Positive Internet

Friday, March 31, 2017

A little later today, but here are a few articles I read the past week that had me thinking, educated, and hopeful.

1) I have found that the more short-tempered I am with my kids, the more distracted I have been.  I loved this article about how that really is the case, and how our tendency to get distracted by both technology, our "to-do lists," and our work, we are not allowing ourselves to be the parent our kids need us to be.  And when we do away with those distractions, then all of our lives are made better for it.

2) My goodness, this video essay brought me to tears.  This little girl's brother is disabled, and here is how she views him and what she loves about him.

3) Want to have a lasting AND happy marriage?  Mix up your date night.

4) What it looks like when nobody loves you.  (It's another tear jerker!)

Metamorphosis (+ a Podcast on the Power of Goals)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

There was a time where I was exceptionally goal-driven.  The problem was, that my main underlying goal was to be EXCEPTIONAL at everything, all things, no room for weakness.

So yes, I went a little crazy; OK, I went a lot crazy.

In an effort to become better balanced, I then became paralyzed for many years; meaning, I was scared to make big goals for myself out of fear that I would drift back into obsessive habits I wanted to avoid like the plague.  Guess what?  I wasn't any happier for doing this either.  It took me a long time to realize that.

The past year has been a big experiment for me.  What if I made big goals for myself?  What if I made scary goals?  What if I made small goals? And what if I didn't allow fear of failure or embarrassment get in the way of me bettering myself?

Essentially, I've been attempting to combine the Perfectionist Monica--the one who was an OCD planner and inexhaustible worker driven by fear--and the Paralyzed Monica--the one who basically floated through life, also out of fear--and put them together into the Real Monica.  Real Monica would be the one who made goals and pushed herself, but was no longer letting fear get in the way; the Monica who wasn't afraid of messing up, because that's going to happen.

Those goals?  They ranged from starting this here blog, joining the millions on Instagram, taking on some interior design clients, reading a certain number of books, attending a number of new fitness classes, starting a podcast, and learning how to swim.

The result?  A mixed bag.

All my efforts take an incredible amount of work.  Most days, I get up at 5:20 and go to bed the earliest at 11:00 PM.  I work my hinny off during nap time and the second the kids are asleep at night.  I spend very little "pleasure" time on social media, as I gear my time towards "work;" even that time is extremely limited because I literally don't have the time.  I essentially only "read" through audio books and get my news through podcasts.  My blog gets read, but only tends to receive collaboration offers from weird people in foreign countries or ones that really aren't the right match and the right time.  My podcast has had some awesome stats, and some very mediocre; I am VERY anxious about how to continue with it.  I have no design clients right now and made nothing on the others.  I'm learning how to swim, but I basically almost drown every time I go and practically cry each morning I wake up and know it's my swim day.  I am often stressed, riddled with self-doubt, and my eyeballs hurt (which somehow seems related).

But guess what?

I'm happier than I've been in a very, very long time.

I'm happier because I feel like "me" again.  I feel a drive and a spark for life.  I feel excited about where things could take me.  I feel worthwhile.  I feel like I'm increasing in my capacities and making things happen.  I'm happy because I'm trying.  I'm happy because I feel as though I am going through a metamorphosis, transforming into the "Real Monica."

The kicker is?  Goals, people.  It started with making goals.  Goals are powerful!  They can lead to a metamorphosis, if you're doing them right.

I share more on this topic on my podcast today.  I speak about the power of goals, some stories about my progress (and failures) with my goals this year, and THREE TIPS on how to make your goals work for YOU, rather than the other way around.  With those tips, I go into a few tales, such as how I started my blog/podcast, why I'm terrified of water, and how I'm tricking myself into learning how to swim.

Here's a little spoiler for you with the tips:
1) Don't Think Too Much
2) Make Room for Failure
3) Make Them Visible

(This is a shorter podcast and more informal than most of mine, and I hope to post once a month in a similar fashions, as has been requested.)

You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocketcasts, Googleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe!!

Show Notes
More on Do Something
Monica's Live List for 2017 and 30 Before 30
Monica's posts on swimming: here and here
Monica's other posts on goals: here, here, here, and here
The planner referenced
Podcast with Heather Fujikawa, mentioned
Podcast with Meg Miles, mentioned
Another goal-centered podcast with Jaimee Davis
More Podcasts
Monica's Facebook and Instagram profiles
Contact Monica

Healthy Treat: Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

I've been making these delectable balls of goodness for a few years now.  I found them on Pinterest, and Pinterest, you did not let me down!

