What I Learned About Life and Spirituality from Prince

When I heard that Prince had passed away, I was substitute teaching in a kindergarten classroom. My mother-in-law had texted me and I immediately pulled out my phone to confirm. It couldn’t be true.

It was the first time the death of a celebrity hit me in a real and immediate way. There was first disbelief, followed by dread and nausea. I struggled to keep it together until the dismissal bell released me. Then the tears that wrung out of my body were so strong it gave me stomach cramps.Prince Lessons

I drove home and immediately crawled into bed. I got a call from my mom asking if I was okay. She knew my heartache for she had experienced a similar loss when Elvis passed.

I am very grateful that my mother recognized his impact on my life very early. She purchased my first concert ticket for his Lovesexy tour in 1988 and drove seven hours one way to assure I could see him perform live.

“I’m a musician. I am music.” ~ Prince 

I would see him perform once more in Portland in 2004 for Musicology. I had hoped to see his Piano & a Microphone tour in 2016 but missed my chance.

Since his death on April 21, 2016, I have watched numerous video clips of his live performances, interviews, and amateur tour footage that have been shared online. The explosion of material now available have provided his #PurpleArmy with the solace we seek, an opportunity for one more connection with him.

Prince Rogers Nelson

Prince Rogers Nelson was born June 7, 1958 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His parents, Mattie Della and John Lewis Nelson, and grandparents were from Louisiana.  His parents separated when he was ten years and he subsequently repeatedly switched homes often as a teen. Yet music was always a strong element in his life.

Prince first began recording in 1975 with 94 East. A year later he signed a recording contract with Warner Bros whereupon they agreed to give him complete creative control.

His talent was limitless. He was a master composer, musician, and revolutionary artist. I dare say there is not a single artist in my lifetime who has influenced the sound and trajectory of music as much as he.

“I’m no different to anyone. Yes, I have fame and wealth and talent, but I certainly don’t consider myself any better than anyone who has no fame, wealth or talent. People fascinate me. They’re amazing! Life fascinates me! And I’m no more fascinated by my own life than by anyone else’s.” ~ Prince

A Legacy of Equality

I first discovered Prince while watching Night Tracks on TBS. They had aired two performances by him back-to-back, Little Red Corvette and 1999. I was immediately attracted to the music and his individuality. He was like no one else. He was different.

“I don’t really care so much about what people say about me. It usually is a reflection of who they are. For example, if people wish that I would sound the way I used to sound, it says more about them, than it does me.” ~ Prince

As the years progressed, his style evolved. Through it all, strong female musicians were an integral part of his band. They were not solely backup singers or dancers (though he did have those as well) but his partners – Wendy Melvoin, Sheila E., Rosie Gaines, and Candy Duffer amongst others.

Emma Garland recently stated that women are generally portrayed as passive objects in music, which is to not exist at all. “With Prince, they were addressed with awe and empathy. He wrote about women as real, powerful, complicated, sensitive, and sexual beings that he could learn from, and who enriched his life.”

Prince_FreeA Legacy of Freedom

He caught the media’s attention early in his career with his stage presence and outrageous costumes. Many of his songs were overtly sexual. Yet, Prince never made any apologies for who he was and always preached that the most important thing is staying true to yourself.

“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” ~ Prince

He showed me early the power of living one’s life by one’s own rules and no one else’s. He empowered me to walk my own path and to not be persuaded by others to follow the crowd.

Throughout every emotionally difficult time in my life, I’ve sang the lyrics to his songs in my mind. Repeating stanzas like a mantra. The song that had the biggest impact on me was most assuredly Free (lyrics shown above).

A Legacy of Compassion

Prince was also a secret philanthropist, supporting causes including youth empowerment, animal rights, racial justice, and clean energy for all. His compassion for the others was an important part of his legacy.

“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” ~ Prince

The legendary musician was renowned for speaking out on behalf of those who were vulnerable and voiceless. According to federal tax forms, his charity, Love 4 One Another, gave more than $1.5 million between 2005 and 2007 alone.

A new mural of Prince has been unveiled from 10:10 on Vimeo.

