Monday, December 10, 2012

The Christmas Jar

What is it about Christmastime that prompts us to give more freely to others less fortunate?  I think that desire is instilled in us all to some degree, don't you think? I love that Thanksgiving comes right before Christmas, because it provokes us to really ponder on our many blessings, and then influences us to act with compassion towards those that need a lift, a pick-me-up.  It causes us to reflect on how WE might be instruments in God's hand in helping His children here on earth. Although the following experiences I will share have a monetary value, it is not the money that mattered, but the heart of the giver.

Many years ago while John and I were living in St. Louis at the Ronald McDonald house awaiting for a double lung transplant for our daughter McKenna, we were such recipients of love from others.  I remember coming home one evening from a long day at the hospital and checking our mailbox we found a Christmas card that simply said, "Merry Christmas" with $100 bill inside.  No signature from anyone. It wasn't mailed to us, but was from someone locally.  To this day, we have no idea who it was from. We had only been there for a week or so, and knew hardly anyone; yet someone knew of us, and gave generously.

On Christmas Eve, while in St. Louis, we received a phone call from a friend back in Ogden, UT.  He called to tell us that we would be expecting a check soon, in the mail, from someone who wished to remain anonymous. The check would be in the amount of $10,500.  We were stunned, to say the least.  We still don't know who this generous person was.  We sent a note of extreme gratitude, but if I were to speak to that person today, I would tell him/her what a blessing that was to our little family.  How my husband left his job temporarily to be with us, yet still was able to obtain a job in St. Louis so we could make our mortgage payment back home.  How we were able to pay my mother back for some things she purchased for us.  How we were able to get out of debt in some other areas of our lives.  And because so much was given to us, how we were able to give back to others less fortunate.

We were still being blessed by generous givers we will never be able to repay or personally thank, back in our home town, Ogden.  One of our dear friends, an elderly neighbor directly across the street from us wanted to do something to help us out.  She made her own labels, placed them on jars, and left them at the check stand in a local grocery store, Harmon's.  I was so touched by this act of kindness towards us.  After a few weeks of being in the grocery store, she had collected over $400 from kind, compassionate grocery shoppers.  My heart will be forever grateful for these unselfish givers.  Anytime I see a jar like that in a grocery store, I try to remember to leave my extra change as my way of saying thank you for the kindness extended towards my family long ago.

There were many wonderful acts of kindness that didn't involve money, such as friends taking care of our home while we were gone for nearly 3 months.  Children coming to my home before I came back  after McKenna died to make sure it was clean and tidy.  Receiving cards and letters from loved ones checking in on us, keeping us up to date with what was happening back home. And many, many other acts of kindness I will forever be grateful for.  Had this not been Christmastime, I know the generosity from others would have been there still, yet something about Christmas tugs at our heart strings and prompts us to want to do more. Perhaps it is because, whether we like or not, the commercialization of Christmas can bring on worries to parents who feel they may not be able to provide for their children at the most anticipated time of year for a child.

About 5 or 6 years ago, I came across a book called, "Christmas Jars" by Jason F. Wright.  I instantly loved its message.  I would highly recommend everyone to read this book and start your own tradition of putting a jar in your window sill, dropping your loose change in it throughout the year, and prayerfully considering who might need such a blessing at Christmastime.  The best part of this is doing it anonymously and capturing the joy, the true gratitude of the recipient, and going away feeling that giving truly gives us a more lastly feeling of happiness, than receiving.  

Ever since my family and I had been the recipient of such generosity at Christmastime back in 1997,during the most difficult trial I had ever endured, it has instilled in me a desire to try to do the same for someone else in need.  I don't have $10,500 to give. I wish I did.  But what little change I can accumulate throughout the year, can make a huge difference in someone's life, and much of the time, we will never truly know what a blessing it will be for one receiving such an unexpected gift.  What I love about the jar also, is that I see it every day. I am reminded constantly of Christmas and how we need to have in our lives all the time, not just at Christmas, the spirit of giving, of watching out for our fellow man and helping in anyway humanly possible.  My children donate to the jar as well, which is so inspiring to watch them sacrifice their small amounts of change for others they may or may not know.

Each year, come the first of December, we, as a family, try to consider who might be of benefit in receiving our jar.  Every year the person receiving the jar has a completely different need from the last.  This year, I had the opportunity of letting our local elementary school counselor deliver the jar herself (she had just finished reading Christmas Jars) to a single mom of  a child who just found out she had cancer.  I did not get to see the mom when the jar was presented, but was told she graciously accepted it.  Giving away these jars, is truly a fun, heart warming experience.  I don't share this story to boast; rather, to help share the joy of giving and the feelings we get when we do so.

Does it take money to make one happy?  It certainly doesn't need to.  That is not the message I want to come across.  There are those that would love to have more time on their hands to be able to physically help others in time of need, but for one reason or another, they are not able. But that doesn't make them any less generous.  Sometimes it IS the money that is needed, and it can be our way of saying, "Here is what I have collected for you all year long, you use it how it needs to be used."  We may not necessarily know what physical items someone needs; only they can truly know how best to use the gift.  But the feeling we have all year long of wanting to help others, of carefully choosing that person, and seeing the joy on their face as we have hidden in our cars, behind a tree, or around the corner, is the best feeling of all.  The feeling of doing what the Savior would want us to do, the feeling of maybe being the answer to someone's long, heartfelt prayer sent upward to heaven.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Shed Tears

For the past few weeks I was hopeful. I tried to remain positive and have faith that Romney, a very decent human being, who gives 30% of his income to charity, would be our next president. I went to bed in despair, shedding tears mainly for my children who will most definitely not grow up in the America I grew up in.

I shed tears because we are self employed and I now see how devastating the re-election of Obama will be to our livelihood. He said our health ins. would not go up. Ours just went up $200 a month. Thank you Mr. President. We are unable to hire any employees because of that law that was forced upon us.

I shed tears because of the values of marriage and life I hold dear to my heart are compromised, as I do not see the leftist views of those social matters in alignment with what God wants for His children. That is my opinion, and I know I will most likely receive negative comments about it, but I will not shadow my beliefs because of what part of this country thinks is "appropriate".

