful engineer designing ships for the navy, despite the roadblocks
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
A young girl realizes that she can be anything she wants to (including Peter Pan in the school play)
Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper by Ann Malaspina
A young black girl becomes an olympic gold medalist
Sister Anne’s Hands by Marybeth Lorbiecki
A story of what a girl learns from having a teacher of color
Making Their Voices Heard: The Inspiring Friendship of Ella Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe by Vivian Kirkfield
How two women lifted each other up.
One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
An immigrant girl adjusts to life at her new school.
Playing to Win: The Story of Althea Gibson by Karen Deans
The rise of a successful African-American tennis player.
The World is Not a Rectangle: A portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid by Jeanette Winter
An Iraqi woman and her unique designs
The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
A story of a Danish town who helped to hide Jews and smuggle them to Sweden during the Holocaust.
Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas by Dean Robbins
The friendship between two advocates for change
The Tree in the Courtyard: Looking Through Anne Frank’s Window by Jeff Gottesfeld
The story of the tree and how she lives on.
Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of Brave Bessie Coleman by Reeve Lindbergh
A woman of color who became a pilot despite people telling her she couldn’t.
Shark Lady: The True Story of How Eugenie Clark Became the Ocean’s Most Fearless Scientist by Jess Keating
A scientist who was told she couldn’t succeed because she was female and went on to swim with and train sharks.
Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw
A man with SMA answers some of the most common questions he gets about life with a disability
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
A young African-American girl’s dreams to become an astronaut come true.
Parrots, Pugs, and Pixie Dust: A Book about Fashion Designer Judith Leiber by Deborah Blumenthal
A Jewish woman from Hungary who went on to design fun and sparkly handbags
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca
How a young girl with autism became a great inventor and speaker.
Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes
A story of a girl and her service dog
The William Hoy Story: How a Deaf Baseball Player Changed the Game by Nancy Churnin
A baseball player who advocated for the use of sign language during the game to accommodate him
In my new home, I’m trying to put a lot of thought into the decor and styling. Much of it is going to have to wait, as I can’t spend too much money until we sell our other house. But I’m still trying to have fun with little touches and things I already have.
I bought some new shelves for my collection of cookbooks and decided to organize them by color. I had fun putting my shelves together, so thought I would share.
I love things that are bright and colorful. I had fun finding the right pictures, artwork, knick-knacks, etc. to place on each shelf.
I also attempted to make a kind of paper mobile to hang between the two shelves. It was a bit of a disaster with the circles and strings getting all tangled together, so I cut off the bottom. There were previously more greens and some blue circles too.
The rest of the room is still a mess, but I know the brightness of my cookbook shelves will bring me joy for years to come.
So I decided this week that I am going to attempt to give up makeup, specifically foundation and concealer. I hate my skin. Growing up, I had a lot of acne. After two rounds of Accutane in my early 20’s, I don’t have nearly as big of a problem with acne anymore.
No matter what I do, however, I cannot get my skin to be all the same color. I’ve tried for years to get rid of the darkness under my eyes and the splotchy redness on my sensitive cheeks.
I’m not a huge makeup person. Like I’m not someone who puts on a full face to go out, but I do try to even out my skin tone because I’m so self-conscious about it.
When the quarantine started back in March, I thought, “Maybe this is it. Maybe not wearing makeup for an extended period of time will allow my face to heal.” Well, it didn’t work. It still gets red and irritated. I went weeks without wearing makeup, but would still feel pressured to put on some concealer before taking a picture that I would post to social media or just running one errand.
I have decided to stop trying so hard to fix my face. I am going to try to learn to love my face. I’m going to go out without makeup, and I will be okay. Okay, maybe just some mascara and lip gloss.
I recently read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. I have been listening to the podcast, By the Book, where each episode is about a different self-help book. When I listened to the hygge episode, I knew that I had to read the book. Before that, I didn’t know anything about hygge. But it definitely is how I prefer to live.
Hygge is a Danish word that can’t be exactly translated into English. It is pronounced something like “hooga.”
Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute, which studies what makes people happy and how to improve the quality of life of people around the world. It is based in Denmark, which often ranks as the happiest nation in the world. The cultural concept of hygge is one aspect of why that may be so.
