78 Life Lessons on my 40th Birthday

I was shooting for 40 life lessons on my 40th birthday, but I kept going and ended up with 78. Which of these do you like the best? Are there any you disagree with?

  1. Be kind to everyone no matter what. (Thanks Mom!)
  2. Don’t borrow money. And if you have to borrow money, pay it back ASAP. (Thanks Dad!)
  3. People will judge you wrongly. Keep being you anyway. 
  4. People are highly imperfect. Even if it doesn’t seem like it at first. 
  5. Whatever happened with your parents when you were a kid wasn’t your fault. 
  6. Money, or lack of it, can cause a lot of heartache if you let it. 
  7. Be honest. It’s always the best way. 
  8. Sometimes your mistakes can save you. 
  9. People you love can and will hurt you. You don’t have to add to the pain by refusing to forgive them. 
  10. Good people do bad things. Everyone is human. 
  11. The hard things in life make us who we are. 
  12. You can do hard things. 
  13. God is listening. And it’s more evident when you watch for Him in your life. 
  14. If you follow your feelings you can’t go wrong. 
  15. Nature is a gift. Use it wisely. 
  16. You never forget the most pivotal moments in your life. 
  17. There is a strong connection between our bodies and our minds. Don’t ignore the cues. 
  18. People can love you when they don’t even really know you. 
  19. You know so very little. Accepting that fact will serve you. 
  20. There is always something to do. Don’t let it be a reason to not rest or enjoy yourself. 
  21. You literally can’t make everyone happy. Stop trying. Focus on making yourself happy. I.e. you can be the juiciest peach in the orchard, but there will always be someone who doesn’t like peaches. 
  22. The little moments are the big moments. Try not to miss them. 
  23. When you trust yourself, there isn’t anything you can’t figure out.
  24. Your net worth has nothing to do with your self worth. Unless you let it. 
  25. Never be afraid to be yourself. This whole life is meant to help you figure out who you are. 
  26. Guilt and shame are only useful if they lead you to change. If they are making you stuck, let them go. 
  27. Children are our best teachers. 
  28. Love is always the answer. In every situation. 
  29. You don’t get married to complete yourself. You get married so you always have someone to love. 
  30. You can just decide to be happy. 
  31. You can’t make anyone else feel something. And they can’t make you feel anything. 
  32. Sometimes you have to go down the wrong path first to know what the right path is. 
  33. Friends can be the family you never knew you needed. 
  34. Stay calm when you are swimming. Panic will increase the odds of drowning. 
  35. Travel seems glamorous. What’s really glamorous is the destination. 
  36. Every problem is a belief problem. 
  37. You rarely get what you want unless you ask for it. 
  38. If there is a rule, there’s probably a reason for it. But also, sometimes rules need to be broken. That’s the exception to the rule though. 
  39. Distraction is the adversary’s most effective tool. 
  40. Always ask how spicy the sauce is. 
  41. Everyone is boring, until you get to know them. 
  42. People are more the same than they are different.
  43. For many people, outer order contributes to inner calm. 
  44. If you don’t know what to do, start with the dishes or laundry.
  45. There is always a choice. Always.
  46. Mastering your urges is the way to the life you want. 
  47. Always bring your wallet.
  48. When you are upset and don’t know why, try 1. Drinking water, 2. Eating 3. Moving your body and 4. Sleep.
  49. When working with electrical, always turn the breaker off.
  50. Doing It Yourself is worth it in most cases. Except HVAC and drywall. Hire those out. 
  51. Wear your retainer. Even if it bugs you. 
  52. Always wear your seatbelt. 
  53. Water is the best beverage. 
  54. Find a meditation practice that works for you and practice it regularly. 
  55. Always give the compliment when you think it. 
  56. Feelings matter. More than you think. 
  57. Sugar has the same effect as cocaine to your brain. Consume it carefully.
  58. Observe a sabbath for both your physical and mental well-being. Especially take a sabbath from things that you find yourself addicted to. 
  59. If you are thinking it or struggling with it, so are lots of other people. 
  60. Every human has the same value. Nobody is more or less than anybody else. Knowing this brings true confidence.
  61. Getting started is often the hardest part. 
  62. How you start your day makes a big difference. 
  63. Let the music move you. 
  64. Someday you’ll understand why you need this moment. 
  65. Instead of asking “Why me?” ask “Why not me?”
  66. It is a rare situation that has a right and wrong way. Just do what feels right to you.
  67. Time is on your side, not against you.
  68. You are 100% worthy and valuable just the way you are.
  69. “Beautiful” is an opinion.
  70. Your thoughts are your most powerful asset. 
  71. It is easier to keep a clean room than to let it go and clean it later. The same is true for your brain. 
  72. If you can’t enjoy the current moment, you’ll never enjoy a future moment.
  73. What you think other people think of you, is really what you think of you. 
  74. You can’t change something if you are judging it. That includes yourself. 
  75. What you really want is always a feeling. 
  76. Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone. 
  77. The prize is worth the price.
  78. No matter what it is, you are worth it!

