Archive | February 2014

8 Reasons to “Be of Good Cheer!” (from the scriptures)

A few weeks ago, in my personal scripture study time, I decided to look up the word “cheer” in the topical guide and read all of the scriptures I found there.  I was interested to discover that many of the verses that include the phrase “be of good cheer” also include a reason to do so.  Since one of my resolutions for this year is to “be of good cheer” more, I decided to record these reasons here on my blog.

(Note:  the reason to “be of good cheer” is in bold, and also provides a link to the scripture at lds.org.  If you hover over the link, you will see the exact verses I am quoting.)

1.  “And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

2.  “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.  And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.  And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.  But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; It is I; be not afraid.

3.  And now, verily I say unto you, and what I say unto one I say unto all, be of good cheer, little children; for I am in your midst and I have not forsaken you; And inasmuch as you have humbled yourselves before me, the blessings of the kingdom are yours.”

4.  “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.

5.  Verily, verily, I say unto you, ye are little children, and ye have not as yet understood how great blessings the Father hath in his own hands and prepared for you; And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.”  The kingdom is yours and the blessings thereof are yours, and the riches of eternity are yours.  And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.

6.  “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

7.  And now, my beloved brethren, seeing that our merciful God has given us so great knowledge concerning these things, let us remember him, and lay aside our sins, and not hang down our heads, for we are not cast off; nevertheless, we have been driven out of the land of our inheritance; but we have been led to a better land . . . .  For behold, the Lord God has led away from time to time from the house of Israel, according to his will and pleasure.  And now behold, the Lord remembereth all them who have been broken off, wherefore he remembereth us also.  Therefore, cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves – to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life.

8.  Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.  Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world. . . .

My thoughts:

One thing that I noticed, (and maybe you noticed too) is that every time a reason to “be of good cheer” is given in the scriptures, that reason centers on the Savior.  The fact that He lives and that He fulfilled His mission on earth.  The fact that He knows each one of us individually, and understands us better than anyone else.  The fact that He cares about how we feel and what we are experiencing in life, and knows how to help us in every situation.  And the fact that He made it possible for us to live with Him and our Heavenly Father again in the next life!  What we really need in order to “be of good cheer” is faith in the Savior.

I experienced this a little bit this week.  I had a problem to solve that normally causes me a lot of anxiety.  But this time, although I did feel a some anxiety about it, I was able to keep those feelings under control.  Instead of complaining, I prayed and expressed confidence that the Lord would help me know what I should do.  I think this was a good step for me.  While I wasn’t super smiley, I wasn’t upset either.  Maybe next time I can even do a little better, and show more optimism and confidence in a similar situation.  I think remembering that the Lord is there to “lead me along” (see #5 above) is key.

I love this quote that I read in the Ensign.

“Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments.  There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.

“My beloved brothers and sister, fear not.  Be of good cheer.  The future is as bright as your faith.”

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One Source of Negative Emotions (in regards to work)

In this post from two days ago I spoke of how I cried when I didn’t do the weekly review like I said I would.  While I feel a little silly admitting that, I think that it was a good way to explain the negative emotions that I feel when I don’t follow through with schedules I create for myself.  In all reality the tears weren’t just about one weekly review that I failed to do.  It was simply one more example of myself saying that I would do one thing, and then actually doing something else – and I felt bad about myself as a result.

In his book, David Allen speaks of these negative emotions.  He tells that when people initially go through his process of collecting and processing their “stuff,” that they tend to feel some negative things.  Here are some of the words he uses to describe these feelings – “overwhelm, panic, frustration, fatigue, and disgust.”  I would say these describe very well my own feelings concerning my work, and that these are the feelings that led me to set thetime management goal in the first place.

David Allen does a great job of explaining the source of these negative emotions.  On page 226-227 of his book, he says this:

“Where do the not-so-good feelings come from?  Too much to do?  No, there’s always too much to do.  If you felt bad simply because there was more to do than you could do, you’d never get rid of that feeling.  Having too much to do is not the source of the negative feeling.  It comes from a different place.

