The Power of a Smile

Me: Knock. Knock. You: Who’s there? Me: Abraham Lincoln. You: Abraham Lincoln who?

Me: Wait! You don’t know who Abraham Lincoln is?!

I hope I made you smile with a bit of Presidents Day humor. Lots of things in life can make us feel powerless or sad. In an effort to cheer you and I both up, I’m following up last week’s post, The Power of a Compliment, with The Power of a Smile. Once again, a little girl at the mall surprised and inspired me. As Dave and I were passing a young mother with her cute-as-a-button toddler, I glanced at the child and exchanged smiles with her mom. Then, the most amazing, joyous smile flashed across the child’s face, one that bordered on laughter, one that delighted both myself and my husband. Like mother, like daughter. 🙂

Here are a few very good reasons to smile.

et the tone. I enjoy reading the Little Golden Book, Little Racoon’s Nighttime Adventure, to the First Graders I visit. Little Racoon is charged with the grown-up duty of bringing home dinner. On his journey, others warn him about The Thing in the Pool and advise that he make a mean face and hold up a stone or stick to show The Thing that he is not afraid. When he does so, Little Racoon sees The Thing acting just as tough. (By now the kid are smiling because they know The Thing is his reflection.)  🙂  When Little Racoon takes his mother’s advice and just smiles, The Thing in the Pool smiles back. And when he laughs, The Thing in the Pool laughs, too! Being friendly wins the day! Little Racoon is no longer afraid and is successful in his quest for crayfish. Our lesson of the day is Winners Walk Tall With a Smile.

An easy lesson that I learned in Respectfully Yours has helped me to set the tone in our home. When my husband arrives home, I make my way to the door and simply greet him by saying hello with a smile. He appreciates the friendly welcome. 

ood improves. While it may seem odd or difficult to smile when feeling sad or upset, finding something to smile about will help. Studies have shown that even forcing a smile improves our mood. (Go ahead and try it now.) 🙂 The action of smiling relieves stress, making it easier to think more positively. The more we smile, the more likely our brains are to create happiness loops, enabling us to overcoming the natural, protective pattern of focusing on negatives and to nurture a more positive outlook.  (I’ve been listening to some cool lectures about the brain from The Great Courses.) 🙂

mmunity boost. Our church bulletin contained an info-graphic about avoiding the flu. You know the drill – Get vaccinated, Wash your hands, Stay home when sick, Eat right, Exercise, Use hand sanitizer, Don’t touch your face, and the surprise –  SMILE, because studies show that it can boost our immune systems. Feeling a bit skeptical, I looked this one up and found another surprise. According to AARP, if you’re feeling happy when you get your flu vaccination, it is more likely to be effective (Remember to smile.) 🙂 One article noted that smiling affects our bodies on a cellular level in a way that can protect us from disease.

ook more attractive. Think about it. Why do we smile for pictures? Are we more attracted to people who look happy or to those who look grumpy? When I try this in the mirror, it seems that I look younger when I smile. Sure, there are some laugh lines showing, but my face gets a lift and my eyes come alive when I smile.

njoy humor. If a smile can do us so much good, imagine what laughter can accomplish!  We’ve all heard that laughter is the best medicine, but do we take it? I confess that since childhood I have taken life pretty seriously. I can’t deny, however, the value of enjoying time with cheerful people, reading a clever cartoon, or watching a funny movie. My self-prescribed medicine is to learn to laugh at myself. I’m serious. My husband tries to make me laugh every day. It usually works when he is reading a comic strip to me, but there’s no guarantee when he employs a bit of teasing. I will give myself credit, however, for having turned what started out as a self criticism into a running joke between us. And for Valentine’s Day, I surprised him with DVDs of the first two seasons of Northern Exposure  so we can see if the TV show we laughed at in the early 1990s is still funny.

Me: What do you call a very small Valentine?

You: I don’t know. What?

Me: A Valen-tiny.

I think I’ll try that one on the First Graders today 🙂

Another surprise turned up in my blog post preparation. Just as smiling when we don’t yet feel happy is beneficial, simulating laughter can bring health benefits. At least that is what “laughter Yoga” enthusiasts are claiming. Experts advise that we aim for ten to fifteen minutes of laughter each day. I’d be glad to hear your ideas on how to meet that goal!

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones. Proverbs 17:22



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What’s in a Maiden Name?

Having never been a history buff, I’m suddenly intrigued with the Franco-Prussian War, known in France as The War of 1870. If you read Soup, Snow, and Sentences, you might guess that a lecture from The Great Courses has piqued my interest. It has, but only because of discoveries made in 2012 and 2016.

Prior to a trip to Montreal in 2012, I challenged myself to learn French, a language previously unfamiliar to me, one that held my interest beyond our short trip to Canada.

Same airport food with fancy French names.

Dave with his Cafe au lait avec sucre.

The corner where we enjoyed crepes et vin.

