GIVEAWAY - Christmas Music and See's Chocolates

It's time for a giveaway and I think this is possibly the best one yet!

What could be better than listening to Linda Eder singing "Silent Night?" How about listening to Linda Eder sing "Silent Night" while you eat a box of See's chocolates?
This is one of my favorite Christmas CDs of all time. She's incredibly talented and the arrangements are breathtaking. Her versions of "Silent Night" and "Do You Hear What I Hear" will have you playing them over and over.

Along with this great CD, you'll get a one-pound box of See's chocolates--my favorite candy in the world. You can choose between the regular assortment or the nuts and chews variety. When you win, just let me know.
So how do you win? You leave me a comment about what you love about Christmas. You can get more chances to win by becoming a follower and by linking this to your Twitter, Facebook or Blog. Be sure to leave a separate comment for each link. You can post a new link to Twitter and Facebook daily during the contest and then comment with the link, so you can get extra chances every day.
Contest ends at midnight on December 1. I want to be sure you have plenty of time to enjoy your Christmas CD.

Be sure I have your email address so I can notify you when you win!
And Merry Christmas! While we're listening to Christmas music and eating chocolates, let's remember the birth of our Savior, the real reason for this wonderful holiday.

My Favorite Holiday - Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It's my favorite holiday of the year. I love how uncommercialized it is. I love the historical significance, the personal nature of what it means and the food. We must never forget the food.

I find it inspiring to think of Pilgrims who'd come to this unknown place for religious freedom and personal opportunity and their Indian neighbors, who'd helped them survive starvation, sharing a feast together. A feast of gratitude.

I find it humbling to take the time to reflect on my life and the many blessings I have. I love the Thanksgiving circle at Grandpa and Grandma's house, where everyone tells something they're grateful. I try to acknowledge the people I'm thankful for and to let my Heavenly Father know how much I appreciate my blessings.

And I love the food--the pies that don't get made any other time but the holidays, the stuffing that I could eat forever, so I only make it at this time of year, the cream cheese, chocolate and nut twists, the sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce... I could go on and on. My mouth is watering.

So in honor of this holiday that I love, let me say thank you. Thank you to each of you who come and read my blog and leave your comments. Thanks for everyone who helped me with my book. Thanks to wonderful family, amazing friends and good neighbors. And thanks to my Heavenly Father, who continues to bless me beyond what I deserve.

Happy Thanksgiving! Now go feast.

Life is an Amazing Race

My favorite show on television is The Amazing Race. I love to travel and if I were younger and had perfect knees, I'd want to go on this show. Of course, I'm not sure I'd want to go with Travis. Although I think we'd have a great time, we'd bicker a lot and pretty soon most of America would think we're jerks.

But can you imagine how great it would be to see so much of the world, experience so many different cultures and accomplish so many unusual challenges.

Sometimes I pretend my life is an episode of The Amazing Race. When I have to do something I don't want to do, I imagine it's a roadblock. The team member (me) who folds and puts away this enormous pile of clean laundry can proceed straight to the detour (a good book). Or perhaps after I clean the master bathroom, someone U-turned me and I have to clean the kids' bathroom. Maybe the Mom who has her family to church on time, in clean clothes with hair and teeth brushed and scriptures in their hand can use the Fast Forward.

I know, I know. It all sounds silly and a just little bit OCD, and I don't do it all the time, but every once in awhile it helps me psych myself up to get through chores I don't much enjoy.

I just finished this blog posting, so now I'm going to proceed to the pit stop (which tonight is my couch where I'll watch this week's episode of The Amazing Race.)

If you don't watch this show, you should give it a try. It might help you clean your bathrooms.

Happy Anniversary to Us

The years after my mission were a strange combination of fun, misery, hope and despair. I worked full-time, went to school part-time and dated more than I'd ever wanted to.

I developed an unflattering reputation among my friends as someone who gets guys ready for marriage. You see, after my mission, almost everyone I dated married the girl they dated right after me. One roommate, who couldn't get her boyfriend to commit, actually suggested maybe I should go out with him a few times. This was funny, and I laughed, but it was also really hard. This pattern happened over and over and over again. Sometimes this was a little disappointing, sometimes it was an enormous relief and on one or two occasions, it was devastating.

I'd just had my heart shredded. My most recent loss had disappointed me more than any others had. I didn't know if I could take any more. I was in a very low place. I got in the car and drove up the hill behind Dad and Mom's house to a place not far from where the Bountiful temple would later be built and I prayed. I cried and prayed and poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. I asked him what I was doing wrong. I told him I was failing at finding someone I could spend my life with and that I was through. No longer would I worry about what a guy looked like. No longer would I worry about how much fun we had together or if there was any attraction. Good conversation and really "getting" each other was perhaps a luxury I could live without. I was turning it over to Him. If he wanted me with a nerd, I'd be with a nerd. If he wanted me to be bored the rest of my life, okay, I guess I could be bored the rest of my life. If he wanted me to marry Harvey, I'd marry Harvey.

