Feb 17, 2017


Unlimited. What does it mean? How often does unlimited even happen to us as human beings? I have been searching my brain today for moments when there has been a sentence with the word unlimited in it in my life.

I have heard people talk about unlimited food at buffets.
Unlimited refills of your drink?
Numbers are unlimited, right?
What about unlimited pets? My kids would love that one.
Unlimited cars? Too complicated and most likely comes with needing insurance for all of them.
Unlimited love? Yeah, we all dream of this one. I think it is also referred to as unconditional love. Unlimited time? I am afraid I would just waste it.
Unlimited chocolate? Bad idea.

How many times can you use the word unlimited in your life? This word that means "no limits, no bounds." What do you want to be unlimited in your life? Can you ever have too much of something? You know what they say. Too much of a good thing....blah blah blah. Remember the story about King Midas? Golden touch? Unlimited? Did not work out. I remember when I was a kid I had a friend whose mom limited how many squares of toilet paper you could use. I prefer unlimited toilet paper.

Last night I signed up for the brand spanking new Verizon unlimited data plan. Not only did I sign up for it but it turns out my monthly bill is going to be $10.00 lower as well. You have no idea how careful my girls and I have had to be with our data usage for the past 2 and a half years. When we have ended up going over on our data it has been painful. More times than I care to talk about we have ended up in town sitting in the car outside one of the schools or our church using public wifi to do our homework. Sacrifice never hurt anyone and I am sure that my girls and I are stronger and somehow better because of the shortage of data in our lives. But can I tell you what a relief it was to walk out of that Verizon store knowing that I do not have to worry about our data usage anymore?

I can watch The Crown. I can watch Studio C. I can catch up on Master Chef Junior. Episodes of Suits are definitely in my future. I can watch the videos for my homework over and over again when I do not understand something. I can use google maps on my phone without guilt. I can be the one to offer to Google something when I am out in public with only my phone. Oh man, I can watch James Corden's Carpool Karaoke. The giddy reality is sinking in. I can Skype with my grand babies anytime I want. Now if my kids send me a Youtube video with a song they know I will love I can actually watch it. The possibilities are endless....or unlimited :)

Is it weird that the more I think about the endless possibilities of unlimited data the more I realize I like limits? You know, boundaries, rules. I am not a fan of "anything goes." Is that what unlimited could mean? Yesterday on the school bus I asked a middle school girl for the hundredth time to please hold on to her back pack and stop leaving it in other seats. She said to me why do we have to? And I said because it is a rule. She said you don't have to follow it. I smiled and said "oh sister I am a serious rule follower." She predictably said, "That is dumb." I tried to explain to her that rules and boundaries actually make us happy but she was not going there with me. So I think that unlimited data will make me happy but having that set amount kept us from excess. Does that make sense? I laid awake last night thinking about the rules and guidelines we will need to have in place so that unlimited does not consume our lives. I bet my kids can hardly wait to hear this evil plan of mine.

So,do not get me wrong, I am thrilled about my recently acquired unlimited data. I sit here and try to comprehend unlimited. Never ending. There are so many things in our lives that we need to stop. So many things we need to limit. We have to be vigilant. Then all of a sudden there is something unlimited. Overthinking? Who me?

Jan 4, 2017

Lincoln City Glass Floats and Hiking Cascade Head.

I am usually not a last minute kind of girl. I make plans so far in advance people have been known to enjoy teasing me about it. But last week on Tuesday my 17 year old and I were sitting smack in the middle of an incredibly lazy day when we realized my parents were going to be gone to California for a few days. Natalie was going to be at her cousins. We should have a plan. It was easy to decide on the beach but which one?

Two of our biggest unfulfilled dreams about the coast have been the glass float drops on Lincoln City beach and whale watching. Wouldn't you know it? This happened to be Whale Watching Week and a glass float drop was happening. Two dreams in one week. How do things work out so perfectly? It was definitely a sign.

From October through May they choose random weekends to hide glass floats on the seven mile stretch of Lincoln City beach. By the end of the "glass float season" they have hidden over 2000 of glass floats. They are all handcrafted and amazing. Tatiana and I have had huge dreams of finding one or two of them. We confirmed that on Dec 31 and January 1 they would indeed be hiding 100 of these glass floats so it was decided, we were going to Lincoln City. I took the first Airbnb we looked at and the deal was sealed. I know I have already had my relaxation and adventure this Christmas break but trust me I really needed the chance to clear my head and take my mind off of some hard decisions I had to recently make.

