Wednesday, August 29, 2012

unwritten blog etiquette

Every so often I love to write a blog post about being a good blogger. It is a hobby that I love to do and along the way I have made many mistakes and discovered many shortcuts. When you first start a blog it can be hard to know what the unwritten rules of blog etiquette are in relation to linking to other bloggers and sharing ideas that you have found and love on your own blog. I recently received an email from Emma asking me to share what I know about blog etiquette so here is what I have learned over my time as a blogger and my number one tips for finding success in this area.

1. Blog Etiquette For Pictures or Images
One of the most confusing aspects of blog etiquette is in relation to pictures and images. This has become even more difficult to understand since the introduction of Pinterest where it seems like people are taking other people's images from blogs and business' all the time. Basically when it comes to pictures or images you want to share on your blog, all you need is some common sense and respect for those who originally took or created them. 

The best way to share images as a blogger is to simply use your own. It takes a little more effort to take your own pictures but it is worth not getting in trouble with anyone else for! If you want to use an image from another blogger the best way is to firstly check what copyright they have on their blog and to always ask permission first. Some people are happy for you to use their images to help promote what message they are trying to share and other's are fiercely protective of images the have on their blogs. 

Also understand that amongst bloggers there are people who do take images without asking first and just because they are doing it, it does not mean it is the right thing for you to do. If you really have to use an image from someone else, always link back to them and give them credit for the image. But, be prepared to remove the image if they see it and are not happy that you shared it. 

If I use an image that I have found on Pinterest I always try to find the original source and link back to the owner as a thank you for creating it. I use a permalink underneath the image with the direct link to the blog post that it was taken from. You can also include a link in your blog post directing people to the blog to check out an image without taking it and sharing it on your blog.

I always try to keep in mind how I would feel about someone else taking pictures of my children and sharing them on their blog. I would not like it at all and therefore try to be respectful and careful when using images.

2. Blog Etiquette in linking to other blogs
Every blogger I know loves it when other people link to their blogs. One of the questions I am asked the most is if someone can link to my blog or if it is alright to link to other bloggers. The answer to this question every single time is a big fat YES! If you see a blog post that you love and feel ties in well with something that you have written on your blog, by all means link it up in your blog post. Don't be afraid to send people away from your blog to read something new or to discover something or someone else. They will return to you and be thankful for the new information or site that they have discovered because you share it. 

One benefit of sharing a link to another blog in your blog post is that is helps to share blog traffic. Everyone loves to receive more traffic to their blog and sharing links to other blog posts is a great way to do this. If you are known as someone who shares the blog link love, people will more likely share your blog posts and links as well.

Most bloggers are also really busy people and do not get to see every time someone links up to them. There is nothing wrong with sending them a quick message if you want to, to share that you loved what they had to say but don't expect a comment or thank you just because you linked up to them. Do it because you loved what they had to say and not because you are seeking some praise from them. 

One thing I will say on this topic is that please remember to be kind and respectful and only link to another blog because you think what they have to say is worthwhile and good and not because you want to criticise and make fun of them. As I have mentioned already, use common sense and be respectful and have fun linking to other bloggers. We all love to have some link love and extra traffic. You are most welcome to link up one of my blog posts at any time!

3. Linking in Blog Comments
One lesson that I learned early on as a blogger is not to leave my blog address as part of my blog comment when commenting on blog posts. When I first started my blog I saw people do this all the time and thought that it was the way to leave a blog comment. Much to my surprise I stumbled across a blog post written by a respectable blogger about how annoying it is to have people leave comments like this: "Great post!"

Most bloggers will not click on those links and it can often come across as rude when you do so. It is seen as the only reason you are commenting is to promote yourself and to not really add a kind or thoughtful comment to the blog post at all. If bloggers want to find you or your blog they can simply click on your profile and be directed to your blog from there.

There is nothing wrong with leaving a link in a blog post comment if you have written a blog post similar to the one you are reading. I appreciate it when my readers leave a comment directing me to something they have written very similar to myself as I love to read another take on the same issue. But be careful how often you do this as it can be seen as spamming a blog.

4. Be original with content
My number one tip for blog etiquette is to never, ever, ever copy and paste content from another blogger or blog or website and post it on your blog as your own content. I understand that most of us are just rehashing the same message over and over again as bloggers and there is nothing wrong with being inspired to write about a similar topic but please make sure it is your own words, thoughts and ideas that you are sharing.

