Author Archives: maisymak

Weekly Encouragement: There Will Be an Answer, Let it Be

“Paul McCartney’s mother was a profound and calming influence in his life.

She passed away when he was only 14 years old.

Years later, in one of his darkest hours, she appeared to him in a dream. Offering wisdom only a mother could give, she said, ‘Paul…let it be.'”

And Paul wrote that famous song.

In the past few weeks I’ve repeated these words to myself, countless times. When we just don’t have the answers, it’s good to remember that someday…There Will Be an Answer, Let it Be.

And I love this Beatles cover by Gentri.

Happy Monday!

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Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake (a new favorite!)

Did you know? The most popular summer recipe is CAKE. I find this surprising…over ice-cream? Unless we’re talking this cake recipe. Then I totally get it.

I rarely create an original recipe, I taste-test. King Arthur Flour made this one, the Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake. As a devoted cake mix girl, it takes a lot for me to consider making a cake from scratch – especially one with three layers of different chocolate.

This one? Oh my heavens. It made me look real good.

Summer epiphany: when you’re actually home and demanding a SLOW summer, you have time to make a cake! And while time is still a precious commodity, some cakes demand to be made. THIS ONE.

Upon taking a bite, my husband, the critic of all food critics, pretty much melted into a puddle onto the floor. I’ll be making it again.

And with strawberries just coming into season, they are the perfect addition to this lusciousness.

King Arthur didn’t have strawberries in the original recipe – that’s my contribution. We like it! Also, I eliminated the optional espresso powder b/c I didn’t have it – still good! Would you like a bite? I suggest making the three different chocolates (not hard) the day before and assembling the day of – then you can relax and enjoy the cake of your labor…

Hurry up now! Before you lose your nerve…make this cake!

Chocolate Fudge “Blackout” Cake

FILLING

  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

CAKE

ICING

  • 1 1/2 cups chopped semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream

Instructions

  1. To make the filling: Place the chocolate chips, salt, and sugar in a blender or food processor and pulse until finely ground.
  2. Add the egg and pulse just until the mixture is smooth.
  3. Heat the cream to just below a boil, with small bubbles forming around the edge of the saucepan (or microwave-safe bowl).
  4. Turn on the blender or processor, and slowly add the cream. Scrape down the sides of the container if necessary. Add the vanilla and pulse to blend.
  5. Pour the pudding into a shallow bowl, and refrigerate it until chilled and thickened, 2 hours to overnight. I found that overnight works best. Still not setting? Stir in gelatin.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans. Line them with 8″ parchment circles, if desired, and grease the parchment; this step will ensure your cake’s crumble-free turnout from the pan.
  7. To make the cake: Whisk together the dry ingredients.
  8. Add the eggs, oil, and vanilla; beat on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl.
  9. Stir in the water; the batter will be thin.
  10. Pour the batter into the two prepared pans.
  11. Bake the cakes for 35 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  12. Remove the cakes from the oven. Cool them for 15 minutes, then turn them out of the pans to cool completely on a rack.
  13. To make the icing: Combine the cream and chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or in a saucepan. Heat until the cream is steaming and showing small bubbles around the edge.
  14. Remove the chocolate/cream from the microwave or burner, and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture becomes completely smooth, with no lighter areas remaining visible.
  15. Refrigerate the icing for 30 minutes (I went longer). Beat the chilled icing briefly, until it thickens a bit and becomes spreadable.
  16. To assemble the cake: Cut the domed tops off both cake layers; these will become your crumb coating.
  17. Place one layer on a serving plate. For best presentation, lay strips of parchment around the edge of the plate before laying the cake on top; these will catch the inevitable icing drips, and can be removed once you’re done icing the cake.
  18. Top the cake with the filling, spreading it evenly to the edges.
  19. Center the second layer of cake atop the filling.
  20. Spread the icing over the top and onto the sides of the cake.
  21. Crumble the reserved cake, and gently press it onto the top and sides of the assembled cake.
  22. Serve immediately, or within a couple of hours. For longer storage, refrigerate. This cake is best served the same day it’s made, or within 24 hours. Freeze, well-wrapped, for longer storage. You may also choose to freeze individual slices — for those times when you HAVE to have a piece of chocolate cake!

