Progress Reports

Sunday Pin – Letting go

let go

My thirties have been an intense decade of self-improvement for me. Maybe this is the same for most people or maybe it is just me. I have amazed myself with my ability to adapt, change, learn, and grow. You can’t teach a dog new tricks, but I guess the dog can teach herself.

I have been thoroughly delighted that the older I get, the more I have returned to the things that made me happy as girl and teenager. I feel in some ways I have come full circle. I spent the first ten years of motherhood without a thought for myself and I wasn’t happy most of the time. Honestly, I was lost. Really lost. I was floundering, giving everything I had, which wasn’t much because I was an empty well. I feel like now I’m finally found. I still love the same things I did when I was younger: God, my family, running/biking, nature, art, reading and writing, gardening, teaching and sharing, and friendships. I almost had to let go of all these things to understand their role in my happiness and I had to work at knowing and loving myself to get them all back.

For the sake of my happiness I’ve also had to let go of a lot of unhealthy behaviors, attitudes, and habits and work hard continually to keep them from coming back.  I have tried to let go of comparison, self-neglect, competition, perfection, control, living without boundaries for myself and others, needing others and their love and approval to an unhealthy level, and so many more.

Yesterday, as I was looking forward to my upcoming 40th birthday and reviewing my past I felt a great sense of satisfaction. I have come far. I still have a long way to go, but I am pleased with where I am on my journey. It dawned on me that I have made great strides in all the major areas of my life, so I added them into the blog as pages shown above – Emotional Well-Being, Financial Fortitude, Physical Strength, Social Vitality, and Spiritual Power {I hope I can figure out how to automatically categorize future posts under their perspective subjects because if you hit the page links now nothing is showing yet – If you know how to do this and want to save me hours of research, please e-mail me at alice.w.gold@gmail.com – thanks}

So here is where I stand as of now.

Emotional Well-Being – I have learned that if I want to be emotionally healthy it’s all about being honest and loving myself and others in that honest place,  but if I have to choose between myself and others, I will always love ME first because if I can’t love me, I am really not loving others.

Financial Fortitude – I have learned the VERY hard way that I can’t spend more than I earn and fiscal responsibility is a requirement for one’s happiness. The shopping high I used to seek after is curbed as I’ve discovered it doesn’t give me lasting happiness.

Physical Strength – Physical health feels better than any piece of chocolate cake tastes. Running a half marathon trumps being able to fit comfortably into an airplane seat, although the latter is also a nice perk of physical strength.

Social Vitality – I don’t need people as much as I used to, but I also need them more. I need healthy honest people in my life and the kind of people that I associate with as well as the amount of time I spend with them is a tell-tale sign of where I am on the spectrum of social health. I am working at having more honest, close, and lasting relationships.

Spiritual Power – My faith holds power. It has gotten me through some of the most trying experiences. It has helped me love myself. It has helped me to forgive. It has helped me to improve a day at a time. I never want to be without it.

Happy Sunday!

* I just figured out how to do pages and totally revamped my above categories. Hope you don’t mind.

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I can’t help falling in love with you. [progress report]

I was thinking this morning that it is time for accountability on the blog. Imagine my surprise when I just looked up the dates and discovered that today marks this blog’s four month anniversary. It’s as if my inner blog-clock runs my psyche. When I saw today’s date up next to my first post’s date, both marked with the number 18, I kind of felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. No, not that creepy episode with the talking stalking doll, but the opener when the guy is walking into the black hole. This blog is my alternate universe that I gladly walk towards day in and out.

So, how am I doing with my little experiment of learning to be in love at home, you wonder? Honestly, I am doing so well I could probably just stop blogging about it. (wouldn’t that be funny if I just left this post with that last sentence and never came back? – tempting)

I am happier than I have been in a very long time. Yesterday we all went to the pool and even though it is my general instinct to want my kids to go and play and leave me alone to read my book, I found myself engaging more than ever. I got into the pool and played. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a long ways to go most of the time I was suffering through with the occasional moment of sincere pleasure. I would like to get to the point that I can really live in the moment with my kids and have them be a more enticing focus than any book, but I am making progress and with that I am happy.

While I was emotionally analyzing before writing this update, a song came to mind. It’s in the post title. I think the lyrics say exactly how I feel today: I can’t help falling in love with you. As I have really worked towards shedding my resentment, anger, expectations, pride, and selfishness my progress has happened naturally. By taking myself out of the picture, I’ve noticed the small humans in my home more than ever, and they are wonderful people with whom I can’t help falling in love.

