6 Things I Learned This Summer 2019

6 things I learned this summer

6 Things I Learned This Summer

I have a small notebook with the inscription, “Today Is Beautiful.” Those three words remind me that anytime I find a quote that inspires me or a phrase that sparks contemplation, adds beauty to the day. I carry that notebook with me—EVERYWHERE.

If I am in the market for a handbag, but it isn’t large enough to fit this notebook, then the handbag doesn’t make it into my cart, regardless of its cute factor.

My friend Emily P. Freeman encourages this soulful practice of jotting down quotes, thoughts, and ideas. At the close of each season, she invites friends to share what they learned.

So, here are six things I learned this summer.

what I learned this summer

I am a Coastal Soul

I live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, tucked between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The shoreline is home to countless quaint fishing villages and towns. Local artists put their brushstrokes to work, capturing the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets over the sublime tidewater.

When you live on the Eastern Shore, you are never far from some form of a waterway.

Coastal living offers an openness that allows the soul to breathe.

I spend a substantial amount of time in the Midwest visiting family. After a few weeks, I start to feel a little landlocked, and a bit closed in when I look over the horizon and see symmetrical fields and no sea.

The whole scene reminds me of a chapter in Sara, Plain, and Tall.

Anna, the 12-year-old narrator, tries to console Sara, who desperately misses the color, smell, and sound of the Atlantic. Trying to comfort Sara, Anna compares the prairie to the sea, “There is no sea here. But the land rolls a little like the sea.”

Sorry, Anna, you are sweet to try, but it’s not the same.

No way, no how.

Once a coastal soul always a coastal soul.

Old songs trigger vivid memories that seem to transport me back in time

A few weeks ago, I pushed my cart through the aisles of a crowded Trader Joe’s. Somewhere between the dried mangos and raw almonds, over the murmur of busy shoppers, I heard Fleetwood Mac’s song The Chain.

The lyrics filed away in my memory for decades suddenly emerged, evoking memories of the summer of  1977. For an instant, flashbacks of people, places, and emotions linked to that stage of my life flooded my senses.

I remember peddling my bike on a sweltering July afternoon to the dock at the edge of town and leaning against pilings, creosote and saltwater waft creating a wondrously familiar smell.

A light breeze off the Tangier sound tousled my pathetic attempt at Farrah Fawcett hair.

As I turned to go, a line of  Chesapeake Bay workboats entered the harbor. I heard the drone of the outboard motors and seawater lapping against their hull.

From somewhere in the harbor, a transistor radio blared the song, The Chains.

Suddenly, jolted out of my reminiscence someone who needed to get to the almonds executed a polite, “excuse me.”

By then, the Fleetwood Mac song was over.

what i learned this summer


Hanging Clothes on the Line Offers Solitude

I sat in the Target parking lot with my AC cranked, riveted. Listening to Susan Cain’s Ted Talk on The Power of the Introvert, I sat utterly dumbstruck.

I listened to the talk twice.

At the end of the talk, a part of me wanted to cry, and the other part of me wanted to have a dance party right there in the Target parking lot.

I wanted to shed tears for the part of me, who like Ms. Cain, “ got the message that somehow my quiet and introverted style of being was not necessarily the right way to go, that I should be trying to pass as more of an extrovert. And I always sensed deep down that this was wrong and that introverts were pretty excellent just as they were.”

The other part of me exploded with joy because someone understood that introverts “feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.”

For an introvert, “solitude is a crucial ingredient to creativity.” 

How do I tackle getting solitude with a houseful of people?

I hang clothes out to dry.

No one follows me outside when they know I am hanging out clothes.

Once I am at the line, all goes quiet, and my senses awaken.

While clipping pins to shirts and sheets, I listen to the trill of the mockingbird in the maple tree or conjure up images in the clouds.

Thank you, Susan, for telling the world it needs introverts.


what I learned this summer

Grantchester’s new Vicar increases my admiration for all things British

When I learned that James Norton, who plays the jazz-loving vicar Sydney Chambers in the BBC series Grantchester, decided to leave his parish and crime-solving sidekick Geordie (Robson Green), I said what the Dickens? (Grantchester fans will get the reference).

