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Two years later (#thisisreallife)

Nearly two years ago, Julia and I squeezed in a photo shoot for some Senior portraits, just barely in time to get her graduation announcements ordered.

Life was so full then (as it has always been and probably always will be with a large brood) that I didn’t order any photos to hang in our home or put them in a special file or even upload them to Costco.com. So off to college she went for her freshman year.

Then we had the crazy marathon of happy events from April 2017 to October 2017: Sarah’s graduation from college, our half marathon, the trip to Europe, her month working at the refugee camp and writing medical school applications while there (and me working in the afternoons online with her to help discuss and suggest edits for her essays), re-doing the backyard for Nate and Hunter’s wedding reception, Julia deciding to go on a mission and submitting her papers, our family reunion, the wedding, the reception, getting Sarah moved back east to grad school, getting Julia ready to go on her mission, sending all the other children back to school and then sending her off to the MTC. In all of that I didn’t get any great photos taken of her before she left. (Or at least any photos that didn’t have tears streaming down our faces as we said goodbye!)

So, as is typical in most Mormon congregations, they hang plaques of each missionary (who is serving from that congregation) in the foyer of the church building. Each plaque has a photo on it. They have been asking me for a photo of Julia for 6 months now. 

I searched in all my photo library for something. Nada. One of my daughters suggested I use one of her senior portraits. YES! I contacted the photographer to see if she might have her photos still. She did! And joy of joys today, I got to see those photos again.

Oh how I miss this bright and beautiful young woman. She is SO wonderful! She has such a radiant, joyful, fun spirit! I know she is spreading light and love in Serbia right now, and I’m happy to lend her for another year.

But then I want her home so I can give her a hug again!

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Quotes from good reads journal

Once upon a time, I wanted to remember parts of books that I loved or found fascinating. So I started a “Quotes from good reads” journal.

Later upon a time, I wanted to get rid of stuff, and so I decided to enter the quotes from this journal into my blog as part of book reviews. That time is today!

(Keeping journals encourages the skill of writing. For more ideas on nurturing writing in others, or just to see how my writing has changed since I was 8, click here.)

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Protected: Pulla (for family)

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Don’t ever give up (lol)

Notice how he remembered, in that brief moment of panic, what lessons his parents had taught him?

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We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with a meal a day late. On March 17, some of us were gone to a hockey tournament, others were fasting, and some were at friends’ homes. Sunday (the 18th) was a perfect day for this dinner anyway, because it when we can all gather and enjoy each other’s company without (usually) having to rush off somewhere.

Anna set the table so beautifully, and Eliza made a fun meal of mostly green food. She didn’t want the lime jello “jigglers” that we traditionally make, so Anna took over against her will and made them. LOL.

We had shamrock-shaped ravioli (VERY Irish, don’t you agree?) for dinner, and Anna said it would be the first time in years she wouldn’t be throwing up after a dinner of corned beef and cabbage. (Never knew that! Yikes!) We also enjoyed green raw veggies: celery sticks, sugar snap peas, and cucumber rounds. Eliza also toasted some French bread and made some bruschetta to go with the ravioli–all in the spirit of the luck of the Irish!

And not to be forgotten, because it is Sunday dinner: dessert! Eliza made a fabulous key lime pie using blended up Nature Valley granola bars (12 of them!) instead of graham crackers (since we didn’t have any). I prefer her crust! She also added a couple of drops of green food coloring for the occasion chopped up kiwi to go on top of the whipped cream dollop. She soaked the diced kiwi in lemon juice to be sure it was tart enough! SO good. The recipe we used was essentially the same as this one from Epicurious.com: Key lime pie.

