Sunday, December 31, 2017

2018 - An Experimental Year

As I thought about goals for this year, I came up with the usual list of things I want to accomplish. The problem is... that list is always very redundant. I've been working on the same ten things for the past ten years. I feel like I can handle one-time goals - like graduating - because I can finish then move on with my life. But there are other goals I have, like "eat healthy," that are harder to accomplish because A) they aren't as measurable and B) they don't end. I need things to end! For example, I have to set a timer when I'm cleaning. Instead of "clean the kitchen," I have to think of it as "cleaning for fifteen minutes," because that way I know when it's going to be over.

What I'm getting to here is that I feel like I never change, and if I do change, I put an expiration date on it because I need to have a stopping point. That doesn't do me any good in the long run. I have this big, fat list of things I need to improve on, and it's the same big, fat list I've been staring at for most of my adult life. I am incapable of permanent change.

During 2017, I completed my internship for school, and my primary responsibility was to help write and beta test a workshop on willpower. I thought this was going to be a really wonderful experience. I thought it was going to help me with my own self-control and that I'd come out of it with all sorts of things overcome.

Quite the opposite happened. I hated the topic of willpower. I wrote the workshop and even taught it, and the whole time I was thinking, "Something isn't right with this." The message was basically that if you do this, this, and this, you will have more willpower, but I could't help noticing that all of the practices that have been shown to increase willpower also require willpower.

Secular research has come up with some interesting things, but it seems that there is no magical formula for increased willpower (which is probably why a lot of people - mostly fitness gurus - claim that willpower isn't even a thing). The conclusion I've come to is that if I want to experience realpermanent change, it's going to have to come through the Savior and the Atonement. So how do I tap into this power to be changed? I've taken this issue to the Lord multiple times, and I always get the same answer (and it's an answer I don't like):

Read your scriptures!

It's never "do this workout program" or "follow this 30 day fad diet" or "read this parenting book." It's always "read your scriptures," and it's always very clear and distinct, and my reaction is always, "Noooooo! Not that again!" (The answer I really want is, "Take this pill." Can't there just be a pill that makes me perfect?)

And then that old quote from Boyd K. Packer comes into my head...

"True doctrine, understood, changes attitudes and behavior. The study of the doctrines of the gospel will improve behavior quicker than a study of behavior will improve behavior."

Oh how I hate this quote.

Because I don't want this to be the answer. I want something else to solve all my problems. Plus, I like to study behavior, and the researcher in me wrestles with showing causation. It's hard to take something as broad as studying the scriptures and pinpoint the exact outcomes.

But since I trust the Lord, for 2018, I'm putting it to the test - an experiment upon the word, if you will. I'm not going to make several resolutions like I usually do. I am simply going to study the doctrine and see what results I get.

There's a quote from Elder Holland that I share in some of my presentations on happiness:

"...Happiness is not easy to find running straight for it... most times happiness comes to us when we least expect it, when we are busy doing something else. Happiness is almost always a by-product of some other endeavor."

I think the word "happiness" can be substituted for many other things. The reason I make resolutions or set goals is because I'm seeking something, but maybe I haven't been getting results because I always run straight for my list. This year, I'm going to keep myself busy with "some other endeavor" - studying the doctrine through the scriptures and the words of modern-day prophets.

I've prayed about how to do this so I can figure out why my current study of the doctrine isn't working, and here is the direction I've received:

  • I need to be more consistent (I have a habit of studying every day for a month and then taking a whole month off)
  • I need to pray before I read (sometimes I do, sometimes I don't)
  • I need to be less rushed and less distracted
  • I need to fast more frequently
I've also chosen a way to make it measurable. I've written a self-assessment. Essentially, it is an evaluation of areas of my life where I have been trying to improve for years but haven't had long-term success. On the first Sunday of each month, I'm going to fill out my assessment (it's a 1-10 scale so I can graph it later if my heart desires) just so I can see if there is any progress across the year. 

My only resolution for 2018 is to see this through (but if I happen to learn how to make an awesome brisket, that will be an added bonus).

