Going Through Luminescence


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I’ve decided to coin a term for my senior years. A positive one to counter the negative reputation our society places on aging. A word that would make me smile. I started to think back on how I survived adolescence in my teen years, just like everyone else. On the front end of life, we all experience adolescence. On the flip side of life, what should we call the experience? Adolescence was filled with adjustments, body changes, and learning to “adult,” as the recent saying goes.

Now I also find myself experiencing adjustments, body changes, and still learning to “adult.” It’s not adolescence. Been there done that. It’s something else. Let’s call this stage of life “luminescence.”

Wikipedia defines luminescence as “emission of light by a substance not resulting from heat.” Don’t you love that idea? We, as women growing older, can emit light to those around us. We can be positive and encouraging. We can look for good in life and in others. My hair is going gray. But let’s just say gray is the new silver, and silver shines.

So this age, this stage, can be an opportunity for emitting light around us, not resulting from heat, even though we may be having hot flashes along the way. Let’s be light in a challenging time, a challenging world. Luminescence. Now that sounds awesome!

Bioluminescence - National Aquarium

This is bio luminescence lighting up the dark water. Photo: National Aquarium

Stay charming and be light, my friends!


Hometown Burger Spots


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I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and expressed or reflected on many reasons to be grateful. After eating turkey for a season, let’s talk burgers. Don’t you just love a good burger now and then? Unless you are a vegan, vegetarian, herbivore, gluten free, or paleo eater, I’m talking delicious burgers with buns. Does every town have at least one popular hamburger place? Where do you love to go to for a burger?

Empty Turkey Carcass

Getting tired of turkey….

We’ve got some great burgers in my town. I don’t eat burgers often as a health choice, but I really enjoy a burger there every now and then. Sometimes I even feel a craving. So here are my five favorite burger joints in my town. They are NOT listed in a particular order.

My Top Five Local Burger Spots

  • This one is a California standard and legendary local spot, In and Out. I enjoy the burgers and milkshakes, though I’m not a big fan of the fries. We are still waiting for one to open up in our town. Several are in surrounding towns. We often find one just off the highway when driving to Northern California. We get in the long line in the drive-thru for a quick lunch to eat in the car while continuing the trip. One summer, my husband and I picked up burgers to celebrate our anniversary when we were broke, and we used a gift card, too.


In-n-Out Burger Animal Style


  • Another favorite local burger place is Rick’s Burgers in Uptown Whittier. It has become an occasional favorite, and provides a touch of nostalgia, bringing memories of my time as a teacher in a local private school. As a teacher, I often had mere moments to grab lunch, and liked to go here. The burgers are tasty and now bring familiarity that is comforting. I think the fries are really good. And here’s another fact that makes me smile. The guy I married and I shared our first kiss in the parking lot. Go, girl!

Rick's Burger

Rick’s Burgers, Uptown Whittier

Rick's Burgers

Rick’s Burger’s Sign

  • Next up is the Bottle Room burger, specifically the Mini Bottle Room Burgers (2 in an order) with sweet onion relish, with blue and Swiss cheeses. These pair well with the Mac & Cheese, shoestring potatoes, or sweet potato fries. This gastropub is also in Uptown Whittier, California.

mini bottle room burgers

Mini Bottle Room Burgers

bottle room entrance

Photo by MarianneD

  • The new burger place in Uptown Whittier is Vaka Burger. I went there for the first time earlier in November. For my Yelp review, click here. Delicious! Pricey, but excellent flavor. My husband recently brought home a burger and onion rings. I tried one onion ring and it was mouth-watering!

Los Altos Burger & Maui Onion Rings

  • To round out my top five local burger spots, not in order of preference, I am going to go with The Habit at Whittwood Town Center. The Charburger, with lettuce, fresh tomato, caramelized onions, pickles, and mayo on a toasted bun is my first choice from the menu. I was introduced to The Habit in Ventura while there for meetings with another school employer. It was good news to see one go up nearby. I enjoy meeting friends there and to occasionally celebrate my sister-in-law’s birthday ending with a fantastic hot fudge sundae.


