Sunday, May 31, 2009

Finding the Balance in a World Full of Different Opinions

Wow! Thanks so much for all your insights this past week. I don't know about you, but I found something useful or inspirational in each one. Actually, that's usually the case. I just get so caught up in choosing a title for each post and then explaining it that I generally forget to tell you thanks. But this week I didn't have to do that.

So, for all Past, Present, and Future comments: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

I'll try to do better at acknowledging them though. When I typed up that post last week, I was feeling pretty good about things in my own little financial department. But I think I mentioned that we're buying a house (can you tell I'm excited?!) and so we discovered a TON of things that we need/want to buy once we move in.

Hence the "wow" at the start of this post. I really needed to read everything you all said. Thanks.

Wanna know why I didn't have to think of a post title this week? My sweet sister-in-law did it for me. She even went a huge step further and wrote a post to go with it.

And don't believe what she says in her first paragraph. She's awesome. And I love her. Thank you so much, Belky!

First of all I want to thank Cheryl for giving me this opportunity, I am not as clever and good of a writer as she is, but I'll make sure get to the end, no worries there.

A little while ago I was looking at my life and the things I do as a wife and a mother. I saw some things that I wanted to work on and got excited about the process. In the motherhood department I wanted to change the time I spend with my children. I heard over and over from other moms that they rather play with their kids than to clean and organize. I felt very guilty because I love to clean and have things in its place, I also chose to do those things before playing with the girls. So, it seem like a great place to start a change, right?


To make the long story short, here is what happened. I went for about two weeks with nasty floors. Papers all over the place, interesting dinners and with a HUGE attitude. I was not happy and I did not enjoy the time I had to play with the girls. You may say, Crazy woman, why??!!

Here is why...

In the inner me, I love clean and organize, it makes me happy and the time that I spend cleaning helps release the stress in my life. When my home looks the way I like it, I am a better mother and a better wife. But why does the world criticize me? Why does the world have a different pattern for motherhood? Am I ruining my girls childhood? Am I really failing?

No, no NO!!! We are very different, each one of us, look at our DNA, look at your children, your siblings. We are all super different and that is just FINE!

It is great to be able to find so much advice on all the things that we do, from the Internet, family friends and even the people we see walking down the street. What is not so great is that we have this NEED to be part of a mold, as humans we are not good at being alone, BUT we don't have to be alone and we can be ourselves and be part of a group.

How do we do this? It took me about a month to figure myself out again,but at the end I did, at least for now, I'm sure I'll find myself in this spot again.

The key, I believe, is to take a little time and get to know yourself again. Remind yourself what you like, don't like and what are YOUR goals,who do you want to be and then see what you are doing right now. Keep the simple things you like and start from there.

I know that is only my opinion and it might not work for you but that is PERFECT!

Why is it perfect? How many times have you found yourself trying to be something you are not sure you want to be? How can getting to know yourself help you find joy in your life?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Show Me the Money!

Say what?

That's what I was thinking when the idea for today's post came to me. It's a little... different from what we usually chat about here. But still totally relevant.

But I was still kind of wavering.

And then the lesson for the third hour was about the same subject.

Okay. I get it.

So, today's topic is all about money. More specifically, what we do with money.

Little disclaimer: I am not an expert on money at all. I never even took an accounting class. My husband is the money person around here. He was an accountant/auditor, has his CPA license, and is now a finance manager. Or something like that. But I am not anywhere near any of those things. I'm just going to share what I do know about how money influences our joy.

We all know that money can't buy happiness, but it can affect our freedom to choose abiding joy.

Sometimes, I really struggle to put a thought into actual words, so I just try to put it down one word at a time and I end up with a really awkward sentence. The above sentence is one of those.

Sorry. I'll try to explain better.

I think I want to talk about a couple different things related to money today.