A little background on Harvey, whose name I've changed to protect a very nice guy. Harvey was someone who'd been in the background for about two years. He was friendly, he was pleasant, he was nerdy, he was shorter than me. But he was a really good guy. He'd liked me for a long time and would always go out of his way to shake my hand with his sweaty one, or he'd sit by me at the college ward, the poster boy for friendly nerdiness. I wasn't attracted to him AT ALL, but as I sat there on that hill and prayed, I asked Heavenly Father to take over. And if he wanted me to marry Harvey, I guessed I would, but please, please, please, PLEASE! make me a little bit attracted to him, so I could stand to hold hands with him...

or more?

I went home feeling scared. I wasn't at peace, I wasn't calm. I was terrified that I was going to have to marry Harvey or someone like him. Now that I'd turned it over to Heavenly Father, who knew what was going to happen?

Two weeks later, I met Travis. He was good-looking. He was funny. He was strong in the church. And he liked me. Right away. We were married five months later.

To this day, I'm thankful I didn't have to marry Harvey. (You'll be happy to know, he married a beautiful girl who was shorter than him and they're very happy.) I'm thankful for Travis, who is a dedicated husband, a loving father, a good provider, someone who loves to travel, enjoys a good movie, and encourages me to do things that make me happy.

I love you, Travis. Happy Anniversary!

A Sense of Adventure - A Tribute to My Parents

(The Wallsburg school. This building, built in 1904, was our home for ten years. It's been abandoned again for many years and is sadly falling apart. It was for sale a year or so ago and we excitedly thought about buying it again, until we discovered from the realtor that it was selling for $800,000.)

Yesterday, my parents celebrated their 48th anniversary. (I'd intended to write something about them yesterday, but then a Ford F150 pulled in front of us and my day changed.) But as great as 48 years of marriage is, that's only a small part of what makes my parents impressive.

I could tell you about what great examples they are, about their mission, about years of church service, about hard work and sacrifice and patience. I could even tell you about a few times when they showed their human side and lost their cool or severely over-grounded one of their kids, or got carried away at a basketball game.

But instead, I'll tell you about their sense of adventure. There are those who would say they showed their adventurous side by having eleven children. I think this is true, but imagine taking those eleven children on a road trip. Dad and Mom did that every summer. While we didn't have a lot of money, they wanted their kids to see and experience as much as possible. We traveled all over the United States. Mom made sandwiches and we had contests to see who could make an oreo last the longest. We played games and fought and sang songs. But we played in the ocean, we saw big cities, and beautiful barns. We traveled winding mountain roads and drove through hundreds of miles of plains. We went to National Parks and saw rock formations and State Parks where civil war battles had been fought.

Dad and Mom's sense of adventure carried over into everyday life. When I was six years old, they bought an old, abandoned schoolhouse in Wallsburg. I was scared when I first walked inside--the windows were broken out and the floors were covered with three or four inches of dead hornets, flies and broken glass. They transformed that scary, abandoned building into a home. They cleaned up the filth to reveal hardwood floors, tore down plaster to the beautiful brick underneath, put in walls to create bedrooms. It became a beautiful place with only one hallway that led to the underground storage room that continued to be scary.

We had a gymnasium and a stage. We had bats that flew above our heads as we fell asleep some nights. I had a bedroom that had been a library with bookshelves from floor to 12-foot ceiling. We had an enormous (and dangerous) slide until Dad and Mom "donated" it to the city park. It was an amazing house for kids to grow up in.

At the time I didn't realize how unusual my parents were. I didn't realize that there were parents who didn't take their kids on long family vacations. I didn't realize that there were parents who wouldn't even know how to begin a challenge like turning an old schoolhouse into a home. I took them for granted.

But of all the valuable things my parents gave me, today I'm thankful for their adventurous spirit. It helps remind me that I can do hard things, that I can look at things differently, that its okay to try something unexpected.

Happy Anniversary, Dad and Mom. I love you and I'm so thankful that you're my parents!

Mothers Who Know

Recently at a major university, a class on Christianity in the modern world spent an entire class discussing Sister Beck's talk Mothers Who Know. Instead of discussing the merits of the talk, it was dissected piece by piece, examining its flaws, stereotyping the "stupid" women who would follow such outdated ideas and discussing how dangerous these teachings are for the women's movement.