The Habit logo

Honorable Mention: Not all of these are local, but other places with good burgers in my opinion include Red Robin, Wood Ranch, Original Roadhouse Grill, and Houston’s.

My Hometown Burger Favorites

My hometown has a few great burger places, too. Every time I’m home I head to at least one of them. It’s a nostalgic goodness in that case, as well as a good burger.

Almost every time I’m back for a visit, my family gets burgers at Swenson’s. They have curb service, meaning servers run to each car, take an order, turn in the order, and return to your car with your order. If you are eating there, they serve on a tray that sets inside your car. There is no dining inside and no drive-thru. It is fun and unusual.


From Trip Advisor

Swensons Logo

Swensons Burgers

The Rail is also worthy of a mention. Fantastic burgers.

rail outside

Love the snow outside in this photo.

If you enjoy a good burger, like I do, I hope you enjoyed this post. If you read it right before lunch and are now craving a burger, should I apologize? I also hope you will comment below to let us know your favorites.

Stay charming, my friends!

Long-Distance Daughter – Part 1


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Leaving Home

I’m a long-distance daughter. I have lived away from my parents and hometown for over forty-four years. I know some of you are, too. It is a choice in life that comes with joys and consequences. I plan to have more posts on this topic, since many of us will connect with it. Down the road, I hope to include some friends and their wisdom as long-distance daughters, too.

If you are a long-distance daughter, how did your journey start? What advice would you share with others in a similar situation? I’d love to hear, so write a comment below.

In 1973, I left for college and moved eight hours by car and two states away. When I think back to my growing up years, spending a week or two at summer camp probably contributed to my independence and skills at making new places feel like home. But going away to college was the big first step.

Three State Map

My parents dropped me off at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago, Illinois, and headed back to northeast Ohio. I was a freshman, eighteen years old, and ready to explore a sociology major and life away from home. I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea in the moment, suffering from a short-lived bout of “Freshman fright” (I made that term up) or cold feet. No mobile phones. Only once-a-week long distance calls on Sunday because the rates were lower. What was I going to do? Adjust and enjoy. And I did.

My parents bravely said good-bye, drove away, and I commenced college. I launched my lifetime as a long-distance daughter. I learned the adjustment was harder for them than me, though they enjoyed hearing about my adventures and watching me spread my wings. They were generous with me and so supportive to make that opportunity happen. My mom still says every once in a while, “If I’d known you would never move back home, I wouldn’t have let you go away to college.”  Parents raise independent kids, and that’s a good thing. Then those independent kids leave home, and that hurts. One of life’s ironies.


Wheaton College – Blanchard Hall

My first return home was that Thanksgiving, a great time to reconnect with family, and having an opportunity to be back after the first experiences of dorm and college life. What a great time! I brought a friend with me. She lived in New Jersey and wasn’t going all that way for the holiday. It was an enjoyable long weekend at our house, blending both worlds – hometown and college. It was, and still is, so hard to say goodbye.

Turkey dinner

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.

Now it is 2017, and the week of Thanksgiving once again. My husband and I are headed to my hometown to be with my side of the family for another meaningful time with turkey and the trimmings. They don’t fly to join us for holidays any longer, so it is our privilege to travel and be together. I still get such a happy feeling to travel home for a visit, and Thanksgiving is one of my favorite occasions.

Returning to my hometown always centers me, gives me a sense of my roots. I love my hometown in the Midwest. It is a city of about 250,000 and has many advantages of a big city with the more relaxed pace of a smaller town. I catch my breath, see familiar sights and many newer ones, and connect again with loved ones. Often the weather brings a rainfall, thunderstorm, or even snowfall. I love any of that! Living in Southern California, I tire of sunshine, so any variety in the weather is a welcome change. Beyond all that, I see my family and spend time with them to stay close across the miles.

home mugCalifornia & Ohio Mug

One of the realities of living far from home and family of origin is the understanding that we must make it a priority to get home now and then, spend the money, board the flight, block out the time, get a dog sitter, pack for time away, and go. It’s part of the deal. I understand that. One of the other realities of living far from home is the excitement of going home to visit loved ones, familiar places, and growing-up memories. I don’t take those for granted. One of the many mixed blessings of this long-distance daughter.

