Three Lessons We Can Learn from Our Pets

Ever since I was little, I wanted a dog. In fact, I’m pretty sure I checked out every single library book about every single dog breed during elementary school. After reading them cover to cover, I would tell my mom all about the dog of my dreams.

“We should get a golden retriever,” I would say. “Because they’re loyal, they play ball, and they’ll love you no matter what.”

Although my family never got a golden retriever, we eventually tried our hands at being dog-owners.

After struggling to find the right pooch for our household and watching countless episodes of Cesar Millan’s Dog Whisperer, we found Noel.

A miniature schnauzer-West Highland Terrier mix, Noel is the perfect combination of curiosity, strength, and, of course, love.

Plus, across her nearly 13 years of life, she has taught me some of life’s most important lessons.

Focus on the here and now

While our pets have varying memory spans, they don’t dwell on the past. Sure, they remember how to ‘sit’ and ‘speak,’ but they don’t let yesterday ruin the present moment. Likewise, they aren’t constantly bothered with questions about their future, such as “What kind of job will I have?” and “How will I be able to get an A on that test?”

Instead, our pets seem to follow a fool-proof routine each and every day: Wake up, eat, exercise, sleep, repeat.

Now, certainly our days are not as simple as our animals’. But, why should we waste time worrying about the past and fearing the future. Wouldn’t you rather go with the flow like our pets?

Although we will all have our ups and downs, every day is always a gift. Value it as such, keep moving forward, and you may be able to finally understand how your dog or cat is so happy.

Family is important

As you may know, dogs are pack animals. Therefore, they rely upon each other to keep the group balanced, healthy, and happy.

And let me tell you — humans are not much different.

Since the time of Adam and Eve humans have been destined to be together. But, I get it: work keeps you busy, studying for that exam means you cannot hang out on Saturday, and your nights are meant for sleeping.

With all of these preoccupations, you can easily put off meeting your sister for coffee or even calling a friend from college. But, in doing so, you may actually be setting yourself up for mental disaster.

Look to your cat or dog. Sure, they may be the only furry friend in your home, but they rely upon you for everything. And, while it’s nice to be independent, we can’t do everything on our own. In fact, Bill Wither’s classic song tells us, yes, “we all need somebody to lean on.”

So, take a cue from your animal and make time for your pack. Like dogs, doing so will refuel and secure your mental well-being.

Don’t forget to listen

Besides barking and meowing, our animals will never say a word to us (unless you know this Husky). But, that doesn’t stop us from loving them.

As a communication major, I understand the value and importance or words. As a dog-owner, I understand the value and importance of listening.

Every day, I talk to my dog as if she were one of my friends: I tell her about my day, pretend she’s a live studio audience when I’m baking up a dessert, and inform her of life’s newest challenge. I know she will never be able to verbally respond, but her tentative eyes and perked up ears tell me she loves me enough to listen.

Although conversations require us to talk some of the time, we don’t always need to give our two cents.Often times, we may unknowingly shift the focus off of others and back to ourselves. Likewise, in today’s tech-obsessed culture, it’s so easy to half-listen to others.

But, make a change today and, like your pet, practice the art of listening.

Unconditional love

Painted on the wall of my vet’s office is this quote: “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” — Anatole France

Animals are amazing creatures. Not only do they love us, but they show us how to love. And, to me, that seemingly simple skill may be the best lesson we can learn from them.

Thanks, Noel.

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Sincerely,

Ash




 

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Three Lessons We Can Learn from Our Pets

How to Make the Most of Your Time

A little over two weeks ago, I completed my sixth semester of college. Normally, this accomplishment would mean my next semester would mark the beginning of my senior year. However, I am incredibly grateful to say my next semester will be my last semester. 

Yes, I will be graduating this upcoming December with a bachelor’s degree in communication (and a minor in theology). 

Although I’ve known about this opportunity for a couple of months, I still cannot wrap my head around how fast time flies. 

Think back for a moment to when you were little: Do you remember how excited you would get for your birthday or Christmas? At that time, it seemed like those holidays were never going to come! 

As we get older, though, time seems to escape us. (Fun fact: Christmas is just about six months away. Start writing your letters to Santa, kids.)

 Now, just like you cannot prevent your hair from growing after getting a perfect haircut, we can’t do anything to stop time. 

