Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Blog Has Moved!



Hey, everyone! I'm so excited to announce that I've relaunched my blog, and I will now be blogging at:

https://toloveandtolearn.com/

Please check me out there!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My Latest Life Hack to Up My Motivation (that cost me less than $5!)


I've found that it's often the goals that scare me the most (and the goals that I usually want the most) that are the ones which are hardest to follow through on. It probably stems from my tendency to be a perfectionist (aka, why try at all if it's not going to turn out exactly as I want it), but because I know that it's a weakness of mine, I've had to come up with ways to work around it.

One of my big life goals is that I want to write (and eventually publish) a book. It used to be that I dreamed not just of writing any book, though, but that I wanted to write an award-winning book---a Pulitzer Prize winner, ideally, or at least something that would crack the NY Times Bestseller list. I mean, setting my dreams high should only FUEL my dreams, right?

WRONG.

For me, setting such high expectations crippled me so that whenever I tried to start, I would get frustrated because what I was producing wasn't Pulitzer-worthy, and then I would give up for another year or two.

Finally, back in 2015, I sat down and just started to write--not with the intention of even publishing the thing, but just with the intention of FINISHING it.

Spoiler alert:

I have not yet finished my novel.

However, after taking about a year off from working on it at all, I'm ready again to try and re-tame my inner writer to start in again, to continue where I left off, to finally maybe gain the momentum I need to finish at least the first draft already.

But this time, I have a secret weapon---

My new gigantic wall calendar.

You see, like Gretchen Rubin, I'm a "gold star junkie"--I've always loved getting praise and recognition and visual reminders that I'm "on track." In some ways, this can be a negative thing for sure, but in many ways, I've found that it makes me pretty easy to motivate.

So, since I don't want to be endlessly needy and make my husband congratulate me heartily every time I sit down to write a sentence (although I definitely have done that already this month), I've devised a system to literally give myself gold stars (or gold butterfly stickers, as the case actually will be) every time I reach my allotted goal for the day and week---

Basically, I'll be keeping track of my daily written word count (blogging counts!) on my elephantine wall calendar and every time I hit a pre-determined count (1,000 words in a day or 5,000 words in a week), I'll affix a sticker to that day/week (a small one for the daily goals, a larger one for the weekly).

(Yes, this is EXACTLY how we motivated Raven in her potty training---smaller butterfly stickers for every time she pees in the potty, and the large stickers of puppies for her poops. While I should possibly be embarrassed about the fact that I'm motivated by the same stickers as my two-year-old, I AM NOT ASHAMED. I might even follow through on the second reward we gave Raven and give myself 2 chocolate chips for sitting down to write (even if nothing happens), 5 chocolate chips for writing anything at all, and 10 chocolate chips for hitting my target.)

So far, it seems to be working (for both me AND Raven).

How do you motivate yourself to work on long-procrastinated goals?

***Note: I got my calendar at Wal-mart for something like $2.38. There are similar calendars on Amazon, but they're more expensive.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

August Summed Up in a Sentence-(Ish) Per Day


You may or may not have noticed, but August was the first month I didn't do a 10 on 10 post since I started doing them all the way back in February 2016. The truth was, they started to stress me out because of the sheer number of photos, plus I got a little tired of the format and wanted a way to switch things up.

The great thing about the blogging community is that there are always bloggers doing awesome ideas for posts, so I got this fabulous idea from Rebecca Jo, who basically writes down one sentence per day each month as a fun way of recording what's going on in her life. Of course, me being Ms. Wordy, I basically never was able to stick to just one sentence, but it's the thought that counts!

(Note: the photos may not always have to do with the day's recap, but I wanted a place to put some of the cute ones from that day, anyway!)

8/1 (Tues) - My body hurt from painting all day yesterday, so I spent an impressive amount of the day reading and later having a surprisingly deep conversation with Matt (surprising just because he randomly asked, out of the blue, what deep thoughts I'd been having lately...and he got an earful of 'em). Started reading over Matt's first novel that he's finally finished his first draft of and making edits.

8/2 (Wed) - Got extended a new church calling in our new ward (to be announced Sunday to the world at large) and had a sub in my boxing/bags class, who proceeded to make me want to simultaneously both quit right then and there AND hit the bag even harder than I already was before.


8/3 (Thurs) - Decided to elevate Thursday dinner a bit and make Matt's latest favorite (sweet and sour chicken) over rice and broccoli. Got an impressive amount accomplished around the house during the afternoon (all boxes cleared from basement family room, DVD bookshelf set up and loaded, dishes all done, downstairs bathroom taped off for the final touching-up of paint).

