Tuesday, July 7, 2009

:: a good read ::

I just read this great article from Utah Valley Magazine and thought some of you might enjoy it too! I know I always appreciate gentle reminders and inspirational people...this article includes sections by Stephanie Nielson from the famous NieNie blog and Kathy Hill, the gorgeous mother of Nicole Hill (one of my favorite photographers/bloggers in the area!)

Utah Valley women are taking on 2009 — one door at a time

When one door opens, Utah Valley women walk right through it. And when one door closes, we start a-knocking.

It’s hard to keep Utah Valley women down and out — even in a recession-laden era of seemingly dead-bolted opportunities. We may lose our keys from time to time (yes, we can admit it), but we never lose our moxie.

In the following eight pages, you’ll read about four “doors” you and the girls next door face every day — and six ways to open sesame your way right through each of them.

Door #1

6 ways to give your mother’s intuition a boost

Kathy Hill has raised a few good women.

The Orem wife and mom has five daughters — all talented, all beautiful, all supportive and all girl.

“Oh, it is fun! It’s a riot. Sometimes I feel bad it’s so much fun,” says Kathy, whose daughters range in age from 16 to 28. “We have girl time all the time, and we don’t have to do boy things. We’re all in it together.”

That togetherness has always been a part of the Hill family plan. Whether it’s skiing together, laughing together, doing hair together or eating together, unity has been at the top of the agenda (or menu, as the case may be).

“Food is a really big deal to us. That’s what we do — we eat,” Kathy laughs. “One of our favorite things to do is cook dinner together on Sunday. It’s family bonding time. It’s a time for gathering together and talking.”

That open communication has been a major contributor to the family’s close-knit bond.

“Connecting with your kids is all about talking to them,” Kathy says. “I crave that one-on-one time with my girls.”

Which is not to say every moment has been photo-op friendly.

“I wasn’t a perfect parent by any means, and I even hesitate talking about this because I don’t want it to come off that way,” Kathy says. “All I know is what worked for us, and that was making a point to talk through things rather than be volatile. We did our best to validate and respect their feelings.”

And with her kids both grown and nearly grown, it’s obvious the mother-daughter connection is as delicious as their dinners.

“A few Sundays ago, we were eating outside and just sat there laughing and talking for five hours — no one wanted it to end,” Kathy says. “I feel so blessed. I just love being a mom.”

Connecting with your kids, both young and grown, is an important part of your kids’ happiness and — take note — your happiness.

Here are six ways to help you better connect with your kids and take the mundane out of motherhood.

1. Initiate positive interactions.
“Strong bonds are typically established between parents and kids when there is a lot of positive communication,” says Richard Miller, a professor in the school of family life at BYU. “Give your kids encouragement. Give them praise. And give them hugs. Constantly.”

Kathy agrees.

“My husband has always been so good at encouraging the girls that they could do anything,” she says. “He’d say, ‘You want to do it? You can make it happen.’ That support has been so great for our girls.”

2. Discipline within those positive interactions.
“We obviously have to discipline our kids, but the discipline will be infinitely more effective if it’s done in the context of positive interactions,” Richard says. “So many times — especially with teenagers — we become police officers that just go around writing tickets. Teenagers do things that frustrate us, so it’s easy to always be on their case. But with teens, sometimes we forget that they still need hugs. They still need cheerleaders in their lives.”

For Kathy, that positive reinforcement was essential. When it came to disciplining her kids — whether that was having a whining daughter be a servant to her sister or giving the girls a time-out in the tub (“There’s nothing to do in a cold, hard tub!”) — it wasn’t about the punishment. It was about changing the behavior into something positive.

“We would always tell them, ‘Change your behavior, and then come back to us. Because we want you back,’” Kathy says. “And they quickly learned that bad behavior was not fun. It’s fun to be with everyone, and when they behaved in the right way, they got to be in on the party.”

3. Breathe in. Breathe out.
When your kids are small, it’s easy to lose your sanity. But try and combat the crazy by making things fun.

“When my kids were little and I was at my wits end, I was usually pressed for time. Time is something you don’t have a lot of, and with little kids you’re constantly running around. You’re tired, you’re exhausted, and you’re wondering why you have to clean up that mess one more time,” Kathy says. “It was usually at that point that I would stop, take a deep breath, turn on some good music and make it fun.”

4. Rely on your girlfriends.
Women need other women — that’s a fact. And when you’re in the trenches of motherhood, it’s important to have someone to talk to. You’ll be a better mother for it.

