I figured out my 2009 “word”…now that it’s February. But the point is I figured it out thanks to Dave and the time he gave me to think.

At first Dave gave me the eyebrow-lift when I told him what it was and reminded me once again that a better phrase may be “be on time.” But after I explained why I chose it he totally warmed up to it, so hear me out.

In case you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about, last year I started a new tradition for myself (inspired by my cousin Kara) to designate one word to be my motto for the year. Last year the word was “Be Still” (ok, so it was a phrase, not a word, but it still counts). And guess what? I wasn’t “Still.” I ran around like a crazy woman for a year BUT I always had that phrase in my mind, and it made a difference. As much as I was still scrambling to keep up, I was so thankful for the constant reminder in the back of my head to “Be Still.” And in many ways, I was.

So this year I’ve been thinking so much about what I wanted my word to be. Man that’s a lot of pressure I give myself!! I love FOCUS because I have so many things going in different directions and I realize I need to reel in my thoughts and actions and do what’s most important. I love LISTEN because I feel I need to do that more…not only listen to my kids–the words that come out of their mouths as well as what their hearts are telling me–but also to the promptings of the Spirit. I’ve been ignoring them a bunch lately because there’s too much going on. That leads me to SIMPLIFY…a great word for obvious reasons. Or there’s always LOVE because who can’t help but be a better person if they’re loving more?

But none of those words seemed to fit right for this year.

Then I was reading this talk by Elder Oaks last week and it made the decision for my 2009 “word” easy as pie.

In it he says, “We have to forego some good things in order to CHOOSE others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.”

I realized that I am lucky enough to have so many GOOD things in my life right now. I teach classes at Blissful Living Studio. I get to be a photographer. I work in the stake primary with great people. I just finished writing a book with my mom (more on that later). I write in this blog which is such a great outlet for me.

And boy oh boy do I ever have so many GOOD things I want to do in life.

I want to have my cake and eat it too.

I want to have my five kids and be the best mother I can be, but I also want to travel the world. I want to learn Spanish. I want to learn to sight-read on the piano. I want to take a serious photography workshop. I want to finally start my photography website.

All these things are good. But the very best thing in my life right now is my family. I love them all to pieces. And these kids are growing up faster than I ever even imagined possible. I don’t want to look back some day and be sad that I chose the good things instead of the best things.

Plus right now I not only need to be the best mother I can, I need to somehow figure out how to morph into a health professional. I have realized that no single doctor is going to take care of our health issues. We’re spread between too many of them. I have to be in charge. And I need to do it well.

The three older kids are doing well, but Claire wets her bed every night (I’m convinced it’s those darn UTIs) and despite frequent baths she smells like urine all the time now (sorry, older version of Claire who may be reading this some day, but it’s true). The urologist told me I need to essentially re-potty-train her because of her reflux issues. Her six-month antibiotic doesn’t seem to be doing any good at all and her poor face keeps breaking out in cold sores. I tested positive for Lupus…twice. I totally don’t think it’s right, since I have no symptoms whatsoever, but I need to look into it a little. Lucy needs so much help right now which takes continual self reminders that I just need to slow down. Doctors and insurance are going to be a big part of my life for the next little while as we figure things out with her.

Yes, I have my work carved out for me in the health arena.

And that has to take precedence over all the other stuff in life right now.

Elder Oaks says further, “As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best.”

So my 2009 word is CHOOSE. I need to choose the best part this year.

And after a ton of thinking and wondering and changing my mind I finally feel like one thing I need to choose to let go at least for this year is photography.

It’s killing me and I’ve been so torn about it but something needs to go. I already told Blissful Living I could only teach once per quarter. I feel like I need to stick with the stake stuff. I thought about just quitting this blog but I can’t. It’s too big an outlet for me right now…and it’s keeping track of life which I need since I have the most horrible memory on earth.

So, photography has to go…at least for now.

At first I thought if I gave up photography I was being wimpy. I should be able to do it all. Photography pushes my creative juices. It is hard. And because of that I love it. It gets me out of my rut. But I’ve realized that this year I have other things that’ll definitely be getting me out of my rut…namely health issues.

If you have already booked appointments with me (I’m booked through April, I have a couple in the summer, and then already a couple in the Fall), I’m still planning on doing those ones. I’ll finish out what I have scheduled. But I won’t be booking any more appointments this year. My kids need me. My husband needs me. And I need them.

As my wise friend Julie said, I’ll always have photography. I can pick it up again whenever I feel ready.

