Wednesday, April 8, 2020

A virtual vacation and Happy Easter

We were planning to be on vacation in Oklahoma this week and next. But, for probably obvious reasons, we canceled that. In lieu of that I wanted to share some vacation photos from last year. Some are repeats but many are new.

We spent last Easter at Enchanted Rock. (See the end of this post for links to the original posts.) Since this is Easter week I thought I would focus on that this week. (Next week I hope to share from other trips)

 John about to climb Enchanted Rock.

A church youth group was putting on this Good Friday display at the top.

Carrying their crosses down.
Picnicking later. Gorgeous views! 

I love this fun little wildflower.

Indian blanket and, I think, black eyed susan.

Even the dead trees were beautiful!

It was amazing to see flowers growing out of the granite. 

This was at our camp site at Oxford Ranch Campground in Llano, TX. There were acres of gorgeous wildflowers. The butterflies were going mad with delight.

For the whole story see:
"Enchanted Rock part 1 - John's climb to the summit," posted May 27, 2019
"Enchanted Rock Part 2, posted June 14, 2019

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Celebrating Spring Despite "Lock down"

Last Spring, April 2019, my friend Susan and I went to Dallas Arboretum during their Annual Spring Dallas Blooms display. I took my camera and had fun trying to capture the amazing beauty. It's not really possible to do it justice, of course, however I did my best.

I meant to post some of the pictures then but never did.

So here they are a year later to celebrate Spring (in America anyway) and remember fun times when we could get out and spend time with friends. May they soon return!

For the beauty of the earth,
For the glory of the skies;
For the love which from our birth,
Over and around us lies;
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.
For Thyself, best Gift Divine,
To the world so freely given,
For that great, great love of Thine,
Peace on earth and joy in heaven.
Lord of all, to Thee we raise
This, our hymn of grateful praise.

I found this lovely rendition on YouTube

This song has a long history of modifications according to Wikipedia. If you want the whole story and the original lyrics go to:

Monday, March 23, 2020

Do not worry God cares for you!

Adult male robin in our sycamore tree
Sitting outside on my patio journaling and drinking tea is one of my favorite ways to start the day.

I love all the bird sounds. There is such a variety. I wish I could transcribe them. “Chirp, chirp” just doesn’t cut it! Somehow they can even make the sounds of lawn mowers buzzing, cars revving and planes roaring overhead sound pleasant.

Watching birds also reminds me of Jesus's words in Matthew 6.
"Look at the birds in the sky. They never sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you much more valuable to him than they are?" Matt 6:26 (J.B. Phillips)
The song "God will take care of you" has also been going through my mind a lot lately.
"God will take care of you. Through every day, o’re all the way, He will take care of you.…"
These words are as true now as they were when Civilla D. Martin wrote them in 1904.

It can be easy to lose sight of that though. Last week after we spent a while disinfecting our groceries* I suggested we should wait longer to go shopping next time because I didn't want to have to do that very many more times. But then John said we'll have to keep doing it for at least a year since it will take that long for a vaccine to be ready. I was horrified! The idea of all of this lasting for a year is too awful. I don't want to do that. It doesn't seem worth it. The saying "eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die" came to mind.** It may not be considered a model for Christian living but it seemed like a more sane approach. Hanging on to life at the expense of really living felt like a bad idea.

When I made the decision to self isolate due to low immunity during this pandemic I imagined it would be like a "stay-cation." A few weeks to maybe even a month, at most two, of not going out much but maybe seeing a few friends and getting lots of projects done at home. I could even spend extra time praying. Here was my chance, I thought, to try out life as a religious hermit like one the ancient "desert mothers" of the early church!

The reality has been very different. Disinfecting groceries and cleaning doorknobs and light switches wasn't part of the fantasy! Trying to keep track of the constantly shifting situation in our city, country and world is probably taking up too much of my attention. Seeing anyone besides my husband is out--doctor's orders--and especially now since Dallas county was put on lock down today. Going to get supplies for projects is out too. I have been praying more, though. So that is one thing I was hoping for that is happening. But it mostly feels like the, "O God help!" kind of prayers.

