Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Baby With Colic

Let me tell you a story. A story about my first family picture experience.

I arranged a session at a decently priced studio and was super excited to have our first family pictures taken. We were going to use them as Christmas Cards. I had adorable, red and cream ensembles for the kids and the hubs and I. I packed us up and we headed to our session. Upon arrival, Travin, my then 2 month old baby boy, began to cry. Atley, my 1.5 year old was eager to explore this new area and started running around.

I decided to try and breastfeed the baby, but he wouldn't latch. Our session began, screaming baby and all, so 28th Atley still refusing to sit still. I could tell our photographer was frazzled. She didn't use a single pose I'd suggested and kept staring at my infant like he was an alien from Jupiter. I calmly explained, "He has colic. Please just keep shooting." 45 min or flying bows and kicked off shoes later, I left the studio in tears.

I was SO disappointed that our photographer was unable to capture the "perfect" image of me and my family. I wanted my children to look like Gerber Babies, smiling affectionately, with me and my husband romantically holding hands behind them. I bought the CD anyway because I felt so dang bad for making every employee there listen to my boy cry until his lungs might burst, but I was sure I wouldn't like any of the pictures because....well....we just didn't look happy.

The longer I scanned through the images, and let the anger from the photo session fade, the more I discovered the pictures didn't capture two perfect children who behaved well all the time, and two happy parents who never felt exhaustion and helplessness. No, the images on the CD captured PERFECTLY my family the way it is. 

My son has colic. My daughter had colic until she was 9 months old.

For those of you who don't have experience with this, may you forever count your blessings. Yes, I know I'm luckier than some women who never have the opportunity to be a mother, and I'm so thankful for that each day. However, there is a very real pain associated with having children with colic and only those who have been through it know why. 

There isn't a super clear explanation for colic. The babies just cry...and cry....and cry. It is the saddest, most horrific ordeal any mother could go through. It is like Ground Hog day, and every morning you wake up thinking, Today will be the day!! I'll make them happy today! And every day, you fail. Your baby cries until they are blue in the face, writhing and contorting their bodies in unexplained agony. They look you in the eye, with tears rolling down their cheeks. And their heart says to yours, "Mom, I don't understand. Can you fix it?" 

I probably sob just as much as my babies during these beginning months. 
No, my dearest, most precious creation. I cannot fix it.

Oh, and yes. The babies are in pain because when you take them to get their shots, and they hardly cry, because it is nothing know your offspring is living in torment. It KILLS you inside. Even during the rare moments of quiet, or sleep, or smiles when they choose to appear--those smiles make you feel like you're floating on a cloud of exaltation, soaring through the pearly gates of heaven, on a high only 12 Mountain Dews could bring--, the hurt does not have time to heal because the next day, at the crack of dawn, it begins all over again.

Are you an animal person?  Do you have a bird, or cat, or gerbal you take to Starbucks with you ? I'm a dog lover myself. Imagine, every morning, your dog's leg was snapped. You had to listen to your beloved pet cry and whimper, day, and night, and nothing you did helped. Plot twist, every morning for the next 9 months your dog woke up with a new broken bone. Good luck staying sane.

It is a million times worse with a baby human. (no offense animal enthusiasts. Its just natures law)

But that is as close to explaining the emotional toll in words I can think of.
Now throw in a few exciting trials like getting the flu, having a husband that travels for work, often 7 days at a time, and the fact that it is 10 degrees outside so you're vitamin D deficiency is accumulating with stress from lack of out door activities.
With an active toddler, sometimes I HAVE to put Travin down so I can take care of her needs. Which means blood curdling cries until I can see to HIS needs. I'm fortunate if I have a second to pour a bowl of cereal, which I try to consume while cradling/bouncing a baby, and juggling a toddler who is climbing all over us. Food is a luxury...which usually ends up on my floor.

 I'm a firm believer in God and His plan for all of us. I know somewhere, deep down, this is God's way of "succoring me" to come unto Him. Since I have a tendency to forget to pray, and rely on the Spirit, He is allowing me to get down on my knees and pray every hour of the day. Having to go through this torture, twice, is a growing moment for me, and it is definitely teaching me to pray more consistently. Obviously, I haven't learned my lesson yet...side eye....or my children would most likely be happier. Nonetheless, I will continue to try and pray frequently and listen to God's prompting for how I can comfort my sweet (evil) little ones. Joking. Sorta.

In the end, I know they grow out of colic and become cherished (still evil) toddlers. Joking again. But really. 

I hope anyone who has a baby with colic knows they are not alone. And that there isn't anything you are doing wrong. You cannot always fix it, and that's okay. I know that feeling of failure and heartache and wanting more than anything to transfer their suffering to you. Maybe, in a tiny way, it helps us also understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ more. I'm so sorry you feel hopeless. I understand that burning desire that is half desperation to find a solution and half desperation to flee. I understand the guilt for even thinking you would want to leave. Of course it is only temporary, to find some solace and calm, to find a place to think and screw all your nuts and bolts back in, but it still shocks you that you would want to. Its okay. Its necessary even, at times.  

In conclusion, I'm so glad with how my pictures turned out. My Christmas cards were a HUGE hit, with the caption, "Silent-ish Night" successfully bringing smiles to faces. I will forever remember these hard days and nights because I bought this stupid CD. This image here happens to be my favorite, because it depicts exactly how my kids felt. Atley was so over it. And Travin was taking in a deep breath, gearing up for a big scream. My children are beautiful. And hopefully I am too, even when I am bald, because I pulled my hair out one by one.....

Saturday, December 26, 2015

I'm Sexy and I know it (Dern de der der dern)

Any woman wants to know how to keep it sexy in her relationship, but there is nothing like a New Mom looking for simple ways to be fresh and hot when trying to adjust to this wild adventure of parenthood. Nothing says glamorous like life with an infant...let me tell you...and I just had my second.
My beautiful baby boy is now three months, hooray!!!! My daughter is 21 months, so yes, I had them very close together. I thought I'd have this baby stuff down, but having a baby girl first and a boy second has switched things up a bit. Lucky for me, I've learned a few new tricks of the trade. Like, how not to smell like laundry that has sat in the wash for 5 days, and how to go a week without washing your hair and not look like you just showed up to Burning Man. When it comes to being sexy as a mom, I've got it all figured out. From my heart to yours, here is a day in the life of a sexy New mom:

But First, a little prequel:
{3:04am. Drag one eye open and feel your way to the bassinet to pick up your crying baby. Feed, burp, diaper change, put baby back to sleep and fall face first into the puddle of spit up now covering your pillow.
5:10am. There's a baby crying somewhere. Oh, yes. Its yours. You chose to procreate again for some reason. Don't bother opening your eyes, just sleep walk/sit, breastfeed, burp, put baby back in bassinet, toss your puke soaked shirt on the ground, lay a towel across your bed and go back to sleep all without even cracking an eyelid.
6:30am. The nursery door opens and in walks your toddler. For the LOVE pllleeeaaaaase do NOT wake the baBY!
Welcome her into your bed with a big hug and (slobbery) kiss. Those are my favorite!! Baby wakes up anyway. Guess it's time for the millionth- spill- clean- up- mop- four-times-before - noon to begin. Rub those dark circles and start your morning right.}
Now that we are awake, it's time to get serious about our sexy.
Bring on the hottness!

Once you're out of bed, Take out your retainer, because that is totally unsexy. There's no need to look in the mirror. That nighty is fabulous when stained and stiff from leaky breastmilk, but just to keep your laundry to a minimum, slap on some new breast pads. Mmhm. Lumpy no bra day, Round 23. A dab of deodorant and a messy bun. If your hair is naturally curly, you're extremely lucky. Baby barf acts as an organic hair gel. Victoria's Secret models die for that stuff. Since you're gorgeous as is, and rock purple under eye bags like a champion, you don't need makeup. You'll brush your teeth later.
Now, I'm all about getting ready. A head to toe matching yoga workout outfit is a must! It is totally adorable, flexible, and squeezes the cute areas of back fat you've acquired after baby number two. The neon green matches your amazingly comfortable, practical Nike's, and the material absorbs baby puke like nobody's business! Win for mom!