The first has to do with living within your means. For the most part, HH and I have done this consistently in our marriage. Sure we've made foolish purchases, but we've never gone into debt for something we didn't need. In fact, we've only gone into debt for three things--our cars (which are both paid off now), education, and our house (just bought it on Friday--yay!).

Sometimes it's been really hard. And sometimes, I've even let our frugality be a joy-sapper. Sometimes I convince myself that I need more cute clothes in order to really be happy. And last year I missed my family reunion because airplanes ticket prices were insane. HH kept reminding me that, technically, we could afford it. But I knew we were saving up to make a down payment on a house and the price of plane tickets would make a dent in our savings. And we made a million other choices along those lines.

Sometimes it was easy to make the choice to not spend. Sometimes (like with my family reunion), it was really really hard.

And sometimes, we chose to go ahead and spend anyway.

But then HH lost his job. A lot of people were very concerned for us. But I felt 100% at ease and told people over and over again that we really were fine. And that, while of course it was a challenge, we weren't all that worried about the future.

I didn't want to have to dip into our savings, but I knew it was there if the worse case scenario came true and HH didn't get a job for a while.

If we had debt, on the other hand, that would have been a horrible time for us. We would have been stressed (which probably would have led to a ton of fights=more stress, less joy). We would have been afraid. Instead of enjoying the time to all be together, we would have used our time worrying.

Fortunately, HH did get a job quickly and we didn't dip into those savings. And we bought a house that totally rocks!

But I digress. The reward for keeping a budget isn't really in buying a house. Yes, that's fabulous, but it's not the point.

The point is, if we didn't have a financial reserve, or worse, were in debt when HH lost his job that would have been a horribly stressful time for us. And that's what I was referring to with my awkward sentence. Let me see if I can illustrate it better.

We have all this capacity for joy in our lives, right? I believe that joy is a gift from God. But we make choices that affect our ability to access that joy. It's like the joy is sitting in a room, but sometimes we choose to pile up boxes (in the form of negative feelings, stress, jealousy, addiction, etc. Or, of course, debt.) in front of the door, making it hard for us to get in and experience the joy in our lives. If we stay in control of our lives, and our finances, then we keep that doorway free and clear and easy to access.

I kind of hated the last apartment we lived in. It was in a town that we were embarrassed to say we lived in because it's not a very nice town. It was in a neighborhood of mostly non-English speaking people. It was old. The laundry situation was unbelievable, frustrating, and a pain. We had some conflicts with our landlord. There were permanent stains on the carpets. Almost zero counter space. No dishwasher. No central air. And the list goes on. We debated moving every six months or so. But we knew that we'd have to pay significantly more to rent something comparable elsewhere. So we stayed. I should note that where we lived was very safe and pretty spacious. So, our basic needs were being met.

Am I beating a dead horse here? Maybe. Because my point again is that I'm really glad we stayed there because we were able to save up a ton.

The thing is, if we get caught up in thinking that buying something will make us happier, it won't. You might as well hop on a sinking ship. Because once you convince yourself that your happiness lies in purchases, you've doomed yourself to always needing to buy something else. There is always something more or new to be had. If you aren't happy without it, you won't be happy with it.

I mean, really. Take me for example. How on earth is a new shirt going to make that big of a difference in my life? Clearly, if I'm unhappy without the shirt, there is something more going on. Or, I'm just choosing to use that as an excuse to be unhappy. Because Not Me hasn't stolen any of my clothes. At least, not that I'm aware of.

When HH and I were dating, we did go out on real dates sometimes. But a lot of the time we went for long walks, or we stayed in and played SkipBo. Those are my favorite memories. We still play SkipBo. Not because it's that awesome of a game, but because it takes us back. Those were really good times. And we really had very little.

Maybe that's where all of that other stuff we've discussed here comes into play. No one has ever made a comment saying that having money fixed all their problems and brought them everlasting joy. I bet you never thought about that. But money hasn't ever been discussed here as a solution or even a help in getting to a joyful life. That's because it isn't.

