Monday, September 30, 2013

What Does Prayer Mean to Me?

Yesterday at church, the question was asked, "What does prayer mean to you?" There were many things I could have said, but I knew that my thoughts were not gathered well enough for more than a ramble, so I sat quietly. I always have answers to questions a day or two after they are asked. So, I'll share my answer here.

Every day, I put my best foot forward. I try to make myself feel good by doing what is right. Then I try to make myself feel good by justifying the things I do that might not be right. I think we all have to pretend a bit. Not that we're all fake, but to a degree we all have to fake it. I think it was Huckleberry Finn who said, "You can't pray a lie." That's what prayer means to me. When I kneel in prayer, all pretense is set aside and I have to get real. I can do that, because I know that my Heavenly Father loves me anyway. Prayer is a time when I can say in all honesty, "This is who I am. This is what I've been doing. Please accept my devotion and help me continue doing the things I'm doing right. Please help me to change the things I am doing wrong or could be doing better. Please help me to know Thy will and plan for me, and then help me to follow it." It sounds simple, but at times it is a very painful process. I'm not a perfect pray-er. But, when I put myself in the right place, both physically and spiritually, prayer is what keeps me grounded and aware of who I am and the direction in which I'm headed.

"And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I'll cast on him my ev'ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I'm a High School Dropout

It's true. I finished tenth grade, then dropped out of high school shortly after eleventh grade began. This has been a source of shame and embarrassment for me for many years. I didn't plan to drop out of high school. In fact, up until ninth grade, I dreamed of the day when I would leave home and go to college. My intended field of study changed often. In elementary school I was going to be a writer. Then it was a businesswoman of some sort, then a marine biologist, maybe a teacher. It was hard to decide, because the possibilities were endless, and it all seemed so interesting and wonderful. I've always had a love of reading and learning. It only made sense that I would finish high school and go on to higher education. Neither of my parents had college degrees. My mom had a high school diploma, and my dad  had a ninth grade education. I never thought of school as something that was expected of me the way it was expected of some of my close friends. But, I wanted an education.

Then, I went through some mid-teenaged crazies. I ran away from home, got married, made a lot of bad choices, and quit going to school. By the time my classmates were getting ready to walk at the graduation ceremony, I was expecting my first child. I regretted dropping out from the moment I did it, but I didn't have the self-discipline to make myself keep going. I'd heard all the lectures of how dropping out of high school would mean living in a cardboard box and panhandling on the side of the road for the rest of my life. It would mean that I was stupid and worthless and would never amount to anything. One of the bad things about these scare tactics is that for some students, they only work to make them feel stupid and worthless and that they will never amount to anything. Case in point: me. With respect to my teachers, they probably didn't say those exact words, but that was the message I got. So, I got my GED when my daughter was about eight months old. For the rest of my young life I did my best to avoid any conversation about high school or education, so I wouldn't have to admit that I didn't have one.

I still squirm a little when I think about my past, but I feel moved to talk about it now. I recently read about Mark Wahlberg getting his high school diploma at age 42. I love that he is being so open about it. How many people will look at him and say, "He didn't have a high school diploma? But, he's so successful!" I hope that people can hear his story and realize that we are not enslaved by our past. We can move forward and make things right. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting an education, whether it's to have more opportunities for employment, to set an example for others, or just to feel increased self-confidence and enlightenment. Mark Wahlberg said that his kids were his greatest motivation to finish. I can relate. I don't want my kids to be first-generation graduates. When you know that your parents finished school, you feel empowered to finish, too.

Now I'm 40 years old, and I do not live in a cardboard box. In fact, I have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and I'm a registered dietitian. My husband, who also did not finish high school, went back to school and got a technical degree and has a respectable job at a local refinery. While we certainly aren't wealthy, we have never panhandled a day in our lives and have had little help from outside resources. I will always look upon others who have not finished high school with compassion and hope. I will always try to see them at their full potential and do what I can to encourage them to move forward. I will always encourage my children to finish high school and move forward to college and develop the knowledge and skills to prepare them, not just for a job, but for life.

From the article on Mark Wahlberg in Time: “To those students struggling every day and – most importantly — to those who are looking for a second chance,” the actor wrote at the end of his column, “I have a message for you: never give up. Keep believing in yourselves and don’t make small plans.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chicken Artichoke Pizza: A Family Favorite

Today, I took my oldest daughter to the airport to fly home to her husband in Rexburg, Idaho. I had planned to make one of her favorite dinners, Chicken Artichoke Pizza, while she was here visiting, but time got away from me. So, I decided to make it for lunch today before she left, even though there were only three of us home to eat it. It was better than stopping for fast food on the way, that's for sure. I make two at a time, which means we have plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. It's a favorite, not only because everyone loves it, but also because it's so easy to make. We enjoyed it, as usual, and I'm reminded that I should make it more often. I lost the recipe long ago, but this is pretty much how you do it:

Chicken Artichoke Pizza

Pizza crust
Cooked chicken
Mozzarella cheese
Canned quartered artichokes
Green olives, salad sliced

