Saturday, December 27, 2014

{Musings} Intro.

There's this book I love called Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It is one of those daybooks where there is a short daily chapter. The book is all about womanhood and finding joy despite the stress and pressure and busyness that assaults us on a daily basis. I love it and have probably read it four or five times, starting when I was about fourteen. I usually go through it about every other year, although there were a few years in college that it escaped me.

In this book, there are dozens of suggestions for living life with more grace and abundance. Every time I read it, there are things I try and things I ignore, picking and choosing depending on where I am in life. A few days ago, one suggestion in particular leapt off the page to me. After going into the way writing 365 meditations on an abundant life changed her, Breathnach challenges the reader to attempt writing her own meditations.

I know I've read that page before, and I think I considered the idea. But this time, this reading, it sounds like something that is absolutely indispensable. Lately, I feel like I walk around, collecting little meditations of my own, forming them into sentences in my mind, and then forgetting them when I neglect to write them down. I've always done better with goals and deadlines, so here they are: This year, every week, I am going to write what Breathnach calls meditations. I'm going to call them musings instead, since the word meditation suggests silence to me, and what I'm trying to accomplish is the opposite of silence.

I'm not sure exactly what will happen. I've been ambivalent about how much of myself I want to share in this public space, one moment feeling like I overshare and need to tone it down, the next feeling that if I ever want to be a good writer, I need to get more comfortable with being raw and free with my emotions. So, I'm not sure where this train is headed, but I'm jumping on for the ride.

I'll be posting once a week, Saturday nights or Sunday mornings. (Let's not be too picky -- I'll be lucky if I get it out at all). So here's to fifty-two musings on life and finding joy, this time next year.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Thoughts on working.

I talk about work more than I realize, I think. Sometimes my life seems like it is split perfectly in two -- there is the me that is home with my son, that throws parties, that sings songs and cooks dinners, and there is the me that calculates medications, tries to figure out how to squeeze two blood products, an investigational drug, pre-meds, anti-nausea medications, diuretics, and morphine into one kid's body in a 12 hour day.

I think we all know which version of myself I like better. Or at least, I think I do. I am always wishing I could be home more, stressing out before work with worry like a weight in my stomach. My decision to work was a complicated one, and sometimes I wonder if it was the right one (aka, I prayed about it and felt right about it, but sometimes after a long day I have my doubts).

But here's the thing. Most of the times I've felt moved to bear my testimony of the Savior at church (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or "Mormons" have the opportunity to do this publicly before the whole congregation once a month if they want to), I feel like it has been because of an experience I've had at work. This is not to say that I haven't had testimony strengthening experiences at home, because I have. But it is obvious that I have some serious lessons to learn at work -- that this job stretches me in ways that I need to be stretched.

Lately I have the same patient every time I come to work, and I have some extra responsibilities with this patient. We call it having a "primary patient." This family is so sweet and devoted to their child, and they are so fearful right now. It is humbling to be one of the people they look to for answers and support. It also reminds me that no matter how stressed out I am at work, no matter how worried I am about my failings both real and imagined, at least I can come home, sleep in my own bed, and kiss my sweet, cancer-free child goodnight. I don't know if he'll always be healthy. I don't know if, in the future, I will have more healthy children. However, another gift working this job has given me is realizing that sometimes the present moment has to be enough -- I don't know what will happen in the future, but today, my family is well.

And that is what is going to get me out of bed tomorrow despite the day I had today.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A working Thanksgiving.

I can't say I was thrilled to work today. I love Thanksgiving, and despite the fact that we had our own miniature Thanksgiving last night (it was a very Trader Joe's Thanksgiving), I couldn't help feeling a little bitter as I cleaned blowouts out of seat cushions (oh wait, that was most of the moms that didn't work today, too, wasn't it?). I'm just kidding, it was actually a great day at work, as far as work is concerned. I had a very nice assignment, there were plenty of treats throughout the day, and so on. The point of this post is not a complain fest, as that would in fact be completely negating Thanksgiving. I guess what I'm trying to convey is that it wasn't my ideal Thanksgiving. However.

As I took care of my sweet primary patient and the adorable baby that was my other patient today, I felt so overwhelmed with gratitude that I don't have any family members in the hospital. I felt grateful that I am able to eat food, instead of having custom concoctions of amino acids and vitamins pumped into my veins. I felt grateful that my universe wasn't contained in a tiny, isolation hospital room. I felt grateful that my legs walk, that I can get up and use the bathroom, that my blood can be trusted to carry oxygen, fight infection, and staunch a wound.

I am grateful that even though my car wouldn't start after work, someone jumped it and I got home. I'm grateful for the toys on the floor reminding me of my little boy, who is visiting with his cousins a few hours up north right now. I'm grateful that I have a fridge full of leftovers, a shelf full of books, and an hour before I need to sleep. I'm grateful for the promise of a few hours of "me-time" on Saturday morning, before my family returns from their Thanksgiving road trip. I'm thankful to have a job, even though sometimes it seems like the root of all my stress.

