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Remembering Doug today

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(We forgot to take a photo today! Unheard of at my mom’s house!)

We had a great Memorial Day today.

We were going to go clean the church this morning which, in all honesty, I was trying to get up enthusiasm to go do after a sleepless night and an aching body. Then, right at 9 am, we got a phone call from the man in charge telling us that another man in our congregation had come in early this morning and done nearly all of the cleaning–of the ENTIRE building–making it so that we didn’t need to come today.

WOW.

Talk about grace.

I wanted to cry: I felt so relieved!

It also meant I would be able to respond to Elder Livi when his emails came in instead of being gone. Nate sent some wonderful recordings that just made my heart “grow three sizes.” I love hearing from my children, particularly our son who is 1400 miles away.

We headed over to my mom’s for a hot dog BBQ to remember my step-dad, Doug, who loved a good hot dog. I’ve never had a J Dawg before, but he loved them, and my mom had bought some J Dawg sauce just for the occasion. My brother-in-law fried up some onions and made his fresh guacamole, so I had a delicious hot dog smothered in onions, guac, and salsa, with a little J Dawg sauce.

After our lunch and some visiting, my mom gathered us together in the family room to remember Doug. First, she shared a story about when Doug and his parents were sealed as a family in the Cardston temple by Lane’s great-grandfather. I didn’t know this was the story she would share, but was grateful, because I had recently had a prayer to be able to find that story and read it again. My mom answered my prayer!

Then she shared a very fun recording of Doug recalling some stories from his youth about the Watkins man who visited his parent’s farm when he was little, selling soap that burned your eyes and salve that burned your chest and stuff you were supposed to drink to not give you colds but tasted awful! It was so fun to hear his voice again and hear these stories from his childhood.

Last of all, she took a framed letter from her wall (To my beloved Children and Grandchildren) and asked Lane to read it aloud. I loved hearing his counsel again and appreciated remembering how hard he tried to live those words. He was such a good man. He wasn’t perfect, but neither am I, and I learned so much from him. Just today I was saying to a friend how thankful I am that my mom married him because he loved her so much, and I wish every woman could be greatly loved by her husband.

We all went to the dollar theater to see “MacFarland USA” after that, except that I went with Eliza and my darling little niece to see “Paddington” (since Eliza and I had seen “MacFarland USA,” and my niece was really too young to see it). It was a silly show, but she loved it. I loved thinking about Elder Livi in “darkest Peru” and the Paddington Bear that sits by his Senior Portrait at home.

And now we’re heading to bed to get back to the routine again…for one more week.

I can’t wait for school to be out!

 

 

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My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life

My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life

Let the summer reading begin!

I couldn’t resist. It was a late afternoon after a super fun outing to watch a Studio C Tech Rehearsal with Peter and Anna, complete with sharing hot French toast and breadsticks at Magleby’s afterward, when Peter and Anna starting arguing with each other and wouldn’t stop.

I mean, UGH, couldn’t we have just kept on enjoying each other’s wonderful company and fun we’d had with each other at little longer? Did they really have to start contending on the way home?

I dropped them off at some friend’s homes and headed over to the library to return a very overdue book.

I felt drawn into the library for a retreat from my troubles. It worked. I love the library. So many books, so little time.  I picked up about 12 books, mostly for myself and older daughters this time, had a nice conversation with a friendly librarian that I’ve known for some years now (she has such a pleasant demeanor). I carted my books out to the car and plopped them into our library basket next to the couch.

Rebecca grabbed one and I grabbed another, and we both sank down onto the couch cushions and cracked open our books.

Rebecca knows how to plow through a book and had finished before long. Here is her review:

This book is about a young adult named Suzanna. She’s been in darkness for her entire life, and nothing seems to go for her. Then she finds out she’s pregnant. She has no idea who the father is. So she goes to live with her brother Sam, who’s a Mormon. Then it tells all about her struggle with the pregnancy, and her journey to find Christ.

