Friday, January 30, 2015

In Line with the Divine

Obviously this gorgeous ocean image isn't mine—it's pretty much everywhere on Google. But I created the overall typographic design, so I copyrighted it—meaning, I copyrighted my design...I hope that's okay with our copyright laws! :) Anyway, it leaves me nearly breathless every time I look at it, and I just want to dive in and swim for days! 

For my ward's combined Young Women activity this past week, the Mia Maid class presidency decided to focus on Divine Nature. Our MM adviser found a darling activity somewhere on Pinterest that gave us the idea. I don't know where she found it, so I can't give the person/people credit for the idea. However, I feel we totally made the activity our own, so I decided to share it here!

My ward's Mia Maid adviser, class presidency, a few class members, and I came early to our church building to set up. We decorated a chalkboard and whiteboard with be you chalkboard banners and balloons. The girls—including my daughter—had so much fun blowing up two packages of pearlized balloons! We also set up a card-writing station—to write cards for those young women who weren't able to attend. And we had to have treats(!), so we set up a cookie-decorating station too. :)

Our MM adviser made/brought regular star-shaped sugar cookies—because our young women are stars(!)—and frosting. I made/brought gluten-free sugar cookies, and sprinkles, but my cookies were sadly round because the dough wouldn't hold up for rolling and cutting. I was thrilled that our MM adviser bought gluten-free frosting and didn't even realize it! Gf frosting definitely kept my daughter happy! Yes, I think our MM adviser gets bonus points in heaven for her good deed. ;) One of our Mia Maids even had her little brother make snicker doodles for us—they were a big hit! :)

We started our night by singing As Zion's Youth In Latter-Days—I was asked to accompany the Young Women on the piano and have been practicing quite frequently for our big debut at New Beginnings! ;) That said, playing As Zion's Youth has given me a bit of trouble. I think it's probably because I simply haven't played the piano as regularly as I used to—because Greg has been working from home for nearly a year-and-a-half and I frequently need to be quiet during the day. That bad habit of mine is absolutely going to change! I've really had such a wonderful time practicing As Zion's Youth—mixed in with other songs so my hands and brain get a bit more of a workout. Thus, I was thrilled when, yesterday, I had a breakthrough! I actually played the song three times completely without any mistakes! I'm not expecting that to happen the night of New Beginnings, but if it does, I won't complain. :)

*Side note about playing a song perfectly on the piano: I've been reminded through this experience that it's all about the fingering. If I don't get the fingering down, I'll be continually surprised with the end result of my song...i.e., it won't sound the way it's supposed to! But I digress...

Our Mia Maids' first counselor introduced the theme of Divine Nature—taken from the scriptures 2 Peter 1:4-7:
Be partakers of the divine nature. … Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
She was followed up by our Mia Maid class president who talked about what it means to be divine. We then had each young woman in attendance stand in front of either the chalkboard or the whiteboard to get her photograph taken! :) Before the photos were taken, we had many of our other young women write a word or two (in chalk or whiteboard marker) to describe the good/divine qualities they've noticed or admired in their friend. Some of the young women's descriptions were a little silly, but I'm grateful they had a good time. I hope they felt bonded with each other that night! :)

Last night, I had a wonderful time editing the photos that my Mia Maid adviser and I took. It was interesting to note how deeply I care about these darling young ladies. I mean, I've been in my calling (First Counselor in the Young Women Presidency) for nearly a year-and-a-half (almost to the day!), so I've had a lot of time to serve the young women of my ward—including my beloved daughter! Because of all the time I've given in their behalf, I can't help but feel so concerned for their happiness and well-being. I only hope they know how much I care and want them to be successful in their lives!

Anyway, here are the photos of our Divine Nature Night. (I didn't include photos of our young women to protect their privacy.) It wasn't fancy, by any means, but I think our night turned out super cute! Our Mia Maid class presidency did a great job of planning and following through! I was so happy everyone was dependable and did what they said they would do—three cheers for their success!

Notice my gluten-free sugar cookies protected under the bubble, and on the right side of the table away from the gluten! #supersafemom

I won't take credit for the cute Divine Nature photo on the table or the darling tablecloth, as I found the photo in our YW closet (thanks to our YW President!), and our MM adviser brought the tablecloth...I did, however, bring the napkins and knives! ;) 

Yes, I totally airbrushed this photo of me—don't judge! Ha ha. You see, the fluorescent lights were a bit harsh and I was just getting over being sick, so I looked (and felt!) really tired. *And might I say, those words on the chalkboard totally made my week! I especially love the word anything. I don't know exactly what the young woman was getting at by writing it, but hopefully it means that she thinks I can do anything! :)

Here are the finished cards our young women wrote for the girls who didn't come that night. I wrote a word on each card too, sealed them, and wrote their names on the front. I hope they enjoy reading those happy words!