The climate charity 10:10 recently commissioned a new mural in honor of Prince’s contributions to environmental causes in Camden, north London. The mural kicks off their six-week campaign to provide solar panels to food banks and charities – groups that reflect the commitment to community, creativity and humanity that Prince demonstrated in life with his secret philanthropy.

“If you ever lose someone dear to you, never say the words, ‘They’re gone.’ They’ll come back.” ~ Prince

When he gave, he made only one request, to not publicize it. He wanted no publicity or accolades for the gifts he bestowed. Many of those who were impacted by his generosity only began sharing of his compassion after he had passed.

A Legacy of Love

Throughout his career, he brought cultures together. Uniting sexes and working to instill his message of love for one another. His fans or #PurpleArmy continue to share his vision.

Spirituality has always been a part of his music. Prince’s musical and lyrical explorations of spiritual themes are evident in each and every album he released. More importantly, he embodied and lived by his spiritual principals.

So many reasons why
There’s so many reasons why
I don’t belong here
But now that I am I
Without fear I am
Gonna conquer with no fear
Until I find my way back home

~ Prince, “Way Back Home”

When I think of Prince, both his music and his life overall, I don’t so much think about religion. When I think of him, I think of love—not romantic or sexual love—but unconditional, human love. A love that transcends gender, race, or religion. A love not limited to one’s family, social circle, community or nation. A love we are most in need of cultivating if we are to grow and evolve.

Prince logo.svg

My 2017 Word of the Year: Hygge

For several years now, I have considered choosing a “word of the year”. A word to focus on throughout the year can at times be simpler and easier than a long list of resolutions. I started thinking about my word a couple of weeks ago.

The first word that came to mind was grace. I find that I can be easily frustrated – particularly with the shortcomings of others. This past year, I have been working on patience for others and also for myself – essentially extending grace. I hadn’t really adopted it as my “word of the year”, however. Even so, this wasn’t quite the word for which I was looking.

Hygge is Love | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netRecently, I’d liked a link shared on the Sons of Norway Facebook page, 20 Pictures that Explain ‘Hygge’, and a friend commented, “Gee, now I am hooked on “hygge!” I’ve known about hygge for a long time but as it happened to appear in my newsfeed simultaneously with posts about the new year, it struck me that this was my word.

Hygge is a lifestyle concept that comes from Scandinavia (specifically Norway and Denmark) and is not easily translated into English. It is about an atmosphere more than one thing in particular. The atmosphere is a combination of not just the place, but the companionship and the situation. It could be your own home, but also a cafe, a walk in nature, a casual meeting with a group of friends, or even by yourself.

Hygge has no real English translation, but essentially describes the feeling you get when you’re comfortable.

Hygge is something that happens in every season, but winter can be pictured as more hygge filled season with details like candlelight to brighten the dark evenings. In the summer, eating outside with friends is a great example of hygge. As I contemplated this word, I was very inspired to take the time to include more hygge in our life – both in homeschool and our daily routines.

Hygge is Adventure | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Adventure

When the kids were younger (elementary years), we had a very relaxed approach to homeschool. We completed our lessons early and had the rest of the day to play and explore passion projects. I would typically reserve one day a week for adventures – nature study outings, field trips, and leisurely days at the lake or up the river.

No matter where you go or what you do, you can bring the hygge. It’s a state of mind.

As they got older and more involved in outside activities, our leisure time began to erode. Lessons take longer and we have less time to freely explore. Not to mention, we’ve all gotten more distracted (do I dare say, addicted?) to our devices. It’s harder to motivate the kids to get outside.

I miss our adventures. I miss spending a leisurely afternoon on the beach watching them swim and dig in the sand. In 2016, we made it a family goal to get outside more – to go camping and to hike more frequently. We aimed to complete hike 52 different hikes in the calendar year. I’ll be writing a recap and reflection of this goal next week.

Hygge is Companionship | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Companionship

Spending quality time with family and friends has always been very important to me. I have very fond memories of large family gatherings for holidays and reunions – granted my mother does have six siblings so our extended family is very large. Click here for A Dozen or So Ideas for Family Time. 