Happy Thanksgiving to each of you! Enjoy time with family, if you do get together.

Stay charming, my friends!

What’s Cooking? – Part 1

On the road to a simpler life, I recently cleaned out recipes. I don’t know about you, but I have way too many recipes. It seems that I must like the idea of cooking more than actually cooking. If I had someone to prep the ingredients and then to clean up afterwards, I’d cook more often. But on this day, I sorted through recipes, keeping only those I’ve tried and liked, some I’d like to try, and those old ones that connect me to another time and place. It was interesting to me how recipes and cooking changes in various ways over time.

I still have a traditional recipe card file, filled with recipes from friends and family near and far, and other various sources.

Recipes Box

I went through a Pillsbury recipe magazine phase. I loved getting the latest one at the grocery store in the checkout line. It was time to part with these beauties.

Pillsbury Cookbooks

I pulled out those great community cookbooks, so popular decades ago. I got some as gifts at my wedding in the early 90’s. I had some from churches and one from my former employer.  I even had one I treasured from Pella, Iowa, a hometown of a good friend.

Church Cookbooks

I don’t use these recipe books any more, even though some days I do crave a classic Jell-O salad potluck recipe. Did you have a few favorites, too?

As time progressed, I wasn’t using recipe cards and books as much. Enter Food Network TV. Eventually, I had way too many printed recipes, and lots of ambition to try them all, from my favorite Food Network cooking shows: Good Eats, Barefoot Contessa, and others. Now I also watch Pioneer Woman, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, and simply save some recipes on my computer.

Printed Recipes

Have you noticed how ingredients have changed over time as well? A lot less cans of soup in recipes. A lot more interesting ingredients like feta cheese and even Brussel sprouts. I don’t even think I used the word vinaigrette until the last decade or two.

Have you noticed how mainstream it is for guys to be good cooks now, too? That’s a big shift in society from when I was young. I like it!

Using a computer to get access to many recipes is the latest convenience. And we use smart phones to look up a recipe in the kitchen or even in the market, too. Then I can see the ingredients while grocery shopping.

Martha Stewart Web Site

Later that same day, as I purged the recipes I was no longer interested in trying, keeping, or storing, I came across a variety of recipe cards. Does anyone use recipe cards much anymore for sharing recipes? Seems like many of us type up a recipe and send it in an email or some other more contemporary form of sharing something good to eat.

Variety of Recipe Cards

Recipe collections, however we keep up with them, are a gold mine of tasty goodness that we share with those we love in various settings, building traditions. A great part of our good life! What are your favorite recipes or sources for recipes?

Handful of Recipe Cards

Stay tuned for What’s Cooking? Part 2 in the weeks ahead.

Stay charming, my friends!

In Between on Halloween


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A Note on Sunday’s Tragedy: Before I continue with this week’s post, I am again saddened by a senseless shooting. My head once more tries to make sense of the November 5th church assault in Sutherland Springs, TX. My heart is numb with the news as in the past, stuck between the tragic question of why this continues to happen and extreme frustration as we ask society to make it stop. We have some dark citizens out there, under the radar, who have a twisted sense of right and wrong, and weapons to destroy without conscience. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by this event. I do believe thoughts and prayers are essential for getting through this. I also pray for and seek to help build a safer society. My own church has a security team as a precaution. Disturbing. We share our world with persons whose light has gone out in their souls. They stumble in their personal dark with no sense of consequence and no regard for the impact of pain that rips through society. Truly scary stuff. May it end now. Please.

On to this week’s post…

This past week, Halloween happened. I have a love-hate relationship with Halloween for various reasons. Maybe you do, too. I have friends who love it. It is their favorite holiday. I have friends who want nothing to do with it. There is debate on the origins of the holiday. I won’t go in to that here. I’m split on the holiday, and focus on the parts I enjoy. What about you?

