Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January Book Reviews

Remember when I talked about how I wanted to read more? Well I set a goal on Goodreads to read 40 books this year. It's a little less than one a week, so I figured it was pretty do-able.

Here's what I've read in January.

Blackmoore was a really fun, light read. The setting was mysterious, and the characters were interesting. I liked it a little more than her first book, Edenbrooke.  Totally clean and "proper" romance.

I really liked The Orphan Train. It intertwines the story of a young immigrant girl in the late 1920's who is orphaned, with a modern girl in the foster system. I'm still thinking about these characters and their amazing stories.  It reminded me a bit of the Language of Flowers that I read a few years back. (Loved that book!) For those who want to know, there is some bad language, and a scene describing sexual abuse.

This was recommended to me by my friend Evelyn for a reading club. It's also in the "proper romance" genre, like Blackmoore.  I loved this book! It was really fun to read. Without giving anything away, it was so different from what I was expecting, and I loved the message. You really must read it!

This is probably the most fiction I've read consecutively for a while! I really enjoyed the escape. Here's my nonfiction:

After thinking so much about my own introversion or extroversion last week, I felt like I had to read this book. There were some interesting parts, such as the discussion of how our society shifted from a culture of character to a culture of personality, and Dale Carnegie's role in that shift.  The example of introverts finding it hard to fit into the extroverted worlds of Harvard Business School, or evangelical churches was also thought-provoking. It made me ponder how extremely extroverted my church (that I love being a member of) truly is. Members who are considered active in our church are ones who are willing to pray at the pulpit, teach lessons sometimes to large groups, and occasionally give talks to the whole congregation. We also are expected to visit teach or home teach several other members (which entails stopping by their homes to give friendship and spiritual encouragement). Anyway,  all of those examples make our church a wonderful place to worship, it just made me aware of how hard it would be to feel like you fit in, if you are a true introvert.  Overall, this book was worth reading, but I had no guilt over skipping and skimming through the things I didn't find interesting.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Remembering the Blizzard of 2010

My friends in Virginia are all posting about the snow from the blizzard they were hit with this past weekend. I keep feeling so jealous. And it's because I remember the good memories we had back in 2010 when we were hit with about the same amount of snow. Jackson was 5. Avery had just turned 2.

My father in law had just died that December. My mother in law, Kristi, was making hard life decisions, and was figuring out if she should move to Utah now that Alex was gone. The house we just had built on a cul-de-sac with a big yard was finished and we had just moved in. My mom bought the lot next door and was making plans to move to Virginia. (My dad had died the previous year.) There was so much in our life that was good, and so much that was sad! The week of the blizzard, we went over to mother-in-laws and planned to hunker down for the storm. Kirtis' brother, Alex was visiting and couldn't fly home because of the storm, so he joined us for the fun.
We had a nerf war at Kristi's house! We watched movies, played games, ate yummy food and the boys shoveled until their backs couldn't take it anymore.

Within a few months, Kristi had everything packed up and had moved to Utah. We will always remember that special week we had together with her!

 View out Kristi's back door.
 View out the front door. God bless America!
 Uncle Alex helping go through the storage room
 Going through stuff!

 Cute Jackson

I remember Jackson took this picture of Kristi. I think she looks so cute. Her eyes look so blue!

 The Nerf war!! I don't think Kristi ever thought that would happen at her house!
 My sweet 2 year old Avery! 
 Look at those baby cheeks. 
 Jackson... He looks so serious!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reflections on a winter day

This morning I was able to go for a run. My body is getting a little more in shape, and I was able to run for almost the whole time. It felt amazing.

I'm without my phone for a few days, so instead of listening to music or podcasts, I enjoyed the quiet, reflective time.  I was thinking about how a few years ago I wouldn't have gone running when it was 20 degrees outside and the roads were snowy and icy. Since living in Nebraska for a few winters, 20 degrees feels a little brisk, but nice! I used the snow treads for my running shoes that my mom bought me last winter while I was pregnant with Kate, and I loved hearing my feet crunch as I made contact with the ice which was covered in a layer of snow. The sun was sparkling on the snowy lawns.

