Envisioning the Potential

A few weeks back, I had the opportunity to hangout with some friends at a local park while our kiddos played.  I got to chatting with one friend who enjoys refinishing furniture.  At the time, she was in the middle of working on a family heirloom hutch.  I was sharing with her how impressed I was that she was able to undertake such a task.  I explained how terrible I am at envisioning an object being transformed into something better.  She responded saying, “That surprises me based on the nature of your blog.”  Her comment led me to ask myself, “Why can I envision improving myself, but not envision furniture becoming something better?”  The answer came quickly, “I’m not good at envisioning the potential when the gap between the ‘beginning’ and the ‘end’ is too wide.”

I did my best to explain myself to her.  I told her about 2004 Sara, Present Sara, and Future Sara.  If you had told 2004 Sara that she would have four children, be happily married, have endured severe depression along with the loss of her mom, and would be living in Oregon, she would have scoffed.  Just as, if you were to tell Present Sara that Future Sara will be physically fit and traveling the world, it would fall on deaf ears.  You see, envisioning the potential, when huge strides are involved, is not my forte.  I hope to be physically healthy, but I don’t really see it happening.  Isn’t that terrible?  If I’m honest with myself, it just seems like this unattainable goal.  I can swallow the idea of taking baby steps to being marginally healthier (Hence, the one burger a week goal mentioned in Who Do I Want to Be?), but the idea of being my ideal weight just seems far-fetched at this point.  Perhaps my lack of ability to envision such a Future Sara is what keeps me from becoming her?  I certainly know that my lack of envisioning the promising potential of junky old furniture has prevented me from purchasing such a piece.  This is why my friend’s remark has really left me contemplating my belief in a person being transformed.  I know it’s possible, as I’ve seen it in certain aspects of my life, but that’s only when I look at things in hindsight.  Apparently, I have greater difficulty envisioning the potential of Future Sara.  This brings me to another discussion I had with my husband.

My friend's refinished family heirloom hutch completed.
My friend’s refinished family heirloom hutch.

My husband and I were discussing the opportunities we have to fulfill a greater purpose in our lives than we are now.  Let’s use my lofty Life Bucket List as an example.  There are items on there that require money, a physically fit Future Sara, and some untapped adventure, among other things.  And, if you recall, I have a longer Life Bucket List that has an additional 20 items that I did not make public.  This master list has items that are more spiritual in nature.  So, in discussing this matter with my husband, I brought up my conversation with said friend at the park.  I likened myself to an old junky piece of furniture and a refinished piece of furniture.  I explained to him that I just can’t see how junky-old Present Sara can turn into refinished Future Sara.  He responded wisely, as he often does.

::COMMERCIAL BREAK::  We have an upcoming move that leaves us in need of multiple furniture items.  Seeing as how we know a few people who are savvy at refinishing furniture, we thought we would call upon their talents.  The plan was that we would find a cheap piece, tell said talented friends what we want, and pay them for their services.  Are you proud of me for attempting such a task, as it contradicts everything I have typed thus far?  One of the friends, who plans to help us, mentioned that when searching for a dresser, we need to make sure the drawers slide appropriately.  Apparently, having to fix drawers makes the project more costly and complicated.  It’s not impossible, just more difficult. ::NOW BACK TO YOUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING::

So, my husband explains to me how I have it all wrong.  He informs me that when likening myself to the refinished furniture analogy, I’ve put myself in the equation incorrectly.  I was looking at it as though I had to refinish Present Sara and turn her into refinished Future Sara.  It turns out, I’m not the refinisher AND the junky old furniture piece.  I’m just the furniture piece and our Heavenly Father and Savior are the ones helping to refinish me, according to my husband.  Then he says (and this is why I gave you the COMMERCIAL BREAK above), “All you have to do is slide your drawers, Sara.”  My part in the analogy is to be sturdy and keep those drawers sliding smoothly.  And I believe that wholeheartedly.  His explanation, along with that first conversation in the park, has helped me realize that I can be a refinished Future Sara and I don’t have to go at it alone.

