New Years Resolutions: It’s Time to Get Organized

Organization is helpful. It’s a wonderful thing. It saves time and money. One New Years resolution that I made at the beginning of the new year is to reorganize some home areas that have gotten out of hand.

First, I tackled my silverware drawer.  In order to really get re-organized, I began with taking all my silverware out of the silverware drawer. Then I cleaned the silverware holder.  I waned to start from a clean slate with organizing the silverware in the proper order. Here is a picture of the items all out of the drawer:

I found items that did clearly did not need to be in my silverware drawer or even in my life. Case in point: horribly rusty corn-on-the-cob holders. Why am I keeping these? No longer!

Here is the silverware drawer after it was finished. Organization is a blessing!!!

My second project was reorganizing my kitchen cupboard. I utilized a similar theme where I took everything out of the cupboard to have a clean work space. I told myself that I could reorganize the least cluttered cabinet in 5 minutes. Honestly, that estimate was to motivate myself.  In truth, I was happy that it only took about 15-20 minutes.  The difference was remarkable. I wish I had taken a before photograph of the mess and disorganization to really commemorate how bad it looked.  Afterwards, I was very proud of the organizing my plastic Ziploc type containers and Rubbermaid containers on one shelf with the middle shelf for more nicer ceramic and other dishes. The top shelf was for my popcorn and bigger bowl. Here is a picture of the final result:

May these new year’s resolutions projects inspire you to organize something in your life!!!

Solitude as a Spiritual Discipline

A quick check of the Cambridge Dictionary online for the definition of the word solitude shows that it is a word that means “the situation of being alone without other people.” Synonyms and related words according to the Cambridge Dictionary online are often negative in connotation and meaning, such as abandoned, castaway, deserted, lonesome, outsider, and recluse. However, one related word for solitude from Dictionary.com is withdrawal. I believe that solitude and withdrawal can have a bad reputation, however it can be a spiritual discipline when we focus on lessons we learn from our Savior Jesus.

According to Mark 1:35 (NIV), “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Sometimes in the past when I would read this Bible verse, I would feel condemnation. I am NOT a morning person. I struggle to get out of bed without hitting my snooze alarm many times.  I will eat a quick breakfast bar and then I am often late heading out the door to work, typically with partially wet hair and no make-up. The thought of having to do morning devotions or else I will be a “bad Christian” makes me feel inferior and like I do not measure up to the ideal Christian standard. Typically I do my spiritual devotions at night, and that is what works for me. I believe that one key point gleamed from Mark 1:35 is that we need to take time to recharge amidst the craziness of our lives. That cannot be done around other people; instead it is a spiritual and emotional recharging that comes from spending time in solitude with our Heavenly Father like Jesus did.

In our modern day era and the world of smartphones, social media, and constant digital connections, we need time to unplug. One practical tip that I have used to try to silence the noise and distraction of everyday life is to simplify my e-mail. I decided upon a total number of e-mail lists that I wanted to unsubscribe from in order to accomplish this goal. Then I unsubscribed to a small number of e-mail mailing lists every day in order to make my goal more doable and less overwhelming. I honestly was feeling overwhelmed with keeping up with all the e-mail mailing lists and numerous devotional blogs that I subscribed to. Checking my e-mail had become a tedious and time-consuming chore. However, while it initially felt hard to unsubscribe from some mailing lists that I really liked (such as Kohls and Bath & Bodyworks), it was ultimately freeing and a time-saver in the end. That is one tip that worked for me, but in a diverse world we all have different practical steps that we may take to find a slice of solitude amidst the busyness of everyday life.

Another thing that I have done to unplug and free up my time is to drastically cut back on my time on Facebook. Sometimes previously I planned to wish a friend happy birthday, and I only wanted to spend a quick 5 minutes or so on Facebook. However, before I knew it, an hour or more would have gone by without me really paying attention, especially scrolling through family and friend’s news feeds.  So I decided to get rid of my Facebook notifications re: e-mail  updates of the birthdays of all my Facebook friends. Now I try to go on Facebook when I know it is a close friend or family member’s birthday, but I try not to sweat it if I miss wishing lots of acquaintance friends happy birthday on Facebook. This change has resulted in more free time for me to read Christian and leisure books, as well as have more rest and downtime in my day. The decision to cut back on Facebook was a personal decision that has helped with my time management, however I believe that Facebook has lots of positives like sharing prayer requests and edifying posts and pictures. Right now I have cut back on Facebook for a season, but I know that I am missing out on life posts of friends and family so there is a drawback.  However, it seemed like perhaps God was leading me in this personal choice, and I had peace with that decision so that was important to me.