On a non-work day, we have breakfast, and then it is learning time. Blast your favorite country radio station, get smeared with every Crayola art product known to man, breastfeed, burp, change multiple diapers, and by the time you know it, it's lunch hour. Food is a very sexy part of your day, because you never know when you might see it again. You mow down in mach speed, showing off a little because you have a die hard Sexy Chew Face, and start cleaning as your toddler finishes. With infant in the Bjorn, you jiggle around your kitchen in a wannabe "dance-off-while-scrubbing-dishes" extravaganza. You remember your glory days and give twerking a go, but you hurt your back, wake up the baby from whining, and end up lying to your toddler about "trying to fix the oven" when she gives you a strange face. Its okay. You can practice twerking later during naptime.
You wake up an hour and a half later, sweat or drool or breastmilk covering most of your upper body, realizing you and the baby fell asleep during toddler naptime, sprawled on the couch, mid-feeding session, as the toddler comes running out of her bedroom pointing to the TV, yelling, "Dada?" (cartoons?) No big deal. You can watch Frozen for the 14th time, because you have a terrifically sexy voice and know every song by heart. You're practically Madonna.
Its time for the sexy selfie of the day. You try your best angle a thousand times, squishing both kids into the frame because you have to look like America's number one Multi-tasking Crafter Stay At Home Mother of the Century to the social media world. Don't you DARE remove the Cheerios stuck to your hair! It adds texture to the image. Now, this is where you use all the good filters and then put it in black and white. The contrast does wonders for your complexion. Your skin is suddenly smooth and all the zits you named have disappeared. Crop it just below that one rogue hair sticking out of your bun, but don't cut out the chalk wall portrait you illustrated photobombing in the background. People will have no idea how many spilled sippy cups you've cleaned up, or the fact that you only had time to clip 8 of your toenails yesterday.
When the hubs gets home, you blend in the flour from baking and spit up from baby in to your awesome yoga ensemble, clean up a bit by shoveling all the uneaten kid snacks into your mouth and kicking objects into semi-organized piles of books, stuffed animals, and blocks, grab some gum and remind yourself to brush your teeth as soon as he isn't looking. Hubs gives your yoga pants a smile and you grin cause you've been working out ALL day.  14 pounds has to come off quickly do a couple squats to prove it, and try not to fart...Which reminds you, your natural pheromones congeal harmoniously with that vanishing deodorant smell.
After dinner, you do baths and puzzles. Dad plays with the kids while you pump. This is where you really get your man's attention. The breastpumps these days are high powered, electronic suctioning devices that look and sound like miniature satellites. It is a bonding moment for you and your husband when you watch in awe as your nipple stretches three inches longer than it ever should and you gain a new respect for the Dairy Cow. 4 ounces of creamy goodness and two magenta areolas later, you're proud to flaunt that swollen, sore rack you thought only came with $3,000 debt and an offer for reality television.

Nighttime rolls around and you, on a lucky day, get to take a 47 second shower. You start to pass out while changing into jammies, because you're sleepy yawning face really turns your husband on. When you get the kids in bed, you shake out your hair that nearly stays in the same shape it has all day regardless of no ponytail, and change your breast pads. Sour milk smell is sooooo midday!! You think about getting frisky with the hubs, but your baby monitor is playing a ten second interval of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star over and over....and over. The baby might wake up, disturbed by creaking bed frame, and you realize you STILL haven't brushed your teeth. OH WELL. Put your retainer back in and hit the pillow. Your husband loves looking at your flabby backside, pondering all the lovely things you accomplished throughout the day, how you kept your two cherished children alive and still managed to keep up on most of your household chores. He is silently praising you for finishing your 6th load of laundry for the week, and for being able to change a diaper in under 10 seconds, and he's admiring your ability to only cry on the inside, unless it is an odd hour, in which case you cry every other minute for no particular reason at all. And lastly he's patting dat fine booty of yours cause all of you and everything you do is SEXY as all get out!!!! The added cushion to your rump reminds him of the inside of LASAGNA, which makes his mouth water as you snore into oblivion, wearing your t-shirt inside out, with dried baby poop streaked across your forearm.
You're so beautiful, it is unreal. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Skill of Being Kind

A rare less than 5% of people are born with a special skill. The Skill of Being Kind.

It sounds so simple. Many people think they are already kind, or at least kind enough. Others don't worry about being kind. And some are born with this miraculous, innate ability to mirror Jesus's kindness. While we've all heard of this universal attribute, sadly many of us have not learned it.

Yes. Kindness is a skill. It is a difficult task for the other 95% of us.

While everyone is required to learn to be kind, it takes everyone a different amount of time to perfect it. Some people are very young, and some very old, when they learn the true meaning kindness. Once learning what it means to be kind, you then have to apply this skill to your life. This is incredibly difficult, because as humans we are fighting our environments. We are not often raised in kind environments. We don't always work in them, drive in them, live in them. We are fighting the instinctive behaviors we grew up with and were taught. We are also protecting ourselves from pain by putting up walls and thinking me first.

This was Satan's most brilliant idea yet to corrupt an already selfish Human species. He made us feel like it was necessary to worry more about ourselves than other people. If I can just take care of me and if I just love myself first are truly dangerous thoughts. They aren't evil but they can turn a person evil when that person becomes consumed with them. When you are so focused on your own happiness, it is literally impossible to focus on other people's. In fact, it has become so common, popular even, to be self-absorbed, that being selfless and meek are seen as weak and unattractive.

It is heartbreaking.

When you think of Christ, do you ever think of Him as one who put His needs, wants, desires before those of others? Of course He didn't. Read the bible.

Christ was the most selfless and meek of all. We are asked to be like Him, even as a little child, with that humble quiet demeanor. That has been long forgotten in this wicked world, where wealth, fame, belongings and "beautiful" looks have distracted us from why we even came here. It is so easy to be rude, without even knowing we are rude. Because that rude conduct Is so accepted, there is no need to change it. At least not here, on earth. However forgotten in this life, kindness is not forgotten in the next, and it is a large key to the gate of eternal happiness.

I often think of the things I say and do out of habit, reflecting on how they would be received if I were living among Christ and His people. More often than not I am appalled at myself. For example, if I honk my horn at someone while driving, I later think about the situation, and how necessary it was For me to honk, whether it was imperative or whether it was out of frustration and selfish motives. I am bothered by the frequency of my mistakes, my rude attitude, when I think about what the other person might be going through. Here is another fine example from the opposite perspective. I was driving with my two kids in the backseat. Both children were screaming. It was a bad day. My toddler had thrown her sippy cup on the floor. When I came to a red light, I knew that if I could just reach that cup and give it to her, one of my screaming kids would be appeased. (as a mom, that is better than gold, sex, and chocolate-COMBINED) anyways, at the red light, I put my car in park and went for the sippy cup. I retrieved it and handed it to my daughter just as the car behind me began to honk. I looked forward and the light had just turned green. Now, this fellow had not been waiting for me, nor had I stalled his day or made him miss the light, but he was impatient and obviously very concerned about his own agenda. I was very flustered by that man, but also by the fact that I realized I probably have done the same hurtful thing to someone else.

If we are to learn to be kind, we must emulate Christ in all of our actions, including limiting those mortal and natural desires to think first of ourselves. God taught over and over that service was the best way to learn to love others and yourself. Service, as in serving the needs of others. It is wonderful what service does to a person, but the service must be done with the right intentions. If you're only doing an act of service because you desire something for yourself, it no longer is service. It is a selfish act.

Being kind comes from the heart. It is apparent in those people who were born with it, and those who learn the skill. They don't think twice about sacrificing something they might want to do so that someone else can be happy. They don't hesitate to move their feet if they happen to be blocking the path of another. They hurry to help, assist, volunteer. And They do all of this for people who do and don't deserve it. They remember the situations of others around them, so they can ask about it later to check in. For example, if your friend had a death in the family, did you send flowers, offer to help at the funeral, or give them a call a week later to see how they were coping? Did your neighbor have a sick child? So you cooked them dinner or texted them to see how the child was healing? In second thought, maybe someone you didn't like needed aid. But were you there for them, or were they "undeserving"?

There are three degrees of kindness.
1. Being Kind because we have to.
2. Being Kind because we want to.
3. Being Kind because we need to.

Being nice to someone who isn't nice to you is a need, my friends. And it will transform you In ways unimaginable. It will make you kinder than you ever dreamed.

It is not always second nature for us to be kind, in fact it is quite unusually the opposite. It is unnatural and hard for us to be kind. That is why it is a skill, one that disappears if not practiced. Sometimes I meet older people who are grumpy and unfriendly, and I wonder why they still haven't learned to be gentle like Christ. Many of their earthly accomplishments will fall short at the Golden Gates as they're compared to their aggressive and self centered goals. Were they more driven towards money and fame? Did they pursue unhealthy relationships? Did they misuse their bodies? Were they more helpful to themselves than those around them? Did they speak to others how they wanted to be spoken to? Did they slight their greater heavenly responsibilities for lesser earthly ones?

