Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Done Now, Done Right

 President Kimball once said, “One of the most serious human defects in all ages is procrastination” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball [1982], 48). Procrastination robs us of effective and meaningful time as well as of peace of mind and confidence. Sometimes we spend all our energy putting off tasks—large or small—that we grow to loathe them and sink into a spiral of guilt and cowardice. Elder Marvin J. Ashton has called procrastination “unproductive delay” and encouraged us to instead do things “straightway . . . immediately, without delay or hesitation” (Marvin J. Ashton, “Straightway,” Ensign, May 1983, 30).

Over the past year I have made a significant career change from a full-time office professional to an overtime wife, mother, and homemaker. As all mothers know, this challenging shift in my daily work was pretty daunting at first. Instead of having a focused routine driven by deadlines in the workplace, I became the one-woman manager and entire team of our home life in charge of all the decisions. Okay, my husband helps a lot at home, but during the day, when he’s gone, it’s up to me. This change from relying on and performing for other people to needing to rely solely on myself for motivation has been significant.

Over time, I have discovered that many of the skills that helped keep me motivated in the workplace can help me not procrastinate my responsibilities at home, especially these five: (1) Prioritize, (2) Be early, (3) Amplify your strengths, (4) Set honest goals and give honest praise, and (5) Reward yourself. While at this time in my life I’m focused on improving my homemaking and mothering skills and not procrastinating those duties, these five principles should help you in whatever responsibilities you need help with in your life—work, school, family, church service, etc.

1. Prioritize

I am a list person. I have lists on my refrigerator, my shopping list, my planner, and all over the house. During busy times at work, my desk sometimes turned into a forest of Post-It notes as I tried to keep things from slipping through the cracks.

Lists are helpful, but they can also be daunting unless you know how to prioritize. If you have a lot of “To-Dos” on your mind, it might be time for what one of my co-workers called “a meeting with yourself” to get things in order. What things should you do today, this week, this month, or when you have more time?
Now that I’m at home, it is easy to make the wrong prioritizing choices by thinking that things like scripture study and prayer can be pushed aside for pressing appointments and chores; I have to constantly remind myself what is most important, especially at times when there are so many things that need my time and attention. Properly prioritizing can help you avoid procrastination because giving the most important things your first attention makes subsequent tasks run more smoothly.

2. Be Early

Being early isn’t just about getting to a meeting on time. At work it meant getting a report finished a few days before a deadline or answering an email before it became urgent. Now being early means mixing up the cornbread dry ingredients in the early afternoon so there is less to do right before dinner or balancing the budget frequently so that it never piles very high. Choosing to put time into something that you know you will have to do eventually before it is a stress is one of my key defenses against procrastination. Try it and see: What can you do today so you don’t have to worry about it tomorrow?

3. Amplify Your Strengths

Although it is important to do the most important tasks first, sometimes a group of tasks are equally important. At these times, it is okay to do what you like best first: Search for a strength to help you overcome your weakness. For example, maybe you have a list of people to get in touch with. Would you rather phone, email, text, or something else? As long as the methods are equally effective, choose the one you are good at and like. This will help you deter procrastination. At home, I love having a clean house but there are some chores I don’t really like doing. To play up my strengths, I remind myself how much I love the clean in order to motivate myself to do the work to make my home that way.

4. Set Honest Goals, Give Honest Praise

No one wins when you overwork yourself or set expectations that are honestly beyond your abilities. When I first became a full-time homemaker, I thought the best thing would be to have a one-day housecleaning wonder once a week—one day when I would make the house spotless so I would only have to deep clean once a week. Honestly, I don’t have time to commit to only housecleaning for a whole day on the same day every week. Instead, I try to make sure I clean everything at least once a week, which I can honestly do, but it’s okay that it means vacuuming one day, cleaning sinks another, and sweeping on another, all on different days each week. Assessing your work honestly means telling yourself you are doing a good job even if you are not reaching what you think is “ideal.” If I can clean half the house all on one day, I rant about it to my husband the whole evening because I know that I did an amazing job.