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017 Highlights

  • I turned 33
  • I had jury summons
  • We became addicted to puzzles - especially Thomas Kincaid Disney ones
  • Scotty got released from Cub Scouts and put in Elders' Quorum
  • Scotty went to Disneyland with his man friends (I hosted a cereal party for the wives & children left behind)
  • I started using online grocery services, and my life is forever changed
  • A gallon of milk spilled in the back of our van
  • Nicky learned to snow ski
  • I taught my practicum workshops (one of the final steps of earning my degree)
  • The kids and I went to Saint George and Las Vegas for spring break 
  • I went to my grandparents' hometown (Milford) for the first time since I was seven
  • Eva turned two
  • I started my internship for school
  • Daisy got stitches (wrist)
  • Nicky took third place in the Pinewood Derby
  • Scotty took a few trips to Moab for work
  • We went on a quick overnighter to Crystal Hot Springs, Logan, Golden Spike, and the Spiral Jetty
  • I met Durga  (a friend from Australia that I met through blogging) in person while she was visiting the States
    • Scotty got a new job
    • We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary
    • I was released from Cub Scouts
    • Zoe had her first dance performance on the stage (Daisy also performed)
    • Eva got stitches (forehead)
    • We took a little two-night trip to Midway
    • Nicky had his jump rope and choir performances
    • We taught Nicky how to use the grill
    • We took our first two-night camping trip with four kids
    • Zoe said her first prayer, got her first real haircut, and learned to ride a bike without training wheels
    • I beta tested some workshops for my internship
    • Nicky went to day camp for Scouts
    • Scotty turned 36
    • I finished my internship
    • Shannon moved to Idaho
    • We took a family trip to Star Valley, Yellowstone, and Rexburg
    • I graduated
    • Scotty traveled to Memphis to do inventory on the temple
    • The milk that spilled in the van in February started to stink again
    • A small project (patching some holes in the wall) turned into remodeling an entire floor of our house
    • Eva got her first haircut
    • Daisy chopped off her hair and donated it
    • We had more problems with the stinky milk in the van, so we ripped out the carpet for the third time and power washed it
    • Nicky earned his Webelos rank in Scouts
    • Daisy turned 8
    • We went to Disneyland
    • Scotty started the Church's Self-Reliance program
    • Scotty and I spoke in sacrament meeting together for the first time
    • I chopped up my wedding dress and made a baptism dress for Daisy
    • Daisy was baptized
    • Daisy had a tube removed from her ear canal after it had been stuck there for five years
    • Scotty traveled to Memphis to close down the temple for renovation
      • Zoe turned 5
      • Scotty traveled to Paraguay to close down the temple for reonvation
      • Scotty worked on the installation for the Jordan River Temple (this is our temple district, so it's pretty cool for him to be involved. The temple has been closed for two years, and we are very excited that it will be opening again in 2018)
      • I spoke at a conference for LDS women
      • I took Nicky to Music and the Spoken Word for the first time
      • I went to Time Out for Women in Salt Lake
      • I went through my Donny Osmond obsession
      • Scotty got released from Elders' Quorum and put in Young Men
      • Scotty took a new position at work
      • Nicky was awarded his Arrow of Light for Cub Scouts
      • We finished installing our new floor
      • I spoke to my first youth group
      • I finally watched the last two seasons of The Office. They sucked as much as I always thought they would
      • Nicky turned 11
      • Scotty and I were asked to be on the committee for the Pioneer Day parade float for the coming year

      Wednesday, December 27, 2017

      Resolution Review 2017

      Normally I write several New Year themed posts at the end of December. This year will be no exception, but I'm not coming at you with as much enthusiasm this year as I have in years past.

      I've usually had a 50% success rate with my resolutions, but I have to confess that this year, if I met any of my goals, it was by pure accident. I didn't even try, save for one goal: graduating!

      That, I accomplished.

      Everything else was a failure. Let's take a look at my resolutions for 2017. My theme for the year was "safekeeping" or in other words, "stewardship," so my focus was on being a good steward over the things I've been blessed with. My goals were as follows:

      1. Improve our budget and spend our money more wisely


      I tried using YNAB, but it just didn't work for me, so I am back to my old notebook ways. I haven't found a program that budgets the way I do. I guess I have my own thang.

      As for spending our money wisely... that's up for debate. I'm really good at making a plan, but I'm terrible at following through. I'm not a super fan of Gretchen Rubin, but there's one thing she totally made up* that resonates with me a little bit. She talks about being rebellious and how rebellious people even rebel against their own to do lists and the like. That is me. If I make a list or a budget or a rule for myself, I will rebel against it. I have to. No one is the boss of me. Not even me!

      2. Have fewer than ten encounters with soda

      I'm pretty sure that was a typo, and it was supposed to say ten thousand. In which case... I probably still failed.

      3. Weigh less on December 31 than I did on January 1

      Or twenty-two pounds more. Whatever.

      4. Improve our family home evenings and family councils

      We had some good moments.

      5. Graduate

      I did that! I did!

      6. During January, study the topic of happiness and make a list of "best practices," then set goals to make them a part of my daily life

      I totally forgot about this goal. I actually kind of accomplished this. I started studying happiness, and then I had to choose a topic for my practicum, so I did it on happiness. I wrote four hours' worth of curriculum.** Maybe this makes up for all the goals I sucked at this year.

      *This is why I'm not a super fan of Gretchen Rubin. She makes up stuff. Sometimes it's good stuff, but still...
      **Which all came from scholarly resources, and not Gretchen Rubin

      Tuesday, December 26, 2017

      Poop & Antlers

      This Christmas season was a season of poop.

      About two weeks ago, I picked the kids up from school, and as I was pulling away from the curb, they started moaning that it smelled like poop. I ignored them because there are many complaints about bodily odors coming from the back of my van at any given time. A few seconds later, the scent hit me like a brick.

      "Everyone check your shoes!" I hollered, crossing my fingers that it was one of the car pool kids because that would allow me to drop them off at home, smile at their mom, and shrug, "I'm so sorry! Good luck with that!"

      But no, it was Daisy.

      I threw her a Walmart bag (a testament that you should always have grocery bags in your vehicle) and had her take her shoes off and bag them up.

      When we got home, I assessed the situation, and there was poop everywhere. It was on everyone's back packs and coats, and all over the carpet and seats.

      It took a family effort and two loads of laundry to get it all cleaned up, but I was fortunate that the shoes Daisy was wearing were old and nasty, so I had no guilt about throwing them straight in the garbage.

