The Watchman

The Watchman

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#SharetheGift

“Christmas doesn't come from a store, maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more....”
― Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!


Yesterday I wrote about the #SharetheGift campaign being promoted via social media by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  As the holiday season has progressed, the power of this simple idea has taken hold of my heart.

Recently I was asked to serve as the president of our ward's Young Women Auxiliary.  It is a truly humbling experience as I get to spend time with an amazing group of Heavenly Father's daughters.  Their love for their Savior and for each other has already taught me so much.

Last night was no different.  One of the girls in our group will be moving soon as her family is relocated to fulfill a new assignment for her father's employer.  Although we had not planned to meet together, we decided to put together a last minute farewell party.  The men in my household chose to take this time to hide in the basement with the door shut.  Not sure why a houseful of women and teenage girls is so terrifying, but they did not re-emerge till the last guest had departed.

After decorating sugar cookies and playing Apples to Apples, I felt I should do something to tie the activity into the Christmas season.  We talked about Christmas and the #SharetheGift campaign.  I had each girl write on piece of paper something that they could do to share the gift.  The papers were then placed in a gift box and the box was passed around the group a second time and each girl drew a piece of paper and read what was written on it.

I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... I will do something good.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... I will be nice.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... Saying something nice to all I meet.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... I will be kind.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... Showing my love.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... Doing a service each day.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... Reading the Book of Mormon again.
I WILL #SHAREtheGIFT BY... Being loyal.

No one suggested any great feat, but that just reminded me that if we each do a little; each do our part; great things will come to pass.  At the end, one of the young women explained that to her Christmas is not about the presents, lights, trees or any of the other trappings.  Christmas is about being able to be with her family.

This is the first Christmas my family will be without my mother.  It is hard to imagine her not right now putting together gift bags of oranges, apples, bananas, Watkins Soup Mix and Watkins Vanilla for her children.  She would spend all year looking for and purchasing gifts for her grandchildren.  Many hours would be spent sewing dollclothes, dresses, nightgowns, scripture totes, dishtowels, etc. to be opened Christmas Day, often with her staying up late into the early hours of the morning to finish a project not just for her family but for many of her neighbors.  She was one who knew to #SharetheGift, not just with items wrapped under the tree, but in gifts of service.

Today I am especially grateful for the First Gift, the Greatest Gift, the Gift of the Son of God to be the Savior of the world.  These words from a familiar hymn ring especially loud this year:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

You can download your own sign at http://www.mormon.org/christmas.
and commit how you will #SharetheGift this holiday season.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

It's Christmas Adam!



Happy Christmas Adam! 

Christmas Adam is what my children call December 23rd, as in Adam came before Eve.  I don't know about your home, but in the Wixom household today is not going to be filled with the normal hustle and bustle of years past.  In fact we are surprisingly "ready for Christmas" if there is really such a thing.  This is a good thing as I awoke this morning to windows shaking and trees bowing from the gusts of wind.  Yesterday's sunny blue sky-ed t-shirt weather has turned to jacket-required blue sky.

Christmas Adam (aka the name for the mad dash to finish those holiday preparations) is just one of the quirky traditions in our family.  It seems that this time of year they are also more abundant.  In addition to the annual advent calendar and Christmas book I previously wrote about HERE, we have the annual solve the code of the Christmas presents (I started leaving names off gifts when I realized there was peaking happening.  Now there is still peaking, but it is after they solve the code I have designed to remember which present is whose.), the Christmas musical recitals, pajamas on Christmas Eve, drawing names for sibling gifts, orange rolls for Christmas breakfast, and lasagna on Christmas Eve.

Sunday in our Young Women's class, the lesson was entitled "How can I prepare to establish a Christ-centered home?"  Thinking about our family, I was especially touched by this quote from Elder L. Tom Perry that was part of the lesson:

...we can organize our families based on clear, simple family rules and expectations, wholesome family traditions and rituals, and “family economics,” ... (You can read all of Elder Perry's talk, Becoming Goodly Parents, by clicking HERE)

It is our traditions that bind us together.  Rick and I both were raised in families that had traditions.  When we married, we spent the first few years sorting through those traditions, deciding what we wanted to incorporate into our own family in addition to new ones that we developed.  Where possible we have joined in with those traditions our parents have continued with our extended family.

A favorite Christmas memory for me was all of my siblings having a "sleepover" together in one bedroom.  We would stay up whispering and giggling until one by one we would all drop off to sleep.  Then on Christmas morning we would awaken and sneak into the living room to see what Santa had left.  As the years went by, I think Santa realized that we older siblings could help with the toy assembly, so many mornings were spent with us putting things together for the younger ones.  My children don't have "sleepovers", but they do wake each other early on Christmas morning and head for the tree.  There they will spend time together playing and eating candy until breakfast.

