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Living with Less… To Do

Posted by Elizabeth

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I just want to live in peace and quiet. -Agnetha Faltskog (ABBA)

The Happiness Challenge is pretty much done. I’m still reading a few of them and posting when I feel led to. For this one, I was to look at my commitments and decide if they really are what I should be doing or if I should “let go of trying to do it all and instead, place [my] feet on the ground and say this is where I stand.” When I read that line, I seriously thought of Martin Luther’s quote, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Thankfully, I’m not facing the repercussions he was and I hopefully never will.

It’s easy to over-commit. I used to work in a call center. It didn’t take me long to learn that when this one supervisor asked, “What have you got going on today?” it was in my best interest to let her know EVERYTHING. If you weren’t busy, she would be THRILLED to find you more work to do. If I wasn’t busy, I didn’t have a problem with this, but I was busy and when she asked that question, she honestly wanted to know.

When our daughter was old enough to start participating in extracurricular activities, we knew we didn’t want to over-commit her. We decided to do only two things at a time. We reluctantly agreed to a third on the condition that it involved only a brief overlap between one ending and the other starting. When she was younger, it was pretty easy. She really only had two things going on – dance and softball. Then, in third grade, she joined the Science Olympiad team at her school. That’s when we reluctantly agreed to a third thing that overlapped. Dance was year-round. Softball was spring and Science Olympiad was twice a week with competitions in January and February. When her dance class changed days, she had to work it out with the Science teacher. Dance and softball on the same night? She either left dance a little early or got to softball a little late. Softball game the same day as Science competition? She went to Science competition. Softball tournament game the same day as an extra dance rehearsal a month before recital? That one we struggled with, but the softball tournament won.

Then came middle school with all its various and sundry clubs. Baby girl had some decisions to make and we are proud of how she went about making them. No to drama club because it was year round and met every day after school which would mean no other activities. She surprised us and said no to choir, but then explained that she’d been in choir in elementary school and knew that if she didn’t like band, she could go back to choir at any point with no problem. If she didn’t try band in 6th grade, it would be difficult to do once she’s in 7th or 8th grade. She knows that, in 6th grade, band isn’t a huge time commitment, but as she progresses, it will be – especially if she gets into marching band. She also knows that when that time comes, she’ll have some more decisions to make. As it is, she has something going on pretty much every day of the week and understands the commitment. Her logic is that THIS is the time for her to be trying all these things. And, for the most part, she’s right. We’ll guide her as best we can and support her.

But I’m supposed to be looking at my commitments. Wife, mom, employee (to two places), student, and now teacher. I’ve had a couple people asking about piano lessons again. I was torn on it so it was the one I decided to put to the question (so to speak).

When am I going to do it?
Really, the only consistently available time would be Sunday afternoons.

Why do I want to do this?
Part of me does want to teach piano. I do enjoy teaching others, but if I’m being truly honest with myself, I’m doing this because the child’s mom has asked me and the child is actually looking forward to it. They’ve recently moved, she’s in a new school and having difficulty adjusting.

Is this my work?
I do have two paying jobs. One is clerical. One is musical (church organist/pianist). This really isn’t outside my realm of “work” but does that make “teaching piano” my work? I had talked at one time about wanting to make that my work but it seemed that each time I made progress toward that, something would come up and the few students (one student) I had would have to drop. Needless to say, I’m a little gun shy now.

What am I willing to give up?
Am I willing to give up more family time? I don’t want to, but I also don’t want to let this girl (or her mom) down. I also decided to drop one of my classes. I put it to the question too and decided I could let it go. Got some family time back! Woohoo!

Is it aligned with my mission?
On Day 7, I decided that my simplistic life vow was to help people succeed and keep it interesting. I want to help this girl succeed, but with everything currently going on, will I honestly be able to do that? I’m not sure. I’m willing to try. And I believe I can make this promise to them: I will try and if it looks like I’m not going to be able to give this my best, I will help them find the resources near them. If I can’t do it myself, I can at least point them in the right direction.