There is nothing wrong with having a variety of goals, but it is so so so important to prioritize.

Being Kind should be in our top 2 priorities.

I know kindness is something I was not born with. It is something I've been working on for several years, and I am just now being able to put the mental work into physical actions. As I've been spiritually practicing this skill, I'm learning to physically practice it by demonstrating kindness in my actions. I'm finding it easier to do, day by day, as my original reactions are replaced with more Christlike ones. I think of others more than myself. I try to live in a way that Christ would be proud of. Although I err frequently, I am happy with the progress I've made and the happiness in others who are recipients of a kind deed I've done.

What kind deed can you do today to start you on your journey to becoming a kinder person?

Monday, December 7, 2015

Clean Eating: A Healthy lifestyle

I'm no saint, and I admit to indulging in junk food all the time. Hey, we gotta live a little right? However, I try to make simple choices in my every day meals that help me avoid a lot of processed foods, hormones, or pesticides. Again, I'm not a crazy fanatic about it. I'll eat my frozen Hot Pockets in a rush, just like the next guy. But, honestly, I find cooking so therapeutic and I notice a big difference in my body and the way I feel when I am smarter with my food choices.

It wasn't that hard to make the switch. I call myself a Chegan, because I'm basically a Vegan that cheats 😏 !! I eat very little meat, and TONS of vegetables...AND CHEESE!!! Mmm. Okay, so I'll go over my meal choices for the day with basic recipes so you can see how easy it is to be a healthy, clean eater. P.s. My husband and my toddler both LOVE my cooking. IT IS POSSIBLE to cook for the whole family.

First thing when I woke up today, I made a detoxifying tea. (it's kind of an acquired taste-lol- but if you enjoy the taste of "clean" it will be a quick adjustment )

You use 1 cup hot water, 2 tbsp Apple Cider vinegar, 2 tbsp lemon juice, 1tbsp sweetner of choice (I'm allergic  to honey, so use stevia or something) 1 tbsp of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne. I read a lot about this drink online and found it to have a lot of energizing properties. And maybe it's just the taste, but it wakes you up! It also has its way of working through your digestive system, if you know what I mean. This drink supposedly burns calories just on its own.

For lunch, I made a taco bowl, and baked fries. Every human on the planet cannot resist French fries! They are my ultimate guilty pleasure. Guess what? You can make your own at home and they are just as good, if not better! Truth.

For my taco bowl I sauteed some organic corn till blackened then dumped in a can of organic tomato sauce with a scant can of water, half a can of organic black beans, and roughly a half to three fourths cup of Jasmine rice. I let that simmer while I prepared the fries. It was a total of about 30 min. I cut up about 8 potatoes, tossed in 2 tbsp of organic coconut oil and sprinkled it with Greek seasoning. I broil them on high for 15 min, until crispy on the outside. Seriously, the best thing ever. And the broiler is my BFF....FFFFF....forevs. I broil EVERYTHING because it is so fast and tenderizes the veggies just enough. I broil all kinds of veggies from parm cauliflower to garlic broccoli. Coconut oil is my next BFFFF. I have a giant jar I use for everything, even outside of the kitchen. Hair, skin, teeth. I'm currently in the process of training my body to go without store bought deodorant. (see Cameran Diaz's The Body Book for details ) But we can go over that another day. Anyway, when the rice is done all liquid will be absorbed. Top with avocado and cilantro. So that is my healthy lunch, super filling, with lots of good protein, carbs, and nummy ness.

For dinner, I made roasted eggplant Parmesan. Just cut up 2 large eggplants into big circles. Layer a lasagna dish with your choice of marinara, parm cheese, and eggplant. I use some garlic salt on top and bake for maybe 20 to 30 min at 350 degrees. So good!!!

For dessert, um, yes, I never skip dessert! I made Apple pie from apples off my tree. I didn't add anything else to the filling, just apples. I made up the crumble topping, using (about ) 1 cup oats, half cup brown sugar, half cup flour of choice, and half cup softened butter. To be extra weird, and yummy, I threw in about a half cup of my toasted coconut hot chocolate!! Now, I absolutely hate coconut in the meat form. But I enjoy the flavor of it, and the hot choc really gave the crumble a unique flavor without putting legit coconut on top. I used a premade Marie Calendars crust, and bomb diggity!!

And there you have it!

For the most part, I try to buy organic. I eat so much produce it is ridiculous. Like, literally. I've gone through 4 avocados and a bundle of bananas this week! (it's Monday).I also eat tons of eggs...eggs for breakfast. Eggs for lunch. Eggs for din din! I find that I have more energy and a healthier body composition when I focus on clean eating. I can also eat a TON of food without stressing about calories. I do believe in purchasing products with less GMO. And hopefully less anything artificial, but like I said, sometimes it is impossible. And I'm not gonna turn down someone else's hard cooked meal! Even if they don't use the same ingredients I do. But this lifestyle just works for me.

Also, because I'm a whack job that likes to prep on one day, while the kitchen is a disaster, I also made Chickpea Patties to eat for breakfast throughout the week, and a berry smoothie with organic mixed berries and almond milk. Using more apples from my tree, I made an Apple chia seed pudding by boiling apples in 100% Apple juice and cinnamon, then adding about 3 tbsp of chia seeds. Its amazing for breakfast OR dessert. If I snack, that's where I get naughty. I enjoy string cheese, crackers of any salty design, chips and salsa, or granola bars. Veggies and dip is a good go to, or a spinach salad with balsamic vinegar/olive oil dressing.

It can be intimidating at the grocery store, wondering what to buy, and how to NOT spend a thousand dollars. but once you commit, you realize there are a few staples that you buy every visit, and keep your pantry stocked full, and you can whip up TONS of recipes. You just build from there, and it isn't much more expensive. I guess it's a sacrifice you have to make for the lifestyle you want to live.

Anyone have any recipes they wana share??

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Biggest Fear as a Mother

I have a zillion fears as a mother of a daughter, but there is one in particular that stands out in my mind. It is the fear of my daughter losing her sweet spirit.

Because of this, I let this fear rule my life. It determines how I raise her, how I talk to her, how I let her act and talk, and who I let her talk and play with. Ever since I gave birth to Atley, I felt very strongly impressed to safeguard her heart. She was an extremely colicky the extreme. It drove me mad!! (not the angry mad-- the I'm-losing-my-cool-because-i-can't-help-my-sad-baby mad) it was like Groundhog Day every day. I would wake up just hoping that it would be the day she would stop crying, and every day my heart would break anew. She literally cried every second that her eyes were open, unless we went somewhere totally new, in which case she would be calm for a little bit. She also had bad reflux which scared me to death !!! I was a stressed maniac for 9 months, when Atley finally grew out of both symptoms. To my relief, she developed into a very gentle, kind hearted toddler. During this time of growth, I prayed desperately for inspiration and guidance on how I could be the best possible mother to her unique spirit. One of the distinct impressions I receive over and over is Keep Her Sweet.

Now, everyone has different opinions on raising kids, and every kid is different. So this is just my story, based on my kid and my personal revelation in raising that kid. I've never yelled at Atley, spoken harshly to her. I don't yell at anyone else in front of her. We don't use the word, No! As in a scolding form. I've never spanked her and have banned any kind of physically violent behavior from my home. I DO speak kindly and softly, in a way I would want to be spoken to, and in a way that I would approve of HER speaking to others. I use time-out as a form of discipline, but I hold her gently in my lap and speak softly to her about why we are in time-out. I also use the discipline at the second offense, instead of letting her get away with poor behavior multiple times, or getting away with it all together, so she has learned quickly that time-out means TIME-out! I Praise, PRAISE, PRAISE, the Heck out of her. I avoid criticizing as much as possible, and if I have to, I use words like, We don't do that because, or that isn't nice, instead of Don't! Or, that's bad! I tell her she is a good girl often, like ten times a day. I let her be involved in everything I do, if she is interested, even if it is messy or inconvenient, that way she is learning a skill and knows I will always make time for her. If I have to tend to her little brother, Travin, Which is often because he is only 2 months old, she has to learn to wait and be patient--- has to, being the keywords, because she still cries and gets jealous. If she can help, I let her help me with him, if not, she has to cry and wait until I am done, but I tell her calmly why she is waiting. I NEVER I repeat NEVER let her treat other children with mean words (in her case, mean toned gibberish) or mean actions. If she does something that isn't polite, I stop her at the FIRST offense, ALWAYS, so she learns right away that we cannot be mean to people. Sometimes she copies another child's behavior ( least favorite thing about being a parent) in Which case I pull Atley aside and explain to her why she cannot do it. Hopefully the other parent does the same--- but don't count on it.  If that's the case, I try to keep Atley away from the meaner kids.

