Ways I go Green (Blog Sweepstakes Idea)

This post was suggested by Small Footprints. My guess is that the name Small Footprints has something to do with the impact we leave on the world, you know like carbon footprint. Or maybe I'm completely wrong and the name is a tribute to a cute little toddler. But I'm guessing it has to do with the environment.

When I was growing up, environmentalism wasn't the huge industry it is today. I remember my parents teaching us basic lessons about respecting our surroundings and taking care of the earth. The scriptures called it our stewardship.

We were taught not to be wasteful. We were taught not to litter and that we shouldn't hunt for recreational purposes, only to provide food. When I was about ten, my dad and my uncles butchered a bull and I carried the heavy tongue that felt like wet sandpaper in the house to give to my aunt. She didn't want it to go to waste.

I can remember service projects where we took garbage bags out and picked up rubbish along the side of the road. I was stunned at the number of beer cans and I hated picking up cigarette butts that had been in who-knows-who's mouth. I remember the Indian Chief looking over the littered streets and a tear running down his cheek. I felt sad for him and because of those experiences, I don't litter.

Since then, taking care of the earth has been taken to new lengths. I know I don't do as much as many others. It hasn't become my crusade and it isn't something I think about every day. But I do try to do a few things. Some of my efforts give me the double benefit of helping the environment in a small way and saving me money. Be sure to add your own tips, if you have any.

I have water bottles that are refillable and I drink water from the tap.

I mend my kids' clothes instead of always buying new ones. I also makeover clothing items, like add a ruffle to a skirt that's too short or repurpose a dress into a jacket.

I re-use plastic grocery bags, but not just as bags. I knot them and use them as packing filler when I'm shipping things. These take the place of bubble wrap or peanuts.

I turn lights off when I leave the room.

I don't turn on the television during the day (but I do have my computer on all day).

I give hand-me-downs to relatives or the thrift store. I also shop at thrift stores.

We have a shelf of school supplies and when someone is finished with a folder/pencils/pens/paper/notebooks, etc, if there is any life left in it, we put it on the shelf. The next time school supplies are needed, we check the shelf before making a trip to the store. We also reuse backpacks until they're worn out. The kids don't get new backpacks every year.

I prepare home-cooked meals and we almost never eat fast food.

We eat leftovers.

These may seem small, but they help promote the idea that we use what we have and we try not to be wasteful. Every little bit makes a difference.

(image from http://neuronarrative.files.wordpress.com/2009/01/cody.jpg?w=193&h=240)

Another Sunday Gone

I like weekends. They make sense to me. Saturday is usually full and busy and ideally, we get a lot done. My favorite Saturday is when a big task is tackled and accomplished followed by something fun. My favorite Sundays are more relaxed. We go to church where there's usually something inspiring said or felt and then there's rest--reading, napping or both.

This weekend wasn't one of those weekends. Savannah and I drove to Idaho Falls on Friday for a book signing event on Saturday. We arrived back home Saturday evening. Sunday morning, we got up at 4 a.m. and the family drove to Twin Falls for Skyler's mission farewell. We were tired by the end of the day and the last part of the trip, we felt the effects of a small, uncomfortable car and lack of sleep. 

But let me tell you, it was worth the drive. 

Skyler is Bruce's good friend and college roommate. We've loved and enjoyed Skyler for many years now and today I felt so proud of him. In spite of challenges that would make staying home easy to justify, he's going and today he shared with us some of the reasons why as he told of his experiences with the promptings of the Holy Ghost over the past year.

And then his bishop spoke. He put aside his prepared remarks and spoke on selfishness. It was powerful and courageous. He shared a quote, "Selfishness is self-destruction in slow motion." He quoted Elder Maxwell that selfishness doesn't need moderated, it needs annihilated.

He spoke of what selfishness does to our marriages and our families, how it keeps our young men from serving missions and how it's the cause of broken families and broken hearts. 

He spoke of the world we live in, where we talk and talk and it's usually about ourselves. We give the world our status updates and it's all about me, me, me. Our lives need to be focused outside ourselves to be happy.

