Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sing Out With Vigor and Vim

What is "vim" anyway? I suppose I could google it, but everyone is sleeping peacefully at my house right now, so I better not waste any more time. Let's just get down to the issue.

And the issue is music. Don't you just love music? I'm a little obsessed with it. I love music of almost all kinds. Music just has such an effect on my state of being. I added some of my favorite uplifting songs to the sidebar when I first started this blog. It's hard to fully describe the effect music has on me because it's deeper than words. I think music has a way of connecting with our souls and it's in a way that is more profound than any words can convey.

So, let me share an example.

About 6 weeks after Little M was born, I began a rapid decent down to rock bottom. Things got really really bad and I became very angry. With everyone. EVERYONE. There wasn't really a reason for me to be mad at anyone, but rational thinking doesn't reside well with depression. I even became very angry with God. I was just completely miserable.

This lasted for months. I tried different things to try and rise above it, but it never lasted long. Even if I broke free a little, it wasn't long before I was back to the bottom. And I pretty much gave up on ever getting out of there. The anger started to be replaced with numbness, but that really wasn't any better. I tried to fake it around others, but I really couldn't keep up that pretense at home with those that matter most. But I thought I was doomed to stay in that awful place forever.

Then I went to visit my little sister while she was home visiting my parents. My mom was working with the young women ages 12-18 at church at that time, so I usually went to her class when I joined them for church. But my sister encouraged me to join her in the class held for women (Relief Society). So, I went.

For our opening hymn we sang "More Holiness Give Me" (click here and search its title if you would like to hear it). I've been singing that song for as long as I can read. But it never touched me the way it did that day. And for some reason, that hymn touched me that day when nothing else had been able to reach me for so long. It was exactly what I needed to hear that day. To remind me of the faith I had, of God's love for me, of His plan for me, and of the need to let God and not my pride rule my life. I want to share the words with you.

More Holiness Give Me (LDS Hymn book #131)

More holiness give me
More strivings within
More patience in suff'ring
More sorrow for sin
More faith in my Savior
More sense of His care
More joy in His service
More purpose in prayer

More gratitude give me
More trust in the Lord
More pride in his glory
More hope in his word
More tears for his sorrows
More pain at his grief
More meekness in trial
More praise for relief

More purity give me
More strength to o'er come
More freedom from earthstains
More longing for home
More fit for the kingdom
More used would I be
More blessed and holy
More, Savior, like thee

This song did not fix the things that were broken in my life. But it's message fixed what was broken inside of me. And even though life was still hard, I could handle it. I was able to lose the numbness and the anger and find joy again. It took time, but singing this hymn with my sister that day was the definite turning point. I don't know if I ever thanked you for that, Little Sister, so "thanks".

And that is just one of many times in my life when a song has helped me to access the joy in my life. Sometimes songs come as answers to my prayers. Sometimes songs help me cope with hard times. And sometimes a great song on an already great day just makes the day that much better.

Do any of you feel the same way? What are some of your favorite songs?

Thanks for your kind words and support last week. To those who have called or emailed, I promise I will get back to you. We're just kind of really busy right now! But it means a lot. Thank you!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Sometimes you turn around and discover that someone has already made the lemonade for you.

It's true.

Let me explain. This year has been an interesting one so far, to say the least. Since January we've been sharing custody of my car with the mechanic. Basically, he gets it on the weekends and charges us big bucks to fix it, we bring it home, something else goes wrong, and he gets it back the following weekend. We've managed to hold onto it for the last two weeks though, so please keep your fingers crossed.

Then our camera got lost/stolen. So, we had to replace it and since we were already spending money on one, it made sense to upgrade a bit. More cash out the door.

Then last week out of nowhere, our microwave lost the ability to produce heat. The light still turned on, the turntable still turned, and it still hummed, but no cooking took place whatsoever. So, we had to buy a new one.

Remember how we're only halfway through March? And I don't know about you, but in light of the economy, we've really been trying to cut back lately.

We were joking about what else could possibly go wrong early last week. Guess what happened on Thursday?

HH became unemployed.

And I'm not sure I've ever felt more blessed.

