Thursday, December 30, 2010

2011 Resolutions!

2010 was a year to remember, and for good reasons. We accomplished quite a bit as a family, and we learned so much. I have no clue how we will top 2010 in terms of accomplishments, but I guess we can certainly try! Just as a recap, here is what we accomplished in 2010:

1. We paid off our car
2. I finished my degree
3. The kids learned how to swim
4. We read the scriptures as a family far more often
5. We did an FHE activity almost every week
6. I did better with visit teaching
7. We took a family vacation!
8. I added some more landscaping to the yard
9. We did some updates around the house
10. We paid off some small medical bills
11. Bryan got an awesome job!

For 2011, I/we resolve to:

1. Finish reading the Book of Mormon again with my family
2. Go through all of the New Testament lessons in the teaching manual for FHE
3. Make more time to go to the temple
4. Follow through with my new exercise program and not allow myself to stop
5. Help Bryan accomplish his goal of paying off more debt for our family
6. Plant a fruit tree or two in the backyard
7. Start learning a new language with the kids
8. Bryan wants to fix his truck up, we are already on our way
9. Stain our concrete floors and paint all the walls
10. Fix the damage Sam has done in the backyard (it's scary)

I think we should be able to accomplish it, and I hope 2011 is just as amazing as 2010 was. My farewell to 2010 is bittersweet. It was a wonderful year full of growth and blessings. But 2011 could be just as good, or better, than 2010. Here's to 2010, a year of blessings, and here's to 2011, a year full of potential.

Happy early new year!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My new challenge

Hey again!

I have been doing a fitness challenge, and I started week 5 yesterday. I want to blog about it a little bit to keep myself motivated and let other people know why I am always complaining about *insert muscle group here* being sore. The weekly routine is:

Monday: upper body (bis, tris, shoulders, chest, etc.) 40-45 mins.
Tuesday: HIIT (treadmill, max out at 8 mph right now) 35 mins.
Wednesday: middle/core (abs and back) 40-45 mins.
Thursday: HIIT (treadmill) 35 mins.
Friday: lower body (legs and glutes) 40-45 mins.
Saturday: HIIT (treadmill) 35 mins.

I am planning on doing this for a total of 6-8 weeks, and then changing up my routine a bit.

As for diet, right now I am focusing on eating every 2-3 hours, with meals being 300+ calories and snacks being 200- calories. I am focusing on whole grains, nuts, nut butters, lean protein, and lots of carbs from fruit/veggies.

When I change up my routine, I plan to follow the 5 week diet challenge advice of Zuzana at

So far I have stayed around the same weight, but I have gained some muscle definition and lost a total of 5 inches of fat from all over (arms, hips, stomach, legs).

I will admit, I was concerned about the focus on lifting/strength training and the idea of "bulking up". I also got a little discouraged when I gained weight the first 3 weeks of the challenge. But after researching the reasons why it would happen that way (and seeing the definition look more like toning than bulking), and seeing the scale drop for the past week or so, I am a little hooked on it and I hope I can find what will work best for me.

This challenge has helped me focus on being active and eating healthy. It is hard to do with the holidays, but the fact that I have stayed below 160 lbs. during the holiday season is proof that what I am doing is actually working.

Also, the little two-pack I started at the top of my abs is really fun to look at and flex, so I think I will just have to keep going until I get a four-pack. :-)

Support my challenge! Comment on here or FB to let me know what you do and what motivates you. :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Simple Joy

I know it has been quite a while since I updated my blog..... I got just a little busy. Thanks to all of you who followed my blog challenge about trust and recommitting to yourself and others.

So.... updates:

*Note - if I have already updated everyone on these things, I'm sorry for the repetitiveness!

I decided to volunteer to be in charge of the silent auction for Grace's school in September. That was a fairly involved task! It started in mid-September and ended the first week of November, and it kept me BUSY. At the end of September our air conditioner stopped working. We had a large outpouring of support from friends (they offered fans, food, refuge, and one even fixed our air conditioner for an amazing price), and I want to say thanks again to everyone who helped us out! In October a water main busted under our driveway. Don't worry, it wasn't on our side, it was on the city's side (thank GOODNESS and everything else sweet). It took them about 10 days from start to finish to clamp the line and fix our driveway.

Grace's birthday came and went, and she had a wonderful birthday party with friends and a nice birthday celebration with family. I can't believe she is seven years old... it is exciting and terrifying at the same time. When did this happen??? She is doing very well in 1st grade. She is reading at a high 3rd grade/low 4th grade level and she is right on track with all of her other subjects. She is still enjoying her ballet class, and she has really gotten in to writing in her journals. I love her!

Andrew is still attending preschool, and he is starting to recognize more letters and small words (2-3 letter words right now). He has really enjoyed counting objects and making up his own stories to his books. He is a little engineer! He loves to build train tracks, car tracks, and block buildings all day long. He also loves to save the world with his super heroes. In fact, I spent over an hour last night resewing the chest seam on his Spiderman costume (my sewing machine is still on the fritz) because he has been wearing it so much recently that it is falling apart! He will be starting Sunbeams in January, and it is a bittersweet time for me. If this is our last child, there will be no more excitement of starting church nursery. Once he gets in to Primary he is going to quickly transform from a little preschooler to a little man. *sniff sniff*
I love him, too!

Bryan's job is still going very well. He is still with the same client he has been with for several months now, which gives him great utilization percentages and nice quarterly bonuses. We just attended a company Christmas party where I met all of the people he works with on a daily basis. Just as I suspected, they are all a bunch of kids trapped in men's bodies. :-)

I am still keeping busy with the kids, the house, my little projects, and my church calling. The holiday season is here, which means that the choir and other groups are preparing for the church Christmas program. I am excited about the music we have picked out this year. The choir members are lively and always in jovial moods, which makes practice very enjoyable. The songs that have been picked out sound wonderful when we get together and sing them. They touch my heart and make me feel the joy of this season.

Speaking of joy.... if you did not see the LDS First Presidency Christmas Devotional last night, you need to see it. It was amazing. The songs were gorgeous, and the spoken words were divinely inspired and so heart-warming and touching. It was just such a wonderful experience. We prepared for it by reading some scriptures by candlelight and making cocoa kiss cookies together. Grace said she was looking forward to the music, and Andrew was excited to play with his toys while we watched. Towards the end Grace crawled in my lap and fell asleep. It had been so long since that had happened, at least 3 years. The song the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was singing was "Silent Night", and my daughter fell asleep peacefully in my arms. I was so overwhelmed by the simple joy of that moment that I cried. I felt the Spirit so deeply, and I though to myself that there is no denying the Christ. If this joy is something that comes from the soul, and we can connect our souls to a reason for living, we can find the truth and feel so much happiness in it. The gospel really is very simple, and so comforting.

As I looked around our small computer room last night and saw my sleeping daughter, my playful son, and my happy husband, I realized that I have a chance to be with them forever after this life is over. And all of the thanks for that can be given to our savior, Jesus Christ. I am proud to be one of those who believes in his birth, because it gives me a chance to believe in his life, his teachings, his sacrifice, and our salvation. I want my simple joy to be your simple joy, can I share it with you? If I say "Merry Christmas" to you on the street, will you feel the genuine love behind that phrase? Will your heart be warmed by happiness while the bitter cold swirls outside? Will you remember on Christmas Day that we are receiving a gift that cannot be seen? We are receiving the reminder of Christ's birth; the time that came when he was received in to the cold world by a loving mother's arms, and was protected, nurtured, loved, and given the chance to do his father's work. Will you open your heart and feel the joy of that moment? I know I will, and I already do.

Merry Christmas to all of you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Guest Blog: Is Yours Worth Catching?

My guest blogger today is an adorable BabyFit friend named Alaythea Carroll. Her view on attitude and how you portray yourself for your own sake and the sake of others is genuinely refreshing. So, for your reading pleasure, I give you Alaythea's words of wisdom!

"I was so honored that Jacquelyn asked me to do a guest blog for her! I racked my brain about the topic I should choose to write about. I have lots of ideas and subjects that roll through my brain all the time but what I’m going to write about is something that kinda hit me the other day and I haven’t been able to get it off my mind.

