Sunday, March 12, 2017

turning the tide

Today we had a lesson in Relief Society about Daughters of God. An amazing friend my ward, Rachel, taught the lesson. I always look forward to Rachel's lessons because she is bold, she is kind, and she is inspired. She knows how to facilitate a meaningful lesson. I always feel the spirit in her lessons and I always feel like I'm in a good discussion with friends that ends prematurely because class has ended, not because the discussion itself is over. 

Today's lesson was no exception to this. Rachel led an insightful discussion about the roles of women as daughters of God and as women of the world. In my mind, it was like we were going to draw a Venn diagram--how they were separate and distinct, and how they were the same. Initially the question was posed, something to the extent to what does it mean to you to be a daughter of God.

This is a question that honestly fuels the fire of my testimony. I've definitely had defining moments in gaining a testimony but the thing that I've always known is that I am a child of God. I have been blessed over time to come to understand my identity as a daughter of a Heavenly Father who loves me and I love him. It has been my standard, the one against which I compare everything else. It has been my calibration point. It's been my anchor and my lighthouse. It has been my rod and my staff. It has been where I try to set my gaze and to focus my attention. Knowing I'm a daughter of God is a game changer. 

But then the conversation started down the path that it invariably goes down. Women just want to be perfect. We want to be good. We want to be mothers. Bless our mother hearts. But I started noticing some emerging patterns from a room of incredible single sisters. Themes such as empowering women role in the home, women dedication to their children, how they yearn to be mothers and stay home and raise their children, how we should exalt the role of mothers in the home and not the role of women in the workplace. I know that these women's intentions were good. But my heart began to break as I saw the theme of daughter of God tie directly to being a good stay at home say the least. Of course, there were other strong themes, but I started to truly sense this direct tie to "the woman I should be." 

Rachel then shared this quote by President Spencer W. Kimball, he said, "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world." (The Role of Righteous Women, April 1979.) 

My hand shot up in the air and I said something to this effect...I love this quote! This quote to me doesn't say anything about whether we are single or married, whether we are working, mothering, or whether we are unable to work. It doesn't say anything about health or circumstances. What it does say is that in whatever we do, wherever we are, whatever our capacity, we can reflect righteousness and articulateness in our lives. We can lead distinct and different lives in happy ways. As we do this, we will be an ensign to the women around us. 

I am so guilty of constantly comparing myself to others. And it goes in cycles. I look at others and their seeming ability to do it all. I look at their children, and their husbands, and the experiences they're having that my heart only yearns for. It is so easy to look at the life of another and wish it was your own or clearly see how you could do it better. Neither of these paths is pleasing to God. He has called you here, to be on earth now to be you. He has a special work that he has called you to. Not you acting as someone else. He did not reassign your assignment to someone else because they could do it better. He called you to you work and me to mind. He has called me to be Erin McQuivey, witness of HIM at all times and in all places that I am in. That means he wants me to be that witness in my family, at my work, at my grocery store. He wants me to be that witness in my home and in my community. Am I heeding that call? Am I finding value in what I have been called to do?

This week, the Relief Society announced that it changed its purpose. It now reads:
"Relief Society helps prepare women for the blessings of eternal life as they:
Increase faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement.
Strengthen individuals, families, and homes through ordinances and covenants.
Work in unity to help those in need. 

The changes are highlighted in bold. I love that the purpose didn't change but we were refocused to the things that are most important. On our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Atonement. On individuals because salvation is an individual matter. And as individual children we are children of God. We all need the ordinances and covenants regularly in our lives. And finally...we can't do it alone. 

And that's the final point here. We can't do it alone. We cannot afford to be pitted against one another. It is only by working together in unity that we will be able to accomplish the great work we have been sent here to do. 

Sometimes, I think that we can all feel alone in the world. Satan has a way of pitting us against one another through worshiping idols and coveting what others have that we do not. We feel and sense the great battle that is happening. But don't let yourself ever feel alone. Sometimes, we might feel like Jehoshaphat of the Old Testament. A great multitude was coming to battle against them. He sought the Lord and proclaimed all to fast. Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord. As a part of his prayer, he said, "O our God, wilt though not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee."

So too, our eyes are upon thee. Regardless of what our calling is to do, regardless of the callings of those around us...our eyes are upon thee. We are righteous women of God with great potential in this world. Though our callings be divine and different, we are dependent on Him in all we do. Let us join together. Let us band together and continue to change the world. Let us turn the tide

Thursday, March 2, 2017

I delight in Thursday.

