Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Wait a Little Longer

Killingworth: A young'un

I was reading in Luke this morning, and 13:6-9 jumped out at me: the owner was ready to cut the tree down because it hadn’t yielded anything in three years, but the gardener suggested he give it another year.

“The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’”

Thank God He gives us time to mature and get our lives where they should be. Much more time than we deserve! If you are growing weary waiting on your child, your husband or wife, yourself, to get in God’s will, keep on praying. Hang in there. God’s working even when we can’t see.

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“Good Enough” is Good Enough

For many of us, school is about to start. If you are a teacher, you might start weeping and gnashing your teeth when you read that statement! No matter how much you enjoy it, teaching school has a way of sucking the life out of you — and I’m sure other jobs are the same way.

Sometimes my job gets out of control– I stay too late; bring work home; and even when I’m away it’s on my mind. But I’m better than I used to be! I’m always optimistic that I can manage my work time and tasks better so I won’t be a blob on the couch when I get home. How bout you? I’ve put together some ideas specifically aimed at perfectionists and overachievers– the Marthas of the world. In a job like mine (high school choir teacher), I get a salary and I have some expected outside activities, but I could find or make things to do at school every day till 6:00. But only if SCHOOL (or my program, or looking good in my region, or others’ admiration) were my first priority! I have to find the right balance.

1. Start with some quiet time to think. You’re going to brainstorm, so tell Martha to be quiet while Mary uses her imagination. Don’t let “It won’t work” or “How can I do that?” come in the picture.

2. List your priorities. Then put them in order. Don’t worry about what they SHOULD be– or what your schedule says they are– just what YOU think they are. Here are mine: God, husband, my children, church/service, job. (Don’t overanalyze. Just write down what your first thought is. You can change it later if you want!) If you have been frazzled, what areas do you feel like were neglected?

The next few steps are to be done in layers. First build the skeleton, then come back and add some muscle.

3. Now to the nitty gritty: What activities does your employer REQUIRE of you outside regular hours?

This might be vague, especially if you’ve been a Martha . Ask yourself if your boss would reprimand you if you didn’t do it. (Tell Martha to shut it; she is not welcome in this exercise!) These are the tasks that you MUST do if you want to keep your job. An example in my case is that  I prepare my students for All-Region Choir competitions , UIL Concert and Sight-Reading, a Christmas concert and Pop Show in May.

4. What is required for you to do your job during regular hours?

I have to teach our repertoire to performance or competition level. By doing this the students learn music theory, music history, and vocal and ensemble skills required by the state.

5. Now draw your “yellow lines” around your priorities. (I just read Body by God by Dr. Ben Lerner and he used that concept– You don’t cross yellow lines in traffic, and you don’t cross yellow lines in your schedule. If it’s family time, GO HOME from work!) If work infringes on your family time, I would recommend starting with family time. In a perfect world, I would leave work at ….? Don’t start listing reasons why it won’t work. Just say what time you need to leave in order to make your family time your priority. For me it’s 4:30, an hour after school gets out.

Now remember, Martha, you’re still not making any decisions, just brainstorming!

Now to flesh out your “skeleton.”

1. How can you make your outside expectations fit in your priorities? Remember my All-Region Choir requirement. That could take up all my waking hours if I let it. Here’s how I cut it down to size:

We work on the music in class; we bring in paid voice teachers one afternoon a week, and I offer morning sectional rehearsals. I cheer, encourage, and make online resources available, I’m also available for individual help upon request. What I DON’T do is require everybody to come in for sectionals, or set up times for private lessons for me to work with all of them after school. I would be at school all hours if I did, and my philosophy is it’s THEIR responsibility to practice and get help. If they can do it only with my pushing and holding their hand, they don’t need to do it. They are in high school. And besides, my kids are some of the busiest ones on campus- advanced classes, band, drama, church, sports, etc… They have lots of demands on their time too. I try to make my class time very productive so they will need little outside time.

