In some ways, it's been a challenging summer, and I have certainly struggled to keep up with my blog. I keep telling myself that there is a time and a season for everything, and sometimes we have to adjust our expectations and desires in order to work through the unexpected challenges and opportunities that have emerged in our lives.
Often it seems that things come into our lives in waves. When we are faced with learning experiences, it sometimes seems like related ideas keep popping up everywhere as if the universe is trying to teach us something and repetition is the only way to get our attention.
The themes that are resonating with me right now have to do with gaining a new perspective or seeing things in a new light. A related theme is that of letting go of constraining expectations and embracing simpler approaches to everyday problems.
This is a lengthy introduction to the topic of this post which is simply things that are making me glad. As I engage in personal reflection, I find myself feeling an abundance of gratitude for the opportunities and resources and blessings I enjoy, despite the losses, so I thought I'd share what's tickling my fancy, making me think, motivating me, and bringing me joy. It's a bit of a copout as far as topics go but also surprisingly cathartic. I hope you find something that peaks your interest and enriches your life.
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You've probably heard of or seen advertisements for Noom and come away confused. The adds are cryptic to say the least. After seeing them for more than a year, I decided to check it out and ultimately ended up joining, and I'm so glad I did.
What is Noom? Simply stated, it's a weight loss program, but it's really so much more than that. Most of us understand the basics of nutrition and what it means to eat a healthy diet, but in my experience knowing and doing are not the same thing. Noom helps people create and maintain healthy lifestyle choices, particularly (but not exclusively) dietary choices, in a number of ways:
I'll be honest, I haven't lost a ton of weight on Noom, at least not yet. I am, however, on a consistent downward trend, and more importantly, my overall health is improving. I sleep better. I have significantly less joint pain. I'm excited about preparing and eating healthy foods, and the changes I'm making feel sustainable which I believe is the single biggest indicator of long-term success.
I'll Drink to That!
I'm referring here to Wendy Watson Nelson's book Change Your Questions Change Your Life. There is another book by the same title written by another author which I have not read, and therefore cannot recommend. Wendy Watson Nelson has thirty years of experience as a marriage and family therapist. Her deep personal spirituality combined with her professional insights give her a unique approach to getting the answers we seek in life. This is a super easy read filled with experiments for the reader to try. I'm actually working on reading it for the second time and getting even more out of it this time around. The book is aptly named. The author demonstrates the power of questions and how reframing questions can open the door to new insights, greater self-worth, improved relationships, and the ability to overcome personal stumbling blocks to progress.
My husband was introduced to The Great Courses in 2005, and we have been loyal customers ever since. A product of The Teaching Company, The Great Courses include an ever-increasing collection of college-level lecture series on an expanding array of topics. Categories include:
Recently the company began offering a streaming service known as the Great Courses Plus (now Wondrium) as well, and that is what we now use. Our annual streaming fee paid for itself in less than a month because of how much we use it. I listen while I work around the house, while I drive, and while I'm walking.
My personal favorites are the history courses, but we have sampled a wide variety of topics and rarely been disappointed. Which brings me to another point - customer service. The Great Courses has the best customer service I have ever experienced anywhere. If you break a disc, they will replace it, no questions asked. If you lose a disc (or even a set of discs) you can purchase individual discs or sets without having to buy the whole course again. If you decide you don't like a course, you can send it back for a refund no matter how long you've had the course. Their representatives are friendly and helpful, and their service is speedy.
The Great Courses recently changed their name to Wondrium and expanded their services to include educational television series, documentaries, and more. This company just keeps getting better!
If you're going to listen to lectures (or podcasts) while you work, I recommend getting a good speaker for your phone. I use the OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Speaker, and I love it. In fact, I had to buy one for my husband because mine kept disappearing! Because I listen while I'm cooking and doing other household tasks, I also like having a cell phone stand to cradle my phone. It makes it easier to see and interact with what's on the screen and gets my phone up off the counter where it may encounter moisture and other hazards. As a bonus, it's also handy if you use your phone for Zoom calls.
Happy to be Hands-free
I love to cook, except when I don't. I seem to go through phases. At times I am highly motivated to plan and follow a menu. Then at other times nothing sounds good, and I don't feel like putting in the effort to cook. Can anyone relate?
I have developed a cheat that allows me to throw together soups, stews, casseroles, and other seemingly elaborate meals with relative ease. In place of raw chicken, which has to be diced and cooked, I use frozen grilled boneless chicken breast strips or dices. They're precooked, so all you have to do is thaw them. I use them to whip up some of our favorites in a manner of minutes. This includes chicken fajitas, chicken salad, casseroles, and soupls like the delicious Chicken Pot Pie Soup recipe that I shared in my last Favorite Things blog post.
A Final Thought
It will come as no surprise to anyone that the last year and a half have been turbulent, both at home and abroad. When I listen to or read the news I sometimes feel as though there is little hope for the future. Then I venture out into my little community and encounter countless good people striving to show kindness to those around them and generally do the right thing, and I feel better.
My husband and I are working on a book about the war in Afghanistan. As a result, we have met some amazing people who have broadened our perspective and given us an appreciation for what it means to serve and to sacrifice. As I write this post, my thoughts are on them and their families. Some, I know, have made it to safety outside that wartorn country. Others are desperate to get word of their families whose lives are in very real danger.
While there is little, if anything, that I personally can do to help my newfound friends on the other side of the world, there is something I can do to make the world a better place. I think Thierry K. Mutombo said it best in a recent address: "When we choose to follow Christ, we choose to be changed." If I can truly strive to emulate the most perfect example of kindness, love, generosity, and grace the world has ever known, I can make a difference within my small sphere of influence. I can make someone else's day better, ease someone else's burden, or just spread a little sunshine in a world that so often seems dark and intimidating.