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Silent Souls Weeping

“Depression thrives in secrecy but shrinks in empathy.” (Seth, as quoted in Silent Souls Weeping)

I finished listening to Jane Clayson Johnson’s Silent Souls Weeping: Depression–Sharing stories, Finding Hope. I LOVED IT. At first, it felt a little heavy, since I could relate to it so much, and I was looking for lighter reading. It wasn’t light reading! But as I went along, I felt comforted hearing other people’s stories. I especially was interested to read those of some people I really admired!

I actually didn’t finish reading the book after starting it, because I felt (hopefully!) inspired to give it away. Then last week when I was asked to speak to a group of adults in a church congregation about depression, the memory of this book came to my mind, and I remembered that I owned an audio version of it. I started listening right away! I really loved the audio version read by the author, who has suffered from clinical depression.

I think one of the most important messages from this book is how important it is that we share our stories. We need to know that we are not alone, and by sharing our stories, we can give hope to others who feel like they are struggling in darkness, feeling too weak to reach out or too embarrassed. We empower others when we ask for help or admit that we struggle with mental illness, just as anyone who is physically ill and needs help can only used get it if they ask for help.

I was visiting with a friend this week and mentioned how I have struggled with anxiety at times. She looked so surprised and mentioned how she had similarly struggled. We are both cheerful people, and I recognized how easy it is to assume that people who look happy on the outside are possibly fighting a real inner battle to be cheerful in that moment or to have showed up at a church meeting or social event.

I’m excited to be preparing to discuss depression and anxiety with this church group. I am eager to learn more, to hear other people’s stories, to gather stories from those I know and love already who suffer from mental illness. Together, we are stronger and can float back up to the top like corks as we strengthen and comfort one another.

Have you read this book? What was your favorite quote? Which story helped you? Do you have a story that you feel could help someone else?

Note: This book is part of our Raising Amazing Children Friendship Library Project. To learn more about this project, click here.

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Who loves you?

Last Sunday (26 May 2019), a young woman who was about to graduate from high school addressed our church congregation. Her talk was so beautiful and wise, I asked her permission to share it with you. I think it illustrates how such small and simple questions that we ask our children and principles that we teach them can have a very big impact in their lives for years to come.

My name is Hailey, and I am a graduating senior this year. It’s hard to choose just one thing that I have learned throughout these 18 years, but one thing that I believe is important is something I want to talk about today: Who loves you? A possible simple question that I hope everyone here can have multiple answers to. But who truly loves you? Who loves you with an infinite and perfect love?

When I was young, I can remember fighting with a sibling (it was probably Natalie) and me crying and ending up in my dad’s lap. He would then hug me and say, “Who loves you?” Being young, my response was of course, “You love me, Dad.” There was no question or doubt ever in my mind that would make me question if my parents loved me. The question “Who loves you?” was the most asked question in my home and probably still is. I learned at a young age that my parents loved me. Every day I was told I was loved and especially when life was really hard.

It was a little bit later in life when I came to truly understand and comprehend the love that my Heavenly Father has for me and the love my Savior Jesus Christ has for me. It happened gradually and I can’t tell you an exact day or time when I came to know that, but I know that today.

I want to share an experience with you that helped me come to know of this love. A lot of you know, but for those who don’t, I have had the opportunity to play soccer since I was little. As I got older, I joined a club soccer team and loved playing with them. Each year we had tryouts, and it was something that came and went without a second thought until the end of my sophomore year of high school.

Normally, you get a call from the coach congratulating you on making the team and offering you a spot. But that phone call didn’t go quite how I was expecting. My coach called me and offered me the 19th spot on an 18 spot roster–which meant I would practice and travel with the team but not play in any of the games. I hung up with that coach and cried. I didn’t know what else to do. This sport that I loved felt like it was being ripped from my fingers. It wouldn’t be the same as the eight years before with this team. I was frustrated and sad, and I didn’t understand. I asked my Heavenly Father, “Why now?” Why was this thing I loved to do and my Heavenly Father knew I loved being taken from me? I didn’t see the eternal perspective. But in the moment, I had a decision to make. Neither was wrong but which one was more right? I sat down with my dad a few days later, and I told him my fear of the answer that I had received. I felt like I should stop playing on this club team. But it scared me so much. I didn’t want to be done, yet that was the answer I was receiving.