A combination of some of the best things on earth: pretzels, graham crackers, peanut butter, and chocolate. And no refined sugars and dark chocolate--this is the best healthy treat ever!

You won't feel bad about eating these in your afternoon slump, or as a healthy-ish treat cap at the end of your day.

Before I share the recipe, some notes:

I've subbed more graham cracker crumbs when I didn't quite have enough pretzels and it worked just fine--but do your best to use the amount of pretzels here because that ratio is money.  I've also used chunky peanut butter and it was great as well!

I use more chocolate than the original recipe called for, and I tend to use dark chocolate.  But semi-sweet or even milk is fine--it's all your preference!

I used to roll each ball completely in chocolate, but now I just dip them and then drizzle the remaining chocolate over the whole collection.  (This is is motivated by pure laziness.)  You definitely want to use wax paper or a silpat liner for this!

I wet my hands when rolling so it goes much faster and is less messy.

And most importantly: store these in the freezer.  I don't know why, but that's my preference for most desserts: COLD.

Pretzel Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls
Recipe adapted from Confessions of a Confectionista

1 cup crushed pretzels (leave a few little chunks)
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
3/4 cup peanut butter, non-chunky preferable
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 bag of chocolate chips, dark or semi-sweet preferable

In a blender or food processor, crush pretzels, and make graham cracker crumbs.  Place in large bowl.  Add the peanut butter, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Stir until combined and mixture can be rolled into balls.  If it doesn't stick easily enough, add a bit more peanut butter.  Using a tablespoon, dish out mixture and roll into balls.  Place the ball on a cookie sheet lined with either wax paper or a silpat liner.  Freeze or refrigerate about 15-20 minutes.

Place chocolate chips in microwaveable safe bowl.  Heat in 20-30 second increments, stirring in between.  You want the chocolate to barely melt (don't overcook the chocolate or you'll be sad!).  Dip balls into chocolate and put back on lined cookie sheet.  Drizzle remaining chocolate over the tops.  Place them back in the freezer/fridge unit chocolate is completely hardened.  You can then store them in a ziplock back and keep chilled/frozen.

Positive Internet

Friday, March 24, 2017

May I confess something?  I've been feeling pretty darn blue this week.  Who knows why?  Lots of turmoil on the news, scary events in my extended family, and just some general anxiety I feel about the future and how unknown it is right now.  On the brighter side, I've found a few great things on the internet this past week that gave me things to think about, but gave me some hope!

1) Do you know Kara Goucher?  She is an elite runner who has had SO many setbacks.  I've been following her for years and years now.  This interview with her was incredible--she is VERY honest (last year, she fought back against a coach who strong-arms athletes to dope, which was a huge risk for her); she is passionate; and she has been through incredibly dramatic disappointments.  Even if you're not athletic, there is a lot to learn from her. (Oh, and she's a mom too!)

2) This article talks about how essential self-care is for a stay-at-home parent.  The thing that really hit me was at the end of the article, where the author talks about how you'd happily hire a nanny who was energized, fulfilled, and happy, but would be reticent to hire one who was tired, burnt out, and stressed.  In order to provide our children with better love, we need to practice self-care--and that usually means a little time away from the kids.  She goes through some great ideas and it's a quick read!  (Related, this podcast speaks about self-care and how to figure out what helps you the most!)

3) I had the honor of interviewing Sarah from Sassy Red Lipstick a few weeks ago for my podcast, and I love her all the more after seeing her recent post on her growing confidence in swimwear.  She writes about the "mental weight" we take on when we worry so much about what we look like, and how acceptance of our bodies frees us of that weight.  Sarah also shares what she does to gain that acceptance.  Another great read!  (Her interview with me, if you're interested!)

4) Related to my faith post from earlier this week, my friend referenced this incredible article her father wrote about how the LDS Church will never be perfect (nor any church, for that matter).  It was just what I needed this week and I highly recommend it!

Please share what positive things you've found around the internet lately!

Becki and Kyle Jones: Fighting Mental Illness, Together

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

"This isn't something you chose.  This is a disease your body has."

Kyle is a physician in Utah who is very open about his long history with anxiety and depression.  These bouts started as a teen and came and went with intensity throughout his 14 year marriage to Becki, who has also dealt with circumstantial depression while they were in the stressful years of medical school.

Kyle speaks from both a doctor and patient's point of view, having the physiological know-how about what is happening with the brain when someone is under the grasps of depression/anxiety; but he also has intimate knowledge with what it feels like to be on the other side of the stethoscope.  He does his best to empower both his patients who struggle with mental illness, but also with his fellow physicians, who carry even greater stigmas as a result of them trying to live up to their "superman" role.