Brainstorm options to lessen the demands of your requirements.

2. What about your work-hours expectations? I have to teach repertoire, including the theory, history, and technique needed to perform it.

I love making videos and powerpoints or slide shows. However, they are very time consuming. But they engage the kids more than plain old paper or projector do! Yes, but how much more is learned? My very wise mentor asked me one time early in my career (when I was practically living at school), “For the extra 2 hours you put in that project, how many kids honestly benefited more than if you had taught it another way?” And the answer was, “Maybe none.” It was just prettier, flashier, and more fun for me.

If you are a teacher who is trying to scale back work time, and have lesson plans that have worked well, use them again! For heaven’s sake why reinvent the wheel? My wise daughter Sis reminded one of our overachiever perfectionist students who was way too stressed for a high school student that “Good enough is good enough!”

  • Make 1 or 2 projects/units each summer.
  • Collaborate with colleagues. Dropbox or other online resources make this so easy!
  • Google something before you make it! Chances are, somebody else has done it already.
  • Delegate! For me, the obvious thing would be to have students make the videos. More learning for them, less time for me.

If you have an activity you love that is not required, balance the time it takes and the benefits gained. We always sing at our Veterans’ Day programs, For me, the benefits gained are easily worth the time involved: giving my kids the opportunity to learn about the sacrifices made for our country, honoring the Vets, and serving in our community. Easy win, well worth the time involved. But we have sung the National Anthem at events in Houston that end up taking 8-10 hours out of a Saturday. It’s fun for the kids, and a cool experience, but that’s about all. Way too “expensive.” Maybe we could do that every other year, and alternate with singing at a sporting event at our local university.

Be creative and play devil’s advocate. If you have only a certain number of hours– and you do– how can you adapt this activity to make it fit? If you can’t, ditch it.

Let me address the elephant in the room now.

If you have been running and doing and giving much more than is required, and you decide to make your actions match what you say your priorities are, some people will not be happy with you. Anticipate this. You might want to give them a heads-up if you are not going to do some things you’ve been doing. You might want to phase out some activities gradually. But they probably will still be unhappy. You ultimately have to ask yourself who is higher on your priority list, those people or your family? (or whatever other priority you are moving up on your list) The apostle Paul said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

Once you’ve brainstormed, leave your list a while. Pray. Think. Get counsel from one of your Board of Directors. Then go back to it and see how you can change your world.

"Good enough" is good enough

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What’s Your Anchor?

 

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She did it again… Sarah Young wrote one just for me. (Jesus Calling) The visual of the anchor on a short rope tugging you back to where you are supposed to be spoke to me like carrying around the bag of rocks never did. (You know the one– you pray for something but rather than leave it with God, you carry the heavy bag around till next time you pray.)

Let me back up. There have been times when things I should have left with God after I “gave” them to Him– forgiven sins of my own or others; failures, hurt feelings, disappointments; requests for one thing or another– have tied themselves to me like an anchor. I would pray for something. or grant forgiveness; I’d be free of it for a bit, then suddenly– YANK! It jerked me back to it.

“I can’t believe I did that.”
“I can’t believe he did that.”

“Why did she have to say THAT?”

“Why can’t I ever [fill in the blank]?”

“When will it ever happen?”

Every time something OTHER than God pulls us up short, taking control of our minds until we obsess over it, we are allowing it to be our anchor. Maybe it’s a dream you’ve been working toward, and you’ve done your part but now are having to wait. Maybe it’s a relationship you are waiting for healing in. Maybe it’s your health– your finances– your children.

Yes, we are to pray persistently. (the persistent widow in Luke 18) Yes, God sometimes answers prayers in the way we would like. But God does what He chooses (Psalm 115:3), and sometimes it’s not what we, in all our wisdom, want. In the case of relationships, and other people, He allows THEM free will just as He does you. Some relationships will never be healed in your life. But who knows what will happen after you die?