Living with Less… Information?

Posted by Elizabeth

Email-Clutter

Yes, I’m seriously behind. Life happens. Or I’m being a little liberal on the whole “30 day” bit.

Day 18′s is about Less Information. The electronic variety hasn’t been a huge issue for awhile. I can’t stand a bunch of files on my desktop (it’s clutter, it’s distracting, and it’s difficult to find what you need – FILE IT!).

For my personal email, I use a service called Unroll Me. It was tedious on initial set up, but once it was done… LOVE. I will add, though, this is one service that I actually did read all the fine print. The service is free because they sell information to third parties regarding what you “roll up,” “unsubscribe” from, and “keep in inbox”. They don’t sell names or email addresses. I can live with that. I get a daily digest (that I don’t necessarily read everyday because I know it’s stuff that, for the most part, is the equivalent of junk mail. Like junk mail at home, I browse through to see if anything catches my eye then throw it away. Confession: I’m better at this electronically than at home, but that’s another post.

My work email is a little trickier. I don’t get near the volume others I know do, but I get enough that I have a good number of filters and folders. My Inbox is basically my Work-In-Progress box. In the morning, I go through it and answer anything short then figure out what’s next to be done and go from there. If I find myself repeatedly moving / archiving certain types of email that are more FYI in nature, I set up a rule to automatically take care of it. There are some things that, though they’re WIP, they don’t need to stay in my Inbox because I’m waiting for another step in the process to happen. Travel reimbursements, for example. I can’t reimburse the traveler until AFTER they’ve returned. For that reason, I have a Travel sub-folder in my Inbox. Once I’m done with any email, I delete it. Once a month or so, I archive my sent items and deleted items (I keep up to the previous 30 days). If it’s things like newsletters, they get “permanently” deleted, otherwise, it’s archived (I can’t tell you how many times that’s saved my or someone else’s tail!)

Facebook. Ah, Facebook. Honestly, I used to really only follow people on Twitter. I had my tweets automatically sent to my FB status and only occasionally checked in with folks there. Then someone went and got me hooked on a game and BOOM – sucked in. For what it’s worth, I know it’s not their fault – personal responsibility and all that good stuff. I have since quit all but ONE game and am considering dropping it too. Maybe. For my friend feed, I only recently began turning off notifications for people who I consistently find myself rolling my eyes at (basically anyone who’s EXTREME on either side – left or right, I don’t care. Life’s too short to spew hate or get worked up over a story that, as it turns out, was from a SATIRE site! Okay. Stopping now… remembering why I decided to block that in the first place.)

Items 9 and 10 on the Day 18 post are ones I’d really like to try. If you don’t want to click, it’s “Get out there and live” and “Make time for silence.” I’ve done a couple of the meditation practices from the challenge, but not a regular basis. I believe I shall make that a goal for the coming Lenten season – to set aside time for reflection, prayer, and meditation. I know I’m “supposed to” do that, but I don’t really set aside a time for it. My prayer life is more along the lines of talking to Him throughout the day. Just like any friend, I need to set aside time for just Him and me. As for getting out there and living, I think I just need to put my phone or Kindle down and notice what’s going on around me more.

Storytime

Posted by Elizabeth

She stands at the front of her 1st grade class with four others. They take turns reading from a book about a really tall girl who was picked on for being a string bean but finally accepts herself. The first boy reads pretty well. A few stumbles, but pretty good. The next girl reads monotone. Then it’s her turn. She reads well, putting emotion into it (unlike THAT girl), doesn’t stumble and is proud of the job she’s done. She’s so excited about it that she barely hears the next boy reading.

When they’re done, they all turn around, eyes closed and their backs to the class as the teacher says each reader’s name. John. She hears the sound of clothing and desks rustling as people raise their hands. Shannon. More rustling. Elizabeth. Nothing. That can’t be right. I heard it with everyone else. Even the monotone girl who got LOTS of hands raised judging from the sound of movement. Why not me? What’s wrong with me?

