Category Archives: habits

Why We Do What We Do

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Here's the way we cut our pineapple...

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.” Thomas Paine

When my son was born, my mom made him a wonderful sock monkey we called “George.”  Though it’s full of holes, it’s one of the things he kept from his childhood.

While talking to my daughter on Skype, I noticed her roommate had a crocheted blanket in a zig-zag pattern that I’ve seen at many a grandmother’s house.  I knew that someone she loved must have made it for her.

Traditions, whether oral or customary, are passed down from generation to generation.  The more we learn about other cultures, the more we are aware of the traits the people deem important enough to transmit over time.

Here are some interesting ones I’ve found while traveling around the world:

How to seriously multitask  – There seems to be no limit to what an African lady can balance on her head.  I’ve seen  a woman carry what looked like a house on top of her head, a baby on her back, and her knitting in her hand.  These tasks kept her busy as she walked down the road.

How to cut a pineapple – There are many rules about fruits here in Thailand. I just accept them and don’t even attempt to compete.  I stopped a lady in mid-process to take this photo of how a pineapple should be cut.  There are rules for how to peel a pomelo, how to wrap a banana, how to take the seed from a rambutan, and how to properly display a guava.  Don’t even think about fruit decorating.  This is just the basic stuff.

How to tie a shoe  – You may think there’s just one way to do it.  Try asking people from three or four different countries and watch what you get.  You may be surprised to see that some people make Mickey Mouse ears on both sides and then tie them together–or you may find something even more interesting.

How to put a rubber band on a bag – Here’s one I thought was a simple procedure, yet again, it’s the little things that can disturb.  I’ve cut many a rubber band off of a bag because I cannot get to the bottom of how it’s done.  Some of you won’t understand this tradition, but if you do–you are probably with me on this one.

How to say thank you – In Indonesia, the sweet lady who kept the nursery came to tell us that she was sorry that she had not done as good a job as maybe she could have.  Oh, no.  We tried to tell her how wonderful she was and how we appreciated all she had done for us.  We didn’t understand at the time that this was the way to part in that country.  It caught us off guard.  In the States we write thank you notes.  In some countries, we give gifts for all kinds of little and big things.  In many countries we bow appropriately.

We value tradition, though we often rebel against it.  As our world is growing smaller, though, it is important to tread lightly when getting to know people.  Traditions and values walk hand in hand, and if we hope to do the same, we will learn to open our eyes before we open our mouths

What are some of your favorite traditions?

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My Top 5 Ways To Avoid Good Health During The Holiday Season

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My attempt at a healthy breakfast...

“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” Thomas Fuller

In my case, pride surely comes before a fall.  While teaching, I’ve always prided myself in the fact that I have never called in sick, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been sick.  In fact, on several occasions, the students have asked, “Shouldn’t you be at home, Mrs. Claudia?”

I will openly confess that I’ve been quite sick for about two months now.  There it is.  It’s out there.  Sickness does come to all of us, and it brings many lessons to be learned if we are willing.

Here are 5 mistakes I’ve made that have extended my time of sickness:

1. Don’t stay in bed just because you have a fever.  There’s work to be done and things to be accomplished.  Keep on moving.  Don’t let your body stop you from accomplishing “important” goals.

2. Don’t go to the doctor for meds.  Doctors appointments take time and money.  Just treat your symptoms, and you’ll eventually get better.  This was my bad choice.  In the end, I ended up going to the doctor 3 times because the infection moved to several other organs in the body, which would have been avoided if I had gone to the doctor initially.

3. Don’t keep a regular exercise schedule.  After all, it’s the holiday season.  Who has time to exercise?  This healthy habit may have kept me from getting sick, but as my health deteriorated, I could barely make it walking to the top of the street.  I am envious every time my husband goes out the door to exercise.  I’d love to do it, but because it’s not my regular habit, I’m too sick to join him.

4. Don’t take vitamins.  My husband swears by zinc and takes a handful of vitamins daily.  It seems funny to me, but it’s interesting that he’s the only one who avoided the flu this year.  Maybe there is something to it.

5. Don’t partake of health foods; they are for the birds.  Who needs to eat all of those nuts, oats, and seeds?  Birds will be hungry this winter if I eat all of their food.  Donuts, cheese grits, buttered toast, and coffee probably aren’t the best breakfast foods to help me avoid sickness.  Yet, they all sound better than the oats I had this morning.

