Wednesday, July 27, 2016

What do I do with all these $&@! papers?

In two weeks, my kidlets will be heading back to school. I love this time of year with its new beginnings, fresh haircuts, spiffy new clothes and sharp pencils. I can just smell that brand-new box of perfectly-pointy Crayolas now!

But, back-to-school also signifies the return of those dreaded piles of paper ... "Welcome Back" packets, school reminders, returned homework and projects, permission slips, you know the drill. And don't forget, you undoubtedly already have stacks of bills, coupons, receipts, and other miscellaneous sheets of paper of your own collecting somewhere in your house. And let's not even get started on junk mail.

Don't be ashamed -- we all have our loose paper piles. Some of us are just better at hiding them than others.

Here are five simple tricks to controlling those annoying stacks of paper that clutter up your life and drive you bonkers!

Get a paper organizer.

I recently got so fed up with the veritable paper fire hazard in my home that I decided it was time to do something about it. I'd been using those office paper trays that stack up, but they were taking up valuable space on my kitchen counter. Plus, I wanted a method that would enable my kids to organize their papers they collect, too. I went to Hobby Lobby and found these adorable wire paper hangers for the wall next to our "command center" (what I affectionately call our computer desk). I picked up two of them so we have a pocket for each kid, plus one for the grown-ups.

Here's a similar item you can purchase from Amazon if you aren't close to Hobby Lobby.

Throw away the junk! This one seems so simple, but I still struggle with it at times. When you get junk mail, put it straight in the recycling bin! You've already decided it's junk, so don't make a home for it on your desk or kitchen counter. I've made a habit of looking through all the mail, sorting out the important things, and then tossing the rest immediately thereafter.

Another pro tip: be sure to shred anything with identifying information on it, like credit card offers or bank statements.

Use a filing cabinet.
I think filing cabinets are a household necessity, right up there with a vacuum cleaner! Every adult needs one, even if it's small. Fact is, life's going to give you papers you need to keep, at least for a little while. I'm talking about interest statements, insurance documents, medical bills, warranties, or even just cute things your kids have made, and a filing cabinet is perfect for this. Just make sure to go through your files once a year so it doesn't get too full and ... well, disorganized!

Scan what you can.If you've got a scanner -- and I'd be willing to bet most people do -- use it! Scan those old photographs, certificates and art projects straight into your computer, and then, throw away whatever you don't need anymore. And if you do intend to keep the original, scanning provides you with a back-up copy in case your hard copy gets lost or destroyed.

Go paperless.
I don't know about you, but I'm much more likely to check my e-mail than my snail mail. Yes, I'll admit that I sometimes go days without stopping by the mailbox! This is mostly because I so often check it only to find junk. I've opted to have the important documents (like bank statements and bills) sent to me by e-mail.

Many financial institutions and utility providers have the ability to send you statements and bills by e-mail, and some even incentivize you for "going paperless!" This trick has really helped cut down on the amount of paper coming through my door.

What about you? What tricks do you have for keeping the paper monster at bay in your home?

Friday, July 8, 2016

Lady Liberty is weeping.


America is sick. She's laying in a hospital bed, hooked up to machines and heavily sedated. The doctors don't know if she's going to make it. The prognosis isn't good.

I am sitting at her bedside, holding her hand and imagining the unthinkable -- life without our beautiful nation as we know her. Only 240 years old, she's a young country. Too young to die. The world needs her. We need her.

I need her.

She's been ailing for a long time now, riddled with continual infections of selfishness, pride and hatred. But she began a sharp downward spiral earlier this year with the Republican nomination of Donald Trump -- a narcissistic, lying bully who wants to disable free trade and abolish liberty. He's a man of conflict who, in addition to being racist and quick to anger, has no clue what he's doing. Yet, he's running for President, and he's garnered way more support with his sharp-tongued rhetoric than anyone thought possible.

Then, the Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton, a woman known for talking out of both sides of her mouth, a proven liar who will say anything to get elected. Another narcissistic, incompetent bully whose motivations are self-serving. A snake in the grass.