“I get through the hard days by walking with my girlfriends every day at 8 a.m.,” Kathy says. “We walk four miles in 45 minutes, and we’ve been doing it for 18 years. If I ever have frustrations, I walk and talk it out with them. My girlfriends tease me all the time — they know I have a bee in my bonnet when I start walking at a speedy pace. They say, ‘When Kathy gets upset, we just die she walks so fast!’”

5. Stop comparing yourself to other moms. (No, seriously. Stop it!)
“If there’s one thing I want moms to remember, it’s not to compare themselves to other women,” Richard says. “Here’s what happens: There is this concept of front stage versus back stage. The back stage is how we live, and the front stage is how we appear — it’s where we put our best foot forward. But the problem comes when we compare our back stage with other people’s front stage. We are well aware of our family’s struggles, and then we compare ourselves to people who are putting their best foot forward. It’s an invalid comparison, and it’s the biggest mistake we make as parents.”

6. It will go fast — enjoy it.
“You don’t realize just how fast this stage of life will go,” Richard says. “We don’t have them for very long in our home, and we mustn’t get bogged down by the worry and stress that comes with parenting. Just enjoy it.”

Door #2

6 ways to stand the test of time

Provo’s Stephanie Nielson knows what it means to have a bad day.

On Aug. 16, 2008, she and her husband, Christian, were on a private plane that crashed in Arizona. Miraculously alive, Stephanie sustained burns on more than 80 percent of her body, and Christian had burns on more than 30 percent of his.

Their lives since have been filled with days that have been hard and harder. Stephanie was in the hospital for five months, and during that time she was separated from her four young children (ages 7 and under). The pain has been paralyzing. And the road to recovery has been long, arduous and hard to see.

“My lowest of lows has got to be when I was told by the doctors and nurses that I needed to look at myself after the accident,” says Stephanie, who has chronicled her recovery on her widely-read blog the NieNie Dialogues (www.nieniedialogues.com). “My face was badly burned and changed. It took me months to accept that I looked different. Nurses would bring in mirrors and ask if today was the day … it never was. Finally, I made everyone disappear and I was alone and looked at myself. It was terrifying. Then I had to reintroduce myself to my children — all of whom had a hard time accepting and recognizing me. It was the hardest few weeks I have ever faced. Jane (her daughter) didn’t look at me for almost two months.”

But amidst the pain and heartache (and oh how there has been heartache), Stephanie hasn’t let her larger-than-life trial keep her from having some good days — and even better moments.

“My family and friends have rallied around me, and of course my sweet husband has been my best friend and source of support,” she says. “My faith has kept me strong and intact. My Savior knows me at my best and at my worst. He is there and I know he is keeping me alive and going.”

And that focus on her faith and her family has given her courage to carry on.

“(I keep going) because I have a family — my father and mother, siblings, nieces and nephews — who rely on me,” she says. “But most importantly, I have my own little family. My children … I mentioned on my blog that when the accident happened, our plane was going down and all I could see and think about was my children. I lived for them. I lived for my husband so he could have a companion to be with for this earthly life. I hope others learn from my experiences that I face everyday.”

Like Stephanie, women across Utah County deal with trials, setbacks and trauma. Whether it’s losing a loved one, going through a divorce, or suffering from physical or emotional pain, life can be overwhelmingly difficult to bear. And while there is certainly no quick fix, here are six ways to make the trial seem a little more bearable.

1. Confront the problem.
“When a trauma isn’t confronted, it affects one’s ability to function,” says David Williams, a licensed professional counselor in Orem. “It can lead to depression, irritability and a loss of sleep. In fact, there is a very strong correlation between unresolved trauma and physical ailments, so it’s absolutely essential that you talk about it with someone. If not a professional, then talk about it with family and friends. I can’t stress this enough.”

2. Don’t let yourself become a victim.
“Talk about the trauma for what it is, but don’t let yourself become a victim to it,” David says. “This is easier said than done, and I don’t want people to misunderstand it is important to think about what happened, talk about it and ruminate over it. But when we unhealthily obsess over something, it becomes harder to heal. When we take the victim stance of ‘there’s nothing I can do’ and ‘I have no responsibility in this,’ we only regress.”

3. Find a safe place.
“A safe place is important,” David says. “You need a place where you can do your healing. Find somewhere that you feel comfortable and go there to meditate, regroup and rebuff.”

4. Establish a support system.
“This should go without saying, but it has to be said because people don’t do it,” David says. “Turn to your family, your friends, and your faith — anyone and anything that you feel comfortable with. And actually talk to them! So many times people have a support system, but they don’t use it. They rely too much on themselves.”

