Sunday, November 22, 2009

Self Reliance is Grand

So this post really ocmes a bit late, but I've been meaning to do this for forever. Mark and I were asked to give talks in the Monta Vista ward (the singles ward here in Nor Cal) before we got married and changed wards. The bishopric asked us to talk about self-reliance and Mark and I received quite a few comments on them. Whether or not people always give compliments and comments to speakers after their talks, we were glad that apparently we did well. For me it was one of those talks that I had a lot of thoughts about but no real structure until that morning and suddenly everything just fit. Blessings for sure. Anyways, you don't have to read this, but I've been telling my family I would post about it because of the theme of the structure. And I figured I would post Mark's as well.

Heather's Talk

Lessons learned from my parents

Intro: Background of my family
-I am the oldest of eight children. My dad has been a stay-at-home dad for as long as I can remember because my parents always wanted someone at home. When I was 12 my parents had the youngest children, a set of twins, in April. That fall my mom quit her job and went back to school to get her PhD. During the first three years of her program, neither of my parents had a real job. My mom would occasionally do some sort of student teaching or something like that and she made $12,000 a year for those three years. Let me be clear, that's $1,000 pre-taxes and pre-tithing per month for a family of 10. We lived and we survived. As my mom told me, they survived due to three reasons; 1) they had already paid off the house, 2) they had no debt, and 3) my dad is a genius at budgeting. (blog insert: we used to call this characteristic being "cheap"). My parents are my heroes and they have taught me much. Let me share with you some of the lessons that I learned from my parents.

1) Provident Living/Budgeting

Elder Robert D. Hales: "Provident living... means joyfully living within our means and preparing for the ups and downs of life so that we can be ready for the rainy-day emergencies when they come into our lives."

My parents budgeting: my dad used to keep up-to-date records of his different budgeted accounts with manual journal voucher sheets that he was always checking and working on; my dad set up bank accounts for each of us basically the day we were born and helped us to see the value of saving (making me feel that our monthly bank account statements were almost a competition of sorts).

D&C 48:4 "It must needs be necessary that ye save all the money that you can, and that ye obtain all that ye can in righteousness..."

Elder Hales: "Provident living means not coveting the htings of the world. It means using the resources of the earth wisely and not being wasteful, even in times of plenty"

Age of entitlement: people now feel like they should own what their parents have. My parents saved up their whole lives to move into a good neighborhood (after I graduated and moved out of course) whereas there are young couples moving into the same neighborhood.

2) Do not go into debt

-We once went to a wedding reception where the couple had put a box in the middle of the table with little pieces of paper to write advice on. My dad in big bold letters wrote "AVOID DEBT" and that was his biggest advice he could pass on.

-My parents only got a credit card when I was probably in college or maybe high school. They never had them before because they didn't like the idea that you're spending money you don't have. Instead, they built great credit with their loans. In fact, when they went to apply for a loan for their current house, the person reviewing their credit scores told them that he had never seen as good of credit as my dad has. And now the only reason they really have a credit card is to earn things from their purchases. They always pay them off immediately.

Elder Hales: "To pay our debts now and to avoid future debt requires us to exercise faith in the Savior - not just to do better but to be better. It takes great faith to utter those simple words 'we can't afford it.'"

3) Pay tithing and fast offerings

Elder Hales: "The primary purpose of tighing is to develop our faith. By keeping the commandments to pay 'one-tenth of all [our increase] annually' (D&C 119:4), we become better - our faith grows and sustains us through the trials, tribulations, and sorrows of life."

-My grandpa (my mom's dad) once told her that tithing was the only commandment that we can each live perfectly. We can all pay 10% and be able to say that we were perfect in one commandment; whereas the others are harder to keep 100% of the time. Don't we want to say we're perfect at at least one?
-Tithing settlements: my parents used to take us each year to tithing settlement as a family where they would state in front of the bishop and in front of us that they were full tithe payers. And then as we stared earning our own money we would have to do the same. They continued to pay tithing even during those three crazy years. This emphasized to me how important tithing was to them.

4) Serve others, even in hard times

Elder Hales: "It is important to understand that self-reliance is a means to an end. Our ultimate goal is to become like the Savior, and that goal is enhanced by our unselfish service to others. Our ability to serve is increased or diminished by the level of our self-reliance."

President Marion G. Romney: "Food for the hungry cannot come from empty shelves. Money to assist the needy cannot come from an empty purse. Support and understanding cannot come from the emotionally starved. Teaching cannot come from the unlearned. And most important of all, spiritual guidance cannot come from the spiritually weak."