But, we can make the most of it, and here are some tips to do so: 

Wake up early 

On school days and work days, I wake up at 5:15 AM to exercise. So, if you’re already getting up before the sun rises, please don’t set your alarm any earlier. 

However, if you routinely sleep in until noon, try waking up at least an hour earlier.

 In doing so, you’ll actually be able to spend a morning getting some chores done, or even just enjoying the early sunshine.

 If you’re not a morning person, fine… but let’s try for a compromise: If you wake up late and stay up late, try to at least take some breaks during the day to truly appreciate the world around you.

 No matter what, every day will always have 1,440 minutes. So, strive to make each one worthwhile.

 Document your day

 Admittedly, I’ve tried numerous times to keep a journal. Yet, like many other people, I just couldn’t keep up the habit.

 However, I once kept a “memory jar” for an entire year.

 As the name implies, I would write down a memory every day and date it before throwing it into a plastic jar. Then, at the end of the year, my mom and I unfolded every single piece of paper and reminisced about each memory.

 Although this wasn’t an easy task for me to keep up, the joy I experienced at the end of the year made this project worth the effort.

 So, I highly recommend you try making your own “memory jar,” or at least keeping a “memory notebook.”

 And, if you don’t have time or just don’t like writing, try taking pictures!

 In today’s modern world, most of us have access to a pretty high-quality camera on our phones.

 So, even if you’re not a photographer, try snapping a picture of your walk into work or the birds in your backyard. Then, maybe turn your pictures into a collage or slide show to view at the end of the year.

 Be grateful

 Before I go to bed each night, I thank God for specific parts of my day. Initially, I tried to state my top five favorite moments, but I eventually stopped counting them because I always came up with more than five.

 Anyway, simply thanking God for your new promotion or even just your glass of water can help you connect with the world around you. In other words, rather than taking life’s simple (or complex) treasures for granted, you can actually be present in the life you are living.

 And what better way to do so than with God?


In short, life will continue to pass within a blink of an eye, but you can slow down to truly learn what it means to appreciate the moment.


Sincerely,

Ash




 

 

How to Make the Most of Your Time

Dream it, Do it

Remember when you were a kid? You could spend an entire day playing make-believe with dolls, toys, or even nothing at all. However, the older we get, the more we allow our feet to become planted to reality. Now, of course, I think it’s important to be rational and realistic. But, why do we leave our creativity behind for child’s play?

As Bob Ross, the great “happy little trees” painter, once said, “We have no limits to our world. We’re only limited by our imagination.” In other words, we have the power to dream and set limitless goals for ourselves. In doing so, though, these aspirations do not have to be dry, boring “grown up” goals. No, pretend you are a kid again and dream to become happy.

Basically, recapturing your imagination as an adult means to break out of the status quo. Stated otherwise, we should not simply listen to society and accept what it tells us to do. Rather, be your own person and think for yourself. If you want to build your own store, but people around you constantly belittle this dream, do not give up. Instead, be like the kid you once were and follow your aspirations.

When we were little, we were encouraged to dream big and shoot for the stars. Why should we gradually stop doing this just because we grow older? Life is not about following rules and taking the same path as everyone else. Instead, forge your own path, make your own happiness, and, most importantly, be yourself.

Your imagination will take you anywhere you want to go and will guide you toward becoming the best version of yourself. Never lose sight of your deepest desires, and never back down from achieving your dreams. You can do anything as long as you put your mind to it.

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Sincerely,

Ash




 

Dream it, Do it

The Tallest Angel Food Cake Ever

Good news: I survived midterm week.

Even better news: To reward my long hours of studying, my college decided to give me a week off from classes (a.k.a. spring break).

 

While I spent a good portion of this time tackling school assignments due upon the return from break, these couple of days truly put a smile on my face. As silly as it may sound, I learned how to have fun again.

For example, we made the tallest angel food cake ever.

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Every St. Patrick’s Day, my family makes a (slightly) green-colored angel food cake. In fact, I just learned this tradition stems back to my grandma’s kitchen. However, this particular cake was odd because it was MASSIVE. We could not even use a cake dome to cover it because the thing was so tall. Instead, I channeled my inner MacGyver, making a cone out of wax paper to lay on top.

