In the past, my husband had teasingly asked me “Do you do windows?” I would avoid answering his question. In life, we have opportunities to do small and large tasks. Completing tasks/goals, especially those important to us, can give us a feeling of satisfaction, happiness, and something of which to be proud. Those acts can build our self-esteem and confidence. So, how can we plan for more successes?My clean windows

Several months ago, I cleaned the windows in our sun room. I recall I had plenty of other to do’s to accomplish, but our sunroom windows really needed my attention. My husband had plenty on his plate. I decided I would see what I could do to get the ball rolling. I worked at getting them to open out like they are suppose to so one has an easier time at cleaning them. I ended up only having to ask for my husband’s help a couple of times, like when a window was too stuck for me to open it. (He’s stronger than I.) I ended up cleaning a couple of windows at a time in the rest of our house over a period of time. I even got the opportunity to make a trip to the hardware store to get a screen repaired. More that a month had gone by and I still needed to clean the windows in our master bedroom. One morning I decided this was the day it was going to happen. I put on my older jeans and t-shirt so I would be in the right outfit to wash windows, part of preparing myself for success. My husband asked me how I was going to clean the windows. I wasn’t completely sure, but gathered what I thought I might need. Then I started cleaning the windows. I didn’t have to have all the answers to begin. I just began the task at hand. When I got to the point where I needed help, I asked for it.

To succeed in life we need to wear the right armor (appropriate clothes and footwear to protect us depending upon the job at hand). It helps to keep our bodies in top shape by eating healthy, exercising, and doing things to keep our spirits high like getting plenty of sleep or keeping busy with mentally stimulating activities. (When is the last time you put a puzzle together or played a board game?) It’s important to nurture our relationships with family, friends, neighbors, or whomever, so we have someone to reach out to when we need help emotionally or physically. We take risks every day. Sometimes we fall. When that happens, pick yourself up and keep going. Think of something positive.

Anyway, all windows of our house have now been washed. When my husband asks if I do windows, I can answer confidently, “Yes, with a little help from you!”

 

cardinalToday marks the 6th anniversary of my writing The Cardinal That Kept Quitting speech. It was written for my completion of one of the projects in the Storytelling Advanced Manual, part of Toastmasters International’s communication track towards becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster, at the time. The objective of the project was to write a story with a moral. This was something I had never done before. My husband and I had been on a camping trip not long before then where we encountered a persistent cardinal that kept attacking the windshield of his red truck Explorer. I wondered if I might be able to come up with some sort of life lesson and story about that cardinal. I pondered and thought hard about it. It came to my mind, the idea that sometimes continuing to be persistent isn’t good. That poor little red cardinal would probably end up hurting himself badly had not my husband move his truck to a different location. The idea that sometimes quitting can be good came to my mind. I decided to do a little research on the internet to see if anyone else agreed with me. I didn’t want to share my idea if it was too far out from the ordinary. I tried several search words related to my idea and ended up stumbling upon a speech by Deepak Malhotra, a Harvard professor. It concurred with my thoughts about how sometimes quitting, not being persistent to a fault, can be a good choice. He gave the example as how quitting one’s job may be a good choice in certain circumstances. In my speech, the cardinal tries out and quits several jobs till he finds a job which makes him happy. The cardinal in my speech uses parts from his previous jobs to build a toy for a little boy to help make him stop crying. The walnut sailboat idea was from a childhood memory of my Dad and I making and racing our little walnut sailboats together.

Nutshell BoatI delivered my speech, the same day I wrote it, at my ACE Toastmaster club meeting that night. It was well received. The story of how I eventually went on to publish my book entitled Flip Flap Try . . . A Cardinal’s Journey goes on from here. I will have to share that story another day.

Janet’s speech at TV Toastmasters Club (another club Janet attends) can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKt_k-Y5OZ4.  The speech begins about 20 minutes 46 seconds into the meeting.