But I can’t always have my little kids clinging on my legs. And right now that’s exactly what I want. Snotty noses, grimy hands, tantrums, unfinished homework, even health issues…I want it all, because it means I am a mother. And I love being a mother.

Despite the busy-ness of life, I know my kids feel the love I have for them seeping into every conversation we have. (In fact, I think I may have even seen a slight eye-roll from one of them last time I was praising their name.) But I think it was Iris Krasnow who said, “I know I was there when my kids needed me, I just don’t know that I was there as much as I needed them.”

Now, I personally like to think that I can have my cake and eat it too. I can do all the good things I want to do in life. But I just can’t do them all right now. I need to CHOOSE what I can really handle right now and do it really well. Then I can take on the rest later.

Life is long. (Wow…so is this post!)

Childhood is not.

I have a lot more choices to make this year, but I feel like I’m off to a good start.

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  1. Yay for you! I’m with you… I do think a single word can help us focus.

    And how lucky your family is that you choose them. Seriously. The wonder years are so fleeting. And I love how you embrace all of motherhood, even the yucky parts.

    And “doing it all” is such a misconception… at least you know you’re doing what’s right for you and your family. THAT’S what I call a supermom!

  2. I loved the post. So much describes my own life and I think what am I going to give up? I know it’s probably hard to give up what you’ve worked so hard to develop and I admire you for having the strength to do so. You are an excellent woman to look up to.

    We look forward to seeing you guys soon- Wisconsin seems so far away!

    Love you and our prayers are with you guys!

  3. As odd as this may sound — due to the fact that I haven’t met you — I’m sooo proud of you!!! I gave up a few very good things last year, including teaching piano — and my kids are so much better for it. I really feel I’m better for it too. I always feel “wimpy” when I give something good up — but we really can’t do it all. GOOD JOB!!!! You’ve got a lucky family.

  4. It’s all true- motherhood seems to fly by and if we’re too busy we’ll miss it and then regret it. I think your chose a great word for the year. About the bed wetting- have you tried an alarm? My daughter wet her whole life until she was 6.5 and we bought a Malem alarm off of ebay- it worked for her and I felt like it was a miracle. Good luck with the health things- that does not sound easy.

  5. Thank you. What a great post as I have been thinking about the same sort of choices in my own life. Life does go by so fast. Thank you for your words of wisdom.


  6. Shawni, thank you so much for popping over to my blog and lending your advice to our sleep deprived family and letting me know about the map. Thank you again! I am using ear plugs and just ignoring her, hoping things will improve. I too love this talk by Elder Oaks, it pretty much sums up the choices we make as LDS women. So many of us have wonderful outlets and hobbies, but sometimes something has to give. I had a gal in my ward get so consumed with scrapbooking that she put all her stuff in a box and marked it “In ten years” because she wanted to focus more on her family. Your kids are sure lucky to have a mom like you…don’t stop advocating for them in any arena and area that is necessary.

  7. What a strong, inspiring post. I haven’t come to my word for this year….i’m leaning towards ‘mindful’. mindful of the time with my little ones even when they are covered in unmentionables(!) or screaming like banshees!

    Thankyou for this today.

  8. I hope you know we all feel like this, and have to step back and reprioritize.
    Love this! And I hope you get that medical stuff figured out…that weighs on the mind more than anything.

  9. What a wonderful mother you are! When we make the choice to choose the “better part” we see miracles happen. I have 6 children. 2 of them have had many health and development problems. We decided to hunker down and do whatever we could for them. It has been so tiring, but after many priesthood blessings, prays, and alot of work and tears we have witnessed so many miracle come to our family and to our children. Good luck. Your family is so blessed to have a mom like you!

  10. Sounds like your 24 hours was a blessing in disguise. Such hard decisions. Its not always fun being the adult/parent.

    Way to go on your choices. Although I am deeply saddened that you won’t be taking our pictures this year, I totally understand.

    Let me know if you need anything. I know you are going through a lot. Thanks for inspiring me once again.

  11. I don’t even know you, Shawni but this post was what I needed to hear as I contemplate simplifying things in my own life. Why is it that we feel “whimpy” when we give up something? I think you’re pretty amazing! Thanks for sharing.

    Our son wet the bed until he was 8! The bed wetting alarm was the trick to stopping it (even though I hated putting him through that!) The alarm only went off twice and he was cured!!! If you want to try it, I could send you the one we used (their not cheap!) Let me know.