He's an auditor and worked for one of the Big 4 Firms, so way back when, this wasn't something we even considered a possibility. He's a very smart guy and a good worker and has two great degrees from one of the top accounting schools in the country. And auditing isn't something you can give over to a computer. So, it seemed very stable. I know that even with all those factors, sometimes people still lose their jobs, but it just didn't seem like something that would ever happent o us. Then all the chaos hit last fall and there were a couple of rounds of layoffs. But even then, we weren't really worried because he had several jobs with different clients going on and they would have been imbeciles to have let him go. But things kept tanking and they kept losing clients, so a couple months ago he came home and told me that he might get laid off in the spring.

That's blessing #1: Even though we didn't know for sure this would happen, we knew it was a possibility. So, we made a plan and prepared for it mentally. When he came home Wednesday night and told me he was pretty certain he was getting laid off the next day, it was a shock, but we knew we'd be okay because we'd already thought everything through.

#2 (These aren't in any particular order): And then a month or so ago I realized all of the things that have happened over the last few years (that's right, Someone has been watching over us and preparing us for this for at least that long). When we first came out here, we were going to buy a house, but for a number of reasons we didn't feel good about that and opted to rent instead. We have been grateful for that a million times over since we would have right when the homes were selling for the most and we would have lost so much. But now we're really grateful because we have no mortgage to worry about or house to sell.

#3: It's a long story but I actually wrote up the contract for our current lease. I wrote it when we thought we'd be buying a home, so I intentionally made it easy for us to get out of (i.e. 30 days notice). So, we don't have to worry about our rent contract.

#4: A little over a year ago, we decided to really get our finances in order and keep a good budget. We were able to pay off both of our cars and save up a decent amount of money. We were hoping to put that toward a down payment on a house, but now it means that we don't have to stress over moving costs.

#5: I hate going to the doctor. But for some reason, over the last few months, I found myself taking care of some medical issues I've been having. We do have severance and we expect to be in a new job before it runs out, but even so, I don't have to stress about these things if we don't have such great insurance for a while.

#6: I married into a great family. They're just good people. And they have an apartment in their basement that they usually rent, but happens to be empty. And they are kind enough to allow us to stay there while we figure things out.

#7: And did I mention that they are good people? So, I don't have to be stressed about living under the same roof as my in-laws.

#8: We thought we were going to move last fall, so over the summer we did most of the stuff we wanted to do while living here in New England. So, we won't be leaving with regrets.

#9: I also got rid of a bunch of stuff and packed up a bunch of stuff in preparation for that "move".

#10: Remember all those expenses I listed at the beginning? At first I was kind of upset about them, but then I realized that those are all the kind of things that "just happen" and even though we still have money coming in, spending money like that now would be a lot more painful.

#11: About 6 months ago, I got the bug to start some food storage. We don't have a ton (and we're not in any danger of starving), but it's nice to already have a lot of food on hand so we won't have to buy much more than perishables before we go.

See what I mean about having the lemonade already made for me? Those aren't even all of the blessings that we've had and I expect we'll continue to discover more as we go. Basically, we feel like we couldn't be in any better circumstances for something like this to have happened.

If I would have made this lemonade for myself, I probably would have added a lot more sugar to make it sweet. But, like I'm always telling Sweet P and Little M, you really shouldn't have too much sugar, it's not good for you. It's okay for the lemonade to be a little tart. It's healthier. If my life had all the "sugar" I wanted to put in it, I wouldn't grow much. And I wouldn't appreciate the sweetness either. And the thing about lemonade is, it's always really tasty. And if Someone who loves me has already made it for me... well, what can I feel but immense gratitude?

Have you ever made lemonade by hand? It's hard!

I am so overwhelmingly grateful for the many tender mercies of my loving Heavenly Father. Sometimes I feel more like an only child than just one of countless others. I am truly amazed at how much He is involved in the minute details of my life. How He has softened this blow so tremendously that what I mostly feel is an outpouring of love and support from Him. And I wish I could feel that I deserve all of it, but I don't. Yet He still continues to bless me and to love me and to let me know that not only does He want me to be happy, but that He can provide a way for me to have abiding joy even in the midst of troubles.

And what do I have to offer Him in return? Not much. But I'm trying. And I feel that sharing this with all of you is one way I can do that. Although, I am sure that I have benefited the most from writing all of this down and reviewing all these blessings again. See? The list just keeps on growing.