This has all worked out so far as a positive choice for both me and Atley. I have seen how sweet she is around other kids, exhibiting normal toddler behavior when trying to take a toy from another, but she does not yell or scream or hit to get the toy, and when I correct her for trying to steal, she generally responds well. Only at our house with her absolute favorite toys will she cry for a second, but I always remind her that we share with friends and we do not steal. Each play date she shows improvement, sharing better, and even giving toys to other kids before they ask. It melts my heart how kind Atley is, how excited she gets to be around other kids her age, and how well she interacts. On the other end, it breaks my heart when kids are mean to her. It is no secret that bullies target the nicest children. This was proven when I took Atley to a nearby Museum last month, when a 6 year old, yes a 6 year old, blatantly yelled at and stole from my 1 year old. You'd better believe I took the toy back and gave it to Atley and told that rotten boy not to steal, and he had the nerve to them sass me. I just removed Atley from the area, but I was shaken the rest of the day.

I am totally aghast with the attitudes of children these days. I cannot fathom why that little boy thought he would go up to a tiny girl and steal from her, yelling at her that she couldn't play with the museum's toys, and then proceed to say that to me with total teenager stank eye on his face...

I am horrified that there is very little respect and courtesy taught within the home. It hurts me to see Atley treated so poorly, especially when she is soooooo happy to play with other kids. When they pick on her, I feel a burning rage I have never felt before. Watching her submit Or surrender her toys makes my feel goods explode! At the same time, I know she is being more Christ like- yes, I compared my 1 year old to Christ, and yes we are commanded to become "even as a little child"-- which is why I know it is so important to help nurture Atley's sweet spirit, rather than let it turn bitter amidst a bitter, cruel world. I don't care who makes fun of me, and who tells me, That's just how kids are. Bull$h**. My butt would have been handed to me by my parents if I acted the way some kids do....and there's a reason we live in such a hateful society. Kids are not being raised to be kind and gentle. They are entitled to whatever they want, because that's how they are being raised. Its basically a free for all, with no discipline and no general right and wrong.

Okay, breathe. Can you hear the steam coming from my ears?

I won't claim to be the best parent because I'm not and I'm going to make mistakes, but I will still pray every night to be the best I can for my children and I know that I alone with receive the response. I know that I can't tell other people how to raise their kids, because they should be getting a response of their own. But it saddens me that so many people DONT put in much effort on raising their kids in decency, and that the general book of right and wrong has been discarded. It saddens me that Atley will mimic other kids bad behavior and I have to repeatedly correct it. It saddens me that she is taken advantage of, bullied, and picked on by other children. BUT, it makes my heart SOAR that she is doing so well as a toddler. It makes me smile when she said, Tees? (please) when she waves and says, Hi! To each and every person she sees....then, Bye! Even when they don't respond. I love how many hugs and kisses she gives me and her little brother. I adore the way she picks up toys and hands them all to the other kids she is playing with. She will run and jump in her bed at nighttime, give kisses, and then fall asleep without a hassle. In the morning, she walks in and runs up to me, so proud that she slept in her big girl bed. I love that she responds to compliments and praise, and feels bad for disappointing us.  I know I've done something right, because she is such a good girl. It makes it totally bearable for when she decides to have a random toddler meltdown. 

My fear is that the world will change her. She is only 19 months, and will grow and face this awful world of mean, mean people. She will have her heart broken. She will know failure and pain. But I want her to remain, ALWAYS, the sweet girl she was born and I hope she knows that being kind and courageous is far more important than being like everyone else. In my home, in these 4 walls, we use respect and love to communicate. We learn to treat others the way we want to be treated. We act like Christ.

My home is my temple, it is second only to the holy house of the Lord. It is my sanctuary and I will aggressively defend it and my values. It is my prayer that my baby girl never loses her gentle ways and that I will be able to do the right things in raising her to be fit for the wild journey she will take.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Modesty: The Hottest Complaint

Welcome back! It's been a bit since I updated my blog, so I've added a few this week. Today's thoughts are based on modesty, and the standpoint of the LDS church on dress and appearance.
The reason why I felt inspired to write about this is because of something I heard someone say once. It was an unmarried LDS (sort of) woman about 30 years of age and she said, "I don't have to dress modestly because I haven't made those covenants." It took a lot for me not to ask her what "covenants" she was referring to.

Lets back up a minute.
It isn't a secret to the world the LDS people where certain under garments that they receive once they go through the temple for the first time and get what are called their "endowments". Before that, they wear regular underwear just like everyone else. I guess, what the girl I mentioned above was thinking, was that because she had not been through the temple, and had not received her garments of endowment, that she did not have to dress modestly. 

Much restraint was required on my part to correct her erroneous opinion on the LDS underwear. You know me and my big mouth...You would be proud that I didn't argue, or even make a peep about her comments.

But I couldn't hold my response in forever! Instead, it made it to my blog. ;)

 I would like to clarify something. First, modesty is a choice. It isn't something LDS people are forced into. Second, it has little, if nothing, to do with the endowment process or garments.
To prove this isn't a personal opinion, I've pulled information off of that shines light on the topic of modesty, and the viewpoint of the church.

To begin, modesty is taught to every church member. Male and female. And it starts at a very early age. There is something called The For Strength of Youth pamphlet that kids at the age of 12 read and study. It also has a small progress activity kids can complete and receive recognition for.  There is a category in this pamphlet titled Dress and Appearance. To read the full article, here is the link:

I will quote just a portion of the article now:
"Your body is sacred. Respect it and do not defile it in any way. Through your dress and appearance, you can show that you know how precious your body is. You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ and that you love Him.
When you are well groomed and modestly dressed, you invite the companionship of the Spirit and you can be a good influence on others. Your dress and grooming influence the way you and others act.
Never lower your standards of dress. Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest. When you dress immodestly, you send a message that is contrary to your identity as a son or daughter of God. You also send the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval."

After I reread this, the previously mentioned girl came to mind. Her opinion of modesty is clearly reflected in her choice of dress, which reflects the truth of the statement above. In the church, we are counseled to be groomed in a manner that is appropriate but also humble and respectful since our bodies are gifts, temples even, in the likeness of God. This counsel begins at age 12, perhaps even earlier if parents choose to talk about it within their home. It isn't reserved for older people, or those who have gone through the temple. It never says being modest is a covenant you make when you get LDS underwear.

Next, I want to mention that modesty is not just a way you dress, but a way you act. As quoted on, "Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to “glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:20; see also 1 Corinthians 6:19)."

I recall my teenage self and those years of self discovery. I was quite thrilled with attracting attention to myself, especially from those cute boys I so desired approval from. Most of the girls my age didn't have strict modesty standards, and I was embarrassed by the rules my parents set. When I was in my early twenties, I reveled in the freedom I had with my wardrobe and attitude, experimenting with immodesty to every degree. What I discovered was not to my pleasure. The attention I received was not what I had imagined. The boys I attracted were not of good value, nor did they value me. I realized, after a couple of foolish years, that My body would only receive the respect I treated it with. On top of that, I understood that by using indecent dress and behavior to gather attention I was showing how insecure and lost I truly was. In my older years, I've discovered that true beauty is quiet, and real confidence does not need attention.

Carol McConkie stated, "Please remember that the principles of modesty shared here apply to both men and women, sons and daughters, and remember that even as we teach and exemplify modesty, we never condemn those who choose short skirts or “rainbow hair and the many splendored rings.”2 Always we exemplify compassion and Christlike love for the individual while we remain loyal to the standards the Lord has set."

Modesty in dress and appearance and in thought and behavior will help prepare us to make and keep sacred temple covenants. To bless and protect Adam and Eve, God gave them coats of skins to clothe them before sending them out of the garden. In like manner, God has given us a covering of covenants in mortality, symbolized by our sacred temple garments."
This brings me to the topic of the garments. I understand them As the symbols that they are, and the protection that they offer. While they do require us to be modest in clothing, because we are to keep them covered, the blessings we receive and the covenants we make concerning the garments are not focused on modesty as in a hemline or neckline. People who dress modestly only because they wear garments have misconstrued the meaning of modesty, and sadly, do not at all understand the covenants they made in the temple. I pray they soon study and figure out why we DO wear garments, BECAUSE THE BLESSINGS ARE POWERFUL AND BEAUTIFUL! In addition, there are blessings for those who are modest without wearing garments.