-Every Christmas growing up (even through the hard years), my parents always made a big deal about serving someone somewhere, whether we did the 12 days of Christmas for a family in our ward or we participated in the Secret Santa program to purchase presents for people in need.

Elder Hales: "This... is the gospel vision of welfare: to put our faith in Jesus Christ into action. We serve others as the spirit directs."

This is a gospel of action. As it says in Mosiah 4:910- "9: Belive in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. 10: And again, believe that ye must repent of your sins and forsake them, and humble yourselves before God; and ask in sincerity of heart that he would forgive you; and now, if you believe all these things see that ye do them."

My parents taught me many other things, including the importance of education and spiritual preparation... wrap-up...

Mark's Talk

Started with awesome funny story about how his mom tried to get everyone excited about food storage once, but Mark's brother Greg came up with a great way around this. They lived next door to a big Mormon family with lots of boys their same age called the Youngbergs. Greg decided that the only food storage they really needed was a baseball bat. If an emergency happened, the could just go over the Youngbergs and take their food storage.

1) Debt

Elder Hales: "where we go into debt, we give away some of our precious, priceless agency and place ourselves in self-imposed servitude. We obligate our time, energy, and means to repay what we have borrowed - resources that could have been used to help ourselves, our families, and others."

Sopranos story about a man who got into debt with his friend who was a mobster (bad idea). The man's whole life got taken away because of his debt (family, home, job, etc).

Story would have been different if there had been a mediator, like the Savior provides for us spiritually.

2) A part of being self-reliant is taking responsibility for our own spiritual and temporal welfare and for those whom Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care

Joseph Smith: "A man filled with the love of god, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the human race"

Keith Knight in Mark's home ward used to home teach a man named Brother Bowser who never came to church and often was drunk when Brother Knight would come on his visits. Brother Knights continued teaching him for years.

Serve those under your stewardship even if it's difficult.

Use your assets to serve.

3) As we prepare for the future, we must have the desire and capacity to rely on the Lord

Nephi's Psalm - Lehi had just died, which was out of Nephi's control, but still Nephi was extremely distraught (2 Nephi 4:17-19)
How many of us have felt that way or would feel that way if we lost jobs or had to move to different houses or sell cars or whatnot?
But then Nephi changes his tune (2 Nephi 4:19-22, 28-30)

Mark's personal job search and how that was so difficult, but then he found peace as he came to the Lord in prayer and everything worked out.

Self-reliance versus relying on the Lord (must have both)

We must make the change ourselves


So long!! Sorry for those who actually made it this far.

Our door was broken...

We have a sliding door that goes between our bedroom and the bathroom that occasionally comes off the track a little and takes some jiggling to get it back on track and working. It's started squeaking every time we open it over the past few months. And then finally it happened... we broke it. Somehow the wheels got off the track and we for the life of us could not get it fixed. It just became worse and worse. Then at some point we had the door seriously stuck closed. We could barely get our fingers in to try and push the door open somehow. We eventually managed to at least get it open, but it, once again, was stuck. At least it was open enough for us to turn sideways and squeeze through instead of walking around and using the other door to the bathroom (leading to the front room).

Our landlord came and spent some time working on the door and he got a repairman to come by who basically just put the wheels back on the tracks and told us to be careful with it. The squeaks are still there. How long until it happens again?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some updates...

So I have a few minutes at work before my next meeting and I wasn't sure what to do to fill the next ten minutes... so I'm going to do a quick update blog!

As for the car:

Mark had it towed over to Pep Boys or someplace like that. Thankfully the towing was once again covered by our car insurance. Awesome. Apparently when he got the car there it took four guys to push it around and they all commented that it was heavy! So it's not just us. Even with several more guys, it probably would have been impossible to get it up those little bumps out of our parking lot. As is, I'm impressed with us that we were able to get it up the little incline. Back to the car: turns out that the battery is getting old but hasn't kicked the bucket yet. It's actually the starter that was having issues, so they had to replace that which ended up being pricy. What can you do? They then charged up the battery to make sure it would be okay and they said it took forever... it must have been pretty dead. From now on we're going to be good about not wearing out the battery to prolong it's life as long as possible. But the car is back and in great working order! It's so nice to have that taken care of.


