Monday, July 31, 2017

"Just wait till she has McDonald's"

As a parent, you try your hardest not to pass on your worst habit(s) to your kid(s) but rather to pass on your best traits and maybe even try to instill in them some traits you don't yet have.

I have struggled with food addiction and overeating for at least half of my life. I turn to food for every emotion. I don't stop eating just because I am full. I eat things I know will keep me unhealthy. It's a struggle I have had and will probably continue to have even if I appear to have conquered it one day. Old habits die hard and these habits are ones I have been practicing for some time.

My husband on the other hand, although he has his favorite foods he likes to indulge in, can go days without eating or only eating vegetables and hardly bat an eye.

Now that we have a child, we are both working to make sure she eats healthy and takes on the traits of her dad. For breakfast, my 1.5 year old will often eat two eggs, a banana, and maybe some sweet potato. Snacks often consist of string cheese, a variety of fruits, raw carrots (no ranch dressing required), cottage cheese, unsweetened greek yogurt, and pretty much any vegetable. For dinner she will often eat grilled chicken or ground turkey or beef with squash and zucchini. I am so thankful that she eats these foods willingly and seems to love them. We rarely feed her pasta, bread, cereal, or anything sweet (other than all the fruit she eats). She never drinks fruit juices, milk, or soda -- only water.

I have many people tell me that her diet is great but "Just wait till she has McDonald's for the first time... it will all be over". In other words, as soon as we allow her just one junk food meal, they assume she will abandon her healthy eating ways and demand junk food for every meal.

I have a few issues with this. First, who says we will ever take her to McDonald's in the first place? My husband and I used to get breakfast there on occasion but have not gone in nearly six months. We don't find the food satisfying or a good bargain and we know it's not good for our health. Second, even if we did take her to a fast food establishment and she had one meal that was unhealthy, why would she start to demand that food at every meal? She loves her fruits and vegetables. Having one meal of chicken nuggets and french fries does not mean she will suddenly forget that she likes those other foods. Finally, having one junk meal out does not mean we will come home to a kitchen void of her regular healthy foods. Just because we allow her to indulge one time does not mean we will suddenly allow her to indulge at every meal.

Of course I know that our daughter will want to start eating more and more junk food as she is exposed to them. But that does not mean I need to purposefully give up on her eating anything healthy now. As she gets older, it is challenging me to stop visiting food places where we cannot get a healthy meal. I know that if I don't start to make some more serious changes in my own diet, I will end up passing on these unhealthy habits to my daughter later on and start to negate some of the lessons we have taught her in her early life. As parents, we may not be perfect. But it is our responsibility to do the best we can as often as we can so as to give our kids the best chance.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Full Circle

We moved two weeks ago but had not turned in our keys to our first apartment. We finally went over yesterday to grab our curtains and turn in the keys. Stepping into our apartment, the place we called home for almost two years, and seeing it completely empty brought back memories of when we first moved in. For months I have felt cramped in that little space. But suddenly I got a bit sad thinking I would never step foot in there again. When I stepped out of that apartment yesterday, I would be closing the door for the last time.

We had come full circle. That apartment was the first place I signed a lease on, the first place I moved into where I knew I wouldn't be moving back home with my parents after a certain period of time. We had very little furniture when we got there. I remember seeing it empty and we began slowly filling it up with chairs, a bed, household goods, and baby stuff. Lots of baby stuff.

I love our new home. It's more spacious and feels more comfortable and I'm certainly glad to be here. But our first place will have a special spot in my heart of mostly fond memories of life as a newlywed and a new mother.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Failing by a Margin

When we fail, sometimes we wish we would fail by a large margin. Just barely missing first place by a couple seconds, one question, or one shot can be devastating. You were this close, and you lost.

I have heard it said that Olympians who receive bronze medals are happier than the silver medal winners. Why? Because silver was this close to gold, but bronze has a whole competitor in between it. Psychologically, it is easier to accept the loss if you lose "bad enough" that you convince yourself first place wasn't an option.

But what if you have a do-over option? A second chance?

I just took a pass/fail exam last night and missed passing it by one question. I got 40 questions correct but that wasn't quite good enough. By the time I finished the exam, it was late and I had already had trouble getting setup to take the test in the first place. I was frustrated, for sure. But not completely devastated. Why?

I have another chance at taking the test. If I study just a little harder, I will surely pass the second time. It's a bit nerve wracking -- if I only failed by a tiny margin, will I only pass by a tiny margin as well? We'll find out. But just having that second chance makes failing by a hair not seem like the end of the world.

How do you deal with failing by a tiny margin? 

Friday, July 28, 2017

More Lessons from Toastmasters: Recovering from a Fumble

I delivered my sixth Toastmasters speech yesterday which happened to be about why you should try a daily blogging challenge. This was my first speech where I left all my notes at the table. I was super proud of myself for going completely off script. Things started out well. I was being super conversational, asking questions, and challenging the audience. People were nodding and responding. I could tell I was inspiring many of them.

And then I forgot my third point... I froze. I thought for a second. I closed my eyes tight. But after a few seconds, I went to my spot and looked at my note for a quick second to remember my third point.

It was a bit embarrassing and I was not happy with myself for not handling the situation with more grace. Looking back, I could have made a joke or at least continued talking as I walked to grab and glance at my note. Instead, I completely froze up.

It happens and I still got great feedback about the content of my speech. But the main point of feedback was to have my notes/at least an outline with me, practice more, or both. Ouch.