I love this book. It was so hard to read about Suzanna’s troubles, but it was so amazing to see her testimony develop. In some ways, it strengthened my testimony of the atonement. This book almost made me cry multiple times. And even though it was a fictional story, I could feel the Spirit. This book is wonderful. If you have a chance to read it, do.

 

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The Ravenous Gown

Today I spent a few hours reading a book that my friend gave me yesterday. Talk about the luxury of choosing how to spend your time, especially taking time to read! (My kitchen is a mess and the piles of laundry are still there, and there is that tiny detail of my body not cooperating physically today….) It is my favorite chapter fairy tale book. (My favorite picture book fairy tale is Fanny’s Dream.)

You may want to know that fairy tales are my LEAST favorite genre.

We don’t own any Disney Princess books, and I avoided them like the plague when my children were growing up (giving away or tossing the copies that found their way to our home), for some of the same reasons that we don’t own any Barbie dolls: I don’t like how women are portrayed. There is so little of truth and goodness and substance in those tales. If we own a fairy tale book, it has to have some redeemable quality in it other than it is popular. I wanted to give my children tales with recognizable light and truth in them. Stories that are worth their weight. I knew they would get enough “cotton candy” books outside of our home!

I will say that I like, for the most part, the new Cinderella, with the greatest exception being her ball gown. Seriously: why does every Disney Princess have to be dressed inappropriately?! I wouldn’t buy a dress (as low in the bodice) like that for my daughter. I  pray that each of my daughters feels deeply her divine nature and that her clothing choices will reflect that. The reason I like the new Cinderella is that she has a good character

And like so many other great stories, this book was inspired by a mother who wanted to create something beautiful and good for her own child.

Now I know what I am choosing for our June family book club older and younger read. Thanks, Becky, for this wonderful book!

 

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Missionary handbook

(I wish I had a photo of my Missionary Handbook, or the “white handbook,” as we called it as missionaries. This image comes from byubookstore.com.)

I woke up in the wee hours one morning not long ago with a phrase on my brain, a rule from the missionary’s handbook. The rule was, ‘Do not accumulate excess baggage.”

This rule referred to not collecting stuff as a missionary, so that you could keep to your 2-suitcase limit. It sounds easy, but it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Photos, letters, an occasional momento given to you by a member or investigator or someone back home–it all added up. By the time I was ready to leave, even though I had mailed some stuff home, my suitcases were bursting.

This rule seems to have such a broad life application, particularly for me in my quest to simplify and rejoice more. Life can get so complicated with STUFF, imagined expectations, comparisons, unrighteous traditions, guilt, unhealthy habits, even excess weight. While I can’t shed everything all at once and replace all of my unhelpful habits with helpful ones, I can take little steps, one at a time, to keep me moving in a simple, unburdened, Christ-centered direction of living.

Today one of those was to unsubscribe to the Wall Street Journal.

Boo hoo.

But not really. I love reading the WSJ. The newspaper covers so many aspects of what is going on in the world. I found articles related to so many topics of personal interest! I enjoyed the puns that some of the journalists used and the humor laced in some articles. I learned new vocabulary! I cut out articles to share with family members at dinner. Really, it’s a great newspaper.

But it doesn’t fit in my budget right now. I have been realizing some things about money and myself in the last few years: I have still not learned to managed it effectively. I recognize that it is a really great skill that I really want, and I am grateful that for some years, that money has been limited so that I have to really decide what is important. I feel like I have been learning to sacrifice a little. It is good for my soul! I notice that when I sacrifice something good for something better, I still never lack.*

Case in point: I decided I would only buy up to 2 books a month this year and give up my Audible subscription. That felt significant to me because I LOVE books, and I love to buy them like some people love gadgets or chocolate. It can be an addiction. But I realized something. There’s a point when you can only store so much, even something you love so much. SO, I needed to adjust my accumulation so that my intake was equivalent to my outtake. Buy a new book, give one away.

OK, I’ll be honest. I’m not QUITE to that point yet.

But I need to get to that point, because even with books, stuff is just stuff. And too much stuff is a burden. You have to manage it, clean it, store it, move it. You get the idea.

