36 Birthday Favorites, and a Prize!

Hey, Friends! It’s that time again – this week is my birthday, and it’s tradition around here to share everything I’m loving right now, and the things that have made this last year enjoyable/delicious/successful/positive in any way.:)

For the past two years, I’ve made this a month long thing, which ended up feeling very…long..to me. It kept me from blogging about other things I enjoy writing about, so we’re going to do it a bit differently this year. I’ll do a week of favorites, and we’ll still end with a prize – every time you comment and share your favorites with me, your name will get entered in a draw, and I’ll announce the winner next Monday.

The prize: I’ll share my birthday money with you, and buy you something on my list of favorites! The last two years, it’s been a book, because that is my most favorite thing to get, but we’ll see what I’m in the mood for this year.;)

So, let’s get started!

We’re going with an “Entertainment” theme today! Here are my first five favorites:

1) Movie

As I’ve explained before, I don’t watch a ton of movies. Once our girlies are in bed, it feels kind of late to start a movie, so Ben and I prefer watching an episode from a favorite TV show instead, but I really do love a good movie. The story-teller in me still craves this form of entertainment – and it is such a relief to watch something that doesn’t leave you in suspense at the end! TV shows are the worst for that!

So although I didn’t watch a lot of movies this year, I would have to say that “Saving Mr. Banks” was the best one I saw. I didn’t have very high expectations for it – how can you make a movie about making a movie??! What is the point?

Saving Mr. Bankssource

Oh, there is so much of a point! That movie is just beautiful. Humongous lump in my throat for most of it. The author’s life story is beautifully and painfully portrayed, and the connections between her real life, and the writing of Mary Poppins ensure I will never view that old movie in the same way again. Loved it.

2) TV Show

We’ve still stayed true to our old favorite, “Once Upon a Time”, although Ben did get very, very frustrated with the writing during this third season! He felt it was much weaker than it has been in the past, and yet we still keep coming back for more!:)

Once Upon a Timesource

But we definitely also enjoyed the Canadian version of “Amazing Race” last summer, and are eagerly anticipating the beginning of the new season tomorrow night! But who could ever replace Jet and Dave??!

3) Book


This is an easy choice – Switch on Your Brain was life-changing. Seriously. I wrote about the book in this post, and I have gone through three different 21 day brain detox cycles since first reading the book, just starting my fourth round. I cannot believe how this book works. I have battled some intense, deep-rooted issues in my thought habits, and absolutely love how the steps described in this book have brought me freedom.

Because it is most effective to only work on one negative thought/issue at a time, and each cycle takes three weeks, it is a bit time consuming, but completely worth it. Painful situations from the past that I thought I would carry with me for the rest of life have finally been brought to a place of peace.

I could just go to a counselor, and have someone walk me through it, but from my counseling experience in the past, I learned that I still needed to do the hard work myself – I needed the discipline to change my thoughts, and nobody could do that for me but me. I think it would still be super beneficial to go for counseling, and a book doesn’t replace that, but for this season of my life, exciting things are happening from the changes I am making with the help of this book.

4) Fun Song

Love this one! Tragically, Anika informed me she doesn’t like it anymore. We must have played it too many times!

5) Serious Song

This one was a bit harder to choose! I had two songs that carried me through December – I must have listened to both of them every single morning for a month straight. I shared the other one in this blog post, so I’ll share the second one today:

And now it’s your turn! I want to hear your favorites! Any awesome books, movies, or music I need to know about?

Sundays, Unplugged

I love electricity. I love the internet. I love watching movies. I love email. I love blogging.

But sometimes I feel like these things occupy too much of my time.

I also love peace and quiet. I love a god book. I love quiet walks in the woods.

So it was with mixed feelings that I responded to Ben’s announcement that he would be “unplugging” for a day for his Spiritual Disciplines assignment, and I was welcome to join him. No internet, TV, or Blackberry. Our family doesn’t watch much TV, and Ben’s the only one with a Blackberry, but our computer is used a lot. I knew that a day without touching it would be great, even though a part of me didn’t feel like taking a break.

Because we live far away from everything, we use email a lot. I often look up recipes on the internet, I spend a lot of time working on this blog, organizing photos, and reading other blogs. I fit all of that in throughout the day, when I have a few minutes here and there.

What I found out on our day of being unplugged was that over and over, I would think, “Oh, I should look that up on the internet,” only to remember that I couldn’t. Phone numbers, health related information, anything I’d saved on the computer would just have to wait.

And it did wait. Nothing was an emergency. I was just stuff that I wanted to do now. It was an inconvenience to have to wait. I couldn’t believe how often it came up.

So I started a list of things I needed to do the next day, and then I went and sat on the couch with my Bible, a good book, and a book of Sudoku puzzles.

It was a very relaxing, quiet, enjoyable day, once I got myself to switch to a slower pace.

It was so enjoyable, in fact, that the next weekend, I told Ben that we should do it again. So we did.

We haven’t done it every Sunday since then, but I definitely want to do it quite regularly.

Here are my reasons why:

1) It does wonderful things for my list of “priorities”. It gives me more perspective on how we spend our time, what is a healthy balance, and what role we want our computer to play in our lives.

2) It is an excellent reminder of what a privilege it is to have these conveniences, and going without them is a good way to remember that I could survive without them (but thank goodness I don’t have to), and many people in the world do survive without them. So treat it like a gift.

3) Being  unplugged gave me extra time for reading my Bible, praying, etc. It forced me to get back to some of the other things that I really enjoy doing, but take more effort than sitting down at the computer.

4) The whole day felt slower, more relaxed, and left me feeling very refreshed.

5) It helped to make Sunday really feel like a day of rest, and different from all the other regular days of the week. I like it when Sundays are special.

6) It was a continual reminder for me to refocus my thoughts. Every time I wanted to be busy, and go get some work done on the computer, and remember that I couldn’t, it was a reminder to slow down, be quiet and more at rest, and focus on God.

We live in a culture that is very loud, busy, and involved. There are many things fighting for our attention, and sometimes I think it’s easy to get so used to the noise that we don’t even realize how loud it is. For our family, our computer was the biggest challenge to give up, but I think it would be different for different people.

If you would unplug for a day, what would you need to do to get some extra peace and quiet?