I likened Norton’s exit from the show with the same exasperation as when my favorite teacher in elementary school left teaching to get married. (How could she choose matrimony with her one true love over a classroom of starry-eyed tweens?)

The new vicar, Will Davenport, represents the decade that ushers in Elvis, leather jackets, and change. A high moral compass guides Will as he shepherds his parish and rights the wrongs of Cambridge.

P.S. He looks simply dashing in his Anglican vestments.

Our brain has a built-in system to help us attain goals and pray

Early this summer, a friend gave me a copy of Mark Batterson’s book, Praying Circles Around the Lives of Your Children. Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. (which just a 45-minute drive to the Eastern Shore so I know he gets the whole coastal soul thing).

Batterson suggests that parents use potential conflict as teachable moments.

Prayer is the key to knowing how to discern a teachable moment.

Mark explains that our brain has a built-in radar system, the Reticular Activating System (RAS) that determines what items get noticed. For example, goal setting creates a category in your RAS that helps you see everything you need to attain your goals.

Batterson affirms that prayer taps into the RAS and forces your brain to notice what’s important.

Mark explains that prayer helps parents “see and seize teachable moments that can become defining moments in our children’s lives.”

Teachable moments seem so much more soulful than “having a discussion.”


what i learned this summer

Graduate School During Mid-Life is the BEST!

My mom nest is nearly empty. Instead of taking up a sport, I decided to go back to graduate school.

Yes, go back because I am a graduate school drop-out.

Early in my mothering, I realized that I fail miserably at spinning too many plates. Knowing this about myself, once I had kids, I left the campus scene behind.

Instead of reading textbooks, I read If You Give a Mouse a Muffin with my kids.

I never looked back.

Lots of tea parties later, the empty nest approached quicker than you can say “Do you have to go potty” (x a million). My adult daughters with kids get this now.

All of my granola, bread, and yogurt making, organic gardening, vaccines questions later, I pick up where I left off with grad school.

Only this time around, I am pursuing a degree that not only satisfies my curiosity about soulful health/ wellness but also satiates my calling to help others.

Stay tuned!

Before you go…

Consider being part of my circle of friends who connect soulfulness with healthfulness to create a lifestyle of healthy living. We take small soulful steps without following food or health fads or diet trends.

Healthy living includes more than what you put on your plate. We move with a rhythm in Creation that entices us to become wise and grateful stewards.

We acknowledge the importance of self-care so that you can care for others.

If you would like to join, and continue to receive my What I Learned Posts every season, plus others posts and resources like the FREE Healthy Eating Starter Kit, then leave your email address in the box below or click here.




Sharing is caring


  1. achildoftherisenking on September 2, 2019 at 9:17 pm
    Congrats on graduating!
    • Denise Sultenfuss on September 3, 2019 at 9:17 am
      Thank you! I am still earning my degree, but I love every minute of it so far!
  2. Jessie | Jessiesynan.com on September 4, 2019 at 11:17 am
    I grew up outside of Annapolis, and my best friend lives in Stevensville. I absolutely love everything about the Eastern Shore, it is so beautiful!
    • Denise Sultenfuss on September 4, 2019 at 12:54 pm
      It is a lovely place, indeed! Well, we attend church in Stevensville, what a small world. Thanks for stopping by today.
  3. Sarah Althouse on September 5, 2019 at 9:47 am
    I love the idea of your beautiful quote journal! Also, I am jealous of where you live. I also live in Maryland but close to DC
    • Denise Sultenfuss on September 6, 2019 at 9:29 am
      You know, it is a beautiful place. St. Michael's and Oxford are a family fave for a quick picnic get-a-away overlooking the Miles River:) If you ever want to meet up for coffee, I know of a waterfront spot great for sipping.
  4. Sarah at SmallWorld on September 5, 2019 at 8:00 pm
    Congratulations on going back to graduate school! That is fabulous. Also, The Chain... LOVE IT! And I love the way music puts us in specific times in our memories.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on September 6, 2019 at 9:00 am
      Hey Sarah, thanks for stopping by! So you get how music takes us back to a memory.

Leave a Reply