Enjoy!

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A Really S-L-O-W Summer

I’m feeling something I haven’t felt in years: the huge relief of a slow, summer day. Honestly, it makes me a bit weepy.

At the moment, my two older kids are traveling (England) and working (grounds maintenance) and the younger two are in school until June 23rd (have to admit…it’s lovely quiet!) Graduation has occurred, the class I teach is finished, and I’m feeling a lightness while taking deep breaths. And there’s that weepy thing.

This summer is needfully slow.

Two years ago we were gearing up for Europe, It was a most wonderful experience but not exactly relaxing.

Last year at this time I was sitting at my desk when my husband came home and said, “I got a phone call – want to come to the hospital with me?” We had no idea how serious it was. In fact I was a bit annoyed to be interrupted from working, to waste a trip to the hospital because surely Heather was fine and would not like all this fuss.

But Heather died. And two weeks later, Cassie left us.

It was not the summer we were expecting. I didn’t really get to my “Design Your Summer:”

Last year’s plan that went awry

You know, so much happens in a year. Life changes very very quickly. “The best laid plans of mice and men…”

Two homes were combined. We sold a gazillion things. We acquired stuff that holds a lot of years and memories. Dearest Arthur (my most wonderful father-in-law) came to live with us. My study became his room. Nelson’s room became my study. The awful basement became – a livable gathering place – and yes, Nelson has a room!

The basement last August. Nelson and Cope slept in random places for three months.

It’s been a hard year emotionally, but we did more than survive. We are good. We are doing really well (and hallelujah it’s behind us.)

And now it’s truly summer.

Because I am taking our Cope out to college in late August we are not taking our usual western trek across the United States. My children, Brynne and Paige especially, are salty about this, quite aghast, fearing I’ll make them do nothing but clean(!)

Besides one week of camp for Brynne and Nelson, we don’t have any other camps or lessons on the schedule. We have two shorter family trips planned: an ocean excursion and Acadia/Prince Edward Island.

I have goals (well, of course I do) that include:

Home and Yard:

Purge the house. The excitement I feel rivals my love of hair products. Yes, it’s that deep. I have a notebook with many notes. I’ve heard of the “40 bags in 40 days challenge” and might try that. I also have projects that need much attention like a huge garage clean-out. This year I’ve decided to pay the kids to help with huge jobs like this. Win-Win.

Yard: Tree trimming and weeding. The garden was a sad, neglected mess last summer. This summer the tomatoes are in and the peas, carrots, and lettuce is growing. Bliss. 

Reading and Writing:

Reading: I have a stack of books on the bedside table. Yea! At the moment: THE INVENTION OF WINGS by Sue Monk Kidd (love it) and next up: HOURGLASS by Dani Shapiro (can’t wait!) For the girls: an hour of reading everyday – they like this plan! Maybe some math facts thrown in.

Writing: I’m working on a new novel and vow to have my really crappy first draft done by June 23rd, the last day of school! I work on it for a minimum of two hours of day, setting my buzzer and doing it as early in the day as possible. First drafts are the worst (for me, anyway). Plow through the self-doubt. Get the words on the page!

Exercise:

I feel so much better when I take care of myself (duh). Luckily, I have running and soccer buddies who make me move. Today, Maryn got me out for 5 a.m. intervals (horror!) while the sun was just coming up and guess what? Fabulous. Done by 6. Nap at 1 🙂 Lovely! Also, my upper body is getting soft and flabby. I’ve got a little routine I need to get back at.

Running! Need shoe ideas? I’ve got them 🙂

Soccer with my peeps!

Also planned: a short, daily soccer training plan for Brynne and Paige and daily excursions to our local lake. 

Trip Tuesday:

Really it’s just me, Brynne, and Paige, which is more manageable to think about. Kindof stinks to grow up and have to work. So before that happens they are going to play mini-golf with me. Or hike mountains, or pick strawberries and blueberries, or see things in New Hampshire we’ve never seen.