There is nothing worse as a writer and blogger than finding out that someone has copied your thoughts, word for word. It is frustrating, seen as the lowest of low as a blogger and if you think you can get away with it, believe me you won't. Bloggers are very protective of content, they read a lot of blogs, learn to know the writing style and voice of other bloggers and they know if someone else has copied another blogger.

Most bloggers write because they have an opinion, they want to be a voice and know they have a voice and an audience. If you are copying someone else's work, be prepared to be attacked and receive the strong opinion and voice of many other bloggers that will not be nice. They will use their voice to put a stop to it and you will regret ever copying that content.

I understand that some times we share blog posts that can be similar at the same time as bloggers and if that happens, simply link up the other blog post and promote them as well. There is a difference between writing about similar topics and similar thinking compared to straight, copy and paste. Readers and bloggers know the difference.

Now that I have shared a few things that I have discovered about blog etiquette, I want to add that I am in no way trying to come down hard or preach how other bloggers should conduct themselves. How you chose to run your blog and conduct yourself as a blogger is up to you. I am simply sharing a few tips I have learned along my blog journey and I would love to hear if you have anything else you would add to what you have seen is unwritten blog etiquette.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Living a 'should' free life

'Should' is a word that drives me crazy.
I find myself saying it in my mind all day.

I should be a better mother, I should eat healthier...etc.
It is a word that makes me feel guilty.

So I took a run on the treadmill, thought about it, got off and recorded this vlog.
I have running hair, I am a bit of a mess but I hope you can with connect what I am saying.

I am working on living a should free life.
Are you?

This year I need to learn how to be better at recording vlogs.
This could possible be the worst one I have recorded to date, quality wise!

You can check out my other two vlogs here:

Anyway, hope you enjoy it xx

Saturday, August 25, 2012

V8 Racing Super Car Combo Package + Father's Day Giveaway

We love living life in the fast lane here in the Seven Cherubs house, so it was with this in mind that RedBalloon and I decided to give Matt a V8 Racing Super Car Combo Package for Father's Day. After all he is a Super Dad to our seven children, knows how to quickly catch a child when needed and is used to living life with his foot to the floor with a family of nine to take care of. Surely speeding around a race track would be a walk in the park compared to some of the crazy moments he has endured as a wonderful father to our cherubs and especially twin boys!

The Gift
For the race package that Matt took part in he was treated to 8 self-drive laps around the circuit and then 3 laps in the hot seat as a passenger with a professional driver taking him around the track at full speed.

The Training
We headed out to Willow Bank Raceway {Brisbane} and as soon as we arrived Matt was guided over to Pit Lane and given his racing suit. Once he was dressed and ready to race he headed into the Orientation Room to receive training. This was where Matt thought he might view a safety video but was delighted to be given some training by an experienced driver on car handling, how to take the corners, braking and general information about the track. Basically, he was given knowledge and skills on how to get the most out of his racing car driving experience.

The Experience
Once he was trained and suited up he was ready to go! Before jumping in the car you get to choose to drive a Holden or Ford V8. The line up in the Holden section was packed and the Ford section was empty so Matt chose to jump in a Ford so he did not have to wait longer, even though he really wanted to drive a Holden. Once it is your turn to drive, you are strapped in tightly, introduced to your personal in-car coach and then ready to take on the track! 

Matt started off feeling very cautious but loved having a coach to show him the fastest way around the track and to give him tips when he was driving. The in-car coach really helps you to push the car you are driving further and Matt described the whole experience as exhilarating and exciting. He mentioned it was a surprise to hear the coach say, 'Floor It' and it took a second for him to register that yes, he could really floor it! 
As a spectator I thought it was fun to stand on the side of the tracks watching a family member speed around. I loved the noise and imagining the nerves and thrill of those driving at high speeds. Often when the cars returned to Pit Lane the brakes were smoking and everyone jumped out of their cars with a big smile on their faces. We found booking through RedBalloon a wonderful, smooth experience and look forward to future adventures we have planned in the next six months.