I shed tears because my children and grand children will have enormous debt inflicted upon them because we have a fiscally out of control president and senate and sometimes congress. It was not fair to inflict that upon those who never asked for it. My children will not have the same opportunities afforded to them.

I was so proud of my 3 oldest children yesterday morning who, on their own, wore Red, White & Blue, and their Romney buttons, me knowing full well that being in the public school system, they would receive negativity from that. They came home telling me how most didn't like what they were wearing or what they stood for, but boy, did they make me one. proud. mom. They stood up for what they believed in, defended our candidate and our country.

I was so proud of Hunter, on facebook all evening, articulately explaining his beliefs to his friends and standing up for what was right. How sad it was though, that some of his friends told him he was only hoping for Romney because he's Mormon. Could I assume that some voted for Obama because he was black? I would hope we are not as small minded as that.

I shed tears because I see this great country; a free country, losing its freedoms ever so quickly. I will NEVER believe that bigger government will be the answer to prosperity in this country. Never!

I shed tears for the 4 men who lost their lives in Benghazi, and did so in vain. I shed tears because of the disentegrating of our military which has left us so vulnerable.

I shed tears because I see more and more people willing to live off the government, while my husband works his tail off to provide for our family. There is something to the value of hard work, earning what you get, and striving to live the American Dream. I fear now that the American Dream has turned into..."What will the government give me simply because they owe it to me?"

I know that there will be a few of you who think I need to relax, not get so sappy or hyped up. But I won't listen to that. We have worked so hard to get where we are, and now cannot go any further because of the taxes inflicted upon us, the laws forced upon us. When will it ever be enough? Do you have a magic number? You cannot tax businesses out of control and expect them to keep their business running. Common sense. If you think you can do it, then by all means, start your business and tell me how you do, and how it's worth it.

Now onto a more positive note. I shed tears, because after all of this, I know we have a loving Heavenly Father who has given us agency and He will never take that away from us. We chose, and this is what we get. The next 4 years can only be blamed on those who ran the past 4 years. I know who I am. I still believe America is the greatest land on earth, and that we should not be ashamed of that. Perhaps one day, it can be great again. I am so proud of my husband and my children who fulfill my life like nothing else can, and in the end, they, and my God, are all that matter and what I hold onto the most.

I will pray Obama each and every night. He deserves our prayers, regardless of who he is, or what party he is from. May God ever bless this country, and may we be deserving of those blessings.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I Am A Mormon.

In light of the 2012 election upon us, there has been much news concerning the faith of the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney.  He is a Mormon.  So am I.  The official name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Mormon is just a nick-name, coming from  an ancient prophet living in the Americas who compiled the history of the people the Savior came to after his resurrection, and also the history of the people hundreds of years before he came.

For some reason, our religion is "peculiar" to some. We are different.  We stand out.  Some even consider us being part of a cult.  I would refer anyone who questions the possibility of us belonging to a cult to this  article:  Seven Reasons Why the Mormon Faith Is Not a Cult. I have always believed the most honest way to find out about our religion is to simply ask someone who IS a member of our faith.  

Recently, our church held a large conference for all its members, and anyone else who desired to watch or listen.  It is held every 6 months, and talks are given by leaders of the church, both men and women, many of whom are from different countries around the world.  This is my favorite time of year, to sit with my family and listen to the words of a living prophet to guide and instruct us on what we need to hear for our time, in our day.  I always come away feeling uplifted, encouraged and emboldened.  One of my favorite talks is found here.  It talks about how I should not be ashamed to be a Mormon.  And I'm not.  I would invite anyone who wants to know more about the church to go here where you will find much information about our faith.  

I know we have a living prophet on the earth this day, Thomas S. Monson, as was had in New Testament times.  The church of Jesus Christ has been restored, and we invite all to learn more about where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go when we die.

Since I started blogging back in March of 2011, I have noticed many visitors from around the world who have come across my blog.  I wonder who you are, how you found it, and what your thoughts are in this troubled world we live in.  How do you cope with today's challenges?  We are all in this battle together, but it's not a battle that we have to fight alone. With the strength of many, we can conquer whatever comes our way.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Balloons for McKenna

I remember when Hunter was just a toddler, and we had just come out of either The Home Depot or some restaurant that gives you balloons to children as they leave, and he was given a balloon.  Probably blue.  I remember making it all the way home with child and balloon safely in the car until the door opened.  And then the balloon escaped, floating serenely in the sky taking its sweet time ascending up to the heavens.  As beautiful as that blue balloon looked making its way towards the sky, my sweet little Hunter wasn't as thrilled.  But then it came to me, or John, not quite sure exactly who said it, that THAT balloon was making its way to McKenna, his big sister who died just a few short years earlier.  So that is what we told him; that we were going to share the balloon with McKenna, that she would catch it and know we were thinking of her.

Three children arrived after Hunter, and that has been the tradition, especially from Reagan and Hailey, that every balloon they get from The Home Depot or Red Robin, and from many birthdays, is given to their big sister, McKenna.  At firstwhen the children were younger and the balloon accidentally escaped their tiny little hands, it was a matter of tears at the loss of something they just received and hadn't spent much time enjoying yet.  It reminds me of the tears I shed after I received McKenna from heaven, only having her for such a short time and then releasing her back to Heaven.  But once each child understood that, although they wanted to have the enjoyment of that pink, yellow, or blue balloon, they wanted MORE for McKenna to enjoy it too; to enjoy something they had, that they could share with her.  

As I think about the years that have gone by since that first balloon took its flight to be with McKenna, I think of the many others that have joined that single balloon, to make a vibrant and beautiful bouquet.  A bouquet of balloons that really only represent our minds being turned towards her, of wondering what she must be doing while temporarily away from the rest of her family.  Of her hopefully being privy, at times, to our thoughts of how much we miss her, how much we love her.

I am so grateful to have sweet, compassionate children who think of their big sister; someone they've never met, but know only from pictures and mom and dad speaking of her short but profoundly meaningful time on earth.  And I look forward to the day when we all will see her again, and I won't be surprised if she greets us with a bouquet of balloons in tow.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Power of Music

In my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we are given assignments, or callings, to fulfill to help run the various organizations within the church.  The callings change from time to time, and at the moment I am the Primary Music Chorister, for the children ages 18 months to 11 years old.  There was a time when I prayed I would never be asked to fulfill this role.  But when I was asked to do it December of 2010, I was excited. I was ready.