Want to know the secret to this delicious cake?

Betty Crocker.

Although I typically prefer baking from scratch, this cake mix is wonderful: it literally takes less than five minutes to mix together (you just add water!) and tastes better than a homemade version. Don’t believe me? Take the test yourself! We tried at least two different angel food cake recipes last year, assuming they would yield even better cakes. However, both attempts resulted in dense, sticky cakes. The flavor of the homemade versions were fine, but the texture did not resemble angel food cake. For this reason, we remain loyal to Betty and rely on her every St. Patrick’s Day.

Also, we did not completely figure out why this cake grew so tall. But, we have a few guesses:

  1. After baking it, we let the cake hang upside down in the pan on top of a glass bottle. As the directions explain, you must leave the cake in this position until it completely cools. (Fun fact: doing so prevents the cake from sinking, which would ruin its fluffy texture.) However, we let the cake suspend for at least five hours because we went out to eat.
  2. When mixing the ingredients together, I did not over whip the batter. Rather, I mixed it on low for a little less than a minute and on high for about the same time. As such, the batter formed peaks and was incredibly airy.

Whether or not these actions are responsible for our mammoth cake, I’m not sure. Yet, I don’t need to understand. This cake is just too darn tasty to question.


Although this example is just one piece of my spring break, it represents the fun I experienced. During school, I spend 99-percent of my time secluded from my family, working on papers, reading books, and studying. In effect, I get sad sometimes because I miss having fun with them or just relaxing.

Don’t get me wrong: I love college and sincerely appreciate education.

Yet, this time truly helped me learn to appreciate the things around me: sunrises, hugs, laughter. So, while college will always require an immense amount of studying time, this spring break taught me to always be grateful…and to smile a bit more.


Sincerely,

Ash




 

The Tallest Angel Food Cake Ever

Offer it Up

Well, long time no see…

No, I did not forget about this blog, nor did I grow bored with it. Rather, my spring semester of college is just incredibly skilled at keeping me busy. Plus, this year has not been exceptionally great so far… But, perhaps this season of Lent will lead me and our world to a renewed spring.

Before I return to my studies, I wish to share with you something which has significantly improved my life these last few weeks:

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The Serenity Prayer.

You see, I tend to worry more this time of year because of midterms and snow-covered roads. While my fears do not impair my functioning, they are certainly not good for my physical, mental, or spiritual health.

In fact, the act of worrying is having a lack of trust in God. In other words, when we worry, we do not necessarily think God will save us from our troubles.

Yet, He does and will.

So, how can someone like myself overcome this flaw? Perhaps by simply reciting this prayer.

Every day, I offer up this short prayer to God. In doing so, I tune in my heart and mind to His presence. As a result, I realize I am not living for myself. Rather, I am living for Him by striving to be the best I can be and using my God-given gifts to make a difference in this world. True, I may not always know what God wants from me. However, figuring out that puzzle begins by wholeheartedly giving myself to Him.

So, as our world continues to deal with violence and sorrow, we can respond in a few different ways: we can continue to worry with no avail or we can trust in God’s love and know everything will somehow be okay.

Clearly, the latter seems to be the best option.

I’m not sure when I will write another post, but please know I care about you and appreciate your time reading my blog.


Sincerely, and in Christ,

Ash




 

Offer it Up

Nail It: Christmas Cheer

Looking for a cute and easy last-minute nail art before Christmas? I’ve got you covered.

This look features five different designs. So, you can mix and match the designs, or try all of them as shown!

Let’s get started!

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Strand of Light Bulbs: Begin by painting your nail white. Once dry, use a thin brush to paint a wavy line down the center of your nail. Then, create light bulbs by adding tiny dots with a toothpick. Ready to glow bright!

Reindeer: Paint your nail white. After this layer dries, paint a tan semicircle at the top of your nail. Use this same color to add little lines for the reindeer’s ears. Next, using a dark brown polish, paint antlers on with a toothpick. Then, add eyes by painting tiny black dots inside large white dots. Finish this look off by adding a shiny red nose. Hello, Rudolph!

Santa: Start by painting your nail a deep red. Once completely dry (this step is incredibly important!), paint a thick white strip down the center of your nail. Wait for this layer to dry before painting a black belt near the top of your nail. Next, use a toothpick to add a gold buckle. Done! Santa is ready for flight!