Later when I was looking up the Matthew 6 passage about the birds I read the rest of the passage and was reminded that Jesus also said:
“Don’t worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day’s trouble is enough for one day.” Matthew 6:34 (PHILLIPS)
Maybe it won't last as long as John said. No one really knows. But we do know that God cares for us and Jesus said not to worry!

A few days ago I started feeling unwell. My Mom, brother and husband have also had some worrying symptoms this weekend. Any other time our various symptoms would not have been at all worrying. But of course now when we have a little temperature or feel a cold or other symptoms coming on the automatic fear is it could be COVID 19! The fear is what is so draining.

It appears that we are getting better. My Mom's temp went down to normal and mine has been normal off and on this weekend and my brother said he felt better yesterday. So we are hopeful all is well.

So each day is an exercise in fighting worry. Even just trying to write a coherent article when things keep changing is challenging. This was written over several days with many changes but it is all still true! Do Not Worry! God Cares For You!

*An article in the New York times suggested: a solution of 1 tsp bleach in one gallon of water to spray on things and then air dry. We dipped some things, like grapes and other fruit and veg in a pan of the solution. We sprayed it on other things like boxes. Just a light spray should be enough you don't want the boxes to get too wet.

(**I just looked it up and it is apparently a conflation of a couple of verses.)

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Pandemic, perspectives and toilet paper?

Last week WHO declared COVID 19 a pandemic. And about two days later the store shelves were stripped bare of toilet paper, at least in our area.

I'm thankful we stocked up ahead of time. A few weeks ago, John asked me to think about what things we might need extra of if we had to be stuck at home for a while. He had been following what was happening in China and suspected the virus might start affecting us soon.  We keep a fairly well stocked pantry but I thought of some things to buy extras of. One thing I put on the list was more toilet paper. He questioned me about it and said he had gotten some recently and did we really need more. We usually get the 12-roll packs. I reminded him of what he said and that I thought we might want to have some extra on hand, just in case. He said, “Ok,” with a sigh like he was humoring me but thought it was silly.

Neither one of us imagined that a couple of weeks later there would be a run on the stuff.
But if you didn't manage to stock up in time and you can travel, I know where you can get some. It has beautiful sandy beaches too. A full-time RV couple we watched on YouTube Friday said there is plenty of toilet paper where they are in Baja Sur, Mexico. They wondered if that meant the Mexicans were not as panicked about the pandemic.

It reminded me of the summer I attended a Bible Institute in Mexico back in 1993. Being the only American among the female students it was definitely a cross-cultural experience. I shared a tiny dorm room with several other young women. The six of us also shared a bathroom (toilets and showers) with several others. The school was on a tight budget and didn’t provide frills like toilet paper. So, I assumed we girls would take turns buying toilet paper to keep our bathroom supplied. But I quickly discovered that the others did not have the same expectation. They were happy to use the toilet paper that I put in there but no one else ever seemed to contribute any themselves.  In fact, it seemed like every time I went to the toilet there was no toilet paper no matter how recently I had put some in there. I was baffled. I wondered how the others were managing if there was never any toilet paper in the restroom, except when I took it with me. I finally realized it was a strictly BYOTP situation. My roommates each kept their own toilet paper with their things in the dorm room and when they needed to do their business they went and got it. When they were done, they put it back with their things. It felt vaguely selfish. But in desperation I overcame my qualms and started doing the same thing.

As the weeks went by, I also noticed that more and more pieces were missing from the old catalogs and magazines that always seemed to be lying about on a table near the restroom. When I saw a girl tearing a piece off one before going to the restroom one day I finally realized why. For those who didn’t have the means, or weren’t too picky, that was their toilet paper.

Maybe there hasn’t been a run on toilet paper in Baja partly because it is seen as a luxury that they can make do without if necessary. Of course, my summer in Mexico was pre-internet. Catalogs and magazines were all on paper back then. I wonder what they would use now? 

Anyway, we are taking this pandemic seriously, as we all should. It's no joke!

I have something called IgA deficiency which is a type of low immunity. It means my mucus membranes throughout my body are more susceptible to infections and can take longer to heal if infected. So I am practicing social distancing. I am not going out much and John has started working from home. We stayed home from church yesterday. We are wondering what to do about our respective small group meetings. My ladies small group usually meets in our home two times a month. And John's men's group meets weekly at a restaurant. We'll have to play it by ear so to speak. In the mean time I don't want to become emotionally distant from my friends and family so I am making an effort to make phone calls more.

