Moments of Joy: April 2016

My mother-in-law and I strolled back in time to a 50’s cafe in last month’s Moment of Joy.  This month, my family returns to one of our favorite vacation spots in Arkansas.

Hot Springs, Arkansas: National Park, Promenade, Bed and Breakfast, Mountain tower, and Pirate's Cove Golf

I have said plenty of things in the past about our trips to Hot Springs, Arkansas, and especially our fabulous stays at the 1884 Wildwood Bed and Breakfast Inn, so I will spare you the long story and just list the highlights of this year’s trip for you.

  • My hubby got to go with us for the first time in years and had his first stay at the bed and breakfast.
  • We had perfect weather for playing Pirate’s Cove Adventure Golf — the best mini-golf course I’ve ever enjoyed!
  • Several days were spent shopping, trail-walking, and taking our first “ghost tour” in the downtown area.
  • My daughter and her friend experienced a buzz from visiting an “oxygen bar.”  Yes, they paid money to look like hospital patients and smell fragrances that set my allergies on fire!  Meanwhile, I had a great time viewing paintings and chatting with the curators of several nearby art galleries.
  • The girls made a video of themselves doing a taste test with eight types of root beer and a bacon-flavored soda pop. “Gross, it tastes like bacon barbeque sauce!” they said.  “Bacon should not be in liquid form!”
  • Did I mention the bed and breakfast yet? (Lol) Oh, wow!  Who could not love the kind staff, the specially-baked treats to accommodate my daughter’s food allergies, the special arrangements for my fragrance allergies, the richly-decorated rooms with a porch swing and jacuzzi tub, the incredible breakfast feasts, the beautiful surroundings, the expertly-presented historical tour, etc, etc.

All in all, it was a wonderful, relaxing trip that refreshed us.  After so many years of visits to Hot Springs, we’ve about worn the town out.  Next time, I think we’ll have to explore some of the nearby lakes and parks; we’ve heard great things about them.  I’m sure we can come up with more excuses to spend time in “our home away from home” (as the girls have dubbed it) at the Wildwood B&B.


The Spring Surprise Is Sprung

Macro Mysteries Solved photography logo by Merry Hearts Medicine

If you’ve seen the four macro photos from the last post, you may already have a guess as to what subject I was photographing.

Haven’t seen them yet?  Then have a look at them and see if your sharp eyes can identify them before checking the answers in this post.

Continue reading


Springtime Surprises

Macro Mysteries logo small

Presenting a new challenge for you from my front yard…This one would have completely stumped me a few years ago.  What do you think the subject of this photo is?

mysterious stems

Here, I’ll back off a bit so you can see it better:

mysterious dark fruit with pointed ends

Let me add a couple more photos to make you wonder.  The following photos are from the same subject, mind you, even though they look nothing like the first two.

mysterious climbing millipede

mysterious brown fringe hanging down

Have you figured it out now?  I’ll present the answer for you in a few days, including a brief story to go along with it.  Until then, please leave a comment explaining what you think the photographic subject is today.  I bet some of you know!

Do you enjoy trying to identify mysterious photos like this?  If so, please click the following link to see similar posts: Macro Mysteries

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{Have you divined the answer yet? Check here to see if you are right!}


Links to Joy: Mourning

Yes, I know, that’s a strange title for a blog post.  It is an oxymoron that has been on my mind of late, as I have attended several funerals recently with family and friends.

King Solomon stated in the book of Ecclesiastes that “it is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting…”  But how could that be possible?  Who wants to sit around and pout when they could party, instead?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately of loved ones who have passed away and about friends who have moved out of state that I no longer get to see frequently.  Sadness and mourning fill my heart at these times, so how could that make me happy?

Look at the rest of the scripture to understand the answer:

SCRIPTURE -- Ecclesiastes 7:2 written on the photo of a teary eye

It’s easy to float through life when things are going smoothly or when you are busy with schedules and/or physical possessions.  Loss and tragedy can make you pause long enough to re-evaluate your life.

Sitting in the crowd during a funeral service, it’s hard not to think that some day I will be the one lying in the box.  It helps me think about and take stock of my life:

  • Why am I here?
  • What is my purpose in life?
  • What have I contributed to this world that’s of any value?
  • How many days to I have left on this earth, and am I using them well?

Such sobering thoughts help me organize my priorities and live more conscientiously. This pause for thoughtful self-evaluation is how mourning can lead to a joyous lifestyle and help you develop a meaningful, peaceful life.