It's all the rest of that stuff that really matters. The way I look at, money has a great potential for affecting our happiness--but only in a bad way. If we choose to spend unwisely, then we choose to let the money be in control. If we do spend wisely, then money isn't the same kind of issue and we don't have those same worries or stress. We are free to choose happiness instead of worrying about the next credit card statement.

I think I've made my points. What do you think about all this? How do you keep your spending in check? How do you determine if something is a want or a need? What do you do for fun that is cheap or free? How do you give up things that you really want in order to save for things that you really need?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not Me Did It!

Isn't my mom wonderful? She's really humble too. Because she is amazing!!! Thanks so much for helping me out, Mom! For about the millionth-billionth-bazillionth time. That's a really big number for those of you who don't have a brother that's awesome at math, like I do. And I know she'll help me at least that many times more before I'm as skilled as she is.

And she didn't even mention that I didn't get her so much as a card for Mother's Day this year. Sorry, Mom! I had big plans, but it sort of didn't happen. I'm working on the card thing though.

Anyway, enough of my private conversation with my mom.

Before I move on to explain my title, I just want to continue my plea for guest bloggers. We are shopping for a house and so things will continue to be CR-azy around here for the next while, I'm pretty sure. So, I know that you all have things in your lives that bring you joy. PLEASE share them with us! If you can't bring yourself to write an entire post, feel free to email me short insights that I can incorporate in another post. Or even topic suggestions would help. It's like I always tell HH, I don't mind cooking, I just hate having to choose what to make every night. I can ramble on about pretty much anything, it's just nice to have help deciding what to ramble about.

Okay, onto a normal post at last!

I am one of five children in my family. Oftentimes, my mom would discover a mess or something broken or something else of that nature and would ask, "Who did this?" She then got a chorus of "Not me!" So, the joke was that Not Me was responsible for everything bad that happened in our house.

I always thought that was pretty funny. The sad thing is, I know of a lot of adults who still have that mentality. I know I do from time to time, but I'm trying not to.

I once had an acquaintance who had very little, if any, joy in her life. She began telling me that her whole family blames their problems and trials on her. I felt bad for her and told her that no matter what they said, or thought, they were responsible for their own actions and the following consequences. She accepted that quite readily, but then turned around and began telling me who was to blame for all of the problems in her life. She wasn't interested in listening when I tried to repeat the principle we'd just established.

The other thing that stuck out to me during our conversation was that she kept saying she didn't want to pretend to be happy any more, she wanted real happiness.

And that was when the wheels in my head started turning and I thought about the substantial relationship between accountability and joy.

It's really easy to get caught up in blaming anyone and everyone else for my struggles. I made poor choices because of what someone else did to me or because of something that happened to me. But the truth is, I was still the one making the choices. For a while, I got caught up in thinking that the depression was to blame for all the rottenness in my life. But that wasn't true either.

The thing is, sometimes happiness comes naturally. But a lot of the time it doesn't. You have to choose to be happy. And I think that the only way to do that successfully is to accept that you are responsible for what you do and how you feel. Then it's a simple question of do you truly want to experience happiness and joy in your life? And by "simple" I don't mean that it will always be easy. We are definitely affected by the things that happen to us and around us. But we can still choose to own our actions and our reactions.

What I do mean by "simple", is that in any given situation, you decide if you want to be happy and then you act accordingly. We all make silly choices from time to time that don't lead us to happiness. But the great thing is, knowing that you are responsible for the choices you made makes it that much easier to change and make better choices.

For example, when I get stressed it tends to make HH mad. It's kind of silly from my standpoint because he's mad at me for causing myself stress. It's like he's trying to protect me from me. In a very "male" way. I used to get really upset with him for this. And then we'd have the huge full blown fight that could last (and ruin) all day. Yay.

But we've made a lot of progress during our short marriage and we've figured a lot of things out. One important thing is that I accepted that he responds that way because he loves me. That is a true statement, even though it doesn't make sense to me. And that's not really related to our topic, I just felt I should explain that since I'm using this example.