But our most important Christmas tradition is the acknowledgement of the greatest gift of all - the first gift - the gift of a Savior.  This year the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons, started a social media campaign to remind us that He Is the Gift.  We have been encouraged to Discover the Gift, Embrace the Gift and then #SharetheGift.  The campaign kicked off with this moving video:



A few weeks later, another video was released that was part of a world record setting live Nativity.  Many of my friends were involved in the production of this video and have shared many experiences where they were filled with the love of God for each of His children.  When I watch the video, my heart is filled to overflowing.  The three minute mark does it to me every time.  As I view the representation of the heavenly choir that announced the birth of Jesus Christ to the shepherds that long ago night, I feel that I was there and you were there that first Christmas Day.

Luke 2:
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

If you aren't one of the almost 5 million people who have already seen this video, take a moment to watch it now and if you have already seen it, I assure you it is worth a second, third, fourth, fifth.... look.


One last Christmas tradition I want to share - Christmas music.  I love Christmas music.  When I was a little girl, my dad would put the speaker of our old record player outside my bedroom window on Christmas morning so that everyone coming to our house would be welcomed by these beautiful songs.  My Grandma Cook always had Christmas music playing at her house.  In fact, she gave me the first record album I ever owned and it was an album of Christmas songs.  While I have been writing today, I have been listening to this album by one of my favorites, Alex Boye.


You can find it HERE. I can't say enough about how much I enjoy this CD.


Friday, October 24, 2014

The Most Important Job

When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it's a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.

- Rose Kennedy


Parenting is hard.  I think anyone who is a parent would agree and probably most who have never had children would as well.  It is probably the hardest job anyone could ever have.  And yes it is a job!  It is a job that when done right requires more work, more commitment and more attention than anything else you will ever do in your life.  It is 24 hours 7 days a week with no holidays, vacation or sick days given, but the benefits are out of this world.  It is the only job where we are not required to receive any formalized training and for most of us the only training received is from watching our own parents or on the job.

I have been reaping some of the benefits lately as I watch my two oldest children start to find success in their "grown-up" lives.  

Hunter received his Bachelor of Science Degree from USU
and has his first job teaching science and math.

Wil served as a translator during the St. George Marathon for the delegation from Japan

I know I am not a perfect parent.  I sometimes yell.  I get discouraged.  I have even been known to leave a child sitting at school when they expected to be picked up.  It is because I know that I am imperfect and have had my doubts, that I am doubly grateful that my children are becoming successful and productive adults. (Knock on wood since we are only halfway there.)

At the beginning of the week I went to lunch with son #2.  I had heard on the news that morning a story detailing how a child's perception of favoritism can lead to substance abuse.  (Read the article here)  I asked son #2 if he thought his dad and I had a favorite child.  He said he didn't think we did (insert my very brief sigh of relief), he knew we did because it was obviously him.  (Insert shocked look on my face.  Well maybe not so shocked since I knew which son I was talking to.)  He did say that he had come to realize that some of his siblings take more time and effort than others and not just by Rick and me as parents, but by the family as a whole.  He also said that the one needing more attention is often changing as life changes.  I thought this was very insightful for someone who is just embarking on adulthood.  I was impressed by his maturity.


Read more about the Proclamation on the Family by clicking here.

I firmly believe that the principles contained in the LDS Proclamation on the Family are the best possible scenario in which to raise happy, healthy and responsible children.  Today I read an article about the importance of PDA (public display of affection) in marriage. (You can read it here.) As I read it, I reflected on how Rick has never been one to shy away from holding my hand or giving me a quick kiss goodbye.  I love my eternal companion.  I could not have imagined a better partner through life's journey.  

I have always believed in the concepts of bonding, boundaries and mentoring;
  • Bonding - spend time together, support each other in individual activities, participate in activities as a family and be involved and invested in each other, 
  • Boundaries - have family rules and consequences for breaking those rules, make sure that the rules are understood by all, each child is different and unique so rules need to take into account those differences.  Children do not have to agree with the rules because you are the parent and establishing the rules that help the family run smoothly is your job, but they need to understand the rules and the consequences for not following the rules.
  • Mentoring - be involved in your child's life, know their friends, Friend your child on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and Instagram or any other social media, know your child's passwords, go to parent/teacher conferences, do the hard stuff even when it is inconvenient or when they protest.
A great website in Utah for helping with these concepts is ParentsEmpowered.org.  I became aware of this site when I was teaching classes on the effects of alcohol on an adolescent's brain for the police department where I worked.  I found it to be a site that summed up my feelings towards successful parenting in a succinct and often humorous way.

Video from the LDS Church - It's About Time Mormon Ad Campaign

At the end of the week, a friend of mine who is a new mom asked if I thought her child was doing alright.  She told me that she was so bombarded by people telling her what she should and shouldn't be doing that she was beginning to doubt herself.   I felt strongly to reassure her that she was doing a good job.  Many will sit on the sidelines and second guess our decisions - the Monday Morning Quarterbacks of Parenthood, but as a parent we know our children best and when we are trying and listening we will know what that child needs at a given time.  

