Thursday, August 21, 2014

Personal Commandments

I am currently reading a wonderful book called "Happier at Home" written by Gretchen Rubin. It is the sequel to her book "The Happiness Project" (which I have actually not read, but want to), and I must tell you it is a wonderful book. It's made me think a lot about the small changes I can make to maximize happiness and peace in my life. I love the way Gretchen writes this book not to be instructions or a guide, but more like a journal of her experiences and a discussion to get you thinking. I like that I don't feel like I am being told the answers to happiness by this book (because the answers aren't the same for everyone), but I AM drawing plenty of inspiration and ideas from her experiences. And sometimes I just plain-old try to copy what I read.

One thing I read about in "Happier at Home" that i want to try and copy is the idea of making your own set of "Personal Commandments". Gretchen details her list of personal commandments in her writing, but it seems to me the personal commandments aren't just goals, and the are more than resolutions. To me, my personal commandments are more like habits that I want to cultivate for the rest of my life. What I love about them is that they are personal. They can be whatever I want them to be. If I want to change them over time, I can, because they are mine! So here is the set of personal commandments (so far):

1. Be Brynn
Gretchen's first commandment is to "Be Gretchen" and what a wonderful thing it is to be yourself and nobody else. So I just want to first and foremost "Be Brynn". I want to act like myself, want thing I want, and not get distracted by trying to be someone else.

2. Embrace Opportunities for Gratitude and Generosity
Don't skip baby showers, Send out Christmas cards, give thank you notes, look for people in need of a small act of service, etc. etc. etc. and count your blessings. Those sorts of things. When I first got married a few years ago I was just about the least thoughtful person I could possibly be (but part of that was because I was the one sorely in need of service), but now I am ready to be the generous one.

3. Say "I love you" to Husband and Child(ren) Each Day
Because you can never say it enough!

4. Choose Food for Nutrients
Enough counting calories and worrying about fat and carbs. Food is not the enemy. Dieting in the traditional sense of the word is not healthy or sustainable throughout life. I decided about a year ago that I am not going to focus on cutting bad things out or focusing on what I shouldn't have, but instead, work on bringing more good things in. The more good things I eat the less room I have for junk food. So now I deliberately think about the nutrients in the food I choose. Does it have plenty of complex carbs? Fiber? Protein? Omega-3s? Betacarotene? Lycopene?  I want to make a change in my health that I can have as a habit for as long as I live, so instead of focusing on losing extra weight quick or cutting things out, I am focusing on feeding myself healthy foods in a way that I can enjoy. Yeah, I still have junk food sometimes, but at least I am looking for the best food the rest of the time.

p.s. If you haven't seen the documentary "Hungry for Change", I highly recommend it.  It was a source of inspiration for this commandment.

5. Speak Up
Speak up when someone says my name wrong. Speak up when someone I love crosses boundaries and upsets me. Speak up against people saying awful, mean things. Speak up when I feel someone hasn't given me due credit. My inability to stand up for myself has been a curse my whole life! It's time to change that.

6. Respond with Love
Whenever a problem comes up with my husband or children, how can I respond to the problem and solve it in the most loving way possible? This is a hard one. Sometimes I focus more on teaching a lesson than growing a family.

7. Let Creativity and Problem Solving Happen as Slowly or Quickly as They Like
Not inspired to paint? Then don't paint. Not sure what to write in that email? Wait an hour and see if it makes more sense after that. Sometimes it is perfectly okay to let something sit for a while and let your subconscious work on it.

8. Practice Trust in Yourself and the Spirit
This is the hardest commandment. I always hear these amazing stories of spiritual experiences that happen to people when faced with a big decision. These people have these amazing feelings of peace and love, distinct instructions and words of comfort, all because they prayed and studied and had faith. But the thing is, those things don't really happen to me. It was a big, frustrating struggle for a while. Why couldn't I get an answer to anything? How was I supposed to know where to go, who to marry, etc. etc. etc. But I have slowly realized that maybe that's just not what it's supposed to be like for me, ever. I think that one of my weaknesses is drowning myself in anxiety and not trusting myself and my own abilities (including my ability to follow the Spirit), and God knows that and wants me to learn and get plenty of practice, so he lets me struggle on my own.
When I decided to marry Craig, there was no warm feeling, fantastic revelation, or strong spiritual experience. I had plenty of doubts. In the end I had to just go with what I thought was a good thing to do and have faith that things would work out. And it did work out wonderfully. Eventually I did get that confirmation that I was doing what's right. And guess what? It was the exact same way for choosing a major, deciding where to move, and so on. All my big decisions I have made I just had to just go for it, with no strong feelings telling me what direction to go in. And eventually, little by little, I learned that I did, in fact, make the right decision and that God was watching over me the whole time.