There is a common misconception that being modest means you can't be "sexy " or "pretty". In fact, a woman I worked with once said, "You can't make garments look cute!" I was aghast. I beg to differ, actually. I'd like to meet the person who thinks I can't look pretty because I cover my knees and shoulders. Yes, I'll brag for a second, I have made a hobby of fashion. I full all 5 of my closest and love to dress in coordinating ensembles every day, and I feel warm and fuzzy when people comment on how nice I look. Yes, I think I dress very cute, thank you very much. For the record, I feel beautiful, even MORE beautiful, when I respect my body and when I am complimented as a modestly dressed woman. Just the other day, Bertha, the sweet Hispanic cashier at Walmart, commented what a beautiful woman I was, standing there without makeup. (i had just put my dog to sleep and sported a sad, tear streaked face) God bless Bertha, and women like her everywhere.

It takes a lot of courage to be modest, in a world full of immodesty. It is very easy to go with the latest fashion trends and blend in, whether in appearance or action. To those who choose to follow the Lord's principle, there are great blessings in store.

1. To dress modestly is to invite the Spirit of God to be with you always.

I find it interesting that people will feel andoned by God, or wonder why their prayers aren't answered, of feel resentful of their situation in life, blaming God....I used to be one of them!!! But the truth is, the Spirit cannot abide in unholy places. Perhaps me, and these people, were not being modest in our lives. I know without a doubt that this was the reason I did not feel God in my life. Some people refer to it as karma, but for others it is the hand of God. If we aren't vesels for the Lord to work, then why would we be shocked to find ourselves in hardships here on Earth? May we be a little more aware of how we act, how we spend, how we talk, and how we love our fellow men.

2. Modesty helps us stand as a witness of God. When behaving poorly, we condone the evils of the world and show to those around us that we do not believe in morality or chastity. We do not stand above the corruption of the world, or stand for God, in honor of Him. Being a modest human, in deed, in thought, prepares us to become like Him and testifies to Him that we love Him,. It shows gratitude, humility, bravery. 

Modesty is a choice, it can be made by anyone, at any age, of any gender. It is a reflection of love to our heavenly father and, because of its nature, keeps us in tune with the Spirit. It makes us more like Christ, and LESS like the popular world.  Of course it might be difficult at times, and we may feel less accepted, but did Jesus feel popular and accepted ? No, in fact, he was hated by the whole world.

In conclusion, I would like to say I am proud of my choices to live a more modest life, by dressing appropriately, by spending less money on worldly things, and by deciding to care less about the approval of the world. I have a long way to go, but I will continually strive to be a witness to God, for myself and my children.

Friday, November 20, 2015

ARP Talk: My Side of Addiction Recovery

I was asked to give a talk in my parents' ward as a part of the Addiction Recovery Program volunteers. The lds church as a whole is trying to spread the word about the ARP and I was more than happy to participate. I was a facilitator for the 12 step meetings before having my son, and I will one day return to volunteering. It is something I feel passionate about. The following is a condensed version of the talk I gave. Hope you enjoy it!
"There is no cookie cutter addict. Most of them are people you know, who look like you and me. "Normal" people who may even act "normal". It is not exclusive to non-religious persons. Within our LDS community, there are addicts that live in silence and fear, who rarely seek help because of this stigma of shame surrounding addiction. I want you all to look at me and each other, and realize something....we all have temptations. And, quite frankly, we are all going to have an addiction of some sort. The degree of severity ranges, some examples including dishonesty, anger, pride, food, shopping, gambling, social media, gaming, drugs and alcohol, or pornography. No one is exempt from Satan's temptations. Denial and codependency are also big problems within the realm of addiction. We should feel comfortable knowing we are not alone in our struggles instead of shame. "Unto man I give weaknesses." God gave us our talents, but he also gave us our weaknesses which means He trusted us with them. He provided the tools necessary to overcome them. Remember, the atonement of Jesus Christ is the number one tool.
The first image of me is during a time when I was married to my first husband. I comically call him Husband 1.0. I Met him when I was 17 and we were married at 19 in the temple. I knew going into the marriage that he had struggled with an addiction to pornography on and off since he was 12 years old, and that his family had a history of addiction. But we loved each other and I thought I could carry those burdens. That's what marriage is, right? Bearing one another's burdens, long suffering, enduring to the end? Well, during the course of our short marriage I experienced a rapid deterioration of my husband's spirit and his addiction exploded. His addiction to pornography expounded until he was living and breathing the artificial, manipulated, lifestyle Satan has created to destroy the sanctity of our procreational powers. The havoc than ensued consisted of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. Satan had such a firm hold on this man that I felt the presence of the Adversary himself every time my husband walked in the door of our home. I tried everything, from couples therapy, to ARP meetings, I sought help from his family members and friends, and prayed for guidance in the temple. But nothing I did could save the addict in my life. He was not willing to save himself.  This man was a product of his environment, the son of a drug addict father and a codependent mother. They both allowed pornography into their home, which their 3 young boys curiously snuck into. Neither parent had strong moral values and thought that their son, knowing his issues, was "just fine". With zero support and hope, my husband's spirit and marital commitments crumbled under Satan's influence. The mental degradation, physical ramifications, and spiritual defamation I experienced in that time tore me down and led me into the next chapter of my life.
Phase two. Really quickly, please understand that I was a good person, temple worthy the majority of the time. If you think bad things don't happen to good people, you are wrong. I am a prime example of that. So, after a lot of prayer, and confirmation from a priesthood blessing saying I should "guard my womb", I walked away from my marriage. This is where Satan attacked my vulnerabilities. During my weakest moments of anguish, he highlighted some of my temptations. Pain had exposed them. One of these was alcohol. I found it to be the only way to numb the pain. Over the next few years, instead of trying to rebuild my self esteem and heal from my wounds, I hid the trauma beneath liquid courage.  I am lucky I never reached the point of physical dependency, but I was emotionally addicted. Alcohol was the first thing I turned to after a bout with PTSD, after a bad day, or a stressful day at work. Unfortunately, I did not know how to exercise self control. I did not drink socially, I could not contain it to one or two drinks. I was poisoning myself almost every time, waking up the next morning with foggy, forgotten memories. But to me, it was worth it, because I also forgot in those moments the pain of my past.
Hearing phase one, you might not blame me for this, especially if you can relate. Regardless, there is a bright, conscious awareness in all of us that can see where I went wrong.
Before I started going to the ARP meetings, I unknowingly began taking the steps on my own. I remember one night, after realizing my life was in trouble, I prayed to my Heavenly Father. It was one word. Help. I did not know how to pray and I was embarrassed of my actions. I was still living in an environment of alcohol and drug use. Still, each night, I would pray. My prayers turned into, "help me not WANT to drink." because deep down, I still wanted it. After a while of praying I noticed a change. I started to become ill every time I drank. I'm not talk I By about my usually hangover. I mean, I would try to have one or two drinks and I would become very sick. It was like I was allergic to the alcohol. It made alcohol no longer fun, but more importantly, It made alcohol no longer an outlet of pain for me. I hadn't had the strength on my own, but finally, with the help of the Lord, I was able to cut back until drinking didn't even have the slightest appeal to me. That, my friends, is a miracle.
Finally sober, I entered phase three of my life. At long last, I faced the pain, abuse, and heartache I'd endured. I realized that the more you numb your Pain, the more it hurts when you finally feel it. I went through the 12 steps, and soon became a volunteer facilitator for the ARP program.  Through all of this, I learned the true meaning of the atonement and how I would use it in my life. Now, I am happily married, with a beautiful daughter, and as you can see, very pregnant with our second child.
From phase one, I learned that to love an addict is to run out of years. That even when you are doing good and praying, you will face struggles. From phase two, I learned that the media will 100% lie to you about substance abuse. You will destroy your body for a peace of mind you will never find. And your road to sobriety will be long and difficult, hurting many of those around you. From phase three, I am learning about my most divine calling. Motherhood. I've learned that the atonement isn't just about being forgiven from our sins, it is also about having our burdens made light. There is a specific journey ahead of all of us but I testify that God is aware of it. He knows us and He has made a way for us to make it Through, if only we rely on him.
It is a constant effort for me to put my spirituality on the top of my priority list. I know my temptations and pains will come back the instant I lose the spirit in my life. I know that if we put half as much effort into our spiritual success as our mortal success and all things that should come second to our eternal progression, we would be much more virtuous human beings.
I know the ARP program works. I know God loves us and He will deliver us, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

How I Met God

First of all, I just finished journaling this story and it was about eight pages long. I am going to write a condensed version for my blog, but I wish all of you could read every detail in hopes of better understanding just how amazing this event was for me. Either way, you are going to find out how I came to know God better, instead of just believing in him.