We can educate ourselves from the best books written by the foremost experts on the subject; we can attend classes and seminars; we can search the internet for tips on successful parenting, but I still believe that the most important thing our children need is our time.  At the end of the day, these children are their own individuals and will one day leave our home and start their own adult lives and make their own adult choices.  The time we spend with them and the tools we give them will provide them the foundation they build on for the rest of their lives.  Those lives will be their choice and when that day comes, we need to let them know that we love them and if they need it, we still have time for them.


Read more about how to have a successful family here

Watch more great videos about time with your family here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Watchman



This time of year brings fall break and fall break to me is hiking and camping in Zion National Park.  From the middle of October to the middle of November, you can walk along the Virgin River and watch the leaves change from their summer green to the golds and reds of autumn.
 
As a child, we would often sing in church a hymn titled "Israel, Israel, God Is Calling".  The refrain of this song repeats the phrase "Come to Zion, come to Zion".  Zion is promised to be a place where the Lord can be found and the individual is encouraged to rejoice as "Zion's walls shall ring with praise."

I think of the joy our family has found within these canyon walls, I know that we have been able to draw closer together and the memories and connections we have created here have been the good times that have helped us through the hard times.  We have rejoiced.


Zion National Park has been home to many.  While these individuals had diversity of culture, they all shared a belief in the sacredness of this place.  Its beauty is a testament to a loving Heavenly Father who wants His children to be happy and find joy and peace.


At the entrance to Zion National Park stands one of the more distinctive features of the canyon; The Watchman.  At its base is the campground that bears the same name.  Many mornings I have sat by our fire and watched as the sun revealed this majestic peak and at night I have tucked by children nestled at its feet.  To me the name calls to mind that hymn from my childhood.  

I know that I have a loving Heavenly Father who is watching over me.  He wants me to be happy and has provided a way for me to find that happiness.  I am grateful everyday for that knowledge and the peace and joy it brings to my life.  



To learn more about the joy found in God's light, click here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

What Did You Do This Summer?

I can't believe I haven't posted anything since June.  Seriously, have I really been so busy that I couldn't take time to update my blog?  I know that summer must be officially over since the red, white and blue decorations are being replaced by pumpkins and leaves of gold, the coat rack is filled again with jackets and backpacks and the crockpot is full of soup.  Today I am making chili for the ward's Chili Cook-off or I should say Rick is making chili for the ward's Chili Cook-off.  (It counts if he picked the recipe he wanted me to use, right?)

So here are some highlights of our summer.  You can be the judge if we kept busy and had fun.  (Pictures are not necessarily in chronological order)

Elks Flag Retirement Ceremony




Tuscon Arizona



Gilbert Arizona Temple


Las Vegas Temple




Wil and fellow missionaries of the Japan Sendai Mission
at the homecoming of President and Sister Rasmussen
Hoover Dam


Ogden Temple Open House

Ogden Raptors Game

Emily dances through Peach Days Parade

Utah Symphony performing in Springdale

Nascar Hall of Fame

Tigersharks take Beat the Heat at the end of a great season





26th Wedding Anniversary - Sure love this guy.
So now I am hoping to get back to regular posting.  In fact, I have a couple of ideas ready to go.  :)


Monday, June 30, 2014

I Believe in Pink!



I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.
Audrey Hepburn


I believe in being happy.  I believe that being happy is a choice.  I believe that our Heavenly Father placed us here on earth to be happy.  He even has told us that men are that they might have joy.

I believe that joy is found through Heavenly Father's Plan of Happiness.  I believe that as I choose to follow my Savior, Jesus Christ, I will find true happiness in this life and in the eternities.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

It's been happening for 26 years

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever... it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.
Aaron Siskind

I have been doing a lot of scrapbooking the last couple of months.  It is one of my favorite things to do with my children.  They sit with me in the office.  We will pull up a movie on Netflix or load a DVD into the computer and just hang out.  While I put pictures to paper, they will comment and reminisce about the adventures those pictures represent.  It doesn't matter which of my children is around.  They all like looking at the pictures and sharing their memories.

I am still astonished at the pictures people had of my children that I didn't even know existed until after the house fire.  Last week I finally completed through 2004 with the pictures I have acquired.  While there are still some holes, (read pre-digital era), I think I have been able to put together a pretty good representation of the years.  Looking through the albums and remembering where we have been and what we have accomplished together strengthens the bonds we have with one another.

It's great to reminisce about good memories of my past. It was enjoyable when it was today. So learning to enjoy today has two benefits: it gives me happiness right now, and it becomes a good memory later.
George Foreman

Rick recently went on a river trip with the boy scouts.  Another leader that went with him is a new father.  As they were going along, the discussion turned to all the picture taking people do.  Rick started to brag on his wife and told about the albums that I have put together over the years and how much our family, especially our children have enjoyed them.  We really had a good laugh when he came home and realized that I had spent most of the time he was on the trip doing exactly what he had described.

Today Rick and I have been married for 26 years.  I am not going to say it has always been easy, but I can say it has been worth it.  Sticking pictures on paper, retelling the stories they represent, and sharing those stories with my children, reminds me what a good life we have had and how blessed I have been to be stuck with my best friend for all these years.

