Back to Blogging and Tiny Steps Towards Family History Work

Well, I’m back.  I am so sorry to be such a flip-flopper!!  I thought that if I wrote a blog post actually saying that I was quitting my blog (as opposed to just stopping without saying anything), it would bring some closure…but it hasn’t.  It’s only been a little more than a week since I wrote that post and every day since then, I’ve found myself thinking about something that I would write on my blog if I was still writing it.  Instead of feeling relieved, I’ve just felt sad, like I just said goodbye to my best friend.  I do feel like this blog is my friend, and I also feel like the people I interact with through the blog are my friends.  But I had let it become a stress, and I had started wondering if it was the best use of my time, especially with the new things I am trying to do now like “learn Spanish” and “declutter my house.”

This morning however, I read something from General Conference that I really want to share.  It has everything to do with my post about tiny goals.  And so I began thinking seriously about opening my blog again.  But this time with a smaller approach, and less stress on myself to make it “perfect” (whatever that means, right?).

These past few weeks my family has been getting excited about Family History.  The excitement is led by my husband, who loves history and especially learning about his (and my) ancestors.  He is a teacher, and it has been snowing a lot with below-freezing temperatures, so school has been out and the whole family has been home a lot.  (Yep, I live in one of those areas where everything closes down for snow).  My husband’s past-time through all of this has been to learn about our ancestry and tell us all the stories he has found out.

Well, Family History is something I know I should be doing, but every time I start, I get overwhelmed by it, and feel stuck because I don’t know exactly what to do to get from point A to point B.  Yesterday, church was cancelled (once again due to the weather) and my oldest daughter (11 years old) asked me if I would show her how to do Family History. So I opened up my Family Search account and started explaining things to her.

Then I opened up Facebook to see that one of my friends was sharing that they had accepted the #templechallenge.  In a moment of enthusiasm, I quickly shared the post announcing that my family accepts the challenge too.  And then I panicked.  All kinds of questions came to mind, like “what did I just say I would do, again?”  and “is this even possible?”  I said a silent prayer that I would be shown just the next step, and later my daughter asked if I would set up a Family History account for her.  Then we started filling out the on-line booklet for her, and even though I couldn’t see exactly how doing this was going to get us names to take to the temple, I felt it was a good step to take.

This morning, as I read from the General Conference addresses (making sure I finish them before April!), I read Elder Allan F. Packer’s talk about Family History.  One thing he said was,

“However, there is one obstacle the Church cannot remove.  It is an individual’s hesitation to do the work.  All it requires is a decision and a little effort.  It does not require a large block of time.  Just a little time on a consistent basis will yield the joy of the work.  Make the decision to take a step, to learn and ask others to help you.  They will!  The names you find and take to the temple will become the records for ‘the book.'”

See, tiny steps work!  They have really been working for me.  Recently I’ve been thinking in terms of small steps for so many things, and feel a lot more productive and balanced.  I also feel more motivated, because I’ve removed the major obstacle of feeling overwhelmed.  So, now I know to apply the same principle to Family History work.  The key is to be consistent about the small steps, and that’s when the effort starts to add up.

And here I am at the end of my blog post, and I have to say that I really enjoyed writing all of this.  Once again, I apologize for making an announcement, and then taking it back.  I’m not sure that’s exactly fair to my readers, but sometimes when I’m feeling indecisive about something, I just need to make a decision and start following through with it.  In this case, doing so helped me to see that the decision was not the right one for me (at least at this time), and so I feel more confident in my decision to stick with blogging.  Does that make sense?

As always, thanks so much for reading!  Also, what steps have you taken that have helped with doing Family History work?

Time to Say Goodbye…(at least for now)

The time has come for me to discontinue writing on my blog; at least for awhile, maybe longer.  I loved writing it for the time that I did, but time changes things, and my focus needs to change now too.  I’m actually pretty excited about life ahead of me now.  For a long time I felt like I was in such a slump; that so much of what is exciting about life was behind me.  I really feel that taking the time to write has renewed my perspective, which I am so grateful for.

But what I love best is that this blog has given me a place to share my testimony of the Savior and the Lord’s love for me and each of us.  His love is the single thing that I am most grateful for and everything else that is good in life is just an extension of that love.

This was not an easy decision for me to make, but I am confident it is the right one…at least for now.  Thanks so much for all of the support — and to my other WordPress friends out there, I just want to say thank you so much for your efforts to post uplifting things for people like me to read.  I love reading your blogs, and plan to continue doing so!

Thankful Thursday – Things That Made Me Smile This Month

Happy Thankful Thursday! Today I’m grateful for things that made me smile this month:

1.  Reading the Frog & Toad book to my 5 yr-old.  I just love the simple quirkiness of these two friends, and I always smile when I read their stories.

