Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Spiritual: I saw the sign

At church today we talked about whether seeing miracles or signs from heaven could create faith. I shared the thought that I didn't think signs or miracles alone were enough to develop faith. For sure, they can jump start your journey to true faith but people who base their belief or faith in God only on signs from heaven aren't really exercising faith are they?

My experience has been that it's when I exercise faith that I see the signs and miracles, not the other way around. I can sit here and pray all day that I can have a healthier body and I can truly believe it's going to happen, but if I don't ACT on faith and work towards helping that goal happen, it's never going to happen.

If I woke up full of energy tomorrow morning, with a healthier heart and more stamina would I even notice? Probably not as much as I'll notice when I put the work in, and act on faith that eating healthy and working out will help me get to that same point. And if I did notice, a few months down the road would I believe it really happened or would I justify that I must never have been as out of shape as I thought anyway?

I think the Lord blesses us all the time. He gives us signs and answers and our own personal miracles every single day. But most people are too wrapped up looking for the big signs that they fail to notice what they are already being given. So, no  I don't think seeing signs from heaven develops faith. I think that when we develop the right level of faith we'll see signs and miracles because we'll be able to recognize them for what they are.

What do you think?

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Saturday Special: Sacrifice

Anyone who knows me really well, knows I'm pretty much obsessed with Disneyland. It's almost embarrassing to admit how many Disney blogs I follow. We took our first trip to Disneyland last fall and I've been obsessed with going back since. In fact, this time last year we were in the middle of our vacation and it makes me a little more than sad not to be there again right now.

All year long I have been preparing and planning and trying to find ways to get back again. It was the most fun we've had as a family and it was a fantastic week away from the stresses of the every day life. It was amazing having that time to just focus on us. My kids have even caught onto the Disney bug and watch the vacation DVD at least once a week, though with school in session it's waned down quite a bit. (My three year old even recognizes the theme song from the DVD when it comes on the radio... eek.)

I've looked at staying off site (at a non Disney hotel), flying, driving, taking a train, taking a bus and packing all of our food in a cooler to save money. For a while I actually thought we'd make it. When I realized September/October wasn't going to fly, I settled on March. Unfortunately, mostly because we're completely irresponsible and can't seem to control our spending, March doesn't look like an option either.

This factor, combined with us trying to decide if we want to have another child, has put a serious crinkle in my Disneyland vacation plans. My husband and I have been talking a lot about putting all of our knowledge into action. We have gathered a lot of information about budgeting, saving, paying off bills etc. And yet we haven't learned one important factor: sacrifice.

Instead of sacrificing the dinners out, the extra trips to the grocery store to pick up snacks we didn't need and unnecessary trips to the movie theater, we now have to sacrifice our Disney Vacation. As much as I didn't want to sacrifice all of the small things, after all what kind of fun can you have it you can't even stop at a restaurant for lunch, I realize I'd rather have sacrificed a few more of those dinners out than my trip to Disneyland.

Lesson learned. Sometimes we have to make sacrifices and do things we don't want to do in order to get what we know we deserve or want. Over the last two months we've been hitting the gym pretty hard-core. It's hard work but we know the sacrifice will be worth it in the long run. The results have been slow but this, more than anything, has reinforced the feeling that I need to make more sacrifices.

I guess the most important thing I have been realizing is that we already know what life is like when we don't make sacrifices and we don't choose to wait for things we want. We know what the result is and we don't like it. Maybe it's time to try something new and see if we like those results better.

Albert Einstein (or perhaps Benjamin Franklin, it's debatable as to the original source) once said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. How true is that? Perhaps we've not been lazy all this time, simply insane. Trapped in a delusion of comfort that isn't really comfort, only self-gratification.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Financial Freedom

If there is one thing I know all too much about, it's the crushing power of debt. My husband and I started our marriage with a little student debt, which continued to grow through the first few years of marriage. We managed to add a significant amount of consumer debt on top of it.

Every time we've managed to make a dent, we fall back into old habits. It's not a pretty sight and it's a very frustrating situation that we've put ourselves in. But, through several roads we've taken, we've learned a few things about debt that I believe are vital to controlling it.

Cut up your credit cards: Don't just freeze them. We tried that, but it's all too easy to defrost that hunk of ice when you want to spend money you don't have. Chop them up and get rid of them forever. If you can't stop spending money on the cards, give them the old boot.

Yes, you need a credit card to rent a car (you can use a debit card but it's a huge hassle) or to purchase plane tickets. However, if you have as much debt as I think you do, you shouldn't be planning very many trips in the first place. If you must, keep ONE card for emergencies only and put it somewhere that is not easily accessible.

Stop spending: Duh, right? Really though, stop spending on credit. Quit buying things with money you don't have. If you can't afford it, you don't get it. The end.

