Monday, December 21, 2009

A Short Vacation

Okay, lovely readers, we are going to take a short break so we can spend the holidays with our families, open presents, wear ridiculous sweaters, eat insane amounts of delicious food, etc. We hope you do the same.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Holiday Plug For A New Blogject

I got an email from a friend of the blog asking for submissions from our Mormon readers for a new blog she is starting called Hopefully Mormon.

Here's an explanation straight from the source:

"I want to start a new blog. Its purpose is threefold: 1. To get good (interesting and inspirational) pro-Mormon content out on the internet for the benefit of those inside and outside the church; 2. To do it in a way that no one else is doing; and 3. To pull a broad range of people in, people whose needs aren't already being met by the prolific (and fantastic and witty) blogging that's already being done....

Our unifying theme is from Peter: To "be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope this is in you."

We'll borrow PostSecret's visual format--4-by-6 inch compositions that mix words, photos, drawings, etc.--but will focus instead on the quirky, lovely, aching, personal, inspiring, unforgettable reasons that all of you (parents, students, professionals, anarchists, artists) began and continue to make the LDS church part of your life."

The site will launch on January 1st but they are asking for submissions now. If you have a minute, put together a post card with a scripture or quote, a picture, or just a thought...any type of visual testimony you would like to contribute. It can be cheesy or serious or silly or sweet, just as long as it is you.


I really love this idea and I'm so happy to be able to spread the word about it. I realize, of course, that not all of you Lovely Readers are Mormon. This isn't meant to be exclusive--please know that the creators of this blog would also love to have your perspective if you would like to share it. If you've had a positive experience with the LDS church or a member of it and you feel inclined to share, then please do! If you don't know anything about our faith and would like to know more about us on a more personal level, I think this will help in accomplishing that.

Submissions can be sent to:

Hopefully Mormon
P.O. Box 970312
Orem, UT 84097

or email hopefullymormon at gmail dot com

Thursday, December 17, 2009

God bless us, every one.

“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.” — Charles Dickens

That middle one might be one of the hardest things a person can try to do, but if you can manage the other two, the third will come along eventually. Remember that everyone has problems, and you don't know what they are. If you assume that everyone is trying their hardest and doing their best, you'll find it a lot easier to accept them when they fail.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Be Brave

Continuing some themes we seem to have going this week, I want to talk about being brave.

I don't think of myself as a particularly courageous person. I don't even like calling strangers on the phone. I'm terrified of spiders, I have dreams about going blind at least once a month, and I still run up the stairs really fast when it's dark in the basement. I get lightheaded in job interviews, I have panic attacks driving in the snow, and I covered my eyes during most of The Grudge.

So during the last year and a half there was a long series of events that led to me moving to Indiana. Most of those events involved my plans for my life falling through or not being what I thought they would be, and nothing worked until I decided I had to go away to grad school (rather than completing a program online while working at the BYU library, as was my original plan).

I wasn't completely sure I wanted to move across the country. I was terrified, and it was even worse when I got there and had to put my dad on a plane the next morning. I wanted nothing more than to get in my car and drive back home. My dad even told me that if I didn't like it by the time the tuition reimbursement deadline came up, I could drop my classes and come home. (Yeah. It was that bad.)

Thankfully, I stuck it out past the first few days. As it turns out, moving to Indiana was exactly what I needed. I'd been in the same place for a long time, and although it was fun and safe and familiar, I was really stuck. I wasn't really all that happy with where my life was, no matter how much I loved my roommates and loved being able to go home for birthday parties on the weekends; now I'm really happy.

And I guess that's the point of all of this. Sometimes you get stuck, and then you either have to be happy being stuck or you have to do something you're afraid to do - get a new job, move to a new place, start a new relationship, climb a mountain, run away to London, (I moved to Indiana only after I'd done that one twice), change your major, buy a puppy - scary stuff like that. And don't decide not to do it just because you never have or because it will be scary. I'm beginning to realize that some of my best decisions have been the ones I was most afraid to make.

I'm posting this video because this song is one of those that I like to listen to when I'm afraid to do something. The title is roughly, "No, I regret nothing." Even if you don't understand it (two years of college French and I still don't catch all of it), I think the feeling comes through just fine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


I've been trying to write this post for over a month, but it never comes out right. I struggle with the tone and the phrasing because I don't want anyone to think I am whining (I promise I am not). I don't want anyone to think that I am not happy with my current situation or that I resent anything about it. But, in the end, I usually conclude that those worries are really just part of this post . . . an extension of all my other worries.

Let me explain. I have been watching my nephews (ages 21 months and four years) since February. My sister works part-time and I know that my watching the boys helped her feel better about that decision. I have also had several other jobs watching children of various ages. It's strange to just jump into a situation where you have to take charge of children who have no idea who you are. It takes me a lot longer to adjust and it takes a lot more patience on my end (not something I feel like I have a lot of in the first place). But with my nephews, it is different. I have lived with them (or very close by) since the oldest was one year old. My sister and I are so much alike that they don't really treat us very differently. She's obviously the mama and the one they prefer (as it should be), but it's nice that I can provide a similar feeling of security and comfort when my sister is away. I love the relationship I have with the boys and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.

Having said that, this year has been hard. I'm good with children and I know what I'm doing. People would see me rocking the baby to sleep in the halls of church and say things like, "You'll be such a good mom! You already know how to do it!" and "It will happen for you." I would smile and nod and pretend like I appreciated hearing those things. I didn't. I wanted to scream.

There was a point where I was watching my nephews and a little girl who was six months old. She would scream whenever it was time for a nap. She would scream whenever I wasn't holding her. She was cute, but she was a screamer. I would hold her and Bug (my youngest nephew) would get jealous and I would have to hold him too. Some days we would sit on the couch and all three of the kids would fight over space on my lap. Some days they would all nap at once and I loved all three of them. Some days I would just cry right along with the screaming. I never knew what to expect (except the screaming). To top it all off, I decided to start potty training. I just got so tired of the diapers. I don't know what I was thinking, really, but eventually it worked and I had fewer things to worry about.

Thinking back on that now, the thing I remember most is just feeling crazy and hoping and praying that things would be different with my own children. I have very realistic views on motherhood. If this year has taught me anything, it has definitely wiped away any remaining naivete in that regard. I know it will be tough and I know I will continue to doubt myself and my abilities. But I also know now that it will be different with my own children simply because they will be mine. I know there will be more of those "oh you're so cute and cuddly why did I ever have any worries ever" kind of moments...those are the moments I'm so grateful to share with my nephews.

I guess my point is that I worry too much. I will always worry too much. That is not something that will change when I become a mother. In fact, I will worry more...but that is okay. I know it will be different because I will be doing what I chose to do. I will be living my life on purpose instead of living to get by. I will have these memories of my nephews and they will share them with me and we will have a bond that will never break. I'll tell my children stories about their cousins and how Bug used to love to dance and sing and squeeze me tight around the neck and Monkey used to wake me up with a kiss on the nose and a proclamation that "the sun is up!" I will secretly pray that my children will share qualities with their cousins and that one day I'll look at my own little boy and be reminded of Bug's sweet smile or Monkey's silly faces and not one bit of the stress, worry or craziness will come to mind.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Go For The Gold

#215--Pursue more than just the things you are good at.