Early Friday morning we headed out. We dropped Natalie and her cousin off in Lebanon and then headed west to Newport, Oregon. After about 43 miles of driving on Route 20 you finally come to the top of a hill on your way into Newport and you can look out in front of you and catch your first glimpse of the ocean. This view never ceases to fill me with happiness.

Our plan was to just do whatever we fancied. Our first "fancy" was historic downtown Newport. We wandered around looking in shops and galleries. We said hello to the incredibly loud and lazy male sea lions that hang out on the pier during the winter months. We even ate fish and chips. We are on an eternal quest to find the perfect fish and chips.

I knew there was a hike on the coast that I had been wanting to accomplish but I could not for the life of me remember the name of the hike. While we were waiting for our food I checked up on Facebook and there happened to be a comment from my friend Carrie reminding me that the hike was Cascade Head and that I was close to it. I quickly googled the hike, read about it, and all of a sudden Newport was no longer interesting. We jumped in the car and headed North on Highway 101. Who wants to shop when there is an epic hike?

Google maps said we had about an hour drive to the trail head and that we would arrive about 1:49 pm. I was a little concerned about how early the sun sets on a winter day and how much hiking we had to accomplish in the time before it set so I was focused on our goal, It is hard to be focused as you are driving past fabulous views of the ocean and you know it is also whale watching week on the Oregon coast. But we made it with no stopping.

Sometimes finding where the actual trail starts on a hike is tricky and this hike was one of those kinds of hikes.Thankfully, I know how to roll down my window and ask questions so with only one turn around we made it to the parking lot for the Cascade Head hike. The people we asked about where the trail started casually mentioned to us that the trail was very muddy. I am so glad they did.

Thankfully, I always have my yellow rubber boots in the car and Tatiana had thought to wear her red rubber boots. You cannot live in Oregon and not have your trunk full of things that you might need to handle the weather conditions in this darling state. It is safe to assume that water and mud will often be involved in your day. This trail was incredibly muddy most of the way up and we were so grateful for our boots. I would have hated to have to be worrying about where I had to step if I was trying to protect my shoes. I am so glad we could just walk right through the middle of anything.

Out of the woods.
The hike to the top was 3.4 miles. The trail is on the road for a minute. It crosses the road. Then is goes up. And up. And up. Through forest. Some of the trail has steps. Some of the trail is wide but most of it is very narrow and did I mention muddy? I had no idea what to expect at the top. As we came out of the forest into a meadow I was so anxious to see what our view was going to be. I was not disappointed. The ocean, the mountains, a herd of elk, clear sky, the blues, the greens, the beach miles below, the snow on the distant mountains, miles of pine trees, there was a view everywhere I looked. I thought okay, this is it. So fabulous.

But the trail kept heading across the meadow so we just kept following it. We stopped to admire the views and take pictures often. I kept deciding no this is the best view, would walk some more and then decide, no this is the best view. Honestly, you could have stopped anywhere on this mountain and been done with your hike but I could see the trail still going and knew I would always wonder what was at the end.

Can you see her?
The trail started to head straight up. Tatiana easily moved ahead of me. She would stop and look back and holler "Keep coming mom." I swallowed down the thoughts that her words made me feel old. I kept trying to think of how I could capture what we were doing and seeing in pictures and words. How could I describe this? I stopped frequently to catch my breath, survey the view, take a picture and then press on. If you look at the picture to the left there you can see I was several switchbacks behind her.

I smiled at the people I passed who had already made it to the top and were on the way down. I saw the look of empathy in their eyes as their struggle to the top was still fresh in their minds. A few of them reassured me the end was coming. I asked a young couple how much further and was a little confused when they declared they did not know they had come from another trail and had only been hiking a mile so they were not sure. What? I chose the hard way? Of course I did. It turns out there are three different trails and we took the longest and hardest trail but I am glad we did and would never do it any other way. It was an amazing hike with huge rewards. I had to resist the urge to burst into the Carpenter's song On Top Of The World a few times. "Such a feeling's coming over me. There is wonder in most everything I see. Not a cloud in the sky got the sun in my eyes and I won't be surprised if its a dream." Yeah,that song and I go way back.
View to the South 

Going down was much more delightful even though there was a constant chance of slipping in the mud. There is just something about knowing what is coming that makes the hike go faster and seem easier. I longed to watch the sun set behind the Pacific Ocean from the top but I knew that was irresponsible. Even though I had packed my flashlight. We got back to our car at about 3:50 pm.
View to the West.

