Saturday, March 30, 2013

wmmh #10

Waking up to singing birds and sunshine.

Spring weather has finally come and I got to wake up this morning to birds chirping, the sun shining, and fresh air pouring into my apartment through open windows.  My puppies were curled up next to me, calm and rested.  Is there any better way to wake up in the morning?

Thursday, March 28, 2013 -- you can buy happiness (and it's cheap)

Since this whole self-renovation thing started, I went searching for some books.  Naturally.  I was looking for books that would give me ideas, inspire me, educate me and help me solidify this new self, this new identity of mine.

One of the books I found is You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap): How One Woman Radically Simplified Her Life and How You Can Too by Tammy Strobel.  Tammy and her husband Logan started to down-size, or "smart-size" their life.  They now live in a "tiny house."  If you don't know what a tiny house is, or have never seen one of these tiny houses, prepare to be amazed...

The book describes the process they went through to get to the tiny house.  It involved a lot of shedding of materials and a lot of change in mind-set.  It was really inspiring to read their story.  I am facing a move in the  next few months that will force me to downsize a bit (not by much), but I am working diligently to rid myself of as much unnecessary stuff as possible.  I think I've done quite well.  Yesterday, just by cleaning out some old school materials and going through my clothing and craft materials, I made a TON of space.  I've gotten to the point where I have space to put things now and I feel like the space should be filled.  But I remind myself that space is good and just because you have it, doesn't mean you have to fill it.  

After reading this book, I was all up and ready to move into a tiny house and never, ever have a mortgage.  But... there is the shower thing.  And the bathroom.  So maybe I'm not ready for that radical of a change.  Tiny houses aren't for everyone, but the lifestyle of simplicity is very attractive to me.  We'll see how I do when I move this summer.  

One of the things I loved about the book was that Tammy offered tips to help you in your own "smart-sizing" project.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Wait 30 days before buying something. -- When making a decision over a purchase, I am getting much better at walking away and saying, "If I go home and I can't stop thinking about it, I can always go back."  But 30 days!  I imagine that I would totally forget what I was wanting to buy to begin with.  Stores are sneaky and smart at getting you to buy things and if you are not in the situation where you are subject to that, I could imagine it would go quite well.  Also, if you wait 30 days, that gives you 30 days of research to find the best or find alternatives to what you want... or just decide you don't want it anymore.  That's good too.

Adopt the one-in one-out rule. -- This is brilliant.  Whenever you come home with something new, you have to give something away, anything.  So if you love everything that's at home and don't want to get rid of any of it, you shouldn't bring anything home, right?  That's the logic I am following.

Do the 100 Thing Challenge. -- Write down 100 things you need or want to have.  You can make your own rules like count all of your shoes as one thing, but basically, if something doesn't make your 100 list, you might want to consider giving it a new home.

I think these are great rules to practice with children as well.  Making these things a habit, such as saving or paying tithing, will help your child continue these good habits into their adult life.  It certainly wouldn't hurt.  At the same time, you are teaching them principles and priorities. 

Tammy has a simple living blog >>here<<.  I know I will be checking in often.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

love.this.pic. -- daisy and doobie

My mom recently sent me this picture of her mini-dachshunds, Daisy and Doobie.  They are so cute, I had to share this.  Believe it or not, they are siblings.

love.this.season. -- a little spring cleaning

Easter is in just a few days and when I think of Easter, I think of spring (regardless of what the weather looks like outside here in northwest Ohio).  When I think of spring, I think of sunshine and flowers (oh, the beautiful flowers), and joy and happiness and family gatherings and eggs... hard-boiled eggs, deviled eggs, egg salad...

When I think of spring, I think of Cadbury, pastels, April showers and May flowers.  But most of all, when I think of spring, I think of new beginnings.  So let's get on with a little spring cleaning, shall we?

I feel like I have pressed my restart button pretty much every single day since 2013 began.  Part of me is all "Oh my gosh, I such at life," but the other part of me, the one that I have recently made peace with says, "It's okay."

I'm going to get all Mormony for a moment.  In Sunday School, I have been teaching on the Atonement all month long.  If you are unfamiliar with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, please go >>here<<.  I am also reading The Infinite Atonement by Tad R. Callister to deepen my understanding of the Atonement and what it means for me and for life in general.  The Atonement is continuous and living and we can renew ourselves and our covenants continuously by taking the Sacrament each week.  What a wonderful blessing it is to be able to reset yourself, start over, try again.  What a gift!

Since the turn of the year, I have made many goals and many I have stuck with.  Many, I have utterly failed at keeping.  For example, the hcg diet was a success for me in that I lost 20 pounds, but I have been horrible since the end of the diet.  I have eaten more junk food and eaten through my emotions more than I care to admit, but as I write this now, I am okay.  I don't condone my past behaviors and I don't plan on repeating my "offenses" (food offense, how harsh that sounds), but I am looking up and looking forward.  Making a mistake is NOT the end of the world, and as a perfectionist, I have had a very difficult time coming to terms with that fact.

So today, I am checking in.  My good habits, I will continue.  The good habits I have broken, I will recommit today.  The bad habits, I will work harder and strive to break them through good planning.

