Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Do Good Fences Make Good Neighbors?

Have you heard that phrase before? Good fences make good neighbors? I've never really thought about it much before - then I had a big fence experience a couple days ago.

First of all, let me set the stage. We had a HUGE windstorm on Saturday night lasting through Sunday. We had a big tree branch narrowly miss our house as we ate dinner Saturday night (it brushed against the window of the dining room and scared us big time!). We woke up Sunday morning to the power being out and tree branches and debris all over the neighborhood. Church had to be cancelled with no power and pretty scary winds continuing throughout the day. So we had a cozy day at home, reading together on our big bed, playing games, huddling by the gas fireplace, holding our own little church, and taking a walk around the neighborhood to survey the scene - huge trees uprooted, big branches down, one car totally smashed by a tree, amazingly not too much property damage but roof shingles and branches big and small all over the place. We ended the day with a candle light dinner (luckily the stove is gas so we could make food) and games by the light of our camping lantern. All in all, it was a really different and pleasant day.

We finally got the power back on Monday afternoon (and the food in the fridge and freezer - which we told the kids NOT to open - seemed to have survived just great - other than the ice cream that was soft-serve consistency on Sunday night so we grabbed it out of the freezer quick and invited some neighbors over for an ice cream party).

Monday afternoon, after feeling so glad that our 4-year-old backyard fence had survived the windstorm while so many had not, I saw someone I didn't recognize in my backyard, doing something to our fence.

I went up to the man and saw that he was taking out some screws attaching the slats to our fence and asked him what was going on. Then I recognized that he is the landlord of the property on the other side of the fence who I'd met briefly approximately 2 years ago when he was similarly taking apart a section of our fence and told us he'd like to move the fence to the property line which was 2 feet from where the fence currently is and potentially move our A/C units that are currently placed on the property line (they were placed there by the people who renovated this house 8 years ago - with the full cooperation of the previous owner of the house next door). At that time, I'd told him that we had built the current fence in cooperation with the previous owner of the property in the same place where there had been a very old fence that had blown down during the big windstorm of 2011. That evening, I had people waiting for me in the car to head out to an event for which we really couldn't be late so I couldn't have a long conversation but explained that that the fence was built with the permission and involvement of the prior owner but that we'd be happy to talk further about the issue - I just couldn't talk right then.

We heard absolutely nothing from the property owners after that for about 2 years until I found the owner out there taking the fence apart this past Monday afternoon.

So back to Monday afternoon. In answer to my question about what he was doing, the owner said that the fence was unstable due to the wind event and pulled on the fence to show me that it indeed had more give than it should. I told him we could shore up the loose support post and fix it, no problem. Then he grabbed the fence and yanked hard on it, pulling loose one of the support posts completely so that the fence became quite unstable.

I asked him to please stop and he said the fence was a liability that could fall on a car or a person and it had to come down. I suggested we shore it up with some 2x4s and told him I had some in our basement and then my husband would fix the fence that evening.

He then said that the fence shouldn't have been built on the old stem wall that the previous owner agreed to have us build it on (I remember him saying "I don't plan to do anything with that old wall, you might as well use it for a good foundation for the fence). Then the owner began ripping the fence apart - quite violently. I told him we'd simply built the fence the way that made the most sense at the time but that we're happy to talk about relocating it. I asked him to please pause for a moment and let me know his plan. While continuing to rip the fence apart (destroying perfectly good materials which belong to us), he said "I'm figuring it out as I go along but I think this fence has to come out and then we'll put in a new one on the property line - we need the foundation this fence is built on to build a carport." He then walked away to his car that was parked nearby in his backyard. I stood their waiting for some time then finally poked my head through the hole he had made in the fence and said, "Excuse me - could we please talk about this?" He didn't acknowledge that he had heard me but came back over to the fence and resumed ripping it apart.

As he resumed ripping the fence apart, I explained that the fence was our property and we have no attachment to that 2 feet of land and are happy to coordinate on moving the fence but could he please stop ripping it apart as the materials were good and could easily be reused. I told him I was very concerned about having the fence down as we need it to protect our children in our backyard (there are illegal activities happening frequently on his property that make us nervous and we don't want our children in the backyard without a fence in place). He refused to listen to my pleas, kept ripping away at the fence, and seemed like he was intent upon ripping out the entire $5000 fence we had worked so hard to build 4 years ago.

When he was not responsive to my repeated pleas ("Please don't do that! Please stop!" while there's this awful wood-cracking noise and destruction going on), I told him I'd need to call the police but he ignored me and kept going. So I called the police who came and talked to both parties and took a report. We choose not to press charges for vandalism or destruction of property but were told we probably had grounds for a civil suit. We told the officer we'd rather just work things out with our neighbor and that we were simply worried about his lack of communication and his somewhat violent and non-communicative behavior.

Later that day, I received a phone call from the wife of this man who told me that they had been planning to put in a new fence along the property line at their expense and leave the area of the fence where our A/C units were placed on the property line by the previous owners but that because I had called the police on her husband, she was now insisting that her husband not do anything to help move the fence and told me it was our responsibility to remove our fence from their property including the area where the A/C units were and they did not plan to help in any way with the re-placement of the fence. She said if we did not do so right away she would call her attorney and have him "drop papers."

