my life

my life

Changes in the Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have made quite a few changes lately. I will try to list most of them. Sometimes it seems like a lot, but changes always happen. It has been accelerated, but I think part of it is that these changes all work together.

  • Church on Sundays was shortened to two hours.
  • We now have a home-based curriculum, Come Follow Me, and lessons in Sunday school, seminary, primary, and youth organizations relate to that curriculum.
  • Visiting and home teaching were changed to ministering.
  • High priest groups and elder’s quorum were combined into one elder’s quorum. Relief society and Elder’s quorum now have increased responsibilities in order for the bishop to lead youth.
  • The young men’s presidency was discontinued. The young women have a new theme with increased class flexibility.
  • Children and youth change classes in January and young men can be ordained in January instead of waiting for their birthday.
  • Youth and children activities were changed to a worldwide program that is home-centered and church supported, that is more flexible.
  • There were some changes in the temple, including making it a bit shorter.
  • Temple recommend questions were revised and published.
  • Many, many temples were announced.
  • Women and youth can now witness ordinances.
  • Increased emphasis on the church name.
  • Missionaries can have increased communication with their families. Sister missionaries can wear pants and missionaries get their calls online.
  • Most church pageants were discontinued.
  • There were changes to policies regarding the children of LGBT parents.
  • Book of Mormon videos were made.
  • A new history of the church was started and published.
  • There will be revisions to the hymn book and children’s songbook.

I have been nervous sometimes about any upcoming changes. Sometimes change can be hard. I’ve had weird dreams sometimes when something happens in the church and it isn’t right and I just feel weird and sick inside. And then I wake up and I’m glad it’s a dream.

But these changes haven’t been hard at all. They have been wonderful and exciting. They’ve enabled me and my family to come closer to Jesus Christ and learn together. It’s allowed more unity and more flexibility. I feel so happy when I think of them, and it makes me rejoice a little bit inside.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like a change at all, more like things are settling and evolving into what I always thought they would be. I was doing ministering before it was called ministering. I had increased my gospel instruction in the home before Come Follow Me. I even had two-hour church for a while when a church building was being renovated.

The Lord prepares us so that when things change, we are ready, and the changes don’t seem that big at all. Even in my own personal life, as I have gone through some changes, when I rely on the Lord, nothing is too hard or too jolting and everything just settles into place exactly as it should.

I love that feeling of being able to start to see the big picture instead of individual puzzle pieces. Things just feel right inside–I feel peace and joy.

It’s been an exciting time. I can’t wait for what is to come and I know that I don’t have to be afraid. I can trust in the Lord.

essay, my life

Progress

The first year of homeschooling was difficult for me. It did not always go well. We had some amazing days, but at the end of it, I just felt like a failure. (I wasn’t a failure, though. My sister challenged me about why I felt I had failed, and I had to reframe it in my mind. Failure is just a framing device anyway, a way of labeling what happened even when the label doesn’t fit.)

We had some good moments and my kids were actually learning, even if we lacked consistency. But I was also learning how to do it better. And I wanted to keep trying.

This year, I’ve been trying to completely eliminate that failure label. We won’t fail at homeschool. We’re going to keep trying through rough days. I’m going to keep adjusting expectations, changing things up, and becoming better.

I feel like I do a really good job some days. I love learning, and that filters down to my kids. They read so many books. Their handwriting has improved. Their spelling has somewhat improved.

I’m also improved at being a teacher. I had no idea what I was doing at first, and I’ve practiced and I’ve made mistakes and I’ve persevered even when I didn’t want to. There was a lot of complaining and I still don’t want to do this long term.

But I’m glad I kept trying. I was not that good at being a homeschool mom. But now I do okay. Progress can be slow and seem impossible, but it does happen.

my life

The important things on your to do list.

Sometimes I feel silly putting things like time with my husband and kids on my to-do list. It’s important. But it’s not urgent. And it’s not something that I just check off and I’m done with it. It’s important and ongoing.