There is plenty of music in the airwaves that can influence us for good or bad.  But what I appreciate most about the music found within our church are the messages of faith, hope, love of and from our Heavenly Father.  The music I am able to learn, study and then teach to these children each week can give them strength to choose the right, help them feel their Savior's love for them, appreciate the beautiful world God has created for us, teach us the importance and value of family.  

Music can touch the soul at times when words alone cannot. That is what I love most about the music I am able to sing and teach each week to these beautiful souls of Heavenly Father.  I will admit though, there are times I don't feel as motivated to do this every week.  It takes lots of planning, and sometimes I feel like the children might be bored, or simply don't want to sing.  But I came across this beautiful video the other day from a blog that I follow to help me with my calling.  This video was originally dedicated to the singer/songwriter's mother who passed away, but it can certainly apply to anyone that is teaching songs to children.  It was something I needed to hear.  It has rejuvinated me in my assignment, and helped me to feel that, yes, I am making a difference, whether I know it or not.  But most importantly has helped me to understand that teaching these beautiful principles of the Savior are needed, and sometimes, the best way to do that, is through song.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Reagan turns 8!!!

My blog is not normally dedicated to the happenings of my family; however, we have had some excitement in our home with Reagan turning 8 years old.   This particular party, however, I may have gone a little overboard. But it was fun to plan nonetheless. The theme was "I Am The Cake Boss".  I came across this idea through Pinterest, on a blog where I credit all the ideas.  I knew when I saw this I totally wanted to do this for Reagan. But, of course, it would help if she wanted it too.  She did, thankfully. It was so. much. fun. to plan.

I've never spent so much time planning and preparing for a birthday party, and now need to repeat the same theme for Hailey when she turns 8 since I overheard her say to her big brother... "Reagan gets the best party ever."    She was content with that.  Gotta make sure we're not playing favorite's here.

 A big shout out to my sister Emily who helped make the pink and purple strips for the aprons.  Sewing isn't my thing, and she willing helped me in that area.  And a huge thank you to my dear friend Britta and her daughter Kiera who willingly stepped in to help during the party.  It took lots of hands to pull it off.

When the girls arrived, they had several stations they went to, in preparation for decorating their cakes.  The first was to make their apron!

Each girl chose 3 strips of fabric to place on their apron, that had velcro adhesive, so they can interchange them however they'd like. They were also able to write their names on it with fabric markers.

The next station was to decorate their chef hats making flowers out of cupcake liners.

After they finished their hats, they ventured on to the next table where they decorated their picture frame that would hold a picture of them displaying their decorated cakes.

Once they were finished with their projects, it was time to take a picture of the new bakers!

Aren't they just so cute!?!?!

Okay, now it's time to decorate the cakes!

All the cakes were made ahead of time and frozen until time for decorating.  I thought it would be much easier to decorate a frozen cake.  Also, we did not use fondant (as much as I would have liked to) Just too expensive, and home made is too messy. I stuck with plain jane frosting. Good thing the girls aren't picky about such things.

After the decorating was completed, each girl was able to have their picture taken with their cake.

Alright, I'm biased... I had to include both pictures of Hailey. She's still so cute even if she refuses to smile.

Now tell me, if you saw any one of these cakes displayed in a bake shop window, wouldn't YOU pay and arm and a leg for it?  I sure would.  They were quite the master decorators if you ask me.

You know it takes a lot of energy to decorate a cake, so it was time to EAT! Because it was bake shop themed, we had to have some baked goodies.  But I also felt we needed to add a little bit of nutrition in there as well.

Can I just say..... the strawberry lemonade jars with the lemon on top was my favorite part of the party.

The picture below is my favorite of Reagan. 

And then, of course, it's time to blow out the candles on the cupcake!

Reagan had a wonderful time.  And so did I.  I wasn't stressed. No one threw a fit (not even me). And everything went smoothly.  And for that, I am so happy.  I love my Reagan with all my heart.  It isn't about the decorations, the frosted cakes, or the cute little hats.  It was about spending time with her, planning it, doing it together, that made it all worth it. She helped in so many ways to put this together.  I wanted her to be a part of it. I wanted her to appreciate it more because she helped plan it.  I wanted her and I to remember the time spent together celebrating her birth, her existence, the joy she brings into our family.  Because that is what it is all about.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

THIS is why I didn't vote for Obama

Take a read..... I couldn't have said it better myself.  I will post again another time, from my own words, why I feel this man is set on destroying America.  But this is worth reading for now.
(Snopes is claiming this was not posted in the Washington Post, however, it is still worth reading.  I'm not convinced  that Snopes has the answer to everything either.  So take what you will from it; it makes no difference to me where it was published,  what is said is more profound than where it was said.)

By Matt Patterson (columnist - Washington Post, New York Post, San
Francisco Examiner)

Government & Society:

Years from now, historians may regard the 2008 election of Barack
Obama as an inscrutable and disturbing phenomenon, the result of a baffling
breed of mass hysteria akin perhaps to the witch craze of the Middle Ages.
How, they will wonder, did a man so devoid of professional accomplishment
beguile so many into thinking he could manage the world's largest economy,
direct the world's most powerful military, execute the world's most
consequential job? Imagine a future historian examining Obama's
pre-presidential life: ushered into and through the Ivy League despite
unremarkable grades and test scores along the way; a cushy non-job as a
"community organizer"; a brief career as a state legislator devoid of
legislative achievement (and in fact nearly devoid of his attention, so
often did he vote "present"); and finally an unaccomplished single term in
the United States Senate, the entirety of which was devoted to his
presidential ambitions.

He left no academic legacy in academia, authored no signature
legislation as a legislator. And then there is the matter of his troubling
associations: the white-hating, America-loathing preacher who for decades
served as Obama's "spiritual mentor"; a real-life, actual terrorist who
served as Obama's colleague and political sponsor. It is easy to imagine a
future historian looking at it all and asking: how on Earth was such a man
elected president?