But that's why I attend Toastmasters - to learn and grow. If I didn't make mistakes and learn from them, the exercise would be much less useful.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Life Hack: There is No Life Hack

The phrase "life hack" has been used quite liberally in the past few years.

Most of these "life hacks" are merely good, common sense tips for how to do something better, get or stay motivated, or learn something that might be useful.

One of the hardest "life hacks" to learn is that there is no "life hack". There are ways to increase productivity, get organized, stay motivated, and achieve goals. But there is no way to simply go around the hard work, sweat, and blood that is required to achieve most things of value.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The State Doesn't Own Your Child

Charlie Gard's parent ceased their legal battle to take their son out of the UK for experimental treatment. In their statement to the press, they said that there may have been time to help their son, but the drawn out court battle took too much time to even try. The father expressed how the "What if?" questions will haunt them forever.

Some people try to be the "voice of reason" and "talk sense" into the parents. "Your son can't be saved!" they say "So stop fighting! Do the humane thing and let him die."

But that's not the point.

(Not a photo of Charlie - just a stock photo)
As a parent, you have a few jobs. Feed your child, keep them warm and clothed, keep them sheltered, and protect them. The child is 100% reliant on their parent(s). And as a parent, you feel the weight of that responsibility. In addition, you have this intense love for your child. You want to provide for and protect them at all costs.

In this case, even if the experimental treatment would have been a waste of time and unsuccessful, trying the treatment would have at least given Charlie's parents a peace of mind that they did everything in their power to save their child. If Charlie was supposedly doomed anyway, why not let the parents try an unproven treatment? They had doctors look at Charlie's records and express that they might be able to help.

But the state stopped them, claiming it was in the best interest of Charlie.

So who gets to decide?

If you think it is okay for the government to make this decision for Charlie's parents, what other decisions will they try to make as it relates to your parenting?

Standing behind the government to make this decision gives the state precedence and boldness to make more decisions for other parents. The more the public allows, the more leeway the government has and the more bold the state becomes.

Who owns your child?

I would argue that nobody "owns" them. But they are placed in the care of the parents, not the state, and we should respect that parent as the caregiver of their child.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

How to Prioritize

How do you prioritize when you have so many goals you are trying to achieve?
I have a lot of "to-do's" on my mind... working fulltime, spending time with my husband and daughter, getting enough sleep, cooking/eating healthy, exercising, balancing my money, making more money, blogging/vlogging, keeping a clean house/decluttering my stuff, developing my relationship with my husband, developing my relationship with God, spending time with friends and family...
Some of these tasks are on-going. Some of them can be accomplished.
The question is, how do we prioritize our day so that we get the most done toward these objectives while still enjoying life?
Here's one suggestion that I have found useful in the past and will be working to implement:
  • Make a list of the things you have to get done in a day plus the things you would ideally get done in a normal day.
  • Number these items or indicate them based on these categories: must get done, would like to get done, and lowest priority/would be nice but not necessary.
  • Each day, go through your priority list and get to what you can.

We aren't super human. We won't always be able to get done everything we want to get done. So make a list, prioritize, and do what is most important to you right now. Review and revise the list of priorities as needed.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Stretching Myself: Trying Vlogging

I have tried my hand at blogging and I have tried my hand at podcasting. Both forms of media I have thoroughly enjoyed. Recently, I have considered trying my hand at vlogging (video blogging). It shouldn't be that different from public speaking (something I already do on a regular basis), right?

Last night I recorded a five minute video of just me talking to the camera.

It. Was. Horrible.

If you want to knock down your confidence real quick, try vlogging. I struggled to make eye contact with the camera, I made strange facial expressions, I looked awkward, and not to mention the camera was not flattering at all. It was not pleasant to watch myself on screen. The audio was just okay and the lighting needed work. It was definitely a first try video.

I'm not giving up on the craft and will keep practicing until I get better or decide it's not for me. But it does teach me a lesson: once I feel confident in one form of communication or one type of outlet, it's time to try another. Keep pushing and stretching. It may not be the "right fit", but it will force me to grow in my learning of technology, communication, and myself.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Hanging up Pictures

I unpacked the last box yesterday and we did a lot of picking up and putting away yesterday and today. Not everything is where I want it permanently, but it definitely helps our new place feel like our home.

However, in addition to not having all the boxes unpacked, the blank walls were also making our new place feel less homey. I was nervous about starting to hammer holes in the walls, though, as the walls were perfect. I did not want to put something in the wrong place, have to move it, and "ruin" the wall.

My sister came over so I ran my ideas by her and she gave me a few suggestions, reassuring me of where to hang up some things. With her advice, I finally started.

All the anxiety over where to hang things up ended up being a waste. Once I finally decided on a few spots and hung up some pictures and art, it felt like the last piece to the moving in puzzle. By poking some holes in the walls and hanging up our sweet memories, we were officially moved in.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Unpacking the Last Box

If you saw "The Incredibles" you may recall the scene where Mr. Incredible receives a call from his wife letting him know that they are "officially" moved in as she unpacked the last box... three years later. It would be within hours on that same day that Mr. Incredible gets fired and will possibly have to relocate his family again (meaning all that unpacking was for nothing).

We moved all of our things over to our new place last weekend. Thankfully, it did not take that many loads to get all of our stuff over to the new home. It hasn't even taken long to get all the stuff out of the boxes. But we are on the last little stretch. And instead of finishing up, I chose to do my daily blog.

My goal is to finish unpacking the boxes this weekend, go grab a couple things in the old place (namely, the curtains), and turn in our keys. That way, we can be done moving.