How am I doing physically? -- I could be doing better.  The weather has kicked my recent jogging spree and, as mentioned, my eating hasn't been as wise as it could be.  But I do take the dogs on longer walks, which is a plus for all three of us.  This is an excuse, I know, but once this snow goes away and it warms up just a tad bit, I will be jogging again.  Promise!  I need to cut out carbs and sugars again.  The hcg diet was really good at keeping me away.  I won't do that again, though it gave me the kick start I needed.  I will strive to eat more veggies and less carbs and try my hardest to give up the sugar.  Carbs and sugars are my enemies!

How am I doing spiritually? -- Now this is a part of my life I am feeling pretty good about.  I am reading my scriptures more often and reading two books (The Infinite Atonement and Elder Bednar's Increase in Learning) to supplement my studies.  I feel a real hunger for a deeper understanding of the Atonement lately and just find it completely fascinating and amazing.  I could pray more often and I could be a little less Anna Hosanna about them... oh, yeah.  Watch this:

How am I doing emotionally? -- I've had some down days, but overall, I've been pretty happy.  This blog makes me happy and I am constantly counting my blessings and reminding myself of things that make me happy.  I search for things that make me happy, and then share them with you here.  Church makes me happy, as does teaching my Sunday School class.  Sunday evenings at the Richardsons make me happy and my recently healing relationship with my sister makes me happy too!  Maizy and Opie's bonding has made me very happy.  We're a happy little family.  Speaking of Maizy, she gets tested on April 16th and so long as all is well, we'll make an appointment to get her spayed and the adoption will finally go through!  Woohoo!  I have had a lot of support to get me to this place from many people and I am very grateful for their patience and love.  I am doing better than I could have imagined.

How am I doing psychologically? -- I am finding a lot of peace in many things in life.  As recorded in previous posts, I have been simplifying and minimizing certain aspects of my life.  Having less stuff keeps me sane.  I still find things to get rid of and it still makes me happy.  I've decided that if I don't get some fiction-love in my life, I will go crazy, so I have checked out many a book from the library.  I'm pretty sure I'm reading at least five books right now.  About to finish Zorgamazoo tonight, which has proven to be a very entertaining book (the lobotomist chasing the girl is only at the beginning, haha).  Since starting graduate school, leisure reading has taken a back seat to school work and rightfully so, but I have come to find that I lose my mind.  Letting myself slip into imagined worlds allows me to remove myself from the stress of the moment, the frustration of my work and to be wrapped up in excitement and creativity.  I've promised myself that I will always have a library book in my bag.  Music has also helped a lot.  Thought I am no longer allowing myself to indulge in purchasing movies as I used to, music is still on the table.  When I get the chance or find a good deal, I fill up my iPod.  Music is another healthy way of escaping for me.

How am I doing financially? -- Ehhhhh.  Still working on that one.  I am getting better at saving and totally spending less!  I guess that's worth something...

How am I doing with school? -- Well.  I've made a plan, a plan I think I am happy with.  I am finishing my doctorate here in BG and will be teaching from here on out.  I've decided that I have a real passion for teaching.  It's not that I don't like research because I do enjoy it.  The research I do is very much like solving puzzles or mysteries.  But I've found that I love teaching, not just like.  I crave interaction and the prospect of isolated work is distasteful to me.  I am at peace with this decision.  I have finally admitted to myself and to others that maybe research is not for me, and there is no shame in that.  Took a long time for that one to come about... sheesh.

What are my plans for 2013? -- Since warmer weather is coming (soon, I hope), I am amping up my physical activity and diving into fresher foods.  I plan on attaching my dogs to me and walking a lot.  BG isn't the most dog-friendly place, but it could definitely be worse.  Come the summer, I will be moving five minutes away, but to a much better location and one that is much friendlier to my wallet and to my sanity (I can listen to my music loudly and not use subtitles when watching movies because I will no longer be in an upstairs apartment).  This summer, I will be doing research and working on my dissertation.  In the fall, I will be dissertating and teaching (yay!).  In August, I will be in NYC and then possibly San Antonio in November (this isn't for sure though).  Oh, Angie and I will be taking another road trip this summer to see Lauren, which will be fantastic.  I would like to make it to the temple this year.

All good things.

Reaching for the positive.  Love it.  This year will be a good year.

See ya next time...

(If you did not get the "See ya next time" reference and it's connection to this video, you are not a child of the 80s/90s.) -- dogvacay

So one of the things I would like to use this blog for is to catalog cool websites I come across and want to share.  This one is especially useful for me and for my friends with canine babies.

If you don't want to board your dog in a kennel or pay an arm and a leg to do so, this website allows you to search for a place to board your dog in a real home.  And, if you want to make some money on the side and love dogs, you can become a host!  

Being a dog lover/owner, I am always looking for useful sites like this.  America loves their animals and it's a good thing because there are a lot of resources, such as DogVacay, that we might not have otherwise.  I know the next time I need a place for Opie and Maizy to stay and none of my friends are available, I'll be checking this website out.  Maybe one day, I will be a host!

love.this.accessory. -- doggie bow tie

I had to share this.

That's right... a doggie bow tie!  It's cute and hilarious and perfect for Opie all at once!