What things are you doing to stay healthy and reduce the possible spread? Please comment below. And let me know how I can be praying for you too. God bless.
The God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Romans 15:33

Friday, February 28, 2020

New flooring in the works

Now that we finished painting in our living room and halls, we are hoping to install new flooring.

Vinyl plank flooring might be a good option. It is water proof so it can be used in the kitchen too. Since the kitchen and living room and hallway are sort of a continuous open loop design already, I want the same flooring throughout. It seems like it will feel more open and larger and less chopped up and cluttered than the way it looks now with brown carpet in the living room and halls and white-ish tile in the kitchen.

We haven’t finished painting the kitchen yet though. Maybe we need to hold off a little longer until we get that done. But meanwhile we are looking at samples.

I’m disappointed with the limited color choices for vinyl planking I’ve seen so far. Dark and especially gray tones seem to be the preference among the designers.

Gray has been a popular color for a while now. It started with stainless steel fridges and stoves, then gray became a popular wall color and now even furnishings and floors are gray. If you are tired of that though, the new color in fridges is black!

An article I read on flooring trends said that hardwood is the in thing. And apparently it has to be very dark so it won't be "dated." Maybe I should say, dark fake wood. Everyone wants their house to look like an old barn or something. Or is it an old farm house? But, if you don’t happen to live in a house like that, we don’t, you can get vinyl flooring that looks like wood. I used to like the wood-look flooring. But after looking at all these samples I am getting tired of it a little. If we have to get fake something on our floor why does it have to be fake "wood"? It reminds me of all that awful dark brown “wood” paneling that was so popular in the ‘70s. Now no one wants that. In a couple of decades all this dark fake wood flooring will probably be just as passé. If everyone decorates the same way for a while then in a few years it will become "dated" no matter how popular it was or maybe because of how popular it was once.

I don’t want to live in a black hole. I need brightness and light. Maybe I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but I would be sad for sure if everything in my house was dark gray or black. We don't get much natural lighting in our house so I have been trying for almost 25 years to lighten things up. Dark gray floors is going in the wrong direction!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Purse downsizing -- is it life changing?

Tuesday morning I got inspired to clean out and declutter my purse after reading “10 Life Changing Minimalist Practices” by one of my favorite YouTube vloggers, minimalist Shannon Torrens. In it she wrote, among other things, how much it helped her to downsize her purse and that she didn’t even miss the things she removed.

I already wear my purse across my body like she recommends because that is better for my back and shoulders. But mine has gotten too heavy even so and gives me pain where the strap rests on my shoulder at the base of my neck. I could get a back pack style that would distribute the weight more evenly. Though I am concerned that would not be secure enough. Experts recommend carrying them in front which seems awkward.

I dumped all the stuff out of it onto my bed and started sorting. I was surprised how much junk there was. I didn’t think to weigh it until after I discarded the junk and removed a few extra hankies that were in there but they were light so it wouldn’t have made much difference. The total weight of the purse plus contents, was 4.2 pounds (1.91 kilograms). My empty purse weighs 1.2 pounds. That means there were 3 pounds of stuff in it (that is almost one and a half kilograms.)

I looked it up and the average woman’s handbag, including contents, weighs 5.5 pounds according to one article, and 6.27 pounds according to another. But the "ideal" weight, according to the USDA, is no more than 2.2 pounds. (I wonder why the US Department of Agriculture is studying the weight of women's handbags?)

Anyway, I separated out several things that I don’t need very often but I keep in my purse “just in case” and put them in a Ziploc bag to keep in the glove compartment in my car for when I need them.  I was amazed to discover that my little coin purse weighs 0.482 pounds (7.712 ounces). That is almost a half-pound of coins that I almost never need. I put it in the “just in case” bag as well. The total of all that stuff is 0.6 pounds (9.6 ounces).

That reduced my purse to 3.6 pounds. But I wanted to do better.

I weighed my wallet and keys since they seemed a little heavier than necessary and I thought I could reduce them a little.