2.  I bought some cara cara oranges for the first time ever this month.  One child of mine, who is not a huge fan of many fruits, and who has not wanted to eat the cutie oranges I usually buy, ate the *new* orange and then asked for seconds!  Then said, “can you buy these again?  They are good!” 

DSC00043

3.  My current calling is in nursery, and I couldn’t help smiling when a small child, initially reluctant to part from her dad, was more willing when I offered to hold her for a bit.  These little ones are so cute and so sweet!

4.  Eating Coconut Curry Chicken after a long day of fasting on Fast Sunday.

5.  A surprise snow day. Here in Virginia, it doesn’t snow a whole lot, so it’s always an event if it does.  And we almost always get out of school for it too.  One morning, as I awoke early in the AM, and groggily set out to get my kids up, I noticed out the window that my car and driveway had a blanket of snow.  I said to my husband, “Did you know it was going to snow?”  He normally keeps a good eye on the weather, but had not heard about this, so it was a surprise to both of us!  Then the phone rang with the message school was out.  So, all of a sudden I was off the hook for my whole (not-so-pleasant) early morning routine of waking kids, helping them with breakfast, packing lunches, and keeping them on track so they don’t miss the bus.  Instead, I got to enjoy some quiet time before they all woke up on their own.  I loved it!  It definitely made me smile.

DSC00069

6.  And, speaking of being up earlier than everyone, this past Saturday I woke up super early and went grocery shopping while everyone was still in bed.  I don’t get go to the store by myself very often, even though I find it a bit stressful to take people with me.  It was a big shopping trip, I found myself pausing more than once to just enjoy the fact that I was there completely on my own!

7.  The sky, with so many different variations really makes me happy.  I love the different colors in the morning and evening, and the clouds in various shapes and shades.  One day as I was crossing a bridge I could see fog in the distance.  But it was unique, because I could actually see clear sky above it.  Another time I walked outside in the evening to take my kids to their church activities.  It seemed so much darker than normal to me, and then I realized it was because there was complete cloud cover with no moon or stars out.  A different night, we left at the same time with clear skies and it was so much brighter!  (I live in the country, without much man-made light, so I can really notice stuff like this, and I am amazed at how much light the moon and stars actually give).

8.  Pictures my daughter drew.  I just love these pictures (and other similar ones that she draws)!

DSC00103

9.  Comments and likes on my blog.  I always smile when I see someone has taken the time to comment on or like a post, and it was true this month too.  Thank you!!

Tiny Goals

When setting my goals for this year, one thing I noticed was that I had very little stress or self-doubt about my ability to complete the “scripture reading goals” that I set.  This is a new feeling for me, because ever since I started recording my goals on my blog, I have had to post time and time again that in the end I did not complete what I set out to do.  So, when setting my goals this year, I definitely felt some hesitation…a sense of will I complete them this time?  But not so with the scripture reading goals.  Instead, with these there was a feeling of excitement and confidence.  So, being analytically-minded as I am, of course I had to think about why.  And I came up with two reasons:

  1. I’m in the habit of reading my scriptures every night.  So, it’s just a matter of what I will read during that time.
  2. I have completed a similar goal in the past (reading the Old Testament along with the Institute Manual) and not only was I successful, but I really enjoyed it.

How My Scripture Reading Habit Got Started

With all of this reflection, my mind wandered back in time to when I first developed the habit of reading my scriptures.  I was just about to have my 12th birthday, and in my church at age 12 children start attending youth classes instead of children’s classes.  As the day approached, my older sister said to me, “when you go to Young Women, you will have to read your scriptures every day.”  And she was right.  The Young Women President had put up a chart and every Sunday we reported how many days we read our scriptures.

In response to this new requirement, every night I picked up my sister’s scriptures and read exactly one verse (I used hers because she had some verses marked).  Then on Sundays I proudly reported that I read my scriptures for 7 days that week.  It wasn’t until later when I spent that night at my friends house and noticed that she read a full chapter a day, that I realized that maybe the amount I was reading was a little small.  After that, I increased my reading to a full chapter per day.  Over time, I studied the scriptures more formally through Seminary, Sunday School, Institute, and on my mission.  I not only learned to understand better what I was reading, but also found that I really enjoy studying them.  But no matter what, I have always kept the habit to make sure that I read something every single day.

My point is this:  It has been more years than I’m willing to say since my 12th birthday.  A major reason that I have stuck with this habit over the years is because I started small…not just small, but tiny.  I never felt over-whelmed by it, or too tired, or even too bored.  No matter what else was going on, I could always find the time and motivation to read a verse.  And the result was consistency that has definitely paid off over the years.

