Spicy Sausage Pasta

As I mentioned in my post from yesterday, this is my husband’s favorite pasta.  This was a staple dinner at our house for a while… Especially when we knew my brother wouldn’t be around to eat it. Surprisingly, he doesn’t like this at all… But don’t let that deter you from trying this.  It is amazing, and my favorite part… you can make whatever modifications you’d like, depending on what you have in the refrigerator! So lets get to it!

Spicy Sausage Pasta

Total Time: Prep: 15 minutes  Cook: 30

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Smoked Sausage (like Kielbasa)
  • 1 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 1/2 cup Minced Onion (fresh please)
  • 2 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 8 oz. Penne Pasta- uncooked (I use whatever I have on hand- except for long noodles)
  • 1 10 oz. can Rotel (this is what gives the spice, so buy the right variety for your taste pallet)
  • 2 cups Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream (if I don’t have cream already on hand, I just use milk… I promise it works just as well, and its healthier!)
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Pepper
  • 1 cup Monterrey Jack Cheese (again, I use whatever I have on hand. This week I used a mix of mozzarella and cheddar)
  • Optional- chopped Green Onions for garnish

Directions:

  1. Cut smoked sausage into 1/4 pieces.  If you are not using a non-stick pan, heat skillet until you can feel the heat coming from the pan.  Add olive oil and let heat up. (I find that by doing it in this order, you wont need as much oil to cover the pan, and both the pan and the oil heat up much quicker.  This also helps your food to not stick to the pan!) Add sausage and onions and cook until lightly brown. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add broth, cream, Rotel, pasta, salt and pepper to skillet and stir. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-low.  Cover and simmer until pasta is tender.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of shredded cheese.  Top with remaining cheese and green onions (if desired). Broil on high until cheese is melted, spotty brown and melting.
  4. Remove from oven, let sit for about 2 minutes and enjoy!

 

I love this recipe so much because it takes on a whole new flavor profile every time I make it.  Sometimes, I make it with milk and cheddar cheese, other times, I make it with spicy Rotel and use mozzarella. This is a great dish to help you clean our your refrigerator, but it always a favorite!  What variations will you try?

XOXO- Madi

Meal Planning 101

Hey guys, sorry its been soo long (months…) :/   Life gets crazy, and I don’t want to just be a rambler on here… Call me crazy, but I want to make sure I have something of substance to write about.  As I was planning out my week yesterday, I thought I might share exactly how I plan my meals, and how I save so much money in doing so 🙂

To start off, I think it might be interesting to look in my refrigerator…

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As you can see, its fairly empty… At least it seems empty to me compared to the refrigerator I grew up with.  I was used to always having tons of food in here.  Most of what is in my refrigerator is condiments, sauces, and the like. We had to shuffle things around every time we had leftovers to try and make room.  Not a bad thing, right? 🙂  I have found that by planning my meals every week and not buying much else, I almost always end up with a near-empty refrigerator at the end of the week.  As you can see, I have a little bread left, we have English Muffins, eggs, strawberries, and cottage cheese… Not a whole lot to really make meals from, right?  It may not look like a lot, but there is plenty in here to get me started with my menu for the week.  So lets get started.

The first step to planning your menu is to look at what you do have that needs to be eaten up.  I write these down in on a notepad so I can reference them while I start my search for recipes.  This week, I needed to use coconut milk (the white liquid on the container by the mayo), heavy whipping cream, tomato, ginger, cabbage, and green beans. Even though I have other fresh herbs and produce (cilantro, green onions, and carrots) I really should be using soon, usually those can be eaten as snacks or are in recipes, so I don’t like to make those “priority items”.  After I get the “fresh” stuff out of the way, I like to look at what meats I have. This week, everything I had was frozen.

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What I wrote down for the week was chicken, shrimp, Kielbasa (smoked sausage), and meatballs.  I ended up not planning for meatballs this week since we had some last week.

Okay!  Now that I have the basics of what I have, the second step is to look for recipes. My mom makes this amazing pasta recipe with Kielbasa and I think it might my husband’s favorite.  That was my first menu item 🙂 This Saturday, we are having a dinner party so I already had that planned out, so I only needed 3 more dinners to plan.  For these, I went to Pinterest.  Here is our menu for the week:

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Here are the links to the recipes I’ll be using this week in case you want to cook along with me:

Shrimp in Thai Coconut Sauce from foodiecrush

Cabbage Sauteed with Chicken from Cooktoria

And one of my personal favorites, Balsamic Chicken & Veggies from Cooking Classy.