My children aren’t here to sabotage my life, they are here to be my life. It may not be the life that I would choose, but they are the life that God has chosen for me and I am learning to trust that he knows what he is doing. Recognizing that I am happier than ever before makes it easier for me to continue to trust. It feels good to live on trust. While I keep turning to God to overcome my crap, He keeps dishing out happiness, joy, and feelings of love and admiration. It’s a win/win. It’s not a win that I have every moment of every day, but one that I am having more often.

I love Ingrid Michaelson. Hope you enjoy the song. I can’t believe I just posted a cover instead of Elvis.

Finding my passion

peaceI’ve wondered many times over the years about my passion. What is it? How would I know it? What is my mission in this life? It seems the older I have become the more I wanted the answer. The clock was ticking away. One great thing about listening to God is that He has all the answers. When He told me to quit my job and be home more, He knew that I would have a need to seek more solace in my life. Raising children is a hard job and is often a loud job. My overly active sensors and sanity require me to escape.

Sidestory: One time I went and had my hearing checked as I’ve worried about it not being so great. The ear doctor told me that I showed signs of loss that are typical for someone engaged in a loud profession. Do you work around machinery? In a dance club? I answered, “No I have the loudest profession known to mankind: I’m a mother.”

So, I have sought out more solace and peace in my life. I am ever so intently seeking answers for where He is directing me.

Last week, while eating an orange, biking on the trail, listening to a book on tape, stopping to photograph God’s gorgeous earth, thinking about a quote I had read that would be framed so perfectly by the photo I was taking, and outlining a future blog post, I realized I had found my passions….all rolled up in to one neat package.

I felt so overwhelmed with joy and gratitude as God was answering my prayer of a decade, “What is my passion?”

I love reading. I love nature. I love exercise. I love photography. I love solace. I love words. I love truth. I love knowledge. I love honesty. I love mental health. I love sharing words and truth. I love writing. I love people.  I love me. I love God. And I also love a perfect juicy orange.

It wasn’t until I took the hard journey towards peace (quitting my job, giving up crutches, going to therapy, taking time for it) that I was able to get in touch with my passions. I’ve always known they were there and I realized I had hobbies, but at that moment I finally realized the depth of those things in regards to my soul’s happiness. God had driven me to a place here I couldn’t have gone by myself. He helped me start this blog and guided me towards the things that would bring me joy.

If you are wondering where your passions lie, I highly recommend you read this article. Thanks for being here with me where all my passions intersect. I can honestly say  that my blog 1-puts a smile on my face, 2- is easy, 3- sparks my creativity, 4- is worth doing for free, 5 – is where I write what I love to talk about , 6- is where I am not afraid to fail, and mostly, 7 – is where I would regret if I did not try. Having a passion is great, but knowing what that passion is and living it with purpose is way better than I expected.

Counting My Blessings

count blessings

It’s been a little over two months since I took God up on his challenge to quit my job and work on being more present at home, simultaneously starting this blog to record my journey.  I can honestly say it’s been a wonderful two months. The first month was extremely challenging but somewhere in the past few weeks something has changed within me. Like they say in the “Wicked” music: “something is not the same.”

It’s amazing to me when I do what God has asked, He seems to always shower me with unexpected blessings that never could have been anticipated. For instance, I feel a tremendous amount of peace. I know it may seem silly to say I didn’t anticipate peace; don’t we always get more peace when we follow God? But truly living on the budget that he was requiring of me and hanging out with my kids more seemed like it would bring anything but peace. Miraculously though I feel more peace then I ever have before. The peace I feel is by far the greatest blessing I have received as a direct result from this inloveathome experiment.

I can’t help but think of a scripture from The Book of Mormon

Mosiah 2:24 “And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?”

Last month when I was struggling I asked my FB friends how they overcame times when they weren’t happy and one of the overwhelming responses was they counted their blessings. Counting my blessings is a practice that always brings me greater happiness, so I am excited to share it with you. I thought it would be fun to list some other blessings I’ve received over the past two months. I hope to do this from time to time  – sometimes I have so many blessings stirring around in my head it gets rather crowded. I hope if I write them here I can make some room upstairs to ponder the new ones. I also hope that this record will stand as a living testament that God is aware of all of his children and that he does shower us with blessings if we are willing to follow Him.