Then, in the summer of 2016, I clicked on an link on Facebook to find out the history behind my maiden name,


Once on the genealogy site, I decided  to try to trace my dad’s family line back to Germany. The site’s Two-Week Free Trial would give me time to find a few names and dates with no cost and little commitment.  I spent many hours during those two weeks clicking on green leaves to learn more about my ancestors. (I may even have neglected other activities and stayed up later than usual, finding the search to be a bit addictive.) When my Free Trial ended, I had, indeed, been able to trace the Pfeiffers back to Europe, but to my surprise, my great-great grandfather and great-great-great grandfather were born in France! I asked a couple of cousins if they knew that, but they  seemed uninformed  about our Family Tree. The two weeks ended, leaving me satisfied with birth, death, and marriage details about several sets of grandparents, but not yet interested in becoming a World Traveler client of

Recently, son Eric and his wife Amanda came for a visit, wanting to share the family history information they have unearthed on the internet, helping me trace my mom’s family back a few generations, reigniting my desire to access more information about my French grandfathers.  I found a Great Courses series on genealogy and selected a lecture called Extending Your Family Tree Oversees. The teacher’s enthusiasm about his trip to Europe in search of his roots prompted me to consider his challenge to learn about the history and culture of France. I talked Dave into signing up for a free trial on and attempted to reach back into the eighteenth century for another set of ancestors. That’s when my family’s HISTORY began to ignite my passion.

I discovered the reason for confusion about whether the Pfeiffers came from Germany or France and, I believe, the reason why my great-great grandfather immigrated from France to America in 1872.  Michael P. Pfeiffer was nineteen years old when France declared war on the German Kingdom of Prussia, attempting to maintain control of the homeland of my ancestors. They were unsuccessful as the Germans mobilized, attacked, and defeated the army of Napoleon III, ending the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. Germany then annexed Alsace-Lorraine and forced the citizens to declare French citizenship and leave or become Germans. Records show that twenty-two year old Michael P. Pfeiffer and his cousin Nicholas Wilhelm arrived in New York in 1872. Pfeiffer married my great-great grandmother in Ohio in 1880, and the rest is, well, history.

But, I still have questions. Finding the answers may take me on a long journey, searching out on-line records, visiting genealogy libraries, continuing to learn French… traveling to France? Oh yes, Alsace-Lorraine was regained by France at the end of World War II.

So, what’s in a maiden name? History. People. Story. My hope is no longer just to fill in names on my Pedigree Chart, but to also gather enough information to piece together some life stories about those men and women, my ancestors.

I’m proud that my ancestors kept the original spelling of Pfeiffer, despite our need to spell it often. The Germans pronounced it Fifer, however my branch went with Pifer along the way. Here is what I found when I initially took the bait on

Pfeiffer name meaning: German and Jewish (Ashkenazic): from an agent derivative of Middle High German pfif(e), German Pfeife ‘whistle’, ‘pipe’, hence an occupational name for a pipe player.

Well, what do you know about that!



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How to Crochet a Temperature Afghan in 8 Minutes a Day

One year ago, I noticed a Facebook post about a crocheted Temperature Afghan. With a bit of research, I learned that the afghan consists of 365 rows, one stitched each day of the year according to the day’s high temperature. Cool! I wanted to make one, but knew that such an undertaking would require motivation and diligence as the year wore on. Then the idea came to let each day and it’s crocheted stitches represent the three months leading up to son Eric’s wedding to sweet Amanda on April 1 plus the beginning year of their marriage. The Temperature Afghan would be a gift for their 1st Christmas.

Son Kyle liked the idea and thought the gift would be well-received. He assisted as I set out to choose colors and get started on January 1. The unique gift was appreciated as you can tell in these photos.

If you love to crochet, maybe you would like to begin a Temperature Afghan as 2018 begins. You only need to know how to chain stitch and do a single crochet stitch to make the one I completed.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Set up your Color Chart. In Ohio, our high temperatures  can range from zero to one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. I chose a color for each ten degree range with one for below 30 degrees, one for 30-39, one for 40-49, one for 50-59, one for 60-69, one for 70-79, one for 80-89, and one for 90 and above.

Select your yarn. I used  LION BRAND Vanna’s Choice medium (4) weight acrylic yarn.  My colors from below 30 to above 90 were Eggplant, Colonial Blue, Silver Blue, Fern, Mustard, Rust, Cranberry, and Burgundy. I used about thirty 3 1/2 oz balls (5,100 yards). I started out by purchasing 2 or 3 balls of each color and bought more as needed.

Choose your stitch.  After doing some calculations and test swatches, I realized that 365 rows of crochet could get VERY long, so the stitches needed to be small and compact. I used a a combination of chain and single crochet called the Seed Stitch (instructions below). This created a tightly worked, warm fabric.

Choose your width. My completed afghan is 80 inches long and 57 inches wide, great for cuddling or putting on a twin sized bed. You can make it narrower by using a shorter beginning chain, but remember that the length is determined by the number of days.

Get started.