Today, I woke up at 5:45 and for the first time in months...I felt ready to be awake. I tell ya, it's like this root canal revolutionized my life. I can't believe how terrible I'd slowly faded away to feel. I showered, fixed myself eggs for breakfast (this NEVER happens), and I even rode my exercise bike! Miracles I tell you! I did some laundry, made my bed, and unloaded the dishwasher, all before leaving for work.

Let's be honest...all of these things happening in the morning in isolated events can be challenging and often is so the fact that they all happened this morning was a total anomaly. But, it definitely started my day off the right way.

Today was one of those days where I felt like I could focus. I could zoom in and just have at it. Did I complete everything? No. Did I complete a lot of somethings? Yes. Is there room for improvement? Definitely. But as flex of my favorite 3-4 weeks of the year comes to a close...I'm grateful for this chance that I have to kind of play catch up in various aspects of my work life.

The best part about Thursdays is going to the temple. I love the temple. Tonight we had a training by a sister in the temple presidency about the importance of baptism and the beautiful simplicity of the baptismal ordinance. It's so simple but so powerful. She challenged us all to read 2 Nephi 31 so that's what I will study tomorrow. I am grateful for the opportunity I have to participate in the Lord's work. I am also grateful for prayer. I am grateful that I can pray for others and that for them, especially some of them, they appreciate that they can ask for those prayers.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

"Yesterday was plain awful. You can say that again."

This has been me.
On repeat.
For a week and then some.

I've been Erin the grumpy and I've probably met my tears quota for the year in the past couple weeks. I have an abscessed tooth. My third to be exact. Long sad story including all the things that make people cringe like bad dentistry, improper drilling of cavities, and worst of all, it ends up with me needing a root canal. Like I told my wouldn't be so terrible if I was old, but I'm not that old.

Anyway, since getting on an antibiotic and a strict routine of pharmaceuticals to help with the pain, I've been better but the tears are still close to the surface which tells me that my body is still experiencing pain. It's just being covered up by the medicine. Interesting how your body still knows. 

Needless to say, it's been a long week and a long weekend. While yesterday it's self was actually fine, today I have rotated around my parents house from one bed to another. Laying, loafing, crying, napping, watching sappy hallmark movies (thinking: this is not real life! but I wish it was!), cross stitching, and occasionally eating some "soft food." Yes, I think I'm on an NDD2 diet with thin liquids (room temperature). It's been such a blessing to be at home though. There's something about having your mom around to take care of you that makes everything a little bit better. Or a lot bit. 

Point of the story is...I take advantage of all the days that I wake up feeling perfectly fine. I don't want to take advantage of those days. I want to appreciate the ability to go up and down the stairs without searing pain in my sinuses. I want to appreciate that I can run around my house with lots of energy at the end of a long work day and not come home and crawl in bed because that's all I have left in me. I want to appreciate that I can eat and drink with only occasional penetration (SLP here!) which I'm able to clear with a good strong cough. I want to appreciate the endurance I have as I eat food because I can chew food with both sides of my mouth and because I have teeth. I want to be amazed at what baseline feels like for me every single day. 

I work with patients who had that and then they had some event happen, usually involving some trauma of some sort which leaves them distanced from their baseline of health and functioning. Some gain it back, others don't. It's not something we can afford to take advantage of. This experience has reminded me of that. I hope I can learn that lesson and retain a remembrance of it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

JoyFull: Spend less. Give more.

I was definitely blessed to grow up in a home where my parents taught us about money. As a child, I was a definite saver. I loved stashing money away in random places and to this day...I still find a dollar tucked here or there in trinkets from my childhood. I was probably in Junior High when my Dad got really into the book, "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." That's when the serious financial discussions started. We played the cashflow game, talked about working for yourself and making your money work for you. When I got my first job, he encouraged me to save and to open a checking account. I still remember talking over dinner about the importance of having a checking account of my own. We wrote down questions I should ask the bank and after dinner, I called Tiffany at Zion's Bank...yes I still remember her name. 

Once I started making somewhat regular money working random jobs I had as a teenager, my Dad enticed me to save further by promising to match whatever money I would put into a Roth IRA. How does one pass up on an offer like that? I remember counting my money and examining how much I could put in such a long term saving account. 