SO. Today I unsubscribed to the WSJ because I had my 12 weeks for $12 and then paid for 2 more months. Or something like that. See, accounting is not my forté, yet.

And I started using a free budget app that I like. It’s easy! I’m recording each purchase I make, and it has helped me not get lost by the middle of the month and just watch my account balance until it gets frighteningly low.

OK, I’m still watching my balance, but I have grips on managing my spending better as I allocated amounts into categories in the beginning of the month. It was a free app, and it’s easy to use. Thank goodness.

Here’s the other thing I have done that felt good: Erased 5,000 emails in my trash and gmail archive. I have been hesitant to erase emails sometimes, because I’ve been worried that I might erase a personal correspondence that I might need 5 years from now. It’s not happening, folks. I almost never go back to read emails! So I just went and erased a bunch. Woowee! That felt good. Gotta keep going.

I let Lane go through some piles in the office–stuff that I had been saving to be able to blog/scrapbook about someday, LOL. That was an easy purge. He was super nice to do it for me, and very little was left at the end. I got into the action a little, but mostly I didn’t want to. Talk about pure love on his part. SO thankful for him!

My goal is to have the office as lean as it can be with only things that we use and only essential stuff stored. My feeling about all of my life is to be “more fit for the kingdom”–to be a living plant that brings forth good fruit, not just some old deadwood tree that birds just build nests in or a diseased tree that only creates bitter fruit or no fruit at all. There’s so much more joy in doing than in saving or storing.

As I was just making my lunch (pausing between the many lines of this long post), I thought of how unsubscribing to the WSJ is a gift of sorts. Well, actually, having a limited budget is God’s gift to me because it has been helping me decided what is most worth saving or spending for. As an example, I’d much rather spend the $30/month that would go to the WSJ on mailing a package to Nate, which costs at least double that.

Simplifying has brought more sunshine into my life. I feel freer to serve and appreciate more. I am learning to recognize how much God has given me that I didn’t notice before. Like children who get good grades because they want them for themselves. Talk about a gift! Or a husband who will clean a tub for me. Or flowers or grape vines that come back every spring. Or birds that sing. And so many blessings that money can never buy!

Enough about this today. I have spent too much time on here! But one of my goals is to be authentic on my blog and share my challenges as well as my triumphs, and the stuff in between. That way, when my daughters read this someday, (I hope they will–I’m keeping this in hopes that they will!), they will know some of the struggles I had and how I felt about them.

*I didn’t quite finish this thought that I wanted to share. After I made the goal to not buy certain things, I’m finding that the Lord still provides things for me. I have been so surprised by His generosity! (I shouldn’t be, but I forget.) Or helps me feel peace. Even today, when I was unsubscribing to the WSJ, and the nice woman on the other end of the line asked me why I was cancelling my subscription, I told her I had a large family and it didn’t fit in my budget with one daughter in college and a son on a mission. She was so kind and nice and didn’t try to change my mind. I was so grateful!

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Grandma's date breadThis post isn’t about a dating service. It is about the month of May, my mom, and a slice of my grandmother’s date bread.

You see, May is a CRAZY time of year for families. Teachers, coaches, directors all schedule their year-end recitals, concerts, performances, tests, races, field trips, tournaments during May. It is a beautiful month crammed as full as it can be.

It is almost enough to put a mother over the edge.

Not to mention my husband! And our children!

I keep wondering: some of these teachers, coaches and directors do have families, right? Do they remember what May feels like when they are scheduling events back in August? Could we not all schedule some of these events at other times of the year? Maybe not have a year-end concert after we just had one in March? Hmmm.

Moving beyond food for thought, my sweet mom stopped by on Sunday night with a glass dish of scalloped potatoes and a fresh loaf of date bread, made from her mom’s recipe, because she’d been missing her mom that week. I love my mom! She is just like her mom: thoughtful and generous.