Shame is my default

One of my earliest memories, if not THE earliest, is of my Dad carrying my mom to the shower and throwing her in.

Looking back at it now, I think he was probably trying to sober her up.

But at the time, it just scared me. I loved my mom so much. I was thoroughly devoted to her. In my 2-3 year old mind, I didn’t understand why my Dad was trying to hurt her.

Being already pre-disposed to shyness and fear, I learned to be afraid of my Dad. He was big and mean and loud.

Don’t get me wrong—I know he loved me. We had lots of great times together. But his relationship with my mom was confusing to young child me. They were supposed to love each other! Why were they always hurting each other?

But I digress.

Today when I am afraid, I know that is my default thinking. From such a young age, I was afraid of everything. I couldn’t even trust my own parents who were supposed to give me an atmosphere of love and safety. The whole world was scary.

Our brains want an explanation for everything. It wants to place blame so that it can then solve the problem. For many people, they so desperately don’t want to be the one to blame that they blame everyone around them.

But for me, blaming others doesn’t seem to come as naturally and I wondered why. My default was blaming myself.

I think this is why:

I can control myself. I can change myself.

Everyone outside of me was unpredictable bordering on volatile.

So it makes sense to me that even as a young child my brain found refuge in blaming me. It felt more safe. If I could just stay quiet and unnoticeable, they everything would be ok.

But that no longer serves me. In order to serve the people around me I have to be willing to be seen and heard. I can’t blend in.

The interesting thing is that there really is nobody to blame. My brain is to blame. And not even really to blame. My brain is responsible. Responsible for keeping me safe as a child and now for keeping me small.

In order to overcome it, I have to be willing to feel the discomfort of feeling vulnerable so that I can do my work in the world.

To Know Him

I had a little disagreement with my husband last weekend over division of responsibility of household chores. The age-old “I want you to WANT to do the dishes.” 🙄🤮 But as I dug deep to figure out WHY I wanted to feel appreciated in this particular way, I journaled, “It says ‘I know you.’” And “It would mean I am noticeable, special, unique…” I think this is something every human wants to know: that they are loved and treasured.

Fast forward to yesterday when I attended a bible study class my stake hosts. It’s one of those classes that I’m always grateful I attend after the fact, but try to talk myself out of going beforehand. But every time I attend, I feel the Spirit telling me this is how God is speaking to me and I need to be there.

Part of the discussion centered on Christ’s intercessory prayer and how he wants us to have eternal life “that they might know thee, the only true God…” (John 17:3). And the teacher had us read this quote by Bruce R McConkie: “It is one thing to know about God and another to know him….[W]e know [him] when we enjoy and experience the same things [he does]. To know God is to think what he thinks, to feel what he feels, to have the power he possesses, to comprehend the truths he understands, and to do what he does. Those who know God become like him, and have his kind of life, which is eternal life.”

And then the💡 went off for me: I am asking my husband and my kids to know me the way God wants us to know him…. but I don’t always do that. I don’t always even know myself! How can I expect them to do it? I am walking around this world with a very self-centered point of view, yet I am asking the people I love most to NOT do that very thing.

Needless to say, I was humbled. The Spirit again reminded me why I should be in that class every week: Heavenly Father knows EXACTLY what I need and meets me there in that class. And isn’t that the ironic thing? I don’t even need my family to know me intimately because Christ does. He already experienced every pain and frustration I feel. How do I know? There have been too many “coincidences” to be anything else.

Your Highest Contribution

“Only once you give yourself permission to stop trying to do it all, can you make your highest contribution towards the things that really matter.”

Greg McKeown, Essentialism

Do you find yourself busy but unproductive? Stretched too thin? Overworked and underutilized? 🙋🏼‍♀️ I’m re-reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown. The “way of the essentialist” is to learn to tell the difference between the trivial and the truly vital things. It’s not about getting MORE done but getting the right things done.

