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Falling Leaves

May 26th, 2014 . by maria

If you have a wooded area near you, go stare out into it for a few minutes. If not, try to remember the last time you were in a deeply wooded area.

 

As I worked today, I paused and my eye was drawn out the window to the woods around our house. I stared out and tried to guess how far along the valley I could actually see before the leaves eventually blocked my view. As I pondered, these words came to me:

 

“You cry for the leaf nearest you when it falls, but you can barely see past your own nose. You cannot conceive of the numbers of leaves I have created and hold in my hand, and I cry for them all and rejoice in them all. When they are full and green and dance for me as my breath blows on them, I rejoice in them. When are gold and brown and they fall, I cry for them. For all of them. Numbered beyond the stars, numbered like the sands, for each one of you.”

The Fall of Rome

August 20th, 2013 . by maria

But, we love to think we’re secure. We love to believe that, no matter what, there will always be a safety net. We love to think that we deserve time off – we who spend hours a day on our computers or televisions or games or hobbies – we deserve a break from all this. But the truth is, no matter what plans and promises have been made, nothing is guaranteed, and the things you depend on will eventually fail. (You know this is true…you know people who have lost jobs, houses, marriages…) So, exercise your independence and ingenuity now, as much as you can, no matter what your situation. Be your own strength, and turn to God for the strength you lack. Enjoy your life, but don’t be lulled into thinking it can’t change; work to improve and sustain it daily.

Inspired by this quote:

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security. They wanted a comfortable life and they lost it all – security, comfort and freedom. When the Athenians finally wanted not to give to society, but for society to give to them; when the freedom they wished for most was the freedom from responsibility, then the Athenians ceased to be free.” – Edward Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Defending your Faith conference notes

March 15th, 2013 . by maria

A couple weeks ago we had a great conference at our church called “Defending Your Faith”. My oldest son and I were excited about it because the speaker (Ray Ciervo) had visited the church previously and spoken on Sunday, and we really enjoyed it. The conference was spread over 3 days, and included several break out sessions where you could choose which topic you wanted to learn about. I geeked out and took my netbook, so I could take copious notes. My son has since asked for a copy of my notes, and a friend of his wants a copy as well, so I decided to post them here. Actually I am going to post 3 things:

1. Teaser bullet points from my notes from Ray Ciervo’s original visit:

  1. Refute and Demolish strongholds & arguments
  2. Reason and Present Evidence (Acts 17:2-4)
  3. Adjust to your Audience: know what they beleive (Acts 17:23-30)
  4. Content: fight for our Faith (Jude 1:3)
  5. Always be Ready to Give a Defense (1 Peter 3:15)
  6. Certainty: So that you may knwo the exact truth (Luke 1:1, Acts 1:3)
  7. Pillar and Support of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15)
  8. Apologetics (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

2. Full pdf of my notes from all 3 days – organized and made all pretty. I even pulled in the full text of each quoted Bible verse, and put these in a special font. I also looked up the full and correct name and spelling of each book and author. Book recommendations for each section are also called out in a box. Where I wasn’t sure on something, I noted it. Where something was my own thought, I noted that and changed the font, so you can tell. Enjoy! DefendingYourFaith-ECC-20130301

3. Link to the ministries’ website where you can listen/download/app the podcast/mp3s of all the sessions, including the breakouts we didn’t choose so they aren’t in my notes. In case other things have been posted after, and you don’t see them at the top, You are looking for the items on 3/1, 3/2, and 3/3/2013 or titled “Apologetics Conference 2013”:
http://www.harvestnetinc.com/446185.ihtml

How NOT to get Junk Gifts

December 10th, 2011 . by maria

Every year someone in our family decides to start the “we aren’t exchanging gifts this year” discussion. There is always the claim to the finest motivations: being anti-consumerist, too many family members, having to much stuff anyway, etc. So, they tell everyone not to give gifts. Maddeningly, they wait until after December 1st to do it.

Now, I am not materialistic. But I really enjoy giving gifts. I like the challenge of finding something within my budget, that I think really fits the recipient. I shop (and craft) year round and store things up for Christmas. So, I have already gotten a lot of my shopping done by the time this discussion starts, which makes it sort of a moot point.