So why is it so hard to unpack the last box? Grab that last little thing from the old place? To finish?

There are probably a ton of little tips and secrets to this moving thing. If you pack up in an organized fashion, it's easier to unpack. If you label your boxes by category and subcategory, you know where to put them. If you abc then it will make xyz easier...

But that still doesn't answer the question of why unpacking the last box is so hard.

It can sometimes just be hard to finish time-consuming projects. The last chapter in that novel you've been reading, putting the coat of paint on that car you've been restoring, or just folding the laundry once it's finished in the dryer.

But finishers are the people who are probably the most successful. Of course there are sometimes projects not worth finishing, but if there is value in completing the project, the finisher gets it done. And that's what sets them apart.

So here I go to unpack the last box!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Is there value in making "insurmountable" goals?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a quick post on SMART goals. The SMART goal outline is a great guide when setting goals, but perhaps there are times we should break those suggestions.

The "A" in SMART stands for achievable.

Do we make too many of our goals too easily achievable, though?

We live in a culture that does not like losers. Naturally, we don't want to be that loser (even if we are the only one who knows about our failure(s)).

Although 9 out of 10 goals that we set should be achievable within a reasonable amount of time with a reasonable amount of effort, I believe there is some value in making that 10th goal feel a bit insurmountable.

Having what feels like an unconquerable goal can either motivate you or depress you, depending on how you view it.

For example, I would like to lose 100 pounds and maintain that weight loss.

Wow, that sounds like a lot of weight. And in the past, I have been able to lose as much as about 70 pounds so... not too far off. But getting all the way to my goal and actually keeping the weight off is what has been my unassailable challenge.

But should that mean I give up on this goal? Should I just decide that being overweight is my fate and I should resign myself to sitting on the couch and eating Little Debbie's?

Absolutely not! And I don't think anyone would recommend that unless they just like to see people sit in their misery.

However, losing 100 pounds is not something I can do overnight. Not to mention, I'm pregnant, so now is obviously not the time to "diet" and try to lose massive amounts of weight. So what can I do to move closer to this goal?

I have to break that gigantic, scary, "insurmountable" goal into smaller deliverables. These smaller goals can even be SMART goals.

I can start exercising once a week, then build up to twice a week, three times, etc. I can start with 10 or 15 minutes and build that up to half an hour or more.

I can slowly cut out the foods that keep me fat and start replacing them with the foods that make me healthy.

I can cut out the fast food and replace it with healthy, home-cooked meals.

I can eat a healthy amount of calories during my pregnancy without going overboard and using pregnancy as an excuse to eat brownies and drink milkshakes on the daily.

Will these efforts get me to my 100 pound weight loss goal? Maybe, maybe not. But they will get me closer. And moving the needle is what matters when facing those "insurmountable" goals.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Camping for our Family Vacation

If we end up going on a family vacation this year, we plan to make it a camping trip.
I was/am a bit nervous about camping with a toddler plus having the additional challenge of being in my third trimester with kid #2, but there are a lot of reasons this is actually a better idea than a couple of days exploring a big city or taking a typical vacation.
My child doesn't like to sit still very long. She doesn't appreciate museums or expensive outings. But she loves being outside.
Here are some reasons we plan to camp this year for a family vacation:
-It will give us a lot of time to disconnect from the city life and connect with each other.

-We won't have to constantly be telling our daughter to sit still, be quiet, or stay close by.

-It gives us an opportunity to be very active in the outdoors.

-It's extremely inexpensive -- a state campsite is typically less than $30/night and sometimes even less than $15/night. You bring your own food and gear from home so not many expenses here that you would not ordinarily have if you were at home.

-It gives us a chance to explore the great outdoors with our daughter and make a lot of memories.

Do you ever go camping as a family? What do you like to do while camping?

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Value Proposition Success Story

As an alumni of the Praxis program, I continue to be actively involved in the community. There has been a push from the Praxis leadership to focus on presenting value propositions or pitch decks when looking for a job. These should be customized to the company and position so as to show the person hiring that you know about them and their mission, you know how to do the job with minimal training, and you are a good fit for the company culture. They can take the shape of an email, a power point, a video, or any other project/form of communication that will get their attention.

Companies don't hire people just for charity. They want to know you can do the job and produce the output they need. A value proposition shows that.

I currently work for a major corporation which values both years of service to the company and higher education. Those are two ways they weed out applicants when looking to promote somebody. I have run into road blocks when it comes to even just getting interviewed for other positions due to this sorting mechanism. They hired me without my Bachelors degree but now I am struggling to move within the company without either that BA or several more years at the company.

Recently a position came open that looked like a perfect fit for the skills I have been developing all my life. I wanted this position or at least the chance for an interview. I put in my resume and letter of interest... but I was not chosen to move forward in the process. Another person who was also not chosen does not have their BA either. We imagined that they weeded us out largely based on that lack of credential as it did state "BA preferred" on the job description.

I had already created a short power point of seven simple but professional slides which was my value proposition for this job. In addition, I know that the person who gets the position will have to send out a monthly newsletter to about 1,000 people so I created my own sample newsletter. I sent my value proposition power point and the newsletter to my supervisor and manager and asked if they would consider passing it along to the person hiring for the position.

They did, and I got the interview.

Simply by taking some time to show the hiring manager that I have experience and value that I can bring to the position outside of my degree or years of service she scheduled a time to talk to me. She didn't have to do that -- she had already interviewed several people and has a few more people in her queue to interview. But I went above and beyond what most people will do to get a position. She mentioned in my interview that she wished she had seen my power point and sample newsletter when I first applied for the job but that adding supplemental information was not a normal procedure at the company. She was glad my manager sent her the documents and said I had given her a lot of information to review.