But, America took a turn for the worse this week. It began when Clinton got off with a mere slap on the wrist for actions just short of espionage. Her negligence and selfishness could very well have cost America her security, endangering lives in the process. Top secret and classified intelligence likely leaked out to our enemies in thousands of e-mails, all because she didn't feel like using her federal, SECURE e-mail account for official matters.

Meanwhile, the FBI director stated that although Clinton's actions were "extremely careless," they didn't warrant prosecution. Never mind that the law clearly states the opposite.

Her power and wealth saved her. And yet, like Donald Trump, she's won the support of nearly half of Americans.

The Clinton e-mail scandal had me all up in arms, ready to blog my fingers off. But then, within a day of each other, two black men were shot at point-blank range by police, and both incidents were caught on video. Those Clinton e-mails faded fast from my mind because human life always takes precedence.

I must admit, prior to this week, I was mildly concerned with police overreach and acknowledged a possible undertone of racism in connection with police shootings. But, like many others, I said, "Let the law decide if the officers were justified in shooting the suspects." I washed my hands of it, basically. And why wouldn't I? I'm a white woman with no dog in the fight.

However, after I watched those videos, I realized I actually have a duty to be upset in situations like this. Like those men who were shot and killed, I am a citizen of the United States. Their liberty is my liberty. And when their rights are in jeopardy, so are mine and so are yours. When people in power have too much control, we all suffer.

Those men will never know justice. They can't defend themselves in a trial of law. They're dead. Their sentences have already been carried out.

I watched America, gasping for air and clutching her chest, not knowing how she could survive much longer, when she coded.

Last night, at a peaceful protest against police violence in Dallas, snipers shot and killed five police officers. Officers who loved their community, who put on their uniforms knowing it carried the risk of death. They were there to protect those protestors so they could exercise their right of free speech in a safe manner. They were just doing their job. They were innocent.

They didn't deserve to die.

Why is America so sick? It's because the hearts of her people are hard and cold. They have given up on "liberty and justice for all" and instead, they only pursue it for themselves. They're prideful, selfish, impatient and unkind, and they exemplify these characteristics through violence.

But by harming others, by taking their lives in pursuit of their own pleasures, they're not augmenting their personal liberty -- they're diminishing our collective, capital L Liberty. The same Liberty those revolutionists gave everything to secure 240 years ago. The Liberty embodied by the beautiful statue at Ellis Island, the one who says:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

Your wretched refuse from your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me."

Liberty is for all, but it's our responsibility to allow it to prevail. It takes work and it takes unselfishness. We encourage and grow freedom by helping others and allowing them to choose for themselves. When we act against each other in violence and aggression, forcing one another to bend to our will, we smother our collective freedom. We communicate to those in power that we can't be trusted to choose righteousness on our own and we need them to tell us what to do.

Lady Liberty is weeping over America today. God is weeping, too. And I am weeping with them.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Free printable: These are the good old days.

I'm a planner-type person.

I like to know what's coming, I'm a control freak fond of predictability and I often pine for the future.

As a result, I frequently forget to live in the present. I'm working on soaking up as much "here and now" as I can, but rest assured -- the struggle is REAL.

Often, I think about how my oldest child can't babysit for at least three more years, and how I still have to potty train my youngest, and how retirement is, like, eons away and I get all antsy, thinking, HURRY UP ALREADY. As if life needs to get to some far-off point before I can achieve happiness or something.

Of course, that's not true -- there's plenty to be grateful for this very minute. There's so much bounty to enjoy, so many memories to savor, so much beauty to soak up right now. The future will be chock-full of goodness too, just as yesterday holds its treasures. But tomorrow will always be a day away.

So, let's enjoy today.

I write this blog post as a reminder for myself more than anything. You probably have this whole patience and gratitude thing figured out.

But just in case you're currently stuck in a rut, here's a tangible reminder for you.

During a spark of inspiration yesterday morning, I remembered the series finale of The Office, when Andy said, "I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them."

And it dawned on me: THESE are the good old days. Thus, a printable was born.

If you are like me, impatient, hurried, wondering when you'll ever arrive, print this baby out, put it in a frame and place it somewhere you'll see it. Often.