But when I start putting the important things on my to do list, I do them better. I spend more time with my family. I remember to spend time with other people. I remember that I should be serving instead of selfishly focusing on my own goals.

The important things really should be on the top of the list. Instead of cleaning my house first, I would much prefer to spend time with my kids. Instead of finishing my work on the computer, I would much rather talk with my husband.

So I’m going to leave the really important things on my list, and try to prioritize them above everything else.

my life

Selfishness and Happiness

Today I was a bit angry and I said, “I never get time for myself!”

That is a lie. I get plenty of time for myself. I take classes, I exercise, I read a lot, I go to book club. I enjoy cooking and hiking and I get to watch the movies I like. I have a lot of time for myself.

But I get selfish, thinking that it’s never enough. And the crazy thing is that time for myself doesn’t really make me happy at all. I am a lot happier when I with other people, teaching my kids and spending time with my husband and other family members and friends.

It’s selfish to think that I need more time for myself. I already have plenty. Happiness doesn’t come in self-fulfillment, but in giving your life to others and helping and serving them.

inspiration, my life

10 Things You Can Do Right Now To Reduce Depression, Anxiety, and Irritability

1. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time.

If sleeping is a problem, research good sleep hygiene and do the little things, like not watching television or eating or exercising before bed, having a good routine to wind down, and learning relaxation techniques and thought defusion techniques in order to calm worries and anxieties. I can not compromise sleep or I pay for it. Sometimes if I stay up late, I find that I’m acting like a different person the next day.

2. Eat regular and healthy meals and snacks and drink lots of water.

We all have our bad eating tendences. I tend to not eat enough sometimes, and so I have to remind myself to have snacks, eat more fruits and veggies, and not forget to eat. Some people snack throughout the whole day. Other people eat too much sugar or too much salt. But while bad eating habits are all bad in their own way, good eating habits look alike: more fruits and veggies and whole grains; less sugar; breakfast, lunch, and dinner; concrete snack instead of grazing; mindfulness about what you are eating. And drink water. I’ve lived half my life minorly dehydrated and it’s not healthy.

3. Exercise and regular physical activity.

Exercising for ten or twenty minutes in the morning and then sitting for the rest of the day is really not the best. I’m trying to live a more active lifestyle, and that can be hard. I try to play with my kids and go on walks and resist laziness. And I do like to formally exercise as well. I have a lot of different apps on my phone I switch between, like 7-minute workouts and yoga. I still want to improve on this–I want to feel stronger, and I know vigorous walking is a really good way to clear my mind.

4. Spend time outside.

I find myself incredibly happier when I spend more time outside. But in our modern lives, sometimes there is barely reason to go outside. We make excuses if it is hot or raining or snowing or whatever, but with proper preparation, you can be outside in almost every kind of weather, at least for a minute. Whenever I go camping, I feel this release when I have to be outside to cook and go to the bathroom and live. I wonder why we’ve made our lives so closed out to the outside world sometimes. Kick your kids outside to play and you’ll find that they are way less cranky–and if you go join them, you’re going to be less cranky too.

5. Practice Mindfulness and Meditation

You’ve probably heard about this because it’s everywhere right now, and there are so many guides and apps out there. I am not a very mindful person and meditation is incredibly difficult for me, which is why I keep trying anyway. I need it to calm my mind and to remember what I value. And you don’t have to be good at it to be good at doing it. A week of distracted meditation is better than a week of no meditation. Just keep trying.

6. Limit screen time

How many times do you check your phone? How much time do you spend staring at a screen? Even if you do it for work or school, is there a way you can reduce it? I get constantly distracted on my phone and my computer, but I put blocks into place to help me. I usually have my web browser blocked on my phone so I can’t access the entire internet, and I never install games. And on my computer, I have an app called FocusMe (which I paid for, and it was worth it), which helps me block things without easy ways of getting to them again.

