Thursday, March 31, 2016

Why I Don't Do My Best at Everything

I've long since thought that our society has a bit of a superhero complex---not only are superhero movies bigger and more popular than ever, but I've noticed that even for us "regular humans," we're often expected to be "superheroes" in the sense that we put this pressure on ourselves to do everything (and do it amazingly well), to go above and beyond the call of duty (by "rescuing" or helping out everyone in distress that we come across), and to look like it's all effortless.

News flash:

Humans are not meant to be superheroes. In fact, until science gifts us with the ability of superhuman cyborg strength and mind-reading powers, we basically face the cold, hard truth that we CAN'T be superheroes.

This pressure on ourselves to overperform on everything is not new---women especially have felt the pressure for decades of taking care of house and family, serving in the community, often holding down a full- or part-time job, and feeling the pressure to look and feel beautiful, fit, and youthful. I am not the first to point this out, nor will I be the last.

On the one hand, it is GOOD to strive for things---it's good to give our best effort, to work hard and push our limits, to continually try to serve others and strive for self-improvement. But no man (or woman) ever achieved this state of perfection in a day (or a year, or a lifetime), so we can't beat ourselves up if we don't, either.

We've often heard that we should give our "best" on what we're working on. In fact, many times throughout the school year (perhaps hundreds), I encourage my students to put in their best efforts on assignments. I encourage them to see the job through until the end and to carefully check their work when they think they're already finished. I try and teach them that nothing great was ever accomplished by putting in a minimum of work, and I try and teach them the importance of paying attention to detail. I believe this is a Good Thing.

So why the title of the post?

Well, after almost 30 years in this planet, I've finally realized that I *truly* cannot have it all, do it all, or be it all---at least not in this lifetime. I think this realization hit me the most strongly when I calculated how many books were left on my recommended reading lists (that I was determined to get all the way through) and realized that in order to be reading every single one, I'd have to read about 70 books a year, and I could never choose to read anything else that wasn't on the list. That's when it hit me--it's a Good Thing to strive to read excellent literature, but it's a crazy, unrealistic, frustrating thing to expect myself to finish every single book on every single one of those lists.

Once I realized that?

My zest for reading increased a hundredfold because I no longer felt pressured to read certain books by certain times or beat myself up if I hadn't read a certain number of classics or award winners within the year.

Eventually, this realization extended to other areas of my life. I'd been putting a lot of pressure/guilt on myself because I wasn't cooking dinner every night like I used to, and my house is far from the state of tidiness I'd like it to be (and don't even get me started on my lack of decoration scheme). Yesterday at my doctor's appointment, I let some of my frustration fly that I've been consistently working out and eating around 1600-1700 calories every day and haven't lost any weight for two months. And then I realized I was doing it again---trying to expect myself to do everything, be everything, know everything, and look perfect while doing it.

And I know better than that.

So, for some examples, here are some things I have chosen not to do my "best" at (at least not at this point in my life):

* Doing all the dishes every day
* Keeping my house at the high level of tidiness/minimalism I'd like
* Reading all the award winners and classics on my lists
* Cooking every night
* Leaving extensive feedback on every one of my students' assignments
* Cutting out sugar/caffeine
* Actively developing my musical/photography/artsy talents

Now, that's not to say that I ignore all of these things completely--after all, we only have so many dishes, so sooner or later we do HAVE to clean them--but they're just not priorities. I know that if I were TRULY giving my "best" on these, it would mean staying up later to clean and tidy before bed (and getting even less sleep than I already do), cutting out any hope of full-on relaxation time, and causing more stress than I'm willing to pay right now. Would I love to be better at these things? Absolutely. Am I willing to give up other things in order to do that right now? Nope.

And maybe that's all this post really is about, anyway--what my priorities ARE versus what they are NOT.

What I AM trying to do my best at right now:

* Spending quality time with Raven every day (especially since I'm only around her for about 3 waking hours on weekdays due to my job and her sleep schedule)
* Increasing my physical fitness so that I can start training for a half marathon starting in a week or two
* Reading my scriptures every day
* Focusing more on my spiritual health overall, including making time to do family history, serve others, index names, and go to the temple
* Finishing the school year as strong as possible (having spring break all next week will hopefully bring me back from the near-burnout I'm at right now)
* Working on my new year's resolutions (which is more than enough to keep me fully busy!)
* Letting myself relax more every day (and not feel guilty about it)

Life as a working mom is a necessary balancing act, and it's a bit of a relief to not give 100% to everything, all the time.