And remember -- you're already in the "good ol' days."

Go here for blue; here for pink. Once you're there, click on the down arrow at the top of the screen to download the file. Size is 8x10.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dancing, mermaids, your best girls ... what's not to love?

It's summer, and if you're anything like me, you're seeing an awful lot of your kids these days. Like, maybe just a smidge TOO MUCH of them.

Not that our children aren't adorable and the smartest and the very suns around which we revolve ... but, it's probably safe to admit we'd all like a little break from them for some grown-up girl time.

Well, look no further! If you're in Arizona, I request you join me at an epic LADIES ONLY DANCE PARTY in just two weeks. Here, you will release your inner mermaid and shake your tail fin with wild abandon a welcome distance away from your cherished litttle hellions angels.

Behold, I give you ...

This is my friend Mandy Nielsen, actress and comedienne extraordinaire, in all her mermaid glory on the Santa Monica pier. She is hosting this shindig, and trust me -- she's one of those girls you want to be BFF's with. She's hilarious, fabulous and fun!

Dance Dance: Mermaid Bae is happening at Jester'Z Improv (Mesa Riverview) on Thursday, June 30 from 8 - 11 PM. Ladies 18 and up welcome -- no mermen or merbabies allowed. You can expect a live DJ spinning today's danciest hits, a braid bar (complementary fishtail braid during the first hour), photo booth and more! And yes, there WILL be dancing ... lots of dancing. Be prepared to glisten!

Mamas ... I beg you to take some time for yourselves and COME TO THIS. It's only three hours and your precious treasures will be sleeping soundly during all of it, so no mom guilt allowed!

This is you! Photo from here.

Don your most mermaid-esque attire -- sequins, colors, shimmer and anything else that says "aquatic beauty" to you and get your fins down to Jester'Z on June 30! Ladies -- let's make some WAVES!

RSVP and get your tickets here.

This post is sponsored. All expressed opinions are mine.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Why my kids are having an unstructured summer.

"What are your kids doing this summer?" the moms in my neighborhood ask each other.

In response, I hear choruses of sports camps, dance camps, music lessons, swim team, art classes, cooking classes, reading challenges and summer school, yet I'm over here like ...

"Uh, Audrey's still in piano lessons, and ... that's all!"

from WiffleGif

*awkward stares and chirping crickets*

I can't usually bring myself to tell people what my kids will REALLY be doing all summer, because Mom Guilt is real and it often prevents me from divulging any of my embarrassing secrets.

But Mom Guilt is dumb, so today, I'm here to bare my soul and help those of you in my same boat to feel a little better about yourselves.

This summer, my kids are simply doing whatever the heck they want to within the confines of this home.

For starters, it's a bazillion degrees outside, and we've got a toddler-aged non-swimmer in the family. So yeah, we might go to the pool a handful of times (at the expense of my sanity). But for the most part, we will be in this house where toys, books and other activities abound, and where my kids are mostly responsible for making their own entertainment until they go back to school on August 10.

When I was a kid, summer was about pure freedom. It meant television, video games, Disney movies, swimming, reading, coloring pictures, choreographing dances, board games, imaginative play and an endless supply of Otter Pops. Sure, we sometimes had to tag along to our little sisters' swimming lesson, or Mom would get a burst of ambition and decide to take everyone to the library, or a neighbor would invite us over for a playdate. But for the most part, we were home, and we loved every second of the non-obligatory fun we were having.

Nowadays, if you tell people you're going to hang out at your house and plan absolutely nothing -- no camps, no classes, no elaborate trips -- for the entirety of the summer, you're seen as some kind of lazy parent who has zero concern for your children's futures.

Well, I think that's silly.

My kids get plenty of structure nine months out of the year when they are in school, and also every Sunday at church. They don't need me or some other adult telling them exactly how to spend their time when they're on summer break. Emphasis on BREAK.

Plus, there are a multitude of skills to learn from unstructured play: problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, critical thinking, independence, communication and compromise, to name a few. There's even scientific research that says childhood play helps develop the brain's prefrontal cortex.