As I continued to get older, Dad became increasingly open with me about he and Mom's financial situation. He taught me by through sharing his own personal experiences, their personal experiences, and helped educate me on things like assets and liabilities, the cost of buying a house, debt, cars, healthcare and insurance. Throughout high school we'd go on walks sometimes in the evenings. On these walks...we'd talk about all sorts of things...often about the businesses I wanted to open, and at times finances. Sometimes I'd ask him to teach me about a topic like deductibles, health insurance, premiums, and interest. 

Fast forward about 15 years down the road...I've been able to avoid debt except my mortgage. I've been able to save consistently in a Roth IRA and 401K, and I have been able to make adequate decisions about my money because of the things my Dad taught me. Finances have been (since Junior High) and continue to be an open-for-discussion subject. We are very transparent about both our situations. I consider this to be a significant blessing. Particularly in light of some of the decisions I have seen friends and acquaintances make over the years.

This year, I decided I wanted to get serious about paying off my house. I've always been serious about it and have played with mortgage calculators a bit too much. I've also always paid extra principle on my house.

 I just finished listening to Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. I'm probably never going to be an ultra-serious Ramsian follower and sell everything I own, but I am going to be more intentional about my spending. So, as a part of that, I've made some ah-ha's about my own personal spending habits and how I intend to do it...

1) Make it automatic. Automate so you don't have to make the decision every single month. Why set yourself up for such a temptation. For me, one way I do this is that, every year when I get a raise, I up the amount I'm paying on my house by the percentage of the raise. That way, that money automatically goes away with my monthly mortgage payment as additional principle. I never change how I live because I "make more money." When the house is paid off, I'll put that extra money into retirement. Another way I do this is that I don't factor what I make from one of my two jobs into any of my finances. I call it my "blessing job." I have used the money from this job to travel and to save an emergency fund. Every month, I move this money to a separate, less accessible but still accessible bank account where I am able to work on reaching other financial goals. This is how I saved for a downpayment, for trips I have taken overseas, and again, for my emergency fund. Every one should have an emergency fund which could ultimately support you for 6 months.

2) Balance retirement funding and house-down payment planning early. I wish I would have taken better advantage of the time I lived at home and made real money. Since graduating, I have saved about 25% into retirement. I think I could have pushed it even harder...but I don't regret what I did and also saving for a downpayment on a house. Don't forget about saving for retirement early. Compound interest is your friend! It's never too young to invest for retirement.

3) Fund an HSA. It took my Dad and I a little while to see eye to eye on this one. I work to fully fund my HSA every single year. This is like a retirement health insurance account. The money stays with me, it's invested so its money working for me. I can access it whenever I need it and it will continue to be with me into retirement. Whenever I can afford it, I don't use this account to pay for my healthcare needs, I just pay out of pocket and leave this money working for me.

4) Don't use the "credit" part of a credit card. While I've never (intentionally, only accidentally once) carried a balance on a credit card, it's important to pay off credit cards every single month and to not pay interest. Credit card interest is HIGH! It's not worth it! Why would you pay $25 dollars for that $1.00 Diet Coke from McDonald's. You wouldn't throw your money away like that so don't do it to credit card companies. It's important to always know where you are in your spending. I have all sorts of alerts set up on my credit card to notify me when it goes above certain limits to keep my spending in check. I also keep the spending limit low. Don't think you have more money than you do. That's a slippery slope. Also, don't fall for gimmicks. Last week I walked into the bank and the teller started telling me about this "awesome opportunity" to have all my debt consolidated into one place for this great interest rate. She went on to tell me how it was such a great opportunity for all the "kids my age" to get out of debt and to pay less interest, blah blah blah. If I'd been more brave, I'd have really told her what I was thinking...I held back. First, I was offended that she assumed I was in a "debt crisis" as she had put it. Second, I was disappointed in her spending habits...she worked at a bank for goodness sake. And Third, I felt bad for anyone who fell pray to her trap. Interest isn't your friend. Low interest. High interest. It's all bad. It's taking your money and you get nothing in return. Don't fall for the gimmicks.