In summation -

If you're giving your best to everything, you're really giving your best to nothing.

What do you think? What are your choosing to give your best to, and what are you choosing to let slide a bit?

Related Posts/Other Notes:
*The Bare Necessities
*Why It's Okay if Your Mornings Aren't "Ideal"
*No More Trying to Be Superwoman
*If you like this topic, you'd love the book Essentialism by Greg McKeown (which is all about this exact concept---that you will actually benefit most from NOT giving 100% to everything)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

March Adventure: World's Largest Migratory Bird Refuge

Okay, okay---so I'm not exactly positive it's the world's largest migratory bird refuge. But as we drove through Brigham City (which is where it's located), the signs hanging over their Main Street said that exact thing, so if my facts are wrong, I blame that!

Matt and I had talked months and months (maybe years?) ago about visiting this bird refuge, but something I've discovered about myself is that unless I either have an activity planned for me (usually by my mom or sisters or husband's family) or I have made a new year's resolution to see/do something, I don't take the time to do it. And I stand by what I said earlier about this particular new year's resolution to take a day adventure every month---it can sometimes be stressful on the front end to plan, but I'm always SO glad we took the time and money in the end.

Saturday's adventure was no exception.

The wildlife refuge is located several miles west of Brigham City, Utah, and it consists of a museum, lookout points right outside the museum, and a 12-mile loop around the marshes.

At first, we were just thinking of maybe visiting the museum and just driving to the head of the 12-mile loop (but not actually going around it since it's a one-way drive on a dirt road with no turning around, which is always a bit dangerous with a tired almost-one-year-old). But then--wonder of wonders--Raven fell asleep in her carseat, so we were able to take the 12-mile loop without too many reservations.

Best. Idea. Ever! (It's pretty much where we took almost all of our pictures!)

In addition to seeing scads of different waterfowl (many of which I'd never seen or even heard of before), the drive provided sweeping views of the cattail-lined marshes, wide-open blue skies, and snow-capped mountains off in the distance. It was like I literally felt my blood pressure drop several points as the car ambled its way along the loop. (And when we went, there were so few cars on it at the same time that we were at our leisure to go whatever speed we wanted or even stop in the middle of the road if something caught our attention.)

Although I'm sad that I kept missing the red-winged blackbirds that Matt kept spotting, I did manage to see a blue heron, some type of big crane, black-necked stilts (yes, I just had to look up the name), and a sweet-looking duck called a cinnamon teal. There were dozens more, but I'm so bad at remembering all the different names, so I just enjoyed the general splendor.

At the end of our drive, we even saw a miniature ferret looking at us from the side of the road with its beady little eyes. (I almost had to restrain Matt to make sure he didn't put the car in reverse and try and go catch it--he REALLY wanted to go catch it. No, REALLY.)

We followed up our trip with lunch at Maddox, the best place (by far) to eat in Brigham City. And the best part? The guy at the table next to ours kept Raven entertained the whole time, so the lunch ended up being drama-free.

A great day!

Quick Facts about Brigham City's Wildlife Bird Refuge:

Address: 2155 W Forest Street, Brigham City, Utah
Hours of Operation: the auto tour is open year-round (weather and road conditions permitting), but the visitor center has fixed hours (Tues-Fri from 8 - 5, Saturdays from 10 - 4)
Entrance Fee: None
Things to Do: visitor center/museum, 12-mile driving loop around the marshes, guided field tours and presentations on select days, hunting, fishing
Other Notes/Tips: The visitor center loans out binoculars, field guides, and even an audio tour to play in your car as you drive around the loop. Had we known we were for sure going to take the 12-mile drive, we definitely would have picked that up. Also, there's quite a few bugs out there, so be prepared to possibly get bitten or for sure to have your car window covered with them by the end. Oh, and definitely don't forget your camera! The views are stunning.