To celebrate, Rick and I put together this video of some of our favorite pictures to what has become our theme song*:


video

*Stuck With You by Huey Lewis and the News

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Count Your Blessings

May God give you a sense of what He is up to in your life.  May you see glimpses of the breakthrough that is just up ahead.  May you - with all your heart - believe that trusting Him over what your eyes see, is totally and completely worth it.  May you shift your weight off of your logical reasonings and onto the weightiness of His powerful promises to you.  You have got help and resources that go far beyond anything you could ever need.  Smile with joy and walk by faith today.  He has got you.  
- Susie Larson

Sometimes the love/hate relationship I am having with my body is almost overwhelming.  Each morning as I wake, I make an evaluation of what and how I am feeling.  Usually those first few minutes are a pretty good measure of how the day will be.  I have to admit that no longer having the commitment of a job has allowed me mornings when I can pull the covers over my head, burrow into my bed and take a slower start to the day.  This is a real blessing to me at this time.

Another blessing I have received is the need to slow down and choose wisely in the things to which I say yes.  This has allowed me to spend more time with my children, including more quiet time.

There are two scriptures in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that have come to have greater meaning to me recently:

Mosiah 4:27 And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

D&C 10:4 Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means provided to enable you to translate; but be diligent unto the end.

As an LDS woman I have often felt pressure to be all things to all people; to be the perfect mother, the perfect wife, the perfect cook, the perfect homemaker, the perfect friend, the perfect teacher, the perfect volunteer, the perfect employee, etc.  When I felt short of this perfection, I was wracked with guilt and feelings of worthlessness.  But guess what! No one is perfect.  Nor are we able to or expected to be.  What is expected is to do the best we can with wisdom and order.

I think this idea must have been forefront in my mind as I chose the lesson for our monthly mid-week women's meeting.  To read this beautiful message entitled "Wisdom and Order" click here.  One of the quotes I found most compelling was from Sister Elaine Jack, former General Relief Society President.  Sister Jack states, "Sisters, how are these things manifest unto us? Plainly, through the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, through the example of our Savior's life. Only by living His gospel can we find what is real. We can never accurately take the measure of our lives based on social, economic, ethnic, age, marital, or physical conditions. Ask yourself, are the comparisons you may make of yourself and others based on the model of the Savior's life, or do they come from trying to fit your life into the pattern of others' lives?"

While comparing ourselves to others can bring about feelings of discouragement and disappointment, we can look to others for inspiration.  I truly believe that if everyone were to place their problems in a pile and we were allowed to pick those trials that we would like, we would inevitably choose those trials that we now have.  It would be disingenuous to envy someone's blessings if I did not also envy the trial that helped them obtain that same blessing.  Let's face it - we all have trials.  Some may be more obvious than others.  Many quietly move forward steadily and with faith, while others are more vocal as they need and desire external support.  Neither way is right or wrong.  And at times our need for support and external validation fluctuate.  It is just important that we continue to move forward.

As I look around me, I see many individuals who inspire me.  Most significant in my life is my aunt.  She has battled MS for many years, yet even now as she is confined mainly to a wheelchair, she continues to find ways to serve others.  Whenever we see her, she has a smile on her face and a positive word for everyone.

This song is so beautiful, I wanted to share it.

I do not believe that all blessings come through trials, but often our greatest blessings come after a trial of our faith.  I believe that man was put upon this earth to be tested, to determine our willingness to live according to the will of our Heavenly Father.  I am often disappointed when I hear someone comment that an individual needed to be humbled or "called to repentance".  If good things can happen to bad people, then the converse is also true - bad things happen to good people.  I believe that there are times that we are given trials because the Lord knows we can handle them, our faith will remain unshaken and only be strengthened, but we must go through the trial for those around us or because through our trial not only will we learn and grow, but we can become the Lord's tool that helps someone else grow.

This was brought home to me like a being struck by a sledgehammer this past weekend as I attended my daughter's dance recital.  Over the past year, her dance teacher had her world turned upside down as illness has left her in a wheelchair.  A year ago I watched this amazing woman take stage at the recital with one of her students who was living with cancer and wanted to be a part of the recital and dance as she loved to do.  A special number was choreographed between student and teacher that left not a dry eye in the house.

This year it was her turn to dance from a chair and again leave us all touched.  I thought back to the December recital as she called to encourage and pray with her students from her hospital room.  This year has not been easy, but I see in my daughter how she has been inspired by Mrs. Lacey.  Emily has learned to keep going even when others tell you you can't.  Emily has felt unconditional love and support.  Emily has learned far more than turns and kicks and steps.  Emily has learned by example lessons that are priceless.

Emily with Mrs. Lacey

Monday, April 21, 2014

#Because of Him

For Easter, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put together a social media campaign with the hashtag BecauseofHim.  The focal point was a video depicting the mission of our Savior Jesus Christ.


No matter how many times I watched this, it brought tears to my eyes and I felt the truth of the message in my heart.

As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we were asked to share this video through social media outlets with our friends and to share our testimony of the Savior and of His Atonement as part of our Easter celebration.