Whatever the prize was, I didn’t get it. I honestly don’t recall who got it. I just knew I hadn’t. That is the first experience I can remember in which I learned that popularity trumps talent. And, not being a popular, that pretty much set the tone for the rest of my … life?

In school, I was the quiet, well-behaved smart kid who didn’t wear (couldn’t wear) things that were “in”. When our town got a Fashion Bug Plus, it was a godsend. Until then, the only clothing for plus size females were outfits that, well, might would look good on my MOM (no offense, mom). Even with that, though, I still had an inward struggle going on. Not wanting to stand up and be noticed because, frankly, I didn’t want to feel that sting of rejection. Again. I did, though. I wasn’t popular and, really, that’s okay. I had a handful of friends who knew me for me and loved me for me and, for the most part, my K-12 experience is remembered fondly.

I stayed quiet. I let them think I was “the quiet one” (my friends and family know well and good that I am NOT quiet). The only time I got to be myself was when I went to summer music camp. No one there knew the quiet me. They were meeting me for the first time and I could be myself. My loud, goofy self. And I loved it! Inevitably, I had to come back to “reality” and went back to being the quiet, well-behaved smart kid.

You know, I think I’ve heard my friends and family laughing every time I’ve typed “well-behaved”. They know better, but that’s another story. This one is about that little voice in my head, born that day back in 1st grade, and how I’ve allowed it to control me at times. Too many times. In fact, it doesn’t really like that I’m writing this. I can’t wait to hear its reaction when I actually post it (What? Are you NUTS?!) Yep. There it is. But it doesn’t seem as strong this time. I will say, when I woke up this morning with this post idea in my head, that voice was a good bit stronger. I assured it that it’ll be okay. The world won’t end if people know this about me. The world won’t end even if some of the people who read this don’t like it. I like it and am learning to like me.

What follows is a poem (of sorts) I wrote over the course of the last three days. Fair warning, it starts rather harshly. Keep reading. It gets better.

I am my own worst enemy. My most severe critic.
Bitch about the one done wrong; Screw the other 99 done right.
What the hell is WRONG with you????
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I am a worm and no man.
Meek. Weak. Pathetic. Filthy. Repulsive.
You disgust me.

There is nothing you can call me that I haven’t called myself.
There are no harsh words you can say to me that I haven’t said to myself.
There are no criticisms you can find in me that I haven’t already found in myself.
There are no niceties you can say to me that will change this.

This is what I hide behind my mask.
You don’t see it. You see only what I want you to see.
What I allow you to see.

But now the mask is off.
That voice in my head, telling me lies:
My Inner Critic trying in some warped, misguided way to protect me from rejection?
Satan trying to keep me from becoming who God knows I am?

I WILL NOT be a prisoner to misguided criticisms.
I WILL NOT live my life by something that’s not true.
I WAS created in His image.
I AM fearfully and wonderfully made.
I AM a child of God and
THIS is most certainly true!

Happiness Challenge – Day 7

Posted by Elizabeth

Okay, so it’s Day 7. Yes, I skipped a few days. I might post about those at some point, but in the meantime, Day 7 is the one you get!

The challenge today was to think about the job/life/mission I have now or that I dream about having and ask myself the following:
1: What are you about?
2: Why is it important to you?
3: What change are you trying/hoping to create in the lives of others or the world?
4: What would the world be like if it didn’t have what you are trying to create?
5: What would it be like if you helped create it in abundance?

Initial thought was, “I don’t know.” I started to say I don’t think the world would miss me or what I do, but I know a few people who would. But question 4 isn’t asking what the world would be like without me – it’s asking what the world would be like without what I try to create. What would the world be like without music, creativity, silliness, or helpfulness? Pretty damn boring and really, REALLY sad.

Then I thought about some of my roles.

Wife & mom are similar roles. I’m about supporting my husband and daughter in whatever it is they’re trying to do. It’s important to me because I want to see them succeed and be their best. I want my husband to be able to follow his career and not have to worry about things at home. I want my daughter to be able to focus on doing well in school and exploring her talents.

