Category Archives: live better

Good News For the Week

It’s Maple Season in New Hampshire!

“One of the great innovators of our time, Steve Jobs of Apple, had this insight: ‘you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.’

…Don’t get overwhelmed by the many large, difficult tasks of life. If you commit to doing the “easy” things – the “small” things God asks you to do – and you do them as perfectly as you can, big things will follow.

In a sense, your small and simple sacrifices are the dots of daily living that make up the masterpiece painting of your life. You may not see how the dots connect now, and you don’t need to yet. Simply have faith enough for the moment you are living in now. Trust in God, and ‘out of small things [will come] that which is great.'”

-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

 

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good news for the week {& daughter eats chicken comb}

Some times you just need a break from the typical news cycle of doom and gloom. Here’s something to lift our spirits: my daughter as exhibit A:Cope is a missionary in Taiwan. She LOVES pho (yum yum!) Do you know what she’s holding?

A chicken’s comb!

Let’s get a closer look. Exhibit B: I see…feathers. And you know what she did with the chicken comb? SHE ATE IT.

This is what Google says about a chicken comb: “A comb is a fleshy growth or crest on the top of the head of gallinaceous birds, such as turkeys, pheasants, and domestic chickens. … The comb may be a reliable indicator of health or vigor and is used for mate-assessment in some poultry species.”

Mmmm to fleshy growths! (where is the vomit emoji?)

Missionary Cope also writes (and this is really the good news of the week!):

“Fun stories: no rats this week, BUT last night as we were calling all our friends a man started SCREAMING in Taiyu (the native language of Taiwan that sounds just similar enough to make me think I’ve forgotten all of my Chinese every time I hear it) at a cashier. This went on for a little while, as he went out and then came back in. Then the police showed up and they started yelling in Taiyu as well! We learned that he didn’t have enough money to buy bread, and lost it when the cashier wouldn’t give it to him.
As we reflected on the situation, I was overcome with a deep sadness. We would have gladly given him the money he needed if we had understood what was going on before the police arrived. Had he not been yelling at the cashier, or had we the ability to understand him better, the situation could have been resolved. Had he not exhibited such anger, the police need never have been involved. How often is this sort of interaction played out every day? It is all well and good to say we would give our neighbors our bread, and even better to do it, but how many faceless “others” are we unable to help because we have not the understanding?
This is the miracle of the Atonement, and of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter what our problems are, no matter our capacity to explain them to ourselves or others, the Savior knows them completely and has already given us a way to be whole. This is the wonder of the system of ministering as friends and as disciples of the Savior that we see in the church. As his representatives and led by his spirit, we can give the aid needed by others. We may not even know we are doing it, and perhaps they will not either, but our father always does.
2 Nephi 26:23-25 teaches us ‘For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness.
He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.
Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.’
We are always welcome and invited to the Lord’s presence. He will never command us to depart.”
Thanks, Cope!
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my despair {& hope} over the college admissions scandal

This admissions scandal highlights a problem that’s been going on a for a long time – and it makes me so so angry.

You know that quote? “Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat.”

As a mom of one graduate and another graduating this year, this admissions cheating and deception hits very close to home.

I am well aware that I, myself, write from a position of privilege. I have had opportunities that few in the world have had simply because I was born in America. I’m white. I come from a middle class family who valued education and could help me pay for it. I went to an incredible college-bound high school.

But I’ll tell you what. I had parents who were fairly hands-off. I wrote my own essays. I didn’t have the advantage of “knowing people in high places.” My parents weren’t in the position to donate heavily to the alumni fund. No one wrote my essays. The chips fell where they did. I was wait-listed at my first choice school. I still went to college – and realized a few things along the way. No one was going to make life happen for me.

Thank you, parents, for not making it too easy.

As my son waits on his last school today, my heart aches a little bit – what will it be?  The chips will fall and he will deal.

The extent to how far we will go for our children can be a very slippery slope. I want so very very badly for all of my children “to succeed!” and I sometimes do too much for them, forgetting that the struggle is GOOD.

And, as my wise mother says – “they are COMPLETELY missing the point of what an education really is.”

Photoshopping faces onto legit athlete’s faces (this scandal also highlights the great value of athletics over, say, an amazing violinist or, say, a student who does an extraordinary amount of community service…) bribing SAT and ACT proctors…

This is WRONG.