I know that I take a lot for granted, that I find it easier to complain than to rejoice. I'm hoping this year I can hold my thanksgiving a little closer to my heart. One of my favorite memories of Thanksgiving as a very little girl is listening to Christmas music on the 5-hour drive home from Idaho Falls after Thanksgiving. I'm indulging in a little eggnog and Pentatonix right now, and that Christmas-y feeling is starting to blossom around me. It really is this palpable feeling to me, something that I can't reproduce any other time of year but that always returns after Thanksgiving dinner, familiar as though it never left. Christmas is special because it is about rejoicing -- rejoicing in the hope of salvation, despite the fact that life can be grim. Thanksgiving is such a perfect invocation of the spirit of Christmas. It is easy to get caught up in the stress of the season, and I know every year we make the same resolutions to remember the Savior, love, and family, more than Toys 'R' Us ads and holiday parties. But I hope each year I can do a little better.

So -- I'm grateful. I'm grateful for everything I have, even the things that aren't always comfortable or easy. And I'm grateful for this season of joy before me. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A renewal.

I have started many, many blogs. Like, maybe 7 or 8. (3 are live right now).

I haven't been writing in any of them. I haven't been writing much of anywhere.

There are a lot of reasons for this. Like working full time, and being a mom, and having a husband in graduate school, and the holidays. Obvious reasons. There are also not so obvious reasons, like being fearful of others' opinions, and being unsure of where the line is between touching honesty and an overshare. As well as the fact that I felt stretched thin -- unsure of whether I should post on this blog, or that one, or keep it to my journal.

First things first -- I have to share a quote with you that explains my reasons for getting back to blogging, regardless of where. This month, my book club read the book Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. To say this is a powerful book would be an understatement. I found myself adding post-it notes to a good percentage of the pages, and because it is a library book, I've just spent the better part of an hour typing out my favorite quotes into the ever-lengthening Microsoft Word document where I dump every good quote I find, often never to look at it again.
If, anywhere in your soul, you feel the desire to write, please write. Write as a gift to yourself and others. Everyone has a story to tell. Writing is not about creating tidy paragraphs that sound lovely or choosing the “right” words. It’s just about noticing who you are and noticing life and sharing what you notice. When you write your truth, it is a love offering to the world because it helps us feel braver and less alone. (Glennon Doyle Melton)

She goes on to say that even "bad" writers should write, because then maybe we will give courage to others to write, to share their truths even if their sentences aren't Pulitzer-worthy.

And the truth is that I miss blogging. I've always felt like nothing is real until I've expressed it in some way. I compose blog posts and book reviews in my head and I think it's time to set them free, even if my writing goes unread.

But I want to make a few changes. For a long, long time I have written a book blog, The Story Girl Book Reviews.  I love this blog -- I used to post book reviews daily. I'm not deleting the blog, but I am laying it aside for the time being. I just don't have the time to write full-length reviews or devote myself to its upkeep anymore. However, I can't stop talking about books. So for now, I'll be talking about them here.

Secondly, I have felt prompted for several months to write for new moms, in part because my own experience with new motherhood was so traumatic and unexpected and I feel this desire to smooth the path for others in any way that I can. I had a blog all planned out -- domain name reserved, blog design planned out, column ideas penciled into my planner -- but I just haven't been able to start on it. I think part of me believed that it had to be perfect to begin, and so it has remained an idea and nothing more.

I can't say that I'll never start that blog, but for now, I can't put my energy into it. It is already being siphoned off in too many other directions. However, I do want to write content that is specific to that earthquake of change and love and tenderness that is postpartum life.

What I'm saying, in essence, is that this blog is going to be a hodgepodge for now. I have been trying to find some direction for it for a long time, making up little columns in the past like "Mama Monday" and "Foodie Friday," that are not currently in my plans. I've tried experimental posts, free-writing prompts, sticking only to family updates. I still haven't found exactly what I'd like to do. But I am going to keep writing, if only to exercise this little writing muscle that starts to twinge and nag at me if I ignore it for too long.

I could fill this blog post with Glennon Doyle Melton quotes, but there is one that seems particularly relevant.
Reading is my inhale and writing is my exhale. If I am not reading and writing regularly, I begin to suffocate and tend to climb the nearest person like a frantic cat, clawing at the person’s eyeballs and perching on his head, desperate to find a breath of air. This is why my husband is supportive of my writing, because he is generally the nearest person. So Craig and I think it’s imperative for a girl to have a place to inhale and exhale. Some place safe to tell the truth. (Glennon Doyle Melton)
For now, this will be my safe place to exhale.   

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hi there!