As I researched being divine, I came across this quote, "...keep in mind anything that detracts from your divine nature should be avoided."– Glenn L. Pace. I completely agree with him. His entire talk "The Divine Nature and Destiny of Women" is really really good. In fact, I'd say it's truly excellent. I highly recommend everyone read it! :) 

In case you don't want to read Elder Pace's entire talk, please read this lovely bit (below)—it made me teary simply because I've tried my best to do those things for my own sweet children every single day of their lives. As a mother, do I say or do everything perfectly in line with the divine all the time? Of course not, but I never give up in my efforts! :)
"...the first woman in my life was my mother. How can I describe the impact of my mother’s love? A lullaby, being tucked in bed, are you warm enough, a kiss goodnight, Glenn, you’d better get up, you don’t want to be late for school, a kiss good morning, you are such a special boy, oh honey, how I love you, I made some chocolate chip cookies, I want to take your picture, I’m so proud of you, I know you can do it, are you going to go on a mission, you are going to go on a mission, I miss you so much, frequent love notes, let’s go look at the roses, did you see the full moon, aren't the mountains beautiful today, the love in her eyes, her touch, her smell, her elegance, her tender heart, her sensitivity, her femininity. 
That was just a blink in a lifetime of nurturing." – Glenn L. Pace
Isn't that so beautiful? I love his words! I also love the fact that his childhood experiences help illustrate there is no doubt that mothers positively influence and impact their children forever! :)

I'm just so grateful to have the opportunity to daily strive to improve my divineness. (Google is trying to tell me that's not a word, but you know what I mean!) I wish more people would seek to consistently be in line with the divine! Besides, what could be better than striving to become closer to our Heavenly Father (God)? Those impressive qualities only make us better people! :) If we have any question as to how to work toward that divine goal, we need look no further than our Savior, Jesus Christ! "...physically walking where Jesus walked is less important than walking as He walked." – President Thomas S. Monson, "Ponder the Path of Thy Feet", General Conference, October 2014.

Now my feet must walk upstairs and get back to cleaning my house. Le sigh...for you know I'd much rather stay in my cozy basement, seated at my lovely retro architect's desk, blogging all day! ;)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Even Though I'm Not a Millionaire...

I have wished I was a millionaire many times during my life. As a child, I remember watching a scene from Little House on the Prairie's episode "At the End of the Rainbow" when Laura fantasizes that the Ingalls family becomes very wealthy. I related to that episode because I, too, had daydreamed that my family would one day be rich. :) (By the way, I think this episode has a lot to do with my love of white dresses! Well, that, and staring at my mom's gorgeous bridal photo nearly every day during my childhood!)

I took this photo of the Little House on the Prairie DVD case. I could copyright it, but since it's not my original photo, I won't. I just wanted to clarify that I indeed took this photo...of a photo. ;)
In fact, when I was 11 years old, my dad thought about purchasing the very grand house on 335 E. 5th Avenue in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Back in the late 1980s, the house was in not-great shape which is why it was such a great deal. It would have required a lot of labor and money! Still, my dad drove our family to 335 E. a couple of times and asked what we thought about possibly moving there?? My head instantly filled with thoughts of living in my very own princess tower room! Oh, it was a grand daydream for a couple of weeks...until my dad wisely decided against it. As an adult, I'm glad he didn't purchase the house for I believe the financial burden would have been too great for our family, but as a child, that decision was a very sad one for me. No, I wouldn't get to be a white-dress-wearing Princess Adrie after all. Boo. :'(

Side note: from the research I've done through various real estate websites and the county assessor's office, 335 E. 5th Avenue was renovated in 1988, and remodeled in 1996 and 2000. It was converted into three separate apartments, which makes sense, but I would have loved to have that impressive mansion remain combined for one blessed family! :)

Throughout my childhood, and until I left my parents' nest, my family was never rich in the worldly sense. Thankfully we were never poor, either. We always had enough, which is a great blessing! Thus, it wasn't a hard adjustment for me to be so amazingly broke when Greg and I married (young). We truly lived on love, prayers, and tithing blessings—but we had our plans! :)

As many of you know, when we first married, I worked and put Greg through college so I could eventually become a stay-at-home mom. Greg received two bachelor's degrees in three years (economics and Japanese), while I worked full-time (until our oldest son was born) and he worked part-time.

After Greg had worked for a couple of years in a full-time and steady grown-up job, he began his first master's degree program. I made him take the slow route so he could still be an active and involved husband and father.