I'm so grateful for the reminders in those two talks. If we'll allow ourselves to be guided by the spirit, the spirit will guide us outside ourselves and we'll conquer our selfish impulses.

Thanks Skyler, for being worthy and willing to serve. You are going to be a fantastic missionary. And thanks to Skyler's bishop who reminded us of what it all boils down to--losing ourselves so we find what matters.

It's a Random Day in the Neighborhood

(Image from http://images.gizmag.com/gallery_lrg/yachtdesignsfloatingislandmegayacht.jpg)

The picture has nothing to do with anything, (I guess that makes it random) except that I think it's kind of pretty, kind of cool, and incredibly ridiculous. Whoever owns this yacht is sailing the seas asking for pirates to overtake them, steal their fortune, ravage their women, and say something scary like, "Now ye'll walk the plank."

Yesterday was my last child's last Primary Sacrament meeting program. I watched him sing the songs and say his part from memory and felt a mixture of pride and sadness. Next year he'll be sitting beside us and we'll be smiling at other people's children.

I'm having a love/hate relationship with Pinterest. It's fun and interesting to see what interests other people, but I DON'T REALLY HAVE TIME FOR IT. I need to finish my book. But does that stop me from looking at all the food and fashion and homes and food and furniture and art and food? No, it does not.

It's going to be a lovely thing having Veronica work at Great Harvest. She came home today with a loaf of pumpkin chocolate chip bread. Mmm hmm. 

If only we didn't have to buy things like tires and toilet paper, we could buy more cool things like shoes and books and treats.

Speaking of treats, my husband discovered Beyond Glaze. It's a donut place with gourmet donuts. They have something called the maple bacon donut. Sounds strange, but let me assure you. It's delicious. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best donut he's ever tasted, he scored it a 10.

Our family had a big, 10 family yard sale on Saturday to fund next year's family reunion. We had four tables piled high with clothes--many of them really nice, name-brand clothes. For logistical reasons (and not because of their worth), we priced all clothes 3 for $1.00. That's 33 cents for jeans, blouses, dresses, maternity clothes, beautiful baby clothes, hoodies, etc. One woman spent more than an hour carefully picking out the best clothes. She filled two yard-size black garbage bags and asked for all of it for $8.00. Really? We counted it and discovered that she had 84 items in there ($28.00). We offered it to her for $20. She opted to pick through it and eliminate some. She came back 45 minutes later with one overstuffed bag and asked if we'd take $8 for that bag. We recounted and it came to a little over $20. I offered it to her for $15. She huffed and puffed, reminded us that "this is a yard sale, you know," to which my sister said, "that's why we're selling the clothing for 33 cents each" and then the woman said she'd go through it again. A half an hour later, she came back through with one moderately stuffed bag (still full of the best things) and asked if we'd take $5. We counted it again and it came to over $15. I offered it to her for $10. She steamed, set it aside, told me she wasn't taking any of it and informed me that I'd wasted her morning. Then she marched to her Lexus SUV and drove away in a rage. I was thrilled to have lost her business. Really!

I hope this doesn't get me struck down, but in my effort to read the entire Standard Works while my son is on his mission for our church, I now find myself reading The Old Testament. I've already read The Book of Mormon and The New Testament and I loved them. The Old Testament is killing me. There are some wonderful stories, but to get to them I'm having to slog through some things that I'm not really enjoying. So much murder, genocide, incest and adultery and more that I don't really want to talk about. I wish I'd read this first and that it was behind me.

And finally--I love Fall. The sky seems bigger and bluer. The clouds seem whiter and fluffier. The breeze makes my skin feel cold and alive. The trees haven't put on their colorful clothes yet, but I feel it. It's there and it's wonderful. I'm ready for jeans and cardigans and boots. I'm ready for reds and yellows and oranges. I'm ready for General Conference weekend and pajamas and cinnamon rolls and hot cocoa. 

Its Finished - My 10-month Reading of All Creatures Great and Small

The assignment was to read the book All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot. I love reading and I'm a fast reader, so the assignment should have been easy. But part of the assignment was to read two pages a day--S-L-O-W-L-Y, paying attention to Herriot's use of language and words and writing style.