You’ll notice in the COMMERCIAL BREAK that neither my husband nor I are planning to refinish the furniture ourselves.  We recognize that there are others in our midst that have a passion for this hobby.  We’re just going to find the furniture that is sturdy and fits our needs.  In short, we’re getting help, just as we do in our own lives.  We don’t get to a better version of ourselves entirely on our own.  We become someone greater through experiences that strengthen us, people who encourage us, testimonies that build us, opportunities that surprise us, and a loving Heavenly Father who guides us.  Don’t misunderstand me, we have our part as well.  I don’t intend to sit here ideally and wait to be transformed into something grand.  I’m just learning that I don’t have to know exactly how I’ll get from Present Sara to Future Sara, but I do have to believe that it’s possible.

My original purpose for this blog was to share insights I’ve had that have helped me become a better person.  I continue to receive these little pieces of enlightenment in my life that I hope might inspire someone else to believe in themselves more.  Clearly, I have much to learn in the way of envisioning the potential I have to truly be what I hope to become.  I need to have as much faith in myself as my Father in Heaven and Savior do.  Even having as much faith in myself as my husband has in me would be a significant increase from where I’m at now.  This is not easy for me.  The Unlikely Perfectionist speaks to this weakness of mine.  I get overwhelmed by this idea of refinished Future Sara and I panic.  Turning into her is just too hard, so it seems easier to stay as junky-old Present Sara.  I’m still sturdy and sliding my drawers, but I’ve yet to allow the refinishing process make me something even more beautiful.  It’s time to begin.  Having this analogy in my arsenal has already given me greater hope.  I don’t have to do it alone.

Whether you are a person of faith, or not, this analogy applies to us all.  We all can be refinished.  We all have this great potential that is waiting to shine through.  Some of our drawers may be broken and might need more TLC?  Perhaps we’re not as sturdy as we’d like to be?  The refinishing process, whether it be a Higher Being or a higher purpose that helps transform you, can include repairs.  I know I’ve already had quite a few repair jobs done.  I feel emotionally healthy enough to say that I’m sturdy and I’m doing my best to “slide [my] drawers.”  I’m ready to get to the sanding and staining portion?  Is that what you do to refinish furniture?  I don’t even know.  And, thankfully, I don’t have to know.

What I do have to know is that I have great potential and that potential is attainable.  I have to believe that with the help of loved ones, experiences, my faith, and a greater understanding of my worth, I can be refinished.  So, here’s to envisioning the potential I have to be refined.

And, here's to a loving husband who always believes in me.
And, here’s to a loving husband who always believes in me.
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First Friday Find: Relative Finder

It probably does not come as any surprise to my readers that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as Mormon or LDS).  Genealogy work is an important aspect of our religion, as we take seriously the words spoken in Malachi 4:6, “And [Elijah the prophet] shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”  As a result, Brigham Young University (BYU) recently launched a program that links up with FamilySearch that’s called Relative Finder.  Through this month’s First Friday Find: Relative Finder, you can find your relationship to many different groups of people already built-in the program.

On the left is my Great Grandmother, who we called Bobo, in her basketball uniform.
On the left is my Great Grandmother, who we called Bobo, in her basketball uniform.

Since the creators of the program are LDS, many of the groups are LDS related, such as finding out if you’re related to prophets, current apostles, and/or early LDS members.  However, you can also find out if you’re related to famous writers, prominent figures in U.S. history, famous Americans or Europeans, classical composers, Catholic Saints or Popes, Mayflower voyagers, those involved in the Salem Witch Trials, and more.  It turns out that my genealogy links me heavily to the Salem Witch Trials.  Me and hysteria?  Sounds about right.  I kid.  Have no fear, I am also related to John Hancock, who is my third cousin, seven times removed.  He redeems me, right?  Or Susan B. Anthony?  Amelia Earhart?  Thomas Edison?  I’m related to them all.  Granted, Edison and I go back nine cousins, three times removed, but I can still call him “cuz.”  And so can my Dad, since Relative Finder tells me which of my parents connects me to the prominent figure.  I think my most fun relatives though are probably Elvis Aaron Presley (he’s my 11th cousin) and Harry Lillis (Bing) Crosby (my tenth cousin, three times removed).

So, how do you find out the prominent people who you’re related to?  Follow these steps:

  • Go to the Relative Finder website.
  • Click on Login.
  • Enter your Username and Password for FamilySearch.  Anyone can sign up for one of these accounts and start linking up with ancestors.
  • Once you are logged into Relative Finder, it will ask you to verify your email address and then have you mark that you give permission for others to see your information, but only if you sign in to specific groups that have permission to see it.
  • Click on Download my tree!  You will then see a list of ancestors who are famous in some way, either in the world or in Church history.
  • Click on Relatives along the top.  You can then click on various groups of people and see who your ancestors are in those groups.