Thanks, Janelle and Madi for the fantastic birthday gift (the collar was from them as well).

wmmh #9

Children's literature.

I am 25 and still read books from the children's section.  I like to collect picture books for my future children (also handy to have when babysitting), but I really like to look at and read juvenile fiction, like the stuff I read when I was in middle school.

I like to keep up with Newbery, Caldecott, and Coretta Scott King Award winners.

When I was a kid, reading educated me.  It shaped me, opened worlds to me while I lived my plain little Cincinnati life.  Reading inspired me to become a writer.  Honestly, I think I learned just as much reading novels as I did going to school.

It's fun to see how children's literature develops as time passes.  When I was a kid, I was devouring Nancy Drew novels, absorbing stories from Cynthia Voigt and Lois Lowry and getting my first dose of teen romance through Lurlene McDaniel.  I read Harry Potter before it became a big deal.

Much of what was popular when I was a kid is still pretty popular, like Harry Potter for example.  Let's face it.  I'm not that old, but old enough that I wrote my first paper on a typewriter and still recorded songs off the radio onto a cassette tape.

What I love the most about children's literature is that it shows how much life hasn't changed.  Children today are still dealing with many of the same issues that children dealt with fifty years ago.  Yes, a lot of life has changed, but at the root of it all, literature is timeless because it pulls out what it means to be human and that really hasn't changed.

Right now, I am reading Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston.  It has an interesting storyline, written in rhyme, and is a great book to read aloud, but might be a little dark for some parents' tastes.  If you don't want your child to hear about a lobotomist chasing a child on the demands of her caregiver, you might want to skip this one... Like I was saying, children's literature has changed a bit. -- les matzarables

Today I finally received the last movie I am allowed to purchase - Les Miserables.  It's no secret that I love musicals, and it is also no secret that I adore Hugh Jackman, so getting this movie made me really happy.  It's really phenomenal anyhow.

I told Angie that I was watching it and she asked me if I had seen Les Matzarables.

Here's another video that just puts a smile on my face and brightens my day... I hope it brightens yours!

love.this.documentary. -- craigslist joe

I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
-- Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

I've really been into documentaries lately.  I think there is something to that.  I've kind of become obsessed with people's interpretations of life.  I want to know what is important to people and why it is important to them.  I want to know what is important to me and why.  

Meet Joe.  He's a guy who decides that, for a month, he will live entirely off Craigslist.  His shelter, meals, rides, daily activities will be directed all through Craigslist.  He wants to know if he can make it... if he can depend on the kindness of strangers.  With all the changes that our society has endured, can we step out of our lives for a moment to help a stranger?

Here is the trailer.

I found this doc incredibly inspiring.  It reminded me to be more aware of those in need that I do NOT know.  At the core, I think everyone is willing to do something for a stranger.  We all have that goodness in us, that we don't want to see suffering or need.  I think if we can tap into that and see with those eyes, it can make a difference.  We just have to step out of our bubble and expand our lives.

Monday, March 25, 2013

love.this.goal. -- 27 cakes

For some reason, ever since I was a child, I thought that 27 would be my magical year.  Something BIG was going to happen when I was 27.  So for the longest time, I have wanted to be 27.  And I still do.  There is still something magical about it.

There is, however, the thought that 27 might not be magical.  It could be just like any other year in my life, one where I work, do to school, cuddle with my dogs, walk into random bookstores, travel, etc.

I'm still holding onto this hope that 27 will be a special year, but let's be adult about this... ACT, do not be ACTED UPON!

I turn 26 in a couple of months.  I've had this thought before, but never put it into action.  I want to spread the love and bake 27 cakes for 27 different people by my 27th birthday.  That's one cake per person, folks. Aside from the fact that cake is delicious, cake reminds us of celebration.  What better day to celebrate than today?  Er... the day you receive your cake, random person.  Seriously, though... I'm reminded of a line from my most favorite musical of all time, Rent.


It's definitely something to internalize. Every day is a gift, a blessing.  Often, with all of the difficulties we experience and all the sadness that happens in the world, it is easy to forget that fact.

So I have a little over a year to bake 27 cakes and give them to random people that I love.  Maybe I'll try a few strangers or people I don't know very well.  Yes, I will do that.  And just now, in this moment, I've decided that on the cakes, it will say NO DAY BUT TODAY!

So remember that each day is a day to be celebrated.  And if you forget, that's okay... I might just show up on your doorstep with a cake to remind you!

Friday, March 22, 2013

wmmh #8

Watching I Love Lucy.

There's just something about that show. I never get tired of it. The humor is timeless. It makes me content. I can't watch I Love Lucy and NOT be happy.

wmmh # 7

Getting home late on Friday night, changing into my pajamas and cuddling with my puppies on the sofa while chatting on the phone with my sister about our long, difficult day and how awesome tomorrow will be.

wmmh #6

Opie and Maizy getting along so well.  She was meant to be in our family.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

wmmh #5

Friends who encourage me and bring me back to zen.

I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for.  When I have my balloon and start floating away from reality, someone is always there to grab my shoe and ground me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

love.this.magnet. -- snail perspective

Kristen and I were walking through Meijer and came across a display of hilarious magnets.  I think this was my favorite of them all:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

wmmh #4

Teaching my Sunday School class.