1. A friend brought over 4 pounds of sausage just to show her love and support.

2. Another friend e-mailed me about how I inspire her as she is quitting her job too.

3. My sister complimented me on my willingness to follow the promptings of the spirit.

4. My sister-in-law and two friends gave my girls some cute second-hand clothes.

5. With a coupon and some trade-ins, we were able to buy Bella a used softball batting helmet for $4.

6. Abigail’s old cleats fit Sophia just in time for soccer camp.

7. A friend gave me her milk and eggs that would go bad when she went on vacation. The milk was just enough to tide us over til payday.

8. I was able to work miracles with the budget at the beginning of June and even send our dads a very small Father’s Day gift. Gift-giving makes me happy. LG and I were also able to exchange very small and simple Fathers and Mothers Day gifts but they were meaningful and appreciated.

9. We were able to afford swim lessons and soccer camp for the kids.

10. We have the pass of all passes that has given us a lot of free entertainment this summer.

11. Our cars are still running. One day the A/C in my van started making a really funky noise, and I dreaded the thought of taking our kids across the desert to my parent’s 50th reunion coming up. I prayed and said, “Heavenly Father, if you feel like us not having an A/C is a trial that will teach us something, let us be ready to learn it, and let me be cheerful, and if not, please let it keep working til we can afford to pay for it.” The sound went away the very next day and so far it is still working. Thank you to my Heavenly Father!!

12. LG and I have been making some real breakthroughs at marriage counseling. We have a wonderful marriage counselor that we found through an online friend whom I only know because of my old blog. It looks like we will be able to finish up with counseling just in time to utilize the same amount of money we are paying monthly now to pay for Abigail’s braces.

13. We got a check that was $500 more than we expected from our former mortgage company settlement and it is just the amount we were short to pay for our upcoming family reunion so I don’t have to keep scrounging to make do.

14. We’ve been reading a lot this summer and because a friend of mine has been on bed-rest, I’ve been able to share my love for the library with her three children too. Sometimes service opportunities are the best blessings.

15. Sophia’s arm-cast fell off all by itself so we didn’t have to pay the doctor to remove it.

16. My bike hasn’t gotten a flat tire all summer and it’s such a great way for me to find joy and serenity when I need it.

17. We were able to get the kids some summer clothes at the thrift-store 50% off. We’ve been able to give Abigail and Caroline nice birthday celebrations. Abigail is a teenager who is happy to use her birthday money to shop at thrift-stores and second hand stores. Talk about miracles.

18. LG has been gaining confidence at work and with his new calling at church to work with the Young Men.

19. Abigail and I both have broken iPhone screens but the phones keep on working.

20. I feel closer to my kids.

I feel grateful for every little miracle. You may call them coincidences or will argue that they would have happened anyway but everywhere I go, I see God’s hand in my life, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I am so grateful and I am so blessed.

Summer Sanity

Here are some great ideas for activities you can do for summer. After I told my sister about my trepidation of entertaining my kids on a budget all summer she gave me a great idea: have the kids write down ten to twenty simple activities each (that are free or super cheap) and then put each idea in a hat. Pull them out and assign them each a day of summer on the calendar. We did it and so far so good. I was amazed with how well the kids did coming up with things. It really is true that sometimes they just want their parents’ time more than their money. Some of the things we’ve done so far are a sidewalk chalk competition, a family movie night, bike ride, hike, swimming, baking out of that cookbook Bella got for Christmas. I’ve actually been able to enjoy myself a bit. As shown below. Yeah, it may have only lasted 10 minutes, but this mom of 4 will take what she can get.alice swim

If you were reading a few weeks back you’ll remember how I voiced my dread at the impending summer. Well I am happy to announce that I am fairing pretty well so far. After a specific session of marriage counseling that I will elaborate on later I have been able to let go of a lot of the negativity that has been plaguing me. But most of all I have made a specific plan of action that has been working for me.

It’s giving the whole family a balance between activity, productivity, and relaxation. What I love the most is that the plan is SIMPLE. The longer I parent the more I believe in simple. I have found that for me (as well as most others) if things are too elaborate they die down quickly.

So what is this magical plan? It’s based off of this quote:

“The child become a person through work.” ~ Maria Montessori

I want to teach my kids to work. I knew that if I incorporated work into each day that then the activities would be much more appreciated. And they have been.

So what is the plan? Every day this summer includes chore time. Period. It usually doesn’t last more than one hour. I look around the house and give them options of what needs to be done. They choose what they like to do. Lucky for me they all like to do different things.