Not only have I become more accustomed to the cold weather, but I've changed in other ways.
As I ran, I had thoughts such as: I have grown in the past few years. I have done some hard things. I have worked hard and loved hard. I am a more patient mother. I am more disciplined. I forgive myself. I am trying to love others with a more open heart.

I was thinking about who I have been, who I am, and who I want to be. None of this becoming has been easy. There have been plenty of hard days. But each day I keep getting up and trying. I make lots and lots and lots of mistakes. I get angry quicker than I should. I often lose my patience. I have many more lessons to learn. I have more I need to do and become. But it feels good to reflect every now and then and see that I'm growing, and that each step I take is bringing me a little closer to the person I want to become.  And that's what this journey of life is all about.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Week in Review

Some tidbits from this week

I was teaching Jackson a piano lesson where he went back and forth between octaves with his left hand. He said "mom, do you know how I know where to move my hands to? I just move them until I find the warm keys, then I know I'm in the right place! Ha ha! In all my years playing piano, I have never thought about that! We are getting back into practicing since the Christmas break. It's hard to stay super regular with it, but I won't give up. He's so smart and talented, I want him to keep going with it!

Jackson built the Vader and Ship he got for Christmas. We are loving Start Wars!
 These chuckers hang out in our neighborhood. They slept under Kirtis' truck, then stayed in our driveway all morning on Monday. Cute little guys.

Sweet Little Kate is 7 months old!!
 Love her sweet little faces! She is a very happy baby.

One project in January done: Finally recovered my chairs! (The old fabric, was stained, ripped and worn through!)
 We've been playing a lot of games this winter. Lucy and Avery were having fun being silly and playing Sequence for Kids.
 Lucy had her friend Nola over for a playdate. They had so much fun playing with playdo. These are their playdo monsters.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Know Yourself

In September, I started to listen to a podcast called "Nap Eclipse" by Jody Moore. (If you haven't listened to it, go check it out as soon as possible! It's life changing.) Then I started listening to the Happier Podcast (I mentioned it on Monday). One of the topics brought up in these podcasts revolves around knowing yourself and what gives you energy. Does quiet time energize you? Does being around people give you energy? In essence, are you an introvert or an extrovert? (Links to the specific podcast episodes that discuss these topics are at the bottom of the post.)

I've always loved to take personality assessments, from the Jung Personality Assessment to Carol Tuttle's Energy Types. However, one thing that has always kind of thrown me for a loop is figuring out if I'm an Introvert or an Extrovert. Whenever I take those personality assessments, I pretty much fall right in the middle of the Introvert/Extrovert continuum, and it places me on one side or the other depending on how I decided to answer the questions that day. (The internet quiz I took this morning tells me I'm an ambivert- right in the middle of the spectrum, thus confirming my conundrum!) This always left me confused. Should I spend more time around people to fill my extrovertedness? Do I need to be more of a hermit with own quiet pursuits? Recently, I had a huge realization, and it was given to me (like a gift!) by my sister, Tammy.

Tammy told me how in college she always thought of herself as extroverted, but now as a mom with kids she will find herself dreading social events. I related to this, as I have been finding it hard for me to tear myself away from the house at times too, and find myself dragging my feet to social events! This doesn't feel like my "true self" but leaving the house at night is something I have really been struggling with! I wondered if it was just becoming older, and therefore less fun. That was a depressing thought!

Then, Tammy told me that in college she had all the quiet, alone, introspective time in the world. She had time to read and study on her own, to go on a runs alone, and had her brain to herself as much as she wanted! So, by the time someone wanted to hang out at night, she was all for it! Then she said something truly profound, "I realized that as long as I had my fill of quiet time, I really enjoyed being with other people." As a mom, with almost no time to herself, going to social events was completely draining.

This really resonated with me, and the more I've thought about it, this need for introspective time probably makes me a true introvert. As an experiment,  I have been giving myself more of the quiet time that I think I have been craving. Working on a project, listening to podcasts, blogging, reading, and playing the piano, are the main things that I love to do for my own introspective time. They feel like special treats to me!