I hope your holiday season is full of good health.  As for me, I’m eating humble pie.  I can see that I’m approaching good health again just in time to finish off the holidays. Should I get prideful about my health again, I’m recording my 5 mistakes for posterity.

Do you ever feel smug when you see a sick person, taking pride in your own good health?  Please feel free to amuse me with your stories.

“Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul; man cannot live in health without them.” Mahalia Jackson

Is Your Mood Ring Stuck On Black?

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The natural colors and designs in nature are free for those who notice!

“The earth laughs in flowers.” e.e. cummings

Back in the 70’s, I was enamored by the faddish mood rings.  Whenever I put one on, though, I found it often turned a shade of gray or black.  At the time, I was horrified because as a sixth-grader, I wanted others to see me as passionate.  Of course now I know the reason.  My hands were almost always icy cold in the wintertime at our school.  I would see people working on the school furnace, but it seemed that none of it was piped down to Mrs. Blalock’s room.  Unfortunately, the mood ring didn’t reflect the idiom, “Cold hands–warm heart.”

Our moods come in many colors, but if we’re seeing too much black, perhaps we haven’t taken time to enjoy nature’s design.  Think to yourself, what did I notice on the way to work today?  If it was the changing colors of nature, the details in a leaf, or the shape of a mountain, chances are that our mood ring would show a vibrant or a dark blue.  In mood ring language, that may mean relaxed or even passionate.

Do we often find ourselves so busy that we run out the door without noticing the weather, the flowers, or anything about the nature around us?  If so, it’s time for a change of pace.

Stop and smell the roses.  That song was written for a reason.  When we are too busy, we fail to notice the miracles all around us, and we forget to count our blessings.

Just dance.  Lady Ga Ga might be a little strange, but she does understand the value of a bit of exercise.  In a gym or wherever you enjoy working it out is just fine, but I like exercising in the park.  With nature all around, I can’t help but give thanks for God’s natural wonders.

Come together.  I love to spend time with a friend over a cup of coffee. It’s even more fun if that person is passionate about life.  There are some people I love being around.  When I leave them, I usually leave with a smile.

The next time we find ourselves stuck on black, let’s get out and enjoy the natural songs of nature and of friends.

What do you do when you’re in a bad mood?

Day 327: Five Reasons Why We Waste Our Talents

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Are you producing fruit?

“The fruit derived from labor is the sweetest of pleasures.” Luc de Clapier

I told myself I  hated singing in the old people’s choir growing up.  My mom had no patience with it because she knew that my voice was needed.  “If you don’t use your talent, you’ll lose it.”  I generally rolled my eyes and decided to sing with them and usually found myself enjoying it.

Fruit comes in seasons and likewise our ability to produce it.  I’ve been in seasons where I knew I was using many of my talents all at once.  In other seasons, I’ve felt quite unproductive.   Still, I feel annoyed when I’m with people who seem to be wasting their talents.  Maybe it’s that I see too much potential in people, but I don’t think that’s the case.

What keeps us from wasting our talents?

1. We can’t get started.  In my case, the most difficult part of producing something is getting it started.  I’ll tell you about my couch experience at another time.  It often comes down to someone who nags us until we get up there and use that talent.

2. We don’t know how to get involved.  Perhaps we are unaware of how we can use our talents.  The fun part about putting together a huge project is looking for those who have the potential to do it.  I love imagining different people using their talents to achieve a big goal.  At my university, I often found myself walking around the music department.   There were many practice rooms where I could hear a plethora of sounds including voices, pianos, and various instruments.  It’s fun to think of how to put all of that potential to use.  Sometimes, it just takes the right person coming to us and asking us to be involved.

3. We are afraid to risk.  If we’re not using our talents, there’s really no risk involved.  Yet, we somehow conjure up some imaginary risk that keeps us from trying something we’ve always wanted to do.  What’s that all about?

4. We don’t have a muse.  Some grow up in an environment where they are held back, put down, or simply not encouraged.  Fortunately, in my home, learning and trying out new things were the norm.  Maybe we should consider it our job to go around pushing people toward their gifting.  Do we  need a muse?  If so, we should get out there and look for the people who are doing what we want to be doing.

5. We’re too involved with other things.  Here’s the big one.  We never seem to get to the thing we want to do.  We keep finding other things to do instead.  Well, time is ticking.  It’s not stopping for us to use our talents.  We’ve got to use them or lose the opportunity to use them.  That’s the bottom line.

It’s all about our decision to produce the fruit we envision.  We can no longer blame it on others or on our circumstances.  Life is short, let’s live it well.

