Moments of Joy: February 2015

The “moment of joy” for last month was a laughable moment.

This month it’s more of a tug on this mother’s heart-strings.

two cut lemons and a plate of lemon bar desserts

adapted from photo by Miki’s Kitchen

On a sunny but cold mid-week morning, I am assembling a shopping list in preparation for a trip to the grocery store.  My daughter walks up and says she wants to add items of her own to the list.  I take her dictation:  “lemon juice, cake mix, powdered sugar…”

“What do you need all this for?”  I ask.

“I’m going to make lemon bars.  I found this recipe that looks really good!”

My daughter loves all things lemon, but I don’t remember trying any kind of bars at our house.  “You haven’t made that before have you?”

“No, but they look delicious!”  Then she adds, “I want to make them so I can take them to the neighbors.”

    “Oooo,” I think to myself, “she’s a brave girl wanting to try out a brand new recipe on the neighbors.  She may change her mind about sharing, depending upon how these lemon bars turn out.”

So, off we go to the store to gather all the desired goodies as I wonder why my daughter has decided that the neighbors are suffering from lemon deprivation.

A few days later, my dear daughter gathers the ingredients we had neatly tucked away in the fridge and cabinets and begins to bake her new dessert creation.  With only a few words of guidance solicited from me, she completes her masterpiece and asks me to try a sample.  Pretty tasty!

She arranges a few of the sugary squares onto a paper plate and takes them to the kind, elderly couple who live directly across the street.

    “How sweet of her,” I muse.  “Hmmm…those are quite yummy.  I think I’ll have another taste.”

Time ticks by and the dish of dessert gradually shrinks.

    “Just one more square!  I wonder how good these would taste with ice cream?”

By the time my daughter returns, three more lemon squares have mysteriously disappeared.  I hear a loud voice from the kitchen, “Mom!  What are you doing?!  Stop eating these!  I told you they were for the neighbors!”

“What?” I respond.  “You should have covered those things; they evaporate when you leave them sitting out!  Didn’t you know about that?”

She quickly shoots back, in the classic exasperated-teen tone, “Mo-om!  Leave them alone!  They’re for the neighbors!”

I counter her complaint with, “They taste good!  You said I could have some.”  In a more humble tone, I add, “Ok, I did get a little carried away, but you already took some to the neighbors.  I thought the rest were for us.”

I become privy to what her true plan was all along when she explains, “I wanted to give them as a gift to our other neighbors when I invite them to the preaching next week.”

My eyes light up and my heart swells as I realize that she is speaking about a family who moved into our neighborhood several months ago.  After meeting them a few times and learning about their struggles, my daughter has been concerned about them and has been seeking opportunities to extend a friendly hand.

I proudly smile as my daughter walks out the door, her hands full with another plate of lemon bars and, tucked under her elbow, a sheet of paper outlining the details of several evening bible lessons scheduled for the following weekend.

I’m thrilled to see that my girl can look outside of the all-to-typical, selfish teenage world and take the initiative to reach out to other people.  This is a happy moment, indeed.  Maybe I’m doing some things right in raising this kid…

a cartoon heart with a smiling face on it


Links to Joy: Pets (#2)

Here’s a second helping of lessons I’ve learned from my pets:

Be thankful for simple pleasures. Created by Merry Hearts Medicine.

Be unique. It's okay to stand out from the crowd! Created by Merry Hearts Medicine.

Never miss an opportunity to say I love you. Created by Merry Hearts Medicine.

You may have to stretch beyond your comfort zone in order to reach your goals. Created by Merry Hearts Medicine.

Yes, just like my first pet post, the last picture was not actually my pet.  (I’m sure you figured that out on your own.)  But the picture was so fun, I wanted to share anyway!  Let me know if you enjoy these pictures, and I’ll see if I have enough photos left to make a third post like this.  Is there a particular inspiring thought you’d like to see on a picture?