My husband and I were riding down the road the other day and we were listening to a quick clip of a speaker and he was talking about your spirit. No, not your “ghost” or your soul but the attitude you have, the “aura” your present to people each and every day. And what he said I know I have heard before but it just hit me differently. He said, “Your spirit/attitude is catching. It is transferred whether we realize it or not.” I know how often that very thing happens to me, usually we notice it more when it’s a negative reaction but it can happen in a positive way too. I know how often my spouse or my child become ugly and crabby all because I’m being that way. Or vice versa. And if we aren’t in a positive frame of mind we aren’t able to control our mood and bring the situation up instead of going down with it.

I’ve noticed it with my child already – when she plays with other children. How they act towards her determines her mood and reaction to them. She isn’t old enough to understand yet that she can control the mood and attitude of their play time. When my daughter plays with her second cousin who is just a month older then her she plays so well and so nicely! I hardly ever have to check on them or separate them or calm them down. That’s because my daughter takes on her cousin’s peaceful, sharing attitude. But my daughter used to have a friend who was the complete opposite – mean, didn’t like to share and was constantly hitting and throwing things. And I would watch my sweet little girl revert to doing the same thing. Attitudes are catching!

I don’t have it all together, not at all. I still have my bad days and I have a bad attitude with the rest of them but I do hope that I’m more aware and more conscience of the fact that how I act and react to people can determine how they are to me. When I start having issues with someone I have to make sure it’s not me that’s causing the problems. And I find it amazing how quickly I can allow someone to bring me down if I don’t watch it. I recently dealt with a situation where the person became, quite honestly, very bratty and immature and before I knew it I was starting to stoop to that level. I had to snap out of it and pull myself back up.

“Attitudes are contagious. Are yours worth catching?” ~ Dennis and Wendy Mannering

Our attitudes effect our day to day life as well – I know that when I’m upset or feel down I tend to start losing the grip on the things I have a grip on! I start eating wrong, I start crapping out on my work outs, I start having far less patience with my daughter and husband, my house becomes a mess, etc. When things seem out of control our first instinct is to blame others or the issues around us. Those may effect us, true, but we shouldn’t allow them to determine our life.
I want to have a happy life and I know that has nothing to do with how much money I have, the type of house I live in, the kind of car I drive, the clothes I wear, etc. It has everything to do with my attitude and my outlook on what I have! You can’t be successful with a bad attitude……

“Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” ~Winston Churchill

I am not normally a positive person so I have to work on making sure I present myself in an upbeat way, if not for anyone but myself. But having a child has made me realize more than ever that I have to work at being positive. No, don’t strain, don’t force it, let it flow. Sit back, take a deep breath, smile and remember the good things in your life. Because no matter how bad things look or seem somewhere you can find something beautiful to remember and think upon! For me, it’s my wonderful husband and my beautiful daughter, it’s seeing how far I’ve come in my health and fitness, knowing that somewhere deep in my is music I want to share with everyone, learning to play piano……these are things that keep me going and make me happy and help me keep my attitude uplifted!

So just remember today that your attitude can affect those around you. When things seem bad or stressful take a moment to consciously make the effort to bring things up instead of farther down!"

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty Eight - Book Recommendations

So as most of you could have guessed, my blog challenge has only been a small part of a larger endeavor for me to overcome some negative things in my life and yet again become a better person. Part of that task requires that I seek counsel (through prayer, scripture study, and sessions with my bishop), find ways to put more trust in myself and my spouse (communication), and backing it all up with a greater knowledge and a deeper understanding (reading and researching). I have read two books that I want to recommend to all of my readers that have really helped me grow and gain a better understanding of overcoming and/or embracing our individual weaknesses to become better people.


Lost in Translation: How Men and Women Can Understand Each Other
by Dr. Steve Stephens

Okay, I bought this at the dollar store, thinking it would be a joke in the end. The man has good insight and a lot of common sense along with his title of marital psychologist and counselor. He discusses differences between husbands and wives through gender and personality differences, and how we can understand (and ultimately love) one another more. His views are 80% common sense mixed with 20% religious obligation and spiritual understanding. It's good to have a psychological understanding of our spouses, and I learned a lot about myself in the process.


Standing For Something: 10 Neglected Virtues that Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes
by Gordon B. Hinckley

First, I have not finished the book yet. I still have one more chapter to go. But it has had a profound impact on me, so I am recommending it before I finish it. He touches on all aspects of our character that can be refined and give us joy through life. Love, honesty, morality, civility, learning, forgiveness/mercy, thrift/industry, gratitude, optimism, and faith are the virtues he discusses, and then he goes deeper by discussing how marriage and family are the guardians of virtue. It is a deep look at what blessings we can achieve through our good and virtuous traits, and what we stand to lose if we allow ourselves to be swallowed up by the vices of the temporal world. I will walk away from this book feeling a deeper obligation to seek these things, and having a greater appreciation for the blessings I have in my life.

Thanks to all of you for reading and commenting on my blog challenge. I have enjoyed doing this!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty Six - Learn From Your Children

The last few days have been so hectic! Just to catch everyone up to speed:

Our air conditioner stopped working Wednesday night, and we didn't realize it until Thursday morning. I tried to take a look at it Thursday morning, but it was making a really loud straining noise and the breaker had tripped. We had someone come out last night with parts to try and fix it, but a few pieces had burned out in the attic, so we are waiting on another replacement part to see if that will fix the problem. Keep us in your thoughts, please!

Moving on from that, I want to blog about a specific topic tonight. As adults, we often forget that children are vessels of wisdom that have not been tainted by world views. My daughter picked a topic for her talk in primary that impressed me, and I wanted to share it with all of you. I felt that she needed to teach me today, instead of me being her teacher. She stood at the stand in the primary room and talked about faith. She spoke of Nephi and his direction to build a boat, although he had no knowledge to do so himself. She read 1 Nephi 17:8 as a reference, and then said we should all have faith like Nephi. Then she bore her testimony that she new Christ was her savior, and that having faith in him would bless our lives.

Now, she asked for help to give her talk, but I knew that she was inspired by her choice of topic and the story she wanted to reference. I am so proud of her, and I think we could all take wisdom from her example. We should all have faith and lean not unto our own understanding. We should remember who loves us and who provides the way for our salvation.

I am so very thankful for my children. They are truly precious, and I am looking forward to all of the lessons they will teach me when I am in need of a gentle reminder.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty Five - Show Yourself Some Love!

What do you do to remind yourself that you are an amazing person?
If you don't give yourself reminders, what should you do?
How often do you do it?
How often should you do it?

Little things I do for myself that I had taken for granted until recently have helped me to start rebuilding that positive relationship with myself. Here are some things I do that I find help me love myself:

I pray every day before I get out of bed

I get up early and work out or read a chapter of a good book

I take the extra 10-15 minutes in the morning to dress a little nicer or do something with my hair and/or make-up

I listen to some good music while I do chores around the house

I call my friends just to chat and I actually leave the house now to do things other than run errands, take the kids to/from activities, or volunteer! (this one is a big one, as I recently started going to lunch with a couple of close girl friends, and it has been FAN-friggin-TASTIC!!)

I try to learn a little bit of a new hobby every day (right now I am clumsily trying to learn basic chords on the guitar, and I am attempting to teach myself shading techniques for pastels)

I call other people that I know are in need in some way, just to chat and see if there is anything I can do to help

I have been focusing on buying clothing that is more flattering to my body shape, and that is a nicer quality that will last a long time and look nice for a longer period of time

This one is still weird for me, but a few people suggested I try it...... I set aside a few minutes each day to look at myself in the mirror and mentally note the things that I like about myself that day

I remind myself each day that I am a beautiful daughter of God, that I have dear friends and family who value me, a husband who loves me, children who need me and trust me, and many amazing blessings and opportunities in my life

Every once in a while I treat myself to a special day of no chores, no schedules, easy meals, and a good book or good movie (or both). I might throw in a nice, hot shower and a DIY mani/pedi as well. (that sounds great right now!)