It happened on Monday, November 16th, 2015.

It was one of the worst days of my life.

My husband, Glen, left for his week long work trip on Sunday, leaving me with our two little kids. Travin is 7 weeks old. Atley is 19 months. I'd injured my back during labor with my son, herniating discs in my C spine, which has made life with a newborn and toddler unimaginably difficult. Very painful, motor deficit, inability to hold my own children with my right arm, etc, no sleep, etc. (i chose not to do aggressive steroid treatment so that I could breast feed but that's a whole other story!) Sienna, my dog for the last seven years or so, has been staying at my sister's house for a couple months because the dog had been mean to my daughter, and with my new baby I did not have the time or energy to properly care for her. However, Saturday night, my sister called to tell me Sienna had started puking up blood. I told her to monitor the dog and then on Sunday, her and her husband came over to my house for dinner. They brought Sienna, who was still ill. She had lost weight and her mouth was covered in sores. I knew she had lupus, but was now concerned she had cancer. That night was chaotic, to say the least. My 7 week old baby had a bug and was extra needy. So, on top of him waking up frequently, I was dealing with my dying dog. I tried to let the dog sleep in my bed to calm her, as that is how we used to sleep, but she had diarrhea and quickly soiled my bedding. I tried locking the dog in the bathroom, but she wouldn't stop scratching the door, waking up my 19 month old daughter. The bathroom was covered in poop. I took the dog outside 4 times that night, and ended up locking her in the basement bathroom so that my babies could find some rest! I, unfortunately, did not.

By 7:00am Monday, it was clear I had to put the dog down. I cried and cried, despite the dog having been a bit of a nuisance towards the end of her life. Dogs really do become part of the family ! Sienna, who I rescued during one of my greatest life hardships, ended up rescuing me. In the end, I was broken hearted that she was gone, even though she was in a better place.

The rest of the day, I could not stop bursting into tears. I tried to conceal them, and kept busy with the kids, baking and watching movies, but I felt completely distraught. It was a lot to take after an already tough two months. On top of this, Glen and I had faced a conflict two weeks prior that had not been resolved. It was causing me great stress.

The time came for Atley and I to get into our nightly bath/shower for one on one girl time. I set Travin in his bouncy chair outside the clear curtain. As the water ran over me, my daughter played innocently with her toys, and I sobbed a prayer.

I want to note that, while my whole life I have been very spiritual and religious, I have not been blessed with the power of prayer. In fact, I can name on one hand the number of times I noticed a prayer of mine being answered.  With it being so few, I would wonder if they weren't just my own ideas instead of God's. Of course, I've read all the scriptures that speak about the Lord answering prayers in His own time, in His own way, but it is immensely frustrating to feel as if you NEVER see an answer, even if it's the one you don't want. So, although I'd lived in faith and kept praying, I was praying with the faith the size of a mustard seed. I was constantly filled with doubt, confusion, and even abandonment from a father in heaven who, supposedly, would comfort anyone who asked for it. "Knock and ye shall receive". Well, I had not been receiving the comfort I so desired during my darkest hours. Needless to say, I still say prayers every day, for my family and kids. And I need them to know this now:

Something happened to me in the shower. Something that has never happened to me before. Something that helped me understand many of the puzzle pieces of my life, the atonement of Jesus Christ, and about humility.

Within several minutes of my heartbroken prayer to simply feel comfort, I felt a huge sensation of relief. None of my problems were fixed, and yet, I felt such a peace with them. There was no warm, tingly, feeling in my chest. I did not feel arms around me. But the solace I felt, after so long feeling as if my heart was only partially beating, and that my father in heaven had forgotten me, and that I was completely alone in the world, was remarkable. I was lighter. My tears subsided. The promise in the scriptures, that the Lord will make our burdens light, was fulfilled.

On top of this, an even greater miracle occurred. A part of my heart that had been dead for years began to beat again. You may have read posts about my divorce and the trauma it caused. I had gangrene of the heart and I would not have survived if I had not cut it out, but Monday night in the shower I was made whole. I was filled with a capacity to love anew. The conflicts with my husband no longer pained me. I knew they would be resolved, and I would be able to handle them as they came. I felt such a great deep love for my children that, for the rest of the week, I burst into tears just looking at them. That, particularly, helped me comprehend how my Father in Heaven must feel about me. It made me desire a relationship with Him and my brother, Jesus Christ. And the whole experience humbled me in a way that never could have happened had I not experienced the exact, unique set of events in my life that lead me to that moment. While I'd viewed them as huge physical and emotional trials, they pointed me straight towards the moment when I would finally feel the peace and comfort of God I had looooooong been craving. A second major point, is that for the past year, I have been praying to have a softer heart. Literally, a year. I have a tendency to be cynical and bitter, but I was sick of feeling that way. I want so badly to be a good mom and a good example, and to shine with love instead of animosity. So, I've been praying for it. Well, the Lord's time was definitely not my time, but He knew my moment was coming. That moment on Monday my heart was changed in an instant. The promise in the scriptures that the Lord can remove your stony heart has also been fulfilled. I feel softer and more compassionate, I feel a deeper love for my husband, and a love for those strangers around me.

Obviously, nobody wants to be humbled that way. We all think we will escape mortal pains and heartache, but the truth is, that is EXACTLY how we are supposed to grow and learn, I know it now without a doubt.  I know that a told in the scriptures, Christ suffered all manner of afflictions during his atonement that He may know how to succor his people. He knew me. And my past. My pains, my struggles, my current situation. And even though it was not my first desperate, tear filled plea, It was the right time for me. 

I never want to forget that moment. Or this feeling. I want my kids to read this story and feel eased if they ever experience the years of waiting that I did.  I know I'll still have weaknesses, or I might slip into the old habits of cynicism, but I will always remember how light and comforted I felt, after having been grieved for years. God works in mysterious ways. And that night, I met Him.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Good Character is Chosen

God is a very personal decision for everyone.

Some people ask, How do you know there is a God?

My response is usually, I don't know. But I can tell you EXACTLY what changed in my life when I decided to center my life around faith in God. My life continues to improve each day, each month, each year, that I dedicate myself to this faith. That is a little confusing for some people to understand. Why? They wonder, Would you spend so much time and energy believing in something you cannot see, and do not always feel?

The truth is a long and intricate answer. For me, it is because I can look back at the last five or so years of my life, when I really made those big changes and focused more on a God-driven life, than a me-driven life, and I can pinpoint EXACT moments, challenges, and miracles that I have experienced. These cannot be passed off as coincidence. They are so specific to my faith and my prayers that I know they are implemented by God.

Here's another kicker : A lot of people struggle with the idea of prayer. They don't want to believe in God because they have tried praying once and it was "unsuccessful". Sadly, sometimes people pray during desperate times of need, sickness, or pain, only to find themselves "forsaken". Again, I don't have any simple answer to this, only what I know I have experienced. For me, prayer has always been difficult. Let me repeat that. Prayer, for me, has always been difficult. I have never been one to say a prayer and get an immediate response. There are times, still, when I am desperate for help. I will be sobbing a prayer, and not necessarily receive the answer I was hoping for. What has taken me years to understand is that Prayer is a foreign language. You will NOT be able to interpret a response if you have not learned the language. First, prayer takes practice. I am still not perfect at it. Clearly. I misinterpret answers, or in my opinion, the lack there of, quite often. In addition to practice, it takes patience. Understanding. Faith. You have to be willing to wait, YEARS IF NEED BE, for the appropriate answer. That's where stubborn people give up.

I know, it sounds kind of crappy up front. If you are in dire need, who can wait a whole year??!! Well, God has a bigger plan for you. He sees for time and all eternity. (Let that boggle your mind for a min) He knows things you cannot possibly begin to comprehend. To Him, time is endless, and a couple years is simply seconds. For us mortals, being faithful on an eternal perspective is extremely difficult because our spirits are eternal, but we are living in a temporal world. It causes some discomfort. Naturally. To me, the practice of prayer and faith is ever ongoing, but I can honestly tell you it is slowly, gradually improving.