It’s that simple.  Of course, it’s not that simple, if you don’t have much of your genealogy work done.  But, what you might not realize is that others may have done your work up to a certain point.  So, if you can create an account in Family Search and link yourself back to somebody that has done the work from, let’s say, your great great grandfather and back, then you get all that information added to you without having to have done a thing except create a Username and Password.

So, this month’s First Friday Find: Relative Finder is a find within a find!  This leaves me with a question for all of you, “Who are your relatives?”

Our Parents’ Children

I was reading a book called Defending Jacob by William Landay for book club last month and I came across this line that read, “At some point as adults we cease to be our parents’ children and we become our children’s parents instead.”  I wrote it down because I know that it rings true in my life.  However, this past weekend, on Mother’s Day, I realized how much I still wanted to be “our parents’ children.”

Our Childrens' Parents

This Mother’s Day was particularly rough for some reason.  I did my best to hold it together.  A couple tears were shed here and there in the morning.  Then, we went on a little walk as a family with my dad and step-mom in the afternoon.  It was then, as I was hugging my dad goodbye, that I lost it.  I didn’t want to let my daddy go.  It was Mother’s Day and I wanted to be on the kid end of the day.  I wanted to celebrate Mother’s Day as a daughter.  Thankfully, I was able to hang on to my dad for a bit and cry while my husband took the kids and got them in the car.

Prior to losing my mother, I believed that the pain and emptiness of losing a loved one was due solely to their being gone.  I’ve learned that you also end up mourning the role you played in the relationship.  I am no longer a daughter to a mom, but fortunately, I still get to be a daughter to a dad.  I had never given it much thought until I stumbled upon a book that dealt with grieving.  Sadly, I have no recollection of the title or author.  What I do remember is that both of the author’s parents had passed away.  She spoke to the fact that she was no longer someone’s daughter.  I remember standing in the middle of the book store and thinking, “Thank goodness I still get to be a daughter to my dad.”  I’m not ready to stop being a parents’ child.

Being a daughter means different things in different families.  I played a large role in my mom’s life, as she had not remarried and we had always been particularly close. I did my best to be there for her whenever she needed me.  I made her my priority.  I don’t say this to boast, but just to express how much my role as a daughter to my mom made up my identity as a whole.  Though my relationship with my dad is a strong and healthy one, he remarried after my parents’ divorce and my role as his daughter is less involved.  So, while I am still a daughter to my dad, I continue to struggle with understanding the missing piece of me that was devoted to my role as a daughter to my mom.

But, as the quote says, “At some point…we cease to be our parents’ children and we become our children’s parents instead.”  That’s certainly the case for me.  My role as daughter, whether to my mom or my dad, has taken backseat to my role as parent.  It’s a demanding role, that doesn’t leave much room for lack of responsibility and vulnerability.  As a mom, I am called upon to be the strong one when my kids face trials or heartbreak.  I am the one that is meant to offer comfort.  I am the one that is supposed to have my act together.  While I am grateful for my role as a mom, I have not lost my desire to be a daughter still.

Sometimes, I just want to be the kid.  This past Mother’s Day was one of those days.  I wanted to have my dad hug me, tell me he loves me, and assure me that it’s gonna be alright.  And he did, as he has done several times in my life.

Our role as a child or a parent is a huge part of our identity.  I think my reason for sharing this topic today has more to do with me processing that concept than it is me trying to provide some sort of inspiration.  As I mentioned, in losing my mom, I was misled in thinking that my pain came only from the loss of her.  When she passed away, I also lost a part of me.  Acknowledging that fact and allowing me to mourn that loss, helps me to heal.  Thankfully, I still get to be a daughter to my Dad. It’s not just that I still have my Dad around, though that’s a blessing as well, but that I still get to be “our parents’ children.”  I can still cry into the shoulder of a parent who has known me all of my life and has watched me grow through all of my trials.  I hope that I can be for my kids, what my parents have been for me.  As true has Landay’s quote feels, I think I’ve decided I don’t want to cease being “our parents’ children;” I want to be both!  I suppose it’s a good thing that I believe in eternal families, as it provides me the opportunity to be both the child and the parent without end.