8/4 (Friday) - Took a book to the park for the first time when I walked Raven over in the morning. Crazy she's old enough now to play on the majority of the toys at the park without needing constant supervision and physical guidance.


8/5 (Saturday) - Finished up the last of the painting in the downstairs bathroom and finally got it set up and ready for guests next weekend. Took a family date to Sam's Club (for lunch and to buy more toilet paper!) and to a new splash pad.


8/6 (Sunday) - Got called as a teacher in the Primary, over the 8- and 9-year-olds. I may be speaking too soon, but it seems like it should be a relatively well-behaved group of kids. Also, we bribed our friends still living in our old neighborhood in Logan with blackberries so that they would come out and help us move some dressers into the house (and play games after, of course). Lastly (but most importantly), got the news that my younger brother got engaged! EEK! So exciting :)

8/7 (Monday) - Got woken up at 6:45 in the morning to Raven wanting help down from her bed (where we'd just put the mattress up off the floor and onto the frame the night before). Hopefully this earlier rising time is not a permanent effect from the change in her sleeping situation.


8/8 (Tuesday) - Exterminator came to spray down the metropolis of wasp nests we had going on while I feverishly read for hours (due to a book being due back first thing tomorrow morning AND my first book club meeting ever being tomorrow night!). I put some more finishing touches on our front room, though it's still not really "finished."

8/9 (Wednesday) -Finally attended the first book club meeting of my life tonight and wondered why it's taken me until almost 31 to do so, since I'm a book freak. Now I'm tempted to join multiple, just for the fun of it!


8/10 (Thursday) - Took an unscheduled trip to the county fair to support a coworker of Matt's, who was competing in a local singing competition. Kept Raven up way past bedtime, but it was worth it!

8/11 (Friday) - A last-minute mad rush to get the house ready, as my whole family came to stay overnight with us. The night consisted of Mexican haystacks, playing at the park, and thunderstorms keeping everyone from sleeping too much (oh, and s'mores of course!).


8/12 (Saturday) - Fun in the sun and water, all day long, with the whole fam. Simultaneously chaotic and relaxing, a memorable day that was capped off in the best way possible, with Aggie ice cream. (Note: there are waaaaay more pictures coming from this weekend, but they'll eventually get a post of their own...I just have to work up the motivation to sift through them all! I literally took hundreds.)

8/13 (Sunday) - A triple whammy of a Sunday---Matt and I gave talks in church, I gave my first lesson to the Primary kids, and I had a (short) teacher training after the 3-hour block of meetings. Whew!

8/14 (Monday) - Went shopping at Walmart, which only happens about twice a year because I HATE shopping at Walmart. Luckily, I found exactly what I was looking for (which, coincidentally, might actually get a blog post all of its own if it ends up being as effective as I think it might be).

8/15 (Tuesday) - Took Raven to the library so she could play for a half hour on the interactive computers there. Slowly but surely, she's starting to get the hang of those things (at the very least, she at least likes wearing the headphones now instead of being kinda scared of them!)

8/16 (Wednesday) - Two of my nieces came up to spend the day with Raven so I could I hopefully get some stuff done around the house. What actually happened was that I spent most of my time making meals and cleaning up from meals, but I'm thrilled at how much fun they had together. (They especially seemed to love going to the splash pad!)

8/17 (Thursday) - Met my sister halfway to drop off my nieces, who spent the morning playing with Raven at the park and eating homemade waffles (which my niece says are "actually better than Eggo waffles," so high praise indeed).

8/18 (Friday) - Started packing for our vacay to Idaho this weekend...food always takes the longest to figure out. (Note: We still overpacked on food, even though I thought we'd be about spot-on!)

8/19 (Saturday) - Drove up to Twin Falls to kick off our eclipse weekend! I brought a good book to read while Matt escaped for a few hours to play disc golf with his brothers.

8/20 (Sunday) - Went to the first hour of a random ward (LDS church congregation) in Idaho, then headed up to the farm where we were going to watch the eclipse happen. Got there an hour before anyone who actually knew the people who owned the farm, so we felt a bit like trespassers, especially since we got there when no one was home...

8/21 (Monday) - ECLIPSE DAY, BABY!

8/22 (Tuesday) - Started a sugar detox since I ate so poorly over the weekend. You know it must have been bad when my body didn't even put up its normal withdrawal defenses when I went off it.


8/23 (Wednesday) - Skipped out on my boxing/bags class for the second week in a row--my body's been really struggling lately. Am worried that my AI disease might be starting a flare-up again. (But I still managed a short 2-mile run!). Made blackberry jam to use up some of the scads and scads of blackberries we've got growing right now.


