Month: November 2012

NaNoWriMo: What are you going to do now?


So today is the last day for NaNoWriMo and I want to say congratulations to all the Winners out there!  What an accomplishment!  What a grand thing to be able to collectively say we wrote a lot of books!  Think of the creative output, the characters examined, the worlds created.  Its awesome!

As everyone knows I wrote a little book about my experiences quitting my job, with some romance thrown in, but a lot of real life.  I found it to be an incredibly empowering experience and I can’t believe that all of that came out of me. You can read excerpts from the book at a couple different posts See:

I’ know I have written a somewhat silly book and I may read it 5 NaNo’s from now and think it is total amateur but it is a start and I’m proud of it.  I’m proud of finishing something I’ve always wanted to do.  I’m looking forward to next year and what I can write about.  Plus, I will have the whole year to work on this book making it as good as it can be.

Now a lot of people have asked me in the last few days ‘So what now?’ and then followed by ‘Do you want to get it published?’.    The answer is I have NO IDEA! None, nada, nilch.   If you had asked me 2 months ago if I could write a novel in 30 days I would have said you were crazy, especially these 30 days building a house and all, but then I did it and love what came out, fluffy as it might be.  I have no idea what my potential is for writing. No clue.  I just don’t know.

I do know that I am going to work on it and edit it and see where things go.  It’s a silly story and I have no expectations of it going anywhere but I’ve gotten some positive feedback from friends and bloggers who have read it (thanks btw!). The important thing is that I enjoy working with this story so who cares who reads it if its making me happy.

So there you go.  I promise that I won’t give up on the book.  That I will keep working and will eventually bind it at kinkos or some place like that (Shannon Hale told me once at a book signing to bind your first book.  Don’t just toss it out!).  Those are commitments I can keep and are within my control.

That’s all I know and I will look forward to next NaNoWriMo and the year after that, and year after that.


Laziness is a Lie!

So I’ve decided that every time I don’t want to do something, I should do it. I can’t think of a time in my life that I have debated about doing something and then haven’t been glad when I actually go and do it.  (Did that sentence make sense?).  For instance, today I had heard about a relief society party with my new ward and was planning on going, then when it came close I debated.

“I’m tired”, “It’s my only night off all week”, and “I don’t feel up to meeting a bunch of new people” all floated through my head.  Even told my sister these lame excuses.  (To be honest, the excuses got even lamer- like there will be unhealthy food (which there was cheesecake…) and my jeans are still wet and won’t be dry in time).

Fortunately for me I am blessed with a personality that most of the time shuts off the lazy me and goes and does anyways, and like I said I’m always glad when I do.  (I also have friends who refuse to let me be a lazy slob!  Thank you!) So today I got off the coach, away from my laptop and went to the party and you know what it was great!  Everyone was so friendly and welcoming.  A lot of people had been told about me which I found amazing as I had just spoken to the bishop on Tuesday (nice work ward!).  There was a great turn out and we even got to meet my new neighbors across the street.  They seemed super nice.

I’m really glad I went because now I will at least know a few faces and more importantly they will know me.  That is a great relief when moving to a new area, especially as a single Mormon. What made me particularly happy is the ward seems very diverse.  There are houses, townhouses, apartments, etc and a group of singles that meets once a month for family home evening! 🙂

So now I have a request for all of you.  When you hear me say something like ‘I was going to do something but…’ or ‘I’m really tired.  I don’t know if I feel like going to….’ or ‘I could really use the rest.  I don’t  think I will do…’ look me square in the eyes and tell me to get off my butt and go and do whatever it is that I really want to do deep down inside! Remind me that the lazy voice in my head is a lie.

I mean look at me- I wrote a book in 10 days, I swam a 5k, I served a mission, work 3 jobs, have a book club for almost 3 years, written over 500 blog posts, with 3 callings, all while still keeping up with Dancing with the Stars and Project Runway 🙂 (Not all those at the same time but still I can do hard things).  I am clearly capable of doing great things and doing things makes me generally happier.  It makes me crazy to think of all the times I told myself I couldn’t do NaNoWriMo and then I do it in half the time allotted.   It makes me want to go back and kick that lazy person telling myself I was too busy.  Think of what a better writer I would be if this hadn’t been my first time!

No more lazy Rachel! That voice is almost always a lie!  Remind me of this post dear friends.  Remind me possibly tomorrow when I don’t want to work out, or do whatever it is I’m supposed to do…

Thanksgiving for One

So yummy and doesn’t it look pretty? I think I got the table setting right.

As I mentioned in my last post this Thanksgiving week has been a little different for me.  For the first time in several years I didn’t go to California to visit my folks and for the first time since my mission I didn’t see any family.  I must admit, I had moments of sadness throughout the weekend but I tried to look at it as an opportunity for growth.  There aren’t many new experiences that come my way at 31 so why not take advantage of the one’s that do? (Blowing out my back at the 5k didn’t help much!)

In the months proceeding the week I thought I’d be having thanksgiving day meal alone and I looked up and down the blogosphere for someone doing a thanksgiving for 1.  Is it even possible to make a feast for one or is the idea oxymoronic? Could it be done?  I decided to take up the challenge and I’m here to tell you it can! (went to my friends house for actual Thanksgiving day meal which I was grateful for)

Here’s what I did:

turkey, 2 kinds cranberry sauce (love!), mashed potatoes, stuffing muffin, crescent roll, turkey, gravy

Week before- purchased all ingredients so no stressful holiday grocery shopping.  Next time will get smaller turkey breast but leftovers never hurt anyone.