Everything Happens for a Reason

It’s so cliché, “everything happens for a reason,” isn’t it?  But if the saying is a source of comfort and greater understanding, is there such a thing as overuse of the phrase?  As I continue to reflect on Mom Season and other events that have brought our family to this point, I continually take comfort in my belief that, inconsequential things aside, everything happens for a reason.  Of course, at the time, we don’t always recognize or understand the reasoning behind certain events.

Everything Happens for a Reason

This was the case with an event that took place three years ago this month.  It was Memorial Day Weekend and we still lived in Southern California.  My husband had already left for his swing shift at the hospital.  My cousin was having a BBQ and swim party at his home.  I decided to bring the kids to the party on my own.  I let the girls swim with family, while Auggie and I sat poolside.  It was time for us to go home so I went in the bathroom to help my daughter get out of her swimsuit.  I wanted to wash my hands before helping her, so I reached out for the soap and my left arm went limp.  It came down like a ton of bricks and knocked the soap over into the sink.  Before I could even process what had happened, my left leg went limp and I leaned into the sink to hold myself up.  I remember being inside my head saying, “Call for help!  Scream!  Why can’t you talk?!”  No sooner had panic sunk in when all of my strength returned and I was able to talk and move about as if nothing had happened.  Still shaken up from the strange event, I left my daughter in the bathroom to let my aunt know what had happened.  I asked her to check on me if I didn’t come out in a normal amount of time.  I still felt fuzzy headed and disoriented, but I seemed to have all of my facilities about me so I pressed forward.

Not knowing what to do and having no witnesses, except for my unaware daughter, I tried contacting my husband to get his insight.  No answer.  I shared my event with a couple of family members, as I was concerned about driving home.  However, seeing that I was now fine, it was presumed that the heat had gotten to me.  Having lost my strength in my left arm, I had immediately thought that I was either having a heart attack or a stroke.  My heart felt fine, so I crossed that off of my list.  If it was a stroke, it wasn’t what I had understood of them then.  So, I got in my car and drove my three kids home and asked my eldest, who was only 6 at the time, to help keep an eye on me.  What she could have done to save us while driving on the freeway should another episode occur, I knew not, but somehow I needed her eyes on me as back-up.

As soon as we were home, I did the bedtime routine and sat on the couch and did what any sane person would do – hit the Internet.  I went down the Wikipedia rabbit hole in relation to TIA‘s (mini-strokes) that night.  I also happened to remember about how my physician had told me that I should take a baby aspirin due to a blood disease I was born with called Spherocytosis.  The blood disease is noted by the red blood cells being in a spherical shape versus a disc shaped, thus increasing the chance for stroke due to clotting (though Wikipedia is not stating this, multiple physicians have discussed this connection with me).  Somewhere in the middle of the rabbit hole, my husband finally had a chance to call me back.  His first response was, “It sounds like a TIA.”  He then asked some of the Emergency Department (ED) Physicians their thoughts and they all said the same.  I then  realized two things: I should have gone to the ED immediately and I should have been taking that baby aspirin for years.

A round-about diagnosis isn’t iron clad, so I thought I would head to a specialist.  I’ll skip through this part a bit faster, as I don’t mean to draw this story out.  An MRI  was ordered.  It came back clear.  An Ultrasound was ordered for my heart.  It also came back clear.  One final test, per the Neurologist’s orders – an EEG.  As soon as the electrodes were taken off my head and the tester let me walk out the door, I assumed I was fine or else she wouldn’t have allowed me to drive myself home.  A few days later I got the call straight from the physician.  We all know that when the call comes from the physician it is not good news.  So, as I sat poolside again, plugging one ear with my finger and trying to hear the physician through the phone in my other, all I heard was “non-epileptic seizure.”  What the freak was that supposed to mean?!

Oh heavens, I’ve gone and done it again.  Too many details.  Let’s just get to the part that pisses me off, whaddya say?  Based on this lame-I-don’t-even-know-what-that-means diagnosis, my driver’s license got revoked.  That’s right, folks!  Because the physician deemed it seizure related, he notified the DMV that I should have my driver’s license taken away from me.  It still enrages me.  So, I got a second opinion, obviously.  The new physician calls BS on the first diagnosis and signs off on the paperwork for me to get my license back.  The second opinion was that I had a stress-induced episode or severe migraine that resulted in weaknesses.  Also, a pretty lame diagnosis, but it got me my license back.  Plus, by that time, there was no way to prove I had experienced a TIA, though all signs seemed to point in that direction.