Is this your season to produce some fruit?

3 Reasons Why We Should Handwrite That Letter Today

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A beautiful letter from a lovely lady made my day...

“To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.” Phyllis Theroux

We fell in love before going to different countries on two-year job assignments.   Letter writing was a must since there were no emails or cell phones.  We still have those letters in a box.  They’re personal and passionate– a permanent love story.

I guess I could do the same with emails, but I rarely go back and reread them.  A letter, however, will stay in a drawer or a book where I might pull it out and savor the words many years after they were written.

Why should we handwrite a letter today?  Here are a few good reasons:

1. Taking the time to choose a card and to write from the heart shows we care.  While in Malaysia, I was able to spend an hour in an English stationery shop.  Moved to tears by some of the wonderfully written cards, I enjoyed searching for the perfect card and then adding my personal love letter.

2.  We’re more connected to letters we write by hand.  Of course we use our brains to type. Yet, there’s a greater connections between the brain and the hand when we form letters in handwriting. Essentially, we connect better with the words we write.

3.  We’ll be able to use our handwriting artistically.  Except for grocery lists, we rarely take time to write things down.   Here’s a chance to show off the beautiful penmanship we developed in grammar school.  Some are gifted at using their own style to encourage others with generous words and handmade cards.

Today is the day to blast back to the past.  Let’s open a drawer, find that favorite fountain pen, and write a letter with all of the  mush and gush we possibly can!  We’ll pour it all out there, cry for a minute, and seal it with a kiss.  I bet we’ll feel more romantic for having written it!

What is the most romantic letter you’ve ever received?

5 Reasons Not to Do The One Thing I Need To Do Today

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Face that task with action!

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” Leonardo da Vinci

I need to preface this post by saying that I don’t like to procrastinate.  Yet, there is usually one big project on my back burner that I know I should do and have trouble getting started on it.

More than a year ago, I got this creative idea I wanted to put into action.  It stays in the back of my mind and worries me from time to time.  It would not take more than two days to get it accomplished, but I just can’t seem to get it done.  Why do I keep putting it off?

Today, I’ve at least got the calendar out trying to figure out a time to get it done.  Yet there are several things that keep me from it.

Here are five reasons not to get it done:

1.  I like to have something hanging over my head.  Actually, this is not true.  Why don’t I just get this thing out of the way so it won’t keep dangling around in my brain?

2. I perform best under pressure, so I’ll put it off another day.  This is another untrue statement.  While I tend to get ideas when I’m slightly pressed for time, my best ideas come when I’m relaxed and have a chance to refuel.

3. I need to clean the bathroom first.  This is true.  I try to find a million little things to do that will keep me so busy– I’ll never get to that one thing I should do.

4. I will have more things on my list if I get this one done.    While this is true, that doesn’t mean I need to put this project off.

5. I will be out of things to put on my “to do” and “to worry about” list when I lay my head on the pillow tonight if I do it today.  I do sleep better if I have a clean slate.  Each night, I go back through the day and make a mental list of the little things left undone.  So, why don’t I get this thing off of my long-term list?

What are you putting off and for what reason?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Day 312: Have a Ball Helping Others (an Em-Ball)

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Would you like to help clean our flood waters?

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” John W. Gardner

In the wake of the flood, many are helping in different and important ways.  Some have provided housing for those who are flooded.  Schools have provided safe havens for those in need.  Others are providing food packages to help those needing food and water.  Over the weekend though, I saw a large group of people helping in quite an unusual way.

Hundreds of people gathered in a major shopping mall to make 100,000 EM Balls.  What’s an Em Ball?  Well that’s a question we asked.  They are clay-like balls made of good microorganisms, clay, and rice husks.  Other variations of the recipe are being used with molasses and with ceramic powder. Pressed together, they can be thrown into polluted water to perform some natural clean-up.

We know that microorganisms are good for breaking down manure, decayed animals, and other natural resources to turn them into nitrogen in our soil.  This same idea is being used to improve the flood waters around Bangkok.

We stopped to talk to a group of students who were preparing about 100 balls.  How did they hear about the project?  They, like us, were just passing through and decided they wanted to help the cause.  In the process, they each became the “knower” explaining to us how the Em-Balls work.

This is the perfect way to help.  Not only does it allow people to contribute to helping our country, but it also educates us about using natural resources to clean the environment.  I, for one, am proud of the Em-Ball rollers.  I hope the contaminated flood waters will all be clean because of these great efforts!

What are some unique ways in which you’ve seen people helping people?