Sunday, April 22, 2012

Quick update

Reed takes his end-of-year tests this week. He's suuuper nervous.

Jaxon passed his sight-word test with flying colors.

Savvy is still talking about being a "school grill"

I'm still not ready to face that idea...

My sister's family is moving to El Paso this summer! (Us three oldest will be within 10 hours of each other! Now to get the two youngest...)

My dear Jenn is getting married in June--and I'm SO excited to be shooting the wedding.

Phill is moving forward with preparations to become a Physician's Assistant through the Army program.

We're expected to stay here in TX for five years. (We'll see; the Army is so unpredictable)

I go once a month to a writing workshop that I LOVE.

I got released as the Relief Society secretary and was called as a Webelos scout leader.

Reed is up to my chin.

Jaxon likes to play basketball with Phill.

Savvy enjoys having tea parties where she does the voice of an old British lady. (It's a riot.)

We're being blessed immeasurably with good friends here and beautiful surroundings.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Peace, be still

I was looking at a photo of Reed from a year ago, marveling at how much his face/whole self has changed. I realized, too, that we've been here in Grand Prairie for almost six months--and marveling over that, too. Then I was thinking about how I have grown and changed in the last year--or just the last six months--and my brain just about imploded.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still very much myself. I still struggle in the same ways, and I still triumph over the same successes. But one major difference is that I feel more peace these days. I think it has very little to do with where I am geographically--and everything to do with where I am personally.

When we first moved here, I had what I suppose was a crisis of faith. The change was drastic enough, drawn-out enough, and unexpected enough that I felt....angry. Angry, bitter, and confused as to why (I felt) my repeated prayers for relief and help weren't being answered. So one day I said it aloud--to Phill, while I was in the midst of a really dark moment--"I'm just so mad at Him." And right after I said it, I wished I hadn't. It was like being a child, and shouting something horribly hurtful to your mother or father. I felt deep and immediate shame, and found myself praying for forgiveness all day, until at the end of the day, I knew I could stop. I knew that Heavenly Father was well-aware of my pain, and wanted to help me. I knew, too, that I had been stubbornly refusing to do what I had been prompted to do--what would really help me.

I still feel lonely, out of place, and impatient from time to time. Sometimes I feel lonely or depressed for an extended period of time. And sometimes I feel, still, like I'm failing at everything important, or that my life is so chaotic that I can't catch my breath. At times I feel that I have made no progress.

But in general, I feel more capable and more believing than I have for a very long time. And really grateful and aware of so many blessings being poured out upon my family and me. I try to take a minute each day to just quickly write on my dry-erase board a few things I'm grateful for. I know it's something that has been shown time and again to make people happier. I believed that, I just felt really overwhelmed by the concept of a "gratitude journal". So I decided to be ultra-casual about it and go with the dry-erase calendar on my kitchen wall. Every time I look at my list, be it long or short, I feel happier noticing the ways that God blesses me every day. I feel like remembering how He's watching over me enables me to handle the setbacks and difficulties with greater grace and--here's that word again--peace.

I feel like although I have the same issues and heartaches, when I'm praying, reading my scriptures, and just writing down the blessings I find, the problems I do have become tiny enough that I could just put them in my pocket. Still present, but manageable. Not so devastating. A learning tool, instead of a traumatic injury to my soul.

 Sometimes we suffer hardships or struggle to overcome weaknesses for what feels an uncommonly long time. Sometimes it is an uncommonly long time before we finally see the full dividends of well-endured strife. But I know that in the meantime, we can have comfort, we can know that the Savior is there, ever-ready to extend His hand, and we can feel peace that surpasses understanding.

In sacrament meeting one Sunday, we sung a hymn that I think I've always liked, but maybe just didn't pay much attention to before. Now it has become something that I think of so often, and sometimes just crave to hear. It reminds me that we are never forgotten.

Master, the Tempest is Raging

1. Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness.
No shelter or help is nigh.
Carest thou not that we perish?
How canst thou lie asleep
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?

 The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

2. Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master.
Oh, hasten and take control!

 The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

3. Master, the terror is over.
The elements sweetly rest.
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored,
And heaven’s within my breast.
Linger, O blessed Redeemer!
Leave me alone no more,
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor
And rest on the blissful shore.