The description of this event took me five lengthy paragraphs to convey, but I feel that it accurately captures how the episode disrupted my life for several months.  It was a scary and frustrating process to work through.  But, everything happens for a reason, right?

That same Memorial Day Weekend, my Dad and Step Mom were up visiting Central Oregon to scout it out and see if it was where they wanted to retire.  My husband and I had toyed around with the idea of leaving Southern California, but it never seemed to feel right.  I specifically remember, while driving home from my cousin’s house, thinking, “I can’t do this anymore.”  Whether it was heat stroke, a TIA, a seizure, or whatever, it felt scarier dealing with it alongside the stress I was already feeling in my daily life with the pressures of living in Southern California.  I desperately wanted Central Oregon to be the answer for my parents, so it could also be the answer for our nuclear family.  It turns out that it was.  That episode, whatever it was, was one more confirmation for me that it was time for us to leave Southern California.  As much as I miss my family, friends, Disneyland, the beach, and sporting events down in Southern California, our move to Central Oregon was one of the best decisions my husband and I have ever made.

So, that puts a little purpose behind the actual episode itself, but what about the misdiagnosis? Why call the episode a seizure when the symptoms were the opposite from the way a seizure behaves?  It’s safe to say, based on my very real Stroke of Luck, that the episode three years ago was in fact a TIA.  Had I been taking my baby aspirin, perhaps it would not have happened.  The full stroke that I had recently was believed to be postpartum related, which I have learned is quite common.  The baby aspirin can only take on so much.  Due to my stroke, my current Neurologist has now diagnosed that first episode as a TIA. per the knowledge we now have with more EEGs, MRIs, and CT Scans having been performed.

With the proper diagnosis of my 2012 episode in mind, I recently sat on the couch befuddled about why we had to go through that whole drawn out process.  I told my husband how annoyed I was with that first doctor, his misdiagnosis and the actions he took to revoke my driver’s license.  He simply responded, “He was a blessing to us.”  I sat there trying to come up with any possible reason as to how this physician, who was generally annoying to begin with, could have been a blessing to us.  My husband, obviously seeing my confusion, added, “If he had diagnosed you with a TIA, we would have never had Hans.  We would have known the risk of a postpartum stroke and stopped having kids.”  His words hit me so hard that I immediately thanked my Heavenly Father for His tender mercies in our lives and took comfort in knowing that everything happens for a reason.

Hans

We don’t always see it at the time, but there is a bigger picture with greater purpose in our lives.  I cannot imagine our family without Hans in it.  He completed us.  Yes, the period of postpartum after Hans did result in a stroke, but even that happened for a reason.  That stroke happened for reasons already known and reasons yet understood.  I am truly humbled by my husband’s insight and how it has strengthened my faith.  And this is just one experience of many.  I look back at events that seemed to have no greater meaning than heartbreak and pain, but that is not the case.  I have a testimony that everything happens for a reason.  That reason is that we have a loving Heavenly Father who knows each of us, knows our needs, and knows our potential.  These things happen for a reason, because He wants to give us every opportunity to succeed.  He wants this for everyone, believers and non-believers alike.  I know that if we are pure in heart, He will provide a way for us to return to Him and everything leading up to that moment will have happened for a reason.

Mom Season

There are holiday seasons and seasons of the year, but starting April 20 of each year a different sort of “season” begins for me.  I have yet to give it an official name.  It lasts roughly three weeks.  This “season” was not even in existence prior to 2008.  The catalyst for this “season,” let’s call it Mom Season for lack of a better name, was April 20, 2008 – the day my mom passed away.

Now, why would Mom Season begin as soon as my mom passed?  Well, for one reason, I had to carry on as a mom without a mom.  Two days after my mom’s passing, I still had to put on a smiling face to celebrate my eldest daughter’s second birthday even though my heart had broken in ways I could never have understood previously.  Three days after my daughter’s birthday, I attended my mother’s funeral where I lead the procession of men carrying my mom’s casket and gave a talk about my mom.  Two weeks and a day after the funeral, I went to the hospital for preterm labor for the fifth time during that pregnancy.  This fifth time left me stuck in the hospital for 4 days on bed rest.  In that four days time, when I wasn’t completely doped up on magnesium, I spent several hours lying their alone aching over the loss of my mom.  Then two weeks and three days after the passing of my mom, our second daughter was born 6 weeks early and taken off to the NICU before I even had a chance to hold her.  I remember sitting there alone after delivering her, my husband and daughter off in the NICU, and wanting so badly to call my mom and tell her the news of her granddaughter’s arrival.  Of course, my mom knew the news already.  Two days after her birth, I had to be discharged from the hospital leaving my daughter in the NICU.  This day also happened to be, what should have been, my mom’s 56th birthday.  Two days following my discharge from the hospital was Mother’s Day.  It was my very first Mother’s Day without my mom and I spent it with my time split between holding our premature daughter in the NICU and snuggling with my two-year-old daughter at home.  Mother’s Day marks the end of Mom Season for me.