It will be weeks before I know if I will be offered the position, but just getting that interview is a success story that I can attribute to the value proposition I created. Without catching her attention in that way, I would have been passed up for another interview. It's a super simple idea and not that difficult to execute but speaks volumes when competing against others for the same position. It shows the person hiring that you are serious about your work and yourself. That signals more than just having BA after your name.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

How to Learn What You're Passionate About

Want to learn what you are passionate about?

Start writing every day.


It's that simple.

And don't forget to include tags.

You kind of know what you love to talk about, research, and explore. But when you start blogging every single day, you see the same themes come up again and again.

For me it's parenting and childbirth, personal finances, writing/blogging/podcasting, a little bit of government/current events, business and entrepreneurship, travel, college/education, whatever somewhat unique experiences I think I have had, nutrition, and the occasional movie review.

If I continue blogging, my interests will likely change and I will certainly have more experiences to write about. My blog will become like a time capsule to remind me of what I was interested in at a given time, what I was watching, what I was reading, what I was learning, and what I was experiencing.

Try it.

Monday, July 17, 2017

What value do I bring outside of formal education and years of service?

I went from working at a company of less than 10 regular employees/contractors to a company that had thousands of employees at multiple locations but it only felt like we had one location to working for a Fortune 100 company with 400,000+ employees worldwide. As I have kept moving up in company size I have noticed how difficult it can be to navigate the corporate world.

Corporations (or at least the one I work for) tend to value years of service and formal education. It is their way of weeding people out. You have to put in your time -- both at formal learning institutions and at their business -- to be considered for new positions.

It has been a test of patience for this impatient woman. But it has also forced me to get creative and really consider what value I am bringing to my company outside of years of service and formal education. If I feel I should be considered for different positions despite my lack of formal education and years of service, why? What makes me special?

These are questions I should be constantly asking myself about any company and any position. Why am I here? What value am I bringing? Why should I continue to be on the payroll?

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Why do I struggle to cook?

Short post today as we have been moving to our new home all weekend.

Just a question I have been asking myself recently: why do I struggle to cook?

I have the tools.

I have the meal plans.

I have the kitchen gadgets.

I can order my groceries from the store and pick them up. The way things are going, I will likely soon be able to have them delivered to my door!

So why is it so hard?

Time... energy... will... discipline?

Whatever the excuses may be, it is time to get over them.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

How to Stay Broke:

  • Never save
  • Avoid putting anything into retirement
  • Never plan for any emergencies to happen
  • Take on as many payments as you can! The more money you have promised to other people the better! Here are some places to start:
    • Car
    • House
    • Boat
    • Furniture
    • Appliances
    • Credit Card
    • Student loans
    • Personal line of credit
    • Borrow from family
    • Expensive vacations you already took
    • Just sign up for the payment option instead of buying outright anytime this is an option!
  • Spend way more than you make
  • Go out to eat for as many meals as possible/avoid cooking
  • Drive vehicles that require a lot of gasoline and maintenance 
  • Go back to school for a Masters degree you can't pay for
  • Shop for new clothes at least every week
  • Manicures/Pedicures on the regular
  • Don't forget about your hair
  • Starbucks/fancy coffee daily
  • New iPhone every year
  • Extravagant birthday and Christmas gifts for all your loved ones (but let the birthday/holiday "sneak up" on you so that you forget to put aside any money ahead of time; this gives you a chance to use your credit card)
  • Never take on an extra job or freelance work
  • Listen to the advice of your broke friends
  • Pay full price for every purchase/never shop around

This is just a starter list. What else can you add? There are endless ways to stay broke! 

Friday, July 14, 2017

It's Hard to Downgrade Lifestyles

I love to blog about clutter/decluttering. My progress on the Kon Mari method is not going as fast as I would like, but that is in part due to the fact that I was holding off until our move. Well, this is the weekend. We are going to double our square footage and I am super pumped. Instead of one bedroom and bathroom, we will now have two of each. We have no separate dining nook and now we will have a spacious one. Our living room and kitchen are much bigger and we will go from no garage to a one car.

But like I wrote in the past, if we feel just as cluttered in the new place in a year or two as we do now in our 525 square foot apartment, it's probably not an issue of capacity but rather our human nature to fill up whatever space we have with more luxuries.

It's hard to "downgrade" one's life. Once you get used to a certain space or a certain luxury, it sucks to go back. For example, my husband and I survived the first 7+ months of our marriage without a washer and dryer. We would go over to my parents house to do laundry or they would sometimes do it for us if we left it there a day or two (this second option was pretty darn sweet even without them folding it). But now that we have a washer and dryer, it is even more amazing. If we have messes or spills, we can just throw the stuff in the washer right away, no need to wait or go anywhere.

Another luxury I love is the Bluetooth speaker in my car which I use daily to listen to podcasts on my commute. When I have to drive a different car on occasion, I miss this extra feature. Speaking of luxuries, talk about smart phones. As much as people love to hate them, they make social media and information accessible with a click or two. Going to a flip phone would be a huge step backward in my quality of life.

But why does it matter if I get used to more space, more luxuries, and more stuff?

The more I have and the more I rely on/get used to, the more fragile I become. This means that during a tough time, I have more to lose than gain. Conversely, those that are anti-fragile become stronger through volatility.