When something is hygge, you say it’s hyggelig (“HOO-gah-lee”): “That was a hyggelig evening.”

We’ve moved twice in the past five years. As a result, it is easy to lose connections with friends. I often feel lonely and disconnected. While I realize that not all friendships are “life long”, I know I need to make extra effort to keep the friendships that are dear to me alive. I can also reach out more in an effort to create new friendships. As an introvert, this can be a challenge.

Hygge is Joy | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Joy

I love getting outdoors. I love watching my kids smile and delight in the wonders of nature. Spending time in nature is also rejuvenating for one’s soul. In 2016, I made it a personal goal to become a certified Oregon Master Naturalist. As a mother and homeschool parent, it is important to take care of me. Achieving Master Naturalist certification was rewarding both intellectually and personally.

The concept of hygge is very nostalgic: candlelight, anti-technology, and comforting traditions are all “hyggelig.”

This coming year, I look forward to renewing our weekly practice of nature journaling. Slowing down and reflecting upon our outings will be hyggelig. As will curling up with a book more regularly.

Hygge is Motivation | My 2017 Word of the Year @EvaVarga.netHygge is Strength

One of the things that has brought me joy is strength and good health. I haven’t been consistent in my fitness these past few years. Exercise may not sound very hyggelig to most, but returning to a training program will bring comfort in knowing I am taking care of myself and in turn caring for my family.

“Hyg dig!” or “have hygge!” is a popular way to say goodbye.


How to Hygge: The Nordic Secrets to a Happy Life by Signe Johansen is already a top-seller on Amazon even though it won’t be released until January 3rd. It promises to be a fresh, informative, lighthearted, fully illustrated how-to guide to hygge. How to Hygge is a combination of recipes and helpful tips for cozy living at home. Pre-order your copy today.


Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hangman will warm you up and teach you to embrace the art of hygge, no matter where you live. This is a beautiful book of Scandinavian comfort food and the recipes are absolutely delicious. The recipes are very modern and healthy.

I’m on Periscope!

So, after months of trying to get this working for me I’m finally making some headway. Yay! This week, I hope to broadcast daily from numerous locations on the beautiful Oregon coast as I take part in an intensive Oregon Master Naturalist course.

I’m a little apprehensive, however, as many of the locations for our field study may be out of cellphone range so this will be a bit of a trial-and-error. Please bear with me as I experiment with this new tool to bring Oregon to you!


Periscope is a live streaming video app for your smart phone that enables you to watch events around the world, LIVE, from someone’s cell phone video camera.

You can follow me (search for me on your app @academiacelesti) or catch the replays on YouTube.

What does this mean for you?

I can give FREE webinars about homeschooling and building a love for science from my comfy house to yours any day of the week! No one travels and no babysitters are required.

How can I get on Periscope?

  1. Download the Periscope app to your smart phone.
  2. Login through your Twitter account, if you have one. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use your cell phone number to log in.
  3. Follow people by clicking on the little person icon at the bottom right of the screen. It will populate with people you follow on Twitter. Check the name to select anyone you wish to follow.
  4. To find me, click on the search icon (magnifying glass) in the top left and search for @academiacelesti. Click “Follow.”
  5. You will be notified of current broadcasts with a cute little whistle sound alerting you to tune in! Or you can follow me on twitter to get a tweet when I go live!

Can you interact with me live?

Yes! There are colorful fluttering hearts floating along the right side of your phone screen throughout broadcasts. The hearts are the “love button” of Periscope. Tap the screen above the person icon to let the broadcaster know you like what’s being shared. It’s fun!

Live viewers can also type comments and questions, as well as send fluttering colorful hearts of love. As a broadcaster, I can see your comments and answer your questions live during the broadcast.

How do you share my  broadcasts with friends?

During the broadcast, you can alert your friends by swiping to the right (iPhone) or swiping up (Android)—don’t worry, the broadcast will continue while you do this—and selecting the “share with followers” button. I appreciate it when you do, so thanks in advance.

What if you can’t watch live?