Do we trust God enough to ask for a thing in prayer, and then leave it to Him? To tell Him, “However you choose to answer it is okay with me”? To say, “I receive Your forgiveness and believe what You said, that I am a new creature”? Do we trust His love for us enough to accept “NO?” Or “wait indefinitely?”

Is GOD alone, enough?

Dear Father, I ask that You help our paltry faith when we try to pin You down to proving Your love for us by answering a prayer in a certain way, or at a certain time. Help us believe, Lord.

While you are pondering that, please listen to the wonderful Concordia Choir from Minnesota sing the late Moses Hogan’s “My Soul’s Been Anchored.”

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HighTech 101– The Apple Calendar

Many people that are … Ahem… “Of a certain age” are intimidated with technology, but we CAN be taught! If I can figure this stuff out, anybody can. Auntie Em is here to be on your Board of Directors, so I’m going to do a few posts about some techno-groovy things that I use, and maybe you’ll find something you can use too! I’ll have lots of pictures and give you small bites at a time. Feel free to share with your grandmas and grandpas!

The Apple iPad/iPhone Calendar
I’m relying on my calendar more and more. The more I use it, the more sense it makes (imagine that!) and I’m doing better at remembering to enter things. No matter how good a calendar is, it is useless if you don’t actually USE it lol!
So– here we go.

Here is what it looks like. It should be on your phone or iPad when you get it.

apple calendar

There are different views you can select– list, day, and month on the phone; additional week and year on the iPad — depending on your preference and what you are doing. You can go back and forth. Today we’ll work in the month view.

Here’s how it looks when you start:

apple calendar blank month view

Adding different calendars:

You might want to use different calendars, to avoid confusion. This is the best time to do it, but you can do it later too. Obvious choices are “home,” “work,” “church,” “birthdays,” etc. I find that this helps me because I don’t want to look at everything at once! Tap “calendar” and this dialog box appears. Name your new one and pick a color. (Oops, this is on the DAY view… see at the top? I didn’t do that on purpose.) You can choose “year” and see all 12 months, or “list” and see the next events you have coming up. The “week” and “year” views are available on iPad but not iPhone. (or at least my old-timey iPhone 4!)

name new calendar and pick color

Here’s mine with all my calendars: (You can see how busy it looks when they are all visible.) When I’m blogging, I show only that one. I normally keep “me” and “work” showing all the time. You’ll have to fiddle around with it till you find what you like.

apple calendar all calendars view

Adding and editing events:

You can add an event by touching the date you want. A dialog box will pop up. In the “starts/ends” box you can check “all day” or, if you uncheck it, you can add start and stop times.

  • Note there are spots to add “repeating,” events. This is for yearly events like birthdays, or weekly or monthly events.
  • You can invite people to add it to their calendars (it syncs with your contacts if you have that option checked in settings);
  • Set up to 2 reminders for yourself, beginning with 2 days before and going to 5 minutes before; and choose which calendar to put it on. I don’t use the “availability” option, but if you share schedules or have someone make appointments for you, you would need to mark yourself as “busy” or “free.”
  • Note you can add a URL and notes too. For instance- I have a Prayer Request calendar. This is where I can update that.
  • If you add an address, then you will be able to look it up on your maps app.

apple calendar

If you need to review an event, that’s easy! Touch the event and this box will pop up. Any notes will show. If you need to change something, click “edit.” (Many times when I was first starting to use the calendar, I forgot to put it on the right calendar. You can set a default calendar in “settings.”)

apple calendar

That’s enough for now. If you’ve not tried using your Apple calendar, give it a whirl!

Next assignment: Fun with photos!

