Monday, May 2, 2016

The Devil's Radio

George Harrison, my favorite Beatle, has a song called Devil's Radio.  It's what George calls G-O-S-S-I-P.  (The YouTube link is at the bottom of this post, along with the lyrics.)  George got it right.  The Devil's Radio. 

Why do people do it?  Why, especially, do women do it----to one another?  And how is it that a woman can always tell when she has been the subject of talk at lunch?  Answer:  Women who gossip give off weird vibes.  They hold back after they've gossiped about you.  Maybe they even ignore you altogether.  One can usually tell.  A sure sign is when someone has been cordial before, but then they suddenly shut down.  Friendly one week, silent the next and the next and the next and the next.  It makes a person wonder.

If a woman is wise, if she has the power to discern, it isn't hard to put the pieces together.  Another slam-dunk clue is when people in the same circles all start shutting her out.  Do they think she won't be able to tell?  There is also the clue of who is in charge.  Who is calling the shots.  It's usually the one who's been around the longest.  Maybe she's lived in the neighborhood the longest, or been in the office the longest.  That is almost always your queen bee.  But then again, sometimes Meanie-Queenie gets tired and starts passing along some of her queenly responsibilities to another---one she deems as close to herself as possible---one who is her kindred spirit.  They collaborate and conspire.  New people come into the circle of influence and if they can be bought, they will be.  Meanie-Queenie will babysit, bring dinner, clean the flooded rug---if one will tune into her radio station.  If a person will be on her team, shun whoever Meanie-Queenie has decided deserves to be shunned. 

The new people in the office or neighborhood aren't necessarily to blame.  Meanie-Queenie is very charismatic.  She could make a cobra go to sleep with her songs of loving charity woven with huge chunks of untruths and misrepresentation.  Everyone seems to fall under her spell.  She even teaches others how to charm so her legacy goes forward.  Years can pass even, and the tales still are told.  People who never even worked in the office when something happened will take sides with Meanie-Queenie, never even having met her 'adversary.'  The songs continue.  Like the bad station the bus driver loved and you were forced to listen to every single day on the 30-minute trip to and from school.  Smart women put in their own earphones, turn up their own music, and tune out the gossip of others. 

It's one of the 10 commandments, not to gossip:  "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor."  But people, especially women, keep it up like it's an Olympic sport and there are thousands of gold medals to be won.  Why do they do it--the ones who love it so much?  Is it because they've never been hurt by it?  Is it because they have been hurt by the Devil's Radio and now it's their turn? 

What can a woman do if she finds stories about herself playing on Top 40 of the Devil's Radio? 
1.  Stay away from the offenders.  Consider them a bomb in a mine field.  Now it's marked.  Keep your distance. 
2.  Be civil and respectful when forced to mingle, but be guarded. 
3.  Don't gossip about them---do not become like them. 
4.  Realize that a person who gossips is really a miserable human being and so give them your pity and your empathy.
5.  Pray for them. 
6.  Ask God to give you strength to make a blessing come from it. 
7.  Try to see the blessing that being the victim sometimes can be.  Now you know who are not your friends, so you can look for new, genuine, honest, and kind friends.  They are out there.
9.  Put your energy into positive things.  Get back to your hobbies.  Read a really good book.  Serve other people.  Set a good and happy example that gossiping is not the sport of a good woman. 
10.  Be a good woman yourself. 

The Devil's Radio is blaring more loudly than ever, it seems.  The only thing we can really do is turn it off, one radio at a time.  We turn it off by refusing to play the music of gossip.  It's everywhere.  It has become a plague.  Let it be your guide to the good friends that are out there.  Look for the women who don't share things about others to you, which is a pretty good sign they will never share things about you to others.  Look for the good.  It is there.  Be gentle in the world.  Be happy.  Play your own music that you make yourself.  Make your own playlist.  Don't do what everyone else is doing.  The Devil's Radio is for the lazy, mean, weak, and unhappy people.  They can have it.  The Devil's Radio was made for them.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Motherhood has Blessed My Faith in God

I was almost 27 years old when I had our first child. I quit my job 2 weeks prior to my due date, hoping to finish preparations for our new little baby, but he was born the next day, quite in a little hurry to get here. He was tiny and skinny at barely 6 pounds, 22 inches. We were thrilled, scared, excited and happy.

The day we all went home, he was scrawny as he swam in the new car seat. We padded it with blankets to protect his little head, but he was still so small. With the awkward seat facing the rear of the car, I could not stand the thought of riding anywhere but next to my baby and so I did. My husband drove us home and all I could think about was how completely dependent this tiny little soul was on us.

That first night in our apartment, I did not know what to do. The baby was crying and obviously hungry. I wanted to nurse him, but my milk had not come in. He did not like the pacifier. He would not take a bottle. My husband got him to sleep and we fell into bed, exhausted. Only an hour had passed when we woke to a wailing little baby. I was scared. I could not get him to stop crying. I was so exhausted and too weak to walk the floor with him all night, frightened I would drop my precious baby. So I prayed. Like I've never prayed before.

I remembered the little infant seat we purchased to use for feedings and went to find it. I put my itsy-bitsy boy inside and covered him up. Then I collapsed on the floor next to him, gently rocking the seat back and forth with my hand, trying to help us both to sleep.

It was a long night. Baby would wake up, I'd feed him as best I knew how, put him back in the little seat, and stay by him again, and gently rocking him until my arm went to sleep. We did this several times through the night, all the time while I was praying to God. Please, I pleaded. Please, help me. My little boy needs me. You know what he needs, but I don't. Help me to help him.

By morning, my baby and I were bound to each other. We had made it together. He had been patient with me, his brand-new mommy, and I had protected him, my new little baby. And I knew that God had stayed with us all night.