We will be moving across the country pretty much as soon as we can, so the next few weeks promise to be hectic. If any of you would like to guest blog, I'm sure I'll have weeks where it will be even more appreciated than an average week. But don't feel pressure. The Lord has blessed me even in this point. I got slammed with a bunch of ideas and actually started 3 or 4 posts for future dates. However, I won't complain if you do have something to share. Just remember to leave a comment here telling me if you've emailed me at Thanks!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Can You Get That? I'm Too Busy Holding This Grudge.

Any guesses for what this week's topic is?

First, I have to say 'thanks' for all your help. I kept reminding myself of it all week, and finally on Friday I was able to just shake it all off and have a happy day. Not a very productive one, though. But, I experienced joy so the day definitely wasn't wasted.

Anyway, back to The Grudge.

I used to be pretty laid back. I had a really hard time holding onto negative feelings because it just felt so yucky. But then when the flip switched and so many other things changed in my life, I also became a really good grudge-holder. I don't know if I became immune to feeling the yuckiness of it, or what.

Holding grudges is a bad things for a number of reasons, but for the purpose of this blog, we'll stick to it's effect on joy. I cannot think of any circumstances where you can hold a grudge and feel joy at the exact same moment. None. Because the truth is, even though the yuck feeling of it doesn't bother me as much (unfortunately), it's still there.

The good news is, I've gotten a lot better at letting go of grudges since becoming a mom. Just a couple days before Little M was born, I was out with Sweet P. We checked out some books from the library and then headed to the produce store. While we were driving, she started talking about painting. I thought that was odd, but she was only two and two-year olds tend to be a bit random. Well, long story short--when we got to the store, I discovered that she had been painting with the milk in her sippy cup all over a library book!! It was ruined and I was furious (remember I was days away from giving birth and don't judge me too harshly). I made her cry pretty hard and then we headed into the store. I ignored her the whole shopping trip. Finally, when we were standing in the check out line, she reached her arms out as wide as she could and said, "I sowwy, Mommy. Hug?" I'm ashamed to say that I was tempted not to return that gesture. Thankfully, a kinder Spirit reminded me of who she really is and that she is learning everything from me. I forgave her and that hug was one of the best things I've ever experienced.

But I've still got work today. I spent a lot of last week carrying a grudge against HH. The grudge much more related to my stress than to anything HH actually did. But, like I often tell him, I never claimed to be a rational being.

Then I had an encounter later in the week that totally changed my perspective. The thing that had seemed so huge and difficult to forgive was suddenly practically non-existent. Honestly, I married an amazing man. There really isn't much to gripe over--I have to look really hard. Or I (evidently) blow things out of proportion.

Anyway, the point is--drop the grudge. It's so not worth it's weight. It's like they say, it's you that gets hurt the most. It takes years off your life and sucks the joy right out of you. What is the point? The thing that never ceases to amaze me is how easy it is to forgive when I let myself.

One time HH and I had been pretty crabby with each other all day. Do you ever have days like that? I like to think we're normal. We just irritated each other. It was a Saturday, so by the end of the day I was mad at him simply for taking away this one rare day of relaxation (not that it was really all his fault, I just let myself think that way). I said something to him about how he didn't want to do anything fun and he responded, quite defensively, "I do want to have fun!"

I just burst out laughing. What a ridiculous position to have to defend! Maybe it's not that funny to you, but it was hysterical to me then. And it's still funny when I think back on it. And then he started laughing too and suddenly everything was good between us again. And it stayed that way. Here we'd wasted the whole day being grumpy with each other and a little laughter was all it took to make it go away. We didn't have to talk it out, make accusations, or make sure our positions were known and understood. All we had to do was let go.

So do it. Is there something you're holding onto? In the book Happy for No Reason, Marci leads you through an exercise in letting go. Basically, you think of some grudge you're holding onto. Look at it objectively and decide if it's something you really need to hold onto (hint: you don't). Holding a grudge does nothing positive for you. Nothing. Why do we hold grudges?! Eventually, you have to get to a point where you can let go. And you can. Somethings are harder than others. But it's amazing how great you'll feel when it's gone.