5. Reward Yourself

Rewards are a step beyond praise. Be sure to treat yourself with something special when you do something great. Rewards can be a great motivator. Now, keep it moderate (not too much chocolate!), but I have heard of an English teacher who stuck M&Ms randomly in the stack of papers she had to grade to keep herself fresh and motivated while working. Sometimes it’s helpful to motivate yourself with “fun jobs.” For example, as soon as you complete the report at work that you’re not excited about, you can check your email. At home, we all have chores that we like okay and that we hate; maybe do the one you hate first and then reward yourself with doing something productive that you like.

When called by the Savior to follow him, the disciples “straightway left their nets” and “immediately left the ship” in order to answer his call. They recognized that following the Savior was their highest priority. We can seek His help in learning how to be most effective in fulfilling our responsibilities in our families, homes, wards, careers, and other worthy life pursuits. Elder Ashton has said, “One of our greatest resources for success and happiness is doing the right thing now.” By prioritizing, being early, using our strengths, setting goals, and giving ourselves rewards, we can overcome procrastination and enjoy that happiness of “doing the right thing now.”

Image copyright by Microsoft Corporation. Available in Microsoft Word Clip Art Galleries. 

A Circle of Christmas Service

As the Christmas season began in 2008, I was struck by the instruction President Monson gave in that year’s Christmas devotional. He spoke of Christmas memories of the past and making new memories that year, but the stories he shared and the experiences he highlighted focused on service rather than giving or receiving gifts.

As I thought back on my Christmases past, only gifts that came during my childhood came to mind—like the Christmas my parents gave us our family dog, the Christmas when we received a new TV, and the Christmas when the giant present in a large garbage bag, neatly tied with a giant bow, turned out to be what I thought was an uneventful new set of family bath towels. Although these memories were pleasant and humorous, I couldn’t think of any meaningful Christmas memory that focused on service, as President Monson had talked about, instead of gifts.

President Monson’s talk about Christmas service was still on my mind when I went visiting teaching that month, so I decided to incorporate what the prophet had taught in the Christmas devotional as part of my visiting teaching message. I told the other sisters about my problem—that my Christmas memories were focused on gifts instead of service—and asked what we could do to strive to focus on service more than gifts in future Christmas seasons.

My visiting teaching sisters all had wonderful ideas and shared memories that matched what President Monson had taught. Their stories, however, were more familiar to me than I had anticipated. As they shared special Christmas service experiences, I realized that my problem was not that I had never done Christmas service but that the gift memories came to mind before the service memories. When my visiting teaching sisters shared their Christmas service experiences, I was finally reminded of my own.

One sister’s memory was especially significant to me. She told of a Christmas when her family was struggling financially because her father was unemployed at the time. She tenderly told of loving neighbors, friends, and community members who came to her family’s aid that year by providing food, decorations, and gifts for Christmas.

This sister’s story reminded me of a service project we did as a ward mutual group when I was a youth. We used part of the ward auxiliary budget funds and donations from ward members to provide Christmas for families in need. On a mutual night, each class or quorum was assigned a member of a family in need to purchase gifts for or a special Christmas item, like the tree, decorations, or Christmas dinner. After an hour or so of shopping, we all met back together to deliver Christmas to the needy families. I can still remember our Young Men’s leaders carrying a Christmas tree into a home. Even though I didn’t know the families we were serving, this service project was a very special experience.

It was not my visiting teaching sister’s family that our ward had served, as she lived in a different area at the time, but connecting my nearly forgotten service experience with the Christmas that she remembered best made that Christmas service project much more meaningful to me.

My visiting teacher’s story brought that service experience from a mutual activity years ago back in a full circle. Learning that my visiting teaching sister had been served in the same way that our ward had served someone else made that service experience much more personal to me, even years later. One small and simple, and nearly forgettable, act of service to me was a great and memorable thing to someone else.