You will be told at a young age what your talents are. Enjoy the compliments, but don’t accept them at face value. You don’t want to walk a narrow path; attempt things you aren’t comfortable with and uncover skills or proclivities you didn’t know you possessed.
(from Prudent Baby)

I think a lot of people see themselves as static, as something like a character in a movie: you have certain likes and dislikes, you are good at certain things, you aren't good at others. You have certain personality traits; you like certain kinds of music and watch certain TV shows; you don't like certain foods; all those kinds of things. That is how I often perceive myself, and I blame this partially on those little "about me" blurbs we're always having to write--writing about who you are in a short paragraph is very difficult, and so we write about what we like instead, and then start to think of those two things as the same. They aren't.

My aunt Angela was an opera singer until she was around 40 (I don't remember her exact age). I remember going to her concerts when I was younger, thinking she was amazing. But she never progressed to where she wanted to be. Short story short: one day she went to a craft store, bought a block of clay, and in six hours discovered that she has an amazing talent for sculpting. She's been doing it for several years now, and has truly found her calling. Her sculptures are incredible, and you would never know that this is something she never even tried until her 40s. (Thanksgiving Point, in Utah, is going to have a lot of her sculptures on display in a sculpture garden.)

So the moral of the story is, don't put yourself in a box. The fact that you haven't discovered a talent yet doesn't mean you don't have it; you were not fully formed when you graduated from high school. Don't be afraid to try new things, even if you have no reason to think you'll succeed at them. Life is for experiencing things. Don't limit yourself to staying the same person you've always been; give yourself room to grow, to develop new talents and hobbies, to change old habits and become who you want to be.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Be Jolly

I tend to only think of the word jolly in terms of Saint Nicholas or the Green Giant and, in turn, vegetables and a tummy that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. Not being a fan of a tummy that reminds someone of jelly, being jolly isn't really something I think about.

Since I am a nerd, I looked up the definition of jolly at and Merriam-Webster. Happily enough, the British really make great use of the word jolly. Thank you the British! Jolly good job! But for our purposes today we are going with Merriam-Webster:
  • full of high spirits: joyous
  • given to conviviality*: jovial
  • expressing, suggesting, or inspiring gaiety: cheerful
  • extremely pleasant or agreeable: splendid
Aren't those lovely definitions? I think so.

Now here comes the meat and potatoes portion of our post (I guess all that up there would be the salad?). Be jolly all year long, folks. Carry your high spirits into January, on through Easter and right past Halloween. Be cheerful and splendid and joyous and, most importantly, be sincere. Being all of those other things without really, truly wanting to be just isn't worth it for anyone. Save some ding-dong ditching for May. Send some letters to friends (Yes. Write. With a pencil. Use the postal service. It's fun...sometimes.), or plan a Christmas in July party. Keep your eyes open for opportunities to be jolly. Make it a permanent part of your personality because, honestly, it can't hurt to be considered "extremely pleasant or agreeable."

And now for the dessert portion...because I'm a giver.

From a Google image search. Here.

*That would be "relating to, occupied with, or fond of feasting, drinking and good company." I'm pretty sure that is my favorite definition ever.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every man has his own courage, and is betrayed because he seeks in himself the courage of other persons.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Spotlight: Stephanie Nielson

We are starting a new feature spotlighting women who are examples of loveliness. After following the story of Stephanie Nielson since before the plane crash that changed her life, I cannot think of a better woman to start with.

Stephanie Nielson is the author of the blog Nie Nie Dialogues, where she shares the stories of raising her four young children and, now, her recovery and return to motherhood. I have mentioned her before on this blog and I will probably mention her again--she is an inspiration and a miracle.

The Arizona Republic has covered her family's story, starting with the plane crash that left Stephanie and her husband Christian severely burned and proved fatal to their pilot, Doug Kinneard. You can read the newest, multi-part installation of the Nielsons' story over at and I definitely recommend that you do so... with tissues.

This story touches me in a way I can't explain. I can't imagine having the strength and the will to go through so much and it is incredible to me how Stephanie has made it through. As much as this new article shares, I know there are all sorts of secret, personal stories of triumph and despair, stories of the miracles that must have occured to get Stephanie to where she is today. To think of the doctors that worked so hard to heal Stephanie's body and the worry and responsibility they surely carried on their own shoulders. To hear of the unconditional love and support of Stephanie's family throughout the entire process. It's the way a family should be. And to read Stephanie's blog now as she expresses her gratitude, love, frustration, pain, joy, etc. It's all so real and sincere and it makes me want to send her presents to brighten her day (although I know people already do that for her).

She is inspiring, and a true example of becoming lovely.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beware the Me Monster

If any of you love Brian Regan as much as I do, you will probably be familiar with this bit. It's one of my favorites:

I have actually been meaning to write this post for few days, and when I visited Prudent Baby on Tuesday I was reminded that I hadn't done it yet. That entry is exactly what I have been wanting to write about:

#214 Try not to wait eagerly for people to finish their stories just so you can tell your own versions that more directly involve you.

I am of the opinion that when you are telling a story--whether it's one you're upset about or one you're excited to share--one of the most annoying things someone else can do is wait until you're done, then try to top your story with their own. Phrases like "that's nothing" or "consider yourself lucky" often come up when people jump in to share their own four-wisdom-tooth tales.

Remember that communication post we had up a couple weeks ago? Remember the part about overtalking? Well this has a lot to do with that. If all I'm thinking about the whole time a person's talking is how much better my story is, or how I can't wait to share it, then I'm not giving that person the attention they deserve. In addition, if the first thing I say after they stop talking is "that's nothing," imagine how that person feels. I have had this done to me many times, and I'm sure you have too, so it isn't that hard to imagine how the person feels. What we need to do is make sure that we never do this to other people.

You don't have to say one of those phrases for it to count, either. If you don't start with "consider yourself lucky," but then go on to tell a story in which you make the other person's story sound less important, then it's just as bad. No one should do this to people, because it doesn't feel good. We need to have respect for people that we're talking to. This doesn't mean you can't share your own related story; just don't do it as though you're competing. Say something that shows you empathize; acknowledge their frustration or excitement or pain; let them know you feel for them. Something like "Oh yuck, I'm sorry. I know how you feel, I had something similar happen to me, and it sucked" (or, "Yay, that's awesome! I'm so excited for you!"). Then tell your story. They won't mind if you do it that way. Good communication means having respect for other people, responding to them the way we would want them to respond to us... and not being a Me Monster!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to be Prettier

I sometimes read a blog called Smart Pretty and Awkward. As the name implies, it is a guide to being smart, pretty, and (less) awkward; each day there is a post with a tip for each of the three categories. I don't always agree with the "prettier" tips, because the writer of the blog and I have some different ideas about what is necessary in that department, but in general I find the blog interesting and sensible, and I love reading it. I was looking through the archives today and found a tip from earlier this year that I would like to share.

How to be Prettier: Don’t wear a size 8 if you are a size 10.

