Inspired by Life

Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday Dinner with the Rushings - January 30th, 2011

Oh, this was a really fun night - so fun, in fact, we stayed quite late and disrupted the Rushing family schedule :) But it was so great to spend time with them. Aaron is their home teacher, along with Yonas, a friend of ours from Ethiopia. Shane and Julie Rushing are the proud parents of four very cute kids - the twins - Andrew and Alli, precocious Ty and sweet Lyla Marie.

They invited us over for dinner along with Yonas, and it was delicious! We had this yummy white bean soup, with tortilla chips and cheese and we also had a lovely salad with mandarin oranges in it...mmmm. Aaron and I had offered to bring a dessert and we sure did - we made this peachy gooey peach cobbler, and brought along some vanilla and chocolate ice cream. Needless to say, we were stuffed. Shane and Julie were the most gracious and fun hosts. We love the kids and they we fun to be around. I enjoyed holding Lyla and cuddling up with her - so precious :)

I appreciated their kindness and was glad that I got to know Julie some more, and I like her even more than I did before :) Shane's jokes had us laughing all night long, and cute little Ty was just an encyclopedia of information about sea creatures and dinosaurs. He would run up to us and just say - "if any body wants to listen to me, the tiger sharks can eat any fish in the sea!" Adorable, right???

Our conversation ran the gamut from food to family to fun to fellowshipping. Aaron and Yonas counted it as part of their home teaching efforts for the month, and so Julie and I decided we could rack up our dinner to visiting teaching as well, since she is my visiting teacher :) I am so grateful for our ward and for the loving friends that we are making. This really adds to our experience in the DC Metro!

Thank you Rushing family for the awesome dinner!

Ford's Theatre - January 29, 2011

Ford's Theatre is a historic theatre and has been in existence since the 1860's. Sure, almost everything can be 'historic' in Washington, DC, but this is even more so, as it is also the site of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

On Saturday, Aaron and I had the opportunity to visit Ford's Theatre and take in a special event - "Papa Day" - a 30 minute short play, enacted by an actress who played the character, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly. Ms. Keckly was a former slave, who used her abilities as a successful seamstress to earn enough to buy her freedom and later on, that of her son, George. In "Papa Day", the actress portrayed her very well and shared stories of life in the Lincoln White House. The term "Papa Day" came as a result of Tad Lincoln's lisp. He used to call his father "Papa Dear" but to the untrained ear who had no idea of his lisp, it sounded like "Papa Day".

Elizabeth Keckly became a family friend and the personal dressmaker of Mary Todd Lincoln, who was said to have had an exquisite collection of dresses, most of them made by Ms. Keckly. She went on to share gentle and humorous stories of the Lincoln family and gave us an insight into the personal life of Abraham Lincoln and his family. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance!

As this narration was taking place, we felt a really special feeling - we were sitting in the second row of the orchestra section and have a clear view of the theatre box where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. Ford's Theatre has a really special feel to it due to this fact. It was surreal to look up and imagine how the whole thing went down, and to know that we were walking in the place that Abraham Lincoln visited quite frequently, as he loved the arts and theatre.

Once the play was over, we had a chance to wander around and go to the balcony area where the actual theatre box was located. No one has been allowed into that place and it is closed off, except for a door with half plexiglass so one could peer into the very place that the President sat and a placard that shows where and how Booth entered to fire a single shot, 6 inches away from the left ear of Abraham Lincoln. It was an amazing feeling to be there!

The box where President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth. When the Fords found out that the Lincolns were coming that night to see a play, they decorated the windows with flags to make it acceptable for a President.
 Me, standing in front of the theatre box, on the steps that lead to the stage.

Aaron and I, in front of the large bust of Lincoln's head on the upper level of the theatre.

The placard depicting the assassination and what happened at that moment.

The actual box where Abraham Lincoln sat with his wife and Major Rathbone and his wife, watching the play.

The flag that draped one of the windows of the theatre box.

Me and the actress who played Elizabeth Hobbs Keckly. She was terrific and was kind enough to take a picture just before she ran onto the stage for her next performance.

The original gun that was used by John Wilkes Booth to shoot President Abraham Lincoln.

President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14th, 1865. after he was shot, he was moved to the Petersen House across the street, where he later died. Aaron and I also had the chance to tour the museum and read about his life, his family, his America and to be immersed in his intelligence.  