Additionally, I like to honor the tradition of gift giving which, according to my religion, was started on Christmas when God gave us his Son. Giving you a little joy gives me a little joy as well. So, no matter what you say, I am going to give gifts. I don’t require you to give them; don’t feel guilty if you don’t. But, I get a kick out of it and you aren’t going to rain on my parade!

Another reason some people don’t want to exchange gifts is that they don’t want to get stuff they don’t need. Hey – We’ve all gotten that awkward handmade gift. It builds character to allow your kids to receive things they don’t want and teach them to do so graciously. If you feel you already have enough character, I refer you to the paragraph above…allow the giver the chance to feel the joy of giving you something.

None of the above is really a reason to forego gift giving. If you really don’t want to receive something you don’t want, then what you really need to do is write your wish list. I know – you probably haven’t done that since you were a kid. You are thinking “but the problem is that there is not anything that I want!” you’ll need to adjust your thinking…instead of what you want, how about what you don’t mind getting more of? The following is a template that can be used by anyone of any age, and should result in a list that is junk-free, provides ideas at several price points (including free gifts of time/talent), and gives your happy-givers plenty of ideas.

And if you are the person who wants to give something ,but never knows what to give, you can ask your relatives to complete the list below to give you some ideas.

THE PERFECT WISH LIST TEMPLATE:
1. Favorite candy, snack food, etc. -For stocking stuffers or a gift basket.
2. Favorite baked good(s) made by your relatives.
3. Common item you are always running out of. (Printer paper, Ibuprofen, etc.)
4. Common household item that needs replaced this year. (Bath towels, can opener, etc.)
5. Place you shop at. (grocery store, discount store, department store) – For gift cards.
6. Online service you use (music, movies, tech, etc.) – For gift cards/prepaid codes.
7. Favorite restaurant(s) – For gift cards.
8. Charities or causes you support. -For them to give/serve in your honor.
9. Activity you enjoy/place you go. (Place you golf, concert you want to attend, etc.)
10. Something you need someone to do for you. (Oil changed, shelf installed, dog walked.) – For gifts of service
ONLY AFTER LISTING THE ABOVE, you can list specific items. Be sure to list the size, color, brand, features, etc. If you have a link to a webpage to buy the item, put it here. Try thinking of:
1. Things you have been meaning to buy and haven’t gotten yet. (Bath mats instead of towels on the floor for your new apartment.)
2. Things you should replace, but have been putting off. (That tatty puffy coat.)
3. Things you think you would like but are afraid to waste your own money on. (That only-on-tv gadget that sounds too good to be true.)

When you hand out your list, you can always preface it with “I don’t really want anyone to spend money on me this year. But this is in case you don’t listen.” Oh, and, you should probably keep in mind that handing it out NOW might be a little late for this year. But there’s always next year.

Thoughts on a traffic jam

April 15th, 2011 . by maria

I was delayed leaving work today, trying to get just a few more things done. Then I had to spend some time parked on the turnpike today. Not exactly what you expect, or want, to be doing on an afternoon as beautiful and sunny as today. I was mildly entertained by the games and internet on my phone, posting my status on facebook, and being perfectly willing to drive off having only learned that I was fortunate to have a smartphone.

We got moving. We struggled down the road, jostling for position. We passed the accident. We’ll just say that when it ends with a box truck and a semi being nearly unrecognizable, it can’t be good. I realized that if I had not been delayed, I could have been caught in the middle of that mess. After all, I often spend an hour and a half every day hurtling down the roadway at over 50 miles an hour, with only a little white line separating my car from a very big truck also speeding down the road. It’s dangerous, the tolerances are small, our protections are few. It’s a miracle we all survive.

Thoughts like these are nothing new for me. I grew up singing along to Amy Grant:
  God only knows the times my life was threatened just today.
  A reckless car ran out of gas before it ran my way.
  Near misses all around me, accidents unknown,
  Though I never see with human eyes the hands that lead me home.

I also read  Frank E. Peretti’s This Present Darkness. His car scenes with angels creating a bit of car trouble mischief to help arrange for two people to meet, and another with angels and demons battling over the fate of a van carrying a believer escaping her captors, paint the roadways as a more spiritual place than you might imagine.

Then there was the time I had a real-life near miss when my friend Kelly’s car inexplicably slipped out of gear, and she pulled us off the road just seconds before a huge roadsign flew out of the back of a workman’s truck. Who knows what would have happened?