I thought it would just be that year where the whole three week period would be an emotional roller coaster.  I didn’t expect to feel such contrasting emotions around the first year anniversary nor every other anniversary since.  It wasn’t that I didn’t expect to remember each of these significant dates, I guess I just thought I would be better at separating them.  It’s just tough.  It’s this period of time where I get to focus on the blessing of two beautiful daughters being born into our family, but I also can’t ignore the emptiness I still feel over the loss of my mom.  Why her death date, her birth date, and Mother’s Day all have to fall so close, I’m not sure I understand.  A part of me has felt that maybe it was a tender mercy from Heavenly Father to have such tough times juxtaposed next to two joyous occasions.  A tangible reminder of the circle of life?  A purpose for moving forward when my life, as I knew it at the time, seemed so bleak?  I try to look at it that way, but it’s hard not to feel like the wounds have been reopened when I face these dates at the same time commercials and e-mails advertise how I should “Get Mom Something Special This Year.”

This post has no real message, it is more a cathartic exercise to help me sort out the difficult feelings I face each year during Mom Season.  Today, being April 21, I sit between mourning my mom’s loss all over again and celebrating the beautiful daughter that I, with my husband, have the privilege of raising.  When it comes to the loss of my mom, I rarely spend too much time thinking about the “could have been” moments in life, as those thoughts tend to beget more sorrow in me.  Rather, I think of the “one day” moments.  One day, I will be back with my mom.  One day, I will feel her embrace again.  One day, she and I will replay the countless inside jokes we had together.  One day, I will dance with her again.  One day, I will watch her interact with her grandchildren and watch her face fill up with joy as she revels at how incredibly beautiful and funny they are to be around.  One day, I will hear her laughter again and I will laugh too, because that’s the affect that her laughter had on all those who knew her  One day, I will talk with her about all the things I’ve learned as a mom that I never understood as a child.  One day, Mom Season will not be something I have to process.  One day, it will just be an eternal life where I can live with my mom and as a mom simultaneously.

One day…

Mom Season

First You Must Begin Updates

Whew!  I’m making it in under the wire to keep with my one post a week goal.  There was only one week that I missed since I set this goal for myself and it was the week that I had the Stroke of Luck.  I think that’s a fair enough reason to go dark for a week, don’t you?  That being said, this post hardly counts as legit.  I’m merely writing to give you a couple First You Must Begin updates.

First, I have set up an Instagram account specifically for FYMB.  If you are on Instagram, I would love to have you follow me at FIRST_YOU_MUST_BEGIN.

On an entirely different note, I felt this urge to give you all an update on the status of  my post from last week Who Do I Want to Be?.  In that post, I set a total of five goals for myself: eat only one burger a week, stop yelling, read my scriptures daily, say my morning prayers, and cut my restaurant budget by 20% per week.  I’m close to wrapping up week number two and this is my report.  This is me keeping it real!

I have stuck with my one burger a week.  I almost caved today out of convenience on the way home from CostCo.  Costco took longer than expected and I wanted to keep my toddler awake on the way home, so I almost went through Drive-Thru to make life easier.  Nay, nay.  I held strong.

I need to get the swear jar and use pebbles in place of money, as I never have cash on hand.  Each pebble will represent 25 cents.  I’m thinking when the jar gets full, I’ll transfer the pebbles to cash and put it in my kids savings.  Since I have yet to purchase a jar or pebbles, I really don’t know how I did.  I do know though that I had to catch myself at least five times in the past 10 days.

Scripture study was hit or miss.  Honestly, it was probably worse these past couple weeks than it has been in the past.  Usually, I can at least count on family scripture study with my kids before school, and even that we were pretty lazy about these past few days.  My eldest began taking uni-cycling classes before school twice a week and it’s messed with our morning routine a bit.  I need to come up with a new plan, and I fear it involves me waking up earlier.