This sister’s story was only the beginning. Once I got started, the memories of Christmas service from my childhood came flooding back. There was the family that came caroling to our house with a plate of cookies every Christmas Eve. I remember my mother baking loaves of nut bread and sending us off with our red wagon to deliver them to the neighbors. I thought of doorbell ditching the Twelve Days of Christmas to families in our ward that my parents thought could need a little extra love. All these memories were there in my past all the time, gifts of experience to propel me into making service a part of my Christmases now.

So how do we live and teach that giving Christmas service is more important than the gifts we receive? We keep remembering by doing, each year, over and over again, at this time when we celebrate His birth, what the Savior would do and “Love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34). Each experience of service that we embrace affects the people we serve and the people that we serve with altogether to make this special season a gift of service.

Images copyrighted by Microsoft Corporation. Available in Microsoft Word Clip Art Galleries.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things I Learned From Making My First Thanksgiving Meal

1. Brining a fresh turkey is the way to go. There was not a dry slice on our bird!

2. I cannot get enough of homemade whole berry cranberry sauce.

3. Light egg nog is not worth the lack of calories.

4. Fat free whipped topping that you add melted chocolate to for a chocolate cream pie is.

5. College kids sleep a lot! I guess it's been a while since I was one and I forgot!

6. I'd rather eat stuffing and gravy than mashed potatoes and gravy--especially stuffing cooking in our amazing brined bird and gravy made from those delicious drippings.

7. Cranberry cheesecake is my new love.

8. Making the rolls early and reheating them would be better than stressing about them being the last thing out of the oven when the guests have already arrived.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How to Survive Gestational Diabetes

I failed my three-hour glucose tolerance test miserably from the start. Frustration and guilt overwhelmed me. Had I eaten too much Halloween candy? Why was this happening to me? I was healthy—I loved vegetables and I didn’t stop jogging until I was four months along in my pregnancy. What else could I do to take care of myself when I was doing my best already? How would I survive the holidays, let alone my third trimester, without my favorite desserts?

Laughably, I think I passed through all the stages of grief after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes: depression, guilt, anger, tolerance, and, finally, acceptance. To be treated for gestational diabetes, I was put on a strict low-carbohydrate diabetic diet. My doctors monitored me closely to make sure that I was getting enough to eat to grow a baby but not getting too many carbohydrates that would raise my blood sugar too high. Going on the diabetic diet was difficult but doable. Some women also have to take medication and/or insulin to get their gestational diabetes under control.

The end of the story is that I survived and had (and have) a healthy baby. Although any sort of complications during pregnancy are scary, gestational diabetes is not the end of the world. You can make it! Whether you or a family member or friend has been diagnosed with gestational diabetes, here are my ten snippets of advice on how to survive and how to help.

1. It is Not Your Fault, and You Are Not Alone
Gestational diabetes has developed in your body because of the way that your body reacts to hormones during pregnancy, not because you’ve done something wrong. Although 2-4% is small percentage of pregnant women, but that means that there are probably a handful of women who have had gestational diabetes in your ward. Start asking around for comfort, advice, and support. Any woman who has gone through this would love to help and will be full of ideas.

2. There are Perks
If you follow the diabetic diet, you won’t gain very much extra weight in your pregnancy and you’re likely to be back down to your pre-pregnancy weight in a jiffy. If the perks don’t motivate you enough, just remember that following the diabetic diet will decrease your chances of needing a c-section and/or birthing a large baby. Of course, doing what is best for your baby is your prime motivation as well.

3. Give Up the Baked Goods
It’s pretty rough to find ways to substitute both flour and sugar, the two demons of carbohydrates in baked goods. Feel free to experiment as much as you want with Splenda and almond flour, but don’t let yourself get too frustrated. Do the best you can at home, and just accept the fact that store-bought baked goods are probably out of your diet for a few months.