Yes, my kids will still have to get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds and help out with any chores they're assigned (by me). But that leaves hours of blessed free time for them to just be kids. Heaven knows they don't get enough of that time during the school year.

At this point, several of you are surely thinking, "My kids are enrolled in 14 classes/camps/lessons/groups this summer, so Jenna hates me and she's judging me to be a bad mom and ..." well, that's your Mom Guilt talking, and you need to tell it to shut up because that's not what I'm saying at all.

I'm only saying that MY kids won't be in any fancy camps or classes this summer, and this is why: they don't need it. They're going to be absolutely fine if all they learn over the next two months is:

-How Harry Potter and his friends managed to get past Fluffy in The Sorcerer's Stone
-How to construct a structurally-sound tower using every MegaBlock we own
-All of the words to the Animaniacs! theme song
-The best hiding spots for Hide and Seek
-The basics of human buoyancy
-How to perfectly roast a marshmallow
-How to whomp someone at MarioKart

I'm not the least bit worried about them.

The Foote family is bringing old school summer vacation back. Bring on the Otter Pops.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

My conversion to Libertarianism, part II.

Read Part I here.

So there I was, a new believer in the principle of economic freedom, yet I was conflicted over social issues. It seemed logical to me that if you want to discourage bad behavior, you make it illegal; however, history has shown that people intent on behaving immorally don't really care about breaking laws, anyway.

I had also been taught at church and at home that it was God's will for his people to have the agency, or liberty, to choose good from evil. God made his plan known in the pre-mortal life, before Earth even existed. He stated it again in the Garden of Eden, telling Adam and Eve they could freely choose whether or not they partook of the forbidden fruit. Agency is a prominent theme throughout the scriptures and especially in the Book of Mormon. In modern times, LDS prophets and apostles have addressed the imperative need for personal liberty in both civic and religious aspects.

To say personal liberty is valued in Mormon culture is an understatement -- it's at the very heart of our doctrine.

As I continued to wrestle with myself over my conflicting interests, the libertarian voices in my life became louder. I found myself both annoyed and intrigued by their messages. One libertarian friend in particular was rather vociferous about his political opinions -- especially his distaste for "my guy," Mitt Romney. He often would say Mitt wasn't a "good" Mormon because of his political ideals. We got into a few Internet scuffles over it. It seemed to me that Mitt Romney was a man of moral character running on a conservative political platform, but my friend thought Mitt's political compromises showed he lacked integrity.

I admit, that approach didn't help my friend's cause to convert me to libertarianism. But what did help was when he offered to send any of his interested friends the book Latter-day Liberty by Connor Boyack. ANY of them, free of charge.

I was initially more drawn to the "freebie" than anything else, but I also saw a convenient opportunity to read why libertarianism was the political affiliation that most aligned with my Mormon faith. So, I told my friend I was interested, and he promptly responded he would mail me a copy. When it arrived, I was prepared for a convoluted argument backed by a few prophetic quotes and scriptures, and I prejudged the book as such. But, I was still willing to give it a chance.

I should have known if my friend was willing to give this book out for free, it must be very persuasive. And indeed, it is. From the start, Boyack presents a water-tight-logical, fact-based argument connecting Mormon doctrine with libertarianism. He references scriptures, draws on the experiences of Joseph Smith and the early Saints's search for religious freedom, and explains the historical context of the nation's founding with such expertise, citing source after source for his evidence. Boyack is eloquent but easy to understand and clearly knows his stuff -- he left no stone unturned.

Boyack doesn't advocate we should lie down and accept the unsavory choices of others, but we should first and foremost uphold the eternal principle of free will -- a God-given right we all possess through our divine inheritance. He argues the only righteous and frankly, legitimate laws in America are those which uphold this higher law of protecting liberty. It is why the Founders drafted the Declaration of Independence and created the law of the land, the Constitution. Not so an overbearing government could boss its people around, but so the people could be free as individuals.

It was the end of 2011 when I read Latter-day Liberty, at the height of the presidential election between Romney and Obama. Obama won a second term. I was pretty devastated. But, I also knew that America really needed something neither Obama nor Romney was offering. We needed less intervention, and both of those men -- whether liberal or conservative in their approach -- were prepared to offer all the interventions they could muster and then some to save us.