Tuesday- Made cranberry relish-  Wagner family classic very simple.  In food processor or blender pulse cranberries, whole orange rind and all cut into chunks, 1/4 c sugar, 1/2 pecans/walnuts.  You can make it without the nuts but it makes it healthier and cuts the sweetness.  You can add more sugar if you like it sweeter.   I made a big tub because it lasts forever and I love it. I actually used agave but you could use any sweetener.

Wednesday- Made

pecan and pumpkin tarts

chocolate pecan tarts- 2/3 c sugar, 1/3 c butter, 1 c corn syrup,  3 eggs, 1 c pecans, 1 lindt salted dark bar chopped into small pieces.  Mix all together put in keebler mini graham cracker tart pans. Bake 350 25 min or until fork comes out clean.  Top with REAL whipped cream

Friday- Make pumpkin tarts- 3/4 sugar, 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 large eggs, 1 15 o can pumpkin, 1 15 o can ev milk.  Mix together put in keebler mini graham cracker tart pans.  In this case I actually prefer the graham cracker crust.  It doesn’t get soggy like pastry.  Mix 1/4 brown sugar, pumpkin bar mix, pecans for topping sprinkled on top.  Bake 350 20 min or until knife comes out clean.  Top with REAL whipped cream

The pumpkin tart may be the find of the project.  Really yummy and with the smaller size it makes for easy portion control.  Always nice for thanksgiving!

Saturday I was going to do more to prepare but my back had gotten blown out from the 5k on Thursday and shopping was all I could get through.  (I did way too much shopping this weekend but it was a lot of fun!)

Sunday- This was the big day.  Rubbed turkey with butter and put it in the oven before church.  Stuffed it because I forgot to get citrus/herbs for cavity.  (The one thing I did make too much of was stuffing).  I also put the yukon golds in some water in the crockpot before church.

turkey breast is smaller and I mainly like white meat anyway.
yukon golds in the crockpot! Perfectly done when  I came home from church!

I also made the stuffing.  It was a lot of fun making something different than my family would make.  It was a cornbread stuffing with turkey sausage, celery and onion. I just used a boxed cornbread stuffing cubes but not stovetop.  Cooking it in the muffin tins helps with portion control and makes it easy to freeze for cooking for one.

stuffing muffins

Once I got home from church I sliced the turkey, mashed the potatoes, heated up the stuffing, made the gravy (probably hardest part!), heated up crescent rolls from the can and made salad dressing.  The sale was simple arugula with a pomegranate blood orange vinaigrette (blood orange juice, cider vinegar, pomegranate seeds (which kind of have a cranberry feel to me.  Love them!) and agave, very simple!).  The combination of the sweet, tart and spiciness of the arugula was awesome!

salad was another winner. fresh arugula with blood orange pomegranate vinaigrette. (no oil and you did not miss it at all)

With a glass of apple cider everything was perfect!  It all tasted great and I didn’t end up with tons of leftovers.


I also rewashed and reused pans and other equipment along the way so I only used 1 load of dishes and it took me about 45 minutes to clean up from the whole meal. Awesome!

Here’s some things I learned from the experience:

1. To quote the amazing Judith Jones “Some say Why would I want to go to all that trouble just for me? My answer is: If you like good food, why not HONOR YOURSELF enough to make a pleasing meal and relish every mouthful.”  Cheers to me!

2.  There seem to be people from a certain generation that have a hard time with spending time alone.  Someone said to me this week “You went to the 5k alone”. My friend piped up and said “Rachel does lots of things alone…”.  I felt proud that I am challenging stereotypes and expectations for single women.  I hope I never stop! (Goodness knows I’m buying a house alone I should be able to eat thanksgiving by myself.

3.  As far as the meal itself pick 2 or 3 sides to make from scratch (I chose mashed potatoes and stuffing, my favorites).  The rest was more assembled like the salad or cranberries.  The rolls aren’t super important so I didn’t make those from scratch.  I eat sweet potatoes all the time on my diet so to me they don’t seem that special so I opted out of those.  Whatever you like.

4.  Then plan it out over a couple of days so that you aren’t so overwhelmed both with prepping, cooking, and most importantly cleaning!  Make the dessert the day before or buy those from a good bakery (or the rolls, or whatever you have that’s quality.  You could even buy the turkey and then focus your efforts on cooking sides.

5.  Don’t forget little details like real whipped cream and cranberry relish.  If your family always has a pickle platter have pickles.  Or if you secretly hate the family jello salad don’t make it!  That’s the great thing about cooking for yourself you can do whatever you want.  If you want to make turkey curry go for it.  Want to try sugar free recipe, go for it.   Want to make collard greens or eat ham instead of turkey do it!

6. Think of phase 2 recipes for leftovers. I’m already thinking of all the way to use up leftover mashed potatoes and turkey.  Cooking everything in smaller containers like the tarts or muffin tins makes them easy to freeze and eat later if you get sick of the leftovers.  Come January a turkey dinner may hit just the right note!

7. Because you are cooking for 1 live a little.  Buy lobster or mussels, get the good french butter or be like me and get a massage while on break!  There will be plenty of your life when you are scrimping and saving every cent to pay for kids and retirement.  An occasional treat for a single’s dinner is highly worth it!  Plus, you can afford to go organic, get grass-fed meat, artisan bread.  Whatever excites you!

8. It is a lot of work and goodness knows I too often shirk the responsibility of cooking for myself but I promise you (and need to tell myself too) that it is worth it.  It is always more satisfying than the flimsy mediocre alternative.

9.  I did little things throughout the meal to make it a little bit healthier.  For instance, I used milk instead of cream in the potatoes. I used turkey sausage in the stuffing, the salad had no fat and used agave for sweetener, no pastry made the tarts lighter (and I think better), agave in cranberry relish and not much of it.  Again, those are the kinds of individualization you can do when cooking for yourself that are hard with family that are used to things the same way.