Over the next several years, things did not turn out the way we expected or planned, so he was never able to complete his first master's degree. Shortly after we realized he wouldn't be able to finish his master's degree in time—before his classes started "falling off" and he would have had to retake them—Greg decided to get his MBA. Happily for all of us, he graduated in a year-and-a-half! :) Greg's graduation day was one of the happiest days of my life!!!

In terms of education, I think Greg and I prepared very well! I was certain that because of Greg's amazing and dedicated diligence in working and gaining an education (three awesome degrees!), he would be greatly compensated. Don't get me wrong, we have been greatly blessed over the years by the companies Greg has worked for, but our efforts have not yielded the financial results we expected.

I used to think our financial struggles were due to the fact that the companies Greg worked for simply didn't appreciate him enough, but I was wrong. Then I blamed our misfortune with layoffs on the terrible economy—which is partially true. But after gaining the proper perspective over many years, I've determined that Greg's and my path is not supposed to be one that's paved with gold. I've come to believe that we are to live a modest life.

Like my childhood family, my little family has always been blessed to have enough. Whenever Greg and I have anything extra, we now completely understand that it's for a reason: we are to save it for the next financial burden that's just around the corner. This way of thinking/behaving is most definitely not sad, it's actually served us very well and has helped us stay financially afloat during times when we shouldn't have made it!

All of that said, there are times when I wish my little family had unlimited funds:
  • When I see others in true need. I would love to give money wherever I go!
  • When I receive requests for me to donate to "Go Fund Me" websites. I feel badly that I can't contribute.
  • When people I love are gravely hurts my heart to see them suffering physically and financially. I literally wish I could afford to pay all of their medical bills.
  • When I want my little family to go on an amazing vacation (Or I want to learn how to snowboard!), and I don't want us to go into debt for it! :)
  • When our house and/or cars have expensive problems to repair.
  • When my husband longingly looks at Cadillac Escalades on Auto Trader for years. How I wish I could just go pick one up, put a humongous red bow on the hood, blindfold My Gregor and grandly reveal his present!
  • When my children ask for various iDevices because they want to fit-in with their friends. Hey, I'd love to buy iDevices for all of my children's friends, and my friends too! Ha ha.
  • When I want to buy everyone I love (That's a lot of people!) grand presents for their birthdays and Christmas.
  • When I want to bleach my teeth with the special supplies from a dentist. I know, first-world problems!
I'm guessing there might be some critics that look at my silly woes and say, "If they'd just quit being members of that darn church of theirs, they'd get a pay raise post haste!" Well, readers, I assure you, quitting our church is not ever going to happen. :)

I love my church with my whole heart. I love what it represents. I love that my family history is inextricably linked with Church History! I love what it gives to me and my family. I love the service my family and I are able to render because we're members of it. I love how our tithing funds and fast offerings benefit others. I would love to be able to contribute financially to more of The Church's charitable causes one day! I love being instantly connected to endless amazing people across the entire world—and into eternity! I love feeling the Spirit each and every Sunday while participating in sacred ordinances. And the temple? Well, there is nothing that compares to the temple!

So. Even though I'm not a millionaire—and probably never will be—I'm truly, honestly, and sincerely okay with that. And even though I probably won't ever be able to endlessly give money like I desire, there is one thing I can do for myself and others: I can pray. I know that sounds like an oversimplified response, but it's true and prayer works!

For as we learn in Alma 34:17-27,
17 Therefore may God grant unto you, my brethren [and sisters!], that ye may begin to exercise your faith unto repentance, that ye begin to call upon his holy name, that he would have mercy upon you;
18 Yea, cry unto him for mercy; for he is mighty to save.
19 Yea, humble yourselves, and continue in prayer unto him.
20 Cry unto him when ye are in your fields, yea, over all your flocks.
21 Cry unto him in your houses, yea, over all your household, both morning, mid-day, and evening.
22 Yea, cry unto him against the power of your enemies.
23 Yea, cry unto him against the devil, who is an enemy to all righteousness.
24 Cry unto him over the crops of your fields, that ye may prosper in them.
25 Cry over the flocks of your fields, that they may increase.
26 But this is not all; ye must pour out your souls in your closets, and your secret places, and in your wilderness.
27 Yea, and when you do not cry unto the Lord, let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you.
Yes, I pray for myself and everyone I care about. My prayers are pretty lengthy! :)

In addition to praying, I can also fast. And you'd better believe I fast! I usually fast on Fast Sundays, but when someone I know is suffering, or otherwise in great need, I will do a full fast for them any day of the week. I've seen miracles come from fasting and praying!