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Repainting Metal Furniture: Easy as 1-2-3

We’ve had our little bistro set for a long time– at least 7 years. It began life black, and a few years ago I repainted it this light green color. One of the legs came loose, too, and Mr. Sunshine welded it back for us. (You can see the ring holding it together if you look closely.) Anyway, it was really showing its age… (As you well know, “As we age,” all sorts of things begin to fall apart lol!)

repainting metal patio furniture

repainting metal patio furniture

So I got some rough sandpaper and smoothed over the worst of the bad spots.

repainting metal patio furniture

Then I used an old shower curtain to protect the porch, and prepared to spray. I used a spray primer just on the unpainted spots.

repainting metal patio furniture

Read your directions carefully. Both the primer and paint I used said you can repaint in 15 minutes. (or, oddly enough, 24 hours!) I used Rustoleum, and both the primer and the (hammered textured) paint covered a lot more than I expected. I used only a small amount of the primer, and a little over a can of spray.

To repaint metal patio furniture:

  • Please just buy some cheap work gloves. I didn’t and had to clean up with whatever I had on hand, which was paint THINNER (not remover) and foot scrub. Just about rubbed the skin off my hands! For the 2nd coat I stuck by hand in a grocery bag and held the can. It kept my hands clean but was awkward to work with!
  • Spray with light coats to avoid drips.

1. Use sandpaper or a steel brush to loosen up rust, then clean surfaces.

2. Use primer on rough spots. (Even if the spray paint says “use directly over rust.” It also says “Better results will be obtained if you clean and prime.”)

3. After you think you’re finished, go back and look again. Re-spray “holidays” if you find them. (Those are uncovered spots, where the painter took a holiday!)

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Cute, huh?

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My Delight

Delight yourself in the Lord

Sharing with More to Be today. Come on over and get a good dose of delight!

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Real Food Challenge– What Do I Eat?

As you know if you’ve been reading this week, Auntie Em has taken on The 7-Day Real Food Challenge presented by Mary’s Kitchen. As I said in my “What Do You Mean, Real Food Challenge?” post, that may mean different things to different people. A very strict Real Food diet would include ONLY fresh, whole food in its original form. That’s more restrictive than fits my lifestyle, so rather than toss it out completely, I’m doing a modified one. (You can read my guidelines on the “What Do You Mean?” post.)

(Obviously) Eat Fresh or Frozen Fruits and Veggies.

Limit your fruits if you are trying to lose weight or keep your sugar down, as they are higher in natural sugars. Real butter is a real food– flavor with that or with olive oil. Don’t use margarine or “lite” stuff. This kind of cooking/eating is time consuming, so be smart about it: Cook larger quantities and then just reheat them for subsequent meals. Here are just a few Auntie Em recipes:

Auntie Em’s Country Squash

Tropical Fruit Salad

“Complicated” Fruit Salad (It’s really effortless!)

Garden Fresh Broccoli

Broccoli Salad

Green Beans

For several months I’ve been starting my day with a packet of oatmeal. *bangs head on table* Compare the ingredients in the first picture (pre-packaged) and the canister (1-minute rolled oats).

I don't know what these are. Do you?  ingredients only rolled oats

These still wouldn’t pass muster on a strict Real Food diet, but they are a lot closer than the boxed, packaged stuff. Rule of thumb: The more steps between original food and your mouth, the less “real” it is. Mr. Quaker Oats had to do something to make those oats cook in 1 minute. (For a simple explanation of the journey from oats from the field to steel cut oats, to rolled oats, to quick oats, check here.)   I made up a “2-serving” batch (1 cup of oats, 2 cups water) and added a chipped-up apple, a tsp of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1 TBS maple syrup. Good! 2/3 cup was plenty. I added a TBS of vanilla almond milk for a little extra and it was quite tasty. A little more trouble up front, but now for several days I will be able to just microwave it like the little package.

From packaged oatmeal to quick oats: Progress!

I used to take 4 packets of Splenda in my large mug of coffee. (Don’t judge) Now, I pour my half and half and sip. Not terrible. Then I add ONE Splenda and it tastes quite sweet enough!

4 Splenda packets to 1: Progress!

I’ve used spaghetti squash in place of pasta– a lot of trouble but okay taste and texture. Today I julienned zucchini and sautéed it, then topped with spaghetti sauce. Just as good, and much less trouble!