8/24 (Thursday) - Started hardcore potty training (aka, no more diapers, ever). Survived (though I didn't get to bed until 3 AM because I was paranoid about her pooping in bed and because she actually did need a sheets change around midnight thanks to a vigorous pee).

8/25 (Friday) - Potty training continued, and we (Raven and I) started to go a little crazy being cooped up in the house, but I was scared to death to leave. It's hard to say if much progress has been made, but she at least stayed dry through her nap (while yesterday she had two major poops during it, so...definitely progress there).

8/26 (Saturday) - Since Matt was off work and could watch the potty trainee, I was able to go to my Zumba class in the morning, the temple right after that, AND the grocery store all by myself. It felt like a pretty luxurious Saturday, to be sure!


8/27 (Sunday) - The Primary leadership combined the Primary class I'd been teaching with the one just below it, so instead of just having 4-5 kids to teach every Sunday, I now have about 12-13. Today was a little...rough, but hopefully it will get better as we go along. (Today was also the first day Raven had NO accidents! Woo hoo! I think it did help that we only took her to the first hour of church, rather than to all 3. It was largely because she's been sick for a few days, but the potty training was a good excuse, too!)

8/28 (Monday) - Watched my neighbor's baby in the morning and counted my lucky stars that he was super easy because Raven had like 3 major accidents today. Two steps forward, one step back, I guess.

8/29 (Tuesday) - Felt extra grateful for Matt after I didn't have him around in the morning at all since he left super early for work today (in order to take advantage of a fun skeet shooting opportunity his boss told him about). So glad to have an extra pair of hands pretty much every morning for a couple of hours to get us off on the right foot! In other news, made a treat with Raven that involved honey rather than sugar, so I didn't have to feel guilty about it not fitting into my whole "sugar-free" thing at the moment.


8/30 (Wednesday) - One day, I shall remember on Tuesday night to take all the garbage cans out to the curb so that I'm not running (literally running) outside in my pajamas every Wednesday morning at approximately 7:05 a.m. to barely beat the truck to our stop. Today was not that day. (And man, that truck driver is sure probably getting sick of me repeating this little ritual every darn week, though I think he laughs to himself about it every time as he drives away.)

8/31 (Thursday) - Attempted our first trip to the park since potty training. Of course, we ended up getting rained out, which meant that Raven still got wet either way...


In doing this, I realized it's kind of eye-opening to keep track of what you do every day for a month---it makes you realize how much stuff goes on in just a 31-day period!

How was your August? (And if you care to weigh in whether you prefer 10 on 10 or this new Sentence-a-Day post, I'm all ears!)

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Let's Look at Old Yearbooks and Laugh


This week, my school district (where I used to teach) started their new school year, and I'm feeling a bit nostalgic as I realize that the first batch of students I ever taught are seniors this year. It's so strange to think that those unsure and slightly scared 7th graders who walked into my classroom are now just 9 months away from graduating and moving on into adulthood.

WHERE DOES THE TIME GO, PEOPLE?!

So, in honor of growing up and nostalgia and school years and yada yada, let's take a fun little trip down yearbook memory lane and laugh at the awkwardness (er, awesomeness) of me, shall we?

7th Grade

In 7th grade, I still had the bangs I'd been rockin' since childhood, I marked up my yearbook (as noted) with two important colors--purple for friends and orange for the crushes of me and/or my friends--and the shirt shown in this yearbook pic was *I think* my sister Hannah's, since that was the time that clothing became important enough that I started regularly stealing (er, borrowing) clothes from her closet. (In fact, I wrote an English essay that my 7th grade English teacher read aloud to everyone without my permission that was all about how to steal clothes from my sister without her finding out. True story.)

Side note: If you take the time to squint closely at that yearbook spread above and those orange-marked crushes, you would even see such distinctions as "Cute!" or "Love the eyes!" or "HOT." If Raven is even half as boy-crazy as I was, we are in some deeeep trouble, my friends. I was NUTS. And a little stupid.

Seventh grade was also the year that I started junior high (my elementary was K-6 and my junior high 7th - 9th), and it was a doozy--I was in an advanced math class, which meant that I literally had no classes with my friends (nor lunch with them, unfortunately). I did, however, become closer with my friend Rachel during this year, who had actually always hated me during elementary but since we were the only two in that particular lunch block, we rolled with it. (Thank goodness for that!)


Also, I should note that I'm not including ALL pictures of myself from my yearbooks in this post---just the funnier/more awkward/more representative pics.

Please note the "bang gap" going on above---

I never could figure out how to feather them evenly all the way across so there was no gappage.

8th grade

I started growing out my bangs between 7th and 8th grade, and it was awkward at first, to say the least.