“How have you felt when someone broke an agreement with you?  Told you they would meet you Thursday at 4:00pm and never showed or called?  How did that feel?  Frustrating, I imagine.  The price people pay when they break agreements in the world is the disintegration of trust in the relationship – a negative consequence.

“But what are all those things in your in-basket?  Agreements you’ve made with yourself.  Your negative feelings are simply the result of breaking those agreements – they’re the symptoms of disintegrated self-trust.  If you tell yourself to draft a strategic plan, when you don’t do it, you’ll feel bad.  Tell yourself to get organized, and if you fail to, welcome to guilt and frustration.  Resolve to spend more time with your kids and don’t – voila! anxious and overwhelmed.

“If the negative feelings come from broken agreements, you have three options for dealing with them and eliminating the negative consequences.

  1. Don’t make the agreement
  2. Complete the agreement
  3. Renegotiate the agreement

“All of these can work to get rid of the unpleasant feelings.”

When I was praying about what to do in my situation, I really wasn’t thinking of these three choices.  But some time after I received the prompting that “I needed to stop trying to put my life in a box” I remembered them.  I could see what a simple and amazing solution this really could be – to stop making agreements with myself to complete routines and schedules that I clearly do not want to keep.  I have to say that, even though it has been just a little while since I let go of trying to be so structured, that already I feel so much more relaxed in my work!

Another concept to think about is the proper use of the calendar.  In the “Getting Things Done” system, the calendar is only to be used for “time specific tasks” and “day-specific tasks” (i.e. appointments).  Lots of people write stuff on their calendars that don’t absolutely have to be done on that day or at that time.  According to Mr. Allen, doing this causes internal confusion.  Our brains know that we don’t really have to do it that day, so we start skipping stuff that we see written there, potentially causing us to miss something that really does have to be done at a specific time.

Even though I do not actually write my routines or schedules that I create on the calendar, I do tend to treat them the same way – requiring in my own mind that something be done on a specific day or time, when in reality it doesn’t have to be done then.  My brain knows this, and responds by putting up resistance.  So that’s another point in favor of letting go of the self-created schedules.

But you may be asking, what about the “Weekly Review?”  I’ve been giving this some thought; I really do like the system Mr. Allen describes.  He recommends using a calendar and action lists instead of schedules, which provide structure and flexibility simultaneously.  His “weekly review” really is the only thing he suggests that falls outside of this.  So, for now I’m still trying to do it on Mondays (but not at any specified time).  I still don’t love it, and I’m working out some of the kinks; but I haven’t decided (at least at this point) to completely abandon it.

 

2 Simple Solutions for Those Who Struggle to Keep Schedules and Routines

schedules and routines (green)A few weeks ago, I opened up a folder titled “time and task management” in my personal computer, and I was amazed at how many different schedules and routines that I had saved there!  Later, I pulled out a hanging file folder labeled “time management,” and was amazed at what I had also collected there.  (The picture to the left is a sample so you can see what I’m talking about.)*  This is very tangible evidence to me of the efforts I’ve been making (for years!) to become more organized about how I spend my time.

And yet, I’m obviously not where I want to be or “manage my time better” wouldn’t be one of my 2014 goals.

Yesterday I wrote about how I was so discouraged with myself for not doing the “weekly review,” and how I prayed for help with my tendency to not do the things I plan to.  When I prayed, the first thing that I noticed was that I began to feel more peaceful in general.  Then my mind became a little more clear, and I had two thoughts that were helpful:

#1.  Don’t over-organize my day.  Keep the systems that are working for me and add new ones very sparingly. The exact thought I had as I prayed was that I need to stop trying to put my life in a box.  You see, when organizing a space, most people find it helpful to group similar things together in some sort of container – a box, basket, drawer, etc.  Doing this creates order, and speeds up the process of getting things out and putting them away when finished.  Schedules, routines, and lists are designed to do the same thing – to group similar tasks together, and create efficiency in accomplishing these tasks.