Again from Judith Jones:

“There is something about going home at the end of the day or giving over a quiet Sunday afternoon to cooking- smashing the garlic, chopping an onion, getting all those good cooking smells going, stirring and tasting mindfully, and then adjusting the seasonings- that makes us feel creative.

It is a comforting form of relaxation- something that is needed in our busy lives.  I always love the moment of drama, too, when everything comes together and I quickly dish up my handiwork arranging it pleasingly on a warm plate and then take it to the table where I set a place for one with a cloth napkin in a family napkin ring.  I light the candles, turn on some music and give thanks.

I wouldn’t miss this pleasure for anything!”

Me either!

10. Cheers to doing one more thing on my own, even feasting!

Apple cider toast. Cheers to one more milestone and a delicious meal!

Officially a NaNoWriMo WINNER!

So its official I have completed the 30 day NaNoWriMo challenge!  Here is the certificate to prove it.  I’m really proud of my accomplishment.  I’m proud that I finally, however, incompetently put pen to paper and wrote my story.  I have thought of those experiences from 2007 over and over again and now they have been written down.  I look forward to editing, changing things around and making it as good as it get can be.  Then I am going to bind it and keep it as a prized possession.

In the meantime I am already thinking about what to write next year.  It is a lot harder because this was my one big idea.  I had practically written the book in my head a million times and had practiced many of the events on this blog.  I may not have that luxury the next time around.  I could do a sequel but that would’ t really be my life at all as the character gets married at the end and I clearly am not married. I think I will just have to find another way to write about God and the Workforce but in another set of characters. Hmmm…

Well, I thought since I am ‘finished’ meaning initial output done I’d give you one more snip-it of the book.  My friend Polly read it and she enjoyed it.  I hope you do as well.  This is a closing scene when the character has just had her last day at the job she is quitting.

Thank you in advance for your feedback.  It’s still in a rough state so please bare with me. Just enjoy some early, exciting, writing in its raw form.  Plus this is a pretty romantic section, so enjoy that!  I enjoyed writing it and can’t wait for it to happen to me in real life! 🙂

I have decided to be happy because My Life is God’s and He is happiness.


As I descend the stairs I feel like an astronaut who is  about to take the big step onto a new planet.  Each one feels important like a plaque should be put in that honor stating ‘Rachel took the leap of faith here”.

Sometimes I still wondered why God was asking me to do something so strange?  Quit my job with nothing to fall back into?  Who does that especially in this economy?  Evidently I do. I finally reach the bottom of the stairs and open the door.  With the fresh air my brain is flooded with thoughts but  I am drawn back to the scripture Jamie read to me the other day:

“That you may love the LORD your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may cleave unto him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them..”

“He is my life” I am putting it in His hands.  A rush adrenalin crawls up my spine and I feel ticklish all over.  It’s like happiness is bursting out of me from every pore.  Setting the box down for a minute I raise my hands high into the air and let out the loudest ‘Yes! I did it” I possibly can. For a moment I am dancing and I’m a terrible dancer!  The smile on my face is wide and a million pop ballads embracing freedom and adventure pop in my head.  That person they are singing about is me.  I’d done it.

In the middle of my revelries I feel a tap on my shoulder.  Looking around I see that it is Oliver and he gives me a huge hug.  “Congratulations.  I’m so proud of you for taking this big step”.

“I’ve never felt so great in all my life.  I did it!  The thing I didn’t think I could do for three years, I did!” I raise my arms to the sky one more time and let out a little ‘Hurray!’

“So what do you think you want to do with all your free time?” he asks

“Well, I’ll be looking for a job mostly but I have lots of projects like my college scrapbook to work on.  I would love to volunteer maybe go and tutor for Dr. Thomas for free.  That would be the best!  We will just see what life throws at me and where God wants me to be”.

All of the sudden his voice sounds a little nervous and I wonder why.  “What about doing some wedding planning?”

“Oh that could be a fun career” but before I can go on Oliver is on his knees in front of me with a ring.  It’s a princess cut ring small stoned ring with a the most beautiful platinum band”  I look at it and him with amazement.

“Will you marry me?” he asks

“Yes, of course, I will marry you!” I quickly reply and put the ring on my finger.  It seems to have always been there along with my necklace around my neck.

“Yes, yes, she said yes!” he says to nobody and we kiss but this is a kiss like never before.  Long (way past our 20 seconds), soft and tender and then rough and passionate.  I never want it to end. Without helping it I start to cry a little bit and put my head on his shoulder.

“What’s wrong he asks” hoping I haven’t had a change of heart.

“Now this is the BEST day of my life!” As I stood there with my head on Oliver’s shoulder I knew I would always look back on this moment as perfect.  Life would get hard again, I’d feel anxious and stressed, maybe even panic, but I would always have in my pocked that I had gotten through these 3 years.  I had learned to pay attention when God tells you to ‘make a change’ and that the more you fight Him the unhappier you will be.  I’ve learned that God has patience and he gives us far more blessings than we deserve, especially when we aren’t listening to him.  I’ve learned that diving into nothing is the greatest feeling a girl can have.   Most importantly I learned that my happiness matters to God, and that He really does love me.

Life is going to be good for Rachel Wagner former employee of Marshall Plastics.

“ka,ka,ka”  I hear and look around me on the top of the patio ledge is a crow getting ready to fly off into the distance. “ka,ka,ka”.  It rings in my head and I look at Oliver and smile.  He has work to do but I give him a sweet and simple kiss and then it gets longer and harder.  Perfect.

“Have a great day at work” I say with a wink and I hold onto his hand until it is just fingers and we finally let go.  “See you later tonight”.