I'd love to sit in a similar class that examined piece by piece the flaws, stereotypes and dangerous ideas of the women's movement, the damage that's been done by taking an idea like equal pay for equal work and spinning it into an entire movement that undermines families and belittles men...

but that's another post.

I distinctly remember the day that talk was given and the desire I felt after listening and feeling the spirit, that I could and should do better and that as a mother, I was a critical part of God's plan. I was inspired.

I remember being shocked in the days and weeks following the talk, that people were finding fault with it. As I looked at blogs and articles about people protesting the talk, I re-read it, baffled that anyone could take issue with the beautiful message.

Now, three years later, students at a major university are paying for the privelege of figuring out what's wrong with the message and how it sets back women.

Women who know bear children - President Benson said, "In the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels."

Women who know honor their sacred ordinances and covenants - Hard for me to imagine this being a bad thing.

Women who know are nurturers - "To nurture means to cultivate, care for, and make grow."

Women who know are leaders - "In equal partnership with their husbands, they lead a great and eternal organization."

Women who know are teachers - "A well-taught friend told me that he did not learn anything at church that he had not already learned at home."

Women who know do less - "These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all."

Women who know stand strong and immovable - "Latter-day Saint women should be the very best in the world at upholding, nurturing, and protecting families."

I strive to be one of those "stupid" women. I hope my daughters grow up to be two of those "stupid" women and I pray my sons come home from their missions and find one of these "stupid" women to marry.

What is that Horrible Smell?

Two weeks ago, completely out of the blue, the fan in our car began to make a terrible noise. It was one part rattle and two parts buzz. It was noticeable on a low setting and got progressively worse with each setting until it sounded as if the car might explode when turned on high. It was most unpleasant. Because of the noise, we only used the lowest fan setting, even on cold mornings.

A few days later, as I drove the kids to school with the heat on low, I noticed an unpleasant smell. It seemed to be coming from the vents, so we turned the heat off. A few more days passed and we began to smell the unpleasant odor even if the fan wasn't on. As we shivered in the car one cold morning, I nervously turned on the heat. The smell that almost instantly permeated the car was ghastly.

Veronica and I began gagging. Despite the cold, we turned off the heat and rolled down the windows. Veronica leaned outside the window, gulping in cold, fresh air. I drove back home, my teeth chattering, the window still down.

From somewhere in my past, I recognized the smell. It was the smell of death and decay. I can't put my finger on the time or place that caused this recognition, but I knew what it was. I now had to psych myself out to get in the car. Something had to be done.

Today I took the car to the mechanic. He listened to the fan, took a whiff, and agreed that it needed attention. Three hours, a new fan and $266.00 later, the car is recovering. A mouse had somehow made it into the fan and had died a violent and bloody death when we had turned on the fan. The clean-up was disgusting.

I'm hoping any rodent looking for a warm place to hide will look elsewhere. I can't afford another rodent funeral.

That'll Teach You

About a month ago, Travis and I were called to team teach Sunday School. The course we'd be teaching is Marriage and Family Relations. Whew! Not really feeling qualified to teach those subjects. We're not necessarily poster children for marital tranquility, but we love each other and are willing to do what we're asked.

Travis returned from a week-long business trip on Tuesday evening. I mentioned that we needed to look at the lesson and figure out who was taking which section. He was tired. After all, he'd been traveling. We'd look at it the next day.

The next day, I mentioned the lesson again. He was still tired and headed to bed early to watch the Jazz game and get some sleep.

For some reason, my pleas went unheeded on Thursday and then Friday. Friday evening, he suggested there would be plenty of time on Saturday. I was trying to be patient (see lesson 2) and give him the benefit of the doubt (see lesson 3), but I was getting frustrated. I don't like preparing a lesson right before giving it. I like time to read, think, pray....

Saturday morning ESPN brought College Game Day to the University of Utah and Bruce was there. So of course, we had to watch for him and his clever sign (which was front and center most of the show). Then there was the BYU game. Then there was the University of Utah game. As soon as that game was over, he had to leave for Salt Lake and the Jazz game he was attending with Bruce.

I'd had it. I went upstairs, read through the lesson and smiled. A satisfied, if slightly evil grin. I highlighted the portion I was leaving for Travis and placed it on the counter with a sandwich. "I'm teaching the first section and the last section," I said. "I left you the middle section."

"Good," he said. He was tired of me nagging him and this would get me off his case. He began eating his sandwich and reading his portion of the lesson. "You're a jerk," he said with a smile.

"Maybe next week, you won't put me off all week," I said.