7. Simplify

There are lots of ways to simplify your life. You can get rid of stuff: when you look in a closet and the only things in there are the things you use and you love, you feel a whole lot calmer. We try to only have toys we really play with. It’s so nice to be have space around you and room to breathe. The joy of having a simpler life is much greater than the joy of having lots of stuff. And you can simplify your time too. What projects can you drop? How can you simplify errands and routines? How can you simplify parenting? How can you simplify your finances? If there is a way to simplify, that way may be a better way.

8. Set regular routines and follow them

You don’t have to have routines for the whole day, just small routines that help you know where you are. I wake up and read my scriptures, say my prayers, meditate, exercise, eat breakfast, read scriptures as a family, get in the shower, and get my kids dressed. If I do that every morning, my days go so much better. In the evening, we put the kids in the tub, brush teeth, and then read stories and say prayers. Kids like routine. Adults like routine. Life should have some stability to it.

9. Serve others and increase social interaction

Isolating yourself is really easy, but it will make you miserable. We need face-to-face interaction with other people. And we need to serve other people too. I’m always much happier when I serve, and sometimes it means that I drop what I’m doing in order to send a message, make a phone call, go visit, say hello, or edit something for someone. Making someone else happy in meaningful ways increases your own happiness.

10. Prayer and Scripture Study

My daily prayer and scripture study is essential to my life and my mental health. I need the Lord’s help in all of this. We all do.

my life

Prayer in the midst of despair

Last post, I talked about struggles with mental health. When I have struggled, I have often prayed, sometimes in desperation, asking over and over for help. And there have been often times when I didn’t feel anything.

I wanted the peace of the Spirit so many times, and I couldn’t feel it. Recently, I read the book Silent Souls Weeping, by Jane Clayson Johnson, and in the beginning of the book it talks about how people who are struggling and afflicted with depression and other issues sometimes can’t feel the Spirit. The book mentioned an analogy where there was electricity coming in, but the switch was off. The Spirit is like the electricity. And it is still there, but sometimes I have been unable to feel it because the switch was off.

I think sometimes it’s like noise: my brain gets so incredibly noisy sometimes with racing thoughts and overwhelming emotions that I literally can’t hear anything else. I can’t hear or feel the Spirit, even though it is still there.

Sometimes I have felt like I was all alone. But I was never really alone. And the Lord has helped me in the ways that I really needed it, through very small and simple things.

Now, I don’t have all the answers. Sometimes I wanted help that wasn’t there. I simply wanted healing and peace that didn’t come. It was really hard without a reason.

But other times, people have called or texted at the exact right time. My children have been protected from harm. I’ve been able to do things beyond my capabilities.

I’ve received priesthood blessings that have not only provided comfort, but have literally calmed my mind. I know that others have prayed for me as well when I have been struggling. My mom and my husband especially has been a huge support. One time, my mom came and helped clean up the cereal that was spread across my entire house. My husband has fixed meals and put the kids to bed and even taken time off work to help me.

And throughout this all, I am so grateful for the commandments that have helped me live my life without further complications. I had a happy home growing up. I have never tried alcohol and drugs. I always knew my values and the direction I wanted my life to go.

And I have relied on my Savior, Jesus Christ, knowing that he can heal me, and he can heal those that I have hurt along the way, especially my children and my husband. I know there is always hope in him.

I used to get in downward spirals of despair, thinking that there was no way out, that there was nothing I could do and I was worthless and beyond saving. Things just hurt sometimes. But when I remember the atonement of Jesus Christ, it shuts down those downward spirals and helps me come up again. Because I am never beyond saving. I am never beyond hope.

I know that know, more deeply than I did before. I can return to my Lord over and over again, and he offers healing and peace.

my life

My experience with bipolar 2

A few months after the birth of my third child, I was diagnosed with Grave’s Disease or hyperthyroidism, where my thyroid was working too hard. Medication worked really well, putting me back to normal with no side effects. I went into remission and then relapsed two and a half years later, but medication worked again. Overall, it’s mostly a minor and uninteresting part of my life.