The Art of Manliness blog has some ideas about how to become more anti-fragile. Becoming anti-fragile does not mean we reduce our lifestyle to our top 17 items. It means purposefully injecting stress in your life sometimes so that if you ever did lose your job and have to reduce your life down to 17 items you wouldn't just give up on life. You would get stronger.

Are you fragile or anti-fragile?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Fight for Independence

This is just a cute kid; not a picture of my daughter ;)
My daughter is a year and a half old now. And one of the fun things about having a kid is watching them grow and develop. Witnessing each and every milestone is so bitter-sweet. I remember watching her roll over on her own and then later taking those first steps. It was emotional when she ate her first food and when she started to speak her first words.

She still only knows a few words but she seems to understand everything. When we ask her where her water is she will go looking for it. If we ask if she is hungry she runs to the fridge. When we get ready to leave the house I tell her she has to leave her toys behind so she sets them down and runs to the door because she is so excited to be going somewhere.

With these developments she has become quite independent. If she wants a specific item to eat, she will fuss until she gets it. If she does not want to get dressed, she will kick her legs and say "no, no, no" or "stop".

It's amazing to watch this little bitty person want to make her own decisions. It can be frustrating at times but we try to let her be in control of what she can. Sometimes we have to insist she do what we need her to (for example, put on some clothes before going out) but if it doesn't matter we let her have her way. She's a person with her own preferences and if she doesn't feel like eating a certain item or doing a certain activity, we get it. But there comes other times when we have to do things we don't want to do so sometimes it is necessary. She might pout or fuss for a minute, but she usually quickly gets over it.

This fight for independence probably won't stop until she is grown. And even then, she might keep fighting. It's a balance as her parent to try to be understanding, foster her independence, and allow her to make some of her own decisions while also requiring her to do what we need her to do sometimes.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

This is not the post I was going to write today

I was going to write an intelligent and informative post today. A post about something that I think is important. And I am sure I will still write that post in the near future.

But right now, I am having trouble thinking straight. I am frustrated about some things not going my way and it makes it difficult to focus on much else.

Daily blogging has been awesome and I am on day 52, I believe. But not every day is hunky-dory. Not every day goes to plan. We don't always get our way. And so we don't always do what we originally set out to do -- such as write a long and intelligent blog post.

These bad days will happen. How we respond, though, will say a lot about us.

Today I will respond with perseverance. I will keep going, even when I'm frustrated. I will not worry about perfect posts and informative musings. I will let go of my perfectionism for the sake of just keeping on with my goal of daily blogging.

How do you respond when things aren't going your way?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Day Without a Cell Phone

Yesterday, I went the majority of the day without my cell phone. Due to Monday morning exhaustion, my husband accidently took my phone to work with him. He left the house around 4am and by the time he noticed he had both my phone and his (they look the same) he was too far away to come back.

Thankfully I woke up naturally about 15 minutes after my alarm normally goes off. I was thinking that it felt like the alarm should have gone off already so I got up and checked the clock and sure enough, it was time to get going. I realized my phone was gone and searched around for a minute but realized my husband likely took it on accident. Thus began my day cell phone free.

As far as my workday went, I was more productive. My phone was not a distraction so I kept more focused on my work and less worried about missing something. Breaks and lunch meant I had to spend time actually talking to co-workers. Visiting with other people rather than browsing Facebook or Pinterest as a nice change of pace. I felt like I was bothering people by chatting with them but they all said they were happy to talk. Although there were moments I felt disconnected from the rest of the world, I was forced to connect with the people around me.

What I missed most about not having my phone was not being able to listen to a podcast on the way to work and not being able to see pictures or video chat with my daughter. The talking heads on the radio are pretty unbearable, in my opinion. And seeing photos or video chatting my daughter at some point in the day always makes me feel a bit more connected to her.

The most inconvenient thing about not having a phone yesterday was when I got home. Our AC was still broken when I got home (I had alerted the office by email already) and I needed to get in touch with the apartment office to make sure maintenance was going to come by. It is 90+ degrees here and too hot to go another night without AC. In addition, my husband ended up working a longer day than normal. He always picks up our daughter after he gets off work and they are at the apartment when I get home. Well I got home yesterday and walked into an empty apartment -- no sign of my husband or daughter.

Thankfully I recently met a co-worker who lives in the apartment across the parking lot. I walked over there and asked to borrow his phone. He and his wife were very kind in allowing me to call my husband to get a status update, call my mother to give her a status update and arrange child pickup, and call the front office to inquire once again about the broken AC.

I began chatting with my co-worker and his wife while keeping an eye out for the maintenance guy. We talked for over an hour and although I felt terrible about crashing their evening, they were very kind and hospitable. The wife asked about my daughter and specifically asked about my labor and delivery as she would like to have kids in the near-ish future. I told her I had a homebirth and used to be a doula. This sparked a whole line of conversation and she absolutely loved hearing about my experiences both attending births in the hospital and having my own daughter at home. She even wanted to get my number and the name of my podcast by the end of the conversation.

Not having a phone forced me to be resourceful with how I contacted others. It was "inconvenient" at times but it also forced me to make some new friends which was super fun. I basically took a break from Facebook all day, just checking it once briefly on the computer when I got home in the evening, which was also a nice change. My cell phone, this simple tool, which I did not even have until I was seventeen years old, has become something practically attached to my hand. It was nice to be reminded that I can live just fine without it and that it might even lead to good things to take a break.