      Five days later, it happened all over again. We went through the exact same series of events that we went through the first time. Someone sniffed and started yelling, "It smells like poop!" Then I caught a hint of it, slammed on the breaks, and yelled, "Daisy! Did you step in poop again?"

      Yep. She did.

      And I lost it!

      Because it was all over every coat and every backpack and the carpet and the seats... again.

      (May I interject here that the next day I walked the exact path Daisy walks to the van each day thinking that there must be dog poop everywhere - how else could my daughter step in poop twice in five days? Yet I saw only one pile of poop. It had shoe print in it and was followed by several poopy footprints. So no. There is not poop everywhere. It only takes a single poop, and Daisy will find it with her amazing poo homing abilities).

      Since the van smelled like poop, everyone started unrolling their windows. I didn't think anything of it until Zoe started screaming something hysterically. Then Nicky began yelling over her trying to translate. After a lot of shouting and sobbing, I figured out that one of our reindeer antlers had fallen off the van (because we drive a reindeer van... whatever... it is what it is). I looked in my rearview mirror, and the antler was in the middle of the road quite a ways back. So I pulled over, and sent Nicky to get it. Zoe followed him, and when they came back, she was more hysterical than she'd been when she'd gotten out of the van.

      I asked, "What on earth is going on?" Then Nicky explained to me that right before they approaches the antler, a car ran over it and cracked it.

      (Can you see why Shannon and I so frequently use #poopwins? Poop really does win. It rules all!)

      We went home, Zoe crying the whole way, where I made Daisy clean the mess up herself. Hopefully the logical consequence of having to clean the poop will help her watch where she is going.

      The next day, a kind friend dropped off a new set of reindeer ears for our van.

      And thus ends our poopy Christmas tale. We are now one week dog poo free.

      Christmas Vocabulary

      Paper: What our Christmas tree was made of 

      Since we were working on installing our living room floor throughout December, we postponed putting our tree up. I started worrying that it would get too close to Christmas before we cold get it up, so I made a tree out of paper and hung it in the corner where our tree usually goes. When I picked the kids up from school that day, I told them that I put the tree up. When we got home, Daisy went in the living room, saw the paper tree, and started crying. "You didn't tell me it was paper!" she sobbed. That night, I let the kids decorate the tree, and suddenly, they were all fans. 

      Scotty wasn't sure about the paper tree and kept saying he felt guilty about not having Christmas lights (we also skipped Christmas lights outside this year), but after some time, he acknowledged that a paper tree is actually pretty awesome. It saved a ton of space and will be super easy to put away. I thought it would be a one-year thing, but I have to say, I'm a fan of the paper Christmas tree, so we might see another one in the future. 

      Insight: Something I gained regarding my own relationship with the Savior

      I wrestled a bit with some feelings of anger at the beginning of the season. I went through a "don't boss my Christmas" phase where I was really bugged by everyone telling me Jesus is the reason for the season. Not because I don't believe in Jesus, but because I get tired of being told how I'm supposed to celebrate and what I'm supposed to feel at Christmas time.

      As I navigated my "don't boss my Christmas" phase, I came to some really wonderful realizations - one being that God thinks I'm doing just fine, and that I can bring Christ into Christmas in my own way

      Full: The feeling in my belly

      I forgot what it was like to feel hungry until the day after Christmas when I postponed breakfast, and at 9:00 a.m. I thought, "What is happening to me? I feel weird." Then I realized it was hunger - the sensation of my body actually needing food.  

      Success: The result of my attempt to make a buche de noel

      I took French for five years, and I always thought it would be fun tradition to make a buche de noel each year for Christmas. Twenty years after this idea struck me, I finally did it! 

      I looked at several recipes (there are so many possibilities), and I didn't have all the ingredients for any of the recipes I found, so I improvised and used what I had at home. My cake was total guesswork, and it ended up being way too thick to roll. I was able to cut it in half horizontally, and make TWO buches! It's not very often that my mistakes result in double the success!

      Gifts & Cards: The things we gave and received

      I love giving gifts and sending cards. In the Christmas card and neighbor gift debate, I am pro-both. My reasoning for this is that they force you to think of people.

      Shannon and I had several discussions about this during December. It's not about the gift! It's about connection and showing people that you give a darn. My neighborhood is not particularly "friendly," so taking Christmas gifts around is one of the ways we help break down the walls (this reminds me, I ate my next door neighbor's gift and had to text her an IOU).

      This year I made over 35 freezer meals to give as gifts (this was not my neighbor gift, but gosh, that would be a pretty cool one). This required me to eat all the food in my freezer to clear up space (hence the ten pounds I've gained since November) and stack the meals in my freezer very strategically and Tetris-y. It was very satisfying to accomplish this since I have a fondness for mass food production.

      Anonymously: The manner in which some surprises were delivered to us 

      We are not often the recipients of anonymous gifts and acts of service (I don't say that in complaint, I just want to establish that it's not something that happens to us). In fact, one year, someone knocked on our door, and when I opened it, our entire porch was covered in presents - boxes and boxes of them, including a gigantic package of diapers. I freaked out and was overwhelmed with guilt because we were living quite comfortably at the time. I was worried that I'd complained about money in front of someone and given them the wrong impression or something. Then, as I was looking through the gifts, I noticed they had individual names on them. They weren't ours after all! They'd been delivered to the wrong house! 