Kyle and Becki both share how depression/anxiety can be so interwoven with guilt, shame, and perfectionism. Becki declares herself as a "non-perfectionist," so she lends a unique voice to this discussion for those like her, as loved ones who struggle to better support their partners in the trenches with mental illness. Becki especially highlights the importance of the supporter not getting sucked in so much that they can no longer care for themselves, in addition to their loved one.

This wonderful couple talks about how they dealt with their bouts both separately (which was wise, at times), together, and how they are in turn helping others.  Kyle shares some of the important science behind mental illness, the importance of coupling both medication and cognitive therapy, and how depression/anxiety can display itself physiologically, or emotionally with feelings of sadness, anxiousness, or even anger.  Oh, and you'll want to hear what Becki and Kyle's biggest tip is for couples.

You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocketcasts, Googleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe!!

Show Notes
Kyle's website and Twitter account
Kyle's article that he talked about
Monica's InstagramFacebook, and Contact page
More on "Do Something" here and here (includes a short podcast episode that explains the series)
More episodes from the podcast
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife's website if you're still considering her courses! (And her interview)
Song Credit: "Sweet Promise" by Nicolai Heidlas

HOW I Stick with My Faith

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

I know I promised this post sooner (read this post first), and I apologize for the delay!  This is a lot for me to think through and then write up.  If you're new here, I recommend starting with my first post on this topic, here.

Without further ado, here is the HOW I stick with my faith.  This means the actual things I DO and the ways I FRAME my actions that help me stick to my commitment to the LDS faith. (Again, the WHY is here, including my big disclaimer.)

1. KEEP THE STANDARDS: I believe that God functions through laws; if I want to be entitled to His Spirit so I can discern between right and wrong (and that includes right and wrong within my faith), then I need to be obeying the laws.  Even if I don't "know-know" about all the rules/laws I keep as a Latter-day Saint, I figure that I'm not any worse off personally to keep the commitments I've made.

2. SEEK GOD: The same reasoning applies here as in #1. I still keep up my daily prayer, scripture/conference talk/manuals/church magazines study, as well as LDS books like The Infinite Atonement, Believing Christ, Jesus the Christ, etc.

  • But in addition I have found it especially helpful to read books on my religion and history that combine the intellectual AND the spiritual.  They help me work through my doubts and learn without fear.  My recommendations: Crucible of Doubt (I'd read this before anything else.  The main thesis: doubt is apart of true faith); Navigating the Mormon Health Crisis (A human development expert sees faith through this developmental lens--both fascinating and helpful); The Eternal Ghost of Eternal Polygamy (I especially loved how this author could pair her knowledge with the messy parts of LDS history, but still love and honor it;  Also, the message that it's OK to know our history!);  And here are some books I'm in the middle of reading that I'd also recommend: When Mormons Doubt, Weakness is Not a Sin, A God Who Weeps
  • There are SO many ways to seek God.  I have found myself the closest to feeling the Spirit when I'm either sweating hard in the mountains, or listening to (or even making) music.  In fact, I need to write a whole post on the Lamb of God alone--that soundtrack changed my life.  What works for YOU?  Music? Nature? Exercising?  Meditating?  Serving others?  Painting?  Time with family? Creating? In order to feel God, you must understand that there are MANY ways to do so--explore them!  

3. BE CAREFUL ON THE INTERNET: It's very very easy to get sucked in to all the Internet has to say on the LDS faith and its history.  I am all for searching for truth and I think that is an important part of true, deeper commitment.  However, I find these internet wormholes are most often far from helpful, especially if the authors tend to carry a vindictive sentiment (although this is not always the case).  I'm not saying that you can't study, that you should be scared of learning.  But I am saying that it's a good idea to be extra careful about the source, as well as your own state of mind while you are searching (and the latter thing there can be the most important, in my experience).

  • I personally am a big fan of Fair Mormon, and I do indeed find it to be very fair.  These really are my people, I feel.  Additionally, the Rational Faiths website and podcast are awesome, and I also have listened to a few of the Mormon Matters podcast.  I have listened to maybe three episodes from the Mormon Stories podcast, but honestly, I just tend to weed out most of what is offered there, more because of my own state of mind.  I have listened to the ones that I felt I could relate to and where I feel like it wasn't a one-sided discussion.  I know what I'm comfortable with because I've already made my choice; so do what's truly best for you!  But just know, I think it is essential to be careful about what you read and know your source and your source's intentions. 