Monday, July 10, 2017

How You Rate Yourself vs. Those Who Know You Best

My husband and I recently took these quizzes where we rated how we saw ourselves and how we saw each other. While I rated myself in about the middle on self-discipline, my husband had me rated extremely high on the self-discipline scale.

The mentor who was reviewing the test with us said that he found those who have been to college or in the military tend to be self-disciplined but rate themselves low. As someone who was homeschooled for most of my K-12 education (which requires a lot of self-discipline) and as someone who has attended college, I was harder on myself in terms of how disciplined I think I am. But my husband, who has not attended college or been in the military, sees how hard I work and how focused I am and rated me higher.

This gave me a boost of confidence and made me realize that I am extremely hard on myself (as I am typically hard on everyone who I expect a lot out of).

I am not writing this post to brag but rather to give others something to think about. How do you perceive yourself? How do those who are close to you perceive you? What is reality?

It is sometimes said that "seeing is believing" or "perception is reality". In other words, what others see is what they believe to be true. Even though you might be harder on yourself ("you are your own worst critic"), others see the good. Alternatively, what you might rate yourself high in, others rate low. This can be a wake up call sometimes. But either way, it's nice to have that other person's perspective on the situation.

How do you rate yourself compared to those who know you best?

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Annoying Financial Advice from Pinterest

"What to do when you've run out of money before the end of the month"

"How to budget when you can't make ends meet"

"Ways to make it to payday when you're broke"

These types of headlines seem to make it into my Pinterest browsing almost every single day. While these mom blogs and finance help websites are surely trying to give some good advice to people who need it, I often find the titles of these articles to be ridiculous.

Spend less money than you make.

It's that simple.

And if you can't spend less money than you make -- if you literally have no way to cut down your spending at all -- then make more money.


Of course this is easier said than done, but starting with a personal budget is probably the best way to start and the best way to stay out of a mess like that.

Let's say you are keeping a budget each month and at the end of all your bills, rent, payments, etc. you only have $100 left, then you know you can't afford to take on a car payment, buy that Gucci purse on a whim, or go skydiving just for fun. Those are things you will have to plan for or risk not having enough money to cover your bills. Don't do that.

Keeping a budget is easy but it's hard. It's easy in the sense that it doesn't take long to keep up with and doesn't have to cost any money (you can use pen and paper or a free app such as Every Dollar). But it is hard because you are putting restrictions on yourself.

If you're married, you and your spouse can keep each other accountable. If you're single, have a parent or a friend keep you accountable.

Telling yourself "no" or "wait" is difficult. But it will save you a lot of heartache in the future to plan your spending and work that plan.

Of course there are unfortunate situations where people lose their jobs and go through a difficult financial time. But again, failing to have a plan in place for how to spend the money you do have coming in will not make the situation any better.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Marriage: two people each trying to make the other person a clone of themselves

It seems that a lot of people pair up and settle down with someone who shares similar interests (such as a sport, genre of books/tv shows, music preferences, hobbies, etc) but has some character qualities that are vastly opposite (one person is calm while the other is wired, one person is organized and the other is a free spirit).
This certainly happened to me. My husband and I enjoy exploring some of the same hobbies and topics but our personalities are often polar opposites.

And since living together I have realized that marriage can quickly turn into a battle of trying to make the other person a clone of yourself. We want our spouse to want to go to the same place to eat, do the same activities, talk about the same subject, and watch the same show we want to watch at the exact moment we have the itch to do that thing. Essentially, I want another version of myself that I can do stuff with and he wants another version of himself that he can do stuff with.

Rarely do our desires to do the same thing seem to match up at the exact same time. So then we have two choices: conflict or compromise.

Enter: conflict.

We are coming up on two years of marriage and we are still working on learning how to serve each other. It's not easy and we have a long road of learning ahead of us. But we're working on it, and probably will be working on it for the rest of our lives.

Marriage is awesome when we decide to work together and compromise. But if there is constant conflict, it's exhausting.

How do you find ways to compromise in your relationship?

Friday, July 7, 2017

Should we relish anticipation?

Nine months. It takes nine months (or maybe a few weeks less if you're not counting the time you didn't realize you were pregnant yet...) to meet your baby after becoming pregnant. It's a long time filled with a lot of anticipation.

What will they look like?

Which parent will they resemble?

What will their little personality be like?

Will we have a boy or a girl?

Will they have hair?

Waiting to meet that little human being who you already know you love so much but haven't even held yet are some of the longest months of a person's life.

With modern technology, however, some of these question can be answered. With my first child, I knew that we were having a baby girl by the time I was 13 weeks pregnant due to a fancy blood test. At 20 weeks, I saw her little face in black and white via ultrasound. These days, a lot of parents are getting multiple ultrasounds, even doing the 3D ultrasounds at 35+ weeks to get detailed photos of their little babe.

We are expecting our second baby and we already saw the little alien-looking figure at 10 weeks. We plan to get an ultrasound this afternoon which will hopefully reveal a little boy or girl. We opted out of the blood test this pregnancy so we have had to wait a whole extra seven weeks to find out our baby's sex. It has been a long wait and I have several long hours ahead of me before this can be revealed. The anticipation has been fun but it is hard to explain just how unbearable it is at times. We would love another little girl so that our daughter has a sister near in age. But we would also love a little boy so we can experience a child of a different gender. We won't be disappointed with either sex, but the not knowing is harder than I expected it to be.

Parents who wait until the day of their child's birth to know the gender have serious patience. And some parents even opt out of ultrasounds (which are often seen as a necessity in today's medical care). These parents amaze me.