Program Coordinator. I’m about supporting the residents in my program so they can be the best doctors they can be. It’s important to me because I want to see them succeed and be their best. They came into this profession to help people – not do paperwork. Granted, it’s part of it, but as long as I’m here, I’d rather they focus on the people and let me worry about the paper.

Hm…I’m seeing a trend here.

Church musician. I’m about selecting music that supports the readings and sermons in the hopes that the message reaches as many people as possible. I don’t want anyone to leave our church and not know that God loves them and that Christ died for them.

…definitely a trend.

Support support support

Why is it important to me? Because I like seeing people succeed and be their best.

What change are you trying/hoping to create in the lives of others or the world? I’m not sure that I’m really trying to create change, honestly. Or even hoping to create change. It would be nice if others who have been supported would then turn around and support others, but I don’t believe that’s really my goal. To me, that would be a bonus.

What would the world be like if it didn’t have what I’m trying to create? Okay. So I’m not trying to create change, but I am trying to create support so that others can succeed and give their attention to their passions. What would the world be like without supportive people? I think it would be one gigantic feeding frenzy. If no one looked out for others, we’d all be focused on ourselves and our own agendas – screw what anyone else wants or needs.

What would it be like if I helped create support in abundance? I think it’d be pretty cool. Although, I do picture the gophers from Looney Tunes:
Be Polite – Looney Tunes

Am I perfect at it? Nope. I fail sometimes. But sometimes I get it right.

The last step of the challenge (well next to last, sharing this is actually the last step) is to think about how I choose to live out these truths. If I had to take those answers and write a simple vow for my life, what would it be?

Toku actually helped me here. I posted my initial thought on his blog (partially quoted in the intro to this post). His response was, “So the world would be a boring place without the work you are trying to do. You’re about keeping shit interesting. Sounds like a good start.” So there it is – my simplistic life vow: I’m about helping people succeed and keeping shit interesting.

Happiness Challenge – Day 3

Posted by Elizabeth

Breath

Hoping Toku doesn’t mind me quoting his blog post for Day 3′s challenge!

In his post, he gave us 6 techniques we can use to “get to know our breath.” They are: 3 Deep Breaths, Thankful Breath, Vibrant Breath, Letting Go Breath, Waking Breath, and Meditative Breath. See his post for descriptions.

I like the thankful breath the best. What a great way to change your perspective!

Instead of “Ugh. More reimbursements?” Breathe and be thankful that I have work to do.

Instead of “I really don’t want again.” Breathe and be thankful for the food I’m about to eat (and that I HAVE food to eat!)

Instead of fuming at how messy my house is, breathe and be thankful I have a roof over my head.

What I did: Inhaled deeply and as I exhaled, said a prayer of thanks for whatever popped in my head – my family, my home, my life.

How I felt: Wow. Yeah, I need to do this more often. It has a very calming effect and shifts my perspective to more a positive outlook.

The “Letting Go Breath” and “3 Deep Breaths” seem very similar to me. They both give the opportunity to pause, relax, and refocus. I can definitely see using either (or both) of these during the day.

One of the things he said is that, sometimes when we’re stressed, we have a tendency to hold our breath. I haven’t noticed whether or not I hold my breath when stressed. I do, however, know that I tense up. Even lying in bed at night, about to go to sleep, I have to think about making the muscles in my legs, arms – whole body – relax. In those moments, I typically close my eyes, breathe, then as I exhale I think/say, “Relax” and imagine feeling the tension release.

I have a degree in Music Therapy. I don’t really use it and I’m okay with that. Mostly. At any rate, for practicum and internship, I used to lead some relaxation groups. My favorite was the “tense and release” version. Focusing on each muscle group, tightening it, then releasing that tension. Extremely relaxing! Guided Imagery is also good, but be sure no one in the group has a history of visual or auditory hallucinations. Don’t ask. Just trust me.