5) Pay with Cash. This is a newer one for me. I haven't been much of a cash carrier but I do recognize my weakness in being willing to spend more because I can put it on a credit card. I'm not going to fall pray to that lie anymore. There is something about counting the cash and letting it slip through your fingers that makes you realize that every dollar you spend, needs to be an intentional dollar. One of the biggest ways I've recognized this change with myself is in my need to buy a Diet Coke. There was a time, I was buying 4 Large Fizz Drinks' a week. Now it cost me $2.97 each time so that's roughly $12.00/week.  That's $624.00 a year! Then I went to McDonald's, it was cheaper so I probably bought more like 6 a week so that was $312 a year! I cut it in half. Well now, I'm going ultra cheap and buying cans and only drinking 1 can/day. 1 can is $0.25 so drinking it 6 days/week would be $78.00 a year! That's $534 dollars a year that I'm saving by not buying fancy soda, in 2 years of saving that's like an extra house payment which would slowly reduce the length of my mortgage. If I was "gazelle intense" as Dave puts it, I'd probably cut other things too like eating out with friends, etc. However, I want to balance living now with living financially free in the future. Eating out with friends is so much of my social culture right now. I try to be judicious with it. One way I do so is that I make it a point to not eat out alone or out of convenience. I make more freezer meals so its easier to come home and fix something to eat. I meal plan so I grocery shop once a week rather than needing to stop in for a few things throughout the week as I know I'll always find something else that I need. Paying with cash makes me more aware that when I shop, I'm still accountable to my budget.

6) I Plan Free Activities. I love to go on walks. I love to cross stitch and I love to read. These are all free or relatively free. I can walk anytime, anywhere. 1 roll of Aida cloth, thread, and free internet patterns can go a long way. I love to read and have rekindled my relationship with the local library. I still buy books, but only the books I absolutely love. I keep a list of the free activities or projects I already have so that when I have a moment of weakness or indecision...I can remember what my options are and what my long term goals are. I keep a to-do list for projects I want to work on around my house. When you know what your options are, it definitely helps you make a more informed decision in a moment of weakness. 

6) I Give More. I think it's important to reflect on what spending brings you happiness. I love a good new book or a journal or school supplies a little too much. It brings me happiness. But I also love doing things for those around me and helping out with humanitarian efforts. This is something I'm working on more and more but I know the principle of giving is true. When we give, then we open our hearts to receiving in even more powerful ways.

{Please forgive this financially opinionated post. I have felt such the need to share some of the valuable things that I've learned in hopes that it might benefit someone else. I also wanted a better record of what it is I have done and am doing for my posterity to read someday.}

Friday, February 17, 2017

I delight in doing things different.

Tonight, I had a great little girls night out...well girls night in. It was fun but I got asked some really direct questions. Not a bad thing. It's actually an appreciated thing.

Essentially the question was...when you're in the same situation in the future, will you do things differently? I was grateful and excited to be able to say yes and to say yes confidently.

This is not an insightful post and that's all I'm going to disclose about it but this is me writing today.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Bed making and Skill building

Today, I found myself thinking at a number of different points in my day...what should I write about today? I was seeking connection. I was seeking delighting. I was seeking learning. I was seeking revelation.

Two subjects have come to mind--

1) I really like getting in a made bed at the end of the day. I'm not a religious bed maker. But I wish that I was. Tonight, I had book club at my house. With a bedroom on the main floor of my house, and having people who visit frequently ask for a tour...I always clean up...the whole house. Okay at least the main and the basement...the upstairs is the craft room and craft room's live by different rules of clean. Anyway, as I turned off all the lights of my clean and tidy house and walked into my bed was just so ready for me. I may have made fun of the book "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" a few times tonight (I actually really like and often think about various principles from that book) but you know, something that truly brings me joy is my bedroom. I love all the things in it and they all truly bring me joy. From the pictures on the wall, to the nightstand I bought on my first day of living away freshman year of college, to my grandmothers sewing chest (which matches nothing), to the lobster pillow, to the curtains that let the most incredible white light shine through...I love this space. I love the way it makes me feel and I love how it welcomes me to a restful night sleep. Maybe I should make my bed more often if it evokes such strong feelings.

2) Skills. I feel like there are a lot of skills that we tell people to have. We say things like, have a better attitude, eat healthy, lose weight, connect better with your child, "get down on their level." I've always kind of hated phrases like this because while all these things are important we often just expect that people know how to do this or how to find the resources to do it. I've been impressed recently by this multidisciplinary aspects of rehabilitation. I'm not going to go into it all now because, then, we would be on one of Erin's wild soapboxes...but the point of the story is this...

