Sunday, February 22, 2015

{Musings} On beauty.


Tonight, I find myself thinking about beauty. About perceptions of beauty, standards of beauty, art, music, beautiful people. Possibly because I spent about twenty minutes looking at pictures of Oscar's dresses that cost more than I make in a month of "hard labor," haha. I go through phases of my life when I am accepting of my body and phases where it is harder to look past the scars and stretch marks and ... not so toned bits.

But really, my point tonight is not to beat the dead horse of "be your own beautiful, magazine standards are not reality, etc." Instead, I'm thinking of beauty as a more abstract concept. I'm thinking of simple ways to fill my own life with beauty. There are times I'm better at this than others -- I've been known to buy myself flowers, I feel like I have reasonably good taste in art and music, I try to get outside in nature and experience the magnitude of something beyond myself.

But sometimes I slip away from that. I stress about how none of my clothes look good on me, on the crumbs underneath the chairs, about the fatigue that keeps me from accomplishing what I want to, cleaning the house, being productive.

All this to say, this week I want to focus on simply filling my life with more beauty, whether that is listening to music that is truly good instead of what is one the radio, taking a few minutes to tidy up the black hole that collects all the clutter in our home, putting on makeup before work so I don't feel like a slob when I look in the mirror. It takes a little more effort to put beauty in the world, especially when we are tired and drudgy and don't want to do anything but curl up in a ball under a soft blanket and watch Friends until falling asleep. I think beauty is a need -- I think that is why we seek it in others, why humanity produces art. I've been neglecting it lately.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

{inspiration} 2.19.15


:: For when you're told to enjoy the "little years."

:: How to not burn out.

:: Beautiful essay about pregnancy and the goddess within all of us.

:: This poem. And also, what a cool idea.

:: An interesting paradox.

:: How to be a parent and still have time to read (especially with babies)

:: I want to go to this bookstore.

:: "Everyone is fighting a hard battle."

:: 5 books to give as a valentine. (For next year)

:: Dealing with weight gain in pregnancy.

:: This story made me cry.

:: So did this one, about a teen mother who pumped breast milk to feed the child she gave up for adoption.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

{Musings} Take pleasure.


The other day I was feeling particularly joyful. I can't remember now what made me so happy or what in particular was going right at that moment, but I remember breathing a sigh and just relishing the moment.

Then an epiphany hit me -- part of the reason I was so happy in that moment was that I was noticing it.

It's no secret that we are all a part of the "distracted" generation -- we look at our phones, listen to podcasts, watch TV shows on handheld devices, communicate with people halfway around the world. Every few days I notice some article (on my phone, haha) talking about how we all look at our phones too much, that we are missing the world around us.

I don't think phones and WiFi are the only piece of the problem, but I do know that for myself, one of the biggest deterrents to my happiness is the fact that I don't experience it in the present moment. I think in order to experience pleasure, we have to make a conscious effort to do so. It is so much easier to gratify our need for stimulation with newsfeeds and instagram, but if we sit down, taste our food, smell the flowers, feel the hand in ours, read something that actually edifies instead of simply drowning out the blank spaces in our heads, see the sunset, we might experience more of those perfect little bubbles of happiness.

I'm not very good at slowing down, but this week I'm going to try and seize those moments of pleasure.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

{Musings} Green eyes.

Lately I've been grappling with the green-eyed monster. I'm envious of those who get to stay home with their kids, the vacations I see people post about on instagram, people in good shape. People who get to spend their weekends with their families. People who feel confident in their jobs or their parenting or any aspect of their lives, really.

Today at church, we had a lesson on prayer, and the emphasis was strong on prayers of gratitude. I think gratitude is the antidote to the poisonous green-eyed monster riding on my back, although the moments before starting seem like a high mountain to climb.

How do you beat off the insidious advances of jealousy?

Thursday, February 5, 2015

{Inspiration} 2.5.15


I haven't had time to do this in a few weeks, so there will be a lot of links! I think I'm going to change my date from Saturday to Thursday so I can be more consistent.

:: Two moving blog posts about infertility from one of my favorite people, who has taught me a lot about dealing with circumstances beyond your control and being courageous in trials. (1) (2)

:: This woman writes poetry as she studies the scriptures. HOW COOL IS THAT!?