When I slow down to examine my life and look around this world, I see the patterns, the complexity, the balance…I see the hand of the Creator.

When I seek His truths in His Word, I find a pattern of living based on relationships, love, and unselfishness.  Walking in His footsteps, I make choices that lead my life down a wonderful path which grows brighter every day.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

~Matthew 5:4


One last thought: “We’re all in this together,” as they say, so I encourage you today to pay extra attention to those around you and support them.  Whether you feel like laughing or crying at the moment, “this, too, shall pass;” and like it or not, we need each other.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

~Romans 12:15

Love and the Cabbie

In college, when my professors were training the Special Education majors to one day become teachers themselves, they called this idea “Catch them being good.”

They talked about how a young child (or anyone, really) becomes what they are labeled and what they focus on. They said things like:

  • Don’t call a student shy; praise them when they speak up.
  • Don’t say “You are bad at math;” praise them in detail about why they got a certain problem right.
  • Don’t harshly tell a student to sit still and be quiet; calmly redirect the student who is distracting the class and quietly praise him when he is behaving well.

This idea of sincere positive praise seems to work in a multitude of situations — even with my hubby!  Shhhh!  😉



‘I was in New York the other day and rode with a friend in a taxi. When we got out, my friend said to the driver, “Thank you for the ride. You did a superb job of driving.”

The Taxi driver was stunned for a second. Then he said, “Are you a wise guy or something?”

“No, my dear man, and I’m not putting you on. I admire the way you keep cool in heavy traffic.”

“Yeah,” the driver said and drove off.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“I am trying to bring love back to New York,” he said. “I believe it’s the only thing that can save the city.”

“How can one man save New York?”

“It’s not only one man. I believe I have made that taxi driver’s day. Suppose he has 20 fares. He’s going to be nice to those 20 fares because someone…

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The “Happiness Advantage”

A fellow blogger posted this great video on her site, and I feel it perfectly shares part of the message I seek to convey with this Merry Hearts Medicine blog.  It’s worth your time to sit and watch this TEDx Talk by psychologist Shawn Achor.  If nothing else, you’ll come away from it with a smile on your face! He jokes around a lot, but the message rings true.

Proverbs 17:22 written in gold letters on a photo of a rainbow, Merry Hearts Medicine


Photo 101: Truimph 3.0

Day 20 goal:  Use a photo editing program to tweak the contrast in your photos.

After a long day of working in the garden (and sunburning my shoulders — ouch!), my daughter and I decided to dispose of an old, wooden tomato trellis by burning it.  The boards were soaked from five inches of rain that had fallen the previous few days.  With several handfuls of paper out of the recycling bin, some additional dry sticks, and about 20 matches, we finally triumphed and managed to get a cheery fire going.

Here’s the initial fire in our homemade fire pit:

photo of campfire in stone fire pit, taken with flash on

It looked much more dramatic and impressive when I took a photo without the flash — talk about an image with high contrast!

photo of campfire in stone fire pit, taken with no flash

Here is the same shot with a longer exposure time, which causes the flames to have a more solid and blurred appearance:

photo of campfire in stone fire pit, taken with no flash and longer exposure

The rest of the evening was spent relaxing in the gentle heat of our little fire while experimenting with camera settings.  I tried several different settings for exposure and flash, and I used nearly every shutter speed my camera had from 15 seconds to 1/2500 of a second.  I personally enjoy the higher shutter speeds which capture the details of the small, licking flames.

Here’s a gallery to share the results of my playtime. Sorry there are so many.  I had trouble choosing!


Awww…my third and final round of WordPress’ Photo101 class has ended.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

There will still be many more photos on this site in the future, I’m sure.  Hopefully my skills will continue to improve with practice, and my photos will be more and more pleasing and interesting to view.

Look for upcoming Macro Mysteries guessing game posts, too, since macro photography is my favorite style to pursue!


I’m always desiring to learn and improve upon my photography.  If you have the time, I’d really appreciate hearing your opinion:  Would you compare this post to the previous two and leave a comment telling me which one you like best and why?  Thanks!

Triumph 2.0 — What a precious and picture-perfect subject I had to work with for this image!  I wish you could meet her and see that sweet smile; she could brighten anyone’s day!

Triumph 1.0 — The first time I participated in Photo 101, I showcased the ultimate triumph I am striving to achieve — the thing that brings me the most happiness and hope in my life.