What is their incentive? SCHOOL CLOTHES! (I don’t know if this will work as well with boys but with girls it has been magical.) It’s a win/win. We would  usually buy them clothes anyway, but they can live without them. So if they want the clothes, they have to earn them and if they don’t earn them, no big deal. Every day after chore time they give themselves a tally mark on a piece of paper on the fridge. Every tally mark is worth a $1. By the end of the summer they can earn over $50 and that is all we usually let them spend anyway. (You may want to up the amount symbolized by each tally mark as I know 50 is small, but our kids do most of their shopping at the thrift-store so $50 is sufficient – we’re poor – what can I say)

This idea was inspired by a story I heard from a friend of a returning missionary in Africa. Our church embodies self-reliance and so our outreach efforts across the world are a little different than a lot of those that just do handouts. We look for lasting change, and so we teach people to work. I guess in Africa, we run a program that teaches people to make their own bricks. When they have molded enough bricks, the church then gives them the mortar and helps them construct a home. When I heard this I thought, “Genius, I must find a way to utilize this same theory with my kids.” And so I have. And guess what? My kids love it! They feel accomplished when they work and after they have worked they are happier for a break. They are looking forward to the fruits of their labor in the form of school clothes and they are learning that NO ONE gets something for nothing. It feels good to provide for ourselves and the work is more meaningful now that they see it is affiliated with earning something. It’s no longer a drudgery.

Gosh, I need to affiliate my work as a mother with the long lasting things I am earning so I can let go of the drudgery.

Here is some great food for thought on teaching children the value of work.

Impending Doom

I have exactly 30 minutes til my kids walk in from their last full day of school. Summer is here! (Yeah they have school for an hour tomorrow but that doesn’t really count except as an evil educator’s trap to get me out of bed early one more day.)

I have been dreading summer. I am usually way excited about it as I am an easy-going gal that loves the pool, smoothies, and sleeping in. This summer is different for me, just like life lately. I am in the middle of a mid-life crisis, therefore nothing is meant to be enjoyed.

How am I spending my last 30 minutes of freedom (when the toddling tornado happens to be napping)? I am eating straight from the bag of chips while zoning out into my computer. And it feels so good. I may not get to post for a few more months as the children think my laptop is meant solely for their entertainment. I cannot get my hands on it. Ever.

I know I am a killjoy lately. I cannot even stand to listen to myself on the blog. negative. negative. negative.

This is what I have figured out. I hate being poor. I have been poor my whole life. I hate NOT having control over it. We aren’t really poor. My hubby has a great income, but $1,000 a month goes to student loans and that eats up our disposable income. I just want financial freedom to do what I want when I want. I had all these grand ideas a few months back: I was going back to school, I would get a good job, we’d start chipping away at the student loans. But then God stepped in. He not only said, “Alice quit your job, you need to be home”, but he also said, “You have one more baby waiting.” Although having another member of the family join us from God’s realms makes me happy, all the other stuff that goes with it does not.

Babies are HARD and I am FORTY years old!! I am not even out of the hard stage with Caroline yet and I am willingly going to jump back into it again?? Not only am I dreading the ins and outs of caring for a baby (not the baby itself) but I can’t get over the resentment I feel that I can’t work to provide myself with greater financial freedom. I just want to have a vacation now and again, be able to afford to go to college, and give my kids nice things. Is that too much to ask?

But I love God, I believe in Him, and I am trying my hardest to believe Him…Believe that He knows best for me. I feel like He is guiding me OUT of certain areas of my life: blogging, book reviews, working at the school, but I haven’t figured out anything that He is guiding me into yet. Except for the baby. And the baby only leaves me conflicted and doubtful. It took me 3 years to get Caroline and 3 more to get the last pregnancy that I miscarried at 18 weeks. Time is running out.

And what is upon me? Summer. All my kids here every minute of every day wanting to be entertained, and I have no extra money. I am not happy about it. I just want to go and have fun with them every day. I know I can do that without money and have even planned something to do every day that doesn’t cost money, but I don’t want to do it that way, I want to do it MY way, which would include spending money.

I feel like in my life cinematic experience there is a little creature popping up on the screen every 30 seconds with a dun, dun, dun. I am living a tragedy.

I take my anti-depressants, I run 3 times a week, I don’t feel necessarily depressed, but WHY do I sound like I am? I just can’t get happy unless I get to do what I WANT TO DO. Can I find a happy medium between pursuing my own happiness while simultaneously listening to God? I don’t know. If I can I don’t know HOW yet.

I can tell you one thing, it’s going to be near to impossible during the months of June, July, and August. Good timing, God.

What do I need?

urinetown

Wow, it’s been a really difficult 7 days. LG and I had a little bit of a tiff on our date on Friday night. We don’t really fight anymore, just disagree.