I thought of the lonely path that Jesus had to walk as He completed His earthly mission.  There was no other that could complete the task set before Him by our Heavenly Father.  Even as He suffered agony beyond anything that we as mortals can imagine, Christ did not turn away because He loves you and He loves me.

Because of His sacrifice, I will never be alone.  Because of His sacrifice I will be resurrected.  Because of the unconditional love He had for me, even though I am not perfect, I can repent of my sins and be forgiven.  Because of Him the path has been marked and the way shown for me to become a better person.  Because of Him, I will be able to be with those I love for eternity.  Because of Him, death is not the end, but only a transition - a stepping stone on the path of eternal progression.

All these things I know to be true.  When I think of eternity, I think of being with my family.  As I have done my genealogy, I look forward to meeting my ancestors and rejoicing with them as we are united and share in the joy of that reunion.  Today, I gained a new perspective.

When I was a young girl, probably about 10 years old, my parents hosted a couple of men who were coaches of a basketball team from Australia.  The team had traveled to the United States to compete with various high schools and Ogden High had been one of those selected.  All I really remember is that my parents were asked to house the coaches of the team during its stay in Ogden.

I can remember thinking how tall these men were and how much I loved listening to them speak.  When they left, they gave my parents a photo calendar of Australia with their home addresses inside.  For almost ten years, that calendar sat in my parents' bookcase until I went to Ricks College.  While there, I had two family home evening brothers who were called to serve LDS missions in Melbourne Australia.  My mom suggested that I give them the addresses of these two men and see if they could find them.  What resulted was a 25+ year correspondence between myself and the wife of one of these men.

While we never met, we would through annual and semi-annual correspondence share goals, struggles, joys and faith.  Jenny would often write of their desire to come to the States to visit and how Dale fondly spoke of his time there with the basketball team.  He remembered me as that shy little girl. Unfortunately, Dale had MS and the progression of the disease took a toll not only on his health, but on their finances as well.  So instead we exchanged cards, words and pictures and talked of time when we may be able to meet.

I had harbored hope that one of my children would serve an LDS mission in their area and be able to knock on their door.  I imagined the look of surprise and joy when Jenny opened the door and saw this boy she had watched grow up through pictures standing on her doorstep.  How awesome that scene would have been.  But unfortunately it was not to be as each of my boys was called to serve somewhere else.

This year as always, I sent off my Christmas card and letter, but I never received one in return.  I began to wonder what had happened.  I knew Dale had been sick.  I knew the couple had been struggling.  As the time went by and I did not hear anything, but my package did not come back, I thought to look for them on social media.  An internet search returned the following simple words:

SHEEHAN (nee Shaw), Jenny Beatrice. Passed away suddenly at home. Loved wife of Dale, eldest daughter of the late Reuben and Myrtle Shaw, dear sister of Ann, Gwen, Robin (dec), Sally, Trixie, Jim and Ian. Your long struggle is over. Rest now.  Friends welcome to graveside service, Thursday October 3, 2013.

How final these words were to all the earthly dreams that I had of meeting this wonderful woman who has been a part of my life for so long.  But then I thought of the last week and the message that had been so strong:

Jesus is the Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer. Because of Him, death is not the end, and life takes on new meaning. We can change, we can start over—and we can live again with God. This Easter, celebrate His life and discover all that’s possible because of Him.

Because of Him, death is not the end.  It is a transition.  Jenny has stepped from this mortal existence to a place of peace to wait for the resurrection.  Now I will look forward to the day when we will see each other there.  How great will be our joy Because of Him.

To read more, click here #BecauseofHim .

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Where are they now?

How many times do I look at those celebrity "Where are they now?' articles online?  Or in supermarket tabloids?  Probably more often than I would like to admit.  I often wonder what it is about human beings that drives our curiosity to such lengths that a whole profession has been generated in trying to satiate our need to feel "in the know".

To me that is part of the appeal of Facebook.  After a day at work, I can come home, kick my feet up and "stalk" my friends virtually.  Sometimes I comment or "Like" a post or picture, other times I just scroll down my Newsfeed catching up on what is going on with everyone else.

Here are a few of the things that happened to my friends this week:
1. Friend competed in a contest to name a helicopter and his suggestion won.  He receives a free trip over Zion Canyon in newly named helicopter.
2. Friend's son married his long-time girlfriend by proxy since they are currently serving in the military in two separate countries.
3. My son's friend from elementary school just had a baby girl.
4. Friend was able to meet his favorite author who is also his inspiration for starting his own writing career.
5. One friend posted pictures of skiing in Alaska, while another shared photos of  a work meeting at Lake Tahoe.  (No skiing involved there due to no snow.)

I gathered information about what people had for dinner, (KFC, Chinese, chicken nuggets, mac and cheese), who attended the political caucuses and what they did there, saw cute photos of friend's pets and children, found some great ideas for foods to make, participated in the This is Madness tournament and found a few inspiring quotes that brightened my day.