This is another one of those lessons I have to keep re-learning though. I really don't want to teach my children to hold grudges, so thankfully, I have a lot of motivation to change. But even without that, in my quest for joy, I know I've got to get better at instantly letting go. Remember how I said that I didn't have a happy day until Friday? Well, I let go of my grudge against HH Thursday night. Coincidence? I doubt it.

The thing is, the Savior already atoned for all the actions of others that hurt me and for my hurt feelings. So, kind of like I was talking about last week, I can just give the burden over to Him. Not that He will carry the grudge for me; He just eliminates the reason for the grudge to exist.

What helps you to get over grudges? What about when it's against someone who isn't sorry or repentant in the least? How do you still get over your hurt or upset feelings? Does anyone have good advice for skipping the grudge altogether? Because that would really be ideal.

I just remembered that I was going to post something about "luck" in honor of my Irish heritage this St. Patty's week. Oops. I'm not re-posting. Sorry. Just remember that holding a grudge is highly unlucky. If you want to experience the luck of the Irish (along with joy) this week, you must let go of any and all grudges you're carrying--and don't pick up any new ones! (That was mainly for me.)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Don't Give Up, It's Just the Weight of the World"

I love Josh Groban. Seriously. I wish I had another sister that was still single to marry him because I would love to be related to him. Don't worry, I wouldn't trade either of my brothers-in-law. They are awesome. Anyway, the title is from a Josh Groban song if you're a little lost. I think it's on the sidebar, if you'd like to listen.

The thing is, that line often strikes a chord with me. Because I feel overwhelmed and burdened down a lot. Well, sometimes a lot. I kind of go through phases. Sometimes my life just feels very full. Some bad, some good--just a lot of it. And I find myself wanting to drop the kids off at my parents' house, grab HH and get out of town. Basically, I want to hide. But I don't because I know that everything I ran away from would still be here waiting when I got back.

And because HH has to work because someone has to pay the bills around here. And because my parents have the audacity to actually have lives of their own and aren't just sitting around waiting for me to drop off their precious grand kids at a moments notice. But those things don't bother me because I'm grown up and I would never seriously want to run away from my troubles. No siree, not me.

Anyway, so what does work when things are overwhelming for you?

When it's a bunch of stuff I can fit on my to-do list, it usually energizes me and I have a very productive day or week where I get everything done. And then I'm a little tired at the end, but if I've written it all down and have a long list of crossed off items, it totally feels worth it. Does anyone else write things on their to-do list that they've already done, just so they can cross something off?

But sometimes the "stuff" in my life doesn't really work on a to-do list. Sometimes it's something on-going or part of a long process or really it's someone else's problem so I have no control, but I'm worried about them. You know that kind of stuff? How do you get out from under it when it's still there?

A friend of mine is so busy taking care of her seriously ill mom that she doesn't have any time for herself or her family. Where and how do you draw the line?

One thing that I think is very important is to take care of yourself. When I'm tired and/or sick, I get overwhelmed a lot easier. I'm tired and sick right now, so you can guess why I'm writing this post! So, even though I know that, sometimes I still have a hard time taking care of myself the way I know I need to. There's just so much to do!

How do you go from knowing you need to take care of you to actually doing it?

And what about that stuff that is on-going? You know those things that take time, but not your full attention or energy? Stuff that you maybe just have to work on once a week or once a month, a little here and there? I'm not good with stuff like that. I just like to get things over and done with. I have a hard time staying focused. So, I either forget to do those things or get very frustrated and resentful of them. How do you stay organized and focused with that kind of stuff?

What about the stuff that really belongs to someone else? Like when someone is sick or going through a hard time, but they live across the country from you? Or what about when someone is making really bad choices in their life? And you don't have any control! How do you handle that?

The one thing I am so grateful for is the gospel of Jesus Christ. I know that through prayer miracles happen. I know that He can take the burden of stress and worry from me if I can let go of it. But sometimes that is really hard! It seems like it should be so simple, but it's not. At least not for me. I have experienced the fulfillment of His promise though. I have prayed for help in bearing my burdens and felt and immediate relief and peace. But it's still a challenge for me to let go sometimes. Does anyone else struggle with this?

I think it's because sometimes I confuse myself into believing that by stressing over someone or something I am somehow helping. It is obviously not helpful, but it's hard in those instances where there isn't really anything I can do. But if I stay stressed then at least I'm thinking about it. ??? I don't know.