Not content to wait for history, the incomparable Norman Podhoretz
addressed the question recently in the Wall Street Journal:
To be sure, no white candidate who had close associations with an outspoken
hater of America like Jeremiah Wright and an unrepentant terrorist like
Bill Ayers, would have lasted a single day. But because Mr. Obama was
black, and therefore entitled in the eyes of liberaldom to have hung out
with protesters against various American injustices, even if they were a
bit extreme, he was given a pass. Let that sink in: Obama was given a pass
- held to a lower standard - because of the color of his skin.

Podhoretz continues: And in any case, what did such ancient history
matter when he was also so articulate and elegant and (as he himself had
said) "non-threatening," all of which gave him a fighting chance to become
the first black president and thereby to lay the curse of racism to rest?
Podhoretz puts his finger, I think, on the animating pulse of the Obama
phenomenon -affirmative action. Not in the legal sense, of course. But
certainly in the motivating sentiment behind all affirmative action laws and
regulations, which are designed primarily to make white people, and
especially white liberals, feel good about themselves.

Unfortunately, minorities often suffer so that whites can pat
themselves on the back. Liberals routinely admit minorities to schools for
which they are not qualified, yet take no responsibility for the inevitable
poor performance and high drop-out rates which follow. Liberals don't care
if these minority students fail; liberals aren't around to witness the
emotional devastation and deflated self esteem resulting from the racist
policy that is affirmative action.
Yes, racist. Holding someone to a separate standard merely because of the
color of his skin - that's affirmative action in a nutshell, and if that
isn't racism, then nothing is.

And that is what America did to Obama. True, Obama himself was never
troubled by his lack of achievements, but why would he be? As many have
noted, Obama was told he was good enough for Columbia despite
undistinguished grades at Occidental; he was told he was good enough for the
US Senate despite a mediocre record in Illinois; he was told he was good
enough to be president despite no record at all in the Senate. All his
life, every step of the way, Obama was told he was good enough for the next
step, in spite of ample evidence to the contrary.

What could this breed if not the sort of empty narcissism on display
every time Obama speaks? In 2008, many who agreed that he lacked executive
qualifications nonetheless raved about Obama's oratory skills, intellect,
and cool character. Those people - conservatives included - ought now to be
deeply embarrassed.

The man thinks and speaks in the hoariest of cliches, and that's when
he has his teleprompter in front of him; when the prompter is absent he can
barely think or speak at all.

Not one original idea has ever issued from his mouth - it's all
warmed-over Marxism of the kind that has failed over and over again for 100

And what about his character? Obama is constantly blaming anything and
everything else for his troubles. Bush did it; it was bad luck; I inherited
this mess. It is embarrassing to see a president so willing to advertise his
own powerlessness, so comfortable with his own incompetence.

But really, what were we to expect? The man has never been responsible
for anything, so how do we expect him to act responsibly?

In short: our president is a small and small-minded man, with neither
the temperament nor the intellect to handle his job.

When you understand that, and only when you understand that, will the
current erosion of liberty and prosperity make sense. It could not have gone
otherwise with such a man in the Oval Office.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

To Be A Pioneer

Today, in our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) we celebrate July 24th as Pioneer Day.  A day when men, women and children arrived in the Salt Lake Valley after months of traveling the plains by foot, pushing handcarts.  

 They took all they had, which wasn't much,  left their homes to be able to practice their religion in peace, after being driven out by mobs.  Thousands of them crossed the plains (and oceans too) to come to the Salt Lake Valley, pushing handcarts; some dying along the way, full of faith in God that he would lead them to a land where they could live in peace.  Their trials were many, their joys were sustained as they sacrificed time, health, and sometimes their lives to be able to worship how they may.  

289 youth in the Oregon City  area from our church had the opportunity to experience a tiny fraction of what they went through, for us, for all of us, last week as they ventured to Bing Canyon to push their own handcarts, taking only what they could fit in a 5 gallon bucket, sleeping on the hard ground, for 5 days.  They left their comfortable bed, their iPod, laptop, and cell phone, to help them feel more like those that came before them. To feel more like those that endured things we will never have to experience in our lifetime.  To feel more like those who, all they wanted more than anything, was to be able to live in a land where their freedom of religious worship was protected.

Hunter, my nearly 13 year old, was able to attend the trek this year, and I am so grateful he had the opportunity to do so.  It is in experiences such as those that help us to feel more gratitude for what we have, more appreciation for the little things in life that we often take for granted.  

Our youth are under so much pressure these days, and when they can feel close to their Heavenly Father, and know that HE KNOWS THEM, yes, them, each and every one of them individually. That if they can understand that their Heavenly Father wants only the best for them, that He is there for them in every trial and triumph  that He is cheering them on, that He knows our youth CAN do hard things and stand up for what is right; if our youth understand that, then they can accomplish anything in life.  When they are given opportunities to feel and understand what their ancestors went through for them, to have religious freedom, then they will come to appreciate all the more what they do have right now.

I heard there were some youth that didn't want to come home. There were some that wanted to stay on the trek forever. Why? Why would they not want to come home to their warm house, family, modern day conveniences?  I would suggest because it was out there in the beautiful canyon, surrounded by the beauty created by our loving Heavenly Father, out there where they could feel their ancestors helping them on their trek, that they felt peace, love and acceptance.  I would also suggest that they felt they COULD do anything.  Our youth are stronger than we give them credit.  They have to be.  

What a blessing it is for me in my life to live in this time.  We have so much at our fingertips to help us in our everyday lives.  There are so many things we don't HAVE to do because of the day in age we live in. 

Today, thousands of people in our church will gather at church, or a park,or a campground, eat some dutch oven food, participate in "mini" treks, be reminded our our pioneer heritage, and once again, be ever so grateful for all they went through, and  that many of them died for.  To live their lives in peace, worshiping a loving Heavenly Father

We don't HAVE to push a handcart to get from Oregon City, OR to Vancouver, WA.  But it certainly doesn't hurt us either to get behind one, and experience first hand what our ancestors went through to reach the land they struggled to set foot on to be able to serve their God, and thank Him for all they had.  I hope I live my life as the pioneers did so valiantly; with faith, courage and determination to reach the destination where we feel closest to God.  I am grateful to be a Mormon, to be part of a migration of people who sacrificed so much to live a better life.  I am grateful for their courage, their example.  I did not have any ancestors cross the plains, but I am so grateful for each and every one of them that did.  They are some of the most courageous people in history.  May they never be forgotten.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Girl's Camp..... Not What I Expected

Yep.  That's right. It was nothing like what I had expected.  It was BETTER.  I had the privilege of being asked to speak to 130 young women age 12-18 at their annual Young Women's Girls Camp this week.  This is a time when the girls get to go camping for 5 days, each summer, with the peers in their church within their community, and are able to bond with one another, while at the same time, learn valuable skills of survival in the outdoors, as well as draw closer to their Heavenly Father while basking in the creation of this beautiful planet.  They are also able to have leadership responsibilities as well as opportunities to be an example to each other of Christ-like living.  It really is a wonderful opportunity for them to learn and grow and define who they are. And what they are, is amazing.  I witnessed that first hand.