Reading the book reminded me of my book nook that I created several months ago. I was focusing on hygge and didn’t even know it! It is my very own hyggekrog!
There is even a song from the Broadway musical version of Frozen all about hygge!
In the book, Wiking lists a hygge manifesto, which boils down to the following ten concepts:
The book addresses various aspects of hygge. The first chapter is on light. The Danes love candles and burn them all the time everywhere. Scented candles are not a big deal. It is more about the light. They are also really into hyggelig lighting, which is at a lower temperature (definitely not fluorescent). They prefer a certain style of lamps, which “spread the light without subjecting people to a direct glare.” To create a hygge mood, there should be a lot of candles and small lamps to create “small caves of light” around the room. Denmark is dark and rainy, especially in the long winter. Lighting design can help increase those feelings of coziness and intimacy.
I feel like I have always been the opposite. When I walk into a hotel room, I always want to know why they have several lamps rather than one big overhead light. I’ve been trying to light candles more, but usually for the scent, not the lighting aspect. I feel weird in dimly lit restaurants. But do I just want those bright lights just because that is what I’m used to? I’m going to experiment with turning out the lights more and lighting the candles. We are in the process of buying a new house. When we move in a few weeks and I start decorating my new house, I am going to think about putting more lamps around, so that I at least have the option of hyggelig lighting when I want it. Maybe even some fairy lights!
Most of the candles that I have owned in my life have been gifts or come in a subscription box, such as Causebox. If I am going to be increasing my candle consumption and purchasing more candles myself, I will make sure to buy eco-friendly, all-natural candles. The book even mentions the air pollution and negative effects of burning too many candles, but it doesn’t address that there are options out there that are better than others. If you didn’t know that there was a difference in candles, just google non-toxic candles to find out what to look for when purchasing a candle.
Another chapter in the book is on togetherness. Hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family. It is perfect for introverts like me who would prefer a relaxing, cozy night with a few friends to a big, loud gathering at a bar. I could still work on having more hygge togetherness moments, as I am not as always as social as I feel that I should be. Wiking says that the art of hygge involves “the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.” We are social creatures and as most happiness research shows – “the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.” It is important to have work-life balance in order to have those hygge moments with your family and friends.
What about hyggelig food and drink? The book states “hygge is about being kind to yourself-giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living.” Danes eat a lot of sweets. Sweets are hyggelig. Comforting, slow-cooked foods are also hyggelig. The smells that permeate your house when baking bread or cooking a hearty stew definitely increase the coziness factor. Hot drinks are also very soothing. I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea and hot chocolate are nice when snuggling up under a blanket with a good book. The process of creating good food alone or with others is very hyggelig.
I’m not sure that I can convert to the Danish hygge definition of clothing. I am all for the casual and comfortable, but my style is not minimalistic, black, and full of scarves. I rarely wear scarves, and I love color. I like my clothes to be fun and put a smile on my face. That is hygge clothing to me. I will wear the comfy sweater and leggings, but they just might be bright pink instead of gray!
Danes are really into design since so much of hygge takes place at home. Since I am about to move into a new house, I am thinking about how I can make it as hyggelig as possible. The items in my home should be comforting. Items should be more than just the physical object, but hopefully have a story or emotional value to go with them. Wiking says that decorating with wooden items and simple, natural materials makes us feel closer to nature. Maybe that is why farmhouse decor is so popular in the U.S. right now.
He also says that we should add a variety of textures to our home. Not just cozy blankets and cushions, but how do the other items feel to the touch? Smooth ceramics, a wooden table, etc. Also a good hygge home should have books. And take the time to hand write letters. Very hygge.
I also want to make my office more hygge. I am a school counselor, so obviously the more comfortable and inviting my office is, the better. I’ve also had many students over the years ask to turn out the overhead lights and just sit in the natural light in my office.
Hygge is supposed to be in all aspects of our lives. We shouldn’t hygge just at home, but also at the office, at restaurants, out in nature, etc.
Hygge is also about experiencing and savoring the present moment. I’ve written about my struggle to be more present before. It’s an ongoing piece of work.