:: Good advice about not assuming that people are judging your motherhood choices (a difficult task for this working, formula-feeding, C-section-having lady). (are you judging me about those things? Haha JUST KIDDING)

:: And also this about parenting judgmentalness.

:: I like these thoughts on choices and accepting them, even when other good choices also exist (says the woman who changed her major seven times and then went back to school for a second bachelor's degree)

:: Best feminist picture books. Because we want girls and boys who believe in girl power!!

:: I loved this list of three things to do every day, especially the third one. Who hasn't felt left out of a clique before? The advice to rise above that left-out feeling is good medicine.

:: A poignant and somewhat humorous essay about a woman who is jealous of other women who make breastfeeding look soooo easy. Definitely could relate to this one.

:: Good words on being a busy mother and a writer. Sometimes the seasons of life don't allow these two roles to line up, as I know all too well, but trying and patience are the key.

:: I love the way this family teaches their children about how babies are made (and all that comes along with it).

:: Another powerful essay about infertility. (Just a side note: I myself have not struggled with infertility, but several people I dearly love struggle with it, so these essays tug my heartstrings)

:: Hi-larious -- being pregnant with the great American novel.

:: Dear Pope: Thank you for being a breastfeeding advocate!!

:: Did anyone read that article that was viral on Facebook called "They Should Have Told Me" about how motherhood is perfect roses and smiles? If it was for you, I am really happy for you. But this response to the post rang much truer for me -- I appreciated how it was realistic about the difficulties that come with motherhood while still acknowledging the beauty and joy in it.

:: 12 of Emma Watson/Belle/Hermione's favorite books (okay, just Emma Watson)

:: The struggle of the introverted mother. It's like I wrote it myself.

Enjoy! Any good spots you found on the internet lately?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Reading, Watching, Listening {January 2015}

I have stepped away from my book blog in the last several months, but I'd still like to write mini-reviews of what I am enjoying these days.


My fellow-nurse friend, Lorna, leant me this one. It's about the QA nurses' military experiences during World War II. I found it fascinating to learn what it was like to be a nurse during this time, especially as I feel like women in war and particularly nurses in war are not discussed that often. At times the writing was a bit dry, but the subject matter was well worth it. {3.5 stars}

This was probably my favorite book read this month. Another World War II story, it is the converging tales of Marie-Laure, a blind French girl living in St. Malo during the war, And Werner, a German soldier who is a genius with radios. The writing was lovely and the story was unique and compelling. I also loved reading a book set in St. Malo, because I've visited that city (I always love reading about places where I've been or places where I live). {4 stars}

I've been reading this monster for. ever. I finally had time to really sink into it and finish it while I was visiting my parents in Idaho. I loved it, despite the fact that it took me months to get into it and read it. I love the way Henry James characterizes his... characters. It reminded me of Edith Wharton, and if I'm not mistaken I actually have a book on my TBR that is letters from Edith Wharton to Henry James. This was my second Henry James (the first was Wings of the Dove), and while both really took some effort to get through the writing was beautiful and I feel rewarded by the time I spent. {4 stars}

This is the story of a working mother who is torn from all directions as she tries to make her life work. While I am not at work nearly as much as the protagonist in this book, so much rang true to me. I don't have a lot of friends who work and I often feel like no one understands how hard it is to have to leave your children, especially when it isn't really a choice but a financial necessity. I felt like I was having a chat with a friend, one who occasionally made stupid decisions but who was absolutely understanding. I was rooting for her to make it out the whole time. I read somewhere that it was "Bridget Jones for the working mother" and I couldn't agree more, except I actually found it more entertaining than Bridget Jones (maybe because I relate more?). Anyway, it was nice to read something fun, even if at times it struck too close to home. {3.5 stars}


I'm unabashedly obsessed with this show, although some of the characters' decisions this season have me shaking my head. Currently two episodes behind, though... I need to catch up!

I never watched this when it was on TV... having fun with it now! I just started the second season. 


Favorite songs this month: 

:: "Going to California" by Led Zeppelin (This has been a favorite forever, but I rediscovered it this month)
:: "Helsinki" by the National Parks
:: John Mayer's cover of "XO"

What have you been into this month?

Monday, February 2, 2015

These are a few of my favorite things. {January 2015}

I've seen some other bloggers list "favorite things," and I love the idea (so much so that I want to host a "favorite things" party one of these days... stay tuned). Here are my favorite things in January.