I lean more toward the "knowing" crowd. I want to know the gender and I want to see their little face at some point during the pregnancy, but I opt out of the later ultrasounds/more detailed ultrasounds.

Is there something I am missing out on when my baby is born? Some of the mystery -- the sex of the baby and having an idea of what their face looks like -- has already been revealed. I have been told by parents who wait to know the sex of their child that it is a magical experience. It takes an already incredible day and makes it 10x more intense.

I do not think there is anything necessarily virtuous about waiting. But I do think maybe in this information age there is something special about waiting.

Did you opt out of knowing your child's sex? What about seeing their face?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Thoughts on the Auto Industry

A person I know recently financed a brand new vehicle (a rather expensive one at that). They financed it for six years and rolled a couple thousand dollars from their trade in into the new loan (since they still owed some money on that vehicle). The monthly payment was almost as much as their take home pay from one week. Most financial advisors suggest not spending more than 25% of take home pay on a mortgage or rent. This co-worker is spending nearly that much each month on just their car note.

I told myself for years that I would never get a car loan. I purchased my first two vehicles used and with cash -- no loan required. But when I became pregnant and needed to get a vehicle with a back seat (I was driving a Smart car at the time), my vision became hazy. I sold my Smart car but didn't have a replacement. I got in a hurry. I went to dealerships looking for decent used vehicles. I ended up walking away with a brand new car, justifying it with all the normal excuses (The payment isn't the much... it will be safer and more reliable for my baby... it will last me a lot longer than it will take me to pay it off...) I still value my car (if I didn't, I would sell it), but I do not want to fall trap to the temptation of a new vehicle, even one with a tiny payment, ever again.

Why did I fall for the car loan when I had told myself I wouldn't do it?

The payment was small -- less than $300/month. The interest rate was just under 2%. It felt like they were giving me the money for the loan. And that new car smell... But with a six year note, I still have four more years of paying for that vehicle. By the time I have it paid off, the car will have lost more than half of its original value. I should still have several years of use left in it (possibly 6+ more years). But many people, like in my example above, go out and get another financed vehicle before they are even finished paying off the first one.

On average, a car depreciates 24% the first year and then 6% per year after that. When financing a brand new car, it is tempting to believe that we will have that vehicle forever. But what if something changes in our financial situation after year one? What if you can no longer afford the payments or you want to quit your job and do something different? The car has lost about a quarter of its value and yet you probably still owe about 84% of the loan amount. You're upside down.

My husband was driving a single cab truck. We're expecting kid #2 now and decided it was time for him to get something with a back seat. Instead of seeking out a brand new vehicle and taking on another car loan, we bought a used vehicle and paid cash. This is a risky decision as well because we do not know if this used vehicle will have a bunch of issues and if we will end up paying a lot of money in repairs. But we are trying to do the responsible thing and avoid more debt.

Vehicles are an expense (versus and investment) that depreciates in value every single day. I think a lot of people are falling trap to the easy car loans available today. But the more payments you have going out, the less money you have to invest and the less flexibility you have with your money. The borrower is slave to the lender.

Just some things to think about before your next car purchase. I believe the bubble in the auto industry will pop pretty soon. Time will tell.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Most Common Surgery in America

Plastic surgery?

Gastric bypass?

Heart surgery?

Nope. The most common surgery in America is Cesarean section (C-section) with approximately 1.3 million babies delivered each year via this surgery.

About 1 in 3 babies are born via C-section in America -- the highest rate among developed nations.

Why the uptick?

Many people blame women having children later in life ("advanced maternal age") and obesity rates on the rise. Although these factors can contribute, a woman's number one risk factor is simply the hospital where she delivers.

One hospital may have a Cesarean section rate of less than 10% while another hospital has a rate as high as 64% (almost two out of every three births and nearly twice the national average!). Are the women who go to that second hospital always more high risk than the women who go to the first hospital? Could the discrepancy in patients be that vast?

The national target for C-sections is 23%. Why are some hospitals missing the mark so dramatically?

There are many possible reasons. Doctors have more control when the birth is a surgical one. It is also typically faster and more convenient for scheduling to have a C-section. It also costs about 30% more than a vaginal delivery so the hospital makes more money.

There is certainly a time and place for C-sections, but when the national average is far above the target, something is broken with the system, not the women.

Vaginal deliveries for low-risk mothers is better for the mom and the baby. 20,000 major surgical complications arise each year as a result of C-section surgeries. These complications include sepsis, hemorrhage, and organ injury. For low risk mothers have their first C-section, their risk of dying as a complication of childbirth or suffering from a serious complication such as blood clot, heart attack, or major infection increases three times compared to a mom delivering vaginally. Babies born vaginally are less likely to have breathing issues and more likely to breastfeed. There is no doubt that delivering vaginally for low-risk moms is the safer choice for everyone involved.

If more mothers would start researching their hospital's Cesarean rate and choose a hospital with a lower rate, the hospitals that need to improve their practice would be forced to change their ways. There are situations where C-sections save lives, but when overused they can do just the opposite. If you are expecting or know someone who is, I recommend reading the Consumer Report on C-sections. Know your local hospitals and choose one with a C-section rate at or under 23% if possible. This is not always easy due to vast differences in medical care across the country. But the first step to reducing the risk of an unnecessary Cesarean is finding a hospital with a low C-section rate.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Finish What You Started

As I have written about, I started a podcast last year. After putting out 10 episodes, however, I have taken a long sabbatical. I interviewed another guest last December but never edited the audio and put it out. I felt horrible for never publishing her interview because I hate making people feel like they wasted their time. Plus she had a lot of good stuff to share related to my niche topic so I wanted to get it out there.