The Christmas season is the epitome of hygge. It has all of the required elements – family and friends, traditions, food, decorations. The book talks about some common Danish traditions. I would love to form even more traditions in my family surrounding the holidays.
What about you? Do you try to “hygge-fy” your life? And yes, I did just make up that word.
I’ve been grappling with whether to write a blog post addressing the racial turmoil that has come to a head in our nation over the past week. I haven’t written a new post on my blog in about a month. But do I really have anything unique to say? I sit from a point of white privilege, and my thoughts are not particularly special or helpful. I try to be an ally, but do I mess up? Daily! Do I do enough to help social justice be served in my community? Not at all. But I do try. And I place value on the trying.
I encourage everyone to make the effort to “know better.” The voices of people of color are there telling us how to make this better. But we have to take the time and effort to listen. Each of us can learn new things every single day as we strive to be the best possible version of ourselves.
I love lists. I love categorizing things and working my way through a list. I spend more time planning a trip than going on it. I spend time adding to my to be read book list, sometimes, before reading the several hundred books that are already on it. I can’t help it. It’s who I am.
During this time of social distancing at home, I’ve come up with a few ways to have fun with lists. The first one has been very popular on my social media. My daughter and I have been Disneybounding from home every day with clothes in our closets. I first Disneybounded on our most recent trip to WDW earlier this year. (There is a blog post on it, if you want to check it out.) For those outfits, I purchased some clothes and accessories to go along with things I already had in my closet to make the perfect outfits for the park.
For this challenge, we have just been working with the things we already have. Working our way through lists of Disney characters has been both a delight and a challenge, as we see what we can come up with. Once we are done, I’m going to put all of our pictures together in a Shutterfly book to remember all of the fun we had.
A long time ago, way before my daughter was born, I worked my way through watching each of the top 100 movies as listed by the American Film Institute. We’ve been having family movie nights each day. Usually, we sit around forever trying to agree on a movie to watch together. So, I came up with a fun challenge to mix it up.
I wrote down a list of movie genres on small slips of paper and put them in a bag. Every few days, we draw a new genre out of the bag. Then each family member is challenged with coming up with a movie for us to watch that meets that category. So far, we’ve done sports movies, action/adventure movies, animated movies, classic movies, and we are currently on superhero movies. Once we are done with the genres in the bag, I’ve got even more ideas up my sleeve to keep it going as long as we want. It’s fun, and each family member gets a turn to pick the movie, so no arguing about the best choice.
Another list that my daughter and I have been working our way through comes from the Usborne book, Step-By-Step Drawing Animals. My daughter and I are drawing each animal in the book, following the simple instructions. Together, we sit down and draw the animal. Then we decorate the background and add them to our stack. When we have worked our way through the entire book, I plan to connect our drawings somehow into some kind of book for our memories. It’s a fun activity to do together, and we can see the different interpretations we each have of the same animal.
The list that I have been working my way through since the very beginning of this quarantine is watching the Cincinnati Zoo’s daily home safaris. It started as a family activity that we did together. The three of us would sit down to learn about a new animal at the zoo each day. My family eventually started to lose interest, so we got behind schedule. I’ve started watching them again on my own, but I am still catching up for time away. Learning about all the animals is fascinating to me and makes me wish that I was a zookeeper.
What kind of fun, new activities have you been doing during quarantine? Is anybody else working their way through a list?
Today marks one year since I launched my blog. I’m not really an interesting or creative writer, but I’ve still enjoyed sharing my thoughts with those interested enough to read them. Today, I went back and read my first blog post where I laid out the goals for what I wanted to accomplish. I am continuing to meet those goals by sharing my positive thoughts and writing about experiences of things that make me happy. I hope that at some point over the past year, I’ve helped someone to “look on the bright side.”
Over the course of this year, I’ve written something like 65 blog posts, which I’m pretty proud of. I’ve written about products I like, faith, and books I’ve read. I don’t blog about all the books I read, because I’m not that great at writing reviews. But over the past year, I did blog about four different self-help/memoir style books.
