Category Archives: Love

Ten Favorite Valentines

Let’s start with the treats, shall we?

1. Dark decadent homemade chocolate. With only three all-natural ingredients!

hearts3

2. The Valentine Fruit Heartfruit-heart

3. A Valentine Breakfastpuffpancakes

4. Oreo Truffles and Chocolate Covered Strawberries DSC_0096

5. My Favorite Old-Fashioned Sugar Cookie  (thick, soft, and delicious!)DSC_0070-1024x680

6. German Chocolate Cake (and a Love Story)unnamed-2

Valentine Projects this year:

7. Ipod Valentines (comes with a free printable!) Yes, ironic given my technology rants 🙂

IMG_0292

8. Window hanging: Iron crayon shavings into between sheets of waxed paper & cut outIMG_0326

9. Wreath: crumble up tissue paper and glue gun them onto a cardboard wreath.IMG_0338

10. My favorite Valentine tradition: the annual heart attack! Valentine’s get stuck all over the house and we laugh for days (unless they’re making fun of the multiple shades of my hair 🙂 )

paige1 mom

Enjoy! And may all your days be filled with light and love…and especially kisses!

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Scenes From the Wild Wild West

19 years ago, for our honeymoon, The Professor and I drove a couple thousand miles from Salt Lake City and put down roots at a boarding school in a teeny tiny town in New Hampshire.

“We’ll stay 2-3 years and than fly away to a new adventure.”

Turns out boarding school life in rural New Hampshire was adventure enough. It’s become my home and the best place I could dream of to raise a family next door to hay fields, show donkeys, and holsteins. moo.

It’s also true that I left part of my heart out west. This year our family reunion was in Idaho and Utah, a blessing given the circumstances with Eric, Cassie and Scout. I took almost a 1000 photos and boy howdy, what a hard task it was to choose my favorites.

If you’ve never been out west, may these images inspire you to explore this beautiful world, especially with the ones you love.IMG_6338Flying over the midwest

IMG_7105

IMG_6357   The Professor is somehow always in the mix of flying and leaping children. He starts it.

DSC_0056 Bear Lake, Idaho. Home of my childhood summers.

IMG_6436 Vast amounts of food was served to small, and often screaming, children. Love them 🙂

DSC_0169 Family photos taken

DSC_0387  My sister, Andrea. The darling.

DSC_0463  My fab four

DSC_0632 Cope and Savannah. Bestie cousins, born 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day apart.

IMG_6574 Bear Lake is not complete without a cemetery tour given by my father. Here we are told the stories of our ancestors. Some kiddies find it more riveting than others 🙂

IMG_6579 DSC_0667 The farm where my father grew up and where I roamed as a kid.

DSC_0668 The milking parlor that used to be our clubhouse

DSC_0689 This cow wasn’t interested in my photo shoot

IMG_6608 The Professor in his element. We ate. A lot.

IMG_8613 The three beauty queen cousins born within months of each other. All going into their senior year.

DSC_0716 My dad. The Grandpa.

DSC_0791   Brynne and The Professor went flying.

20160629_094513  The cool kids

IMG_6650 Grandma brought a treasure chest filled with magic and goodies. The teens made a treasure map for the wee ones to follow. Fun times.

IMG_6636 Sweet Scout likes peas

IMG_6672The teens left us in Bear Lake for a day while they traveled to BYU-Idaho in Rexburg for a college admission tour. See Nate, of East Idaho News, driving? He assures me they didn’t really travel like this! RIGHT?

IMG_6668  DSC_0840 The rest of us hiked in Tony Grove, Idaho. There was snow!

DSC_0842 And beautiful flowersDSC_0845 And the surly Professor who wasn’t actually surly except for the camera 🙂

DSC_0846 And my TWIN brother! Do you like his hair? I too could be a silver fox. But I’m not so brave. Oh, the issues we women have.

DSC_0862 Back to flowers

DSC_0863  And meadows and reflections of lifeDSC_0876 IMG_6692 Beautiful Bear Lake close to sunsetIMG_7009 After Bear Lake, it was back to Utah where the teens left me standing in the street as they drove off into the sunset. It’s a whole new world, isn’t it?

IMG_6743 There are so many LDS churches in Utah you can walk to church with your hand in your dad’s. I like that.

IMG_6409There’s also A LOT of ice-cream! Iceberg was a huge win!

IMG_6747 My boy, Nellie Mak, has decided he wants to be a barber. His first willing victim: a cousin!