Defining Tiny Goals

So, especially in thinking about my health goals and I how I have been up-and-down, back-and-forth, and all-over-the-place with my eating habits, I’m finally admitting to myself that I’m trying to start too big.  I’m always trying to “make-over” mine (and my family’s) eating habits in one big swoop.  It never works and I always end up feeling like I’m a failure.

This is when I began thinking, how small of a goal could I set that would move me towards the big goal?  And then I thought of the fact that my first goal to read scriptures wasn’t just small, but it was tiny.  And that’s how the idea of “tiny goals” was born.

This is how I define Tiny Goals:

  1. Achieving it moves me in a concrete way towards the bigger goal.
  2. It is simple and clear.
  3. I have very little resistance to doing it.

Setting My Tiny Goals

As a result, I have set several Tiny Goals, so that I can work on all 2015 goals at once.  Here they are:

  • Eat at least one fruit or vegetable with breakfast and lunch (serving-amount doesn’t matter)
  • Eat at least two fruits and/or vegetables with dinner (serving-amount doesn’t matter)
  • Do some exercise everyday (amount or length of time doesn’t matter)
  • Complete one reading lesson with my 5-yr old every day (except Sundays)
  • Get rid of or put away 3 things from my bedroom every day (except Sundays)
  • Study some Spanish vocabulary every day (except Sundays)
  • Read something from the New Testament, Isaiah, General Conference, or Ezra T. Benson book every day

Aren’t they tiny?  I actually started these goals on Jan 5, and I’m amazed at how well I have done with them.  Not 100%, but I’m really satisfied!  And I’ve noticed that some days all I can do is the bare minimum, while other days I find myself doing much more.

So, I’m really excited and very hopeful that I can make some progress.

When have you had success with setting small (or tiny) goals?

Recipe: Coconut-Curry Chicken

I made this Coconut Curry Chicken on Sunday for my family and it really hit the spot!  The recipe comes from my sister-in-law who is a great cook.  She has enjoyed eating a dish called “Chicken Panang” at a Thai Restaurant, and was determined to learn how to make it at home.  So after a little research she found this recipe from “Real Simple Magazine.”

Ever since my college days I have loved curry, and when she first shared this recipe with me, I wondered what adding coconut milk would do to the flavor.  Well, I found out that it doesn’t taste *coconutty* at all, but instead it just lightens up the curry flavor, making it better.  I still love regular curry too, but I really love this dish!

DSC00041

Coconut Curry Chicken

For the sauce:

  • 1 can coconut milk (light or regular)
  • 2-1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2-1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Combine above ingredients in a small bowl.

Then, in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat, add:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (heat for 30 seconds)
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more if you like spicy, up to 1 tsp)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp curry powder
    • Stir-fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds

Add the coconut-milk mixture and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 1-1/2 minutes.  If you prefer, you may make the sauce ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the dish.

For the Rice and Stir-Fry:

  • 3 cups uncooked Jasmine rice (or your favorite rice)
  • 4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, cut into circles (optional – not part of the original recipe, but I like adding them)

Prepare rice as directed.

Stir-fry chicken in a little olive oil over medium high heat until cooked through.  Remove from pan.

Stir-fry the carrot slices for about 2 minutes.  Add the bell pepper slices and stir-fry until tender-crisp.

Return chicken to pan and add sauce.

Heat through and serve over rice.

————————

If you like curry there is a good chance you will like this dish. It is one of my favorites!

note:  I have made a few minor changes to the original recipe. 

My 2015 Goals

I have actually been spending the past couple of months in a great debate within my own mind.  The debate being, “do I want to keep blogging?” and “do I like sharing my goals and my experiences so openly?”  So, what I decided to do is to finish what I started for 2014, and then make a new decision for the New Year.

And now, here I am in a new year, with new goals, and I’m still feeling some *blogging hesitancy*, but I’ve decided to just continue on.  I do like blogging…it’s different than writing in a personal journal.  For one thing, there is an actual audience to write to, even though I never know from one post to another exactly who the audience will be.  This is definitely helpful in my efforts to write well, and to be clear about what I want to accomplish.

I also love the interaction of blogging…reading other blogs, and getting to know a little bit about other people.  In doing this I like knowing that they can come to my blog and know something about me as well.  I could still read my favorite blogs without my own, of course, but I think I like it better this way.  So for now, I’m going to continue on with what I’m doing and see what 2015 brings!

Now – onto my goals.  I’m doing it a bit differently this year.  In addition to 3 personal goals, I’ve set some in a few other areas of my life as well.

Personal Goals:

  1. Take better care of my health (yep – a repeat from last year!!)
  2. Declutter my house (starting with my own bedroom)
  3. Improve my Spanish speaking and comprehension skills

Blogging Goals:

  1. Write a “Thankful Thursday” post once per month
  2. Include at least 8 of my favorite recipes (with pictures, of course!)
  3. Write about each of my “Personal Goals” at least once a quarter, and other goals listed on this page occasionally

Scripture Reading Goals:

(You can see that I’m breaking the “rule of 3” here.  But I’m confident that I can do this, and I really want to.)