After reading Latter-day Liberty and studying libertarianism more fully, I could no longer support government mandates, more military spending, social welfare, foreign aid, higher taxes or even laws intended to prevent immorality. For me, it all became so contrary to God's purpose for us, which is "to prove [us] herewith, to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us]." (Abraham 3:25) As Boyack says, "This basic responsibility is crucial to our eternal development; if we can't demonstrate to God that we can govern ourselves, would he entrust us with 'thrones, kingdoms, principalities and powers' (D&C 132:19) to govern others throughout the eternities?"

And that's what it boils down to for me. We're here to learn, right? To learn to become like God? How can we adequately prepare for our eternal role if the journey is facilitated through a limitation of choices? The choice between good and evil is supposed to be hard. If it weren't, God wouldn't have permitted Satan to tempt us. Furthermore, God is all-powerful, yet he chooses to stay His hand and allows us full autonomy. Why would we not refer to His exemplary way in our own lives?

When we choose righteousness even when evil is not only available but widely accepted by society, we are truly proving our obedience to God.

Since the time of reading Latter-day Liberty, I had remained a registered Republican with the intent of changing my party from within, voting for candidates in support of small government and less spending. But with the Republican nomination of Donald Trump last week, I could no longer stand by the Republican Party as it no longer represented my ideals. I was finished. The second I learned of his nomination, I logged onto the DMV web site and changed my party affiliation to Libertarian.

"But Jenna!" You say. "How can you stand by as members of your new party support the legalization of marijuana, gay marriage and sometimes even abortion*?"

Here's how: Just because something is legal doesn't mean it is morally right, and it doesn't mean I will now take part in these things. As a libertarian, I am still free to choose good over evil. The difference is, I don't think I or anyone else should be allowed to take this choice away from others, so long as their actions don't harm others or jeopardize others' freedom.

Think of the Word of Wisdom, the Mormon doctrine which forbids the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. In the US, each of these items is considered perfectly legal for adults to use. Does that mean we have to partake just because the law allows it? Of course not. The same goes for any other immoral practice. Just because [insert inappropriate and sinful behavior here] is legal doesn't mean you must do it or support it.

But, we can stand up for what we believe is right! The First Amendment permits it and encourages it. This may be as simple as telling a friend you think pornography is harmful or as complicated as an organized protest against abortion. In a free society, our covenant responsibility to "stand as a witness of Christ" is more meaningful and valuable than it is in a place where everyone is forced to be charitable and abstain from immorality.

I believe in non-agression. I believe everyone has a right to life, property and freedom of choice, so long as their choice doesn't result in a loss of freedom for others. I believe people are capable of making good choices without the coercion of their government. I understand the world is growing more selfish, corrupt and hard-hearted every day. But, I don't think any political leader, no matter how powerful, can eliminate all the evil and temptations we face. If anything, their own thirst for power and control will lead to further corruption, not less. We can only be responsible for our own choices and for the education of our stewardship.

America's birth made her different from other nations because the Founders espoused a rule of law, not a rule of men. We are ready to get back to our roots, to stop legislating every.single.thing, to stop fighting wars for other countries, to stop spending, to stop providing for people what they are every bit as capable of providing for themselves, to live and let live and truly be FREE.

Are you on board? Need more convincing? Get Connor Boyack's book here.

*Regarding abortion, libertarians are divided depending on when they believe life begins (at conception versus at birth). Those (like myself) who believe an unborn baby is a person feel that abortion infringes on their right to life, so it should be illegal. Others who believe a fetus is not a person with inherent rights would obviously feel differently.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My conversion to Libertarianism, part I.

After Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race yesterday and it became clear all hope is lost for America, internet searches shot up for one term in particular: Libertarian Party.

All I can say is it's about danged time.

I've been a mostly-closeted libertarian for a few years now. Closeted, because a lot of people equate libertarians with crazy, pot-smoking, gun-toting tax-evaders. But the truth is, we're not. Actually, I believe most people can identify with the Libertarian Party more than they think -- they just don't know it. So what I'm saying is, you're probably a closet libertarian, too!