As I get into my car, I let out a large long sigh.  “It is done.  Thank you God.  We did it!” Just as pull out of the parking lot the Clocktower ticks loudly and I push the gas pedal.  “Done and on my way to a new adventure”.



Happy Turkey Day 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you are all doing well and having a wonderful holiday with people who care about you.  This is the first Thanksgiving I’ve had in a while where I haven’t been with my family and I feel a little sad about that.  I miss seeing my nieces most of all but hopefully we can skype and say hello later in the evening.

I was determined to not sulk and feel sorry for myself this weekend so I have planed a lot of fun things (hopefully I wont’ work much but no guarantee I’m so behind on things and have to catch up!).  Today I was in a 5k walk for the food bank.  We did one last year with my family and this year my friend Suzanna and her family was there, so that was fun.  I finished in 1 hr 16 minutes which I felt pretty good about.  My legs and feet are throbbing.  I don’t understand how anyone could prefer running/walking to swimming.  Swimming can be intense on your muscles but so much tamer than running.

Too bad its a bit to cold to do a Thanksgiving swim; although my Poler Bear Club friends might disagree.  Burr!

So now I’m just watching the parade and icing my puffy muscles so they don’t seize up.

This afternoon I am going to Suzanna’s family thanksgiving which should be fun.  I have met most of her family over the years and they are from Indiana which is fun.  She said other friends were coming so I’m sure it will be a large group.  I’m grateful to be invited. (I have the best friends!).

Tomorrow after a morning swim,  I might try out some black Friday shopping- brave Ikea and Home Depot to see if I can get some things for my new house.  We will see.  I’m also getting a massage.  Can’t wait for that!

Saturday I am going with my friend Kate to a shooting range.  There is a scene in my book where the character goes to one and I wanted it to be authentic (plus I’ve kind of wanted to learn for a long time but with my eye sight I didn’t think I could).

On Sunday I am going to make a Thanksgiving for 1.  Yes, you read right.  I’ve decided to take on the challenge of making a feast for one person.  It seems impossible but I think I can do it. Should be fun!

So, I’ve got lots going on this holiday weekend.  The only reason I post all of that is some of my friends and family might worry about me (thank you for that by the way) but I’m fine and richly blessed.

Finishing the race!

A few things I am grateful for this year:

1.  I’m grateful for my family and for my non-family family.  This includes my swim family, church family, book club family, gym family, facebook family (my facebook family saved my life early this year), twitter family, and my friends family.

2.  I’m grateful to be building a house! WOWZERS!

3.  I’m grateful for a new beginning with a new year with a fresh start, new ward, new house, new experiences.  2012 was a doozy.  One for the recordbooks of Rachel Trials but I got through it and looking forward to starting over.

4. I’m thankful for NaNoWriMo and getting me to finally write the book I knew was in my head and proving to myself I can do great things.

5.  I’m grateful for SLOW (Salt Lake Open Water).  My 5k was definitely a highlight but it would only have been so with all the support and friendship.  I can’t imagine not having it in my life.

6. I’m thankful for MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and the outlet for my aggression it has given me.   I love it more every time I go.  My trainer Ben is awesome and such a funny guy.  He definitely believes in me.  My trainer Michelle is also unfailingly loyal and encouraging.  The best!

7.  I’m thankful for my eyes.  My eyes have been through a lot the last 2 years and going through the surgery and vision therapy has been hard but very rewarding.  To see the world in a new way is such a blessing. I’m also grateful for my doctors and their skill in treating me.

8. I’m grateful for my insomnia specialist and the pathways we’ve made in the last 8 weeks.  It’s been great! I’m getting closer to sleeping the way I’ve always wanted.

9. I’m grateful I was diagnosed with low thyroid this year.  It has helped me overcome all the pain I was experiencing last year.  The doctor that diagnosed it is named Dr.  Ling and she and her nurse practitioner have been so wonderful.

10.  I’m grateful that I live in a world where for the most part I can be a thriving, successful, happy single person.  I know I have my moments but in some societies I wouldn’t have even had the option of living alone, leading my own life.  I’m grateful that I can be single, awesome and wait for Mr.  Sunshine to get with it and get here! 😉

11.  I’m the most grateful for my testimony of the Book of Mormon.  I have needed it so badly this year.  I have needed it’s words and it hasn’t failed me a bit.   I know Heavenly Father loves me.  I may complain now and then about the ward environment or some other small thing but in the end I would be lost without the Book of Mormon and my testimony of the gospel.

Family Ward

So this post is mainly for my LDS friends but as a blogger named smilingLDSgirl I think I have that prerogative.   I have an admission to make- I walked out of church on Sunday in a huff.  Was it immature?  Yes.  Was it unprovoked? I don’t think so.

Before I explain myself let me say that everyone has been very friendly in my family ward, especially the primary presidency who has gone above and beyond to make me feel comfortable.

Where the main problem is I spent 14 years of my church life in a homogeneous environment where I was carefully nurtured and cared for.  Then in January I was told to radically change that environment, change my routine, my Sunday experience, my peer group, activities, everything.  It’s a tough thing on a person like me to be forced away from that environment to something that at times feels familiar and other times completely foreign.  The adjustment to the family ward has been harder than I thought it would be from the singles ward.

Here’s what made me mad yesterday:

Well, first I was admittedly a little vulnerable not going home for Thanksgiving, feeling a little lonely.  I went to church hoping for nourishment and to be cared for like I was in the singles ward (especially my last one. Not all my singles wards were so great.  Remember Testimingo?). I had also worked really hard on my lesson preparing a treat, a visual aid and game.