I do know that it really boils down to the power of prayer. I can pray for myself and for anyone else I'm worried about. And even though it seems like such a simple thing, that is most often the greatest thing I can do.

But I know I can't just pray all my worries and stresses away. And like I said in the beginning, it's not all bad stuff, so I wouldn't want to pray it away anyway. I just need to figure out how to handle all of it. How do you find peace amidst a full life? How do you organize your day so that you are accomplishing what you need to when you need to? How do you remember to take care of you? How do you stay focused on those things that take time, but not your full energy?

How enjoy the fullness of your life instead of getting buried under it?

It looks like I have more questions than answers this time. Please, don't lose faith in me. I'm just struggling a little today. And really, I know that I'm no more an expert at all of this any of the rest of you. I'm excited to read your advice and help. It's like I said, I'm tired and sick. But I'm pretty sure I'll be heading to bed early tonight (especially since I'm posting this so early!) and I know I'll be doing much better tomorrow. Tomorrow is vacuuming day and I always feel better when my carpets are clean!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dancing Through Life

Did last week's post make anyone else think of bras? That's what I thought of when I re-read the last line. That wasn't what I meant. But I hope you all felt supported in every way last week.

Anywho... So, my cousin is in town and I'm having entirely too much fun with her, so this will be a relatively short post. I love my cousin. She's more like a sister really. And she is the inspiration for this post.

Our discussion topic today is "Mixin' It Up!"

I am a finisher. When I go hiking I don't like to stop and rest. I like to march straight up that mountain. I mean, that's where we're headed, why slow down the process? And the sad thing is, once I get to the top, my focus changes to heading back down to the bottom. I'm that way about most other things too. When I'm cleaning my house, I don't stop until I'm done. It doesn't matter if I'm tired, thirsty, or need to go to the bathroom. I just can't stop until whatever I'm working on is completed.

Enter HH. He is a big time break taker. When we hike, he wants to stop and look at a cool bug or mushroom on the ground. When I was in the middle of doing the dishes (back before he started doing the dishes), he'd come up and pull me over to dance. Sounds romantic, right? I can't tell you how many fights this began. Yes, I'm that focused.

But it's not just about hiking or cleaning. When Sweet P was a baby I kept thinking, "Things will be so much better when she can smile" and then "Things will be so much better when she can eat solids", "Things will be so much better when she can crawl, talk, walk, dress herself, etc." Kind of sad, huh?

Okay, so now for the real point of this post. The thing I try to do now is be more like HH. Whether I'm in the middle of something I enjoy, or something kind of tedious, taking a break to find or create joy makes all the difference. Take the hike, for example. Hiking should be fun and leisurely. If you don't take time to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors, it's just work. Cleaning is going to be work no matter what, so rely on Disney wisdom: "whistle while you work", "just a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down", or "just kiss the girl". Or dance with your husband. Or mop. The point is, you can make even the mundane fun if you try.

And when it comes to however you are making your living, this principle is an ESSENTIAL! I worked some pretty boring jobs before becoming a mommy, but I was still able to enjoy most of them. And the one I couldn't, I quit. But if you rely on the income of your job, I'm not advising you to quit. Unless you can find another job. And I recommend finding the other job first. Because I'm an occupation counselor.

Yeah, anyway... Do mix it up and enjoy the mundane. Especially if you get to do something as fabulous as raise children. Now that I have two, time is flying by so fast. Little M is in the cutest, sweetest stage. And every day I know we're one day closer to losing those adorable traits and words and whatnot. I can't believe I didn't fully see it with Sweet P. Luckily, she's still young, so I get to make the most of it now. And I'm enjoying the day-to-day of my life. Sometimes I get stuck in the rut of thinking that my life is boring because we have the same routine nearly every day of the week. Guess what? If I focus on the routine part, it is boring. But if I spice it up with different things, it's awesome. So, sometimes we make Fruit Loop necklaces, go to a museum, have an indoor picnic while we watch a movie, or pause the dusting to dance the Tango with the love of my life. Or have an awesome relative come visit.

What do you do to mix it up? The thing about mixin' it up, is you have to mix up the mix-up. So, give me some new ideas. What do you do to make your life fun and interesting? How do you remember to mix it up and stay out of the rut?

Have a good mixed-up week!