Abbreviations: ch = chain, sc = single crochet, sp = space

Notes: After crocheting each row, leave the yarn attached until you know the high temperature of the next day. If it’s the same, chain 1, turn, and work in the same color. If it changes, cut the yarn leaving a 6 inch tail. Pull the new color through to complete the last single crochet of the row, chain 1, turn, and single crochet in the first single crochet.

Begin: Using a size G crochet hook and the yarn color that corresponds with the day’s high temperature (mine was Silver Blue for a 44 degree day), chain 300.

Row 1 (Right side): Single Crochet in second chain from hook, * chain 1, skip next chain, single crochet in next chain; repeat from * across: 299 stitches.

Row 2: Ch 1, turn; sc in first sc and in first ch-1 space. (ch 1, sc in next ch-1 sp) across to last sc. sc in last sc.

Row 3: Ch1, turn; sc in first sc, ch 1, (sc in next ch-1 sp, ch 1) across to last 2 sc, sc in last sc.

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have crocheted a row for each day of the year.

Weave in all ends by threading the yarn onto a large eye needle, drawing it through several stitches (hiding as best as you can). Then turn and weave back through a few more stitches. Carefully trim the end close to your work. It’s a good idea to work your ends in as you go, although I only did this about once a month. I wanted to know where each month began, so I didn’t weave in the ends for the last row of the months. Then, as I was working the finishing round, I crocheted a picot stitch at the beginning of each month.

Edging Round: Choose a color to outline the entire afghan and make a neat edging. I used Mustard because most of the months included at least one row of that color and I liked the way it looked. Working in the ends of the rows on the sides of the afghan and the single crochet and chain stitches on the ends of the afghan, single crochet evenly all around. (On the sides, I worked 4 sc in the row ends and then decreased over the next two ends so the edge would lay flat. To decrease, pull up a loop in the next row end and one in the next to have 3 loops on your hook. Then yarn over and pull through all 3 loops, making one stitch over two row ends.) If you want to indicate where months begin, work a picot stitch: ch 3, sc in 3rd stitch from hook. Single crochet in the next stitch or row end and continue. Work corners as follows: sc, picot stitch, sc in the corner. Sc in next stitch and continue.

Finishing by Christmas: Six days before the afghan needed to be ready to wrap, I checked the weather forecast for  likely high temperatures and worked 3 rows a day. I also began the edging round a few days early, stitching down one side, across the beginning chain and up the other side to where I left off. Then I only had a short distance to work up when time was running out! Here I am beginning the last row (it was a bit emotional).

Keeping Track of the Temperatures and Keeping up with the rows: I filled in a Blank Calendar chart each day with the high temperature and worked that day’s row. When I was away from home, I just filled in the chart and then stitched the rows when I got back. I also kept a list of interesting details including record highs and lows. I didn’t get to use the Burgundy yarn because we did not have a 90 degree day this year!

I marked the day of Eric and Amanda’s wedding by running a size 10 white cotton crochet thread with a silver metallic twist along with the Silver Blue yarn for the day.

It only took me 8 minutes each day and then about 30 minutes a day during the last week to get the Temperature Afghan done.

Download my printable Crocheted Temperature Afghan pattern here.

If you have any questions about this project before or after you begin, you can contact me in the Comments of this post or by using the Contact Form in the Thoughts Collected by Lisa header. I would LOVE to see a photo of your work! It will be a one-of-a-kind project and gift that will not only WOW the recipient, but possibly become a family treasure.





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Christmas Card Post Script

The cost of a stamp keeps rising, it takes a lot of time, and technology offers other ways of sending greetings. Nevertheless, we continue to send Christmas cards to many people. I do not, however, hand address each envelope since my husband figured out how to make a list, check it twice, and print the addresses from the computer. One reason the tradition lives on is my love of finding boxes of cards during the After-Christmas sale season.  In the last days of 2016, I was in a drug store hoping to find our 2017 Christmas Card in the post-season mess. We needed several boxes and the selection was limited, but I was determined. Therefore, I settled for a nice, sentimental design, brought the cards home, and stashed them away in a closet.

Thanksgiving passed and I pulled the boxes out for post office preparation. They were strange. I had a hard time opening the card and had to make a crease in each one prior to signing our names. In addition, while the sentiment was nice, there was no mention of Christ, no nativity image and no scripture verse. Instead, the card displayed a whimsical row of townhouses and the words, May you have love in your home and peace in your heart…Let Christmas be a joyous time right from the very start! We do want our loved ones to have love, peace, and joy, but I felt that the words were a bit trite. After considering the time it would take to add a meaningful verse to each, I signed, sealed, and mailed them as is.

I’m not apologizing. And some of our friends and family did receive Christian Christmas cards because we ran out of this year’s design. I’m simply taking this opportunity to add a P.S. regarding “love in your home” today and hoping to add a P.P.S. regarding “peace in your heart” tomorrow.

Love In Your Home

  • The Source: “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”  1 John 4:7-11
  • The Description: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Merry Christmas!

With love,

Dave and Lisa


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