I told her we would have been happy to work with them about plans for moving the fence but that her husband's actions without any prior notice or explanation and his refusal to talk about his actions put me in a position where I felt I needed to involve the police - I was scared and simply didn't know what else to do at that point. She asked what my plan was to move the fence and I told her I'd be talking with my husband and would let her know later. She said I'd probably just push it off like I did when her husband talked to me 2 years ago (for like 5 minutes! And he never said what he exactly wanted or when! And he never followed up!). She said she didn't think I was taking her seriously (because I wasn't yelling back or getting really upset?).

The phone call was well over an hour and she was yelling at me and cutting me off. It was a real challenge but I was proud of myself that I remained calm and kind throughout. The call came to my phone just as I got in the car to leave Costco with the twins. I thought I recognized the number and picked it up expecting someone else. I sat there in the car trying to politely answer questions while being yelled and and cut off. When I was finally able to get off the phone, the twins said "Wow, that lady sure was yelling! We could hear her really well!" I said that maybe she was dealing with some other really hard things in her life or maybe she didn't learn how to communicate properly when she was growing up. It ended up being a good discussion and teaching experience.

In looking into property law, it looks like the current owners should be honoring the agreement we had with the previous owner regarding fence placement and that we have no legal obligation to relocate the fence. We have no problem with the fence being moved. We'd just ask that the current owners leave the fence as it is in the area where the A/C units are. We are happy to even help rebuild the fence and contribute the materials from the fence we built towards the new fence.

But our experience with these people so far suggests that they may not be interested in a friendly resolution so this may be a big pain.

We've always been good, cooperative neighbors and have every desire to work things out in a way that can be in the best interests of both property owners. But our experience with these people so far suggests that they may not be interested in a friendly resolution so this may be a big pain.

This is the last thing we need right now. Both Jared and I are overloaded with work projects right now, there's a lot to do to get our house in St George fixed up and sold, we had no power for almost 2 days thanks to the windstorm and a big branch nearly hit our house which has sort of thrown us all for a loop, we've been helping with neighborhood cleanup of all the debris after the windstorm, after years of thought and saving up, we got our plans for our kitchen expansion approved by Landmarks (our house is on the Federal Registry of Historic Homes so it's quite a process to get any changes approved) and now we're in the midst of trying to get bids (and realizing this will be way more expensive than we thought), we've had a lot of unexpected expenses that are quite large lately, we had two people in our ward die last week (older people whose deaths were entirely expected - but still so hard for their families and Jared is helping out in every way he can and needs to be involved in funeral arrangements and all that), and of course, the kids always need plenty of time and attention and we want to prioritize family relationships above all else but wow, sometimes that's hard!

Anyway, I guess I just needed to type this out to get it out of my mind a bit. I've been thinking about this way too much and spending a lot of time on it. I now know a lot about city ordinances and codes, property law, and the like. I have to DO something about whatever I'm upset so I find myself researching and writing and discussing with Jared and coming up with different scenarios and waking up in the night worrying. I hate feeling like anyone is mad at me or frustrated with me. I want to get along with everyone and I have this dream world in my head where everyone is kind and obeys the golden rule and wants what's best for everyone - and when that dream world butts up against reality, it really throws me off-kilter...  Jared's WAY better at comparmentalizing than I am and he's good at just moving things forward and doing what he can do and not letting it consume him. I need to figure out how to be more like him.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Behavior change doesn't have to be so hard

I've been able to make myself do a lot of things in my life - hard things, exciting things, stressful things - everything from putting on conference for educators around the country to putting on Retreats for moms to doing TV segments to climbing mountains to running a couple Ragnars. I'm pretty good at doing the big, hard things that feel right to me.

But I'm not good at doing some of the small, simple things that I know I really need to do. I keep resolving to floss my teeth more regularly. But I don't do it. I keep resolving to do sit ups and push ups every day (I run and hike but I'm terrible at making myself do strength training which I know is so important especially as I get older!). I keep saying I'm not going to eat anything except fruits and veggies after 8pm but then those cookies we made earlier in the day are just so tempting. I keep committing to getting to bed by 10:30pm so I can get the sleep I need and then there's always some reason I really need to stay up a bit later.

So I really appreciated this Ted Talk that helped me to see that I CAN fix these little things (that can add up to big things). I just need to start really small and attach a new tiny action to an existing regular action.

BJ Fogg's Ted Talk: Tiny Habits

So here's where I'm starting:

  • After I brush my teeth each night, I will floss the top or bottom of my mouth.
  • After I go to the bathroom each time, I will do 3 push ups
  • Before I eat breakfast in the morning (after I get back from dropping off kids at school), I will do 30 crunches.
So I'll start there. And I'll let you know how I do.