4. LOOK FOR REASONS TO STAY: This is not me promoting blind faith, I promise.  I believe that you CAN have doubts, questions, and criticisms of the Church and its history.  I do!  But I also think that you can find the good in it, and that that good can be reason enough to stick around.  And for me, there is so much good!  This can entail me looking for the good in anything from my spiritual study, my prayers, to listening to talks at church and attending the temple.  I can search for truth AND use a healthy dose of compassion. There was a very painful time where I only seemed to be surrounded by evidence that this church was driving me insane and that I was an outsider; but I don't feel that way now.  It's easier for me to see the positives in it, and that came with time.

5. MAKE PEACE (!!!!): In order to stay in the church, you first have to know your "why."  Figure that out!  And after that, you have to make peace with some things.  Here are the biggest things I've made peace with, and where the majority of this post will be spent:

  • BELIEVING is Just as Acceptable as KNOWING: Do I "know" the church is true? Nope.  Do I believe?  I do my best to believe. And honestly, I think that my choice to BELIEVE is 100% acceptable before God.  That has not always been then case for me, but it's what I feel good about now.  
    • But how do I get through those temple recommend interviews?  With honesty.  The closest I've come to feeling the Spirit the past ten years was while renewing my recommend a year ago.  I was able to really talk to my leaders and I left feeling that they truly knew my heart, that I was not a counterfeit, that my faith was acceptable.  All the leaders I have had the past ten years have found that my answers are sufficient to enter the temple.  And to many of those interview questions the answer is, "I don't know, but I want to." 
    • I know that I am lucky this way and that many people have experienced the opposite of me.  But maybe that's a lesson to our leaders--if you can really look at the people's hearts who are arriving for their recommends, then you know whether they WANT to be in the temple.  If so, then they are seeking to learn.  And what place is better to learn than in the temple? 
    • One of the best scriptures on this topic (and actually one that a leader used as we discussed renewing my recommend): "But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of fight, yea, even if you can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in you, even until ye believe in a matter that ye can give place for a portion of my words."  Alma 32: 27 (I recommend reading this entire chapter.)  If even the desire to believe is good enough for God, it's good enough for you.  
  • Living with Doubt: The Crucible of Doubt book I referenced did wonders in helping me make sense of this.  Having a healthy faith means you also have a healthy amount of doubt. The perfectionist in me did NOT like the gray--any of it.  Even having a hint of a doubt in my mind meant that I was instantly going down the path to apostasy.  THIS IS FLAWED THINKING.  True faith goes hand in hand with doubts.  If you study theology and theological giants, they were often riddled with doubts, many in complete torment over it for many years.  Even Mother Theresa felt that God had abandoned her for almost 70 years of her life.  If you're doubting, then welcome to the club.
  • Pressure to Align:  There is a lot of pressure--both inside the LDS Church and outside it--to choose your "group," if you will.  Are you going to be a Progressive Mormon?  A dyed-in-the-wool, true-through-and-through Mormon?  Are  you going to be a never-doubt-or-speak-against-the-church Mormon? Are you going to be a better enlightened and leave the faith Mormon? A spiritualist, but not religious?  A full-grown intellect?  An atheist?  An anti-Mormon?  
    • There's a lot of pressure to choose the group you "fit" into and subscribe their own set of doctrine and viewpoints, hook line and sinker.  When I felt like I no longer aligned to my goody two-shoes Mormon identity (because of my doubts and my own beliefs), I immediately felt pressured to choose "my group."  But you know what?  I decided to forget that pressure.  I CAN be an intellectual, open-minded, faithful, devoted, and happy Mormon.  I can believe in knowing my Church history and asking questions, but that doesn't mean I have to carry a harsh skeptical eye to all things in my church, nor does it mean that in choosing to be careful of what I ingest shows that I am a "blind follower."  
    • I am ME.  I am not anyone else.  I'm not going to allow people to push me to choose.  I know that I am faithful.  I know that I have questions, criticisms, and frustrations.  I don't need to align with a group--both in and out of the Church--to be of value.  
  • The Seeming Unfairness of God's Involvement in Our Lives: LDS members believe that God is intimately involved in our lives.  I grew up believing this.  But as an adult--and one whom has felt that the heavens are closed no matter how carefully I seek for the Spirit's influence--I have really struggled seeing how some people can SO easily recognize God's involvement in the minutia of their lives, while others are left in the dark.  
    • One memorable sacrament meeting for me entailed a sister bearing her testimony that she knows God exists because He once spoke to her and helped her when she was lost and couldn't find the airport.  While that was a sweet story, I only felt anger.  "How could God answer her dumb prayer to know which exit to take, while He won't even answer my decade-long pleadings to even know if He exists?"  I was feeling very frustrated; gipped, even. (See here.)