Three years later, we added a darling daughter to our family. I was not afraid to bring her home that first night. I had learned how to listen to God about how to take care of new babies. I was more relaxed. I knew what to do. That night home, the four of us---my husband, our little boy, and our baby girl and me, we all celebrated and bonded as we shared the wonder of our little family together.

Our son is now 24 and is on his way to medical school this summer. Our daughter is 21 and will start teaching junior high this coming fall. How speedily the time has commenced. There have been terrifying moments when our children have been hurt and very sick. Our son served a church mission where he thrived and I survived. We have seen them hurt by romances and friends. We have seen them fall and pick themselves back up. We have celebrated their successes and watched them grow. It has been beautiful.

I thought I knew what faith in God was before I became a mother, but if I did, it was insufficient, or a different kind of faith. Perhaps merely the kind of faith that everything would all work out, as people often say. It changed suddenly for me when I held those babies in my arms, knowing I was their only earthly mother and my husband their only earthly father. We had a huge responsibility and needed heavenly help. I could no longer afford to believe, because now I had to know. I needed to know that God would bless and protect my children. I needed to know He was really there. I needed to get closer to God so I could know what He wished me to do. It forced me to pray actively, even begging a lot of the time, for help in knowing how to be a good mother. I am grateful that God answered my prayers, not always immediately, but He always did and still does.

What motherhood has done for my faith in God is given me more compassion for Him as my Father. If I love my children as much as I do, and I know that God loves them still even more, then why would He not want to bless them and look out for them? He is their Heavenly Father and He is also mine. I can and do trust Him. I feel confident that He knows all, and I only know a shred.

What I think might be best, God knows is not. He has the whole view and I can only see a few hundred yards. Having babies has helped me to know God, to rely on Him, count on Him, and ask Him. Motherhood didn't change my faith in God as much as it gave me faith in God.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day, Grandpa Joe!

Wow!  That fast and now it's Spring and today is St. Patrick's Day!  Now we're almost a quarter way through 2016.  When I was a kid, the thought of the year 2016 conjured up ideas of space men, metallic clothing, electric cars, and robots.  Well, here it is, and we're well into 2016 now.  Most people have smartphones, a few have electric cars, and maybe somebody has a robot.  I don't wear metallic clothing, but I like jewelry; does that count? 

I used to laugh when my grandparents would say, "when I was youir age we had to milk the cow if we wanted milk," and things like that.  Now, I find myself saying to my children, "when I was in college, we didn't have smartphones or Google or even a home computer--we had to go to the library and use the card catalog to look up something."  That makes me feel old.  It also makes me feel very lucky and very blessed.  Why?  Because I got to experience things at a slower pace.  Not as slow as my parents and grandparents, but slow compared to now.  And I'm grateful for it.  

I am missing these grandparents of mine today, the ones on my father's side.  My grandfather was of Irish descent.  I remember him as a kind a loving man, with huge hands from hard and honest work both on a farm and as a blacksmith.  He could make anything with those hands when he was a younger man.  He played the fiddle and loved music.  He especially loved The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and when I would visit on the weekends, we always went to church and watched The Spoken Word with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  He was old even when I was young, but I knew he loved me and I knew he loved Jesus Christ.  Church books and scriptures were always by his chair; that's how he spent his days---studying.  His face would light up whenever I came to stay and he never wanted me to go home.  He always asked me to play the piano and thought I was brilliant.  My grandmother was a princess to me.  She never said an unkind word to me.  She always told me I was smart and had a beautiful smile and that I should share it with those who didn't have a smile at all.  She was a schoolteacher and instilled in me a love of reading by always giving me books as gifts.  Suppers were simple there, consisting of bread and milk, fruit preserves, cheese, and onions.  On Sundays it was always a roasted chicken and sometimes pineapple pie.  What I wouldn't give to go back there for just one weekend by myself, to stay and be loved by them, basking in their elderly wisdom.  I love them and always will. 

Maybe it's because of Grandma and Grandpa that I still like to read real books.  I like to turn the pages and make notes in the margins.  I like how they smell when they are new and when they are old.  They can be expensive and take up shelf space.  Just ask my husband.  My biggest fantasy is bookcases covering entire walls in every room of the house, filled to the rafters with books.  As it is, we have bookcases in every room and they pretty close to filled.  There are books on tables and desks and everywhere you look.  We do read them, too.  We don't just look at them.  And I love the library.  I ran into the former head librarian of our local library a few months ago.  She has long since retired, but she remembered me and asked about my children.  I know they hated seeing us coming every week, each with our own bag filled with 15 books, there to get another 15, so 45 total.  Every week, for years.  Yes, I'm sure that's why she still knows our names.   

I like to talk to people on the phone and not text.  Texting is fine for, "I'm on my way home," or "can you pick up the drycleaning."  It's not good for conversations.  At least not if you want to have a healthy relationship with a person.  But there are also those who won't have a conversation on the phone and so texting can get tricky and people can be easily misunderstood, including me. 
I like to cook real food, from scratch. I love to go out for Indian or Thai food, true, but I really like to cook.  When I'm feeling up to it, I love to get in the kitchen and make mean Italian meatballs, or a killer lasagne.  Maybe Russian meat dumplings, or Irish Shepherd's Pie with real potatoes, peeled and mashed with lots of butter and cream.  I love to make cherry pie with the real sour cherries and crust from scratch.  My kids have never had maple syrup from the store.  We've always had homemade.  I like to sit out on our deck on summer evenings and eat with a plate in my lap, my husband and kids around me, and visit for hours, long after the plates are empty.  I like to draw and paint and make things with my hands.  I love to sew when I have time and don't mind the mess for a few days.  I love to write real letters on pretty paper and send them with a stamp.
I love the technology we have today.  It makes writing this blog possible and doing my work from home a reality.  It makes it easy to buy clothes, since I never have to go the mall.  The good stores deliver and I know what size works, so it's all just a click away.  Technology actually allows me more time to do the slow, old-fashioned things I prefer.  Because I don't have to commute to my job, I have more time to play the piano.  Because I can write this blog in my jammies and in bed, it's more fun to do.  And because of the internet, I have resources right at my fingertips.  No more Dewey Decimal System, even though I do miss those drawers full of musty cards. 

