Saturday, September 28, 2013

How am I doing?

It's been a year and a half since I wrote this post, a change that set me on a path to personal development and creating a better person.

I wanted to spend some time reflecting on where I was then, the goals I made, and who I am now.

I have never actually shared the list of goals that I made at that time, and I don't intend to share them in this format, as they are very personal to me. However I have touched on a few of them here and there that I think I can appropriately reflect on those in this space.

In this post, I shared that I had changed my scripture reading to aid me in my spiritual progress. I decided to focus my scripture study on humility, the trait I was most concerned with at the time.

Humility- The biggest way I have changed in this aspect has been my thought process. Pride is an automatic response for me. Pride is still, 90% of the time, a year-and-a-half later, an automatic response for me. But now, 80% of the time, I internally refute those thoughts with things like not judging others and real Truth.

Near Christmastime, I finished reading the Book of Mormon through, studying humility. As a gift to our Savior I decided to then focus my attention on prayer for the new year, creating a better relationship with Him.

Prayer- Unfortunately, now nearly a year later, my prayer habits have not drastically changed. I did have a few good months in there. But the biggest change in this area has been the general gratitude I feel for things around me, seeing it as a permeating force that can lead my life.

The method: A year-and-a-half ago I decided to use scripture study as my main method of studying attributes and becoming better. In the past year I found it be ineffective (my topic, though, prayer, was very action-based and less internal than humility). The great thing about spiritual progress is that you can try new things and reinvent yourself all the time. Look at things in a different light, see it at a new angle and it benefits you. I have not as yet decided how to change my scripture study. Come December I will be finished again and deciding on a new gift to give.

The last goal I have been working on has been myself as a wife. I feel like I have greatly improved on how I feel towards my spouse, finding appreciation for him and choosing to love him. This is not a goal I have given myself time to work on, but rather is an added bonus in my growth and understanding of humility. Although my thoughts towards him have improved, I realized the other day when I was expressing this to him that actions speak louder than words, and my thoughts have yet to translate into the added sense of reverence and commitment I feel for him. This is definitely something I would like to improve in the next year.

But that is how progress works, isn't it? It starts out as an idea and can blossom into action as we grow. And I am growing! God is merciful and kind!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Choose your love

I've slowly been putting our house together since we've moved upstairs. One benefit of moving is you get to stop and think about some of the things that usually grace your walls.

I love this saying President Monson mentioned in this talk. Choose your love, love your choice.

I think sometimes about this choice I made. I truly love Ben with all my heart. I know I would be lost, incomplete, without him.

I also know that this "love" I feel for Ben was not the same feeling I had for him when we decided to be married.

I know my daughters will inevitably ask me, "How did you know Dad was the one?" "When did you know you loved him?" "How can I be sure I make the right choice?"

They will look at their father, in his perfection, his gentle ways, his easy going demeanor, his lack of faults, and they will say I'm going to look for one just like him.

Although he was already quite near perfect when I met him, I didn't think he was. Although his attributes perfectly compliment mine, I didn't scientifically pick him. I didn't die when he wasn't near my side, I could still sleep if he was away.

I just liked him. I really really liked him. I enjoyed being around him. He was my favorite person.

But love, in my experience, has been a choice. It's harder to "like" someone when you are around them constantly, when you see their whole life under a microscope. I did not graciously learn how to love. When we were first married, I saw plenty of his faults and few of my own. There were lots of tears and self pity.

But now I see him for the strength and character of who HE is: a real man, a provider, a child of God.

I don't spend time comparing him to other men, because being a child of God qualifies him as a great man.

I do jab at him occasionally (and at this stage in my progression there are still plenty of hurtful and untrue things that I think in my head that I don't say out loud), but it never changes the love that I choose to have for him: Everyday I feel blessed to have him, everyday I want ever-so-much to be worthy of him.