1. Trader Joe's Lemon Chicken Arugula Salad

To. die. for. I love arugula, and I love this sweet, tangy dressing. It is my favorite thing to take to work these days, and keeps me full for at least 4 hours (a must when you work a 12-hour shift, and almost impossible with a sale for me).

2. Aquaphor

I have icky nurse hands, and Cal has eczema on his face. Thus, we have Aquaphor in every room in the house, and it seems like we have been needing it more and more with the cold(ish) weather in LA. 

3. fresh Sugar rose

This is my favorite cosmetic thing EVER. I had some a while ago that I received as a gift, but I was having a hard time justifying buying another one, so Scott kindly did it for me. That is why he is my favorite. 

4. Rooibos Rocks Tea

Rooibos is my favorite kind of herbal tea, and Scott got me a huge box for Christmas. I've been loving it with a little milk and stevia. 

5. Le Creuset pot

I'd asked my friends what they like to make in their Le Creuset pots before I received one for Christmas. They always said, "Everything!" Now I see why. Best pot ever. 

What have been your favorite things this month? 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

{Musings} Just say no, or just keep going?

{Fitting right in with the topic of this week's post, I haven't had the time to do everything I want to with this blog the last couple of weeks. I have a lot of links that I've been wanting to post, but putting those posts together takes a lot of time and I haven't found it yet. Hopefully soon. I miss blogging when I don't do it.}

A few months ago, a new Mormon Message came out that was somewhat controversial. If you are unfamiliar with Mormon Messages, they are short videos meant to be uplifting and inspiring. Here it is below:

If you don't feel like watching it/don't have time to watch it, the gist of it is that a very busy mother gives of herself all day long, making sacrifices, and ultimately misses the chance to see a family member from out of town because she was so busy doing things for other people. Then it shows all the people she helped that day and the way they were blessed by her actions. The overall message is that she did more good than she ever could have known, despite her frustration and exhaustion.

I saw several blog posts pop up about this video (all of them by women). Some said it moved them to tears and helped them realize that what sometimes seemed mundane in their lives truly had meaning. Other women said that they felt like this video was promoting women working themselves to the bone and that it was vilifying women who try to take care of themselves.

I fall somewhat in the middle. As self-doubt is my M.O., my immediate reaction was guilt. How many times have I told myself that I need a rest, that I need to go to bed early or read a book, instead of helping someone? But the other half of my mind said, "But you do need a rest, sometimes. You can't save the world if your tank is empty."

This video and my own internal dialogue about it were several months ago, and I'd all but forgotten about it until one night a couple of weeks ago. I'd been really busy, really tired, and Cal was having a lot of temper tantrums. I felt like I was trying to save the world and help people all the time (self-aggrandizement and self-pity... one of the uglier results of me not getting enough sleep) and I found myself praying to my Heavenly Father, "Can't someone help me out once in a while?!" And of course, about an hour later, one of my lovely and very, very busy friends brought me a dinner she had made because she happened to be thinking of me. Cue shame at my ungratefulness.

I was doubly taught by this experience -- first, I was reminded that God is mindful of me and my needs, even when I am not acting particularly worthy of His notice. But secondly, I realized that this friend, who has plenty on her plate, took the time to notice the thought that someone might need her help and acted on it, even though she probably would have liked to take a nap or do something fun in her free time.

So the question remains -- how do you balance that need to help others, to look beyond yourself and love your neighbor, without becoming so exhausted that all your happiness is leached away? As I was pondering this myself, a verse from the Book of Mormon came to mind. The context is that a king is delivering a speech to his people and discussing the need for them to serve the poor and needy. Then he says,
And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order. (Mosiah 4:27)
This verse has impacted me before, but it was definitely a good reminder to me of priorities. I can't run faster than I have strength. I can't go and go and go until I collapse into nothing. But I do need to keep going, and try to improve. My personal interpretation of this is that we should push ourselves a little harder than we are comfortable with, so we can grow and help others, but not push ourselves so hard that we don't have any energy or joy.

What I hope for this fictional woman is that this day is out of the ordinary for her -- that there will be other times when she can relax in a hot tub with a good book, go out with friends, get a good night's sleep. I believe we do have to sharpen the saw, recharge our batteries, take your pick of the resting-up metaphors -- but not just for our own good. We take the rest stops when we can get them so we can "run with patience the race set before us," serving and loving others and finding our own joy on our way through life.
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