Monday, November 30, 2009

Animal Show: Reflecting on Our Words

This month, Peggy, Annemarie, Octamom, AVT Coach and I decided to choose an animal that expresses or epitomizes the meaning of our chosen word of the year.

I'm sure my choice of dogs to express the meaning of joy doesn't surprise those who know me. Both Scout and Maggie have a way of warming my soul, making me laugh, and filling me with heartfelt joy.

They are ALWAYS happy to see me. They do the silliest things that make me laugh out loud, yet they are attuned to the personalities and emotions that flavor our home....

Studies have shown that owning a pet can add years to your life. In fact, just petting a dog has been shown to lower blood pressure. And residents of nursing homes have shown a boost in mood and social interaction when a dog has been brought in for a visit.

My two dogs definitely bring joy to my home, to my life, to my family.

Peggy chose dolphins to symbolize what "balance" means to her...

One day a long time ago, I was watching a documentary about dolphins and something inside me clicked. I was well into my late 20’s and was watching the television as if I was glued to it. It felt as if I was in a mind-meld with the dolphins and it was too a point that I started to cry because on some spiritual level, I understood what these dolphins were saying. I just knew that the dolphin was my Spiritual Animal Totem, I just knew it!

The beautiful, graceful, sleek dolphin carries many messages for the two legged! A key to understanding because the dolphin meaning is connected with
themes of duality. It has to do with the dolphin being both fish and mammal. It is both of the water, and an air breather. Ergo, dolphin symbolism talks to us about "being in two worlds at once." Indeed, the dolphin is a great conveyor of the concept of yin and yang.

It is playful, and is a reminder that time to play is a crucial element in walking in BALANCE. It moves through the water quickly and with great grace, ever moving with the flow. Dolphins tell us to move with the ebb and flow of life, and not to search for brick walls to smash into. To spend our energy fighting the current gets us nowhere. Being constantly at war with others, with our surroundings and with circumstances we cannot change, destroys the spirit, eats away at hope, and consumes the joy of life.

The power of the Dolphin is community in BALANCE.

AVT Coach chose the amazing elephant for her word, abundance.

I have chosen the ELEPHANT as an animal depicting ABUNDANCE. Of course, it does have abundant size but it also lives abundantly. Here is what I found out:

Elephants cry. They express grief at the loss of another elephant. They exhibit behaviors that depict sadness, bowing their heads, lowering their ears, and pausing at the place where another elephant has died.

Elephants play. They express joy at seeing other elephants. They dance around, spin and twirl, and trumpet joyful sounds.

Elephants are helpful. They take care of each other and especially the babies in the group.

Elephants give back. Without intention of doing so, their feet make large depressions in the ground where water can collect and be a provision for other animals.

Elephants are social. They live in large family groups and communicate over long distances with each other.

In my quest for an Abundant life, I think these characteristics are certainly a start. Have empathy for others, find joy in play, care for others, give back to the greater community, and create a positive family environment.

Octamom chose the swan as her symbol for excellence....


My word for '09 has been excellence and after a bit of zoological searching, I finally settled on the swan as the emblem for my word. Swans typically mate for life and have strong family bonds. The male and female swans nurture and raise their cygnets together, developing their own 'tribe', if you will. The image of a swan has graced many a coat of arms, conjuring connotations of nobility and are seen as symbols of love and fidelity because of their tendency to form life-long bonds. Many fairy tales and myths surround the species, the moral of the tales often being the adherence to beauty and grace, even in the midst of difficulty and ridicule.

Plus, swans are just pretty to look at. They just are.

Which is perhaps not the most excellent reason to choose a swan as my symbol of excellence. But I also got to take a great picture of one down of the lake during the summer.

And that sealed the deal for me...excellence.

Annemarie chose the ant for her word, discipline....

The ant has received a bad rap throughout history as a pest, a nuisance, an annoyance. While in Puerto Rico, I would often be surprised to find ants in my sugar, but no one else would be surprised. In Texas we are known for a more ferocious type, the fire ant - certainly not a little creature to be reckoned with.While thinking about this critter, I began to realize the one thing no one has ever called an ant is lazy. When you see ants, what are they doing? Moving, carrying, building, preparing for whatever may come. If you destroy their home, the very next day they have set up shop just on the other side of the sidewalk. Which brings me to my story...

In a field one summer's day, Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing gleefully. Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. Grasshopper tried to dissuade Ant from his work by inviting him along in his day of reverie, but Ant could not be swayed. He was preparing for the long winter. Ant tried to convince Grasshopper of the foolishness of his ways telling him he too should lay up stores.Grasshopper was not worried about winter as he had plenty of food for now and continued to while away the hours and days leading up to the first snow at which time he found himself dying of hunger. Meanwhile, Ant and his family could be seen surviving from what was stored away during the good weather. At that point Grasshopper knew IT IS BEST TO PREPARE FOR THE DAYS OF NECESSITY.