Round trip the hike is 6.8 miles. It gains 1310 feet of elevation. And is categorized as a moderate hike. I saw all different sorts of people hiking the trail. Old people. Young people. People hauling young kids. Couples in love. Groups stopping to smoke marijuana. Hikers on cell phones chatting away. It was definitely a popular hike despite the mud and that it was December 30th. I was so glad we did it and will definitely do it again.

We headed to our Airbnb which was 10 minutes away and had an amazing view of the coast. We grabbed Taco Bell and watched a ton of episodes of Studio C. The next morning we drove less than a mile to a parking lot by the beach and started our search for the glass fishing floats.

It was disheartening to notice lots of people already searching for the floats. They do not hide the floats all at once they hide them throughout the day. So in my head I divided the 100 floats into 50 floats per day and then figured out the daylight hours and tried to determine how many floats they would hide within an hour. Yeah, who does that? I also spent way too much time trying to notice who might be hiding them. I was shamefully looking for an easy way. But there was no easy way. It was just endless walking and looking along the bluffs, through the driftwood, and above the high tide line for an elusive glass float.

We had a time deadline for when we had to head back inland. I had a dance in Portland to attend and Tatiana had possible New Years Eve plans. We stayed as long as we could and walked at least 4 miles on the beach but never found a float. The day started out clear and sunny but within a few hours the clouds rolled in. It was very hard to be at the beach and not be walking out by the ocean so a few times I deviated and headed out to the shoreline.One of those times a sneaker wave caught me and filled my rubber boots with salt water and sand which made me smile. You could hear me coming from a mile away with all the noise wet socks and wet pants inside rubber boots makes.

As much as I loved living in Kansas and Indiana I cannot imagine living where I do not have the freedom to jump in the car, drive two hours and be at the ocean. It makes me so happy to be able to do that. I marvel at the ease of it every single time I do it.

Dec 28, 2016

Support and Resistance.

For several years now I have had a burning curiosity about the stock market. No one has really had the time or the patience to sit down and explain and answer all my questions about it so I have gathered bits of information here and there. With the help of my father I purchased some shares of Merck and GE last year. As soon as they went above what I bought them for I sold them. Chicken out, much?

Ever since my divorce I have had a chunk of money that has needed some attention and for about 4 months now I have been making and canceling appointments with Rob at Schwab. Yes, I am thrilled beyond words that Rob and Schwab rhyme. It is the little things that delight me.

Finally, last Friday nothing interfered and I was able to keep my appointment with him. It was a rainy, gray day and my appointment was in Eugene at 10:00. Last time I met with Rob at Schwab we transferred money from some TIAA/CREF accounts into my Schwab account. But we just left it all sitting there because it would take more time than we had at that appointment to allocate it. As you all know ever since November 8th the markets have been doing nothing but going up in a weird unsupported sort of way. So the minute I sat down with Rob he started a discussion about this and about how it made him feel nervous about how fast 20,000 was approaching. It is fascinating to me to attempt to understand how much affects the price of a share of a company. I naively thought we would do some divvying up and spreading out and call it a day. But Rob (at Schwab) suggested just taking a small amount and placing it in an intelligent portfolio (the opposite of a dumb portfolio). He suggested waiting on allocating the rest of the money until February when reality may have started to settle in and the picture will be clearer. The stock market is riding on hope right now. I totally understand riding on hope I have been known to ride on hope myself. You know when you are sure change is coming, it is exciting, you are happy, and it is so welcome. Your life feels light and it is exactly like you are walking on sunshine (yes, I just quoted a song. Thanks for noticing.) I am in the process of crashing from hope so maybe the stock market will be heading down as well.

The more Rob from Schwab explained the stock market to me the more I realized the stock market is a lot like my life. I guess I had so many questions and was such a well behaved audience that he could not resist educating me more. I deeply appreciated it and cannot stop thinking about what I learned.