I turned 51 last year so now I'm officially in my 50s. That means I'm more than halfway done with my life.  I'm sure I won't make it to 100, so that means I'm on the downward slope to the end, but then again, these grandparents pictured above lived well into their 90s, so maybe I have a shot.    Sounds depressing, right?  It can be if I think about it in that way, but I'm choosing not to.  I'm choosing to look at this next phase as a right of passage, a reward for all that I have lived through and dealt with.  I think I've earned the right to speak my mind.  Not that I ever haven't, but maybe I hadn't earned it yet.  I think I have the right to expect certain things from certain people and situations.  I think I've learned how to listen to my heart and gut and know when something is true and when it's not.  I think I've learned a few things.  I know I have a lot more to learn and am always anxious to try new things.  
Here are some things I've learned so far:
1.  There are always two sides to every story.
2.  Karma is real.  What goes around really does come around, so be careful what you send around.
3.  People just want to be understood.
4.  If you keep getting burned, stop touching the stove.
5.  Forgiveness is between me and Christ; it doesn't mean I'm okay with what someone did to me. 
6.  Difficult things happen to good people.
7.  We all will die, it's just a matter of when, and we will meet Christ face to face. 
8.  People are inherently good.  We were all created in God's image.
9.  Getting married and having a family is the best decision I ever made.
10. Jesus Christ is real and loves you and me. 

It's March now and I love how spring is almost here.  Shortly it will be Easter.  A time for a fresh start, a new beginning, with thoughts turned toward Jesus Christ, I'm feeling happy and grateful.  Instead of stressing out about making a hundred thousand goals for this year, I chose to just have one.  It's kind of all encompassing, but it's easy for me to think about:  LEARN MORE ABOUT JESUS CHRIST AND THINK OF HIM, ALWAYS.  If I am more centered on Christ maybe I can be more patient, kind, loving, charitable, forgiving, meek, with more faith.  Maybe I can be happier and more trusting in my afflictions.  Maybe I will be able to focus more on things of an eternal nature and not on a worldly one.  Maybe the meatballs will taste better and the sleep will be sounder.  Maybe I can think more about what I can do for Him.  Maybe I can work harder at building the kingdom of God.  Maybe my eyes will be brighter and I can bear my burdens more easily.
I just want things to be simpler.  I want the world to stay away from me--I don't care about it.  I just want to read good books and sleep well, eat homemade pie and smell grape juice steaming in October.  I want to remain ignorant about what's on television and who is famous.   I want to listen to my "oldies" music and smile because it's actually real music.  I don't want to be younger than I am and I don't want to be older, either.  I just want to be 51 this year, and enjoy it.  I want to smell the flowers and take the hikes and be in the sun. The cold winter weather and its friends, ice and snow, can take a rest now.  My daffodils are up and the tulips are shortly behind.  It's going to be a glorious spring!    So Happy St. Patrick's Day and luck of the Irish to you!  Tonight I'm going to make a mean Shepherd's Pie and Irish soda bread.  I'll be making a toast to my Grandpa Joe.  I wish he was here, but because of Jesus Christ, I know I'll get to see and be with him again.  What a wonderful blessing!  Resin up your bow, Grandpa!  We're going to do an Irish jig tonight! 

If you're not familiar with The Corrs, you need to be!  One of my very, very favorite bands---an Irish family band.  Enjoy! 

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Christmas has come and gone, again.  We took our tree down last Saturday.  The dismal melancholy began to set in as I wondered where we would all be next year.  Would we be together?  How far would some or one of us have to travel to make that possible?  What should we do with our ornament tradition?  Should I box up my son's ornaments and favorite decorations, ready to be packed when he moves out this coming summer?  Where did all the time go?   Weren't our children just wee ones only yesterday when they picked out all these funny things for our tree?  I was plunging meteorically into woe and sadness when I decided to choose how to feel differently about it all. 
We had a lovely Christmas.  Our comforting traditions, even though small and simple, were meaningful to us in ways no one wanted to talk about.  I noticed my family lingering by the tree to just look at its lights more this year.  Christmas Eve was special with our nephew's beautiful family, but in watching his children, I really noticed how fast time has flown for mine to now be adults and his so very small.  On Christmas morning, I woke up at 9:00 to find everyone else fast asleep.  I had to wake them all up so we could enjoy our own traditions before going to visit Grandma and then to see Star Wars. 
I've thought all season long about all my many blessings, first and most importantly of all, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  And Christ is the reason I cannot be sad about one more Christmas being wrapped up and packed away until next December.  When I pack up my Christmas decorations and put away the gifts and sort through the cards, I never pack away Jesus.  He stays with me every day, in my heart, in my mind, and in my life.  He is my best friend.  Christ is the reason my family is forever and the reason we have meaning in our lives.  Jesus is the anchor of my soul and the cornerstone of our home.  Jesus is the reason my children have worked as hard as they have, in order to try to make the world a better place, because of His example and His trust in them.  My Savior is at the center of every day, not just Christmas. 
My husband and I did not raise our children to live in our basement.  I love the old saying, "a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."  This is true of our children.  We have encouraged them to dream big, to work hard, to set goals and achieve them, and to fly away from the nest when it's time.  I know they will want to fly home whenever possible because they feel safe here and there is strong loyalty and love here.  I know they are looking forward to flying free on their own and are confident they can succeed, but I also sense heart strings tugging at the reality soon to be.
So, January, I'm ready.  This will be an exciting year for our family.  I want to stand side by side with my husband and best friend as we face the changes that come, with a grateful and happy heart and the thrill that comes from seeing our children bring to pass the very things they've talked about since they were 5 years old.  I love this month without much on the schedule.  It's very cold outside and there is a lot of snow on the ground, which makes it easier to use the crockpot, read lots of books, get back to my art, get some extra sleep, and do more thinking, prioritizing, and praying.  I'm resting to recover from a personally rough year in 2015 and to get strong for all the new adventures 2016 will bring.  And whenever I feel like I might cry, and I know I will do a lot of that this year, I will remember why we celebrate Christmas every year.  Jesus Christ.  He is the author of our salvation, the key to our redemption, the ticket to God's kingdom, and the Savior of our souls.  He loves us more than we will ever comprehend and He expects a lot from us in return.  Jesus knows we can succeed if we will humble ourselves, take His hand, and let Him help us.  On the day when we help our son move out to attend medical school far, far away, and I start to weep, Christ will understand me and He will comfort me, our son, and my whole family, as we embark on life's next chapters.
January is a gorgeous time.  Where I live, the snow is covering the trees and our majestic mountains are blanketed in white.  There are 366 days on the calendar this year--366 days to start again, to repent of mistakes, to make wrongs right, to love more deeply and more sincerely, and to choose where we want to be standing and whose side we will be on.  What will you choose?  What will you resolve?  I only have one goal this year.  To choose more deeply than ever, Jesus Christ. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I Will Stand in My Truth----It's Mine

So yesterday I succumbed to fear.  I let hurtful words of others paralyze me and ruin a lot of my day.  And it was my birthday.  I went into panic mode and took down my blog, the entire thing, for a period of time.  Bad decision.  I shouldn't have done that.  I have all of you wonderful readers who support me and write and tell me how my writing is helping you, or lifting you, or giving you courage to stand in your truth.  And I let you down.  A tiny number of people made me take down my platform and I lost sight of all of you that share and read and keep coming back for more.  To all of you, my dedicated and loyal readers, I apologize.  It will never happen again.

I stand in my truth.  What does that mean, exactly?  To stand in my truth means that I am owning and admitting that this is my perspective.  My point of view.  It may sound selfish, but that's all we know as human beings.  We only feel our own feelings and experience our own lives.  I believe in having empathy for others and I know that I do.  I have deep empathy and even pity for people who have let me down in my life that I might write about.  I don't write to incite or to inflict pain to those people.  I write to inspire you, my readers, to know that you are not alone.  That we can survive difficult things and then find our way to happiness.   In fact, I have so much empathy and compassion for these people that I have never divulged names, dates, locations, or even details.  I don't even write under my maiden name.  I have been intentionally vague, to protect both myself, and others.

I attended World Congress of Families IX and one speaker talked about the effects of the sexual revolution and no-fault divorce on the children, most of whom are adults now, but suffer the post-traumatic effects of this culture.  I found myself answering yes to nearly every bullet point on the slides shown.  But it gave me hope, surprisingly.  Hope, because I knew I had made it.  My husband and I had changed the situation in our home with our children, which means that others can do it too.  We don't have to be victims.  I never want to be considered a victim.  Not even a survivor.  I want to be known as a thriver.  Because I am thriving.  And it's because of choices.  I made choices that have allowed me to thrive.  When I actually had the power to change my stars, believe me, I did.  And so can you.  So many of you have.  That is why I write.  To share some of my stories of overcoming and standing in what is my truth, so I can stand beside you as you overcome and stand in yours.  

My truth is not your truth.  Your truth is not mine.  We cannot tell each other how to feel.  We absolutely are not allowed to edit each others' lives.  When people try to silence others from speaking their truths, abuse continues.  Abuse is protected, strengthened, and grows.  Abuse is rewarded.  I also learned at WCF-9 that we must stand up and say what happened to us, as survivors of no-fault divorce.  If we don't tell our stories, we can't help other young couples as they begin their own families and are tempted to continue in negative traditions they brought with them from their own homes.  If we stand in our truth, with the intention of inspiring and uplifting others, we should not be afraid of those who wish to quiet us.  They are threatened by our truth because it invites them to discover their own truths, which they are not willing to do.  

I am intelligent.  No one has to tell me that there are more sides to the pyramid than mine.  I have never, ever said that I was speaking for others.  I write about my life.  My stories.  My experiences.  My lessons.  My triumphs.  And it's not selfish.  I could keep it all inside myself so no one else might benefit from learning from my struggles and mistakes, joys and wins.  I only want to help others who might be like me.  I want to help young parents realize they can change their stars and they do not have to repeat the traditions of their parents or grandparents.  Even if it's not abusive.

Example: For Thanksgiving, I do not make the fruit salad I grew up with for my whole life. The one with red grapes, pineapple, apples, whipped cream, bananas, and marshmallows--I think.  I don't make it because I don't like it.  I hated cutting up the grapes and removing seeds for that salad and I never liked how by the end of the meal the cream had separated and mixed with the juices of the fruits, the bananas were brown and slimy, and it was a big, wilted mess in the Tupperware bowl.  I make Lemon Chess pie, which I discovered on a trip to the South.  I attempt to make the stuffing my mother-in-law always made.  I make the things our own little family has come to love.  We have kept the traditions that are spirit-building, happiness-giving, and comfort-lending and created others for ourselves that fulfill these goals, and thrown out the rest.  We have trashed the slimy fruit salad.  It's not on the menu here.  

That is the power of standing in my own truth.  I can make a different salad for Thanksgiving.  I can wear more than one coat of mascara.  I can wear jeans everyday.  I can do whatever I want in my own house and not get grounded.  I can trust that the people I live with will fiercely protect me, comfort me, and love me because I'm safe.  If someone out there doesn't like what I write, then I invite them to stop reading what I work hard to give.   It's not for them.  This blog is to lift.  To become the cream.  To find, defend, and stand in our truths.  Not to hurt, but to help.  

In the allegory of the cream rising to the top, and if you're unfamiliar with that idea, I invite you to go back and read my older post, "Why, Becoming Cream," where I shared with you about taking care of fresh milk from our dairy cow when I was a kid.  We had to be careful to strain the milk straight out of the pail.  Sometimes it was dirty, especially if the cow had been in the mud.  Sometimes it required more than one straining.  The milk passed through the paper filters, into a pristine bowl.  What was left in the disposable filter was surprising.  Hairs, dirt, small pebbles, hay, grass, etc.  Souvenirs of where the cow had been in the last 12 hours.  Nobody wants cow lint in their sweet and delicious milk.  Often, the bottom of the pail would have the most debris, the things that were heavy enough to immediately sink.  After the milk was filtered, it was pasteurized and allowed to cool in the fridge.  The longer it rested on the cool shelf, the more thoroughly the cream rose to the top.  Two or three days in a row, that milk would be skimmed from the top in order to collect the cream, the most desirable part of the product.  But it took time to rise.  It had to be left alone, to cool, to settle, to allow the best part of itself, its TRUTH, to rise to the top.  

Yesterday I disabled my blog, for a time.  To settle.  To cool.  To heal.  It didn't take me two or three days.  My husband and kids, friends, and family reminded me through their love and kindness, feisty defending of my character, and pep talks, to keep going.  To keep writing.  To keep on in my quest to become the best cream I can be and help you if you want to join me in this quest.  We must filter and strain, 100 times if necessary, and then sit in the coolness and allow God to comfort us.  And He will. Because God knows what is true.  And God inspires us to want to be better and do better and stand in our truth, but more importantly to stand in HIS TRUTH.  So, my birthday was ruined initially by a handful of unkind people.  But it was saved eventually by so many more beautiful people who love me, after I made the choice to focus on the plethora of blessings I enjoy instead of the few miniscule pebbles and hairs in my pail.  So I got up, washed out the pail, threw away the filter, and put the milk in the fridge to cool.  I enjoyed the rest of my birthday.  I gave thanks to God for all His gifts He has given me and repented for hurting anyone while standing in my truth, and received comfort and love from Him in return.  

So I stand in my truth.  This morning, there is cream atop the milk that I allowed to rest overnight and I feel like myself again.  Undeterred by haters.  I will write MY truth.  I won't stop.  It's my mission.  To become the cream and help others who want to be the strong, rich, dynamic cream instead of the thin, weak milk.  Thank you for reading and sharing and my prayer is for you all to have a very lovely and happy Thanksgiving.  With lots of whipped cream!  


Becoming Cream

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Happy Birthday and Happy Thanksgiving

I love November.  I'm sure it's because it's my birthday month and also my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  I'm a turkey baby, though turkey is not my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner.  I prefer the turkey leg as I'm partial to the dark meat.  Everyone told me I was a weird kid for that, as the popular choice is the dry, nasty white meat.  I love the homemade cranberry sauce.  I love mashed potatoes, with lots of cream, butter and salt whipped in.  In my opinion, they should be so delicious alone that you can eat them with a spoon, without any butter or salt because it's already in the potatoes.  And the pies.  You can't forget the pies.  I love them all, but lean toward pecan, lemon chess, and apple (all from scratch----no canned fillings here). For my birthday, I always asked for pie---never, ever cake.  I would often order apple pie, but one year asked for homemade creme puffs and another year, Apple Chop Suey, a family traditional favorite for the holidays.  I usually asked for Russian Perisky for my birthday dinner, another family recipe.  Even now, my mouth waters at the thought of that dish.  In recent years, I have made it myself, in honor of my childhood self.

In thinking of Thanksgiving this week and my birthday this month, I want to combine my thoughts and share some of the things I'm most grateful for, particularly in how they relate to my own life because when I was small, I never could see myself as an adult, let alone a 50-something-year-old wife and mother.  Similarly, it's hard for me now to picture myself as a child or even a teenager.  I have different perspective now and often wish I could talk to those former versions of me, to offer encouragement, advice, love and perspective.

To my little-girl self I would say:  There is no need to worry about the boogeyman, spiders in the basement bedroom, dead people, white dogs, or Paulina, the mean bully at school.  First of all, these things will make for some of the best stories you can tell your own children, young women at church, and sunday school teenagers.  Secondly, these are really small concerns compared to the other things you will face in your life, so chill out.  Ms. N. that checks your milk carton in the lunch room?  She has to check it; it's her job and she checks all the milk cartons.  True.  Warm milk is wretched, but compared to other things you'll face, it's cake.

To my junior-high self:  This phase is temporary.  You won't aways be the tallest girl and someday your mom will realize you will wear makeup and there is nothing she can do about it.  That's what school bathrooms are for, right?  The creepy boys that make fun of your full lips now will wish they hadn't later.  Right now they're not "in style," but believe it or not, one day women will PAY to make their lips like yours, and they still won't be able to.  Jeans are not evil, no matter what your mom says; they are the best piece of clothing ever invented and the more soft, faded, and flared---the better.  Just wait.  One day you'll be able to have as many pairs as you like.  You don't need a perm.  You don't know it now, but you actually have naturally curly hair.  You'll be perplexed one day when you decide to grow out your perm only to find that you never needed one!  You are smart and you can do and be anything you want.  Don't let Mr. A. in 7th grade math dash your dreams.  He is only a grown-up bully.