9. Be a Durable Object
This one is all about keeping your cool in the midst of conflict. Working with children, you have to be a durable object. When a toddler has a tantrum, you can get through it as a durable object. When someone tells you a big shocker, first react by being a durable object.  Durable objects are still, solid, determined, and quiet. I have had enough experiences that it's easier to be the durable object as opposed to the stick of dynamite or the crushable plastic water bottle.

10. Be Active to Enjoy Your Body
Don't be active for any of these reasons: looks, scale numbers, trophies, accomplishments.
Do be active for these reasons: Health, fun, bonding with family and friends, enjoying nature, giving myself more energy and endurance, appreciating what my body can do.

This was a long one. If you made it to the end, give yourself a thumbs up. And if you want, consider what your personal commandments might be.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Parenting. It's like that fable where the guy tries to please everyone and the donkey drowns.

Ok, so I went out to lunch with a friend last week and we got talking about parenting. She doesn't have kids yet, and was asking me a little bit about my experience. We talked about how there are so many different views, so many expectations, and SO many articles, blogs, pins, and plenty of unsolicited advice out there. Can you be a good parent without having to research, read, and heed everything? Why does everybody have to share their opinions on everything parenting? Why the mommy wars?

I stumbled through this conversation with lots of phrases like "yes, do research" "but only if you want to" "as long as your baby is loved and safe" and "I'm sure you will be a great mom". I wasn't very eloquent, and barely got any point across. So I will write out my thoughts on this subject, hopefully a little more eloquently than in conversation.

I have to admit, I am actually very opinionated about many things pertaining to parenting and child development. It's hard not to be when you studied child development in school and you work with  kids all of the time. Child development is my passion! Parenting and teaching are my true callings! So of course I am very opinionated! How could I not be? 

I try to hide it a little because I also believe in not getting in people's business. I want to respect other people's decisions. I don't want to judge (even though I do. A lot.)! 

So what do you do? Do you read all of the articles? Follow all of the advice? Give in to all of the pressure society puts on already stressed out parents? Can you be a good parent without planning and researching every little thing?

Well, here's what I think:

I am a big believer that knowledge is power. I have spent a lot of time reading pinning, listening, and learning about anything and everything parenting, and I don't regret it. I am grateful for every class I took on human development in college. I have gained so much insight from articles and blogs since having a baby. I realize that not everybody can major in child development or pin every little activity idea, but any knowledge you can gain is going to help you make a more informed decision. I've read about a lot of different views and methods-some obviously will clash. But that's a good thing! Take what you like and throw away what you don't! At least you know your options. Much of the knowledge I have gained has made me more confident and my journey as a parent easier!

Being a parent is really hard. I love it and enjoy it most of the time, but there are some mind-boggling, difficult obstacles for every parent. I personally feel like I am making life more simple for myself when I have an arsenal of ideas and solutions to start with. I feel like the more deliberate and thoughtful I am as a parent, the more problems I avoid. Part of that deliberate thinking is doing my research and learning  as much I can. 

So yeah, planning out your parenting techniques and gaining lots of knowledge is wonderful. But there's another side to this coin.

When you are a parent, you have to be flexible. You also become the expert on your baby as an individual. Sometimes instinct trumps education and grand plans. There have been quite a few instances in my journey as a parent already where I have done the research and not followed it because my baby's cues and my instincts told me to go in a different direction. And that was great too! Often as a mom you just know, you know? And it doesn't matter what anyone else says. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow and be flexible.

So what? Are you supposed to try and balance the neuroses of learning and planning with the impulsiveness of following instincts and cues? It's really more like harmonizing. Gain some knowledge from solid sources and then let your instincts go from there. Luckily for me, parenting is a step-by step process. I am glad I started with a base of knowledge, but I have learned quite a bit as I have gone along as well.

We don't have to war over different opinions and techniques. There are so many ways to raise happy, well adjusted children. What matters most is that you are present, you are learning, you are listening to your baby, and you are doing your best. As long as you are full of unconditional love for your child and are willing to be fully invested, you will be a great parent.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

These times are a treasure.

My goodness. It's been a long time since I posted. What can I say? I am just not huge into blogging. Maybe someday I will be.

Anyway, today I wanted to write about the joys of having a little child. The joys of being a mom. Because it is a joy.

Today I was thinking about what a special time I am experiencing in my life right now. My first baby is 3 months old. I am not too overwhelmed or busy, but I have enough going on to keep me on my toes and full of purpose. I have lots of quiet mornings and afternoons filled with so many little things. Reading stories, singing songs, playing, doing laundry, cleaning the kitchen, feeding my baby...these are the types of things that fill my days. I also work at an after school program where I can help children in tough situations, and I am so grateful for that opportunity. 