      I was so relieved! And so excited to call the person they belonged to. But sad that I had to give the diapers away.

      Because diapers. 

      Anyway, this year, we had some mysterious surprises. Some I was able to get to the bottom of and some I wasn't. And it drives me crazy to not get to the bottom of things!

      Obsessed: How I feel about The Greatest Showman

      Several weeks before Christmas, my sister-in-law invited my kids to sleep at her house on the 22nd. It took me all of two seconds to decide how to use that time. I was going to go see Hugh Jackman's new movie. 

      I was more excited for that night than I was for Christmas. 

      I won't say too much because I don't like when people talk things up and their friends end up having high expectations only to be disappointed, but my vocabulary word should give you some idea of my thoughts. 

      My celebrity dinner party will now feature a sing-along moment with Hugh Jackman. Good chance there will also be dancing.

      Sunday, December 24, 2017

      Christmas Letter

      Dear friends, family, neighbors, and distant cousins I rarely see,

      The holidays are upon us, and it's special and stuff... bla bla bla... let's get to the part where I make my life look better than it is. No, I'm not mocking your Christmas letter. I'm just acknowledging that we have to highly censor these things - you and me both.

      Eva is 2.5 years old and pretty much the boss around here. She is becoming quite the talker, but she is also very timid and has some pretty intense separation anxiety. She can be a bit destructive, just like the siblings that came before her. She doesn't do it on purpose. Sometimes she's just trying to be helpful, like when she "helped" me do the dishes and managed to take a chunk out of my hand with a kitchen knife. Judging by the scar, I probably should have gotten stitches, but instead, I have a loving, permanent reminder of motherhood to gaze upon. She does love emptying the dishwasher - I just wish she'd stop climbing in it. Its days are numbered; that door can't possibly survive the remainder of her toddlerhood.

      I like to pretend that I've established strong boundaries for media consumption in my family, but let's be honest - if the DVD player in the van turns off for one second, Eva turns into a tornado of fingernails and teeth, so let's restart Good Burger one more time. You've gotta cut Eva a break, though, she has practically been raised in the van. That's the fate of the fourth child.

      Sometimes Eva pees in the toilet, but only when it's incredibly inconvenient - like at 11:30 at night when she's still bouncing off the walls, and I'm watching Netflix and hoping she'll pass out on her own so I don't have to fight her to go to bed. I'm confident that she will be fully potty trained by age 32.

      Eva spends most of her time pretending to be a dog (careful, she licks) and is going through a phase where she likes to spit in people's food.

      Common phrases heard from Eva:

      "Me not tired!"
      "Me so excited!"
      "Hold you me!"

      Zoe just turned five, and she wants the whole world to know it. She is one smart cookie and has a very strong will. I take her to buy an ice cream cone every day because that's the only way I can get her to go to preschool. Our life revolves around whether the McDonald's ice cream machine is working. Occasionally she will ask for tacos instead of ice cream so we end up at Del Taco where we leave the biggest mess of shredded lettuce known to man.

      Zoe owns eight backpacks, and she refuses to wear socks. She's very fussy about her shoes. They are always too big, too tight, or just not right. She goes to primary barefoot every week and often drags a twin-sized blanket with her. We're just glad she's finally going.

      I've done everything I can to make Zoe's maintenance routine as easy as possible, including chopping off her long hair. I keep spare clothes and shoes in the car because I never know when I'm going to get stranded in a public place with her screaming that her clothes or her shoes are bugging her. Most of the time she insists on wearing nightgowns. Any time she gets upset, the first thing she does is put a nightgown on. We spend a good twenty minutes negotiating clothes for school each day.

      Common phrases heard from Zoe:

      "How dare you!"
      "I need water in a sippy cup with ice!"
      "I'm going to write a letter to everyone in this town."
      "Can I play with he?"

      Daisy turned eight this year and was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This is a pretty big deal since, from the age of three, Daisy insisted that she would never be baptized because she didn't want to get in the water with the "butt germs." (Never mind that she has always been fine with stewing in bath water for hours at a time).

      Daisy is very tall for her age. Her height and weight are in the 98th percentile. She towers over her peers and looks like she's older than she is. She has always hated having her hair brushed and styled. She wants to do her own hair in a ponytail everyday. If you ever see her with her hair in any other style, you can assume that we had a gigantic stand-off in the bathroom that morning and that no fewer than 8,000 tears were shed in the process.

      Daisy inherited my talent for eye rolling. I now understand why my own parents found it so infuriating. Googly eyes got nothin' on my Daisy.

      This year, Daisy mastered her splits. Now she busts out splits everywhere - in the kitchen, at the store, in the middle of family Christmas parties... She has also improved her cartwheel form and lands on her feet and everything! Much to her dismay, we had no make a "no headstands on the couch rule" as she was routinely kicking her siblings in the face.

      Common phrases heard from Daisy:

      "Can a friend come over?"
      "You're the worst!" <<eyeroll>>
      "The little girls did it."
      "Hmph. No fair!" <<eyeroll>>
      "I never get to [fill in the blank]!" <<eyeroll>>

      Nicky will turn 11 two days after Christmas. He is involved in Lego League, jump rope club, and safety patrol. He also takes piano lessons and earned his Arrow of Light in Cub Scouts.