To my high-school self:  As hard as it is to grasp, these three years will never happen again.  Hallelujiah!  It seems like an eternity in hell right now, but it will end.  I promise.  Going to prom is overrated.  Yes, it would've been nice, but maybe you would have married that guy and your whole life would have turned out wrong, so it's a blessing.  Theater is not for you. You won't do that ever again after school is over, so stop wasting so much energy on it now, and all the "drama" those people in theater carry around with them every day.  You've got more important things to do.  You don't realize it now, but your seminary teacher, Brother B., saved your life, and you will thank him for the rest of it; he is a saint.  The friends you think are your friends, are not.  Look out for what you can learn, because you will see patterns later on for what to look for in true versus false friends.

To my college self:  Sadly, this time goes quickly in your life, so relish it all. It's a good chapter.  Remember to be happy.  Never forget what it feels like to be freed from high school and small town thinking.  Think often about the friends you make and the lessons you learn about yourself.  You meet your most important friend here, who will stand by you for the rest of your life, and together you will start your own family.  What a glorious feeling it is to come out and shine.  Don't quit art school!  Please don't let the cruel words of your mom resonate with you.  You are an artist.  You can do it.  You will make beautiful things and people will appreciate your talent.  Don't take it personally when your parents get divorced.  It's only the beginning to a long road of heartache with your extended family, but you're strong and God needs you to change the traditions of your own family and bring your own children up differently.  Pay attention.

To my young married self:  I don't need to tell you this because this is one of your favorite times of your life.  What a glorious time to be alive.  Supporting your husband in law school, eating frozen burritos to be able to afford your first house, and making artwork to sell for extra cash with your husband will be memories you will cherish for a lifetime.  You won't ever get the house in Federal Heights though, and that will be a blessing.  Love this time and hope it doesn't go too quickly.

To my young-mother self:  It's tough not having any help when your babies are born, but that just makes you an even more tender and devoted mommy.  Besides, you're smart and you can figure it out.  The kids will stop having ear infections and drawing on the walls.  You will strengthen your faith in God as you go through scary things like accidents and illness.  You wish for many children, but God will give you two, and that's a beautiful thing.  Someday you will know why.  They will survive scout camp and mean girls at school. Your children will make you proud and humbled to be their mom.

To my older-mother self:  It happened.  The kids did actually learn to drive and they can do things by themselves and it's a good thing.  They have good heads on their shoulders and you can be happy and at peace with whom they've become.  They know how to work and have achieved more in their young lives than you have, relatively speaking. They're pursuing further dreams and aspirations and they are grateful.  You're lucky and very blessed.  They will continue doing good in the world around them.  They will call and text you.   Everything will be alright.  You can afford the plane fare to visit them when they move away.  They are worthy and good and obedient.  You've given it everything and it is paying off.

To my bishop's wife self:  This too shall pass (praise be).  It's an honor and privilege to serve.  Your husband is a worthy and valiant man who humbly wants to help people, in the Lord's way. When he's away from home, he wishes to be with you, but other people need him sometimes.  A lot.  It's okay. It's another way for you to show Jesus how much you love Him.  The people that say hurtful things to you are hurting inside.  You don't need to know why.  And you don't need to take it personally.  It's them,  not you.  Many in the ward are praying for your husband and family.  God is blessing you in ways you can't even see.  This work is important.  Don't give up.  You've been married 30 years and your marriage and family are eternal.  Everything is worth that.  You hit the jackpot with your marriage.  You married your best friend and he loves you.

I am truly grateful for all the lessons I've learned in my life, and even for the pains and sorrows, because they have made it possible for me to know how much better it is to feel happy and peaceful.  God knows everything and for some wise and glorious purpose He has a plan for me, my husband, and my children.  I trust Him.  Even if things turn out differently than I imagine, God's plan for me and my family will always be better and more glorious than our plans.  He loves us that much.  So, Happy Birthday to me and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.  What a wonderful time to be alive, when the restored gospel of Jesus Christ is on the earth and we have living prophets and apostles to lead and teach us.  Everything is good!

Here is my favorite Primary song of all time; the one where, on the day we learned it, I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father really did love me and I still know it today.

"My Heavenly Father Loves Me"
sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

My Prayer for Paris

I have to say something.  About Paris.  What just happened to the beautiful French people, and others from different nations.  This has to stop.  What is the purpose?  I know the answer.  Hate.  And I'm tired of it.  It has to end.  What are we going to do to stop it?  What can I do from my corner of the world?  What can you do? 

I have never been to France.  I hope to someday make the trip.  But, I will tell you the story of my little girl, who dreamed of going to Paris ever since she was 4 years old and saw "Anastasia."  Her hopes and plans to see this distant city never waned over the years; they only grew stronger and more determined.  She felt drawn to this place of history, beauty, art, and love.  My daughter saved her money and in the Spring of 2014, her vision of herself gazing at the Eiffel Tower became a truth, a reality for her when she traveled there on a study-abroad trip with her university.  The trip of a lifetime.