Today I couldn't help but feel so grateful as I put my sleepy, happy baby down for a nap and started working on some chores. As I checked on her I couldn't help but notice how beautiful she looked. She has these chubby, rosy cheeks that I just love. And her long little eyelashes are just so pretty! And I thought about how grateful I am for such a happy, healthy baby while I started washing the dishes.

Ok, so now some of you may be feeling like. "Is this girl for real? What kind of fantasy world is she living in?" This is no fantasy, or the declarations of a naive little girl. This is really how I feel. 

I know that this time in my life is such a small dot on a big timeline. I won't always have these quiet afternoons full of cuddles with a sweet little baby! This is a once in a lifetime experience! Eventually, I will have more to juggle, more worries, more complications. And when that happens, I will embrace the challenges and try my best, but for now, I am just so grateful for what I have.

My life isn't super extraordinary or perfect. We are butt poor (yes butt poor is what I said), and I have unrealized dreams of travel and hobbies that I don't know when I will have the time or money for. I also feel like I will never catch up on chores (good thing I enjoy cleaning) and my social life...lets just say loneliness is a feeling I am familiar with.

But this time of my life is a treasure to me. Little babies are precious little packages of love. It's true! As I held my little girl tonight right before bedtime, she gave me the cutest little smile and squeal and I knew she knows what love is and how to feel it. And she knows I love her. And I thought about how what I do right now is setting up the way she thinks; the attitude she has about life. What an incredible amount of purpose and importance a mother has!

The challenges you may face as a new mom are mostly temporary, and so are the  joys. So soak in every minute as much as you can. Whatever your situation may be as a mom, you are incredibly important to your baby. You are the center of their world. You make all the difference in your baby's life! Enjoy it! Be grateful for such a wonderful opportunity. It is truly a unique treasure. Any sacrifices you make for this treasure are worth it, because you are the star in the life of a new human being! Nothing is more divine, more full of purpose than parenthood.

I've been listening to a lot of great podcasts lately, and in one interview a woman was talking about what drove her to open a hostel for travelers in Canada. She said her heart just wasn't "bursting" an she knew she needed to start something new in her life. I love that idea of knowing that you are living at your best when you feel your heart bursting. Motherhood makes my heart burst!

I know I can steadily and diligently work towards my goals of travel and all of the other things I want to accomplish. But for now, I will focus on loving my baby and enjoying this moment in time, because she is the star of my show, this time is my treasure, and my heart is bursting!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lessons learned in Harry Potter

Today is Harry Potter's Neville Longbottom's and J.K. Rowling's birthday. I acknowledge this day every year because I really love the Harry Potter series. I am one of the people that grew up in what I like to call the "HP generation."  I was a kid/teenager during the time the books and movies were being released. I waited in suspense and excitement for the next book to be released. I celebrated the release of each movie. I felt an exciting bond with other people in the HP generation, whether I knew them personally or not. It was like that for almost everybody that spent their formative years reading the book series and watching the movies. And yes, I even went to midnight release parties of the movies (and the 7th book) and had the time of my life. People not in this generation usually don't "get it." Those people might ask, "Why does Harry Potter have such a cult following? Why do all these kids (most of us not being young adults) practically pretend this fictional world is real? Why do they always go back to reading the books over again?"

I am going to let someone with a degree in anthropology figure those questions. For this blog, right now, I will just list the lessons I personally learned from the Harry Potter series, as a way to record some of the impact it had on my life. I wish I had the time to go into detail about how these lessons were learned and how my life changed, but I don't so it's going to be a quick list.

1. "It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live" Dumbledore says it best.
2. Our choices truly make up who we are, much more than our abilities, and even our potential. We can choose to be a better person, even if we have so much ability to do wrong. Even if we gravitate towards something that is wrong.
3. Most people are not clear-cut "good" or "bad." Everybody has a past, and everybody makes mistakes.
4. You don't have to be weighed down by other people's judgments. It's okay not to fit in with the crowd and just be happy with your own interests and personality.
5. You can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat their inferiors. In fact, someone truly worth being around doesn't really believe in "inferiors."
6. The world is full of prejudice. But in the end, not one race or culture does it best.
7. People need to have more control and choices than the government does.
8. Keeping your cool and being humble and polite with protect you more than being angry and defensive.
9. Knowledge is power!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Things I am not.

Misconceptions: they happen all the time. People think they know everything. People think they know each other when actually pathetically, embarrassingly know so very little.