As for kneeling down for my morning prayers – WOW.  Thursday of last week I was an absolute wreck.  It’s worth noting that this day did not start with prayer.  I can’t count how many times I screamed inwardly at every little thing in my life that did not flow smoothly.  Those five times of yelling, that I mentioned above, may have very well all happened in that same Thursday.  I was just a mess.  The following morning on Friday, I rolled straight out of bed and onto my knees for my prayers.  We spent that day traveling to Portland and we had a few hiccups in the day.  Had it been the previous Thursday, I would have flipped my lid.  However, on this Friday that began with prayer, I felt oddly at peace.  I kept watching myself handle things calmly and thinking it was such a contrast from the day before.  It wasn’t until the end of the day that it hit me.  The biggest difference between the two days was how I started it.  Starting my day off with humble prayer made such a difference for the better!  Each day that I remembered to start with prayer had a similar outcome.  I really felt more at peace on those days than I could have anticipated.

As for the restaurant budget, well, let’s see…um…well…yeah, I got nothing.  BIG FAT FAIL.  Last weekend we were in Portland so we ate every single meal out.  This week was a touch better, but since I have yet to actually figure out what 20% less equates to, I can’t provide an honest answer on my success.  Oops.

A couple reasons I wanted to offer an update is because I really was impressed by how much of an impact doing my morning prayers had on my daily life AND I wanted everyone to know that I am just trying the best I can.  I am not a woman of answers.  I am just a woman trying to find the best way that I can to live a positively purposeful life.  Anything I suggest on this site is as much of a suggestion for myself as it is for anyone that stops by to read a bit.  Usually the things that I set out to accomplish on this site prove fruitful.  I hope the same proves right for you.

What it comes down in regards to these First You Must Begin updates is that I am doing what is stated in Ephesians 6:18 – “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication….”  I’m trying to make a difference in the world around me through this blog and by the actions I make in my daily life.  I stumble.  I fall.  I pray.  I persevere.

Prayer and Perseverance

Who Do I Want to Be?

Recently, I listened to a talk given by a religious leader, Dale G. Renlund, which spoke about our ability to try to be something more than what we are now, persevering in our efforts to do so, and being patient with others who are striving to do the same.  The essence of the talk was that our focus should be more about who we are now and what we are becoming rather than what we once were.  In his talk, Renlund quoted a line from As You Like It by William Shakespeare.  In the scene, the eldest brother, Oliver, is being questioned as to whether or not he plotted to kill his younger brother, Orlando.  He responds to the inquiry with, “‘Twas I, but ’tis not I.  I do not shame to tell you what I was, since my conversion so sweetly tasted, being the thing I am.”  In modern terms, Oliver is expressing that he did plot to kill Orlando and he has no shame in confessing it, as he knows he has since been converted from his evil ways.  As I listened to the line from Shakespeare, I kept repeating the words in my mind, “‘Twas I, but ’tis not I,” and then I asked myself, “who am I now and who am I no longer?”  I’m thinking now, though, that the best question to ask would be, “who do I want to be?”

So many different thoughts race to my mind when I ask myself, “who do I want to be?”  The overwhelming thought being that I would like to be healthy.  My greatest desire for myself is to be physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially healthy.  When I put it that way, though, I see the list, get overwhelmed, and prevent myself from trying at anything at all.  Then, I get the idea that maybe if I just pick one thing that is of the utmost importance it will have an affect on the other categories?  Or better yet, maybe I need to pick just one thing to improve upon from each category?  The physically healthy category should be the easiest, as right now I’m at Level Zero, despite the fact that Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda claims, “There is no such thing as Level Zero.”  The other categories may be a little more challenging.

Fitness

Physically Healthy

I recently posted the image above on my Facebook timeline because, while this is not actually a picture of me, it is me to a T.  Would you like some proof?  Go ahead and type ‘burger’ in the Search field on the top right side of my website and see how many posts reference my love for burgers.  While the image perfectly captures my current stance on fitness and burger intake, I am embarrassed that I make light of the topic so much.  Contrary to my actions, I really do believe in the importance of being physically healthy.  My road to being physically healthy will look different than your road, as cheeseburgers may not be your weak spot.  So, if you are seeking a healthier lifestyle, then ask yourself what steps need to be taken to make that a reality.  I have plenty of things I can improve upon in the realm of diet and exercise.  If I’m only picking one, I think I’ll go with only allowing myself one burger a week.  Yes, this is a challenge for me.  Remember, Level Zero.