Knowing 5 things helps us know our life's purpose and brings us real happiness

1. Who you are
2. What you do
3. Who you do it for
4. What those people want or need
5 What they get out of it/how they change as a result

Growing up, my parents had us memorize a lot of "The unexamined life is not worth living"
But if all you're doing is examining, you're not living.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Thoughts about Vegetables and Healthy Eating in General

Yesterday I was at the grocery store.  Now that I don't have kids of my own to wrangle in the grocery store, I actually notice what other people are doing in the grocery store, notice what they say, what they buy, etc.

In the produce section, there was a mom with a little girl (about 3) and a little boy (about 5). I couldn't help but overhear some of their interactions. The little girl kept calling out "Mommy, can we get lemons?" "Mommy, how about cucumbers. I love cucumbers." "Mommy, look there's broccoli, can we get that?" "Mommy, I think we need carrots. Let's get lots of carrots." "What is that? What is cabbage? Can we get some to try it?" The little boy often agreed with his sister and kept saying "Mom, is ____ on the list?" - he seemed quite intent on sticking to the list.

Next, I needed some things in the bulk foods section and ended up following the mom and kids to that area. The little boy said "Mom, can we get oatmeal? It's on the list, right?" Then the little girl pointed to some sugary cereal and her brother reminded her "We don't get that stuff, it's just fake colors and sugar and it won't help us grow." Then both kids asked their moms if they could get some nuts and she was happy to oblige.

Next was meat and dairy. I needed some ground turkey and some greek yogurt and we were out of milk and cheese. The same mom was in that section too, grabbing some plain greek yogurt and some milk and cheese.

Then I headed to the checkout. The mom and her kids were right behind me in line. Their basket was full of veggies and fruits and some nuts, some oatmeal, some meat, some cheese, some greek yogurt, some whole wheat bread, and some milk (I just glanced at their cart - but I pretty much knew what was in it as I'd coincidentally been right there when they got most everything on their list). The mom in front of me (I assume she was a mom based on what was in her cart but she had no kids with her) had a basket that contained white bread, peanut butter, jam, 4 boxes of sugary cereal, milk, some grapes, some bananas, a little bag or baby carrots, some go-gurt, goldfish crackers, frozen chicken nuggets, some deli meat, some cheese, a couple bags of chips and some other stuff (as you wait in line behind someone, you pretty much see everything in their cart as they put it up on the conveyer belt).

The contrast struck me. One mom in front of me buying what seems to be the typical groceries for a family with children and another mom behind me buying what we really should be feeding our children and clearly, her children seemed to be pretty excited about what she was buying and seemed to have a good sense of what foods were good for their bodies.

Another thing that has got me thinking about this whole veggies thing is my kids' experiences at lunch at school. Most of my kids take lunch every day and if they do school lunch, they know they need to be sure to get lots of veggies and eat them all (they know I'll ask - and they actually like veggies and can tell how much better they feel when they are eating them so happens quite naturally). One of my kids told me the other day that none of their friends eat veggies at lunch. Seriously, none? I asked. They said, well, not hardly anyone eats the veggies they give out at school lunch and pretty much no one brings veggies to go with the home lunch they bring. So I got all the kids together and asked them if they saw the same thing - no one eating veggies at lunch - and they said yes. I asked what other kids bring for lunch when they bring home lunch (most of their friends bring home lunch). Apparently one kid brings popcorn every day - that's it. One brings mac and cheese every day and sometimes an apple with that. Some bring lunchables. Many bring little bags of chips and an uncrustable pb&j on white bread or a homemade sandwich (they said about half bring a sandwich on white bread and half on wheat). But apparently my kids are the only ones at their table with veggies packed in their lunch most of the time. That surprised me.

One of my kids told me that Looslis are known as the kids with healthy lunches and the kids who are always eating snap peas and cucumbers and baby carrots and little bags of frozen peas (when we're out of other veggies - that's what they get!). I asked if that made them feel weird. They said "sometimes" and "sort of." I asked if they like their lunches and they said they liked them but that some people thought they were weird and some people were jealous and wanted a bite of their main course or wanted to trade them lunches (but no one really wanted to eat their veggies).


I think we all know that vegetables are important. They give you so many vitamins and minerals plus much-needed fiber. Our bodies were made to operate with the help of lots of vegetables. And protein. Carbohydrates help fill us up and can be a good source of fiber if they are whole grain - but they should just be built around a diet that is focused on veggies and protein.

I'm guessing what I just typed above isn't really news to anyone out there.

So why is it that most people here in America don't make a bigger effort when it comes to veggies and lean protein? Why are carbohydrates such a big part of our diets - especially our kids' diets - and our own?

I've traveled to and lived in many other parts of the world and there doesn't seem to be this "kid food" phenomenon and vegetables seem to be enjoyed a lot more than they are in our country. Grocery stores have very few prepared food or boxed food items and there are way less convenience/snack foods on the shelves. People generally feed their children made-from-scratch meals involving nice fresh veggies and lean protein as well as pasta or bread or rice. And snacks are some bread and cheese or some fruit or some veggies.

