Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day Haiku

Photo by Jade
Leap Day Haiku
Leap for joy today!
Do something unexpected;
Savor uniqueness.

Loved this cute dog leaping/jumping and thought I'd share my Leap Day 2012 haiku with you. Hope you did something special or good today! May God bless you!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

First Magnolia & Ajuga in the Grass

First magnolia sighting of 2012
 God blessed me with a wonderful day today! Had a productive home blessing day, saw my first magnolia blooms of this calendar year and had a nice long talk with an uplifting Christian friend.

Ajuga in our lawn
Last year I noticed some ajuga in our not so grassy lawn. I fully intended to dig it up and transplant it into some of our flower beds. It would make the beds look nicer and save the ajuga from getting mowed down every week during the growing season. Clearly, this never happened. But today when I noticed the ajuga in the grass again I realized that the ajuga is just like parts of our character. Like this beautiful flower getting choked out by grass sometimes our beautiful character getting choked out by things that distract us from our most important goals and values. Even more so than the hardy ajuga, human beings are resilient and can bounce back from a lot of hard knocks and distractions. But when we heed our soul's call to be what God has truly called us to be and focus on loving Him and loving our fellow human beings, our souls sing and our beauty shines. I pray that you and I will learn to do more of what makes our hearts sing and reflects our priorities. May God bless you!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day at Mount Vernon

"George Washington" speaks at his surprise birthday party.
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler

Potomac side view of Mount Vernon
Photograph by Phyllis Wheeler
"George Washington" and me
Photograph by Ben Wheeler
Ladies in colonial outfits
Photograph by Ben Wheeler

Took advantage of the Washington's birthday/Presidents' Day free admission to Mount Vernon offer today and had a great time with my beloved husband, Ben. We arrived just in time for the surprise birthday party event and after that took in a brief fife and drums performance. Afterwards we pet some of the friendly sheep, got up close with an enormous bull, paid our respects at the Washington's tomb and more.

Apparently this free offer generated a lot of interest as both the standard and overflow parking lots were full but Mount Vernon staff had already planned ahead for this and arranged for extra parking at a local church and high school as well as complimentary shuttles from these sites.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Close Encounters with Orchids

Here are some close up photos of beautiful orchids from our trip yesterday. I definitely took the first two but am not sure whether hubby (Ben) or I took the third one. He's not sure either but said if he did take the photo it was fine to post here. I hope you enjoy our photos and pray that God will bless you and draw you closer to Him whenever you view nature's beauty.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Orchid Extravaganza

Hubby and I went to Longwood Gardens, PA today to see their Orchid Extravaganza. The orchid displays and other botanical sights were lovely. I hope you enjoy this glimpse of the orchid event. I'll post some close up photos of the orchids tomorrow for your enjoyment. If you live nearby the Longwood Gardens Orchid Extravaganza runs through March 25th.

As beautiful and precious as the orchids are, I hope you'll remember that you are infinitely more beautiful and precious in God's eyes and mine. May God bless you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Christian Music Artist Joshua Otte


Joshua Otte's Heart for God Sings Through His Music CD 'Already but Not Yet'

Joshua Otte is a Pastor, Worship Leader, Bible College Instructor, Christian Music Artist, husband and father of two young and energetic boys (just to name a few of his roles). He has a true heart for God and which was readily evident throughout our interview. Despite the fact that we've known each other for most of our lives, I found Joshua so interesting that the interview generated enough great information that you can look forward to a second article soon (focusing on his Christian testimony). 

As Joshua said, "Jesus is the king of the earth and of the universe. Because he is my King I want to follow him, I want to obey him. I love him because he first loved me. And that's why I sing about him." I hope you'll be inspired to grow closer to the Lord by learning more about Joshua and his music. His cd, " Already But Not Yet " is available in mp3 format at , and through other venues noted at the end of this interview.

Phyllis Wheeler (PW): Pretend we don't know each other and tell me about yourself.

Joshua Otte: I am a Pastor who loves music and I love what music can do. It connects the head and the heart. I love people to be moved by music with great thoughts. Especially great thoughts about our Great God.

PW: What is the goal of the CD?

Joshua Otte: My CD tells a story, actually God's story, and it picks up toward the end of Jesus' life. It's all about how Jesus has accomplished redemption but he hasn't completed it yet. It tells the story from the time of his death on the cross to his resurrection and up until he comes back again. So, between his first coming and his second coming. But in between that there's a lot of stuff happening. The middle songs in the album tell what's happening to us. Jesus is in heaven but we as his followers are living here on earth as exiles. We pray and live in light of his return with hope. Hope for what God can do in us and through us right here. For ourselves but also for our neighbors and even for the world. But the cd ends with a hope and a confidence that Jesus will return and bring about a new creation and then redemption will be completed.

PW: How did you select the songs for the CD?

Joshua Otte: I had the idea of the title "Already But Not Yet;" that irony and tension that Jesus has accomplished redemption but it's not completed yet. Telling the story of the Gospel, the good news that Jesus is accomplishing God's rescue plan. So, I took a lot of the songs that we sing in our church and a few old hymns that had been forgotten and put new melodies to those. Really all the songs are old hymns with new tunes or new hymns with old tunes.