It's been a while since I've blogged. It's been awhile since I've written anything, actually. I have this problem where I create projects upon projects for myself, and even though they are self-imposed projects, I feel this sense of obligation to finish them, all the while thinking of more and more projects, until I get crushed by a sense of imaginary obligation and vegetate under countless episodes of Parks and Recreation and eating Cookies and Cream Cookie Butter out of the jar with a spoon.

I need healthier coping mechanisms.

All that to say, I got overwhelmed with blogging and Happiness Projects and plans for writing three interconnected novellas and planning parties and making Halloween costumes and I didn't do anything for a while. Except, you know, take care of a crazy toddler and working full-time in a high acuity unit. Which apparently isn't enough for the little voice in my head that suggests all these projects.

Anyway, all this to say, I miss blogging, and I am slowly dipping my toes back in to see if I can do it for relaxation instead of getting crazy. I have all these ideas of what a blog "should" be -- organized, polished, about family, about crafts, about recipes, whatever. When in reality for me it is a dumping ground for assorted ideas suggested by the crazed project-voice in my head or found on the internets.

Anyway, I'm just going to let it be what it is. And I made a little discovery today that I wanted to share with whoever still reads this. :)

Have any of you ever been to BYU Women's Conference? I always thought it would be a good idea when I was at BYU, but I always had some kind of other obligation. Anyway, yesterday I got an email from Deseret Book saying that all of their Women's Conference e-books were $34.99. Usually it is $49.99 for the whole bundle and I made an impulse purchase.

Today, I was thinking, "I'd better start reading all these talks since I spent a bunch of money on them." I read the first talk in the 2013 book and it was amazing. I don't know how to convey inspired I felt after reading that talk. Inspired enough to blog, obviously.

It's still on sale. Go buy it.

That's all.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October/Happiness Project

One of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors (Attachments by Rainbow Rowell) has a whole chapter about how wonderful October is. (And you can read the chapter online here, because Rainbow Rowell is a lovely and generous person). "It's October at last! Callooh, Callay!" Silly words, but they define how I feel. In this heat-wave besieged California metropolis, my soul is grasping at every little hint of autumn it can find. A few scarlet leaves littered the sidewalk when I took a walk with Cal, and earlier this week we practiced jumping on the crunchy leaves at the playground. Trader Joe's is already a pumpkin lover's paradise, and so far I have sampled pumpkin cranberry pita crisps, pumpkin mochi ice cream, pumpkin spice pumpkin seeds, the "this pumpkin walked into a bar" cereal bars, and pumpkin body butter (not in my mouth, that one). I am dying to try the pumpkin sea salt caramels, the pumpkin Joe-Joe cookies, the pumpkin ice cream, and several other things I currently can't remember because I've been denying myself in order to decrease my sugar intake. (Just remembered. Not pumpkin, but speculoos chocolate cups. Om nom nom). (October is heaven. October in Trader Joe's is paradise. Cal agrees. He told me the other day, "Pumpkin say... yum!!")

I love October for more than the sights and tastes. I love the spooky atmosphere, diving into eerie novels and losing myself in mysteries. I love the sense of magic that purveys the world, the excitement about turning into someone else for a night. I love the color orange. I love the World Series. I love making soups and putting on sweaters (please, LA? Please can I wear a sweater?) and my spider scrubs top. I even love when it gets dark earlier... in October. In December it gets too dark, but October gives you just enough to see the stars.

Anyway, enough rhapsodizing about October. (You can never rhapsodize enough about October.) I'm not going to recap September's Happiness Project, because my marriage is too sacred and private to be entangled in my stunt blogging, but I am looking forward to October's theme. I am going to focus on Beauty.

Before you write me off as being shallow, allow me to explain. Initially, my plan was to solely focus on working on my own, physical beauty this month, not because my appearance is so important to me, but because I've never really learned how to put on makeup, or what products work for me (I often just take my mom's rejects), or how to do my hair properly (scrunch gel and hairspray, every day of my life since 6th grade). I never feel like taking the time to watch tutorials. And no, I don't want to become a glamour queen, but I do think it would be good for me to take a little time and learn what works for me. And I thought October would be the perfect month for it, because October is all about dressing up.

As I thought about the concept of Beauty more, I also started thinking about it in a less superficial sense. As in, what brings beauty to my life? What do I find inherently beautiful? I started thinking about art, and nature, and sweet little smiles on a sweet little boy's face. It made me want to thick more about beautifying this world, not with my face (although I hope to do that a little better) but with my actions, my creativity, and sharing beautiful things others have done as well.

So October's Happiness Project is twofold. First of all, I am going to try to be an adult and figure out my style. To that end, I am going to:

:: Clean out my bathroom, which is full of half-used makeup containers and lotions and potions. Get rid of what I don't use, and make a list of what I do or would like to try.

:: Maybe get my makeup done at Bare Escentuals.

:: Watch at least 3 makeup and 3 hair youtube tutorials. Maybe if I'm feeling bold I'll blog about it.