 The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, peace, be still.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Thing 1 and Thing 2, plus four more for you: Remembering how to eat

I was reading a friend's post--she's one of the adorable and brilliant Notes She Wrote sisters--and she mentioned some of the changes they're making to the way they eat. And, well, we are, too. Gradually. Painfully. Grudgingly.
It has been really, really hard. Honestly, it's the last thing I want to do. But one of the FIRST things I want to do is to be comfortable in my skin and feel healthy, so....*sigh*....healthy eating it is.

As I've pondered ways to inject more nutrition into our meals, I realized: I ALREADY KNOW. I've done this before, I've read up on the subject, and I've even prayed and received personal inspiration regarding how our family should eat. I just forget. I just don't always moderate. I just really love most food, butter-filled baked treats included.

So this can serve as a reminder for me, and maybe be helpful for anyone else who is maybe also feeling....forgetful. *Wink-wink.*

Blend a half-gallon or gallon's worth of green smoothie, then divide into plastic baggies and freeze. When ready to drink, thaw the smoothie by putting the baggie (still closed) in a cup of hot water for a few minutes. This way, you don't have to worry about a pitcher of smoothie going bad in the fridge. You can still get your daily requirement in, and you won't need to blend something up every morning.

My usual green smoothie:
Tons of spinach (I usually end up using frozen spinach)
Some berries (My favorite? Blueberries)
A banana (Texture, taste, potassium)
Sometimes a little bit of vanilla yogurt
As little water as possible

And I've heard--but haven't tried--that if you want it to be extra creamy, you can add avocado. I'm sure there's an endless variation of ways to make it better than the one I've listed above! My Camilla makes amazing smoothies--like dreamy Orange Julius calorie-infused delightful smoothies. She hated this one. Probably because, well, it's blended salad. Be forewarned, smoothie purists. I myself love it, but I sure won't be offended if you find that you don't!

Something I've been trying to do more of lately, is to replace the chips I usually like with my lunch with raw veggies. I HATE raw broccoli--with dressing or not--so I eat the veggies I like. Carrots, cucumbers, olives, tomatoes, chunks of iceberg lettuce....I do eat them with a little bit of ranch, and honestly, I'm not going to beat myself up about it! It's a very small amount of ranch in relation to a huge amount of veggies.

For snacks, I've been enjoying doing homemade popcorn. It's STILL lower in calories, fat, AND salt if you do it yourself (with a little butter and salt) than if you do the microwave bags! You get TONS of popcorn for very little kernels, and I think it tastes better.

I've also enjoyed re-discovering my favorite dark chocolates. The nice thing about dark chocolate is, it takes very little to satisfy my chocolate craving. Recently I tried Hageland--and it's awesome. I also love Ghirardelli (always).

Next: I have enjoyed making pita pizzas for lunch! They're about 200 calories apiece, if I'm guessing/calculating right....and depending on your pita. I make my own pita bread, and since they usually end up being small, I usually eat two. I like to spread Dean's french onion dip on them (a thin layer; too much and you'll throw off the whole low-cal nature of this dish), top it with mozzarella and parmesan, then broil it for 3-5 minutes. Very, very satisfying--especially with a side of raw veggies! (Or you could top your pita with veggies, too.)

Last--I'm drinking water like a fiend. (Whatever that means.) I'm far less tired and less prone to eat mindlessly when I'm hydrated.

I would love any other ideas/tips y'all have! (Yes, I just typed y'all. It has happened.)

Friday, January 20, 2012

recent resources

I wanted to share some resources that have been rocking my world lately!

Phill and I are renewing our efforts to eliminate debt and spend judiciously, and a wonderful friend here has referred me to Money Saving Mom, which I feel is an answer to prayers. Really and truly.

I have found so many great ideas, coupons, recipes, and encouragement already from this site. The first time I looked at it, there was SO MUCH helpful information that I got a little overwhelmed and had to walk away. It's that chock-full of goodness. 

Next, this list! I like it so much that I not only Pinned it, but I've referred to it several times since. So many great, simple ideas.

Now, usually I'm not one to spend hours poring over makeup ideas or hairstyles (I feel intimidated), but this website, The Beauty Department, keeps it wonderfully simple. I've looked at lots of the posts, and so much of it seems straightforward and manageable! In fact, this morning I felt brave enough to try something from a post.