I haven’t tried the first two, but they look delish!  Don’t you think?  I won’t be shopping for my carne asada tacos yet for two reasons. First, our parties are always “pot-luck” in that I assign people things to bring after the RSVP deadline, which in this case is Thursday, and if I end up having to get a few more things for it, I’d like to do it all in one stop. And second, I like to pick up my meat from the Mexican Market the day of… It’s delicious, but makes my fridge smell!  Not my favorite thing in the world.

Ok, so now onto the third step in meal planning… Making a grocery list. This may be the most obvious step.  But still, important to mention.  As you go through the list of ingredients on each of the recipes, write down everything you think you might need.  For instance, while looking over the cabbage dish, I noticed it called for chicken stock.  I know I have that in the refrigerator, but I also knew that it was my last bottle from my pantry.  So, I put it on my list and starred it so I knew to go and double check that I have enough. I did this with grape tomatoes and basil, too, since my plants seemed to have died 😦 Sad day.

After making the initial list, check your pantry, and refrigerator to make sure you have everything you need.

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Here is my final grocery list.  If you looked at the recipes, you may notice that avocados, bananas, oranges, blueberries or bacon & bagels (among others) were never mentioned. This is my entire grocery list, which includes my breakfasts, too.  (Those were on my menu written in orange). There are also starred items, too.  Those were things I didn’t really need this week, but I wanted to try another breakfast meal I saw that looked delightful. Those were things I was still undecided on.

Now, here is the magical part of this.  My groceries ended up costing $87.76. Now, that’s more than I had anticipated, but that’s okay.  The really cool thing is that really my grocery list only cost my $46.50!!!  The reason it was high at the end was because I splurged on my starred items which ran up the cost.  Here was the actual breakdown:

  • Rotini Whole Grain pasta: $1.59
  • Diced Chilies x2: $2.78
  • Multigrain Bagel: $3.49
  • Rotel x2: $2.78
  • Chicken Broth: $ 1.99
  • Avocados: $1.98
  • Bananas: $1.55
  • Basil: $2.99
  • Onion: $0.53
  • Oranges: $1.59
  • Orange & Yellow Pepper (1 each): $3.18
  • Red Pepper x2: 1.58
  • Grape Tomatoes: $3.99
  • Tomatoes: $2.50
  • Toilet Paper: $13.98
  • TOTAL for what I needed= $46.50
  • Almond Milk: $2.79
  • Chia Seeds: $9.99
  • Quinoa: $5.49
  • Cheez-It: $1.67
  • Sausage: $3.99
  • Bacon: $7.49
  • Total for what I DIDN’T need: $31.42

Do you see how cool that is?  Not how much extra I spent, but how cheap it really is to shop for a week?  It’s my personal goal to stay under $60 for groceries per week and it’s really easy to do.  The hard part is keeping your cravings in tact… Especially when you go to the store on an empty stomach… or plan meals on an empty stomach (of which I did both this time :))

Just something to keep in mind, those larger staple items, like flour, sugar, quinoa, chia seeds (as I picked up this week) will last a lot longer than 1 week, so don’t freak out too much if you end up using a little more money than anticipated.  That $10 of chia seeds could last me 10 weeks, which makes it WAY worth it in my opinion.

If you have to keep to a budget, I promise you, planning will make all of the difference.  Try to make things that use the same ingredient throughout the week, or use it the next week. Like my shrimp I had in the freezer, I bought that last week, (and was under $60 for groceries TOTAL by the way!) and will use them again this week, and will have some left over, too!  It’s ok to “plurge” on some things when you know they will last a while.  It might just save you money next week.

I hope this was helpful!  I know it can be a daunting task… But my husband and I eat GREAT food and it really doesn’t cost a whole lot. And since you don’t exactly have to struggle with figuring out what to make every night for dinner, you may be able to relax a little bit 🙂 ENJOY!

-Madi

 

Family History IS Missionary Work

This is my latest talk from church.  I hope this touches you the way it touched me as I researched and studied on this topic. It is a very close one to my heart.