Janet autographing a hotdog bun at Tony Packo's in Toledo, Ohio.The 3rd anniversary of the launch of my first book, “Flip Flap Try”, is July 7, 2020.  To date, I have sold 372 copies. More importantly, I have made connections with many people and shared the messages in this book, especially about the importance of keep trying till you find your dream job. This past year saw the launch the soft cover edition of my book. It’s acceptance has been positive. The most fun thing I got to do was to autograph a hotdog bun at Tony Packo’s in Toledo, Ohio. I have been making final edits for my second book. Sticking with the bird theme (first book is about a cardinal), my second book is about one of our bird friends from the Antarctic, a penguin. I have gotten to visit several zoos across the United Sates and seen penguins there. I have talked with some people who have had the opportunity to visit the Antarctic.

Being an author and having my own business, Morrow Circle Publishing, has continued to be a learning and rewarding experience. Most importantly I have learned focusing one’s time and energy on being creative can be valuable, if not economically, at least for my personal growth and hopefully the benefit of my readers and audience at large.

Dealing with the pandemic has had some negative effects. I have not been able to have books signings recently. One new event I have incorporated is my First Friday Book Reading using FB Live. I have also increased the number of blogs I have written. My Instagram followers has risen to over a hundred thanks to Peter Wietmarschen, who helps with my social media.

Thanks for your loyalty. Keep safe and working towards being the best you that you can be.

Sing, play, and be happy!
Me and Rainier

I pretty much remember how I came about talking my husband into painting our guest bedroom closet. It all started when the members of one of my writing groups decided to take a part in a virtual writing project. Our leader started the story and emailed it to the next person on the list, who in turn emailed it to the next, and so on. The story turned out to be about ants, not just any ants, but ants form Australia, which turned into giant ants when they ate Zoute, Dutch salted licorice drops. I had to do some research on my computer about old ant movies such as “The Empire of the Ants” and “A Bug’s Life”.

Seeing all the dust, because of the morning sun’s rays shining on my laptop computer screen, triggered me to finally organize and dust my desk. That task, which took half a day, was enough justification in my mind that I felt my husband and I could afford hiring someone to help clean the rest of our house. After all, that would give me more time to write. An acquaintance of mine cleans houses for a business. I asked her to help. Her cleaning our house triggered me to do some housecleaning before and after she came. Mind you, there was plenty of dusting for the both of us.

There was another chain of triggers that happened. I spied a bug in a box under our guest bedroom bed. I called for my husband to take a look. “It’s a silverfish. They like to live in people’s houses.” That little silverfish was a trigger for me to want to clean under the bed. I felt our house would not be a clean safe place to live with that little bug there. When we (I talked my husband into helping sweep under the bed) got that house cleaning project done, I decided I would vacuum the floor in the guest bedroom closet, too. I wanted to get rid of the Easter grass that had fallen on the floor of the closet when I put the Easter basket away. I took all the boxes and bags out of the closet. When I did that, I noticed the walls of the closet were marked up. I had thought I would just paint the walls of the closet myself (my husband is a very busy man) but decided to mention to him that the closet needed painted. Fortunately for me, and our future house’s owners, my husband tackled the task. He did a fabulous job! The Easter grass is now back in a Ziploc bag on a newly painted shelf in the closet, so it can’t mess up the closet floor again or at least not anytime soon.

Something can trigger us to take action. In fact, we are creatures chained to psychological triggers. Triggers (even a little bug) can cause emotional responses. We have to decide for ourselves if the trigger is legit and what behavior actions we choose to take.(1)

1. 5 storytelling triggers that spur your readers to take action – Market Land. 1/31/17

JengaSeveral months ago, I was at one of my Cincinnati Civic Orchestra get-togethers. One of the musician’s sons came up to me and asked if I wanted to play Jenga. I said “Alright. What’s Jenga? How do you play it?” The young man set up the tower of blocks, then gave me a brief demo. “You remove one of the blocks by pushing it out of the tower with one of your fingers. Then you place it on top. Now it’s your turn.” I sort of remembered playing it before. “OK.” We proceeded building the tower higher and higher. I tried developing my strategy by observing my opponent. Alas, he won the first game when, on my turn, the tower came tumbling down rather surprisingly. CRASH! We giggled. We played a second game and possibly a third. By that time, he tried giving me a handicap. He would remove two pieces on his turn while I only had to remove only one. At the time, I wasn’t sure if that was an advantage for me or for him. Irregardless, he beat me every game. I decided he was out of my league.

