Friday, June 13, 2014

Lessons from a Third-Grader

The other day, Caden came home from school and announced, "______ is one of my very best friends. We have so much in common! We're both double-jointed, we both sit at the blue table, we both can belly-roll our stomachs, we both play soccer--and we're good at it..." His list went on, but I was especially moved by one item he didn't even mention: he is Christian (and Mormon); his buddy is Muslim. This point was so irrelevant to their friendship that it didn't come up. I thought, "Whole nations could find peace if people would just take a lesson from a couple of third-graders, embrace their similarities, and accept their differences." Thank you, Caden, for exemplifying what friendship looks like!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Power of the Written Word

My mom recently sent me an article, "The Power of the Written Word,"* by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that he originally presented to writers and editors of the LDS church on October 15, 2013. As a former editor and a big fan of Elder Holland, I was eager to read this article and it did not disappoint. One of my favorite quotes from the article reminded me of my very first blog entry, in which I said, "The process of writing, for me, helps fragmented thoughts crystallize…" Elder Holland stated:

"My second piece of counsel about tackling a blank page comes from Frank Smith in his “Myths of Writing.”  He said encouragingly:

“Thoughts are created in the act of writing.  [It is a myth that] you must have something to say in order to write.  Reality:  You often need to write in order to have anything to say.  Thought comes with writing, and writing may never come if it is postponed until we are satisfied that we have something to say. . . . The assertion of write first, see what you had to say later applies to all manifestations of written language, to letters . . . as well as to diaries and journals.”[i] 

So, again take heart.  Begin and learn as you go.  You will have ideas and phrases come late that could not have come early.  Elder Bruce R. McConkie said he learned the gospel by teaching it.  Maybe we find what it is we want to say by writing and writing until finally it appears."

After reading this article, I began thinking about the power of writing in my own life. The whole premise for this entire blog is that writing helps me learn the lessons life has to teach me. I've noticed I am much more the person I want to be when I employ writing in all sorts of forms:

1. I have learned it is imperative that I keep a daily planner. Long ago I realized that if I neglect to write down my daily to-do list in my planner, my life quickly becomes complete chaos. 
2. I am much more apt to see God's hand in my life and live in thanksgiving daily if I keep a gratitude journal.
3. I get far more out of my daily scripture reading when I faithfully keep a scripture journal and record the insights I discover.
4. I have exponentially greater success at staying on track with healthy eating if I keep a daily food log--and better still--exchange food logs with a friend. This makes such a difference that I find I lose weight when I keep a log and gain it when I don't.
5. My relationships are strengthened when I take time to not only express gratitude and appreciation for someone, but to write these expressions down. I can record these thoughts in a special journal I have for my spouse, a text message to my son, or an e-mail to a friend, and the results  are always the same: both of us are uplifted and our relationship is strengthened. A spoken expression of love is always meaningful, but the impact of a written expression of love and gratitude just seems to be more powerful.
6. And, of course, I do better at learning life's little lessons when I post entries on this blog!

I am utterly convinced of the power of the written word. I have seen its power in my life, in my relationships, in my time management, in my spirituality, and in my waistline. And yet. It is far too easy to get too busy to write. I still feel that the whirlwind that my life has been since we bought our house this past summer has yet to settle. Sheer busyness has taken a toll on every single form of writing I listed above, and I have felt the loss. This week I determined that I would do better, and I have already felt the blessings begin to flow. Just from writing. That's the power of the written word. 

*I would love to provide a link to this article by Elder Holland, but I only have it in PDF form and have not been able to find it online. If you are interested in reading it, post a comment and I will forward it to you! 

[i]    Frank Smith, “Myths of Writing,” Language Arts 58:7 (1981): 793, 795, as quoted in “Why Write It?,” by Brad Wilcox, Ensign, September 1999,

Monday, October 21, 2013

OK, I'm back.

