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“If you loved me…” (#laughoftheday)

During the summer, I worked hard to find and purchase (or sew, in one situation) clothing for our family for the wedding.

My daughter-in-law’s mother is an accomplished seamstress, and she benevolently volunteered to sew dresses for our daughters! I was astounded! She sewed dresses for Anna, Eliza, and Rebecca, but Julia and Sarah wanted to find something that they were sure would fit and that they liked. The dresses she sewed turned out perfectly! I am still so grateful!

She also sewed the underdress to my outfit, in about an hour, when our family was on vacation the week before the wedding (yep, cut that one close). Talk about fast! And talented!

Shopping with daughters can be very fun. Shopping with sons or my husband can feel painfully tedious to them. 😂 As I worked to shop for suits, shirts, ties, socks, and shoes for Lane and Peter, neither of them were super excited about it.


One day Pete said to me, “If you loved me, you’d just buy a suit for me and let me go to a friend’s house.”

I really did laugh outloud. The story of a 13 year-old boy’s life, right?

Pete sure makes me smile and laugh. I love that about him! He is really awesome.


God’s World at poetry club

Today I got to go to my first week of “poetry club.” What a joy!

My friend and her mother invited me last spring. I have been anticipating getting to join them since then. Today was the day!

The eight of us there listened while we shared poems we had brought. Delightful!

My friend, Heidi, shared the translation of a song her sister sang with a choir recently. The lyrics and music are heavenly:

O salutaris Hostia

Composer: Ēriks Ešenvalds
Text:St. Thomas Aquinas

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gate of Heaven to us below;
Our foes press hard on every side;
Thine aid supply; thy strength bestow.
To thy great name be endless praise,
Immortal Godhead, One in Three.
O grant us endless length of days,
In our true native land with thee.

My mom also attended poetry group, and as some of the poems shared tended towards themes of fall, leaves, and the beauty of the earth, she  started to quote a poem she loved but couldn’t quite remember. Connie, my friend’s mom, had it etched in her mind and heart and recited it on the spot.

This poem describes just how I feel about this fall!

God’s World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
   Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
   Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour!   That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
         But never knew I this;
         Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

In the Morning of Life

In the morning of life, when its cares are unknown,
And its pleasures in all their new lustre begin,
When we live in a bright-beaming world of our own,
And the light that surrounds us is all from within;
Oh ’tis not, believe me, in that happy time
We can love, as in hours of less transport we may; —
Of our smiles, of our hopes, ’tis the gay sunny prime,
But affection is truest when these fade away.When we see the first glory of youth pass us by,
Like a leaf on the stream that will never return,
When our cup, which had sparkled with pleasure so high,
First tastes of the other, the dark-flowing urn;
Then, then in the time when affection holds sway
With a depth and a tenderness joy never knew;
Love, nursed among pleasures, is faithless as they,
But the love born of Sorrow, like Sorrow, is true.In climes full of sunshine, though splendid the flowers,
Their sighs have no freshness, their odour no worth;
‘Tis the cloud and the mist of our own Isle of showers
That call the rich spirit of fragrancy forth.
So it is not ‘mid splendour, prosperity, mirth,
That the depth of Love’s generous spirit appears;
To the sunshine of smiles it may first owe its birth,
But the soul of its sweetness is drawn out by tears.

How the Leaves Came Down


“I’ll tell you how the leaves came down,”
The great Tree to his children said:
“You’re getting sleepy, Yellow and Brown,
Yes, very sleepy, little Red.
It is quite time to go to bed.”

“Ah!” begged each silly, pouting leaf,
“Let us a little longer stay;
Dear Father Tree, behold our grief!
‘Tis such a very pleasant day,
We do not want to go away.”

So, for just one more merry day
To the great Tree the leaflets clung,
Frolicked and danced, and had their way,
Upon the autumn breezes swung,
Whispering all their sports among—

“Perhaps the great Tree will forget,
And let us stay until the spring,
If we all beg, and coax, and fret.”
But the great Tree did no such thing;
He smiled to hear their whispering.

“Come, children, all to bed,” he cried;
And ere the leaves could urge their prayer,
He shook his head, and far and wide,
Fluttering and rustling everywhere,
Down sped the leaflets through the air.

I saw them; on the ground they lay,
Golden and red, a huddled swarm,
Waiting till one from far away,
White bedclothes heaped upon her arm,
Should come to wrap them safe and warm.

The great bare Tree looked down and smiled.
“Good-night, dear little leaves,” he said.
And from below each sleepy child
Replied, “Good-night,” and murmured,
“It is so nice to go to bed!”