Leslie Scott created Jenga. It was based on a game that evolved within her family in the early 1970’s. They lived near and purchased children’s wooden building blocks from a sawmill in Takoradi, Ghana. The name of the game comes from the Swahili word “kujenga” which means “to build”. As of 2017, 80 million games were sold world wide.

Playing this 54 block game takes physical skill, patience, concentration and perseverance. Also , a child can learn how to deal with surprise and change. I think it is kind of fun to hear and see the blocks come crashing down when the unsteady balance causes it to fall. It makes the losing experience not as difficult to accept. As with any game, one must learn how to be a gracious winner or loser.

I am glad my fellow orchestra member’s son asked me to play Jenga. We not only got to build a wooden tower, we got the opportunity to start building a friendship. For that I am grateful. Now it’s my (your) turn to ask someone to play a game.

It has taken a pandemic for some of us to have the time to learn more about or do what I am calling the seven C’s. 1) Computers 2) Cooking 3) Crafts 4) Creativeness 5) Cleaning 6) Clarity and 7) Catch up.

  1. Computers – I have had the opportunity to learn how to do online meetings. I’ve had to limit the number of zoom meetings I can do per week so I can have time for other things, especially, to have time for myself. Living through a pandemic is stressful. We all need more time to relax and have fun. I have enjoyed seeing the virtual zoo tours and such. Love the penguins.
  2. Cooking – Preparing yummy food for my hubby has been a higher priority. My husband prefers to dine at home, even before the corona virus hit. I have been having fun adjusting recipes to fit the ingredients we are fortunate enough to have. Also, I am using more of my spices. Sometimes our meals taste just as good as what we would have gotten at a restaurant. I do get take-out once a week or so. Restaurants need our support. Don’t forget to tip!
  3. Crafts – Have fun making crafts, especially with your kids. Hopefully you can use what you have at home already. Of course, it is fun ordering something online and receiving it in the mail. I even mailed a card to my husband who is at home, so he would have the fun of receiving something personal in the mail.
  4. Creativeness – I’ve enjoyed having some more opportunities to be creative. My local writer’s group has been coming up with online flash fiction stories, where each member had up to 48 hours to add their contribution to the story. It’s also been a learning experience for me. Our current story is to be written in the first person, something I had never tried before.
  5. Janet's DeskCleaning – Pandemic or not, I am a busy person, but I have taken time to do some really needed cleaning jobs. One day, I washed windows. Today I dusted my desk. I had fun adding special touches to my desk, such as putting several pictures of family in a picture holder on my desk.
  6. Clarity – I’ve been able to use self help books and such in order to work on my mission and vision for my business and personal life. Having more quiet time to think and read has helped. Figuring out what’s important to us can help guide us to a happier, more fulfilling life.
  7. Catch-up – Sometimes we benefit from situations which slow our lives down. We finally have time to do some much needed catch upping on projects we have let slip due to hardships in our lives. I really appreciate the extended deadlines some organizations are putting in place.

So, have fun with my seven C’s or your own list of things you are dealing with in your life right now. Remember, it’s O.K. to ask for help. In fact, it’s good to ask for help. No one can do it all. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. That’s what make’s us special!

Dogwood TreeBeautiful day. Sun shining. Birds chirping; busy flying around, tidying up their homes. We have several bird houses in our backyard. Bluebirds in one of them. Husband planted an apple tree the other day. Today I washed some clothes, including his trousers, muddy from planting the tree. He told me he used up some of the leftover bags of potting soil that were in the shed, “‘cause the directions for planting the tree said to use fertilized soil.” Every living life form needs nutrition. Did you know, termites are one of the only creatures which can get nutrients from wood? They have microbes in their gut which can digest it and make use of the nutrients therein.

I had a dream the other night that I was organizing things in my bedroom. You know something is a problem when you start dreaming about it. But even dreaming about something isn’t enough. We have to decide to take action.