So it’s all bad. It’s really really bad. As I try to see the big picture of this landscape, I’m thinking of what this scandal is really highlighting: the great anxiety we have over getting into “the right college” and how we apparently are not willing to let our children “fail.”

Those who can pay, often do. And it continues to create an incredibly unfair advantage. It’s immoral. It’s deceitful and goes way beyond even writing your kid’s college essay, bombarding the admissions department, or securing a top-notch recommendation from an influential person.

So the richer get richer b/c they get into the “best” schools and make higher wages out of school. Class distinctions grow wider. For minorities, for non-athletes, for low-income students, for kids working really really hard, for those with great character but no “outstanding thing” – are put at an even more of a disadvantage.

I read this today: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” Matthew 16:26.

Said slightly differently:

“What goes around comes around.”

“We will all get our just reward.”

But in the meantime, how about this: what kind of world do we want to live in?

What kind of life do we really want to create for our children?

Don’t mistake making your children’s life EASIER as a good thing. Stop the comparing! Don’t be so concerned with creating an exceptional child that you forget you already have one.

Let’s be better. Let’s BE GOOD. I think we live at a time where it takes a considerable amount of bravery to be good. Have courage to do the right thing when it seems like there’s no reward for it. There is. We will get our just reward. We will keep our souls.

 

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Lent

This photo reminds me that this is a season for study and contemplation. It makes me feel peaceful.

Lent begins today, March 6th, and goes until Thursday, April 18th.

If you are unfamiliar with Lent, it is a Christian observance to ready us for Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays as it signifies the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent is often considered only a Catholic holiday, but not so. I think it’s a wonderful observance for any one or family getting ready to celebrate Easter.

It is a time for prayer, reflection, fasting, service, and sacrifice – giving up something now for something better. That’s the irony of what we consider “giving up.” We are the ones who benefit.

My brother, Patrick, and I encourage one another to do this each year and I always enjoy the challenge, the process, and the end.

I’ve written about it HERE and HERE, which was fun to reread .

I wrote:

Take yourself to the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.

My Word Nerd friend Julia wrote:

This sacrifice is supposed to turn our dependence back to God and away from worldly things, or worse, our own sense of accomplishment. It should bring challenges that will make us better people. Im also trying to fast from worry. Pretty hard for this mama.

Challenges that make us better people. Love that.

This year, my brother’s goal:

No caffeine + workout routine + gratitude journal + the book of Isaiah

This year, I’m going to:

Give up my “time” by studying The New Testament for 30 minutes/day + write down my impressions (as I’m sure they are there to guide me through life.) 

Today I read Matthew 7-8 and Mark 2-3 using THIS as my guide. It made me feel good, more peaceful – a tale-tell sign that something is right.

I would also like to write something every day on this blog (like The Sandguppy does – so funny!) until April 18th but I’m afraid to commit! We shall see if I could do a little better on that front.

Trying is good!

Stretching is good.

Happy season of Lent.

Are you participating?

 

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Would You Like a Valentine? {some easy favorites}

Let’s start with the treats, shall we?

1. Dark decadent homemade chocolate. With only three all-natural ingredients, this chocolate is so easy to make, very tasty, and GOOD for your body!

hearts3

2. The Valentine Fruit Heartfruit-heart

3. A Valentine Breakfastpuffpancakes

4. Oreo Truffles and Chocolate Covered Strawberries DSC_0096

5. My Favorite Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie  (thick, soft, and delicious!)DSC_0070-1024x680

6. Ipod Valentines (comes with a free printable!) Yes, ironic given my technology rants 🙂

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7. My favorite Valentine tradition: the annual heart attack! I thought we might be getting too old for this, but we did this again last night and nope, never too old for this activity. Cut out heart, write someone nice for each person in the family, and then read them out loud. By the end, EVERYONE is smiling: Grandpa, Uncle, Dad, teenagers, and pre-teens. Even the dog got a valentine! Hang them on the wall and you’ve got a reminder that you like one another.

paige1 momReally?

Enjoy!

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January Reads and Recommendations!

Reading gets me through the long month of January. Have any reading goals for 2019? I’m going to read 50 books this year (Lord willing and the river don’t rise). I’ll be keeping track in a leather journal and on Goodreads (why I keep both, I’m not sure). If you’re not on Goodreads, I highly recommend it. It’s easy to navigate and is somewhat like an accountability buddy. Once you finish one book, it sends you an email that says, Congratulations, what’s next? Me and my personality eat up this type of thing.