Pasta to vegetable: Progress!

Main dishes

A salad is great! Add chicken or any other meat you grilled last night. Be wary of croutons and salad dressing. Those are often very processed. Make your own salad dressing- cheaper, healthier, and you get exactly what you want. Soups and stews are another great way to eat clean. Add homemade broth and fresh or frozen veggies to meat and you’ve got it.

Desserts

I made this paleo strawberry shortcake that was pretty good. I used real whipped cream, not Cool Whip.

{Guiltless} Paleo Strawberry Shortcake | Fitcupcaker

I haven’t fixed many desserts– if anything, we are mostly eating fruit — because we are trying to cut calories too. And as my wise son said, “If it’s superfluous, why eat it?”

I hope I’ve given you a bit to “chew on” in your Real Food journey!

Mary's Kitchen: Real Food Challenge day 3

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Bubbling Over with Hope

I’ve discovered More to Be’s Transformed Tuesday. Along with a linkup, Elissa gives a verse for next week, so you can ponder and soak in it all week. I like having “an assignment” and I really love this week’s verse! Come visit if you can.

Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (NASB)

I read it in several translations, and as usual, different things jumped out at me.

The HCSB said “… as you believe in Him…” Not only is God the God of hope, WE must take and active role.

The GNT stressed, “… may God, the source of hope… hope will continue to grow…” Where do we get our hope? From God. “Abound” is not a word we use too much anymore, but I “continue to grow” makes perfect sense.

And the Amplified added “… joy and peace in believing [through the experiences of your faith]… abound in hope [bubbling over]…”

So the Auntie Em translation, piecing together all of these and adding my own insight, goes something like this:

Now may God, the source of hope, fill you with all joy and peace, believing Him not only because of what you read in the Scriptures and observe in others, but from remembering your very own personal experiences. This deep, heartfelt belief will cause your hope to be steadfast and continue to grow, until it overflows and spills on to those around you.

I wrote a post called “Got Hope?” back in October that goes along with this theme– go check it out if you missed it!

bubbling over with hope

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Real Food Challenge- Here’s Help

When I start something new, especially if it’s very far outside my “box,” I need a lot of information and encouragement! Fortunately for me, there are many sources available.

I mentioned Mark’s Daily Apple and Balanced Bites in my Paleo 101 post.

For Real Food/clean eating, I like Mary’s Kitchen (the 7-Day Challenge host) and Just Eat Real Food.  (I sometimes have trouble accessing her site, but I can get to her Facebook  and Pinterest pages.)

For the whole fitness thing, including exercise, my IRL friend Aimee has a wonderful FB page called Aimee’s Corner. You will find tons of encouragement, along with humor and grace here.

Cover Photo

Another is Scooby’s Workshop. My son started on a healthy journey in January and has lost *80* pounds! He says he’s learned everything from Scooby.

Scooby's Workshop

I have to share before and after pictures. Handsome, huh?

Before After

He took shirtless pics too, that really show the dramatic change. You can see the before and after if you want. (I didn’t want to shock anyone with pictures of a shirtless man!) He has completely changed his eating– mostly fish, brown rice or quinoa, and a green veg; and only water to drink. He’s also become an athlete! He began by walking, then intervals of running/walking, and now is running 2 or more miles at a time, plus bicycling. He uses an app called Runtastic to track his miles.

There are a world of websites and apps to help you in your journey to good health. Just be careful that you don’t get stuck in researching them to death, trying to make the PERFECT decision, and neglect to actually DO anything! (I’m preaching to myself lol!)

7 day real food challenge Mary's healthy meals

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Real Food Challenge/Paleo 101

I’m taking the 7-Day Real Food Challenge with Mary’s Kitchen. (If you’d like to catch up, start here.) To tell the truth, I had overhauled my eating already, beginning around mid-June, and some posts had been floating around in my head; I thought the Challenge was the perfect time to pin me down! I’ve found some good resources that have helped.