In 1837, The prophet Joseph Smith announced a great responsibility for the church.  He said, “After all that has been said, the greatest and most important duty is to preach the Gospel.”  Exactly seven years later, he said, “The greatest responsibility in this work that God has laid upon us is to seek after our dead. The apostle says, ‘They without us cannot be made perfect’ for it is necessary that the sealing power should be in our hands to seal our children and our dead for the fullness of the dispensation of times- a dispensation to meet the promises made by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world for the salvation of man.”

Joseph SmithBut how could a prophet of God say that the greatest duty is to preach the Gospel one year, then a few years later say that our greatest duty is to seek after our dead?  How are they even related?  The first step in understanding how they are related is to understand the definition of family history.  Most people, I think, get family history and genealogy mixed up.  Genealogy is basically filling out your pedigree chart… Making sure that you know who your great-great-great-great grandfather is and where he came from.  Family history, however is defined as “a biographical study of a genealogically proven family and of the community and country in which they lived.”  Family history is just that- learning the history of your family. This is done by studying and searching for census records, birth records, ship manifests, etc. to put together the full story of each individual.  In family history, we understand that we are learning about people, not just worrying about “finding names”.

For me, family history personally ties me to my ancestors.  As I begin to dive into their lives and to verify the information I have, I become attached.  I begin to feel as though I am literally searching for someone that I know.  There is a great sense of urgency when I begin to search for my family.  When we are really doing family history, we are differentiating between one Thomas Bell and the other.  We begin to understand a little bit more about culture, and we realize that just because we have a “matching name” we haven’t really found a person… yet.

When you think about missionary work, we think of finding people that are lost and looking for something more, looking for meaning in their life.  In this work, we are literally dealing with people’s hearts.  Elder Bednar said this, “preaching the gospel and seeking after our dead are two divinely appointed responsibilities that relate to both our hearts and to priesthood ordinances.  The essence of the Lord’s work in changing, turning, and purifying hearts through covenants and ordinances performed by proper priesthood authority.”

He goes on to say that, “the word heart is used over 1,000 times in the standard works and symbolizes the inner feelings of an individual. Thus our hears- the sum total of our desires, affections, intentions, motives and attitudes- define who we are and determine what we will become.”

“The Lord’s purpose for missionary work is to invite all to come unto Christ, receive the blessings of the restored gospel, and endure to the end through faith in Christ. We do not share the gospel merely to increase the numerical size and strength of the latter-day Church. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to proclaim the realty of the Father’s plan of happiness, the divinity of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, and the efficacy of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice. Inviting all to “come unto Christ” experiencing the “mighty change” of heart, and offering to ordinances of salvation to individuals in mortality not yet under covenant are the fundamental objectives of preaching the gospel.”

As we, as members, are always working for ourselves to do as Elder Bednar said to “come unto Christ”, experience the “mighty change” of heart and seek salvation by continually progressing towards other ordinances, we feel connected to the purpose of missionary work.  We understand what we are trying to do, and seeing our brothers and sisters, we feel the need and desire to help others on this journey we will always be on.

Family history is exactly the same.  Let’s compare family history to missionary work.

First, Missionaries seek for people to teach; they ask members to help them find people that may be in need of help.

  • In family history, we seek for people, we weed out our Thomas Bell from other Thomas Bell’s so we can help each one individually. Members may ask for help to find people to help

Second, Missionaries teach the Gospel to those searching so they can “come unto Christ” and be baptized in his name.

  • In family history, when we find our family members, and we take them to the temple to do baptisms for them, so that as they are being taught on the other side of the veil, they can progress, be cleaned, and take Christ’s name upon themselves, just as we have.

Third, Missionaries work with new, and old members to prepare them for other ordinances they must receive in the temple. They help people experience their own “mighty change” of heart so they are prepared to enter into the temple and receive the blessings and ordinances therein.

  • When we do family history, our hearts are changed, they begin to turn to our fathers and desire to take them to the temple so they can receive the blessings and ordinances therein.

Missionary work is always happening.  It is happening here on the earth every day, and it has been happening on the other side of the veil since the world began. The only difference, is that when missionaries find people here on earth who are ready to take steps and begin to make and keep sacred covenants, those individuals are able to do it themselves.  The people on the other side of the veil may have been converted and ready for hundreds of years, but have to wait while we, search for them and diligently discover our family and finally take them to the temple.

D&C 84: 19-21 says: “And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God.