This past Fast Sunday, January 4th, 2015, Greg and I fasted for our children's well-being, and for our family's finances. Again, we're technically totally fine financially speaking, but we're still digging-out from our move in 2013 (read: credit card debt); our mortgage is increasing this year due to rising property taxes and homeowners' insurance costs; we're starting our two oldest children in braces next month; we have two 17-year-old minivans with needed repairs; and our garage door is broken. The great news is, we finally paid back the loan Greg's wonderful dad provided for us when we sold our Colorado house at a loss in 2008. Yay us!! Yes, it's always fun to pay off a loan on a house you haven't owned in six years! (Not really. I don't recommend it.)

Anyway, I felt the need for inspiration on how to make all of our endless ends meet—without me re-entering the workforce or Greg getting a new job (because we're settled and we don't want to have to move again!). So, we fasted for help. :)

That lovely Fast Sunday, I "broke" (completed) my fast with my children. (Greg was still at church serving in his calling for our bishop.) I prayed while we held hands around the foot of my bed. It was a sweet, warm and marvelous moment. The Spirit was very strong. I can still envision that lovely experience in my mind! I was so pleased my children willingly participated and listened to my l.o.n.g. prayer, even though they were tired from church and wanted to relax!

I felt such peace that following week. My children were very happy and doing so well in school and their other social activities. And even though our money will be stretched even farther this year, somehow I just knew that everything would work out all right! That said, my husband and I were totally amazed at the email he received Wednesday, January 7th.

I won't go into too much detail, but suffice it to say, my husband was contacted by a recruiter for a position that's a step above his current position. It would have easily covered our financial burdens and then some. The only problem was, the job is located in another state. Still, Greg and I saw this opportunity as a direct answer to our fasting and prayers, so we discussed our options. Not only would Greg have received a nice raise, wonderful recognition and a job title he loved, but the overall cost of living would have been less than what we're currently experiencing. It was quite the amazing prospect!

In the end, we decided to have Greg stay put in his current position because we love our family's stability, adorable city, great friends, and fantastic schools. Plus, his current position allows him to work from home, which is such a priceless blessing to our family. Basically, my family's overall happiness is worth more than money!

What blew me away is the fact that Greg received this email a mere three days after we completed our fast and prayers. It's like Heavenly Father was saying, "Yes, Adrie, I absolutely hear you. I know you're concerned, and I love you! Does this job opportunity help make you feel better?" I just can't get over the fact that Greg and I were given a legitimate option of a way to change our financial circumstances if we so desired. And in the end, we decided we are okay with our lives the just the way they are! We are truly so happy living in our 1970s house—even though it needs umpteen repairs and updates! :)

But that's not the end of our story! Read on!

This past week, Greg was working in Texas. I missed him terribly! I was such a busy mama, which is why I haven't blogged in a while. During the long hours of Greg's absence, I've had a lot of time to think of ways I can cut our budget. I was feeling so positive because as we all know, it's not how much money you make, it's how much money you spend! Thus, I've made many plans I know will help our family make it financially through these next few tight years. :)

And any time I begin to feel picked on because of our tight finances, all I have to do is remember that amazing email Greg received from the recruiter that gave us the legitimate opportunity to change our circumstances, and how we absolutely chose to stay put and live our lives simply! :)

Thus, you can imagine my total, complete, and utter surprise when, yesterday, Greg received some really wonderful news during his year-end review at work. I love that his review was filled with praise, for I fill him with praise every day! Ha ha. What I love even more is that he was given a small raise—for the first time in six years(!)—and a bonus that will help us finally recover from our move from Texas to Utah!

Anyone can say this experience was all just a coincidence, but I firmly and pleasantly disagree. For I know my family's fasting efforts were absolutely recognized. Our prayers were heard and spectacularly answered!

All of that said, just because Greg and I have been given a little financial respite, that doesn't mean I'm going to abandon the inspiration I received in regard to the ways I can cut back my family's spending and save money. Like I said before, anytime we get a little break, I know that means something else is coming around the corner. I'll make sure we're prepared—I won't get sidetracked! :)

Yes, friends, even though I'm not a millionaire, I am so very rich in all of the ways that truly matter: love, family, health, faith, knowledge and friends. And to top off my delicious sundae of life, I positively know that our Heavenly Father knows me, hears me, and answers my prayers!

P.S. I know He hears and answers your prayers, too, I just got caught up in my moment of happiness. :)

Friday, January 2, 2015

How Safe is Your Food? How Clean is Your Kitchen?

Tonight I went on a Google Quest (I coined that phrase! As far as I can Google, no one else has said it previously! Yeah yeah!) because I wondered if my chrome shelving unit in my kitchen was safe for storing dry, canned, or packaged foods.