But that’s not my only chronic health condition, and the second one is a lot harder to talk about. It’s been around a lot longer and it’s been a longer journey to diagnose and treat. And I hesitate to talk about it to people. I have mental health problems; specifically I deal with bipolar 2.

Quite a few years ago, I went to the doctor and mentioned depression and I was put on antidepressants that didn’t really work. One other doctor was simply dismissive, and none of them really asked that much about my symptoms. I set out on my own to try to fix myself, reading books about cognitive behavior therapy and other sorts of therapy. I exercised and tried to make friends and live the best life I could. But I really just wanted the issue to go away. And I thought it would go away, if I was strong enough and worked hard enough at it and my life was in the best place it could be.

The depression never really lasted that long anyway. The older I got, the more I wondered if I was really dealing with depression. I would read about bipolar or borderline personality disorder and sometimes I wanted there to be another name out there to describe how I was feeling.

When I looked back at my journals, I could see an instability in the way I felt and dealt with life. Some days and weeks were normal and good and happy and I felt like myself, with the normal ups and downs of living. But then sometimes those ups and downs would be exaggerated and all over the place. There were days when I could do so much, focused and motivated. But then I would try to repeat those days, and I couldn’t. There were days when I did very little, falling down into sadness and discouragement. And there were other sorts of days too: days when I would get extremely irritable. Days when I couldn’t really function and it literally felt like my brain simply wasn’t working. Days when I screamed or ran away or wanted to hurt myself because of the mental anguish I was feeling.

It has been really hard lately, and the last few months have been some of the most difficult in my life. I would search things and search things, trying to figure out what to do. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t manic. I was just not right some of the time and I didn’t know what to do about it.

And then I found a picture that sort of showed how I was feeling. It looked like this:


Source:  https://psycheducation.org

I read about bipolarity being a spectrum disorder. I read about people who felt like I had.

Every morning, I was reading mental health books, writing gratitude and doing therapy exercises, and I started meditating as well. One meditation I listened to talked about going and visiting my older self. And so I imagined talking to an older version of myself, and I told myself that I didn’t have to do this alone, and that I could go and get help.

So with finally understanding that I wasn’t alone in how I felt, I didn’t need to isolate and hide my problems, and that I really did need help and couldn’t fix it by myself, I finally called someone.

I went to a psychiatric nurse practitioner and I got a prescription for a mood stabilizer. I read about lifestyle changes that I could make that would help me more. I went to my mom’s house for two weeks to be around more people and get my feet underneath me again, since I had not been very functional.

And things are helping. I’ve finally accepted that this isn’t going to just go away, but I can deal with it too the best I can and seek help from others.

My conclusion in all of this is that if you are dealing with depression or anxiety or something that you don’t understand at all, you’re not alone. It’s okay. It doesn’t make you a bad person and there is help and hope ahead.

And here is my follow-up post about the Lord’s help through all of this.

 

my life

Doing things and getting things done

I like to make lists. But then I have a problem: I am so caught up in getting the list done and checking it off that I don’t spend any time actually enjoying what I’m doing.

This creates a lot of stress in my life because I am rarely present and mindful. Instead, I just think about getting it done and over with. It drains enjoyment out of anything to think that way. When the biggest thrill in my life is checking something off, that’s a problem.

I don’t need to accomplish everything on my to-do list. It’s not the point of life. I don’t want to have a lifetime of just accomplishing stuff that doesn’t always matter that much. I want to develop relationships. I want to build up a home that is filled with love, instead of just a home that is neatly organized and clean.

Instead of just cooking a meal to get it over with, it’s so much better to slow down a bit and take the time to cook a nice meal and even make it fancy or different. Instead of just rushing through schoolwork, it’s better to focus on the problems and the papers and to recognize how you are learning and progressing. Smiling through exercise helps me do more. Laughing with my kids helps them feel loved.