What I Love…

  • Kids Dressing Up: I love the cute costumes on babies and happy children. This year my friend sent me a photo of her twin granddaughters dressed as storybook character Madeline. So adorable!
Madeliene Costume

(This is not the photo I was sent as I did not have permission to post that photo of children. This photo is a sample off the Internet.)

  • Homemade Costumes: I love the clever homemade costumes that bring families and friends together to create them. My mom made us amazing costumes when we were little. My dad helped me create a “Cousin Itt” costume in sixth grade, and I won first prize at a party! Still proud. My grandmother made a costume for me one year, too. Precious memories.
  • Trick or Treating: I love that one night a year kids and families come to our house for a smile and a treat. It is a fun way to briefly connect with neighbors, as well as van loads of kids dropped off from who knows where by parents who are trick-or-treating professionals.
  • Pumpkins, Mums, Hay Bales, Leaves, & Candy Corn: I love the brightness and cheerfulness of pumpkins, candy corn, hay bales, fall flowers, oranges and purples and burgundy and yellows. The festive side of Halloween can be beautiful!
  • Fun at School: Costume parades, special activities, teachers dressing up – all the fun at school is a good time. As a former teacher, we had fun on Halloween school days!
  • Traditions: One family gathers around bowls of chili for Halloween dinner each year, before heading out to trick-or-treat. Another couple of families I know invite friends and neighbors over for food and conversation, while some of the adults take the kids out for trick-or-treating. My husband and I often set up dinner on our front porch, and dine between handing out mini-chocolate bars. Fun traditions make an event your own and give people something to look forward to and good times to remember after. Speaking of traditions…

Great Pumpkin

  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: I love this cartoon from my childhood, as grainy and choppy and simple as the animation is, compared to Pixar. It is an October classic for me, connecting me emotionally to my childhood traditions. And the story never gets old. I choose one night in late October as “The Great Pumpkin Night.” I’ll make a special simple dinner and usually bake a treat. This year I made Snickerdoodles – such a great cookie! And anything cinnamon says autumn to me. Some years I make haystacks candy, with chocolate and chow mein noodles, and little candy pumpkins. For instructions, click on the link in the photo caption. You can use butterscotch instead of chocolate.


From Meatloaf and Melodrama

  • Fun & Creativity: My friend, Amy, does some great creative things for Halloween. Check out her blog: Tonality Designs

Decoupage Bats

  • Welcome to the Holiday Season! Halloween calls us on into a special holiday season and all the great things that come with honoring what’s meaningful for us with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s for many. As well as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa for others. Along with that comes cooler air, apple season, shorter days, soup, and hot cocoa. And we celebrate the good together with friends and family.

What I Do Not Appreciate…

I was fonder of the dark stuff as a young person, and enjoyed things like The Legend of Sleep Hollow and The Tell Tale Heart. I volunteered in a scary event called the Youth for Christ Scream in the Dark, playing the part of a head on a platter. But that is not for me now. Not a fan of Knott’s Scary Farm and things like that. That is fun for some, but not me.

In addition, I don’t like…

  • Money Spent: It blows my mind to see statistics for retail sales related to Halloween. Retail stores have capitalized on this holiday, and it is clear in stores and in front yards. Americans spend a lot of money on this season. The Balance, a financial newsletter, says, “Halloween retail spending is projected to be $9.1 billion in 2017. That’s a new record.” And candy to hand out is not cheap!
  • Those Big Spider Decorations: Every year something new is sold to adorn the front yard. This year I noticed the BIG spiders on houses. The creep factor on that is too much. And Halloween is over people! Take those things down! I want to drive to work without getting the willies!
  • Bad Costumes & Decorations: This is a broad category of distasteful outfits in my opinion. Subcategories include:
    • Sexy costumes: These just aggravate me since they tend to objectify women and are often worn by young women in risky party situations. This encourages thoughts and behaviors toward women that do not help us build a better world.
    • Bloody costumes and decorations
    • Horror costumes and decorations
    • Haunted costumes and decorations
    • So basically anything that is not playful and fun and connects to evil
  • Junk Food: Parents are often so good about rationing candy after the trick-or-treat loot has been collected, and I guess moderation is the key. I’m not going to be that lady who hands out an apple or steamed broccoli, but Halloween can be an exercise in good eating and making the occasional exception, if done responsibly.
  • Chocolate and Child Slavery: This is a heartache of the chocolate industry for me. I try to buy fair trade, but it can be challenging to find. I do not mind if it costs more.
  • Creepy Clowns: I need not say more, but there was even a scary billboard in town featuring a very scary clown. How do mommas drive around town and protect their little ones from spooky images and yard decorations?
  • Dog Costumes: Just kidding. There are some wonderful dog costumes. Sometimes I feel sorry for the dogs, but do they ever feel humiliation? I doubt it. But my dog in the pumpkin headband and toy in his mouth looks a little annoyed with me.