There are times when I would rather play than have the DISCIPLINE to stay at home and clean house or go to the grocery store and shop for the family. Sometimes I give in and later have to pay the consequences. Other times I pull myself together to get done what needs to be. Over the course of this year, my focus on DISCIPLINE has led me to see the error of many of my ways - most of which I have tried hard to change. Of course being human and having a the luxury of being able to go out if need be, I have not perfected this way of life. It is still something I strive to improve.

As always, a huge thank you to Caroline at Whimsical Whispers for enlightening me about choosing a word for the year, and thanks, too, to my four blog buddies who have joined me in this journey.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Tired of Turkey? Try This Tasty Treat!

With tummies packed full of Thanksgiving fare, you might not be in the mood to eat anything yet. But if you are, and the leftover turkey doesn't look too enticing, you might want to try this delicious recipe I found a'la Paula Deen.

As you know, I'm not much of a cook, so when I try a recipe, and my family eats it (happily, I might add), it's time for a little happy dance! Today, I got to do my happy dance. Enjoy!

"Mexican Veggie Casserole"
2 T vegetable oil
3 C chopped zucchini
1 C chopped onion
1 (15-oz) can corn, drained
1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-oz) can ranch-style beans
1 (10-oz) can diced tomatoes with gree chilies, drained
1 package taco seasoning mix
2 C 2% shredded sharp Cheddar cheese, divided
1 (8-oz) package 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1/2 C light sour cream
12 (5-inch) corn tortillas, divided
Garnish: chopped green onion

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9x9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in corn, black beans, ranch-style beans, diced tomatoes, and taco seasoning mix.

In a small bowl, combine 1 C cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream.

Layer 4 tortillas over bottom of prepared pan. Top tortillas with half of zuchini mixture; top evenly with half of cheese mixture. Place 4 tortillas over cheese mixture; top with remaining zucchini mixture. Top evenly with remaining cheese mixture. Cover top of casserole with remaining 4 tortillas. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1 C cheese.

Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Garnish with green onion. Serve immediately.

Click here to learn more about cooking with Paula Deen.

I talked about Paula in this post, too.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Plentitude of Gratitude....

I have a confession to make. I procrastinate. I find a million other things to do than what needs to be done at that moment.

Like now.... My house needs a little cleaning. Well, a lot if you count the gazillion paw prints that have been tracked onto the floor during the past several days of rain we've had here. Papers and books are stashed here and there, including several bins full in the dining room that have been waiting a sort-through since summer. And if I don't get things sorted and moved and cleaned, how will I ever make room for Christmas decorations?

Which leads me to Thanksgiving.... in a roundabout way, of course.

Thanksgiving. Being thankful.

I looked at a gratitude journal at Barnes and Noble last night and was tempted to buy it. I held it in my hands. I flipped through the coated pages. I looked at the designs and the journal prompts. And I realized that I don't need a gratitude journal to express my thankfulness. I can share it with you rather than keep it tucked away somewhere in my clutter. So, today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I share these thoughts....

I'm thankful for...
  1. my family, of course. For a husband who works hard to provide for his family, who gives freely of his time to prepare meals and package breakfast and lunch five days a week. For a daughter who brings me joy every day. For in-laws who know the meaning of love and friendship and faith.
  2. my home. Even though it's a little on the messy side today and is in need of a few repairs, it's home.
  3. a car that doesn't leave me stranded. In my younger days, I had cars that would choose when and where to crank. I had to be pushed off nearly everywhere I went in my Kharmann Ghia Volkeswagen. I bought cars that should have had "lemon" printed on them in bright orange paint. Now my husband takes care of that for me. (Did I already say I'm thankful for my husband?!)
  4. a job. It's tough sometimes teaching nearly 100 teenagers. It's demanding. It's challenging. But the rewards are there.
  5. silly puppies and faithful dogs. There's no other animal on the planet that can convey love and trust like dogs can. (That's my opinion, of course; you're welcome to your own!)
  6. time to play.
  7. the freedoms America offers and the choices that come with it.
  8. the inner drive that let me see college as a way to better myself and my future.
  9. Mr. Anderson who helped me obtain a loan, so I could quit working full time and finish my degree.
  10. friends who have been a part of my life.
  11. the gifts and abilities God has given me. I pray that I will recognize these gifts and use them for His purposes.

I need to give thanks more often. For the ray of sunlight that is battling its way through this cloudy day.... for the colorful leaves that still decorate the trees in my yard.... for the little things that brighten the minutes of each day.

Gratitude and thanks.

To my friends in America, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving! To my friends in other lands, may you have a Happy Day of Peace and Joy!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Snapshot Saturday

I love how the early morning sun streams through my windows....

I love how the light casts spotlights and shadows on the golden leaves outside my door.....

I love the gentle rustle of the leaves as a light breeze dances through them....

Maggie carrying a ridiculously too-large-of-a-bone around the house nearly dropping it on my foot. Scout nestling into his spot on the couch, head resting comfortably on a pillow. At least until he hears a squirrel close by and dashes out for the chase.

Hannah waiting for a friend to come over for a weekend of make-up and photo shoots, late-night giggling and midnight snacks.

A new Somerset magazine to linger over. Recipies to peruse. Essays to grade.

A snapshot of my Saturday.