I just love my kids -- they are fantastic.  I learn so much preparing lessons and expressing to them the knowledge I gathered.  I love hearing their feedback.  They are all very intelligent and amaze me with their knowledge of the gospel and memory.

I hope that one day, they will think of me with fondness and think I was a great teacher.  I know I will remember them as great students. -- validation

The compliment guys and free hugs videos reminded me of this awesome video. I hope it makes you smile. Enjoy!

wmmh #3

Scripture study with my sister.

We just recently started doing this and I am enjoying every minute of it.  It has definitely brought us closer and I am very grateful for that.

I am so thankful for the gospel and for my testimony. -- free compliments

I love seeing people do weird, random things to create positivity and happiness.  This reminds me of the Free Hugs Campaign:

If these people can take time out of there life to stand on the side of the street producing positivity and happiness, we can take a few minutes out of our day to do so, can't we?

I challenge myself, and YOU, to give a compliment, give a hug, write a positive note, give a card, send a happy text message or email. bake a cake, etc. to uplift someone's day just because we are human beings and love is our true business.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

love.this.research. -- me + dogs = happy

I know, I know.  Another dog post.  I promise you this blog is not just about dogs, but dogs have EVERYTHING to do with my happiness.  So here goes...

If you ask any dog lover what having dogs contributes to their life, they will most likely, somewhere in a long list of responses, say that their dogs make them happy.

I realized in college that I have no chance at happiness without dogs.  They are love, they are spirit, they are everything to me.  Opie and Maizy are my babies.  They are always there to give me an emotional or spiritual boost.  They are always there to cuddle and to them, I am a rock star.  Who doesn't like feeling like a rock star now and then?  If I had it my way, I would live in a house on a little bit of land and have more dogs.  I almost didn't get away with having two dogs in my apartment but it is working out so well.

>>How Dogs Spread Happiness

Last year USA Today did a piece on how scientists are confirming the benefits that dog lovers have been raving about forever.  There are studies that show that oxytocin (that happy hormone) increases by simply petting a dog.  Oxytocin can lower your blood pressure and cortisol levels, thus reducing stress and anxiety.

I've always been somewhat of an anxious person.  Since a child, I've suffered from depression and anxiety.  Maybe that's why I feel this need to have dogs in my life.  They bring out the best in me, that is for sure.  When I am having a bad day, I go lay on the couch and Maizy lays on top of me, cuddling her head against my neck.  Opie burrows under the covers with me... how can I not feel loved and content in that moment?

This article also discussed how increased oxytocin can help people heal better.  I believe that every cancer patient needs a dog.  I know many people who have fought cancer with their warrior dog by their side.  They serve as a reminder of what's good in the world and you know they are always fighting for you, with you.

I tend to be a pretty healthy person in that I rarely get sick.  Could it be that my dogs keep me healthy?  Of course, I would never know.  I do know that when I am without my dogs, I miss them terribly.  And if it wasn't for wanting to be with my dogs, I wouldn't have left California so quickly.

I'll admit that I do not know the details of the studies that make these conclusions, but I can attest that dogs contribute to happiness.  And you know what?  It doesn't even have to be a dog.  If you're a cat person, I'm sure cats bring happiness as well.

I have had Maizy for a month now.  I spontaneously went searching for another dog (as if I'm not always searching) knowing full well that my happiness would skyrocket.  Opie gave me happiness, but I've wanted a companion for him for years.

Getting Maizy has been one of the best decisions in my life.  I look forward to "growing up" and moving out, starting a family, and giving my children the privilege of living with dogs.  With dogs, love abounds.

wmmh #2


I went jogging with my dogs tonight and it was such a rewarding experience.  I was having fun.  I think it was an especially positive experience for me because I can feel my weight loss.  It is easier to jog.

This was part of the point of doing that crazy hcg diet.  I wanted to drop enough weight initially that I could commit myself to an exercise program that would help drop more weight.

It feels good to be jogging again.  All that restraint from foods not on my list and all the discipline to sticking to my diet (I did cheat a little, but I bounced back to it) is paying off.

I can't wait to be able to run in events with Angie.  That would be the most amazing thing for me and currently, it is my goal.  For now, I'll run imaginary events with Opie and Maizy.

Friday, March 15, 2013 -- happy birthday, opie!!!

My little boy turns 5 today! I can't believe it.

Opie being silly on his birthday.

Maizy giving her brother birthday kisses. -- fresh air and fresh advice from maurice

I love, and have always loved, Maurice Sendak.  He is one of my heroes in life.  Not necessarily for anything he has done, but just for the happiness he has given my childhood.

A little about Maurice and my childhood:

1.  I don't have a good relationship with my father.  Currently, we don't speak.  This can change in the future, but that's just how things are for the present.  I struggle to remember good things about my father and good memories with him.  There is one thing I remember - it's not really a memory, but it's a piece of knowledge.  My dad bought me Where the Wild Things Are (1963).  I don't remember when and I don't even remember him giving it to me, but as a child, it was one of my favorite books.  The story isn't much, at least in my opinion, but the illustration is out of this world.  When I read that book, whether it be to myself and just flipping through it, or to a child, I feel this warmth inside me.  There is just something about that book that captures me emotionally.