Have you ever felt like people get the wrong idea about you? Make weird assumptions that make no sense to you?

I definitely have. Sometimes it's annoying. Sometimes it's funny. Sometimes you just want to shove those misconceptions back into their faces and prove to them how awesome and unique you truly are. I'm willing to bet most people have felt this way at some point.

Well, I am about to (kind of) live out that fantasy of self-declaration. Because...why not? It's my blog, and I think this is a great journal entry, and maybe someone will read it and be able to relate. And I think relating to stuff feels great.

So I present to you: Misconceptions people have had about me and the real truth.

1. Misconception: I am completely sheltered and as a result, close minded, judgmental, and ultra-conservative. This one happens to me on a regular basis. I mean it really happens a lot. Is it because I dress modestly and don't swear? I don't even know what the deal is with this one, but it's a solid fact that people think this about me when they first meet me.
Truth: I don't swear, drink, sleep around, etc etc etc....and I never have done much of anything "worldly" I guess. I live pretty solidly by LDS standards, and I am totally ok with that. But to think I am completely sheltered is ridiculous. Let's be honest. There is very little you can tell me that will completely shock me. Gross me out? Maybe, but I can deal with it. If you swear and tell dirty jokes, or a number of other things, will I freak out? Probably not. It's not really my biz how you live your life. As long as you are respectful about it I am fine. I don't shove my stuff into other people's faces, and as long as they don't shove their stuff into mine (or potentially hurt people with it) I don't see a need to make a big deal. Also, people often don't know about the human development classes I had to take in college. I have studied things that make even some of the most "rebellious" and "hardened" people I know cringe. (Between my Human Sexuality, Abuse and Neglect classes and my internship working closely with social workers, I've seen and heard plenty.) And I can talk about it and think about touchy subjects completely rationally without freaking out. It's one of my special talents.

2. Misconception: I'm an airhead.
Truth: I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but sheesh give me some credit. I'm not totally shallow, and I'm not a failure in academics.  I graduated with honors. I love to learn. But I often feel like people think there is nothing going on inside my little brain. That's not very fair.

3. Misconception: Once upon a time, lots of people thought I was going to be a music/musical theatre/vocal performance major. They heard me sing as a teenager and thought that was what I was destined for. I have one relative that was actually way disappointed when he found out I have hardly done a thing with my voice since starting college. This is one assumption that is super amusing to me.
Truth: Performing is so fun. But really, what would I have done with a degree in music? I love music, but come on. I'm really not that great of a singer. And I know that all that music knowledge would have become obsolete to me eventually. And I just am not made of the stuff it takes to be a professional performer. It's not a confidence issue, it the fact that I am not that passionate about it. And going to school for art and human development was perfect for me. I love that I have gotten to delve into the mystery of what makes people tick. I use what I learned in college every day!

4: Misconception: I'm a hopeless romantic. I love chick flicks, believe in perfect relationships, etc.
Truth: The more you get to know me, the quicker this one disappears. I can hardly stand chick flicks. I don't believe in soul mates, and I don't believe that it's possible to have a perfect relationship. I do however, believe that love is a strong, powerful, divine part of life, and that our choices make it what it is. I also believe that conflict in relationships can be normal and healthy if partnered with problem solving skills and a desire for progress. I am definitely more of a realist than a romantic. Does that mean I watch all movies and read all books with a stern look on my face? Definitely not. I am totally capable of enjoying giggle fits and daydreaming. I just don't think much of movies such as "My Best Friend's Wedding" or "The Notebook." And there aren't nearly as many quotes about love in fancy lettering on my Pinterest as there are Star Wars related pictures. (and if you are totally that quote/chickflick type person, don't worry. I won't judge.)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Best Kind of Falling Out

Today, I wrote to a friend, trying to give some encouragement on his situation. I feel like what I wrote came from the heart and is something anyone could apply to themselves to make their lives better and more joyful. Here is what I wrote:

"If there is one thing I have learned in life, being flexible and having plenty of trust in God is going to bring you a lot more happiness. Here are some examples:
1. I
wanted to travel more and wait to get married. But then I got married. And a year later, he changed his major to international studies! Now we are saving up to go to Europe for part of his schooling!
2. I said I would never work retail again, because I thought it was such a draining boring, drama-filled job to have. Well, then I became desperate for work and eventually got hired at DownEast, and I work at the mall. But, I have THE BEST coworkers that make me laugh my face off and I just got promoted! Plus lots of cute clothes for cheaps!
3. I was thinking of dropping out of college to go to makeup school, but for some reason, I decided I needed to stay and finish my Bachelor's degree. Well, because of that I ended up getting a volunteer internship serving children and parents in need. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and I learned things that I use every day to make my life better! Plus, that experience helped land my other current job, working at a really amazing preschool, teaching sweet little children that I love love love.
In all of these situations, I ended up not getting what I "wanted", but in the end I got blessings that gave me so much more joy than I could have anticipated. If you have a strong desire and it is something that is righteous and enriching to your life, God will help you obtain happiness, though it may be in a different way than you expected. But in order for that to work, you have to have faith and trust Him. The better of an attitude you have, the sooner that happiness will come."