This poem reminded our hostess of an exerpt from Bambi that she had in a compilation book, and so she found it and read it. Truly delightful.

The Two Leaves (from Bambi: A Life in the Woods)


The leaves were falling from the great oak at the meadow’s edge. They were falling from the trees.

One branch of the oak reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow. Two leaves clung to its very tip.

“It isn’t the way it used to be,” said one leaf to the other.

“No,” the other leaf answered. “So many of us have fallen off to-night we’re almost the only ones left on our branch.”

“You never know who’s going to go next,” said the first leaf. “Even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still young. You never know who’s going to go next.”

“The sun seldom shines now,” sighed the second leaf, “and when it does it gives no warmth. We must have warmth again.”

“Can it be true,” said the first leaf, “can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we’re gone and after them still others, and more and more?”

“It is really true,” whispered the second leaf. “We can’t even begin to imagine it, it’s beyond our powers.”

“It makes me very sad,” added the first leaf.

They were silent for a while. Then the first leaf said quietly to herself, “Why must we fall?…”

The second leaf asked, “What happens to us when we have fallen?”

“We sink down….”

“What is under us?”

The first leaf answered, “I don’t know, some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows.”

The second leaf asked, “Do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we’re down there?”

The first leaf answered, “Who knows? Not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it.”

They were silent again. Then the first leaf said tenderly to the other, “Don’t worry so much about it, you’re trembling.”

“That’s nothing,” the second leaf answered, “I tremble at the least thing now. I don’t feel so sure of my hold as I used to.”

“Let’s not talk any more about such things,” said the first leaf.

The other replied, “No, we’ll let be. But– what else shall we talk about?”

She was silent, but went on after a little while, “Which of us will go first?”

“There’s still plenty of time to worry about that,” the other leaf assured her. “Let’s remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly that we thought we’d burst with life. Do you remember? And the morning dew, and the mild and splendid nights….”

“Now the nights are dreadful,” the second leaf complained, “and there is no end to them.”

“We shouldn’t complain,” said the first leaf gently. “We’ve outlived many, many others.”

“Have I changed much?” asked the second leaf shyly but determinedly.

“Not in the least,” the first leaf assured her.

“You only think so because I’ve got to be so yellow and ugly. But it’s different in your case.”

“You’re fooling me,” the second leaf said.

“No, really,” the first leaf exclaimed eagerly. “Believe me, you’re as lovely as the day you were born. Here and there may be a little yellow spot but it’s hardly noticeable and only makes you handsomer, believe me.”

“Thanks,” whispered the second leaf, quite touched. “I don’t believe you, not altogether, but I thank you because you’re so kind, you’ve always been so kind to me. I’m just beginning to understand how kind you are.”

“Hush,” said the other leaf, and kept silent herself for she was too troubled to talk anymore.

Then they were both silent. Hours passed.

A moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the tree tops.

“Ah, now,” said the second leaf, “I…..” Then her voice broke off. She was torn from her place and spun down.

Winter had come.

There were so many other wonderful poems shared! Shakespeare, Dickinson, Eliot. Just wonderful. Wish you could have been there.


Getting out, and the difference it makes

We nearly tripped over this animal skull on our trail walk this week.

This summer, because I hurt my back, I curtailed my exercise. I gardened and walked and danced a little. But I really missed my more vigorous workouts!

This fall, I’m starting to get back into my exercise routine and this week got to both ride across, up and down town and back (10 miles) and head up by the reservoir with the pup and my friend for a beautiful 5 miles walk. Neither jaunt was too hard–just enough to help me breathe deeply and take in all the beauty of nature around me.

Wow, Utah is gorgeous! This fall it is particularly breathtaking. I just look in awe at the vibrant gowns the trees are sporting. What a treat! Talk about an energy boost!

There is a reason exercise and being outdoors helps our mood improve. In my own life experiement, I can say that it helps me a lot!


Sometime the pull of oncoming depression seems to understandably appear: it is connected to hormonal cycles, when I feel exhausted and negative no matter how well I’ve been sleeping or eating or exercising. Other times it comes  after a long string of days with hardly any routine to them. Or there are times when it seems to be related to too many nights that were late and not well-slept and not enough exercise on the following days.

But some days it seems to be just there. I wake up, feeling like I wish I could just keep sleeping and sleeping and sleeping and not have to do what I do everyday.

Acting on the Spirit’s suggestion

Today I woke up feeling happy and got out of bed tired but grateful. After my prayers, I went to family scripture study, we had a nice study, but I could feel the pull of that downward depressive feeling that I had been feeling for a couple of days, and I knew that if I stayed to do my personal scripture study, I might not make it back up again for a while.

