Moments of Joy: February 2016

Blessings abounded last month, as they always do, but it was nice to share my awareness of them with you.  Any time you get the chance, it’s beneficial to meditate on the good things around you.

This month has gone so fast for me, even with an extra “leap” day added, that as I begin this post, I’m not sure where it will end up…Hmm…I’m thinking back over February.  I have several possibilities in mind to share with you…

How about we enjoy an “aaawww” moment this month?  Oh, and maybe a little laughter, too.

pink collage of Valentine photos, with the words "Family, Friends, Love, Kindness, Laughter"

My hubby started a tradition many years ago of cooking a special meal for me on Valentine’s Day.  When our daughter was quite small, she began donning her favorite apron and “helping” him prepare the meal.  Now she is a teen, and her cooking skills are improving all the time — she’s especially good at making bread and rolls!

The last couple of years, she and her best friend have completely taken over preparation of the traditional Valentine meal, and it has grown to include all the grandparents, too.

It’s quite an undertaking these days: everyone is banned from the kitchen the morning of the meal as the girls bustle around the room prepping the food (making messes?).  The table is complete with special decorations, including long-stemmed glasses with hearts all over them.  This year, caramel-filled chocolates are scattered across the table for a splash of color.  I’m a big fan of that one!

The sound of clanging pots and pans echoes through the doorway to the living room.  Occasional shouts of “Oh, no!” catch my attention, followed by “Don’t come in here!”  The girls giggle and laugh as they set the table and place decorations.  Good smells begin to waft through the house. The dog paces back and forth, smacking her lips, and staring meaningfully at each one of us.

When the meal is set and everyone is assembled, the most entertaining part of the event begins: attempting to take the family’s annual Valentine photo.

Why is my daughter’s plan of taking a photo so funny?  You see, dabbling in photography has become a bit of a hobby for me.  So, I often play around with my camera’s settings for different types of lighting and shots; yet, every year we forget this fact when my daughter sets the camera up on the tripod for our family photo.

(You will be able to view samples of my efforts in a week when I participate in the WordPress Photography 101 class…again.  You can click on the Blogging University symbol in the sidebar on the right side of your screen to learn more about the different WordPress classes; they are fun and free for anyone to participate.)

Sometimes we notice this fact while attempting to take the photos, other times we get a surprise.  For example, we also take a photo of us at the table for Thanksgiving.  When we pulled last year’s photos up onto the computer screen, we saw that I had apparently been playing with the shutter speed.  Each family member who moved in any way was blurry, while those who smiled politely and sat still were in perfect focus.  In one photo, my mother-in-law looked like her face had been smudged out for the witness protection program or something.  (Hey…I’d better keep a closer eye on her!  ha ha)

On this Valentines Day, it is the timer delay which has been altered.  My daughter carefully aims the camera on the tripod and indicates who needs to scoot in or out to get every face in the shot.  She pulls out the chair closest to the camera so she can easily sit and smile before the shutter goes off.

“Everyone ready?”  She pushes the button, steps toward her seat, and the camera says “Everyone say cheese!” followed a split second later by “Click!” as the camera flash nearly blinds her.

(When I first got the camera years ago, I discovered a setting where you can record a sound and replace the camera’s typical notifications.  I’ve had a laugh several times when people around me would suddenly look my way and say “Did your camera just say ‘Click’?!”)

“What?!” my daughter laughs.  Obviously this is not the 10 or 15 seconds we were expecting to elapse before the photo was taken.

She messes with the camera to adjust the timing, but the family is hungry and neither one of us can remember how to get to the correct menu on the camera screen to add more time.  “I’ll make it work!” my daughter exclaims while everyone is giving her advice at the same time.

A second attempt is made by clicking the button and leaping into her chair.  Her rear is almost in the seat this time before the photo is taken.

She checks the results.  Everyone is smiling and seated perfectly, except for my husband who is half-hidden behind me.  And except for the fact that my daughter’s hair was still in mid-spin and is standing straight out from her head.  It looks like she was having a severe static electricity problem, or maybe that a freak windstorm had brewed up just around her chair.

“No, no, I can do this!” she laughs while prepping for the third try.  She pokes the button while simultaneously twirling toward her seat with a slightly-manic smile already plastered on her face.  Yes!  Success?

This one is better, but we have a little problem getting my husband in the right spot.  It seems that no matter where my daughter places me to get out of his way, he leans that same direction during the photo.  What a mess that man is!  Lol  Finally, my father grabs him and bear-hugs him to hold him still. That particular photo is one of the best ones!