When it comes to Halloween, give me the cute, the clever, the fun. Maybe I’ve wimped out in my older years. Maybe reality is scary enough at times. Anyway, handing out candy with a smile is a sweet time for kids. And me.

50 Shades of Gray

The “50 Shades of Gray” Costume (Writers’ Club party – 2013)

Stay charming, my friends!


Explore Some More


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Two of my good friends from my 1982-83 days at Purdue University came to Southern California for a family event and spent Saturday with us. They got us out of the house. After busy work weeks, we always enjoy slowing down and hanging out at home. But this Saturday we were weekend tourists, showing off the area. We had a great time, and I was left thinking we need to do this more often.

Mollie's Cafe 10.28.17

We started out at Mollie’s Famous Cafe Mollie’s Famous Cafe in San Juan Capistrano. Just your great neighborhood diner, perfect for a good breakfast on a Saturday. It was crowded, which provided a sense of energy. We’d never been here before, but it had good reviews on Yelp. We ate outside, enjoying huevos rancheros, two orders of French toast combo, and a pancake combo. My coffee came in a huge mug. Amtrak trains chugged by across the street. San Juan Capistrano is an Amtrak stop further up the tracks. I always enjoy the sound of a train.

Next we walked up the street to Mission San Juan Capistrano, number seven in a twenty-one mission chain that helped the country of Spain settle California in the early history of our state. I’ve been there many times as a fourth grade teacher on a field trip, studying California history. We enjoyed the gardens, the architecture, the history, and spent some time exploring this beautiful place. We saw two weddings doing photographs on the grounds.

Mission Courtyard 10.28.17Mission Bird of Paradise 10.28.17Mission Arches 10.28.17Mission Fountain 10.28.17Mission Bells & Church Ruins 10.28.17Mission Doorway 10.28.17Mission Bells 10.28.17

We stopped at Starbuck’s across the street for a light snack and water before heading on. And guess what! There was one of the wedding parties just hanging out. That made me wonder if they were modeling for the photographer and not really a wedding, but who knows?

Mission Wedding Party - Starbucks 10.28.17

We also wandered the Los Rios Historic District, a street filled with old homes made into shops, cafes, and restaurants. We enjoyed seeing the old, quaint homes and gardens. We did not stop to shop or eat here. The photo below is from an article in Pelican Hill Magazine. Click on the link below the photo if the Los Rios District interests you further. It was about a block or two, beyond the train tracks from the mission.

We walked back to the shopping area where Mollie’s Famous Cafe is and got our cars. I liked that the day’s stops in San Juan Capistrano were within walking distance for us. It was a beautiful day for the walk while talking and catching up. The beach cities are usually about ten-degrees cooler than where we live.

Driving up the coast, we climbed up the curvy streets in part of Laguna Beach and reached The Top of the World. We parked the cars and walked on up the short path to the top. What a great view! From the ocean, across the valley, to the various mountains in the distance, with lots of suburban housing sprawl in various places.

Top of the World 10.28.17

Back down the hill we went to Pacific Coast Highway. Turning north, we pulled in at a famous restaurant called Las Brisas. I had not been there for a long time. It was busy, but we arrived early and waited for our reservation time. We had a good time sitting on a bench on the ocean side, watching the sunset. A young couple had just gotten engaged in the gazebo with most of their family present, so we felt the joy. This was a magnificent setting and great way to end the day.