We ate the scalloped potatoes as our entrée last night before we hurried off to a recital. And we sliced up that date bread and enjoyed it for breakfast this morning as we rushed out the door. (With all of these end-of-year activities comes added fatigue, and we are all feeling it! It feels harder to get up each morning. Perhaps that is because we know the end is near, and we just can’t wait to sleep in!)

I have to record this date bread recipe! It’s like having my grandmother around. My mom’s mom was always serving, whether it meant sewing for someone or inviting them over for dinner. By the time I came around, my grandmother seemed to have lost some of her famous cooking ability, but she never lost her desire to feed, clothe, and love. I still remember when I was close to having Anna (I think it was Anna), and Grandma was nearing the end of her life. She wasn’t steady in balance or memory. Her “get-up-and-go” had been gone for a long time, as a comic on the side of her cupboard witnessed. She wouldn’t be with us much longer, but her spirit shone brightly. She took my hand and said, “When that baby comes, you let me know so I can come help you!”

I wanted to cry, because I knew she wanted to, even if she couldn’t carry out her heart’s desire. I bet she has helped me many times since she went home, because I have felt her love on occasion.

And today I tasted her love, via my mom. Hopefully I can keep sharing that love with my children, now that I have the recipe.

 

 

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Lego Temple sets

SLC Temple (Lego) Brick'EmWell, techincally this isn’t LEGO® brand–they are “Brick’Em” sets. But fun stuff! Click on the photo to find out more.

My and Lane’s ancestors who worked to help build this gorgeous building (that we love) would enjoy these.

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A good post-gardening soak

Dr. Teal's Epsom Salt Soak mint rosemary lavendarLast Monday I worked in the garden for about 2 1/2 hours. I loved it! Classical music playing on my phone, I weeded out Common Mallow, Purslane, Morning Glory, and grass, cut back the dried out tulips, and planted some lovely Montego Blush and Purple snapdragons. It felt sooo nice to have the sun on my back and the breeze in my hair.

Ahh.

That night, my expression changed to “Uhhh.”  As my muscles started feeling the bending, reaching, and squatting I had done for a couple hours in the garden, I began to walk slower and more carefully. Lane looked at me funny as I gingerly walked along, willing my legs to move when they wanted to stay put.

He suggested I soak in the tub. “It’s not clean!” I lamented. “I just washed it!” he replied. “That was last weekend. The children have had 20 showers in there since then,” I retorted. He went and looked at the tub.

And then he did what any exceptional husband would do: he got the cleanser and scrubbed the tub.

I know.

Let me say that a solid 20-minute soak in a hot bath with rosemary mint Epsom salts does a sore body good.

Even with teenagers knocking on the door asking if you are going to be done soon so they can take out their contacts and brush their teeth. Even then.

Ahhh.

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Love this video.

“Playing music is the brain’s equivalent of a full-body workout.”

If you liked this video, you may really enjoy this book: The Power of Music: Pioneering Discoveries in the New Science of Song. (Recent research in the combined fields of music and neuroscience.) I listened to it while running, biking, and walking last year. VERY interesting stuff!

The Power of Music

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Skype May 2015
We got to Skype with Elder Livi the day after Mother’s Day (a week ago). It was AWESOME! I thought it would be easy and fun, like Christmas Day, but this time we had a lot of fun until the end, when none of us wanted the call to end. And then Elder Livi said something to each family member, so that by the time he got to me, I couldn’t talk, and by the time he got to Lane, Nate couldn’t talk. So we were all melted into tears. But it was great. We love that boy so much! He’s doing well. A little sick (hacking away from a cough during the call), but doing well.

Skype soccer shoe

It was so fun to share with Nate because he wanted updates on every one. He wanted to see Peter’s new cleats. He was telling me something nice and then in the middle of his serious story telling, he asked, “Mom, what’s that on your wrist?” He cracks me up. He is still so funny. I love his sense of humor! Keeps us all laughing. I think the thing he was most excited to share was the news of one of his friends who is preparing to serve a mission. That made us all feel like celebrating. Almost all of his best friends are serving now! He has been blessed with the best friends.