After a few more attempts, everyone is turning bright red and falling all over each other with laughter, so we give up and start the delicious meal:  baked pasta, homemade bread, special fruit punch in our new punch bowl…Yum!

Best of all is the celebration of the love of our friends and family.  That is something to cherish every day of the year.  Oh, and my husband even did the dishes afterwards — score!


Sharing that story has made me hungry, so I think I’ll go have lunch!  Thanks for reading!


Poultry Animosity

Meet “Little Roo.”  He first appeared on this blog as a tiny fluffball of only two or three weeks old.  He’s bantam mix of a cochin and a silkie, hence the purple comb and wattles.

brown and cream rooster standing in snow, Silkie Cochin bantam mix

A cutie, right? What a sweet little guy, huh? Well…

Now he’s a big (as he’s going to get), bad adult rooster.  And I mean “bad” literally because he has a bad case of “little man syndrome.”  He’s the meanest rooster we’ve ever owned, and he has a definite grudge against my rubber yard clogs.  I did a photo shoot to show you how ornery this beautifully-feathered guy is.

small rooster with hackles raised who looks like he's tap dancing

We taught him to tap dance, too! Nah, just kidding, he’s fluffing his hackles and wings in attack mode there.


small rooster in the snow glaring at a shoe

Look at that glare — oh, how he hates my blue clogs!


small rooster with wings outspread attacking a shoe with his spurs

Full-out attack mode! His spurs have not developed yet, but I can tell he will know exactly how to use them when they do grow in!


small rooster ducking below shoe in his face

He ducked when I stuck my foot out to renew his attack for more photos. What an agile little guy!


small rooster flying sideways to attack shoe

Sorry about the poor camera angles. It’s really hard to do a close-up photo shoot of a moving target while defending yourself.


small rooster biting shoe

This boy doesn’t peck; he bites and tears like a crocodile. Once he latches on to something, he shakes his head from side to side and won’t let go.


small rooster attacking shoe, one wing up and one down like a dancer

The quality on this photo is not good because we were in the shade, but the image was too funny to overlook. This must be his version of the funky chicken dance.


I’d like to assume Little Roo is merely “cangry” due to the snow; but no, he’s this way all the time.  He’s really great to the hens; so as long as he doesn’t become too much trouble for us to safely handle, I suppose we will have regular boxing matches for years to come.