The wallet was 0.820 pounds (13.12 ounces). After removing unnecessary business and "reward" cards and filing receipts I got the wallet down to 0.694 pounds (11.15 ounces). It’s probably heavier than average because it’s leather. (I got fed up with how quickly cheaply made wallets fell apart so I splurged.)

The keys were 0.422 (6.752 ounces). (That included a separate set for our RV.) That is too many keys! I decided to only keep keys in my purse that I will need when I am out and about. Other keys such as RV keys and ones I only need while at home--such as mail box and filing cabinet keys--I won’t keep in my purse. Hopefully that won’t lead to too many frantic searches or confusion. I also removed all but one key tag/rewards card—a couple I put in my wallet in place of the full-sized rewards cards that I was also carrying. I may not even need those since just giving my phone number seems to be enough at most stores. All those changes brought the keys in my purse down to 0.178 pounds (2.85 ounces). That reduced it by 4 ounces.

That got my total down to 3.4 pounds (1.54 kilograms). So now my purse is almost one-pound lighter than when I started. I might look for a smaller purse to get it even lighter.

So will it change my life? I don't know but it was nice to have less weight to carry around yesterday afternoon when I was out for a few hours. I had less pain in my shoulder and it was easier to find things too. I showed my husband later. He joked, “but where will you put the kitchen sink?” I think he was impressed :-)

Monday, February 10, 2020

The American Way

I was shocked to read a couple of weeks ago how much the Chinese government is using technology to track and control their people. Some say that by 2020 there were expected to be 600,000,000 face recognition cameras in China—nearly one for every two Chinese people. They will soon record all public spaces in China. Every inch of every street in Bejing is already covered.

These cameras are also being forcibly installed inside church buildings, including over their doors, offering boxes, and Bible-selling counters. (Persecution against Christians in China is increasing. Their government says Christianity is foreign and evil.)

Last Thursday I visited our car insurance company. I wanted help to set up their “drive safe and save” app on my new cell phone. Drive Safe and Save is an app that is “paired” with a “beacon” --an innocuous looking little square plastic thing-- that we put into our glove box and it tracks how well we drive. The better we drive the more discount we get on our insurance.

My previous cell phone did not have a compass so the app didn’t work on it. But my new phone is more advanced and has a compass so John thought I could probably get the app to work on it.

I called them on the phone earlier that day to ask how to do it. But when I pushed the button on the beacon like the girl said to do, its little red light didn’t light up and the app on the phone didn’t do anything. So, I went into the office to see if they could make it work.

The girl kept pushing the button and nothing happened. She asked me to check the trip log in the app to see if any of the trips were mine. The trip log shows a map and the route taken for each trip, and the time, date and distance. It also grades the driver for acceleration, braking, speed, cornering and phone use. It doesn’t show which car was used though. So, it was a bit of a puzzle to figure out if any of them were mine. (They probably have that info somewhere since they know how much discount to apply to each car.)

After analyzing the log as well as I could I determined that it was only showing my husband’s car. Hmm, I thought, if I was ever suspicious, I could use this to check up on where he was going.

After what seemed an unnecessarily long time, while she continued to push the button and asked me a few more times if any of the trips were mine, she finally said the beacon wasn’t working and she would order a new one for me. She also said if it was working it would have shown my trip to their office.

Afterwards I thought, how ironic, I was shocked by how the Chinese government is tracking their people’s every move, but I just spent all that time intentionally to make sure that my trips can be tracked. All for a discount on our car insurance!

Anything to save money, I thought, I guess that’s the American way.

Yesterday after I wrote that, I thought more about why we are so trusting as to let someone track our trips like that. It’s not really because we care more about saving money than anything else. It’s because we trust that our information will not be misused. Why? Are we just all hopelessly ignorant and naive? Well maybe we are a little. But generally, it’s because we don’t expect our government to use our information against us because, unlike China, our government hasn’t made a habit of doing that. Why is that? I believe it is because our laws and society, for the most part, are based on Christian principles. Things like honesty, justice, "love thy neighbor" and "do unto others what you would have them do unto you." That is the American way. Long may that continue!

For more on persecution of Christians in China: