Does Music Move You?

I love good music of all kinds. I'm lucky to have a house full of kids who play music I really like.

I'm sharing this song by Fleet Foxes with you not just because it's beautiful, but because it makes me laugh. The reason it makes me laugh is because it makes my daughter cry.

Every. Single. Time.

And then she laughs because she can't believe she's crying. And then we all laugh at her (or with her) and tears stream down her face. Sometimes they stream down all of our faces.

Enjoy. And after it's over, tell me if it made you cry. Or at least if you enjoyed it.

Know Where to Rent a Bulldozer?

This past five days were spent in Portland and Seattle. We had a great trip filled with research, seeing relatives and showing Veronica parts of her mission (which were parts of my mission). More on all that in upcoming posts.

We stayed with my cousin and his wife. They have a nice home about 30 minutes outside Seattle. They were wonderful and gracious hosts.

Mike and Shirlee built their house almost three years ago. It was comfortable and open and furnished sparingly. I loved how free of clutter it was. As we visited, I learned why.

When they decided to build a new house, they wanted to stay where they were--literally. They loved their lot, their yard, and their location. So they decided to bulldoze their previous house, which was smaller and much older, and build right there in the same spot.

They went through their house and carefully chose what they wanted to keep--furniture that had been handed down to them, family pictures and a few other sentimental items. They moved those things to storage and then bulldozed everything else. All those odds and ends that stymie us when we're trying to declutter were just bulldozed and hauled away.

When they finished the house, they moved in their few belongings and then slowly and thoughtfully bought nice furniture they loved.

What resulted was a comfortable, uncluttered house.

It would be fun to start over like that.

Anyone want to split the cost of renting a bulldozer?

Keeping the Spirit in Our Homes - Part 6 of 6

Six - Show and Tell

When I started dating my husband, he noticed something about my family that struck him as unusual. He noticed that whenever one of us left, no matter how long or short the trip, we'd say we loved each other. He thought it minimized it's significance to say "I love you" too often.

What he didn't understand was that we were a family who had always been comfortable saying, "I love you," but after my sixteen-year-old brother died in a car accident, it became imperative to each of us that we express our love. When you realize that every time someone leaves it could be the last time you see them, you're less shy about expressing those feelings. 

When we got married, I knew Travis loved me (he married me, after all) but he still hesitated to be too expressive. When I asked him why he didn't always tell me he loved me, he said he didn't need to say it all the time. He showed me he loved me by helping out around the house and by surprising me sometimes with See's candies or some other gift. 

It took awhile for him to realize that it was really important to me that I hear it. I think that's super important in a marriage, but I think it's even more important in the parent/child relationship. Our kids need to hear us tell them we love them and I think it's really important for our kids to be comfortable telling us and each other of their love.

It isn't enough to just show our love and it isn't enough for us to just tell our love.  We all need both.

The world can be a harsh place. People will often be unfair or unkind. If we make our homes places filled with love and service and kind words, our homes will be safe places filled with the spirit. 

Keeping the Spirit in Our Homes - Part 5 of 6

Five - Don't Forget the Primary Answers

In my family, we always had a joke about the "primary answers." Those were the answers in Family Home Evening that were safe and almost always right if you worked the context around them. You know the ones--"Read your scriptures," "Say your prayers," "Go to church," "Have family prayer." 

As easy as it was to laugh about a 3-year-old answering any question with an enthusiastic, "Say your prayers," it's a good answer. It's right in nearly every situation. Can you think of one it doesn't work on? 

In his talk, "More Diligent and Concerned at Home," Elder Bednar compared every Family Home Evening, even the ones where the kids fought and didn't seem to be listening, to a brush stroke in a great painting. I loved that analogy. 

When my older children were in elementary school, I'd go to their classrooms and teach Art Start. One of the artists we studied was Georges Seurat, who was famous for his use of pointillism. I was lucky enough to see the above painting in person when it was being displayed at the National Museum of Art. It was remarkable to me that when you were up close to the painting, you discovered it was made up of thousands and thousands of tiny dots. When you stepped back, the picture came into focus and was beautiful. Since Elder Bednar's talk, I like to think of every Family Home Evening, every prayer, every time we go to church, each time we go to the temple, every time we read the scriptures together or do an act of service for each other as a dot on the painting that we want to be our family's masterpiece. 

The Primary answers work.

Keeping the Spirit in Our Homes part 4 of 6

Four - Turn Off the Noise (Divine light develops in places of peace and quiet. -F. Enzio Busche)

We love music. We have some shows on television we enjoy watching. There were times in our family, especially during our earlier marriage when my husband would travel with his work that I'd want the television on as background noise so I wouldn't have to hear the house settling or a burglar breaking in. I've learned though that sometimes it's good to hit the off button on all the technologically manufactured noise that clutters our lives.

I think it's important to learn how to be comfortable with our own thoughts and our children, who are bombarded with even more than we ever were, need to learn that as well. I truly believe that our thoughts in times of quiet reflection are often inspiration from the Spirit.

Some of my favorite times in our family are when everyone is quietly working on a project, often separate projects, but in the same room together. The girls could be giving each other manicures, Bruce could be quietly playing his ukulele, Joe could be drawing superheros.

I don't think peace and quiet necessarily mean silence. I think divine light develops at times when my kids are cheerfully playing a game together without manufactured noises, or when they're playing their instruments and singing together. I think it develops when we're cooking together or when we sometimes have an uncontentious ten-minute-clean-the-main-floor rally.

Sometimes when we turn off the noise we turn on family fun and communication.

Some Days...

Some days are almost perfect.

Today was Veronica's missionary farewell. We're not supposed to call them that, but anything else I'd call it sounds clunky and awkward. Today Veronica spoke in church prior to leaving on a mission. Today was Veronica's pre-mission Sacrament Meeting address.

See what I mean?

She did a beautiful job. She spoke on kindness and was well-prepared and well-spoken. It was hard to tell she was nervous, even though I knew she was.

Savannah was the youth speaker and it was easier to tell how nervous she was. She couldn't get a deep breath before church. Thank goodness we had an early meeting or she'd have suffered from lack of oxygen.

I discovered something today. Both girls cry cute and it makes me a little jealous. No contorted faces. No smeared mascara. They looked positively pretty when they cried. I'm trying not to feel a little jealous of that.

We filled benches at church with loved ones--grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends. Sorry to the ward members we displaced. Then most of those loved ones joined us at our house for cinnamon rolls, pecan sticky buns, lots of fruit and brownies. Everyone helped with food and it was delicious.

We filled the next several hours with visiting, movies for the kids, music, face-swapping on the mobile devices and lots of laughing. People ate more fruit or another cinnamon roll. Or both. Babies were held. Children entertained. Grown ups enjoyed being together. We missed our Oregon family and the Texas grandparents.

I'm tired tonight. So tired! But I'm also so grateful. Days like today are the brown-sugar dredged pecans on the sticky buns of life.

Keeping the Spirit in Our Homes Part 3 of 6

Many years ago I heard someone say, "Would you rather be right? or happy?"

It's a great question, isn't it. There are times when the answer should be "right." There are some things we can't negotiate on, for moral or ethical reasons. But sometimes, especially when we're talking about family relationships, we would choose for our family to be happy.

I'm not saying here that you should accept something that's wrong just to keep peace or that you should compromise your beliefs. I'm talking about the small, petty things that often plague our relationships and up the contention in our homes, thus driving out the spirit.

When we pick the wrong battles and dig in our heels over things that don't really matter, we're choosing to have a spirit of contention instead of the Lord's spirit.

Marjorie Hinckley, the wife of our last prophet, gave some good advice to mothers. She said, "I tried hard never to say 'no' if I could possibly say 'yes.'

I've discovered that I'm a stick-in-the-mud by nature. I don't really like things that cause extra mess (Play-doh makes me break out in hives), I'm super practical (some might say cheap) and the first thing that pops into my head when my family asks for permission to do something is no.

After I read Sister Hinckley's quote, I took a hard look at myself and realized that  there were times when I was saying no out of habit. Now I try to pause and really think things through before I give an answer. I've set out some guidelines I go through before I give an answer. They are 1) will it cause bodily harm? 2) will it put someone in spiritual peril? and 3) can we afford it? If it passes these questions, I try to say yes.

One thing I've discovered is that I want to say yes when they're asking to do things together. If my kids are asking to go to a concert or a movie with each other or as a family, so that bonds and family friendships grow, I want to say yes. yes, yes!

Keeping the Spirit in Our Homes Part 2 of 6

Go to Bed Angry 

(originally posted on my blog on August 18, 2010)

The worst piece of wedding advice we received is simple. Never go to bed angry.

I'm convinced that this bit of advice was either given by people who are now divorced or by people who are really bad fighters. You know the kind. The couple who consider a discussion on who will do the dishes an actual argument, the people who never raise their voices and avoid confrontation at all costs. These people aren't good fighters.

Great fighters know this is really bad advice. Those of us who are good at raising our voices, hurling out past misdeeds and dragging extended family into the mix, can attest to the misguided and malicious nature of this advice.

You see, I was raised by a champion debater who coached a champion debate team. I know how to argue. I can be stubborn and loud. I'm pretty quick with a sarcastic retort and sadly, I have a good memory about things I should probably forget. Mix that with my husband, who is just as skilled in all these areas, throw in the advice "don't go to bed angry" and you have a recipe for a long and miserable night.

Here's the deal. If we're not going to go to bed angry, well, we just won't go to bed at all. 

It didn't take too many knock-down, drag-out, all-night brawls for us to realize that this was just plain bad advice. Who wants to go to work the next day with tired, puffy eyes and a sleep-deprived headache? Who can afford to call in sick any time there's a marital disagreement? We discovered that for us, we were better off going to bed angry, getting a good night's sleep and then getting up a little calmer, a little more rational and a little less stupid.

So what advice do I give when the advice notebook is passed around or Aunt Susan's video camera is pointed at your face, waiting for a piece of marital counsel?

If you're fighting at bedtime (or anywhere close to it), go to bed, get a good night's sleep, and face the disagreement with a calm head in the bright light of day.

I think this is true of disagreements with our children, as well. There needs to be a cooling off period (whether that period is a night of sleep or just a little distance between the dissenting people) so we're reacting to the problem and not the person. 

Emotions are important and powerful things. We feel the spirit through our emotions. But often, an emotional reaction--especially emotions like anger, frustration, resentment, and disappointment--needs to be tempered and a little time and rest is good for that.

Go Warriors! (I'll Bet You Never Thought You'd Hear Me Say That)

Basketball is without a doubt my favorite sport. I enjoy other things (the Olympics, golf, sometimes even bull-riding) but basketball is definitely my favorite.

My local NBA team, the Utah Jazz, have struggled the last few years. I still cheer for them and watch the games because I'm not a fair-weather fan, but when they didn't make the playoffs this year, my basketball season was cut short as well.

Luckily, the Jazz played the Golden State Warriors toward the end of the season and as I watched that game, I noticed something beautiful. Can you see it? Look at the picture closely and tell me what you see.

I saw it. A team with mostly untattooed players. I mentioned it to my kids who were watching the game and we admired that clean skin. Curious (and because I'm a little weird), I looked up the team roster and went to Google images for each player. Ten of the fifteen players on the roster had tattooless arms. I can't vouch for backs or other body parts, but that's okay. Ten guys had clean, inkless arms.

I watched them during their first playoff game and realized that there were times when the entire lineup on the floor were without body art. I also noticed that they were hard workers and seemed like nice guys. I started to really like Curry and Jack and Thompson and Bogut and some of the others, too.

A play-off relationship was born. I'm now a fan. I hope they go far. Thanks, Golden State for giving me a play-off team to cheer for and thanks for your clean, smooth, skin-colored skin. I like it. I think I'll be cheering for them next year, too (except when they play the Jazz).

Keeping the Spirit in Our Homes Part 1 of 6

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to prepare a presentation for a Relief Society activity. The subject of the presentation was "How to get and keep the spirit in our homes." For those of you who are familiar with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you know that refers to the spirit of the Lord. Our desire is to have homes that are places where the Lord's spirit can be, a place filled with love and joy, not contention and sorrow.

This was a daunting assignment. I feel like there are some things we've done that have helped our family in this effort, but we have so much we could still improve. I don't have all the answers. Sometimes we'll go long periods of time with a loving spirit in our home and other times we'll hit a semi-truck-sized pothole and we'll have periods that make me wonder if we're ever going to drag ourselves out of the hole of short-tempered, contentious sludge.

But the assignment was what do we do right, so I listed six things we try to do that make our home a place the Lord can dwell. Although we don't always get it right, when we do, these things make a difference. A big difference.

Over the next little while, I'll be posting those six things. I hope they can make a difference in your family. I hope if these spark any ideas in your mind, you'll share them with us. (Maybe I'll do a post on your idea, too.) In this world that has so little regard or respect for home and family and the important things that happen there, we can use all the help we can get.

One - Avoid Rush and Haste and Uncontrolled Words - F. Enzio Busche

When my oldest child started school, I set a goal for myself. I decided that I'd try to become a morning person. This wasn't an easy task for me. I'd spent about thirty years snoozing until the last possible second and then rushing around in a frantic blur to get where I needed to get on time. Some mornings this worked out fine, but if I couldn't find matching socks or the homework I was supposed to have, I'd be ticked off and unpleasant. My lack of morning person skills made for many unpleasant mornings.

In order to become a morning person, I decided we needed to get up earlier so we wouldn't be rushed. So we did. And I discovered an amazing thing.

By getting up earlier, our morning was more relaxed. We may have missed out on that extra half hour or forty-five minutes of sleep, but we traded that in for an unhurried breakfast. When there was a paper that needed signed or a page of homework that had been forgotten, it could be handled without anger, frenzy or tears. If one of my girls was having trouble deciding what to wear, there was time to try on several outfits and make a choice instead of being forced to wear something that made her feel uncomfortable or self-conscious all day. We're able to have a prayer and read a chapter of scriptures together.

We all have our own speedometer. I have kids who move through their morning routine quickly and efficiently. I have others who dawdle and tinker. Forcing the dawdler to move at a breakneck pace just makes them anxious and frustrated. The quick ones can always find things to do--they can get a chore finished early or they can read or get their music practicing finished.

Like I said above, our family is far from perfect, but in the fifteen years since my kids started school, I can probably count on my fingers the number of times that we've had a big fight in the morning or someone has left the house having said  things that they had to regret all day. This is one thing I'm happy to say we're pretty good at.

When we're rushed, physical things happen to us. Our blood pressure goes up and our breathing becomes shallower. When we have time, we can stay relaxed and calm.

I can say with complete conviction that I wouldn't trade the peace and calm of our mornings for that extra sleep. If your mornings are chaotic and rushed, if your family leaves and you have to feel guilty about the things that were said, if it was filled with nagging, yelling, or tears, I challenge you to give it a try. Get up earlier and see what a beautiful thing it is to have a calm morning and send everyone on their way with peace.

Sometimes We Forget

Veronica has never had a cavity. She's never had stitches or needed a broken bone set. She's never spent time in the hospital (other than the two days when she was born). She never needed braces. She's had pneumonia and an allergic reaction to imitation crab, but overall, she's a pretty healthy girl.

The bottom line is, she's never been sedated--local or general.

Until yesterday. Yesterday she went under general anesthesia and had four wisdom teeth removed. She was nervous. Really nervous. I held her hand while they inserted the IV and within seconds, she was asleep. I left the room and took her prescription to the pharmacy. When I returned, they took me to the recovery room to wait for her.

When they wheeled her around the corner to meet me, her mouth was swollen and crusted with blood, her eyes were wild and a little unfocused and tears were streaming down her cheeks.

I walked beside the wheelchair and held her hand as we walked to the exit. "What's wrong? What's wrong?" she kept asking me through her tears.

"You're all finished," I said. "You did great."

At the door, I left her in the capable hands of the attendant and ran to unlock her car door. When she got there, she was sobbing. I helped her into the car and buckled her into the seat belt. When I turned around, the attendant was gone. I got in the car and helped her remove a wad of blood-soaked cotton. She started crying harder. Her body was shaking with the sobs and with the shock of coming out of anesthesia. I didn't have a blanket so I hugged her and rubbed down her arms and legs, trying to help her warm up until the heater finally blew out warm air.

I kept telling her everything was fine. She was going to be okay. This was normal. She'd be warm soon. We'd be home soon. Don't worry about anything. To everything I said, her response was a tearful, "Okay. Okay. Okay."

It wasn't until later that I discovered why she was so upset. She didn't know why they were putting her in a wheelchair. She didn't feel right and everything was disconnected and she was bleeding and her mouth was full of bloody gauze that they kept switching out.

And then they put her in a wheelchair.

The wheelchair was the last straw. She didn't know they put everyone in a wheelchair after sedation and she thought something had gone terribly wrong and she was probably going to die. Her uncontrollable weeping was because she thought she was dying.

How sad that she was left to feel that panic when a simple explanation of why she was being taken to the car in a wheelchair would have eased her worries. I'll definitely remember that the next time one of my kids has surgery.

Review - David's Song

davids tour
David's Song Taken from the book cover: Annie only ever really loved two men in her life. One broke her heart, the other married her. Four children and fifteen years later, Annie’s marriage is in jeopardy. Money is tight and her husband questions the very foundation of their relationship. When Annie is unexpectedly given the opportunity to see the young man who broke her heart — a man who is now a megastar in the music industry — Annie is faced with choices. Choices that will determine what is of more value — a second chance at lost love and unfulfilled dreams or commitment, trust, and love built on years of experience. A psychologically subtle, yet compelling tale about how the instinct and need for love overcomes self-doubt and personal inadequacy.  
Author A.R. Talley April R Talley was born and raised in the Rubber City, Akron, Ohio in 1959. She is the youngest of six children. She attended Brigham Young University for a time, but withdrew to work fulltime for Osmond Productions in Orem, Utah as a member of The Osmond production staff. After a brief stint working in television, she returned to Akron to finish her education. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Mass Media Communications in 1981. April later worked as vice president and part owner of a dance and sportswear boutique. Married in 1982, she is the proud mother of seven children and is deeply involved in volunteer work for her church. April spends her time working on future projects, caring for home and family, and traveling. David’s Song is her debut novel and the first of a trilogy.
Blog Tour Giveaway $25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash Ends 5/15/13

My Review: Where to even begin. I finished this book more than a week ago and it's been on my mind a lot. In a good way and a bad way.

Let me explain.

Talley's writing is excellent. I'd never have known she was was a first-time author. She seamlessly wove the present with an important back-story. I never got frustrated with the changes in time and setting. She handled them so well. The story was interesting and I didn't want to stop reading. I wanted to know where we were headed.

And that's where the bad way comes in. The book made me uncomfortable a few times--both because I wanted Annie to make wise choices but at the same time, I wanted her to find happiness. Annie was a sympathetic character. I understood her confusion and frustration. I wondered what she was going to decide and even though I knew what I'd have chosen in her place and I questioned her wisdom, I understood her. Sometimes, when we're hurting, it's hard to be wise.

I started out feeling sympathetic toward Jeremy (the husband) but then he made me so upset, I wanted to shake him. I started out not liking David so much, but by the end of it, my heart ached for him and I wanted him to find happiness, too. I wanted them all to be happy and there was no way for that to happen, so it was very conflicting.

This is the first in a trilogy about these characters (that's my understanding) and I'm really curious to see what Talley does with the rest of the series. I think it's a sign of a good book that it's been on my mind a lot since I finished it.

   a Rafflecopter giveaway  


Today was our stake conference. The talks were good, but the best part of the meeting was the music--a lovely Primary children's choir. The children looked beautiful and sounded fantastic. They sang several Primary songs I was familiar with and one I'd never heard before (and I serve in Primary).

Being unfamiliar with the song, I listened closely to the words. Within a few lines, I was in tears. I hope you can feel the beautiful spirit of this song and that it can remind you that Jesus overcame "all that was sad, that was wicked and bad. All the pain that we'll ever know." He won the battle for us.

I'm so grateful.

Review - A Different Blue by Amy Harmon

Blue Echohawk doesn't know who she is.  She doesn't know her real name or when she was born.  Abandoned at two and raised by a drifter, she didn't attend school until she was ten years old.  At nineteen, when most kids her age are attending college or moving on in life, she is just a senior in high school.   With no mother, no father, no faith, and no future, Blue Echohawk is a difficult student, to say the least. Tough, hard and sexy, she is the complete opposite of the young British teacher who decides he is up for the challenge, and takes the troublemaker under his wing. 
This is the story of a nobody who becomes somebody.  It is the story of an unlikely friendship, where hope fosters healing and redemption becomes love.  But falling in love can be hard when you don't know who you are.  Falling in love with someone who knows exactly who they are and exactly why they can't love you back might be impossible.

Author Bio:  Amy Harmon knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, so she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Amy Harmon has been a motivational speaker, a grade school teacher, a junior high teacher, a home school mom, and a member of the Grammy Award winning Saints Unified Voices Choir, directed by Gladys Knight. She released a Christian Blues CD in 2007 called "What I Know" - also available on Amazon and wherever digital music is sold.  She lives in the middle of nowhere with her husband and four kids, and doesn't plan to ever move somewhere, because nowhere is sublime.  She has written Running Barefoot, and the Young Adult books Slow Dance in Purgatory and the sequel, Prom Night in Purgatory.  A Different Blue is her fourth novel.

My review:  Last year I read Amy Harmon's Running Barefoot and loved it. I bought A Different Blue the day it was released and wasn't disappointed at all. It was the perfect spring break read. Harmon's writing is beautiful and lyrical and her storytelling is captivating. Blue is a lost and lonely girl whose life experiences have caused her to be hard and tough. My heart ached for the little girl who'd been abandoned by everyone. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to make something of herself. Her decision to become a different person, a better person, kept me cheering for her to the end.

Wilson is a good man who's determined to do the right thing. He's honorable and decent and exactly what Blue needs but doesn't think she deserves.

Once again, Harmon has written a beautiful story that is hard to put down. I loved A Different Blue.

a Rafflecopter giveaway