I plan on making a daily list for the girls that I can laminate next to their beds that includes: scriptures, prayer, make bed, ukulele or piano, tidy room, exercise, reading, summer chore. When it’s done, it’s free time! This will likely include dressing up in heels and a costume to frolick the yard with Tenny (dog), a little show to watch, and LOTS of cousin time (because the cousins are MOVING HERE!) This shall be followed by mandatory eating of lots of watermelon.

Summer Meal Planning:

One cannot eat cereal for every meal. Or maybe we can…the meal plan is something I’ve got to get a handle on. Ideas?

Of course, as slow as I want it, the days are still busy with chores and cooking and driving kids here and there, like driver’s ed three days a week for Nelson and driving him to work every morning at 6:50. There will be orthodontist and dental appointments, and a family reunion, BUT this summer feels different than last (because IT IS different!) and it’s a glorious thing.

Yes, much changes in a year. It changes over the years, too. It used to be I was actively seeking for THINGS TO DO! What could keep my kids busy? Because being in the house all day with four kids was long and torturous – they got bored, hot, cranky, and were prone to annoy me and each other. I did not feel the same glee as I do today.

But it’s a new stage of life and today it’s SLOW and wonderful.

What about you? Summer plans?

Yahoo! Happy summer to you!

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Top Ten: What I’m Loving Right Now

1. This Revlon blow dryer. It’s not hyperbole to say it’s changed by frustratingly-unruly hair life. I LOVE It. So fast and no frizz!

2. This root spray. The best part is watching Gregor’s face as I spray-paint my head. What are you doing? Found at Target (of course it was).

3. Garnier BB Cream. I’ve blogged about this before, but our relationship is going strong. With a hint of color and coverage, I ADORE this product. (Target)

4. Good quality Gardening Gloves and Mud Boots. It’s a real gardening game changer to have gloves and boots that fit and don’t give you blisters. Pay a little more and you’ll enjoy your chores more. Found in local stores & online!

5. Blister Gel Guard Band-Aids. Wow. For two kids who had bad blisters this week, these were fantastic! A boy could work all week and a girl could hike a mountain with me. Awesome product. Found everywhere! 

6. The Bullet Journal. For years I’ve been a wee bit obsessed with finding the perfect calendar system. Clearly I have problems. I’ve slowly started the bullet system, ignoring the multitude of bullet journal talent out there. Nina gives some good tutorials and is metaphorically holding my hand through this trying time.

My calendar is not a “true” bullet journal as I’m using a regular notebook – but that’s the beauty of the system! You can use whatever you want with whatever notebook and pens you like. (I also have a pen problem.)

Boho Berry and her bullet journal obsession inspires and intimidates (see below). But the bullet journal is YOUR journal. Do it your way.

7. Watercolor paper. Brynne and I have had so much fun on Sunday mornings. We pull pictures off the internet and magazines to paint. Putting a drop of water on paper, followed by a drop of paint and watching it spread…so beautiful! I’m into birds these days. Clearly, you don’t have to be an expert, just paint!

It’s been especially fun to paint and send cards

8. Shutterfly puzzles and scrapbook. I’m just tickled pink at the possibilities! This one was free, minus shipping with one of their many weekend deals.

9. Seed and Sky. I’m obsessed. These necklaces are etsy hand-painted by a gal who grew up in my little New Hampshire town. They make a great graduation, birthday, or anytime gift. My aunt has the nest (my fave!), Brynne has the fox, Cope has the compass locket. I’m drooling over the hummingbird, the bunny, the succulents! I want all. Follow on Instagram for deals!

10. Skillshare. Want to learn a skill? Like painting or watercolor or or calligraphy or design or lettering or like, anything? Try it free for two months! My current favorite is teacher Louise De Masi who is teaching me and Brynne how to paint this fox:

Well, that was fun to share. What about you? Any favorite anythings?

 

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Graduation

Well, we did it. 

I can say “we” because y’all know this day is a family affair.

This milestone – wow.

It is the toughest paradox of love: letting go and holding on.

I’m so proud of this girl. She has worked really really hard. She has hiked and sang and ran and studied. She has cried and laughed and prayed and LEARNED SO MUCH. She stumbled and fell and got up many many times. She sailed the ocean blue, was elected school leader, played Belle and freaked out over finance class (the drama runs deep :). I’m so grateful for it all.