Last, this isn't a website or a resource, really. It's just a book I love, and a quote from that book. I re-read it a lot, because it strikes a chord with me and my mother-heart.
The Cry and the Covenant (by Morton Thompson) details the life of Ignaz Philipp Semmelweiss, an OB/GYN who discovered in the mid-1800's that washing hands would stop the spread of puerperal fever.
Before this particular passage, Ignaz's father has just told him, at the age of 16, that he can go to the university in Vienna--a huge deal, considering their family is relatively impoverished and their country steeped in political upheaval. His mother is so proud of him, so happy for him, and telling him that she always knew he would do something incredible with his life. She's explaining to Ignaz that his potential is why they're sacrificing for him to go to school. Ignaz is humbled by this, and this conversation with his mother is what follows:

[Ignaz] "Maybe for some people there just isn't anything."

[Mama] "Oh yes. For everybody there's something. Fathers are proud of a baby. But all mothers hope. They look at the baby and wonder and hope."

"Don't hope too much, little Mama. You're like all mothers. You see me as better than I am. If you really knew--"

"You think a mother is doting? Foolish?"

"Blind, thank God."

"No, darling. This thing they know. And maybe as a girl, and maybe after they live with a man and bear his children, they learn that somewhere in every man is in his own notion of himself as he thinks he can be and dreams of being. It's always the picture of a great man. It gets strong and clear when he finds out what he wants to do. And then if the mother has made her faith in him be part of himself, and a good wife takes up where the mother leaves off...."

"And then--?"

"Why, then he could be born in a stable. That's what a woman knows. That's what she knows when she looks at her baby--all women, Mary or Magdalen. That's what I know when I look at you."

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Friend Series: Minna

    • First, an introduction:
      How do you know Rae?
      If you want to get technical, I have known Rae since 2001 when she babysat for my daughter Madilynn back in Hinesville, GA. In reality, I have only seen Rae that one time, and in all honesty, I cannot remember much of that night. My husband and Phill were in in the same Army unit and Phill had mentioned that he was dating a girl named Rachel and that if we ever needed a sitter, we should ask her. I remember him describing Rae as a “good Mormon girl”, so being the responsible parents that we were (and still are!), we jumped on the chance to spend a night alone.
Once Facebook came along and I had entered in the names of everyone I had ever known in order to raise my friend count, Rae friended me after I had requested Phill. I was thrilled to have another friend and I thought it was cool that she had requested me seeing as how we had only met each other that one time. (did you remember me??) [I sure did!]
I had just begun training for a marathon when Rae began commenting on my statuses and pictures because she was about to begin training for the St. George Marathon. I feel that we kind of bonded over running and sharing inspirations and motivations.

What do you do for a living?
I am a social worker/family therapist. I feel that there are many forgotten people out there that need someone to listen to them. Everyone deserves a chance.

What do you want to be when you grow up? (Translation: What is your dream?)
I would love to develop some sort of non-profit agency that combines those struggling with mental illness/poverty/prejudice, etc., with running. Pounding the pavement heals the soul. [Minna, I'm going to quote you today.]

Tell us about your family/the people you love.
I have an amazing husband of 13 years and two children, Madilynn, 11 and Simon, 8. Rex is deployed right now, on his third year-long tour and I miss him so much sometimes that I can’t hardly breathe. We have done deployments before, but this time is very different and I realize this time around that I really cannot live without him and I don’t want to. He is the bravest, most humble man I know that knows the importance of admitting his mistakes. He amazes me. [Minna, I love you. Your courage inspires me.]
My daughter is an awesome 6th grader who I really, really like. I love her of course, but I really like her for who she is and what she stands for. She is not boy-crazy, or body-crazy. She would rather help out my neighbors that have little kids at home by playing with them or pulling them around in wagons all day, then watch TV or text her friends. Don’t get me wrong, she does love her phone, but she is so down to earth and knows the value of connecting with others. She is funny and sarcastic and just fun to be around. My favorite part of Madilynn is when she makes a really good joke and laughs at herself because she is so proud she “made a funny”. L O V E I T!! [I'd like to add that when I babysat her, she didn't make a single peep from her crib. Slept solid.]
Simon is a real character. When he was just 2 years old he told Rex and I that he wanted to go to West Point and fly Chinooks and he has never wavered from that statement. As I watch him get older and I watch him with his friends and classmates, I can see that he will be a great leader. At age 8, he already knows how to delegate, teach and mentor. Just the other day, he had all the neighborhood boys in our front yard doing PT for about 45 minutes; he had them doing push- ups, and jumping jacks, running sprints and doing lunges. All the boys loved it and Simon was in his element encouraging them all and pushing them all to finish. It was a great sight to see. [I need to meet him.]