I loved my niece’s explanation of shamrocks to her children: the leaves are like hearts, each one representing a member of the Godhead: Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. If you are lucky enough to find a 4-leaf clover, the fourth leaf is YOU, to remind you how much they love you! 🍀

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Finishers wanted

Anna was just setting the table for a St. Patrick’s Day dinner* when her friend came to our door asking if Anna could play. I said she couldn’t, but if her friend wanted to come in and help her set the table, she was welcome to. After a few minutes of quiet, I asked Anna if she was sticking to her task, and Eliza piped up from the other room, ” ‘Stick to your task ’till it sticks to you.’ Do you remember when you used to say that to us, Mom?” I replied I did and wondered if Anna had learned that saying yet from me.

I searched for it and found it in a talk that was appropriate for me to find today: “Finishers Wanted“–a talk I’ve remembered by then Elder Thomas S. Monson, (Wow, he looks so young in this talk!) This talk has such great messages in it, but I especially love this poem–

Click on this poem to go to a printable PDF of this poem.

I typed it up so that I could stick it somewhere that we could all be reminded of it.

And now, back to pressing the last of my everyday fabric napkins! I only have  22 left to press and then 3 times that to sew. But then I will have completed my four seasons plus holidays of everyday fabric napkins for our family to use! I am determined to finish today!

*Just a note: that fabric napkin is not an everyday one! It is a regular, dinner-size, special occasion napkin! I sewed those a few years back, and I didn’t sew four seasons’ worth! One set of 12 large napkins was all I could squeak out then!

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I just got off the phone with our oldest daughter. I love hearing about her experiences living back East, attending grad school and serving amongst other young single adults in that history-rich area. She loves it.

We discussed the gift of knowing strong, wonderful women in our lives. She mentioned how beneficial the new council program is working in their Relief Society. And she said one thing in particular that touched me: that she can count on feel enriched each time she attends Relief Society in our home ward (local church congregation).

This IS awesome! Relief Society has had an enormously profound impact on my life since my childhood. Really, since birth. So it is no wonder that I want to celebrate Relief Society each year on March 17!

I was delighted to discover that one of Lane’s ancestors, Johanna Hollister Patten, was also born on March 17! How appropriate for a woman who had such an impact on the area in which we live, as well as on the lives of women in Utah, since she helped with women’s suffrage back in the 1800’s. (“Johanna Hollister Patten, who served as president of the Woman’s Suffferage [sic] Association of Utah County, and raised pond fish and sugar cane where University Mall is now located.” “Book studies Pioneer suffragettes,” Daily Herald, March 20. 2011).

This year I not only put out our St. Patrick’s Day books, I also put out books about women who have blessed our lives and the lives of many others. Really, my own mother and mother-in-law’s journals or personal histories should be front and center there! There are so many women whose lives have touched mine that won’t ever be published in books that circulate nationally!

Both Doing Her Bit and Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code are new acquisitions this year. I gave them to Lane for Valentine’s Day, and together we enjoyed learning about the Women’s Land Army of America and one incredible computer pioneer, Grace Hopper. I really recommend both books!

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Twelfth Night on the 13th

“If music be the food of love, play on.”

On March 13, while folding laundry and pressing the last of our winter set of everyday fabric napkins, I listened to the entirety of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night*. I haven’t studied Shakespeare much–except for high school (which was ages ago!)–and so I’m no expert. I really enjoyed hearing this dramatized version, which made it so much easier to understand what was going on.

I loved being able to hear a play while working! I laughed and awed at Shakespeare’s expressive agility. What a gift!

*Click on the link to read the play!

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True love stories

My husband doesn’t play cello, and it’s HIGHLY unlikely we will ever perform a song together on video, but I feel the same joy being with him that this video shows of this happily married couple. Happy marriage is one of the greatest joys I can imagine, and Lane is my favorite person to be with. (And while Lane or I are NOT huge fans of The Greatest Showman movie –I know!–we do love The Piano Guys!)

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In the past week winter finally “showed up” in Utah: we have gotten a nice layer of snow to ski on–at long last, since we got ski passes for Christmas and haven’t used them until now.

At the same time, there is something about cold and snow that just makes the Seasonal Affective Disorder come knocking at my door again. I want to feel energetic and accomplishing instead of feeling slow, exhausted, and emotional.