Not to worry! Periscope stores the recording for 24 hours in the main feed (the television icon) so you can watch the replay on your phone. Alternatively, go directly to the EvaVarga Periscope link on your computer for LIVE broadcasts and 24 hour replays. { Please note: You can still give hearts during replay, but not comments. }

I will also post replays to my YouTube channel so you can catch replays past the 24 hour.

So, come and join in the conversations around homeschooling, connecting with nature, healthy lifestyle and loving our families, or catch the replays. I’ll post them up here too as much as possible!

Have a great weekend!

Taking Care of Me: Finding Balance in Life & Homeschool

As a homeschool mom, it is easy to lose sight of our own needs for the sake of our children and our spouse. Neglecting our needs, however, can damage our confidence, our relationships, and ultimately our enjoyment of life.

Sometimes we forget that if we don’t look after our body and our needs, we won’t be able to help our minds feel nourished, and our souls feel strong. It is important to take care of ourselves as individuals to ensure a happier and healthier life, as well as helping us to be more a part of the community in which we are a part.

Finding Balance in Life & Homeschool

I’ve written a few times in the past about how we have worked as a family to simplify our life and find balance. Today I would like to share a few of the things I do just for me and how I incorporate these into our homeschool lifestyle.

takingcareofmeMy Intellectual Self

Natural history and nature studies has always been a passion for me. As an undergraduate, the majority of my credits were in ecology and natural sciences. When I learned of the Oregon Master Naturalist Program, I knew immediately that I wanted to seek certification.

The Mission of the Oregon Master Naturalist Program is to develop a statewide corps of knowledgeable, skilled, and dedicated volunteers who enrich their communities and enhance public awareness of Oregon’s natural resources through conservation education, scientific inquiry, and stewardship activities.

Since January, I have been immersed in the online course material which provides a basic overview of Oregon’s natural history and the management of its natural resources. While some of the material is review, I have been thoroughly enjoying the assignments as well as connecting with the other participants.

In June, I will begin the regional course requirement which are in-person coures taught within an ecologically distinct region of Oregon. I have selected the Oregon Coast but I am considering adding additional eco-regions in the future.

The final required component for certification is to volunteer 40 hours for a natural resources oriented group or project. Volunteer projects can include education and outreach, citizen science, land stewardship, and/or program support. I am very excited and look forward to collaborating with resource specialists again and developing educational programs for local students.

Finding Balance

What I love best about the online course material is that I have been able to include the kids. I read aloud my weekly readings and then assign them a modification of the tasks I am expected to complete. They are thereby learning college level material alongside me.

findingbalanceMy Physical Self

When the kids were younger and we first began homeschooling, running was a major part of my life. I was marathon training six days a week – running, swimming, and cross-training. It was challenging and fun.

With each successive half or full marathon that I completed, I set a new time goal. My aim was to qualify for Boston and I was just ten minutes shy of achieving that goal. Then a debilitating injury set me back. Planters fasciitis.

Though I recovered a few years ago and have tried to return to training a few times but I have never been able to stick with it as I did when the kids were toddlers. They each have their own activities and interests and there are more demands on my time. I’ve come to realize that I have been making excuses though.

Now that we have returned home and the climate is less restrictive, I have recently begun to focus and rebuild my mileage once again. Presently, I am averaging about 22 miles per week. I’d love to run another marathon again but to be honest, my goal presently is just physical fitness and enjoyment.

Finding Balance

During the week, I generally run while the kids are at swim team. On the weekends, the family will often accompany me – sometimes on their bikes. It makes for a great family outing and keeps me motivated.

Other Things I Do

Read something fictional

I love to refresh my mind by taking a break in the evening and escaping to another world. Reading fictional stories stimulates the right side of the brain, sparking creative thought. That stimulation helps make my day go a little smoother. I think differently, approach problems in abstract ways, and feel rejuvenated.

At our Family 5 Share Meeting each month, we each take a moment to share a book we have read in the past month and how it impacted us or what we learned. It has been a great way to connect and see that learning is a life long process.