Solitude is a discipline that can be helpful for emotional and spiritual well-being through time to relax and recharge. It also can help us connect more with God. As we approach this holiday season, may we all find some time for solitude to recharge our souls, as well as have a refreshing time with the Lord.

Biography of Julie A. Smith:

Julie A. Smith has an academic background in Sociology and counseling. She loves to see people have their daily needs met physically, spiritually, and emotionally. In her free time she enjoys reading, hanging out with her adopted rescue kitty Colby, and spending time with family and friends.

Adopting a Rescue Kitty: Lessons in Love

On August 27, 2018 I officially adopted Colby, a one-year old gray and black tabby cat from my local Humane Society. I really wanted to rescue a cat and adopt a cat who needed a good home.  Colby stole my heart with his cute picture and his biography online which his story that tugged at my heart strings.  One neat thing is that my local humane society’s webpage links to the PetHarbor website where you can search via cat/dog/other pet, the pet’s age, gender, color, and size; you can even view pics and pet biographies.

Colby has special needs- not only did his owner who was older pass away, but Colby also was turned over to the local Humane Society so he likely suffered from feeling abandoned.  My kitty can be clingy and seems to have separation anxiety when I have to leave him alone (which has been getting better over time and with lots of love and TLC). I suspect this is due to the ordeal that he went through.  I have pondered how Colby lost almost everything. He lost his owner, his home, the food he ate, the toys he had, any other pets that he lived with, and even what veterinarian he went to. Losing almost everything can take a toll. We may not think about that with our pets like we do with people, but we would be wise to be more thoughtful about our pets emotional needs and health.

Adopting Colby has brought a very special joy and love to my life. I have learned numerous lessons about love on a deeper level.

1. Love is unconditional.

Since I adopted Colby, he has scratched and clawed my couch over 50 times.  I purchased a scratching post and assembled it for him which he has never used. Then I bought two more scratching pads because I read online that cats can be particular with their scratching pads.  Colby continued to scratch my couch still, so I covered my couch with three blankets. Sometimes Colby will still go under the blankets in order to scratch the couch.  It is highly frustrating, but it is a good lesson in patience and unconditional love.

2. Love is forgiving.

Love also is forgiving.  Colby and I both have had to work on this.  As a new “kittty mom,” I have not been perfect.  I do my best to clean Colby’s litter box daily, give him love daily, and use positive praise and treats. However, sometimes I have gotten frustrated when he has yet again scratched my couch or when he scratched my face and drew blood when he was trying to play with my hoodie string.  People and kitties are not perfect, but love is forgiving.

3. Love needs quality time.

Colby will definitely let me know when he does not get enough quality time.  It does not matter how many treats I give him or how much praise I give him, if he feels that I am neglecting him, then I can see it in his actions- that is when he starts knocking things down off tables, acting really aggressively with his toys, and ignoring me when I call his name and tell him that I love him.  So that makes me wonder about a pet insight.  I wonder if pets, like people, have a primary love language? Author Gary Chapman wrote a fantastic book called The Five Love Languages.  While it is focused on human relationships, I suspect it may also work for love languages with pets.  My kitty’s primary language is DEFINITELY quality time.  There is no substitute.

4. Love thinks deeply about the needs of another.

When I am out shopping, I often think of things that my kitty would like.  My finances reflect this truth. Also, when I come home and am tired after a draining day at work, sometimes I do not feel like playing with my kitty.  But he ADORES his game where the ball goes around the circle (see picture below).  We play it together typically every day where he bats the ball to me and I bat the ball back to him.  It is so much fun and the highlight of my day.  I don’t want to be too tired to miss it.  Love cares about needs and desires of another and other puts those needs first.

Colby, my adopted kitty, with his favorite toy (photo by Julie A. Smith)

If you are interested in adopting a cat or dog, I highly encourage you to check out the pets at your local humane society who need a good home, or check out Pet Harbor, a website that locates pets in many U.S. (and I believe also Canadian) cities at http://petharbor.com/.