I’ve struggled getting back into my exercise routine this fall, and I’ve really tried this past month but have had all these “hiccups” from family needs interrupting my plans. I have felt such a weight of sluggishness and fatigue–which can feel like the weight of that snow on the picnic table!

Nurtured each day

Thankfully I’ve had help from heaven in dealing with this change in energy and emotion. In reflecting back on each day, I can see the hand of the Lord giving me help each day. I can see how he has nurtured me every day this week.

On Monday, when we had the day off for President’s Day, I decided to read a book Anna had recommended: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. I’ll admit, I read the first chapter and felt a little uneasy, wondering if I should continue. But I gave Anna’s recommendation the benefit of the doubt and did indeed enjoy the whole book! The first chapter sets the stage for how wicked the villain is. You feel that! The proceeding chapters cleverly tell George’s version of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.”  (I know this tale from my childhood visits to my cousins’ home where my uncle would play “Let’s Pretend” stories at night from his reel-to-reel audio system as we went to bed.)

I loved how at the end of the book the author shares knitting patterns that she had described in her story as well as the historical basis for men knitting! If I knew how to knit, I might have tried one of those patterns!

Self-Reliance

Click on the image to learn more about the Self-Reliance program.

When Lane and I attended our Financial Self-Reliance class early in the week, my heavenly help came in the form of the lesson on balance and a quote from a book I love, which in turn led to finding a soothing talk by Elder Neal A. Maxwell.

From the lesson: “Just do the very best you can each day. Do the basic things and, before you realize it, your life will be full of spiritual understanding that will confirm to you that your Heavenly Father loves you. When a person knows this, then life will be full of purpose and meaning, making balance easier to maintain” (M. RUSSELL BALLARD, “Keeping Your Life in Balance,” Liahona, Sept. 2012, 50).

From a member of our class: “My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds” (Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea).

From the talk in which Lindbergh’s words are quoted: “Each of us has different strengths and faces different circumstances that call for calibrations that are highly individual….Many things in life act upon us over which we have no control, but there is a zone—of differing size for each of us—in which we can act for ourselves, rather than merely be acted upon (see 2 Ne. 2:26). For example, this zone includes a certain amount of disposable income. What we do within that zone is especially up to us to determine” (“Wisdom and Order,” Ensign, June 1994)

Celebrating Rebecca

The next day I attended a special award breakfast for our daughter Rebecca, which inspired me and gave the two of us a chance to spend some special one-on-one time together celebrating her. She is such a gift in my life and one of my best friends on earth!

A root canal call and pulla making

Then I came home, got Anna off for a day of skiing with some friends and received a phone call from to Julia’s mission president’s wife about her potential root canal. I was so grateful to get to send an immediate message of love and encouragement to our daughter in pain. Poor girl! Julia had just written to me on Monday about her mission president and his wife: “You can tell they are really equal partners in this,” she wrote. “Also, Sister M is just everyone’s friend, and I love that. I always feel appreciated when I am with her.”

I felt so grateful to know Julia is being watched over by this remarkable, kind woman and also grateful to be able to pray, knowing Heavenly Father would help her.

After those transatlantic conversations, I baked bread with a friend. The gift then was enjoying Sara’s company as well as having some delicious pulla to serve to my family and friends. Later, when I acted on a prompting to visit a young mother that I admire, heavenly help came in the opportunity to feel the Spirit and rejoice together as we talked about life and motherhood and heavenly help.

Even on the most challenging day (yesterday) help came in the form of taking a nap, eating a dinner that my husband prepared, and getting to watch a delightful performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance,” so professionally performed by my daughter’s high school drama department, with Rebecca starring as a charmingly goofy pirate. I hadn’t wanted to go in terms of my energy and mentality, but I made myself go and was rewarded with such uplifting entertainment and rejoicing in their success.

After that really difficult day, I decided yesterday that I would exercise immediately after family scripture study today, bar none. If I could just get my heart pumping and blood flowing from the get go, perhaps I wouldn’t feel so sluggish.