But with time as well as with space, it is possible to over-organize.  When we start to become too exact in our placement of stuff, then the organizational system becomes a hindrance instead of a help.  And I think that this is what I’ve been doing.  I already have some routine and schedule in my life that helps everything stay orderly and keep moving the way it should.  So I guess I keep trying to get the rest of my life orderly with the same method.  Only, it starts to feel too restrictive and that is why I don’t want to follow through.

#2.  When I’m feeling non-motivated or distracted, work for short periods of time and reward myself with a break.   The second thought that I had was that I should set my timer for 30 minutes and get to work on something – anything.  It didn’t matter what as long as it was productive.  When the timer went off, I could take a break and do something that I wanted to do for a little bit, but then set the timer again for 30 more minutes of productive work.

A lot of time management experts will talk about finishing a job before moving on to the next one.  But on this day, I completely ignored that advice.  My only goal was to stay productive.  I picked a few things off the floor of my girl’s bedroom and put them away; I sorted some laundry; I washed some dishes; I put away some clean clothes; I pulled a few items out of my in-box and wrote down what I needed to about them.  I finished nothing 100%, but I stayed productive, and I felt like I had accomplished a lot by the end of the day.  (And I really enjoyed my guilt-free breaks too!).

So, that’s pretty much it.  But that’s not all that I have to say about this subject.  David Allen’s book has some really good information about the negative emotions that I was feeling.  I think what he has to say is insightful and relevant, so I will share that in my next post!

*(Just a note:  All of the routines and schedules that I’ve created over the years were inspired by other people.  So, to be fair to them I’m including the source of inspiration for each of the forms in the picture above:  top left, top right (inspired by a friend), bottom left, bottom left middle, bottom right middle (inspired by a different friend), and bottom right.)

Rebellion

It’s official.  I am rebellious.  For most of my life I never would have classified myself this way (and I’m pretty sure most other people would not either).  For the most part, I feel that I meet other’s expectations in my work, and that I’m seen as responsible and dependable.  This is because when I am responsible to someone else (as in an appointment or deadline) I generally do follow through.

But whenever I make an appointment or commitment with only myself, I find again and again that the rebellious part of me shows up.

Let me give you some examples:

Example #1

A few years ago I committed to myself that I would do all of the laundry one day a week, on Mondays.  Do you want to know how many times I actually did that?  None.  That’s right.  I fully completed the task zero days.  I tried and tried.  I recommitted myself so many times.  But every week, the same thing would happen; I would lack motivation to get started as early as I needed to, and I would lack motivation to follow through for the entire day.  Finally, I gave up the one-day-per-week idea, and now try to do some every day (or so).  It’s still far from perfect, but it’s better.

Example #2

I used to enjoy reading organizing/housekeeping books, and one of these that I read was the Flylady’s book.  In it, she describes a system based on routines and working for short periods of time (using the timer) to conquer the never-ending housework-type responsibilities.  I got so excited when I read her suggestions, and promptly went to work to establish my routines.  But after the excitement wore off, I stopped following through.  Some days there was a valid reason, such as an early appointment or an interruption by my small children.  But other days, there was no reason at all, except my own self not wanting to follow the routine.

Example #3

As you know, I’m trying to follow David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” system.  One thing that is required for his system to work is the “Weekly Review.”  I had set aside Monday mornings for my this, and for about 3-4 weeks now, I’ve done it.  But on this Monday, when it was time to do it, I felt the familiar resistance building up inside myself.  Half of me was saying, “I have got to do this review!”  while the other half was saying “I don’t wanna and I ain’t gonna!”

The first two examples (and plenty more!) have been enough to cause me to suspect that I am rebellious when it comes to deadlines and timelines that I assign for myself.  But this third experience confirmed my suspicions to be true – I am definitely rebellious.