What actions are you taking to keep your life going forward? A termite needs to chew big pieces of wood into small little pieces before they are small enough to where it can digest it. Likewise, we have to chip away at big problems before we can tackle them.

May you take time to enjoy the beauty of this spring, and all the diverse life forms on our earth. May it inspire you to start working towards making your dreams a reality.

Apple Tree

Banana Bread

Banana bread is a current google trend. I heard it has been voted as the top comfort food during this pandemic. Yes, I had some ripe bananas which I didn’t want to throw away, so I peeled, put in my mixer bowl, and kept them in the refrig till I finally had time to bake some banana bread a couple of days ago. Completing my taxes could be moved to a back burner because of the tax deadline extension. Thanks to that extension, not only did I find time to bake some banana bread, I squeezed in time to wash the windows out in our sun room. I had fun looking online for and ordering some replacement gel cling-ons for the sun room picture window. The old cling-ons had gotten dirty. When I tried cleaning them, they started sticking to my fingers, getting distorted enough that I had to peel some of them off the window and throw away. What a sticky mess! Anyway, back to the banana nut bread. I had so many bananas I decided to make a triple recipe, rather than making a double one on one day and having to make more banana bread on yet another day. I had done some quantity cooking before, but it was in kitchens with institutional sized mixers. For this triple batch recipe, I asked my husband to help stir the ingredients in a big cooking pot with a long handled spoon. I had two giant sized aluminum loaf pans, leftover from a window planter craft my Circle of Friends ladies group did many years ago. If I did the math right, each loaf pan held one and a half recipes of batter. I usually used two medium sized pans or so for that amount of batter. Something about living in this stay at home quarantine and the unstable economy made me think it was prudent to make some use out of those giant loaf pans. To make a long story short, I took the bread out of the oven too soon, such that I ended up having to put the loaves back in the oven the next day when my husband and I had discovered the middle of the loaves were still uncooked. It took much longer to finish baking them than I had anticipated. It would have helped if I had some longer than normal toothpicks. The normal sized toothpicks had come out clean when I tested the doneness of the loaves the day before. What is one thing I have I learned during this pandemic? Being frugal may bring new challenges. In the words of my social media consultant, Peter, (way younger than me, who was trying to teach me how to get around in Instagram today, and I accidentally sent someone a picture of a cat), “It’s a learning curve.”

Cadie the cat

I have a bunny craft that my mom made. It is a bunny made out of construction paper. It’s paws wrap around a 1-1/2 inch paper soufflé cup which may be used for holding party favors, jelly beans and such. I’ve held onto this craft for many years. To me, it is a piece of a picture of my mom, something by which I can remember her. It is a sample of her creative ability. I should have kept it in a box were it would haveBunny been better preserved, but alas, that is not the case.  I kept it in a small basket by my kitchen phone which is not far from the kitchen sink, unfortunately, close enough to have gotten sprays of water on it occasionally. I did move it out to my sunroom not that long ago, to sit on the white wicker shelf I inherited from my parent’s sunroom, along with some tiny flower pots my mom decorated and used as party favor holders at her brother Ken’s fiftieth birthday.

Yesterday I started hunting for the bunny pattern, I vaguely remembered having, for making mom’s bunny craft. This hunt for the bunny involved racking my mind as to where it might be, where I put it, or last remembered seeing it. I looked in a box high up on a shelf in one of my closets which held some craft papers and books mom had given to me. Not being able to find it there got me thinking I might make another Easter craft. That got me started down the rabbit hole of looking for crafts I could make with liquid starch on the Internet. You see, my oldest sister Deb, gave me a half used bottle of Linit starch one day as she wanted to get rid of it and thought I might use it someday on one of my husband’s shirts (which never happened). I thought I would be able to come up with another use for it someday, not wanting to just throw it out. My bunny hunt continued through this morning and the start and middle of this blog.