It can be really hard to admit that you've gained weight. I have gained about twenty pounds in the last couple years, and for a long time I couldn't find any jeans that fit because I kept looking in the sizes I was used to wearing. Shopping for jeans was a horrible experience, and I almost never felt comfortable in my clothes. I couldn't believe how much easier my life became once I finally accepted the fact that I now wear a bigger size, even much bigger than I ever thought I'd wear. Acknowledge your size and accept it. Don't pretend to be smaller than you are, because you will look like you're doing just that; you will look much more beautiful wearing clothes that actually fit you. That realization might suck at first, but accepting yourself the way you are now is the first step toward being able to change, and the earlier you can do it the better off you'll be.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Say Yes

So I was working on various things on a Friday afternoon, and I wanted something brainless to have on the TV while I was working on them. For better or for worse, I ended up seeing bits and pieces of about four straight hours of Say Yes to the Dress in the Friday afternoon lineup on TLC. It was . . . informative. (It is, after all, The Learning Channel.)
The basic premise of the show is that there are all of these consultants that work in a ritzy wedding dress store, and they try to close sales with various brides who come in to find their dream dresses. Some people know exactly what they want, some people have no idea, some people don't think they can spend as much money as their dream dress costs, and some bring their 18 children to help them pick out the dress. (Oh TLC and their crazy crossovers.)
Besides learning that there are a whole lot of ugly wedding dresses out there and that there are people who spend more money on their wedding dress than I intend to spend on my entire wedding, I learned a few things that I think are actually pretty applicable to decision-making in every day life. Scoff if you will, but here's what I came up with.

Five Things I Learned About Decision-Making from Say Yes to the Dress

  1. It's really hard to make a decision that will make you happy when you're trying to please everyone. The most ridiculous drama on the show always comes when everyone has an opinion and the bride wants to please everyone, and I think the same is true in life. It just can't be done. Although your family and friends can have input in your decisions -- and it's often helpful input -- there comes a point in most decisions where it's down to you.
  2. You can't always get what you want. It's always the people who know exactly what they want who have a hard time being satisfied with what actually exists. If you go into a situation knowing exactly how you want it to pan out and then find out that the perfect choice doesn't exist in reality, it's much more difficult to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. (I learned this lesson the hard way, by trying to force my life into the shape I wanted. And then I realized it wasn't working and moved to Indiana.)
  3. It's easier if you have some idea about what you want. Some people on the show don't know what they want at all, and they end up being tugged around by their families or bridesmaids or consultants, but they say things like, "This just isn't me." Having some idea about what you want is important for making a good decision, even if you end up with something completely different. In real life (but not so much with wedding dresses), I'd say this goes back to knowing who you are at your core.
  4. Eventually, you have to commit to a decision. There's always going to be something else out there. Sometimes you just have to decide that amazing is going to be good enough and trust that you won't be disappointed that you didn't go with a different decision later. It's not settling -- it's just recognizing that you can't do or have everything. I always get a kick out of it when they compare choosing the dress to choosing the guy, but in a way it's the same principle. Eventually you just say, "This will make me happy. It may not be the only thing that could make me happy, but I can only have one, and I choose this one." If you don't ever get to that point, you end up naked or alone. :)
  5. Sometimes, the thing that seemed perfect when you made the decision doesn't fit later. Lots of people come back months later for a fitting, and they panic because the dress isn't what they remembered or it no longer fits because they lost or gained weight. That's when you have to make alterations or switch to a different one. Just because it was the right decision at the time doesn't always mean it's going to be your only decision. (Okay, this is generally not as true of wedding dresses and husbands, but you can apply it to other decisions. It's harder to trade in wedding dresses and husbands than apartments or majors.) When it doesn't fit anymore, you either adjust until you can make it work, or you move on. I sometimes get in a mindset that says, "This is what I'm doing and I will always be doing it because it was such a good decision when I made it." But then it gets stale and I can't stick with it anymore. I felt like I needed to live in Provo after I graduated, but after living there for another year, I didn't feel that way anymore. (And again, there was Indiana.)
I was amazed with how much this absurd little microcosm of reality TV revealed about the way I make decisions -- not to mention the way it revealed why some decisions are more successful than others. The people who were the happiest in the end were the people who were flexible, but who trusted themselves and knew when they had reached a decision they could love. I think we could all learn from that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Thankful Heart

This would technically be a Christmas song, but I think it's the perfect transition. Also, I love it and it makes me happy. Hope it does the same for you (goodness knows we need a post Black Friday shopping pick-me-up)!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Of course, in the spirit of the season, you will get a list (we really do LOVE lists!) of some of the things we are thankful to have in our lives. Please feel free to add your own lists* to the comments. Let's all be thankful!


I am thankful for...
  • family and friends
  • Ben and Jerry's Chocolate Macadamia ice cream
  • sweet smelling babies
  • my nephews and niece
  • my creative talents
  • good TV shows (being specific would take another whole list)
  • books and a bookshelf to put them on
  • strawberries (covered in chocolate)
  • creamy soups
  • a new room full of things I love
  • my health (even though it sucks most of the time)
  • music
  • my iPod (Robin Sparkles) and my laptop (Cheese)
  • my mom
  • hot actors to drool over
  • blogs (and the people who read them)
  • parentheses
  • Glee
  • being able to spend so much time with my nephews
  • Google Reader, Facebook, IM, Skype - technology in general
  • Sufjan Stevens singing The Friendly Beasts
  • the camera game
  • Old Navy and Target
  • my sister and brother-in-law and the support they give me
  • children's programming that doesn't make me want to smash my head into the wall


I am thankful for...

Mike, my cute husband. Living close to family. Having brand new nieces and nephews. Contact lenses. Reusable shopping bags. Planes that let us cross the country in a few hours. Owning a car. Living close to where I work. Having my personal library at home. Libraries. Free wi-fi connections at bookstores. Slip-on shoes (because I hate tying shoelaces). Kitchen appliances that make cooking easier. Fully cooked bacon from the store. My laptop. Mike being able to play the guitar. DVD players. Friends, roommates... countrymen... That I got to go to college. Comfy blankets. Board games and people to play with. Sunday dinner with family. Digital cameras. Facebook. BBC movies and mini series. Cell phones that can use the internet. Comfortable jeans. Flat-irons. Half-Price Books. Online banking (for what it's worth, which isn't all that much if we're being honest). Disposable diapers. The Food Network. The holidays, especially Christmas. Disney movies. Blogger, for making blogging easy. Cute earrings. Music. My iPod. Shoes. Sweaters. Fall, my favorite season of the year. Dishwashers, microwaves, washers and dryers. Musicals. Wal-Mart being open 24 hours a day. Books!


I am thankful for...
  • Cell phones, Skype, IM, Facebook, and blogs for keeping me in touch with my family and friends while I'm in the wilds of Indiana.
  • Cards from my mom (this time Thanksgiving dinner aids)
  • my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces
  • My church and my branch.
  • the BBC (yeah, Miri already said it, but I'm currently watching Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes, and I feel great about it)
  • cook books and cooking blogs
  • Bloomington, especially now that the square is full of Christmas lights, but also when the leaves were in full color and when it was warm enough to go to the lake.
  • My amazing roommates, past and present.
  • NPR, particularly Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, This American Life and All Songs Considered.
  • Stella (my car).
  • The National, Andrew Bird, Damien Rice, Paul Simon, Bon Iver.
  • America's Next Top Model, for making me laugh.
  • Good movies. Old movies. Stadium seating in theaters. Popcorn.
  • Indian food, sushi, Wendy's.
  • The Office. Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
  • Gregory Peck, Paul Newman. Jimmy Stewart.
  • A job, especially one where I get to work with my brother.
  • SLIS.
  • Lee Pace/Pushing Daisies.
  • Springform pans and subsequently cheesecake.
  • Mountains. England. Oh, how I miss them.
  • Shakespeare, especially in performance. Tom Stoppard.
  • Opera, especially Mozart.
  • French toast, waffles, omelets. The Cyber Cafe with its life-giving danishes and pumpkin-cream cheese muffins.
  • Jane Eyre.
  • Billy Collins, T.S. Eliot, Emily Dickinson.
  • Book club, British Sunday, dinner group, Institute choir.
  • Pie, our kitchen, the upcoming holiday and the people I have to spend it with even though I can't go home.
  • That I'll be going home very soon.