So I I decided to act on the thought I had recently to make breakfast for my family–to simplify breakfast–to set a routine that would make it simple. I made hot cereal. And I went to work cleaning up from yesterday’s birthday celebrations. As my body went through the motions of preparing and cleaning up, my brain worked on ideas for the day. I noticed my body felt OK. I made progress, felt hopeful, and felt more in control emotionally.

I especially felt happy being able to feed my family a healthy breakfast. I worked to keep my thoughts positive as I worked.

It is work

And it is work. (Overcoming negative thoughts can feel SO very hard. Writing about it and then reading it after makes it sound so easy. But it is not. It is simple, but simple doesn’t equate easy. Sometimes it is the hardest battle of that day.)

A good start to the day (simplify a healthy breakfast)

Now I am eating my breakfast as I sit down to write and study. I feel it’s important to document my experience, as a sort of scientific approach, as it were, to my life experience. I want to share my trial and error. I want to share how I cope with this challenge, and how God helps me. I felt like the idea to simplify breakfast and to get back to preparing breakfast for my family was an inspired thought, and so I wanted to exercise my faith in acting upon it.

My hypothesis is that the line from the song, “Choose the Right Way” actually describes the way we can change the direction of downward cycles: “Choose the right way, and be happy.” Here’s what I mean by that:

My hypothesis: Choose the Right Way

I think that when we recognize that our thoughts are taking a downward turn, we have a choice we can make to change the direction of those thoughts. I think we can choose to think other thoughts: any thoughts about ourselves and others, about the present and the future, that are gentle, positive, loving, kind, invigorating, cheerful, grateful, hopeful, and full of faith.

As I work to yield to the Spirit encouraging me to choose uplifting thoughts, my mood will change, and I can feel better physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Recognizing what I am thinking is the first step. This is made easier when my body, mind and heart feel the weight of a downward pull: it’s a warning flag.

By changing my thoughts

Then I have to act to change my thoughts. And I need to act on the inspiration that comes, as small or simple as it might be.

This has an effect on my mind-body-spirit that is tangible. I find that I don’t have to stay in that downward pull. I can change direction and have my thoughts turn back upward, or “right.” Mentally, I envision my “upward” positive thoughts forming the neuropathways I need to overcome the pull of depression that my old negative through pathways or perhaps genetically-predisposed pathways have forged previously. Someday, I hope that these pathways become so “well-worn” or established in my brain that someday it will be impossible for my mind to get depressed!

Put off the natural man by yielding to a better choice

Lane shared Mosiah 3:19 on Sunday at family scripture study:

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.

This reminded me of that space between choice and action: before we do something, we make a choice, no matter how fast we make that choice. So if we want to become someone different than we are, we have to make new or better choices. When the Spirit prompts (i.e. encourages or suggests) a better choice, we can yield to that good thought and act. Elder Bednar explains it this way:

In the grand division of all of God’s creations, there are things to act and things to be acted upon (see 2 Nephi 2:13–14). As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. To believe that someone or something can make us feel offended, angry, hurt, or bitter diminishes our moral agency and transforms us into objects to be acted upon. As agents, however, you and I have the power to act and to choose how we will respond to an offensive or hurtful situation. (“And Nothing Shall Offend Them”)

Ways and neuropathways

And the past few days I have thought of Proverbs 3:5-6:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

I like to think that “ways” includes neuropathways.

Time for me to go. More later!




This morning after I woke up at 3:33 am and couldn’t go back to sleep–and knew I wouldn’t be going back to sleep any time fast with thoughts of Julia leaving on her mission passing through my mind–I turned on Little Women on my phone (with headphones).

I hadn’t noticed the preface to the story before. As I listened this morning, it seemed completely fitting to Julia’s departure:

‘Go then, my little Book, and show to all
That entertain, and bid thee welcome shall,
What thou dost keep close shut up in thy breast;
And wish what thou dost show them may be blest
To them for good, may make them choose to be
Pilgrims better, by far, than thee or me.
Tell them of Mercy; she is one
Who early hath her pilgrimage begun.
Yea, let young damsels learn of her to prize
The world which is to come, and so be wise;
For little tripping maids may follow God
Along the ways which saintly feet have trod.’
Adapted from JOHN BUNYAN.”

We spent the morning in last minute clean up (her bedroom and basement where she had had her things spread out over the table and couch as she packed. She got all ready and looked beautiful! I wish I had taken some pictures then. We were in a hurry, and so I didn’t. (Learn from me!) So all my photos of her are teary-eyed and face trying to hold back from crying. But that’s how it is!