      This year has ushered in what I refer to as his "Hawaiian shirts and gym shorts phase." He looks like a retiree who took a flight to the wrong climate. No amount of snow can deter him from his gym shorts.

      Nicky likes to dig through the garbage and chastise me for the things I throw away. I've always had to be very sneaky and strategic about getting garbage out of the house. Sometimes I have to drive garbage over to my mom's house while Nicky is at school just so I won't get caught. Nicky is very clever with garbage. Two of his most exciting garbage endeavors of 2017 were a hockey game and a virtual reality helmet.

      Nicky's newest hero is Kevin James. He is obsessed with Paul Blart and wants to get a Segway. I'm sure this accessory would go really well with his wardrobe. Nicky also loves Joey from Full House, which is probably not a surprise. In fact, I just realized something...

      For Christmas this year, Nicky asked for a roast beef sandwich from Arby's.

      Common phrases heard from Nicky:

      "Can I go to Grandma's and watch Paul Blart?"
      "That's a waste of money."
      "Are we having anything good for dinner?"

      I could tell you about Scotty and me, but let's be honest - I started this post three weeks ago, and Christmas Eve is upon us. The good news is... our house is still standing, we still like each other most of the time, and I actually really love reading all your Christmas letters.

      Much love and a Merry Christmas to you & yours!


      Tuesday, December 19, 2017

      Blessings of Self-Reliance

      Scotty and I recently had an experience that I feel I need to share. I was writing about it on my private blog where I post our more personal stories and happenings, and I had a prompting to write it here as well. So forgive me as I navigate this story without much preparation. I'm just diving in.

      As you may recall, Scotty started a new job this year. All of the events surrounding the procurement of this job were indications to us that we have a Heavenly Father who is actively involved in our lives. The job came to us after years of preparation. We can look back at things that happened ten years ago (and even longer) and see that Scotty was being prepared - we just didn’t know it.

      The job was a great blessing and an answer to many prayers. It's something we never thought could happen. It came to us in May. On the day Scotty got the offer, I posted this.

      In August, Scotty was "invited" to participate in our Church's new self-reliance classes (you can learn more about those here). The classes were held weekly for three months. It was a huge time commitment, and we were not thrilled to take part in it. In fact, we had both expressed when the program was announced that we hoped we wouldn't be asked to do the classes, but we both kind of saw it coming. It just seemed like something that would happen to us.

      As we talked about whether to do the program, we both continually expressed how much we didn't want to be involved. It felt so poorly-timed and inconvenient, but Scotty said, "I'll do it because we have been promised that we will be blessed."

      (Meanwhile, I was saying things like, "Can I get a P.O. on those blessings so I can decide if they are worth it?")

      The classes cover different areas of self-reliance such as starting a business, getting an education, and managing personal finances. At the first meeting, the attendees had to commit to a topic. None of these topics were really what we needed. We both have degrees, and we know how to get more degrees should we desire to do so. We aren't going to start a business, and we've taken so many personal finance classes that if we haven't figured out our finances by now... we never will. Scotty chose the personal finance group due to the lack of anything more suitable for our needs.

      The class was 12 weeks long (and with the recommended group service project - ended up being 13). Scotty had homework every week and was supposed to teach his family what he was learning. This became our Family Home Evening curriculum for the time.

      I confess, we didn’t always have the best attitudes about it, but we tried. When we would catch ourselves  complaining, we would try - not always with success - to remember that we had been promised we would receive blessings for participating in the classes.

      While Scotty was in Paraguay in early November, he learned that a job was coming available in his department. It wasn’t exactly what we would pick for him, but he felt like he needed to apply for it. Strangely, I too felt that he needed to apply for it. The problem was, Scotty’s job was already amazing. He had the opportunity to work with the temples of our Church, and we didn’t want to give that up. The new job would take him away from the temples, which we were very sad about. Scotty put in for the new job, and our belief was that it was in the Lord's hands. If He wanted Scotty to be in this new position, we knew it would be so, but if He wanted Scotty to stay where he was, that was great, too. We turned it entirely over to God, and Scotty did what he needed to do to open the door just in case the Lord wanted to move him.

      Scotty went through two rounds of interviews, and then we just sat back and waited to see what would happen. There ended up being a hold-up with HR, so the job offer was postponed for a few weeks until one day Scotty was finally called in to see the Boss Man, and the Boss Man told him they weren't going to offer him the job [pause for suspense] because they wanted to offer him a different position. The position allows Scotty to have more PTO, higher pay, and he gets to continue working with the temples.

      When he called me to tell me about the offer, I stammered. "What?!? Really!?! How?!? Why!?!" because I couldn't even comprehend the beauty of this blessing. Ultimately, I don't feel like we deserve it. I mean, we murmured and stuff.

      But God has given us this wonderful opportunity, and we feel that it is because we trusted in Him and made the commitment for Scotty to attend the self-reliance classes.

      Now, I can't say that the self-reliance classes will immediately bring jobs for all. Oh, how I wish it would because I have so many friends and family who are struggling with unemployment or underemployment right now. But I do believe that if you are asked to participate in the self-reliance classes, and you see it through, that you too will be blessed in some way. Maybe in health or comfort or finances. Maybe in direction or opportunities or testimony.