*It may go without saying, but these lists are in no particular order. I promise you all we are more thankful for our mothers than we are for technology, ice cream and contact lenses.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Be Thankful

I have had a rough year. So much happened and there were so many things going on inside my head that I began to doubt everything about myself. I struggled to make the most simple decisions and I basically allowed myself to just shut down. I was overcome with thoughts of things I had lost: a job, my independence, a social life, even unknown opportunities. Eventually, I learned that it was best for me to stop and just focus on the things I did have in my life--the things that would always be there and the things that made me happiest.

It's not an easy thing to do. You have to remind yourself constantly and you have to recognize when you are letting yourself get bogged down by "I wish" and "I want" and "what if." I go through my ups and downs with this exercise and sometimes I ignore it on purpose (those would be my mopiest times). But the truth of the matter is that I have so much to be thankful for... my life just isn't normal right now, and maybe that's the best part.

The moral of this story is to remember to be thankful all year round. Be thankful for all of the things that make you who you are and all of the people who love you for them. Be thankful for chocolate and babies and silly things like vampire movies and Psych marathons and finding the perfect pair of fuzzy slippers. Be thankful for the washer and dryer (I know I am...without those lovely pieces of machinery none of my clothes would get clean, at least not by me). Be thankful for the little moments and the big moments. It's easy to let things fly by without notice... choose to find those things and give thanks.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Dream Big

I've never really known what I wanted to do with my life, aside from wanting to be a mother. I've always known that it would happen for me, but I never knew it would take so long. In the meantime, I still don't really have a clue as to what I will do. I just do the best I can with what I have. I have a college degree and I have years of experience as a secretary/administrative assistant and I enjoy that work. It's good, solid work (when I actually can get hired) and I generally don't dread the week. But I am certainly not passionate about it. I don't look to file things in my spare time and I don't dream of the excitement of scheduling meetings and transcribing legal documents. I am passionate about art. I am passionate about creating things. I am passionate about taking something and turning it into something else, something better, something useful.

I found this quote* from Danica Patrick (a famous race-car driver):

Set your sights as far out as you can dream, then as you grow up you will have a solid goal that will guide you up the ladder of success. Find something that you love to do and you are good at, and make a career of it. I believe that the way you get to the top is to have such a passion for something that you are willing to do anything. It's a tough road, and if you don't have the heart and desire, then you'll be tempted to give up along the way. The only difference between one person and the next is how bad you want it.

My first thought when I read this was about the "as you grow up" part. I think there are several points in our lives where it would be easy to label yourself as "grown up." You could stop and be happy with where you are and what you are doing. Maybe you achieved your dream and now you are living it. I think my struggle comes in that I don't really believe we stop growing up and I don't really believe in having one dream. There is always something to build on, something to improve upon. If you achieve one dream, who says you can't start pursuing another? My ultimate goal in this life is to be happy. I don't want to waste my time doing anything that takes away from my happiness. I want to find a way to turn the things I'm passionate about into a career, something I can do that will make me truly happy, something that I can do while I am working in an office (secretary by day, crafting extraordinaire by night!), and most importantly, something I will be proud to share with my children.

The key is to not let anything stand in your way. Don't get discouraged if people aren't supportive, just prove those people wrong. If you want it bad enough and if you work hard enough, as long as you are pursuing the good things that make you happy, then you will be successful and you can do it time and time again.

*Taken from Exactly As I Am by Shaun Robinson

Saturday, November 21, 2009

"Know how to listen, and you will profit even from those who talk badly." --Plutarch

I have been reading a book. It's called Enough Already! Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You, by Peter Walsh, and so far I'm enjoying it quite a bit. What I know about Peter Walsh is that he helps people get rid of clutter in their homes and in their lives, leaving them free to move on from the past and have healthy relationships in the future. This book is about clearing mental clutter, and one of the first areas he addresses is communication. Relationships with family, friends, significant others, coworkers, bosses, teachers, sales clerks, and random strangers all thrive or fail depending on our ability to communicate. It's essential to life, and an important skill to develop. With that in mind, here are a few points from the book.
  • You know how sometimes when you're arguing with someone, you start thinking about the next thing you're going to say before they're finished talking? Walsh calls that overtalking. Don't do it. It's incredibly rude to cut someone off and start talking over them; if you start planning out your next response in your head, you're effectively doing the same thing.

  • Examine your priorities--do you care more about winning the argument or finding a resolution to it? Is it more important that you get your way, or that you come to a solution that you can both agree with? Letting go of the need to win can be difficult, but you know what else is difficult? Fighting all the time.

  • Learn to listen--without multitasking. Do you have your phone out while your partner (or whoever) is talking to you? Are you watching the TV behind them, flipping through a magazine, or playing a video game? If you are, stop. If someone wants to talk to you, put whatever you're doing down and focus on them. Make eye contact. Pay attention and you already set groundwork for a smoother conversation.

  • Don't make every conversation a negotiation. If your spouse has a complaint, don't immediately counter with your own comparable one. This conversation is about him, not you--listen to what he has to say, and address his concern.

  • Don't give pop quizzes. You hated them in school, and they're just as lame in a relationship. If you set your husband up to fail, he will fail. Don't passively hope for something and then be upset when you don't get it, especially if you know it's an area that isn't a strong point for him.
I think the basic principle of all these points is respect. Approach every conversation with respect for the other person, and speak to everyone the way you would like to be spoken to. If you try out some of these tips I think you'll find a lot of improvement in your relationships with people.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Guest Post: Bite Me

Today we've got a special guest post in honor of a certain movie release. Julie sent us this post yesterday and since we can all get behind the romance and the ridiculousness, we are delighted to present it here. Go crazy.

I am 29. In one month I will be 30. My bestest girl friend just turned 29 and is freaking out a little about this. Our lives are ruled by responsibility and repetition. We are feeling a little down about this. We have both been married 9 years, and are stay at home moms raising our children. At this stage of motherhood, the only way to shake things up is to get involved in something and feel a sense of accomplishment. Some join the PTA, others a book club; many get a part-time job just to get out of the house. But what about stirring up those emotions we felt when we were young? This good friend of mine actually told me we needed to ask a single 21 year old what she does for fun. Yes, we are that pathetic.

I read a comment on Facebook by a friend who was totally annoyed by all this New Moon hype. I had similar feelings about the Twilight movie release (I was still a little in denial). But this time I feel differently. What makes grown women attend a midnight showing of a movie geared toward teenage girls? What makes them wear t-shirts proudly announcing “Bite me Edward”? I will tell you what. It is fun. It is not because I am obsessed over the characters. It is because of the emotions it stirs up inside of me. I WANT my heart to race over something other than being late for carpool. And I can relate to the themes in the books.

Twilight: Falling in love; a forbidden love.
New Moon: Being dumped; loving two men.
Eclipse: Choosing between two lovers; cheating on your boyfriend with fiery hot kisses.
Breaking Dawn: Getting married, going on a honeymoon; pregnancy, childbirth; fighting to keep your family.

I have experienced ALL of these events, and let me tell you, it is sure fun to live them over again. To feel all these complicated and deep emotions through a book is awesome! I love escaping my responsible life to feel like a young desirable girl again. Is that wrong? I don't think so. It tells us something that almost every movie theater across the U.S. is sold out for opening day weeks in advance.