 

 

Five Traits of a Good Friend

I am currently doing an online Bible study with Proverbs 31 Ministries.  We are studying a book by a Proverbs 31 Ministries popular speaker and writer, Tracie Miles, called Love Life Again (Finding Joy When Life is Hard).   One of this weeks chapters is on conquering loneliness.  In this chapter, Tracie talks about how Jesus is our very best friend and has traits that can be applied to strong earthly friendships.

Here are five traits or marks of a good friend according to Tracie Miles.

  1. Friends Care about Us and Are Concerned about Our Lives.
  2. Friends Feel Compassion When We Are Hurting.
  3. Friends Stay Connected.
  4. Friends Talk and Listen.
  5. Friends Are Trustworthy and Faithful.

Tracie Miles friend tips are so good that I wanted to share.  If you are interested in checking out the Proverbs 31 Ministries, definitely check out their website: https://www.proverbs31.org/

I subscribe to their free daily devotions via e-mail, and they are some of the best devotions that I subscribe to bar none. Have a blessed day!!!

Colton Underwood’s Virginity is making headlines in a Virgin-Shaming Culture in the USA

The tv show The Bachelorette is not exactly known for promoting virginity.  Some fans of the show would say that it promotes love.  Some critics of the show would say that it promotes loose morals and questionable decisions.  I have occasionally watched several seasons of The Bachelor or The Bachelorette over the last 6 years, but I do not like to admit it due to the judgmentalness of some of my peers and even the judgmentalness in myself that I have been working on.  I will say that one thing about the show is that contestants know that they are dating the same person and it is not a secret or surprise.  It is a dating reality show, and like dating in general, there are often speedbumps on the road to happily ever after.  Love it or hate it, but sometimes it makes you think.

This current 14th season of The Bachelorette is Becca Kufrin’s season.  I have been watching Becca’s season, and I was pulled in to watch it after feeling empathy and sadness for Becca when I watched her be dumped by the last Bachelor, Arie, shortly after he proposed to her.  For those not in the know who are not in Bachelor Nation (as fans of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are called), Arie proposed to Becca but then changed his mind about wanting to be with her so he broke their engagement and broke up with her. Arie then proposed to his runner-up extremely quickly after breaking Becca’s heart.  Many of us know what heartbreak feels like, and I wanted to see Becca find true and lastly love, so I decided to watch this season of The Bachelorette.  Fast forward to today and Colton Underwood.

Colton Underwood is a twenty-six year old former pro football player from Washington, IL.  He is also a virgin.  That fact has been making headlines since it was recently revealed on an episode of The Bachelorette and then Colton was cut on the next episode.  He was one of the final four men on the show when he was cut (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bachelorette_(season_14).  Becca is currently down to only 2 men, but it seems to be Colton’s virginity that is making news headlines even though he is no longer on the show and that is an extremely personal decision that most people would not want splashed in the headlines where millions of people know intimate details about your life and private decisions.

Personally, I want to go on record as stating that I really admire Colton Underwood.  I was rooting for him with Becca even before I found out that he was a virgin (and once I found out then I liked him even more).  He is extremely kind, humble, and caring. I also admire the foundation that he started to help sick children with cystic fibrosis. I like Colton’s heart. (If you are interested, see Colton’s foundation at http://www.coltonslegacy.org/).

Now Colton is making headlines for his virginity and there has been some backlash.  In the USA it seems much harder for a man to admit that he is a virgin.  It is a choice that is often ridiculed or met with confusion or the belief that it is not “normal.”  I stumbled on an enlightening article that used a term that I had never heard before called “virgin-shaming” which really resonated with me (https://www.dailysignal.com/2018/07/25/if-slut-shaming-is-not-ok-neither-is-virgin-shaming/).  In a culture in the USA that claims to promote tolerance and acceptance, some groups like virgins or people of faith are met with a lack of acceptance and even derision or shame that I would like to see change in the culture.  Colton’s transparency with his virgin status is causing other virgins to feel not alone and is causing a cultural discussion of this issue which I earnestly appreciate. I am a fan of virginity, and I am a fan of Colton Underwood.

4 Easy Spring Cleaning Ideas

Spring is flying by and it feels like Summer even though officially we still have a few more weeks of Spring. If you are looking for some quick and easy Spring cleaning ideas that can often be overlooked, then here are 4 ideas that I suggest.

