WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration


The beautiful photo of the two little birds encased in a frame custom-made by the artist! Such talent!


My daughter loved this little kitty. I can’t remember what type of flower or grass the body is made from, but I remember it has rose petal leaves and collar.

When I saw this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge, I first thought of the usual “inspirational” photos, sunrises, sunsets, beautiful nature photos. When I thought a bit more, I remembered something an incredibly talented artist said to my daughter and me as we were purchasing two of her magnificent creations at the recent Spearfish Art in the Park craft festival.  Her space at the festival was filled with incredible pictures created with dried plants, leaves and flowers that she had, with incredibly talented hands, made into pictures of animals, simple floral bookmarks and incredibly detailed landscapes. As we were purchasing our items, my daughter asked her how long it took her to make one of the photos.  The artist explained that it is a long process of selecting flowers, waiting for them to dry, creating the design and the frame and finally completing it.   She said if she actually kept track of the hours she spent, she would have to charge more than most would be willing to pay.  She explained to us that in many jobs, the workers are constantly watching the clock and wondering why the hours go by so slowly, while in her job she is so involved into creating and perfecting the designs that hours pass by very quickly. I commented to her that her work is wonderful and that in creating these masterpieces, she shares a little piece of herself with every person who purchases them.    If you are lucky enough to see Michelle Barnhart as a vendor at a craft festival, plan to spend a bit of time at her booth admiring the beautiful work she does!!

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Up Close

Blue crawfish©

I love the color of this crawfish. Such a beautiful blue!


I am always fascinated by jellyfish!


I think stingrays are some of the most beautiful creatures!


We delighted in being up close and personal with these cute parakeets!

I’m sliding in right at the end with an entry for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.  This week’s theme is “Up Close”.  I’m submitting some photos that I took when our family visited the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans during our family trip in June.  I love seeing the details of some of these fascinating animals!

Take a little time and check out the many beautiful and creative entries to the challenge by clicking the link above 🙂

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Can “tidying up” REALLY change your life?????

After reading countless reviews praising “the life-changing magic of tidying up, the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo, I found my curiosity aroused to the point where I HAD to read this book.  On our recent anniversary trip to Denver, my husband and I visited the Tattered Cover bookstore (AMAZING, by the way), and lo and behold, there was this magical book on the display stand with other books hand-picked by employees at the bookstore.  It had a handwritten note underneath saying it was as good as the hype, so I took a leap and bought the book.  IMG_0437

Four weeks later, I have not yet finished the book, but I HAVE made huge leaps in decluttering.  Kondo’s writing style is conversational, and reading this book is like talking with a friend.  She gives recommendations in such a pleasant and helpful manner, I found it difficult to argue with her logic.  Her advice is to begin with the things that we have the least emotional attachment to and to move on to those with the most.  Using that logic, she recommends starting with clothing.  Keep only that which brings you joy, Kondo says and I love that advice!  In order to do that, she says I must gather EVERY item of clothing that I own, which means cleaning out all my closets and drawers.  When I first read that, I admit, I was about ready to dismiss the book outright, but when I thought more about it, it made complete and total sense to me.

It took me a few days to get myself prepared to actually start the process, but a few evenings after starting the book, I decided to give it a try. I took every item of clothing out of my closet. Quite a pile formed on my bed, but I knew I had more to go.  I then emptied the two storage totes with my “winter items” of clothing. Next, I moved on to my dresser.  Many of the items in there had not seen the light of day in years. Out it all came! There was a method to my madness. I piled it high on the bed so that I had no choice but to sort through the items before I could get another restful night’s sleep 😉 Here’s what I was left to tackle:

My MASSIVE mountain of clothes!

My MASSIVE mountain of clothes!


Not QUITE as massive…..making major progress!

Scary, right???!!! I did as Kondo suggested and held every piece of clothing and as I did so, thought about whether it brought joy to me. Some items had at one point brought me joy, but hadn’t been worn in years; some I had purchased or had been given to me as gifts, but weren’t my style, didn’t fit comfortably and were inevitibly returned to the closet when I tried them on because they honestly did not make me happy with how I looked. They had made their way in and out of my closet, but had never been discarded because I felt as if I shouldn’t get rid of them since I had spent so much money on them or received them as gifts.  She has wonderful words of wisdom about these items. They served their purpose and brought me joy when I bought or received them. In doing this, these items have done their job and can now be released to bring joy to someone else. It’s so much easier to let go of anything by looking at it this way. I turned up my tunes, and with a little help from my daughter, whittled down the massive mountain! I thanked the clothes for bringing joy to me and talked to them as I either hung them gently back in my closet, placed them lovingly in my dresser or folded them and placed them appreciatively in the bags that would go on to others who could use them.

Oh my gosh, I DID it!  There really WAS a bed underneath all of that!

Oh my gosh, I DID it! There really WAS a bed underneath all of that!


WOW! Five bags full of clothing ready to go on to new homes and bring joy to new people!

While I can’t say that tidying up changed my life, exactly, I will say that I feel a lot better when I step into my closet now. I really love every item inside and find choosing something to wear in the mornings a much easier task than it previously was! Some of the clothes were shared with my daughter, some with my coworkers, some with my sister and my nieces. In each case, I really did discover that there truly is joy in giving and knowing that clothing relegated to the back of the dresser or closet will go on to be something new and fun for someone else.

My closet filled with items of clothing that bring me joy! :)

My closet filled with items of clothing that bring me joy! 🙂

If you find that, like me, you sometimes look around your house and think that it’s time to simplify, I think you will love this book!  I recommend it highly!