Yesterday I was chatting with some teenage girls I get to "work" with at church (really, it can hardly be called work; they are so fabulous). They were talking about who had a blog, and they seemed surprised when I said I did (I guess it was a generational thing and they were a bit shocked I could manage it at my advanced age). Then, the kicker. One of them asked if I actually consistently posted anything on said blog, since that's the hard part. I had to confess I was way behind and hadn't posted in months.

However, updating my blog has definitely been on my to-do list. I've just been a crazy busy the past few months, and here's why: we have moved!

We had been looking for over a year for a different home that would enable us to stay in the same schools and ward (our congregation at church), and at the beginning of July, we found this beautiful home in our favorite neighborhood. It didn't really have any of the key elements we were looking for (a pool, a guest bedroom, etc.), but we were smitten all the same. How could I resist, when it was smack in the middle of a forest with a creek running through the backyard?

We made an offer on the home the day after we first saw it, then within a week had our home on the market. We sold our home in 9 days and the whirlwind continued as we packed, cleaned, repaired, cleaned some more, packed some more and then moved our stuff to a storage unit and several homes of friends while we waited 2 1/2 weeks to move in.

In the meantime we moved in with my brother Gary and his family, who had been in their home all of a week and a half. Did I mention this has been a crazy time for our family (and theirs?!). However, we had so much fun there the kids didn't want to leave (following three pics taken at their house). 
Dinner on the patio
Swimming in the pool
Just hanging out together

But move-in day finally came and we were excited. Caden said, "I feel like our house is in a fairy tale." I think it's safe to say we all feel the same. 

One of my favorite spots: the cozy front porch.

The whirlwind continues as we work to get situated, but we make progress every day and we feel at home. We are so very grateful and so aware of tender mercies bestowed by a loving Father in Heaven throughout this whole process, as well as tender mercies bestowed by friends and family here on earth...not only a place to stay, but dinners, moving help, packing help, cleaning help, and more, from our network of angels-friends. We are blessed. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Reviving a tradition

We are big into traditions in our family, especially holiday traditions. I have noticed, however, as our boys are getting older, that a few of our traditions have sadly begun to fall by the wayside. (I'm thinking, for example, of how we always used to make pumpkin cookies at Halloween and deliver them clandestinely to neighbors, visit the Pumpkin Patch as a family, and read our Christmas advent book together every night of December. This year we even--gasp!!--failed to make a gingerbread house at Christmastime.) While, of course, we still maintain lots and lots of traditions, I've felt especially bad about some of these fading away before our 8-year-old Caden has gotten remotely tired of them. 

On the Friday night before Easter, Tim announced that he thought it was high time that we dyed some eggs. Caden made his own announcement: he had never in his life dyed eggs. What?! Who knew it had been so long? Sometimes traditions need reviving. 

Getting started!

Shrink-wrapped eggs?! What next?
And a good time was had by all!

Early the next morning: no worries,
the Easter basket tradition is still going strong!
(PS Tristan was already gone serving breakfast at a shelter.)

Follow the leader

After a hiatus from my blog as I pondered and debated about what, really, the focus of my blog was, and who, really, my audience was, and how, really, I could write about what was important to me while imagining it would be remotely relevant to anybody's come to this: posting nothing is preserving no thoughts, memories, or photos whatsoever, so I best just "get on with it." Whatever will be will be.

As I uploaded some recent photos from my phone, I saw this one:

We had gone on a walk after dinner a couple nights ago, and the boys seemed to be playing "Follow the Leader"--un-planned and un-posed. I thought back to when Caden was about 4, and he said, "I like being the smallest in our family, because I can do lots of things nobody else can do." At the time, he was underneath a bush, weeding. So I said, "Like weed under the bush?" And he said, "Yes. And you can watch your biggest brother make mistakes, and then your next brother make mistakes, and you can choose to do something different!" I thought this was quite profound for a four-year-old! But it also made me so grateful that he could also watch his big brothers NOT making mistakes--which is much of the time--and he could choose to do exactly the same thing. I am so grateful for three boys who get along so well and for wonderful big brothers who don't mind a bit that the ones behind them want to follow in their footsteps.

