Thursday, February 4, 2016

It Feels Like Living

Lately my mind has been flitting to and fro from various ideas and aspirations. I have created a ginormous grab bag of "Things I Want to Do" and feel frustrated at its weight and discomfort. Each day I mentally go over my goals and how to accomplish them all.
But there is only so much one person can do. 
I feel empowered when I exercise, pushing my body beyond what I thought it capable off. The trainer for the class I have been attending three times a week really loves burpees. Every class he adds them in, pushing us and our bodies. He challenges, "Try adding in a push-up," and I inwardly roll my eyes. 

Is what I am doing not enough?

But I keep going. Jump down, feet back, feet in, jump up. Sometimes I can't even muster a jump so I weakly stand swinging my arms in the air like the first descent on a roller-coaster. My inner voice repeats the thought, Keep going, keep moving, one more, one more, one more.

Sometimes I add-in the push-up. Sometimes I don't.

As I continue to move forward, pushing my body and my brain, a surge of energy rushes in. I can't find its source but it is there filling me with power and confidence in my abilities.

I wonder where it came from, how it helped me to jump and reach higher. My heart thumps with electricity. 

It feels like living.
I return home and see my laptop sitting on the table. I see a basket of laundry to be folded. I see my scriptures waiting to be studied and my child staring up at me with hope in his eyes of a story read, a song sung, a game to be played. I open the fridge and see disorder, grocery lists, meal plans. I get dressed trying to be grateful for the clothes on my back while suppressing desires for more stripes, more florals, more shoes, more more more. 

There is too much I want to do, I need to do, I have to do. 

So I prioritize. God and family first. Always. Because at the end of the day, when I offer up prayers, I feel the most peace when I have these things in order. When I give my heart to that which is eternal, that which lasts.

But here comes the tricky part, do I fold laundry or write? Do I meal plan or life plan?
There are so many things I want to do and create and write about, but the reality is that there are beautiful children to be loved RIGHT NOW. When I am fully present with them it feels otherworldly, divine.

So I grasp on to that.

I keep doing what feels hard and trivial and I see myself expand. I keep reading stories and dancing and teaching. I plan meals that nourish and activities that bring us together. I keep folding laundry and hugging and kissing increasing expressions of love. Through it all I feel my soul filled with an electric peace. Neurons in my brain make tiny explosions of joy as I discover that my family is my greatest goal. 

And I feel myself living. 

Keep going, Keep moving, one more, one more, one more.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Taking Care

My vigor for paying off our student loan as quickly as possible led me down a murky path where it felt like everything was denied. It wasn't that we couldn't afford things, but rather we had to make a choice about money going towards student loans or not. Student loans won almost always.

It was depressing. I felt trapped.

I have found a personal prescription for overall health and well-being. It isn't super fancy but has been proved over many many years of trial and error.

I need exercise.

I need creativity.

I need spirituality.

Daily.

This is on a personal level, there are obviously other things necessary like good food and time with family. But on a basic, human survival as I spend each day in charge of two little lives, these things are an elixir.

They nourish my soul and that translates into mental clarity and fortitude.

I let exercise slide because everything seemed so expensive and anyone can exercise for free right? You just have to run! But that required dredging up motivation to get up early or bundle up children. So I decided that I just didn't get to exercise to my fullest ability for awhile.

I don't recommend it.

Last week I decided my mental and physical health is not worth sacrificing. As soon as I started exercising consistently and intentionally I realized how flawed my logic had been. The elixir was already working! Today I sweated as I lifted weights and was pushed to do more squats than I would have ever chosen for myself. It felt so good.

I believe we are all made to create. That looks differently for each of us; building, painting, composing, sewing, gardening, or a myriad of other ways. Creativity stretches us and gives us a glimpse of the depth and complexity of our minds. I have found a love in creating through writing. Through exploring thoughts and ideas and composing them in a way that feels enlightening. I enjoy this space and sharing it with others. As I have put more into this blog, with no one compelling me but myself, I have found so much joy. I continue not because I believe that I have radical ideas that will change the world, but through writing I understand the world.

Spending time to connect more fully with my Heavenly Father on a spiritual level has never been something that costs money, but I experimented sacrificing it nonetheless. I justified that it wasn't making that big of a difference in my life to read my scriptures or say a morning prayer daily. But it did. There is a visceral hope as I spend time communing with God. As I seek to understand Him, His plan, and my role in it, I find peace. Days without are marked with a fog that clouds my mind, every small annoyance expands to monstrous proportions. I am irritable and distant. The scriptures bring light and dispel the haze. They bring the brightness of July to a murky January day.