“Therefore, in the ordinance thereof, the power of godliness is manifest.

“And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh.”

Elder Bednar explains these versus as follows: “an individual must first pass through the gate of baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost- and then continue to press forward along the path of covenants and ordinances that leads to the Savior and the blessings of His Atonement. Priesthood ordinances are essential to fully “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him” Without the ordinances, and individual cannot receive all of the blessings made possible through the Lord’s infinite and eternal atoning sacrifice even the power of godliness.”

Does this give you a sense of urgency?  It does to me.  When I just think of the feeling I get in the temple, it is like no other I have ever felt.  It is peaceful, it is welcoming, warm, and there is never fear. Faith seems to fill me up and I feel so close to my Heavenly Father.  It is something I wish for everyone to experience. I can go out and search for people on the street, or people that I know do not share those blessings that I have received. I can personally teach them and help them come unto Christ.  But what about those who have passed on. How are they ever going to feel what we do?  We have to personally take their names to the temple. We have to personally do their work for them in proxy. It is literally our responsibility to ensure they have the blessings of the temple.

Knowing this, as I go onto familysearch.org, I do not just look for a green temple by someone’s name. I don’t have to look at my line and think “you know, I won’t ever find anyone here… my grandma has done it for years, her sisters have done and redone it for years as well. How could there possibly be a name for me?”  I can always find someone, or at least something to do that will help me understand my family history.

To illustrate my point: the other day, I was on looking at my line to find some prominent church history figures that are in my line, such as Reddick and James Allred. Because I know that my grandparents have been heavily involved in that line for years, and also knowing that Isaac and Reddick are such major figures in Church History, their work should be done.  However, looking at Issac, I found a green temple, which for those of you who don’t know, means that there is possible work to be done.  As I went in I realized that there were new duplicates, a new “Isaac Allred” created.  Even though there is technically no “work to be done” this gives me to opportunity to learn more, research more, and ensure the work is done correctly for my family.

Family Green Temple
Green temple: “Hey! There might be some work to be done here!”      see familysearch.org to view your own tree

Elder Bednar said, “enabling the exaltation of the living and the dead is the Lord’s purpose for building temples and performing vicarious ordinances. We do not worship in hold temples solely to have a memorable individual or family experience. Rather, we seek to fulfill the divinely appointed responsibility to offer the ordinances of salvation and exaltation to the entire human family. Planting in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; turning the hearts of the children to their own fathers; and performing family history research and vicarious ordinances in the temple are labors that bless individuals in the spirit world not yet under covenant.”

So what does all of this imply?  First, “we may give undue emphasis to separate categories of the work of salvation and the associated policies and procedures.” Elder Bednar says “I fear that many of us may focus so exclusively and intensely on specific facets of the Lord’s work that we fail to garner the full power of this comprehensive labor of salvation.”

“While the Lord seeks to gather all things together in one in Christ, we may often segment and specialize in ways that limit our understanding and vision. When carried to an extreme, priority is given to managing programs and enhancing statistics over inviting individuals to enter into covenants and receive ordinances worthily. Such an approach constrains the purifications, the joy, the continuing conversion, and the spiritual power and protection the come from ‘yielding our hearts unto God’. Simply performing and dutifully checking off all of the things on our lengthy gospel “to do list” does not necessarily enable us to receive His image in our countenance or bring about the mighty change of heart.”

Second, the spirit of Elijah is central and vital to proclaiming the gospel. The sequence of events from which Joseph Smith was given the fullness of the gospel points out this significance. In the Sacred Grove, when Joseph saw and spoke with Heavenly Father & Jesus, ushered in the “dispensation of the fullness of times”. Three years later, Joseph has a visitor- Moroni- who first instructed Joseph about the Book of Mormon, then quoted from Malachi “Behold, I will reveal unto you the Priesthood, by the hand of Elijah the prophet, before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord… and he shall plant in the hearts of the children the promises made to the fathers, and the hearts of the children shall turn to their fathers. If it were not so, the whole earth would be utterly wasted at his coming”.

Isn’t it interesting that Moroni gave instructions concerning the Book of Mormon, then pointed out the importance of the Spirit of Elijah?  Does this show more how important both missionary work and family history is for the salvation of the world?

The Book of Mormon is as Ezra Taft Benson said, “the greatest single tool which God has given us to convert the world.”  This brings about the change of heart which we discussed earlier.  The spirit of Elijah helps to turn our hearts to our fathers, and increased the desire to search out our ancestors.