I’m quite pleased with the number of books I got through in January, though it’s a bit of a cheat as I started the first two in 2018, but never mind, I’m counting it. So here you go, all good books:
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Even if you’re not writing a screenplay, this a a worthy read for any writer. And who knows, you might be so inspired you become the next Matt Damon/Ben Affleck (of Goodwill Hunting) powerhouse.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang recently won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature – a very prestigious honor! If you like well-written middle grade with a smart and problem-solving protagonist, pick this one up. It’s great!

The Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Following an invitation to finish this by the end of the year in 2018, I was a little late and finished in January. I love this book. You can see it’s worn from all the years of reading, marking up, moving, and handling. If you’re interested in religion, Jesus Christ, prophets, and history (think A LOT of bloody wars), here you go. This book has power; it’s changed my life.

The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King. Likely the tamest of the tame by King standards, I wanted to read a book that would teach me about suspense without giving me nightmares for twenty years (Hello, The Shining.) This is about a girl who gets lost in the New Hampshire woods for over a week. She gets bitten by a lot of black flies and as the sun sets, hears all the spooky sounds of the unknown… It was pretty good (and no nightmares.)

The Elizas by Sara Shepard (of Pretty Little Liars fame). I was looking for a psychological page turner and The Elizas showed up. Though originally turned off by the premise of a girl who can’t remember large chunks of her past due to drinking large amounts of alcohol (yawn), Shepard went in a different direction (brain tumor!? munscion syndrome!?) It was a page turner even if the ending was completely implausible 🙂

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This is going to be made into a movie, I’m sure of it. If you like beautifully descriptive nature writing (reminiscent of the incomparable Pat Conroy) paired with love and a whodunnit mystery, here’s your book. I’m not quite finished, but I couldn’t wait to share! (Thanks for the rec, Annie!)

Dream Work by Mary Oliver. Oh Mary, I love her so. If you haven’t read the poetry of Mary Oliver, you simply must. In honor of her recent passing, I had to check this out. What a collection! A great NPR tribute HERE.

One of my favorites, “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver:

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

And now my friends, what ARE you going to do with your one wild and precious life? Does it include reading?

xoxo.

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My Top 12 Books of 2018

My Top 12 books include memoir, a literary thriller, middle grade, historical fiction, and even a graphic comic book (an unusual choice for me). Interestingly, only two of the twelve books were written by men.

My 2018 reading goal was 50. I made it to 40. Of the 40 books, nine were written by men, thirty-one by females. (What does this mean and does it matter? Do I need to diversify?)  I keep track on Goodreads, which is super fun and a way to stay organized if you like that sort of thing. So here you go, my TOP 12:

 

Always looking for book recommendations so tell me your 2018 favorites! And do you have any 2019 goals? I’m determined to read more!

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my favorite Christmas tradition: Light the World

We watched the new Grinch movie last week, the Jim Carey version after that. In the hopes we’re not too Grinchy this Christmas, let’s also try to light up the world a little.

Here’s my favorite Christmas campaign: #LightTheWorld.

This year, the campaign focuses on one thing a week: Light the World, Light Your Community, Light Your Family, and Light Your Faith (whatever that might be.)

Week #1: Light the World

Week #2: Light your Community

Week #3: Light your Family

Week #4: Light your Faith

May our days be merry and bright.

xoxo

 

 

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My Niner Doesn’t Have a Cell Phone {and it’s awesome}

When it comes to parenting, by far the biggest battle and discord we have had in our home isn’t drugs, sex, or rock ‘n roll.

It’s TECHNOLOGY.

I love it, I hate it. I’m always on it, I’m always vowing to cut back.

Our two oldest children had a phone upon entering high school, or soon after that. It was great for communication – and it still is. I text my son every day. I texted Cope every day until she left for her mission to Taiwan (I’ve got to write about THAT!) And I tell you what, I really miss NOT TEXTING her every single day. Or maybe I just miss talking with emojis.

We’ve got lots of tech rules. We’ve had many many discussions about usage. We’re all sick of talking about it. We have a technology contract. Children hand their phones in at night, cannot have it in their rooms without permission, and know that at any time, we, as their parents can access all of their accounts (Yep, we’re fun.)