The thing I've learned that does relate is a couple things, really. One, he's right that sometimes I stress too much. So, I am learning to choose not to stress as much as possible. And the other, is that I can choose my response. When I used to get mad at him for being mad, I blamed him for my anger. But really, I was the one choosing to be angry. Then I'd blame him for causing this fight that ruined the whole day, even though he usually tried to apologize within minutes of the initial offense. But since I was blaming him for making me mad, I couldn't let him off the hook that easy. He had ruined everything, after all.

He's super sick right now and not entirely himself. So, last night he got a little mean. At first, I chose to be hurt and I left. He kept being mean (this is entirely out of character for him, I'm just using this example because for once, I did something right), so I came back and talked to him about what was going on (this isn't where I did something right because I didn't use a very nice tone while doing this).

We started eating dinner in a grumpy silence when I realized that I just really didn't want to spend the time being mad. Whoa. That is HUGE for me. But it was completely true. I was choosing to not care about the things that had been said in order to get things back the way I want, and like, them to be. I told him as much and then let it go.

True to himself, he apologized a short time later and we had a wonderful and happy evening. It was so nice! And I am still super proud of myself.

I picked out the topic for today's post a while ago, but you can guess how thrilled I was to be able to incorporate this little bragging tale into it. Don't judge HH, please. 99.99% of the time, he is the one who says he just wants to make things right and be happy together again. He always apologizes. He really is amazing. Having him in my life makes it a lot easier to choose joy.

Back to choosing. I just realized that I did another post similar to this one when I typed that. I think it was the "Choose Your Own Adventure" post. Hopefully, I said something different this time. I really did feel like this is what I was supposed to post about today.

Maybe I just needed to be reminded of this concept since I'm in a new and challenging situation. One in which I might be inclined to let myself be unhappy because I'm out of my comfort zone and then blame my unhappiness on my circumstances. So far, that hasn't happened. Not Me hasn't wreaked any havoc here. Most of the time I'm really happy here, but it is a challenge.

What do you do to remind yourself that you are in charge of your own happiness? How do you choose happiness even when things (or people) around you make that hard?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Joys of Motherhood

This is Cheryl's mom, just letting you know that she and her family have arrived at their new location, safe and sound. After a trip across the country and a short visit with family in the West, they headed back across the country to begin their new adventure in the Midwest.

Unfortunately, they are without internet access. So you will not receive one of her amazing posts today. She is still in hopes that someone will be a guest host, and if you would like to be that someone, please send an email to the address in her previous email. Thanks!

You and I know that if she did have access to the internet she would somehow manage to publish a great post that would uplift and encourage all of us. She would somehow manage to do that in spite of the fact that her children are very very ill, that she just finished driving for 20+ hours, that she's just arrived in a new location where she's never been before, and that most of her belongings are in boxes in an interim apartment that isn't quite big enough. That's who she is. And you're probably just like her.

A quick note because it's Mother's Day. As a mother, I am always in awe of my children. It seems to me that they are at least 999 times as good at parenting as I ever was. It also seems like it's at least 999 times as difficult to be a parent today. I don't think there are very many responsibilities that are as important as raising and nurturing children. Parenting requires a lot of hard work and sacrifice. It requires dedication and love. It requires patience, endurance, optimism, vision, and faith. It requires commitment to try again when things don't go the way we'd like, or when we aren't all we'd like to be. Knowing that we are children of a loving Heavenly Father encourages us to follow His example. And it guides us in parenting decisions. I promise that every effort you make will be richly rewarded.

So, to all of you who are parents now, or hope to be parents someday, a great big THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS for the job you're doing. And to all you moms and future moms, HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!!

Someday your little ones will grow up to be just as awesome as mine.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Hi Friends!

I know it isn't Sunday, but I have a favor to ask.