IMG_6986 I have FAR TOO MANY selfies on my phone!

IMG_7011 Another college tour: BYU in Provo, Utah. This is Cope’s first choice school and an extremely competitive one. The average GPA: 3.8. The average ACT: 28. Application process: this fall.

IMG_7014 My girl.

IMG_7027 My college apartment, in front of the window that The Professor once broke with a snowball.  It was true love from the start 🙂

IMG_7099 A trip to Salt Lake City, isn’t complete without a tour of temple square. I love The Christus.

IMG_7070  The conference center where the prophet and twelve apostles speak twice a year for General Conference. Also home to theater, musical events, and The Mormon Tabernacle Choir. These organ pipes are the largest in the world. It is a tremendous building.

IMG_7091 The Salt Lake City temple where we were married – for free! Swoon.

IMG_7112 Atop a mountain in Draper, Utah, where my brother, Patrick, and wife, Natalie, recently moved.

DSC_0942 DSC_0947 DSC_0954 DSC_0964 DSC_0967 DSC_0978 Siblings. My sister, brother, and me.

DSC_0987 My boy and his Uncle Patrick

DSC_0989     Beautiful Utah skies

IMG_7151 And back to Idaho

IMG_7154 And more beautiful western skies

DSC_0173 DSC_0177 DSC_0178Be still my heart.IMG_6517It was very difficult to think we could have a “fun” reunion, with the loss of Cassie. But it was also comforting to feel that with every hike and lake swim, she was with us. I imagine she always will be. We tried to stay “up” and provide an unforgettable experience for our children, as they gathered, laughed, and sometimes cried, with their cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. What a blessing it was to be together, surrounded by the great beauty of the earth, and to remember the creator of it all.

Happy summer.

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We’ll Be Glad, For All the Love We Had

First, thank you for all of the emails, Facebook messages, Gofundme donations, texts, calls, and prayers this month. We have felt so loved and are so appreciative.

This month we unexpectedly lost my mother-in-law, Heather, and sister-in-law, Cassie. The loss of Cass was exceptionally hard because it was SO unexpected. She was young and healthy. And man, we had plans! She leaves behind a loving family, including her husband and my brother, Eric, and their little girl, Scout, age 3.

I feel like I’m just coming out of a fog. I realize from listening to the news that I’m not the only one suffering these days. Shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Dallas, another terrorist attack in Paris – this life is sometimes so hard.

Questions of life and death swirl in my brain. Like, where is Heather? Where is Cassie? What comes next? How can we go on with two empty chairs? It has left me feeling very vulnerable; stuff happens. There have also been silver linings. Even as we feel broken, our family is tighter and stronger. We know we love each other. We know time is short. This is our one chance to make this life mean something – everything. I have felt peace and comfort as I pray – it’s there and it’s real.

The first law of thermodynamics popped into my head this morning: energy cannot be created or destroyed. It made me think about our physical body versus our spirit. There is comfort for even for the most scientifically minded.

I always go to two coping skills: writing and running. But this time it was hard to muster. I was just so tired. Thankfully my husband and running buddies have pulled me outside to run. Writing? Would I ever blog again? I didn’t want to write. I just wanted to skip over Cassie’s death. It was too hard to capture. Too much.  Avoidance and an abundance of ice-cream helped stave off the inner nagging (did you know Utah has the BEST ice-cream? There is an overabundance of creamy deliciousness from a variety of vendors on every corner! It’s as common as their churches!)

If I was ever going to blog again, I knew I had to face the computer screen and say something. This is what happened. Write it down. 

So.

My brother, Patrick, started a gofundme page for our brother, Eric, and his daughter, Scout. Rather than write it out here, you can read the full story there. In 20 days, over $27,000 was raised for the funeral and medical expenses. We are so overwhelmed by your generosity. So grateful. Thank you, thank you.

Burying Cassie wasn’t exactly the yearly family reunion we were expecting or wanting, but it was pretty miraculous that we were already gathering when her accident occurred in Boise. It was incredible that I was able to be with my brother and sit in the hospital for days with him. It was terrible and sad and emotional. But it was also bonding, spiritual; we had moments that will forever connect us.

I will never forget watching my brother lose the love of his life. I’ll never be so proud of him as I watched him pull himself together to make heartbreaking decisions and put a smile on his face for his little girl, Scout. The love was palpable.

IMG_6399Sweet Scout and Eric.

