Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gratitude in Action

This month we've been doing a sermon series at Church, 2008: A Year To Give Up! We have studied the disfunctional family of Isaac & Jacob. Today Mike preached a sermon in the series- "2008: A year to Give Up Bad Habits." We looked at Jacob's bad habits: lying, blaming others, favoritism, and running from problems. Mike then shared the steps that we can take to break our bad habits: (1) recognize you have a problem, (2) realize your weakness, (3) refocus your attention on something else,(4) Reveal your plan to others who can help hold you accountable.

This sermon blew me away because I've been thinking about what I will do for Lent, and this sermon fit perfectly with what I was considering. I figured why wait, I will start now.

1. My problem(s):
I struggle often with my attitude. Often I tend to think the worst, worry, and be pessimistic. I take my blessings forgranted, which leads to jealousy, comparison with others, and a bad attitude.

2. Realize your weakness:
Like many people, I become negative when I am stressed, overworked, tired, etc. Often these emotions stem from living a hurried life with no time to slow down and appreciate the life that I have. Additionally, I stuggle with selfishness. I tend to feel these negative emotions when I am focused on myself and everything that I want and do not have.

3. Refocus your attention on something else:
This is where my plans for Lent come in. During the season of Lent, I had planned to take on an attitude of gratitude. This sounds wonderful in the abstract, but I believe that you cannot just tell yourself, "I am going to be grateful" and then you will become grateful. Instead, changing my attitude will take diligent hard work that will only be accomplished by small steps taken each day. Thus, I plan to refocus my attention by finding one thing or person that I am grateful or thankful for each day. This will address one of my weaknesses, which is being too frazzled to slow down. In order to identify one thing or person that I am grateful for, I will have to slow down long enough to consider my life and what I am truly thankful for that day. I will address my second weakness, selfishness, with my "action step". Once I've identified the person or thing that I am grateful for, I plan to take action - hence "gratitude in action." For example, if I am thankful or grateful for someone, I will take action to show my gratitude by writing a short thank you note or doing something thoughtful directed at that person. Sometimes I will do this anonymously in order to serve without expecting something in return. If I am thankful for something that God has done (like a beautiful sunset), I will show my gratitude to God by serving or doing something considerate for someone. This may be someone that I do not even know.

4. Reveal your plan so that others can hold you accountable.
I plan to try to be thankful and take action each day. I will share some of my experiences here. I may not give names or share the exact details of I do (because I may do things for someone anonymously), however, I will try to share what I learn and some of my experiences here.

I believe that this will honor God because I will be loving God (I will be thankful and slowing down to recognize and ponder the blessings in my life), I will be loving others (again, I will slow down and recognize the people and things that make my life so special), and finally, I will be loving myself (I will be slowing down, focusing on others, taking steps to better myself along the way).

As my fortune from my fortune cookie said today, "Your happiness is intertwined with your outlook on life." I hope to begin to recognize how richly blessed I am, and perhaps I can bless a few other people along the way.

Computer crash and burn

A few nights ago, our computer stopped working. Without going into a lot of detail, we found out we had a number of viruses and adware, despite having antivirus software (regularly updated) and firewall protection. We had to do a recovery, and when we recovered the computer and got rid of the viruses and adware, we had to reload programs. Problem: all of my adobe pictures are no longer there. The thumbnails show up, but the photos are missing. I had almost all of them backed up, but that is over 7000 photos that are now not connected to adobe and that just disappeared from the computer. It is so frustrating! Plus, I have no idea how we picked up all of these viruses when we supposedly had virus protection. We do not download lots of items or open email attachments.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

"I'm a model."

My good friend Kaylyn is selling hairbows and other cute things on etsy. You can see her stuff and the link to her etsy store at

Kaylyn needed a girl to model some of her bows. She asked Maria. The night that we put the bows in and took pictures, we joked that Maria was a model.

When Maria wore her bows again, Maria told me all morning, "I'm a model mommy because Kaylyn said so." Kaylyn is happy to be building self esteem in young girls early!