I decided to not continue playing with that team. Looking back on that experience, I can see why my Heavenly Father needed me to stop playing club soccer. I still got to play soccer with the high school team, but it opened new opportunities for me. I got to serve in church callings and fulfill my callings more than I could have if I were still playing club. I also started taking piano lessons again and have found a love of playing the piano again. This is just one experience that I have had that has shown the love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ has for me.  

President Ballard said, “Brothers and sisters, do the best you can do day after day, and before you know it, you will come to realize that your Heavenly Father knows you and that He loves you. And when you know that—really know it—your life will have real purpose and meaning and you will be filled with joy and peace” (“The True, Pure, and Simple Gospel of Jesus Christ,” April 2019 general conference).

I found a purpose after I made the decision to stop playing club soccer. I tried my best to be who Heavenly Father needed me to be. As I mentioned before, I was able to participate in church callings I otherwise wouldn’t have been able to. I was able to understand on a deeper level the love I felt.  

I have come to know that my earthly father and mother love me with an unconditional love, and I am grateful for all of their support in everything I do. I also know that my Father in Heaven and His Son Jesus Christ truly love me. They can see the whole picture while I am sometimes just looking at a piece. And because of this love, Christ suffered for my sins and my mistakes in the Garden of Gethsemane. He died on the cross in Calvary and that is why He lives today. I hope that each of you come to truly know who loves you. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

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Grandma Livingston’s Lemon Bars

Grandma’s lemon bars are legendary, especially when made with Meyer lemons (which she used to mail to us freshly picked from her tree!). Lane made some for us tonight after calling his mom for the recipe. We used to make these a lot but haven’t for a while. Hers is the BEST recipe around!

Click here for the printable recipe of the recipe image below.

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Healthy Marriage Resources

Today in our family “Come, Follow Me” discussion, Lane and I shared a few of the challenges and blessings that we have experienced in our marriage. We both told our children how grateful we are for the gift of being married, and our belief that with the help of Jesus Christ and his teachings, a husband and wife who really want to and are fully committed to doing what the Savior taught can overcome the challenges that they face–together.

These are such great links to articles and videos that inspired me with regards to marriage. I just copied the following links/paragraphs from the “Come, Follow Me” support materials page for May 13-19, 2019 on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints website. There are certainly hundreds–probably thousands–more resources on that website that support healthy marriage relationships, but these are just some really great current ones.

  • Disciples and the Defense of Marriage.” In this Ensign article, President Russell M. Nelson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, discusses our responsibility to defend traditional marriage.
  • It Is Not Good for Man or Woman to Be Alone.” In this general conference address, Sheri L. Dew, former Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, offers insights on marriage, unity, and the priesthood.
  • Your Current Life, Your Future Family,” by Mindy Raye Friedman. This New Era article uses principles from the family proclamation to recommend what teens can do now to prepare for a happy marriage and family.
  • Renaissance of Marriage.” This video is an excerpt from President Henry  B. Eyring’s presentation during a summit on marriage held at the Vatican.
  • Better Together: The Ultimate Team.” Watch this short video about marriage and commitment from a family facing challenges.
  • Temple Blessings.” Read a short message for children from Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles about blessings of the temple and being sealed as a family.

I think one thing I really hope our children can understand is how to problem solve. By myself, I am not always a great problem-solver. With Lane and the Lord’s help, there isn’t any problem that we have faced that we haven’t been able to figure out how to deal with. I believe that is the key: learning to rely on those people and tools that God has given to help us, with faith in the Lord to help us overcome our common obstacles.

Here are three other links to resources that can help deal with challenges in our lives:

The Book of Mormon

Hope and Help

Home and Family

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Happy Halloween! (May 8)

I was going through photos today for our daughter Eliza’s upcoming high school graduation, which is such a fun walk down memory lane. I remember when I was doing this for Sarah, and realized we had more than 12,000 digital photos that I would go through to find some of her. Fast forward 7 years, and you can only guess how many we have now.