:: Watch the free Dressing Your Truth videos. I've heard raves about them.

:: Get a new makeup bag. Mine is so sick-nasty because I use Bare Escentuals and the powder gets all over everything. I think six years later I'm okay to get myself a new bag.

:: Clean my brushes. Because I don't want to tell you how long it's been since I've done that.

And then, on the other side of the beauty spectrum:

:: Instagram something I find beautiful every day. I will try to take pictures of things other than my son. But I do think he is pretty beautiful.

Also, while we're on the subject of beauty, Kaytie of the Be-YOU-ty Bureau has been doing a lovely, lovely video series for the last several weeks about women finding their beauty. It is super amazing. Go watch it. (They're the ones marked Finding My Beauty).

Anyone else love October? Also, GO GIANTS!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Cal aime, Cal n'aime pas.

Lately Cal has been making his own sentences. It has been hilarious to hear what he is thinking about and to see his little imagination begin to work. One of my favorite questions to ask him is, "What do you like?" He usually answers me, "I yike..." with a string of various and sometimes surprising responses. Here's a sample of his answers today:

::  airplanes
::  boats
::  ships
::  trains
::  Thomas (the train)
::  Momma
::  Daddy
::  apples
::  cheese
::  cake
::  walrus
::  fishies

Our conversations about what Cal "yikes" reminded me of the scene in Amelie when the narrator goes through several of the characters and talks about the quirky things they like and dislike. Here's the video (I couldn't find English subtitles, je suis desolee):

Here's what I "yike:"

::  books
::  pumpkin season at Trader Joe's
::  the way the air smells near the ocean
::  acoustic covers of pop songs
::  reading in bed
::  period dramas
::  undercooked desserts
::  being awake before everyone else
::  herbal tea lattes
::  folk music
::  chambray shirts

What do you like?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Food for Thought

I came across this lovely passage today in the book Eve and the Choice Made in Eden by Beverly Campbell.
“Discernment, the ability to see beyond the literal to the divine essential, has ever been God’s gift to women. Since Eve, women have faced the challenge of ambiguous choices that carry with them holy, life-altering consequences. On the correct resolution of these ambiguities hangs the future of generations, the civilizing of society, the basic dignity of the human race, and mortal life itself. Daily, women must make decisions based on things not seen or even known clearly. Often these decisions require great leaps of faith. Frequently these decisions must be based on what serves the greater good for the greatest number. Often such decisions require women to set aside their own well-being in favor of another’s. The very process of bearing children illustrates this truth dramatically. It is a source of strength and comfort to many women to know that inherent in their divine nature is this innate ability to be in tune with God’s purposes.
            “Even more awe-inspiring is the knowledge that the Lord has such abiding faith in women’s judgment and wisdom. By His very actions, He has shown women that He wants them to claim and properly act on this gift. Women are surely beloved of the Lord for Him to have placed them in such a position. As He relies on women to embrace the greater law, to bow to the greater commandment, He affirms their intellect, their integrity, and their righteousness.”
I have heard church leaders say that discernment is one of the most valuable spiritual gifts -- the ability to make apt decisions in a world of choices. I know in my life I have had to make choices that at the time seemed ambiguous -- the choice to change my career path from pharmacy to nursing, the choice to have a baby earlier than we had originally plotted out, the choice to work at this point in my life rather than be a stay at home mom, which I feel like is the more "normal" choice for other women in my position. All of these choices came with guidance from the Holy Ghost, but none of them were easy to make. All of them have brought their share of difficulty and doubt, but ultimately have blessed my family and my life more than the path that would have been easier for me would have. (I am not saying it is easier to be a stay-at-home mom, or a pharmacist, or a woman without a child -- just saying that for me personally, those choices would have been more comfortable for me at the time I chose against them. Clearly the Lord had other plans for me).

This also reminds me of the reason we chose Cal's name. He is named after one of the central characters in the John Steinbeck novel East of Eden, Caleb Trask (who goes by Cal, too). In the novel, Cal has a series of trials that seem to doom him to a failed life. However, he learns that as a human being endowed with personal agency, he can choose his actions -- he can choose to overcome his situation, to make the difficult choices that may lead to temporary discomfort but if he can endure it will lead to lasting joy and self-mastery. The essential word that epitomizes his experience is timshel, a Hebrew word meaning "thou mayest." Steinbeck explains this word in a conversation between Cal's father, Adam, and their family's servant, Lee:
‘Ah!’ said Lee. ‘I’ve wanted to tell you this for a long time. I even anticipated your questions and I am well prepared. Any writing which has influenced the thinking and the lives of innumerable people is important. Now, there are many millions in their sects and churches who feel the order “Do thou,” and throw their weight into obedience. And there are millions more who feel predestination in “Thou shalt.” Nothing they may do can interfere with what will be. But “Thou mayest!” Why, that makes a man great, that gives him stature with the gods, for in his weakness and his filth and his murder of his brother he has still the great choice. He can choose his course and fight it through and win.’ Lee’s voice was a chant of triumph.
            Adam said, ‘Do you believe that, Lee?’
            ‘Yes, I do. Yes, I do. It is easy out of laziness, out of weakness, to throw oneself into the lap of deity, saying, ‘I couldn’t help it; the way was set.’ But think of the glory of the choice! That makes a man a man. A cat has no choice, a bee must make honey. There’s no godliness there. [...] I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed – because “Thou mayest.”'