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Weekly WordPress Photo Challenge: Broken

When I saw the subject for this week’s challenge, unfortunately I had the perfect photo for “broken”.  Two weekends ago, I realized later on Friday evening that the sump pump in the crawl space of my home was broken.

Timeline of sump pump disaster:

Friday night: It’s broken. Let’s fix it. We’ll buy a sump pump. Done! Oops….the hose won’t connect to the sump pump. Call oldest son to help.  I know, we’ll use duct tape.  That should work.  Oh, look, it’s working!  It’s pumping the water out!  Yay!  Oops….the tape burst.  Repeat.  Oops again.  Repeat. <*#swear word#*> It’s not going to work.  At midnight, admit defeat and give up for the night.  Saturday morning: Call plumber.  Plumber can’t get there until Monday morning.  Hubby leaves town.  Rain starts again.  Borrow shop vac.  Suck 20 shop vacs full of water from crawl space.  Sunday: Praise God, no rain!  Monday morning: Plumber blessedly arrives and fixes sump pump connection!  All is right with the world! 🙂

All sunshine makes the desert.
~ Arabian Proverb

A wise man adapts himself to circumstances as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it.
Chinese Proverb


While the rain wasn’t appreciated much by me when the sump pump went out, my flowers greatly benefitted from it, proof that there is always good to be found! 🙂

I cultivate my garden, and my garden cultivates me. ~Robert Brault

Many unique and creative entries for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge can be found by clicking this link!

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WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Enveloped

“Hugs should be available at the medical stores 24/7. Sometimes, they are the best healers for almost everything.”
― Minhal Mehdi


When I saw the theme for this week’s photo challenge, I immediately thought of the cute little monsters that are on my desk at work.  Every time I catch a glimpse of them enveloped in their group hug, they make me smile.   I love the quote above and surely agree that a simple hug from a friend or loved one can go a long way towards healing anything that ails us!

Here are a few more good “hug” quotes!  Hope you like them!


“One word can end a fight; One hug can start a friendship; One smile can bring Unity; One person can change your entire life!”
Israelmore Ayivor

“A hug makes you feel good all day.”
― Kathleen Keating

I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

Shel Silverstein

 Have a positive, productive day and check out the awesome entries for this week’s photo challenge at WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

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Accountability, or “Why I am a ‘mean’ Mom”

Accountability breeds responsibility – Stephen Covey


More and more lately, I see examples of the consequences of a lack of accountability in members of today’s society.  I am reminded of “The Little Red Hen”, a story I learned as a child.  In this classic folktale, the little red hen wants to make some bread and each step along the way she hopes to enlist the help of the other farm animals.   When she asks the animals for help with planting the wheat and harvesting and milling the wheat, the answer from each of the animals is “Not I”.  She tries again when it is time to knead the flour, mix the dough and bake the bread and is once again told “Not I” when she asks who will help her.  After completing every step alone, she takes the mouth-watering bread from the oven only to see the other animals greedily eyeing the freshly baked bread.  She asks who will help her to eat the bread and finally receives an affirmative answer from every one of the animals.   At this point, she tells the lazy animals that because she completed every task alone, she and her chicks will eat the bread all alone as well.

Every accountable child of God needs to set goals, short- and long-range goals.  A man who is pressing forward to accomplish worthy goals can soon put despondency under his feet, and once a goal is accomplished, others can be set up. – Ezra Taft Benson

The ant and the grasshopper is another tale of the consequences of laziness and irresponsibility.  The grasshopper sings and dances through the summer when food is plentiful while the ant steadily works to build a storehouse of food for the leaner months ahead.  The grasshopper laughs at the diligent ants, but finds later on that the ants had the right idea when he is left to starve when winter comes.

I wonder if these stories are shared much anymore.  I know I read them to my children when they were little and tried to lead them to the moral of the stories; that when a reward or goal is desired, effort must be put forth in order to achieve that goal.   While my children certainly were not lacking for anything, including toys, I did not feel the need to provide them with every thing their hearts desired. I know that when we have to put forth effort in order to obtain something, we value it more than when it is just handed to us.  Allowing our children to work for the items they desire assures that the items will be well cared for because a part of them went into obtaining these items.

An essential part of teaching children to be disciplined and responsible is to have them learn to work. – James E. Faust

When children are old enough, certainly by high school, a part-time job is an excellent way to teach them responsibility and accountability.  Through working, children learn how long it takes to earn a dollar and are therefore less likely to spend that dollar on frivolous things.  It is amazing how frugal a child can be once the money she spends on items comes from her own pocketbook.  I am a strong supporter of holding children (and everyone else) accountable for their behavior and actions.  Both of my boys held jobs during high school and at the present time, and my daughter will do the same when she is old enough.  I firmly believe that the best gift we can give our children is our time and our knowledge.  If they want the latest gadget or fashion, they will work until they have money to buy the coveted item.  By being a “mean mom” and limiting the material gifts and money I give my kids, I hope that I am teaching them to value people and experiences more than things.  I hope the legacy I leave my children is to have truly given them wings of responsibility and accountability to soar with rather than an open hand waiting for a handout.

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WordPress Weekly Photo Challange: Afloat – Amalfi Coast

Afloat in Amalfi


The theme for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challange is “Afloat“.   Here you see a small sailboat afloat on the very calm ocean near the Amalfi coast in Italy.  I am going to devote a bit of time to looking at the great entries to this week’s challenge.  I’d recommend you do the same!  Always some great, unique perspectives to see!

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