Laguna Palms at Sunset 10.28.17Laguna Sunset Palms 10.28.17Laguna Sunset 10.28.17

I could sit by the ocean for hours, but an order of guacamole drew me into the restaurant. We sat in the cantina and enjoyed chips with guacamole and also delicious artichokes. I enjoyed one of my favorite drinks, an Arnold Palmer – part lemonade and part ice tea. We shared the appetizers and more conversation. Meanwhile, the Dodger World Series game #4 against the Houston Astros had begun.

On a side note, I’m not a Dodger fan except for this series, but it is fun living in a town with a team in the World Series. The energy, the hope, the pride, the ups and downs all give to a special sense of community.

We ended the night with a fine dinner at Las Brisas. I shared a Caesar salad and the maple-crusted salmon with my husband. Delicious. It was pricey, but the food and the view were spectacular. And a table of great company made for a fun end to a delightful day.

Las Brisas 10.28.17

It often takes out-of-town guests to get us out to the typically touristy places in our area. We need to get out there and explore more on our own. We had a great time – good food, some exercise, beautiful scenery, some history, and the ocean. We really took a break from the demands of our jobs and housework. That’s always a good idea.

We braved traffic, the challenge of parking, and crowds, fairly constant in Southern California, and got out to explore some of the great spots in our area. Such a fun day away from the routine with the luxury of time to talk. Sightseeing energized us and made a deposit to our soul care accounts in ways we deeply needed.

Where do you take visiting friends? Cheers to weekend tourists! It can be rewarding in many ways. Love your friends. Love where you live.Mission Fun Day - Petersons & Pauls 10.28.17.

Stay charming, my friends.


Wonderful Wedding


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Last Sunday, we attended the wedding of two friends. We drove an hour and a half to a beautiful outdoor venue called The Walnut Grove. The event was simple, classy, and so lovely. The bride was stunning. The groom was all smiles. The bridal party looked fantastic. We enjoyed seeing friends and catching up. The dinner was wonderful. The candles lit up the tables as the sun was setting. It was a great celebration of love, commitment, and a future filled with hope in a magnificent setting.

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Rustic Table

Beautiful tables settings

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Flowers Close-up

Lovely flowers

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Crowd

The crowd mingles waiting for the bride & groom to be seated for the dinner.

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - The Happy Couple

Here come Mr. & Mrs.!

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Table Close-up

The outdoor setting was in a walnut grove on a farm.

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Cake Close-up

Some of the flowers were placed on the cake.

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Sunset

A sunset dinner

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Toast Time

Time for a toast!

I was thinking about contemporary weddings compared to the weddings of my 20’s and 30’s. For one, Save the Date cards are a recent part of weddings.

Save the Date Close-up

It seems like, for us anyway, the weddings we go to now are often destination weddings held outdoors, even if only an hour or two from where we live. We haven’t been to a local church wedding in years. Added eyelashes for the bride and bridesmaids are the latest in wedding make-up. I like to notice all the DIY and Pinterest touches , customizing the event with special attention to details. Pinterest did not exist when I got married.

The rustic look is so popular now. Fresh flowers are more prevalent and gorgeous blossoms not only fill bouquets, but add to the table decor and adorn the cake.

17.10.22 - Bittner Kunstt Wedding - Cake on a Barrel

Creativity is essential for many weddings. We even attended a special wedding with the cake made out of Rice Krispie Treats. It was cute, clever, and unique. Not to mention delicious. Photo booths were popular for while. The end of the night has changed from throwing rice to throwing bird seed to bubbles or sparklers. It is fun to see what the latest ideas are.

Weddings are definitely expensive, big events, filled with meaning and memories. I’m glad we get invited, for the modern wedding is a grand experience. And supporting a couple as they embark on this new life is always a good idea. Marriage comes with challenges and blessings. Having a caring community around helps share the joys and the struggles, and that starts with witnessing the “I do’s.”

Stay charming, friends!


Just Right


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Let’s agree to no longer apologize for being ourselves.

We are wasting valuable time.

And let’s no longer wish away our gifting, when our insecurities surface inside.