4. Say Yes to Protein
Keep high-protein snacks ready-to-eat in the fridge to fill in between meals and snacks. Some good ideas are sliced cheese (buy a bunch of different kinds to keep yourself excited about it) and eggs (hard-boiled, deviled, omelets). Nuts are another good high-protein filler.

5. Creativity is the Key
Embrace your low-carb menu like it’s a game. How many different types of vegetables can you eat with dip instead of bread? What can you eat in a lettuce wrap instead of as a sandwich? How can you eat the most with the fewest amount of carbs?

6. Eating Out is Out
It’s easier to control your diet when you make your own food and difficult to find low-carb options at restaurants. If you do want to eat out, try to find nutrition facts online for the restaurant (although in my experience this usually means my option is the house salad).

7. Watch That Diet Label
“Low carb” and “diet” labels can be misleading. Be sure to read the nutrition facts for yourself to make sure you’re choosing the best option. Sometimes foods that are labeled diet are better than the ones marked low carb. Sometimes foods that don’t have either label are the best choice.

8. Communicate With Those You Love (and Those Who Feed You)
Being pregnant and diabetic during the holidays seemed like complete torture at first glance, but communicating with your friends, family, and whoever else you will be eating with can really ease the pain of not eating what you want. Be upfront: let people know that you really wouldn’t appreciate a plate of holiday cookies this year. I asked my mom to please not serve my favorite dessert so I wouldn’t feel tortured. At events, work with the hostess to make sure that there are enough low-carb options that you can still feel festive.

9. Countdown to Freedom
Most likely this is only temporary and you won’t be diabetic anymore after you give birth. Keep yourself motivated by remembering you only have a few weeks longer and thank goodness you don’t have to do this for the rest of your life.

10. Be Aware
Your baby is likely to have low blood sugar after the birth, so be on the lookout to make sure that your baby has the stamina to eat enough during those first few days. Watch closely for signs of dehydration: not enough wet diapers, sunken or ridged head, dry or cracked lips, lethargy, weight loss, unhealthy skin coloring.

Gestational diabetes really helped me count my blessings and appreciate the fact that in general my health is good. I feel a lot more sympathy, respect, and sensitivity for people who have strict diet restrictions from allergies or chronic illness. I also feel very motivated to do what I can to prevent type-2 diabetes in my family by eating healthy and being active. Above all, I’m grateful for modern medicine and doctors that knew how to keep me and my baby safe, because, honestly, a hundred years ago I probably would have died in childbirth. With that in mind, I think I can give up pie any Christmas and still smile about it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Thank you Smith's and! Today this cost me $10.87--a savings of $13.24 (56%) for:
12 Yoplait 6 oz yogurts
2 Yoplait 30 oz yogurts
2 Yoplait Greek yogurts
2 Pillsbury Grands biscuits
2 Pillsbury crescent rolls
1 loaf French bread (okay this wasn't on sale/couponed, but I needed to buy it anyway and it was on the same bill)

Monday, July 26, 2010

My $1.50 Meal

I've been trying really hard to shop smart by using coupons and shopping sales, and all my hard work has definitely been paying off! The biggest indicator of success is that since we've had a baby we've only had to increase our grocery budget by $5 a week, and daipers probably cost at least $8 a week. Granted he's not on solid food yet, but it's still impressive that out budget hasn't had to increase that much since I've had the time and spent the energy to be really smart about what we spend.

Here's an example. Last week I shopped some sales and made a complete dinner for two for about $1.50. Don't believe me? Here's the math:

3 chicken drumsticks @ .68/lb = $0.84

2 ears of corn @ .10/ea = $0.20

1/2 bag steak fries @ $0.79/bag = $0.39

TOTAL = $1.43

I couldn't believe it myself, and it was a delicious meal! I guess you could throw in a few cents for a glass of milk each and some BBQ sauce, but this is still some fantastic savings. Sometimes doing the math is helpful to remind me that it pays to take the time and do the work to shop smart.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Celebrate August!