As an extra option you can also chose to have your experience recorded for a small fee and above is a screenshot of the example you receive. A recording of you driving and the track at the same time. Matt loved showing it to the kids and talking them through the experience.

About RedBalloon
RedBalloon is the ultimate place for gift experiences, with over 2,500 different gifts available to chose from all over Australia. They are passionate about changing the way people feel about giving gifts and the experience of receiving them. They believe gifts should be amazing, reflecting the uniqueness of the individual and that no other gift comes close to a RedBalloon experience. They have so many choices available that there is something for everyone!

The Giveaway
Just in time for Father's Day, RedBalloon have put together a great list of suggestions of Father's Day Gifts that will cater to every Dad's needs. They would also like to offer a Seven Cherubs reader, the chance to win a $200 Voucher to put towards the experience of your choice. You can pick out a gift for your husband, for your father-in-law or even a son...or you could keep it for yourself! The Voucher is valid for 12 months from date of issue so you will have plenty of time to plan that special experience and adventure. 

How to Enter:
To enter to win a $200 Voucher fill in the Rafflecopter form below and leave a blog post comment telling me what RedBallon Father's Day Gift you would like to win. Giveaway is open to Australian residents only. Winner will be notified by email and if no response is made in 48 hours a new winner will be chosen. Giveaway closes 1st September, 2012.

Reader Discount: For Seven Cherubs readers if you spend $129 or more on any RedBalloon experience, you can receive $30 off. To redeem visit and enter the promotional code: REDMUM02. This offer is valid until 31/12/2013. The promotional code can only be used once per person. All purchases are subject to RedBalloon's T&C's. Full details here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: Thanks to the team at Digital Parents Collective for inviting me to be a part of the Red Balloon Experience Program. I will be sharing my awesome experiences with you over the next 6 months. Stay tuned! As always, all opinions are my own however the experiences are complimentary. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The never good enough mother

Every so often when I get a moment to myself, I think about being a mum. Not in a quick superficial way, but in a more deeper, ponderous way. I think about my attitude and about my journey of being a mum so far. When this happen's I always end up thinking about being a never good enough mother.

I know! I spend way too much time thinking about this topic but I can't help it, being a mum is my career, it is my full-time job! I have to think about it a lot to be good at it.

Anyway, I always start by thinking about myself and then naturally my thoughts start thinking about other mum's I know and then onto other mum's I don't know and then onto to all the mum's, around the world. 

I know! I have a problem!!
Then when I start to think about it, I worry. 

I worry about all the mum's who see themselves as never good enough mother's. Who live each day thinking that no matter what they do, it will never measure up, it is not good enough for the standard they have set for themselves and for the standard they believe other's have set for them.

I know what they are thinking, I know how miserable it is because I have been there myself.
It is not a pretty place to be.

Every day is exhausting, every day is a battle and every day involves beating yourself up. Eventually it becomes a natural part of your day to be critical of yourself and your actions and you lose your confidence in your natural abilities to follow your heart and instincts as a mum.

When this happens you start to need the assurance and praise of other's, you seek for them to tell you that you are doing an alright job as a mum, that you are mothering the right way for your children and you spend your life walking on egg shells worrying if what you did that day was good enough.

Your focus changes from wanting to please your children and to keeping them happy to wanting to please friends and even strangers. You focus becomes on the perception of what other's think of you and not what in your heart you know is best for your own children and family.

When you find yourself living your day in this way, that you are living your life as the never good enough mother, it is time to let go and to make a change. To change yourself, not your family.

It is easy to blame your family and your children for getting yourself into this situation because of their behaviour or because they won't listen to you, but in reality, you are the one who needs to make an attitude change. To change your thinking and to change your heart.

The change is simple in it's title: from being a never good enough mother to a good enough mother, but so much harder to put into practice.

The, I am good enough mother, is one who does not care what other's think, they mother from the heart, the actions and decisions they make are motivated and determined because of their family and children and not by the perceptions of other's. They don't care if they go out and a child is dressed in a crazy way, they don't worry if they get stares from people at the shops, they let that child express themselves how they want, they have fun, they feel confident with the choices they make and don't need the praise of other's to confirm the way they mother.

The more you love your decision's as a mum the less you need other's to love them.