PqJE924QRhxluvUJH6AqGICmd8mcnBLnkl9NsT_33VA,LWZ90wXtYvxWYoqOIvLAFWmn2D0CillNxCWddhe7ILI,EQKsOLdoRwq3oLLroek3z-hB9lNdIfDLLJfk52vUN0MEric is an amazing father. Photography by Cassie. And Cass loved being a mother.

IMG_7176How blessed we were to have Cassie. Here is her beloved Idaho.

DSC_0130Cassie grew up in teeny tiny, Emmett Idaho. Because of her grace, beauty, kindness, she was jokingly teased as “the rose of Emmett.”

Everything she touched was better. She was kind, graceful, and elegant. In March, when we were on our “sister’s cruise,” Cass was reading Brene Brown’s, “The Gifts of Imperfection.” She said she was trying to let go of her need and angst for perfection. Ironically, her perfectionistic tendencies were great strengths and part of what I admired most about her. I always wanted to be more like her, to be a little more classy, to not be so sloppy. I suppose I can still try 🙂

Cassie was always helping me get better at design, creativity, and photography. She designed this blog and put up with my endless tech questions about pull-down menus, subscribe and share buttons. I feel a bit adrift without her at the helm. She did countless mock-ups of book covers as we discussed book ideas and concepts. We talked at length about photography and editing. Cass had recently launched her own photography business, Linen and Lace Photography. Isn’t she incredible?

We shared an affinity for hair products and woefully recounted how to best tame naturally curly hair. When I saw the bottles of shampoo and conditioner lined up on her bathtub I felt like laughing and bursting into tears. Obviously, she had mastered the tame: 🙂IMG_6431

DSC_0102 IMG_7114 IMG_7128Grief is the price we pay for loving her so much.

DSC_1006This picture is so sweet. It also makes me laugh – Scout found those two paper clips and refused to take them off her fingers.

IMG_6392 Eric and Scout have some hard times ahead of them, but I have every faith in him as a father.

And I believe the words he said in his eulogy for Cass: “Our hearts are broken as we say goodbye, but we are thankful we had Cassie for 35 incredible, adventurous, and beautiful years. We hold out hope that our journeys in life will sail us back to her.” Amen.

Love you forever, Cass.

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This is not a program; it is who we are {how to help refugees}

I think it’s so cool when people take their vacation and sick days to travel to Greece and hand out water and food. I often wish I could helicopter in and distribute coats. I wish I could hold and feed babies.

I admit feeling helpless when I hear about the 60 million displaced refugees around the world.

And it’s also easy for me to turn off the news, compartmentalize suffering, and head off to soccer practice.

This past weekend was General Conference, eight hours of talks by leaders of the our church. Funny how much I LOVE it now (really, eight HOURS???.) Instead of getting in the car on Sunday to go to church we get to watch from home (both Saturday AND Sunday!) It’s this awesomely spiritual down day.

With the help of cinnamon rolls, notebooks, and new sharpies 🙂 Cope saw these and said…”oh, I smell love.”unnamed-1

So we listened to talks by men and women who spend all the minutes of their day volunteering their time and energy to loving and serving others. Very inspiring.

The Relief Society is the women’s organization of the church and it is the largest women’s organization in the world. It’s purpose is just as it sounds: to provide relief to those in need. Once again there was a call to action – to help our brothers and sister refugees.

How to help? There was a new program announced called I Was a Stranger.

Citing information from the United Nations, Sister Burton (the Relief Society general president) said there are more than 60 million refugees worldwide and half of those are children.

The program doesn’t ask for us to fly to Greece or organize a huge relief drive (though those are awesome endeavors). “This is an opportunity to serve one-on-one, in families, and by organization to offer friendship, mentoring, and other Christlike service and is one of many ways sisters can serve.”

It reminded me of a friend who said to me, “You know, there are a lot of people who will fly across the world to help but won’t walk across the street to help their neighbor.”

I haven’t stopped thinking about that. It’s pretty simple, really. As we prayerfully seek guidance, I think we’ll be guided to just the right opportunity.

All the talks we heard were fantastic. You can watch HERE if you’re interested or just curious about what we Mormons sit around watching 🙂

But this talk by Patrick Kearon about refugees was especially great:

I’m thinking maybe I should just keep making cinnamon rolls…that would make someone happy, right???

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Where Can We Turn For Peace?

My heart is with those in Brussels. This morning I learned that one of our students was in the airport when the terrorist attacks went off. Four missionaries were seriously hurt. Thirteen people were killed.