And now, for the rest of the picture dump -

Can't wait for April's adventure!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Things I'm No Longer Self-Conscious About

Being a middle school teacher, I see a LOT of self-consciousness happening (some of it for good reason, some of it not). Basically, I feel like on most days, I can literally almost smell the awkwardness and hormones and puberty craziness going on (no, really---sometimes the stench in my classroom is enough to make me want to go around with a clothespin pinching my nose). On the bright side, it's basically a constant reminder to myself of how far I've come since my own awkward teenage years.

Just for fun, here are 5 things I'm no longer self-conscious about:

"Red-Face" Syndrome

This might have been one of the first things I really remember being sensitive about. You see, in my family, if we get the least bit hot (usually due to exercise or to an intense summer-y day or some combination of the two), our faces go an intense shade of bright pink that makes us look like we're either second-degree sunburned or about to faint from dehydration (when in fact neither is true). I distinctly remember one time when I was playing catcher on my softball team and getting pulled from the game because the coach's wife or somebody was convinced that I was going to pass out due to the redness of my face. I felt totally humiliated (not to mention a bit frustrated) that I was being made to sit out the rest of the game and drink loads and loads of water when I knew perfectly well that I was fine.

After my Saturday runs outside, I still get the red face, but I have finally gotten to the point where it no longer bothers me (probably because people probably figure that because I'm an adult, I'm old enough to decide if I'm really dehydrated or about to pass out or something like that).

Wearing Sandals ("Gap-Toe" Syndrome)

Due to a large gap between my big toe and the one next to it, I avoided wearing flip flops for years. I would stare in envy at other girls with their dainty toes that all lined up perfectly next to each other, and I would look down at the mutant gap in mine, horrified that my toes just refused to lie flat.

I was so self-conscious about the gap, in fact, that I actually trained my toe muscles to straighten out while wearing sandals or flip flops so that the gap was much less noticeable (and so the flips flops could actually stay on).

Although I will probably never love the look of my feet, I am WAY beyond foregoing the use of sandals just because of a silly gap between my toes.

My Voice

Due to some comments from my family when I was younger that I was "pitchy" or "singing off-key," I was intensely shy about singing alone in front of people for a long time: I was convinced that the second I tried, they--like my well-meaning family members--would immediately zone in on everything I should be doing better.

To my surprise, after singing a duet (which had some solo parts in it) in 9th grade during a concert, I got a pretty positive response from almost everyone, which encouraged me to keep pursuing my dreams of becoming a good singer. While I've since accepted the fact that I'll never have a "showy" singing voice, I am confident now that I can hold my own if asked to sing a solo or as part of a group.

Pale Skin

Even after the tanning craze of the late nineties pittered out and everyone became crazy about sunscreen, I still noticed that seemingly everyone in magazines still had perfectly bronzed skin. I knew from many sad experiences trying to "get some sun" (and burning and burning and burning) that I should really just give up on my dreams of being a sun-kissed beauty, but I definitely went through a stint for about 8 - 9 hours of getting into the whole self-tanner thing (and insisting on stupidly continuing on with my idea of getting a "little glow" every summer from time spent outside). Although I tended to get more compliments if I did look a bit tan, I finally gave it up about 4 years ago (with the exception of using a little bronzer on my face).

My pale skin can look a bit vampire-like at times, but the maintenance and/or sun damage to make it otherwise just isn't worth it to me anymore.


It's so funny to me that I used to be self-conscious about my overbite (which is really not that noticeable) because I'm always bragging now about how I never had to wear braces as a teen. The one time I went to an orthodontist (to see if I needed braces or not), he commented that unless I was unhappy with my overbite, he couldn't see any reason for me to get them. The funny thing was, I didn't even know I HAD an overbite before he pointed it out, but me being 13 or so and unsure of everything, I immediately started scrutinizing my teeth in the mirror, grimacing as I saw that my teeth were far from being lined up perfectly (and wondering if I should just bite the bullet and get the braces).

In the end, the dread of getting braces overcame the disgust over the overbite, and I never ended up doing anything to straighten my teeth.

(Best. Decision. Ever. At least I was able to avoid ONE of the awkward parts about being a teenager!)