Here's are my theories about why our diets are generally so poor in this country:

1. We moms didn't generally grow up eating enough veggies - when we were growing up, the veggies that most moms could easily serve their families were canned or frozen and just weren't very yummy. I grew up with frozen peas or corn (which isn't even a vegetable - just a starch) or canned green beans as the side dish for most meals. And when my mom would serve salad, it was flavor-less iceburg lettuce with tomatoes w/o much flavor - that was pretty much what was available. And the salad dressing options were heavy and I didn't like any of them - blue cheese, thousand island, ranch, vinigrette. I grew up thinking I didn't like salad. So when our children turn up their noses at veggies, we think back to our own childhoods and we feel their pain. Our growing-up experiences make it easy for us to buy into the idea that kids don't like vegetables.

2. We don't know how to prepare and present veggies and other healthier foods in a way that is really appealing to our kids (or to ourselves!). For some reason, learning to cook real food isn't something that we really focus on when we're raising our children - probably because it's not something that many of us feel confident about ourselves - so how could we teach our children? So many moms don't know how to make veggies really tasty - haven't felt up to researching ways to make veggies truly delicious - be it roasting them with a little olive oil and salt, steaming them until they're just cooked but not mushy and putting a little melted butter and lemon on them along with salt, or simply getting really good fresh local veggies and enjoying them raw and naked.

3. We are often buying and serving veggies that really aren't very tasty because they aren't in season, aren't fresh, etc. I thought tomatoes weren't very good - didn't like the texture, thought the taste was pretty bland. Then I lived in Bulgaria (in Eastern Europe) for a while and the tomatoes there were a whole different thing! All the veggies there were sold in open-air markets and you couldn't really get anything that wasn't in season so everything was so much more flavorful than anything I'd grown up with. I think that's when I started to really enjoy veggies as something truly delicious, not just a necessary evil.

4. We don't make veggies a norm and a "given" from the very beginning of our children's lives. I wrote a whole post here about my approach to helping children learn to eat and enjoy healthy foods from the time they are tiny babies - something that I don't think is a norm in our country. In other countries, babies eat real food, ground or mashed of course, from birth. "Baby food" and "kid food" isn't a normal thing in other countries. If we present veggies to our children as a matter-of-fact part of every meal from the time they are babies, they will generally just eat them.

Anyway, this has been on my mind so I thought I'd share in case any of this is helpful to you!

I don't want to give off the impression that we are total health-food people around here and that we never eat anything unhealthy. We love making cookies and we love our carbs. But we eat at least 5 servings of veggies and fruits every day and put a big focus on eating the healthy stuff FIRST and our kids really understand what their bodies need and why.

Also, I promise I don't mean to make anyone feel guilty with this post - and I know many children have serious aversions to some foods or are super picky eaters no matter how beautifully prepared and delicious and healthy the food is that is set in front of them. But I guess I'm just trying to figure out how the U.S. seems to be unique in the world when it comes to what we feed our children. And I'm trying to encourage all of us (myself included) to do a better job feeding ourselves and our families the veggies that our bodies need. The rate of diabetes and obesity in younger and younger children on our county is so scary. And while there are tons of moms out there who totally focus on healthy eating and there are great blogs and websites chock full of great ideas to help us feed our families more healthfully in simple ways, really focusing on feeding our kids lots of veggies and staying away from unhealthy "kid foods" seems to be more the exception than the rule among good solid families in the U.S. Why is it that kids like mine who have veggies in their lunch every day are so unusual?

Of course, if veggies and other healthy foods aren't something we're used to in our homes, it may well be an uphill battle. But if it's a priority to us, we can take baby steps towards better eating in our families. We could buy less sugared cereal and helping our kids learn to enjoy oatmeal with fruit and nuts and some brown sugar or honey and/or start serving eggs for breakfast more (with maybe a few baby carrots on the side - it's so weird that we don't usually have veggies with breakfast - why not?). We could talk about how excited we are about the beautiful fresh green beans we found at the store then serve them steamed with a little butter and lemon and talk about how delicious they are at dinner. We can point out how beautiful all the colors and shapes of the veggies are in the produce section to our little children and invite them to pick out and help prepare something new. We could try a week where we don't have any crackers or chips on hand for snacks but instead have veggies and fruit set out all the time, ready for kids to grab when they want a snack (kids will generally eat what is available - even if they complain about it, they'll eventually eat the veggies and fruits if that's all that's there! and if you talk up how excited you are that you've got them some great new snacks for the week and they see you savoring and enjoying the fruits and veggies, that can really help),

What do you think of veggies? What do you think of my theories? Are my kids having an unusual experience in that they aren't seeing a lot of their friends eating veggies? What do you do to help your kids eat more veggies?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Choose the harder right - not the hardest right

I love conference weekend. I love snuggling up on the couch with my family and watching and listening as inspired men and women offer stories and counsel to help us understand a little more and be a little better. I love how the messages offered contain nuggets of specific direction and revelation for every person who listens with a prayerful heart and open mind - every person can get their own unique nuggets even though millions of us are listening around the world.

