November 26, 2014

End of the month list update: October & November

Confession: I've all but given up on a handful of my goals this year. My mind is already on next year and, if you don't care about my list update, feel free to skip to the end of this post because I could really use your input.

I don't care that much about learning to play something new on the piano right now. Joining a gym is more cost-prohibitive than I expected, especially since I would need to pay for childcare in order to go at any time other than the the middle of the night.

Since I was largely in charge of our ward's Halloween party, I was too busy to even think about doing a Dia de los Muertos photo shoot at Guadalupe. (I did, however, take a ton of pics at Lafayette Cemetery #1 in NOLA, and I may still hit up Guadalupe another time. We'll see.)

Gardening is not really my forte, as it turns out, although David's not ready to call it quits yet. Maybe next year will be better? The master bedroom hasn't been touched, and I'm not sure a lack of cleaning schedule is my real problem.

Think pieces happen when they happen, and calling them "think pieces" feels a little presumptuous anyway. And we all know how regularly I've been contributing to Tipsaholic and the Beesley Project. (Rarely if ever. Cue waves of guilt and shame.)

That said, I have done a few things...

Go on a vacation sans babies: Our New Orleans trip was less of a vacation for David than for me since he had to work for part of it, but we did get to explore, relax, and enjoy each other's company. I'll be sharing more thoughts on that adventure soon.

Purge my closet: Last month I bagged up nearly half of the clothes and shoes I owned. It's quite liberating. Unless someone wants to claim it, I'm donating everything this week. Hashtag thankful.

Figure out my health issues: Had another appointment with my doctor wherein we discussed changing up my meds. So that's happening. And I'm doing some work on my own to see how I can reduce the anxiety in my life without medical intervention. We'll see how December treats me. Could be great; could be a hot mess. I'm hoping for not the hot mess.

Bake something new every month: There was pumpkin cake, brownies, cookies, and more. I'm starting to lose track of all the treats I eat. Maybe it's better that way. That said, those cookies are AMAZING.

Go to the Gilbert temple: I was able to go with our ward's youth to do baptisms for the dead. I handed out towels. It was so sweet to see those kids' happy faces as they came out of the water.

Try five new-to-me foods: New Orleans gave me turtle soup, grilled oysters, fried alligator, and beignets. Every bite was spectacular and I'll be forever grateful.

Remodel the kitchen: Not done. Never done. But very slow progress is happening. Just a little more patching on the ceiling, lots of sanding, then all the finish work. We can do this, right?

This mesmerizing piece was in the NOLA art museum's sculpture garden; it's called "Karma." It's been on my mind a lot this week.

I've recently been taught some hard lessons about myself; it seems some changes are in order. My goals have been pretty arbitrary until now, which is a missed opportunity. I need to decide out what I want out of life, but more than that, I need to find ways to make life better for those around me. Two questions keep coming to mind: Are my goals helping me become the person I want to be? Are they enabling me to be a greater influence for good?

There's still another month left in 2014, and I'll be spending much of it making plans for a better, more uplifting 2015. With that in mind, will you help me?

What goals have you set that have helped you be a better, kinder, more grateful person?

What kinds of things can I share here to encourage and inspire you, both in big and small ways?

Thanks for being my little support group. Truthishly, you guys are pretty awesome.

November 25, 2014

New Orleans

David and I took a whirlwind trip to New Orleans last week. It all came together at the last minute, so I'm still amazed that I was able to go. (Big thanks to David's sister Emily who volunteered to watch the girls for us!) Not only had I never been to New Orleans, I'd never explored a new city on my own before. David had to work all day Monday (which is why we were there in the first place) so I got to wander around by myself. I was surprised by how quickly I fell in love.

The place is full of such strange contradictions. Old and new, sacred and profane, wealthy and impoverished. It's all there. Steamboats chug under soaring bridges, and trolleys putter past sleek skyscrapers. It seems the city wants to modernize as much as possible while still clinging to its rich, diverse heritage.

Everything--literally everything, from pavement to windowpanes and everything in between--has something growing on it. Giant trees are covered in Spanish moss or resurrection fern. Moss gilds every brick. Trees and flowers are literally sprouting out of stone crypts. Someone needs to set a Jack and the Beanstalk movie in NOLA, because it's completely believable that something so huge could grow there overnight.

In the midst of all that growth, everything man-made seems to be falling apart. Cemeteries and neighborhoods alike are the target of construction and restoration efforts. Walls lean, shutters are falling off hinges, and the pot holes. Don't get me started on the pot holes. The place has clearly seen some hard times.

St. Louis Cathedral is stunning and reverent...and only a few blocks away from the infamous Bourbon Street. For every stone cross you see there are dozens of Mardi Gras beads, dangling from trees and telephone wires and sometimes even on the crosses themselves.