Sacrament meeting was good, a couple spoke and a high counselor (we always have a couple speak and either a youth speaker or high counselor. I have not been asked to speak).  So I had brought a bag full of stuff for the lesson including my laptop that I hauled around and headed to my classroom but to my surprise I saw the young women there.  They looked at me with surprise and said in cheerful voices that they were teaching.  Normally I would have been fine with them teaching, even grateful, but since I had put in the work, I felt a little snubbed. Okay maybe a lot snubbed.

I at least figured there must be a pretty important reason to pull us out of class unannounced, the Sunday before Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately when I got to the combined meeting it was all on the Duty to God program and helping the young men.  All I could think was really? Did I really need to hear this? And was it so important to cancel my lesson?  How the heck am I suppose to apply this to my life? I don’t get it.

I only know 2 young men in the ward and they aren’t exactly looking to me for advice.  Nobody else even knows who I am.  I’m sorry but I felt doubly snubbed.  Like I’d been stood up for a date twice, maybe three times in one day.  It made me really mad because it was like people just assume everyone has a family, or they give some token line that is supposed to include everyone but just makes you feel more ostracized.

I don’t expect everything to be about me but why couldn’t that meeting have been for just the parents of boys or teens?  Why make everyone sit through it, replacing their lessons and making them feel like they don’t belong.  The ward is supposed to be my family while my family is away and aside from the best home teacher in Draper I’m left feeling ignored and frustrated.

Between both slights and a year of other frustrations I grabbed my mammoth backpack and left. I was definitely not in the mood for anyone to see me cry and I didn’t want to say anything I’d regret because I was angry.  Like I said, I’m sure it was immature but that’s what I did.  A friend did call to apologize about the class mixup, which I’m grateful for but the reason why it all happened still bugged me but that wasn’ t her fault, it’s just the family blinders we can have.

You know what would have been nice the Sunday before thanksgiving- how about some talks or a lesson on gratitude! Is that too much to expect? Instead I get 2 reminders of how I don’t fit in and truly SINGLE I am.  I get it.  I don’t need to be reminded!

In truth if I could pick I would go back to my old singles ward in a heartbeat and I am definitely going to make going to activities a priority from now on.  I could go to a midsingles ward but it is far away and huge (700+ people).  I think I’d feel more lonely there than in the family ward. Sigh…

Sometimes I envy my  single friends who go to other churches because their marital status is a non-issue.  It is not a requirement for exaltation to get married and family isn’t the building block of their faith.  Oh how I envy that!  But I know the Book of Mormon is true like I know I can breath each day.  It is my breath and gets me through any struggle. You can bet I was reading it and praying on Sunday! (I didn’t say I was perfect…).

My experience with attending church has no impact on my testimony of the doctrine’s truthfulness.  That may be hard for some to understand but it is true.  The thing that scares me is I’m moving into a new ward next month and its going to be my home for a long time.  I have to make it work, but to be honest I’m at a loss at what I could do to be more immersed in the ward environment?  I really am?  I have 3 callings, 2 that keep me the most busy, I do my visiting teaching, I never miss a meeting.

I am isolated away in primary which keeps me from meeting other adults, almost all the activities revolve around the youth and I miss Relief Society and Sunday School (I do get to go to SS when I teach. I love my co-teacher!).   Still, if I wasn’t super extroverted, like I am, nobody would know I exist.  It’s like you have to be high maintenance to get any love. I didn’t even get any visitors after I had my surgery from the ward.

I just don’t know what to do?  Lately I’ve been feeling spiritually stymied.  My testimony has not changed but it hasn’t grown either.  It’s just stayed at about an 8 and I need a 10, but how can I do that alone? I’m pretty comfortable being alone.  Goodness knows I live alone by choice but it still hurts to be ignored, isolated and forgotten, I don’t care how strong you are.  I know God does not forget  but we all need the ward family as well.  I need the nourishment of others and their feelings of the scriptures.  I need discussions with people, not just online, but real life.

I’ve tried to start up an institute class but it hasn’t gone anywhere.  There are 30+ classes but they are all far away and I just always seem to have something else going on.

I guess I’m just holding out hope that with my tenants to group with in the next ward maybe things will go better.  Have any of you ever not accepted a calling?  If they automatically call me back to primary that is going to be a tough one for me to accept.  I will definitely let my feelings known on the topic and then let God decide.

Anyway, I don’t know what to do to make things better?  Any ideas?  Thanks to all my twitter single friends for coming to my defense.  Love you guys!

What would you do if you were me? Is there something I’m missing?  Is this what I have to look forward to for the rest of my church experience?  Other single saints please tell me what you do to be nourished and not feel isolated in the family wards?

I will never stop going.  Don’t you worry about that (some of my friends worry about me, which I’m grateful for) but there has to be something I can do to feel more fulfilled on Sunday’s and to ingratiate myself more with the ward?  Please help!

It also didn’t help that I had a high anxiety work-week with little to no relaxation on Saturday.  The gruesome combo. Sigh…My life!

Twinkie Conundrum

So Hostess has closed.  We have all heard that.  Another American brand down the drain, no bailout for those 18k workers, no recourse for a union that flushed workers down the drain.

Here’s the funny thing since the news came out I have heard basically this same conversation from almost all of my friends/family (even my Dad!):

“I’m not going to miss all those unhealthy foods.”

or  “America is sure going to be healthier with out all the trans-fats clogging their arteries”

but then the statement is almost always followed by ‘I will miss those cupcakes though’, or ‘I wonder how much longer we can get a snowball?’ or ‘hard to imagine no more wonder bread or twinkies’.

What makes me laugh is that almost everyone I know plays the part of the healthy eater, glad Hostess is gone and ridding America from its guilt-ridden treats but secretly are lamenting the loss.  I guess it is the definition of a guilty pleasure!