I missed a few talks here and there plus I like to re-watch everything bit by bit to learn more and get more nuggets. So this morning I was watching President Monson's address where he talked about choices. It was a simple and relatively short address and one part of it really spoke to me. He said that we should choose the harder right rather than the easier wrong. He didn't say choose the hardEST right. And I'm afraid that in my embracing of the mantra that came from my dear mother and grandmother - Hard is Good - I've often chosen what seemed like the most worthy, biggest, and best goals and plans which usually entail the hardest work. And when the going has been tough - which it's bound to be when you're going for the best and loftiest goals, I've recognized that through the hard stuff, I'm growing and learning and stretching. But what I'm now realizing is that things don't always have to be super hard in order to lead to a really good place. Doing the right thing is often hard. And it's important to avoid slipping into wrong choices when they are easier. Hard IS good. But super hard all the time isn't good. And sometimes the somewhat hard right choice is more right than the really really hard right choice.

Maybe this is obvious to most people, but it was an important realization for me. I'm going to do a better job choosing the right - even if the right isn't that hard or big or beautiful.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Putting on a brave face

Recently April and I recorded this podcast:

To Moms with Brave Faces

I was in a pretty good spot while April and I were recording that podcast. She was in a harder spot. But had we recorded it a different day, the roles easily could have been reversed.

I've had to put on a brave face for various reasons throughout my life. And the more I talk to other women about the things of our hearts, the more I find that I'm not alone. While it feels good to know that I have company, it also makes makes me sad to know that there is so much pain going on out there - and that so much of it is deeply personal or affects someone else so it the bearer of that pain feels they can't openly share what they're going through as they need to protect someone else.

Life is hard. This is no new concept. But sometimes life feels SO hard that it's downright miserable and you pray and you search for answers in your heart, in the scriptures, on the Internet, you name it. Sometimes you find something that feels like it could be helpful and you head down that road. Sometimes that road is a dead end. Sometimes you just get so tired of wracking your brain to come up with solutions and putting serious efforts into things that don't end up being fruitful. But you keep trying and hoping. And sometimes you aren't sure whether it's smart to keep hoping because let-down hopes hurt you again and again. So you try to figure out how to put your hope and faith in the right things but it sure can be tricky to figure out what those right things are.

I was talking to a friend the other day about some really tough things she's dealing with in her marriage. She's been married for more than twice as long as I have. We talked about how marriage is just plain hard stuff a lot of the time and realized that most people we know have had really hard times in their marriage but that somehow society at large doesn't seem to talk about how hard marriage can be. Sure, we hear about how high the divorce rate is but we don't hear how high the serious-marriage-problems-but-working-on-it rate is. We talked about how it would probably help a lot of couples to know that they aren't alone as they struggle and that it's good to get help, to find an online course to help you understand each other better, to go to counseling, whatever it takes.

Similarly, with whatever problem you're dealing with, you should know that there are probably a heck of a lot more people dealing with whatever you're struggling with than you might guess. And reaching out for help - talking to a trusted friend, finding a book or online course that feels like it might help, talking to a counselor, finding the right medication - is not a sign of weakness or resignation, it's a sign of strength and the willingness to fight.

I've spent way too many years of my life trying to figure things out mostly on my own. I've felt like my own ideas combined with some help from God through pondering and prayer should be sufficient. I've worked through a lot of issues through these means. But I've found that when I humble myself and reach further, I can often find resources that better meet my needs and that can more quickly move me in the right direction.

Anyway, if you're going through some hard stuff right now, listen to the podcast and enjoy a big virtual hug from me and from April.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Thought-provoking stuff

Here are a couple things I've found to be especially interesting and thought-provoking lately:


The Gift of Failure - important and fascinating information on why we need to let our kids struggle and fail and how we can mess our kids up by helping them too much and/or expecting too much of our children. I think I'll invite the author/interviewee to be on Power of Moms Radio. I've got more questions for her!

Ted Talk

Important ideas about how to make great conversation - stuff that's especially important for moms like me who are trying to engage their kids in meaningful conversation and who are too-often distracted!

Celeste Headlee:

10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation

Here are my notes from her talk. I totally used this yesterday afternoon in my interactions with my kids and felt like a pretty darn good mom.

1. Don't multitask - don't be half in conversations. Listen fully.

2. Don't pontificate (that's what blogs are for). Everyone you ever meet knows something that you don't know. Find out what that is. Listening isn't just waiting until you get a chance to talk.

3. Ask open-ended questions, not yes or no questions. Start your questions with who, what, when, where and why.

4. Go with the flow. Thoughts/questions will come into your mind and then go out of your mind if you're really following what people are saying. Don't be so attached to the questions and thoughts you want to share that you don't end up asking questions or making comments that really connect to what the person is currently saying.

5. If you don't know, admit it. Say that you don't know.

6. Don't equate your experience to theirs. All experiences are individual. You can never understand fully what someone else is going through. Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.