I give thanks for a tremendous education, an amazing advisor who not only advised, but fed and loved her. I give thanks to the many fabulous teachers that not only noticed, but SAW her. Cope was born a “faculty brat,” raised on campus with 12 dorm boys until we moved off campus, and has always aspired to walk across this specific stage. The “bittersweet” cliche? Totally true.

This girl made me a mother and I’m in awe of her. There’s the other paradox: the child becomes the teacher.

Brene Brown says the etymology of the word “paradox” captures the heart of what it means to love. Greek origins joins the two words para (contrary to ) and dokein (opinion.) The Latin paradoxum means “seemingly absurd but true.”

Parenting captures that exactly – seemingly absurd but true!

It is seemingly absurd that we are here…but it’s also true. It’s seemingly absurd that my “baby girl” Cope (who was just wearing a onesie!) will not live under our shared roof this fall.

It’s seemingly absurd that I will survive this. But alas, that is true, too.

This day of graduation is a paradox of joy and grief. There is absolutely no control over either one. And I know very well that in life there is no joy without sadness. There is no sadness without experiencing that great joy.

Now excuse me while I go find my tissues. This is a happy day 🙂

 

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These are my poems; these are my short stories

“Many people have said to me ‘What a pity you had such a big family to raise. Think of the novels and the short stories and the poems you never had time to write…’ And I looked at my children and I said, ‘These are my poems. These are my short stories.'”
Olga Masters

Happy Mother’s Day 

To all the women doing the raising: you’re doing good work!

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What’s This Thing Called Work-Life Balance?

My one-word theme for the year, “Simplify” is staring at me from the wall. Personal progress is suspect.

I tell you, simplifying is hard. It means saying No to SO MANY THINGS.

I experienced further angst when reading this stove analogy by humorist David Sedaris on management: “One burner represents your family, one is your friends, the third is your health, and the fourth is your work.” The gist…was that in order to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And in order to be really successful you have to cut off two.

Oh dear. This is likely the reason I’ve never qualified for Boston. It’s the reason my great American novel is…well, where exactly is it? On the other hand, I’ve fought very hard for to keep the family fire burning. My friends probably feel very cold #sorry.

Is there any way to keep all four burners successfully lit? By trying to “do it all,” can we ever master anything? Logistically, getting those “10,000 hours” takes much longer. We become “jack of all trades, master of none.” For the select few, like elite athletes, master painters, novelists, and craftsman, cutting off select burners is essential.

But for the rest of us mere mortals? It seems those burners are constantly competing.

Over time I’ve become very aware of this simple fact: saying Yes to one thing means saying No to another.

It’s why my garden looked like this last summer:

My good and faithful garden still delivered tomatoes without much attention

I’ve always been a HUGE proponent of balance until one day, a few years ago, I thought, No, there should not be balance any longer – I’m throwing that out the window! I should choose the most important things in my life and pursue them with a single-mindedness. Everything else should fall to the wayside.

I struggle daily to find the focus. Every night I write out the next-day schedule. I have my “Top Three” priorities. I can tell you that “Write One Hour” is always on the list. Though I’ll be honest, it’s a pitiful five minutes.

I’ve noticed this stove burner thing play out in several different scenarios. If I immerse myself in total family activities/running errands/grocery shopping, “my work” (writing) suffers. If I stay at the computer all day long writing or getting ready to teach a class, I feel horrible for neglecting my children. Most times, “the work” takes the backseat. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the best choice.

Tough choices abound daily. For instance, I want a really clean and organized and perfectly decorated house, but I’ve consciously made the decision to not use my best mental hours to clean. Sometimes this is embarrassing (for every repair and mailman…)

I refuse to get any more chickens, rarely volunteer at school, and won’t make an extra trip to school when kids forget stuff (full disclosure: I still cave.) But darn it, it’s also the reason I can’t seem to get the pictures hung on the wall.