If we don't consider the whole picture, all the barriers, and support participation by addressing both environmental and personal factors, how can we expect change? If we don't teach families what connection with a book and a child and a parent looks like how will they know? If we don't understand that giving them books isn't the solution but actually teaching a skill, which isn't just something all people are able to just "figure out." How will they know? I personally want all parents to be able to have this skill. These are some of my most treasured memories I have with my mom and my brother growing up. She would lay in the middle of her bed with my brother and I on each side. We would each bring a book and she would read. As she would get tired, she'd get the words wrong and I'd correct her. Then, if we were all still awake, and it was the weekend, we'd get to watch some I Dream of Jeannie or Bewitched...classics on Nick at Night's Block Party Summer. Oh the times. But these are treasured times. They're the best times. They are cherished times. Teach the how and the why. The how and the why. Model. Teach. Test. Model. Teach. Test.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

writing to write post 1

So the irony of my last post is that last February...I wrote pretty much the same post

It struck me as ironic because right now I'm reading a book called "Big Magic." It's an Elizabeth Gilbert book and all that that entails but it is a very thought provoking book. Admittedly I'm only half way through (and yes, book club meets tomorrow...whoops!) but some of the things I'm thinking include the following:

What keeps me from creating?
What do I love doing that I need to make room for in my life?
Why does fear keep me from living a more creative life?
What endeavors do I love and work to support?

I have a co-worker who straight up told me after she'd been hired that she works strictly to support her expensive hobbies. While she enjoys what she does and finds satisfaction in her work, she works to live and does not live to work. A twinge inside me made me realize that I was envious of her determination, her vision, and the clarity of her path.

Part of me always wishes I had one thing I was really good at. You know, those people who are really good at the piano, or they're really incredible writers...they just have that gift. Part of me reminds me that it is a blessing in a different way to have what I call a smattering of interests. That's me. I have a smattering of interests. I might be what we call a jack of many trades and an expert at none. I have lots of diverse interests, most of which are unrelated. I have had many collections, interests, hobbies and passions. Sure, there are a few key things I come back to including reading, cooking, and old lady hobbies such as cross stitching, quilting, and the like but they're genuine things I really enjoy and I kind of rotate among them.

I think there are things I have liked in life that I could have pursued more seriously...uh, em writing being one of them. I've never felt like English was a strength for me...this is likely not a surprise to anyone who reads what I write. I tend to write like I talk and write like I was sharing this with you in real life...facial expressions, prosody, intonation, and of course gestures...I'm a hand talker. That is who I am. Communication is key and I've never felt that writing has let me convey my message as clearly as if I were to give it in person. I've always loved public speaking, presenting, talks, etc. Conveying myself through the written word isn't something I've felt was a strength. I've let that be a barrier. But the only way you get better at something is to practice.

I have another friend who once shared that she writes and reads every single day. She said it like it was a normal thing that everyone does. I thought to myself...well yes I do write and read everyday but not intentionally for my own benefit, passion or interest. But reflecting back on life, I realized that some of the happiest times of my life were when I was reading and writing daily, intentionally, meaningfully. Why had I stopped? It's a legit question that I honestly don't know the answer to; however, I am grateful for these ah-ha's and for the role that writing plays in my having them.

I'm not sure where this is going (remember, writing isn't my strong suit) but I think it's contributing to the identification and hopefully subsequent removal of my perceived barriers. About myself, about my skills, about my abilities, about where I think it's valuable to give time and energy and effort.

I did a module at work today that talked about whether you see yourself in a job, a career or a calling. It has been a thinking subject for me the rest of the day. It's definitely not a job, I feel too passionate about it. But at the same time there are so many facets of my job that feel like a job that I have a hard time discriminating what is "job" and what is "calling." I do give value and feel the calling aspect of what it is that I do. This is not the forum to get into this further, but I think the point is to will you work to identify and remove barriers that keep you distanced from where you want to go? where you wish you were? where you thought you'd be? AND what are you going to do about it? are you going to do something about it? what is your next actionable step? and when is it happening for you?

when is it happening for me and what is it? good question. I'm not sure yet. I'm also not sure where my capitalization went there for a moment. I think the next step for me is writing. And writing to write. Not writing for you, not writing for polish, or praise, or anything like that but just writing and loving what happens. Living in the journey. Loving in the process. Letting life happen and learning the lessons that those opportunities afford. I probably worry more about living than actual living...that's a problem. Another subject for another day.