PALEO DIET

A strict paleo diet doesn’t include any dairy or grains, and though I’m not quite willing to go that far, I am using a modified paleo diet. (I love my rice and beans and half-and-half in my coffee!) With my wheat allergy, their no-grain philosophy has given me some good alternatives, and I’ve learned a lot about nutrition by reading up on this diet. The resources I’ve used have talked at length about the connection between what they’ve termed the SAD diet (Standard American Diet) and many, many of the health problems that plague our country: obesity, high blood pressure and cholesterol, lupus, ADD, etc. I understood enough to see that most nutrition absorption occurs in our small intestine, and when we try to process foods that we were not designed to process, (especially all the added chemicals!) inflammation results– and that inflammation affects our immune system and wreaks havoc. Paleo also stresses blood sugar regulation and the dangers of huge spikes resulting from processed carbs and sugars.
Practical Paleo

by Diane Sanfilippo

This book was recommended by my friend who has lost a lot of weight by changing what she was eating. Like me, she does more of a Real Food diet than strict paleo. What I liked about the book was that the author took all her scientific knowledge and put it in easy-to-follow, practical applications. She has a good website, too, called Balanced Bites. In addition to teaching about how paleo diets work in your body, she has 30-day menu plans designed to address particular health needs like high blood pressure and cholesterol, autoimmune diseases, cancer recovery, and others.

Mark’s Daily Apple website Blackboard grok2

Read his “Primal Blueprint” in a nutshell on his website. To put it in an even smaller shell, it’s this:

  • Diet–Eat things that occur in nature and avoid poisons.
  • Exercise– Move around a lot at a slow pace (Think hunter-gatherer); run really fast once in a while (Think being chased by lions); and lift heavy things.
  • Lifestyle– Play, get plenty of sleep, get sunshine every day, avoid trauma, and use your mind.

After bingeing a couple of days reading everything I could find about Paleo diets, I found this TED talk on “Debunking the paleo myth!” Dr. Warinner, an archeological scientist, basically says that they are not based on science. However, she says there are a lot of good things about the diet: (If you can’t watch the whole video, please at least watch the 3-point wrap up beginning at 17:00.)

  • Dietary diversity: Vary your food types as much as possible– the SAD is headed toward fewer, not more foods: wheat, corn, and soy.
  • Fresh, natural foods: We don’t really know the effect chemical additives and preservatives on our bodies, but we are inundating them with chemicals that we were not designed to ingest.
  • Whole foods: Consume foods in as close to their natural state as possible, including “their fiber and roughage, and everything.” When we eat processed foods, we get far too many calories in a very compact form, and miss the other important parts that tell us we’re full, slow down the absorption of nutrients in our gut, and regulate our blood sugar. This contributes to obesity and other health problems.

For me the game changer from this whole video was the information about sugar and how our bodies are designed to absorb it. To get the equivalent amount of sugar in a 32 ounce soda, can you guess how much sugar cane you’d have to eat? Anyone? EIGHT AND A HALF FEET! As Dr. Warinner says, there is no possible way you could eat that much sugar cane– even if you really, really wanted to! And now we can get the equivalent amount of sugar in about 20 minutes.

If you want to improve your diet, but all this real food/paleo diet information is overwhelming, simply make a few simple changes.

  • Begin reading labels and if there are more than 5 ingredients, don’t buy it.
  • If you don’t know what some of the ingredients are, don’t buy it. (They are probably highly processed additives to cheaply add or enhance flavor, or else preservatives.) Instead of buying frozen veggies in sauce, buy plain frozen veggies and make your own. Or eat them plain, with some natural, full-fat butter!
  • Avoid foods that are no-fat or “lite.” These usually have other things added to make up for what’s taken out, and they are worse for you than the real stuff. If you are limiting calories, just skip them altogether or limit them.

7 day real food challenge Mary's healthy meals

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