You see, my lovely 70s kitchen doesn't have enough cabinets to store all of my dishes, small appliances and food. Plus, we don't currently have the funds to redo our entire kitchen, so I lined one of my kitchen walls with two chrome shelving units. One is wide, one is very skinny! They're your basic Target-brand chrome shelves (I totally love them!), but they aren't NSF-certified. Thus, I wondered if there is a safety issue in storing my family's food on them??

These are not my shelves, this is a Target photo. My shelves are jam-packed with a lot of food and a few miscellaneous kitchen items. :)
As you might guess, I'm a little nervous when it comes to food safety. I'm already very concerned about avoiding gluten cross-contact, so I didn't want to add to my family's food problems with metal-shelving-contamination too! Ha ha. Thankfully, when I did umpteen Google searches of chrome-shelving-safety, I couldn't find anything on the dangers of using non-NSF-certified chrome shelving units. Yay for that good news! :)

After researching, I've come to the conclusion that it's okay to store dry/canned/packaged goods on metal shelving units as long as they aren't rusted or corroding. I'm guessing it's okay to make your own shelving units out of wood, as well. By the way, be sure not to store any chemicals on your food shelves or anywhere near your food. (*Please don't sue me for my statement if something goes wrong with your food storage—I'm not an expert. If someone else knows of information about this topic, please share.)

All of that said, I will state that I absolutely feel it's best to use NSF-certified shelves if you can. I was just curious about the safety of my chrome shelves that didn't have the nifty NSF stamp on them—did I need to buy new NSF-certified ones? I'm really happy I don't have to buy new shelves, or transfer all of our stuff onto said new shelves! Whew!

While perusing many documents I found on food storage safety, I came across a gem of a jewel! This 97-page PDF, "food PROTECTION TRAINING MANUAL", is authored by New York City's Department of Mental Health and Hygeine. Here's its opening paragraph,
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has the jurisdiction to regulate all matters affecting health in the city and to perform all those functions and operations that relate to the health of the people of the city.
I read most of the manual (I couldn't help myself, I wanted to know more about food safety!), but skimmed some parts of it. Granted, this manual is for commercial/public food establishments, but the PDF shares great tips for keeping all kitchens and food storage areas clean and free of unwanted problems—which ultimately leads to safe food and healthy people. Thus, I had to share—and I highly recommend reading it! :)

I think every kitchen (and food storage area) in America should be as clean and safe as any public food establishment in New York City—ready to be inspected by employees of The Inspector General's office at any moment! Ha ha. But really, if we expect restaurants, cafes, diners, food trucks, grocery stores, etc., to be so clean and safe, why would we expect anything less from our own homes?! I mean, most Americans spend more time eating at home than anywhere else! Well, maybe not everyone. I'm assuming a lot of people eat-out for most of their meals. Because of my children's celiac disease, my family eats 99% of our meals at home—or when we do eat away from home, our food is from our kitchen.

Full disclosure? When I wrote that previous paragraph, I was totally thinking of myself. Yes, my kitchen has been known to hold dirty dishes for a few days in a row. Don't get me wrong, I'm so completely safe when it comes to food preparation (and my dishes are always perfectly clean when preparing food), but kitchen cleanup is a different story. (See my post "Downton Adrie" for illumination.)

I can pinpoint the cause of my kitchen-cleanup habit back to when I was working through hypothyroidism after my daughter was born. I was simply too exhausted to finish the dishes after making dinner. I would get around to doing the dishes when I finally found the energy. Throw in the fact that, at one point, my husband and I had three children ages four and under, and we moved 11 times in 16 years of marriage, and you have neglected dishes in our kitchen. And it became a habit.

Don't blame my husband for our dirty dishes problem, either. For he was busy working 10-14 hour days and getting his Master's degree (he almost finished), and then his MBA (he graduated)! He did the dishes whenever he could. Yes, we were busy and worn out!

These days, our kitchen is much improved! :) It's clean more often than not. Yay us! But, would it be ready at a moment's notice if The Inspector General knocked on our door? Not always. Thus, I'm going to make a concerted effort to clean our kitchen after every meal. I refuse to have OCD tendencies about it because I know there are times when life happens and the dishes will simply need to remain dirty for a while, but I will do better. :)

Lastly, here's another great article on food safety "Safe Food Handling Fact Sheets" by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service. It has numerous PDFs that will pretty much answer any question you might have about food safety.

The good news is, I'll continue being thrilled with my space-saving happy-shiny Target shelves! I'm relieved knowing I'll sleep soundly tonight, for I won't worry one little bit about my family's food safety! :)