(If you are familiar with Mumford & Sons, their song "Timshel" puts this concept into poetic song as well). (Also, I wrote a blog post about this concept in literature at my book blog a couple of years ago). 

I am so grateful that God trusts us enough to give us choices, the greatest gift given to humanity. We can choose darkness or light, and when we choose light, we are progressing to live again with Him. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Happiness Project Recap and September/Inspiration from August

I haven't had as much time to blog lately and I've been tempted to just drop it all... but the truth is that I love it even when I can't dedicate much time to it. So all my little end-of-month posts are going to be crammed in here, and hopefully I'll do better next month! 

My "have fun" goal in August was partially completed. I did go to Idaho and had a lot of fun with family, had a girl's night, and tried to give myself the chance to enjoy life instead of always piling on more responsibilities. Cal went through a really difficult time with teething and it was hard to get out and have fun some days, but we still had a good end of summer. 

For September I am focusing on improving my marriage and relationship with Scott. I'm keeping specifics of this goal to myself as I feel like marriage is a pretty personal thing, but that is my focus for this month. 

Now on to the things I found that I loved this month! There were so many that I've considered making this a weekly post, with the obvious issue that I don't always find myself blogging on a weekly basis. Maybe we'll go to bi-weekly. But for now, enjoy a huge list of things that inspired me in the month of August:

:: Beautiful vintage photos of motherhood.

:: Help from heaven with whatever trials we face. 

:: 5 lessons from postpartum depression. 

:: An unexpected advocate for breastfeeding. 

:: Rules for visiting a new mom

:: The way motherhood transforms the way you love

:: Amazing scholarly article about how birth is a sacrament (by one of my nursing school classmates!)

:: Beautiful video about how faith enables us to go through difficult times. 

:: 20 happy thoughts for when you are having a bad day. 

:: Women can change the world.

:: 8 lessons for a great marriage. 

:: An essay about making sacrifices while being true to yourself. 

:: Who we really are, underneath our mistakes. 

:: Have you ever walked a labyrinth? I love them. Any good ones in Los Angeles?

:: Reconciling our desires with the Lord's plan for us. 

:: Let's be understanding of others. 

:: Those days when we just can't keep it together. 

:: A different perspective on following Christ. 

:: Photos of moms with postpartum depression who look insta-perfect. Which goes to show we all carry a burden that is unseen. 

:: Buzzwords for the pseudo-crunchy mom. Essential in Los Angeles. 

:: Male support for breastfeeding (yay!)

:: A story about postpartum anxiety and coming through it. (The more stories shared like this, the more women who feel alone are saved). 

:: The gratitude of this mom reminds me of why I am a nurse, and inspires me to be better. 

:: More insightful thoughts on women, motherhood, and career. 

:: I am a huge advocate for breastfeeding. But... it didn't go very well for me, despite hours of work and tears and spending money and lactation consults and expensive supplements. So I appreciated this list of reasons not to feel bad.

:: Love. Love, love, love (is the answer). 

:: Treating yourself with the love and forgiveness you would show to your child. 

:: How birth is like baptism (kind of like the Sacrament of Birth article referenced above). 

:: The lovely, lovely, luxury of time

:: It's okay if you don't stare at your children every moment. It really is. (Unless you take it too far... and therein lies the constant stress that permeates my life!)

:: If you are wondering if you should work or not, here is a quiz to help you determine if you should be a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or a work-at-home mom (hint: there's no winner here!)

:: Let's not shame people for the type of birth experience they have, mmmk? 

Okay, I'm definitely going to have to do this more than once a month. That took forever! Hope you found something you liked. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Inspiration in July

:: This post resonated with me because this lovely lady had a similar spiritual inspiration to mine to pursue something outside of the home while in the midst of motherhood.

:: 15 moms you will probably meet at playgroup -- this made me laugh out loud. Although there are some of them that unfortunately describe me...

:: I love Laini Taylor and I love Paris. A fun look at the city through her ever-creative eyes.

:: This post about how a child sees his mother's beauty made me cry. And simultaneously reminded me of how I have always thought my mom was the most beautiful lady in the world (but really, she actually is).

:: Thoughts on solitude and the Savior. (Introverts unite!)