First he pulled up AT&T's portfolio on his computer and found a graph that gave me an overview of what their stock had been doing over the last year, He used his mouse to draw some lines on the graph in various places. Some of the the lines were marking the tops of mountains and some were marking dips. He explained to me that the tops of the mountains were called resistance and the dips were affectionately referred to as support. The stock would head down to a certain predetermined level, stop, and then turn around to get a running start back up to possibly find a new resistance point. When the stock gets to that low point that is a good time to purchase some. Sometimes the stock price would break through to make a new resistance level and sometimes it did not. Regardless the stock would predictably head back down to its support level before it tried again. If you know it is going to do this you do not have fear when you are investing.

I had just spent an entire semester studying Costco so I asked him to show me the support and resistance for Costco's stock so we switched to their graph and it was so interesting to be able to see what Costco stock had done in the past three years. I began to understand that up and down was healthy and you want to see that happening. I did not really understand that when I owned my Merck and my GE, which I sort of wish I still owned at this moment. Yes, you were right I was wrong.

If I could pull up a graph of the last three years of my life you would easily see my support level and the places where I took a running start to attempt to break through some resistance and make a change. Sometimes I broke through my resistance level and set a new high but other times I did not. I have definitely broken through to new levels as I have started school. But when it comes to relationships I seem to not be able to figure out what it takes to break through the resistance. You would be able to see the divorce crash of 2013. You would see the spikes when I got A's in school or met someone who appeared to think I was worth the time. You would undoubtedly see when I ate Reeses. When I saw a great view. When I did something wrong. Yeah, you would see it all. But the question is would you feel like it was worth it to buy shares in my life? And when would you sell?

I guess a healthy life has dips and mountains just like a healthy stock. Life steadily but slowly with lots of support and good reasons usually works its way up. Since January 2015 Costco's support is in the $140.00 dollar range and their resistance level has been around $169.00. Before that it's resistance level was around $110.00. So if you bought Costco stock years ago and was patient just imagine. It appears to be the same with life.  so the earlier you invest in me the better? Ugh, that means it is too late.

Dec 27, 2016

Make Good Choices.

I am not sure why it started or even when it started but for quite awhile now I have found myself regularly advising people to "Make good choices." It just comes out of my mouth naturally as a part of any goodbye routine. I say it to kids getting off of the bus. I say it to my co-workers. I say it to friends. I may have even said it to a squirrel who was thinking about crossing in front of my car one day.

I have noticed that my daughter Madeline says it to me when we are closing phone conversations and I have wondered to myself, "Did I get it from her?" A little while ago I was re-watching the movie Pitch Perfect and the character Becca said to another character, "Make good choices." I wondered to myself, "Is this where I got it from?" Have I been quoting a movie and did not know it?

Do I really know what it means as I flippantly say it to almost everyone? And even worse do I practice what I preach? Do I make good choices? A choice is "an alternative, option, or a preference," all words that suggest the power of choosing. I like the idea of choosing being a power. What if my super power was to make good choices? What kind of life would that be? At this very moment when I have so many choices swirling all around me I am really liking the idea of being "Choose The Right Girl." Definitely emerald green leggings, skirt and cape for my superhero costume...did I come up with that outfit too fast? Would it be too much to ask to be able to fly and make good choices? Then I could get to my good choices faster :) Are there any drawbacks to having the power to know that the choice you are making is the right one?

I have a talent for making bad choices. I know I would not be who I am without those bad choices. Every time I wrestle through one I come out on the other side a better person. They have undoubtedly taught me more than good choices and smooth sailing ever could have but I still long for the ability to make just one good choice. Just to know what it feels like.

Just for fun I made the choice to google, "how do you make good choices" and without even having to click on any link the most amazing list appeared from the Frank Sonnenberg online blog. Seven steps to making a good choice:

#1.  Manage the big stuff
#2.  Values Matter
#3.  Learn from the past
#4.  Know what you know and what you don't know.
#5.  Keep the right perspective.
#6.  Don't Procrastinate
#7   Once you make a choice do not look back and make it work.

I should have known there would be a list out there. Seeing the steps all written out is strangely comforting. "Good choices keep you heading in the direction you want to be going. Bad choices are counter-productive and quickly can make you feel despair, stress and confusion." The minute I read this definition I realized I have been making bad choices. I keep having hope that these choices will head me in the direction I want to go but it is time to admit they are never going to move anywhere and I need to abandon them.

Maybe I want my super power to be not looking back. "Not Looking Back girl." Oh man now I have to make a choice.

Dec 21, 2016

Hiking the Dungeness Spit.