Ever since I decided to dedicate my life to God, and I mean almost entirely--including less focus on my own desires, ambitions, dreams, and more focus on what God's plan is for me--I have been the recipient of many, many miracles and blessings. I live such a good life, sometimes I don't think I deserve it. And during my peaks and valleys, I just keep praying and asking (even if it is insincere at first ) for the patience and diligence to progress in the way God intended for me. I even started out praying for the DESIRE to live a God-driven life, because I was sincerely set on my own hopes and was a hard sacrifice at first, as most sacrifices are for the natural man. We want what we want, and it can blind us from what God wants for us. It can strip us of that happiness and success we never knew we could achieve. Including, but not limited to, a divine character of principle and honor.

Character is a choice. You are somewhat a product of your environment- parents, childhood experiences, life pains. But you most definitely have the choice to be different, to define yourself, to be a new and improved version of yourself. It takes WORK. I know, again, humans love this concept that we can skirt through life as lazy mammals and have everything handed to us. We like being entitled to our "misery", because we tho,k we deserve the negative attention and sympathy from others. It is just "too much" to ever grow beyond and heal. We want to be treated like victims and yet we want to somehow be superbly happy all the time. (Then we blame God when we aren't !!) Bummer. As much as eating junk food and sitting on your bum will give you a model figure, such is the same is faith, prayer, and a positive life journey. You have to actually work for it. Put in the effort. You have to be willing to hand your life, and all of your selfish desires, over to God. You have to practice praying, and then have the patience to wait--however long necessary - for a response, then be willing to accept it, even if it doesn't seem like the response you wanted. Years later, you will look back at your life, as I have, and see just how perfectly things have fallen together. Of course, remember those seemingly painful trials, peaks and valleys, that may have caused you grief, and witness the positive outcome. The more you do this, and try to listen to the will of God, the more you will be able to see the positive influence, and see the miracles and blessings.

That is the difference between you and the people that forever live in their misery. The people who will constantly blame their life's circumstances on everyone around them, drain you of your happiness, sabotage your accomplishments, and die  lonely, lonely human beings. They have lost their way. I have been one of them. I have made the choice to define my character, to be a better person, and to outrun sources of negativity in my environment. I have a long way to go to reach my Godly potential, but I am certainly on my way. You can be too.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Being Kind Matters

I was talking to two of my favorite people at work a couple months ago, trying to explain one of my character defects. I said, "By nature, I am nice. I am not friendly." One of the girls laughed and asked, "How is that different?" And I responded, "If you called me up in the middle of the night and needed gas for your car, I'd be there in a heartbeat. I do nice things for people. What I find unnatural is smiling or waving at people, or asking how their day is going." She then replied, "I've never heard of it out that way, but that makes sense."

It may make sense, but I still consider it a defect of mine. At the beginning of 2015, I decided I wanted to be more kind. I want to change my nature of just being nice and doing nice things for people to being someone I can refer to as friendly. It is a real struggle for me and I'm not sure why. I find it especially difficult to be kind to people who are UNkind, whether it is to me or to those around me. I don't react super negatively, in fact, I sort of just ignore them altogether. (a twist on 'if you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all') However, I understand that it is towards the people who are UNkind that it is most important for me to show kindness to. I envy those that are friendly in all times, during all things, and at all places-- despite what mood they may really be in. I have posted notes around my house, set reminders on my phone, and prayed for this weakness of mine to become a strength and I am happy to report that I have felt significant progress, more so within the last month. Overall, I sense the relief in being around the people I once thought of as selfish or cruel or arrogant, and instead try to think only positive thoughts. Of course, they are still stuck as thoughts at this point. Haha....but I know our thoughts becomes our words become our deeds become our habits and that is what I'm striving for. Habitual kindness.

Why does it matter to be kind?
A lot of people live by the motto: I don't need to be liked by other people.

I think this is sort of true. You don't NEED to be liked. But you do need to be kind. If someone doesn't like you, but you are genuinely nice and friendly to them, obviously they have issues. If someone doesn't like you, and you have the maturity to evaluate your behavior and realize you are not a nice person to them, then you both have issues.  We are all required to show this Christlike attribute to our fellowmen, regardless of circumstance. And I, for one, know I have a long way to go. The good news is, the older I get, the wiser I get, and the more I focus on improving myself.

Kindness matters because:

1. It brings self and satisfaction.
2. It promotes healthy self esteem.
3. It cultivates meaningful, lasting relationships.
4. It brings you closer to God.
5. You will touch more lives.
6. You will be remembered.

Lately, I have had a loss in appetite for some of the worldly goals I once dreamed of. Not that they aren't goals, but they are not my top priority. I want all those things I just listed. I need them. Interestingly, I don't have all of them yet-- and I would bet money neither do you. Lets all make a goal this week to replace one bad thought with one good one, to say one nice thing to someone we haven't complimented in awhile, and forgive someone who might not totally deserve it. Good luck!!!☺☺☺

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

6 Tricks to Loving Your Pregnancy

I happen to be one of the crazies that LOVES being pregnant.

I MEAN, LOVES...being pregnant.

I love all the benefits, all the catastrophes. I find pregnancy to be my most beautiful phase in life. I also think it is a gift. I am so grateful God blessed me with this gift and the beautiful creations that come from it, when not everyone will have the chance to experience it. Indeed, pregnancy is very difficult, even for me. I do not have super easy pregnancies, but I can tell you it is super easy for me to enjoy the 40 weeks of the pregnant journey! Want to know why? Here are my 6 Tricks to Loving Your pregnancy!

1. Embrace the miracle.
I don't want to sound preachy, but because I believe in God and the creation of mankind, I truly see pregnancy as a gift from Him. If you aren't a religious being, pregnancy can still be miraculous if you simply understand the complicated process of conception, embryonic growth, and delivery. Making a human is awesome!! [youtube the anatomical process for a good time] And only us women get to do it 😍 cheers to us for being that lucky. Always, ALWAYS, remember this as the hard weeks of maternity approach. It may help to read about someone who cannot have children...but that may also make you sob your eyes out. How about this, keep in mind that that little heart starts beating within days. You are building another being. You are a machine. You are amazing.

2. Be healthy, before you get pregnant.
I am criticized often on my lifestyle, but the truth is it makes me really happy. Sidenote* I'm a health nut. It isn't for everyone, so find your version of "healthy" and be that before trying to get pregnant. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you shouldn't do it while pregnant, nix it from your routine in advance. Start taking prenatals, get a good diet and fitness program in habitual form, construct financial goals, and line up work and childcare schedules AHEAD of time. Ducks=in a row. {You're welcome.} It wouldn't hurt to do some yoga or meditation to improve your mental/spiritual/emotional state as well. If you think pregnancy hormones are crazy, wait till you experience postpartum... There are so many benefits to being in good health. For starters, it can improve your fertility. Secondly, it is easier to stay in shape while pregnant and get into shape after. Third, you experience less of the pregnant pains when in peak physical condition. Your bones are stronger, your muscles stronger, you have more vitamins and nutrients in your system. Trust me, pregnancy is painful anyway, but being less healthy will make it ten times worse. Fourth, it is incredibly beneficial to the delivery process. I had a difficult delivery and was told, afterwards, that had I not been so strong, I never would have made it through. I almost had to have a C-section, which was NOWHERE in my birth plan. Instead, I had the stamina to push for 3 hours, against my body's will (I was not dilating, the baby was not dropping, my contractions were slowing) and delivered my precious girl the way I wanted to. (thanks Doc) Fifth, for heaven's sake you are feeding your baby!! Everything you intake, so does your child. And they don't get a choice. Please, be cautious and selfless in your habits....that microscopic treasure deserves only the best! And only you can give it to them-- or deprive them of it, and cause everlasting damage. Okay, back to optimism!! Lastly, to keep in good health means you will have more endorphins, more energy, and more fun time with your spouse. 😜

3. Be accepting of physical changes.
Remember puberty? This is nothing like that. Haha!! No, in all reality, it is a little like that in the sense that your body is taken over by other natural yet seemingly extraterrestrial forces. Your physical being you've become so acquainted with has just taken a permanent sebatica. This is OKAY!! I cannot stress enough how important it is to come to terms with and accept the wonderful, if at first devastating, changes your body will undergo during this beautiful period. Remember the miracle and speak to your relatives about their experiences to get an idea of what your genetics have in store for you. Pregnancies and the effects aren't always hereditary, but sometimes there are similarities. Be aware of changes you anticipate with negative reaction and put a positive spin on them. Enjoy those large hips and breasts while they last!! Rub your enormous tummy and talk to that sweet baby. All of the superficial views you had about your body will suddenly not matter after your tiny cherub is in your arms, I promise. And when those insecurities start to surface, start listing all the things about your baby and your life you are thankful for. God chose YOU to raise this special spirit. He had faith in you and He didn't even care if you were a size 2 or not. Here I go again with spirituality, but it's just my belief that women were created by God with these intents and purposes. We are virtuous beings..cough cough. He loved us and trusted US with this gift. Not men. (like they could handle it) If it helps you at all, try to think the way I do about our bodies. This is what I was made for. No amount of acne, stretch marks, or saggy appendages will rob me of my joy. It's called a pregnancy glow for a reason. I shine with pride for my body and my baby. I, too, have the occasional low self-esteem, but it only comes comparing myself to others or having unrealistic/worldly expectations. Also, there will be plenty of time for recovery and shape shifting in the near future. You can get your pre baby body back, girlfriend!! Just don't focus on that right now. If you need a little boost in confidence, or high five to the face with a lawn chair, to forego that Material Girl suffocating your newfound NIRVANA, I will be happy to provide you with it!!