2.  Every Christmas on PBS I would watch this specific version of The Nutcracker.  I loved the Nutcracker and still do.  It was a tradition of mine, as a young one, to watch The Nutcracker every year.  I remember doing laundry while watching it.  I don't ever remember being able to sit down and just watch it.  I remember always doing chores while it was on.  This wasn't just any performance of Tchaikovsky's classic, but Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986).  I first saw this movie when I was in Mrs. Frodge's music class at Amelia Elementary school.  I think I was in the 3rd grade.  I was captivated by the music, of course, but also the costumes and the set.  My love for it spurred my ritual watching.  I asked to have a copy of it one year, but it was impossible to find.  For one, there are thousands of versions of The Nutcracker out there on film. Every time I had watched it on television, I didn't catch which specific ballet performed it.  Then I remembered why I loved it so much... Maurice Sendak was responsible for the production and costume design!  Once I remembered this, it made Googling the film much easier, but alas!  You could only get it on VHS and by then, VHS had been taken over by the DVD.  I was overjoyed when, years later, I could buy a digital copy on amazon and watch it whenever I wanted.  Then, a couple years later, it was added to Netflix.

My senior year of college at Miami University, I had some random credits to fill for graduation.  I have always had this love for children's literature, so there I was, a sociology major, taking a children's literature course.  It was definitely one of my joys of college.  We read Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia, Jacob Have I Loved), E.B. White (Charlotte's Web), and of course, Maurice Sendak.  I don't remember who else we focused on, but these were the three authors I learned a lot about.  I was beside myself when the syllabus showed we would be discussing Maurice.  Of course, we read Where the Wild Things Are, but the best part of class was learning about Maurice, his life, and his contributions to children's literature.

I was walking through Barnes & Noble one day and found this awesome book in the clearance section: The Art of Maurice Sendak.  I think it was $6.  To buy it new on Amazon it prices at $143!!!  I think this is because dear Maurice passed away last year in May.  It's this giant book, like a coffee table book, and is filled with history and art and wonderfulness.

When I have children, they will surely know about Maurice Sendak.  I am grateful for the happiness he brought me as a child and I hope that my children will draw as much happiness from his work as I have.

"Live your life, live your life, live your life."

Thanks for the advice, Maurice.  Thank you for your life.

wmmh #1

Walking my dogs.

Because I have them at the end of a take-two lead, they are close together, trot in unison, and bounce off of each other.  Not only is it cute, but it's a relaxing, spiritual time for me.  I've decided when I walk my dogs, not to listen to music.  I really want to soak up the calm of the morning with my four-legged babies.

A great way to start the day.

love.this.morning. -- let's talk about last night...

I was exhausted last night, but felt the need to write.  So I blogged, and I'm not sure if it made any sense.  It definitely didn't flow, I remember that much.  I really don't feel like reading it again.  I am still tired.  I think my body is still adjusting from being in California for a week.

I woke up this morning feeling exceptionally well rested.  I cuddled with my babies.  I just got in from taking them on a nice little walk.  (I use Runtastic, do you?  It's a nifty little app to track your walks/jogs/runs).  While I was walking my dogs, I was thinking about how to recover from last night's post.  I talk about it like it was miserable, and it might have been, but what I was really thinking about was how to determine who I am.

I thought a good start would be to define what makes me happy.  So I decided to share what makes me happy on my blog, but not so much in long form.  This blog is already about what makes me happy, but I feel like I should share it differently, format it to where I can find them as entries.  So the "WMMH" is born.  


I will be deviating from my typical posts and every now and again, hopefully every day, I will post a WMMH.  Today, I am kicking it off.

love.this.goal. -- taking stock of myself

I went on a little jog today for the first time in a long while.  I took Opie and Maizy with me and we just darted up and down the parking lot.  It felt good.  It felt good because (1) I have lost some weight and it is easier to jog, and (2) I've been feeling all this pent up energy and need to get rid of it.  I want it to be just a tad bit warmer, then it would be perfect.  The dogs really enjoy it though.  I want to enjoy jogging like my dogs enjoy running.  They just seem joyful.  I want to associate jogging/running with joy.

I have a new goal.  Angie wants us to do the Cincinnati Color Palooza at the end of June.  I want to do it too.  It looks great fun and I have been dying to do another event with my dearest Ang.  The miles between us prevents us from being able to participate in these sorts of events together, but we try to get together when we can.  I am really proud of Angie.  She has conquered so much lately.  She has gone from a couch potato, like me, to an extremely active person.  That is my goal - to be an active person.  I want "active" to be one of my descriptive words.

Just do it.  That's the hardest part, is getting off my lazy butt and just doing it.  But like anything else, desire helps.  I never used to have a desire to get up and go running, but I do now.  Without that desire, how miserable would it be?

I am not a very disciplined person, unfortunately.  Well, in many ways I am and in many ways, I am not.  When it comes to fitness... very undisciplined.

This is where I am at...

I am 25, going on 26.
I am single and have made peace with that fact for the time being.
I have two precious dogs that are my constant support.
I will be 30 in a short number of years.
I have the ability to be healthy and fit.
My life is my own.
I am done with my coursework.
I have a very flexible schedule.
I have the power to be who I want to be.