I knew when I woke up this morning and opened the blinds in my little cottage that I am staying in that I needed to do something ambitious with my day. The water and the mountains were definitely calling my name. I am embarrassed to say that I brought my textbooks for next semester with me on my little "get away." Not only that, I had plans to organize the songs I am teaching to my Primary kids for the entire next year (yeah, a whole year). I do know how to vacation don't I? :)  But don't be too hard on me because I grabbed my bag of clementines, bunch of bananas, wallet, scarf, hat and gloves and headed out. left the textbooks in my cottage.

In a folder in the cottage I am staying in there is a list of outdoor things to do on the Olympic Peninsula. I have stared longingly at the description of the Dungeness Spit the last two times I stayed here and it was finally time to act. 

I do love records, so the minute I found out the Dungeness Spit was the longest, natural, sand spit in the United States I knew I had to check it out. But there are some logistics involved in hiking this sand spit. The tide has to be low or on its way to low. I knew when I went to bed last night that high tide would be at 9 in the morning and low tide would not be until 4 in the afternoon. And even at that low tide was not really going to be that fabulous of a low tide. I also had the small problem that I am the sort of girl that gets up early and goes. I am not the sort of girl who waits around....not even for tides. I told myself I would head towards Dungeness Spit but I could just drive by and head out to the Cape Flattery hike again or follow highway 101 until it ended in LaPush. You know, do something until the tide was low enough for me to check out the Dungeness Spit. As I got closer to Sequim (don't you dare pronounce the e in Sequim. It is pronounced Squim) I could not resist and I set the Google map app on my phone up to take me to Dungeness Spit. But the app conspired against me and directed me to another sand spit so I figured it was a sign. This impostor sand pit was not a complete waste of time because there was the most amazingly huge barge stacked with containers heading out to sea down the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I watched it for awhile. But then I decided to head to LaPush on Highway 101. I got just outside of Port Angeles and turned around. I am not really sure why but I did.

This time I found the Dungeness Spit without using my Google maps app. I just deduced where it would be and voila. Something I never do. I was very excited to check this place out. You have to pay $3.00 to hike out to the sand spit and all I had was a $50 and there was no one there to give change so I scrounged in my change drawer in my car and found $3.00. The trail was empty, well maintained, and surrounded by woods. I did my best to not think about meeting Bigfoot, or the wolves and vampires from Twilight and headed bravely down the trail, alone. At the edge of the woods the trail goes down a hill to get you down to the sand spit. Are you wondering if sand spits? yeah, Why do they call it a spit? Does sand spit? This sand spit is 5.2 miles long so the sand spit more than it should have. I had to know so I looked it up and a spit is a land form, It is a "deposition bar or beach land form found off coasts or lake shores. It develops in places where re-entrance occurs, such as at a cove's headlands, by the process of long shore drift by long shore currents. ... These currents are caused by the same waves that cause the drift." Whew, did you get that?

As I came down the trail I had no idea what I would see when I first got a glimpse of the Stait of Juan de Fuca. There was a little platform and when you walked to the edge of it you could see this strip of sand going, going, going out into the water. It really was amazing. 

When I got to the bottom of the hill there was a ranger there and she was giving instructions. Waves were relentlessly crashing on the left side of the spit and the right side was calm...it was like being in the middle of a split personality. The wind was fiercely blowing. The waves were big. The spit was littered with driftwood. Not just small pieces of wood. Enormous trees just tossed year after year on this sand spit all 5 miles of it. Walking on the side without waves was the obvious choice to me but the ranger crushed my dreams when she said the calm side was for the birds (lucky birds) and people had to walk on the wave side. I asked a few more times to be sure I had heard her. She did not even flinch when she advised me to be careful of the waves and to remember that sometimes the driftwood can appear stable but it could have water under it and may not be stable. What? I was not turning back now so I smiled at her and headed off. The wind whipped my scarf out to the side of me. The waves raced right up to the edge of the driftwood and every 50 feet or so there was a metal post with a sign posted reminding me that I could not cross the line onto the bird side. I confess, I stepped behind the sign a few times. I would be walking on the logs, avoiding the waves, climbing over the logs and I would look up and realize that I was on the wrong side of the signs. I am a rule follower. I would furtively look around to see if anyone saw me but not many people think that hiking the Dungeness Spit on the 20th of December is a great idea so I was alone in the knowledge of my crime. I finally stopped and looked back and was overwhelmed at the view. The Olympic Mountains were looming with snow on them. The water was this amazing green color but where the waves were breaking it was brown and muddy. The contrast between the colors was very cool. The wind was taking the spray from the ocean and the foam from the waves and flinging it everywhere. It was exhilarating. The spit seemed to stretch on forever. But I decided I was going to the end to the lighthouse I could see way out in the distance. I had to. It was slow going. Around, over, walking along logs. All of a sudden I found myself facing a  row of signs telling me I could not go any further..... you know, the birds. Not going to lie. I would have kept going but I was okay with turning back. When I got back to the trail going into the woods I stopped and read the sign about the trail and saw that from October until March you cannot hike all the way to the lighthouse.