  1. Read the entire New Testament (and some commentary from the Institute Manuals, and other resources)
  2. Read all of the talks from the previous General Conference before the next one
  3. Read the entire manual for Relief Society (Presidents of the Church – Ezra Taft Benson) before the end of the year (I have always read some lessons, but have never actually read every single one!)
  4. Read the book of Isaiah from the Old Testament along with additional commentary about it

Other Goals:

I have also set some family-type goals.  I decided these should be kept private, except for one:  I want to teach my youngest daughter to read using this book by the end of April.  She will start school in September, but she’s already 5 so I think she can do it.  And I feel like it will be good for her moral to be able to read a bit on her own.

“Set high goals for yourself, and be willing to work hard to achieve them.” –from: For the Strength of Youth, 2011 {click picture to view source}

I’m really excited about the fresh focus these {mostly} new goals bring.  I can’t wait to share what I’m doing and learning, and to hear what others are doing and learning as well 🙂 !

What I Learned This Year From my Goals

Today is the last day of 2014!  I figure I’ll close out the year by stating a few things I learned/observed as I focused on my goals this year.

Listening to my family:

1- First off, I learned that people definitely value being listened to!  I could tell this from the reactions from my kids and husband as I did (and sometimes didn’t) listen well to them.  But also from my sister who had to have her thyroid removed earlier this year.  So many people did kind things for her and her family to help out, but she told me more than once that what she appreciated (and still appreciates) the most is when people take the time to listen to her talk about what she is experiencing.

2- I also learned however, that listening can be very difficult thing to do,  It doesn’t seem like it should be, but it requires being in complete control of our thoughts which takes a lot of self discipline!  It also requires some selflessness to channel our thoughts in the direction of another person’s interest rather than our own.  I still feel like I am struggling so much with this, but I plan to keep on practicing…even into 2015!

3- The final thing I observed is that listening is so much easier when people are talking about something I am interested in.  So, while it is necessary to sometimes let people talk about something on their mind, even if I am not personally interested, often what a person wants is to just talk.  In these cases I have found that I can actively look for common ground with the person and have a conversation about that.  For example, at dinner I have learned that rather letting everyone talk randomly about what is on their minds (which often ends up being senseless giggling or joking, or worse – arguing), instead to suggest a specific topic such as, “Let’s go around the table and everyone tell what they were doing at 11:00 am.”  Everyone gets a turn to talk, (there is less giggling and arguing), and I get to listen to things that I genuinely want to know.

Taking Better Care of My Health

1- If I eat junk, I crave more junk.  If I eat good food, I crave more good food…and the desire for junk food decreases significantly.

2- It takes a fair amount of fore-thought combined with self-discipline to go to bed early enough for a good night’s sleep.  It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard.  I’m so tired by the end of the day, going to sleep ought to be the easiest thing in the world…but I have definitely learned that if I want it to happen as early as it should, I have to be very conscientious about it.

3- I also learned that my 5 yr-old is an excellent exercise instructor! 🙂  One day she was adamant that she did not want me to use the TV to play an exercise DVD, and informed me that she would teach me instead.  She really got me moving (and herself too)!  And it was a fun activity for both of us.

Time Management:

1- I learned that I do not like being constantly busy.  I’ve been battling this idea all year, because part of me feels if I am not busy then I am being idle.  But I’m starting to think that maybe there is a difference between being “still” and being “idle.”  I think the key is balance – I do like to be (and need to be) busy most of the time, but allowing myself to be still sometimes too is something that I think is really beneficial.

2- I also don’t like never-ending to do lists.  If I write down everything on my mind to do, the list is very long and impossible to finish!  I’ve written so many lists like this, and recently I just quit doing it.  Instead, I’m making lists of what absolutely has to be done right away.  All of the other stuff I’m just trying to do as the opportunity arises.

3- And, finally I learned that the Rule of 3 works for me!  After reading the book “Getting Results the Agile Way” by J.D. Meier earlier this year, I’ve discovered that his suggestion of grouping goals into 3’s is great.  Not only did I find it less complicated to have 3 goals for the year instead of 5, but I’ve found it helpful in other ways too.  For example on Fast Sunday I always have more than one thing or person I want to fast for, so I have found that choosing three things to focus on each time feels just right.  In fact, whenever I really need to focus, 3 often seems to be the right number of things to focus on.

So that’s it for 2014!  I think I learned some good things from my efforts…however imperfect they may have been.  Tomorrow will be a new year and a fresh start.  And I can’t wait to share my 2015 goals in the coming week or so!

What did you learn from your goals this past year?