I don’t believe in coincidence. My heart goes out to those who were in this horrible accident. But I wonder how many times we are spared from a similar fate. And how many times it is the other little, annoying delays that God uses to save our lives. Next time you’re behind a slow driver who you just can’t seem to pass, consider that God may have a perfectly good reason for slowing you down.

Break the Rules to Lose Weight

February 7th, 2010 . by maria

There are lots of rules, or guidelines, that we learned growing up. Breaking a few of these rules might help you expend a few more calories, breaking your weight loss plateau. If you know me, you know I’m not much of a rule breaker. BUT I’m going to give it a shot…

Break this Rule: Clean your Plate
Cleaning your plate is important for a growing child, but not so much for an overweight adult. If you’re full, or there’s something you don’t like, do not force yourself to eat it. If you are making up your own plate, put less on it and skip the things you don’t care for. (As long as you’re still getting a healthy balance on a regular basis.)

Break this Rule: Waste Not, Want Not
There’s this little bit left on your plate, or on your child’s plate. Or, there’s this tiny bit of leftovers in the fridge, just going to waste. What do you do? WAIST not. Don’t eat it; don’t let it go to YOUR WAIST. I don’t care if you pitch it, feed it to the dog, or add it to a baggie in the freezer to be turned into casserole. but do NOT let that go into your mouth.

Break this Rule: One-dish Meals
OK, this isn’t really a rule. But we’ve all been conditioned that one-dish meals are easier. Here’s the thing – they aren’t healthier. Sometimes, they have more ingredients than they would probably have if you cooked a meat, veggie, and starch separately. Plus, everything soaks up the grease from the meat, and you can’t choose how much of which things you will eat. When you make separate items, the kiddos can load up on the mac-n-cheese, and mom can load up on the broccoli. If someone really wants theirs mixed together, let them do it on their own plate.

Break this Rule: Sit Still
We don’t need recent scientific studies to tell us that you burn more calories by fidgeting than by sitting still. I don’t want you to drive people crazy, but there’s nothing wrong with some musical toe-tapping now and then. And, if you’re in a cubical or office where nobody else can see you, break all the rules – get up and do a little dance when you complete a project. What’s stopping you? Nobody will know, and you’ll probably feel awesome afterwards!

Break this Rule: Be Efficient
We try to carry all our bags from the car in one trip. We look around and think what else we need before heading downstairs, so that we dont’ have to come back up the stairs. We save all the memos we need to deliver, and then give them all out at once. We email or IM instead of walking down the hall. We hit the bathroom, then get a drink, then check the mail – all in one trip. These things are more efficient, and some of them are like second nature now. Stop being so darn efficient! Really, would it kill you to go up and down the stairs a few more times? And, you’d probably have a better relationship with that difficult coworker if you met face-to-face once in a while…if not, well, at least you burned a few calories and got out of your cube.

Break this Rule: Eat 3 Meals a Day
I recently saw a TV show where the girl lost 50 pounds by skipping meals. All of them. She ate only the snacks she would normally have eaten. It wasn’t healthier, but it was less food. The show’s hosts, to their credit, did teach her how to choose healthy meals instead of skipping them. But…if you’ve been snacking all morning, and you’re too busy to sit down with a salad, you are better off skipping lunch than grabbing a Big Mac. Seriously. I give you permission to skip lunch…as long as you have eaten something else. (I do NOT advocate skipping eating all day, as you will only eat more/worse later, you’ll feel terrible, and you’ll teach your metabolism to hoard those calories when it gets them.)

Break this Rule: Save Money; Buy in Bulk
If you buy a 12pk of Coke each week, guess how much Coke you will drink? If you buy candy bars at 3/$1 instead of 50 cents for one, guess how many candy bars you will eat? Unless you have plans for those extra units to be immediately and irrevocably passed on to someone else, buying in bulk is actually NOT saving you anything. You may be spending less per unit, but those extra units are going “to waist”. (If I can continue beating you with this pun.) Instead, splurge for the single 50 cent candy bar once per week, eat only the one, and tell yourself that if it is worth the calories, it is worth the extra 17 cents. (Or, tell yourself that 17 cents is the fine for eating the candy bar. Whatever works for you.) Along the same lines, don’t buy those treats with your regular grocery shopping. That’s too easy. Instead, tell yourself you HAVE to make a special trip to the store just for that item, only when you need it. Chances are, it isn’t worth the trip most of the time, and you’ll be just fine without it. The few(er) times you do get it, it will be so much more special. The only thing you should buy in bulk are staple grocery/household items… and diet foods.