These are some pictures of Maria as a model.

My big scare

Today started off as a normal day. Maria did something really sweet - out of the blue she said, "Mommy I love you SOOOOOO much." She and Jacob spent the morning playing. Mike was not home, and as I was getting dressed I heard the kids jumping on the bed. I told them to stop. Then, a second later I heard Maria screaming. I ran in her room and there was blood all over her eye. I have no problem with blood(remember I observed an autopsy and pulled the brain out), but I immediately thought the worst (she may have seriously injured her eye, scratched her cornea, etc.) I ran and put a cold cloth on her eye and tried to call Mike. He said he was coming home and I tried to call the doctor. I was a crying mess. Jacob told me she fell off the bed. Then he hugged me and told me Maria would be ok. I later learned Maria had fallen on a plastic toy, hit her eye, and then her "eye cracked open" (in the words of Jacob). She had a cut on her eyelid that had caused her to bleed.

She is fine now (except for a swollen eye and cut eyelid). However, I was a wreck. I guess I am still so overprotective and worried since the seizure scare.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Traveling and Who's Looking

I have this link on the side of my blog that shows who is looking (the city and country where they live is shown on the map). It is fascinating to me because people are looking from all over the world. How do they even find this blog? What do they want to read about?

The other fascinating thing is that many of these people are from places that I would love to visit. I just saw a visitor from New Zealand. I've always wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand. I became even more fascinated with New Zealand after Lord of the Rinds was filmed there. Maybe one day .....

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My Idea of Success

A few days ago, I posted a blog about success. After thinking about success for a while, I think my idea of success is being comfortable in my own skin. If you ask me about areas of success in my life, I would say that I am fairly successful as an attorney (I would always like to be better), that I try to be a good and successful mother (I have a LONG way to go in this area - I do the best I can), that I work to be a good PW. However, all of these are things that I do. I do not want to simply be satisfied with things that I do, I want to be comfortable and satisfied with who I am.

For those of you that know me well, you know that I have a very hard time saying no. I get involved in far too many activities, and then I get tired and burn out. I think that I often fill my time with so many activities because I am gaining my self worth and vision of success based on what I do (doing the right things as a mom, doing enough service and church activities, etc.) I feel that I am only useful in God's eyes (and sometimes my own eyes) when I am being productive. I want to be comfortable being alone with myself. However, I often do not have the time to be alone with myself to gain this comfort.

Thus, as I begin to focus on achieving "success", I want to focus on loving myself, becoming comfortable with who I am, and most importantly, gaining my self worth for the person I am, not for the things that I do. I think this is especially important for me as a Christian. I think I work so hard to "do" things in the hope that by doing many praiseworthy things, God will love me. I want to feel God's love for me in my heart - a love that loves me for who I am, not for the works that I do.

The Games We Play

As many of you know, a favorite activity to do with friends is have game night. Game night usually includes food (everyone brings a dish, baked ziti from Brick Oven, or Pizza), lots of games, and friends. It is harder to have game night now that we have kids, but we still manage to have game night fairly regularly. We are always interested to hear about fun games, so let us know if you have suggestions.

Some of our favorites that we highly recommend:

1. Settlers of Catan - this takes skill, strategy and can be addictive. Thanks to Brent and Kaylyn for introducing us to this game!
2. Cranium Pop 5 - anything that gives me the opportunity to hum old Madonna songs is a favorite
3. Catch Phrase - I get very competitive when I play this game!
4. Loaded Questions - this game is great to get to know people. It also makes you laugh when silly friends have crazy answers to the questions!
5. Monopoly - I always win
6. Chess - Mike and I used to play this often, but I've found that I am often tired and do not enjoy playing as much when I cannot focus all of my attention on the game.
7. Checkers
8. Scrabble - when I was in the hospital on bed rest Mike and I played this daily
9. Phase 10 - this is a very fun card game; one of our former youth introduced us to this game.
10. Rummy
11. Rook - my family (in laws and my parents love to play this)
12. Battle of the Sexes - this game is fun, but the men's questions tend to be easier than the questions that the women have to answer!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hugs, Hair, Friends, Good Times

We had dinner at Red Robin for the first time with friends. The kids loved it!