I have spent a lot of my mothering journey working on being a good enough mother. I have had moments where I felt seriously outnumbered with many young cherubs and spent each day questioning and being critical of my every action, wondering if I could actually do one right thing at all during that day. I have also had moments where I knew I was right there, with the right thinking, mothering right from the heart, standing confident and tall each day with my cherubs and not letting anyone influence me in any way with the mothering I was doing each day.

Now that I have been a mother for many years, I find I feel I have more and more days as a good enough mother. It has been a journey though to get to this stage. I know some women find it no problem to slot right into this thinking, for me it has taken time, adjustment and hard work for me to change my heart and thinking. The journey though has been worth it. I now know what I want as a mother, what my children need me to do and be and really don't give a stuff about what others think!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

updating the entrance way to my home

It is no secret that I like to decorate our home. It keeps me busy and I like to have fun coming up with new creative ideas. I also love to change rooms around when my husband is away, the poor guy, and I constantly work on getting a better feel to our home. This week I was excited to update the entrance way to our home. I loved what I originally had on my wall but decided to have some fun adding some more family pictures.

I have shared before how I have a heart wall in our entrance way {see above} with prints that I ordered from Printsagram. Printsagram are a wonderful company who print out your Instagram pictures. As I love to use Instagram, I am sevencherubs by the way, I thought it would be lovely to have some of them on display in my home. I ordered the miniprints to get these cards {see below}. I adore them! I love them so much I decided to go a little crazy and add a few more pictures to the wall. I may have gone a little overboard but the whole family is loving it!

I ordered a couple of sets of cards and went to work sticking them to our wall.

I now have a very large heart on our wall.
I am still working out the shape of it.
Not quite happy yet but getting there!

People love to comment on it when they come into our home.
My cherubs also love to see pictures of themselves and to remember fun times we had.

I of course am beyond excited about it!
It makes me smile every time I see it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

motherhood: adjusting to a messy home

One of the hardest adjustments for me when I became a mother was the change in the look of my home and adjusting to now owning and taking care of a messy home. It went from being a simple organised home with just Matt and I, to in a few short years a home full of cherubs, toys and mess. See above ^^^ this is what happens when one of my children decides to take a minute to find one item!

This took a lot of adjusting to on my part and over the years I have come to find a comfortable balance with it. Now I have to say that when I am talking about a messy home, that is different, I am not talking about an un-hygenic home, but a home with general toys and books and clothes and other items that come with having children.

No matter how organised your home is, no matter how many baskets you store items in, children will create mess as they play, grow, learn and create. It is important to let children explore and to be creative and it is a vital part of their development as children. The down side of this is that it involves mess!

How we feel about it as parents also determines how creative our children will be. If they know they are allowed to make a mess, within reason here, they will feel free to be more creative. Over time I have seen my fair share of cupboards completely emptied, book shelves emptied, toy boxes tipped out, fridges raided and whole rooms destroyed. My children know and have all been taught from a young age that if you are going to make a mess you need to either clean it up yourself or help me clean it up. They know they need to be responsible for the actions and mess that they make.

This has taken pressure off of me to clean up every single mess in my home myself - which some days is more than I can handle! Of course when my children we very young, it did drive me crazy as they were too young to clean up all of the mess but most young children can pick up a block and put it in a box or basket. It is all about being consistent and training.

Now that my children are a little older they still know they can make a mess, play and have fun but they need to be responsible for cleaning it up afterwards. They make cubby houses in the lounge, build towers with blocks, set up shops and create many fun spaces and know they need to clean up afterwards. I love seeing them being creative and the mess doesn't seem as bad when I keep that in mind as a mother.

So tell me: How did you handle adjusting to a messy home?

Monday, August 6, 2012

living life in the front seat: a RedBalloon mum

Every so often having a blog allows me an opportunity to experience life in a way I could never have dreamed of. An opportunity to live life in the front seat, to experience some fun and happiness and to get out of my comfort zone. One of these such opportunities came my way recently with an invitation from RedBalloon to be an Offical 'experience blogger'! 

RedBalloon is a website that is passionate about changing the way people feel about giving gifts and the experience of receiving them. They also believe gifts should be amazing, reflecting the uniqueness of the individual and that no other gift comes close to a RedBalloon experience. With over 2500+ gifts and experiences to chose from they have a gift for every occasion.