Break this Rule: A “Real” Workout is…
If you aren’t going to get a real workout, then it doesn’t count, right? A real workout is aerobics and weights, right? A real workout has to involve some kind of equipment, or an instructor, or at least gym clothes, right? You have to get 30 minutes. You have to sweat. You have to get your heart pumping. What other rules have you learned about exercise? Well, unlearn them.You burn calories just sitting there, and everything beyond sitting is an improvement. So, go play with the kids, dance to the music, take a swim, or swing at the park. If it is more than you are doing now, it counts!

Can you think of any other rules to break?

Relatedly, I have given myself a “100 walks” challenge. I want to take my dog for 100 walks, and when I have done that I will give myself permission to take $100 out of savings for a special treat. Given that there are 336 days left in the year, it should be no problem to get in 100 walks by year’s end…but it sure would be nice to have that money for a spring/summer mini-vacation.

breaking stagnancy

January 24th, 2010 . by maria

I’ve had a certain phrase on my mind for the last few days: “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”. (I picked it up from Gretchen, at The Happiness Project.) This phrase has helped get me moving in a variety of areas.

At work, there was a project our group has wanted to do for years. We never did on it, because we felt it had to be done a certain way. Recently, we had an urgent need to create something similar, so we included an ‘imperfect’ version of our idea as well. Now, something that SHOULD have been done years ago will be done. It won’t be perfect, but it will be a lot better than it was…when it wasn’t done at all.

Since moving to PA, I’ve been … inconsistent…about attending church. The problem, I always said, was that none of the churches I visited felt like home. Applying the “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” rule, my kids and I picked one of these imperfect churches and went this morning. Sure, it wasn’t ‘like home’, but at least we went. The kids agreed it wasn’t so bad, even a little fun, and we’re planning on going every Sunday from now on.

Scrapbooking. I have several years worth of pictures waiting to go into scrapbooks. I have tons of scrapbook materials, and received a bunch of albums for Christmas. The problem is…I can’t afford to print all those pictures yet. So, I printed pages with thumbnails of all the pictures (Windows Picture and Fax Viewer). Using these to guide me as to what pages I need, I am making the albums without the pictures. I will get a few pictures printed at a time and go back and fill in the albums as I can. They won’t be done right away, but it is more progress than I would make by waiting until I can get all the pictures printed…and it gives me an incentive to get them printed!

Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. (Or: better done good, than not done perfectly.) It is a phrase that is breaking me through stagnation in a number of areas. It pops into my head all the time now, and I’m sure it will continue to be a phrase of growth for me. It might even get me to blog more often!

New page about our pets

October 30th, 2009 . by maria

http://mariahelm.com/?page_id=129

the family that plays together (or ‘how yoville improved our marriage’)

April 15th, 2009 . by maria

OK, this is gonna sound crazy, but Yoville has improved our marriage. (Yoville is a Facebook app.) First, I have to say we are blessed with a good marriage as it is, and I have a great hubby. But we had a lot of fun this weekend creating our yoville avatars, playing games, decorating our Yoville apartments, and blowing each other kisses. But it wasn’t just the fun we had together. My hubby signed into it the other day, and when I got home, he said the cutest thing: “Your avatar is so cute – she looks just like you. When I see it in Yoville I say ‘there’s my sweetie!’ ” So, here’s my hubby thinking how cute I am when I am not even home…and here’s me with a sweet memory of how my hubby is thinking how cute I am when I am not even home. How awesome is that?

mixed feelings

December 10th, 2007 . by maria

This time of year is always full of mixed feelings. Don’t get me wrong – I am about the most Christmas-spirited person there is. I love decorating. I love singing ye olde carols. I love crafting gifts, buying gifts – the whole process of really thinking about someone and trying to come up with something (you can afford) which will tickle their fancy. I love visiting with people. I love the time off work. I even love preparing for company and having a cookie party. The mixed feelings come in because of the pressures – pressure to get things done, to fit in extra activities, to spend money, to have the house more presentable than usual, etc.