7. Try not to repeat yourself. It's so easy to keep saying the same thing over and over again in different ways.

8. Stay out of the weeds. The details don't really matter - the exact date, the exact place - just leave them out.

9. Listen. This is the most important skill you can develop. If your mouth is open, you are not learning. The average person talks at 200 words per minute but our brains can absorb 500 words per minute as we absorb and fill in as we're really paying attention.

10. Be brief.

Keep your mind open and your mouth shut and be prepared to be amazed by the wonderful things people will share with you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Figuring myself out

It's been so nice not to feel pressure to write here - I used to feel like I really had to post 3x/week. I guess I'd heard that serious bloggers post 3x/week and I've always had this overbearing need to be taken seriously in everything I chose to do. Plus I have this fear of ever seeming like a slacker.

I'm so glad I captured all that I captured since I started blogging (back in 2006 - you can see my first-ever post here). But I'm also so glad that I've finally figured out how to stop expecting so much of myself. I'm generally so understanding of any time anyone else says no to something. I'm trying to afford myself the same courtesy.  I guess I've always ascribed to the "slippery slope" mentality - I feel like if I slack off just a little, I'll just keep slacking off and become a flaky sort of person who never gets stuff done. I know it's dumb. So I've been trying out a little slacking - skipping exercise on a day I'd planned to exercise when it just can't fit in w/o serious stress, skipping a meeting if the kids need help with homework and I'm not an integral part of the meeting, watching a TV show or reading at night rather than finishing a couple more things on my list like I would normally do. And you know what? These "slacker" actions have not sent me on the fast track to flakey slackerhood. I'm still getting a lot done. And even though I'm deliberately neglecting this blog, I'm still keeping track of events our family will want to remember though Instagram and doing some personal journalling through Evernote as well as my occasional posts here.

As I look back, I realize that while time is certainly an issue when it comes to posting on this blog, one of the main reasons that blogging started to really stress me out was that I'd always feel anxious about reactions. I've had enough not-so-nice or judgemental comments over the years - and I've seen SO many disparaging comments on the blogs of others - that I guess I developed some anxiety about what people out there were thinking of what I was doing and what I was writing about what I was doing. The morning after posting something where I'd stated an opinion or shared something that may not be totally well-received by the full spectrum of readers, I'd get this pit in my stomach as I'd get on my computer - what comments would be there waiting for me to see?  I try to be careful do to and say things in a thoughtful and deliberate way and I'm generally very confident in what I think and what I do. But this blog anxiety thing has made me realize that I care more about what other people think than I thought I did.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am opinionated and I am pretty attached to what I want. Like my dad. But I'm also really concerned about other people's feelings and about making sure other people get what they want. Like my mom. This is a tricky combination.  I've got these two different sides of me fighting with each other a lot. For example, when my parents go to a movie theater, my dad will see the perfect pair of seats in a spot where they would have to crawl over a whole bunch of people to get there. He won't think a thing of crawling over people. But my mom worries so much about bothering or inconveniencing people. But she also worries about my dad being able to enjoy the movie. So while she'd be totally fine off to the side in the seats that are readily accessible, she'll crawl over everyone with my dad to the good seats to make him happy while feeling just terrible about bothering everyone else. Using this example, I feel like the part of me that wants the good seats is just as strong as the part of me that doesn't want to put anyone out. And this makes even simple decisions really stressful. Plus I've got an over-active sense of guilt which makes everything even more complicated and anxiety-inducing!

So when it comes to blogging, I want to share my personal experiences and feelings but I don't want to offend or be misunderstood. I want to make this blog reflective of who I really am and the strong ideas and opinions I have that may be helpful to others. But I want everyone to respect and like me and my skin isn't all that thick.

When it comes to family life, I have visions of how things can and should be and I get pretty attached to certain visions. But I also really want to make sure everyone else is truly happy and is getting to do what they want to do. So it's really tricky when others don't share my vision and when I can't see their vision or don't feel excited about their vision but really want them to be happy!

Simply recognizing that I can slack off a bit and be just fine and realizing that there are two strong sides of me pulling against each other has helped me a lot. But I still have a lot to figure out!

Back on my 45th birthday, I started a list of 45 things I've learned about myself. I've been working on this list for several months now and I'm sure I'll keep adding - but it's been really good for me to try to step back and look at myself so I can figure out who I really am, what I really need, and how I can become who I really want to be. Maybe I'll share my list one day - but for now, I think I've shared enough!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Recipes We Love

After going to my nephew Max's farewell last weekend (plenty of photos of that on Instagram here!), I've been thinking a lot more about the fact that we only have two and a half years left before Ashton can go on a mission - or until he leaves for college - not sure which will come first! I'm feeling a real urgency to get moving on all the trips we want to take together as a family and building my relationship with him. And on a practical level, I'm feeling like I need to teach this boy to cook and get going on typing up and posting tried-and-true recipes on this blog so that wherever my kids are in the world, they can always come here to find a recipe that will be healthy and inexpensive and easy to make - and that will hopefully bring a little taste of our home to them wherever they are.
I posted a bunch of recipes a while back (I was trying to post one a week).