I can’t fathom what ISIS thinks they are accomplishing? If it’s hate, then let us fight with love and light right here in our own homes and communities. Love is a grassroots movement. The hand that rocks the cradle rocks the whole world.

“Religion offers no shield for wickedness, for evil, for those kinds of things. The God in whom I believe does not foster this kind of action. He is a God of mercy. He is a God of love. He is a God of peace and reassurance, and I look to Him in times such as this as a comfort and a source of strength.” –Gordon B. Hinckley

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Aunt Margie’s German Chocolate Cake {a love story}

unnamedThis cake is brought to you just in time for Valentine’s. It’s special for three reasons:

  1. It’s my Aunt Margie’s recipe, who is now gone, but I have her cake and think of her whenever I make it.
  2. It has a very special ingredient that makes me laugh.
  3. It represents so many things I love about my husband.

Sometimes we don’t want to share our favorite recipes because then they won’t be special, but boy am I glad Aunt Margie didn’t keep this one all to herself – life is so much better with this cake in it.

If you want only the recipe, skip to the end. If you’d like the love story, keep reading…

Aunt Margie and Uncle Warren raised my father after both his parents passed away when he was young. He grew up on a dairy farm in my most favorite place ever: Bear Lake, Idaho. When we visited in the summer Aunt Margie cooked, and boy was she a good cook!

Aunt Margie was a farmer’s wife and made everything from scratch which is why this cake’s very special ingredient makes me laugh. Are you ready for it…the very special ingredient is…a…cake mix! When I showed surprise she whispered, “you can make the cake by scratch if you want, but it’s just as good with the mix.” I had a new admiration for a busy woman who knew a good thing when she saw it. I have the original cake recipe, but Aunt Margie was right – the cake mix is just as good and so much easier!

As for my husband? Well, way back when I was going through a sad time in my romantic life. I wanted to make a very special cake for a boy who had kind of broken up with me. But he kept coming around. To show him what a catch I was, I figured all he needed was a bite of this very special cake that I had made from scratch (hey, I was young.)

I biked to the grocery store on my green Trek bike and discovered that I hadn’t brought the recipe with me. Did the frosting call for evaporated milk or condensed? Oh well! What’s the difference (said the clueless bakerella)? I bought the condensed milk.

I baked the cake mix (even I could do that) and began the frosting. Stirring it on the stove, I could not get it to thicken. Doubt began to fester. I stirred and stirred until I figured it was good enough – and dumped the frosting onto the cake. It vaguely occurred to me that maybe there was a difference between condensed and evaporated milk.

It was a soupy mess. But I optimistically hoped it would miraculously thicken and be as delicious as Aunt Margie’s cake.

Then I went and did my hair.

The boy was late, not showing up until 10 o’clock. I had grumpily gone to bed (party animal way back then, too). My roommates followed me as I ever-so-glamourously carried out my very special cake and presented it to the boy. (um, this is beginning to sound like an embarrassing 50’s story but I assure you I was a feminist in other ways 🙂

The boy took a look at my cake, put his hand on his stomach and said, “Oh, I’m so stuffed. I really couldn’t.”

Before I threw my cake AT the boy my roommates ushered me into the kitchen where they assured me it wasn’t me or my semi-disturbing-looking cake, it was him.

This moment, I sadly realized, was THE END of that boy.

The next day I was quite ill. I had a cold and a broken heart was miserably missing Anatomy class to go lay down thinking I was going to fail out of school for missing class, a baking failure and no one would ever marry me (not dramatic at all, not me.)

As I passed a condo out popped The Professor who I had just met. Rather than walk toward campus he surprised me by walking me home. There are many funny details to this story, but I’ll cut to the most important part: he walked into my apartment and saw my cake on the table.

The Professor you see, has always been a man who appreciates good food. “Mmmm,” he said, eyeing my cake.

“You can have some,” I said, feeling very sorry for myself. “No one else wants any” (boo hoo…)

“Thanks.” And then he did an audacious thing: he didn’t politely wait for me to open the utensil drawer and hand him a fork. He opened every drawer in the kitchen until he found a fork and then rather than wait for a plate, he stuck his fork in the middle of the cake and took a huge bite. Oh my. This professorial boy who used very big words, was excessively polite, and infuriatingly sparse with his compliments was eating my cake.

It was rather horrifying.

And then he said the only words I needed to hear: “Mmmm, tasty!” And proceeded to take another large bite.

Oh, I could have cried. Which I did. After he left.

And maybe it was then that I knew I had finally found the right boy.