I am done holding unofficial test trials regarding the necessity of exercise, creativity, and spirituality in my life.

The results are conclusive.

I need them.

If I want to grow, I need them.

If I want to have peace, I need them.

If I want to be the mom I hope to be, I need them.

If I want more to give, I need them.

I want to take care of myself and turns out I don't need permission from anyone to do that.

But I am curious...what is it that feels necessary for your your overall health and well-being? On your best and brightest days, what makes it so?


Friday, January 15, 2016

Snapshots

This was a weird week, but aren't all weeks a little weird.

My car battery died on Monday; thankfully I was parked right next to my mother-in-law (she watched the children while I got my car going once again).

I finally signed up at a gym. After working at a gym for two years in Seattle, it turns out I have a lot of expectations that small town gyms can't fulfill...like childcare being included in the membership. BUT! I found a great gym that has awesome classes and the most affordable childcare. Major bonus that it is the closest one to me.

Playdates. I love getting together with other moms but unfortunately my children don't seem to like it as much. Max gets extremely territorial and starts acting like a feral child with no social skills. I always end up feeling like my mothering skills are shoddy which results in me never wanting to have my children around other children. I keep trying not to take it personally, I know they are there own little persons with personalities and strengths and weaknesses but it feels near impossible not to have all of their behavior feel like a direct result of your weaknesses and failings.

I went to a writing group for the first time Tuesday night. It took me a couple of months of forgetting and nervousness and unpreparedness to actually get myself there with some work to critique. But it went great and I was really glad to get some support from fellow writers. They liked my stuff. Still a shock to me that anyone likes what I write. So thanks for all of you who enjoy these ramblings of mine.

Snapshots from this week:

Maxwell, 4 years old.
 Daniel, 16 months.


Friday, January 8, 2016

Snapshots

This week has been all about finding our routine again with winter break being over. We watched too many Christmas movies, naps were all over the place, we came and went as we pleased. I don't regret it one bit though. Breaking routine every now and then is what creates some of the most wonderful memories. 

Nights cuddled up together and trips to explore the snowy landscape. A lot of time playing with family. The boys have the best cousins and they all run around in circles together. It is absolutely adorable. That is what I will always remember best about the Christmas season.

Grateful for the happiness of family.

Maxwell, 4 years old.
 Daniel, 16 months old.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Five Days In

December 31st 2015:

I feel like I HAVE to shop. More than a simple desire, the pressure to buy feels immense. I want one last day of bliss. So after a dental appointment and some extra time thanks to my mother-in-law, I head to where my love of shopping all began: the thrift store.

Growing up there was a thrift store within walking distance to my house. My friend and I started browsing in it collecting random shirts from the boys section (my prized possession was a "Stay Alive in '95" DARE shirt). I never shopped otherwise, except for a birthday trip to Nordstrom with my mother each year. Usually I wore hand-me-downs from friends, jeans, and those thrifted boy tshirts. 

But then I got a job and a small amount of cash flow. So I started spending that money; as soon as it reached my checking account.
In college I started noticing trends more and jumped onto the trend bandwagon at UW in the fall of 2006: UGG boots, PINK sweatpants, North Face jacket and backpack. I had it all. 

I know, I rolled my eyes too.

It felt inauthentic. I wore the sweatpants on campus only one time and felt ridiculous. They were then reserved for sleep only. Everything else was used and used well, after all they were quality purchases. 

After that I made it a personal decision that if I liked a certain trend after a year of it coming out, then I felt comfortable making a purchase. Otherwise it felt confusing to distinguish whether I actually liked something or whether constant exposure to it swayed my views. 

So back to the thrift stores I went for many years. It became such a thrill to dig and dig week after week and find a complete treasure. I loved it and loved how much money I saved. But it took more time and work and sometimes you still spend money on things you shouldn't have. 

I have gotten better and better at thrifting over the years but it is by far my greatest weakness. The possibility of finding something always lulls me inside and then I inevitably find extra.
So on the 31st, I gave myself one last unnecessary trip.

I totally scored and felt quite smitten about it. However, that smug attitude encouraged me think about why I originally hopped on this cycle of buy!buy!buy! long ago. 

There is a certain delight in buying something.

We find thrill at a deal or the perfect shirt to round out our wardrobe. It feels like a hole is being filled and the stars align and angels sing. Because constant purchasing is so readily accepted and available, we fall in to the trap of an easy fix of joy. We like being happy and so we do what we know will take little work.