PW: Were there songs you originally thought you would include but changed your mind?

Joshua Otte: (Laughter) Yeah, yeah. When I was doing the project most of it was before I decided on the title and the theme. One of my favorite hymns is "Be thou my vision" and that was one of the ones that I tried to fit in but, uh, I sing it to my kids every night so... there are a few other songs but they would have duplicated the theme instead of building the theme of the songs.

PW: Who is your target audience for the cd?

Joshua Otte: I hope that it encourages a variety of people but especially people who follow Jesus and are looking to sing songs that are theologically rich, gospel centered, with contemporary sound.

PW: Do you think your cd would appeal to non Christians?

Joshua Otte: I think people who don't yet know Jesus or follow him would be encouraged by this music. The lyrics are very poetic so they speak to the mind and the soul. I think they'd be very inviting to find out who Jesus is and the hope that he brings.

PW: How did you get started in music?

Joshua Otte: When I was around 12 my dad taught me how to play guitar and helped my buy my first guitar. And I used to sing in my church's choir and quartet. I played in a band after high school.

PW: How does your family feel about the CD?

Joshua Otte: They love it. Sometimes even play it (laughter). My youngest shouts my name "Daddy" a lot when he hears me on the CD player. It's pretty touching.

PW: How long did the process take from conception to publication?

Joshua Otte: Almost a year. Studio time it took between about 50 hours. But I'm unsure about all the planning and post production.

PW: Where is the CD available for purchase?

Joshua Otte: Here's a bunch of ways to access, listen, download and buy [the "Already But Not Yet" CD/mp3].

Fan Pages: (Free download)

Where to buy:



For mail orders please mail a check to Joshua Otte 973 River Rd, Windham, ME 04062. [CDs are] $7ea or 2 for $10. Just add $3 shipping (up to 4 CDs). Add $0.50 for additional CDs.

Chord Sheets

Disclosure/Note: The interviewer and interviewee are related and also great friends.

Originally published here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day Funny Monkey Cat

Valentine Monkey Tolerating Cat

Cat Investigates Her Valentine Monkey

Cat Pretends There's Not a Monkey On Her Back

Funny Monkey Cat Knows She's Getting Treats Soon
Happy Valentine's Day dear friends! Hope you all enjoyed my feline Valentine silliness. Our elderly cat, Moose, pictured above, is good natured and even though she tends to look grouchy really doesn't mind. She knows treats always follow photo sessions. My baby cat does mind so that's why she's not featured in this Valentine Monkey Cat photo series. May God fill your heart with love this Valentine's Day and always!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Lion and Bear Tongues

Adult male Andean bear photo by Ben Wheeler

Male adult lion and cubs photo by Ben Wheeler

Enjoyed a trip to the National Zoo on this chilly afternoon. The lions cuddled and tussled on a bed of pine needles. The lion cubs are nearly the size of their parents now but still have the playfulness of children. The Andean bears (also called spectacled bears) enjoyed some treats placed around their habitats and you can see the papa bear just after licking one of his frozen treats (my guess is it was berries in ice).

I kept my fingers in my mittens but my husband braved the cold and kindly agreed to share these fun lion and bear tongue photos with you all. The radio announcer said the windchill was 16 degrees (Fahrenheit) when we arrived at the zoo so if you appreciate Ben's freezing his fingers for you please comment below and I'll share your comments with him.

Every visit to the zoo reminds me of God's amazing creative genius. May God bless you today and always!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

"Letters to a Young Poet" Book Review

This was one of my 12 Great Books to read in 2012 selections and I'm glad I included it. I've heard from more than one source that this is a great book for poets and writers of all levels of accomplishment. The book consists of ten letters from Rainer Maria Rilke to a young poet he felt a keen kinship toward. Rilke's compassion and kind heart brought the letters to life. He clearly cared deeply for his protege and I pesonally felt like the letters were like a series of thoughtful and inspiring warm hugs. Some letters spoke to me more than others but it was a good read. I'll include a few of the quotes I found most inspiring and thought provoking.

"Pretend you are the very first man and then write what you see and experience, what you love and lose." Page 11

"If you will love what seems to be insignificant and will in an unassuming manner, as a servant, seek to win the confidence of what seems poor, then everything will become easier, more harmonious, and somehow more conciliatory." Page 34

"Perhaps all the dragons in our life are really princesses just waiting to see us just once being beautiful and courageous. Perhaps everything fearful is basically helplessness that seeks our help." Page 80.

"Everything that causes you to be more than you have been in your best hours is right." Page 88.

Wherever you are in your journey of life, I hope you will have the courage to be more than you have been. May God bless you!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Easy Exercise Motivation Trick

My exercise tracking calendar for January 2012
If you are achievement oriented (or just like stickers), stickers can be a great exercise motivator. I give myself a star sticker for each weight training session and a random other sticker for cardio sessions where I spend at least 20 minutes in target heart rate zone or do interval training. I aim to work out daily but if I miss up to two days a week I don't worry about it. As you can see from my January calendar, I only missed two days last month. I love seeing a mostly (and even, occasionally, completely) filled up callendar at the end of the month.