:: 10 promises that should be part of wedding vows -- good (and amusing) advice for any marriage.

:: A wonderful post about Caleb of the Old Testament. A good role model for my own little Caleb.

:: I want to read this book -- it sounds really thought-provoking.

:: This post on why you should say yes to... you know... had me laughing.

:: Surviving the first year of parenthood (survival skill essential: a sense of humor).

:: I love Cup of Jo's blog series about parenting around the world. This post about Germany had particular appeal to me because we might live there some day.

:: Stop accusing women for being pregnant just because they exhibit one of these 5 symptoms.

:: Loved this interview with Dr. Christina Hibbert, an psychologist who has been through some difficult trials herself.

:: We spend way too much time on our smart phones.

:: A career woman became a SAHM -- and liked it. (And more about this...)

:: 35 life lessons.

:: Being real about our struggles and our humanity, instead of presenting our perfect facades to the world. If you read one link on this page, read this one.

:: Vulnerability in parenthood.

:: A thought-provoking post on what we should and shouldn't share on instagram. I know I have been on the same side as this author of seeing a photo shared of an event with everyone from the ward except yourself invited to some get-together and being stricken at being left out. And yet, at the same time, do we have an obligation to protect everyone else in the world from being offended? Interesting, with lots to chew on.

:: It's okay if it takes time to grow into motherhood.

:: A beautiful beautiful BEAUTIFUL scholarly dissection of some of the latest talks and books about women and the priesthood. I LOVE the insights here.

:: Becoming perfect in Christ.

Have a great month! And share any links you have found, too. :)

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Happiness Project: July Recap and August

July was my month of learning to love myself and recognize my worth as a daughter of a Heavenly Father. And it has been an interesting adventure.

I'll start by saying I didn't follow any of my resolutions. I started out with them, and probably followed them for about three days, but over the course of the month I found myself jumping off and exploring self-worth in new directions. I read in the scriptures and in General Conference talks about divine nature and how each child of God is "a joint-heir with Christ" (Romans 8:17). I read self-help books (Best one? You are a Bad-A** by Jen Sincero -- thanks for the recommendation, Alison!). I meditated a lot, which may be the best thing I have done for my mental health, ever. I prayed a lot. I had a lot of ideas, and I didn't discount any of them. I learned a lot about myself, and tried a lot to let go of the idea that I'm not good enough. I spent an hour crying in a therapist's office and felt a lot like Rory Gilmore when she goes to a counselor after stealing a yacht -- not sure why I felt like I needed to do that, because my life is pretty good, but it was cathartic (and is now over, thank goodness).

I don't have anything concrete, no measurable way to say that I feel better about myself than I did 31 days ago, but... I do. This month of focus has been earth-shaking for me, and I am going to keep this up. Unlike The Happiness Project, my different emphases each month haven't stayed in their discrete zones, and I think that is as it should be, for me. I think these months of focus are turning out more to be jumping-off points for me.

So what's in the cards for August? I have been digging deep over the last few months, and this month I am going to focus on FUN! I have never been great at relaxing and just having fun. I've always felt like I needed to get ahead, be productive, use my time (and never sleep). I like to think I've loosened up a tiny bit since college, but the truth is that I still sometimes get stuck in this spiral of being productive and then crashing and dumping my mind into the cavernous depths of the internet (Pinterest and Facebook being the main culprits). I'd like to focus on first of all using my leisure time well instead of on social media (it has its place, but I think it has encroached too far on my time) and second of all, enjoying my summer. This coming week I am off Monday through Friday, and then I am going to Boise for a week, so I think I can manage some fun.

Having resolutions to have fun seems contradictory to me, so I'm just going to come up with a few guidelines for myself --

* Don't get sucked into my phone or the internet just because I don't feel like I have the energy for anything else. If I really have no energy for anything, I need to go to sleep. Or watch a movie.
* Don't feel guilty for doing a few things on my own when I get to Boise.
* Do what I think is fun, not what other people think is fun. For me, fun can be reading in bed with a cup of tea for three hours. Or playing the piano. Or writing on my blog. Sometimes it is more fun to stay home and relax than to go to all the museums or parks or whatever. Sometimes I need to be by myself rather than with someone else.

Some things I'm hoping to do during my "fun month":

* Go blackberry picking
* Watch some movies on my Netflix list
* Read alone at my favorite coffeeshop, Rembrandts
* Go for a run on the beach
* Take Cal out to lunch at Lemonade

Onward to fun!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Why I Love Trader Joe's.

Mondays are grocery shopping days in the Lemmons household. As food-lovers, this is always an important and organized process with lists and trips to multiple grocery stores. However, our main stop is usually Trader Joe's.