I wonder if part of the remorse is like watching Saturday morning cartoons. They are syrupy and stupid but you kind of like them.  They remind you of being a kid again and for those of that had pleasant childhoods the remembrance is pleasant.  Perhaps we like such food because when we were a kid we didn’t have to worry so much about carbs, organic food, clean eating or any of that crap? We could just eat a twinkie if our Mom told us it was okay.

Perhaps we like things like hostess because we secretly LIKE THEM! In one Washington Post article about the mass selloff of twinkies on ebay a vendor described the situation well:

“If buyers do not bite, Mr. Edmonds is not sure what he will do with his supply. He does not even like Twinkies.

“I do like to have a Ding Dong every once in a while though,” he said.”

(I swear that same caveat is being said by nearly every American)

I remember when I saw Martha Stewart making her own peeps and I felt tired and a little disgusted.  What a waste of time when the original are delicious. I’m sure she would be insulted at the idea of store bought peeps but at Easter I wouldn’t want them any other mixed up, gussied way, just gooey, crispy peeps.  I like gourmet food but I also like familiar food where I know how it will taste and what it will be like.  I think that is the appeal of a lot of foods like Hostess. They are easy to eat, absorb and enjoy.

What foods do you like that you are slightly embarrassed to admit liking?  Come on, let it out.  I can think of some:

1- Chicken Nuggets- not fancy chicken strips (although those are good too).  I’m talking about crunchy little chicken pieces of manufactured yumminess and I get all the sauces I can muster.

2- pizza- This is really a guilty pleasure but I like all variations of pizza, not just the bubbly gourmet kind with fancy cheeses but the greasy pepperoni from Little Caesars (and I love Crazy bread!)

3- Movie popcorn- I love popcorn in general but I like the salty, yellow, intoxicating smelling popcorn at the movie theater.  I do! (With extra butter of course).

4- Sweet/Sour candies. When I went on my sugar fast the thing I craved the most was sour patch kids.  Strange but something about that lip puckering sweet and sour sounded so good.

5- Ice Cream- I’ve never met a flavor or brand of ice cream I don’t like.  I love the fancy gourmet kinds but also the big buckets of generic vanilla.
I also love ice cream novelties like drumsticks and fudgicals

6- Popsicles- I love those double popsicles in cherry, root beer, grape, banana, orange, etc.  You know the one’s?

7- Ramen noodles- I don’t like canned soup- ever, ever, ever!  I don’t eat it unless I’m forced and if I’m sick I’d much rather have ramen than canned soup.  I just don’t like the tecture of it.

8- Really hot fresh french fries.  They just aren’t the same baked.  Need the deep frier.  I love sauces.

9- Pillsbury- I think those crescents and biscuits are delicious.

10- Slurpees- Love all the favors, all the time.

11- Donuts- I love chocolate, maple donuts, simple glazed, powdered, whatever!  The smell makes me crazy.  Even those little powdered one’s make me happy.

12- Crackers- I love Chicken n’ biscuit, ritz, saltines, club crackers whatever.  YUM!

13- pudding snacks- not fancy kind.  Just standard pudding cups.

14- On same line lunchables.  Ah the decadence!

( I could keep going…)

What about you?  What do you have to talk yourself into getting a salad for?  What transfat nightmares do you linger over in the market and then head for the whole wheat section…

Be honest!  Who out there is secretly going to miss the twinkie?

Change Your Brain Change Your Life

I’ve recently found a book that I wanted to share with you.  As any reader knows I have struggled with anxiety since a panic attack in 2007 changed my life forever.  I have improved a lot but things have never quite been the same.  Even just this week I felt life overwhelming me.  I knew things would turn out fine but that didn’t seem to stop things from boiling up inside of me.  I’ve gotten better at how I respond to the boiling feeling but not making it go away just yet.   I’d tell you all the details but they really don’t matter.  As I’ve said a million times anxiety is not a logical experience so it doesn’t make any sense when you describe it.

Cognitive therapy has helped me immensely over the years especially Dr.  David Burns book Feeling Good which I’ve praised many times on this blog.  It is a cheap book go out and BUY it! Even if you don’t struggle from a diagnosable mental illness such as depression or anxiety his thoughts on distorted thinking will help anyone (For the list of distorted thought patterns read this post  An example is if you make a mistake your distorted thought might be ‘I’m a total screw up and never do anything right”.  Nobody is such an extreme but how many times does Satan fix that thought into our heads?  I know he does it to me far too often.

Anyway, another book that I’ve recently been introduced to and found very helpful is called Change Your Brain, Change Your Life by Dr.  Daniel G Amen.  While admittedly a little dry and scientific, I found this book to be fascinating and extremely helpful.  Dr.  Amen, a psychiatrist, has studied brain scans of mental illness patients to look for patterns depending on the illness.  What he found is certain areas of the brain are more active in patients with one condition and other areas for other conditions.  For instance, in anxiety patients the basal ganglia area of the brain is more active than in a normal functioning brain.

An example of Dr. Amen’s brain imaging

The basal ganglia ‘are a set of large structures towards the center of the brain that surround the deep limbic system.  They are involved with integrating feelings, thoughts and movement, along with helping to shift and smooth motor behavior.  The basal ganglia are involved with setting the body’s idle speed or anxiety level.  In addition they help modulate motivation and are likely involved with feelings of pleasure and ecstasy. ”

So basically this is the area of the brain that tells you when to “jump when you’re excited, tremble when you’re nervous, freeze when you are scared or tongue-tied when the boss is chewing you out.  The basal ganglia allow for a smooth integration of emotions, thoughts and physical movements and when there is too much input, they tend to lock up“.