January was my first month with these fun word stickers and I found them especially motivating. If you liked getting star stickers or happy faces on your grade school homework, this easy exercise motivation trick might help you too.

This is the top part of my January 2012 calendar. 
I just love Wendy Bentley's artwork so thought I'd share the top part of my calendar too.

The top part of my February 2012 calendar.

Another great thing about using stickers for tracking exercise is that you can look for patterns. I noticed that for January and February (I've missed one day in February so far) the only days I missed were all days that my husband didn't work. He's not into formal exercise (I guess he got enough of that in his Air Force career) but he is a good sport about going for walks together so that's an area I can fix if I want to (seeing that I've hit my target of at least five workouts a week I'm not too concerned but if that were to change I would take action).

It doesn't matter what kind of stickers you use. I've used hearts, kittens, balloons, puppies, birds, Bible verses and more. There are stickers for everyone and you can even make your own. Just get stickers and a calendar that make you smile. Hope you find this strategy helpful. Happy exercising!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

"Between Shades of Gray" Book Review

I originally decided to read this book because of a favorable review (perhaps in Real Simple magazine but I'm not truly sure). I requested the book from my local library and yesterday I picked up Ruta Sepety's Between Shades of Grey to read it and I simply couldn't go to sleep until I'd finished. It was an amazingly well written, gut wrenching and eye opening tale of human love, compassion, cruelty and horror. Ruta Sepety has that special gift of writing heroic yet real characters so you feel as though you are experiencing what they experienced and find yourself keenly hoping they beat the odds. I highly recommend this book.

Here are two quotes from the book that I felt were worth pondering:

1) "We'd been trying to touch the sky from the bottom of the ocean. I realized that if we boosted one another, maybe we'd get a little closer (page 307)." Even when faced with unspeakable circumstances and seemingly impossible obstacles some people find it within themselves to persevere and hope. Some people give up. The heroine was one who persevered and, although my challenges are minor compared to hers, she inspires me to persevere as well.

2) "Whether love of friend, love of country, love of God, or even love of enemy - love reveals to us the truly miraculous nature of the human spirit (page 341)."  This wasn't part of the novel, but part of the author's notes at the end of the book. In my opinion, it was the absolute perfect ending sentence for this book. Love really is paramount.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Bear Claw Cleaning

This Andean bear appeared to have something stuck in his paw and I found it interesting to watch him get whatever it was out so I started snapping photographs. He did get the offending item out before we left and was walking around just fine afterward.

Hope you enjoy the Andean bear photos as much as I did. I think this is the male cub but it could have been one of the girls (his sister or mother).  The Andean bear family (mom, dad and male and female cubs) are out for viewing on weekends only at the National Zoo. Usually, the dad bear is in a separate habitat but they are near enough to watch each other. Thank you for viewing and may God bless you!

PS If you enjoyed this post you'll probably enjoy the Andean Bear Cub's Birthday Bash photos too.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lion Log Hog

This adolescent male lion cub had a great time hogging all the log climbing fun
Photograph by Ben Wheeler

The lion's siblings ganged up on him for hogging the log fun
Photograph by Ben Wheeler

Then one of the other lions climbed up the log
Photograph by Ben Wheeler

As mentioned in the log loving lion video post, prior to today we'd never seen a lion climb this scratching post tree in their habitat at the National Zoo before. Yet today not one, but two different lion cubs decided to scale it and it looked like they had a great time too. Every time we've visited the zoo recently we've heard rumors that the cubs will be separated by gender soon so it's always a pleasant surprise to see all seven cubs (from two litters) together. If you live near Washington D.C. you might want to see the lion cubs while they're still together. The keepers tend to have them out with their dad in the morning and then with their moms in the afternoon. May you know even more happiness than these precious lion cubs!

Log Loving Lion Cub Movie Clip

My husband and I enjoyed a fun trip to the National Zoo today and he took this video clip of an adolescent lion cub enjoying one of the scratching posts in the habitat as a climbing tree. We were pleasantly surprised that it supported his weight. In all of our visits to the zoo before we've never seen a lion climb this scratching post tree, although they do scratch it a lot and the zoo keepers sometimes wrap a fire house around its base as an enrichment tool (aka toy). Hope you enjoy this short video. I'll post photos soon too.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Happy Groundhog Day Haikus and Wishes

Groundhog image source
Groundhog Day 2012 Haiku I
Happy Groundhog day
May the rest of your winter
Bring you lots of joy

Groundhog Day 2012 Haiku II 
Punxsutawney Phil
Predicts six more winter weeks
But it feels like spring

According to this news story, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year, predicting six more weeks of winter weather. However, here in the Mid Atlantic area of the USA our winter has been rather temperate this year. It's been more like spring than winter this week and if we're getting six more weeks of fifty to sixty degree weather then I don't mind at all. Regardless of your weather preferences, I wish you a very happy Groundhog day and a blessed rest of your winter!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cute Valentine Cats

Happy February! I thought I'd start the month with my cute valentine cats. They're our own two cats and I just posed them with some Valentine's day related props. Hope you enjoy their cuteness. May God bless you this February and always!