We are moving (again) this weekend. I will be in my new place Saturday night, but I'm guessing that Sunday won't be the most conducive day for writing an inspiring post.

Please Please Please! volunteer as a guest blogger. Please? It would really simplify my life.

If you can and will, then here's how it will work.

You can email it to me at any time today and I will get it and confirm with you that I received it and I will post it on Sunday.

If you send it to me after today, I will be on the road without access to my email and you won't hear back from me until Sunday.

But either way, know that you've made my heart very happy!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

"But he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise"

Well, HH is employed!! And we're moving to the Great Plains. That's not something I would have ever expected or even considered. But we know beyond any doubt that it's exactly where we're supposed to go.

I won't go into all the details, but basically, one of my friends sent me an email kind of randomly a little less than three weeks ago. Since HH has been home and sharing my laptop I was hardly checking my email and I pretty much never responded to any email. But for some reason, I responded to her and that began a series of unlikely events that all led up to HH getting a job a very short two weeks later.

The long story short is that we know we're supposed to be in the Great Plains.

All of this reminded me of a concept I came across while studying my scriptures several months ago. This particular passage I'm going to share is from The Book of Mormon. For those who aren't familiar with it, The Book of Mormon is like the Bible, but details the experiences of the people living on the American continents from about 600 B.C. to about 420 A.D.

The following verses are from Ether 2: 7--

"And the Lord would not suffer that they should stop beyond the sea in the wilderness, but he would that they should come forth even unto the land of promise, which was choice above all other lands, which the Lord had preserved for a righteous people."

This is referring to the Jaredites journey from the tower of Babel. We know they will eventually end up in America, the Promised Land. Their journey certainly involved difficulties and trials (i.e."they were buried many times in the depths of the sea" v. 6; "they were driven forth, three hundred and forty and four days upon the water" v. 11), but when they finally reached the promised land they "did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of his tender mercies over them" (Ether 6:12).

Sometimes I think we feel that we have come far enough in our own journey. We think we are in a good place and are content to stay there, but the Lord continues to push and try us. When we first moved to New England, I hated it. But after 3 1/2 years there, we really loved it. We contemplated making it a more permanent home. Then HH lost his job and we felt that the right thing was for us to head west.

That made sense because all of our families are in the West besides my parents. And even my parents are planning on moving west soon. We thought we were leaving New England so we could be close to our families and that felt right. But the Lord isn't suffering us to stop here. We know we could be very happy and comfortable here.

But the Lord is pushing us "onward" to the Great Plains. There are many things that we are excited for about this situation, but at the same time, I'm sad and nervous. I'm sad to not be as close to the people I love as I was planning on. I'm nervous because we're basically starting over. Thankfully, I do have one fantastic friend that we're moving close to and actually, my amazing seminary teacher from high school has moved to the same town we're headed to. Oh, the tender mercies of the Lord!

So, back to the scripture parallel. Even though there are many good things about our destination, I'm still feeling a little "pushed" away from my comfort zone and the place that seems "good enough" to me. When this happens in life, I think there is often a tendency to resist this and feel that life is unfair. However, the Lord is leading us on so we can reach our own "promised land". This is so much better than anything we can imagine for ourselves. I know that as long as we continue to recognize the hand of the Lord in our lives and to allow Him to guide us onward we will find glorious blessings He would have us receive.

I am so grateful for that knowledge! And I'm grateful that this passage of scripture that I've read countless times taught me this new lesson only a few months ago, so I can lean on it now. I know that Heavenly Father is very involved in the details of our lives. I know that He is watching out for us and that following His guidance will lead us to the greatest happiness we can know.

I know that there will be trials, too. They really are the best way to grow. That's not to say that I'm looking forward to them, though. I'm nervous that I'll have to re-learn everything I've been talking about here the last several months. But I know that I'll be okay. And I know that we're headed in the direction of great thing--even if they are from a very unexpected place!