I'll be honest with you -- I actually cried the first time we went grocery shopping in Los Angeles. I had spent the past two years shopping at Winco every two weeks. I found everything I needed and usually kept the bill under $150 (for two weeks). When my pregnant self shelled out that much for one week at the local Ralph's, I was sure that our family would never survive the expenses of La-La land. I didn't even try at Trader Joe's. If Ralph's, the neighborhood grocery store, was exorbitant, wouldn't a "fancier" store like Trader Joe's be even worse? When I finally ventured in a few days later out of curiosity, I was shocked to see that not only did they have unique food and great produce, but the prices were frequently better (or close enough that the better quality was worth it, unlike other stores with great produce *coughcoughWholeFoods!coughcough). It wasn't long before Trader Joe's was my biggest stop every week. Or couple of days. Whatever. The last few weeks I have been thinking about why I love good old TJ's so much (and why I'll probably cry even harder than I did about losing Winco when we eventually move...)

1. Delicious, seasonal produce. Also, it looks pretty. Those shining, colorful rows of bright tomatoes and peppers makes me want to eat my vegetables. 

2. Friendly staff. Thank you for giving stickers to my child when he is screaming his head off in the checkout line. Thank you for remembering me every week and starting up our conversation where we left off last Monday. Thank you for always having a smile. I like you people. 

3. Convenience. Yes, it would be cheaper if I bought all my cauliflower heads intact. But as a working mom (and let's be honest, I bought them as a stay-at-home mom too -- no such thing as a mom who isn't busy), I appreciate having my veggies pre-cut and pre-washed. It's nice to be able to just throw everything into the pot.

4. And with that, not only do they have conveniently cut baggies of broccoli, fruit, cauliflower, and so on -- but they also have veggie mixes, like stir fry mixes, mirepoix, etc. 

5. Interesting things to try. They are always incorporating something unique into their store, and I await my mailed Fearless Flyer eagerly each season to see what unique flavors are being featured. 

6. Healthy. I haven't done specific research into this or anything, but it seems like Trader Joe's really makes an effort to keep things as healthy and organic as possible. So it's okay that I eat a couple of servings of the Cowboy Bark, amirate?

7. Freezer section. Again, I know that in an ideal world, I would prepare everything from scratch and only eat whole foods. But no, it doesn't always happen. And I love me some Reduced Guilt Mac and Cheese.

8. And also, the frozen fruits and vegetables. In arrangements that I actually want. Like the mixture of pre-cut bell peppers (have I mentioned I like the pre-cut thing?). Or the pineapple tidbits, or the frozen berries, or the whole green figs. No limp cardboard packages here. 

9. Pork gyoza pot stickers.

10. Dark chocolate everything (but especially the peanut butter cups and the speculoos bar).

11. Cookie butter. 

12. Cookie butter.

13. Cookie butter.

14. 99 cent greeting cards. Which are cute, and a little tongue-in-cheek, and 99 cents

15. Fresh flowers, usually for less than $5 a bouquet. I am queen of buying myself flowers, and I can only justify it when they don't break the bank. 

16. Macarons. I came back from my study abroad to France in 2008. I walked two miles in Salt Lake City to pay $3 for a stale, brittle pistachio abomination. So I was kind of excited when I came to LA and found that I could buy macarons at dozens of little bakeries and at Whole Foods. More excited when I tasted Trader Joe's 12-pack and discovered that they can be done well on a budget (the coconut one, you guys). 

17. Sample table. Cal has a Pavlovian response to the sample table by now. He knows there is goodness awaiting there, and he demands to enjoy it. 

18. Pumpkin explosion in fall. They do so well with satisfying our nation's seasonal obsession. 

19. Homemade flour tortillas. 

20. Champagne grapes. Just picked these up today for the first time, and they are a win. 

21. Latkes -- a breakfast staple in our house (yes, I know I should make them myself).

22. Vegetable flaxseed chips. 

23. The best oatmeal. 

24. Good meat that is well priced. 

25. Cheap sushi. 

26. A huge variety of tasty ravioli. Definitely lived on that for the first few month's of Cal's life. 

27. Amazing, inexpensive EVOO. 

28. Clever product names. "This blueberry walked into a bar..." and so on.

29. Trader Joe's international personae. Trader Giotto, Trader Jacques, Trader Ming, Trader Jose, Trader Josef.

30. Plenty of cheese selection. Also, the moist mozzarella string cheese sticks. 

I'm sure after I press "publish," dozens more reasons I love Trader Joe's will pop into my head. But just know it is best. And go buy yourself some cookie butter.

**Edit** 31. The music!! I don't know if all Trader Joe's have phenomenal music, but whomever is in charge of the radio at about 9 am on Monday mornings at the Palms/Sepulveda store, thumbs up. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Inspiration from June

Here's my collection of what I loved on the internet this month. Posts that were beautiful, posts that made me smile, posts that made me cry, posts that made me think.

:: Mothers who write. 

:: Finding balance within the realm of working motherhood (rather than an either/or type of thing)

:: Motherhood: Defined (I love writing like this. Makes me think of David Levithan's Dictionary of Love)

:: A great example of loving and appreciating one's spouse.