I was finishing up her mission binder–printing out workout pages so she could keep exercising, printing out talks that I felt could help her when she feels like “a wedged bear in great tightness,” and printing out family history quotes and stories to remind her of her heritage. Then I dashed to the shower (I hadn’t felt well that morning and as we were companions, I hung out with her until another family member was home).

Thank goodness the children got home just in time, and Eliza had the presence of mind to make her a sandwich so she wouldn’t go into the MTC hungry! Lane and Pete carried her luggage out to Lane’s car where we crammed in a few final items–her BYU sweatshirt, a note from a sister, her bottle of face wash, her mission binder.

And then our neighbor pulled up in her car just when we needed a photographer! We snapped a few photos together (it is hard to smile when you are trying not to burst out in tears–my funny grimace in the photo above as evidence!), packed ourselves into the car like sardines (and her suitcase!) and headed to the MTC.

With the new construction there, we were surprised to be directed into a new underground parking garage. Julia’s final Facetime call to Sarah was cut short, and we pulled into a line of cars filled with parents and families dropping off their missionaries. There were also groups of missionaries there serving as hosts, welcoming each missionary and walking them into the MTC. There many people in yellow vests directing traffic. It was extremely organized and welcoming. 

We got out, gave our final hugs and goodbyes, and she walked off with her hostess and we drove away, hearts full and tears flowing.

I was surprised to get an email* from her an hour later! She wrote,

Hello family! They are having us email you to let you know that I made it to the MTC! But, you did just drop me off about an hour ago, so it hasn’t been that long. I am no longer crying, thank goodness, and I guess I am learning Croatian because that is what the teacher started saying when I walked into the classroom! I am actually having fun–so you were right, Dad. 

So far I have learned to say “thank you” (Hvala), and “how do you say….” I use the “How do you say” a lot so it’s on my mind. 
I love you all and will actually write you on whenever my email time is haha
Sestra Livingston
(I will edit her emails for spelling, punctuation and grammar, since missionaries type as fast as they can and don’t always have time to go back and proofread their emails.😉)
It was a little harder this time sending off a child on their mission. When I went to set the table and counted out 6 plates instead of 7, and when I saw the light to the basement on and went to turn it off, realizing that no one was sleeping down their anymore, I had to cry a little.
I sure miss our Julia!


In preparing for her mission, Julia wanted to take some pictures of our dog with her. Sarah texted me some photos–most of which are from when she was a puppy.


“No equipment, no excuses”

After a summer of non-routine days and lots of excuses for not exercising regularly (aside from gardening), Lane and I were trying to figure out how to exercise together in the short time we have in the mornings together.

Well, Julia helped us find an answer. She and I were talking about ways she could try to stay fit on her mission, and she pulled up this HIIT workout on her laptop. We did it together and both were SO sore the next day. It felt great to be sore, in a getting-back-to-the-exercise-routine kind of way…😂

Lane and I started doing these workouts together last week, and when Julia and I were in California, he texted me,

I wish I could have texted him back the same–that we had worked out! (We did the day before, but since we were staying at someone else’s house, I didn’t really have the space or ability to do it without waking them up.)

But I like these workouts! Quick, and boy does your heart get pounding.

I feel so happy and with my ballet workout, I hope and getting my back into shape so that I can run again soon!

Just an aside: I think that young moms have a great opportunity today that their mothers and grandmothers didn’t have: to be able to exercise in a small amount of space, pressing pause to help a child, not needing special clothing or equipment or to pay a monthly gym fee. What a blessing!


(This is the second part in a series of posts on some thoughts on learning and teaching others not to complain.)

Last night we celebrated the birthday of one of my nephews. We ate together at a wonderful restaurant, where the food was amazing! After we ate, my brother-in-law asked each of us to say 3 words that described my nephew. He gave us some time to think, and then we shared. We could tell why we chose those 3 words after saying them. After we had gone around the table and shared our 3 words, my nephew was asked to share one word describing each person.

This was a very fun birthday activity! (Kind of like TLs!)

This exercise brought my thoughts back to what I’d been pondering all day–not complaining. I considered how this nephew, who is very reserved, had just endured a major accident this summer (broken his femur in a wave running accident, only a year after enduring a brain tumor surgery and recovery) yet never complained or even talked about it. He just went about living and running his business with his brother.

I also thought about my husband, Lane, who never complains about me. To know and live so closely with someone who never complains is a great motivator to wanting to develop that attribute! We’ve been married 24 years, and I am still learning not to complain, but I think I might be learning to catch myself more often and change my behavior. I am certainly more aware and want more to not complain. This, in turn, helps me be a better teacher of not complaining to our children.