5. Look for life’s humor and joys.
“Humor is anything but overrated when it comes to overcoming hardships,” David says. “It helps put things in perspective. It helps you move on.”

Stephanie is a big fan of laughter.

“I have to use humor to pass the time. My children are so funny, and it’s awesome to enjoy them everyday. It helps me not focus on myself so much … but there is a good amount of that, too. Again, my knowledge and faith bring all the happiness and peace anyone could want. I don’t have to look very far when I am low because I have it all around me.”

6. Try your hand at journaling.
Journaling often makes people more aware of what they’re feeling,” David says. “It puts things in perspective and can help people make connections between the trial they’re going through and the emotions they’re having. Plus, it helps to get things off their chest.”

Stephanie couldn’t agree more. Her blog, which is read by people all over the world, has become an integral part of her recovery.

“It has been very therapeutic for me to express my feelings. I get so many e-mails from people who are grateful that I type because it makes them feel blessed and normal. I am so thankful for people who e-mail me or send me letters (and packages!). It makes me so happy and it helps build me up everyday. I have a huge support system all over the world! Wow!”

Door #3

6 ways to finesse your finances

Melissa Chappell is rich with knowledge.

The Springville mother of three has always been “in the know” when it comes to her household finances. She has worked part time as a doula (a non-medical professional who provides support to mothers before, during and after they give birth) for the past 15 years, and she and her husband were equally yoked when it came to the finance dance.

“We shared that role equally,” Melissa says. “That part of our relationship was always very balanced.”

So when Melissa and her husband ended up getting divorced, she was grateful for the financial foundation.

“It was an easy transition to start handling 100 percent of the finances,” she says. “I knew exactly what I was doing, which made everything else in my life a lot easier.”

In order to support her family full time — and remain a mom full time — Melissa continued her role as a doula and also started a new catering business, Raw Melissa, which serves raw, healthy, gourmet foods.

And now? She loves her kids. She loves her jobs. And she loves being financially fierce.

“Having to be responsible for four people in every way is a scary, but extremely empowering thing,” Melissa says. “My level of confidence, drive and fearlessness has increased.”

In these tough economic times, it’s even more crucial to be in the middle (and on top of) your family’s finances. Whether you are married or single, divorced or widowed, working or stay-at-home mom (or a combo platter), you can contribute to your family’s financial situation.

“Whenever it comes to household finances, it is essential that both partners are involved,” says Cory Mahaffey, managing director and wealth adviser at Northwestern Mutual Financial Network in Provo. “You’ll encounter problems if both people aren’t seeing the big picture.”

Here are six ways to finesse your finances — take what works for you and your family’s situation.

1. Ask questions.
The first rule to gaining financial ground is putting your foot down. If you aren’t already “in the know” when it comes to your family’s finances, it’s time for an in-depth Q&A with whomever’s in charge (husband, financial adviser, etc.). And here are some “opening lines” to get you started:
— How much money do we have in the bank?
— How much do we bring in every month?
— How much goes out?
— How much debt do we have?
— Are our bills paid on time?
— Do we pay the minimum payments? Or do we pay bills in full?
— What insurance policies do we have?
— Are we in the stock market? How’s our money doing?

2. Get hands-on.
Even if you don’t fiscally contribute to the household income, there are ways to affect your family’s finances.

You can …
… make a budget with your spouse — and follow through with it.
… discuss ways to cut back — and follow through with them.
… research financial tips in books and Web sites — and follow through with them.
… divvy up the financial responsibilities and be accountable to each other — and follow through with them.
… make investment goals — and follow through with them. (See a trend here?)

3. Establish a credit history in your name.
When Melissa wanted to start her business, Raw Melissa, she needed capital. But she didn’t have the kind of credit history she needed to get a business loan. So be sure to have lines of credit in your name in case your situation — and your credit needs — change.

“Both people in the relationship need to develop a credit history and cash flow management skills — without question,” Cory says. “You never know what you’ll encounter down the road.”

4. Remain employable.
While it’s never something you want to plan for, divorce or widowhood can be the reality. So for stay-at-home moms who don’t plan on working, it’s important to stay fluent in today’s technology trends and remain “hirable.”

“Whatever license or degree you earned in college or from your career, keep those up to date,” Cory says. “It’s important to make sure those years you invested don’t dissipate over time — you might need them again someday.”

5. Have an open, creative business mind.
Have you always wanted to sell those gorgeous hand-made knits of yours? Do you have a knack for coo-worthy illustrations? Is there a product out there you’re dying to invent? Make it happen.