(What’s “cangry”?  Oh, sorry, that’s cold + angry…a silly joke from a previous post.)

~~~ Unfortunate Update ~~~

Wow, what a coincidence this post got pushed back until today! (The photos were taken on January 23rd.)  Less than 24 hours after this published, Little Roo’s fate has been decided.

I responded to a couple of comments on this post and went outside to enjoy the sunshine.  In the distance, I saw my daughter sparring in the chicken pen with this stubborn fowl.

My daughter tried to pick him up and calm him, as has always worked with roosters we’ve had in the past. He put two swollen lumps on her wrists and ripped fluff off of her furry coat.

Warning, gross part coming! — She put him down, and he fought so hard against her feet that he caught his toenail under hers (she was in flip flops as usual) and ripped off his own toenail!  Luckily for him, I went in the pen and grabbed him to allow my daughter to leave.  That’s when blood started running all over my hand as I held him by the legs.  We probably wouldn’t have known about his wound if I had not picked him up.

A few spoonfuls of peroxide and several paper towels later, I was able to stop the bleeding on his toe, clean him up, and calm him down.

Both parties are now in their separate corners nursing their wounded feet.  Lol

Little Roo will be relocated by the end of the week.  Poor dumb dude.  I really think he would fight another rooster to the death.

A Voice of Compassion

This is why I love WordPress. Thanks so much to my daughter for unintentionally turning me into a blogger. And thanks to those of you who open your hearts of compassion to total strangers.

“Do I know exactly how you feel? No. Do you know exactly how I feel? No. But what we do know is this… we can share our life experiences with one another so that no one feels alone when they are hurting… physically or emotionally… when they are sick… in sadness… or lost within the darkness. We all have that light within us that can be shared with another… ” ~ by Michael33

Vision of Hope 33

Recovery Update #2

Saturday, February 13, 2016

I hope that all of you are already enjoying or about to begin enjoying a beautiful weekend filled with love, smiles and laughter.  Perhaps I should leave this post with that comment instead of bringing you up to date on my recovery.  But, then… that would not fulfill my ‘vision of hope’ that this site is intended to bring.  So I’m going to whine… complain… gripe… whimper… perhaps even snivel a bit… I would even throw in some mewling… but that bothers the kitties and they gather on the coffee table and stare at me with that special kitty look that says… “Really?… Mewling?  You’re seriously going to mewl right in front of us?”  So, I suppose I’ll just stop at sniveling…

The shortness of breath is the most serious of the side effects at this point and I actually can’t say for…

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Artistic Cropping

Photography can be a fun hobby, even for amateurs like myself.  Creating an aesthetically pleasing image often requires more than simply clicking the shutter on a camera.  There are many things to consider before clicking that shutter and many options to employ after the digital image is in your computer.

As I develop my photography skills, I enjoy sharing tips I’ve learned that have helped me improve.  Today I’d like to encourage you to think about the artistry involved in simply cropping a photo.

Take this photo for example:

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

I asked my daughter if she liked it, and she replied “It’s alright.”  Since I had already (slightly) edited the image with PicMonkey for contrast, sharpness, and color, I decided cropping the photo might improve it.

When I first clicked the crop button, a box popped up in the middle of the photo; and I thought, “That’s not bad.”  I applied the crop and showed the frosty photo to my daughter again.

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

“That’s a little better,” she said, still with an unimpressed tone of voice.

So, I thought I’d randomly play around with the cropping tool and see what evolved.  It’s interesting how cropping a photo, even a little bit, can sometimes change the impact an image has on the viewer.

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

I tried pushing the initial cropping box into the bottom left corner of the photo, and swiveled my laptop toward my daughter.  This time I was rewarded with “I like that one!”

“Hmmm…” I thought.  “I wonder why…The ‘rule of thirds,’ perhaps?  Let me see how different the other corner looks.”

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

My patient daughter’s critique this time: “Yeah, I really like that one, too.”

“Maybe she just likes the focal point being in the corner?  Let’s see what it looks like when you really put it tightly into the corner.”

I changed the size of the crop this time, while keeping the original proportions.  Then I decided to compare a horizontal to a vertical image, being careful not to move the top left corner out of position.

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

Changing the orientation definitely gives the final image a different look.  I’m not sure which one I like better.

Realizing that the two buds near the center of the photo were the focal point of each cropped image, I worked around the edges of the photo to see if I could come up with a decent alternative.  This was the best of the crops I tried:

red quince blooms and buds covered in ice and snow

In this case, the long icicle became the focal point — again following the rule of thirds, as well.  There is so much detail in those icicles that I didn’t notice in the original photo!

If you had not viewed the original photo, you would not realize the two previous images came from one shot.  This is an example of how cropping can allow you to get more than one image out of a single photo, if your original photo has enough information in it to really zoom in without things becoming blurry or pixelated.  I’ve done this more than once on this blog for images that were too busy or too far away from the subjects.

The photos I typically use on this blog are only 640 pixels on the longest side, so having large file sizes on my photos is not necessary.  However, I have learned to set my old camera to the largest file size available, so that I have more opportunities for creative cropping.

If you are rather new to photography, like me, here’s the simplest way to get the most out of your cropping function:  Set your camera to take images at a large size (2,000+ pixels per side) and set it on the most detailed setting (“super-fine” on my Canon Power Shot, though shooting in RAW could be even better, if you have a good photo editing program to process it).


Did this photo seem familiar to you?  You may have seen (part of) it before

Which image appealed the most to you?  Please leave a comment below and tell me which one you like the best and why.  Thanks!