I was asked to speak on a particular subject, in what is called "Destiny" where the girls, in small groups at a time, come to hear words of inspiration on many different facets of life.  This particular time usually takes place in a secluded part of "camp" where they can be within nature and hopefully feel the presence of their Heavenly Father whispering to them that they truly are Daughter's of God who hold such potential in this increasingly difficult world to grow up in.  The topic I was assigned to speak on was, "True Strength Comes As We Oppose Wickedness and Stand For Truth And Righteousness."  I was given this subject several months in advance,  so I had plenty of time to ponder the subject and research, and pray for guidance on how to, hopefully, inspire the girls to stand strong in this ever-shifting of values world that we live in.  I had a few concerns though..... I don't have teenage daughters, and haven't really been associated with too many of them for years.  Where I serve in our church is with the children age 3-11, so I felt a little out of touch, and worried that I would not be able to understand fully how to relate to these girls.  I also had not attended girls camp for 26 years, and when I did attend, as a young teenager, there wasn't anything like "Destiny", so I was unfamiliar with how it went, and knew that the majority of these girls had been to them before and would probably have expectations that I was afraid I could not meet.

Funny thing though, about inspiration; if you follow it, you will be guided on how to approach them and relate.  And that's exactly what happened.  

I am a reader. I LOOOOVE to read.  I gathered the majority of my information from books I had read that had many experiences I could relate to the girls that I had hoped they could grasp on to.  Another thing I love to do.... sing! I love singing.  I found a song that went perfectly with the topic, and although I found the instrumental music for it, had memorized it, and was excited about its message, I was afraid my nerves would get the best of me.  No matter how many times I sing, I still get very nervous.  I decided to let the spirit guide me to let me know if I should sing it, or let the song be sung by its artist.  I am glad I listened to the spirit confirm to me that I needed to sing it.  

What usually happens to me, when preparing to speak or give a lesson to the children, youth, or adults, is that when I am preparing the topic, I am the one that is learning the most. It seems to have been for my benefit more than for the listeners.  This was no different in preparing the assigned topic for these girls.  What I learned from these young ladies is far more than anything I could have related to them.  They are MY inspiration, and as a mother of two young daughters, it gives me hope for their future.

What DID I learn? I learned that.....

*  These girls are hungry for knowledge
*  They WANT to feel the spirit
*  They are smart
*  They are (for the most part) very polite, very grateful, very kind to their peers
*  They WANT to do what is right
*  They want to be leaders, to be an example
*  They want examples to learn from
*  I need to be more like THEM

This generation of youth are fighting a much harder battle than I did.  The temptations that come their way are increasingly more deceptive, more enticing.  One of the things I touched upon in my talk was defining the "Beautiful Wickedness" as described by the wicked witch in The Wizard of Oz.  When the witch was melting she exclaimed to, and about Dorothy.... "Oh what a world, what a world.  Who would have thought a good little girl like you could destroy all my beautiful wickedness!"   The girls defined the things that are beautifully wicked in ways I had not even considered.  I have hope!  I'm not as worried anymore as I used to be.  These girls, our youth HAVE to be stronger these days, and they ARE.  They have been poised to become so.

When I saw the posters in the girls' locker room at the local middle school that read, "Stand up for what is right, even if you have to stand alone" I was shocked. I never expected to see such a declaration in our public schools. But I'm not complaining. I'm thrilled to know there are youth out there willing to take a stand, even if they have to do it alone.  I am more confident than ever, that our youth WILL make it.  And what a blessing it was for ME, to have witnessed a little bit of that, by attending one day at Girls Camp. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Woman in Oahu.... Who I Want To Be Like

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Oahu has nothing to do with the sun we soaked up on the sandy beaches, or the many beautiful sights we partook of. Strangely enough, it had to do with meeting a young mother of two small boys. It was also one of those instances where we realized, yet again, what a small world it truly is.  But meeting this particular woman, had a great impact on me and my husband. And she will forever be in our prayers, as well as the other many individuals out there who are now living the same life she is, who are dealing with the same cards that have been dealt to them.

It was our last night in Oahu, the boys were swimming in the pool, which was about to close.  As we were about to leave, this young lady and her two boys were entering the pool.  My husband, the social bug that he is, introduced himself and asked where she was from. She replied, Northern, UT.  We said we had lived there too, and told her where.  John then mentioned that he had a friend that lived in Logan, UT, he said his name, and this gal, whose name is Amy, was so excited, because she knew exactly who he was.  Small world, huh?  Two people meeting on the island of Oahu, know the same person way back in Logan, UT.  Somehow, at the beginning of their conversation, Amy mentioned that her husband died in Iraq 3 years ago. My heart sunk. I saw those two boys, now aged 9 and 7, and this young mother, now a widow.  The boys were 6 and 4 when their father died, oh so young. Their father had died the day after one of the son's birthday's.  

We proceeded to express our condolences, but what can you really say? There are not enough words to express how you feel at such a terrible circumstance.  However, Amy possessed such a terrific attitude and was by no means uncomfortable speaking about her wonderful husband who she still dearly loves, and mentioned that he is a daily part of their sons live's still.  This would have been their 10 year anniversary, where they would have spent it.  I'm so glad she still came and shared it with her boys.

Her husband was a 5th grade school teacher, and decided that he wanted to serve his country. He joined the services ( I cannot remember what branch, either Army or Marines) in January of 2008, and was killed in Iraq February 2009.  He had a safe, comfortable life in Northern, UT, but felt impressed that good men and women should join the military and serve their country, and he knew he was one of those men.  He made the ultimate sacrifice.  What a hero. What a truly wonderful example for his boys to look up to and strive to be like.