This advice was met with pretty negative feedback. I wasn't giving him this advice to tell him exactly what to do in this particular situation or how to live his life, I just wanted to show that sometimes things don't happen how we plan and not to be sad and upset about it. I said things that I know have helped me be more happy and I thought could be comforting to him.
I suppose he isn't yet at a state of mind where he could read other's thoughts and learn something useful from them without completely agreeing with every word. 

I would like to make one correction to what I wrote, which is that if you have a certain desire or dream that is righteous I personally think that with lots of faith and prayer and doing your best to obtain it, God will give you many blessings along the way to help you reach that dream. However, I can't guarantee that, because sometimes things just aren't meant to be (and it's not my place to say what will and won't happen in someone's life), but as stated previously, something better will come if you keep doing your best. 

Anyway, I have terminated contact with this person. Don't think I am a loose cannon for doing this, please don't. He has done some pretty hurtful things in the past and I feel like I have done my part to politely express my feelings plenty of times (and forgive him), but each time he clearly shows that he doesn't have much empathy or understanding when other people get hurt.  I kinda saw this coming and knew that it was time to be done with the unhealthy negativity and drama he was bringing into my life.

So if you're here to learn something learn this: 
1. Follow your dreams, but have a nice flexible, positive attitude about it.
2. You deserve more than negative friends who can't appreciate your kind gestures and forgiveness.

Trying faithfully to do my best,

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Dog Blog

Hi. I haven't written in a while. An no, I am not even going to update you on my life. I'll do that soon though. It's ok, I don't think many people read this blog anyway. Lets admit it, it's not all that exciting.

This entry is about my family's dogs. We have really awesome dogs. They all have incredibly distinct personalities, just like the rest of my family.

Miss Stacey:

Miss Stacey is the oldest of the three dogs. We got her when I was about 16 and she soon became my best friend! She is incredibly sweet, sophisticated (seriously, only sleeps on fluffy pillows and never licks people), and smart. She has always learned tricks quickly..I remember when she was a puppy, if you told her to go inside and pointed in that direction, she did it. And no one even trained her on it! She also can do a few fun tricks, such as barking on command and jumping through hoops. She love new dresses, sweaters, and collars. Seriously, this dog is a true girly-girl. She also loves puppies. So much, in fact, that she once tried to take ownership over a brand new litter of puppies that wasn't hers.  She's all woman.

Briar Rose:

Briar is Miss Stacey's Daughter. She was born practically dead, but was miraculously resuscitated and has been healthy ever since. Briar is less of a smart dog and more of a sweet dog. She's incredibly empathetic; if anyone is upset, she's upset too, and will whine and try to lick them better.   However, she still has learned a few tricks and can do most of the ones that Stacey can do. 
Briar is a dog with very strong emotions. She doesn't make friends with other dogs easily because she becomes jealous of them. But once she does make friends she's loving and sweet towards them. When Courduroy, our third dog, joined the family, she went into a deep depression for a couple weeks. She wouldn't eat or play!  She make friends with every and any human she comes in contact with because she is a serious attention hog. She also is a toy and treat hog. We have to watch her carefully when another dog wants what she has because she has a huge temper when others try to take her things. She's the only dog I have ever seen give the stink-eye to another dog. It was hilarious. Overall, Briar Rose is incredibly playful and loving.

Corduroy is the lonely boy in a household full of girls. He adores my husband and we all think it's because he is the only male besides my dad that he sees regularly. As I said before, Briar Rose had a hard time welcoming Corduroy, but you should have seen his determination in winning her over. He would lay by her and make her play with him and lick her until eventually she let him into his heart and now, they are seriously best friends (except for when they want the same toy). He sounds friendly, and he is around those he knows well, but he also has some serious "Stranger Danger" issues. It takes him weeks of regular visits to get used to a new human.  This picture is an example of him hiding is his "man cave" under a chair when strangers are around, or when he's tired of dealing with everyone. 
Overall, Corduroy is the most playful of the three dogs. He loves to run and pounce and jump around.
So there you go. 3 of my favorite friends to hang out with. I hope you can see why. They are so funny and interesting!