A Personal Manifesto to Keep the Burners Burning Bright:

1. Protect the things that are most important. That means we need TO KNOW what those things are. Make an actual list.

2. Pursue the MOST IMPORTANT things FIRST.

3. Practice the art of saying No. This is particularly hard for women. We like to save the day. But why? Are we trying to be helpful or are we trying to make ourselves feel good? “I’m sorry, I just can’t make that happen right now,” is a muscle that needs to be exercised! When we say NO to something, we are saying YES to something else – like time or family or a hobby – or A NAP!

Need help? How to Say NO Here. (ha!)

4. Remember: we choose our own level of busy. I remind myself of this when I see my name next to “feed dinner to 50 cast members.” I CHOSE to put my name there. (why, Amy, why???)

5. Make a decision and than own your choice. There needs be no battle between stay-at-home and working parents. We are all working parents. We are all doing our best to support and raise our families. Individual families require individual decisions. When it comes to one another, I think our only job on this earth is to love one another no matter what. Be confident in your choice. Haters be darned.

6.  Stop being a people pleaser. Ugh, I’m such an obliger. Stop it. The End.

7. Learn to delegate. Did you know? In families, 40% of women are the main breadwinners, yet 70% of women still take on the majority of the household tasks. It seems to me that we women want and need help and we resent the fact that our families don’t help more, but if they try to help, they don’t do it the way we would do it. We feel badly when there’s resistance. “Oh no no no, let me get that for you. You sit there while I load the dishwasher, sweep the floor, and kill myself from exhaustion…” puh-lease. 

We handicap our children when we don’t let them help. They become literally help-less. My first college roommate left college after a week because independence was so scary. She was scared to walk to class. “Laundry is too overwhelming.” As I sadly said good-bye I remembered scrubbing our kitchen floor as a child and I was finally grateful that I was taught to clean, cook, and wash my own clothes. I wasn’t good at it for a long, long time, but it came. Let the children fail, work and struggle. It’s a gift.

8. Seek guidance through prayer. I believe there is a God who loves us, gives us gifts, and wants us to succeed. Seek Him first and we will know what burners to light.

One last story: the other day I was at a track meet for my daughter. I took a video of another child winning a race and sent it to her mother. Her mother was thankful but I sensed she felt guilty that she wasn’t there, that she had to apologize and explain. Was I making her feel guilty by sending a video? Was I making her feel that I was the better mother because I was the one there? I wanted her to know that I’m not always the one “THERE” either. Next week, I can’t be at the track meet. Another mother or father will take a video of my child running and will send it to me. I may feel guilt but I will fight it. That No means a Yes to someone or something else. And sometimes that’s just the way it has to be.

Time is precious. May we use it wisely.

Thoughts on a Tuesday…

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Need to See the Kids? Make an Appointment!

I used to actually think that when my kids were older, life wouldn’t be so crazy – that life would be easier and might actually slow down…oh, silly rabbit.

Life is going by at warp speed. If our family isn’t incredibly intentional about scheduling time together, we are the ships passing in the night. How easy it is to lose sight of one another. How easy it is to drift.

Paige and I are still joined at the hip. Brynne is in middle school but is slowly weaning herself from my clutches (sob.)

But high school? It’s a whole new world – that often doesn’t include you. With all the wonderful activities, sports, clubs, student government, classes, musicals, and friend time, it’s more like a weekly wave. Weekends, especially Sundays, are sacred, but during the week, more often than not, I’m getting the younger girls to bed when the teens come home. We say hello, how was your day, sorry about the drama, do your homework, see you tomorrow.

In some ways it feels like high school is the beginning of the end – you send them off and just hope and pray you’ve taught them how to behave, keep their pants on, and be kind to others.

This is how I usually see Cope – bye, Mom!

Cope with the backpack I used in high school and college!

But you see, stuff has to get done. Like work applications, scholarships, scouting merit badges, emails sent, college visits, and on and on. And you, as the parent, can’t or shouldn’t do the job. What to do? Remind? Nag? Talk about it incessantly until you see action? It’s exhausting for all parties, and tremendously annoying.

Let’s just say that none of these tactics were helping our relationship.

Note: the time to remind the kids about something isn’t while they’re exiting the vehicle (um, me.)

“Don’t forget to…”

“Yep, Mom, I got it.”