I will be back. I have to hike to the end. But maybe I will think about another month when it does not get dark around low tide. But don't get your hopes up.

Dec 18, 2016


Captains Log
Star date December 18, 2016
10:52 AM

My first semester of being back at college is over.
My girls are gone for five days to be with their dad in Utah.
Holiday Season
I have nothing to do?

I am sitting in my cozy bed in my church clothes waiting for the appropriate time to leave for church and I realized I could blog. Actually, I should blog just in case posterity ever wonders what I could possibly been thinking when I made the choices I am bound to make. The sun is reflecting off of the water drops on the trees outside so the day looks sparkly. And I am sitting here doing some reflecting of my own. Nothing sparkly, just some good old fashioned pondering and meditating.

I am reflecting on this first semester of online classes that I just completed. I got A's in both my classes. One teacher had no problem handing A's to me like candy. He seemed to just be grateful that I did the work. Which made me sad for his life. My other teacher was very hard on me and I learned an enormous amount from her because of this. She refined my writing. I grumbled about her all semester. I shed tears. I agonized. When she actually gave me A's I wondered if she had just given up fighting with me. She insisted that I figure out how to say things in a concise manner. Yeah, we all know that there is nothing concise about me. She never really "got" me. She seemed to be relentlessly hunting for those of us on the planet who use smiley faces after every sentence. She considered it her job to give us a reality check. She never reviewed my work without adding in her comments "less words," not:

"Could you please use less words?"
"It would make me eternally happy if you would use less words."
"Jennifer, using less words could make your life better."

 Just a cold, heartless "less words."

 I refrained from telling her I talked early and profusely and did not know a single thing about the word "less." The A's I got from her are treasures to me and they came more and more often as I figured out how to play her game. Yeah, talkative but smart am I.

I learned so many things this semester about myself and about learning. I learned that I love to use adverbs. I learned that semi colons and colons are tough customers. I learned I have high expectations. (that is a whole other blog.)

I am also reflecting on being alone. My two girls left for Utah on Friday and will be gone for 6 days and it is the weirdest feeling in the world. I realized that very soon this will be my life. Can I handle alone? It was so weird to go from having 7 kids and a spouse. To walking into the ward Christmas party all alone. Realizing you have no one to sit by. Realizing everyone else at least has a spouse or someone they came with. Realizing you need to be a big girl. And worst of all realizing that there may have been someone in your past that felt exactly the same way and you did not not know it and did not reach out to them.

I am reflecting on what I want to do with my life. Both of my classes required me to write a personal mission statement, a resume, a cover letter, a request for a letter of recommendation, goals, lists of how I could advance in my career. It was a lot of reflecting and a lot of reality. Reality and I never really understood each other.

Here is my personal mission statement I finally ended up submitting in both my classes. If I post it then you can all call me out on my moments off of the path. And my posterity can decide if it truly was my mission statement. Be sure to notice I squeezed a smiley face into my Personal Mission Statement. My B320 teacher had given up at this point and did not mention it.

Alice came to a crossroads in the woods and she asks the Cheshire cat which way she ought to go from there and he tells her that it depends on where she wants to go. She tells him that she does not care much where she goes. The cat informs her that it does not matter much which way she goes then. I am determined to care where I go so that when those crossroads appear I have a clear idea of which road I want to take.
A simple modest house of my own close to water, views, and hiking, with land to garden on, bookshelves, and a hammock is something I want to accomplish. I long for a job with a school district so that I have summers off to travel and visit friends and family.
·         Doing hard things with diligence and integrity
·         Being genuine and focused
·         Being the same on the outside as I am on the inside.
·         Having courage to do hard things
·         Being grateful

Are all characteristics I am struggling to grow as I pray, study, and make sticker chartsJ

My relationships are a priority to me and this priority drives my actions. My belief in an eternal life after this life with my Heavenly Father drives my behavior. 