While researching this topic, I found several videos of missionaries explaining that they actually use family history as a topic to get people interested in the gospel.

I hope that I have proved to you that family history is indeed missionary work.  I hope that as you and your family continually pray for missionary opportunities that you will be led to ways to help out your own family and that you have and will have a desire to do your own family history. I know that family history is a commandment given to us by God, and that my doing our family history we will be blessed more than we can comprehend. I would also like to echo what Elder Bednar said- that my not participating in all facets of the gospel, we will never fully realize the full power of salvation.  May we be excited and have a continually increasing desire to labor for ancestors. In the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Sriracha “Buffalo” Chicken Dip

So, I’m sure most people really enjoy Superbowl foods.  I know I do.  One of the things I crave is Buffalo Chicken Dip.  My mom only made it once, but now when I think of football, that’s what I crave.  So last Sunday, we were having people over for the Superbowl and I figured I would make it.  It was incredibly easy, and I was able to find everything I needed in the fridge [(saves time and money since I didn’t have to make a special shopping trip :)]. Anyways, I hope you guys enjoy my own version on this classic.  Its simple, its inexpensive, and always a crowd-pleaser 🙂

Sriracha “Buffalo” Chicken Dip

Total Time: Prep: 20 minutes  Cook: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 1/2 cup Cream Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1/2 cup Cheddar Cheese
  • Sriracha Sauce (to taste)

Directions:

  1. Fill medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, place chicken breast in water and cook until no longer pink in the middle.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take chicken out of the water and place in a medium sized bowl.  Shred chicken.  Check out this link for a quick and easy way to shred chicken.
  3. Add to the bowl cream cheese and stir until incorporated.  It’s best to have the chicken warm still to help the cream cheese melt a little.  After cream cheese is incorporated, add sour cream, cheddar and sriracha.  Stir until combined.  Taste your mixture and adjust sriracha to your taste.
  4. Prepare a 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish by greasing it.  Pour dip into dish and top with extra cheddar cheese, if desired. Bake for about 15 minutes or until dip looks bubbly or cheese on top is melted and bubbling.  Since the chicken should already be warm, you are just baking so that everything comes together and warms up.
  5. Remove from oven and let stand for about 5 minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Snickers Bar

Once upon a time, I was in a class over at my local institute.  We were discussing choices and trying to understand how some choices may seem good in the moment, but could mess you up down the road.  My teacher told the following story of a Snickers Bar.

A few years back, my teacher was teaching kids in high school.  He brought his son, who at the time was about 3 years old to class. The teacher held up a Snickers bar in one hand, and a hundred dollar bill in the other.  He told the child that he could choose either one, but if he chose the money, it would be split up between the kids in the class.  Obviously, the kids got very excited. Even though they wouldn’t have a ton of money if it was split, it was better than nothing.  As the boy pondered, he began to reach for the Snickers bar.  The kids began to cry out begging him to choose the money. The boy looked at them as though they were crazy!  What would he do with that green thing?  Finally, he chose the Snickers.

Isn’t it interesting?  It’s obvious that one was definitely more valuable than the other, but do children really understand that?  The boy in the story chose the object that would give him immediate gratification, even though he could have bought about 50 more Snickers bar with the money.

What exactly can we take from this story?

Lesson 1: Patience

The more I think of this story, the more I realize that sometimes we have to put a lot of work into something before we see the fruits of our labors or choice.  But, if we do the work and push through those difficult times, the reward is so much better.  Its about patience, its about faith. Taking that dollar bill meant that there was more work ahead. If you were going to use it to buy more Snickers bars, you have to take a journey through winding roads, through traffic, stopping at stop lights, waiting for speed up, letting people merge into our lane, finding a parking place, walking through the weather to get to the store… But that doesn’t mean you are done.  You have to find the snickers.  And who knows if they actually have $100 worth for you to take?  You might have to go to another store… More work.

Isn’t that the same with life?  If you have a dream, or a goal you want to reach, it takes a lot of work to get there. Often there is school, which itself is a major feat.  There tends to always be money problems, there are the naysayers tell you it can’t be done, those that say they support you, but suggest other things instead.  There is a lot to push you away from your dreams or goals… But is it worth it?  Would you like 100 Snickers bars?