I'm going to repeat that... I have the power to be who I want to be.  There will be a time in life where I will not have all of these things.  Basically, I'm drilling it into my brain that the time is now to do what I need to do  for my life success.  I don't have things holding me back anymore.  I've addressed so much in the past year or so.

I have my own country - it's time to stick a flag in it and draw up the constitution.

I know, this has really just been a rambling.  I just keep thinking "The time is now. The time is now. The time is now."  Life is short, peeps.  I'm feelin' it.

I have the power to be who I want to be.  That's an amazing thing right there.  So who do I want to be?

1.  I want to be a dog lover.  Check.
2.  I want to appreciate and strive to live a green life.  Check.
3.  I want to be an active person, seizing opportunities to contribute to my health.  In progress.
4.  I want to be financially fit.  In progress.
5.  I want to socialize with people who inspire me.  Check.
6.  I want to always be in the middle of a good book.  Check.
7.  I want to be a light for those around me.  In progress.
8.  I want to be a role model for youth.  In progress.
9.  I want to read my scriptures and embrace the Spirit daily.  In progress.
10.  I want to talk to someone new every day.  In progress.
11.  I want to do something positive for someone every day.  In progress.

Is this really a list of who I want to be?  How do you make lists like that?  Do I even know who I am right now?  I am definitely in transition.  I can feel it in so many ways - physically, mentally, spiritually.

Forgive this mess.  Perhaps I will have a more fluid, eloquent post later on.  But what this all really boils down to is the following:


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

love.this.trip. -- soaking up socal

Before I start blogging about ANYTHING else (because there is so much to blog about!) I need to document some highlights of my fantastic trip to Fountain Valley, CA.

I walked along Huntington State Beach and allowed some beautiful, cool waves of the Pacific to wash over my feet.  Though I didn't bring them back with me, I found some beautiful shells and saw a lot of surfers trying to catch some waves.  I walked two miles to the Huntington Pier and back.  I was exhausted after all that!

I had the amazing opportunity to listen to the Orange County Mormon Choral Organization's adult choir rehearse for their Dallas performance, which happens this Friday.  I was captivated for all three hours.  These people are phenomenal.  I was subject to a fabulous orchestra and brilliant voices. I can't think of a better way to spend a Thursday evening anywhere.  I know five people in the choir, which is why I was there.  I am blessed to know such talented individuals.

I visited tide pools and other locations such as The Wedge, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, and Dana Point.  I didn't see much marine life, but there were a bunch of tiny little hermit crabs crawling all over the place.  Though it was a cloudy day, the weather didn't pale the beauty of all this nature.

I toured the Mission San Juan Capistrano and learned a ton of California history.  I was completely unaware that I could see this sort of thing on my trip.  It was so beautiful there - amazing what neat historical places you can find in this country.

I celebrated little Miss Anna's birthday with her family.  Her mom made this awesome cake.  I watched her make the rainbow - I was totally impressed.  

While I was at Dana Point, I caught view of this sign.  I had been so excited to see the beach and the Pacific ocean that I hadn't really thought of all the things you could do ON the water.  

That ticket got me on the Dana Pride for a Saturday afternoon of whale watching.  Nice to know, I don't get sea sick.  I was actually enjoying the bumpy ride, aside from the people around me puking on the boat.

It was the perfect day to go out on the water.  Though the water was a little bit rough, the view was incredible.  The sun made the water sparkle.  On this particular trip, we saw a young gray whale migrating, so many common and bottle-nosed dolphins, and a bunch of sea lions.  It was such a change of pace to be out on the ocean on a gorgeous, sunny day.

My friends took my to Griffith Observatory my last day in Cali.  It was the perfect way to end my trip because I got to see the entire basin on a beautiful day from above and afar.

I took many more pictures at the Observatory, but this is my favorite since you can see the mountains in the distance.  

I did so many other things that I did not document with photographs.  I spent a lot of time with the family I stayed with - wonderful, amazing, fantastic, those people.  I went to a stake Women's Conference Saturday morning before my whale watch and was spiritually blown away.  I did a little shopping and a lot of exploring.  My dear friends took me on a drive down the coast on the Pacific Coast Highway.  I got to relax and read a little.  We had lunch at a great place in Koreatown and found a massive Korean market that just excited me to my core.  I soaked up a lot of sunshine.  A few years ago, I read in a magazine that you need 30 minutes of sunshine to feel joy.  I don't know if that is scientifically accurate, but I sure felt the joy this spring break!  Oh, and...

I ate a thousand oranges off the trees in the yard.  Okay, not that many, but more than I've ever eaten in my life.  Gotta take advantage of staying in Orange County, ya know?  They were beyond delicious.  I went to the grocery store today, back in Ohio, to buy oranges and was disappointed because (1) I had to pay for them, and (2) they have been off a tree for who knows how long.  I am grateful I got to taste such amazing fruit, though.  I realize that some people NEVER get to eat oranges off a tree like that.  I am totally blessed.