:: Learning from trials.

:: I love examples of other real, live momma's days. And while this one is declaring she is not as positive as people make her out to be, I still think she is a great example.

:: How to be awesome, part 6. I definitely intended to write a whole post on this video, but suffice it to say -- this is a great message, and one I am constantly trying to apply rather than letting myself feel hurt.

:: A woman who helped organize a foundation for global service that is oriented towards families. Scott and I really would love to participate in something like this.

:: Does meaning come from the accomplishment of our goals or the striving towards them?

:: You can still have time to read when you have babies!! Amen, sista.

:: A very cool comparison of Christ to the hero of an epic story, and how that applies to all of us.

:: This is much like my philosophy on what to do when Cal won't eat. (It's always nice to be validated).

:: I want to be this kind of nurse.

:: Advice to young writers.

:: How amazing is this art gallery? I want to go there.

:: The secret to a good marriage: Definitely something to remember.

:: Mental course changers to stop mommas from trash-talking themselves.

:: Ten rules for reading.

:: On being honest about the adjustment period to motherhood -- such an echo of my own experience both then and now.

:: This makes me weep. I have seen so many families lose their first child, and wondered how it would feel to have another child. Here is one woman's moving story.

:: God as story-lover and law-maker. (Kind of weird, but it works when you read the article).

:: Get rid of the "shoulds".  

:: Chemo Barbie!!

:: A road-map for finding happiness.

:: Truly beholding our children.

:: Learning to be Christlike.

:: How the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints empowers women.

I hope you found something good to read. xo

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Happiness Project: June Recap and July

For the month of June, I focused on increasing the peace in my life. Here's how I did with my resolutions:

:: Journal daily -- While I didn't journal every single day, I used my journal much more frequently than usual, and I feel like it really did increase my sense of peace. When I was frustrated with something, I could type it out and get it out of my system, which left me feeling much less frustrated and also sometimes led me in a thought process that would solve the problem. 

:: Meditate daily -- I think this was the resolution that was most beneficial for me, new-agey as that sounds. I don't know that I meditate "right" -- but the five minutes of quiet thought that I've been taking almost every day has helped me to slow down, be less reactive, and find more creative solutions to my problems and ideas. 

:: Record my patriarchal blessing in my own voice -- I did this one on Sunday, and it was an incredibly moving experience for me. It fits well into my project for July, which I will comment on below. 

:: Go to the temple -- I didn't meet this resolution. On the day I planned to go to the temple, I spent the day throwing up. However, I am going to make an effort to go in July -- the beauty of this is that I can continue to try and keep following my resolutions even if my personal deadline has passed. 
:: Search for quotes, songs, scriptures, etc. that promote peace -- I haven't finished my topical study of Peace in the scriptures, but I have found a scripture that has become more or less my anthem for this month -- it came up multiple times and rang so true to some of the difficulties I have been experiencing with peace:
2 Nephi 4:27: And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?
I've come to realize that when my peace is destroyed, it is frequently because I have allowed it to be destroyed. I have taken offense, or reacted with anger, or beat myself up mentally, thus giving "the evil one place in my heart." I think my big ticket lesson from this month has been that peace is mine to choose (by the grace of God) and when it is chased away it is often by my choices.


For July, I originally thought I would focus on marriage or parenthood. I felt like I should move away from these "self-centered" goals and focus outward. However, another lesson I've learned this month is that in order to effectively serve and love others, I need to have a healthy relationship with myself. For some reason, I have always really struggled with my self-esteem. I've always been quick to berate myself, been easily offended, imagined the worst case scenario for myself. This has caused me problems with depression for most of my life. As I went through a rough several days this past month, I felt strongly that I needed to focus on recognizing my worth as an individual and daughter of God. So this month's emphasis is "Self Worth." My goals are:

:: Making use of that recording I made of my patriarchal blessing. (Explanation of patriarchal blessing). It is such an amazing tool for remembering my divine nature and I use it too infrequently.

:: Similar to my plan for June, study scriptures and other quotes/ideas about self-worth and divine identity.

:: Follow some journal-writing prompts on self-worth and self-discovery. 

:: Spend some time being creative every day -- So, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, girls from the ages of 12-18 work on Personal Progress, a project that encourages them to develop attributes like faith, knowledge, integrity, etc. One of them is individual worth, and I always thought those value projects were so easy to complete because many of them involved developing talents. Because I took piano, voice, and dance classes, I was always "developing talents." However, I feel like I missed the central message. I want to spend some time being creative and focusing on how that can help develop confidence. 

So far, this Happiness Project has quickly become an exploration of some of my deepest values and issues, but I appreciate the fact that it has me asking questions of myself and seeking to progress. What do you find helps increase your self-confidence and positive self-esteem? 
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