New Orleans Mardi Gras may or may not a drunken hedonistic free-for-all rather than a prelude to Lent and the Easter season, but, weirdly enough, amongst all the evidence of depravity there are also lit candles, flowers and rosaries placed on tombs, penitents crossing themselves at the threshold of the cathedral. Whatever NOLA's reputation otherwise, God is there.

I saw enormous Southern mansions, with columns porticoes and stone lions aplenty. I saw hungry people with neither hope in their eyes nor enough clothing to keep out the cold. I saw classical art and folk art and there was music everywhere. I ate some of the most incredible food on the planet. I saw more of history and humanity in two days and a few square miles than I've seen in a long time.

If the people of New Orleans stopped caring as much about their home as they do, the bayou would probably reclaim it in a matter of months. It would be lost to that crazy Delta jungle and that'd be that. But they don't. They fight for that city every day. It shows.

Everyone I spoke to had such a deep pride in their hometown; more than that, I could tell they wanted me to love it like they do. They wanted me to see its charm and overlook its shortcomings. They kept the sidewalks scrubbed clean and the gas-lamps lit at all times. Their candy-colored houses looked inviting and their kindness was genuine.

Yes, it's got it sketchy areas. And yes, if I had gone in the heat and humidity of summer, I'd probably feel differently. And yes, truth be told, pastels and wrought-iron scrolls aren't really my aesthetic jam.

But there is something about that place, with the Gulf and the River and the buildings and the people and the ever-present smell of something tasty and fried... It's bewitching. I can't wait to go back.

November 24, 2014

Mila Monday

Amelia: 182 weeks

She had a Thanksgiving feast at preschool today. Look at all her cute crafts!

I'm so thankful for good teachers and friends that provide her with so many fun opportunities.

Margot: 84 weeks

She loves to pretend she's a frog. She'll squat down a little, then pop up and squeal, "Wwwwwibbit!"
When did my fat bald baby turn into such a funny little girl?

November 11, 2014

On Marriage: An Interview with Deidre of Deidre Emme

Today I'm continuing my series of marriage "interviews" with a newish bloggy friend Deidre. She recently rebranded her blog Deidre Emme; you should definitely check it out. If you follow me on Instagram (I'm @jenbosen) you may remember Deidre as my piƱata twin at the most recent AZ Blogger Meetup. That shot pretty much sums up my feelings about this woman: she's beautiful, outgoing, creative, friendly, and sooo much fun to be around. She and her husband Adam have a semi-long-distance thing going, which makes for some interesting marital challenges but has also forced them to improve their communication. Deidre explains it best, so I'll let her tell you all about it.


Tell us a little about your family.

Our family is pretty small and simple. It is Adam and me. That is it. No pets, no kids... at least not for now. We have been married for two years. We have lived in Utah, Arizona, and now we are in Idaho. We are just enjoying being married and taking advantage of the time that we live together. That sounds weird if you don't know our story... We only live together about half of the year. Not because we are fighting or having issues, but because my husband plays professional baseball. So how that works... during the off season we are a normal couple that shares a bed, a house, and all the chores. The off season lasts from October to March. Then in March is Spring Training so he heads to Arizona and I come visit and from April to October he is off somewhere playing minor league baseball... which can put him anywhere from Southern California to Alabama. It is a nice little surprise and test of our patience. So I live in Idaho year round where I do events and I volunteer for the Miss Idaho Organization and then my husband is basically a gypsy. Cute, right? When we are together we love to explore, watch shows, make friends, and laugh. When we are apart we like to Skype, text, and send selfies. We are a normal couple with a scattered life. But we get a lot more honeymoon phases every year once the baseball season ends. So that is kind of fun!

What first made you decide Adam was “the one”?

My husband and I had a rough start to our dating. We met right as I was fresh off a semi-breakup. I say semi because I was still going on dates with my ex boyfriend. Weird, right? I don't know what I was thinking. But then I was also dating Adam, a kid named Ian, and a kid named Ben. I was sort of trying to figure out which one I liked and just enjoying being the free fun spirit again. But Adam got at least 75% of my attention. Probably more like 90% actually. I really liked him. But he wanted 100% - I mean, you can't blame him. He wanted to date. And finally he got fed up with my lack of full commitment and said he was done. And I was DEVASTATED. I cancelled all my other dates and told the other guys I wasn't interested. Which seems like a strange thing to do when you get dumped - as much as you can get dumped by someone you weren't really dating. But I cancelled them all and spent all my time thinking about Adam and how I would win him back. And that is when I knew he could be the one. Because any other time something ended with a boy I was like "whateva, I will go date other guys!" but this time I was like "nooooooooo! give me Adam!" And then I officially knew he was the one when I saw how he treated me - like a queen, he was a total gentleman - and how cute he was with my nephews. Winning. I wanted to be wed to him.

Why is he still “the one”?