I am in a good place right now. I can feel some peace and tranquility coming over me. It could be my new-found enthusiasm for myself and my family again, or it could be that the kids are asleep, the dog is asleep, and Bryan is at the church playing basketball (which means the house is MINE). :-)

I feel like I am ready to tackle some deeper hurdles again, so tomorrow's blog will go back to the beginning to dig a little deeper and hopefully find a little more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty Four - Tolerance and Love

I would like to share a talk by an apostle in my church that has a clear and simple message. The title is "Doctrine of Inclusion", and the apostle speaking is M. Russell Ballard. As we remember those things that happened on this day 9 years ago, we should remember that we are at our best when we love one another and help our neighbors.... all of them.

It may very well have been a beautiful, crisp autumn day like this. The Savior was sitting, teaching some of His disciples, when a man identified only as “a certain lawyer” stood and asked Him, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus knew the man’s heart and understood the question was a thinly veiled attempt to get Him to say something contrary to the law of Moses.

The Savior responded to the question with two questions of His own: “What is written in the law? how readest thou?”

As you might expect, the lawyer was able to recite the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.”

“Thou hast answered right,” the Savior said. “This do, and thou shalt live.”

But the lawyer wasn’t satisfied with that. Knowing that there were strict rules and beliefs among the Jews regarding association with those not of the faith, he pressed the Lord for more information, hoping to trap Him in controversy: “And who is my neighbour?” he asked.

It was time, once again, to teach. Jesus drew upon one of His favorite and most effective teaching techniques: a parable, perhaps one of the most-beloved and well-known parables in all of Christendom.

You know the parable, how a man from Jerusalem was on his way to Jericho and fell among thieves and was left half dead. A certain priest passed by on the other side; neither did a Levite stop to help. Then Jesus taught:

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

“And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”

Then Jesus asked the lawyer one more question: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among thieves?”

And the lawyer replied: “He that shewed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus delivered His final instruction to the lawyer—and to all who have read the parable of the good Samaritan: “Go, and do thou likewise” (see Luke 10:25–37).

Every time I read this parable I am impressed with its power and its simplicity. But have you ever wondered why the Savior chose to make the hero of this story a Samaritan? There was considerable antipathy between the Jews and the Samaritans at the time of Christ. Under normal circumstances, these two groups avoided association with each other. It would still be a good, instructive parable if the man who fell among thieves had been rescued by a brother Jew.

His deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our deepest differences—including religious, political, and cultural differences.

That instruction continues today to be part of the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In enumerating the key doctrines of the restored Church, Joseph Smith said, while “we claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience,” we also “allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may” (A of F 1:11).

Thankfully, many of our members understand this doctrine and live it during the course of their daily lives. I recently read a news account of a tragic death in a community here in Utah. A grieving young widow was quoted: “We’ve been overwhelmed by support. We’re not Mormon, but the local ward here has been all over us with meals and help and words of comfort. It’s been a total outpouring of love, and we appreciate it” (quoted in Dick Harmon, “Former Ute’s Death Leaves Wife Coping, Wondering,” Daily Herald [Provo, Utah], 11 Aug. 2001, A3).

That’s just as it should be. If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times, particularly in times of need. A recent Church News carried a story of two women who are dear friends, a “Jewish physician from New York and [a] stay-at-home [Latter-day Saint] mom of six from Utah, both a long way from home in Dallas [Texas].”

Our member reported: “If our friendship had been put through a computer matching service, I doubt we would have made it past the first hurdle. …

“… A woman with a busy medical practice, I assumed, would have little desire to discuss the color of the hospitality napkins for PTA.

“Funny thing about assumptions—they can cut away the very roots of something that could flourish and grow if given a chance. I am forever grateful that assumptions were cast aside” (Shauna Erickson, “Unlikely Friends Sharing a Lifetime,” Church News, 18 Aug. 2001, 10).

Perceptions and assumptions can be very dangerous and unfair. There are some of our members who may fail to reach out with friendly smiles, warm handshakes, and loving service to all of their neighbors. At the same time, there may be those who move into our neighborhoods who are not of our faith who come with negative preconceptions about the Church and its members. Surely good neighbors should put forth every effort to understand each other and to be kind to one another regardless of religion, nationality, race, or culture.

Occasionally I hear of members offending those of other faiths by overlooking them and leaving them out. This can occur especially in communities where our members are the majority. I have heard about narrow-minded parents who tell children that they cannot play with a particular child in the neighborhood simply because his or her family does not belong to our Church. This kind of behavior is not in keeping with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot comprehend why any member of our Church would allow these kinds of things to happen. I have been a member of this Church my entire life. I have been a full-time missionary, twice a bishop, a mission president, a Seventy, and now an Apostle. I have never taught—nor have I ever heard taught—a doctrine of exclusion. I have never heard the members of this Church urged to be anything but loving, kind, tolerant, and benevolent to our friends and neighbors of other faiths.

The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences.

While it is true we declare to the world that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith and we urge our members to share their faith and testimonies with others, it has never been the policy of the Church that those who choose not to listen or to accept our message should be shunned or ignored. Indeed, the opposite is true. President Gordon B. Hinckley has repeatedly reminded us of this special obligation that we have as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. I quote just one:

“Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences. …

“… We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility” (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [1997], 661, 665).

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we understand that we are perceived by some to be “a peculiar people” (1 Pet. 2:9). Our doctrines and beliefs are important to us. We embrace them and cherish them. I am not suggesting for a moment that we shouldn’t. On the contrary, our peculiarity and the uniqueness of the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ are indispensable elements in offering the people of the world a clear choice. Neither am I suggesting that we should associate in any relationship that would place us or our families at spiritual risk. We must understand, however, that not everyone is going to accept our doctrine of the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. For the most part, our neighbors not of our faith are good, honorable people—every bit as good and honorable as we strive to be. They care about their families, just like we do. They want to make the world a better place, just like we do. They are kind and loving and generous and faithful, just like we seek to be. Nearly 25 years ago, the First Presidency declared: “Our message … is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father” (First Presidency statement, 15 Feb. 1978).

That is our doctrine—a doctrine of inclusion. That is what we believe. That is what we have been taught. Of all people on this earth, we should be the most loving, the kindest, and the most tolerant because of that doctrine.

May I suggest three simple things we can do to avoid making others in our neighborhoods feel excluded?

First, get to know your neighbors. Learn about their families, their work, their views. Get together with them, if they are willing, and do so without being pushy and without any ulterior motives. Friendship should never be offered as a means to an end; it can and should be an end unto itself. I received a letter from a woman who recently moved to Utah, a small part of which I quote: “I must tell you, Elder Ballard, that when I greet my neighbors, or if I wave to them, they do not acknowledge my greeting. If I pass them while taking my morning or evening walk, my salutation is not returned. Other people of color consistently express similar negative responses to friendly gestures.” If members of the Church are among her neighbors, surely they must know that this should not happen. Let us cultivate meaningful relationships of mutual trust and understanding with people from different backgrounds and beliefs.

Second, I believe it would be good if we eliminated a couple of phrases from our vocabulary: “nonmember” and “non-Mormon.” Such phrases can be demeaning and even belittling. Personally, I don’t consider myself to be a “non-Catholic” or a “non-Jew.” I am a Christian. I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is how I prefer to be identified—for who and what I am, as opposed to being identified for what I am not. Let us extend that same courtesy to those who live among us. If a collective description is needed, then “neighbors” seems to work well in most cases.

And third, if neighbors become testy or frustrated because of some disagreement with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or with some law we support for moral reasons, please don’t suggest to them—even in a humorous way—that they consider moving someplace else. I cannot comprehend how any member of our Church can even think such a thing! Our pioneer ancestors were driven from place to place by uninformed and intolerant neighbors. They experienced extraordinary hardship and persecution because they thought, acted, and believed differently from others. If our history teaches us nothing else, it should teach us to respect the rights of all people to peacefully coexist with one another.

I now speak to all those who are not of our faith. If there are issues of concern, let us talk about them. We want to be helpful. Please understand, however, that our doctrines and teachings are set by the Lord, so sometimes we will have to agree to disagree with you, but we can do so without being disagreeable. In our communities we can and must work together in an atmosphere of courtesy, respect, and civility. Here in Utah, a group of concerned citizens formed the Alliance for Unity. This effort has been endorsed by our Church as well as other churches and organizations. One of its purposes is “to seek to build a community where differing viewpoints are acknowledged and valued.” Perhaps there has never been a more important time for neighbors all around the world to stand together for the common good of one another.