I’m picking this one over an exercise related one, as my cholesterol numbers are less than favorable.  After the Stroke of Luck, they did some customary blood work.  In the past, my numbers were of borderline concern, but these new numbers were embarrassing.  I did learn that postpartum cholesterol numbers are skewed, but to avoid added risk post-stroke, they placed me on cholesterol medicine.  Apparently, cholesterol numbers do not level out to an accurate reading until one year out from delivery.  This means that in July I have the chance to get off of cholesterol medication.  While I am a big supporter of medicine, I think it’s silly to be on medicine for something that can be controlled with proper diet and exercise.  So, long story short, I’m starting with my cutback on cheeseburgers.  I’m going to imagine that in five years from now somebody will confront me with, “Did you once eat so many cheeseburgers that you were on cholesterol medicine?”  Then I can respond, “‘Twas I, but ’tis not I.”

Who Do I Want to Be

Emotionally Healthy

I often wonder what “level” I would be at in the emotionally healthy realm if I did not suffer from Bi-polar II?  Mental illness is a tricky beast because sometimes you fall for the old-fashioned beliefs that if you just do XY&Z, then you can be cured from such an illness without medication ever being needed.  I don’t doubt that doing XY&Z can lessen the blow of a low in the depression cycle, but I’ve yet to witness a natural solution in my nine years with the illness.  So, what other options do I have in this category?  I would like to stop yelling at my kids.

I am not a frequent yeller, but the fact that I yell at all upsets me.  I may be the worst type of yeller, because I don’t yell at all people.  I imagine a person that yells at everyone in their life just doesn’t know any better.  But if I do not yell at strangers, nor my husband, nor my friends or extended family, then I must know better.  My children are the only ones that seem to get my wrath.  I hate it.  It’s such an ugly trait.  It’s definitely less than it once was, but I have yet to eradicate yelling from our home.  I’m not even going to excuse it, per my previous post No Excuses, No Explanations.  No excuses; just solutions here today.  How about a “Yell Jar” instead of a “Swear Jar”?  Heck, this could end up helping me with being financially healthy.  I may have enough money to buy myself something nice.

Spiritually Healthy

If I had to pick a category that I was the healthiest in, it would probably be this one.  However, I am still lacking plenty.  I’ve always been good about bedtime and mealtime prayers, but morning prayer tends to be a hard one for me.  Mainly because I am not a morning person.  I stay in my bed as long as humanly possible, thus not allowing for a couple extra minutes for morning prayer before having to tend to children.  However, studying the scriptures can be just as crucial as morning prayer in becoming spiritually healthy.  Ugh!  It’s a toss up.  Perhaps I will cheat in this category and do two?  Morning prayer and scripture study combined are likely to have the greatest impact on improving my health in all categories.  For the non-Christians out there, a good alternative may be to add time for meditation to your daily routine.

Financially Healthy

Remember my love for cheeseburgers?  Well, I don’t eat them at home.  I eat them at my favorite restaurants.  It turns out that eating out adds up when you have five other companions joining you.  Meals out are pricey with our family size.  Eating out is a huge weakness of mine.  I would much rather spend money on eating a meal out with my family than buying myself a new outfit.  I don’t even have the courage to admit to the amount of money spent from our budget on eating out.  Let’s just say that I will cut down on our restaurant budget and frequency by at least 20%.  Whew.  That feels like a lot to swallow.  I suppose with my burger cutback, this may happen naturally.

It’s as I suspected, improving something in one category has an affect on other categories.  As mentioned in It’s a Habit!, the average length it takes for something to become a habit is 66 days.  To help me with my goal, I just went and installed the app HabitBull on my smartphone.  Only three of the five changes mentioned are really habit forming.  I added the following habits to HabitBull: daily scripture study, daily morning prayer, and a one burger a week tracker.  The yelling will be managed by the “Yell Jar” and the 20% cut in restaurant budget will be tracked through You Need A Budget (YNAB).

Wish me luck in helping me become who I want to be.  Thankfully, like Oliver in As You Like It, I do believe that I can be converted, as I have seen changes already in my life from what I once was.  What a remarkable thing it is to be able to grow and develop into something more than we are today.  Think of all the opportunities that lay before you, if you just ask yourself, “Who do I want to be?,” and then strive to become that person.