Sure there may be things we all want to personally work on and improve, but let’s give ourselves some grace. To quote researcher and author Brené Brown, “I am enough.” And so are you. We are just right, while we become our best selves. So let’s stop comparing. There is no other you. I am the only me. That uniqueness is a big deal.

No more apologies like…

  • I’m sorry I talk so much.
  • I’m sorry I’m too quiet.

No more wishes like…

  • I wish I were funnier.
  • I wish I were more outgoing.
  • I wish I were creative.
  • I wish I were more…whatever.
  • I wish I were less…whatever.

I am me. I continue getting to know and understand myself. You are you. We are just right. We are enough. Goals and dreams are important, but wishing we were more this or less that will choke out the life in us. We end up wasting the gifts that are ours and our role in the present.

In Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks spends a day discovering what is just right for her. I want to live my life discovering what is just right for me and to realize I am just right for whom I am meant to be.

Though I continue to grow and live life with intention, I want to be brave enough to avoid comparing myself in unhealthy, unrealistic ways. Perhaps that means less social media time. Perhaps that means avoiding advertising that tells me I am not enough. As Theodore Roosevelt so wisely said, before Facebook was even a thing:

comparison http-_soupofthedayblog.com_wp-content_uploads_2017_01_comparison

From comparison Soup of the Day Blog

I am enough. I am just right. And so are you. Find the courage to be happy right there. We’ll all be better for it.

Stay charming, my friends.

From Sanka to Starbucks


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Sitting in a Starbucks this weekend, I couldn’t help but think about how coffee and it’s role in our society has changed in my lifetime. I have vivid childhood memories of my grandparents sipping Sanka. Sanka seemed to be the big deal when it came to coffee. Do you remember Sanka? What are your early memories of coffee?

Black coffee was so popular. Perhaps people added cream and sugar. Most children did not drink coffee. I wasn’t permitted to have coffee as a child. Or I remember it as a rare moment, as I got older, mixed with milk and sugar. It tasted almost like melted coffee ice cream. For children, the caffeine may have been undesirable, but the taste was awful to me, too. My generation did not ride along with our moms on a “drive thru” coffee run when we were growing up.

I don’t even think I realized decaf was a thing as a child. But I do now! A caffeinated beverage past 2:00pm and I’ll be wide awake at some point during my typical sleep cycle. As I’ve gotten older, I sometime feel jittery with more than a cup of regular coffee. Perhaps you can relate. Do you prefer regular or decaf?

And then there was Folgers. I looked up a commercial from back in the day with “Mrs. Olsen.” The commercial really reflects how societal roles and behaviors have shifted, as well as the coffee. On a side note, this reminded me of the gender roles and expectations within which our mothers managed to act.

I started drinking coffee in college. In fact, I discovered that coffee was helpful when studying all night and going to classes in the morning. Did you have one of those aluminum plug-in desktop devices that heated a small amount of water in your dorm room? Perfect for making coffee, tea, or oatmeal servings for one.

Now, I’ve observed in my area that children know what “Starbucks” is by name and have a favorite drink. Nice brand marketing, Starbucks! They have built the next generation of clients. Perhaps they’ll associate Starbucks with happy memories of times with a parent.

Even coffee options have changed. Basically, during my youth, our options were:

  • Regular
  • Decaf
  • Instant
  • Brewed

No wonder there is often a line at Starbucks, with endless drink options including:

  • Cold brew
  • Latte
  • Cappuccino
  • Frappuccino
  • Americano
  • Macchiato
  • Espresso
  • Mocha
  • Flat White

Sizes now bring more choices: Short, Tall, Grande, and Venti for Starbucks. Other coffee shops have different names. Customization options  for a coffee drink include half and half cream, heavy cream, nonfat, 1%, 2%, whole milk, soy milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Plus Equal, honey, Sugar in the Raw, Splenda, Stevia, sugar, Sweet ‘n Low, and a variety of sweet flavored syrups. Let’s not forget whip or no-whip.

Brewing methods are varied. Pour over, drip, cold brew, French press, percolator, Keurig K-cups, and more. But before you brew, pick a roast and a method of grinding beans. Endless choices.