Amy told us that while she and one of her sons were swimming in the ocean that evening, that her son told her, "Mom, I bet daddy is looking at us right now and is happy we are here."  She replied by telling him, "I know he is happy we are here."  

I finished reading the book, "Lone Survivor" by Marcus Lutrell, while in Oahu, before I met Amy. What an amazing story of the Navy Seals, the commitment they make, the training they go through to be who they are, and endure what comes upon them. I came away feeling so much more respect for ANYONE that serves our country.   We truly do not fully grasp all that they go through to protect our freedoms.  They are to be revered, and not mocked.

Although we only spoke with Amy for about a total of 20-30 minutes, I felt like I learned a great life lesson.  Her attitude about her current situation was so positive.  She was so patient with her boys, who seemed very well behaved anyway. She spoke of her husband in the present tense.  She knows she will see him again someday; THAT she is sure of.  She had a smile on her face the whole time we spoke.  I could tell she knows who she is, and she knows where she is going.  Are there hard times for her? I'm sure there are.  But her countenance showed me that she is a stalwart woman, determined to make the best out of a horrible situation, and to teach her boys that you CAN get through anything that life throws at you.  

I wish we had met her at the beginning of our trip, but I am so grateful that we did indeed get to meet her.  She is an example to me that we can endure the trials of life WITH a positive attitude. We lost our first our baby, I know what that kind of pain feels like.  But I did not lose my spouse, who I want to grow old with, who I want to help me raise my children. It's a different kind of loss, so I cannot understand what she is going through.  But just knowing her now, and having had that little time spent with her, has changed my attitude about life, and trials and tribulations we encounter.   

Thank you, Amy, for being who you are, for being a shining example to me.  May God ever bless you and your boys. And I thank your husband, for his service to our country.  I hope we are all grateful for these men and women who sacrifice so much, and sometimes don't get to come home to THEIR children and spouse.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies Make The World Go Round......

Don't they? I sure think so.

Let me start off by saying that this blog post is unlike all my others.  I don't blog about recipes, what I like to make for dinner and why.  Cooking, for me, is a chore!  My husband can vouch for that.  Poor guy, he is deprived of so much by my lack of cooking, and ability of it as well.  Perhaps on the other side, I will be blessed with the desire to do more in that  domestic area of wife and mother.  One can hope, right?  That is yet to be determined. I know that my husband certainly wishes I would devote more time to it in the here and now.

Back to my cookies.  While on Pinterest, I found this recipe, for these amazing chocolate chip cookies; officially called BEST-EVER Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Now I will admit I am quite the skeptic whenever I come across a recipe that claims to be "best ever".  Many times when I've attempted such a task at duplicating one, it usually falls short of what I was expecting.  But not these!!!!! They are amazing.  I did tweak it though, in that I use only milk chocolate chips.  We don't eat semi sweet in this house, we just prefer the milk chocolate. But wow, they are to die for, at least in MY opinion.  They may not be the "thing" for someone else, but this happens to be the only chocolate chip cookie that my entire family loves.  Usually there's one or two that don't like a version of the famous chocolate chip cookie. But this one hit the spot.  Thank you Pinterest for helping me satisfy the indulgence of this all famous cookie.

But, here I go, sounding like a food blogger, these cookies got me thinking about life.  How can something like a cookie, do that?  I don't read many food blogs. I follow only one, because I know the gal personally and love her to pieces, and she's a fabulous writer, so I know anything she has to say, even when it comes to talking about recipes she enjoys with her family, are going to be worth my time in reading. It used to be that when I'd come across a recipe, I would see paragraph after paragraph about the forthcoming recipe and I'd be like, "Get on with it, just show me the picture and recipe, I don't need a life history of the ingredients involved."  But, after reading my friend's blog, I understood more the need for it.  It's kind of fun for me now to read about how some recipes come about, why they are important to families and how it can make us feel. Isn't that why, after all, some foods are called, "comfort food"?  I think so. 

When I tried this recipe the other day, I had only one bag of chocolate chips, and the recipe really didn't make that much. The cookies were gone by morning.  All my kids though, wanted me to make more, and so I said I would.  I got a giant bag of chocolate chips and decided my mixer could handle tripling the recipe.  I know, kind of insane to triple a cookie recipe, but I knew they'd get eaten, if not given away.  And I did just that.  OH...... I forgot to mention what sets these cookies apart from any other. They have a particular ingredient in them that I've never ever used in cookies before. Maybe some of you experts have used it, but for me it was a first.  If you try these cookies, pay attention to that one ingredient.  And follow the instructions. I have learned over time to NOT over bake cookies. Much better results that way.

Okay, I keep going off on tangents. Back to life lessons from chocolate chip cookies.  So I intentionally planned on making these cookies today so that when my children came home from school, a batch would have just come out of the oven and there would be plenty of dough to sample.  Now, for all those critics on eating raw cookie dough..... I don't want to hear it!  My husband is very much against it, but I am "living" proof that you don't always necessarily die after eating it.  And that is one of the things I don't want to do deny my children..... the eating of chocolate chip cookie dough.  What  child has not done that?  (Okay, maybe there are some children in the world who haven't) but you know what I mean.  To me, it's one of those childhood actions that I feel should not be denied.

My plan worked precisely how I imagined. The first two pans came out of the oven a few minutes before the children came storming in the back door, which leads you right into the kitchen. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies was permeating the air, the cookies laid nicely on the counter, a bowl full of dough and me standing right there placing more dough onto two more pans.  It was fun to see the expression on their faces as they entered the kitchen, realizing what I had prepared for them.  One child asked.... "Did you triple it?"  Yep I did, I answered, and you can each have one.  Then there was two, and later they had 3.  I think by  night's end they gobbled up 4 each.  And I don't care!!!  They had their dinner.