I had my hair cut. My hair dresser can blow my hair out straight. I always leave it wavy in the back (I just pretend that there is no hair back there) and I only work with the front when I style it. Mike loves it straight.

The kids had fun playing with Avenell. J carried around a doll (formerly baby Jesus) - now the baby doll is Avenell.

We made Gingerbread cookies. It was a mix that I bought 90% off at Target after Christmas. As most of you know, I have very few abilities in the kitchen. The mix said I needed honey (which I thought we had, but we were out). I substituted pancake syrup. I did the best I could to help the kids make the cookies. They had fun squeezing the tube of icing into their mouths.

Let It Snow!

It is FINALLY snowing! It snowed on Thursday, but the rain started soon after and the kids did not get to play. Today I made sure to have the kids out the door the minute the snow started. We walked Rufus around the neighborhood. There was no snow on the ground, but the kids loved catching snow on their gloves. They were so excited.

It is snowing A LOT now, and I will post pics later.

However, I've posted a few pictures below of snow and other exciting things:

M was excited to see that our hair looked the same.

Before church:

Freckles: I want some too

I hated my freckles when I was a kid. I remember reading Freckle Juice and identifying with the character that would try anything to get rid of the freckles.

The other night, I was getting M ready for bed. She pointed at my shoulders and said, "I want some too!" I asked what she wanted and she said the spots on my shoulders. Then J came in and said he also wanted some. I still don't like my freckles, but I guess it is nice to know that someone likes them.

On another note, M has such an active imagination. She woke up a few mornings ago insisting that a "yellow crocodile" jumped on her bed, tickled her chin and yelled "Wake up!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Great Quote

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.”

Henry David Thoreau

Goals - What Is Success?

In the seminar that I attended, we needed to think about our goals. The seminar also discused success. We discussed why women are graduating from college and professional school at the same or higher rates than men, yet there are still very few women CEOs. Although we all acknowledged there is still a glass ceiling in some companies, family responsibilites make it difficult for women, and other issues contribute to the lack of female CEOs, one thing that stuck out for me is that many women may not WANT to be CEOs. To be a CEO is not only not their goal, but it is not what they would consider "success".

I am trying to determine what I view as success. Often I want it all - successful career (whatever that means), to be a successful mother (again, what does that mean?), to be happy and fulfilled, to have a balanced life, etc. I haven't clearly determined what I view as success.

What do you view as success?

My Personal Board of Directors

I attended an excellent seminar on developing a personal board of directors. This is a group of people that serve as mentors. It is necessary to have some from your current place of employment, from outside your job, with expertise in your field, that know you well, that know your personal goals, etc. The people can change as your career goals change. The interesting aspect of the talk was that women are often not very intentional about our career development. Women may think about the next career step, but they often do not think further ahead.

Additionally, women tend to be very bad at informing others of their accomplishments. I stink that this. It always feels like bragging. However, we were told that there are ways to self-promote without bragging. Additionally, if we do not look out for ourselves, no one else will.

There was also a panel of speakers, including Susan Ivey, President and CEO of Reynolds American. It was a great conference.

Upon reflection, I've realized that I am a natural at networking. I am extroverted and I love meeting new people. However, my weakness is that I am not intentional about networking. I am not very thoughtful about meeting people that may be able to help me further my career. I also need to work on some self promotion. I do not plan to advertise my accomplishments, but I need to do a better job of keeping my boss, as well as other leaders at work, informed of successes that I may have at work and projects that I complete.

Am I frugal?

Lately it seems that I am surrounded by people that are talking about coupons, saving money and being frugal. There are numerous blogs on the subject.

I've looked at some of the tips, and I was shocked that I already do many of the suggested things. I guess I am frugal and did not know it.