He is gone two nights a week. One for his church calling then basketball and one for a weekly meeting. As we were waiting in line to see the worst musical ever written, I laid my concern out there. “LG, I need a night off during the week. You are gone two nights and I am really overwhelmed at home. It’s just really hard to do what I do 12 hours a day. Not having work this past week has made me even more cranky. This week has been emotionally overtaxing when I haven’t any chance at all to escape motherhood.” LG responded like he does often on the defense, “Alice, it’s not like I am having fun those two nights.” And then, “I get it, I really do.”

I kind of came unglued. “No, you DON’T get it. You go to work every day and then you come home and eat dinner, whereas two nights a week, you then leave. Yes, you took care of stuff after work for the past 2 months while I was at work, and you know how hard and long those days were, but you DON’T GET IT.  You don’t do all the laundry and cook all the meals. You don’t get what it is like to be a mom home day after day, baby after baby, toddler after toddler. Your hubby pursues all his academic/professional dreams and you are home with kids. The days turn into weeks, the weeks turn into years, and one day you wake up and think ‘what have I accomplished? Anything at all?”

I guess you could say I’m having a midlife crisis. I really am. On the way home LG poured out his heart to me, “Alice, I’m sorry. I don’t get it. I do get that you are miserable to be around lately and I can’t fix it for you. Take a night of the week. Take all the time you want. Just figure out what you need.” Yeah, he’s a jewel.

Except I stayed stuck in his first defensive reply and didn’t feel supported or justified in my one night of the week.

But, really it’s not about the night of the week. It’s about me getting what I need. And I don’t know what the heck I need.

Finding Gratitude

So, if you read the about page, you have figured out what this new blog is all about. Basically I plan to chronicle my journey of learning to love being at home. After 14 years of parenting, I still haven’t figured it out. Yes, I’ve figured out some of it, but my goal is to figure out all of it. Ha! Let’s see how long it takes. {forever} I hope you plan on sticking around.

My hubby and I felt strongly that I needed to be home more. I quit my job to do so, which means that we will have to live much more frugally.  We can make it on my husband’s income but to do so successfully it will take a lot of sacrifice.

I don’t like sacrifice. Well, at least I don’t like sacrifice until I realize that it was actually good for me, which is always the case.

To be happy, I realize that I am going to have to look for the good. Find the gratitude. If I can’t find it, I know that I will just be forever stuck wallowing in my sacrificial pity party.

Here is what I found on Week 1 of my new focus on family:

FORCED GRATITUDE (I had to force focus to find it)

By quitting my job, I automatically didn’t feel as rushed. Last Thursday I was able to happily take Abigail her forgotten lunch and spend 10 extra minutes (even though it made her late to preschool) helping Caroline paint her X. Video here.

abgail lunchcarolineX

On Friday night, after a grocery challenged week (because we are trying to stay under budget) Abigail and I made cookies for her to take to her movie night instead of buying something at the store. I noticed myself taking pride in my capability and I really enjoyed the time with Abigail. She is pretty good in the kitchen. Yeah mom!

cookies

Also on Friday night, instead of being bitter that I couldn’t afford to take the girls to the movie while LG was out of town, I tried to embrace a different form of entertainment. We went for a walk around the neighborhood and I fell in love with this view of the girls through the blooms. I also introduced the girls to one of my favorite chick flicks and we collectively admired the strength of female relationships.

steelwalk

On Sunday, I was feeling especially insignificant. My husband got a new calling in church (he is working with the youth) and was focusing on his new assignment. Instead of trying to draw him away as a comfort to my own insecurities, I was able to look and see how blessed I am that he has this new opportunity to focus on his own spirituality. I love him so. This took some serious humility, but it was empowering.

lg

UNFORCED GRATITUDE (happened naturally)

Last Tuesday, after reading of my faith experiment on facebook, a friend brought me 6 pounds of ground sausage and said she wished she could quit her job and she wanted to support me in doing so. Yeah, I cried. It made me feel not so alone.

sausage

Yesterday, Sophia was able to wiggle out of her cast, saving the family $150 at the doctor’s office.

I don’t think things like this are coincidental. I take them as true gifts directly from God.

cast

And just this morning, after overcoming my bitterness by vlogging I gained some insight for myself.

This blog needs to be about me staying vulnerable and honest.

If I can do that then God will let me have it as a tool in my journey.

(Last week, I started this blog, but then realized I was just using it as an escape and figured I would have to scrap it.)

That gift made me especially grateful and happy to be at home cuddling on the couch with Caroline.

caroline

I’m so happy I could find love today.

One day at a time.