Just hours before He began the painful physical and spiritual processes of the Atonement, the Savior met with His Apostles to partake of the Feast of the Passover—His Last Supper—and to give them the final instructions He would give them in mortality. Among these teachings is the stirring, life-changing declaration: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34–35).

That is what Jesus taught His disciples—including “a certain lawyer”—through the parable of the good Samaritan. And that is what He is teaching us today through living prophets and apostles. Love one another. Be kind to one another despite our deepest differences. Treat one another with respect and civility. I know and testify that Jesus is the Christ, our Savior and Redeemer, and I know that He expects all of us to follow His admonition to be better neighbors, to which I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

I am happy to be a neighbor to all of you, and I hope I show it in all that I do.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty Three - Guest Blog #2!!

Today marks the twenty third day of my blog challenge, and it is time for the second guest blog! Today's guest blogger is Stacey, a wonderful woman with a great mind and a positive attitude. The topic is "Making Time for Spouses", and she seems to handle it with grace and style. Here it is for your reading pleasure!

Next April my husband and I will celebrate 18 years of marriage. We've lived several lives in that amount of time - we were college students, apartment managers, mothers of infants, toddlers, and now teens, working sometimes two jobs apiece to make ends meet. We've lived in 13 homes and made one huge cross-country move. We've served in who knows how many different church callings in our different congregations and picked up countless hobbies and obsessions along the way. Life has been FULL.

But never too full for each other.

When I was in school full-time, pregnant with our second daughter, and my husband was a student and cleaning office buildings on the grave shift, we'd meet at the dining room table at 5:30am for what we called our "donut dates." When the days were extraordinarily long and we wouldn't see each other at all, we'd concoct ways to say "I remember you;" my favorite was the chess set we put up with a card that would rotate to say "Robb's Move" or "Stacey's Move." (by the way, I *never* won!)

My husband read a church article long ago that stressed the importance of married couples "connecting at the crossroads" of their day. Because of that, these many years later we still ALWAYS kiss each other hello and goodbye, accompanied with an "I love you." Sometimes one of us is half awake during the exchange, sometimes we even miss our mark with a quick peck as we're running out the door. But we have established that we will always recognize each other as we meet or part.

We've had to make some internal decisions, too, about how to put each other first despite the hectic schedule we keep. We've both learned that we MUST ask for what we need. Neither of us can read minds, and we've learned to stop playing the "I wish she/he just knew" game. We've also both had to adjust our expectations. This has probably been my biggest challenge as a wife, because somehow it feels too much like giving up or giving in. What it really is, though, is understanding and accepting the man I married. And what I've found is that in adjusting my expectations of him, it gives me the freedom to adjust my expectations of myself. We do what we can, how we can, the best we can. Letting love and faith (and honesty, time and patience) fill in the rest has helped us keep our relationship strong.

I can guarantee that it hasn't been a piping hot meal on the table every night or a spotless home or any huge martyred wife sacrifices I've had to make that has communicated to my husband that I care for him. It's the small things, the daily connections, the recognition that "Hello, there you are, I see you," and the shift in perspectives that has helped me as a wife to put him first. And I'm sure in the many lives we live over the next 18 (and more, many more!) years, they'll continue to do the same.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty Two - Usefulness and Happiness

With Andrew at pre-school two days each week, I have time to be alone and figure out what I can do to feel useful and happy apart from my motherly role during the day. Since I am done with my Bachelor's degree, I endeavor to take on smaller tasks that will not cost so much money. :-)

He started pre-school this week, so this is the adjustment period. I am training myself to not feel guilty about going and eating lunch with some girl friends or with my husband on days when both of the kids are at school.

So my challenge is to find a balance between usefulness and happiness.

Last year I burned myself out with PTA volunteering, classroom volunteering, scheduling play dates left and right, church callings, and finishing my degree. I felt useful while I was doing it, but always regretted cramming too much in when I was exhausted and ready to sleep at 8pm every night. It cut in to time I could spend with my husband and children quite a bit, and I am glad that I have this new chapter in life to test new waters.

This year I am still determined to volunteer for the PTA and in the classroom, but I want to divide my volunteer time between Grace's school and Andrew's pre-school. So I have resolved to decrease the amount of time I dedicate to the one over the other. But I have also resolved to spend time working on my own hobbies and progress. Now that I am finally done with college, I am reading more for leisure again, and I am really enjoying it. I am also slowly teaching myself how to play simple guitar chords. I took up a few craft hobbies again, and I am going to hit the backyard landscaping full speed over the next 6 weeks. This is all very exciting for me, as I get to use skills that I have already cultivated and refine them further.

One thing I have loved recently is my chance to workout alone more often. I can take the dog (Sam, yes, he's new) on a walk alone, or I can get on the treadmill in the morning or in the afternoon while Andrew is at school or doing quiet time. It helps me feel healthy, rejuvenated, focused, and lively.

I am thoroughly enjoying reconnecting with the happiness I feel when I am useful, and redefining usefulness. All things that are uplifting and joyous are of use, no matter how small the end result.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty One - Self Esteem

Today's blog is not going to be long. I received this talk and I wanted to share it with you all.

Just follow the link below to view the talk.

Have a good evening!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twenty - 20 Quotes to Live By

I have made it to day twenty of my trust challenge! This feels like a big accomplishment for me, so I am doing a happy booty dance. To celebrate the twentieth day, I compiled a list of 20 quotes to live by. If you read this blog post, you are required to write the 20 quotes you live by. Or at least 5. Or just think of a few that inspire you. Either way, the rain seems to have washed some of the gunk away today, so my head is clearing up (literally and figuratively). Here they are for you reading pleasure! Drum roll please...........

20. "We must be the change we want to see." - Mahatma Gandhi

19. "Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts." - Charles Dickens

18. "It is every man's obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it." - Albert Einstein

17. "Whatever you are, be a good one." - Abraham Lincoln

16. "You're friends don't dance, and if they don't dance then they're no friends of mine." - Men Without Hats

15. "Don't look back in anger." - Oasis

14. "A happy home is but an earlier heaven." - Thomas S. Monson

13. "True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior." - Boyd K. Packer

12. "The influence of your mother will bless you throughout life." - Russell M. Nelson

11. "Femininity is not just lipstick, stylish hairdos, and trendy clothes. It is the divine adornment of humanity. It finds expression in your qualities of your capacity to love, your spirituality, delicacy, radiance, sensitivity, creativity, charm, graciousness, gentleness, dignity, and quiet strength." - James E. Faust

10. "There is no remedy for love but to love more." - Henry David Thoreau

9. "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is not path and leave a trail." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

8. "Don't forget to love yourself." - Soren Kierkegaard

7. "A life in music is a life beautifully spent." - Luciano Pavarotti

6. "Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent." - Eleanor Roosevelt

5. "To thine own self be true." - William Shakespeare

4. "God respects me when I work, but He loves me when I sing." - Rabindranath Tagore

3. "When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past, all safe and blessed we shall meet at last." - Katharina von Schlegel

2. "Who am I to judge another, when I walk imperfectly? In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can't see." - Susan Evans McCloud

1. "Men are, that they might have joy." - Nephi

So, to sum it all up (in a nutshell):

Find yourself, stay strong and true to yourself, seek out goodness and happiness, be an example, make the changes you want in life, love yourself, love your God, love your family, love your life, take care of others, dance when you can, sing when you can, make your own path, and enjoy it all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Nineteen - Gratitude!!

Yes, I am aware that I missed posting yesterday. I am battling what appears to be a rather nasty cold, and my seasonal allergies have kicked in to make it oh-so-easier on me. Here is what I have been battling:

Cold crud:

Stuffy nose
Stuffy sinuses
Clogged ears
Sore throat
Persistent cough
Low fever
Mildly upset stomach

Allergy crud:

Runny nose
Itchy eyes
Itchy throat
Itchy soft palate
Watery eyes

The last time I had allergies and a cold together I ended up with a nasty sinus infection which required taking antibiotics to avoid a bone infection. Since I HATE antibiotics, I am forcing myself to lay around and take it easy, drink tons of liquids, sit in a steamy bathroom 3-4 times a day, use my Neti religiously, keep expectorant, Zicam homeopathic cold remedy, Zyrtec, Prince of Peace Ginger and Honey Crystals, and saline nasal wash with me constantly, as well as a box of tissues always in hand.