Debt stack: This is possibly the MOST important thing I can ever teach you about getting out of debt. This is a 100 percent guaranteed way to pay off debt quicker.

The trick works this way: Lets pretend you have three credit cards you need to pay off. Credit Card A has a balance of $2000, with a minimum payment of $45 a month and a 25 percent interest rate. Credit Card B has a balance of $3,000 with a minimum payment of $65 and an interest rate of 22 percent. Credit card three has a balance of $5,000 with a minimum payment of $100 and an interest rate of 19.5 percent.

You choose one card (typically the card with either the lowest debt of the highest interest rate) and you pay an extra amount per month. Let says you can afford an additional $50 on top of the minimum payment. So, instead of paying $45 a month on credit card A you start paying $95 (minimum payment plus extra $50). You continue making minimum payments on the other two cards and sack any extra money you have towards paying off card A.

After you have paid off this first card you'll have an extra $95 a month free. Instead of using this extra cash to spend on things add it to the amount you are paying on credit card B. So instead of paying $65 you are paying $150 per month (minimum payment plus what you were already paying to the other credit card you just paid off.)

When you are finished with credit card B you'll now have $250 per month you can dedicate to paying off your last card (minimum payment for credit card B plus what you were paying for the previously paid off cards.)

You'll save months, if not years, plus thousands of dollars in interest by approaching debt this way. It will require sacrifice and discipline but it will work. You'll save money and get your debt paid off much quicker than just paying minimum payments on each card.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


I would feel neglectful if I didn't take the opportunity to reflect on what happened to this beautiful country 11 years ago. I still can't believe it's  been 11 years.

I remember standing in the shower in my college dorm. I was getting ready for an 8 a.m. class (in Idaho). I heard my roommates pounding on the bathroom door. I just assumed they were getting impatient for the bathroom. I through on a towel and opened the door to my two roommates staring at me in horror.

We listened to the coverage on the radio for a few minutes. After I dressed we went to our lounge where there was a television. Watching the plane hit the second tower is the most terrible thing I have ever seen. I was horrified. I mostly remember complete and utter shock. I just stared at the screen with my mouth open and feeling completely numb.

The rest of the day was a blur. Everything around me seemed to just move. As I walked to class I didn't see anyone. I just walked. I could not believe that the sun was shining and that all seemed normal in my world when hell was falling across the country.

Of course I was mutually terrified and sad. I think I was in doubt that it was real. As the days passed we held services on campus to honor those who'd died. Every day as I passed the flag at half-mass my heart twisted.

During a service where a bunch of students had gathered to pray and listen to counsel from leaders I felt my first taste of peace. It was a sad peace. But as we stood there singing the National Anthem, I was surrounded by other people who were at least as scared as I was. With tears in my eyes I felt  sense of unity that I haven't experienced before or since.

September 11 will always be a day that invokes sadness in my heart. But it also reminds me of what it felt like to be united as a country. As a people. The strength and resolve. The unity and even the anger. If we could put aside our differences and find a way to come together like that again, I truly believe we could do great things.

To the firefighters and cops who sacrificed their lives and to those courageous victims on the plane who prevented more deaths,: Thank you. To those who died as victims of a horrible crime: I remember. I'll always remember.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Small Steps

I have been working with a personal trainer for a few weeks and going to the gym four to five times per week for at least five weeks. It's been a lot of hard work.

I haven't lost as much weight as I thought I would, but I have accomplished a lot of  "little victories."

-I can fit into a pair of skinnier pants without having to lie down to zip them up!
-I raced my daughter to the car and wasn't out of breath
-I climbed a pretty big hill and wasn't out of breath
-The basket that we buy from a local Co-op was much easier to carry this week than in the past.

They are small achievements but they make me excited. I can see that I'm making progress. Now if I can just getting a decent eating schedule...

Monday, August 6, 2012

I am I said

I had a terrible shock the other day when I met with my new personal trainer, for the first time. (I am sure there will be some interesting adventures with that, so keep coming back to find out if I survive.) She asked me two questions that threw me for a loop: How old are you, and how tall are you? Simple questions, and likely unworthy of the extreme visceral response I had to them.

 For the longest time I've pretty much settled in to being 5 foot 6. Not too short, not too tall. When I got pregnant with my first daughter (who starts kindergarten in the fall, another well of blog posts for the future), I received a major shock. I'm not 5 foot 6 inches. I'm not even 5 foot 5 inches. I'm a solid 5 foot 4 inches on a good day.

Two inches of my life had been stolen in a matter of seconds. I'm convinced that this is the reason I'm lousy at getting physicals. After all, if a nurse can steal two inches from me with a measuring tape, what else can they steal from me with those fancy tools?!