Then I sort of fizzled out on posting recipes. But it's time to get going again. So whenever I make something that fits the bill (a family favorite that is generally healthy, inexpensive and simple), I'm going to get it posted here. 

New Recipe to Share: Dahl (Lentils) with Tomatoes and Onions

This recipe is one that I can make in about 30 minutes and it involves ingredients that I pretty much always have on hand in my pantry or fridge (don't need anything fresh except some yogurt/sour cream and cilantro for toppings - those are nice but not necessary). It's savory, filling, and very cheap to make. It's from an Indian cooking class I took ages ago when I lived in DC. I can still hear the teacher's beautiful Indian accent as she explained everything to us. While it's Indian, it's not spicy/hot and it's got flavors that most everyone likes.
I like to make the full batch (serves 12) and then use leftovers for lunches or another dinner. The flavor actually improves as it sits in the fridge for a couple days. And it freezes well if you want to make a lot and save some for later.
I read an article about lentils back when I was living with roommates and working in DC and trying to spend very little money on food while trying to eat really healthily. I learned that lentils are chock-full of vitamins and protein and that they have a great meaty sort of texture and flavor. You can even use them in place of hamburger in a recipe. So I got really into lentils back then. And we probably have a recipe with lentils a couple times a month these days.
Anyway, here goes with the recipe:

Dahl (Lentils) with Tomatoes and Onions

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion OR 2 small onions, minced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger root (can use the bottled pre-grated stuff)
1 tbsp minced garlic (can used the bottled, pre-minced stuff)
1 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp curry powder
2 cups lentils (red, yellow, brown, whatever kind of lentils)
2 28-oz cans of petite diced
4 cups water
2 tsp salt (to taste)
1 fresh green chili, finely chopped (if desired, makes more spicy)
fresh chopped cilantro leaves to garnish
plain yogurt or sour cream as topping

Saute together onions, ginger, and garlic in the oil until limp and slightly browned. Add chili powder and curry powder. Add the lentils and mix together over the heat. Mix in the two cans of tomatoes (including juice - dump in the whole can). Then add the water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cover. Simmer for about 25 minutes or until lentils are soft (add a little more water if necessary to keep lentils moist while cooking). Stir in salt. Serve garnished with chopped cilantro and a dollop of yogurt/sour cream. Garnish wtih chopped chilis for more heat. Good over basmati rice. 
Serves 12.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Happy New Year!

I started this post on December 12th. It was going to be our virtual Christmas card. But it took me until now to finally get it polished. So it's now a our virtual New Year's card! There were plenty of not-so-great and pretty darn mundane things that happened this year, but this post is just about the things we really want to remember...

Thank you so much to all who sent us beautiful physical Christmas cards! Eliza strung them all up so we could enjoy them:

I admire those who've been able to keep their address books current and who lovingly find the time to prepare and mail out clever family updates and beautiful photos of their family each year. But online holiday greetings will have to do for us!

Loosli Family Highlights of 2015

Family Trip to Bulgaria and Italy (where Saren and Jared served missions over 20 years ago now). We've wanted to do this for so many years and were so grateful to finally make it happen this year!
  • Visited and worked in orphanages in Bulgaria (Ashton gathered supplies and made this his Eagle project). Loved getting to know some great kids and came away counting our blessings big time. Parents are important.
  • Loved seeing friends from our missions and going to church in Bulgaria and in Italy plus loved taking the kids to places we lived and worked and sharing lots of stories. Jared and I loved speaking Bulgarian and Italian again (we were pretty rusty but it was amazing how it came back after a few days!)
  • Visited tons of Churches and cathedrals (highlights in Bulgaria were the ancient St George's church and the lovely Alexander Dnevski, highlights in Italy were Sienna Cathedral, St Peters in Rome, Genova Cathedral), one ancient ruined castle in Bulgaria, lots of gorgeous little hill towns in Tuscany, navigated our way through miles and miles of twisty cobblestone streets on foot, finding charming and interesting stuff along the way, climbed to the top of mountains and towers for breathtaking views, put tons of miles on rental cars, ate lots of gelato and good European bread and cheese and cucumbers, met wonderful people and learned a ton while enjoying great family time.
donating books and getting to know orphans in Bulgaria

Alexander Dnevski cathedral in Sofia Bulgaria
visiting the area where I spent most of my time as a missionary in Bulgaria

Sienna - and our first gelato of the trip

Exploring hill towns in Tuscany
Driving over the Apuan Alps in Tuscany
hiking the Cinque Terre
Leaning Tower of Pisa

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

View over Florence

Meeting up with the Jonah Eyres at the Collosseum in Rome

St Peters in Rome

Exploring Rome with our own Roman Soldier and Gladiator

Exploring Genoa where Jared spent a lot of his mission - and eating the BEST gelato

Climbed Mount Ogden. We hike a lot together and enjoyed some really gorgeous hikes this year. Our most notable would be hiking Mount Ogden. We had planned for years to hike the tallest peak in the Ogden area so we decided to make it happen in August. We somehow lost the trail, bush-whacked through areas maybe no human has visited before, called the forest service for advice, and ultimately reached that summit and then hiked down the other side of the mountain (since it seemed like a terrible idea to go back the painful way we came!), ending up (9 hours later) at Snow Basin Ski Resort where some nice friends came and rescued us. An adventure we'll never forget!

almost to the top

heading down the other side

hiking Teton National Park

Saren's trip with her mom and sisters to Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In late September, Saren enjoyed an epic week with amazing women visiting gorgeous places (nice balance of nature and man-made beauty) while laughing and talking non-stop.