It worked! Yesterday was much better energy-wise. I showered right after exercising and going to an appointment, then returned home to do my kitchen clean up while listening to Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery (a truly inspiring book).

Slow. Listen. Open. Wait.

As it was snowing so much and the roads were so slippery, one of my next commmitments was cancelled, I cancelled my second one. This left me with such nice quiet open space and time that felt soothing to my soul. I didn’t feel rushed. I felt like I could just go with the slow pace that I was feeling today–the ebb and flow of life–and turned on a new audio book.

Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a book that I read as a new young mom (think baby Sarah) as one of the books of my first book club (“Out of the Best Books”). I have loved it ever since, and read it again a while back. I think I keep giving it away, so that when I went to my library to pull it off the shelf and didn’t find it there, I opted for the audio version this time–a digital version that I won’t lose!

Anne Morrow Lindbergh writes this book from the beach about being a woman and learning lessons of balancing life from the gifts the sea brings her. Her first chapter confirms what I have been feeling all week: that one of the secrets to peace is to listen to the inner pendulum that sometimes indicates a slower day is needed:

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too gready, or too impatient….Patience, patience, patience, is what the sea teaches. Patience and faith. One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach–waiting for a gift from the sea.” 

Her thought reminds me of the essence of Mosiah 3:19, does it not? Of submitting to God and allowing Him to work in our lives according to His plan and not our plan?

It IS OK to slow down, to cancel, to spend time reading or baking or even taking a nap. Many days are filled to the brim. I have noticed, this year in general, that I feel so much happier when I have a few days scattered through the month that are wide open with no commitments and in which I can accomplish whatever I feel the need to do that day: read, write, call or visit a friend, or simply just go about my day more slowly not knowing what will be accomplished.

I love Lindbergh’s suggestion that you can’t show up at the sea and demand a gift; rather, you must slow day, listen, open yourself to receive whatever is brought, and wait. Why not make up an acronym for the word SLOW to help me remember to slow down, listen to the Spirit, open my mind and heart to heaven’s suggestions, and wait upon the Lord for the answer? It seems like a good suggestion for me to remember when I am feeling the affects of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Last but not least, I believe in dessert 🍪

Friday is the day I like to bake cookies in the afternoon, when possible. I believe in dessert. My goal is to only enjoy dessert twice a week: Friday cookies and Sunday dinner or Family Night. I admit: I miss the mark often and eat more than that. I want to do better. Discipline taken into account, I believe in having a treat to look forward to. After years of trying different postures toward sugar and treats, I’ve adopted the view that moderation is best. Treats help make home and life a happier place. Discipline is required, but austerity is not. Thank goodness!

“What are these?”

So today I tried a new recipe for Soft Chocolate Almond Cherry Cookies that didn’t turn out so well. After one of my children bit into them, she remarked, “What ARE these?” LOL. The texture wasn’t my favorite (perhaps I made them wrong!), yet I like the flavors. I think I might try to find a soft chocolate cookie recipe made instead with regular flour (versus of almond flour) that I can put the semisweet chocolate chunks and dried tart cherries into and see what happens. I’ll get back to you on that if I do and if it ends up tasting good enough to share!

A final bonus

I just got a call (Saturday morning) from Julia’s mission pesident’s wife: the root canal seems to have gone well. And how much it cost? $40! Unbelievable! I’m so happy that she is out of pain now and that it was so affordable! Woohoo!

Amazing grace

As I finish this post today (Saturday), I can see the Lord’s amazing grace in my own life. It is energizing just to recall the blessings of each day! Holy Cow! I have been so blessed this week! Energy or not, the Lord is helping me “press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men” (2 Nephi 31:20–from my daily study this week!).

This just in: Peter scored a hat trick in his game today! He was on cloud nine! That was his goal for this year, and he had a reward attached to accomplishing it. His team won as well, so he could not have been happier about today’s game.

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