    • I don't know why God seems to be involved in varying levels in our lives.  But you know what?  I've made peace (mostly) that this will look different for everyone.  Perhaps my greatest test this life is whether or not I'll be true even when the Spirit is withheld from me?  Or perhaps my greatest test is my own blockage of that Spirit?  Who knows.  But I at least know that I'm going to allow other people to have their "airport stories," to be happy for them, and to look for my own.
  • God is the Head of the Church, Through His Leaders on Earth: This line of thinking is either the reason people STAY with the Church ("That's God's leader speaking--He wouldn't let Him lead us astray!"), or Leave the Church ("If that's God's voice, then this is all a mistake.")  This is how I view it:
    • God is the head, but He works through weak vessels.  (Look to the Old Testament especially for maaaaaaaany examples of this--we were allowed to show our prophet's weaknesses then, somehow.) He does the best He can, but He honors agency so much that He allows misdirections and mistakes to happen within the Church, because in the long run He will fix them.  
    • Our leaders are doing the best they can.  They are inspired in what they do, but yes, they do make mistakes.  Because they are human! Pride, narcissism, and power-seeking can get in the way of God's real will.  Not every call is or was the right one.  
    • For some Mormons, this view is dangerous.  For me, thinking this way has freed up SO much of my turmoil.  I can hum in my mind whenever a general conference address goes a weird direction ("Ponderizing," I'm looking at you!), but I can also fully accept those beautiful moments where leaders share their true hearts (Elder Nelson and Sister Marriott from the last two general conferences were wonderful, in this regard).  That means I can ignore a lot of the missteps our church culture has taken and chalk it up to human frailty.  (Before you criticize this line of thinking, just remember that people who used to question blacks and the priesthood, polygamy, and Joseph Smith's use of a steer stone were looked at with the side eye.  The Church is doing better at owning up to our mistakes from the past and I find that encouraging!)
    • This lines up with the biggest tenants of the Mormon faith: personal revelation.  When I listen, I listen with an open heart; but I also do my best to discern what rings as true, right, and good in my own heart.  I don't HAVE to accept what my leaders say at the end of the day; but if I have done my part to understand what they've said and if it is God's will in my mind too, then I can do just that.  
  • "Put It On a Shelf": If you're not LDS, you're going to be really confused by that statement.  In our faith, if someone has some nagging issues, things that make them question/doubt or that they want fuller answers to, they are often met with the advice to "put it on the shelf," meaning to place those worries/doubts/questions on the shelf and keep going.  Sometimes, this thinking makes me angry.  How else would President Spencer W. Kimball have ever finally received revelation on blacks and the priesthood if he had put his own questions and worries "on the shelf?"  In my mind, he could not have. Those questions nagged at him for decades of his life--and I'm sure that many times he was instructed by well-meaning members to simply not worry about his concerns, to "have faith."
    • Here's what I think about a question/doubt/concern: Don't "put it on a shelf," but make it your friend!  Accepting that there are things we will NEVER have answers to this life, doesn't mean that you can't still keep coming back to them or carry them in your heart.  They don't have to haunt you, but they can drive you to seek for answers, to study, and to be worthy of revelation from God.  They don't have to be a whip, but they can be a poker--nudging you to find God more fully than before.
    • I know that many people mean "make it your friend" when they say, "put it on a shelf."  But I do think that there is an underlying message too often for people to basically let go of important questions that can someday lead to transformative revelations for the entire Church.  For me, I certainly hope that my leaders haven't put their questions on the shelf. Things like homosexuality as a "trial," women and the priesthood, eternal polygamy, and more are things I hope are continually on their minds.  If we want to increase in our knowledge, we have to have questions!  
  • The Biggest Bet of My Life: Underlying ALL of this is the biggest bet of my life that I have made: that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is God's church.  It might not be fully "true" here on this fallen earth with fallen people as its members and leaders, but it WILL BE.  
    • The thing I've had to make the most peace with?  The flip side of this.  The Church isn't "true."  You know what?  I'm fine with that possibility.  Truly.  If I get to the other side and an angel tells me, "Oh, a Mormon!  How fun!  Well, go pray to that Hindu God over there, because that's who really is in charge.  But, you did a good job!"  I'll be A-OK with that.  I will have lived a good life; I will have done my best with what I best understood; I will have no regrets.