Some things that I do that are frugal or have been sited as tips on frugal type blogs:
1. I coupon. I've always used coupons. However, I do NOT coupon like the really serious couponers. I have been told that it does not take much time to clip all the coupons and organize them in a binder, but I truly do not have time to spare. Thus, I try to be really targeted. I clip coupons that are for products I know I will use and keep them until the item is on sale or the coupon can be doubled or tripled. Many friends poke fun at me because I love to use coupons.
2. I shop sales. I LOVE Kohls and Target. I generally try to get a 30% off coupon at Kohls and then I shop the clearance racks. I do the same for Target - I try to buy my exercise cloths and kids cloths at Target. I also shop for cloths out of season (I buy winter cloths in the summer and buy summer cloths in the winter).
3. I frequent consignment sales, thrift stores and consignment stores. I sometimes go to Goodwill, but I have more luck at consignment stores - I can generally get better quality stuff when it is 50% off there than I can trying to sort through all the items at Goodwill.
4. I try to recycle and reuse items (I reuse paper by letting the kids color and paint on the back of used paper), I use magazines for the kids to practice cutting, etc.
5. I sell old items or donate them. This is hard for me because I love to keep things (I either think I may need it one day or I want it for sentimental reasons). However, I now try to donate things that I no longer use or sell items at consignment sales, on ebay, etc.
6. We did not have any cable channels until a few months ago. Many people thought we were crazy, but we have some debt that we would like to pay. I do not watch much tv, and the kids can see educational programs on PBS. It is only in the last month or so that I broke down and agreed that we could get a few more cable channels.
7. We try to eat at home most nights, and when we eat out, we try to go on nights that kids eat free or kids eat for a small price.
8. I exercise and try to take care of myself. In this way, I save money on healthcare!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Exercise and Fitness - The Many Benefits

While at the gym this morning, I realized that I have been committed to my work out routine for well over a year. I joined the fitness center in November of 2006. Since then, I have attempted to go to the gym 4 days a week. I work out for an hour to 1.5 hours. I do one hour of cardio and I do 15-30 minutes of weights. I generally like the elliptical (it is easy on the knees), but I've recently discovered cycle class. I love the class and I think being in a class pushes me to work out harder. It also adds variety to my work out routine. It is especially fun to meet people in class and watch as they meet their fitness goals.

Despite my work out routine, I've lost no weight. I realize muscle weighs more than fat, but I've lost very few inches. However, I am much stronger, and I am in really good cardiovascular shape. I was just reflecting today on how amazing the human body is.

Although I haven't lost the weight that I would like, I have had some tangible medical improvements. I was on bed rest for 12 weeks in the hospital with my first child. When I came out of the hospital, I had gained a lot of weight (probably around 60 or so pounds, and I had lost muscle). I could barely walk. If I was sitting on the floor I could not get up out of the floor without fear that my legs would collapse under me. When I walked, I broke out in a sweat and after walking my legs would tingle and feel as if someone was sticking pins into my muscles. I visited my primary care doctor, and he checked my cholesterol. The numbers were so bad that he discussed putting me on cholesterol medicine. I refused and went on a strict diet. I did the South Beach diet for over a year and lost a lot of weight (I was smaller than I am now). However, I was not exercising, and I could not maintain the food restrictions forever.

Then I discovered exercise. I started working out to lose weight, but I soon began to marvel at the strength of my body. I became proud of what my body could do, and although I still do not "like" everything about my body, I have developed respect for my body.

Last week I had my cholesterol checked. My blood pressure was 97/60. My cholesterol was:

Total Cholesterol: 162
HDL: 57
LDL: 77
Total Cholesterol/HDL Ratio: 2.8

Needless to say, I was THRILLED. For those folks that say that exercise does not make a difference - I beg to differ. Exercise has made a huge difference for me physically.

Exercise also benefits me mentally. I am much more focused at work, and I sleep better when I work out. I've also learned that I am very high energy. Exercise helps me use up some of that energy. When I exercise, I am calmer and more patient with the kids.