I wrote a lot about travel, which is one of my favorite things in the world. Over the past year, I was fortunate enough to visit and write about Jamaica, Biloxi, Montreal, Hot Springs, Walt Disney World, and even my hometown of New Orleans.
I wrote about music, movies, and plays that I loved and had the pleasure of experiencing this past year, including Disney movies, Broadway plays, and awesome concerts. I am fortunate to have been able to enjoy so many of these things that bring me joy.
I’ve written about food, family life, and positive thinking. I’ve reflected on quotes or sayings. I’ve shared my thoughts on many different topics.
I hope you have enjoyed following along in my journey of positivity. I wonder what will happen in year two? It is already starting off very different since we’ve been social distancing for over a month now. The adventures and fun this year may look different. But I shall continue to find the joy in whatever God sends my way!
I just finished reading the book, Love Does, by Bob Goff. It is a Christian book and the basic premise is that love is an action. We show love to God and others through our actions.
Each short chapter tells a story about Bob’s often crazy and adventurous life, which he then relates to a belief or message he wants to share.
The book is really good and an easy read. He shows through his stories how he has chosen to live a fully engaged life. It was inspiring, but also kind of made me feel like I could never do some of the things he does. I’m never going to be someone who just picks up and flies across the world on a whim. It does sound cool, though. And I’ll just have to figure out what my fully engaged life looks like.
How can I be fully present in my life? How can I be fully present in my relationships? These seem like big challenges to me, because they require courage. It takes courage to be fully engaged.
“I used to think you had to be special for God to use you, but now I know you simply need to say yes.” ~Bob Goff
To me, saying yes is often scary. It involves risk. It involves faith. I do not view myself as a courageous risk-taker. It is something I will probably continue working on for the rest of my life. Taking risks, however, seems to come easily to Bob. He does it all the time.
One word that Goff uses a lot throughout the book is whimsy. He is always talking about living a life of whimsy. I do like the idea of leading a whimsical life. He calls it a “renewable, infinite resource that multiplies.”
This book is not just Goff’s beliefs about how we should live our lives. It is his beliefs about how Jesus wants us to live our lives. It is about putting faith into action on a daily basis.
“I think Jesus had in mind that we would not just be ‘believers’ but ‘participants’.” ~Bob Goff
He suggests our faith should be more than just ideas. It should matter to us. It should engage us. It should move us to change the world. It should be a paradigm shift that changes the way we look at every thing and every person and every situation around us.
I highly recommend this book. It’s not a how-to manual. He doesn’t tell us how to fully engage with life, because it will be different for each person. Now only does Bob go on crazy adventures, but he saves tons of kids in Uganda through his work.
But through his example, maybe, just maybe, you will be inspired to think about how to live your life fully engaged and full of whimsy and fun and things that matter. I’m not sure I can put myself out there in the ways that Bob does. He even puts his phone number at the end of the book to say that he is willing to talk to you about anything in it. But maybe, in my own little ways, I can try to evaluate what “love does” looks like for me.
Yesterday, I got food poisoning. The worst food poisoning that I have ever had. Scombroid food poisoning. It was one of the top most painful experiences of my life. Like, rolling around on the floor, crying, super intense pain. I probably would have gone to the emergency room if it weren’t for coronavirus. Instead, I powered through with several different medicines. It only lasted 6 hours, thankfully, but those 6 hours were pretty horrible.
It is moments like these, however, that remind me what a great caretaker my husband is. He really steps up to the plate and does everything in his power to help the situation. He researched what was happening, found me medicines, called a telehealth doctor, went out to buy more medicines, rinsed out my vomit bucket countless times, got me ice packs and hot packs, all while continuing to parent our six year old in the next room.
When I had my biggest medical emergency, after the birth of my daughter, he was an amazing advocate. He did everything in his power to care for me (and our newborn) and advocate on my behalf, especially when I was unable to do so.
When our daughter gets sick or hurt, it is Daddy she calls for, not me. He is a problem solver while still being compassionate. He fixes boo-boos and tummy aches. She trusts him implicitly.
He is also a caretaker in other ways. He takes care of our house, our money, etc. I rely on him for so many important things.
I give my husband a hard time, most of the time. But, he really is good. So this is my “I appreciate you” post.