Coffee shops are popping up and very popular places for meeting friends, working or reading alone, and working for many, including me. When I was a visiting teacher for homeschooling families, I would use Starbucks as my office when out traveling for the day. The bathrooms are decent, and grabbing a little table for workspace made it ideal to get some work done between appointments.

But Starbucks and other coffee shops are more than just coffee, breakfast items, and sandwiches. Starbucks has created an experience, including our names perhaps even spelled accurately on our cup. We walk in to a warm and inviting atmosphere, visually appealing. We smell coffee. We hear conversations, brewing devices, and music. We hold a cup of something and feel it’s warmth or chill. And we taste a beverage we have selected and customized with our desired flavors. Starbucks has created an experience that touches all our senses, making it personal and engaging.

Coffee remains central to American life, but it seems to play an even bigger role in 2017. For example, how far is it between Starbucks in your area? Do you feel happy when someone says to you, “Hey, I’m stopping at Starbucks. Do you want anything?” Coffee still symbolizes community in many respects, yet now in many public spaces, instead of the office, at church, at a restaurant, and in private homes as in the past with Mrs. Olsen.

Stay charming, friends!

Closing thought: I feel it is only right to close this week by taking a moment to remember and acknowledge the suffering in our world due to evil acts of violence and horrible natural disasters, and to pray for healing, peace, and recovery for those affected. It has been a difficult time. Please give to a worthy organization that can aid, if you have the ability. Thanks.

Panic & Perspective


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Do you ever have those moments when you notice something different happening in your body, and suddenly push the health panic button, ready to assume the worst? Maybe it’s just me.

On a recent weekday morning, I was driving to work in a bit of a hurry. Not unusual. I’m usually in a hurry to leave work. I’m rarely in a hurry to get there. Anyway, something caught my eye. Pun intended.

I noticed an unusual level of glare and clarity of focus in one eye. It startled me. The vision in my left eye was oddly sharper and clearer than my right. And the glare made me squint.

This was not normal, and I began to panic. Just a bit. But still, I went down the rabbit hole of concern. I confess that quickness to fear potential health problems has become more natural as I age.

What could this mean, besides a visit to the eye doctor? We all know it is always better to see the expert before diagnosing ourselves, but we worry in the meantime. So helpful. Not helpful.

I continued to worry and wonder what was happening. But I renewed my vow NOT to check online. That always fuels the panic fire in health concerns, since online information can often misdirect in a negative way.

Take a breath. Breathe.

I continued on the route to work, consumed by “what if” thoughts, of course, and the downhill spiral of wondering if it could be something serious. I knew there was nothing I could do in the moment. I tried to relax. Or at least distract myself.

Take a breath. Breathe.

Soon I arrived at work, parked the car, gathered my things, and opened the car door to exit. Worry still rented space in my head, as my husband would say.

Take a breath. Breathe deep. I can call the eye doctor when I get to my desk.

I removed my sunglasses and turned to walk in the building.

Suddenly, a sense of calm moved through my little soul, and I burst into laughter. All worry fled the scene. One of the lenses had popped out of my sunglasses, and I had not noticed. No wonder I had more glare and clarity in one eye without explanation at the time! That immediate sense of relief was awesome, but the little lesson that came with it was even better.

I smiled all the way in to my desk, shaking my head at the simplicity of the explanation, after all my wasted worry and the dread brewing about the “oh, no!” of the unknown.

My eyes were fine. But I was too close to the problem to see it clearly. A good reminder to take a deep breath, and press pause on the panic. This little lesson was a good reminder to wait, move away from the situation, and get some perspective.

Isn’t it true that sometimes we are too close to the problem to see (again, pun intended – forgive me!) what’s really happening, to view the situation with perspective? And a little distance can often help. That truth was glaring to me in the moment. And I continued to laugh for a while. I will remember to keep perspective in problems that come. And to fix my sunglasses.

Have a good week! And stay charming, friends!

P.S. I want to acknowledge some health panics do lead to a serious diagnosis. I want to honor that difficult journey for folks, too. This one just turned out lighthearted, for which I am grateful.