Keep a journal

I actually have several journals, though I don’t write in each one daily. Most are bullet-form so I can jot down things I did, people I met, or how I felt. It’s been a great outlet to help me be present, remember the little moments and sort out challenges in both my personal and professional life.

I’ve always encouraged the kids to keep a journal and we’ve played around with a variety of journaling approaches over the years. My husband has begun to journal as well.

A good night’s sleep

The scientific benefits of sleep are innumerable. To perform at my best, it is critical that I get at least 7 hours of sleep each night. More sleep equates to more happiness, better health, and improved decision-making. Not to mention that it detoxes the brain.

BalancingVisit the sites of other iHomeschool Network bloggers as we explore Balancing Your Life & Homeschool. 

Reflections Upon the Memories We’ve Made in Our Home

As much as I love adventure and trying new things, I have to agree with Jaime, “Moving stinks, y’all.” It is time consuming and chaotic – full of small trials and frustrations.

We found out we were moving in June. After numerous trips “back home” namely to secure housing, we packed a few things and moved in with my in-laws the first week of August. To make a long story short, we had made an offer on a short-sale home in June and yet didn’t close and receive the keys to our new home until the first week of October.

We were obligated to pay rent for the full month of October as outlined in the rental agreement we signed. We thereby decided to use the time to paint the interior and repair a few things before we made the physical move.

Our moving process has therefore been drawn out and prolonged longer than I had anticipated upon submitting our offer. As we continue to wait as patiently as possible for everything to fall into place, I have been reminiscing about the houses we have called home over the past 20 years.

Patrick and I were married in June of 1995 – just after I graduated from university. In the years since, my husband and I have moved 6 times (3 different cities, 2 different states).

Reflections Upon the Memories We’ve Made in Our Home

Over the years, there have been three locations that have only been temporary and there have been three we have truly called home. It is these final three I would like to reflect upon now.

Making Memories in Our Home @EvaVarga.netOregon Coast

The first home Patrick and I purchased together. I worked in the public schools – first as an elementary science specialist and later as a fifth grade classroom teacher. Patrick was the pharmacy director at the local hospital.

I traveled to Ecuador to study rainforest caterpillars.

We undertook two remodeling projects: creating a rear deck that wrapped around the eastern and southern sides of the house, and extensive landscape improvements to the front yard.

We welcomed our first child, born in September. Every year my father reminds us that it rained on the day she was born, helping to quench the flames of the Biscuit Fire that had been raging in the southern part of the state for weeks.  I thus became a full-time mommy.

Making Memories in Our Home @EvaVarga.netCentral Oregon

In 2003, Patrick accepted a position at a hospital in Central Oregon where he had an opportunity for growth. We moved to Central Oregon in the fall, just shortly after we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday. A year and a half later, we welcomed our second child.

Patrick was gradually promoted and was eventually the CEO of one of the hospitals in the Cascade Healthcare Community system.

Making Memories in Our Home @EvaVarga.netI rediscovered my love for running. I trained for and completed 4 marathons. [ Note to self – I sure miss it and vow to rediscover this joy once again. ]

It was here that we began our homeschool journey. Take a peak at why we initially made the decision and how we began.

We volunteered as living history interpreters, Homeschooling in 1880. We made service learning a priority and volunteered regularly.

Making Memories in Our Home @EvaVarga.netWe undertook several remodeling projects: installing a door off the master bedroom for access to a hot tub (future plan), moderate landscape improvements to the front yard, and extensive changes to the fixtures, floor tile, shower, bathtub tile, and counter of the master and hall bathrooms.

We traveled abroad for the first time as a family, visiting my ancestral home in Norway. Read more about our travels in Discovering Scandinavia.

I absolutely LOVED this home. Sadly, we only lived here a couple more months before we uprooted the family and moved to California. The biggest challenge we had encountered as a family.

Making Memories in Our Home @EvaVarga.netNorthern California

Unsure of the future, we made the decision to rent when we first arrived in California. As the years passed, renting provided more flexibility than we had previously experienced and thus we elected to continue.

Renting enabled us to travel aboard more extensively than I ever imagined: China, Ecuador, Perú, and most recently Italy and Greece.