      You might go kicking and screaming (as Scotty sometimes did - with me kicking and screaming simultaneously from home as it was one more night a week I had to be alone with my kids), but if you go, participate, and meet your commitments each week, you will be blessed.

      You will.

      Something Scotty and I acknowledged as this program was starting up in our stake is that it's hard to not be slightly bothered by the invitation to attend. It makes you feel like something is wrong with you - like you're asked to go because someone perceives that you're not self-reliant. It's easy to say, "Why should I have to take this class?" But the self-reliance specialists in our stake made a really good point (which I heard second-hand from someone who heard them speak) - they said that whether or not you need these specific topics, this program will help you prepare to meet the Savior. I tried to keep that it mind as Scotty went through the classes. It wasn't about personal finance so much as it was about learning gospel principles that are applicable to both personal finance and preparing to meet the Savior.  And that's something we can all benefit from regardless of our employment, our education, or our finances.

      An invitation may come to you from your stake to participate in these classes, and I hope you will consider it (you can kick and scream - it's cool - heaven knows we did), but also know that you can participate without an invitation. You also don't have to be a member of the LDS Church - the program is open to all (but you will learn LDS principles while you are there).

      If you want to get more information about the program in your area, you can email me, and I'll happily help you get in touch with the right people. Our area starts the classes again in February, and I assume many other areas will be starting around the same time.

      The Most Excellent Friendship Quiz: Part Deux

      The other day, I posted a quiz about my friendship with Shannon. Yesterday was Shannon's half birthday - one half-year older, and wiser too! The past half year has brought some pretty big adventures for Shannon including moving, job changes, and the birth of her first wee, little babe (he's a looker, that one! Absolutely scrumptious!) 

      Shannon and I are ready to reveal the answers to our Most Excellent Friendship Quiz. Shannon's responses will be in blue, and my commentary will be in green


      Shannon & Brittany's Most Excellent Friendship Quiz

      1. Which song does Shannon sing to me regularly?

      A) Mary, Did You Know?
      B) Ice, Ice, Baby
      C) Puppy Love

      A) Mary, Did You Know?

      And it IS appropriate for me to sing this to you this time of year...but I know that I am playing with fire when I sing it otherwise! Do I need to elaborate on why? I don’t want to tell without your permission.

      Well, I confess - I don't like this song very much, which might motivate someone to sing it to me just to drive me nuts.

      For me, "Mary Did You Know?" falls into the category of “top ten songs that get stuck in your head” it’s in my Top 3 spots, along with Amy Grant’s “Baby Baby” and R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” And I would add “What Does The Fox Say?” by Ylvis as a wild card!

      Thanks. Now I'm singing "What Does the Fox Say?"

      And I must admit that the one Donny Osmond song I don’t care for much is "Puppy Love." And when I was 10 years old, I went to 4-H Camp and my cabin’s name was “Mountains” and we made up a skit and performed the “Ice, Ice, Mountains” with our own lyrics about being at summer camp. I can still remember THOSE lyrics, but not all the "Ice, Ice, Baby" ones.

      You'll have to send me an audio message of that one.

      2. Where am I mostly likely to be during a phone conversation with Shannon?

      A) The laundry room
      B) The bathroom
      C) The car

      A and C - the laundry room and the car

      I’m going to go ahead and decide that this is one of those multiple choice quizzes where there might be two correct answers. You are either in your laundry room or your car, without question. But I will out you (and me) and say that we often correspond while taking potty breaks! So essentially, you should have D) All of the above as the correct response!

      I was thinking the van is the most frequent, but the laundry room and the bathroom are definitely runners up. Now that I think of it, I also talk to you a lot from my kitchen.

      3. Which of these movies have I been trying to make Shannon watch for the entire time I've known her?

      A) The Truman Show
      B) Hairspray
      C) The Green Mile

      A) The Truman Show

      Forgive me. I’m just not a movie buff. But I’m putting it in writing that I 90% promise I will watch The Truman Show by January 31, 2018! Not just to watch it/obey you, but because I know that it will lead to many deep and thorough discussions about themes, perspectives, and the human experience. Which is something I love about our friendship--our desire to discuss and learn all the things! Plus, I like Jim Carrey. So I’m looking forward to it. I adore him in his episode, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” with Jerry Seinfeld. Did you know that he’s quite the artist when it comes to abstract paintings?

      I did not know that.

      I can't even remember why I wanted you to watch The Truman Show in the first place. I was probably telling you about how Sara thinks she's in The Truman Show. I do love that movie, though. Definitely in my top ten.

      Know what else you should watch? Mary Poppins. It's not one of my top ten, but you can't go through life without seeing Mary Poppins.

      4. What phrase do we use to end many of our conversations?

      A) "Aye, aye, Captain!"
      B) "In case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight!"
      C) "Go Centennial Park Ward!"

      C) "Go Centennial Park Ward!"

      Because we believe in pep rallies (see Brittany’s post about our desire to be mascots) and cheering on our team. And this was our LDS Ward where we first met and served. We essentially made ourselves its unofficial cheerleaders in the hopes to get everyone jazzed about living the Gospel and stuff!

      And for the record, I don’t think I’ve ever said those other two phrases to anyone in my life. “Oh Captain, My Captain!” from Dead Poets Society is the closest.