Well, there you have it!  Another novel-length post for you.  Did you make it to the end?  If so--or if not!--what are your thoughts?  As always, I ask for compassion for both me and whoever comments.  I hope to hear from you!

(Disclaimer: I used affiliated links for the books I listed on Amazon.  That means this is NOT sponsored, but I do get a few cents for every dollar spent when people purchase via those links.  It'll help my podcast keep running, as every single cent currently comes out of my own pocket.  Thank you!)

It's the Little Things

Friday, March 17, 2017

It's time for a second round of me sharing the little things that have brought more joy into our day to day lives.  (None of this is sponsored, but the Amazon links are affiliate.  I'll always be clear about that!)

First up, my kids are pretty into puzzles.  My oldest could do huge puzzles all on her own at a very young age; but my baby right now is all about those smaller wooden ones.  I've been keeping them in a cupboard in our front room, and he has taken to scattering them all over the room.  I was getting pretty sick of putting them away.

My friend had this fantastic puzzle organizer at her house, and as soon as I got home I bought it.  It's fantastic!!!  Seriously.  If your kids like puzzles, you need at least one of these in your life.

Next, the Echo.  (Again, this isn't sponsored.)  Brad got this from his Christmas work party.  At first I was like, "Cool!  Well, let's sell it."  But the next day, he happened to set it up and I am SO glad we ended up keeping it.  We use it mostly for music (you can connect it to how you stream music, which is mainly Spotify for us).  It has a GREAT speaker!  The amount of happiness it has added to our lives to have Disney and broadway soundtracks streaming is immeasurable.  I'm not being dramatic.  I've even cried after dancing with my kids to the music because it's made us so happy.   You can also ask for the news, the weather, set timers (I used this multiple times a day with the kids, as in, "You have three minutes to clean up before bed!"), play games like 20 Questions, and much more.  I would spend my own money on it, it's that good.  Get it!

Finally, this sweater from Gap.  There are some clothing items that I look for and won't buy until I get the exact thing I'm wanting.  For example, it took me about 10 years to get an olive green military jacket that I wanted.  I've wanted a gray sweater for a few years--one that's thick knitted so it's warm and comfy, but NOT bulky. This one did it!  I love it so much that I wear it more days than not. . .  Thinking about getting the navy one, too.

What little things are adding joy to your life lately?

Matt Davis || Speaking Up Against Stigmas

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Consider yourself a failure, and consider yourself in very good company [of people] who have done the same.  But the difference between them and everyone else is that they learned from that failure and kept on going, one foot in front of the other."

Matt calls himself a "regular guy," but I'm telling you he is anything but.  What makes him this way for me is his resilience and his refusal to play victim to the long fight he has had with anxiety and depression, as well as the huge trials he and his family have faced.

Matt talks about how for him anxiety started in high school and robbed him of important experiences and even friendships.  For a long time, he feared that he would have to live life only minimally, just to get by.  Six months after his depression and anxiety forced an early return from his LDS mission, Matt's father took his own life after suffering in silence with the same issues as Matt.  This devastating time shifted Matt's mindset about how to deal with mental illness, namely by using the power of speaking up about what we are going through instead allowing stigmas to rule our lives. Matt eventually returned and completed his mission, and he used that experience as a touchstone that he could do more than live minimally, even with his "dragons" to slay.

Now as a successful business and family man, Matt still finds ways to speak up and help others who are going through similar issues.  He carries an incredible perspective about doing what is right for him and his family, and he's not afraid to direct his choices accordingly (including within his career).  He speaks about how fear of failure drives so much of what we do and how to instead turn that to your benefit, how we can make our "dragons" our friends, how he has learned to be happy even when he is sad, what he did to better focus on his priorities of family over work, and much much more.

I think everyone and their dog should listen to this interview.  It's that good.
Within the next few months, Matt is going to launching Steelyard Academy with two other men, focusing on teaching primarily men how to have a balanced life.  I will let you know when they have that up and running--I'll be following along, too!

You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocketcasts, Googleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe!!

 Show Notes
Get in touch with Matt: steelyardacademy @ gmail . com (make sure you remove the spaces)
As soon as Matt's podcast is ready to go, you'll be the first to know!
Monica's InstagramFacebook, and Contact page
More on "Do Something" here and here (includes a short podcast episode that explains the series)
More episodes from the podcast
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife's website if you're still considering her courses! (And her interview)
Song Credit: "Sweet Promise" by Nicolai Heidlas

Day to Night

Monday, March 13, 2017

I'm definitely not a fashion blogger, this you all know.  But I still love what a positive effect an outfit can have on me.  My clothes tend to be simple, but simple can be great!  Sometimes, me sharing the good things is going to include my favorite clothes as of late.