However, lest you think that I'm all vampire-skin confidence and solo-singing sensation, I'll have you know that I AM still a *little* self-conscious about some things. I'm definitely closer to complete self acceptance than I was even a few months ago (when I was in the throes of the "moon face" syndrome of Prednisone), but I'd like to be able to lose my self-consciousness completely when it comes to these things:

- the lingering skin rash left over from my recovering autoimmune disease
- my mom pooch (which doesn't seem to budge, no matter how many pounds I've lost so far (48 out of the 50 pregnancy pounds, thanks for asking!))
- my round face shape (I've always been a little self-conscious about this, but it got a lot worse when I was dealing with the side effects of Prednisone that were beyond my control)

What things are you no longer self-conscious about that you once were? And what are you STILL self-conscious about?

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Portraits

Because sometimes you all just need to dress up in colors reminiscent of Easter eggs and take family pictures on the most hope-filled holiday of the whole year.

 Hope you and yours had a beautiful Sunday yesterday!

"Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God."

Friday, March 25, 2016

Why It's Okay If Your Mornings Aren't "Ideal"

It seems that I've been reading a lot lately about morning routines, specifically what "power people" do in the mornings to make sure their day gets off on the right foot. Maybe it's just the type of blog I follow or maybe it's just the type of magazine I subscribe to or maybe it's just the fact that social media has given birth to people wanting to know every detail of everyone else's lives, but it seems like the topic has been cropping up a LOT.

Take my current issue of Self magazine for example---in the April issue, there is a whole section devoted to powerful/inspirational women and how they spend their mornings. As I've been reading about how these people refuse to start the day without a green smoothie and a relaxing yoga workout or a hot beverage of choice taken out onto "the deck" to watch the sun rise, I was left feeling like something must be wrong with my life because my mornings look NOTHING like that.

Then I realized a few things.

For one, all the women featured had the kind of work schedule that they had control over when they started their day (because pretty much all of them ran their own businesses or did freelance work). For two, almost none of them had kids. For three, the women featured seemed to all HAVE these "decks" to watch sunrises on (instead of living in a small apartment with no yard to speak of, never mind having a deck).

In other words, it took me awhile to not be frustrated over the whole thing because it took me awhile to realize that my mornings COULDN'T look like that right now, and THAT WAS OKAY. It took me awhile to realize that while my mornings might not be "relaxing" or "calming" or "energizing," that didn't mean that I wasn't set up to be "powerful" or "inspirational" later in the day.

Here's a run-down of my typical weekday morning:

1. Because of my commute and my work schedule (and the negotiations I made to make up all my contract time BEFORE school), I pretty much have to get up between 5:15 and 5:30 every morning. Even though I would overall consider myself to be a "morning person," the five o'clock hour is hardly the ideal time to be waking up---somewhere in the 6 - 7 range would be much nicer, but that's just not an option for me. The fact is, I have a longer commute to factor in and a lot to get done before school starts, so waking up in the 5 o'clock hour is a necessity.

2. I put a high value on sleep, which means that I wake up as late as possible to ensure myself the maximum amount of shut-eye (while still leaving myself a 5 minute cushion just in case something goes wrong). I often have set out my outfit the night before and prepared my lunch for the next day, so I really am waking up as late as I can. Therefore, the idea of starting out my morning "leisurely" is a choice I've opted not to make---I choose sleep over feeling unhurried.

3. I choose to eat my breakfast on the go. Each year, my "go-to" breakfast seems to change (last year it was pb & j's or instant oatmeal in a cup that I'd pray wouldn't spill as I ate it on my drive), and this year, I currently take a protein bar and a banana most mornings with me as I head out the door. Once again, because I prize sleep over feeling unhurried, the choice of a "leisurely" breakfast has also been foregone.

4. Once I'm at the school (at which point, the sun still hasn't risen, fyi, so no sunrise-gazing possible), I get started on the most urgent tasks---making copies for that day, filling my water bottle, getting the agenda on the board. If I have time after doing all that, I try to take a few minutes to get a head start on grading. Since I try to avoid taking work home at all costs, I really try to take advantage of my work hours as much as I can. In other words, when I'm at work, I'm at work, and when I'm at home, I'm at home (which is one of my "life secrets" for healthy balance as a working mother).