“There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August. . . . It comes when we remember nothing but clear skies, green fields, and sweet-smelling flowers-- . . . what a pleasant time it is! Orchards and cornfields ring with the hum of labour; trees bend beneath the thick clusters of rich fruit which bow their branches to the ground; . . . A mellow softness appears to hang over the whole earth.”
- Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers, Oxford: University Press, 1997, 208.

August is the last full month of the summer. Do you love it as much as Charles Dickens? Without any big holidays in August, sometimes it feels a little monotonous. Here’s a list of lesser-known holidays in August that might just be the pick-me-up you need this month. Maybe you need some fun ideas to help you survive the heat. Maybe you need some activities to keep your kids interested this month before school starts. Maybe you and your spouse or friends need some days of fun. Check out the following ideas and start celebrating August!
Monday, August 2 – National Ice Cream Sandwich Day
Buy and eat ice cream sandwiches, or make your own by layering ice cream between two homemade cookies.
Tuesday, August 3 – National Watermelon Day
Enjoy a watermelon today. Cut it in slices, or use a melon baller to make a fancy salad. Have a seed-spitting contest in the backyard.

Wednesday, August 4 – National Chocolate Chip Day
Make and enjoy a treat with chocolate chips.
Thursday, August 5 – National Waffle Day
Have traditional waffles for breakfast, then make waffle sandwiches for lunch by making grilled cheese using the waffle iron.
Friday, August 6 – Wiggle Your Toes Day
Paint your toenails, then paint a picture holding a brush with your toes.

Saturday, August 7 – National Mustard Day
Make homemade pretzels to dip in mustard, or enjoy other mustard-friendly meals like corndogs, hotdogs, or hamburgers.
August 9-14 – National Apple Week
Make and eat as many apple dishes as you can think of, such as sliced apples, applesauce, apple crisp, apple pie, apple butter, baked apples, or apple dumplings. Read books about Johnny Appleseed. Slice apples from the bottom to the stem to reveal the star inside. Have an apple sampling session by buying one of each type of apple at the store and taste-testing them as a family.
Monday, August 9 – National Rice Pudding Day
Make and eat rice pudding. Make it an all-out rice day by making fried rice and rice cakes too.

Tuesday, August 10 – S’Mores Day
Make s’mores any way you can—over the fire pit, a candle, or in the microwave.

Wednesday, August 11 – Play in the Sand Day
Find somewhere to play in the sand, such as the beach, a lake shore, a playground sand pit, or a sand volleyball court.
Friday, August 13 – International Left-Handers Day
Have fun trying to do things left-handed today (and lefties in your family get it easy today!).

Saturday, August 14 – National Creamsicle Day
Enjoy creamsicles today. Sample different flavors, such as orange, raspberry, and lime.
August 16-21 – American Dance Week
Set a time every afternoon when the family gets together for a dance party. Play different types of music and mimic different types of dancing each day.
Monday, August 16 – Roller Coaster Day
Make your own miniature roller coaster by taping together toilet paper and paper towel rolls and sending marbles through them.

Tuesday, August 17 – Davy Crockett’s Birthday
Celebrate the day that Davy Crockett was born in 1786 by reading books about Davy Crockett.

Wednesday, August 18 – Bad Poetry Day
Write bad (or good) poetry on post-it notes and place them around the house. Give each family member a different color of notes and see who can write the most poems.

Thursday, August 19 – National Aviation Day
Take a picnic to an aviation museum or memorial or an airport. Make and fly homemade paper airplanes. Read about how Orville Wright was born on this day in 1871. Also celebrate Potato Day by eating potato products today: hashbrowns, French fries, baked potatoes, etc.

Monday, August 30 – National Toasted Marshmallow Day
Toast marshmallows over a fire pit, a gas stove, or a candle. See who can toast the perfect marshmallow.

Tuesday, August 31 – Alan Jay Lerner’s Birthday
Celebrate how Alan Jay Lerner was born on this day in 1918 in New York by watching My Fair Lady (Lerner composed the music!). Eat trail mix as a snack to celebrate National Trail Mix Day.