Today, I'm going to share my go-to way lately to change my day "mom look" into my night "going on a date" look.  

T-shirt // Jeans // Sneakers
My day job is being a stay-at-home mom, so I love a relaxed t-shirt paired with stretchy jeans and sneakers--all of which enables me to do my job, but still feel cute.  (I always wear earrings, too.)

But to change that to a night look, I LOVE blazers.  This one was my Christmas present (do NOT buy until it goes for at least 40% off, like I did--worth the wait).  I add some more sparkle with some cocktail earrings, put my ponytail higher into a bun (which I stink at doing, by the way), and add some booties and a fun color on my lips.  Done!
Blazer // Earrings (Similar) // Booties
What do you do to change your look from day to night?

Other women are sharing today, which you can see below.  And if you'd like to be part of this series, you can sign up on Kiana or Madeline's blogs!

Kiana at Glitter & Donuts // Madeline at CaseyLand
Rachel at Tutus and Heels // Erica at Good Job Momma

Positive Internet

Sunday, March 12, 2017

It's been a bit since I've shared some positive things I've found on the internet.  I just haven't had time to read much (I'm sure you can relate), so here's some great things I recently discovered that gave me a needed boost:

1) Feeling a little (or a lot) hopeless about the world we are living in? This article from Seth Smith really helped me out by reminding me of the dark times we have already faced in history, and how we survived.  (It also includes a great short video about Winston Churchill and his own struggle with depression.)

2) How should we talk to our kids about their body images and eating habits?  This podcast was excellent on giving insight on how to do just that.  I especially loved how to positively teach eating, responding to hunger cues, "cleaning their plate," and dealing with kids who ALWAYS want snacks.

3) Meg was on the show once, so I know she is very wise.  I really loved reading about her winter hacks--how to bring some cheer to counteract the winter blues we all experience.

Sarah Tripp || Reaching for the Stars

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"In order to start your self-love journey you have to step back and . . . start with the positive."

Have you ever wondered what it is really like to be a successful fashion blogger?  Meet Sarah Tripp.

Sarah, from Sassy Red Lipstick, does her job so well that she makes it look easy.  But it absolutely isn't.  Sarah has the right mix of dreaming big and working hard. Fashion is a huge form of her self-expression and has been a life-long passion.  But another important passion for Sarah is her desire to help women learn how to love their bodies, just as they are.

In this podcast, we go into what a typical day looks life for Sarah, how she remains true to herself while incorporating sponsorship, what it means to have authentic connections with her followers, how she dares to be honest about the hard parts of her industry, what her husband's love and influence has meant for her, how she battles the daily pressure to be perfect, and how she overcame her own dissatisfaction with her body and now embraces a celebratory self-acceptance that keeps her centered.

You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocketcasts, Googleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe!!

Show Notes
Sarah's blog and Instagram
Sarah's mentioned posts: Honor Your CurvesThe In-Betweeners, Exposing Blogger Politics, and her whole tab on Body Positivity
Monica's InstagramFacebook, and Contact page
More on "Do Something" here and here (includes a short podcast episode that explains the series)
More episodes from the podcast
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife's website if you're still considering her courses! (And her interview)
Song Credit: "Sweet Promise" by Nicolai Heidlas

It's the Little Things

Friday, March 3, 2017

Things are just things, I know.  But sometimes, things really do bring us a little everyday joy, or at minimum, ease.

I thought I would start a new series where I share some of the "stuff" that has made our family a little happier.  None of this is sponsored (although the amazon links are affiliate), so these are genuinely things that we use and love.

First, here are some facial products that have helped my now-acne-prone skin.  I was lucky to not really struggle with bad skin as a teen--just your normal rounds with zits on my forehead.  But since having kids, my skin has suddenly become very acne prone, and on new places for me--like my cheeks.

1) Acne Pimple Master Patch: I'm late to the party with Asian skincare products.  They subscribe to the staunch European guidelines, so their products aren't full of gunk like our American products can be.  I'm no beauty guru, so I'll just tell you that these patches make a blemish's life much shorter and heal better as well.  Put a patch on a zit you've popped (I know that's gross), and it'll suck out all the remaining yucky stuff in there and heal the spot.  YOU NEED THESE!

2) Thayers Witch Hazel Toner: I've been using this for a year.  Again, not full of gunk--it's very natural (no alcohol!), gentle, but effective.  I love this so much!  I use it right after watching my face at night and before I put on all my anti-aging and moisturizing products.