So, yes, I do love fall and I do believe all the things I wrote about in a previous post, but I'm remembering some of the downfalls recently as well. It's freezing cold!!! I feel like I'm almost constantly cold. Maybe we need to start running our heater or something, but it's not just our house. It's cold at work and it's especially cold outside during the morning and the evenings. And, let's be honest, those are the only hours I'm outside anymore, leading me to my next point...

Does it always get this dark this early every year?! I think it's always a shock to me, but this year seems to be even more so for whatever reason. I leave for work and it's at least sunny (but freezing), but when I leave from work it's already getting dark and basically is dark by the time I get home at 5 or 5:30. And then the rest of the night I just feel tired all the time because my body thinks it's 10 o'clock at night and time to get ready for sleep when it's only 6:00 and we're still eating dinner. So crazy.

We've had some fun adventures lately (including having my sister Amber come visit the area for a weekend with the rest of the BYU Women's Soccer Team and play in the NCAA tournament!), but I have pictures of those and will have to blog about it later. Especially because my ten minute limit is basically up now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

An Eventful Day

Mark's car started having some problems at the end of last week. Mark drives a white 1998 Honda Passport. He took it into the Honda dealer right next to us for them to just clean off the battery, because Mark had heard that sometimes it's just a problem with the cleanliness of the battery. The guy took out a regular pocket knife and scrapped off all this gunk. He said it was the grossest battery. He also recommended changing the battery. Being the non-trusting and cheap people that we are, we didn't get the battery changed. We figured that we could drive it for awhile longer and then when it died we would get it taken care of. Turns out that may have been a bad choice...

We were gone for the weekend (having Halloween with Brett, Becky, and kids... to be blogged about at a later date), leaving the car parked in our parking lot. It hadn't started at all that day before we left. Turns out it hasn't even vaguely started since we got back. We were hoping it would at least start so we could get it over to a mechanic. No such luck. On Monday we both had school/work. Thankfully, those two destinations are only about 10 minutes away from one another, so we have been able to carpool pretty easily when Mark had school. On Tuesday we wanted to take the car in, but weren't able to get it taken care of before I had to go to work. I ended up having a ridiculously long two-hour lunch scheduled, so I was able to come home and try to jump-start the car. Neither of us had ever jump-started a car before. Thankfully I had purchased cables sometime in the last year or two. We tried time after time to jump the car, but to no avail. With meetings to attend, I had to rush back to work. Mark used our emergency roadside assistance from our insurance company to get someone to come out and jump the car for free. Turns out the car is completely dead... the professional wasn't able to jump the car either. So maybe we're not so bad at jumping a car. :)

This morning we set our alarms for extra early to finally do something about the car. We had decided that we could push the car to the Honda dealership that is literally across the street from us. We had such faith in ourselves... such blind and misplaced faith. :) We were able to back the car out from the parking spot due to a very slight decline. After we got it out of the spot, we started pushing. And nothing happened. We couldn't move that car to save our lives. In our defense, that thing is rather large and in charge. We quickly realized that even if we were able to get in the groove and get some momentum going, there was no way we were going to be able to get the car past the little hills out of our parking lot. Yes, that's right, we were trapped in the parking lot because of a little hill. Truly sad. Disheartened, we realized that we would have to put the car back in the parking spot and get a tow truck to take the car across the street (which should also be free with our emergency roadside assistance... cross your fingers). Mark braced himself at the back of the car and I got set to steer us back into the spot. And now we literally were moving backwards instead of just standing still. The slight incline had turned into a daunting task. Everytime we would start pushing, we would maybe move forward just a few inches, but gravity would eventually catch up with us and the car would start rolling backwards before I could grab the emergency brake. Eventually we switched places, because Mark was better at pushing, steering, and emergency braking without sitting down. Even without my sitting down in the car while we were pushing, it was difficult. I literally thought a few times that our car was simply going to have to remain blocking the entire parking lot. It was ridiculously funny at 7:30 am and so stinkin' hard to push that thing up the small incline. It literally took us 15-20 minutes just to get the car back into its spot. Mark's shoulder still hurts from pushing the car this morning. What a stud. So, we're still hoping that we can figure out the car thing soon....

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. This evening though, we had a bit of a mishap... We were eating the last of our chocolate covered peanuts (the best ever!! love the Winco grocery store by Brett&Becky) and two of the peanuts were stuck together. Mark was trying to be cute and romantic and put one of the peanuts in his mouth so I could eat the other one... i.e. the cute spaghetti kiss from Lady and the Tramp. Turns out this wasn't so cute. In my excitement for the chocolate, I apparently missed and got some of Mark's lip. Yes, that's right... I wanted my chocolate so badly that I apparently bit his lip and bit it hard. He has a blood blister of sorts now. You can't see it super well in this picture, but it's the red thing on the bottom right of his lip. I felt so bad, but we laughed pretty hard about that.