You see, time has shown me that:

  • If I set a schedule for myself, I will not keep it.
  • If I establish a routine, I will not follow it.
  • If I write a list of 4 or 5 most important things to accomplish today, I will not do them.

Every time I decide to get organized about the stuff I need to do, I sabotage my own efforts with my rebelliousness.

This has obviously been something that I’ve been dealing with for a long time, and for the most part, I’ve been able to get along despite this personal “flaw.”  But the experience with my weekly review was significant to me because I felt like doing this one thing is a major part of being able to keep my 2014 goal to manage my time better.  It is such an important part of the “Getting Things Done” system.  So, needless to say, I was very discouraged and unhappy with myself for failing to do it when I said that I would.

So guess what I did?

  • I cried (yes, I’m serious).
  • I prayed.

After this, I felt calmer, and also felt like I received a solution to this situation that fits my needs.  Something simple, do-able, and it even allows for some time for me!  Do you want to know what it is?

Check back tomorrow, and I will tell you!

My Meal Planning Template

Well, I’ve done it.  I created a template for meal planning that makes sense to me.  Doing this actually reminds me of a conversation I had with a friend once a few years ago.  I was complaining that organizing books didn’t have a piece of information that I felt would be helpful to me in my organizational efforts.  My friend said (essentially), “You write it then.  You could figure it out, and then be the one to write about it.”   So, I’m sort of taking her advice now and writing my own solution to my meal-time planning woes.

Here it goes:  I learned from USDA’s Super Tracker that based on my age, gender, weight, and physical activity that I need between 1800 and 2000 calories per day.  The program then breaks this calorie need into the different food groups.  My recommendations are this:

Serving sizes chart

The site gives details as to how much of each group equals an ounce or a cup.  If you are interested, you can see that here.

At our house we usually eat 3 meals per day plus one snack in the afternoon.  In the past I have attempted to create a template similar to what I’m posting today, but the snacks have always made it difficult for me to do.  This is because I like to eat different food groups for my snack on different days.  For example one day might be apples with peanut butter, while another day might be yogurt with granola or pecans.  You can see that they don’t fit neatly into a plan.

This time I decided to leave out the snack in my plan.  Instead, I’m simply dividing the suggested amounts for each food group between the 3 main meals, like this:

Menu plan template

These could each potentially be pretty large meals, and it isn’t realistic to think that I will eat (nor my kids) everything that I have listed at every meal.  So the logical thing is to create simple meals based on the plan (but with the freedom to omit portions of it) and then create snacks out of whichever food group was missing earlier in the day.

Some thoughts on fruits and vegetables:

If you are like me, then you are looking at the plan I created and thinking, “Wow, 3 fruits and vegetables at every meal is a lot!”  That’s definitely what I’ve been thinking, and even if you take some out to eat as snacks instead, it’s still more than I’m used to eating.  This is where taking a look at the details on the food tracker has opened my eyes a bit.   Although I know the government is using the “choose my plate” graphic now, most of my life I’ve seen a food pyramid with grains on the bottom, and fruits/vegetables on the next level.  But mayoclinic.com has created a different pyramid with the fruits and vegetables at the bottom, and the grains (they say carbohydrates) on the next level up.  You can see this pyramid (along with others that they’ve created) here.

The following pyramid is one that I created, following the general design of mayoclinic.com, but modifying it slightly to fit my own understanding.

Mayoclinic's pyramid (modified to my understanding)

You can see that the fruits and vegetables make up a larger portion of the overall diet than even the grains.  This idea is new to me, but I’m feeling like this is the concept that I’m needing (wanting?) to understand when deciding what my family will eat at each meal.  Instead of starting my thinking off with the grain and protein (like I tend to do), I think that it would be better to start my thinking with the fruit/vegetable and the grain.