And he is a soul worth emulating.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Meaningful Life: Creating Magic

Christmas. The mere word brings a smile to some peoples' faces. Magic ignites the season, and brings a special glow to every Christmas memory. I have given a lot of thought to what makes Christmas magical, and it has led me on a journey to the importance of magic, that "special feeling" that can make days seem brighter and afternoons happier.

What is magic? I define it this way: an escape. Another world. Something unexplained that excites you. We adults are looking for "magic" all the time. We read novels. We watch movies. Young children create their own magic. In their pretend play in the kitchen. In the belief of things that aren't "real." This is a true yearning we have that never goes away.

What is the benefit of magic? For young children, creating and participating in magic has a great effect. In my eyes it's so much more than an "outlet for creativity" or a "brain stretching exercise." We can help them realize that they create their own magic. That they can make anything special and exciting. When there's magic involved, they feel motivated and inspired. The possibilities are endless. There is a fire that comes with magic that cannot be duplicated.

We as adults would do good to learn this lesson, too. When life gets hard and seems dull, we can remember that it is within our own power to infuse bits of goodness and light into our life. To create magic.

I feel that magic when I think about raising my children. The ideas that swirl around, the different traditions and teaching tools I want to try seem endless. I see magic when I see our future. Building a farm house, creating a beautiful life, there are nothing but roses blooming in that picture.

But I have found, in my adult life, it does no good to compartmentalize magic. If the magic only happens when you "have time" to read a book, or when you are "free" from responsibilities on weekends, then about 90% of your life is lived without fire. You are forever looking forward to "dreamy" times and calling the rest drudgery.

How much we can learn from the simple ways of a child! Magic is everywhere. It explains how the dishes get clean, or why their skirt twirls in the wind, or what makes the clock chime on the hour (it's fairies, I tell you).

They don't need to escape anywhere because their world is magical.

When I am around my young children, it's easy to get caught up in their magic and it infects me. I start to notice how big and tall that tree is, as big as a house, or that the leaf really does look like a star. This is why people love being around little kids on Christmas morning.

When I don't allow myself to be a part of their magic, I realize it starts by being grateful. I begin to notice how the breeze makes everything smell like Earth, or how that cashier smiled at me for no good reason. Then I don't need to watch that movie to be tucked away into a beautiful kingdom, I see it all around me.

When magic permeates your life, there's no "living for the weekend" or "trying to find something fun to do" because you live it, daily. God gives us a beautiful, magical place to live in, each and every day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


When the seasons changed, our baby gave all of us a sickness bug. We've been fighting it for almost two weeks now.

I've found a lot to complain about in the last two weeks. In addition, problems that I can usually overcome seem insurmountable. And doubts and fears that have been silently under the surface have come out in full force. I've had a lot of breakdowns this week.

In the few quiet moments, instead recharging, I find myself lamenting my weaknesses. Why haven't I figured this out yet? I spend time angry and upset, unhappy and feeling sorry for myself. Haven't we been through this already? I know this is not effective, I tell myself. Then I lash out at those I love, drawing myself into a never-ending cycle of self-deprecation and self-defeat.

I put off those things that might help me most: real scripture study, an earnest prayer, a chance to notice my blessings. It's not quiet enough. There are too many distractions. I need the sleep. Then I am reminded of the lesson I learned last Christmas, that peace can be had without the quiet.

God speaks to our souls. He is forgiving. He is kind. He knows our troubles and our sorrows. And His son Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of how to live under pressure. We can find him in prayer, or read his words, see him in the bounteous blessings surrounding us.

So how can we live through sickness? How can we get over the self pity? Apparently I don't know yet. But I do know that nothing can replace the daily bread. It's more of a healing balm than herbal tea or honey or cough drops combined.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Turkey Tacos

This is my week's contribution to our sisters blog.

Ahh....dinnertime. On a good day and with the right amount of time, I love making dinner. Something about the repetitive motion of chopping or seasoning just soothes me. If the kitchen's clean and I've got enough counter space, I work quickly and easily. I am immersed in my work, content in my own thoughts. Add to that a little Josh Groban, Norah Jones, or Dixie Chicks and I am in a very happy place.