Christmas Tree: Paint your nail white. Using a green polish, draw a triangle, making sure the tip is near your cuticle. Next, add a gold star and different colored ornaments by using a toothpick to create dots. Next, just wait for Santa to drop off his presents underneath the tree!

Wreath: After painting your nail white, use a thin brush and a green polish to draw multiple short lines around your nail. To ensure the lines will form a circle, you can freehand an outline before painting them. Next, use a toothpick to add a red bow. Perfect! Ready for any door… I mean outfit…

Finish off each design with a clear polish to add a shine and preserve the look.


Even if you’re just staying in this holiday, this look will be sure to bring you joy! Take time to pamper yourself and do what makes you happy–you deserve it.

May God bless you all this Christmas season.


Sincerely,

Ash




 

Nail It: Christmas Cheer

The Best Present of All

Upon entering college, my family decided Santa didn’t need to bring me anymore presents under the tree because education was my gift. While this may seem odd or even sad to some, I am grateful for this decision. Not only do I receive the incredible gift of college, but I also developed a deeper sense of what Christmas is all about.

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For example, instead of waking up on Christmas morning, racing down the stairs, and tearing open the numerous packages from the North Pole, my mom and I make breakfast. This year’s meal will be hot, homemade cinnamon rolls with Honey Baked Ham and fresh hot chocolate. Mmmmm… I cannot wait.

As we eat, my family usually watches a Christmas movie or animated cartoon. In the past, we enjoyed classics such as White Christmas and It Happened on Fifth Avenue, or cute shows like Annabelle the Christmas Cow and The Little Drummer Boy. Whatever we decide on, we always watch it as if that is our first time viewing it. In other words, we just really learn to appreciate all the little details.

Next, we’ll start preparing our meal by putting in the pumpkin pie to bake. In the meantime, we prepare the turkey so that it can start roasting slowly throughout the afternoon.

After the cooking is underway, my mom and I will walk our dog as long as the weather cooperates. Sometimes we are able to drive over to a local park and take our time wandering through the forest, trying to spot deer, ducks, and wolves (just kidding). One time, we arrived at the park around one in the afternoon, walked, and returned to the car only to discover we spent nearly three hours in the forest. In our minds, we thought we were only gone for an hour or so. Who cares, though? We had fun.

Back at home, we usually eat a little “snack,” meaning some sort of candy and eggnog. A few years ago, we bought some Russell Stover and Whitman’s candy boxes, but we were disappointed in the variety. So now we enjoy other treats, such as buckeyes or coconut chocolate stacks. As we nibble, my family usually plays a game. My mom and I really enjoy the card game, Skip-Bo, but we all like Christmas in a Box, which is the holiday version of Monopoly.

Before we know it, dinner time arrives. So, my mom and I put on our aprons and begin fixing the side dishes for our meal. Since we love the food at Thanksgiving so much, we just repeat the same menu. As such, we feast on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, cornbread, and green bean casserole. Honestly, I could eat this meal every single day and never get sick of it.

During our meal, we play a Christmas CD in the background. Some of my favorites holiday singers include Andy Griffith, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Andy Williams, Bobby Vinton… Basically all of the crooners. What can I say? I guess I’m an old soul! (If you’re looking for a holiday song perfect for any time of the year, check out Perry’s Love is Spreading All Over the World!)

After cleaning dishes, we all gather together to enjoy another movie. Again, we love the classics, but some Hallmark movies, such as The Christmas Card and A Grandpa for Christmas, are great too! To accompany our movie, we slice up the pumpkin pie and finish the evening on a sweet note.

Sadly, after the movie, we all head off to bed because the day comes to an end. However, I never feel sad or anything throughout the day, even without opening presents. Why? Because Christmas is so much more than the gifts. Although this sounds cheesy, Christmas is about love. In other words, it’s about celebrating the love between family members, the love between friends, the love between God and His children. As such, we always include Christ in our festivities. Even if we just look at our manger or appreciate God’s creation in the park, we remember to thank God for the best gift of all, the one the matters the most: His Son, our Lord.

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May you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Enjoy the time with your loved ones and thank God for His love. I wish you the best this time of year and always.


Sincerely,

Ash




 

The Best Present of All