You know what a single 21 year old does for fun? She screams over hot boys on the covers of magazines, dreams about kissing the sexiest man alive, and goes to midnight premiers of movies. She doesn’t worry about the 5 am feeding of her 6 month old baby, or packing her kid’s lunch for school. She throws that all to the wind and giggles in the theater with her girlfriends while waiting for the show to start. And that is what I am going to do. This is how I feel alive: I embrace silly experiences to feel young again.

Special thanks to Lindsay Heinzen of Penguin Stands Alone for not being too mad at us that we didn't originally know where the awesome Edward/Jacob picture (above) came from. It's her lovely/hilarious work. We love it and you should all shower praise on her head. Thanks Lindsay!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Slay Your Own Dragon

A friend shared this with me today and I like it so I'm passing it on to you.

#212 Remember that most fairytales were written by men.

"Some of the greatest writers of children’s fables were male: The Brother’s Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, even Walt Disney. You are not a tiny princess awaiting rescue by a valiant man, a symbol of frailty and naïveté, or the punch line in a morality tale. The women in those stories were crafted by a different sex at a different time for a different audience; these days you slay the dragon yourself."

A Bit Facetious Perhaps, But True Nonetheless...

Some people in this world would like you to think a negative thought has never furrowed their brow. Those are the people who snap. Have you ever wondered why, when the police are digging up the graves in the back of a serial killer's house, the neighbors always say, "But he was such a nice man! He was so quiet!" Uh-huh. Too quiet.

--from Waiter Rant, by The Waiter

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Be Free

There is something so nice about having free time, just fifteen minutes where you are free to do whatever you like without the worries of housework, homework, work work, etc. Time where you can actually take a break and breathe and let your mind rest...and I'm not talking about sleeping. Sleeping is still something you HAVE to do. I really enjoy those moments...those "turn off your mind" moments and yet, I still don't take advantage of them like I should.

I tend to guilt myself out of those moments. There are dishes to do and toys to pick up and work to be done. Sometimes, though, those moments catch me and I love them for it. I get online to be productive and I end up having an enjoyable conversation with a friend instead (productive, but in a different way). I plan on using nap time to fold laundry or get a head start on dinner and I end up taking a nap myself or getting caught up in whatever book I'm reading at the time. Later, I scramble or I just go with the flow, but that time to myself was the best thing I could do for me and whoever else I'm spending time with (usually my nephews).

I definitely am the type of person who puts everyone else first. This can be a good thing, but I have come to consider it a flaw in a lot of ways. I can run myself ragged doing all sorts of things for all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons because I genuinely enjoy being able to help and serve the people around me. Then, when I get a chance for some free time, I struggle to actually enjoy myself and to use that time for myself and that can take its toll.

Sometimes we just get so caught up in taking care of other people, we forget to take time for ourselves. We take care of our friends and children and family members and at the end of the day we realize we haven't taken any time to think. Sometimes I realize I haven't taken the time to shower or put on clothes I would wear out in public or, you know, eat. I know I'm not alone in this.

So don't guilt yourself out of free time and remember that it is okay to say no to some things simply because you want to (this should be my mantra). Take some time for yourself to "be free." Free of schedules and obligations that take you away from your home and your family and yourself, whether that means a ten minute phone conversation with a friend (just to make sure you're both still kickin') or a two minute breather on the front porch.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Don't Tweeze Your Life Away

I'm about to give you the deepest reading on tweezers that you have ever read. Yes, deeper than all of those other readings on tweezers that you have on your bookshelves.

I have a love/hate relationship with my tweezers.
I love them because it bugs me when there are hairs about that I don't want, and with tweezers I can easily eliminate it. And I don't know if anyone has noticed, but pulling out an obnoxious, unwanted hair is really satisfying. (Is this just me? Is that a really freaky confession?)

I hate them because they're the reason that I'm bugged by the unwanted hair in the first place. Why did I ever start picking away at my eyebrows? Why do any of us? Just because Carmindy tells us we should? And I know why and probably won't stop, but it's really, really annoying - especially when you just want to get that hair out and you can't quite get it. You know what I'm talking about. (Or this is all a very freaky confession, as postulated above.)

And the more I think about it, the more I think this is what I do with my life in general. I pick away at the little, insignificant imperfections that no one else notices and I pick at them obsessively. But it never makes my life better to just keep plucking at it. Thinking about the things I didn't finish (or even attempt) today makes me feel sick to my stomach, but it doesn't make them done. Thinking about the imperfections with the little things about the way I look just makes me dissatisfied with the overall product without making anything better.

Sometimes I feel like the picture I've included here (which, by the way, displays the freckle in my eye). It's like I have perfectly plucked eyebrows but forgot to wash all of the green dust off my face. I don't want that to be my life. I want to focus on making myself better in the big things in life instead of getting stymied by the little things that I just can't . . . quite . . . get . . .

My final thought comes from T.S. Eliot. I was re-reading some of his poems the other night (because I promised my roommate that anyone could enjoy poetry if he or she didn't have boring poetry rammed down his or her throat and I was trying to decide whether "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" could fall into the category of "not boring poetry" for someone who isn't me) and I came across these lines:
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse

For I have known them all already, known them all:-
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music of a father room.
So how should I presume?
The first part of this is the part that everyone remembers, and I've always liked it, but the part that stuck out to me this time was "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." I like that imagery of measuring your life with an action so insignificant and precise, always wondering whether you could presume to know or do more than is expected of someone in so tiny a life as yours. The problem is that if we wait and wonder "Do I dare and do I dare?" for too long, our life ends up like Prufrock, with us saying, "That is not it at all, That is not what I meant, at all."

So you can take this literally or figuratively. Worry less about your tweezers (or whatever tiny thing bugs you about your appearance) and/or worry less about the tiny, precise things that bother you about your life and think more in terms of presuming than in terms of measuring with tiny spoons.

Contagious Behavior

"Those who can relate to you will love [watching what you are doing]...while others fascinated by it will want to learn more by gravitating to you. Teach others what makes you good and different. Don't be afraid to take risks, and encourage others to do the same. Behavior is contagious...both good and bad. Be with those who support you, and support those you love. What goes around comes around." - Julie Chen (anchor of CBS's Early Show and host of Big Brother)

*Quote taken from Exactly As I Am by Shaun Robinson

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guest Post: Elisabeth

Elisabeth is my sister-in-law, Mike's favorite older sister. She got married in March, and lives in Ogden with her new husband Jeremy. Lis has a bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science from Utah Valley University, and now works as the library aide in the local high school. She loves to read, write, and play the piano, and she’s always the first to suggest playing a game with the family.

Back when I lived in Provo, there was a restaurant that had really good slow-cooked pulled pork (one of my favorites) and I really liked going there. I went one time by myself and asked the lady behind the counter a question about the menu. She looked like a nice middle-aged mother... until she opened her mouth and made fun of me and my question. I don’t think she meant to hurt me intentionally (still not sure about that) but it did. I didn’t think it was that stupid of a question, but she made me feel like it was. So all of a sudden I felt really uncomfortable, and I could hardly stand finishing my transaction and waiting for my food because her whole manner was offensive. I didn’t go back to that restaurant for a while just in case she was the lady behind the counter. Finally I did end up going again because the food is good, and there was a girl my age at the counter and she was one of the friendliest cashiers I have ever met. After I got my food and walked out, I felt really, really good. It wasn’t just because I was getting good food, but it was the way she was so friendly and open and happy. It made me want to go back again the next day.