Last night was not one of those nights. My two girls have been sick all week and very ornery. I was exhausted. Luckily, my knight in shining armor showed up just in time. He had an errand to run and the girls were very happy to accompany him on a walk through the neighborhood. They came back with suckers so my guess is they had a good time.

Not that I really needed that much time, this dinner is pretty quick to throw together. But quiet is something that comes at a premium around here, so I drank it in, even if the house around me was in shambles.

Turkey Tacos

You will need
Ground turkey, taco seasoning, red, yellow & orange peppers, black beans, romaine lettuce

I love these colors. So bright and happy. I love seeing them in my food. I'm always reminded what a bright and vibrant world God has blessed us with.

Black beans, tri colored peppers, these are a few of my favorite things...

Turkey Tacos

Ground turkey
Taco seasoning
Canned black beans (or kidney beans)
Red, yellow, and orange pepper

You can also add:
Canned diced green chilies
Frozen or canned corn
Chopped zucchini or squash

1. Brown and season the turkey with taco seasoning. Salt and pepper if needed.
2. Dice peppers and saute them with the turkey (I love the taste of peppers, so I dice them pretty big and don't saute them very long).
3. Rinse and drain beans and add to the mix. Remove from heat.

4. Rinse lettuce and pat dry. Break apart for tacos.

5. Load up tacos and add cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Or even eat them plain. We love traditional salsa or a sweet corn salsa. You could also skip the sour cream and add ranch or cilantro ranch. If you like a little crunch, add some tortilla strips.

All loaded up. This is actually my favorite way to eat them, just plain.

The day is at its close. We are fed and happy.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Here We Are

This was still in the basement. Cheyenne taking a nap in her closet.

Playing toys. This is in the basement again

Painting the basement

Checking out the new carpet in the basement, which was finished just moments before our new renters arrived.
Not quite the dingy basement it once was, now with new paint and carpet

This room used to be a big open space, but Ben added a wall and this light above the laundry
Here is more of the same wall, wrapped around to the stairs. Ben also installed a light at the top of the stairs

Cheyenne all ready for "school"

Summer wrapped up with some major projects around here. After we moved out of the basement, we had about a weeks turnaround time until our new renters arrived. Ben had to tear out the old carpet, fix things enough to prepare for painting, paint, and then we had to deep clean everything while we had the carpet put in. It was one of the most stressful weeks of our life. 

The cooler temperatures rolled in yesterday and it signaled a change for us. The short Fall that you find in Utah has arrived and it won't be long until winter. Less than three months until our baby brother gets here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Keeping in touch in a large family

This post is my week's contribution to our sisters blog.

My dad is a prolific journal keeper. He has been keeping a daily journal since about 1967, and hasn't missed a day. In fact, now his retirement, he has compiled his life history and it is nearly 700 pages long! The importance of recording history has been passed on to his children.

People often ask us, being from a large family, how we "like it." I've always found this an odd question, because I've never been from a small family, so it's not like I can really compare the two.

As adults, we are now spread out across the country. If you are reading this post it is likely you know one of my sisters living in Idaho, Nevada, Maryland, Ohio, West Virginia, or Ecuador. We don't have the benefit of getting together for a Sunday dinner or sitting down for a family chat on a Friday night, but we do keep in touch.

For the past several years now, on Sunday night any of our siblings' inbox can look like this:

Our dad's journal keeping has gotten to all of us. While most of us are not proficient at keeping a daily journal, we all try with some regularity to send a weekly email to all of our siblings, updating them on our activities.

So that means when I saw Haley on Saturday that I already knew she watched Blindside last weekend, and when I saw Derek I already knew how much he loved his internship, and when I saw Cassidy I already knew what her experience was like in Kansas. I already knew that my dad has been practicing up on his Spanish, and that my mom had been sick.

So instead of using our weekend to catch up, we spent it making new memories.

Our mother... isn't she beautiful?

So yes we "like" being in a big family. And keeping each other updated about our lives make us "like" each other even more!