What interests you?
People. I love meeting people and hearing their stories, everyone has one.

What five things make life sweet for you? What really makes you happy?
1. Laying in my husband’s arms at night watching shows like Bones or CSI. 2. Cooking with the kids in the kitchen with Pandora playing on the computer. 3. Running. About an hour in, you reach a groove and you just flow. 4. Baths. I take one every night. 5. Being outside. I can get really claustrophobic being inside for too long. [I think we're kindred spirits.]

Do you have a phobia? (Expound)
I have bag-lady syndrome. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had a fear of being homeless. Being a social worker, I have looked into where that fear has come from, and I recognize it and I try to not let it freak me out too much but with all this economic crisis stuff on TV lately, it gets a little difficult for me. [This is the most interesting phobia I've ever heard of!]

Do you have a favorite book? (Expound)
Right now it’s the Twilight Saga books. When I read, I want to be whisked away to another world and forget all my surroundings. Twilight does that for me right now and with my hubby deployed, I sometimes want to get as far away as possible.
    • Next: The questions to make you think....
      What is one technological advance you wish hadn't taken place?
      Smart Phones. I am an iPhone user but I spend so much time on that dang thing. I have to consciously not grab my phone every 20 minutes to check Face Book or email, etc.

      Hypothetical question: You've been imprisoned in a 10x10 cement cell, a political prison for dissenters of the dystopian, futuristic culture where this hypothetical situation takes place. You are allowed exactly three things. What three things have you chosen to bring with you? Feel free to elaborate, or to just leave your answers as-is.
      1. Chapstick. I’m obsessed with moist lips. 2. My bible. 3. Paper and pens. (is that technically four things?) [It's okay; it doesn't have to be four, that was the max.]

      If you ever imagine a utopian society, what is that society like? What kind of government (if any)? What sorts of houses, countries, etc?
      I’ve never really thought about a utopian society, is this the kind of thing you think of often Rae? I think my utopian society is where everyone realizes the worth of each other. I enjoy technology and science along with new discovery and free enterprise, however I feel that these things can blind us from what is really important and that is the connection between all of us. Everyone is worth something and everyone deserves a chance and even a second chance. [I LOVE this! And yes, I do think about this a lot....hahahha]

      What do you think is the most important thing a human being can contribute to this life?
      You can change the world by loving your family. Just imagine if everyone had the opportunity to grow up in a home where mom and dad love each other and stayed together. Where there was enough food to go around and dinner was eaten together each night. Imagine if we all had a warm bed to go to sleep in with a goodnight story and warm hug and kiss. To sleep through the night knowing we were safe and to wake up knowing that others were happy to see us. That kind of warmth and security raises amazing human beings that are capable of great change. Love your family and change the world. [Good heavens, Minna. You are so eloquent. I love this. I love you!]

      Third: Memory Lane

      What is your favorite memory with Rae?
      When you and I were training for separate marathons at the same time. It was nice to connect with you in that way. [I agree. I fed off of that.]

      What is your weirdest memory with Rae? (Man, I am really taking a leap here....)
      Don’t have one!! Hopefully we will see each other face to face some time soon. [I'm sure we'll make some weird memories....]
    • Why did you agree to do this interview? (Really, why? My questions are not terribly genius. They read a lot like a drivel-filled forwarded they?) Because I love you and I feel that you and I are meant to be close even if only by Face Book and email. I love who you are and because I’ve only really known you through the internet, I feel that I’ve seen the best pieces of you on a daily basis. I know that many of us only put our best faces forward on the internet, but you consistently do that which leads me to believe that you are just simply amazing on a daily basis. [Minna, I definitely agree that we are meant to be close! Let's arrange that visit....sooner rather than later.]
Minna lives, loves, and runs in Washington.