It’s the small things, isn’t it?

And so, on the eve of this Valentine’s, I’d like to give you my very special, most favorite cake recipe. Passed down from my dear Aunt Margie who knew when to substitute, and has been made with love every since, all these years later.

unnamed-2I had to take the picture with my iPhone due to computer problems. My photography, as with my baking skills, is always a work in progress.

German Chocolate Cake by Aunt Margie

For the cake:

1 German Chocolate Cake Mix (devils food works fine, too).

Bake and cool

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter
  • 3 egg yolk, whisked
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1-2 cups unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Mix and cook butter, eggs yolks, evaporated milk, and sugar on low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Remove from heat and coconut and walnuts. Spread on warm cake between layers or on top.

May you bake it with love, eat it with love, and enjoy it through the years, just as we have.

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Giving Thanks For Those Around the Table {our captain has come home!}

The most important part of Thanksgiving dinner has always been the people seated around the table. Though pie is surely a close second.

On the eve of this Thanksgiving, I’m feeling thankful for those around my table.

Two months ago our Cope sailed away on schooner Roseway.21514238710_9077ed7728_k That was weird.21702166825_341453a866_k Interesting how the whole family dynamic shifted.

My friend, Lindsey, who sailed the ocean blue many many years ago, nodded her head at the strangeness. “Yeah, and she’s the oldest of your kids. She’s your captain. Your captain is missing.”

Yeah, that was right. Our captain was missing!

21711410531_aa2d356702_k The mates missed their captain.

In the end, it wasn’t all bad. 1st mate, Nellie Mak, had to start high school without her. I was sad about this fact, but many others thought it terrific; the boy would have to navigate high school on his own. And he did just fine.

The best part of having someone gone is realizing how much you like having them around.

Brynne was particularly excited about taking over the captain’s sleeping quarters. She got busy right away, cleaning and organizing all the captain’s drawers, throwing out what she deemed “nonessential junk.” (isn’t that thoughtful? ha :). She made the bed, fluffed the pillows…and then slept in her sister’s room exactly once. It just wasn’t the same.

21875132735_0208668129_k In the meantime, Cope and her crew mates were having a most amazing adventure (and thank you to all the ocean picture takers; none of these are my photos!) GoPro included!

And the girl was happy.21687426488_f52189c36c_k She saw the world in a way she has never seen it before. Lucky!22558649980_3dc617710a_k She learned many a sailing skill. For instance, how and where to barf over the side of a boat is an art form: “Not on the high side and definitely not into the wind!”22872751082_f1d8bb8536_k She sailed in stormy seas and calm waters. She had spiritual experiences and felt close to the divine.22412118245_12343fcd3e_k She witnessed almost magical creatures.21597567873_9cf2ac535e_h Best of all? She missed us, too.

She wrote home often (we were lucky!) while being tossed and turned by the waves. She understood what a big deal it was, for a hand to stretch forth and say, “Peace. Be Still.” 22733008222_b0839a4c6c_k And her soul was stilled, too.23103932742_1e91418660_k The crew stopped at many an island22218588485_769ebe5c31_h And had a 14-day journey from Florida to Puerto Rico with no land in sight (“that was about the coolest and hardest thing I’ve ever done.”)

She stood at the helm, learning how to sail Roseway, (“much harder than it looks,”). She had a watch group that was on every 8 hours, 24 hours a day. “If you’re off just one degree you’re in big trouble! Now I know what all those conference talks are really about…”

At night, they were required to be locked into a harness when on deck. Because, as their instructor told them, “If you go overboard in the middle of the night, we’ll never find you.”22031712999_731af85a3a_kCheerio!

22757763871_67232d081c_k This was an adventure, but it was also SCHOOL with no electronic devices for two months (makes a mama happy!) They studied Maritime Literature, Maritime Science, Maritime History, Nautical Mathematics, and Seamanship. 22467899878_0a793ddaa5_kThe closer to the Caribbean they sailed, the warmer it became.

IMG_3279-1 As ocean water was the only way to get clean, baths were super fun!22698193850_d26566e15e_k 22218590875_2418eed932_k 23091755876_91372dedcd_k It was truly a life-changing adventure she will never forget.

And she got a wicked-good tan.

The anticipation of greeting our girl and her mates felt more exciting than Christmas!

It’s been a tough fall for our community. We’ve lost friends in a variety of ways. We’ve all been contemplating how exactly we are supposed to navigate loss. Some people come home. Some people don’t. Some still wander.

