Monthly Archives: July 2011

Life is to be Experienced

“You cannot create experience. You must undergo it.”
Albert Camus

Well, that quote pretty much sums it up. Life is experienced. And it keeps things from getting monotonous!  We have experienced several new things this week. And since it is always fun to share our experiences with each other, here you go:

1. I introduced Callie to fried okra this week, a wonderful southern staple. She loved it and said, “mom, they taste like crunchy potato chips!” I think I would try something with that description!

2. Sean jumped in 4 feet of water and went completely under! Now, Sean is our more logical and methodical child, who only 6 weeks ago had to be carried into the pool kicking and screaming and would not let go of you for a second. Now, safely secured in his life jacket or “jet pack” as he calls it, he is like Michael Phelps in the water! “Jet pack”…don’t you love it! Only a 3-year-old would affectionately name his life  jacket.

3. Callie would not be outdone and showed herself in the pool, too. She swam the entire length of the pool…really swam, not kick swimming off the bottom of the pool. She was so proud and so was I! She learned how to swim 30 years before I did so in my own life. May she enjoy swimming as much as I enjoy watching her experience success.

4. I dropped off 20+ books at Goodwill…yes, I did it! And as I was loading them in the car, I heard my almost 6-year-old daughter say, “You better not be giving away any of my books!!” It’s in the genes!

Okay, so I have bragged enough! What about you? What new experiences have you had this week or what would you like to experience this week? It is only Wednesday! You can do it!



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Living with Less

No, I don’t have a long-lost family member named ‘Less’! However, living with a family member might be a little easier at times than truly living with less. What does that look like? I mean, we live in a society that is full of stuff, things, collectibles, books, toys, clothes, etc. You get the idea. It is much, much easier to accumulate stuff than it is to get rid of stuff.

2011 has been the year of unloading for us. The sweet, helpful man at the drop-off door of our local Goodwill can probably recall my license tag from memory. 27 bags thus far and that doesn’t include the larger items that just wouldn’t fit into a garbage bag. And the really sad fact is that we still have a long way to go. How in the world does one accumulate so much? And don’t get me wrong, we probably don’t have a lot of stuff when compared to the average American family, but we have way more stuff than we need.

So what’s the point? Why are we unloading and streamlining when it comes to stuff? I do not like chaos and clutter. I find that I am very inefficient, anxious, and irritable when I am surrounded by too much stuff. I get overwhelmed if I walk in my children’s play room when it is in complete chaos. I guess I could be called a minimalist, but I have not always been that way! God is changing my heart and in the process, my desires have changed. I would rather spend 10 minutes with someone I love instead of sorting, organizing, and finding a place for all my stuff. For me, “if it is not functional or beautiful, we don’t need it in our house”.

Now, if you were to come over and visit in our home, you will see that we still have plenty ‘o stuff. It is not that I want to sleep on an air mattress and have one plate, fork, and spoon for each person in my family. I desire to have what we need and be able to give to others who are in need. I mean, how many spoons does one need? It is all relative. We have two kids. I know a family that has 12 kids. They need more spoons than us. The last thing I want to become is legalistic and start counting my silverware!!  

While things are much more tangible, stuff can also be of the emotional variety. You know what I am talking about. Those things that make so much racket in your head at night when you are trying to go to sleep. Or the thing that brings you to the verge of tears, but you won’t let yourself go there. I mean, if you do, what might happen? You might actually realize that you may want to forgive someone (maybe yourself) or that you are capable of dreaming really big dreams. 

How in the world to you unload emotional stuff? Much in the same way that you unload the physical stuff. Awareness is critical. Once you are aware that something is burdening you down emotionally, you can step into that place and decide what to do with it. Maybe no further action is necessary because God just wants you to feel something instead of living in denial, or maybe you need to make a phone call or bless someone’s life by encouraging them. 

If you compare this to the physical things, once you are aware that a thing or collection or that 58 pair of shoes are a little too much, then you can decide what to do with it, keep it, toss it, or donate it. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could make boxes for our thoughts and emotions labeled “keep”, “toss”, and “donate”?

Well in essence we already do, without being aware of it. If we hang on to or mediate on negative thoughts then we are “keeping” them. If we live in denial that they never happened or try to avoid negative thoughts, then we are “tossing” them or denying them. If we blame other people and use others like a coat rack to model our thoughts and emotions for us, then we are “donating” them.     

So what do you do? How do you unload the emotional stuff? I have found that we all need different means to help us process our emotional stuff. Some of us need to verbally process with others. Some of us need to cry a river. Some of us need to be alone with God. However, none of the above work unless you choose to step into that amazing place called awareness and allow yourself to focus on you and the emotional and mental things that prevent you from truly living with less.

Are you a “keeper”, “tosser”, or “donator”? When will you give yourself space and permission to let God’s love and grace wash over you in perfect love so that you can start living with less baggage emotionally? What’s the next best step for you to become more aware of what is preventing you from living with less?

By the way, Callie lost her first tooth this week. She is truly living with less and could not be any happier! Living with less has never been so much fun!!