Extended Family Gatherings. We had great times with the Eyre family at Bear Lake for our annual reunion there in July and great times with the Loosli family in Ashton, ID and at the FIVE wonderful Loosli weddings we attended this year.
Kicking off the Eyre Reunion at Bear Lake

Bear Lake beauty

Fun with lots of Looslis in Ashton, ID for the 4th of July

Great times at the Ashton Reservoir

Mark and Kelsey's wedding in Las Vegas
Portia and Michael's wedding in SLC
I need to hunt down photos of the rest of the wonderful, beautiful weddings! I'll add them in here when I find them.

Tons of Sports (involving lots of shuttling kids around, lots of learning, lots of exercise, afternoons, evenings and weekends packed with practices, games, meets and races!)
  • Ashton joined the Ogden High School football team. Completely on his own, he figured out when practices were, raised 100% of the funds he needed through selling "Tiger Cards" house to house, got himself to and from every practice on his bike, built some serious muscles and learned a ton.
  • Ashton, Isaac and Eliza joined the Ogden High Mountain Biking Team and learned lots of new skills as they biked all over the mountains. We spent lots of Saturdays in super dusty and hot places watching them race. They all did great!
  • Eliza and Isaac ran on the Ogden Prep cross country team again this year. Isaac struggled a bit with his asthma but did well. Eliza really did well this year, taking 3rd in Regionals. They both love to run and it's so fun to watch them.
  • Isaac is on the Ogden High swim team and is a total beginner but is improving his times and perfecting his strokes. He's loving it.
  • Eliza make the junior high school basketball team and is practicing every day after school and has games two days a week. She's getting quite a lot of playing time even though she's one of the youngest on the team and it's fun to see her totally go after that ball and throw her whole heart into it.
  • Saren is still loving her running and hiking - she listens to NPR podcasts while running and goes on a big hike every week with friends (no matter the weather) and thrives on the exercise, great conversation and gorgeous views.
  • Jared's gotten back into running, is doing quite a bit of trail running, and likes doing crazy hard weightlifting and crossfit classes at the gym (he's weird that way).
  • All the kids are getting to be really great skiers (or in Ashton's case, snowboarders). The kids love skiing with Jared while Saren enjoys reading and working at the lodge. Ashton broke his arm when snow boarding on his birthday. That was a great present.
Eliza ready to race

Isaac ready to race
Ashton Racing
Ashton's in the middle there - number 88

Isaac giving it his all - tricky asthma issues but still a great season
Eliza lining up to race at Regionals

Eliza racing at State

Isaac winning his first triathalon

Eliza playing basketball
The twin with their neighborhood friends, neverending Nerf wars and trampoline-jumping

Saren at the top of Ben Lomond Peak with her two hiking partners

skiing has been a big part of these kids' lives the past couple years
Saren is still working a lot of hours on Power of Moms (and still trying to cut back and get more balance...). She's loved seeing how much the website has grown in the 8 years she's been working on it and the kind emails she receives from moms who so appreciate all that the website has to offer keep her going. Power of Moms had almost 2 million visits last year and there are nearly 70,000 registered members of the website now. In October, she had the opportunity to co-host an international online conference for moms. It was a TON of work but was really wonderful to see almost almost 35,000 moms attend and express gratitude for all that they learned. Her other big project this year was to work with her sister-in-law Aja to completely revise the classic Joy School lesson plans and breathe new life into that great program.

Jared is still working for ARI, managing software development for tire companies. His 2-hour commute to SLC was really getting old after 3 years, so he was recently able to set up a telecommuting situation so that he can work from a nice office space here in Ogden. He's loving the extra time he has to exercise and enjoy time with family (and we're so grateful to see more of him!). Jared's still serving as Bishop of our very needy inner city congregation and is doing such a great job counseling people on personal issues and financial issues while managing all the great people who run the different organizations in the church. There's never a dull moment in his calling! He's got stories to last a lifetime.

Big Kids
We suddenly have such big and grown-up children! How is it that Ashton just turned 16 and is almost as tall as his dad? Isaac has been growing like crazy lately and has passed up Saren in height. Eliza's feet are now bigger than Saren's. Wasn't it just yesterday that they were babies? All the kids are so fun to talk to and we learn so much from them. They still drive us crazy sometimes when they can't seem to close cupboards or doors and leave a trail of random stuff in their wake. And they tend to bicker and bother each other more than we really love. But we sure do love these kids of ours and we're feeling the heat when it comes to needing to enjoy time with them before they head out on their own in all-too-few years! 

What a year! 

Here's to a wonderful 2016 for all of us.


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