      I think everyone should say, "Aye, aye, Captain!" once in a while. Try it, you might like it! And I know you've never said, "In case I don't see ya, good afternoon, good evening, and goodnight," because THAT, my friend, comes from The Truman Show.

      Confession: I've never seen Dead Poets Society all the way through, but I know there's carpe diem, and that means "seize the day" which reminds me that you've also never seen Newsies.

      5. Which of these are Shannon and I least likely to do together?

      A) Go ziplining
      B) Meet Donny Osmond
      C) Write a book

      A) Go ziplining

      Absolutely NEVER.

      Fo shizzle. We keep our feet on the ground. 

      But YES!!!! To Donny-mania and the book we will co-author one day. I’m totally serious about both of these! I’ve been playing Donny’s version of “Deck the Halls/Hark the Herald Angels Sing” on repeat this past week. His voice is so smooth and effortless. Butter. Listen here. It starts at 21:23...heck, listen to the entire album! And his voice on “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (at 14:53) is liquid gold!

      P.S. Brittany, “Mary, Did You Know” starts at 48:18 [insert crying laugh emoji here]. Thanks for the warning [insert crying laugh emoji here].

      I 90% promise that I'll check out Donny's voice on "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" before January 31, 2018. Also, Donny would want you to know that the original version by Andy Williams is his favorite Christmas song. #donnytrivia

      6. What is Shannon's education?

      A) A Bachelor's in something to do with journalism
      B) A Master's in something to do with public health
      C) A Doctorate in something to do with special education

      (Clearly, I don't actually know what Shannon's degree is, but it has a lot of words).

      C. Only two words. Doctorate in “Disability Disciplines.”

      But the title of my dissertation is ridiculously long!

      I feel like I can commit that to memory. "Disability Disciplines." The alliteration helps. Consider it done. Now that you mention it, I remember that it's your dissertation that has the long title.

      I know you're very humble, and you don't go around boasting of this accomplishment, so I will do it for you. I think it's incredible.

      7. Which restaurant gives Shannon the twitches?

      A) Costa Vida
      B) Zupa's
      C) Chick-Fil-A

      B) Zupa's

      Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the food at Zupa’s, but the ordering system literally brings out the worst in me. I often do NOT go there because I can’t handle the ordering system. On the average, I turn down 27 offers for desserts and soup and tell at least 5 different members of the staff what I ordered by the time I get to the register. And, morally, I just can’t get behind paying $10+ dollars for their salads..they’re too small for that price!

      I could go for a pesto chicken sandwich right now. You're right, though, Shannon. The ordering process at Zupa's could definitely be improved.

      You feel about Zupa's the way that I feel about IKEA. Zupa's is your IKEA. IKEA is my Zupa's.

      And FYI, I could eat at Costa Vida every day.  LOVE!

      Shannon, do you realize that we've never eaten at Costa Vida together? How can this be? Actually, I know how it can be. There isn't a Costa Vida close by.

      8. Which reality show does Shannon loathe?

      A) Dancing with the Stars
      B) The Voice
      C) Fixer Upper

      B. The Voice

      I’ve even given it a chance, but the bromance between Adam and Blake is puke (You guys, she really doesn't like Blake Shelton). And they put waaaayyyy too many fillers in the show for my taste. And Carson Daly as a host is flat and everyone else overuses the term “artist.”  Next time you watch an episode, make a tick mark for every time they use the word artist when they talk to the contestants. They go on and on with furrowed brows and strained elaborations about the quest of “being/becoming an artist.”

      Hmmm... I'm intrigued and must now watch The Voice just for this activity!

      I sound like such a brat, but I am passionate about my loathing of The Voice! I am a fan of DWTS though. I love ballroom dancing/dancing (again see Brittany’s post about our desire to be mascots). And Fixer Upper is great. Joanna & Chip are adorable, love their style.

      I've never watched Fixer Upper. I had to google "shiplap" the first time I heard the word.

      9. Which of these movie characters does Shannon share a name with?




      B) Doc Brown

      Brittany, you flatter me, bringing up all my academic endeavors. I do shy away from being called “Dr. Brown” for sure. Just call me Shannon. Or Sporty Spice.

      I'm just giving you an active-constructive response because I am so proud of you for finishing your PhD this year. I'm glad I got to meet you in time to see you cross that finish line. I really like that you are Doc Brown because Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies. It would be cooler if you were Marty McFly, but you win some, you lose some.

      10. Which possession of Shannon's am I most jealous of?

      A) Her vast collection of PiYo DVDs
      B) Her GMC pick-up
      C) Her pantry

      Hmmmmm...maybe all three of these? But, most currently, definitely, C) my pantry. I’m jealous of it too, and I own it! It’s so great and functional! It is delightful to me that it lovingly houses and watches over all of my food and that I have walk-in access.

      You guys. Her pantry! It's amazing. It's more than just a closet for food - it's a room for food, and it has a counter and electrical outlets so she can use her appliances in there.

      FYI: I no longer get DVDs for PiYo...all the instructor videos are now downloaded/streamed! Which I don’t like. Not having the actual DVD gives me anxiety and an insecure feeling, like how Apple started eliminating DVD/CD drives from their computers a few years ago. What the heck?!

      Change is hard.  

      11. Which of these is NOT one of Shannon's mantras?

      A) Chicken nuggets are life.
      B) Proper footwear is everything.
      C) Setting people up for success is crucial.