Links to Joy: A Sense of Humor

Life is laughable 99% of the time, I think.  Even in tough situations, I’d rather choose to laugh than cry, wouldn’t you?  During the darkest times in my life, I have found silver linings in the clouds, or at least an ironic aspect of the situation to amuse me.

A few days ago, a new friend I’m just getting to know wisecracked about my clothing, then suddenly looked surprised and apologized.  We have developed a running gag about her disdain for wearing socks with flip-flops and the fact that my feet are frequently garbed in that very fashion.  (I even buy special flip-flop socks.)  Maybe she thought she had gone too far this time by moving on to other articles of clothing?  I chuckled and told her I’m not easily offended.  With a relieved expression, she said, “Good!  I wouldn’t joke with you if I didn’t like you!”  It’s funny how many times I’ve heard that phrase.

humor is healing -- "A merry heart does good like a medicine" Proverbs 22:17

I was raised in a house full of humor.  My father, especially, has always been a big jokester.  Surviving certain unique friends during junior high school (what an awkward time of transition!) also added to my slapstick slant on life.  After being antagonized and embarrassed to a certain level by those classmates, nothing phased me anymore.  Strangely, it seems I can embarrass myself constantly, but the things others say to me rarely ruffle my feathers.  Ok, I’m rambling; back to the topic…

Have you ever met (or been) someone who has absolutely no sense of humor?  I have encountered a small handful of these personalities before.  These are the people, in my experience, who stay grouchy — angry, even — almost as if they prefer to be miserable.  Or, they are those who go through every moment somberly and react as if speaking with levity is degrading or hurtful.  These latter are the ones who overhear a friendly jibe, throw their hand over their gasping mouth as their eyes bulge in surprise, then furrow their brows in confusion when the recipient of the joke laughs.  With these types of people, I reign in my urge to quip, so as not to upset or annoy them.

Then there are those who seem to enjoy humor but aren’t completely sure how to participate in the fun.  This idea brings a funny story to my mind of an experience I had while shopping in a home improvement store.  My husband and I were seeking to purchase a new toilet (the highly-chlorinated, terribly-hard water in our town ruins toilets and water heaters).  While standing with our heads tipped way back, examining the signs beside the shiny porcelain bowls mounted way up on the top shelf, a couple approached and assumed the same position.  One sign amused me because it sported a large photo of a bucket of golf balls that it claimed could be easily flushed down due to the commode’s extraordinary flushing power and capacity.

The lady nearby asked me which one I was thinking about getting because she couldn’t decide what kind of toilet was the best.  Leaning in closer to her while pointing at the sign I was studying, I replied, “I don’t know, but if you’re really wanting to flush down a bucket of golf balls, I’d definitely go with that one.”

Her gaze briefly focused on the sign.  Then she straightened up, took a small step back, cocked her head and stared at me for a second.  I thought, “Oh, no, I guess I shouldn’t have said that.”

Suddenly, she smiled from ear to ear, reached out her arm, and gently slapped me across the shoulder.  “You’re…so…funny!” she slowly ejected in a high-pitched voice.

I had never had anyone react like that to one of my lame jokes, so I just stared at her with my eyebrows raised.  “You are!” she reiterated while wagging her finger accusingly toward me.  I composed myself enough to thank her, and we proceeded to discuss in detail the merits of several toilets.


This post was not intended to be an analysis of humor, but rather a simple declaration of appreciation for it.  I guess I’m doing more of a freewriting or stream-of-consciousness writing style today.

The thing I was originally intending to write was a story about my cute daughter.  Though she is homeschooled, she takes choir class at the local public school.  On the drive there today, I was telling her about a funny conversation I had with photographer/blogger Willis Kier in the comments of his recent post.  I facetiously accused him of getting angry when he was too cold.  He concluded that if hungry + angry equals “hangry” then cold + angry would equal “cangry.”  My daughter thought that was funny, too.

I thought to tell her about the conversation because of how she was dressed.  Though it was 40 degrees outside and she was in a short-sleeved shirt, she would not follow my recommendation to grab a coat.  (Sometimes with kids, you have to ask yourself, “Is this really worth the fight?  Maybe she needs to learn this one the hard way.”)  As she climbed out of the car, cold air rushed in.  I called to her, “Hey!  Don’t get all ‘cangry’ now!”

Her laughter mixed with the sound of the car door slamming.  She quickly leaped onto the sidewalk in front of the car, pumped her fist into the air, and pretended to shout at me.  With one foot forward and her front knee bent, she looked like someone stepping out of their vehicle in a fit of road rage or like a Viking warrior raging on the bow of his ship.  I roared with laughter as I imagined a horned Viking helmet atop her head.  I’m very thankful for my girl; she’s so fun to be around!

Do you have your own version of a “cangry Viking” who keeps you laughing?  Please tell me about them in the comments below because I love happy stories!

Thanks for reading.  Here’s wishing you a beautiful, laughter-filled day!

Stop Complaining About My Complaining!

I wanted to share this post because I need a frequent reminder of the topic. My life is amazingly wonderful. I have nothing of consequence to complain about, and yet I catch myself complaining anyway. It’s a bad habit I’ve been working to remove from my life. No one enjoys listening to a whiner.

A Homeschool Mom

Stop_Complaining_About_ComplainingOften, I find myself listening to little people in the midst of fussing about life’s many trials. They complain about having to make their beds, brush their teeth, clean their bathroom, and help with household chores. There are days I wish I had a magic button to push which would allow me to turn the complaining off. Then, the Lord shared something with me.

As often as my kids are complaining, I’m complaining about their complaining. If I would like my children to stop grumbling, I need to first set the example myself. But, how do I do this?

Prayer – Above all, I need to be in prayer. I should also be praying over my children’s hearts and teaching them to pray on their own.  With the Lord’s help, we can beat the habit of whining and have a peaceful home.

Gratefulness – At the heart of our grumbling…

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