He is probably the only person I cannot stay mad or irritated at. Even when I really want to be frustrated at him for something. All he has to do is look at me with a funny face and I crack up. He still is a complete gentleman - he packs my lunches, opens my door, and always tells me I am beautiful. He puts me before everything else. And he has the same priorities as me which makes discussions and plans easy. He always is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing before bed. Even when he is gone, we talk for two minutes when I wake up and for hours before lights out. He is a hardworking and dedicated man. And he is handsome to boot. I married up. And that is why he is still the one. Because every day is better. Everyday he gets more handsome. And everyday I fall in love a million times more.

What do you love most about being married in general? What do you love most about your marriage specifically?

Marriage in general... I love that I always have someone to talk to, that wants to hear everything. And I love that I always have someone to eat dinner with. About my marriage specifically? I love the adventure that it is with the lifestyle we picked. We never know exactly where Adam is going or what he is doing. There are a lot of risks and adventures involved. But no matter what is going on - a move to Indiana, a trip to Arizona, or me needing to get out of a suck-tastic situartion - I can ALWAYS count on a phone call in the morning and a phone call at night with lots of texts and photos in between. Our communication always comes first, and I LOVE that about being married to Adam.

What is one of the most difficult things you’ve had to overcome in your marriage?

One of the most difficult things? There have been a lot... three months after we got married I got laid off from my job. That was terrifying. I made the money and we were newlyweds. It was a test of our faith but my husband was a gem through it all. 

Then there  was draft Saturday which was stressful and hard on us. Adam was supposed to go high in the draft but due to his age and him being married he kept getting pushed back... the team that initially said they would pick him up around the 10th-13th round took him in the 20th. Which meant small signing bonus. Adam was discouraged. I bawled and bawled. I felt like he deserved so much better than that. 

Those were both really hard but worked out. I got a great job after the layoff and Adam has been taking baseball by storm and impressing those that doubted his ability. But most recently, the most difficult thing we had to overcome came from our time apart. We decided to move to Arizona so we could get more months together during the year. That meant only 5 months apart rather than 7 or 8. I was all for it. I found a new job. We found a great place to live. We moved. The first months were great. Then Adam left for summer ball and it all went downhill. I cried daily. I hated my job. I didn't have any friend. I felt stressed and overwhelmed and like a failure. And in the middle of all that Adam had a minor injury and had to come home to Arizona for a month for rehab, and I think he could tell something was not right... but then he left again and I bottled it all up. I wouldn't tell Adam because I didn't want him to feel bad for leaving. It got to a point where I was so unhappy I could not handle it. I broke down. I told Adam everything. 

For the next few months we looked for a new job in a place where I had friends and family close for while he was away and we looked for a job that treated people with respect. Adam was so wonderful. Daily conversation and communication about how we were both doing. Me with my job, Adam with his arm. He told me to pick a place to live where I could be happy no matter if he was there or not. It was a lot of trust, open conversation, and faith in the Lord. And after a few months we are here in Idaho and onto a better lifestyle. It was a great strength to our marriage and a reminder of what is important. Our happiness, together.

What kinds of things do you do (or have you done) to strengthen your relationship?

Communication. We have a deal that we have to tell each other how we are feeling. Even if it is just sheer frustration because the juicer got the best of us in the morning. Without the conversation and communication of what is going on we put those feelings or stress and attitude into regular conversation and it caused problems. But just talking about it put it out in the open and we are able to help each other more. 

Another thing we learned early, early on is to always put the other person's needs first. If you are ALWAYS thinking about what your spouse needs, rather than what you need, you will never have time to think about why your spouse didn't do what you needed. Does that make sense? So if I am thinking about how Adam needs some water and go get it I wont have time to sit there and think, "Why didn't Adam get me water?" It builds service and pure love towards each other. 

If you could give any marital advice, what would it be?

Trust. Communicate. And laugh. Without those three things, a marriage is just a relationship. And why spend all that time together for just a relationship? There needs to be a lot of trust in what the other person is saying and doing. Trust that they are doing it for the better of the "us" not the "me". And trust that it has a real purposes, even if it is just a great memory, at the end. Communication for all the reasons I previously stated. Open communication can clear up a lot of issues. And laughter because you are best friends and you should be able to kick your heels up and just smile. Plus, it makes things a lot easier when you can laugh. 
And my last piece of advice, the most important part? Go on dates. Just because you are married doesn't mean you can stop courting and spending time together. Set aside a date night every week. It will strengthen your marriage. I promise. And those date nights will create memories you will remember forever.

"I wanted to be wed to him." Yep. Hilarious way to put it and totally how I felt about David too.

Don't you just love their great attitudes? Have you faced marital challenges brought on by career choices or being in a new location? How have you dealt with those obstacles?

Thanks again for being here, Deidre! We miss you here and sure hope Idaho is treating you well!

November 10, 2014

Mila Monday

Amelia: 180 weeks and Margot: 82 weeks

One connects the train tracks and the other makes a king's castle.

So intent on their work. So meticulous with each block. My blond little builders.
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