Creativity can be defined as the use of imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. But one can find creative solutions in all disciplines of life. You cannot create in a vacuum. Some pieces of information need to be there for ideas to be developed. Reading a book or searching the internet can give us some fodder with which to work. Through discussions, debates, and conversing with colleagues all over the world, solutions are more likely to be found. We all have some creativity in us. If you want to test your creative ability, take two minutes to concentrate on an everyday object, such as a spoon. Think of all the ways one might be able to use it. It can be a way of practicing thinking “outside the box”.

I eventually found the bunny pattern my mom had made. Being frugal, she used the back of an Easter card she had received from probably a friend, on which to draw her bunny pattern for making the bunny party favor craft. The bunny is all curled and has faded ink pen and magic marker around its edges. Looking at it more closely, I turned it over and discovered that one can make out the manufacturers writing on the inside of the card. Bunny PatternI would like to conclude this blog with those words in a minute. First I would like to say, may we all find time, even if it is just two minutes, to put on our thinking caps to come up with solutions to the new problems we are currently facing. Also, take time for yourself. If you do have an Easter egg or basket hunt at your home or yard this year, I hope they won’t be as hard to find as my mom’s bunny pattern was for me. I have to admit, the hunt was worth it. Now starts my hunt for 1-1/2 inch soufflé cups.

The surprise conclusion I promised you: “May hope and health be yours this holiday and throughout the coming year.”

Love,

Janet and Rainier  Rainier

Coloring hard cooked eggs at Easter time was a tradition which started in my childhood and has lasted throughout my adulthood. When I was growing up, I remember Mom using her meat roaster, an oval shaped blue enamel pan with a matching lid, in which to cook a dozen or two eggs. She would always cook a couple of extra eggs in case any eggs cracked during the cooking process. That would ensure we would end up with a complete dozen of perfect eggs, without cracks, per carton. Mom would let the raw eggs set out of the refrigerator till they got closer to room temperature before cooking them. She would carefully place each egg in the pan, add enough cold water to submerge them, turn the gas burner up high, and heat the water in the pan till it started to boil. Then she would turn the flame down in order to let the water come to a simmer. At that point, Mom would set her hand cranked white timer, with painted black numbers (5,10, 15, . . . 55) and markings for each of the minutes, for 17 minutes. The timer made a tick-tocking noise as the face of it slowly moved counter-clockwise. It would give one solid “ding!” signaling when the 17 minutes were up. Then the pan and eggs could be set in the kitchen sink where cold running water from the sink faucet could cool the eggs. Mom would put 2 teaspoons of vinegar and half cup of boiling water in each of six coffee cups to which my sisters and I would plunk one tablet of each of the different colors which came in an egg coloring packet kit. The kit also came with a copper wire egg holder which had a hexagonal shaped base the right size for holding one egg. We girls had fun watching the tablets fizz till they were completely dissolved, turning the water into a crisp blue, violet, pink, green, yellow and orange color. We preferred using spoons to dunk our eggs. We would let the egg in the shell sit at the bottom of the coffee cup completely submerged, lifting it up with a spoon occasionally to reposition the egg in order to ensure the complete surface of the egg would end up being colored. The longer you leave the eggs in the coloring, the deeper the color the egg shell would become. Mom always said, “Be sure to make a royal blue one!” After we took each egg out of the coloring with a spoon, we would place it on newspaper or a paper towel and let it dry. Sometimes, after an egg would dry, one of us girls would dunk just part of the egg in a second or third color. (We got a little creative.) I usually ended up staining the tips of at least some of my fingers. (If that happens to you, it’s best to dry your fingers well with a paper towel, so you don’t get fingerprints on another egg.)

One can use regular food coloring to color eggs. Just use a couple of drops in each coffee mug with water and vinegar. Also, one can make golden colored eggs by adding onion skins in the water of your pan when cooking your eggs. Easter EggsI tried this technique out yesterday; it worked pretty well. One can research the history of egg coloring on the internet to find out more fun facts and ideas.

I hope you can find time to color your own eggs this Easter time if this is a tradition at your household. If you want to, you can use construction paper, computer paper and crayons, or other things you might be able to find around the house, to come up with your own kind of eggs. Be creative. Have fun!