3) Aztec Secret Indian Healing Clay: This is a mask.  And whoah, you can feel it working.  But it's a clay the you mix with apple cider vinegar.  Your face is a little pink afterward, but that doesn't last long at all.  My face is sooooo smooth after using this and I think a 1 lb container will last forever.

Finally, this swing has seriously transformed our family's life.  We got it for the kids for Christmas, but didn't get to put it up until about a month ago.  It's our favorite place to hang out.  And it's big (39" in diameter) and can hold up to 600 lbs.  All the neighborhood kids gravitate to it, including the teenagers (who are great, by the way).  I even love to laze away on it when the kids are done and playing somewhere else on the yard.  It's the perfect parenting perch!  Worth every cent.   (PS: We got this to go around the tree branch so the rope doesn't cut into it.)

What is adding a little joy to your every day?

Things I Want to Remember: Round 6

Thursday, March 2, 2017


It's been a while since I shared some things I want to remember about my kids.  7 months, actually.

So, before I forget, here are some things from them lately.

* She's grown so much lately, both in physical stature (getting so, so tall) and in her ability to cope with all things life.  Way to go, girl!
* Bella is passionate about art.  But she really struggle making mistakes.  The other day, she was panicking over some mistakes she made in her art.  So we took a look at some of her summer art teacher's paintings online and talked about how each one of them had mistakes in them that only the artist could see.  So she decided to paint like her teacher, took some crayons and paper outside, and colored what she saw.  It was a legit landscape scene (of our backyard), and it really blew me away.
* She wants friends over all afternoon every day.  Preferably, her neighbor that is a few years younger than her.

* This kid can be an absolute darling or a total devil.  The last few weeks, he's been more of the former.  (Phew!)  He relishes praying, "five fingers," having me cuddle him, and just like Bella, he wants friends over all the time.
* Brad was calling him by a nickname, and RG responded, "Don't call me that!  Call me 'Son.'"
* RG has a gang of friends at school, all boys.  He calls them "my guys," and tells me about their preschool antics (such as playing ninjas).  He has told me many times, "I don't like girls. I like boys." It's hard not to laugh, but I know what he's saying.

* 19 months old might as well be 19 years old.  He's SO big!  His hands are like baseball mitts, they are extra huge.  He is in the 96th percentile for height, but I'm even more curious about how his hands measure up to other kids his age...
* Bean has an obedient heart, but he's starting to become a tease.  He likes to halfway do something he knows is naughty and look at you with his eyebrows up, waiting for a reaction.
* He's starting to pick up on the squealing habits of his siblings.  Kind of not happy about this one, but who can blame the kid?  It's sort of a defense mechanism for him to use his high-pitch screaming when they're doing something he doesn't like.

Anne Cropper || Overcoming Shame with Connection

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

“The more you spend time with people and are able to communicate with them what you are feeling . . . the more logic and reason come back into your life.”

Meet your new best friend, Anne Cropper. Anne is one of those people who takes you in, makes you laugh, makes you cry, and gives you some good fashion, food, and house tips on the side.  She is a resounding writer and Instagrammer whose main goal is connection.

Anne learned the power of connection as she faced a difficult adjustment to motherhood followed by the stresses of raising five very different children, as well as her struggles with both antepartum and postpartum depression.  She learned that letting people in is essential in overpowering the shame that fuels mental illness. By being open, Anne seeks to help other women know that they are not alone in their struggles, even if it's the struggle of taking your kids to McDonald's for the second time that week.

Anne also shares how she is the "Jane of all trades, master of none," how she views social media, why it's important to post both the bad and the beautiful, how she and her husband have had rounds of role reversals while their family business takes off, and what she has learned to let go of.

PSST: You do not want to miss out on the special deal Anne is offering our readers on their compression tights and recovery braces.  (See notes below!)

You can listen to this podcast below, or on iTunes, Soundcloud, Stitcher, Pocketcasts, Googleplay, or search for "About Progress" wherever you get your podcasts.  If you like the show, please subscribe!!

Show Notes
Anne's blog and Instagram
Her family's company, Bio Skin (USE PROGRESS20 FOR 20% OFF!)
Monica's InstagramFacebook, and Contact page
More on "Do Something" here and here (includes a short podcast episode that explains the series)
More episodes from the podcast, including the one I mentioned with Lisa
Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife's website if you're still considering her courses! (And her interview)
Song Credit: "Sweet Promise" by Nicolai Heidlas
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