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Week in Rewind

It has been a fun and productive week around the Branch estate. We enjoyed fireworks with friends and played in the sprinkler. We canned and ate many cherries and I will can my 14 day pickles tonight. I always borrow my mom’s canning book, which is more than 60 years old. As you will see below, it is well-worn. Several generations have enjoyed canned goodness from this treasure…I bet I couldn’t get a copy of it on one of those electronic book gadgets! Or if I could, I can guarantee you that it would not be sticky and stained with years of canning residue!  ( :




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Bowl Full of Cherries

My children love cherries, but cherries (organic and traditional) are very expensive…to the tune of $6.99 per pound for organic cherries! Yes, you read that correctly. And since we are still budgeting and trying to stay in the black versus the red, I don’t buy them very often. However, that was not the case today!! I bought an entire case of cherries…yes, a case or 18 pounds!!  A case sounds like a little less than 18 pounds.

That would normally be 18 x $6.99 = $125.82, a definite budget breaker. But today, I got 18 pounds of organic cherries for 18 x $2.99 = 53.82 x .90 = 48.44. Now for non math folks like myself, that previous sentence just did not register. Let me explain. Whole Foods had their organic cherries on special today only for $2.99 per pound. When you buy a case of anything from Whole Foods, they give you 10% off the case. Therefore, I got my cherries for $2.69 per pound before taxes.

Okay, my head hurts. Please don’t check my math! Enough math for now. So, what does one do with 18 pounds of cherries??

You end up with two very happy children, a happy neighbor, 18 half pints of cherry marmalade, an ice tray full of cherry juice to freeze and use as a natural food coloring agent, and two very large bowls of leftover cherries. I may have to try my hand at cherry pie tomorrow!

After I washed the cherries and started to pit them with my very nifty cherry pitter (an absolute must when you have 18 pounds of cherries to pit), I had a little helper wander into the kitchen. For every cherry she handed me to pit, she stuffed one into her mouth. Needless to say, my production slowed down quite a bit…that is until she got bored and continued on to the next adventure.

Speaking of adventure, as I was processing all the cherries today, I amassed a large bowl full of cherry pits and stems. You know you see the irony in this. Sometimes life is an adventure, full of good things like a bowl full of cherries:

And sometimes, life is like a not so good adventure and resembles a bowl full of pits and stems:

wherever you are along life’s path, don’t forget that you can’t end up with this:

unless you are able to endure the seasons of pits, stems, and the heat required to refine you.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:2-5

Thank you for reading and if you have any cherry recipes, send them my way!


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Book Hoarder (continued)

Wow! I never thought my book hoarding tendencies would garner so much chatter in the blog universe. It seems that I am not alone in my little fetish. And it is also amazing to me what this has stirred in my spirit. Instead of getting an electronic gadget (and by the way I am leaning towards an iPad!!), I am getting rid of some of my books. Yes, my beloved books.

You see, through many years of nursing my habit, I have acquired hundreds of books. This does not include all the ones we lost when we lost everything in our first home due to mold, circa 2003.  A large number of my books at the time were safely housed in my office at work. Therefore, I lost approximately 100 books at home as a result of the mold issue. I have since acquired many more books.

So, this will be no easy task…akin to convincing my children to give away some of their toys. However, I plan to give away approximately 25% of my books. I will donate them to Goodwill, or maybe a local church library. My next goal will be to use  my local library faithfully. I will check with my library before I buy a book and it finds a comfy home on one of my many bookshelves.

So, I have a plan. They say nothing ever happens without a plan.

And, by the way, I already have two books in a very large cardboard box designated for Goodwill…what is that proverb?? Something about a journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step…yeah, something like that!


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Book Hoarder

When I was a little girl, my mom and dad would often find me up way past my bedtime under the covers with a flashlight in my hand. No, I wasn’t scared of the dark. I was reading illegally!

I don’t really remember when or how I learned to read…I am sure it was sometime during Kindergarten and 1st grade. I do remember how much I loved to get lost in a good book and leap into whatever adventure was on the next page. We went to the library often on Saturday mornings and I would have most of my books read before the weekend was over.

Now that my daughter is an emerging reader, I get to share my love of books with her. I read two books last week and I am ready to read something a little different from my most recent exploits. I am going to start reading the Chronicles of Narnia ( this week.

Being a book worm has its advantages, but there are problems. Reading requires a few things: time, books, sitting down, a quiet space, etc. As a mom with two young children, the time, sitting down, and quiet space components can be hard to come by. However, I usually find a way to carve reading into my schedule.

That leaves books…I own hundreds of books. And I love each and every one of them. Seriously. They are like family. I love the smell and feel of books. I can remember where I read a certain book. Does the diagnostic term “book hoarder” exist? Ha!!! If it does, then I just might meet the criteria!

That brings me to a new piece of technology called a “Nook” or a “Kindle”. I am sure the Product Development teams for both of those mega billion dollar companies could have been a little more creative, but none the less. My dear, sweet husband has volunteered on several occasions to buy one for me. Mother’s day, my birthday, and our Anniversary all fall within about 6 weeks of each other. I could easily have my own electronic toy that would help me recover from my most recent diagnosis of a “book hoarder”.

Kindle Video

And I just can’t fathom ever owning one.  Never say never…the jury is still out on this one. Maybe if they could create a “Nook” or “Kindle” that smelled like a book then…well…probably not.

My love of books will probably never end. I have several friends who own the aforementioned electronic toys…they seemed to transition from REAL books to the fake kind seamlessly. Maybe there is hope for me! But, until then, I will keep in business.

What’s on your summer reading list? I will keep you posted on the Narnia adventure I am starting. Bon voyage!


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