Excuse the long quote but I found that to be the most amazing thing.   That when I feel like I’m boiling inside its because my brain is basically boiling inside! Here are physical proof of physical symptoms of what for so long was viewed as something purely mental.  What a relief! I’ve always thought the experience I had in 2007 changed something inside of me and now I think it might have really done that. I wonder what Dr.  Amen would have seen in a pre-2007 scan and post of me?

Dr. Amen chocks the book full of case studies and characteristics of increased basal ganglia activity including conflict avoidance, nervous tics and fine motor problems, but the one I found the most interesting was ‘low and high motivation’.  Tell me if this describes someone you know… ”

“They tend to work excessive hours.  In fact, weekends tend to be the hardest time for these people.  During hte week, they charge through each day, getting things done.  On the weekend, during unstructured time, they often complain of feeling restless, anxious and out of sorts.  Relaxation is foreign to them.  In fact, it is downright uncomfortable.  Workaholics may be made in the basal ganglia.  Their internal idle speed, or energy level, doesn’t allow them to rest.  Of course, there is positive correlate.  Many of the people in society who make things happen are driven by basal ganglia that keep them working for long periods of time”  (Could this possibly be said blogger who wrote a 105 page novel in 8 days…)

All of this would be interesting but not empowering if left on its own but Dr. Amen’s next chapter gives 8 prescriptions to dealing with basal ganglia activity.  I have a feeling I will be working on applying all 8 for many years to come (none of these are exactly new to me but the combination of them I found very encouraging and illuminating.)

Prescriptions for “optimizing and healing problems with the basal ganglia”:

1. Kill the Fortune Telling ANTS (automatic negative thoughts)- I was already working on this with Dr. Burns distorted thoughts and Dr. Amen gives similar advice still good reminder.  I had a great example of negative fortune telling this week.  I signed a new contract on my house and I started to feel some anxiety about the new price with upgrades and additions that had built up.  I had convinced myself it was going to be astronomical and it ended up being about 2k more than my original contract.  Bad fortune telling ANTS!

2. Use Guided Imagery- “Find a quiet spot where you can go and be alone for 20 to 30 minutes every day.  Sit in a comfortable chair and train your mind to be quiet. In your mind’s eye choose your own special haven.  Imagine your special place with all your senses.  The more vivid your imagination the more you’ll be able to let yourself go into the image.  If negative thoughts intrude, notice them but don’t dwell on them.  Refocus on your safe haven.  Enjoy your mini vacation.”  This is definitely Hawaii for me and with my insomnia specialist’s encouragement I have been doing an hour of soothing activities before I go to bed and I was skeptical but it does seem to be helping.

3. Diaphragmatic Breathing- This is the low breathing you do when you sing.  (I wonder if that’s why my voice lessons are such a soothing experience for me?)

4. Meditation and Self Hypnosis- similar to the guided imagery Dr.  Amen gives a guide for the self-hypnosis which I must admit I haven’t tried yet but want to but it is mostly about focusing on tranquility and relaxing your body.

5. Think about the 18/40/60 rule- This was brilliant.  “When you’re 18, you worry about what everybody is thinking of you;  When you’re 40, you don’t give a hoot about what anybody thinks about you; When you’re 60 you realize nobody’s been thinking about you at all”.  How much energy is wasted on worrying about what others think about you?

I think I’ve gotten better about this as I’ve gotten older (maybe because I’m nearing the 40) but it creeps back in every now and then.  For example, the other day a person implied fairly strongly she thought I was lonely and desperate to get a man and the idea made me crazy.  I am not and and the idea I could be giving that kind of impression really upset me, but that’s not who I am so why do I care?  I wish I could explain it but all I can do is keep improving.

6. Learn How to Deal with Conflict- This is probably my worst one of the whole bunch.  Both panic attacks I’ve had were because of an intense fear of conflict (and a fear of looking like an idiot despite a valid case, so looking stupid in conflict). I’ve gone 48 hours with no sleep because I was so terrified of a conflict with a person.

Dr. Amen says ‘asserting yourself in a healthy manner’ is the key.  That the keys to effective conflict management are “1. Don’t give into anger, 2. Don’t allow the opinions of others to control how you feel about yourself.  3. Say what you mean and stick up for what you believe is right. 4. Maintain self control, 5. Be kind, if possible, but above all be firm in your stance.”

Easier said than done. I think being bullied as a child has always left me with an insecurity that I won’t be listened to in conflict. I don’t know if I’ve ever walked away from a conflict feeling like I was really understood and that it was effective, so I’ve learned to just stuff it inside which is obviously unhealthy behavior.

The 2007 incident was completely caused by a fear of conflict at a meeting and I could not get the idea of confronting a person out of my head.  What if I exploded?  What if I did something stupid?  What if she manipulated me like she had a million other times? I had no confidence and the questions didn’t stop.

This is the hardest one for sure to solve. Luckily I don’t have conflict that often as I’m not in a relationship (and no that is not why I’m not in a relationship) and have rarely if ever fought with my friends.  Still, I know it is something I need to work on…

7. Basal ganglia medications- There are 5 classes of medications that can be used to treat basal ganglia activity most Dr. Amen recommends on a  ‘short term basis’ as to avoid ‘addiction’.  I have an emergency only prescription and I’ve had 2 30 pill bottles filled since 2007, most of the second is full so clearly I use them rarely but it reduces panic and anxiety to know they are there if I need them.

8. Nutrition- This I found very interesting.  Dr Amen says “If your symptoms reflect heightened basal ganglia activity and anxiety, you’ll do better with a balanced diet that does not allow you to get too hungry during the day.  Hypoglycemic episodes make anxiety much worse.  If you have low basal ganglia activity and low motivation you will likely do better with a high protein, low carb diet to give yourself more energy during the day.  It is also helpful to eliminate caffeine, as it may worsen anxiety”

This was fascinating to me because I do get very crabby and anxious when I’m hungry, tired or sore (all which can be symptoms of hypoglycemic episodes and basal ganglia activity).  Ask anyone who knows me and they will agree I am not at my best when I am hungry.