I don’t know about you, but I am ready to put that into practice! I suppose my whole life I’ve been thinking that I am prioritizing the vital few, but really I’ve just been going through the motions because I never really had a NEED to be more productive in less time. But now that I have both a family and a business I love, I want to be more effective with my time. I want to love every minute of my life. I want to feel like I am using up this one precious life in service to others and toward growing myself.

I think this will even make me a better wife, mom, coach, sister, and disciple of Christ. Here’s to an essential 2020.

One of the biggest decisions of my life

Do you remember what your New Year’s resolution was back in 2000? I do. I remember exactly what it was because it ended up affecting one of the biggest turning points of my life.

In late 1999 I was a 20 year old sophomore in college, attending the University of Washington in Seattle. I was living in a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment with my boyfriend and another couple. I’ve always been one to set resolutions, but this wasn’t just any year. It was a new year, a new decade, and new century and a new MILLENIUM! I need a goal that was BIG.

So I decided my resolution would be to go back to Church. You see, about 5 years earlier I had stopped attending church because I started dating a boy. And dating a boy at the age of 14 was against the standards of my church. And my grandparents (who I attended church with) made it very clear they did not approve. Instead of talking to them or facing my guilt, I just quit church. But every week I knew I should be there, and really- I wanted to be there. I just couldn’t get myself to face the judgement from my grandparents.

In the fall of 2000, as I was re-strengthening my faith, I had a conversation with my mom. Although she didn’t marry my dad, they were going through what would have been a divorce. She was worried and stressed about the custody situation and desperately wanted to do the right thing, but my dad was vindictive and mean, making is a tough situation. I remember being on that call with her and not knowing what I should say. So I told her, “Mom, I’m sorry you are going through this. I don’t know what to say other than Heavenly Father will make sure that whatever needs to happen will happen.” I said goodbye to her.

As those words fell out of my mouth, even I was surprised because I never talked to my mom about my faith or my experiences at church. She wasn’t a member of the Church, though she had always been supportive in me attending with my grandparents. It was awkward, but I didn’t think too much about it.

Until….

A week later, my boyfriend and I were on a road trip to visit his family in the Bay Area. We were staying with his aunt and uncle when I was woken in the middle of the night with a phone shoved into my face.

In my half-awake stupor I answered the phone:

“Is this Denita?”

“Yes.”

“This is the chaplain from Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington. Your mother has been in an accident and she is in critical condition. I need you to get here as soon as possible.”

Never in my life had a lost anyone that I even KNEW much less someone so close to me until a month earlier when a high school friend had passed away. Now my mom was in the hospital in critical condition?

My boyfriend’s aunt and uncle were amazing. They booked us flights and drove the 2 hours to the San Francisco airport. I arrived at the hospital later that day, noticing a dark cloud over the city as I drove in from the airport. I felt like that dark cloud already.

Because my mom was never married, my 18 year old sister and I were her next of kin and therefore the medical decision makers. We asked a set of missionaries to come give her a blessing. In the blessing they blessed her that she would recover. But as the week went on, it became evident that she wouldn’t.

There was a moment, in those sterile halls of the hospital, that my sister came up to me and told me that she didn’t know if she could believe in the Gospel anymore. The blessing wasn’t true. She didn’t know what she believed. My sister, who had been so active and faithful as a teenager, was now doubting. And me, who had decided not to attend church as a teenager, met my sister on her path.

I imagined myself standing on the precipice of a tall mountain. I realized that I had a choice to make: I could turn to doubt, or I could move forward with faith.

I heard my own words to my mother only a week before: “Heavenly Father will make sure that whatever needs to happen will happen.”

That path up the mountain of doubt I had recently climbed to get to my faith was too long and treacherous to re-live now.

I chose faith.

And every moment of grief, every difficult thing I had to do in the following weeks and years were colored with that decision. When my uncle told me that he believed the car accident should be considered murder, when my mother’s jewelry was all stolen, when my father later went to prison and my little sister went into foster care… I chose faith.

My faith sustained me. It kept me putting one foot in front of the other when I just wanted to shut out the world and drown in my tears. I heard those words over and over again. Heavenly Father will make sure whatever needs to happen will happen.

A couple months later when the accident report was released, my faith was confirmed to me. It was dark, but the road was dry and the point of impact into the bank was only 25 miles an hour. I took that as a sign that it was just her time.

That one decision has shaped my life in ways that I am sure even I don’t understand. While I wouldn’t want to relive my mother’s death, I wouldn’t ever take back the experiences it has gifted me. I am the strong, faithful person I am today because of them.