So, there you have it.  A meal plan template that makes sense to me, and it’s helpful in my efforts to explain to my kids what we need to be eating too.  But we’ve still got a long ways to go in actual implementation.

Clover Lane blog post – “Lay it on me again, will you?”

I just read a touching poem about children growing up on another blog that I follow, “Memories on Clover Lane.”   I was browsing through past posts when I saw it, and it brought tears to my eyes.  You can read it here.  It also reminded me of a talk by President Thomas S. Monson a few years ago.  He said,

If you are still in the process of raising children, be aware that the tiny fingerprints that show up on almost every newly cleaned surface, the toys scattered about the house, the piles and piles of laundry to be tackled will disappear all too soon and that you will—to your surprise—miss them profoundly.

I’ve been feeling lately like my own kids are growing up a little too fast.  I thought I would be glad when they hit the ages they are now, but instead I’ve been a little emotional about how fast the time is going by.  This is a good reminder to be grateful for the time I have with my family now, and to not wish the years away.

Meal Planning Woes

If you do a Google search about “meal planning,” you will find a lot of people out there who are more than happy to explain their system for planning what they will eat for dinner each night.  Most plans are pretty similar to each other, although some do have slight variations from the standard method.

But, if you are like me, you will have a very difficult time finding anyone who is explaining how to go about meal planning for breakfast, lunch, and snacks.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  They will provide you with lots of ideas and recipes for what to eat at these meals, especially when it comes to packing lunches for your kids to take to school.  Cyber-land is seriously overflowing with ideas for packing school lunches.  But ideas and recipes just by themselves are not really what I’ve been looking for.

Maybe I’m crazy, but what I have been looking for is a simple system (or template, if you will) for deciding what I will feed my family during the day.  Once I have the template, I can fill it in with ideas and recipes myself.  I already have one for dinner (and most other people do too).  It goes like this:

  • Choose a main dish (usually some combination of meat, sauce, and maybe some vegetables or pasta added to it)
  • Choose a starch as needed (rice, bread, or potato)
  • Choose a vegetable or two to go to the side (fresh, frozen, canned, or a simple salad)

This works great for me in deciding what to put on the dinner for table.  And honestly, I hardly even think about it the concrete terms that I just described; I just simply do it.

However, for some insane reason, breakfast, lunch, and snacks have been more tricky for me to come up with this kind of a template for.  A lot of this has to do with my desire for these meals to be super-quick.  Also, because I put so many sandwiches in packed lunches, at home I try to avoid those.  So, I reach for the boxed cereal (for breakfast), the mac & cheese, or hot dogs, or frozen burritos (for lunch), and the packaged crackers (for snacks).  But I never feel good about serving those things, even with a fruit or vegetable to the side.  So, you can see why for several years now I’ve lived with a stress that stems from both guilt about what I am serving my family combined with lack of knowing really how to do it any different.

In January my family (like many people!) was home a lot more than usual due to snow days.  Since I’m married to a teacher, that includes everyone, and I found this particular stress being pronounced more than usual.  Every time I turned around, someone was saying “I’m hungry; what can I eat?” or worse, after a meal, “I’m still hungry; what else can I eat?”  See, my children are bigger now, and need more food – but they are still pretty particular just like when they were little (that’s also been a long-time stress).

On one of these snow days, I started writing (just like I do sometimes to relieve stress), and I filled up a page front and back very quickly of everything about feeding my family that is stressful to me.  And then I thought, “I have got to do something about this!”  Clearly, what I’m currently doing isn’t working.

As I’ve been writing this, I have remembered that last year I signed up for the USDA’s Super Tracker.  While it was too time consuming for me to continually enter what I was eating, (which is why I did not keep up with it), I suddenly just realized that it can be a great planning tool, at least for a couple of days.  Maybe if I just plan two or three days using this web-site, I could come up with the template that I’m looking for!

Hmm. . .   I think I’ll try it out, and I will let you know!