Also, if you have a moment, I’d love to hear about what inspires you and helps you feel happy today.  Please stop by the page called “Reasons to Smile” and share your comments!


Dirty Dishes

Do you have a chore that you tend to put off until the last minute, the chore you can’t stand to do?  A friend of mine despises sorting socks.  She said it drives her so crazy that she refuses to do it.  When anyone in her home wants to keep their feet cozy and warm, they have to dig through a laundry basket filled with the whole family’s clean socks.

colorful, clean socks

One of the most distasteful chores to me is cleaning dirty dishes.  I guess it’s the never-ending nature of it that gets to me.  After stepping away from a sparkling clean kitchen, I’ll turn around to get a drink of water or something, and *POOF* another dirty dish has sneaked into the sink (or appeared on the counter, coffee table, TV tray, or a few other odd places).

clean dishes and cooking utensils

Many years ago, a magazine I was reading contained a poem about being thankful for dirty dishes.  In hopes of improving my attitude, I made a small poster of the poem and hung it on the cabinet beside the kitchen sink.  When feeling particularly cranky about having to scour food-encrusted plates–again–I would read it out loud while scrubbing the dishes.

Having a dishwasher helps tremendously these days.  I still tend to procrastinate on doing dishes, but my attitude is better after years of reading this poem:

poem about thanking God for dirty dishes

Bouncing Back

This post gives an excellent illustration of the ups and downs of life. I can empathize with dizzylizzie72’s point of view, as I am currently “bouncing back from tragedy and grief” that rocked my world a year ago. With the Good Lord’s help, we can overcome anything.

Life - Happiness & Joy


Life can be just drifting along and all is right with the world.  Then in an instant your world falls apart and everything comes crashing down.  My world did that over two years ago.  I began to care for my brother with dementia and my husband almost died during the same period of time.  The grief and stress were overwhelming for me.  I tried my best to be strong and handle everything.  When I was alone at night it almost became more than I could deal with after a long day at the hospital.

We are growing this large stand of cane in our yard.  When the snow and ice hit this cane it slowly sinks until it lies on the ground.  You can see that from the picture above.  You think, to yourself, this cane will break, it will never recover, it can’t possibly stand tall again. Then the…

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Links to Joy: Handmade Quilts

Here’s what’s making me smile today:  warm, cozy quilts! Right now I am curled under a couple of them which were made by my wonderful grandmothers.  Looking at the patterns on these quilts, running my hand over the different fabrics, I can remember the fun times I spent as a child with my grandparents.

The quilt I’m looking at while I type this post was a surprise gift from my father’s mother. She had given it to my mother years before I was married, saying, “Save this and give this to her when she gets married because I know I won’t be around by then.” She was right.

My grandmother gave me this red, white, and blue quilt as a wedding present.

It was a bittersweet moment when my mother presented this quilt to me, but it is dear to me and is treated with special care.  When I look at this quilt in particular, I remember spending the night with my grandparents at their house in the “holler.” (Let me translate that for all the “city folks”:  They basically lived in a small, deep valley.  Driving a car down their driveway felt like trying to follow a mountain goat trail without falling off the cliff!)

Their home was a wondrous playland to me as a child, since I am so fond of nature and the outdoors.  A frigidly-cold spring flowed out of the rocky hill on one side of their yard, which formed a small pool and then cascaded across their yard like a tiny, gurgling stream.  My cousins and I would grab an old plastic margarine tub with a lid and walk down the road to the creek to catch crawdads (a.k.a. crayfish, crawfish, mudbugs, freshwater lobsters).  Triumphantly, we would bring back the bowlful of critters and deposit them into the tiny spring pool to watch them grow and multiply in their new home.  The babies were hardly bigger than large grains of sand when they hatched!