Sounds easy?

It wasn't.

Part of the reason it was so difficult is because the very language and style I was supposed to study and absorb made the book hard for me to put down. He's a brilliant writer and a master storyteller. Putting the book down in the middle of a story was hard. But the exercise taught me something. I've really been missing out.

When I'm involved in the STORY, I speed through the WRITING, hurrying to find out what happens. But I think I've often missed out on the carefully chosen words and beautiful imagery and clever language. It made me wonder how much I've missed in other books I've read.

I'm sure a lot of what I read is fine to speed through. Many books are all about the story or the information. But so much literature is beautiful. Words put together just right are a revelation. They clarify, make you feel, and sometimes take your breath away.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. And you don't have to limit yourself to two pages a day. But I would encourage you to savor it, notice his choice of words. Let him carry you to the farms of England.

I loved this book and have already ordered another book by James Herriot.

Before and After September 11

We all have days in our lives that are before and after days. They're the days that we measure our lives by. They help us keep our lives chronologically ordered. They ground our memories, both good and bad.

September 11, 2001 is one of those days.

I rarely watch television during the day and never in the morning. I carefully guard that time with my kids. We get up early so that we aren't rushed. Together we eat breakfast, pack lunches, have a morning devotional and prayer. But on September 11, 2001, my mom called. "A plane hit the World Trade Center. You should turn on the news."

So I did. With my two oldest children--Bruce, age 9 and Veronica, age 7--I watched the first tower burning and then we watched a plane hit the second tower. We were horrified. We muted the sound and had a prayer and then, with a fearful heart, I sent them to school. For the rest of the day, I numbly watched. I saw the towers fall, the pentagon get hit and a plane go down in a field in Pennsylvania. At first it seemed like a horrible freak accident, but soon we knew it was a cunning, well-planned terrorist attack with so many casualties.

The casualties weren't limited to the eastern United States. Families from all over the world suffered. American freedoms were damaged. Our security was altered forever. Our innocence and peace of mind were stripped away from us, leaving us wounded and scared and raw and hurting.

Our economy was dealt a blow from which it hasn't recovered. The company my husband worked for didn't survive and his comfortable, pleasant job was lost. The industry he'd worked for for more than a decade was dealt a crippling blow.

As a country we pulled together and remembered God and each other. We put aside our differences in an effort to show those evil people they wouldn't beat us. We prayed together, we stood together.

For about ten minutes. And then, embarrassed by our vulnerability, our unabashed patriotism, and our brief remembrance of God, some turned their away and we became a country more divided than ever.

Many of the terrorists died that day, too, and yet at times it feels like they're still dealing us blows. They took so much away from us. I fear that some of what they took will never be restored.

My prayer is that American values and traditions will prove to be stronger than evil, that we will remember God and that America will come out of the blinding, choking cloud of 9-11, stronger than before.

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Real Men Eat Treats

Today my daughter, Savannah, and I ran a few errands and then stopped in at The Chocolate, a cute dessert cafe in a little repurposed old house on State Street in Orem. I know, she should have been in school, but she had an upset stomach this morning and tearfully told me she didn't want to go. Because she IS me at that age, I understood completely and told her she could have the day off. (Don't worry. She's limited to three of these personal days per year, so she won't ever get as behind as I used to.)

The Chocolate isn't set up like most cafes. Because its an older house, each room is set up with a few tables, couches, or chairs. It's very homey and inviting.

We admired the beautiful treats and decided what we wanted--a cream cheese brownie for me and a strawberry shortcake creampuff for Savannah, because she inexplicably doesn't really like chocolate. How can she be so like me when it comes to school and so unlike me when it comes to delightful goodies? It's a mystery.

Through the doorway to the adjoining room, I saw six men sitting on two couches and two chairs around a coffee table. They were laughing and talking and finishing up plates of dessert. About the time we finished making our purchase and headed for the door, so did they.

The cashier said, "Bye guys, see you next week," to which they all offered their varied goodbyes.