Lesson 2: Benefit to Others

Be honest, if you had 100 Snickers bars, would you keep them for yourself?  I would bet that most people wouldn’t.  When people have something they love, they love to share even more.  Think about it, if you go see a movie in the theaters and love it, aren’t you going to recommend it to others- that’s sharing.  As people go through life and begin to accomplish their dreams, there is benefit to others around them.  One being the example they set.

I’ll be honest, when I watch So You Think You Can Dance, I get emotional.  I cry several times during the season.  I cry because those people inspire me. They are accomplishing their dreams that they have worked for years and years to achieve.  That is so inspiring to me.  Often it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel while you are in the middle of it, but it gets a little easier when someone shares their light.  As you work through the trenches of life and succeed, you are inspiring other people to do the same.  If you are not inspiring, you are definitely earning the support of the naysayers.

Lesson 3: Teaching Yourself

When you do finally succeed, you teach yourself that you can succeed. That will help you throughout the rest of your life.  You will know that you can do anything you set your mind to.  You have proof that dreams don’t have to just be dreams- they can be a reality. But they won’t be a reality if you don’t work for them.

I recently watched this video today and I felt like it really went well with this.  Even though we have regrets for things we didn’t do in the past, we have today to change that. Today, be better than you were yesterday.  Work towards your dreams without yesterday’s regrets mocking you.  Leave them in the dust along with those naysayers in your life.  You can achieve your dreams. Stick with your gut. You can do it.

share (1)I hope you all get started on your dreams today.  Life will pass you by and if you don’t work towards your dreams, what will you have to show for it? Life if meant for improvement and growth. You can make it 🙂

Wishing you happiness,

Madi

Making and Achieving Your Goals

Is is just me, or do goals kind of suck sometimes? I hate it when I make a goal, get pumped are ready, only to end up completely failing by February.  I feel like we tend to make goals that are almost too lofty to really accomplish- at least the vast majority of people do. Most of us (me included) don’t have enough self control to really be able to make these big changes in our lives… We lack the drive, too.  That being said, I think I’ve finally cracked the code the accomplishing our goals! Yippy!

Ditch the Deadline.

For me, the deadline really kills me- everytime.  If I make a goal to be able to do 10 pull-ups by July, I’ll work on it for a few days, then recognizing that I have a full 6 or 7 months before the “deadline” I stop, with the intention of working on it again in May.  The miraculous thing is that I never EVER come back to it!  Does anyone else relate?  I hate it!  I hate it when July actually comes around and I’m sitting outside in the warm weather, enjoying a juicy hamburger and homemade potato salad, when suddenly realize that I was supposed to be able to do 10 pull-ups by now. I can hardly do one… UGH, I failed, AGAIN. Maybe by December…

Evaluate the WHY.

The purpose of most goals are to improve, right?  Whether it be learning to cook healthier, breaking up with your diet coke, or getting more organized in your life, you are trying to improve. We use lofty goals to measure our success, and when we don’t reach them, we think that means we failed.  We need to really evaluate why we are making this particular goal.  Is it to loose some weight?  To get your kids to eat something other than a quesadilla or mac ‘n cheese?  To help our sanity- or our husbands?  Whatever it is, we need to understand why we want to make this goal so we can have a purpose behind this live change.

Be Reasonable.

I want to lose a few pounds. I am not huge, but my pants aren’t fitting like they used to, and since I hate shopping… I figure getting in shape is the best way to fix this 🙂  Instead of telling myself I need to loose 10 lbs. (which even though I may have 10 lbs. of fat to lose, I also want to increase muscle mass which weight more than fat) I’ve decided that I really just need to start working out more.  I’d rather get healthier all together than just watch the numbers on the scale go down.  When you are deciding on something  you want to accomplish, try to make it reasonable- think about it and don’t make rash decisions when you are emotional.  If I did, I might be starving myself just to take the pounds off rather than actually bettering my health which will cut the fat off my hips in the process.

New Philosophy: I’m Getting Better.