So that is the list!  I don’t know if this will be interesting to anyone who isn’t struggling with anxiety but as I’ve always had a great response to my posts on the subject I hope it helps someone.  I’m still pondering Dr. Amen’s book and I am aware there is some skepticism in the psychology world of his scans but I have found much of it helpful so that’s what matters to me.

I hope that you find it helpful and would be curious for your response.

My favorite Christmas movies haven’t changed since last year so take a look as we start the next season.

Rachel's Musings

Fa, la, la, la, la.  The special time of the year is starting next week with Thanksgiving.  I leave on Tuesday for California where I will be visiting my folks along with 4 out of my 5 siblings and their families.

It will be a challenging time for the diet (especially because I found out I gained 10 lbs in October 😦 I don’t know how that happened.).  There is so much yummy food at my parents house and being away from my gym is always tough.

At least I get two days next week off of my sugar fast- Thanksgiving and the day after.  I am so excited to eat pie!  My mother makes the best pie in all the world (I defy anyone to go up against her pies!).

The only pie I’ve ever had that I don’t care for is rhubarb but my favorites are apple, pumpkin…

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Guest Blogger: Children with Special Needs and Their Moms

When I decided to do NaNoWriMo I asked my friends if any of them would be interested in guest blogging so that I could focus on my book.  I was surprised by the response I got and below is the first guest entry.  It is by my friend Nancy who has a special needs son.  I had asked her a few weeks ago what was the best way to help a family with a special needs son in my ward.  I didn’t want to come across as patronizing or rude but instead helpful and loving.

Nancy gave me some good advice and I suggested she summarize her thoughts for this blog.  I hope it starts a discussion and helps make us all better.  Perhaps if church is not a part of your life you can apply the same suggestions to other situations where you interact with special needs families, making our world a tiny bit better and more Christlike.

Children with Special Needs and Their Moms

My name is Nancy and I am guest posting for Rachel this month. I have had a hard time blogging on my own blog but feel honored to post for her. Rachel and I served a mission in the same mission. I left as she came. My mission prepared me with a few things that would and have helped me in my life. However, it didn’t prepare me for what was fully in store.

In 2005 we found out we were expecting our first child. I was attending the University of Utah and had already applied and started school. We were very newly married and thought we had the whole world figured out. We had planned that I would finish my semester at school and be on my last final and would go and be induced the next day. Our official due date was December 25.

The last week in August we found out we were having a boy. We were very excited and scared and the reality that we were having a baby was setting in. September brought chaos.  Tyler decided to arrive 15 weeks early and was born September 21st weighing 1 lb. 11 oz.

our full story can be found on my blog.

Tyler is now 7. He has several diagnoses and is disabled. He has cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus and is legally blind. Tyler is not in a wheel chair but has very obvious disabilities. He is much delayed and doesn’t act 7, but ranges in abilities from about 2-7. Some days are challenging.

One of the hardest things to do is to go to church with Tyler. In Nursery he had a walker so he was not allowed to go in with his walker because it was a hazard to the other kids, and it really pushed us away for a while. It was easier to not go. As he was older, we have gone back and been active, and inactive, depending on the season. Seems weird to some, but we do what we have to sometimes.

Here are some things that might help others understand disabilities and church and how to approach a mom/dad with special needs and a few big things NOT to say!

So here are some don’ts:

  • Do NOT attend church if you are sick.  If you have been around people who are sick, have had a fever, or just don’t feel well. Kids with special needs tend to have a compromised immune system. Places like church are a breeding ground for sickness. A cold to you is a life threatening illness to them.
  • Don’t tell the parents that it is a “blessing to have a child like that.” Because the truth is, it’s very hard and most people go through a period where they don’t feel it is a blessing. It can also be a source of anger towards Heavenly Father.
  • Don’t be afraid to wonder what is wrong with their child and especially don’t be afraid to ask. Better ask than stare.

For the do’s: (Because there are more positives that you CAN do than not!)

  • Ask AND MEAN what can I do to help? Having a kiddo with special needs is HARD stuff and moms with those kinds of kiddos are tough as nails and don’t have time to sift through the fluff of who is just saying it and who isn’t.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask what their diagnosis is, what it means and offer something to help during church. I haven’t sat through a church service in 7 years. Ty gets overwhelmed. It would be nice to have someone offer to sit out in the foyer for part of sacrament, so I can listen every once in a while.
  • Understand that we are trying to keep our kids quiet and when you see a seven year old playing fetch with his brother in church it isn’t what we WANT them to do, but what we have him do so we can go to church.
  • When they don’t whisper, understand it is ok. Heavenly Father doesn’t’ really care if they are quiet or not. And then, reach up and ask if it is ok if you take him for a walk. Moms are so embarrassed by the loudness of their child, but a quick walk outside is refreshing. We would do it ourselves, but having someone offer gives everyone more blessings. Us for going to church and you for serving.

Those are the ones that I can think of. Heavenly Father understands why you miss church when you are sick; he understands why we stay home if we need to. He understands so much more than what we do as church members. Special needs are hard and not everyone ever accepts it as “Gods will.” It takes a toll on a marriage, family and the child who has the disability. But it also does bless us. I know for us, our testimony of unconditional love is one that only a parent of a child who has accountability missing could have. They don’t know or understand hate.

As the mom of one of these awesome kiddo’s, I appreciate all that anyone is willing to do to learn about my child and how to help him have a better experience. I am willing to talk to anyone about him. I am willing to share a bit of his amazing spirit with anyone who is willing.