<somehow number 4 got lost originally, so here it is>

4. Treat yourself.
Stay within that budget, of course, but you totally deserve a splurge now and then. I remember with my first pregnancy avoiding maternity pants for 6 whole months because I did not want to spend the money. Eventually, my belly hurt so bad and I had gained too much weight so I broke down and bought a few pair. Let me tell you-- BEST INVESTMENT EVER! Not only are the pants useful for every pregnancy-duh!- but they are all I wore for about 2 months postpartum also. I spent less than $100 and have several new superbly comfortable pants that still look cute. My second pregnancy, I indulged in an early prenatal massage. Oh em gee! Totes worth it! Also, if your treat is in the form of sugary goodies, go with small bite size portions. Whether it is a pedicure, or a new blouse every trimester, don't be too afraid to treat yourself because it sincerely helps you feel better and enjoy your pregnancy more.

5. Stay close with your spouse.
This is critical. Having baby number one will rock your world, and sometimes your marriage. Its not always a bad thing, but a new life entering your intimate circle puts a new spin on "family" time. Having baby number two is equally as paranormal. Now is a great time to relax and ease off the nitpicking. Trust me once again, the socks on the floor, the toothpaste lid left off, the hair in the sink, the soda cans on the ottoman, will all be LOOOONG forgotten when you're up at 3am, sitting on a toilet, trying to go potty, while nursing your infant, drenched in a puddle of baby puke. Did I paint you a colorful enough picture??? Hash tag: #truestory. If you're lucky, your adorable spouse will keep you feeling calm and beautiful during your pregnancy, therefore trick three will be a lot easier! Don't forget, it is okay to ask for encouragement and remind your partner you need compliments during this transition. Is your man walking around the house looking like Chris Hemsworth??? That's what I thought. You need to be flattered despite outward changes. But also remember your spouse is likely afraid you are going to forget all about him. Don't let your man feel like he is second best to your baby...(even if he temporarily falls on the priority list) because let's be real, an infant, especially a hard or needy one, deserves your undivided attention. Just keep your relationship in mind and set aside specific time for your spouse. Have mommy daddy time as often as you have energy to. Hint* being in good health makes this A MILLION TIMES EASIER! You won't be as fatigued or uncomfortable. Still go on dates as a couple, but also do things as a family with the baby. Let your husband feel like the champion he is by carrying the baby in a Bjorn and go for walks or to the zoo. And when the time comes that you just DONT have it in you for intimacy, COMMUNICATE constantly so that neither of you feel neglected.

6. Follow your gut. (you can't miss it !! Hahah)
This goes for everything, from your prego diet, to your birth plan, to how you want to raise your baby. Everyone has their advice, their magical cure all, but the fact is there is no one size fits all theory. There is something otherworldly about the bond between a mother and her baby. I seriously could not get National Geographic out of my head my first few months as a new mom. I thought, Oh my gosh! I'm the mama polar bear!! From the way you nurture, to the way you feed, how you know what your baby needs and what they don' is all inside of YOU. And, sorry Aunt Jane who had seven kids, the answer is ONLY within you, THE MAMA. trust your instincts during the time and you will not fail. Every time I tried someone else's method, against my better judgement when I knew deep down it wasn't what my baby needed, it never helped and honestly typically made things worse. When I went with my gut, the large gushy one Still six inches in front of me, things always worked out in a much more efficient way. Try not to be offended by advice givers, and try not to offend by disagreeing with others' methods or making rude comments about others' parenting tactics. They are also parenting their child based on their instincts. (and some people are clueless parents who should never procreate lol)

These are just some of my FAVORITE tricks and reasons why I genuinely LOVE being pregnant. I feel more like a woman and more beautiful with a growing life inside of me than I did in my "glory years" rocking that "hot bod". Ps. That hot bod is not a thing of the past... Stay tuned for another favorite post on my tricks to getting in shape postpartum!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Letter To My Past

In the ARP program, we are encouraged to make restitution to anyone we have hurt, and to seek restitution with people who have hurt us. While I've completed this step before, I had some thoughts this early morning that I wanted to write down in the form of a letter. I woke up at 5am, unable to sleep, and of course my go-to is my laptop. I spent 2 hours working on my commercial fiction, and now I'm going to blog. 😊 more specifically, I'm going to write a letter. It is addressed to anonymous.

Dear anonymous,

Thank you, for a great life lesson learned.

At one point, I thought your influence in my life was solely to cause me pain and anguish. I could not see beyond my suffering, through the Refiner's fire, to the future that my Heavenly Father had in store for me.

During our time together, I was in my darkest state of mind. I did not recognize myself. I knew you were trying to hurt me, and I knew you were going to destroy me--if I let you.

For a long time, I almost let you.

The heartache and torment your actions caused me led me to believe I would never heal. I never thought I'd find peace. I did not want to find love. I never wanted to hurt, ever again, the way you hurt me. I was willing to be at odds with everyone, including God, in an effort to avoid anything that might inflict more pain upon me. I gave up such big, important parts of my spirit. I hated you. I hated myself.

But somehow I found the light. I remember finally feeling resolve and restitution over those years of struggle, and how liberating it was. I no longer felt the need to blame you, or make you pay for your mistakes. I did not seek revenge. Instead of anger for time and love lost, I felt relief and gratitude. Because of you, I have acquired the skills necessary to climb the mountain of mortality. My heavenly father loves me, and He has always had a plan for me. That plan included my hardships facing your abuse. He has always wanted me to be strong, wise, and defiant in the face of the adversary. He has predetermined my path as a mother. It has always been my calling to be a mother. He has wanted me to lead by example, to be compassionate and understanding, and to touch people's lives in ways others could not.

Without you, I would not know what it means to be patient. I would not have learned to control my temperament. I never knew what it was like to dispute in a constructive manner, or what it was like to forgive. I would not know how to soften my tongue and quiet my voice in the face of aggression. Without you, I would still be the same.

Instead of hindering my growth, you have exponentially encouraged it. I know how to calmly reflect on a situation and analyze the positive and negative angles before reacting. I can speak my mind and have a strong, firm, opinion without offending. I do not hold grudges the way I used to. I can give, selflessly, without being taken advantage of. I am not afraid to love.

I am a mother. I have started my eternal journey and give my heart fully to my children. I can raise them with kindness and long suffering. I do not fear betrayal as I once did. Acceptance of human error and mortal weakness comes with a simpler understanding now. My aspirations to lead and nurture a growing family include expressing love and respect in my marriage, and all relationships around me. I can lead by example. I am an example of sympathy. I feel more.

Because of you, I am an unbeatable daughter of God, a princess in a kingdom on High. I have chosen to accept your lessons and incorporate that experience into my eternal progression. Because of you, I am a good woman. I take responsibility for my actions. I do good deeds for other people. I care about pleasing those around me instead of just pleasing myself. I know what it is like to have nothing, to have lost everything, and to be in the depths of despair, and I know what it is like to rise out of that and achieve all that I thought I'd never achieve. I know how to give thanks. I can stay away from pride because I know what it means to walk away from everything I own, to leave my home, my belongings, my clothing, to disregard all my earthly possessions, and start over. I do not desire worldly possessions the way I once did.

Thanks, to you, for helping me along the way. Your contributions have been invaluable.