Sleeping sitting up has not been fun at all, but it is the only way I can breathe right now. I have very strange, vivid dreams when I sleep on my back, so my sleep has been fragmented at best over the past few days.

All that aside, though. I am truly thankful for my husband and my children. My husband has been very sympathetic and helpful the past few days, and my children have been abnormally good-natured. Even the dog we have for the weekend (possibly longer) has quickly picked up on my poor state and laid with me and looked at me with sad eyes every time I have a coughing fit.

I LOVE my bed and the couch right now. They are so soft and luxurious, and I can rest on them without getting stiff or sore. The pillows have been feeling extra soft and fluffy the past few days, and I can't help but feel like Snuggles snuck through my house and touched all of my bedding and clothes, chuckling goofily the whole way.

Grace has been such a big helper with her brother, playing nicely with him and helping him get breakfast and lunch so I can sleep in. She is even rinsing her dishes and his without complaint or delay. I am so thankful for that right now!

Bryan has been rubbing my back and head, and he keeps asking me if there is anything I need. He quit his quest to stay up late and play video games last night to come hold me in bed so I could fall asleep faster. He was completely understanding and made not one complaint when he realized I would probably be sick all through Labor Day weekend. He has been laying around with me and playing with the kids and the dog (his name is Sam, by the way) when they are getting wound up but I am in stuffy head la-la land. I might even take him up on his offer to get me something and send him out for more chicken noodle soup, electrolyte drink, and nose strips later.

I am so thankful for my health. My immune system may not fight off viruses as fast as my husband or my children, but I know that it is a remarkable machine that is working hard to get me well. I am thankful for the advent of modern medicine, and the simplicity of "old" medicine. I am thankful for the knowledge I have obtained that can help me realize what I can combine and what combinations will harm me. I am thankful for the simple remedies of rest and rejuvenation, and the people who help me get those things. I am thankful for my Heavenly Father. I know he hears my prayers for comfort and speedy recovery, and he blesses me with those things as I do what I can and should to make them happen.

I am thankful that we can afford to buy medicine that we need and that we can afford for me to see a doctor if I need to. I am thankful for all of the things we already have at our disposal here at home for great use in comforting my ailments. I am very thankful that my husband and children have not suffered the same symptoms I have over the past few days. My husband's immune system is abnormally strong and effective. He felt sick the day before yesterday, but felt fine yesterday. My son and daughter have only had allergy symptoms, and no symptoms of a cold yet. If those symptoms do show, I know that they will recover many days before I do. I am truly thankful for that. I am so glad that I have given them immune boosting natural medications to help them grow strong and resistant to these viruses that tend to drag me down.

I am thankful that I will overcome this and feel better within several days. I know I will not struggle with it for months on end. While I look forward to recovering completely, and I hope that it will magically happen tomorrow, I am secretly thankful that I have this virus so I can be reminded of all of my little blessings and the wonderful people who surround me and love me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Eighteen - Come What May

I read a talk by Joseph B. Wirthlin titled "Come What May, and Love It". The talk is pretty self-explanatory, but..... well..... we all know that is so much easier said than done!

It feels completely against natural instinct to smile at negativity and laugh at injury and mistake. But that would make positivity during adversity an eternal/spiritual trait, which is something we are trying to do, right? He quoted that:

" spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser, and happier as a result."

His solutions to negativity in the face of adversity are to laugh, seek for the eternal, understand the principle of compensation (or karma: the layman's term), and trust in the Father and the Son.

Learning to Laugh: There is a reason the term "laughter is the best medicine" has been a dominant saying for hundreds of years. Finding reasons to smile and laugh in our darkest moments can temporarily relieve the weight of those burdens. Bryan will always try to make me laugh after he and I have had a disagreement, and I have found that I feel more resolved and light-hearted when I cave in and just laugh at his antics. Feelings of bitterness and anger cannot be present when feelings of good humor and positivity are stronger. So laugh at yourself the next time you slam your shin into a bed corner or stub your toe. Sing a happy song the next time something is revealed to you that would make your spirits drop and your blood pressure rise. Seek out the better of the two in all things. And remember, it WILL be a challenge, but it is not something you are doing alone. :-)

Seek For the Eternal: Always keep eternity in perspective. Traits such as patience, understanding, forgiveness, long-suffering, charity, compassion, hope, faith, and unconditional love can be improved and used as a shield against the negativity of temporal woes. Learn how these traits fit your personality and your life, and practice using them always! Show them to others, and show them to yourself. Remember why you know them and for what purpose you use them. We are all spirit children of a divine heritage, and we can overcome adversity when we have eternity in mind.

The Principle of Compensation: If we do all we can in the goodness that we know, the Lord will see fit to bless us where we have lost during our efforts. Losing something in our lives and taking only bitterness and resentment with us will repay us loneliness and hurt. Losing something in our lives and seeking to gain a better knowledge of it through open understanding, forgiveness, and seeking out happiness will repay us with wisdom, peace, and joy. Do not forget this simple rule in all things you do, and in all things that are done to you. It will be repaid.

Trust the Father and the Son: God wants us to be happy. He wants us to be successful. If we do our part, He will step in. If we put our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the Lord will share our burdens with us, He will know us and help us. I have a testimony of this that I can share. One is tangible, the blessing of paying a full tithing. We had some financial struggles last year that lead to needing some church assistance. The bishop came to our home and counseled us to continue paying a full tithing and that we would see blessings from it. We had faith, so we did our part. Bryan was blessed not long after with a wonderful employment opportunity that still blesses us today. Another example is the small attempts in life that have given me peace in the end. Asking things such as:

Was I a strong wife today?
Was I a loving mother today?
Did I make the right choice?
Did I do all I can?
Could I be proud of my efforts and my actions?

The answers I receive to those questions are only sure and clear when I am truly doing all I can before I offer my questions to the Lord for an answer. Trust that you will receive the help you need after you have gone as far as you can go.

Again, I believe we all know that it is easier said than done. I struggle with it every day. But I know that I have made progress over the past 10 years of my life. I know that I have made even more progress the last 3 years. Seeking for the good and understanding the impact of a positive outlook can truly make every one's burdens feel lighter, as we relieve ourselves of useless burdens and allow ourselves to carry only that which makes us stronger, wiser, better, and happier.

Here is the talk I read, if you are interested in reading it:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Seventeen - Guest Blog!

Today's blog is the first guest blog for the Trust Challenge. I invited Jake Robertson, a family member on my husband's side, to be the first guest blogger. I read through it a couple of times, and I thoroughly enjoyed his take on the true worth of a woman. Here it is for your reading pleasure!

The Worth of a Woman

So, Jacque asked me to do a guest blog about the worth of a woman.
I am a bit concerned speaking of “worth” where women are concerned; have we not rejected the metaphor of woman as chattel, as of cows, bought and sold for milk or meat? Must we continue to speak of her as though we talk of treasures dug from the earth, distraction for men’s eyes and men’s hands? Perhaps, if we must, we might compare her to commodities: it matters little where commodities are mined; commodities resist market trends regardless what well the midnight oil was siphoned from; a commodity’s worth remains a constant.

Perhaps we recall fondly that proverb that a virtuous woman’s worth is far above rubies. So this is what it comes to? When we speak of woman’s worth, we mean her market value—the operative metaphor of a telestial world, which gives virtues an exchange rate. . .

And were we to speak of unvirtuous women, what then? Is lack of virtue a diminishing of value? Does she have no worth? Is she not a worth-while investment opportunity? And what if this unvirtuous woman were to be made aware of the riches buried somewhere on her property? Might she not dig deep to uncover her own worth, buried though it might be? What wealth might we then discover in her? Shouldn’t we mine wherever we can, markets being what they are, so volatile? We have to think of the future, after all.

It’s a sentimental metaphor to call a woman “the heart of the home;” as I think it, I think that to speak it properly requires that I don a breast coat and carry a walking stick and grow a bushy handlebar moustache—the very picture of Victorian privilege—or else the metaphor might not work quite right. Of course, I couldn’t grow a handlebar moustache even if I wanted—which I don’t: does that make me less of a man?

Is sentimentality any worse than metaphors that make a possession of a person? Might sentimentality not inform us, somehow, of something that we’re missing, something the stock market doesn’t see?