I also learned that a friend from school lost his brother in a car accident, while my cousin's daughter was injured in a different accident, but is now home recovering.  Through Facebook I learned of a homicide near my home that has shook the foundation of our community. And in these tragedies I found hope as I saw individuals reach out to offer support and encouragement to one another.  My cousin appropriately described Facebook as "Insta Support".  My own experience has taught me that not only are individuals willing to share words in an online post, if given the opportunity they will put action behind those words.

A new phenomenon I am witnessing in my online escapism is a a thing called Throwback Thursday or TBT.  Friends will post pictures from who knows when, just something that holds a special memory for them.  I love seeing photos of more recent acquaintances from the time before I knew them and I love seeing the photos of long-time friends and reminiscing of days gone by.

Before I know it, I will be interfacing with some of those long-time friends out of the virtual world in real time as we celebrate at our 30 year high school reunion.  I keep thinking that this must be a typo.  No way can it have already been 30 years!!  But the date on the calendar and the lines on my face seem to tell a different story.  I am looking forward to celebrating with those who are there and remembering those who have left us too soon.  The fact that so many of us remain so connected illustrates the deep bond we continue to have.  My husband has said that he has no plans on attending his own reunion, but he would not miss mine for anything.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Down to the Sea




Sea Fever


BY JOHN MASEFIELD

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.



There is nothing I enjoy more than the feel of sand between my toes.



 I love to listen to the crash of the waves.  Their rhythmic ebb and flow soothes me.


When my soul is troubled; sand, water and sky bring peace.  
Time along the river's edge or the shore of a lake is a temporary fix.


I feel myself drawn to the sea.  It is a physical pull.


It fills my senses with smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and textures.  
There is nothing that can compare.  My spirit is revived, my heart feels lighter.

  




Friday, February 14, 2014

Remember when....

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley


Romance in the air at work today led to the sharing of marriage proposal stories.  I loved how each story reflected the personality of the individual sharing.  I thought back to my own marriage proposal.  I wrote about that proposal previously HERE.


Today I thought about the years since that proposal.  Life has not always been perfect.  We have definitely had our ups and downs.  There was even a point where we had decided to throw in the towel, but what I know is that I sure love this man and I am glad we have been able to spend 27 Valentine's Days together.


Last weekend we celebrated by taking a "stay-cation" and went to Zion National Park staying in the Zion Park Lodge.  In the morning, we went for a walk together along the Riverwalk Trail before heading home.  Each time we walk that trail, I discover something new.  This trip was no different.  In addition to the heron perched on rock in the middle of the river, I learned that I still really like this man I married.  Even all these years later we still have plenty to talk about, even without the children for entertainment purposes.  Yep, I still really like him and better yet, he seems to like me.

Valentine's Day started off with craziness as I hurried to get out the door to the doctor, Emily was rehearsing her presentation for the History Fair, Wil was in a rush to catch his ride to school and Lela and Jon just tried to stay out of the way.  As always, when things get crazy, Rick has my back and stepped up to help Emily rehearse, get dressed and haul presentation, computer, Valentine's, etc. to school.  He helped her find where she needed to be and provided me with an update so I didn't have to worry.  I see his example in our children as Jon came to the rescue to help with Emily's class party.  Rick has taught by example the importance of teamwork and stepping up to help and support one another.

Recently we met with our stake president (the ecclesiastical leader of multiple LDS congregations).  One of the first questions he asked was about the status of our marriage.  I waited for Rick to respond and in his normal understated way, he declared our marriage to be fine.  Later after much poking by me, he amended that description to be "very fine".  Yep, he doesn't want to be too enthusiastic.  Got to appreciate the understated steadiness of his devotion.

So while I may not have received flowers or chocolate that I did not order/purchase myself today, I have the best gift of all - an eternal Valentine who is dependable, steady and loves me and whom I am still head over heels in love with and enjoy spending every possible moment with.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Big Picture

For about fifteen years I have been cycling through periods of feeling normal contrasted with times where I have experienced episodes of severe stiffness and swollen joints.  There was a time that I was determined to learn what was causing the symptoms.  Many tests were done, but no conclusions were reached.  What I did learn was that if I got enough rest, kept my stress under control by finding ways to relax, and watched my diet, I could maintain the periods of normal and minimize the periods of discomfort.  I decided I was tired of being a pincushion and feeling like maybe I was just crazy and so I stopped bugging the docs and just did what worked for me.  I will also admit to surfing the internet and reading about different conditions and applying the advice found for what most seemed to fit in my "symptoms".

My plan seemed to work, as I was able to give birth to two beautiful little girls, keep up with teenagers and toddlers all at the same time while being employed full-time and keeping a house going.  A lot of credit for my continued health during this time goes to my most amazing husband.  He really is my rock, the love of my life, my biggest supporter and most importantly my best friend.  But age and stress seem to have caught up to me and the episodes of discomfort occur more frequently and last longer.  Looking at what was going on, my sweetheart and I decided it was time to once again seek the opinion of a professional.  