The reason for this story is that I have noticed, especially the last eight years or so, that there are some people who try to force themselves on you, force their opinions, their actions, and their responsibility on you, and you respond a certain way because of how they acted toward you. Sometimes I find myself saying I agree with those people even though I don’t necessarily agree just because it’s like they’re forcing their opinion down my throat, and if I didn’t agree I would be the stupidest, most ignorant person in the world. People like that expect everyone to agree with them because they think they are always right, and they want you to know they are right too.

On the other hand, I’ve had many encounters with people who are so open, kind, loving, friendly, happy, and all around lovely, that I feel uplifted and confident after I’ve talked with them because they exude loveliness and loving.

As part of becoming lovely myself, I’ve tried to put a smile on my face, not make snap judgments, accept all types of people, and leave myself open to new experiences and friendships. Many times I’ve made snap judgments about people only to get to know them better and realize that they are great people. It’s something I work on constantly. I know though, that as I learn to smile and be open to people, both of us feel better afterward.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Be Handy

I spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer - for work, for school, for recreation - it's all the same and it isn't all satisfying. I mean sure, I do good work on a computer, but when, after hours of sitting and typing all I have to show is a bunch of so-called "files" and "letters" on a screen - I mean, are those even real? :)
I was listening to this NPR podcast called To the Best of Our Knowledge, and there was a guy talking about the value of physical work and how it's becoming a lost art. Many of the "blue collar" professions are looked down on because we tend to value knowing things over knowing how to do things. The guy they were interviewing had written a book called Shop Class as Soul Craft. The guy had a doctorate in philosophy but he wanted to talk about why manual work is important - in general for the world at large and specifically for the people who do it. If you're curious, you can listen to it here. (I think it's the second segment of the show.)
About the time I moved away from home, I discovered that I really like putting things together or fixing things. I don't mean really complicated things like toasters. I mean easy things like clogged sinks (see photo) and smelly hair-filled vacuums. (Now that I think of it, many of the things I fix involve cleaning up after hair-shedding incidents.) I also like putting things together, like furniture from IKEA or floor lamps from Shopko. I like sewing on buttons and gluing things and hanging pictures (hammer time!) and anything else that involves doing something that ultimately results in something working better or looking better or coming together. (Strangely, cleaning never falls into this category, although I do like vacuuming. Dusting just seems like a losing battle against entropy, doesn't it?)
I like the feeling of self-reliance I get from fixing something or building something. I like knowing that I'm not afraid to stick my hand in the back of a toilet, and that usually I can solve the puzzle back there and get it to stop running. (Although sometimes this does involve a phone call to my dad, but being able to explain the problem and follow directions is also fulfilling.) It's satisfying to look at something, see what the problem is, remove the problem and move on with your life (usually with a clean floor and a quiet toilet).
One of my dad's very favorite quotes is from this ridiculous Canadian comedy show called Red Green. (It's on PBS and it's all about flannel shirts and duct tape. I offer an example below in case you're curious.) Anyway, the quote is "If the women don't find you handsome, they should at least find you handy."
Now, let's be clear. I'm not advocating that you all go out and buy stacks of duct tape. That's not what this blog is about. But I think that sometimes feeling a little handy can create loveliness - around you and within you - just because you confronted hair in your drain and came out victorious. Build a shelf. Pick up a wrench. Use a hot glue gun. You'll like it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Sunny Days, Where Have You Gone?

Here on the lovely blog we've been talking a lot about learning to feel good about yourself, creating your own confidence by taking chances, and cutting out some of the excuses you give yourself for not doing things. But sometimes these things don't work for some people, no matter how hard you try, and that can make you feel even worse about yourself. With that in mind, I want to take a minute and address depression. At different times in college, I had three roommates who had depression. I also have several family members who suffer from it, and I do myself. This leads me to believe that depression is much more common than most people think, and less recognized.
I didn't realize that I had depression until I left college. Up until then, I just did a lot of wondering what the heck was wrong with me. (This is our first indication that depression is not very well understood, because believe me, all the signs were there. I just didn't know what they were.) I failed several classes that I should have aced, because I just couldn't go to class most days. I wanted to go--I loved my classes, enjoyed them when I was there, loved learning the material. I also knew how much I needed to go, and had horrible panicky feelings knowing that I would be in big trouble and probably fail if I didn't. And yet I couldn't do it. 90% of me wanted to get up, get dressed, and walk up to campus, but somehow there was a part of me that kept me from doing it, and it didn't matter how small that part was--it was in charge. I felt like the laziest, crappiest student ever. I stayed home, giant journaling and watching Pride & Prejudice, or listening to self-indulgently depressing music. I was sullen and withdrawn, and my roommates probably thought I was the pissiest person they'd ever lived with (and possibly bipolar, because when I'm in a good mood, I am in a good mood. I'm loud and funny and slightly insane.) Which probably made it all the more confusing when they'd come home and find me lying on the floor in the living room with the lights off and my headphones in with my iPod up as loud as it would go.
Anyway. The moral of the story is that if you have depression, you need to be taking a different approach to becoming lovely than women who don't. Depression is a totally different thing than being lazy, and it can be really hard to realize that you have it. If you do, then it's important to realize it so you can stop beating yourself up for not being able to do the simplest thing on your to-do list, and figure out a way to make yourself better. While we're on the subject, I would like to recommend that everyone do some research on depression, and find out what it is really about--because chances are good that someone close to you has it, and we could all do with a little more understanding.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I've mentioned this book before (Exactly As I Am by Shaun Robinson) and I decided that instead of giving you a review, I would simply recommend it and share a few of my favorite quotes. It's an interesting book and a quick read and I've enjoyed the different points of view it offers from celebrities, athletes and other successful women.

A lot of what is mentioned on this blog has to do with accomplishments. Being crafty, cooking, cleaning, writing, etc. are all things that we can accomplish and, in turn, feel good about. As much as I hate to clean, I always feel better having done it, and I always feel good about myself when I complete a project. This quote about accomplishments, big and small, stood out to me today.

"We currently live in a culture that celebrates celebrity, appearance, even notoriety - all of which have very little content and meaning. For me, the root of self-esteem is accomplishment, both big and small. An accomplishment is something of value - whether it is the ability to make others comfortable, build something with your hands, read well for comprehension - anything, absolutely anything that you do that has meaning for you. And that you derive pleasure from! I think that many girls are misled, these days, by a culture that celebrates the superficial.

What matters most (more than what you look like, how much you weigh, where you came from, your financial status - all those things we think matter) is who you are and what you care about. Find meaning in your life, search for purpose, strive toward understanding your world and contributing to it, no matter what it is. If it is of consequence to you, it is important." - Julianne Moore

Monday, November 9, 2009

Guest Post: Fake It Till You Make It

I first met Heidi when she was serving a full time mission for our church in Washington D.C. (specifically, Laurel, MD). After heading back home to Utah, she met a boy and married him... I can only assume he is as awesome as she is (look at that picture!). They are keeping busy shopping for their first home, playing Rock Band and obsessing over Harry Potter. Oh, and going to school full time and working full time. I have no idea when she found the time to write this post, but I sure am glad she did.