And finally, I am ever so grateful that I have a big brother, too, whose footsteps I still try to follow in. I am thankful for how he "paves the way" for me and my siblings. I am blessed.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Come What May and Love It (Our 2013 Spring Break Trip)

Last year, we took a magical trip to the beach for Spring Break. It was heaven in all sorts of ways: lovely weather, turquoise water, warm white sand, and hours and hours of walking along the nearly-deserted shore, collecting shells on the beach, and playing in the waves...

One day, which happened to be my birthday, we even took a sunset dolphin cruise:

We loved every minute of playing together as a family:

Part of what made our trip so magical was its rarity. Since we moved here 8 years ago, Tim has always had business-related travel that he has been required to take during Spring Break. For some reason, the conference he normally had in March shifted just enough last year to enable us to take that wonderful vacation. We were grateful.

Hoping for more magical family time, we chose to head to the beach once again this year. Not wanting to compete with The Fabulous Spring Break Trip of 2012, we decided that instead of returning to Navarre Beach in Florida, we would head to LA...or the Gulf Shores, in Lower Alabama, to be exact. Soon after making our plans, we realized Tim's conference was scheduled for the exact dates we had planned to go on our trip. (That should have been a sign. We ignored it.) We decided to leave earlier, on Friday, and spend at least several days together before he had to fly to NYC on Tuesday; the rest of us would finish out the week and drive home on our own. This plan left much to be desired (namely, Tim around for the whole time!), but we rented a condo and looked forward to our trip.

We pulled into Gulf Shores at 2 AM Saturday morning and upon entering our condo, we immediately made some less-than-thrilling discoveries:
  • A large, dead cockroach right by the front door (which was later followed up by an even larger, live cockroach)
  • A swimming pool completely empty of water
  • 1 moth-eaten blanket in a condo advertised to sleep 6
  • No linens whatsoever for the hide-a-bed 
  • A dirty bathroom and dingy, very old bedspreads (not thick enough to qualify as blankets)
The next day we made additional discoveries:
  • The chair Tristan slept on due to the lack of linens mentioned above must have had other guests as he had numerous bites
  • A dishwasher that wasn't bolted in, so all the dishes came falling out unless we employed great tactical strategies for holding it in place while loading it
  • The weather was slated to be cold (and even rainy one day) all week, and we found ourselves collecting shells this year in 40-degree temps instead of the balmy, warm weather of last year
  • Spring-breakers en masse, who staggered around drunkenly while littering the beach with beer cans and the pool area with shattered beer bottles (as discovered by Caden when he cut his foot)
What to do? With Joseph B. Wirthlin's timeless advice resounding in my heart, I knew all we could do was to "Come What May and Love It"! I especially love this tidbit: 

"The next time you’re tempted to groan, you might try to laugh instead. It will extend your life and make the lives of all those around you more enjoyable."

The condo really was so disgusting in some ways that I have to confess to some groaning, but there was a lot of laughing too. It was also so cold that we couldn't spend much time on the beach, but we could do plenty of other things:

Touring the very cool Fort Morgan, famous for the
Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War.  

Visiting the extraordinarily fabulous home where our friends,
the Angerbauers, were staying. Notice I am the only one dressed
appropriately for the weather!

Enjoying lunch at Lambert's, the "Home of the Throwed Rolls,"
Caden's favorite part of our trip.

Attempting to go to Alligator Alley.
(The downpour started right as we got out of the car!)
Second try: Alligator Alley!

"This feels just like my purse!"
Huddling together for warmth after shell-collecting in the cold.

The Pensacola Lighthouse.
Happily for the boys, the most haunted lighthouse in America.

Atop the Pensacola lighthouse.

Celebrating weather in the 60's on the last day of our trip!

Enjoying sunset on our final night in Gulf Shores. 

Come what may and love it! Try it; you'll like it!!  

Early March in Texas

First, there was this:

And then, there was this:

And this too:

So naturally, that meant this: 

We love Spring! (Our Spring Break trip will be covered in my next post...)