5. Even though my mornings are packed full and no-nonsense, I'm very rarely STRESSED in the morning, just because I've learned to jump right into my to-do list and just get everything done and out of the way. (As mentioned earlier, it does help that I choose to prepare some things the night before so that I'm not running around the apartment in a panic because I can't find something.)

As you might notice, there is nothing in my routine that is "leisurely" and nothing that's really being "savored"---it's just productivity and efficiency, all the time.

Is this my ideal morning routine?


Am I okay with my current routine?

Surprisingly--after giving it way more thought than I probably should have after reading the magazine article--YES. The fact is, my mornings are the way they are because of life decisions that I CHOSE. I chose to be in a profession that has an early start time. I chose to teach at a school that's a 30-minute drive away. I chose to spend more time working in the morning so that I could have my afternoons free to come home and be with my daughter.

Sure, my ideal morning would look like a leisurely sip of fresh-made smoothie out on the beach somewhere watching the sunrise, followed up by a 3-4 mile run on said beach. My ideal morning would involve a solid 30 or 60 minutes of quiet reading. My ideal morning would involve extra snuggles in bed with my husband and then extra amounts of snuggles and play time with my daughter.

But for my life right now, that's not what I've chosen. And I'm okay with that.

(It's also been helpful to realize that while those women's MORNINGS might seem dreamy, the rest of their lives sounded pretty packed and hectic and full-to-the-brim, which is definitely NOT how I choose to spend my afternoons or evenings.)

Can you be a "powerful person" and not have a "power" morning routine that involves yoga stretches and green smoothies? Can you be a "powerful person" without being driven to crazy, stressed-out, workaholic extremes in the morning, too?


It should also be noted that you can also prize "simple living" and STILL have a bit of a go-go-go morning routine. I think the keys are these:

1. Un-ideal mornings work for you if you're happy with your overall life choices---if you're content with your overall work/life balance and your current choices for how you're spending your days, then it's okay to be rushed in the morning.

2. "Me" time is important, but it doesn't have to happen in the morning. As long as you make sure it happens sometime, that's what's most important.

3. Realize that there are trade-offs for everything, so if your day would start better by you feeling less stressed out/harried, then you might need to wake up earlier. If a little bit of rush gets your blood going (in a good way) and you prize sleep most (knowing that enough shut-eye will guarantee a smooth day better than almost anything else), then don't feel guilty about your un-ideal morning routine.

What do you think? Do you think powerful people tend to have an ideal morning routine? Or do you think that "hitting the ground running" can work too?

Thursday, March 24, 2016

My Capsule Wardrobe: One Month In

I think that with a capsule wardrobe--like with so many things--there is a "honeymoon" stage, a "reckoning" stage, and a "peaceful acceptance" (or "give up entirely") stage. Or maybe that's just my experience of it?

Basically, for about two weeks after starting my capsule wardrobe experiment one month ago, I was unequivocally in love with the whole idea. For the first time in months (and months and months...), I felt excited about choosing what to wear, and it was such a relief to know that everything in my closet fit. I started trying out combinations I'd never put together before, and--wonder of wonders--I actually started busting out some of my jewelry again, too.

It seemed that there was no end in sight to the blissful experience of only having to think about to wear for about 45 seconds each morning.

Then, the "reckoning" hit---I've always been one to do laundry as few times a month as humanly possible, and once I started running out of options, I got a little frustrated. My capsule wardrobe-- which I'd tried to arrange so that everything could go with everything else--ended up not *quite* as coordinated as I thought. Plus, the spring weather started tossing her beautiful head, and all of a sudden, a quarter of my wardrobe seemed obsolete.

(Confession: during this "reckoning" stage, I cheated a little---I actually rotated out a couple pieces that I'd originally chosen for the capsule (that I hadn't worn yet anyway, so I guess I technically wasn't "breaking" any rules) and rotated in a few more
seasonally appropriate options.)

I also realized during this period that some of my tops only looked good with skirts or certain pairs of pants (thanks to the lovely "mommy pooch" I'm still working on getting rid of), which made me rotate a cardigan, blazer, or jacket into pretty much almost every outfit. While on the one hand, I was feeling better in my clothing than I had in a really long time, it was still making me realize that even with a well-selected wardrobe, I'm still not quite used to dressing this new body shape.