But this is not a post about digital photo storage or lack thereof, comically. And it’s not just about Eliza (although she did carve that pumpkin on Halloween 2018.) What I saw while photo browsing were some really fun costumes, and for all of my Halloween grinchiness, I really have great memories of getting costumes together! So I thought I’d gather some more photos and post them all here. Today. May 8.

That don’t cost a cent? Eliza and Becca decided they were going to be skiers, and Eliza wore my snow coat from high school that I had worn 32 years before. It was in pristine shape after my mom was moving and found some snow clothing packed away. Becca wore a ski suit that one of my brothers wore back in the day! Fancy schmancy!

(I also have to laugh at certain details, like Eliza wearing her younger sister’s tennis shoes. Nothing like doubling your shoe options when you wear the same size!)

Anna’s unicorn costume. So many of our costumes were invented without patterns or precendence. Just, “Can I be a unicorn?” and then digging through our scraps and/or a trip to the thrift and fabric stores.

Nothing like improvising a pattern off of a piece of clothing. I don’t recommend this for things you want to look really good, for everyday wear. But in a pinch, when the clock is ticking and you need a costume for a party, then it’s “Here goes nothing!”

I guess unicorns wear lipstick and silver lamé skirts? Good thing there was enough left over for the horn headband…

One year Peter really wanted to be Gandalf. He carved a pipe, I got him a beard, we borrowed that amazing wig and cape from our fabulous and generous friends, he made the staff out of PVC and a doorknob handle, and Eliza sewed him the robe! It was a true collaborative effort. He was too old to trick-or-treat, so he went with his friend to take the younger siblings trick-or-treating. I gave him some candy at the end, tee hee.

Rebecca came home from college last year on Halloween night. Her “costume” was sweats…which is kind of her daily look! We had fun with roasting pumpkin seeds, drinking hot mulled cider, and eating some popcorn while watching a movie together. Loved it.

Our neighbors had a potluck dinner. We brought pulla. So many people dress up. I decided not to be a grinch and put on Liza’s real chef’s jacket. That was the extent of it. Ooh, I love warm pulla with butter melting on it.

Teenage boys can be pretty crazy. In 2013, Nate wore this parrot costume that probably first fit him when he was 6…with his rugby shorts, naturally. Julia was an 80’s aerobics girl, or something. Peter wasn’t in costume in this photo–just was wearing a cute grin.

We had a neighbor that year who was a talented photographer. He took photos on Halloween with a white backdrop for all the trick-or-treaters. He was just fabulous! He passed away not long ago of cancer. We love his family and treasure the memories and legacy that he left in his wake. He was truly a phenomenal guy. And so many people have such fun memories of Halloween because of the way he shared his talents so generously with everyone.

Sarah is really good with her hands, and she loves Cinderella. When she was too old to trick-or-treat, she still left some beautiful glowing pumpkins on our porch.

I remember getting this dress at a thrift store for Julia, and having to re-do the zipper in the back to cinch it in about 4 inches, making the back fit and modest. I LOVED the costume I sewed for Rebecca with her cute hat and apron for a 50’s hamburger place waitress. I can’t remember the name of that right now! Peter really loved Davy Crockett at the time, and I was grateful for a costume I could just buy and go with!

These were good times. They might have been a tad stressful back then, with NOT equal parts costumes to time or energy. But it worked out! Just like motherhood has a way of doing when you just do your best and trust in God. Looking back, I’m so glad I went to the effort. Happy Halloween.