Housing prices skyrocketed because people thought they could make a quick buck before thinking of making a home; but when the market took a tumble, the value of “homes” rather than mere houses became self-evident.

What is the worth of a woman? Might I move away from ugly markets and monetary metaphors? Might I wax a little sentimental?

So let us say, for the sake of argument, for the sake of leaving ugly golden metaphors behind, that a woman is the heart of the home. What is a heart worth? Can you calculate it in Euros or Yen? What’s the going rate for keeping house and making homes? What’s it worth to keep the body going—blood flowing, synapses snapping, oxygen spiriting through capillaries like corridors carrying heat from a well-tended hearth?

“A woman’s place is in the home” is only an insult if you think there’s someplace more important to be.

Hearts often go unnoticed; we’re rarely aware of them, working as they do behind the scenes, their regular rhythms only occasionally drawing our attention. But what if a heart rots? Do we notice then? Do we not search far and wide for the best physicians. Will we not drown in debt to keep that organ beating? Do we not suddenly realize what she is worth?

The body never really recovers from a rotten heart, you know. Oh, yes, there are transplants, expensive operations—but hearts, real hearts, not the shiny, plastic things Dow Chemicals produces, but the flesh and blood kind—

What is the worth of a woman, you ask? Hearts are priceless.

While there are options for replacing hearts, don’t think you’ll be running any marathons with batteries pushing blood through your body; don’t think your limbs will love you for letting their heart wither and die; each day they’ll cry: “Why? Why? Why could you not see her worth before this?”

Take a moment; sit inside; breath; place one hand on your breast and breathe and feel the heart keep the home fires burning. Breathe in and feel the steady rhythm of her life, of your life, and reminded yourself it’s her that keeps you alive; without her, life ceases—no more home, no more hearth, no more heat, no more heart, no breath, no more spirit, no more life.

What is a woman’s worth? At her worst her worth is far, far above rubies, this heart, this home, this life, this love.

And, with proper care, I’m told she’ll last a lifetime.

Blog Challenge: Day Sixteen - When to Say "No" to Yourself

I'm sorry for skipping a post yesterday. I will make up for it right now by doing a double-post today. We will have this one, along with my first guest blog! *squeeeeeal*
I'm excited! :-)

A storm came through yesterday that watered the plants and washed some gunk away. But it brought the dreaded "crud" with it, and I felt it instantly last night. I climbed in to bed at 9:00pm and didn't lift a finger until this morning. I woke up with a stuffed head and a sore throat. Fun fun!

So I took Andrew to a play date, paid some bills, made up the menu, went grocery shopping, and swung by the bank before heading home to relax. I decided to back out on Girls Night tonight so I could get some rest and relax at home. Girls Night is something I look forward to, but I know that it would be better for me to stay in, eat something light (and preferable with clear broth), take a hot bath with a warm facial compress, drink some hot ginger and honey tea, and snuggle up in PJs for the evening. So even though I want to go out tonight, and I wanted to go eat lunch with Grace at school again, and I want to make up the work out I missed earlier this week by doing another double workout, I am going to say "no" to myself.

On that note........ with this blog challenge, I have found that I have to say "no" to myself more often than I could have ever imagined I would need to. Swarming in negativity for years makes negative thinking a behavioral problem. I have to stop my train of thought quite a bit now and force it to turn around towards positive matters. I will find myself beginning to think that I am not doing enough, I am not doing it good enough, or I am not doing something right. I have to stop myself mid-thought and tell myself "No, that is not how you view yourself. You are a wonderful person, and you try your best at everything you do. You are doing a fantastic job and everything is going very well.". But, also, along with that..... I have to tell myself that it is okay to have down-time and let some things slip for a while. I don't need to spend every waking moment of my day cleaning, learning, volunteering, teaching, running errands, keeping Andrew 100% stimulated, exercising, and running myself in to the ground. There needs to be a balance. I have found that I truly need my down-time in order to refresh myself and to reconnect with myself. I can keep saying "yes" to everyone around me, and to my own high-pressure expectations, or I can say "no, I need some time for myself".

Since Andrew is starting a pre-k program next week, I am going to dedicate my week to finding ways to reconnect with myself by saying "no" to my own flurries of excited thought and high demands of myself. A week of true relaxation and meditation (as relaxing as a mom can possibly make it).

Wish me luck!

Be on the lookout for the guest blog, it will be up a little later today.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Fifteen - Today's Struggle

I feel good during days like today, until I finally get home and take a look at myself in the mirror. On days such as today, where I throw my hair back, sweat like a pig at the park, then go straight to volunteer at the school for hours, and finally come home, exhausted...... I look in the mirror and I feel...... frumpy, like I didn't even try to look presentable when I was getting ready this morning. I haven't worn work attire in almost 4 years. My "work" attire is jeans or shorts with either a cute low-key blouse or a t-shirt.

Sometimes I think it might be a nice change if Bryan comes home one day and I am dressed in really flattering work attire. But he tells me that he loves me and wants to spend time with me, whether I am all dressed up or I "look like Quasimodo", in his words. Around this time last year I would have felt good in sweats and a t-shirt with my hair wild, hanging out with Bryan. But the hit my self-esteem took recently has made me second-guess myself. I guess the fact that we are now making more money and the kids are getting older and not needing me constantly has made me wonder if I need to change my perspective and routine again.

Either way, the mirror was not my friend today, and so I have simply been avoiding it. Isn't that what we do when our "friends" are being obnoxious? :-)

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Fourteen - The Little Things

The little things can make or break a relationship. It all depends on the approach of each partner and what little things are being put under the microscope.

Do we criticize and berate our spouses for their little imperfections?
Do we find ourselves slowly getting more annoyed with and less tolerant of their faults?
Do we ever feel as though our spouse isn't "pulling their weight"?


Do we find things to love about them every day, even on our bad days?
Do we support an encourage their pursuits and growth?
Do we find ways to show them we love, want, and appreciate them every day?

I have heard it before: Treat each day with your spouse as if it is your last.

That becomes increasingly harder to do when you are with the same person for so many years, but the little things really do make a huge difference.

I find that sending sweet emails, calling randomly to say "hello" and "I love you", corresponding on Facebook, and leaving lipstick messages on the mirror are little things I can do every day to remind my husband that I care about him and love him. Those are just daily little things. Things I do on a long-term basis are:

make sure to wash and hang his clothes with care (although I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have yet to learn how to iron properly)

keep food he enjoys stocked in the house

prepare the meals he likes to eat

support his decisions involving church, his career, and hobbies

give him a clean home to welcome him when he returns from work

make myself available to listen to him when he needs to talk

pray for him always

scratch his back and play with his hair once each day

smile, hug him, kiss him, flirt with him, have fun with him, laugh with him, snuggle with him, and tell him I love him many times each day

He has faults, so do I. We could tear each other down and tear our love apart by picking at the little things.

Sometimes I get caught up in other activities and do not fold clothes right away, causing them to wrinkle and have to be ironed or placed back in the dryer. Sometimes I do not have dinner made when he arrives at home. Sometimes, like today, I am exhausted and I do not even make dinner, we order out. Sometimes I am cranky and I get short with him and have to apologize later. I have gas, every morning, and will for the rest of my life. Yes, I just shared that.

Does he become upset about those things? Thankfully, no. He is a wonderful man. He sees my faults and he embraces them. He loves them.

Sometimes he leaves his socks and belt on the floor in the bedroom. Sometimes he leaves his dirty clothes on the floor, 5 feet away from the laundry basket. Sometimes he offers to clean the dishes and never gets around to doing it. Sometimes he forgets to take out the trash. He rarely ever puts his shoes in the hanging shoe rack in the coat closet. He tends to be abnormally forgetful.

Do I become upset with him and hold his faults against him? Once upon a time I found myself starting to do that. But a huge change of heart and spirit a couple of years into our marriage swiftly turned me in the other direction. I love his character, his drive, his strength, his humor, his smile, his arms, his kisses, the way he sings and plays guitar, and I adore how much he can love. Even his tendency to analyze and code everything makes me smile (even though it can drive me crazy).

Do we argue? Absolutely. Does it become heated? Not nearly as often as it did early in our marriage. Do we quickly calm down and forgive each other every time? You bet!