Elder Livi Skype May 2015

And the news for this week, as transcribed from his voice recording: “Quick run down of the week:” “The week wasn’t that eventful.” They had a multi-zone conference, which was both good and hard. It was good because he loved seeing and hearing from his mission president and wife. “Amazing, excellent words from President and Hermana Henderson….President Henderson just talked about being obedient. He just always talks about obedience, but you know what? I’m fine with that, because it’s needed in the mission, and I just love hearing about it. I try so hard to be obedient.” “I always feel the Spirit so much when I listen to Hermana Henderson talk. She always just gives the best talks ever. I just love them….Wonderful stories, full of the Spirit.” “They talked about studying Spanish better. I’ve never studied Spanish my whole mission. I have, but mostly I just…helped my companion study English [they are encouraged to do this]…Just like simple vocabulary. I tried to learn what the perfect subjunctive tense, and stuff like that….I tried to remember what the Gettysburg Address is. I can’t. I can’t remember anything.” [Note: Peter learned it this year, and Nate learned it in fifth grade, too, and usually can remember it, but he’s forgetting a lot of English right now while he’s using Spanish all the time.] “I really feel the Spirit when I think about [the Gettysburg Address]. I really think about the words, and I just think that really, that’s God: God-inspired words.”

He also enjoyed getting to see an elder who was a good friend in his first area, who wasn’t his companion. “I had a really hard training,” he explains. “But Elder I….was there, and he was probably just like one of my best friends…and just helped me a lot.” Elder Livi’s first area was a challenge for him as a new missionary adjusting to mission life (new culture, new language, new food, companion, etc.). This elder was kind to help and buoyed him up.

He said that going to the conference was hard because he wanted to be in his area teaching! “Time is precious as a missionary, ‘cause, you know, it’s the difference between another lesson with another investigator who really needs help or not.” He was sad that his investigator who committed to baptism didn’t keep his commitment.  “Why do people do that?” he asked out loud. “He prayed really hard to get a job, and he got a job, and he recognized it, and he knows it’s from God, and all this other stuff,…and then [he just said], ‘I can’t do it.’” He felt frustrated. “If you know the gospel’s true,” he pled, “act if you really have a testimony!” Big sigh.

He also said that he doesn’t love P-day because they don’t have a car to wash or clothes to launder or meals to clean up from, because in their mission they ride in taxis and have people who wash their clothes and prepare their meals. So he feels like it’s not the best use of their time just hanging out. “We did clean hard core our room this week, so it looks really good.”

He praised the missionaries in his apartment: his companion and the other two elders who work hard, are obedient, and have fun. He really enjoys working with those missionaries!

They had a satellite broadcast from the Area Presidency (?) that was really good, but his head really hurt from being sick, and he fell asleep during part of it. “I was trying to listen, but I just kept falling asleep.”

He hoped his siblings and cousins would write him a little now and again. He offers to help however he can. “I want you all to know the gospel is true. I hope you can, at least for me, try a little bit harder in callings and assignments in church. If you want to have a more happy life, serve more. If you want to experience more joy, help others experience more joy. Key to having a happy life is having a life full of service and hard work. There’s no better example of that than Dad….Keep doing what’s right, ‘cause it’s always right….Just because you’re not doing the wrong doesn’t mean you’re doing the right. Be sure you not only don’t say mean things but you also say nice things. Just things like that….Hope everything is going well for you all. Have a great week!”

AND he broke his glasses again. LOL. He wrote in a short email: “Also…… I feel really bad, but I broke two things this week. The first, I was walking in the door (terrible door, super hazardous) and my sweater caught on it (it’s also Peruvian sized AKA small) and ripped pretty bad in the back. Dang it. I could still wear it, but it has a solid hole in it. I also took out my contacts in the night, and as I was looking for my glasses I think I knocked them off the bed….. and accidentally stepped on them and broke them. I can probably still use the lenses (not broken) but the frame is broken… I’m so sorry, Mom. I didn’t mean to, I feel really bad for always breaking stuff. I’m so sorry, Mom.”