    Julie Hostetter sjhostetter@msn.com

  12. Loved Ellen’s Mom’s comment. So true.

    And Shawni, I loved this post. You are an amazing mother and your kids are so lucky that you are willing to give up your temporary goals to give them an permanent blessing. In no time flat you will be doing all the things you mentioned, and more, but with no regrets.

    You’re awesome!

  13. Each and every encounter I have with you either in person, on the phone, or through your blog, I come away uplifted. I love you, and you and your family will be in my prayers.

  14. Oh darn. But I’m happy for you, you made a wise choice. You’re right, you won’t have your cute little ones clinging to your legs forever. I’ll just have to book a photo session with you 5-10 years from now when I’m getting old and gray.
    -Jennie Nichols

  15. Shawni I was just having this conversation with my girlfriend at the gym the other day. She wants me to get certified to teach some classes with her and I told her I really want to do it but feel like I need to wait until Sienna goes to school. I will never get these days back and they go so dang fast. I just want to spend time with her (and my other kids) I don’t want to be worrying about remembering routines, or stressing about teaching. So long story short I decided to wait. I think you are an AMAZING photograher and you will be in a few years when Lucy is in school too.
    Your a wonderful writer as well and I love reading your blog so I am so glad your not giving that up!

  16. Thanks for that post. It so beautifully describes how I am feeling at this time in my life too. You don’t know me but I read your blog often. I am a friend of Stacy Benintendi and found your blog through her. Anyway, I hope you don’t mind that I pop in and read about your life. You inspire me and I just wanted to let you know that I’m glad you will keep on blogging because I truly enjoy reading it. Thanks so Much Beth

  17. i am proud and happy for you all at once.

    sometimes when i look at your blog all i see is perfection- and i appreciate that you took the time to share your challenges and goals to CHOOSE the best.

    i think you are fabulous.
    just for the record.

    and i hope by giving up photography, it doesnt mean that you will stop shooting pics of your adorable family. those are musts.

    i actually have been thinking about Elder Oaks talk a lot lately, too… its a great one.

    thanks again 🙂

  18. I just stumbled on your blog and I love it! Your one word really stuck with me, particularly the word LISTEN. I’m going to make that my word for the year. Thanks for the inspiration!

  19. Wow Shawni, you are truly an amazing mother. Thanks for saying you WANT the tantrums, grubby hands, etc. That brought better perspective to me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts in your blog.

  20. This post totally made me cry. Thanks for writing it and inspiring us all to choose the better part a little bit more (I love that talk too.) Yeah for “choose”! Your family is so lucky to have a great, righteous mother and wife such as yourself! You’re beautiful woman!

  21. I love that you posted about your “word.” We do that too in our fam.. and my word chose itself this year. I thought of focus, and listen… but a little voice in the back of my head kept saying “grace” … until I finally listened!

    Thanks for a great post, and such honesty. At the risk of sounding cheesy, you’re such a great role model! Looking forward to hearing more about the book with your mom..

  22. Shawni, it’s been fun for me to sneak over to your blog every once in awhile (since meeting you at the Porters crazy white elephant Christmas party). I just have to say that you have such a way with words and I wish that I was more like that. Anyhow, I kind of went through the same thing as you did…trying to figure out the balance of what I wanted and needed from life. What I wanted was to be the best mom I could be…photography needed to come second, well…maybe more like third or fourth. It was the best decision I’ve made. No more missed soccer games, endless nights of editing, weekends where we wanted to escape to the cabin but couldn’t because I had sessions scheduled. I keep telling myself that someday I’ll start it up again….maybe I will and maybe I won’t. We shall see! Thanks for sharing and being you!

  23. Love the honesty. I remember when I started in MBA school that they told us there would be too much homework on purpose to force us to prioritize. I still think that is a crazy way to make people learn, but I’ve noticed that the Gospel makes us do it as well. There are always way too many “good” or “okay” things to do, and obviously Elder Oaks’ talk was speaking to this dilemma. It’s hard to give up creative outlets when you may feel that you already give so much of yourself that nothing feeds that part of you. But I guess God knows what he’s doing, just like those crazy business profs. Love ya, Shawni!

  24. Shawni,
    You have no idea who I am. I am blog surfing just to release stress and distract my mind. But I just want to say THANK YOU for posting this. My day has been filled with “Good” things. More than I can even really handle right now and I am breaking down. But those “good” things are totally distracting me from what I really should focus/care about at this time. This was an answer to my prayers. Thank you.