What an incredible man!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Speed Cleaning: The Best Time-saving Tips & Techniques

The only magazine I ever subscribe to besides the Ensign is the Real Simple magazine. It is chock full of all the things that I really like. This month's issue came with a mini-foldout of Speed Cleaning: The Best Time-saving Tips and Techniques and I just had to share!

Living area to-do list:
Every Day:
* Pick up crumbs and dust bunnies with a handheld vacuum.
* Fluff the cushions and fold throws after use.
* Wipe tabletops and spot-clean cabinets when you see fingerprints.
* Straighten coffee-table books and magazines. Throw out newspapers. Put away CDs and videos.
Every Week: 
* Dust all surfaces - including electronics, books, blinds, picture frames, windowsills and ledges, and tops of door frames - and remove all cobwebs.
* Dust-mop the floors with a microfiber cloth or a Swiffer, or vacuum the rugs and carpeting.
* Vacuum the upholstery.
*Throw out old magazines.
* Wipe the switch plates, doorknobs, and doorjambs.
* Wipe and disinfect the telephone.
* Shake out the doormat.
* Vacuum the hearing and air-conditioning vents.

Bathroom to-do-list:
Every Day:
* Wipe out the sink.
* Wipe the toilet seat and rim.
* Swoosh the toilet bowl with a brush.
*Wipe the mirror and faucet.
*Squeegee the shower door.
*Spray the entire shower and the curtain line with shower mist after every use.
Every Week:
* Scrub the tub.
* Scrub the tiles.
*Mop the floor.
* Wipe the switch plates, door knobs and doorjambs.
* Empty and wipe out the wastebasket.

In another post, I will share the Bedroom and Kitchen to-do-list. I hope this speed cleaning list will help you keep a clean and comfortable home!

January - National Organizing Month

Do you always pause when you are invited to an activity because you don't remember/know if you already had something else scheduled for that day? Do you look at the clock that reads 6:00pm and wonder what you have done with your day - you have been busy but seem to have accomplished nothing? Do you tell your friend that you will do something with her and shelve that in your "trusty" memory bank, only to be frustrated that 2 hours later, you don't remember when? Do you juggle work/social life/church commitments/family obligations/friends birthdays/ babies doctors' appointments/play group dates/babysitters/receipts/coupons/pets/husband/emails/storage/goals???

If you answered yes to one of the above questions, please read on and answer this question:

If you were told tomorrow morning that each day now had 25 hours in it instead of 24 hours, what would you do?

In all my years of consulting and working with individuals and organizations, this is the one question that always elicits some interesting responses. Here are some of them:

1) I would take a nap
2) I would spend time with family
3) I would plan a vacation.
4) I would call my family and friends.
5) I would go for a walk and enjoy nature.
6) I would work on a new hobby.
7) I would volunteer at the library.
8) I would exercise more.

Notice how none of them say they wish they spent one more hour at the office? What if I told you that you could have 1 extra hour a day if you took 30 mins a week to plan? One hour all to yourself, to do whatever you want to do? Doesn't that sound like a dream?

This month, I reunited with my trusty Franklin planner that has become such a part of me that I feel crippled without it, and I feel human again! I am sure there are others out there that get a deep sense of satisfaction when they plan, organize and accomplish their tasks for the day, month, year. This is something that I love to do and always try and find new and improved ways to make my life simple.

A couple of weeks ago, I was browsing the Franklin Covey website and was over-the-top overjoyed to find this:

A tip a day to get you organized in one month flat!!! And it is a fantastic interactive calendar that gives you ideas and tips and there is some product pushing, as well :)  It doesn't matter how your organize yourself - paper planner, calendar, google calendar, iPhone, Palm, Blackberry, or a simple to-do list, getting started is the first step to a new, clutter-free you! ( I know it says January is the month of organizing, but it's okay if you start in February, just start.)

I have participated, observed and trained several large and small businesses and  individuals in time management, and I cannot tell you how liberated people feel when they realize that they can control their time not the other way around. It changes their whole perspective about themselves and their lives; it boosts their confidence and it allows them to do something that is more satisfying to them instead of feeling overwhelmed and burdened.

Give it a try! You don't need to go out and spend any money to start getting organized. Just take 15 mins today and write down all the things that you would like to have accomplished for the day and put it in a prominent place where you can see it and be reminded of your task list. As you do this everyday, you will also realize that you can't complete ALL the tasks on there but you can get the most important ones done and that will make you feel satisfied with your day.

I know there are several of you who are like me and love, love, love to plan and organize! Please share your thoughts, experiences and even some methods that have worked for you. I would love to hear from you!