Today I made a really long to-do list. There is no way at all that I am going to get everything done on it. But that’s sort of the point. I don’t need a perfect, productive day. I just need to live and enjoy all the interruptions. Sometimes I need to learn how to leave things undone, and keep living off of what I value instead of just trying to be a productivity machine.

 

my life

A look back

(This was written around January 2018, two month before I moved away from Wyoming.)

When I first came to Wyoming, I was unimpressed. It was dull and windy. I came on a particularly lousy day, as I found out later. It felt isolated and confusing because it was different than anything I was used to.

But my husband had been looking for a good job for literally years and this was finally a really good offer. It allowed him to progress in his career and support our family.

He was excited. I begrudgingly said yes because I didn’t feel there was any other option. I moved to Wyoming.

I will be forever grateful for story time at the local library, a program that ran for a very short time. I showed up and I met so many people who had daughters the same age as my daughter. I wrote down their names and I searched them on Facebook when I got home.

I had something unexpected: friends and a community. I even had some neighbors.

We moved there in March and by the time my daughter went to kindergarten in August, she had many friends. She gained many more. I started going to PTO meetings. And school events. And I met more and more people.

A year later, a preschool started in town right when my son needed it, giving him the friends and experience he needed.

We had the community of the tiny town we lived in, and also the community of the bigger town where we went to go to church and do our grocery shopping. They had a little once-a-week preschool I took all my kids to and then did the shopping after. We visited the library there too, and spent time making friends wherever we could.

I put myself out there. I walked up to people and introduced myself. I showed up. I tried. Sometimes I failed. But I tried.

When I moved to Nevada, I was optimistic, but the experience turned out to be extremely difficult. We survived.

When I moved to Wyoming, I was pessimistic, but the experience turned out to be wonderful in so many ways.

I don’t think my expectations had much to do with it. But I am hopeful in new adventures.

I gained so many friends. I will have even more friends in the future as we go to more places.

Thoughts over two years later:

I knew we wouldn’t be in Wyoming long. I could feel it, though the two years we were there seemed too short. It was sometimes difficult to live there, but it was also totally amazing. I miss it. But I’m okay with where I’m living now too. I have made new friends, like I always do. And I know that new adventures will come, over and over again, and new difficulties will come, and there will also be so much joy along the way.

fractured, my life

Six thoughts

I’ve had quite a bit of technology problems lately: I locked myself out of my phone and ended up resetting it; my computer blew up with electrical problems; and a whole bunch of files on my website randomly disappeared. Conclusions: keep good backups of all your stuff. In multiple ways. I like to have things backed up at least three times and sometimes I do more. I was being quite relaxed on my backups, and that’s when everything died.

***

It’s better to love what you do than to do what you love. A lot of people don’t really chose their career paths and life goes in very unexpected directions. Often, people end up choosing a career by what internship they happen to get. Or sometimes life completely changes and we find ourselves in an unexpected place. And it’s just good to love where you’re at because we can’t always control as much as we would like to. I never expected to be a homeschooling mom of four children living in the middle of nowhere, but I can love being here.

***

I have been telling myself that if I wake up and read my scriptures, say my prayers, and exercise, I’m going to have a great day. Those things help, but I think it’s also really effective that I’m telling myself I’m going to have a good day. It’s a bit of a placebo effect.

***

The world is so much bigger and more complex than we can ever understand. It’s like we can’t understand big numbers–a million and a billion and a trillion all seem similar, even though they aren’t at all. Sometimes it feels heavy that we’ll never understand enough, but it’s also freeing too, because there is always more to learn.

***

We only influence a small handful of people in our life. My sphere of influence is mostly my four little children and my husband right now. You might have family, co-workers, neighbors, and more. But it’s not like those that influence millions are that much more important than those that influence a few. What matters is that you are loved and that you love. The size of the sphere doesn’t matter.

***

You can feel both optimistic and pessimistic about one thing. Because our feelings are temporary and come and go. I may feel excited one moment and then nervous and afraid a few moments later. Our feelings don’t create who we are.