People who follow the Savior and exemplify Christlike attributes have a powerful impact in our lives, don’t they? It seems to me that they are the ones that the Holy Ghost can whisper to us to say, “That is what it means to be like Jesus and not complain.”

I was just trying to find a verse from the Book of Mormon and asked Julia, and she had just read it yesterday! Don’t you love how the Lord works? Here is the verse (This is where the prophet Abinadi is quoting Isaiah to the wicked priests of King Noah.):

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb so he opened not his mouth. (Mosiah 14:7)

Christ suffered so much for us–and he didn’t “deserve” any punishment, as he was perfect. Yet he didn’t complain for one second–not in his mind or heart nor in any word–about having to bear our burdens. This is the standard he set for not murmuring, not complaining about life.

That’s such a high bar! I’d love to be able to get there someday, and someday–in eternity!–I will, if I keep trusting Him to help me get there, if I keep asking for grace to be able to learn not to complain, and as I gain strength to do so from the good examples of people around me, like my husband and nephew.


(This is the first post in a series on learning not to complain.)

I woke up this morning in the middle of a funny dream about a large family who were gathering for scriptures and one daughter and son who were arguing together. The daughter had a violin under her arm and was going to practice, and when doing her bow to begin practicing, bonked her head on the floor. In my dream, I thought that was so funny that her head could reach the floor, and so I “rewound” the dream in my head to watch that part over again!

With that image of children bickering and complaining in my head, I remembered some recent experiences I had that highlighted an important principle of family life: weeding out concerns and planting seeds of living without complaint.

My first recent experience was in our flower garden, when I went out to start some fall clean-up. Despite the sometimes dramatic changes of weather that we see in Utah in the fall–snow one day, sunshine and warm temperatures just days later–weeds had continued to grow. I have learned that if there is sunshine, there are weeds. They just grow all the time, practically year round! Our flowers might be dying, but the weeds will keep growing!

If anyone had a flower garden without weeds, it would be abnormal. Unheard of!

It appears that the same is true for family life. When family members live together, there are typically at least a few complaints (unless they have learned not to complain). Add in asking children to do work–particularly music practicing!–there is going to be some murmuring. It is normal. No need to be worried if a child complains about life. It is not the norm to have a child who doesn’t complain. (Don’t we all dream of that?)

I consider our family and how challenging it has been trying to get our children to practice their musical instruments. I wondered why it had to be something that came up for discussion sooooo much when they should have, by that point in their lives, known and remembered that in our family, we just do music. Period. They didn’t have to become professional musicians. It was just our milking cow: our way to learn discipline and work. Why did it have to be a fight?

But it was, day after day, week after week, month after month. Yet we persisted in explaining that yes, they had to practice. We weren’t always patient about it, as we were learning (as parents) these two principles: that murmuring is a normal, everyday “weed” in the family “garden,” and that when raising children, you can help to weed out complaining by:

  1. patiently listening to their concerns with love
  2. working with them to try to resolve concerns
  3. plant seeds of Christlike behavior by uncomplainingly living life and standing firm on established family policies while compassionately dealing with a child or spouse’s “junk behavior.”

“Junk behavior” is a phrase I learned in a positive parenting group I attended years ago. It describes the everyday “weed”-type behaviors that you can generally just ignore because they are just what we do as we learn more Christlike behaviors: complaining, defying, tantruming, bickering, etc.

I realized at some point in parenting that as Heavenly Father was raising me, I have to weed out work my own junk behaviors if I want to be able to teach my children to weed out their own junk behaviors. I can’t force them not to complain; I have to show them not to complain.

This reminds of me of how Heavenly Father is raising me. He gives me words in the scriptures to teach me the correct behavior, and then He gave me a brother, my Savior Jesus Christ, AND the Holy Ghost to show me how to apply those words.

“Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.

“Wherefore, now after I have spoken these words, if ye cannot understand them it will be because ye ask not, neither do ye konck; wherefore, ye are not brought into the light, but must perish in the dark.

“For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and recieve the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:3-5).



Fall soups

We had the MOST delicious butternut squash soup tonight that Eliza created–Lane said it was the best he’d ever eaten. I agreed! The secret was the leftover French onion soup that she made earlier this week. And Peter made our favorite gingerbread muffins and a green salad. It was a winning fall meal!

Recipes: French onion soup, Butternut squash soup, Gingerbread muffins

Both of these soups aren’t difficult, but the French onion soup takes time and patience. IT IS SO WORTH IT!