Have fun getting organized!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

All Things White and Beautiful

I woke up to find a world blanketed in snow this morning. There is something about the winter landscape - ethereal, hauntingly beautiful, silent, glistening, pristine. It makes a bare tree look stunning, covered in white; it makes a fire hydrant take on a new character of its own; it takes your breath away when you look up and see vast expanses of snow covered trees and untouched lawns covered in this white, fluffy stuff.

As I look out my window right now, I see a gust of wind sweep across the rooftops of the adjacent building and the snow flies into the wind like grains of sand - white, pure, clean. Sand dunes in white. My balcony is trimmed in white, and the blowing snow reminds me of what the desert must look like in a sand storm.

All things white and beautiful!

Noodles and Juan Williams - A Date

Cooking seemed like the last thing I wanted to do today, as I was a bit under the weather. Speaking of the weather, it had been snowing for a while - the kind that is soft and slushy. Aaron decided that we should pick up some dinner and Noodles & Company was the choice of the evening.

As he ran in to order the food, I turned the radio on and found a station that was interviewing Juan Williams, the Fox News political analyst, who was famously fired recently from NPR for expressing his feelings about Muslims on national TV. Claiming he broke the journalist ethics code, NPR let him go after 10 years of working there.

Juan Williams was giving a speech to some journalist interns at the Washington Center in DC.  It was a really informative and interesting interview/seminar and so we listened to it on the way back home from the restaurant. Since Aaron had gotten our food to go, we were about to get out of the car, when we both looked at each other and said, "We could just stay here, eat our noodles and listen to Juan Williams". And so we did.

He talked about journalism and its various changes throughout the years, his experiences with interviewing American presidents, the various newspapers he worked at and how different it was being an African-American and nineteen and wanting to be a journalist. The students/interns were then allowed to ask questions to which he gave some lengthy and detailed responses. It was insightful and I am sure helpful to those interns that attended the seminar.

It was a fun date - completely spontaneous!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Diana by Sarah Bradford

Princess Diana that is...

I finished the biography written by Sarah Bradford and I have to say, it was written very well, seemed unbiased and gave some definitive facts. The issue that I had with it was that it also portrayed Diana in all of her insecure glory, and I wish I had remained ignorant and awed by her as I had always been.

Born into a rich, aristocratic family and being thrown into the turbulent divorce of her parents at a young age, Diana formed some impressions that stayed with her all her life, only increasing in her the insecurities as she got older and found herself, by some twist of fate, to be the Princess of Wales. At the heart of the book lies the story of Diana's courtship, engagement, marriage and divorce to Prince Charles, who admitted that he had never loved Diana. He was attracted to her but had always been in love with Camilla Parker-Bowles. Being so young and naive, she had not known of the incredible hold that Camilla had on her future husband, and everyone else knew about it.

The book portrays expertly the atmosphere of Buckingham Palace and the Royal Family and its temperament towards Diana, as things got rough and the public began to take her side versus the Queen and her royal subjects. The parts of the book, although fairly accurate, that I always seemed to wish I could skip over, were the parts where Diana is portrayed as manipulative, playing people off each other, obsessed with the media and then hating them - a lifelong flirtation with them that eventually took her to her death. She was so insecure, jealous of Camilla, highly temperamental - being friends with people one minute and cutting them off forever another if they offended her or did not see her side of things. She was desperately in need of love and acknowledgment and it was sad to see how she was being used and she was using people to feed her need for love and protection.

The genuine things about Diana were her boys and her love and compassion for the poor, the weak, the hungry and those in need. The compassion was genuine and shined through even when the cameras weren't around clicking away and chronicling her every step. She truly loved people and the people loved her back. She instilled in her sons the ideas that they should have a normal life not the stuffy kind that the Palace tended to raise the children with. So, she took them with her everywhere, when she went on trips to feed the hungry, hold the hand of an AIDS victim, or do a documentary on landmines. This has helped the Princes be very grounded and have relatively normal lives.

It was a fairly large book to read - 464 pages, interspersed with some photographs, and an interesting biography. She was beautiful and changed the world in a way that it had not expected to change. Her memory will always love on fondly in the hearts of the people for she was The People's Princess.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

It's a New Year!

Our 1st day of 2011, we ate some delicious Italian food - lasagna, zuppa toscana, alfredo dipping sauce with delectable bread sticks, and then came home to watch the movie - Eat, Pray, Love. May this year be about love and discovery of self by losing oneself, and happiness, and many more really great things :D Love to all!