My girlie loved her trip.  She visited Notre Dame, the Catacombs, the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Sacre-Coeur, "Love Lock" or Pont des Arts bridge, among many others her mother does not know how to spell or say.  She ate mussels, crepes, cheese, baguettes, and jam.  She was mistaken for being a little French girl and was often asked for directions from other tourists.  It was a tremendous compliment to her and she relished in it, hating to disappoint them when she spoke in an American accent, revealing she was not a native of France, but was French at heart.  This beautiful girl of mine came home more in love with France and its people than she had been before she even set foot there, which was a pretty immense love, I might mention.  She longs to go back.  The people were so generous, beautiful, and loving to her.  She saw beauty everywhere she went, and she mourned when the trip was at its close.  I know boarding that jumbo jet to come home was difficult.  She missed her family, but she never wanted to leave Paris. 
She has been busy this last week, with her student teaching, work, and a heavy school schedule.  We haven't talked about what happened and how it made her feel, but I already know and I knew immediately.  She was the first one I knew who changed her Facebook picture to have the French flag across it.  She posted an image of the Eiffel tower and the American flag stretched out with French soldiers saluting it and showing solidarity for the United States after September 11th.  I know inside her heart is breaking.  I know she is praying, for all her French friends she made but does not know their names.  For the landmarks and places she visited.  For the people who make the crepes and the pastries.  For all those locking their love on the bridge and throwing away the keys. 
I don't think I've ever been the same since my country of America was attacked on 9/11.  My husband and I were up for two weeks straight watching the news, reading the papers, and trying to just make sense of what had happened.  Our children were little grade-schoolers then.  I knew I could keep them safe, then.   At home.  With me.  But that is no longer true.  They are now adults.  Making grown-up plans.  Applying to graduate school.  Flying around the country on interviews.  Attending university.  Traveling on public transportation.  In large crowds.  Without me and without their dad.  Can I just say that I hate that?  I hate that I can't keep them safe by keeping them home, making cookies and reading their favorite book to them.  We have raised them to know that they could do and be anything they desired and their dreams and plans are coming true.  What does that quote say, "a ship is safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for?"  Something like that? 
As a mother, I beg this world to stop it already with the hate that makes my children unsafe.  That makes every child unsafe, and every human being unsafe.  We are all children of God and He loves us all.  God hates it when we do these things to each other.  People hurting and killing and suffering.  Think how twisted it all is.  It makes no sense.  None.  My prayers are different now than they were after America was attacked.  They are a lot more intense, a lot more pleading in wanting us to have a safe and peaceful world where my children and your children, have a chance to do and be what God hopes for and needs them to do and be. 
In my tiny way, I thank France, all these years later for her love for America and her support after we were attacked.  I want them to know that I love them and pray for them and hope they can still find a way to be happy.  I cherish them because my daughter cherishes them.  I hope to go to Paris someday with her so she can show me all the things she wants to see again and those she still wants to see for the first time.
My little lovey locked her love for France on the bridge that day.  Not love for a boy, though there was one at home she cared about at the time.  No, she locked her love on the bridge that day for Paris, France and all its people and history.  And in a way, she locked mine too, because I love her so much, I love what she loves and care about what she cares about.  And she is the most guile-less person I have ever met in my life.  She doesn't like contention or conflict and loves everyone. 
So for my precious daughter, I beg you, world, to calm down the hate.  We can't have any more cities or people suffer.  All over the world, everywhere, people are hurting and have been hurt.  It has to stop.  And this love I feel for France through my daughter, also spills to every country and every people.  I want people to be safe and loved and have food to eat and clean water, without war and violence.  And there are places I want to go to someday, but now am afraid I will never be able to.  The world just gets more and more frightening. 
But, I want to feel again like I felt after 9/11.  The terrorists cannot win.  We can't let them.  And maybe the only control we have is with our love and our determination to live our lives, anyway.  We have to go to work and school and fly to grad school interviews.  We need to go shopping and to the football games and concerts.  And church.  And we must try as hard as we can not to be afraid because that is what terror is--fear.  We must go on.  The best we can.  And be courageous and bold.   In solidarity with and for each other.  I might not be able to fight terrorism directly, but I can love indirectly and pray for my brothers and sisters around the world.  Please, God, help us be safe.  I want to see Paris someday, too. 
I love this song, "Afterlife" by Ingrid Michaelson.
It expresses how I felt after 9/11 and how I feel today, still. 
You can watch the video here:
Permission for photos given by AKH, all copyrighted under Becoming Cream.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Just what does it mean to hate something or someone?  I must admit I use that word a lot, but it's in the context of, "I hate soggy bread," or "I hate mayo." Look at the picture of the definition.  Ill will?  The only ill will I have toward soggy bread is I don't want it to touch my hands whilst it's going down the disposal.  As for mayo, I don't like the smell and I want it nowhere near my sandwich.  I still buy it for my mayo-loving family and allow it to have residence in our fridge, though, so I don't really think it's hate, it's just difference of opinion.  It's easy to use that word, though, because it's pervasive in our culture.  

I'm in Salt Lake City, Utah for the World Congress of Families IX.  This is historical.  It's the first and only time it has been held in the United States and it's here, at home.  People from all over the globe have convened to learn from, connect to, share with, and teach others about the problems facing the human family.  This is a critical point in time, people.  Peggy Hartshorn of Heartbeat International said today that we are at a tipping point.  If you love Malcom Gladwell, you're familiar with Tipping Point.  It can go one way or another, but it will go the way where there is more pressure applied, more weight.  It doesn't even have to be a lot more, just MORE.  

The LGBT community thinks WCF is a "hate" group and are calling this a "hate" fest.  I didn't witness one iota of hate today.  Sorry, but none at all.  NONE.  People from all over the world are here.  Beautiful, courageous people.  Every speech I heard, and I heard speeches ALL day, was filled will love and compassion, with the emphasis on the PASSION part of the word.  There is no hate here.  I was invited to lunch with women I didn't know before and now call my friends.  I met people from all over and we exchanged cards and ideas.  Not everyone I made friends with today is of my faith.  Probably half and half.  And that's GOOD.  It's not hate.  Even the impassioned talks about pro-choice movements and working to ban abortion were filled with love.  Love for children who have no voice.  Love for the mothers who think abortion is their only option.  Love for the broken-hearted women whose lives abortions destroy.  No hate.  Not even for the abortionists or clinics where it happens.  In fact, John-Henry Westen taught us that "love is the answer to it all."  If we want to get anywhere in winning the WWF (World War on Families) then we need to do it with LOVE.  