I miss you, oranges!
I miss you, sunshine!
I miss you, beach!
I miss you, Pacific!
I miss you, Richardsons!
I miss you, SoCal!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 -- on purpose

Currently, I am sitting in the Detroit Airport at my gate, awaiting my flight to Philadelphia, where I will board a plan to Los Angeles! I have never been to California and I look forward to it very much. I love to travel and I love flying. Flying is such a spiritual experience for me, especially since I've only been flying for the past couple of years. I'm still wow'ed by the idea that I was once on the ground and now I am in the sky, that I am doing something that people in the past wouldn't believe... it's a cool thought. Flying excites me.

As I sit here, awaiting my adventure, I am contemplating purpose. Yesterday, to kick off the lazy part of my spring break, I watched the movie Machine Gun Preacher. I've been wanting to see this movie for a couple reasons - (1) Gerard Butler is a very sexy man, and (2) the story is based on a real person and his experiences.

Not to give too much away about the movie (which was ok, nothing spectacular), but the main character, Sam Childers (who is a real individual) is a man who has been incarcerated and leads a life of crime, drugs, and recklessness. He married a stripper and had a daughter. When he is released, he comes home to find that his wife has "found Jesus" and is no longer stripping because "it ain't right." This angers Sam and he continues with his destructive lifestyle.

After certain events, Sam gets to a rock-bottom point in his life where he gives in to his wife and mother's want for him to come to church. He has a change of heart and gets baptized, starting a new life for himself. He starts a company, makes good money, and buys his family a house.

One day at church, an individual from a mission in Africa comes and speaks of their work. This impresses Sam and he eventually goes to Africa. He sees thing there that move him and at one point, when he is home, he has a vision to build a church across the street and build an orphanage in Africa.

To this day, he dedicates his life to rescuing children of war in South Sudan. Look him up. If you don't want to watch the movie, you can look him up. He's a very interesting individual.

As mentioned, the movie wasn't great, but the story led me to great contemplation about purpose.  This man, who was living a destructive lifestyle, turned his life around and adopted the purpose to save provide for majorly disadvantaged children in Africa. What a purpose! It's movies like this one that make me feel so small and lazy. But it gets me thinking about why I am here and what my purpose in life is. For some people, like Sam Childers, it's going abroad and helping those who are in need. For others, it is working at the Humane Society, or teaching in urban schools, or simply just being a mother.

I don't necessarily think that everyone's purpose has to be as large and profound as Sam Childers', but I do believe that EVERYONE has a purpose and it is our responsibility to figure out what it is. Everyone plays a part in this world, no matter how large or small, but you should know what it is.

I realize that I really do not know what my purpose is in life. I know what some of my responsibilities are, such as teaching Sunday School, and being a good friend, and being charitable, etc. But what is my PURPOSE?

Do you know what your purpose in life is? How did you come to realize it? What are you doing today to advance your purpose?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

love.this.progress. -- did i just do that?!

Okay, so in the name of taking control of my finances and going all minimalist (as I define it), I just did some drastic things... things that are drastic for me!

I canceled my Next Issue account - $14.99/mo.

I canceled my Picmonkey account - $4.99/mo.

I canceled my Netflix account - $7.99/mo.

I canceled my Hulu Plus account - $7.99/mo.

I stopped making monthly massage appointments - $45/mo.

That's a total savings of $80.96 a month!

I was really struggling with canceling Netflix and Hulu Plus because I do use them a lot.  But I came to a couple conclusions that made it easier to cut the cord:

1.  I have an Amazon Prime pre-paid account that offers a lot of things I can watch.

2.  I can still watch things on Hulu that are not Plus-required.

3.  Along with #2, having the internet still leaves me a lot of entertainment.  I can't get rid of the internet, so that's definitely a plus!

4.  Whether or not you believe me, I would get monthly massages for health reasons.  Right now, I just can't afford it.

5.  Next Issue is wonderful but I really haven't had a ton of time to go through all those magazines!

6.  I really like Picmonkey a lot, especially using it for this blog, but it really is unnecessary.

I am wanting the above changes to do two things: (1) to save money, of course, and (2) to give me more time to focus on the things that really matter.  As I've mentioned, I really need to work on my spiritual discipline.  Without distractions like Netflix and Hulu, I should be quite successful.

For a second there, I was bummed that I was losing a lot of sources for my entertainment, but then I realized how much it was contributing to my new lifestyle and I got excited.  We'll see how this goes -- I don't expect things to be great all the time, but if I can live without Facebook, and sugar, and bread... there must be a lot more I can live without! -- gay mormons exist!

This guy is a spiritual giant.

*March 5, 2013 -- I showed this video to some of my friends and whaddyaknow?!  Jimmy Hales happens to be the friend of my friend's little brother.  Small world! -- making progress

"Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning." -- Benjamin Franklin

I have a few life projects going on at the same time.  It's risky to have so much change going on at once, but it's actually working for me right now.

 My diet is going well.  Since I've started, I have lost 13.5 pounds and dropped a pant size, which is pretty great.  My progress has given me a lot of motivation to push through.  This hCG thing is not the most ideal way to lose weight but it is working for me and helping me reset myself.  I can live without sugar, oil, butter, and popcorn and cheese and chocolate.  And bread... oh, bread.  I can live without these things and not go insane.  That's pretty amazing to me.  I only get hungry when it's time to eat and my cravings are infrequent, though they are usually for chocolate or cake.  I've only given in to craving once and had a little bit of cheese, but I didn't let my disappointment wreck the whole effort.