I taught "Expressions of affection and kindness keep love and friendship alive in marriage" and "Married couples should strive to have charity, the pure love of Christ." I left him "Proper intimacy in marriage is an expression of love."

He handled it fine, even got a good laugh from the class as he told of the lesson preparations. I, thankfully, didn't have to teach that section.

He read through next week's lesson as soon as we got home from church. It's always nice to see a valuable lesson learned.

Random Thoughts

Why does a beautiful and sweet dog, that loves us, follows us around, checks in on me during the day and adores our kids have to shed, poop enormous piles and slobber?

Why did the construction in front of the high school start the week before school started. Wouldn't it have been better planning to start the week after school got out? There have been a couple of days that have taken me more than 1/2 an hour to get in and out of there with Veronica, leaving Joe waiting in front of his school for us to get there. Please plan better!

Why is it that even when I throw away all the mismatched socks and start completely over, it only takes a couple of months to have an entire laundry basket of mismatched socks. Where do they go?

Why have I never been given a sample of marzipan at See's Candies? I always hope for one but have never been offered one. And why would anyone enjoy a chunk of sugared ginger dipped in chocolate. Worst sample of all time!

I enjoyed the Shade going out of business sale. Especially when things were $1.00 and $2.00 each. Nothing like buying $1500.00 worth of clothes for about $80.00. Now if I could just find someone selling stylish boots for $2.00.

Since working out until you're drenched feels so good after you're finished and showered, why is it so hard to make yourself do it?

How is it even possible for autumn leaves to be as beautiful as they are? The oranges and reds and yellows are stunning and the flowering pear trees with their variagated colors? God is an artist, no doubt about it!

Are You Happy?

My sister found this great chart. Look at it closely. It's simple but profound.

A few years ago, I was in a bad mood. I'm not talking a "got-up-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-bed" bad mood that lasts throughout the morning, or maybe a day. I can handle those. I'm talking an "in-for-the-long-haul" bad mood. It lasted weeks. I was irritable and snappy, I rarely smiled, and it seemed everyone was trying to annoy me.

The bad thing was that I knew it. Every time I'd jump down someone's throat, I wondered what was wrong with me. Everytime someone did or said something funny and I didn't laugh or even smile, I wondered who I was. I began to wonder if there was something really wrong with me. Maybe I needed to see a doctor. Maybe I needed medicated. I knew my family was paying for my behavior and I felt bad, but I wasn't sure how to remedy the situation.

At the time I was serving as Young Women's president in our ward. As I sat through a lesson one Sunday, the teacher who was my first counselor and my friend said something to the girls that I think was meant for me. "If you're not happy, you need to examine your life and figure out why. Often it's because you're doing something you shouldn't be doing or you're not doing something you know you should be doing." Sounded simple. I thought about it all day. What was I doing or not doing that had me in such a crappy mood all the time?

Before I went to bed that night, I sat down with my journal. I began to list the things I knew I should be doing that I wasn't. It isn't always easy or pleasant to examine yourself that closely, but I wanted to be happy. One thing I knew I could do better at was my personal scripture study, so I put that down. Another was reading the Ensign, so I added that. I knew I could pray more earnestly. Then I decided I should be more grateful, so I decided that every day I would write down five things I was grateful for in my journal. And as long as I was writing down what I was grateful for, I might as well write in my journal.

I work well with charts and "to do" lists, so I made myself a checklist for each day, so I'd have to be accountable for what I was doing. And guess what? It was only a matter of a few days before I started feeling happier.

I know this sounds extremely Pollyanna and simplistic. But sometimes the solutions to our problems really are simple and we complicate them because simple is just too.....

well, simple.

Now, if I start to slip into an extended funk, I do a little self-examination. It usually doesn't take me long to realize what I've let slide. I know that small tweaks can lead to big changes. I've seen it happen.

A Little Song to Make You Happy

Two years ago, I won a radio contest (for real) that gave me tickets to see Jason Mraz in concert and conduct an interview for the radio station. I was excited to win the tickets, but me interviewing Jason Mraz for a radio station? Maybe not.

Instead, I let Bruce (16) and Veronica (14) do the interview and I stood off to the side snapping pictures. He was so nice to the kids and was funny and unhurried. It didn't feel like he was there to meet a radio station obligation. It was a lot of fun.