Chef Boyar-Abbotts

I've never been what I would term a chef. Or even a cook. Growing up my mom would let me make desserts occasionally by myself, so I became great at baking. Give me a recipe (well, a fairly simple recipe... preferably a yummy dessert) and I will follow it. Although, as in my younger days, you may end up with less cooked treats at the end than you would imagine because I absolutely love eating dough. Any kind of dough. Of course cookie dough is the ultimate yumminess. But I love eating any kind of dough... pancake batter? You better believe it. Totally good. Bread dough? Delicious. I continued eating dough even despite the many warnings my dad gave us over the years growing up that the raw eggs would probably kill us. Hasn't happened yet, but I don't endorse the eating of dough just in case. Actually, you should probably let me test it out first. Send it my way. I remember when I was little, my mom would have us sit around the counter and "help" while she made cookies. She would hand us a measuring utensil and help us each measure out and pour in a specific ingredient. Then she would be in charge of the mixers. We all looked forward to the 5-10 chocolate chips that she would give each one of us. After we had the batter all mixed up, my mom would either give us a beater or a spoonful of dough. We would fight over those beaters like crazy. Of course, this was happening while my dad in the background was telling us that we really shouldn't eat dough. One beater or one spoonful was never enough for me. To this day, I can eat soooo many spoonfuls of dough that it's pretty crazy actually. I usually have no appetite for the cooked cookies afterwards because of the massive amounts of consumed dough, which is totally fine because dough is ten times better than the cooked cookies. I remember thinking that when I was older and in college (yes, that was the epitome of independence and adulthood in my childhood mind), I would make up a batch of cookies and not cook a single one. I would just put the bowl full of dough in the fridge and snack off of it. While I haven't actually gotten to this point, I have several times bought the packaged cookie dough just for the purpose of eating raw. Such goodness.... sigh....

Anyways, other than desserts, I've never been that much of a cook. I will not claim greatness now either; however, I must admit that I have improved far beyond what I had thought. It's this marriage thing. Makes me feel more domestic. While I don't have a ton of time to put huge efforts into cooking because of working and we don't have a ton of extra cash to spend on exotic items, I have found that I really enjoy cooking. I enjoy making something so yummy and inventive. Cooking up a new recipe and watching it turn out is kind of a rush. Especially when Marky enjoys it. I feel like such a nerd in admitting this, but I enjoy cooking. :) It's been fun to find new recipes and try things out. I have many recipes that I've gathered over the years and several recipe books. We also heavily use google to find recipes for any weird items we have. One of my favorite salad recipes that I found on google is below. We've made it a few times this summer and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Pear/Avocado Salad
-Lettuce (we've used both spinach and romaine... both tasted good)
-2 pears (sliced, usually carmelize with honey for about 3 minutes... see note below to see why this is necessary)
-1 avocado (cut into small bite-size pieces)
-Grilled chicken (we use the Costco breaded frozen chicken... totally awesome!, cut into bite-size pieces)
-1/4 to 1/2 cup candied nuts (we've just used slivered almonds, but you can also use pecans or walnuts or whatever... as long as they're candied/carmelized... yummy!)
-Cheese (we've used blue cheese, but you could also use gorgonzola)
Dressing (I half the dressing when it's just for the two of us... otherwise way too much dressing and the dressing tastes great with this salad but not really with just lettuce)
-3/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup lemon juice
-1 tsp Dijon mustard
-1 Tbsp honey
-salt and pepper
Such goodness. Here's a finished picture of the salad that we had about a month ago...
And now, the best part... Mark getting ready to eat a bite. And yes, for those of you who know Mark and paid attention to the recipe, he is about to eat pears!!! I know!! Mark eating fruit! Crazy. For those who don't know, I have such a cute husband with very interesting eating habits. He totally enjoys eating vegetables, but he won't eat normal fruit at all. He doesn't like the texture of fruits like apples or melons or most other fruits. He'll eat berries or he'll eat applesauce. But nothing delicious like apples or pears. Turns out if you douse the pears in honey and stick them in a delicious salad, he will eat them!! If anyone knows of any other recipes for cooked fruit, which he will eat (because it changes the texture), send them my way! I'm always looking for ways to get Marky to eat some fruit. :)