Special memories with my grandmother include using homemade cane poles to fish for perch and catfish in their pond and watching her spread piles of flour and milk right onto the kitchen counter–never measuring any ingredients–as she made some of the best biscuits in the world.  (Thankfully, my father picked up her biscuit-making skills and helped me create a recipe that closely-approximates her huge, fluffy treats.  Hooray!)

three fresh, delicious strawberries

My all-time favorite thing to do at their house was to hop the mini spring “creek” and walk to the sandy strawberry patch in their garden.  Grandpa was a hard-working man who would faithfully stand in the blazing sun to hoe and pull every weed in that strawberry patch, not even bothering to stop and wipe the sweat that dripped from his forehead.  Grandma and I would pick buckets of berries, some of which actually made it back to the kitchen, rather than into my stomach.  The berry patch was nearly three feet wide and, from my child’s-eye point of view, about a quarter mile long!  (My parents say it was actually about 250 feet in length.)

I don’t have time to elaborate upon all the other adventures I enjoyed at my grandparents’ house (nor would you wish to read through it all, I’m sure.  I’m impressed that you made it this far without falling asleep!  Lol).  Today this warm, cozy quilt stirred up warm, fuzzy memories, and I just wanted to share a few with you.

Do you have special memories of family and friends that warm your heart and moisten your eyes?  Cherish those precious memories whenever you have the chance!

Feel free to share some memories in the comments below, if you’d like.  I’d love you hear your stories!

If you don’t wish to share a memory, but you would be willing to share something you are thankful for or something that just makes you smile, please encourage others by adding your comments on the page called “Reasons to Smile.”  Thanks!

~~~~~UPDATE: 3/20/15~~~~~

Oh, wow!  Look what I found while working on an assignment for the WordPress Photography 101 class:  a photo of my grandparents’ garden!

my grandparents' large garden, photographed from an old 35 mm slideshow

Does anyone remember the old 35 mm slide projectors like this one?

35 mm slide projector and slides

photo from Legal

My parents had many photos on these old slides.  In 2008, *CLICK-CLACK* my family gathered around in my parents’ living room *CLICK-CLACK* with a screen on a tripod and the old slide projector on the kitchen table *CLICK-CLACK* and walked down memory lane together *CLICK-CLACK* as I took photos with a camera to try to preserve some of the old images *CLICK-CLACK* because the slides were beginning to degrade. (Remember the constant clicking noises?  the flash of light and dark?  the occasional voice saying “Oh, wait, I’ve got that one in upside-down!”)


my grandparents' large garden, with areas labeled


Links to Joy: Sweet Basil

Happiness can come from countless sources.  One I’m particularly fond of is a good night’s sleep.  As you know, many things can interfere with precious rest.  One thing that ruins my slumber is the fact that hungry mosquitoes seem to think I’m the tastiest snack they’ve ever come across.

There have been multiple occasions while standing outside in a crowd that I am the only person bitten by the little pests.  Within seconds, I develop welts on my skin that no cream or lotion can completely calm.  My grandmother was the same way.  She used to say we were just especially sweet people, and that’s why the bugs liked us better.  I adored her theory, but it didn’t soothe the stinging welts on my ankles.

Thanks to the tasty, easy-to-grow sweet basil plant, my family and I no longer spend restless nights scratching inflamed bug bites.  Here’s how we use this plant to get relief after being a bug buffet:

Crush a fresh leaf and rub it on a recent mosquito bite until you can see the basil juice on your skin. The itching should instantly stop, and by the next morning you usually can’t even see a spot where you were bitten! You have to treat the bumps within the first hour or two of getting bitten, though. When we tried it on day-old bumps, it didn’t help as much.

I heartily suggest you keep a sweet basil plant around for bug bite relief.  Whatever isn’t rubbed on your wounds by the end of the summer can be used to make delicious pesto that you can spread on bread, pasta, or homemade pizza!  (Toss the leaves into a food processor with olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and some pine nuts or almonds.  Extra pesto holds up well in the freezer for several months.)

I have one more suggestion before you go:  Please stop by the page called “Reasons to Smile” and share your comments about what brings you happiness today.  I’d love to hear your encouraging words!