But then finally, only in the past week or so, I think I've reached an acceptance with the whole thing. No longer eyeing the bin of clothes with all the non-capsule items (which I did more than once during that "reckoning" stage), I am now at peace with my decision to just stick with this capsule wardrobe until summer more or less officially rolls in.

And now, looking forward, I think I'm going to be much more intentional about the clothing I buy--before, I just bought things that looked cute or that were on sale or that just fit my new body period (never mind how cute it actually was), but now I think I might finally have the kick in the pants to really "invest" in a few key pieces that could work hard in a small wardrobe (like a knee-length black skirt or a collarless button-up).

It will be interesting to see what creative combinations I'll come up with next (since apparently I'm the type that has a hard time wearing the exact same outfit twice in a season), but I think the whole thing had been good for me overall (not to mention time-saving!). 

***P. S. I do actually wear shoes with pants. I just take them off literally about two seconds after I get in the door and can't be bothered to put them on again for pictures...


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I Officially Quit My Job! + 4 Other Things

1. Since I never made it known here on the blog, I figured now is as good a time as any to say that I signed the resignation papers at work almost two weeks ago now, so as of summer, I will officially be unemployed.

The funny thing is, I thought I'd be panicky and anxious and kept up at night worrying whether or not I'd done the right thing, but I've felt nothing but calm ever since. Guess that's my sign that I've done the right thing, eh?

(And to say that I CANNOT WAIT would be the biggest understatement ever. I am literally counting down the days left until summer vacation...only 48 (work days) to go!)

Related Post: Our Current Fork in the Road

2. Here is a random fact for you--thanks to Matt's work, I am starting to become an official "small animal photographer." It all started when they wanted to hire someone relatively inexpensive to do some new photos for their product bags, and now I've literally got hundreds of images (that I've taken) on my computer of guinea pigs and chinchillas.

Oh, the places you'll go, eh?

P. S. It's too bad I didn't take a video of one of our photo sessions early on in the process--watching two grown men furiously chase down a guinea pig while I sat there hugely pregnant with Raven trying to get a good shot while getting low to the ground is an event never to be forgotten.

3. I have a doctor's appointment next week, and while I was super hopeful after my last session with him (when he told me I could go off the Prednisone steroid and that I might be able to start tapering off the Methotrexate medication after this March appointment), I'm no longer feeling so optimistic. Since going off gluten (more or less) back in December, I'd noticed drastic improvements in my skin to the point that it had *almost* fully healed...except for a small patch on my back that's about the size of a silver dollar. Well, that patch hasn't really gotten better, and in fact, it might even currently be worse than it was when he looked at it 3 months ago.

Goodbye, chances of being medication-free in a few weeks... (but who knows? Maybe he'll surprise me at the appointment...)

Related Posts:
Oh, Happy News!
Why I'm Doing an Elimination Diet Over the Holidays

4. My students take their high-stakes end-of-year Common Core writing test next week, and I flip-flop between being super confident that they're going to do awesome and then totally convinced that most are going to fail. Based on their written responses on the poetry test they took today, things are not looking good.

Luckily, the writing portion of the test seems to be graded *slightly* easier than how I grade, so at least they'll have that going for them.

So stressful. (At least I won't be around next year when they're starting merit-based pay, where teachers' salaries are tied to student test scores...)

5. Although I'm mostly used to eating gluten-free by now, I do sometimes miss the old carb favorites--cookies, bread, pizza--so I've tried branching out and actually trying out baking recipes using gluten-free recipes in the past week or two. You know what I've discovered? Gluten-free baking can be GROSS---apparently the way I'm doing it, everything that was once stellar and delicious and amazing is now just barely edible (and sometimes not even that, like the chocolate chip cookie recipe I tried).

Looks like if I have to stay with this gluten-free thing forever that I'd better start reading up on the science of how to make GF goods that are actually GOOD (because seriously, I might be ruined on cookie dough forever now after that last batch I made, and THAT'S saying something...). Anyone know any good hints?

Related Post: What I Learned From Doing an Elimination Diet

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