However, as I've noted many times throughout my life as I've jumped on the bangs bandwagon and off again too many times, growing out bangs is ALWAYS awkward.


I actually don't remember all that much about 8th grade academics-wise, but I do remember it was the worst school year of my life---friend drama, family drama...I dealt with a lot that year. If I remember correctly, I did run for student government then, though I didn't win. That was my last time ever going for a traditional student body leadership position.

(And let's all shout a little hallelujah that I had the good sense not to run for senior student body officer so that I didn't have to plan class reunions for the rest of my life. Ugh.)

9th Grade

I remember this as the year that my yearbook photo was so bad that my mom refused to display it, ha ha. Because my sisters all went to the local beauty college to get their hair highlighted, I decided that that's exactly what I should do too, and what followed were several reeeeeally bad blonde-ish months, followed up by several inches of super dark regrowth before I finally wised up and just dyed all my hair super dark again.


What I always find funny is that in 7th and 8th grade, most students stand in neat rows and smile obediently for the camera. By the time you're in 9th grade and the kings of school, all such rules go out the window (naturally).


(Except in the citizenship photos, obvi---

I mean, if you're on display for having the highest citizenship grades--based on stellar attendance, no tardies, and following rules to the letter--you'd best act like it for the photo, anyway.)



10th Grade

One of my favorite yearbook photos, and it was the only one my mom never bought (due to my 9th grade one being so bad that she take me to a studio halfway through my freshman year to get a professional one taken that stood in as both my freshman and sophomore picture on our mantel).

As you can see, the darker color makes me look much less creepy and bug-eyed than the washed-out blonde. Or maybe I'd just learned not to open my eyes as wide as I could for school pictures.

And let's not leave Matt out of this, shall we? BECAUSE LOOK HOW CUTE HE IS.

My heck.

Matt and I met in high school, though probably not until junior?-ish year. (It was choir that brought us together. So romantic.)

(Except we didn't date in high school. Don't get excited.)

11th Grade
My high school yearbook photos were actually all decent enough that I didn't want to die when I got them back (whereas in junior high, I got retakes EVERY SINGLE YEAR, and you already heard what happened after the 9th grade retake).

Apparently I was even more sarcastic in high school than I am now, with a humor that's just as dry. I'm sure people then, as now, still don't know when to take me seriously or not, so I'm all too used to the awkward silences and/or forced chuckles that follow my weird pronouncements. (Or I'll just one day have to own up to the fact that I'm probably not as funny as I think I am.)

And then...LOOK AT THIS PICTURE OF MATT, YOU GUYS. I just die. (This is actually from our sophomore year album, so though he looks 13 here, he's actually 16).

12th Grade


Ahhh, senior year---the year otherwise known as the year in which I "did all the things."

I don't know how I found time to sleep senior year, much less socialize. Between a huge load of AP classes, being president of the FCCLA club, being in show choir and musical and drama club and doing an internship at a junior high and working two part-time jobs and taking piano and guitar and voice lessons, I was maybe a *little* bit of an overachiever.

Just a bit.


Let's talk about this awful Sterling Scholar pic. First, the school insisted that all Sterling Scholar winners had to go to this professional studio to get headshots done, and I've gotta say---I was excited. A chance for a photo shoot paid for by the school? Yes, please! (Because, let's face it, I was a little vain in high school and loved getting my picture taken.)

AND THEY WERE THE WORST PICTURES EVER!!! And I mean, the WORST---not just for me, but for seemingly everyone.

Good thing I'm a blogger now and can stroke my vanity by being able to take and edit all my own pictures, right?

 
So I was president of the FCCLA club, but looking back, I was kinda the worst president ever. I mean, I showed up to all my meetings and stuff and attended almost all the activities, but I really only applied for the position because I wanted to look good on a resume (hurts to admit, but it's the awful truth), so my heart wasn't really in it. (Plus, I was involved in so many other things, it's not like I had the time to really devote to it, ya know?!)

Yeah, I was in a bit over my head that year. Still had a pretty good time though.
  

And meanwhile, you have Matt killing it on the varsity wrestling time and growing out his curly hair to epic lengths.  

In the story of our lives, Matt always seems to come across as more likeable and generally less dumb about stuff. I've learned to just roll with it and embrace my past (and present) moments of stupidity and immaturity.

(Although I will have you know that Matt, IN HIS MID-TWENTIES, could have gotten blown up by dynamite when he and his other college-age buddies were all playing with it out in the boonies. They freaking blew up a TREE, people!)
 


And that concludes our little trip down yearbook memory lane. I'm officially feeling both more and less awkward about myself than I did two hours ago.






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