I've discovered that no one is really born lovely. People are born with wonderful gifts, talents and traits that help them develop towards becoming lovely, but we all have flaws and weaknesses. While I was growing up, my mom (who is so lovely) taught me to "fake it till you make it!" I can't recall the hundreds of times she said this phrase to me while I sat worrying before a performance, or grew nervous about a talk or a lesson I was giving, or whenever I was doing something that was obviously not a natural gift for me. Did your mom say it to you too? I find that I say it to myself all the time! Not just for performances or public speaking things anymore, but sometimes when I'm feeling down on myself. If I'm not so pleased with my appearance, I know attitude has a lot to do with how I feel and how others perceive me, so I say "fake it, girl! fake it till you make it." I love this phrase. It has helped define me. It is the thought that would go through my head before a jazz band gig in junior high or a drum solo in high school, a voice solo or a play or a lesson or anything. I fake confidence until I have it, and wonderfully enough, it happens. I think a lot of us do it, right? We fake confidence or being outgoing until we are.

Let me share an example. I served a mission for my church and when I got home, my whole life was naturally different. I no longer lived for the things I did before my mission and even the boy who was "waiting" for me was no longer what I expected from a best friend or lover. My whole world flipped in three months, and it was a low time for me. I didn't want a social life, I didn't fit in anywhere! I felt terribly rejected by this boy and by other friends. This old phrase of my mom's came back every day. I decided I had to fake being confident, fake being suave, fake a bit of loveliness, fake talents, fake everything until I had it all! In no time I was a social butterfly; I was surrounded by amazing friends, using new talents I had developed while faking them, and charming my then soon-to-be husband!

I definitely wasn't born with that confidence, and I still struggle with it all the time, but I do know how to overcome a challenge. I don't allow myself to use the excuse of not feeling up to it or feeling qualified for it or feeling good enough for whatever, because I know I can do anything! And there's no need to sit around and miss opportunities because I'm "learning." I'm learning and growing by faking it! And then, voila! I've made it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Friday Afternoon Blog Business

Blog business isn't the most fun thing in the world, but it is necessary.

Mostly, this time around, I'm trying to get a feel of what you, our lovely readers, want from us. Due to recent festivities and mid terms and such, our posting hasn't been quite up to par (read: regular). With Thanksgiving and Christmas and spending time with our respective families approaching, I can only assume things will become more hectic and we would very much like to avoid any major lapses in posting as well as posting only frivolous things. We have a few ideas to work with, but I thought it would be nice to ask for your input. Is there anything YOU want to see on this blog? Anything in particular you, lovely readers, want to read more about?

Another item of business: buttons. We just want some general feedback. There is a poll on the right sidebar just waiting for you to participate.

So, if there has been anything on your mind concerning this blog, now is the time to (constructively and politely) let us know about it.

P.S. Thank you for reading and commenting! This blogject would not be progressing at all without you and we love you for it!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Be Dedicated and Be Content

As I was thinking of a new post, these two ideas came to my mind. "Be Dedicated" and "Be Content" (if you haven't noticed, I've been running with the "Be" theme since I seem to get so many ideas that work with it). At first they seemed like different ideas, but as I started to write them separately, I realized that they go together.

I was thinking about being dedicated while I sat in church listening to a Sunday School lesson (way to focus, Lindsey). I was overwhelmed with thoughts of how being a member of my church has effected my life. The things I have done and the people I have met all because of my decision to dedicate my life to living up to what I believe in. I thought of all the ways a person could be dedicated and all the causes one could dedicate their life to. Even if you were an evil villain, you would be dedicated to a cause (an evil one, but whatever). You can focus on smaller goals and larger ones at the same time and accomplish each one step by step. Maybe you feel like writing so you, like many others, decide to dedicate the month of November to writing a novel. Maybe you feel like reading so you decide to dedicate an hour each day to reading, no matter what else happens in your day. There are so many things in this life we can devote ourselves to, the question is how can those things uplift us and help us as women?

My thoughts turn to motherhood. Is there a better example to set for your daughters? To be dedicated to them, to your family, your faith, your livelihood? To be dedicated to being happy and confident? Being actively engaged and committed to a cause can help us in our effort to becoming lovely. Dedication leaves no time for self pity or doubt. There is no time to listen to discouraging words and, better yet, there is no temptation to believe them!

I also thought of being content while sitting in that Sunday School lesson. The two concepts seemed to be connected in my mind. Dedication turned to thoughts of being busy and being busy made me think of being stressed and being stressed made me think of appreciating the small happy moments and then I felt content.

I think, as women, we can focus too much on progress. Have we finished the laundry? Are there dishes in the sink? What is due tomorrow? What have I accomplished today? What have I accomplished this year? There are so many tasks to complete and chores to do. How often do you stop and just enjoy your surroundings? Progress and improvement are necessary and important, but they should not be placed above our personal happiness. It's also important not to get caught up in deadlines...don't set yourself up for failure and disappointment. Look at what you have accomplished and be happy with that. There are days when I'm watching my nephews and absolutely nothing has been accomplished around the house, in fact, it actually looks worse. A lot of times, though, those are the days when I most enjoy being with the boys. Chores are put aside in order to enjoy and take part in their crazy toddler antics. Likewise, when I was in school, I would stress about whether to continue working on an assignment I had spent all day working on or to take a break and go do something fun and pointless. I usually talked myself into being frivolous pretty quickly, but in the end, focusing on both things made college a much better experience.

So, yes, it is good to be dedicated and keep busy, but don't be so busy that you miss out on the joy and satisfaction that surrounds you...the joy and satisfaction that come from devoting yourself to your family or your friends or your career or your favorite cause. Look at how your dedication is effecting others and be content.

Guest Post: This I Believe

Sydney lived across the hall from Miri and me a few years ago. She and I became friends and concert buddies one night when we decided to go and see a Ben Kweller concert on a whim, the first of many concerts we would attend together. For the last couple of years, I've watched Sydney do all kinds of amazing things, from running off to exotic places like India and Nepal, to organizing BYU's annual Hunger banquet. This essay was written as an entry for "This I Believe," a very cool project that just recently stopped being a radio show on NPR. Enjoy! -Megan

This I believe… The Power of Two

I believe that two people can find each other and be happy for the rest of their lives, together, forever. As an unmarried college student, I am surrounded by various theories of love. I have heard about a sort of free, non-committal love that is supposed to be threatening the youth of today. It is based on the idea that ‘monogamy is dead’ and that it is the collection of our experiences that will make us whole. But I still believe that one person will hold the key to my heart and we will find everlasting happiness in the well of life, sharing our love, saving the world, raising our kids, spoiling our grandkids and growing old together. I volunteer at a Domestic Violence shelter and have seen some awful effects of bad marriages. In my training they told me over and over again that this can happen to anyone, anywhere. Yet, I still believe that my marriage will be special and different, if I believe enough. And I have heard the divorce rates, one of every two marriages ends in divorce, it’s higher if it’s the second and even more if it’s the third. Despite these odds, my parents have been married thirty years and my grandparents have been married fifty two. Somehow, I feel exempt from it all. In the face of shattering families and broken marriage, I still believe in the power of two. This I believe.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Guest Post: Rockin' the Stretch Marks

My name is Melissa Turney. I live in Las Vegas, Nevada, where it is hot and miserable, but after three years I can finally call it home. I am a wife and a mommy to a three month old daughter, Hannah. I will graduate from UNLV in December and become the first female college graduate on my dad's side of the family. I became acquainted with this blog through Megan, who was my first friend ever, and I've decided to adopt the attitude that I'm pretty awesome (in a completely humble way).

I was recently saddened by a status update from a pseudo friend of mine who is 25 weeks pregnant. She said “_____ told me today that cocoa butter doesn’t work on stretch marks... sad face.” I can’t fully blame her for her dismay. I admit that I, too, had qualms about my post-baby body while I was pregnant, as my body was distorting to epic proportions. But I also recognize that I’ve never felt more beautiful than when I was pregnant. If pregnancy is wonderful and beautiful, then post-pregnancy is a mess.