As we sat in the doctor's office this week listening to his recitation of the results of a multitude of tests that had been run, we once again experienced the feeling of defeat as the result of each individual test was negative.  This is good news he kept saying.  It didn't feel that way to us.  I watched Rick's face reflect my own feelings of frustration.  Finally the doctor ended his list of what the tests said wasn't wrong with what he felt was causing all the discomfort.  At first I was taken aback, because hadn't he already told us that the specific tests were negative.  We asked for clarification.  This is what I learned: although the specific tests that most usually would indicate the conclusion were negative, when he reviewed my overall history, including things that I had never payed attention to before, he noticed a pattern and that pattern left him 100% certain of his diagnosis.  

Now I get to say again how much I love Rick.  He is not afraid to kick me in the butt when necessary.  After leaving the doctor, I was depressed.  I knew what the doctor's words meant.  I just knew my life was going to change.  How was I going to do deal with this latest development in life?  Rick exercised great restraint in not rolling his eyes or laughing out loud at my ridiculousness.  He did give me time to process the new label in my own way, but he would not let me wallow in self-pity.  I won't say that I didn't try though.  What difference did a label make he asked.  You have been living with this for fifteen years.  Be glad you now have a name to place on it and because of the name, there is a way to move forward.  We have gone through hard times before and done just fine.  A name doesn't make this hard, and if down the road it does get hard, we will get through it together just like everything else.  Yep, Rick too looked at the big picture.

So here I sit three days later.  I have done a lot of reflecting on the discussion Rick and I had.  I have refocused from the minutia to the big picture.  I have thought back most specifically on the last year and what a year it has been.  On any stress test, our family would have scored quite high.  Yet here we are still together, still laughing, still with goals and looking forward to the good times ahead.  We still have our faith and testimony in a loving Heavenly Father and His Son, our Brother, Jesus Christ.  In fact that testimony has grown for all of us as we have had a front row seat to witness His tender mercies.  We are still happy and full of joy.  

At work we were having a discussion on the power of the brain.  The brain is an amazing organ.  As human beings, we use a very small part of its capacity.  It is also a part of our body that we can continually change or reprogram.  Studies have shown that where an individual places their focus will literally develop pathways or connections in the brain tissue.  As a result, an individual can lead themselves to dark places in thought that are hard to escape.  Yet there are other individuals that experience similar trauma that have found a resiliency that allows them to move forward and upward with their lives.  

A human beings, when we get so caught up in the details, we lose sight of our reality.  We can become so focused on a small point that we lose sight of the big picture.  On a trip to Chicago, Rick and I visited The Art Institute of Chicago where I was able to view one of my favorite paintings: A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat.  This painting is an enormous seven feet by ten feet.  In the gallery there is a bench directly in front of the exhibit where you can sit and gaze upon its magnificence.  For those who may not know about this masterpiece, it was done in a technique called pointillism which is the application of uniform size dots instead of brushstrokes.  I had viewed images in textbooks and on postcards.  I had studied the technique of pointillism.  But while we sat there and took in the detail of the master's hand, I found myself lost in the individual dots to the point of losing the image and only seeing chaos.  It was when I took a step back and refocused my perspective that I once again could truly enjoy the view.



This is who I want to be.  I do not want any label to define me.  I will continue to work to keep my life in balance, not ignoring or rejecting this newest label, but accepting and incorporating it into the bigger picture that is my life.  I have been too blessed to let one thing define who I am or what I can still accomplish.  Yes, there may be limitations, but having a diagnosis also provides me with better options for treatment and a professional to guide and advise me in those decisions.  I was looking back to something Rick said shortly after our home had been destroyed: "Our life before was great, we couldn't imagine it being better.  Right now life is good, but it will be great again."  That is my big picture - I have a great life.

To learn more about lupus, click here.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Too Many Good Choices

I really hate it when you have to choose between two good things - or many good things.  These are the times that I wish I could be like Michael Keaton in Multiplicity and find a way to be everywhere at once so I didn't feel like I was letting someone (everyone) down.  It is easy when the choice is between good and bad or something you like and something you don't like, but dang it is hard when you are forced to choose between things you really do like.

That is what happened to me this last week.  I really love scrapbooking and my amazing friend puts on a full-out super scrapbooking retreat each January.  I love to get together with the women I see there every year.  Especially because this is usually the only time I get to see some of them all year.  But this year as the date grew closer and along with it the time to commit, family circumstances led me to believe that I needed to be home.  I was able to have a mini-getaway the end of October with one of the ladies in the group who also would be unable to attend in January.  And yes, we did have a lot of fun! And yes, I was able to get quite a bit accomplished! And yes, it was great to have the break and I would do it again!  But this weekend as I watched the posts on Facebook from the other women in the group as they enjoyed their weekend, I felt a little sad.

On the other hand, I got to spend an amazing evening with my sweetheart.  I got to spend one more weekend with Jon - these are hopefully few in number before he returns to California.  I got to say goodbye to one of the students at school as they discharged.  I got to spend a Saturday afternoon with Wil running errands and having lunch.  I got to watch my husband sit on the stand for the first time as the first counselor in our LDS bishopric and try to manage the raising and lowering of the microphone.  (Yes, I got a good chuckle.)  All in all it was a good weekend, full of positive activities.  It was great to kick back and relax and build my familial relationships.