  25. Shawni,

    Good for you! I think having time to focus on your family is a good thing right now, a necessary thing.

    It’s true, you’ll always have photography. It’s freeing just to ‘choose’ to remove something off your plate.

    I have that brownie pudding recipe for you if you’d like it. It turned out REALLY well, even better as breakfast the next day, I might add.

    Choose to be in the moment with your kids – that’s what I’m trying to do. So often I shuffle them around, scurrying to get things done while the ‘big kids’ are in school, letting my two little girls play by themselves. Often I realize I didn’t really interact with them. I was so busy trying to get all my tasks done on my ‘never ending’ task list.

    I’ve thought a lot about your comments on stepping back and taking care of your family.

    We’ve had a big week at our house. We finally have some answers to problems with our little six year old that we have been trying to figure out for two years. Life will change for him and our family. I understand your thoughts on what I call ‘circling the wagons’ and focusing on building eternal relationships.

    I’m happy to email you the recipe…maureenshumway@gmail.com

    Shawni, you bring strength and a voice to so many who feel the same way you do.

    Thank you.

  26. Loved to read your post Shawni, (along with many others)! I’ve been thinking about you non-stop for the last few days and keep wanting to call, but talking myself out of it because I don’t want to call at a bad time. I am grateful for the updates with your health and the health of your kiddos. Know that I’ve been praying hard for you guys and miss you guys tons! I love your word for the year and I know your sacrifices will pay some major dividends! Love you…see you in March!

  27. I read a quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson today. “Don’t waste life in doubts and fears; spend yourself on the work before you, well assured that the right performance of this hour’s duties will be the best preparation for the hours and ages that will follow it.”

    You’ve done just that! No more doubts or fears. You are taking care of the work right before you (your family) Good for you!

  28. Shawni,
    Thanks so much for this post. It crystallized what *I* need to be doing right now. I need to become an academic expert and spend time working on finding a better fit for my kids’ education. Your post put it in perspective, and reminded me that I’d better do it now, because next year I may be called upon to become a health professional. Thanks for doing the thinking for all of us (and thanks to Dave for the time to do it!).

  29. Shawni- thank you for being real! You are a real inspiration to me and many other moms out there!
    I hope that everything goes better for you and your family! I love you all and you are in my thoughts and prayers!

  30. this reminds me of when elder maxwell gave a talk at BYU and said, speaking to women, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.”

    i like your word and it’s evident you want what is best for your family and yourself.

    p.s. marie g. told me about your blog and i’m married to dave nilson.

  31. wow… light bulb moment. as a photographer myself (in the midst of CRAZY season) editing as we speak, mother of 4, and busy with a stake calling I feel like I am running around like a mad woman. and your post has really struck me. i feel like you have just given me permission to let go of a some things:), now i just have to have the strength the do it.

    thank you.

  32. This was such a wonderful post. Thank you for putting it into words for me. I have had to let go of my artwork recently – to homeschool my three youngest sons. I love it now, but cried for days in the beginning. I am going to pick a word for 2010. I like this idea. You sound like a wonderful person and an even better mom! You are an inspiration. Glad you didn't give up the blogging! Thanks.

  33. I know htis was written a while ago, but you peaked my interest with your mention of testing for lupus. Have you written about what came of that? Whether you foudn out what was going on? Could you point me in the direction of those posts if so? I have some unexplained health issues that have at times been attributed to Lupus but in the end it was determined that it's not Lupus- we just don't know what it is. So, I'm curious to hear about your situation.

  34. I hope these comments come into your inbox even on old posts.
    I just wanted to mention to you that one of my daughters had a serious bed wetting/day wetting problem like Claire's. We had to retrain her to use the bathroom by getting her an alarm watch when she was in kindergarten.
    It worked, somewhat, but what finally did the trick was taking her off dairy. She miraculously stopped bed wetting 4 days after going off of it, and has re-wet if it builds up in her system again.
    She doesn't test positive for a dairy allergy, so I took her to a naturopathic doctor & had her tested for food intolerances, and the dairy intolerance showed up there.

  35. I'm so glad you didn't give up your blog! Through a particularly hard time, I found your blog through the I'm a Mormon site. Your words of wisdom inspired me to keep moving forward and trust in God. Since then I've read most of your blog, and it never ceases to be of help. Thank you for reaching out to strangers you've never met. I hope you know how huge of a difference you make 🙂

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