So how does this relate to me? Well, I have the wonderful opportunity to review and try out gift experiences they have available on their website. I know! I am pinching myself here!! Over the next 6 months I will be strapping on my 'be brave, suck it up baby, live life to the fullest, get out of your comfort zone, laugh your head off, try new experiences, face your fears, find more happiness and experience life in the fast lane' shoes. 

Some of these experiences I will be trying are ones that I have always wanted to do so I am very excited to get stuck into them and to give them a go. As most of you know I am all for trying out products and experiences to help my readers know what is of good value and money :) I love to write an honest and detailed review so I look forward to sharing what I think and recommend.  I am a little excited and scared about what I have in store for the next 6 months - especially my experience of touching the clouds. Eeeek!

As someone who believes in living life in the front row and not in the third row - I am beyond excited about the next 6 months and what they have in store. I hope you will enjoy sharing what I get up to and reading about what is available on the RedBalloon site. Just to let you know I will not be wearing a skirt for any of my experiences and I plan on keeping what my underwear looks like all to myself!

Here is to living life to the fullest and trying new experiences.
Bring on the fun!!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

my early morning routine

I arise at 5:30am every morning and my husband is already showered and dressed, ready to head out the door to work. I throw on some warm clothes and head out to the kitchen to begin my early morning routine. I firstly get the lunch boxes ready for the school day. Matt helps me by placing some food items on the kitchen bench that he knows I will use, kisses me goodbye and heads out the door.

I start preparing the lunch boxes. It is not a job I enjoy but I quickly fill each lunch box with items that I know each child loves and will eat. Each has different tastes and I use what I have available to fill those needs. I then open the bedroom door for my oldest daughter who arises just before six to get ready to head out the door at 6:30am.

When I am running I normally get up 30 minutes earlier and hit the treadmill before I do the lunch boxes. At the moment I am doing my running during the day or at night time so it means I get an extra 30 minute sleep in!

I then head to the lounge room where I turn the heater on, sit down at my desk and spend about 15 minutes checking emails and writing a blog post. If I am happy with my blog post I publish it but if not I leave it until later. I then move towards the laundry to prepare the uniforms for my cherubs. We have a variety of children wearing different uniforms on different days. It is a choice of a sports uniform or a formal uniform. I keep a chart in my laundry to remind me what is happening each day. 

My daughter by this time has hit the shower and when she has finished I hit the shower and get dressed for my day. I get myself ready in time to say goodbye to my daughter and then wake up my other children to start getting ready for school. 

Then the chaos begins. Kids complain it is too cold, try to stay in bed longer and others grab a blanket and lay on the kitchen floor. I encourage them to get breakfast, to get dressed and to start moving. It is during this time when bodies and minds are waking up that I get my own breakfast. I enjoy it whilst checking a few of my favourite blogs and reminding my kids that time is ticking away.

After having a quick read of a few blogs I then head into the kitchen and help those stragglers who have not yet had breakfast. I remind children to brush hair, to brush teeth and to make beds. I help tie shoelaces, braid hair, wipe up the mess on the kitchen table and leave the dishes until later. 

Some mornings when I get a free moment I pop onto my Seven Cherubs facebook page and leave an update and some mornings I leave it and pop onto facebook a lot later. Depends how my morning is going with getting the children ready. 

When lunch boxes are in bags and homework and school notes are all added, we all gather in the lounge room. We read a scripture together, kneel together as a family and say a prayer before heading out the door. There is then a mad rush out the door for the car. I jump in the car last and drop the kids off at school.

After dropping the kids off at school, I come home to face the mess of the morning. I often stand in my kitchen and shake my head at how much mess can be made in such a short time. There is cereal on chairs, on the floor, spilt milk, toys, discarded socks and often a forgotten musical instrument, school jumper or laptop. 

Often I smile and laugh because some days I want to cry at the destruction and work I have ahead of me. I then set Liberty up to do some activity, turn on some music in my kitchen and set to work to clean it up. After doing the kitchen I head into my bedroom where I keep a simple set of cards I made out of a cereal box. I cut up the back of a cereal box and made some square cards. Super easy! I then listed all the activities I wanted to accomplish each morning to bring order and happiness. 