We need to stop giving ourselves huge shoes to fill, stop giving ourselves this larger than life measurement to tell us how successful we are, and work on bettering rather than succeeding. Because of this, I’ve had to adopt a new philosophy: Be better today than I was yesterday.  This makes reaching my goals much more manageable.  If I want to do 10 pull-ups, I have to do a lot of work to get there.  If I can’t even do one now, I probably wont be able to at the drop of the hat on June 30. So, I have to start now and get working.  But even just saying I’m going to start doesn’t ever seem to help me.  So, I go day by day.  Instead of setting a day to start, I have to work with today.  I have to decide TODAY what I will do TODAY to get better.  I have to set my mind to go to the gym today.  Then tomorrow, I will do the same. Just by getting better each day, I begin to get closer to my desired size.

This works for practically anything.  Take quitting soda, for instance.  If you’ve had one today already, then tell yourself you wont have any more today.  The battle is always within, its about what you want now vs. what you really want down the road.  Tomorrow, make the decision not to have any soda. Now that you’ve accomplished that, the next day, make the same decision.  Its a day-by-day process, day-by-day fight to get you through.  I promise that if you work on improving yourself everyday, your goals will be reached.  You will probably even surpass your goals you thought were way out of reach and would require a miracle to accomplish.

Every morning, my husband says, “I’m getting better.”  That is  my mantra through the day, too.  “I’m getting better.” “I’m better than I was yesterday.” “I woke up earlier today than I did yesterday.” “I didn’t fill up on carbs today like I did yesterday.” “I did the laundry quicker this week than I did last week.”

Your yesterday is your measuring stick for today.  Don’t measure yourself by the future- you’ll never be satisfied.   But, if you look back and see all the progress that you have done, you will be able to recognize that you can do anything you put your mind to.  Day by day you can do it. Start today, to be better.  You’ll be happy you did.

Much love,

Madi

 

Definition: Content

I don’t know if this is just a cultural thing within my religion, or if it is more common, but I have noticed that a lot of people seem to use the word content as if to say they are settling with how things are, rather than how they’ve dreamed.  I’m sure that it is not intentional, but that is definitely the connotation that the word has taken on.

Typing the word into Google, the first definition that pops up is “Adj. : in a state of peaceful happiness.  Verb: satisfy.  Noun: a state of satisfaction.”  When my husband and I did this while we discussed the usage of the word content, I was intrigued.  Even though I’ve always known what it means, usually when I hear people say that they are content, I hear that they have settled.  This prompted my husband to share a quote he has heard several times by Benjamin Franklin that says:

Many people die at age twenty-five and aren’t buried until they are seventy-five.

Isn’t that an interesting thought?  Isn’t it kind of true?  Thinking about that quote, and also taking into consideration the strange connotation content has for me, I’ve been pondering why people tend to stop living, and merely exist and settle.  I wish I understood this, but I haven’t come up with any real explanation for this.  It seems to me that more often than not, people stop dreaming when they are in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s and just start to be complacent with their lives.  How many people have accomplished their dreams?

Now, I will be the first to say that I believe that dreams can evolve and change almost completely.  I know some girls my age that want to “travel the world and live” before they are married.  Personally, I think that when they find someone they want to spend their life with, they will want to travel with him, and later travel with her children.  I believe that as people start to find other things in their lives that become very important to them, that their dreams begin to involve what they now find important.

But how many people stop to really dream when they begin to find those important things in their lives?  I believe that the purpose of life is to find happiness, to learn and to grow. When we die, the only things we can take with us are our memories and knowledge. Shouldn’t we take advantage of that and work to be the best that we can- before we die?

Since being married, I’ve been doing a lot of “soul searching”.  I married a man that dreams bigger than anyone else I’ve ever met. Not only does he dream, but he has planned out exactly how to accomplish those dreams.  He reads these dreams out loud every morning and night.  I know that those dreams will become a reality and that he will keep on dreaming. So, being married to a man like that, I felt that I needed to try and figure out what my dreams are.  But this was very hard for me…

As I tried to think of dreams my younger self had, I had a hard time figuring out what they were.  It seemed I was only living for the next day, and occasionally I had exciting opportunities come up- like going to Australia when I was in sixth grade as an ambassador, or going on Senior Trip- that I really wanted to do and be a part of, but mostly, I didn’t know what I “dreamed” about.