Over the past 8.5 years I have slowly made my days more about the nice little things over the bad little things, and it has paid off greatly. Instead of bitter words, we have thousands of kisses. Instead of blaming each other, we have self-reflection and growth. Instead of silent treatment and cold nights, we have deeper communication and sleeping in each other's arms.

Sometimes we may feel as though we are doing more little things than our spouse. But one of the things that was discussed during our third hour meeting in church this past Sunday was the quality of a celestial marriage. Our marriages are not 50/50. We do not consider what is "fair". We are selfless, patient, understanding, supportive, and long-suffering. I love how long-suffering was described. The man speaking called it "putting up with...". Hehehe. Sometimes it might be 50/50, but that is rare. Often times one spouse carries the other for a while, and then something happens and the roles are reversed. But dwelling on "fairness" in marriage will cause you to miss out on many wonderful opportunities to serve your spouse with love and kindness. Use soft words, make your touch gentle, make your heart light and full of love, and embrace the person you want to be with for eternity and show them that they are truly worthy of that role. I am thankful for my husband in a way that I cannot describe. He is a truly wonderful man and I am beyond blessed to have claims on his heart.

So..... what little things will you do tomorrow? :-)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Thirteen - A Replay of Today's Events

It is really hard not to beat myself up on days such as today. I keep thinking of different scenarios and the "what ifs" that are countless and agonizing.

I took Andrew with me to get Grace from school. When she came out I allowed them a few minutes to play on the playground while I chatted with another mom. Grace was climbing on the outside of the playground equipment. Yes, I realize that is not what that part of the equipment is meant for. She has done it a thousand times over the course of the past year and a half, so I didn't think much of it. I was standing about 7-10 feet away from her, talking with this other mom, when she slipped and fell. She landed wrong on her foot and then banged her head on the ground. Thankfully the blow to her head was softened by all of the mulch for the playground, but she still has scratches from the impact. But her foot worried me the most. Right after the fall she started screaming and grabbing at her ankle, and I ran over to her to check her over and see if she had broken anything. Nothing appeared broken, but she kept yelling that it felt like her foot was broken.

I picked her up and told Andrew it was time to go. He ran away from me yelling "Nooooo! I have three minutes!", so I followed after him, telling him "Andrew Allen, it is time to go, NOW. Your sister is hurt, we need to leave. You need to listen to me and stop running away.". He gave me the same reply and ran further away. I started raising my voice while walking after him faster. I told him "Andrew, your sister is hurt, you need to listen to me right now, please, and stop running". He kept running, so I counted to three to give him a warning that he would be in big trouble. He kept running anyway, so I started running after him with Grace in my arms. I caught up to him and gave him one quick pop on the bottom. He stopped and started crying, so I took his hand and told him "I'm sorry I popped your bottom, but you were not listening at all. I gave you warnings and you still ran away. Your broke a big rule. Now we need to leave right away because your sister is hurt. I am not letting go of your hand, because you are not following instructions right now".

All of this played out in front of at least 7 other moms, including the PTA president. It was FUN.

I keep telling myself that I should have just told her to stop climbing and get down. I also keep telling myself that I should have been keeping a closer eye on her so I could have seen her slipping and ran to catch her. I also keep telling myself that I should not have popped Andrew on the bottom. But then I am trying to remind myself that Grace's fall was an accident that was completely unexpected, and that I gave Andrew fair warning before I took more serious action. I also keep telling myself that getting hurt and being disciplined are things all children go through.

Then I have that voice of opposition telling me that I was careless, lazy, I lost my cool, and all the other moms that saw what happened are probably thinking the same thing. But Proverbs 13:24 keeps running through my head as a reminder that I am called to discipline my children when the time calls for it. Also, just so it is noted, I do believe that spanking should only be used as a last resort, and should never be done excessively, or to cause fear, or in moments of uncontrolled anger. Andrew is a runner, and that has caused him to receive a pop on the bottom a few times after multiple warnings and redirection attempts, such as the time he ran away from me and into a street when we were on vacation.

I was a very overprotective mother with Grace when she was an infant, toddler, and preschooler. I stressed myself out constantly over every little thing I could imagine might go wrong for her. When Andrew came along I relaxed quite a bit with him. I still keep a close eye on him and her and guide them through life's obstacles. I have yet to lose either of them or have them be seriously injured (save Andrew's fall last year when he tore his lip open while trying to climb in the bed to snuggle with his daddy). So in many ways I am doing well with the most basic of parenting skills and requirements. I just can't help but feel like I somehow let the ball drop today, and it really stinks to feel that way.

I know tomorrow I will wake up and feel better about it. I love both of my children very much, and I can only hope that I did the best I could in that situation.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Twelve - A Day of Worth

I think sometimes stay-at-home mothers forget just how useful they are to their husbands, their children, their homes, and even their communities. I was speaking with a good acquaintance at church today about how some people think SAHMs have all the time in the world to volunteer once the majority (or all) of their children are in school. I wanted to share a little about my really busy days to give an idea of just how much "free time" I have as a SAHM (and the majority of other SAHMs can relate to what I am going to explain).


6:45am - get up, get ready, eat breakfast, prepare breakfast for kids

7:00am - get the kids up, feed them breakfast, help Grace get ready for school, get Andrew ready, help the kids with morning chores

8:00am - take Grace to school and then come back home with Andrew. Vacuum, dust, sweep, mop, wipe counters, start doing laundry, and straighten up clutter around the house

10:00am - pay bills, go grocery shopping

11:15am - get a quick lunch made and take it to the school with Andrew so we can eat lunch with Grace

12:00pm - come back home, fold laundry, start more laundry, do some preschool lessons with Andrew

1:00pm - quiet time for Andrew. This is when I workout, plan menus, make to-do lists, take care of other to-do lists, and fold more laundry. Sometimes I might have some spare time to read a little of a book or work on a hobby

3:00pm - wake Andrew if he was asleep for quiet time. If not, help him straighten up his toys. Read a book with him.

3:20pm - leave with Andrew to get Grace from school. Let her play for a short while outside if the weather is nice, since she only has PE once every 4 days (ridiculous), to make sure she is getting enough physical activity in to each day.

4:00pm - come home, get snacks for the kids. Finally finish folding laundry. Help Grace with homework, and start preparing dinner.

5:30pm - sit down with the family to eat dinner, then clean up dinner and straighten up the kitchen.

6:30pm - hopefully I will allow myself the chance to sit with my husband and relax with him for a short while, or we spend time doing an activity with the kids at home or outside.

7:30pm - get the kids bathed and ready for bed, read scriptures with them, tuck them in to bed for the night after bedtime drinks and using the potty one more time

8:30pm - write the next day's agenda and schedule on the whiteboard on the fridge. Discuss any potential plans for the next day or week that need to be prepared with my husband. Perhaps read a little more or take in part of a movie with my husband, but I also end up responding to emails and doing something ridiculous like blogging to give myself a chance to do something different.

10:00pm - fall asleep in bed, drooling on myself and pushing my husband to his side of the bed with my bottom.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

But add in ballet for Grace on Tuesdays, playgroup for Andrew on Wednesdays, visit teaching once or twice each month, car maintenance every other month, and the random trips out to replace stained or ripped clothes, pick up birthday presents for one of the million birthday parties we go to, replenish craft supplies, pick up odds and ends for my husband because he is too busy to do it during or after the work day, and then the times where I actually get out just to do things for myself or for the sake of getting out and doing something different.

Wow...... it sounds like I have so much free time on my hands!


So, for all of the SAHMs who feel like they are not contributing, or fulfilling duties, or meeting their potential as human beings..... you are amazing. A job for which we receive no monetary return can be even more rewarding than those that do. We make homes and help build the foundation upon which our families will be built up. Never stop! Your work is more important than words can say.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Eleven - Friends of the Opposite Sex

When you are single, having friends of the opposite sex is not a problem. When you are casually dating, this problem is still non-existent. But when you start to date exclusively, become engaged, and eventually get married, how are those friendships with members of the opposite sex handled?

Some people carry on their friendships, some people diminish contact with those friends, and others stop carrying on friendships with them completely and they become mere acquaintances. I have diminished my friendships, not because I feel they are dangerous, but because my priorities in life have shifted in such a way that those male friends do not have a strong place in my life. My husband is the man I confide in the most aside from the Lord, and I like it that way.