My conversion to libertarianism is a story 10 years in the making.

It started in the fall of 2005, during my freshman semester at Brigham Young University. I wanted to major in business at the time, so I enrolled in ECON 110. At that point, I didn't know much about economics, except for the basics. But I didn't really understand how economic policies could affect me.

The professor, Dr. Kearl, taught the class from two perspectives -- one that supports a totally free market, and another that relies on government intervention to steady the market. On the first day of class (right after my chair collapsed in front of a billion people in the packed lecture hall -- yeah, that was awesome), he told us to keep an open mind about the two schools of thought we were about to study. He challenged us to think about which would work best and decide for ourselves which we would espouse.

Thus began my enlightenment.

Before ECON 110 opened my eyes, I thought taxes were a necessary evil. I thought people had to be forced into charitable giving because they'd never behave altruistically on their own. I believed the price of goods was inherently unfair because people were meanies and wanted to screw their buyers over, so the government needed to step in and protect us little guys. I felt the concept of supply and demand worked just fine in a vacuum, but not in reality. I thought if I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, there were a lot of pesky rules I'd have to play by, but I just accepted this as a fact.

As I learned about Adam Smith his philosophies regarding self-interest and the invisible hand in the free market, I wondered, how had I not learned these things in high school? Even earlier? The concepts were so simple and made so much sense. It was like I intuitively knew all of it, but I had somehow unlearned these basic truths along the way. I had been conditioned to believe that if the government can help a little (by, for example, eliminating negative externalities), it can help a lot.

As Dr. Kearl taught the Keynesian approach to economics during the second part of the term, it took everything in me to keep an open mind and not discard it all entirely. I came away understanding the government does have its place in society, to be sure. But the market functions best when government is extremely limited. 

I couldn't un-know what I had learned in economics class. I watched the free market work beautifully all around me as student entrepreneurs started companies of their own, some which quickly flourished and others which fizzled out as competition drove them out of the marketplace. It fascinated me to see Smith's principles in action.

Then, we witnessed the economy fall to pieces as the subprime crisis turned in the Great Recession of 2008 (good read on that here). It became apparent to me that the government was causing the ruin of the American economy, not the people. Many economists are starting to agree that a slew of government policies -- quantitative easing, low interest rates and homebuyer facilitation programs, to name a few -- are what caused the GDP plunge of the late 2000's, leading us straight into the recession.

I saw something else happening, too -- right at BYU. As I walked from one end of campus to the other for work each day, I passed a few electrical boxes spray-painted with the words 'Ron Paul Revolution,' along with the image of a man's face.

I was initially curious, so I Googled the name. Then, I was turned off. Who are these anarchists running around tagging stuff in the name of some unknown politician? I wondered. Ron Paul sounded ... well, crazy. And if his supporters were spreading his message by defacing public property, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Mitt Romney was my guy. See, as much as I supported the idea of a free market, I was also raised in a staunchly-conservative Mormon home. The idea that drugs and other immoral activities should be legal appalled me. I believed the government was responsible for upholding Christian values, and I erroneously thought if something was against the law, most people wouldn't do it.

Since Mitt holds my same Mormon values and he's a capitalist with gubernatorial experience, I threw my support in for him during the 2008 and 2012 elections. I watched as Ron Paul ineloquently fumbled through Republican debates, trying to share his message of liberty with the world only to be mocked to scorn. At first, I was annoyed by this kooky codger. Then, I started to feel bad for him. The things he was saying seemed lunatic on the surface, but actually made sense when I further examined them. But he struggled to be heard, and eventually dropped out of the race.

The idea of a truly free people, governed on an extremely limited basis, sounded beautifully simplistic to me. It was what the Founders had intended. And, it was even kind of ... Mormony!

But, there was still the issue of social liberalism which comes with a libertarian mindset. I couldn't accept immorality on a widespread basis! All my life, I'd been taught to "stand for truth and righteousness" in everything I did. How could I reconcile the "live and let live" attitude of the libertarians with this concept?

Maybe you're thinking the same thing. I'll tell you how I did ... another day.

To be continued ...