AND it snowed! He was so excited! “It snowed all night!…Here, it’s an inch of stuff that’s turning to slush…Super, super fun. Everything’s a party! I just love the snow so much. It’s just cold…just great.” He said it made him feel so happy! “We’ve been having a little Christmas right now, just ‘cause of the snow….We were doing our P90X, and we had the door open…We drank hot chocolate for breakfast. We were putting on some Christmas music….I really wanted to cook myself up some scrambled eggs and biscuits….Also, could you send me the chocolate chip recipe—it has to be Sarah’s/Jenny’s cookie recipe.” He also told about how much he enjoyed the ingredients that I mailed to him to make a pie (meant for Christmas, but it arrived in January). “It’s always so fun when you send me stuff to cook, Mom….Like the pumpkin pie, literally, that pumpkin can was the best thing I ever got from you. Not gonna lie, to have the pumpkin, that’s something you can never buy here. And as I’m about to get hit by a snowball, I probably should stop the recording so I can join the fight.”

Christmas in May. “Good stuff all around.”

For more posts about Nate’s mission, go here.

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All work and no play? Fun on my mind

(This isn’t our family, but it’s sure fun! Click on the video to go to this video on YouTube.)

This year we’ve been working on having more fun as a family (no pun intended). I have seen and felt how important balance is in a family–to be sure that while we work, we enjoy working hard, and then that we stop working and take time to make happy memories having fun as well.

I am inspired by this description of Ezra Taft Benson’s childhood:

Each Saturday’s chores were done by one o’clock sharp. The family would then spend the rest of the day in fun activities. In fact their farm became a place for the youth of the community to met for fun. There were horse races, foot races, baseball, rodeos, swimming, hiking, picnics, bobsleighing, skiing, and skating. His dad even made a basketball court by rolling and packing the dirt down solid and putting up a basket at both ends of the court. The Bensons had the first record player in Whitney [Idaho] for dancing and listening to music. But, Ezra’s ost favorite activity was shooting a game of marbles. One year he started out with only ten marbles and ended up with over a thousand he had won so many times (Robison, Lynda Cory. Boys Who Became Prophets. SLC: Deseret Book Company, 1998, 74.)

Wow! I wish I could say we have done all those fun things over the years! Yesterday after we worked, Lane took Pete to a movie after driving all over town looking for a refrigerator box for a school assignment, I took a nap and then watched a movie with Sarah at home (ironing fabric napkins during party of it, LOL), Anna played with a friend, Eliza babysat, Julia hung out with a friend and worked, and Rebecca went to a birthday party. We all ended up watching the end of cupcake wars when we finally gathered at bedtime and turned in for the day. 4,185 miles away, Nate got up early, worked his heart out, doing 300 sit ups in the morning with his companion and then visiting investigators, members, and strangers all day until calling it a night.

When I was thinking about a photo for this post, I remembered a teeter totter from my childhood. One Saturday when I was maybe 8 (?), my sister, Debs (10), and our friends Marian and Pargie put together a backyard carnival and invited the whole neighborhood to come. We prepared for what (in my memory) seemed like weeks, and in the end we had about 3 people come. We had collected stuffed animals (for prizes–ticket redemption!) and set them up in a cardboard display case covered in front with plastic wrap, so you could look at the prizes to decide which one you wanted. The four of us had practiced an adaptation of a song from a musical, complete with 50’s style choreography, to perform in the empty garage as our stage. I know we rehearsed a lot, but I can’t remember if we got to perform it. We had a cakewalk, too. One of the star attractions at the carnival was an “acrobatic” show my friend and I had prepared on our homemade teeter totter (a wood plank on top of a wooden sawhorse). We were going along just fine until we lost our balance, and Pargie fell off onto her back, getting the wind knocked out of her. Pargie’s mom drove over in their station wagon to pick her up, and that was the end of the carnival.

But it was so fun while it lasted!

Good memories!

I think we need to build a teeter totter this summer….

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