I love good lyrics. I appreciate a song with a positive message and I like it when words are put together in a clever and profound way. This song has it all. So to celebrate Friday (or whatever day you happen to be looking at my blog), here's an entertaining version of a great song, with some of my favorite lyrics. Enjoy!>

It takes a crane to build a crane
It takes two floors to make a story
It takes an egg to make a hen
It takes a hen to make an egg
There is no end to what I'm saying

It takes a thought to make a word
And it takes some words to make an action
And it takes some work to make it work
It takes some good to make it hurt
It takes some bad for satisfaction

Ah la la la la la la life is wonderful
Ah la la la la la la life goes full circle
Ah la la la la life is wonderful
Ah la la la la la

It takes a night to make it dawn
And it takes a day to make you yawn brother
And it takes some old to make you young
It takes some cold to know the sun
It takes the one to have the other

And it takes no time to fall in love
But it takes you years to know what love is
And it takes some fears to make you trust
It takes those tears to make it rust
It takes the dust to have it polished


It takes some silence to make sound
And it takes a lost before you found it
And it takes a road to go nowhere
It takes a toll to show you care
It takes a hole to see a mountain


How to Change a Flat Tire

Two weeks ago, my son had a flat tire. I was only a few miles away, so when he couldn't find a jack or a lugwrench, he called me to see if I could come and help him.

So there we were, one mom, two 18-year-old boys and a 12-year-old girl. We figured out the jack and slowly lifted the car up. Then we tried to remove the lugnuts (I hope I'm calling things by their proper names.) When we did, the tire began to spin. It wasn't working.

I checked the time and discovered that it was a couple of minutes before 5:00. It was a Sunday. We loaded up in my car in search of an open tire store that could tell us what to do to keep the tire from spinning. (Don't you dare be laughing!)

We found three tire stores. All of them were closed. Two of them had employees in the stores, but they wouldn't come to the door in spite of my desperate expression. We started back to the car, knowing I'd have to call someone I knew and ask them what we were doing wrong. I didn't want to do this because of the mocking and humiliation I was opening myself up to, but it looked like we had no choice.

And then I saw it--Costco's Tire Center. The garage doors were still open, beckoning me to come inside and ask for help. I pulled up to the doors, hurried to the employee who was beginning to shut the garage doors and explained our predicament. He laughed. Not with me, but at me. And not in a jovial way, but in a "you're an idiot" way.

"You have to remove the lugnuts while the tire is on the ground. The ground keeps the tire from rotating." Okay. That made sense. So humbly, we drove back to the car, lowered it to the ground, removed the lugnuts and then raised it back up. In just a few minutes we'd changed the tire.

So this is for all of you who have never changed a tire or for those of you, like me, who have changed a tire, but it was at least two decades ago. Remove the lugnuts before lifting the car off the ground. It will save you time and embarrassment.

Let's Read!

Here are four of the books I've read in the last month or so. I debated whether or not to include two of them because I had such mixed feelings about them, but I decided I'd include them and just explain what I see as their pros and cons. Then you can decide if they'd be something you'd enjoy or not.
The Long Masquerade by Madeleine Brent
This is my third Madeleine Brent book in as many months. It was also my least favorite of the three. It still had adventure, romance, mystery, interesting settings and great characters, but I found myself mired down in some of the details. The main character, Casey, spends a couple of years at sea, and that is where I became bogged down. Once I got through the slow part, it picked up and I enjoyed the rest. Some people might really enjoy that part. I might have if I'd been in the right mood, but it was hard for me to get through.

61 Hours by Lee Child
I confess. I love Jack Reacher and with only one exception, I've enjoyed all of Lee Child's novels about the ex-military cop who is now a loner who wanders the country with only the clothes on his back. He's tough, he isn't afraid of a fight, he stands up for the victim. He's a guy anyone would want on their side. In this book, we get to know him better emotionally than in any other book, and I enjoyed that a lot. He accidentally ends up in a town in crisis in South Dakota in the dead of winter. It's suspenseful, it's interesting and it's hard to put down. This was the least violent of the Jack Reacher books. I love Lee Child's writing. I was freezing through most of the book.

Luck of the Draw by Rachael Renee Anderson

This is one of those fun books that I get to share with my daughters. This book starts out with a roommates bet that goes wrong and then maybe right. It was fun to read, had a positive message and entertaining and believable characters. My oldest daughter read it first and then couldn't wait for me to read it so we could talk about it. It's a fun romance that actually makes you think about values and the choices people make.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
It was hard for me to decide if I should include this book. I had such high hopes for it and when I started it, I was thoroughly enteretained b Elna Baker's writing. She's funny, sarcastic, and I actually laughed out loud. It tells of her life as a single LDS girl in New York. She's looking for love, trying to lose weight, and deciding how she really feels about her faith. While it felt genuine to me, there were times when it made me really uncomfortable. Part of the time I cheered for her and part of the time I wanted to send her to her room for five years to think about making better choices. I wouldn't want my daughters to read this and be warned, there is some bad language and some bad behavior included.