Before I had Hannah, I had a pretty average body. I weighed in at about 130 pounds; my boobs were small, but firm; and my skin was all around smooth and stretch free. Naturally as my body changed I became a little self conscious. While I’ve never had to really watch what I eat, I confess it took a while for me to eat fast food in public because I didn’t want to be the girl with the pudgy tummy eating a Big Mac. I didn’t even enter the building to buy any food until I had an obvious baby bump that was obviously not just an extra flab of fat.

My friends told me that it was the coolest thing to give birth and watch your stomach go flat (in reality it is the coolest thing to actually give birth and watch a human come out of you… a human you already love so completely). I was intrigued by this, as I could no longer remember what it was like to NOT have a pregnant body. About thirty minutes after I gave birth (I was a little too occupied with my new daughter to care about my body) I finally looked down to notice my stomach. To my amazement it WAS flat. Hallelujah! Unfortunately, to touch it felt like kneading dough but who could have time to care about that (TOES! HOW I MISSED YOU!) when my body was so small. Well... not quite. I stood up for the first time and my flat stomach became a replica of 4 month pregnant me. Did I miss something? Twins perhaps? Alas, I still looked pregnant when I stood up and let it all hang loose--literally. Not only that, but my body continued to change drastically over the next few weeks. My small but firm boobs had become large and voluptuous during pregnancy. I couldn’t wait to try those babies out after the stomach was gone. Unfortunately, they were still NOT sexy. They were leaking all the time and when they were not large and in charge, they were shriveled and resembled old man breasts.

I have to admit for about a month I didn’t want my husband to see me naked EVER. I didn’t even want to see me naked. The boob situation got worse as I’d lie down and they would flop to their respective sides of my ribcage (lovely), and I had long circular marks stretching across my once taunt stomach. I was not an attractive sight. Then something happened that changed my whole perspective…

I went to church two months after Hannah was born and a woman stood up to the pulpit. She introduced herself and her husband. She talked about how they had been married for five years and had been very blessed in the beginning. They managed to buy a house in a time when the sellers had the upper hand, and decided to start a family in their new home. While they were blessed in almost every aspect in life, they were not conceiving a child--and after over a year of trying they were told that the woman would never carry a baby conceived naturally. They started on fertility treatments. Nothing worked. They went into debt to try costly alternatives and still nothing worked. Finally, they gave up their house in order to do invitro fertilization, and happily, she is expecting a baby girl in February.

I sat there and listened to her story, sobbing as I held my baby close to my imperfect body. That imperfect body had created, carried, and delivered the perfect little angel who now lights up my life. My unattractive breasts now sustain that life through the milk my imperfect body creates. I went home, bound and determined to be grateful for a body that was so perfectly able to conceive with hardly a thought and have a successful, comparatively easy pregnancy. A month after that life changing moment, I still am in awe at my beautiful stretch marks swirling around a body that obviously has accomplished something miraculous. I roll out of bed, pick up my boobs off the floor, and face each day feeling more beautiful than ever, and grateful for the opportunity to be a woman. Grateful to carry the scars of childbirth, the dark circles from a lack of sleep, the lines on my eyes from smiling too much; and grateful for the perspective that I may now share with my daughter when she is feeling less than perfect.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Express Yourself (Or Else)

I read an article in the Wall Street Journal a couple years ago (2007, I think) that talked about how women express their feelings, and why it is important. I actually saved the hard copy of that article up until this past summer when my husband and I moved into our current apartment, but alas, I think I threw it away in the move. Now that I want to write about it, I can't find it. But I have found another article that says something similar, and I will try to summarize for you.
Women use verbal communication differently than men do. This we know. Women like to talk about their feelings more than men do, and men often have a hard time understanding that we don't want them to solve our problems, just to listen to them. This is why we have girlfriends.
But what you might not know is that women need to have this kind of communication, and if they don't it can affect their health (not to mention relationships). The article I linked to above mentions that women sometimes use conversation to figure out how they're feeling, not just to convey something that they've already identified. This is important, because if you can't identify what you're feeling, you can't resolve it; and unresolved issues don't just disappear, although we might stop thinking about them.
Think about how stress can affect your body, especially after many years of it. (I'm thinking of an episode of Friends right now, where Phoebe works for Merrill Lynch and has two heart attacks because of the stress... remember?) Well, not identifying and expressing your feelings creates a lot of stress in your body, and even if you don't see any effects of it now, it can manifest itself physically later on in your life. Now this is the part where I really wish I could find that article, because it gave the results of a study that I would love to be able to quote more accurately. However, I will summarize and tell you that the study showed that women who didn't talk about their feelings were literally more likely to die than others who did. (By the way, if anyone knows what article I'm talking about and can tell me where to find it, I would love to have it again. I did many extensive Google searches that were, unfortunately, fruitless.)
You really shouldn't need studies telling you that you'll die if you don't give yourself the chance to talk about what you're feeling. I think that this is something we should all learn to do because we deserve to do it, to be able to express our thoughts and feelings. If you have really good girl friends, talk to them about you for a while. If you have a husband or boyfriend, make sure he understands how you communicate, and help him learn to listen to you in the way that you need to be listened to. If you don't have someone you feel comfortable being totally honest with, write in a journal or get a blog! You can be anonymous if you want, and writing a blog gives you a feeling of having talked to someone, because you know that anyone can read it. However you do it, make an effort to pay attention to your own feelings and learn to express them. It can help improve your relationships with loved ones, and you'll improve your emotional and physical health too.

What Is Your Favorite Flaw and/or Trait?

This topic has been brought up once or twice so I thought I would try an experiment. I put the question out there (via Facebook) to be answered. It is a difficult question to answer and, truthfully, not something everyone really wants to think about, but we did get a few answers. I'm a little surprised at the similarities. Some things that were mentioned are things I deal with myself (blotchy cheeks) and some things are things I have noticed about my friends and things that I think are charming.

Here are a few answers:

Megan said, "I definitely have a freckle in my eye (just like the Postal Service song!) and I really like it. I especially love it when my nephews notice it and want to know why it's there and then think it's cool."

Two people mentioned naturally rosy cheeks because it saves time and money on make up (no blush).

Two people mentioned moles (beauty marks if they are on your face, tres chic), one under the eye and one on the corner of the mouth " it's almost being eaten. So whenever I'm eating chocolate or something brown, people tell me I have a little bit on my mouth. For some reason, I think this is hilarious instead of embarrassing."

One person mentioned her "half grin" and how happy she is her daughter inherited it. Also, her under eye circles (with the help of concealer), which we all know are almost impossible to appreciate so she deserves a pat on the back.

And Hayley mentioned in her guest post how she likes her vampire teeth.

Miri learned to love her curly hair, even though in Texas humidity it's more often frizzy than not, and her giant smile, which shows her top gums but has kind of become her trademark.

I have already mentioned that I like my crooked smile...I'll add my blotchy cheeks to the list and my easy to take care of, but sometimes unruly eyebrows. I guess I like my face! That's good, right?

That's me with my brother. Crooked smile (notice how my bottom lip goes down on the left? it gets much worse), no blush (and yet the cheeks are rosy), and happily untamed eyebrows.

I guess my point is that even if you didn't answer the question, it's an important one to think about. Embrace your quirks and take pride in the things about you that make you different...the things that make you beautiful.