Since I have started blogging daily and have successfully committed to a daily creative activity for 40+ days, it has made me wonder what other creative endeavors I might be capable of if I would only put my mind to it and make that commitment. I realized that the audio hanging over my head from December was holding me back from moving forward on other projects. I am not sure how many more episodes of my podcast I will put out there, but I did not want to move on to a new project without finishing what I started.

So I spent some time yesterday and the day before editing the interview and getting it scheduled to publish. There was enough audio plus two distinct topics to actually make two episodes out of it, so that's what I did. I got one episode published today and the other one lined up for next week.

Again, I am not sure if I will continue making episodes of Another Mom Podcast or how often I will put them out, but because I no longer have an unfinished project waiting on me, I feel that I can move on to my next endeavor if I would like.

This situation reminds me of a neighbor at our apartment complex. He is an older man in his late 70's who is in extremely poor health. He told us that he is an artist and has some projects in storage that he would love to finish. He does not have the room in his small apartment to set up a studio. Yet he does not know when he will have the opportunity to complete his projects. These unfinished paintings were clearly weighing him down. But now his health was failing him and it seemed that these projects would forever go unfinished.

Now, this is not to say that there are not some projects that are worthy of abandonment. But if you feel like you have something you need to finish, finish it. You'll feel so much better not having that thing looming over your head.

What will you see through to completion?

Monday, July 3, 2017

SMART goals

When we set out to form new habits, we should make sure our goal is SMART.

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound

Improving my writing is not specific or measurable.

Blogging daily to improve my writing is significantly more specific and somewhat more measurable.

Blogging 3,000 words daily is specific and measurable, but is it achievable? Blogging a minimum of 250 words per day is much more realistic/achievable for most people who are not full-time bloggers.

Is improving my writing and getting my creative juices flowing each day something that is relevant to me?

For how long will I blog daily? 10 days? 100 days? 1,000 days?

It does not take long to set a SMART goal and can make the goal seem much more achievable and purposeful by answering those five questions.

What SMART goals will you set?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Please, Travel with your Kids

Yesterday, I went to a local jewelers to pick up a necklace and bracelet set that I asked them to restring. The necklace broke eight years ago so I have not worn the set in a while. I did not have my purse with me to stow them in so I decided to wear them out of the shop. The jeweler said they looked stunning with my outfit. It made me smile to put these items on again after not wearing them for eight years.

As I got back in the car and started driving, I reflected on the meaning of this bracelet and necklace. You see, I first got these items at a market in China when I was seven years old. I can still remember the rows and rows of little jewelry booths. You could sit down at any of them and either pick something they already had made or choose your pearls and jewels to be custom strung for you right there on the spot. My mom purchased the set that I recently had restrung and I purchased another bracelet that I still wear on occasion. I think the bracelet costs me the equivalent of about a U.S. dollar and had mostly beads with a few pearls.

These simple items brought back so many memories of our two weeks in China. Although I was quite young, I still have several vivid memories from this trip. This was my first international travel. And although it was a leisurely trip, it impacted me in various ways. Since that trip to China, I have been blessed enough to travel to several other foreign countries (sometimes with family members, sometimes with friends, and sometimes solo). Not only is travel fun and exciting, I believe it benefits young people in many ways.

Travel broadens a child's horizons

Knowing that there is another culture, a different type of people, and other languages can broaden a child's horizons. It gives perspective, especially to a young person, that their little world is not all that is out there. Seeing a different culture in action really brings to life the fact that there is a whole nother world out there.

It challenges a child

Having to deal with a long flight, time change, a different culture and language, and having to walk miles in a single day are all difficult things for a kid. I fell asleep at a restaurant one of my first nights in China due to jetlag. My feet ached another day when we had done miles of walking and sightseeing. I dealt with people getting into my personal space, touching my hair and face unsolicited. These experiences forced seven-year-old me to have to learn to cope in situations I had previously never been exposed.

It changes a child's sense of what is possible

Knowing that there is so much more out there made me realize that my little home town is not all that was out there. I found out that this whole different world exists in China. And not only did it exist in China, but it made me realize that there were so many other countries and cultures to explore. Not only that, but international travel is empowering. If I can go to China, what else can I do?

These benefits of travel are not reserved just for kids. They can be reaped by anyone who travels, especially internationally. But if you have children, I would implore you to make it a point to travel with them. Even just one or two trips over the course of their childhood can make a huge impact on what they believe is possible.

Yesterday, I became so overwhelmed in the car with gratitude that I had to call my mom and thank her once again for making travel, especially international travel, a priority in my childhood. She showed me the way by example and then allowed me to branch out on my own later in my teens. I appreciate all that travel has given me and shaped me.

Where have you/will you travel with your kids?

Saturday, July 1, 2017


Sometimes we embrace change.

At other times, we go running for the hills to avoid it.

When change comes suddenly, it can shock us. Distort our sense of reality for a minute. Even cause us to get angry or upset.

At other times, we see the value in the change and so we welcome it.

Change is rarely easy. But often times it is worth it.

I find that I fear closing a door when I change. I worry that I will never be able to "go back" to the way things were. And often times, that is what will happen. Even if I were to go back, it would not be exactly as it was before. But that does not always mean change is permanent. It can be good to close doors.

There are millions of directions each of us could go in this world. One choice is not necessarily the "right" or the "wrong" choice. It's just the one we went with. And we can always change again.