This question combined with the age question, (recently 29 for the first of many many times), made my head spin. I realized: I'm getting old, I'm short and I'm fat to boot. There's not much I can do about my age, except lie, not really my style, so I'm stuck being almost-30 for another 10 months. I can fix the height issue, with heels. Since I only wear heels to church, I'll have to settle for being 5 foot 6 inches only once a week.

 Now the fat part, that's something I can do something about. Actually, I've been meaning to do something about it for a while. It's a little disturbing actually that it's gotten put on the back burner so many times.

I have recently been struggling with the concept of: Who am I? I mean how many times have I promised to lose weight. To make a change to be a better person. A lot.

 I realize that I know the answer to this from a religious perspective, I also know it from a technical perspective. The whole My name is blah blah blah... I know all that. So I guess the real question is: Who have I become? Do I like who I have become?

The short answer: I don't know exactly who I have become, but there are certainly parts of me I don't like. I don't like that I lose my temper. I don't like that I have become more absorbed in me and less in my kids. I certainly don't like that I have become this larger version of myself. I do like, that despite my size, I know my personality and I like it.

I have opinions and I'm more comfortable expressing them. I'm more confident in me. Most of the time. I'm smarter, more loving and a little more responsible. Those are good things.

Now, again, I'm on this journey of fixing myself. I feel like I have been on the starting step of the golden brick road for a really long time. It's time for my journey to Oz. What will I ask of him: Faith. Faith that I can make the changes I'm promising to make.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

My Search for Happiness

I have recently discovered that getting older stops being exciting, awesome, fun or even pleasant around the time you are about to turn 29. I have been struggling with this birthday more so than any others for some reason. Part of me is worried that my 30s can't possibly be better than my 20s and I'm not really ready to let go. I have had a rather eventful last 10 years.

I have:

-Gone to New York City for the first time
-Seen my first Broadway play
-Taken my first summer vacation with college friends to California
-Seen the ocean for the first time
-Fallen in love
-Had my heart broken
-Learned to Swing Dance
-Graduated from college
-Gotten my drivers license (and yes, in that order)
-Gotten married
-Seen Josh Turner in concert (this totally deserves to make the list of awesomeness)
-Became a mommy of two girls
-Became an aunt five times
-Finished writing my novel
-Spent more than 100 dollars on a dinner
-Went to Disneyland for the first time
-Hugged Mickey Mouse and Captain Hook
-Eaten sushi, fish eggs (ick), sardines (double ick)and octopus
-Sat on the hood of my car and watched the fireworks with my four-year old
-Spent countless hours cuddling with my babies
-Enjoyed being married to my best friend

 I guess my biggest worry about leaving my 20s behind is that I haven't done enough. Have I really lived? Did I make the most of my 20s that I could have? I don't want to turn 30 feeling like I haven't lived enough. I certainly don't want to turn 30 as an overweight, unpublished crab.

As I look back over the last few years I have regrets and some of them scare me. Have I tried hard enough to be better? Have I spent enough time with my kids and my husband? Have I really focused on the most important things and why the heck have I not turned my book into a publisher? I have always been painfully aware that time marches on and that it can't be turned backwards.

As I watch my girls getting bigger every day my heart breaks a little more. My Em starts kindergarten and I still find it hard to believe that it was over five years ago that I held her for the first time. My baby is 3 and she's is chasing after her sister like she's playing catch-up for the two years Em had ahead of her. Watching they grow up makes the passage of time sweet and bitter. I can see time passing more easily as I look into their faces and I wonder if I am showing they how to really live. I don't think I am.

The other day I was sitting at the gas station when I saw a car full of teenagers pull in to fill up their tank. They were young, fresh on summer break and care free. As I watched them flitting around without a care in the world I felt more than a twinge of envy. I flashed back to that feeling and realized I never took advantage of it. I feel like I have been living my life always looking forward to WHEN. Now, I don't want to look forward to any more when's because they include me getting older, my kids growing up and leaving the home, losing my parents, and not recognizing anything on the radio as resembling anything close to music. I have been living for when for far too long.

I think that's what makes me sad... (sigh... drum roll... dramatic music) I guess there is where my lesson comes in. I have been thinking about what I want to do with the next year. It is, after all, my last year as a young adult.

So my goal this year is to stop living for when and start living for now. Instead of focusing on "when we have more money," "when I lose weight", or "when we move into a house" I am going to start focusing on today. I want to remember this year as the best year of my 20s, not the worst year because I was so worried about turning 30. I am going to start accepting that all I really have is today.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring and I don't know who will still be here in the morning but I know that I have now to be happy. I can't keep waiting for happiness to happen to me. So here's to 29 years and one excellent adventure! I hope you'll stick around with me and share in my joy of living for today. Feel free to share ideas of making the most of today! Love-