With Cope gone, this feeling felt especially heightened. I had the morbid mother thoughts, what if she never came home? How would we go on without our captain?

It was also heartening to see the way our community rallied around each other. As one friend put it, “If I’m getting sick, I’m getting sick here.”

When things were beginning to calm again, our beloved doggie, Lord Tennyson, was hit by a car (our van!) when he decided to test the whole New Hampshire Live Free or Die motto, by making a run through the electric fence and into the road. He did live free (but nearly died) .

It was terribly traumatic, with three kids in the car, going to school. I held him in my arms as he bled from his mouth, nose, and left eye and I could not stop crying. I realized that we could not lose our best beloved

When the kids were in school (worried sick) The Professor and I drove to the vet. The Professor was sure it was the end. I could not handle this assessment and forced him to think more positively, darn it!

Tenny was away for three days. Every time I came home I missed him. He wasn’t there to greet me. He wasn’t there when I left the house. He wasn’t following me around the kitchen. I hadn’t realized how much I talk to my small and furry friend 🙂 His muddy, annoying paw prints all over the kitchen floor were suddenly endearing.

So it is with children, isn’t it?

The vet was “pleasantly surprised” that he recovered so well. His left eye was sutured shut for a week so that he looked like a pirate, (so fitting for our captain’s arrival.) He may or may not see out of his eye again, but he lived to bark another day.

Whew.

It’s gut-wrenching to have your people (and beloved pets) leave you. Sometimes it’s needful. It’s good. But before Cope left, I kind of thought that other kids left home, not mine. Aren’t we still that young couple with babies in diapers? What a terrible realization…they will leave. Every last one.

Good thing I like The Professor so much. Even when he’s cranky (kisses, honey! 🙂

A friend wrote to me, after I posted about Cope leaving on her ocean trip:

“Hi. I hope I did not sound patronizing in my note to you. If anything, your post touched a nerve and I am in a rough place over this “growing up and growing a way” stage. My deepest fear has been overwhelming me lately and I am at a loss about how to cope with it. *** is being what I hope is typical of 21…she is pulled away and doing her own thing. Sometimes that shows as being thoughtless . Her own wants and needs top everything and it is painful, to see and to experience. I desperately want her to WANT to be around me on occasion and to feel connected, and she is on her own course. Yes, growing up and having “wings” is good – I am just praying that her foundation is with me as well, and that we can have a good relationship into her adulthood. Ocean seems so long ago, and …she came back. Now I am waiting again….and my heart hurts.”

Sometimes my heart hurts, too.IMG_3036But other times it sings.

One way or the other, I believe this: we all make our way back home.

On the eve of this Thanksgiving, we are cherishing the captain’s return. This Thanksgiving there are no empty chairs. Or dog beds.

I am thankful for those seated around my table. I’m also thankful for those who have departed, who are on different life journeys, to places we cannot yet comprehend. In a different way, they are with us, too.

“We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another…that we may all sit down in heaven together.” -Lucy Mack Smith

Happy Thanksgiving, friends! May we enjoy one another and give great thanks to be surrounded by the ones we love so much.

And don’t forget to enjoy lots of pie, too 🙂

xo.

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Thankful for the Good Ones

Last night Brynne was writing the answer to an assigned essay.

The question: “Is religion important to a region? Why or why not?”

Brynne quite indignantly wrote: “Religion is important to a region because it helps solve problems and causes less contention between people. Without religion, there might be more conflict, more worldwide issues, and more separation between different people. Religion unites and connects people and places all over the world.”

In the wake of the Paris bombings, I nodded dumbly.

Brynne writes this with all the conviction she has, because of her good religious experiences.

But another 11-year-old classmate wrote: “Religion is stupid. It’s people who commit suicide.”

Brynne thought this was stupid. I really hope she didn’t tell him so. You see, we’re all working on taming our passionate responses 🙂

This 11-year-old classmate writes because of his experience: he has none. What he knows of religion comes from the news; he hears of terrorist attacks, where people tie bombs to their body and kill others. All in the name of their God or Allah. If your religious exposure is based on the news, why wouldn’t you think religion is horrid?

I feel a slow burn when I read the terrorist reasons for the Paris bombings: Vengeance for “prostitution and vice.” As if they, the chosen ones, are justified in carrying out God’s punishment.

Didn’t the Ku Klux Klan and Hitler have similar egotistical justifications?

Extreme examples, but there are millions of people who have terrible interactions with “Christians.”