We spent many summer days at Whiskeytown Lake.

We found letterboxes all over the state. We even spent an entire day letterboxing at Hog Plateau and thereafter enjoyed the annular eclipse.

We started STEM Club and enjoyed learning about a variety of science, technology, engineering, and math activities with other homeschool families.

Fish Camp 2013Geneva discovered her love of fly fishing and attended Fish Camp on a merit scholarship.

We immersed ourselves in our Scandinavian heritage and devoted ourselves to promoting Sons of Norway. The kids attended heritage camp twice (they are already looking forward to 2016 and plan to return to the same camp).

We built a family around a shared love for swimming. I haven’t blogged much about our swimming experiences, but like most athletes, we’ve had our ups and downs. You might like my post, I Am NOT a Soccer Mom (or How to Avoid Child Burnout).

We have cultivated a love of music and musicianship in each of our children, Growing a Musician in 3 Easy Steps.

Our son expressed his interest in earning his pilot’s license – a goal we will begin in earnest when he turns 11 and is a little taller.


I believe Jamie says it best and thus I close with a quote from my blogging friend at See Jamie Blog,

Part of me will be sad to say goodbye — but a house is just a shell where the memories happen, and I’m ready to start making memories in a new home. 

We now return to the Oregon Coast. I look forward to making memories in our new home.

Our 4 Steps on the Pursuit of Happiness

Years ago, we sat down together as a family and composed our family mission statement:

We are committed to being happy and enjoying a more simplified life; and agree to hold ourselves and each other accountable to attitudes and behaviors that support those outcomes.

We revisit our mission statement periodically during our family meetings and are continually striving to live a more balanced, joyful lifestyle. One of the topics that has come up often is our desire as a family to return home to Oregon.

Our 4 Steps on the Pursuit of Happiness @EvaVarga.netOur parents are aging and are in need of our help. We want to be there for them. Though we make trips home regularly – it just isn’t enough. The kids long to have a stronger bond with their grandparents. My husband had thereby been actively seeking work in Oregon over the past year. As a hospital administrator, the opportunities were rare.

In early May, we talked about the possibility of looking at pharmacy positions and stepping away from hospital administration. This would be a huge change for him professionally and a decision he would have to make on his own. I assured him we would stand behind him no matter the path he chose to follow.

A few weeks later, he came home from work one evening and stated, “I’m ready to look at alternatives. I am open to the possibility of returning to pharmacy.” No sooner did he make this decision and he received a phone call from a former colleague who shared that he would be retiring. “Would you like your Pharmacy Director position again?

Coincidentally, we had plans to be in Oregon that weekend and thus he made arrangements to interview. They offered him the job that afternoon and our world was sent spinning.

We debated if this was the right decision for us as a family. My daughter spoke eloquently, “I want the dad I have when we are on vacation. I want you to be present. I think we should try this, Dad. If this doesn’t work, we can try something else.

Stepping down from a career path he had worked so hard for was the bravest thing he could have done. It wasn’t an easy decision yet we have been working towards a more joyful life for years.

Our 4 Steps on the Pursuit of Happiness

Based on our personal journey, our conversations, and our observations, here is a list of the 4 most important things we have done to simplify our life:

1. Eliminate Possessions

Keep Only What Brings You Joy – Too many material possessions complicate our lives to a greater degree than we ever give them credit. They drain our bank account, our energy, and our attention. They keep us from the ones we love and from living a life based on our values.

My son seems to have learned this lesson early in life. His only “toys” are Lego and HO trains. Though they have taken over his room – two tables take up the entire floor space for his Lego city – there is little else other than a book shelf (one shelf is dedicated to Lego – books, catalogs, magazines, and instruction manuals) and his dresser.

Invest the time to remove non-essential possessions from your life. For inspiration, consider reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing On the same note, stop buying things that you don’t need.

Downsize – All the while we have lived in Redding, we have rented our home rather than buying. The repairs, lawn care, and maintenance are someone else’s problem, not ours. As a result, we have had more time to travel and enjoy quality time with one another.