Outside, they walked to three vehicles. Two men got in a sedan, two men got in a large pick-up truck and two men got into a jeep, all tossing out manly farewells to each other.

These were not girly men. They were big, strapping, athletic, manly men, probably in their thirties. They looked like the kind of men who would meet at the steakhouse for a slab of beef, not at a cute little dessert cafe for treats.

It was surprising and made me smile. I wanted to commend them on their weekly arrangment.

What I really wanted to do was ask them if I can join them next week.

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Refreshing your Routines for Fall -- Guest post by Connie Sokol

Last spring I met Connie in a writer's group. She's funny, smart, and full of great ideas. I liked her immediately. I got to spend more time with her at LDStorymakers, where we discovered we had similar attention spans and neither of us felt like listening to an infomercial when we were hungry. Thanks for stopping by, Connie.

It’s that magical time when children go back to school and you try to find the kitchen counter.  Now is a fabulous time to reset routines, establish cleaning patterns, and find free time for yourself so that everyone in the family will feel “fall refreshed.”

Reset basic routines. Sit in a comfy chair—preferably with a tall lemonade—and simply consider the main routines in your family’s life. What are the key times you are all at home and what are you doing? Where are the main messes and how can you contain them? For example, when children come home from school they have two things on the brain: snack and play. You have two things on the brain: what’s in their backpack and hearing about their day. Consider how to make those simple things a routine. For example, create a Kids Counter—one small counter space, baker’s rack, or side table that is strictly for children’s papers. Use office stacking trays (in great perky colors) and label one per child. When they come home, have the snack on the counter and chat; meanwhile you grab the backpack and sort what’s to do (goes in the backpack) and what’s completed (put in the labeled tray).  Easy peezy, lemon squeezy. After they’ve chilled (and preferably you too), homework time can begin with a “Bring your backpack to the kitchen table.” While you’re cooking dinner, they’re making homework magic.

Cleaning zones that work. If you have children, you have free labor—I mean, a great opportunity to teach important life skills. As a mother, you’re privileged to let children clean, cook, and do self-care to prepare for future adulthood (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).  For cleaning zones that actually work, again, sit down in that comfy chair and think (see a common thread?) Consider the areas that are most vital: entry way, kitchen, living room, family room, etc. They now become “Zones”.  Assign each child a zone (if there aren’t enough children, recruit neighbor kids in exchange for ice cream) and rotate the zones every two weeks. Children’s bathrooms and bedrooms are not zones but their own responsibility to deep clean once a week (deep clean means more than a tidy, i.e. bread crusts and overdue library books out from under the bed). If you’re children aren’t as familiar with cleaning, create a Job Card—don’t wait for die cuts and matching paper. Simply type four to five steps to complete a zone, put it in a plastic sleeve, and tape it to the back of a nearby door.  It’s ideal to model first what you need done, and definitely reward great work with allowance or extra computer time. While this may sound daunting, it is—but only at first. Monday is our day for Cleaning Zones (plus rooms and bathrooms). Years ago it took three hours with six young children; now it takes 45 minutes, but still with occasional whining. To make it that much sweeter—for you—choose a Zone Supervisor, a child to check that the zone is complete. A thorough supervisor gets extra computer time (and great experience with negotiation skills and siblings).

Free time for you. With the two above routines of Kids’ Counter and Cleaning Zones, you should already be seeing your fabulous free time expand. But if you need a little more, consider a few ideas. Choose a no-chore day (try Friday) or a deadline for mama’s chores (i.e., 9 to 5). Choose one regular day for basic errands such as groceries and household items, and let the family know—“Last call for poster paper—after that, those shoes were made for walkin’.”  And choose your time of day to be off-duty (because a mother’s work is never done—it pulsates in the corner like a 50’s horror movie). My children know I love and adore them, until 9 p.m. Then out comes the Wench Mom, a strange and scary being who is better left alone.