“You can do it. It takes some creativity, but if you choose it, you can take care of your family. You can contribute to the finances and be a great mom,” Melissa says. “Now, I don’t want to downplay the contributions a stay-at-home mother makes. All of it is honorable — it’s all about what you choose. But if you have a desire or a need to work, you can make it happen.”

6. Get mad (money).
“There are three main causes of contention in a marriage: sex, in-laws and money,” Cory says. “But I’ve found that if both people have ‘mad money’ — or money they can spend however they want — it reduces a lot of tension around the finances.”

Door #4

6 ways to find your stride on life’s balance beam

Joy Astle has hobbies — and she’s not afraid to use them.

The Provo mother of six (which includes both teens and toddlers) has her plate full with motherhood, wifedom, friends, cooking, crafts and a Web site (www.joyastle.com). And there’s not a stitch of guilt in sight.

“Once upon a time I lost my balance, and I realized I wasn’t happy. I now understand I need my ‘me time,’” she says. “It sounds selfish, but it’s not. It’s essential for the happiness of me and my family.”

Joy makes her mile-a-minute life work by making priorities and — here’s the kicker — making time for them.

“A lot of it is sacrificing other things,” she says. “For me, I don’t do as much on my house anymore. I don’t stress about it being perfect because it doesn’t have to be. We live there. There are times when it will be messy. And I’m OK with that now.”

And while there are crazy, hazy days, Joy finds the big picture by viewing it in snapshots.

“There aren’t bad days and there aren’t good days — there are just moments,” she says. “If I feel like my day is getting crazy, I stop what I’m doing and do something for myself — even if it’s just taking a quick walk around the block to regroup. My daughter recently wrote on her Facebook that ‘days don’t get better — attitudes do.’ And she’s right on.”

As it stands now, the balancing act women face on a daily basis is ruthlessly designed to fuel the blame game:
— Your kids aren’t getting your full attention.
— You’re getting behind on work.
— You’re not spending enough one-on-one time with your husband.
— Your friends are wondering where you’ve been.
— You’re not up-to-date on your scrapbooks.
— You haven’t blogged in three months.
— Your house is a mess.

Sound familiar? If you’re not careful, you can push and pull yourself into oblivion with no hope of even tip-toeing down that daunting, teeny-tiny balance beam.

But interestingly enough, balance isn’t supposed to discourage you. It’s supposed to make you happy. (Yes, really.)

“Balance is a big component to living a healthy, joyful life,” says Tara McCausland, a certified life coach with Mission: Ignition, which is based in Spanish Fork. “Without it, you quickly become depleted of energy and can even start losing your sanity.”

Well, in the hope of all things sane, here are six ways to strive for and achieve balance (leotard not included).

1. Quit using the word ‘balance.’
(We know, we’re not really helping with this one.)
“That term balance is a tricky one. It’s a big buzz word, but a lot of us women don’t like it. And it’s because it’s become completely taboo and unrealistic. There is a misconception of what balance should look like,” Tara says. “So avoid the word altogether. Instead of asking yourself if you’re balanced, ask yourself if you’re living a healthy and joyful life. Do you feel whole? That concept of wholeness resonates well for women. It’s something that’s easier to measure.”

2. Prioritize and plan.
“Life hands us so many distractions, so it’s important to sit down and determine what is most important to us,” Tara says. “Is it family? Work? Health? Financial stability? Answering those questions and prioritizing what matters most to us is imperative. It gives us the concrete direction we need in our lives.”

3. Invest in yourself.
“If you imagine yourself as a cash box, and you always have people coming and withdrawing from you, it will deplete you of your time, energy and resources. If you are not investing consciously and consistently in yourself, there won’t be anything left to give,” Tara says.

4. Make boundaries.
“This is another thing that’s really hard for women,” Tara says. “Be able to tell people ‘no’ if you have a need that’s more important. When you say ‘no’ to something, you’re saying ‘yes’ to something else. And if that ‘yes’ is consistent with the priorities and values you’ve already set, it will make all the difference.”

5. Eliminate guilt.
“We can only do so much, so give yourself permission to be OK with what you’ve accomplished,” Tara says. “Balance can’t happen if you are constantly feeling guilty about what you haven’t done. Focus on what you have done, and be proud of that.”

6. Know your expectations.
“There’s that old saying that expectations are the root of all frustration. There’s a lot of truth to that,” Tara says. “That’s not to say we should lower our expectations or never strive to improve ourselves, but it’s time to be realistic for yourself and for those around you.”

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