While a rental is not as readily available where we are moving, as we have toured homes and considered purchasing a home again, we have considered only what we need. There are some magnificent homes on the market. As a family of four, we really don’t need a 4 or 5K square foot home.

We selected a home that reminds us a lot of the home we once owned in Bend. It has a slightly smaller footprint but it is enough. Presently it has a lawn, but we’ve decided to move forward with a xeriscaping plan to reduce the need for supplemental water from irrigation and maintenence.

2. Get Organized

A Place for Everything – Assigning a place for each object simplifies life dramatically. As described in The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it is a key component in making a space less frustrating and more beautiful.

Streamline your Finances – If debt is holding you captive, reduce it. Do what you need to do to get out from under its weight.

We’ve had just one credit card these past 10 years. We use it for most all our expenses and thereby capitalize on the rewards structure. Most importantly, we pay it off each month.

Relatedly, our vehicles are paid for and we are not encumbered by monthly payments. Our only expenses are our monthly living expenses. We set aside a significant portion of our earnings to a college savings plan, our retirement fund, and of course our vacation savings.

We have only recently discovered Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps” and I highly recommend his podcast. I look forward to using his Smart Money Smart Kids: Raising the Next Generation to Win with Money with the kids as we jump into the “Baby Steps” ourselves.

3. Simplify Relationships

Reduce Negative Thoughts – Resentment, bitterness, hate, and jealousy have never improved the quality of life for anyone. Forgive past hurts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Keep your speech plain and honest. Mean what you say and avoid gossip.

Without going into detail – there have been multiple occasions when others have said hurtful things to me or my husband. On occasion, when I catch myself thinking poorly of that person, I’ll stop and remind myself that it really doesn’t matter. What is important is how I feel about myself.

Strengthen Relationships or Let Them Go – Make the effort to spend time with people you like. Do not waste time keeping up with friends who bring you down or bore you. This applies to work as well. Don’t be afraid to seek out new career options if you are not happy or you don’t feel valued in your present job.

Surround yourself with people who bring you joy. Life is too short to get caught up in the drama.

Our 4 Steps on the Pursuit of Happiness @EvaVarga.net4. Slow Down

Screen Time – Television, movies, video games, and technology can rearrange your values. It can dominate your life and have a profound impact on your attitude. When we moved to Redding four years ago, we made the decision to eliminate television from our home. We thereby haven’t had cable for four years and haven’t missed it.

Technology is still a major component of our life, however. It is critical for the kids’ Mandarin lessons and for my work as a blogger.  We try to minimize our screen time and though we can still make improvements in this area, we are getting better at recognizing when it begins to affect our attitude.

Time Commitments – Most of us have filled our days full from beginning to end with time commitments: work, home, kid’s activities, community events, religious endeavors, hobbies… the list goes on. When possible, release yourself from the time commitments that are not in line with your greatest values.

We have had to reevaluate this on a few occasions to avoid burnout (see my earlier post, I Am Not a Soccer Mom: How to Avoid Child Burnout). We try our best to create a balance between extracurricular activities and family life.

Sometimes it requires us to make tough decisions when conflicts arise – Do you want to go to the Junior Olympics (swim meet) or Sons of Norway heritage camp? We allow the kids to make this decision for themselves. We discuss our goals and values openly as a family.

I do my best to create a healthy balance; often setting aside personal goals (marathon training) and choosing to work on only one or two at a time. I want my children to be lifelong readers and to develop their music and language skills daily. I thereby try to model this as often as possible – setting aside 30 minutes each day to work on my own language skills, conversing with those who are fluent, and reading for leisurely and self-improvement regularly.

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We are excited to return to Oregon, to return to the community in which my husband and I grew up and began our professional careers. We will be surrounded by family and childhood friends. Yet our move will be bittersweet.

It is always difficult to say good-bye. We will miss the friends we have made here in California. We will cherish the memories we have made.

Our move back to the Oregon coast will come with its own challenges. The population is significantly smaller, and likewise the homeschool community. It will take some getting used to – as with most things. Yet, we welcome the change.