Cards: I have a huge extended family on my mother’s side. She was one of six children. I love every one of them. I don’t want to leave anyone out. But I decided a few years ago that the cutoff had to be three generations. (ie I give to my grandparents, parents/aunts/uncles, and cousins. I don’t give to my cousin’s children, grandma’s aunt, etc.) Once I add in my husband’s family, a few friends, and my coworkers, I end up with about 50 people to make cards for. Plus, Alex has about 75 customers. That’s a lot of cards, whether you buy them or make them. I like making them, and on years when the budget is low – like this year – I make them.

Cookies & Birthdays: My DH asked me last night why I insist on having a cookie party. It started a few years ago when I discovered his mother’s aunt had a December birthday the day before mine, and that neither of us had had a birthday party in, like, years. So I decided that if no one would throw us a party, I’d throw a party. And since I love making cookies this time of year to give as gifts, but have trouble finding time to make them, I’d make it a cookie-baking party. It’s a fun time for women of all ages to squeeze into my little kitchen/dining room for a few hours of chatter and emerge with cookies to justify their time. I’m there making the cookies anyway. I might as well have someone to talk to, which is really what every woman wants most.

Work: It’s also a tough time at work. It’s a time when a lot of projects get finished up. That’s awesome. But it’s also a time when anything that can’t be wrapped up before the holiday gets pushed aside. That’s a bummer. The closer you get to the holidays, the emptier the work plate becomes. I’ve just completed a rollout of a DEMO of Instant Messaging for my employer. (Lotus Sametime running with our other Domino/Lotus Notes servers. It’s awesome. We’re loving it. For the users, it was like “set your password and away you go”. There was more prep work on my end than that, but overall not too bad. A little more than, say, the email-to-fax or enabling ldap or something. ) However, there are a handful of things that are making no progress whatsoever, and that’s too bad.

UPDATE: It looks like I’m not the only one who has projects get pushed off until after the holidays:

Atlantis to Launch No Earlier Than Sunday
Dec 07, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
Targeted launch time is 3:21 p.m. EST.

Atlantis to Launch Sunday
Dec 08, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
Shuttle will take the European Columbus lab to the space station.

NASA Postpones Shuttle Atlantis Launch
Dec 09, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
NASA delayed Sunday’s scheduled launch of space shuttle Atlantis after a failure occurred in a fuel sensor system.

NASA Targets Space Shuttle Atlantis Launch on Jan. 2
Dec 09, 2007 05:00:00 GMT
Space shuttle Atlantis’ STS-122 mission to the ISS now is targeted to launch no earlier than Jan. 2 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Gifts: Like I said, I LOVE giving gifts. But, you always wish you had a little more time or money so you could give the “perfect” thing. I’ve got a few people who will probably get their ‘perfect thing’ next year, and their ‘good but not perfect’ thing this year, because of budgetary constraints…and time constraints. I’m a very thrifty shopper and a creative thinker and a crafter. I have to think that makes budgeting easier. But it makes actual gifting more challenging! I know someone who can give a really cute set of tea towels or really nice expensive wool socks, and be happy with that. Not me. If I gave tea towels, I’d have to embroider them myself with your name or your favorite animal/symbol/saying, and wrap them on a tea tray with a pretty mug and bags of your favorite tea. If I give wool socks, it’ll probably be because I learned how to knit, or because they’re in a gift basket with a foot massager and lotion – but only because if said your feet were really bothering you lately, or because they were on your list.

But don’t go thinking that my perfectionist tendencies are the problem. I’ve learned from Flylady.net that I have to accept “done good enough” sometimes over “not done because it wasn’t good enough”. If you can’t tell that from the above, you should know that there are tons of other things I’d like to do around Christmas that I don’t. I’d like to be in a choir again, like I was in school. I’d like to take the kids caroling from the back of a hay truck. (They’d hate it.) I’d like to put on a Christmas pageant. I’d like to have something really awesome to give to my DH, who is getting to that stage of fatherhood where he says not to get him anything because if he needed it, he’d buy it himself. And I’d like to do something really special to acknowledge or help so many others… And that’s just the list of things I think that I actually COULD pull off, if I really had my act together. In my dream world, there’s also plenty of time and money to give something modest but special to the mailman and my coworkers and DH’s customers. I’d like to make really awesome quilts to give as presents. Plus spend time sipping cocoa in front of the woodstove with a good book while snow falls with a feeling of peace because everything got done. Ummm…that would be nice. But it’ll have to wait until January.

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