I noticed my personal mission statement was a little bit different from my classmates statements but I did not fret about it I mean it is personal, right?

To top it all off this is the time of year that we all naturally reflect. We are almost to the end of another 365 day cycle in our lives and about to begin another one. What can we do different? I am trying to embrace the reflecting and hope it just improves my situation and determination to figure out my Plan B.

Nov 20, 2016

Listen To Me.

I have a very dear friend who spends an enormous amount of time accusing me of not listening. Usually when this friend decides to accuse me of not listening I simply do not listen. Sometimes I laugh it off. Sometimes I quickly agree with him to get him off the topic. But for some reason the other day when he for the gazillion-th time accused me of not listening, something happened, I suddenly found myself deeply concerned about this idea that I do not listen. I realized I needed to figure out if it is true because I honestly thought I was a good listener.

So I found a quiet spot, sat down with myself, and searched every corner of my brain for the truth, Am I truly a bad listener? No one wants to be labeled as a bad listener. No one goes to a dinner party and brags to his friends, "Yeah, I have some pretty bad listening skills."

Has being interrupted and distracted constantly for the last twenty five years as a mother of seven kids caused this? Did I listen when I was born? Did I listen when I was a teenager? What does it mean to listen? Who even listens anymore? It takes so much time and sacrifice to be a good listener.

I decided that the next step in figuring out if the accusation was true or not was to remember a moment when I knew I was being listened to, so that I was sure I understood what listening was. You know when you are in the presence of a good listener because:

 They sit down with you and look at you.
 They do not check their watch
 They do not check their phone
 They do not turn to look at other noises in the room
 They ask you questions,
 They never act like time matters
 The television is never on,
 They clear their brain and are seriously focused on you.

 Not many people have time for all that but when you meet someone who does it it makes an amazing difference in your life. I love that feeling when you are with someone who is a good listener they make you feel special and important and who does not appreciate that feeling?

You know I googled, "What is a good listener?" I knew Google would not let me down. In the results I saw an article published in the Huffington Post called, "9 Things Good Listeners Do Differently." I immediately clicked on the link and read every word. The article listed nine things a good listener does and here they are:

1. They are present.                              Need to work on this one.
2. They are empathetic.                        Got this one.
3. They realize their shortcomings.        I find new ones daily.
4. They have an open mind.                  I think it is open until I realize it is not.
5. They are emotionally intelligent.       I wish
6. They pose significant questions.        I do not have a problem with asking questions as you all                                                                  know.
7. They are not on the defensive.           I am not a bad listener :)
8. They are okay with being uncomfortable. I think my whole life is uncomfortable.
9. They are good leaders.                      I adore following.

As I have pondered and pondered on this topic I wondered if what this friend meant to say to me was that I am not a good remember-er? Because that is true. I often have a hard time remembering which may cause you to think I did not listen.

Or maybe because I am not very good at completely agreeing with everything he says he thinks I am not a good listener? :)

Maybe it is that I have this annoying habit of asking you about something we talked about earlier even though I already know your answer. My own father calls me out on this habit I have often.

Sometimes I want to have the conversation again.....yeah, I may or may not have issues :)
Sometimes, I just want to confirm I heard it right. I guess it could be called double checking?
Or maybe I am trying to show you that I do listen by bringing it up again and you think it means I did not listen?

I have been known to listen to my music loud does that count as listening? :) It embarrasses my children immensely. They get in the car and quickly turn it down exclaiming, "Mom, you can hear the music outside." I just like to feel it all around me.

The 14 year old tells me at least 100 times a day that I do not listen but what she means to say is that I am not responding to her requests the way she wants me to so her opinion does not count :)

The kids on my bus wish I did not listen so well. Last Friday I heard a kid say a word that it is not okay to say on my bus and I made him come and sit by me and as he plopped himself in the seat behind me he grumpily asked me why I listen.

Not to brag but my listening skills have helped me catch teenagers trying to sneak out of the house.

So I have decided I am not the best listener and this friend may be right. Being still and focused is sometimes hard for me. My brain is always moving. So I am adding to my "Making Jennifer Great" list:
Being still,
Being in the moment
and not thinking ahead.
Oh yeah, and listening.