Layer the chicken, a little of the cheese, sliced tomatoes, artichokes, olives, and more cheese. Bake at 450 degrees until crust is done and cheese is melted and slightly browned. More often than not, I use store-bought pizza crust, like Boboli and canned chicken breasts. A better option would be to cook fresh chicken and make your own pizza crust, but I'm not going to lie and say that happens very often here. If you use bought pizza crust, a package of two works out perfectly with two large cans of chicken, one can of artichokes, and about four roma tomatoes. It's important to drain all ingredients well, or the pizza gets too soggy. You have to play around with it to get the right amount of each ingredient according to your tastes. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Go for the Gap

I run almost every morning. It's something that my family and neighbors have come to expect. That's how I came up with the name of this blog. If the kids get up in the morning, and I'm not home, they don't even wonder where I am. They just know, "Mom's running." I want them to see me taking care of myself physically, but that's not the only reason I run. To me, my morning run is my morning devotional. I listen to podcasts, devotionals, conference talks, lessons, audiobooks, and anything else that I feel drawn to that day. This morning I listened to the most recent BYU-I devotional, The Promise of Renewal, given by Kari Archibald. She told a great story that caused a shift in my mindset, and I've been thinking about it ever since:

"Some years ago, I took professional development leave to help do research for the Department of Conservation in New Zealand. My husband and our three teenagers set out on a grand three month adventure in the Southern Hemisphere. In New Zealand, drivers drive on the other side of the road. When we had purchased a minivan for our family, I asked a New Zealand friend to ride with me as I got used to driving on the left side of the road. We started out on some quiet residential streets, and a little busier road with some oncoming traffic. All went well. But then we came to a two-lane roundabout. Yikes. All the lanes were full, traffic was traveling fast and coming from four different directions into the roundabout in what seemed to me to be the wrong direction. I froze. Traffic began to back up behind me. I just couldn't see how I could get into the roundabout. I just saw cars and cars and cars coming at me fast. My friend encouragingly and cheerfully said, 'Go for the gap, Kari. Go for the gap.' I started looking for a gap instead of cars. I saw a gap, and away I went. That expression has become somewhat of a philosophy of life for me now. When I see perceived obstacles in front of me, I take a deep breath, look for the gap, and try to take action. A resilient person looks for opportunities, not obstacles."

When I heard Sister Archibald's thoughts, I started thinking about all the things I want to do and all the obstacles that seem to stop me from doing them. I want to study the scriptures more. I want to work out more or more effectively. I want to be a better mom and do everything right all the time. I know that's a bit much, but you get the idea. What stops me from doing these things? Obstacles. Never enough time, attention span, patience, skills, and the fact that I'm human. That's probably my biggest obstacle. I know that through the grace of my Savior, my efforts are enough as long as I'm on the path and moving forward. (This is a whole other discussion, and a very beautiful one.) But sometimes I still sit frozen at the sight of these obstacles and don't know how to move forward. Maybe I can start to see the gaps instead of the traffic: the opportunities that I am given each day to jump in and do good things. I'm sure I'll still fall short, but I want to think this way from now on.

Those are my thoughts about the daily roundabouts I face. But, I'm at a point right now in my life where I am sitting at the entrance of a bigger roundabout, waiting and hoping for a break in traffic that I might enter and move forward in my career. Problem is, traffic doesn't stop. Obstacles don't stop being there. I am guilty of being sucked into the line of thinking that says, "This is it. You can't move forward. There are too many problems to overcome, and you will never make it." What are my obstacles to employment? 1) There are few jobs available in this area, and I am not willing to relocate. 2) I have little work experience outside the home. 3) The health/fitness/nutrition industry is a competitive field, and I don't necessarily agree with some of the commonly accepted practices. 4) Family absolutely comes first, and it is difficult to figure out how to balance family and work, so I almost give up before I begin. 5) I am older than most entering the field, and no matter what anyone says about "it's never too late", that is still an obstacle to overcome that no amount of inspirational quotes can quash.

All of these obstacles are real and have to be addressed. But, maybe I can change my focus from the obstacles to the gaps, or opportunities. I know they have to be there. I have honestly tried to follow my heart in my studies. I've worked diligently to prepare myself for a career in this field while striving to put my Heavenly Father, family and church before school, in that order. It's not like I didn't have obstacles along the way while I was going to school and completing my internship, and I made it through those. I hope and pray I can figure out where my path will lead from here, and I think looking for the gaps will be a key tool in helping me do just that.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Soundtrack of my Life

I've been working on writing my life story. My goal is to finish it enough to post this week. Not finish it completely, of course. I hope that doesn't happen for a long, long time. I've been looking back through old "about me" assignments from school as I work on this project. Here is an interesting activity from a class I took a few years ago where we explored our strengths, learning style, and personality. It was one of the best classes I ever took, and I learned a lot about myself. For this assignment, I had to make a soundtrack of my life. It's kind of a preview of my life story, in a way. It isn't current. I did it in January 2010, which feels like a lifetime ago, and many more things have happened since then. I don't necessarily listen to all this music. In fact, I don't even know a few of these songs, but clips from the lyrics seem to fit.