1. Ceiling fans: Clean your ceiling fans. Dust often accumulates and the fans can be so busy circulating that dust is forgotten. I recommend a feather duster to clean all the blades and other areas of the ceiling fan.

Spring cleaning ceiling fan (photo by Julie A. Smith)

2. Medicine cabinet: If you have time (especially if it is really disorganized), then it is best to take everything out of the medicine cabinet. Do a quick check to see if anything has expired and if so, toss it out! Then organize your medicine cabinet by themes such as cold medicines and vapor rubs, pain medicine like Advil, etc.  Everything will be so much easier to find!!! Please note that the picture below is the BEFORE picture.

Easy Spring Cleaning- Medicine Cabinet Before Picture (Photo by Julie A. Smith)

3. Refrigerator: True confession- my refrigerator had so much on it that I was embarrassed to take a before picture. I don’t think I had cleaned the front of my refrigerator off for many years, and I kept adding more magnets and things on it indiscriminately.  So, I set a limit for how many items I wanted to display on my fridge which helped me get rid of clutter. I actually took everything off, cleaned the front of it, and then put selected items back on the refrigerator using the limit I set.  I thought about what I wanted to showcase for a cleaner look and feel. I also checked expiration dates on things inside my fridge like salad dressings and threw out what has expired or gone bad.

Spring Cleaning- Front of Refrigerator After Picture (Photo by Julie A. Smith)

4. Bathroom cabinet: This one took me longer than I anticipated, but it was definitely worth the time.  First, I took everything out of the bathroom cabinet.  I decided to organize by themes regarding what I put back in the cabinet. I had lots of bottles with approximately only 2% body spray in them (yes, I am a fan of Bath & BodyWorks); I decided they were taking up valuable room so I tossed them. I ended up with cabinet organizational themes such as bath soap, hand soap, shower gel, extra toothpaste, etc. This has been one of the best and most overlooked Spring cleaning tasks that I have ever done.

Spring cleaning- Bathroom Cabinet After Picture (Photo by Julie A. Smith)

I hope that these ideas have been helpful and inspiring! May your Spring Cleaning go well!!!

Redbox Quiet Price Hike on DVD’s

Like many people I am price conscious and try my best to be a wise steward of my money.  I have not had cable in around 10 years, and I only started using Netflix a few years ago.  I have been a fan of Redbox over the years, and I especially enjoy Redbox for renting new movies once they come out on video.  Often I receive promo codes that enable me to rent a movie for free.  I received an e-mail promo code from Redbox recently,  and I rented two movies tonight which was sort of a splurge for me.  I was surprised when my DVD’s both came up as $1.75 each to rent.  I am not like many people that own a Blu-ray player so I was renting a regular priced DVD.  Also, I noticed that it did not seem like Blu-ray prices (nor video game prices) were recently raised, but for some reason the price of regular DVD’s was raised and they now cost $1.75.

I decided to do some “detective work” because I had not heard anything about the Redbox DVD price hike.  When you do a google search using “redbox price increase”, you find lots of old information about their previous price hike from 2014 (or a bit of information about their price hike in 2011). The price hike in 2014 by Redbox was anywhere from a 25%-50% raise depending on what you were renting (DVD, Blu-ray DVD, or game).

I found one website that talked about the recent Redbox price hike which was helpful, especially since some other websites still are mentioning outdated information about Redbox DVD’s costing only $1.50 to rent. Slick deals is on it! (https://slickdeals.net/f/11427139-psa-redbox-dvd-price-increased-to-1-75)

Also, I checked the Rebox official website and the Rebox Fast Facts below was copied from their website (http://about.redbox.com/about-redbox/):

“Redbox Fast Facts

  • $1.75 a day for DVDs, $2 a day Blu-ray™ Discs and $3 a day for video games”

While a price hike is not fun for consumers and while this price raise seems to be flying under the radar in terms of news press so far, I still maintain that Redbox is a very convenient and affordable way to rent movies.  Their kiosks seem to be everywhere so it is not hard to find one while you are out shopping or on your way home from work or school.  Redbox is something that I hope lasts for many more years to come, but hopefully they will lay off the price hikes for awhile.

Redbox photo by Julie A. Smith