Recently I saw a Facebook post that read, “Act like Christ, not Christians.” This seems to come up during election time and these days, it’s always election time.

With the news cycle only reporting the horrible and shocking, we don’t hear of the food drive up the street, the coats donated to a domestic abuse survivor, or the Thanksgiving baskets assembled. Which is too bad, because the Christians that I know, respond.

I’m better for my religion. It’s been the conduit for spirituality and knowledge. It’s how I make sense of the world. It gives me a vision of who I really am and what happens next. It has made my family happy. It’s kept my parents married. It forces me to be less selfish. I cling to it.

So why are some people worse?

Huffington Post reports that millennials are less likely to be religious than their parents because of our culture change and emphasis on individualism. I begin to wonder? Without religion, who will organize my mother’s funeral? How will anything get done?

In January, the terrorist group al-Qaidain, Muslim extremist attacked the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo for publishing a drawing depicting the Prophet Muhammed.

Al-Qaida’s Yemeni leader Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi said:

“As for the blessed Battle of Paris, we, the Organization of al-Qaida al Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula, claim responsibility for this operation as vengeance for the Messenger of God.”

And it’s not ending. There is a sweet and innocent new generation of terrorists being trained Here.  “My father reminds me of Osama bin Laden, who terrorized and fought the Americans,” Abu Ashak, a boy in the camp, told Dairieh. “One day my father will be like him, and I want to be like Osama’s son.”

It’s no wonder, with this kind of news, that after the Paris attack, Joann Sfar, a cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo, wrote a controversial Instagram post: “Friends from the whole world, thank you for #prayforparis, but we don’t need more religion. Our faith goes to music! Kisses! Life! Champagne and Joy! #Parissaboutlife.”

Christians verbally attacked him.

To which Sfar responded with more cartoons:

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Dear Christians. Perhaps we have not opened the great history book called, The Bible. Perhaps we need a refresher course on how Christ actually behaved?

Just as I was feeling terrible and hopeless, convinced the world was going straight to you know where, I read two great responses from the church to which I belong:  the late Gordon B. Hinckley responds to terrorism Here and, and Dieter F. Uchdorf recounts his life as refugee, calling on us all to remember the humanity we all share. I began to feel a bit better.

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As Dieter F. Uchdorf has taught us: if we are criticizing, bullying, writing mean things on Twitter, there is a very simple solution: Stop it.

If you haven’t seen it, listen to the Paris pianist.

One other thing happened too. A very short conversation with my sister, who is about the kindest, most patient person you ever met (I mean, the hours she spent math tutoring me!)

Sister has been babysitting twins three days a week for a young, single mother who is really down on her luck. If you’ve ever babysat 3 1/2 year old twins all day, three days a week, you’ll know the energy it takes.

Sister has been doing this a long time.

As I busily cleaned up the kitchen I asked, “Are you getting paid pretty well?” Sister paused and very carefully said,

“Um…I’m getting paid in blessings from heaven.”

“What?” I exclaimed, snapping to attention. “You’re babysitting three days a week for free? Like, until they go to kindergarten?”

“You know,” she said. “I kind of think of it as a service. Some people go to India. Some people volunteer in orphanages in Russia. Some people travel the world doing these amazing things. And, I don’t know. This is just something I can do.”

All was right in the world again.

It makes me teary writing this. Thanks, Andrea, for once again reminding me: there are really good people in the world.

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Game-Changing Weekend Links (it’s all about love)

from thisheartomine

from thisheartomine

Are you having a good month of February love? When I stop coughing, I know the man of the house is going to like me a whole lot more. sorry, honey bunny. 

I’ve read some good stuff on love this month. Interestingly, the more I study the brain, the more I understand “the heart.” Anatomically, the hearts beats, but it’s the brain that falls in love and keeps that love going strong. Here are some favorite love reads for your weekend perusal….

The anti-loveLetting Your Teenager Read or Watch “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a Terrible Idea. I couldn’t agree more.

#1 New York Times Bestselling author, Richard Paul Evans shares The One Questions That Saved His Marriage. It’s a really good love question.

Okay, it’s an insurance ad, but I love it so much! https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=846847888673923&set=vb.595785693780145&type=2&theater

If you think texting during dinner isn’t having an impact on your love life, think again. A  2014 study from Brigham Young University found 70 percent of heterosexual women felt smartphones were harming their love relationships. Researchers dubbed this phenomenon “technoference.”

A parent’s love: Elizabeth Smart shares the one crucial detail that helped her escape.