For me it involves: 
Having a tidy bedroom 
A quick clean up of the kids bedrooms 
Putting on a load of washing 
Saying my prayers 
Having a shower and getting dressed 
Decluttering the kitchen table 
Checking emails 
Preparing dinner for that night 
Quick tidy up of the loungeroom 
Sweeping the kitchen floor and 
Tidying up the kitchen from breakfast. 

I leave my cards in my bedroom and every time I complete a task I turn over a card. It is simple and easy. If I get held up or distracted or simply find myself wondering what I am supposed to be doing, I can just go to my room and see where I am at. Liberty loves to help me out and she knows that the faster we get the housework done the faster we get to have more fun together.

Some days I spread my routine out over the whole day and other days I love to get it all done as early as I can. It all depends on what we have happening that day and what mood Liberty is in. I find having a routine to follow helps me feel happier and takes less effort and time. On days when I don't feel like doing any of it we often go out for a while first and when I come home I am in a much better mood to tackle the housework.

Do you have a morning routine you follow in your home?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

finding my personal faith

I have not always been a religious person, in fact I think I was raised to NOT be religious. As a young child I remember attending church a couple of times with my grandparents but that was as far as it went. In our family we did not say prayers, we did not read scriptures and we definately did not attend church on a regular basis. Being a religious person was the last thing on my mind as I was growing up.

Then something happened, something changed and I felt a stirring within me. I started working as a teenager in a supermarket as a checkout chick. I remember on a regular basis 2 young men, always dressed in suits, coming through my register. They never spoke to me about religion, they never invited me to learn more but they were always happy and friendly. I could tell by the badges they wore that they were religious and I could tell they were different from other people I knew. I wanted to be like them; positive and happy.

I knew I could be like them by deciding to be a little happier myself but I also decided that the way for me to start being a little like them was to read the Bible. As a teenager I remember clearly hunting down a religious book shop in my home town and purchasing a Bible. It took me a couple of times to work up the courage to enter the shop and I remember afterwards being shocked that I now owned my very own Bible! I spent a lot of my time pouring over it's pages, just reading the words but not really understanding what it was about.

This lasted for about six months, I then put my Bible away and did not see any young men in suits for a very long time. Years even. However, it was a start, my heart had been pricked and softened to allow God to enter and little did I know at the time that it was a great preparation for the choices I would make in the future.

So after spending a short amount of time during my teenage years doing some light Bible reading, I put away my Bible not to touch it for about 4 more years. Religion crossed my mind several times during this period as I often stopped to chat to anyone who was promoting a certain faith or church. As I talked to people from other faiths I enjoyed what they had to say. I agreed on many points of their teachings but in my heart they never felt quite right for me. I continued on my journey of life and my thoughts started turning towards finding a religion that I knew in my heart and mind was for me. Strangely enough during this time I did not remember seeing any more young men in suits. 

I moved out of home at 17, I lelt as soon as I could! I enrolled in University, found a job in the city and lived a busy and full life. I found friends, I went out on the weekends, I danced my heart out, I dated, I shopped, I studied and I tried my best to keep up with what a normal young adult would do at that time and stage of life.

After completing several years of University I took a year off to work full time. I wanted to save a little more money and to think more about what direction I wanted to take my life. The more I started to think about where I was heading the more depressed I started to feel. I spent about two months feeling deeply depressed. During this time I wanted to end my life. I spent all of my day writing out my thoughts and reasons for not living. I planned it all out. How it would happen, who would find me and even set a time and date for when ending my life would take place. 

It consumed my thoughts constantly and I simply could not see any reason to keep living. One night, very late at night I had an experience that changed my mind. The only way I can describe it is that I had a moment where I could see clearly, it was if I had pure knowledge. I was taught a simple truth.

Into my mind and heart came an impression or concept I had never considered before. It was that there is life after this Earth life. That there really is a place to go to. It touched me. I had never pondered it very much before. I had heard people talk of heaven but I had never personally applied it to myself. How this knowledge would affect me.

I clung to that knowledge. I pondered over would happen if I ended my life. The emotional and mental state that I would be in if I ended my life right then. It scared me. I did not want to go to that next place as messed up as I was feeling, I wanted to go there as a happier, stronger person. I then made the decision to do whatever it takes to get myself better. I decided to be a survivior. That simple truth and decision and knowledge saved my life.