Once I got into college I thought things might change and I would have an idea about what I wanted to become, what career I wanted to pursue, or what talents I wanted to develop, but still, I couldn’t think of anything.  I began working towards a Business degree because I knew that was a well rounded degree employers would like, but I had no real focus. I wasn’t interested in Accounting, I thought about possibly going into Marketing since I like to create, but decided I didn’t want to do that as a career, either.  Finally, I mentioned to my adviser that I was dating someone that was in finance and it kind of was interesting, so she stuck me in the Business Finance program…

I had a bucket list that included things like, a candle-light dinner, riding in a hot air balloon, sitting on an elephant, but those didn’t exactly say “dream” to me.  They were more of something that I would like to do, but if they never happened, I wouldn’t care.

As my husband and I discussed this increasingly frustrating topic, he asked what I wanted in life. What did I see myself doing when we had kids, where did I see myself living, what would I want to be doing on my free time?  Those were much easier to answer.  I’ve actually always know the answer to those.  I wanted to be a “soccer mom”.  I wanted to be available to take my kids to their activities, to be involved with their school on the PTA, I wanted to be able to chaperon for their field trips.  I wanted to have a house that the neighborhood kids liked to be at and felt comfortable playing at.  I wanted to live in my dream home cooking dinner for my family in my dream kitchen.  I didn’t want to have a mini van, but an SUV.  I wanted to have a place to create artwork.  I wanted to be able to go on trips with my friends.  But was that really a dream?

I think I always imagined a dream being more of “I want to be a nurse when I grow up”, or “I want to live in South Carolina and own a bakery.”  I’ll be honest, there were several years that I dreamed of having my own restaurant.  I love cooking and especially sharing my cooking with other people and seeing how their faced would light up when they taste my food.  But I had many people tell me how hard it would be and how I would have to work nights and weekends.  That was the original deterrent for me.  I valued my nights and weekends, so of course I wouldn’t want that… No matter how much I loved to cook. So that dream was dropped.

Needless to say, I’ve cried a lot of tears in the last few months as I tried to recognize what my dreams are.  As I would listen to my husband vocalize his dreams everyday, I felt somewhat stuck and inadequate.  I didn’t want to be the one that at 40, said “I wish…”  At that point, as I begged with my Father in Heaven for help and for my eyes to be opened to the things I really wanted, I remembered my thoughts as I was in Junior High and High School when people would ask me “what do you want to be when you grow up?”  I recognized quickly that I had always wanted to be a mom. Even though I didn’t feel like that was “dream worthy”, it was my dream.  I recognized that my dream to cook for people, could be a reality!  I love having friends over and spending time playing games… why not combine that with a home cooked meal?  It would be cheaper than going out to eat anyways, as we tend to do with friends.

As I began to realize this, I felt a huge burden lifted off my shoulders. I finally felt like I had something to dream and imagine for my life.  I think I always knew this, but I didn’t think that it really seemed like a dream.  It seems like a lot of people who have that, seem to have an “I wish…” tied to their lovely life.  I didn’t want to be one to “settle”.

So here it is.  Being content is truly being satisfied with your life.  It is being happy with everything that you have and not really caring to have more.  Isn’t that the real dream? I know people have dreams that are completely different than mine, but feel like they can’t do them once they have my dream life.  With kids, and having to pay the bills, and everything else that comes into your life that you love (and hate, like bills), the dream that you dreamed up is still something you can accomplish.  You don’t ever need to settle for not having your dreams come true.  This life is meant for you to find happiness and to have your joy full. If your dream is to learn to dance, that is not out of the question.  If you dream to fly an airplane, why would you settle for letting that slip by.  There are plenty of opportunities out there.

Why do you think Disney Princess movies are so popular?  I would argue that it is because most of the princesses have their dreams come true.  We almost envy the characters. Might I suggest that we take a hint from these dreamers and fight through the hard times? Don’t Eeyore around (yes I used that as a verb) and simply exist through our lives. It is possible to live far past twenty-five 🙂

Being content with your life doesn’t mean you can’t still dream.  Being content is loving where you are at but still striving to be better. You can always improve and change. Sometimes I feel like people say they are content and then are stagnant.  As I said before, we are only able to bring with us the things we learn in this life.  I think that if we change our idea of what content means, we can accomplish a lot.  If content means happiness, doesn’t happiness change and evolve?  You were happy as a child with a bottle of bubbles or a cookie, right? But now your happiness involves a lot more. As your life changes and evolves, so should your happiness, and therefore, what you are content with will be different that 5 years earlier.

I believe Dreaming brings people to contentment. Never stop.  Keep improving, keep learning. You may be surprised with how exciting your life gets.