I want to love more like a grandmother loves. Writer Katrina Kenison tells a beautiful story that’s stuck with me.

If you really love somebody, maybe running is the best way to show it. You Gotta Read About Betty. Oh, I heart her.

One more: Exercising Our Kindness Muscles by yours truly.

Have a great weekend, lovies!

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Family Love and No Shave November

Brynne told me this morning that she wishes she was an only child.
“Because then we could go on trips together all alone and you would only pay attention to me.”

I told her how much she would miss her siblings. But as she shrugged and skipped downstairs I felt a little sad. This spunky, resilient little girl needs some one on one time where I sit down and look into her eyes and she doesn’t get interrupted by any other child so help me! 

The opportunity came when Nelson called from school needing his play script. I saw it as fate. I lovingly brought it in (and announced to his English class, who loves you like I do? He blushed as his classmates waved, “Coach does!” I’m so embarrassing). His forgetfulness was the perfect opportunity to steal Brynne for lunch. We went to the local Pizza Chef for a half hour lunch and she felt mighty special. 

Are you a middle child? I hope my girl feels special even though she’s not the only boy, the oldest child, or the baby.

I have been reminded.

This scene sends me into a tizzy. To me, it is the antithesis of family love. I try to be reasonable. But I am decidedly. Not.

Other news fronts: No-shave November is a way to show love. This is what the American Cancer Society website says:

No-Shave November is a unique way to raise cancer awareness.  What better way to grow awareness than with some hair?  Show your support and give back.


So the man shows some love! It begins as a little scruff

that begins to grow into a furry beast.

The goal of No-Shave November is to grow awareness by embracing our hair, which many cancer patients lose, and letting it grow wild and free.  Donate the money you usually spend on shaving and grooming for a month to educate about cancer prevention, save lives, and aid those fighting the battle.

And then one day it turned into a mohawk. That’s the “wild and free” part. He left his mohawk in all night. The kids began to hop up and down. Who is this mohawk man in the house? Is that our father?

Mohawk man turned into Don Juan. 

Participate by growing a beard, cultivating a mustache, letting those legs get mangly, and skipping that waxing appointment.


This website cracks me up. I think he’s going to skip that waxing appointment but those legs sure are mangly. Like, all the time. Maybe I should try it. Sexy.

Cope is most definitely not feeling the love. She has to go to school with her dad. They share the same campus. And while she appreciates many of his antics, her response to Don Juan was, “No. You are not going to school like that. No. That’s not okay.”

Which just makes us laugh.

“Seriously, Dad. You can’t do that. No.”

The more emphatic she became, the more we laughed. It’s really not funny. Poor girl.

I have to admit, I’ve always loved this particular part of my husband’s personality. The man comes across as so serious and professorial and then every once in awhile…Did he just do that???

Oh yes he did.

This morning he really did go to work as Don Juan. “Don’t you have some…important meetings or something?” I asked. “Probably,” he said. Whatevs.
It’s hard to even remember that clean-shaven man oh so twenty days ago…

His eldest daughter was so mad at him that she wouldn’t even look at him. And then somehow it was my fault. I am wondering how their time together on campus is going? 

I’m laughing again just thinking about it.

Meanwhile, to feel greater family love we have started our Secret Santas a little early. Nelson says this is definitely not okay and when I played Christmas music on Saturday he gave a great protest and said this was not allowed until December 10th!

Just this morning I read three great posts on love…Lindsey…and C.Jane

Lindsey quoted Ann Voscamp and her blog post, “The Real Truth About Boring Men – and the Women Who Live With Them: Redefining Boring.” I love it. It’s definitely worth reading.

Even though I obviously don’t have me no boring man! I’ve got the Don Juan.

Voscamp writes, 
“Let everyone do their talking about 50 shades of grey, but don’t let anyone talk you out of it: committment is pretty much black and white. Because the truth is, real love will always make you suffer. Simply commit: Who am I willing to suffer for?” 

The real romantics are the boring ones — they let another heart bore a hole deep into theirs.

Yes, family love can sometimes be boring and mundane. Our Love Story has involved wet beds, puke in cars, lice, and annoyed teenagers. I so hope it doesn’t involve Depends. But you never know, do you?

And shhh, don’t tell him, but I secretly love those unpredictable, spicy Don Juan moments. Because every once in awhile, it’s good to try not to be so boring. Make the girl laugh, let her heart race a little (as long as you’re scrubbing the toilet.) And she’s yours forever.

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