Try one or all of these thoughts and I can honestly, truly, with a money-back guarantee, promise you a more refreshing, peaceful, and fun fall ahead.
Best,
Connie Sokol

Connie Sokol is a mother of six, national and local presenter, and author of four books including “Faithful, Fit & Fabulous” now available in bookstores. She is a former radio and TV host for KSL, and will be returning as a contributor to KSL’s “Studio 5” morning show beginning September 22nd as a Life Management Coach. For more blog posts and info visit www.8basics.com.

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Why Did God Create Flies?

There's a fly in my house that's driving me crazy. For two days now a pesky, obnoxious, teasing fly has been tormenting me. 

Since my head wound on Wednesday, I've tried to take it easy. A raging headache has driven me to the couch to rest on several occasions and without fail, this tiny, filthy creature has vexed me. He may be the smartest fly I've ever seen. He's able to fly silently at times, but when I'm trying to rest, he buzzes. When I try to swat at him, he flits away. He knows how tall I am, and what my reach is, even with a flyswatter in hand. He flies in that safe area and then lands safely on my fifteen foot ceiling. 

On Thursday, he was an annoyance.

Today I hate him. He doesn't understand death is in his future no matter how crafty or quick he is.

When I was six years old, my parents bought an old, abandoned schoolhouse. I'd heard them talking and I knew we were going to live in it. I was terrified the first time we walked into it. The windows were broken out and dead wasps and flies covered the floors. I'd never seen anything like it. Dad and Mom reassured us that it would be a fun place to live. We didn't have to worry.

They worked hard and soon the windows were replaced and all the dead insects were swept up. The hardwood floors were clean and my parents were right. It was a fun place to live.

But the flies! The flies were terrible. It seemed there were always flies. I'm sure part of it was because the school had been abandoned and open to the elements for ten years. Part of it was probably because we were a small farming community. Whatever the reasons, I hated those flies. We swatted and swept them up time and time again.

Then Mom learned about Q-Mist--fly killer in a can. It was safe for use around food, pets, farms and people. It wasn't cheap and you could only get it at the farmer's co-op, but that didn't matter. It was an extravagance that Mom needed and deserved. A spray of that magic can and we were happily fly-free for awhile.

So if my buzzing companion of the past couple of days doesn't find his way out or carelessly land within my reach soon, I'll be making a trip to the co-op. 

The fly's days are numbered.


The Rock was not My Friend and Other Lessons Learned on the Trail



Last night, I went on a mother/daughter hike with the Young Women in our ward. At seven different points along the 3.6 mile round trip hike, we stopped to hear a brief message about the different Young Women values. The last stop before heading back down was a beautiful waterfall, where there were pictures taken, the girls pledged to be virtuous daughters of God and we had a snack (including a small Hershey's with almonds that tasted heavenly). The hike wasn't a walk in the park. It was tough, just like remaining virtuous in a world full of temptations. 

In addition to faith, divine nature, individual worth, knowledge, choice and accountability, good works, integrity and virtue, I learned a few other things.

I learned that my training is paying off and I was no more winded than most people on the hike. I felt pretty healthy and strong.

I learned that even though a rock in the stream bed you're crossing looks stable, it might not be.

I learned that when you're falling and you see the jagged rock your face is going to hit, it's terribly frustrating that you can't do anything to avoid it.

I learned that trying to break your fall with your hands probably prevents a more dangerous impact to your head, but there's a trade-off--your hands get bruised and chewed up pretty good.

I learned that large amounts of blood scare YW leaders and make your daughters cry.

I learned that a shirt pulled up to cover the wound serves two purposes--it spares your daughters from seeing the actual wound and it serves as a compress to help slow the flow of blood.

I learned that a bright red shirt doesn't camouflage blood.

I learned that 1 1/2 miles is a long way to go when your head is in a bandana tourniquet. 

I learned that a surgical nurse (Chanel) and a Young Women's president (Kristin) make a pretty good medical team and that Chanel's living room is a much cozier place to get stitches than Instacare or an emergency room.

I learned that I have lots of wrinkles around my eyes.

I learned that a head wound can bring on a pretty incredible headache.

I learned that the love and concern shown by two fantastic daughters is enough to make a mom's heart melt.

And I learned I'm pretty tough.