Sometimes I think we get so caught up in the idea of right or wrong when making choices that we cannot make a choice; we become timorous.  I have found that after analyzing the pros and cons of the options placed before me, if I "trust my gut" I do not regret my choice.  There is freedom in knowing that you have taken action; a sense of empowerment for lack of a better term.

Two of my favorite quotes:

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Theodore Roosevelt 

The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
Amelia Earhart 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Our Miracle

I remember when Rick told me that he thought we should have one more child before he received his commission and our life as an active-duty military family would begin.  I remember laughing because there were only two months in order to get pregnant and give us enough time to have the baby and have the baby old enough for me to feel comfortable moving across the country.  Past experience with the previous two pregnancies seemed to indicate that a pregnancy would not be in the picture.  But surprise, two months later I found myself pregnant with no medical intervention required.  At the end of July, we were blessed with a little boy.

Now I wish I could say that he was the sweetest, happiest baby ever and that moving with him was a dream, but the reality was the kid had colic.  Every night as the sun went down, he would start to cry and would not stop until the sun came up again.  The only moments of peace were if he was in his swing rocking back and forth.  Rick and I took turns sleeping on the couch and winding up and pushing that baby swing.  Needless to say, there were four grumpy people in that house and Jon.  When I spoke with the his doctor, the doctor was at a loss on what to do other than wait it out.  He told me to give it two months.  Sure enough, two months later as we loaded up our trailer to move across the country we finally had a night with no crying.  Since that time, Jon has been nothing but steady, positive and most importantly: happy.


Fast forward to nine months ago: Jon was again two months away from a journey.  This time, instead of heading to the east coast, he would be heading west.  There was in that preparation to leave the same sense of excitement tempered with trepidation and fear of the unknown.  There were sleepless nights, but they were not filled with crying as the nights all those years before.  Instead, there was a constant review of packing and unpacking and repacking in hopes that nothing would be left behind.

Jon left for California to serve an LDS mission.  He met great people.  He was having many wonderful and faith building experiences.  He was so happy and felt so blessed to be there.  Then one night we received a phone call.  The caller was Jon's mission president, President Kendrick, letting us know that Jon had crashed his bike and was in the emergency room.  At the time, President Kendrick was still pretty sketchy with the details.  The doctors were running tests and trying to determine the extent of the damage.

In the emergency room.
Later in the evening we received word that Jon had been discharged from the hospital and would be seeing a specialist for his jaw in the morning.  What followed was four days of phone calls back and forth to California that resulted in my travelling there to be with Jon while he had surgery to put his jaw back together and bring him home to Utah to recover.  In the end, his injuries included severed ear canals, jaw broken on both sides, broken shoulder, stitches in his chin, bruised bone in his knee, and damage to his teeth.  In all, he has had five surgeries of various levels to put him back together.  But there was no head trauma, his hearing was undamaged, and even his glasses only received minor scratches.

Jon recently asked me if I wished I had kept him home so that he would not have been injured.  The answer to that is absolutely not.  Jon has become an example to us of our Heavenly Father's tender mercies for His children.  Through his experience, we have gained a deeper understanding of the Lord's guidance and the peace that the Holy Comforter can bring.  We witnessed the power of prayer.  At each step of this journey, Jon has been blessed with the right person at the right time to say what we needed to hear, to take the action that needed to be taken, to exercise the skill necessary to aid in his healing.  From the man on the street who was willing to load Jon and his companion in his truck so they could get help to the patient mission companion who was blessed with a knowledge of smoothies and the ability to make anything put in a blender taste good to the many caring professionals who were often inspired to do just one more test, these are the blessings for which we daily express gratitude.  That a body that had been so broken could be made whole is a miracle.

Life is not about bon-bons and tropical breezes.  Even Dorothy faced many challenges as she traveled the yellow brick road.  Life is to teach us to have faith, to rely not on our own understanding but to turn to the Lord.  As we acknowledge His hand in all things, we will see the daily miracles that surround us.  No matter our struggles and no matter our joys, we must remember that there is one who truly understands all.  When discouragement set in, Jon took strength from this verse in the Doctrine and Covenants:

D & C 122:7

7 ...know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.

While he was in the emergency room, Jon was given a priesthood blessing.  He told me that he was promised that he would be made whole and that his pain would be minimal.  I have time and again been amazed that Jon was able to control the pain he did have through the use of ice packs and with medication no stronger than children's Motrin.  Through each new part of this experience, Jon has managed to keep a smile on his face.  Maybe it is because he got a lifetime of crying finished during those first two months of life, but it is more likely that when you learn to recognize the Lord in your life and heed his counsel, you cannot help but be happy.

Five days after the accident: Look closely and you can see how his face has
 become lopsided because of his jaw shifting.

After the first surgery in San Diego to repair his jaw.

Second surgery to repair his shoulder: this time in Utah.

About ready to go back: Just need some dental work finished.