It's only been a day or so since I started the Momedy Sketch Community Challenge but I am doing well.  We'll take small wins here.  Since yesterday, I have only spent $3 on parking, which was unnecessary, but I have been very good.  I got paid yesterday and today and have not gone shopping for anything (yay me!).  My goals for today are to balance my checkbook, pay my bills, and make my budget for the month.  When I know I've been bad, balancing my checkbook is scary and I always put it off to the last minute.  Today, I'm pushing that fear aside and tackling the task.

Since I've had Maizy, I've been much better at spending time with my babies.  Life gets so busy and I am so often on my computer working that they are left to their own devices and it slips my mind that they might feel unloved.  I've been walking them, cuddling them, and playing with them more.  Of course, it's boosted my happiness and I am sure it has boosted their happiness.  It's going to be sad when I drop them off to their respective babysitters for my vacation.  I hope they don't feel I'm abandoning them.  I'm experiencing mother's guilt.  This happens every time I am away from home without them.

Although my friend Kristin's trip to see me got canceled last minute due to her car breaking down, since starting this blog, my happiness has been high and steady!  This is the goal!  The positive changes I am making are making a positive impression on me.  For the win!

My spiritual effort has been lacking lately, despite my happiness.  I think that working on this problem will not so much increase my happiness, because it is pretty high right now, but boost my joy!  Since I've started this blog, there's been a lot of talk about happiness and not much, if anything, on love and joy.

Joy is highly related to happiness, but I don't view it as a synonym.  I feel like joy is something beyond happiness.  Happiness can be contentment and to me, contentment can equate to a mediocre life.  There's nothing wrong with that at all.  Mediocre isn't necessarily bad, but I feel like there is so much untapped potential in all of us that our lives don't have to stop at mediocre.  Life can be, and is supposed to be, wonderful and brilliant and spectacular!  (Can you tell I'm an optimist???)  And that's where joy steps in.  It's like another level of happiness more connected to spirituality... at least, this is what I think about joy.  Your definition might be different, and that's okay!

What am I going to do to increase joy in my life?  I need to read my scriptures every day.  I need to pray more often.  I need to include Heavenly Father in my decisions.  I need to have more faith.  I'm not experiencing a spiritual crisis or anything, but I have become lazy.  This is bad bad bad.  Laziness does not lead to progress.  Success is not born of laziness.

Taking the temperature of my life right now... life is great!  I'm going to California next week, I have goals, I am making progress on my goals... there are few things in life that could be better and those few things are things that I have a hand in.  I need to take control of those things that I have let loose in my life.  Reel them in, dust them off, and get them into shape.

I'm ready and willing.  I'm motivated!

Friday, March 1, 2013

love.this.challenge. -- momedy sketch community challenge

I have joined the Momedy Sketch Community Challenge.  Click on the >>here<< to join me!  Today is the official first day, but I wanted to share with you my preparation for this challenge to take back control.

Phase 1 -  Prep Phase

I want to get back control of my finances.  I've never been good with money... I'm really bad with it, actually.  I can't stand money, alas I must deal with it.

Five positive ways my life will change once I gain control over it:

1. I will be happier.
2. I will be less stressed.
3. I will feel more secure.
4. I will be able to focus on things that matter most to me.
5. Fewer bills to pay!

Five very specific things that are going to be necessary to make this taking back control challenge a success for me:

1. Do not purchase anything that I do not need.
2. Make a budget and stick to it.
3. Save every paycheck and don't touch it.
4. Use my time for important things that have nothing to do with money.
5. Remember how happy it makes me to live with less.

What do I feel has been blocking me from gaining control of my finances?  I'm already in debt so sometimes I feel like it's a lost cause.  I pay all my bills on time, but I feel like I am just running in place.  I'm impulsive, and oftentimes that gets me in trouble.  A habit that I am kicking right now is retail therapy... I used to treat my problems by throwing money at them... money that I didn't really have to begin with.  These have been my hangups in the past and I am ready for them to not be hangups anymore.  

What resources do I have?  I think my most valuable resource at this point is keeping up with my growth.  I have made a lot of progress lately and am able to rely on money less and less.  Also, my friends.  They can be very helpful when it comes to financial decisions, provided I give them the information.  Another resources is this challenge support group.  I really think talking about it and putting it at the forefront of your mind can help you take action... I know it will help me.  

At this point, I don't feel like there are any resources I do not have available to me.  It's going to take a lot of time and a lot of discipline and utilization of the resources I have, but I believe it's possible.

My game plan?  
- Cut out every unecessary expense that I have.
- Pay with cash.
- When I feel the urge to shop, walk the dogs and/or call a friend or blog!
- Make a budget.
- Make meal plans.
- No fast food.
- If I must eat out, keep things cheap.
- Use coupons.
- Use the snowball system to pay off current credit cards.
- Save as much as possible.
- Be grateful for what I do have.
- Find cheap or free alternatives (like the library rather than bookstore).
- Walk more often to save on gas, which is not cheap.
- It's ok to ask to borrow things.

All right.  Let's do this!