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Sammie’s Poem

there she was–

shattered on the ground

there she was–

trapped and bound

there she was–

new scars appearing everyday

there she was–

broken in every possible way

look at her now

she’s taking a vow

to reach up and heal somehow

she’s lighting the flame,

the one that went dark

she’s taking a thread

and mending her heart

©2019 Sammie

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Librairies of Hope


I received a comment on my blog today referring me to this website, Libraries of Hope. I can hardly contain my happiness at this online resource! It is utterly incredible! You could do a whole homeschool based upon this website (not solely, but as a tremendous, foundational resource), or if you don’t homeschool, simply have wonderful books for your family to read. You could use her website to help you grow your own wonderful home library. I am SO excited to dive in to read some books! What an incredible labor of love Marlene Peterson has created for the rest of us to enjoy! I feel like she has, in one way, accomplished what I would have love to have done (but now don’t have to!). Thank you, thank you, Marlene.

Even, tragically, at this moment when Notre Dame cathedral burns, I am grateful to Marlene for preserving some wonderful history–some voices of inspiring authors and our world history and heritage that might otherwise be silenced and forgotten.

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This wonderful saying, “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think,” is attributed to A.A. Milne. But as far as I can tell, I can’t find actually from A.A. Milne. Does anyone have the source for this quote to show where he–if he did–said this?


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Courage to Be You

I haven’t ever met Gail Miller, but after listening to her read her book (on the Bookshelf app), I feel like I got to have a wonderful, long visit with a very kind and wise woman.

Gail Miller is an unpretentious, hard-working, salt-of-the-earth kind of woman who raised 5 children and supported her entrepreneur husband in developing a multi-billion dollar business and many philanthropic efforts. They collaborated to such a degree during their lives that after he passed, she assumed his role as CEO and has carried on the legacy they built together.

(I have more to write but will have to return later! If you have any comments on this book, please share them below. Thanks!)

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The Boys in the Boat

When was the last time you cheered while listening to a book?

Today I did while listening to The Boys in the Boat: The True Story of an American Team’s Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics (by Daniel James Brown; adapted for young readers by Gregory Mone). The best of biographies don’t get much better than this!

Brown tells the story not only of the 9 members of the 1936 USA Olympic Rowing Team but also the painful-to-triumphant personal journey of Joe Rantz. If you find yourself facing challenges and need an inspiring story to help motivate you (besides the scriptures, of course!), I recommend this story without reservation!

Here is a part that I want to remember that has so much relevance to family life. One of the coaches, George Pocock, approaches Joe at a definitive point of his rowing career. (SPOILER ALERT: Don’t read if you are planning to read or listen to the book!) He says that he has been observing him and noticed that Joe “was a fine oarsman. He’d noted a few technical faults, but that wasn’t what he wanted to talk about. He said that there were times when Joe seemed to think he was the only one in the boat. He rowed as if it was up to him to row the boat across the finish line all by himself. When a man rowed like that, Pocock said, he was bound to attack the water rather than to work with it. Worse, he would not be able to let his crew help him now.

“The Englishman suggested that Joe think of a well-rowed race as a symphony; and himself as just one player in the orchestra. If one fellow in the orchestra was playing out of tune, or playing at a different tempo, the whole piece would naturally be ruined. That’s the way it was with rowing. What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about everyone on his crew. He had to bive himself up to the rowing, but he had to do even more. He had to give himself up to his crewmates too. ‘If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him,’ Pocock said. ‘It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.’

“Pocock paused and looked up. ‘Joe, when you really start trusting those other boys,’ Pocock said, you will feel a power at work within you that is far beyond anything you’ve ever imagined. Sometimes, you will feel as if you have rowed right off the planet and are rowing among the stars.’

I would recommend this book to illustrate the power of hard work, unity, team work, goal setting, perseverence, grit, poverty, unkindness, loyalty, forgiveness, patience, believing in yourself and others, human potential, overcoming obstacles, the Olympic dream, frugality, the Word of Wisdom, determination, hope, and love. And Matthew 22:39.

(Note: I diverted from my media-break-to-do-family-history because my blog is a place where I keep quotes that I refer back to, kind of like my memory! I needed to write this down for future reference before I forgot!)

I would recommend this book for anyone who is old enough to read it. There is some sad material but has been adapted for young readers. I have not read the original book written for adults, so I cannot make a recommendation for readership accordingly.

This book is part of the Raising Amazing Children Friendship Library Project (RACFLP). Please comment below to share your favorite part or quote from the book.

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