I think it is ironic that our society can be so condescending when it comes to exercise. We call people "health nuts", "fitness nuts" and other names for being concerned about their health and well being.

My hope is that I will look back to read this post to remind myself why I exercise when I feel like slacking off.

Photo Storgage - Electronic or the Old Fashioned Way?

As most of you know, I take a lot of pictures. I am obsessed with trying to preserve memories of my children and my life. For years, I have developed many of my digital photos. However, I am running out of space, and no matter how cheap I can develop pictures, I could save money by not developing them. In the past I developed pictures because I was afraid technology would change and I would lose my pictures if I stored them all in electronic format on my computer. Currently I keep my photos on my hard drive and I back them up on DVDs.

Has anyone else converted to only keeping electronic photo albums? Of course I may still develop a few pictures for frames and gifts, but I am seriously considering this. Tips, thoughts, comments are welcome.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

New Years Blast!

For New Years, our church revived a tradition - bowling! We went bowling during family time (6:30 to 9:30). This was a first for the kids. I bowled 2 strikes - one the fair way, and one with the use of the guard rails. The kids LOVED dancing and singing - M danced like a mad woman!

Law Firm Friends

These ladies (Crystal & Patricia) will change the world! I had fun catching up with them over Christmas.

Christmas Pics

Preschool Christmas Performance

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Book Club Reflections

We discussed Life of Pi last night. Jeremy did a great job leading the discussion.

We discussed our favorite books of 2007. It was difficult because we loved so many that we instead had to focus on the few books we did not enjoy. Least favorite books of the book club were: Tales From the Bed, The Alchemist, and Catcher in the Rye (although some of us loved some of the books, the club as a whole liked these 3 the least). Everyone, especially the guys, was surprised by how much they enjoyed the Memory Keepers Daughter. Everyone LOVED Water For Elephants. The ladies were surprised by how much we enjoyed Into the Wild and Shadow Divers. 1984 and The Stolen Child were also surprise favorites.

Life of Pi had mixed reviews. Most people liked the book much more AFTER our discussion. This often is the case - we come to a book club not very impressed with a book, but once we begin to discuss the book, we discover the themes and symbolism and develop a new interest in the book.

The greatest thing about book club is the way that it is pushing folks outside of their "comfort zone." The ladies are reading books that may be considered for guys and the guys are surprised by how good "girlie" books are. Fiction lovers have developed an interest in nonfiction, and all of us develop a new appreciation for a book after discussing it. Some folks in the club commented that they tend to read the surface story, and it is only when we begin to discuss the book and dig deeper that they discover the themes, allegory, symbolism and underlying meanings in many books.

I've come to love the folks that we have at book club. Some are friends that I've known for years, and others I have just met. It is really cool!

Sunday, January 06, 2008


It amazes me that kids will fight about anything. My kids love each other one minute and are hitting and pushing the next minute. Of course they fight over normal things (toys, attention, etc.) However, one of the strangest things they fight over is which way they want the driver of the car to go in our neighborhood. To get to our house, you can turn up a hill or you can go straight. Each time we go somewhere, M will ask to "Go turn" and J will yell, "No, go straight!" I used to tell the child that asked first that I would go the way they requested. Kids are smart, so in response, as soon as I back out of the driveway, the kids will say, "Go straight when we come home" or "go turn when we come home." What is a parent to do?

Music Box

This morning before church the kids were playing with a music box that my parents gave them. They love it! The music box has cats on a record player. The kids wanted to know what it was - I felt really old trying to explain what a record player is and how it works.

On another topic, my Nikon camera is in the shop. During Christmas we had the "perfect storm" of malfunctioning electronics. My camera flash would not work. I had to send it in for repairs and I missed having that camera so much at Christmas. Our video camera also stopped working. Mike decided we would use our old video camera, but the tape was stuck in it so it would not work either. Thus, this year we have a lot of pictures, but in my opinion they are fairly low quality, and we have no video.