You know those commercials where the children come home from school and there's a glass of milk waiting for them along with a plate of cookies?  Well, it's not always like that at my house.  But I'm gong to make sure there are more days like that.  The lessons learned this weekend over chocolate chip cookies was that it was a joy to make something for my children that they ALL enjoyed. That something as sweet as a cookie with chocolate chips in it can make you feel oh so good. It doesn't just satisfy the belly, but the soul too.  It was knowing I fulfilled  a desire my children had, be it as something so simple as making cookies, that made me feel better about being their mom.  And maybe it's precisely because I DON'T cook as often as I should, or am a great baker, that made me feel like I hit the mark when something I made, brought a smile to my children's faces.  That is the best gift of all.

So, I would suggest making some yummy chocolate chip cookies.  They may not be the "best ever" for you, but for me, it was one of those "best over" moments. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Attack on Mothers

After all the drama the past week about Ann Romney not having worked a day in her life, and sharing my own opinion on Facebook of the matter, I was going to let this go. Let's move on.  But then, I saw this.  and I KNEW I could not let this go.  Just when I think it couldn't get any worse after hearing the remarks from the very so called "funny" Bill Maher, Roseann Barr decided to join the ranks (although I think she has been there with them already) of the others who put down stay at home moms.

I do not consider this a war on women. I have never bought into any of that. I do not consider this a war on working mothers, and actually, I don't even really think it's a war on stay at home moms either.  I look at this as pure politics. I see one side of the isle a tad bit worried that the current president just may not get a second term, so lets just poke at whatever we can to distract from the real issues of this country.  (Maybe Roseann Barr was needing some attention, been a while since I've heard from her)  But then again, I have a feeling there are a few on that side who probably don't think that SOME stay at home moms can figure that kind of stuff out.

So to make things clear right up front:

1)  I am a stay at home mom, who works in the home, part time, helping my husband run his company, by doing the books.  I feel blessed to be in a circumstance that allows me to be able to stay home, although I do have responsibilities other than raising my children that I need to deal with during the day.

2)  Then there's the stay at home mom raising their children, as busy as can be, although there are many who would like to think they eat bon bons and watch soaps all day long. (Although that would be hard, since the soaps are disappearing from network television now).

3)  And then there's the wonderful mom, who for whatever reason, be it needing a second income, is divorced or widowed, or has chosen to do both roles as mom and have a career.

For whatever reason the third mom I mentioned is working, they have a lot on their shoulders to bear.  We ALL do.  I have friends in all 3 categories.  They deserve to be respected, encouraged and not put down for their choices. Some of the choices we've had to make have not been in our control. And it is then, when these hard working women need our support more than ever. 

It is because of the horrible remarks Roseann Barr made about Ann Romney, that prompted me to write.  Words can be hurtful, if we let them.  We choose how we react to such statements. And so far, I think Ann Romney has acted with poise, control and humility.  If anything, when people such as Roseann Barr, or Bill Maher make such comments, I think it can pull women together, instead of dividing them.  

But just in case there is anyone wondering what a day in the life of a stay at home mom consists of, let me share with you a day I had recently. Now this day will seem minimal to some, I am sure. I have friends with more children than me, more responsibilities.  But for me, it was an exhausting day. 

*  Woke up 6 a.m.... read some scriptures.
*  Did two loads of laundry
*  Took boy #1 to get pictures taken for basketball
*  Then took that same boy to his game.  
*  During half time of boy #1, left to go to boy #2 basketball game.
*  Left game to get gas, run to store to pick up a few needed items
*  Quickly came home, got boy #2 ready to leave to go fishing with cousin.
*  Took boy #2 to get a quick bite to eat, dropped him off to go fishing
*  Came home to mow both front and back yard 
*  Quickly took shower, took daughter #1 and cousin to a baptism
*  Came home, only to find out I needed to turn right around and pick up boy #2  from fishing.
*  Got boy #2, went to KFC to grab dinner.
*  Came home, quickly ate and spent the next 3 hours putting my house back together after the painters and electrician came.
*  Worked on primary music for Sunday
*  Collapsed and went to bed

And then I was told, after I said I was exhausted.... "Why? All you did was drive all day?"  I had to let that comment go, as irritating as it was to hear.
What gets me annoyed at all this in the media, are the words that are spouted, sometimes I think without thinking about them first, but the more recent examples, were very much thought out before they were said. They were meant to hurt.  But I think it can have the opposite result if we let it. I know for me, it has made me think more of my friends who with all their hearts, would love to stay at home with their children if they could, but are not able to at this time.  I admire them.  I pray for them, that they will have the strength and endurance needed to fulfill the roles they are now living.  I think also of my many friends who have fulfilled both roles of having a career and raised their children. I have no doubt they love their children.

We are all in this together, as one friend on Facebook put so eloquently. We all love our children and are trying our best to raise them.  As I look back on my exhausting day, I think of the moms who have to do it alone, or the moms who also work outside the home.  Instead of putting others down because of their life's circumstance, we ought to be joining hands together and uplifting one another.  In the end, I think the disgraceful comments uttered, can make us all stronger.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter.... It's Not Just About Cadbury Eggs and Peeps

To me, Easter is just as religious a holiday, as Christmas.  After all, they are both central to the life, more specifically the birth and then death & resurrection of our Savior.  Yet, as I look around at the local grocery store, there is nothing evident to that fact.  It's obvious as the years go on, these holidays, and Christmas in particular, has become more worldly, secular to be more accurate.

As Easter has crept upon me, I have had little desire this year to gather the Easter baskets and fill them with goodies, trinkets and what not.  I cannot recall in the scriptures, where gifts were given at the death, burial, and resurrection of our Savior.  Don't get me wrong, in years past I have fallen in the trap of purchasing for my children toys and candy on this sacred holiday.  But for what purpose? That is what I find asking myself now, more than any years past.  I did away with toys a while ago, but the candy still finds its way in the hole to be filled from the baskets.

What got me thinking about this was the announcement of the so called Easter bunny that would be available for pictures at a local mall.  I will admit, I have gathered my small children in tow, screaming and throwing fits because the bunny was just, well, not "bunny like", to have their picture taken.  And why?  I regret now that I put my children through such misery, that they most likely will never remember (except the screaming one of course) and that had little or no meaning to why we were celebrating Easter.

Easter should be one of, if not, the most sacred holiday we celebrate.  In our church, the focus isn't solely on the crucifying of our Lord, as important of an event that was. It was part of the plan, it was required.  However, what sometimes gets over looked, or not touched upon as much as it should, is the resurrection of Jesus.  That was also part of the plan.  Had there been no resurrection, what hope would we have?  