      A) "Chicken nuggets are life" is not one of my mantras

      I strongly believe that setting people up for success is everything. I struuuuuuggle when I feel that others (or myself) are set up to fail. I just as passionately believe in proper footwear. Everyone in the world is wearing non-functional shoes, and then they have terrible health problems later. Years ago I had an 8th grade student show up for a sevenish-mile hike wearing Old Navy flip-flops and I lost faith in humanity for a time. People need to take care of their feet. Is anyone listening to me?!

      We are advocates of setting people up for success, for sure.

      When it comes to shoes, though, I have to hide my stash from Shannon. She would be ashamed of me. I could easily walk sevenish miles in Old Navy flip-flops, but I might not hike in them (depends on the terrain). I've done ten miles at Disneyland in dollar flip-flops. But here's why - I've never found shoes that feel good. ALL shoes hurt my feel. Last year I spent almost $200 on a pair of high quality shoes with insoles, and my feet felt the same in those as they do in my cheap shoes. I haven't found any shoes that are right for me yet.

      12. What is our favorite 'S' word?

      A) Serendipity
      B) Synchronicity
      C) Salami

      B) Synchronicity

      It’s everywhere!

      Shannon introduced me to the term, and it is one of those words that I have been so grateful for because it describes something that I experience all the time ("meaningful coincidences") but never knew what to call.
      13. Which meal have we NOT shared together?

      A) Burgers, green beans, and onion rings from The Habit
      B) All-you-can-eat French toast at Kneaders
      C) Gyros, root beer, and fries from Crown Burgers

      C) Gyros, root beer, and fries from Crown Burgers

      We need to dine together soon! I want this menu experience (and the big sandwich!). #foodislife

      Shannon is unsure of gyros because she doesn't like pita bread, but she wants to give it a shot. The big sandwich is from Groves Market. I like the seafood one, but I think we discussed at one point that the seafood sandwich wouldn't be your choice, is that right, Shannon? It has imitation crab, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and avocado on it... and ohmygosh what am I doing still sitting here? I need to go get a sandwich!


      I’d also like to take a moment to publicly thank Brittany for introducing me to JDawgs. I can confirm to anyone that her taste in food is top notch, even though she doesn’t care much for soup. #howcanyounotlikesoup

      I like soup, but I'm picky about it. It's because I had a medical issue that landed me in the ER twice in one week, and both times I threw up soup. It forever changed me. For a while, I couldn't eat any soup, but the more time passes, the more soup I allow back into my life.

      14. What obligation do we gripe about the most?

      A) Having to do a full groom cycle
      B) Having to haul multiple bags to church
      C) Having to cook dinner

      A) The grooming cycle! All the way.

      I honestly don’t know how some women engage in a full grooming cycle EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. (full shower + shower grooming events, shampoo & condition, make-up, dry & style hair, and fully dressed from head to toe with all the layers women wear, etc). It’s a solid day when I do ALL of these things...most often, though, I mix and maybe a full shower but no hair wash or make-up. Or maybe make-up and fully dressed from head to toe, but skip the shower and hair altogether. I had a friend in college who got up at 4:30am every day (M-F AND Sundays) for the full grooming cycle. I thought she was insane.

      Don’t get me wrong, I care about how I present point is that I am a failure when it comes to [daily] doing ALL that the full groom cycle requires!

      The people who read this should know that Brittany and I celebrate whenever one ofus engages in the full grooming cycle. We make a point to tell each other when it happens because, for us, it’s a big accomplishment! #adultingishard

      I think the reason I struggle so much with doing a full groom cycle is because there are so many things I'd rather do. I want to be clean, presentable, and well-dressed, but when it comes down to it, there are just too many other things I can spend my time on. I'm not saying those things are "productive" - sometimes I would rather stare at a wall than blow dry my hair. Think of all the money we save by not wearing make-up, Shannon. It's economically wise to not do a full grooming cycle daily.

      15. What is our most-used hashtag?

      A) #donny4ever
      B) #poopwins
      C) #respectthemiles

      B) #poopwins

      I have always believed that bathrooming takes precedence over anything and everything. Like when the Solar Eclipse 2017 hype was taking place in August, my first thought was not about how amazing the solar eclipse is and how I would see it in my lifetime...instead my thoughts immediately went to how to bathroom large crowds of people. You can’t just get thousands of people together for more than an hour and expect order and cleanliness…you can’t even do that with ten people...

      This goes back to your mantra of setting people up for success. Being able to go to the bathroom comfortably and efficiently is crucial.

      ...also, Brittany and I have shared many life experiences (and continue to have many) that fall under the category of #poopwins. I won’t go into it, but feel free to ask us about why we use this hastag when you see us in person.

      I can expound on this a little bit. There are a lot of times in life when you have to drop everything because poop takes priority. For example, a diaper blow-out (#poopwins). Also, last week my child stepped in dog poop and then got in the van. There was poop everywhere (#poopwins). Poop has a way of taking precedence over all other things.

      And #respectthemiles has become so meaningful for me that Brittany gifted me a ring with the hashtag inscripted on it. A thoughtful friend indeed!


      And thus ends this edition of Shannon & Brittany's Most Excellent Friendship Quiz. Like a Marvel movie, I've left it open for sequels.

      Go Centennial Park Ward!