But, hmm. Do they?

But ho – here’s a strategy that’s working REALLY WELL! (an idea from the fabulous Happier podcast featuring Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft.)

A weekly one-hour appointment with the teens. It’s obvious, right? Well, it’s also genius.

At first, the idea was met with skepticism. Cope said, “Uh, honestly mom? I don’t think I have an hour a week for you.” Good thing she laughed after she said it. But she was right – we were having a hard time finding an hour to even have a conversation.

But she penciled me in, and that week we refined some essays, responded to college emails, and got those scholarships sent off. Done. So much relief! And you know what? It was FUN. I also got juicy tidbits of high school life (buzzword: “bralette.”) WIN.

Experimenting with the boy was harder because what we really needed to work on were merit badges and HE DOES NOT WANT TO DO THEM. Me neither.

“Are you ready for our scouting date?” I said in my overly cheerful annoying voice. However, I know the way to the boy’s heart: MEAT.

Thanks for the meat, mom!

It’s the habit of pairing. If boy associates meat and yummy food and positive attention from mom, he’s more likely to cooperate. Total success. We only went half an hour and we got the job done.

On my calendar I now have a weekly note to self: schedule Cope and Nelson hour.

The great thing is they aren’t resisting it. (shhh…I think they might secretly enjoy spending time with me 🙂 )

My advice:

  • Schedule a weekly meeting.
  • Try to be consistent with time and day, but even if it changes, set the appointment before you adjourn so it’s not one and done.
  • Try REALLY HARD not to nag about scheduled matters during the week. Save it for your date.

Your meeting doesn’t even need to be for things you HAVE TO DO. It could be a walk together or a pedicure, but as time is teaching me: these final moments with our kids under the same roof is Precious Time.

My boy and I didn’t get our hour in this weekend because I was sick and he had homework, but right before we said good-bye this morning he said, “I think we can do our hour tonight.” Oh good, I said, happily surprised. “Maybe you could defrost some meat?”

Check. Hey, whatever it takes, buddy, ’cause I sure do love you.

(Marriage? It also works wonders!)

Let me know how this goes, dear readers. Successes? Failures? Already doing it? I’d love to hear.

 

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Happy Good Friday

I love watching this girl sing. She’s been on Ellen DeGeneres and Steve Harvey, and goodness, have you seen her sing with her Dad? It will make your day!

While Easter Sunday is what we ultimately celebrate, I came across this quote that made me pause and consider this day, Good Friday: “We must never forget the terrible price paid by our Redeemer, who gave his life that all men might live . . . This was the cross on which he hung and died on Golgotha’s lonely summit. We cannot forget that. We must never forget it, for here our Savior, our Redeemer, the Son of God, gave himself a vicarious sacrifice for each of us.”  -Gordan B. Hinckley

Really loving mormon.org this week. So many sad, happy, redeeming, and powerful stories and videos on life and the need for a Savior.

Happy Good Friday, friends! Today’s heartache is what makes the rising so good.

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Lent. And Taking Yourself to the Challenge. Part II

Take yourself to the challenge. If you don’t, the challenge will come to you. It always does. The challenge will WRECK the unprepared.

The girl can run the hills

Do you celebrate lent? In 2014 I first wrote about my lenten experience. I was trying it 40 days before I flew to the base of the Rocky Mountains to run a marathon. Glad that’s over.

This year my brother, Patrick, and I are accountability buddies. There are no marathons in sight. He gave up caffeine: “the first week was rough but I’m feeling better now.” At the moment he’s…struggling. I refuse to accept his defeat. Get back on that Lenten train, buddy!

I gave up some of my addictive technology practices: I can only check phone/email/computer at four specific times a day. Sound easy? Well, it’s not! I’m a chronic user abuser. I get so much email! To stay on top of it, I check when I’m bored, when I’m not bored, when I’m sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, when it’s been over an hour, when I’m waiting for a play to start, etc etc. Since I like to BE PRODUCTIVE ALL THE TIME I feel antsy just sitting. So, this has been a great challenge.

Well.