1. Don’t Worry Be Happy, Bobby McFerrin                                                                                                                                                                   
           “Like good little children
            Don't worry, be happy.”   

   I consider myself to have had a happy and carefree childhood. Even though my father passed away when I was nine, I had strong family support, lots of love, and few worries.             

2. Me vs. the World, Halo Friendlies                        
            If you’re looking for that nice girl from the day before, don't bother she don't live here anymore, cause it's me against the world." 

 During my adolescence, I thought I was ready to venture out in the world.           

3. Choices, George Jones

            “There were voices that told me right from wrong. If I had listened, no, I wouldn't be here today."

I made choices at a very young age that would affect the rest of my life. I left home and got married and chose not to go to school or prepare myself for the future. 

4. Living on a Prayer, Bon Jovi

            “We've got to hold on ready or not, you live for the fight when that's all that you've got."                                                                                                     

We weren’t ready for marriage, and did not make the best choices during the first couple of years. I have no doubt we lived on prayer—especially my mother’s prayer.

5. In My Daughter’s Eyes, Martina McBride

            “She was sent to rescue me, I see who I wanna be, in my daughter's eyes.”

When our first daughter was born, we knew we had to turn our lives around. Each of our four daughters have changed my life and taught me many things.

6. Mr. Mom, Lonestar

            “Been crazy all day long and it's only Monday”

Life was pretty crazy when the kids were little. I stayed home while my husband went to school and later got a job at a refinery.

7. One More Day, Lonestar

            “I'd unplug the telephone and keep the T.V. off. I'd hold you every second, say a million I love you's.”

My mom and I were very close. I was sad to lose her in 1998.

8. Daddy’s Hands, Holly Dunn

            “There are things that I´ve forgotten, that I loved about the man, but I´ll always remember the love in Daddy´s hands.”

Even though I had a family of my own, I felt alone in the world without my parents.

9. Everybody Hurts, R.E.M.

            If you feel like letting go, (hold on), when you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on.”

At this point, I went through a time of depression and sadness. Several years of not taking care of myself had taken its toll. I still loved my family, but I knew that I could not neglect myself much longer.

10. Hero, Mariah Carey

            “There's a hero if you look inside your heart,
            you don't have to be afraid of what you are.”

I decided that it was time for me to look within myself for the courage to make changes. I started exercising, eating healthy, and learning how to manage stress. 

11. New Attitude, Patti LaBelle

            “I tidied up my point of view
            I got a new attitude”

I gained confidence as I became a healthier and happier person. I began to feel that I was capable of reaching my goals.

12. I Ran (So Far Away), Flock of Seagulls

            “And I ran.
            I ran so far away.
            I just ran.”

I started running for fitness and found that it was my passion. I ran 5Ks, then 10Ks, then marathons. Running is my time alone to sort through problems or questions on my mind. I hope to continue running for the rest of my life. 

13. You’ve Gotta Want It, Roberta Gold

            “You’ve gotta want it from the bottom of your heart, you’ve got to give it everything you’ve got.”

When my youngest daughter started Kindergarten, I decided it was time to do what I had always dreamed of: get a college degree. I dove right in and finished in 3 ½ years with a B.S. degree in exercise science and fitness management.  It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I found out that when I put my heart into reaching my goals, I can do anything. 

14. You’re Gonna Miss This, Trace Adkins

            “You're gonna miss this
            You're gonna want this back
            You're gonna wish these days                                                                                                                      hadn't gone by so fast”

Now I find myself in a house full of teenage girls who will soon be grown and on their own.  My oldest will begin college next year. I look back over the years and wonder where the time has gone. I miss the days when my daughters were young, but I am proud of the young women that they are turning out to be. (This needs to be updated.)

15. You’re Still the One, Shania Twain

            “They said, "I bet they'll never make it"
            But just look at us holding on
            We're still together still going strong”

My husband and I have been through a lot together. The odds were against us when we started our family, but we beat the odds. I love him more than ever and am so thankful for the patience and support he gives me every step of the way. (This one really is our song. At least, I say it is, and John tolerates it.)

16. Every Day is a Winding Road, Sheryl Crow

            “Every day is a winding road
            I get a little bit closer
            Every day is a faded sign
            I get a little bit closer to feeling fine."

As I look back over my life so far, I see that it has been a winding road. It hasn’t always been easy. There have been many twists and turns, but I keep moving forward and getting better as I go. 



Sunday, September 1, 2013


I'm glad it's Sunday. Dinner's done, dishwasher's on, and it's time to sit back and rest. Tomorrow is the first holiday of the school year, and that's even better. Life feels so nice now--no work, no school. I know I will get a job at some point, and that will be wonderful, but for now I am content to stay home and put all of my efforts into my home and family. The past few years have been so busy. Only now that it's over do I realize how many things I have neglected in my personal and family life. I'm thankful for the experiences and education I have received, but it's time to focus on other things for a time. I feel empowered and driven to get a grip on things that have fallen out of balance. The past week has been a pretty good start, and I will continue to move forward from here. I will write more about my goals soon. For now, I think it's time for a good ol' Sunday nap.