In most (if not all) cases, however, it is wise to avoid deeper friendships with members of the opposite sex once you have entered in to the covenant of marriage. This is my opinion of course, and I am blessed that my husband shares this opinion. We have been counseled in church before never to be alone with a member of the opposite sex. Not for business lunches, work projects, in your car, at home, or anywhere that can create an environment of privacy, intimacy, and seclusion. This would be done so as to avoid any temptation that might be thrown our way. We may try as hard as we can to be righteous and true, but we are still weak because of our very nature. I see following these rules as a way of showing respect for yourself, your spouse, and your God. We admit that we are weak, that we need help and guidance, and that these suggestions can help us to avoid temptations that we may one day not be able to resist in our weakness.

I am certainly not saying that we should avoid any form of civility, communication, or acquaintance, as some opponents of this idea would say. Rather, we condition ourselves to be aware and on guard of the things the Adversary would want us to do. I think it all comes down to listening to the Spirit and using common sense.

Tonight I went to the store alone to get something for Bryan's Sunday school class. As I was leaving I ran in to the father of one of the girls from Grace's school. We stopped and chatted about how the kids were doing, what on Earth we were doing at the store at 9pm on a Saturday, and more about the kids. This conversation lasted about 15 minutes, and then we said good-bye and carried on our separate ways. Had this happened in a less public place I would have made the conversation shorter, because I tend to become uneasy around men in conversation when there are a lack of "witnesses", if you will. It seemed rather harmless to me, but I know that prying eyes and suspicious minds would allow themselves to think otherwise.

This leads to another thought:

What do you do to get out of an uncomfortable situation with a member of the opposite sex?

The few times it has happened to me over the last 8 years of being with Bryan, I always started talking about my husband and my children. It works like a charm every time. I have used the gospel a few times as a backup to stop an awkward conversation, and that has worked very well. I also take it upon myself to tell my husband about anything I encounter that would seem inappropriate, awkward, or uncomfortable. It helps me to let him know that I trust him with everything in my life, and that I am making choices that would honor our marriage and my integrity.

But I want to know...... what do YOU do? How do YOU do it?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Ten - Self Esteem and Service

I have been re-learning that self esteem and service go hand in hand. The questions I have asked myself after reading a church talk sent to me by the bishop are:

Do I pray enough for my confidence in myself to increase?
Do I love myself enough to do good for myself?
Do I love others enough to share the goodness of myself with them, even if they are strangers?
Do I love the Lord enough to trust that I truly have a purpose in His plan?

When I am not caught up in my own self-destructive thought patterns, I rejoice in acts of service. I find peace and resourcefulness in making meals for others, watching other people's children or pets, sending words of encouragement to those people who are conflicted, and nursing those who are wounded or sick. One thing I learned today is that self esteem can be seen as inner-peace, humility, and strength all tied together. I also learned that faith, hope, and charity are the cement of a confident foundation (which I have heard through instruction many times over the years, but have too often tossed aside in the turmoil of daily life).

Today really was a beautiful day. Aside from pleasing weather, happy company, and cheerful business at home, I felt uplifted and inspired by the words James E. Faust spoke to encourage a soul search for higher self esteem and a deeper understanding of self worth.

So the concept of strong self esteem ties in to our love for God, ourselves, and others. If one is weak, the others weaken with it. My weak love for myself has made my progress in those other areas slow over the years. But a lesson once learned can help any reasonable person to overcome the next hurdle. I feel stronger and more confident than I did yesterday. If tomorrow I feel stronger and more confident than today, I have made double the accomplishment. I sincerely hope that each of you can do the same in any way, large or small.

God bless you, and have a good night!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Nine - Creativity at Work

One of the things I blogged about was attempting to pick up new hobbies or refresh old ones. I did that today with a few things, and I wanted to share my experience on them.

I decided to start making wreaths again. I did this when Grace was a baby, but then I dropped it for work, then school, then home school. Something as simple as snapping the wire in a silk flower with wire cutters can feel liberating! I had to plan the layout for a Fall wreath and a Holiday wreath. They were simple wicker wreaths, so I covered them with different flowers and leaves to create a loose sort of pattern that would coordinate colors and draw attention. The finished product turned out well, and I felt satisfied afterwards.

My next endeavor was to start pastel sketching again. I had not done this since high school, but it was something I used to do quite often to capture moments in time and to get my thoughts out. Don't start believing that I am a "good" artist. I am by no means professional, and I think my stick figures look better than my shadings. But I love using pastels nonetheless, so I sat down with a drawing pad and my old art kit. I sketched a vase full of flowers that sits on my dining table, and then filled it in with the pastels. I was enjoying myself so much that I lost track of time and I had to sprint with Andrew to the school to get Grace on time. Is this a bad thing???? I will post a picture of it if it turns out to be in demand. :-)

I tried working on sewing some elastic into some of Grace's dresses today, but the bobbin is being stubborn and making bird's nests, so I am going to tinker with it a bit in the morning, and then take it in for repair if I cannot fix the problem myself. Bryan told me to fix the problem with a hammer..... I would, just to satisfy my annoyance with "modern" things that break constantly, but then I would have to spend money on a new machine. So the alternative is that I will have to channel my annoyance through other healthy means (such as blogging) and then patiently troubleshoot my hunk of junk.

I am coming to the chapter in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. Those of you who have read the book or seen either the BBC series or the less worthy new movie, please help me out. He. Is. CREEPY. I can't wait to read her refusal and read about him LEAVING.

With all of the attempts at increasing talents, I have been noticing that I am hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit more. It is a great comfort to me to know that the Holy Spirit will be a strong companion if I continue to build up my talents and my gifts. The things I am trying to build up are good things that provoke thought, creativity, patience, and consistency. I am thankful for the opportunity to build these things up, and I am even more thankful for the stronger presence of the Holy Spirit in my life as of late.

I want to close tonight's blog with a scripture reference:

Moroni 10:5 - And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Thank you for following my blog and encouraging me on my journey. Have a good evening!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Eight - When Days Are Good...

I do not struggle so much with my confidence and positivity when days are good, such as today. It is when days are hard or bad that my strength is tested and often fails. One thing that I can always be remembered is that I would handle the hard days better if I kept the same high spirits and positivity that I have on good days.

I took the big step yesterday and had a meeting with the bishop. It went very well, and I took his counsel seriously. I have faith that I will eventually overcome these struggles of mine. But I also know that they will never go away completely. Instead, I will learn to lighten my load by exercising my ability to strengthen myself. This journey of self-reflection and improvement is helping me to see ways that I can strengthen myself, and I am utilizing those tools now. Attaching myself more personally to scripture stories, seeking more guidance for myself in prayer, continue to increase my talents and my knowledge, acquire more hobbies, and surround myself with positive people.

Even something as simple as reading more of the books I like is helping me to boost my awareness and find a more solid foundation. I am reading Jane Austen again, and the wit and propriety always entertains me and removes me from my daily life for a little while.

So today is just another reflection on what I have been doing and what I can do to help myself become a more confident, grounded person. I am looking forward to Andrew's preschool days, where I can take some meditation and yoga classes, teach myself a musical instrument, learn something new, and increase my skill so I can be a better example. I will miss him just as I miss Grace while she is in school. But I know after praying and considering my situation, it will be a big step forward for me to fill some of my time with enriching myself so I can be a better example and be of better service to myself and my family.

I am excited about what is to come, and I might call on some of you to join me in some of my new (or long-forgotten) endeavors!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Blog Challenge: Day Seven - When should the past become the past?

The question of the day:

When should the past become the past, never to be brought up again, only a vague and distant memory? Is one day sufficient? How about a week, or a month? A year? Are there certain things about a person's past that will be brought up throughout life?

The deeper question:

If the past is brought up after a person is forgiven, was that person truly forgiven?

Today's blog is not going to be very long or detailed. We are all imperfect, we will all make mistakes at numerous points in our lives. We will all be in need of forgiveness. The Atonement makes that forgiveness possible. I am very thankful for it, and I try each day to understand it more and be an example.

There will be more to come tomorrow. Today was a busy day, and I am struggling to stay coherent as I type this.

Have a good night!