And still, by far, arguments over technology use ranks #1 over all other issues. 

This summer I really began to wonder why we continue to do this to ourselves. Actually, no one is doing this to us. We are doing this to ourselves. We are putting the internet in our children’s pockets, with all its pings and dings and apps and saying – but not too much! Get real.

I greatly dislike the worry and pit in my stomach I get when I see children reading less (Brynne: I WOULD STILL READ!) I worry we are training them to be more distracted as they are drawn into snapchat and social media time sucks. I dislike that we look at a screen first thing in the morning and the last thing at night.

This summer, an epiphany: we’re not giving our ninth grader a phone.

How very revolutionary.

Response: “That’s so unfair!”

Yes, it totally is. But you see, darling, we are evolving. Getting better at this parenting gig. We will change our minds, course correct, and generally do things that are very unfair over the course of your 18 years under this roof.

Brynne, you still love me, right?

Interesting to me, she got over it very quickly. Life went on without anyone disowning us.

She has an iPod and a laptop. She has access to the internet. Thus far, she has always been able to reach us, has never been kidnapped, stuck on the side of the road, shoved in a locker, been swallowed by a whale, or any other worst-case scenario that I, as a mother, regularly envision. (Brynne: uh, NOT YET!)

With an iPod, she can text. She can borrow someone else’s phone when she’s on the road with the team. So far, it’s not been a hassle. (Brynne: uh, not for you!)

I almost caved a couple of weeks ago when Cope left her iPhone behind and we suddenly had a spare. Why not give it to our ninth grader? (Brynne: yeah, why not?) Why not? It’s paid for. For $20/month we could just pass it on down. But you know what? I don’t want my Niner to have a phone. When she asks why, I say, Because I Love You. (Brynne: insert eye roll.)

You’ve likely Googled “phone” and “addiction” (or is that just me?) (Brynne: just you, Mom.) We know they’re addictive, especially for our children’s growing, impulsive frontal lobe brains. This impulsivity has advantages, making our teens bold, creative, risk takers, out of the box thinkers. What do we do to that brain when we put the internet in their pockets? What I see? Eyes glued to screens. Fights with mom. Ugh. So over it.

Caveat: the internet is not bad. It’s great! What a genius invention. I just want to hold off a little longer, knowing full well our teens are already accessing the internet for hours, daily. But do they have to have it in their pocket?

Maybe in a few months we’ll change our minds and my 14-year-old will have a phone in her hands. Maybe I’ll feel differently in a week. Maybe the time will be right.

And parents: take heart. My Niner is not the only one without. I’m seeing the tide turn a bit, in that respect. Other parents are saying no, too. When I see this, I think – YES! And it makes me feel not quite so witchy.

SOLIDARITY is a POWERFUL thing! It has further emboldened me to say – Not Yet. And perhaps you will read this and be emboldened, too.

Bottom line: if you DO want to give your child a phone, it’s OKAY. I won’t throw rocks at your window. It’s a personal, family decision. Great! Good for you!

But also this – if you DON’T want your kid to have a phone – it’s OKAY. It’s a personal and family decision. Great! Good for you!

My girl thinks this post is lame. She would still like to have a phone. (Brynne: it’s not too late!) But I think she also understands. (meh.) And she’s still nice to me.

Even if it’s unfair.

That just means I get to talk to her more.

And she has to talk to me.

My Niner doesn’t have a phone.

It’s so unfair.

And it’s so awesome!

PLEASE WATCH THIS NOW (parents, this one’s for you)

MUST READ HERE. “When I treat teens struggling with depression, anxiety, and ADHD, I tell them to get off their screens. In the hands of a depressed adolescent, phones can be dangerous. In my view, they are weapons. I wonder how we have gotten to the point in America where young children carry these weapons in their hands to school, soccer, parties, and even bed — and no one sees the danger?”

Another powerful read HERE. Ugh.

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Inspiration For the Week

Winter

Spring

Summer

Fall

These trees stand still

And very tall.

We don’t tend to like adversity and problems. Yesterday, these trees gave me a different perspective. The day after a wicked cold rain storm that raged through the night, I happened upon these trees sitting in cold flood water. They stood still and strong, with nary a root upturned. Missing leaves and small branches, but completely unmoved. And I thought: Strong winds and strong storms make strong trees.

Happy Monday.

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