Having lost a child, it brings comfort to me, to know that we all will be resurrected, and live again. That because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, his death, and rising again on the third day; that THAT is what makes it possible for us to live again with Heavenly Father, and our loved ones that we are missing right now.

When our baby was on the verge of death, hospital officials asked us if we wanted to have her baptized.  We responded no.  In fact John asked them... "When was the last time you saw a baby sin?"  No one answered.  Some thought our daughter was going to go to hell if we didn't baptize her.  I had absolutely no worries in my heart and mind about the matter. I knew, that because our Savior had died on the cross, and had risen again on the third day, that because of that event, and scripture that I know to be true, that our baby was taken in the arms of the Savior and allowed to live among him, Heavenly Father, and millions of others who have passed through the veil to continue on in life "on the other side".  And I also know that one day, the Savior will return, and all those who have died, will reunite their spirit with their bodies, and we will all live again. That is the gift that is given to each and every one of us.  There is not enough chocolate, or marshmallow chicks that can compensate for the knowledge I have of the plan of Salvation, and that if our Savior did not come down to do what he did there WOULD be an end to our life here on earth.  

I understand the meaning of "spring" and the renewal of life, and why the bunny is part of this holiday, but let us not forget that our renewal of life is drawn from our Savior, and only through him can our renewal happen.  

I'm no perfect parent, that is for sure. I give in like everyone else, to the goodies and treats that come with the season.  But I know that if I don't teach my children what the true meaning of such holidays are about, then I am doing them a disservice and continuing the trend of forgetfulness when it comes to Easter and Christmas.  

I love this time of year when the days start to get warmer, the sun shines more, the flowers begin to bloom, and within me there is a desire to try to be better.  And I am grateful for my Savior who died for me. ME. And YOU.  Every single one of us.  And more importantly, that he rose again.  That is the greatest story of all. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

If I Could Do It All Over Again......

There are many things I would do differently. What are they? Well, it has everything to do with being a mom to my children.  As I watch time fly before me and observe my children growing up, I sit back and wonder.... no, I KNOW, there are things I should have done differently.  My favorite quote about motherhood is by Marjorie Pay Hinckley... "I always tried to say yes to my children, more than no."  I can completely and honestly say that I have not been like that.  I apologize ahead of time if this post might sound redundant. I've written a few times about being a mom, and how fast my children are growing up, but this has been on my mind a lot lately.

If I could do it all over again I would:

1) Say yes, more than I say no
2) Not be so impatient with the toys strung all through the house
3) Take more pictures and video
4) Read more to them
5) Stop what I'm doing, and play with them
6) Ask Heavenly Father's help MORE, when the sleepless nights took over my mind
7) Not be so short with them
8) Snuggle more
9) Play more games
10) Just listen

Oh, there's a slew of other things I know I should have been more proactive with, but lets not dwell on the negative.  It's not going to change anything.  And that's what I'm having a hard time with. I CAN'T change any of that.  The years are gone, the children are growing. My youngest is 4 and oldest is 12.

I recently watched the movie, "Courageous" with my husband and two boys. One of the best movies made, with morals, values and a profound message of what it takes to be a father.  I love movies like that; the ones that make me think, make me inspect my own life and determine whether or not I'm measuring up to my potential as a parent.  I wish more movies were made of such quality. They are hard to find these days.   But since watching the movie, John and I are trying harder to slow down, and play with our children when they ask, and not complain.  It's worth it! 

This is what I want to remember.....

I have a new favorite song by Hilary Weeks, that has also provoked me to think about my mothering years.  The song is called Stand Still.  I cry every time I hear it, because Hillary has so eloquently sung the words of my heart.  These are the lyrics.....

I've been taking pictures for a long, long time
Some are on paper - but most are in my mind
Snapshots and memories of the days when you were young
I plan to keep them
Long after you've grown and gone

I remember watching as you took your first step
Seems the clock's been running faster ever since
Every day a little taller, it says so on the wall
The days are passing
And they're not going to stop

And if I could
I would 

Ask time to stand still
So I could hold you a little longer
I'd make the minutes stop
So we would always have today
I won't let the sun go down
Until you know how I feel
I love you so much
I wish time could stand still

Fingerprints all over the sliding glass door
And I can barely see underneath the toys on the floor
I have wished away the sleepless nights,
The noise and the messes made
But my heart reminds me I'm gonna miss these days

So if I could
I would


I remember many times, older parents telling me to stop and enjoy my children, for they grow up so quickly and you will wish they were still little.  I agree with them now, and find myself telling that to new young mothers.  If any of you reading this are a new mom....... trust us....... it's true.  

My youngest is 4, she still has another year home with me before venturing off to Kindergarten. I'm so thrilled.  I still have a 7 year old.... still kind of young.  I am more determined now to be a better mom, to take more time to do all those things I wish I had the brains to do years ago.  It is a daily reminder, and more than just saying to myself ONCE a day, but it becoming part of my thoughts throughout the day.

As I've thought about all this the past week or so, I had an "aha" moment.  I'm sure you who have teenagers have already figured this out, but I'm kind of slow.  I can sit here and moan and groan about how I wish I had been a better mom to my toddler/preschool children, or I can decide to make things different NOW.  I've now entered the preteen years of motherhood. Am I going to sit on the sidelines and watch my children experience those emotional years without me being a part OF it?  Am I going to say, "I'm just too busy right now, maybe later."?  I hope not, because there just might not be a later, or that LATER, might be too late.  

Being a mom is what I've always wanted to do with my life, first and foremost.  It's one of, if not THE toughest jobs on the planet.  When we go to college to study and train for our careers, and finally land the job, I would say for the most part, we do our best to KEEP the job, do what it takes to perform the tasks required.  After all, the boss (if it's not us) is watching, you may get some kudos, a raise, or just simply (in these times) KEEP your job.  Mothering should be no different.  It should be something I put my whole soul into, that I perform my absolute best with.  The most important observers of my mothering abilities are my children. 

I want to keep the images of my young children's faces in my mind forever.

If I could do it all over again, yes, there are things I'd do differently.  But I can't go back, I can only go forward, with a renewed determination to be the best mom I can be to my children RIGHT NOW.