The result?  Since I've started giving myself permission for more of the quiet things I enjoy, I am finding myself more open and excited about being with people. I was really excited to go to a book group last weekend, and at church I noticed I was more outwardly focused.  I was bubbling around talking to lots of different people, and just enjoyed all the different personalities around me. I feel like I have so much more energy and excitement around being with other people and "extroverted" type activities since I began this experiment. All of this focus on my inward self, is actually freeing the space in my mind for me to focus on others. And this happy, outgoing, wants-to-be-with-people Gina? She feels like the real me.

How to Have more Energy by Jody Moore
Do you want more time with friends or more solitude? by Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Kraft

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Jackson's Robotics Competition

This year, Jackson has been involved in a Robotics club through 4H. It's technically called "First Lego League." He knew a couple kids on the team, and our friend, Rose is one of the coaches. It has been an amazing experience.  It's a nice group of kids and he's learning so much and having fun while doing it. A 7th grader has been teaching him how to program the Robot, they play capture the flag halfway through the practice and there's even some cute girls on the team. So what's not to love? He's had quite a few practices over the Christmas Break to prepare for their meet (it was on January 9th) and he was always so eager to go!  Anyway, he had his first competition last Saturday. He told me he was super nervous! He told me his toes were tingling. His team did awesome! They took the grand prize out of the 10 teams that were there. We were so excited! He will go to a state competition in February! Congrats to Jackson and his team! Special thanks to his amazing coaches!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Avery's Baptism

Avery was baptized on January 2, 2016. 
It was a beautiful day! Grandma Kristi came. 
Kirtis baptized and confirmed her. 

I gave a talk on baptism. I talked about how when we lived in Texas we loved to drive past the big mansions in Sugar Land. Most of these beautiful homes were surrounded by a large fence with a regal gate. I talked about some of the details of these homes, fountains, even golden lions decorated the outsides of these homes. Then I compared baptism with opening the gate on the pathway to Heaven, as mentioned in 2 Nephi 31. Avery started her pathway to Heaven by making a covenant- a promise with God. 

As she came out the water, she told me that getting baptized was the most wonderful feeling ever. She is truly an amazing and special girl! After the baptism, Kirtis told me that her and some of her friends were sitting and eating refreshments. Kirtis asked them if they were having a little party, and Avery told him, "No, we are just talking about the feelings we had at baptism." I'm so glad she has made this decision. 

She wants to be the best she can be. She wrote down her New Year's resolution: Be Kinder and Be Healthier. I thought those were perfect! I'm so proud of her!

Monday, January 11, 2016

A New Year!

It's a new year! I have some resolutions. 

One of them is to read more.

I recently had an epiphany. Reading brings me more joy than I realized. It's kind of a silly realization. (I'm was an English major, I homeschooled my children so we could spend more time reading, and I'm an English teacher, for goodness sakes!) I spent my whole college career happily reading--- in the library, on the grass in the quad, in my apartment---and then discussing and writing about such reading. I loved it.  Last year when I was teaching English, I loved my quiet afternoon hours of reading whenever I had the chance. (I had seven preps, so I was always just barely ahead of my students in our reading!) When I am at home, I tend to look at reading as an indulgent habit that is not as important as laundry and the minutia of housekeeping.  My brain seems to feel intellectually mushy unless I have something I'm reading, and therefore I'm less happy when I'm not reading. I especially love memoirs and biographies, self-help books, and lately I'm indulging myself by reading novels! To accomplish this, I've decided to read in all the "nooks and crannies" of my life, and to allow myself time to read even when there are some things that are left undone.

One of the books I recently read has given me quite a few ideas about things I want to do better or differently to have a happier life.

Oh my goodness! I loved this book. I didn't read this book a few years back because of some negative reviews on Amazon. Boo to that! Anyway, it helped that I recently started listening to Gretchen Ruben's podcast, "Happier," so I felt like I "knew" her personality. There are a lot of powerful ideas in this book about becoming a better and happier person. She also makes the case that seeking happiness is not a selfish pursuit. In essence, becoming happier blesses the lives of everyone around us. I love that. Powerful stuff.