It’s been life-changing, she said dramatically. YES IT HAS. Now. I check email once in the morning before awaking children, once at lunch time, sometimes after dinner, and once after I put the kids to bed. Writing this feels ridiculous because it’s still A LOT. But it’s working. My mind is less frazzled. I feel calmer. I’m getting more important writing done. I’m actually cleaning more. Hallelujah, her husband said.

I even daydream more. I no longer keep my phone by my bed so I can’t reach over and check it when I can’t sleep or want a dopamine hit right before sleeping. I feel like I have so much more time! It’s also led to me deleting emails and unsubscribing to newsletter I just don’t have time to read, leaving only the most important. It’s a really, really good feeling.

I’ve experienced some physical withdrawal symptoms. Where at first my brain was anxious and antsy, feeling the need for a phone hit, only to BE DENIED, I’m now a little more whatever. It can wait.

Thanks to KJ’s advice (of NYT Motherlode column), I installed the app Moment, which tracks the amount of time I’m on my phone (the kids also installed!) and RescueTime on my laptop. Both are free and have completely revolutionized my thinking, time, and productivity.

All because of lent!

Sometimes I’m tempted to cheat – I remember I have to write a really important email RIGHT NOW. So I do something else: I write it down on paper. And on my next tech moment, I write the email. The sky has not fallen yet.

I thought lent it was a Catholic holiday, but actually, it’s a Christian tradition that many different religions practice. I know this because I Googled, “Lent for Dummies.”

I love the idea of lent, of how it can be a holy period that leads up to Easter.

In the Christian tradition, after the great party of Mardi Gras, where everyone sins and has their riotous fun, there is to be 40 days of prayer, repentance, almsgiving, and periods of fasting.

Well, I think we’ve had some riotous fun, and wouldn’t it be nice – and doesn’t the world need – some time for the holy? My heart is breaking for Syria and the people of Allepo. The images of children…aside from donating money, what can I do? I pray mightily. There is great power in prayer. Miracles, even. I have felt them in my own life.

2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.

3 Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. – Doctrine & Covenants 8

Lent’s significance is supposed to be heightened during the Holy Week leading up to Easter, marking the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

In our house we always celebrate Easter, but I sometimes fear that all my children will remember about Easter are addictive, sugary, pink marshmellow bunnies. Yuck.

But the spirit of lent is something I’m familiar with.

In the Mormon religion, each first Sunday of the month is designated as “Fast Sunday.” This is a time of prayer, scripture, and going without food and water for 24 hours (as health and circumstance permits.) It’s voluntary and, for a society that really likes food – really hard.

I find it most interesting that it is during these hard, hungry days, that clarity often comes.

Why, I wonder, must we suffer to come closer to the divine? All I know, is that as we descend, we are somehow lifted. It just works.

This year the calendar says that lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 1 and ends on Thursday,

April 13. I know this because The Idiot’s Guide to Lent told me.
In my 2014 post, my friend, Julia wrote in the comments:

I am Catholic, and I must say you covered the bases pretty well. We fast so that we can make more room for God in our lives. In my house, we always give up sweets/desserts for Lent. I call it detox. Now that the kids are older, they are feeling the sacrifice more. (Example: 12 year old daughter gets into van after school yesterday and says, “Sebastian brought cupcakes to school for his birthday.” Glare. “And for pi day on Friday (celebrating that wonderful mathematical construct) everyone is bringing in pies.” Another, more venomous, glare.
I smile. “It’s not supposed to be easy,” I say. This sacrifice is supposed to turn our dependence back to God and away from worldly things, or worse, our own sense of accomplishment. It should bring challenges that will make us better people. I hope. The Catholic Church also encourages Christians to use this time for increased prayer and works of charity- anything that will increase the amount of love in the world. Goodness knows we need it!
I’m also trying to fast from worry. Pretty hard for this mama.

Just love this.

We give up something good for something better. This is the true meaning of sacrifice. And in a world that hates to be uncomfortable and has become increasingly more self-centered, we could use a bit more sacrifice. For our family, our marriages, our neighbors. Ironically, it ultimately benefits our own selves.

So. Have you taken yourself to the challenge? My daffodils have:

Daffodils are insistent

Are you practicing lent? Do tell!

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