But I have felt moments of true joy (and I am sure you have too), they are the moments that make you smile as you fall asleep. The ones you stockpile in your memory when heaviness arrives. That memory of your baby dancing or when you felt those first flutters with someone you love. The moment where your entire family was laughing in hysterics or when you worked really hard at something and all the effort finally resulted in success. Those moments are so much stronger than the bits of joy that come with buying things. They are more powerful to pull us from the grasps sadness and anger. They are worth more, they weigh more, they ARE more!

They are also more work. They require our time and our energy. They demand taking time at the end of the day to notice the good in your life. With a constant stream of Netflix and social media this gets harder and harder to do. We think more about the grass on the other side or just check out completely. 

In order to do this no buying challenge right, it feels necessary to practice more gratitude for what I have. To take the time and effort to be in those moments and to realize that nothing in the store can match the worth of what extends beyond the grave.

 And that is what I have learned in the first 5 days.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Brightness of Hope

The other day the world was a sky sandwich. White clouds hung overhead as a slice of clear blue sky hung near the horizon, everything below was illuminated by the fresh foot of snow that covered the valley. I smiled happy that it would be the first white Christmas I have had in many years. We have had wet Christmases and sunny Christmases but the snow has avoided me for a few years. I am very glad to have snow.

I love that snow takes the darkness that overwhelms this time of year and just brightens everything; mother earth's flashlight. This natural flashlight physically AND emotionally lightens hearts. I see it everywhere; adults act like children and frolic just as readily through the crisp landscape, everyone staring out their windows in wonder as the fat flakes fall and land like a magic trick. Tension disperses from my heart as I drive and expand my peripheral view and take in how beautiful it all looks.

It contrasts against the reality that for many, the literal darkness parallels loneliness, loss, and heartache. I still feel great pangs of loss this time of year. The lack of James' physical presence is made more apparent in sending out Christmas cards, hanging stockings, and selecting gifts. I still think about him most at night, when it is darkest. It is difficult to not let those dark feelings overcome the joy this season can bring.

But when I see the snow, I am reminded of light and the power that it possesses to take even the darkest day of the year and illuminate it. Even the smallest bit of light disperses dark.

That is why I have such hope despite all the bad in the world. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and He himself said,
"I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)
 Though we know that He was not actually born on December 25th, the actuality that we celebrate His birth close to the darkest day of the year is a powerful symbol. His coming to earth was literally Heavenly Father sending light to illuminate and dispel the darkness. His birth was miraculous as the snowflakes that fall and cover everything, He too blankets the earth with a bright hope.
 
In an effort to remember James more, I reminded my family that we should be praying for him in our family prayers more regularly. Max has taken this to heart more than anyone and requests to say almost every single family prayer and you know what he says? Each time Max utters a sincere prayer of gratitude, "Thank you that James can be resurrected someday." Each time a little more light flows into my heart. Even though Max is only four years-old, he understands being resurrected means that James will be brought back to life, that we will see him again.

That is the hope and joy His life brings. Those who are lost will be returned. Hearts broken will be healed. Comfort and peace will come through acknowledging the light is there.

We just have to pull back our perspective and see how He illuminates this entire world and covers it in His grace.  
"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men." (2 Nephi 31:20)
His light is there and it brings joy, a joy even greater than a child discovering the first snow of the season.

I hope and pray you all have a joyous and merry holiday season filled with light. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Snapshots

Thank you for all of the support for my New Year's Resolution this week. I have spent so much time convincing myself  I could NOT do it, and then so many of you expressed such kind confidence in me any residual fear was blasted away. Kindness is powerful.

I was thinking a little more about this project and kicked myself for being so self-absorbed in my privilege. I am doing this as a personal choice to step away from consumerism, but for a majority of the world, this way of life isn't a choice, it is just reality. People struggle to pay the bills. There are people who struggle to keep a roof over their head and food on their table. There are people in war torn countries who don't have access to basic necessities and live in constant fear. They don't have the luxury of "too much."

So, I don't necessarily think what I am doing is brave. I just feel like with everything going on in the world, I am done coping with it all by buying things. I want to break the cycle of shopping to relieve stress; because, to truly honor my privilege I feel that I should live as authentically as possible. To practice more empathy, to feel all of the feelings and recognize that those feelings are what truly connect us.

Kindness. Fear. Love. Anxiety. Patience. Stress.

We all feel them. I would just rather feel them about people than transfer it on to buying more stuff. Does that make sense?

 Now don't get me wrong. I don't think shopping in general is wrong or bad. Just the over-consumption and the obsession with it.

Anyways, thank you again. Because even though it feels silly and trivial, the need to buy is a strong addiction and I expect some growing pains.

Snapshots:

Daniel HATES snow. (15 months)





































Maxwell LOVES the snow but strongly dislikes getting his picture taken (4 years).