I quit my job. I enrolled back into University more determined to finish my study and to follow my dreams. I slowly started to make changes that agreed with what I was feeling. I wrote out a list of all the negatives in my life and started to cut them out. I stopped seeing my boyfriend, I stopped drinking alcohol, I stopped swearing, I stopped going to nightclubs, I started dressing more modestly, I changed my attitude, I started speaking kinder to myself and I started to feel happy. I listened more to my heart and I had the desire to live and to be a better person. For the first time in a long time I started to feel a personal faith in myself. A seed had been planted in my heart waiting for me to let it fully blossom and grow.

Two weeks later as I was home studying there was a knock at my door. When I opened the door I was surprised to see two young men standing there wearing suits. I was shocked to see them. It was two young men from the same church that I had met years earlier when I was working as a checkout chick. They were representatives from The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Now I know for a lot of other people getting a knock on the door from two guys in suits is the last thing that they want and in fact a moment that they hate but for me, it was just what I personally needed and it is for people like me that these young men and women go through all of the verbal abuse and other trials that come there way.

The timing of that knock on the door was not a coincidence. It was meant to be. I was ready and I was prepared and I was waiting for guidance on how to move forward with my life. Little did I know that these two young men where going to provide me with more peace and happiness and love than I could have ever imagined. They were going to be a big part of the answer on how I needed to learn to water and nourish and take care of that seed of personal faith in my heart.

We chatted at the door and they handed me a book to read. It was the Book of Mormon. As a University student majoring in history and literary studies, I was delighted to receive the book as a gift and read it immediately. By the time they next came to visit me I had finished reading the book. To their surprise I handed it back to them, told them I had read it and thanked them for such an interesting history book to read. Of course not coming from a religious background I did not read the book as a religious book, I read it as a history book which was a shock to the two young men standing at my door.

After several conversations together about the Book of Mormon I eventually invited them to teach me more about religion. I was very wary and cautious. I am not someone who simply believes the word of others. I like to research, to study and to find out for myself about life and what is truth. I was not an easy student for these young men. I went to my University, typed in the word 'Mormon' and checked out all the books on the church or religion. I read profusely. I read every book that the University had available and strangely enough they had a lot! I studied all of the books for the church and all of the books against it.  I immersed myself in it and through the whole process listened to what my heart was telling me.

After months of serious intense study and research which involved asking a million questions,  digging deep into scripture, investigating the role of women, studying the history of the church, attending religious classes, inquiring about the role of families, learning about doctrine, understanding prayer, spending time fasting and pondering, speaking my mind, writing out my feelings, attending other churches, feeling the spirit in my life, devouring as many spiritual books as I could, reading more of the Bible, learning about God and Jesus Christ, opening my heart, wanting to become better and believing I was a child of God and a beloved daughter for the first time in my life, I decided to become a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or a Mormon {as is our nickname}.

Decided to become a religious person was the last thing I had planned for myself yet I felt so at home, it felt so natural to me and I was the happiest I had ever been in my life. Over my years as a member of the church I have blossomed and grown in ways I could never have imagined. I now have a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ. A relationship I treasure. After being a member of my church for one year I also went on a full time service mission and became one of those missionaries like the two young men who wore suits and knocked on doors. I met so many wonderful people, I served in communities, I helped disabled children ride horses, I read to children in schools, I cleaned homes, I talked with ministers of religion, I learned to respect and admire other faiths, I learned more about myself and my heart, I made friends, my personal faith and belief that I was a worthwhile, intelligent, inspiring woman flowered and I felt more joy that I could have dreamed of.

Today my personal faith is firm and secure. Rooted in my heart is a knowledge that I am of value and of worth. I have come a long way from where I first began and as I have taken the time to put myself first on many occasions I have reaped great benefits. I know many people who have not had to go through this process and having confidence in themselves has come naturally and they have felt that way from childhood. For me it was a daily battle, a struggle to find and religion has given me a sure foundation to base my personal faith on. I am so thankful that two young men in suits knocked on my door and gently, lovingly helped me become who I am today.

I am a writer, I am a blogger, I am a wife to a wonderful husband, I am the mother of seven children, I am a jewellery and book collector, I am a kitchen dancer, I am a happiness seeker, I am a thriver and I am a Mormon.