You say,"Gina, how can you win the WWF with love?" We teach people that we don't want them to abort babies because we LOVE their babies and want them to live, that we love the women and want to help them, that we love the fathers and want them to feel important in their families.  You see, it all comes down to LOVE.  Our world has become so messed up.  The Sexual Revolution was actually a backslide into an abyss of misery.  We are still seeing, and will continue to see for decades to come, the side effects of the sexual promiscuity age.  In fact, I actually believed personally that in the 80s when the AIDS crisis was at the forefront that it might actually help people see the importance of families, of God's law of chastity, of the sanctity of the human body.  Nope.  It did not.  Our world calls it love, but it's really LUST.  Anyone can lust.  That is an animal instinct.  Love is a Godly bestowed gift.  There is sanctity in it.  There is safety and respect in love.  If a man and  a woman love God, and they love each other, they will want to marry each other and save intimacy for after marriage.  Then they will further honor God by making a family together.  They will even further honor God by keeping covenants or vows and remain true to each other and their children.  Their children benefit immensely from this safety net of LOVE.  Children in these homes are healthier, happier, and more resilient.  The studies prove it.  Go read them.  I don't have time to cite them all.  It's just the truth.    

Our church leaders have pleaded with us to be loving, respectful and civil when discussing things we have differences of opinion on.  We try.  Are we perfect?  No.  Is anyone else?  No.  Are trying to learn?  Yes.  Can we all just help each other be kind?   Go to to learn more.  

In this definition of hate, I do not see the words "left out."  I missed a lunch meetup with some people today.  Did that mean they hated me?  I didn't talk to everyone today.  It doesn't mean I hate them.  We gather in groups for reasons and sometimes it's because we're like-minded.  That is not hate.  No, it's absolutely not.  But we are passionate about marriage between a man and a woman, traditional families, and religious freedom and we don't have to apologize for that.  Elder M. Russell Ballard said today that "the most important cause of our lives is our families," so we kind of take that seriously.   

Was I happy on the day of the recent SCOTUS ruling?  No.  For many reasons.  It doesn't mean I hate anyone.  But, the LGBT community "won" and they still won't let it alone.  Now they're after religion; they want to silence every single person who disagrees with them.  We aren't trying to silence them.  Where is the hate?  

Hate is a four-letter word being overused and blown out of proportion.  Sue me, but I hate country music.   Whoops, is that a hate crime?  I also hate un-ironed clothes.  Call the judge!  Please, people!  Let's cool it with the "hate"-full speech.  Everyone gets to think and SAY what they want.  It's called free speech!  So I'll say it again.  I hate mayo.  I hate soggy bread.  I hate country music.  I hate un-ironed clothes.  Is it time to lock me up?  Sounds childish, right?  Well it does, because it is. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015


"I am Titanium!"  The lyrics played in the background at the therapy pool at TOSH the last morning I was there.  I went for pool therapy once or twice per week and did my own routine the other days.  That day was a special day in the therapy pool.  My therapy was "upgraded."  Two hip surgeries, 12 weeks apart.  I've had many ups and downs, but overall I'm glad I had the surgeries.  My doctor is the very best.  My pain from before the surgery is absolutely gone.  Now it's time to get strong.

When I arrived that day, the pool was full.  The therapy pool has lanes for swimming and deep and shallow areas.  No children.  No slides.  No waves.  The room has large windows where the sun streams in during the morning hours and large potted plants think they live in a jungle.  It's a beautiful pool.  There were lots of elderly ladies there that morning for the arthritis class.  Every morning I went, there were many of these same people.  On this day, I was really paying attention.  Wondering.  What are their stories?  Everyone there is trying to get strong.  Maybe they've had surgery, like me.  Maybe recovering from an accident, or illness.  Maybe they just have a lot of pain that comes with age and they want to feel better.  Something brings them there.  Something brought me there, too.

Everyone was always so kind.  Gentle smiles and friendly greetings.  "What brings you here?  You're so young!"  "Two hip surgeries," I say.  "What?  Hip replacements?  You're so young!"  Then I have to explain that I am too young to have hip replacements and I had a different kind of surgery.  I digress. On that day it really hit me hard just how beautiful these people are.  Fragile, sweet people. Lined faces with bodies that are failing them.

There was a time that I dreaded aging, hated the thought of getting older, and having my body fail me.  I'm over it.  I'm 50 now.  I no longer care about trying to look like I'm 30.  I'm not, so why would I want to?  Fifty is a really good number.  I look pretty good for 50, so I'll be happy with that, but it's about so much more.  It's about what's inside.  It's about where this body has taken me, what it has done for me, what it continues to do for me, and where I hope it will take me still.

This is a telestial world.  I don't want a telestial body.  My goal is a celestial body in celestial glory, in Heaven with my family and God.  How can I be worthy of a celestial body then if I'm obsessed with a telestial body now?  My belief is that God gave me this body to learn His will and do it; to have and raise a family; to serve others, and to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Am I wearing my body out in service to the Lord and others?  Or am I worshipping myself and my body through telestial means or "worldly" ways?   I do believe in putting my best foot forward each day, being clean and well groomed, and well dressed, having good manners and propriety.  But it changes to something else when I worry about my hair or my shoes or my last-year's coat.  When I start to feel the temptation to "do something about" one of those little problem areas.  No, I want a celestial body, not a telestial one.

I'll tell you who has a celestial body.  My husband's mother.  She is 90 years old.  She is beautiful. Not in the way that would ever grace the cover of a magazine.  No, much more important than that. She is gloriously beautiful in the way her crippled and twisted hands show a life of constant service, of playing the violin well into old age, of continuing even to this day to write at the computer and produce her first and second novels; her lined face and thin body too fragile on most days to do much more than a walk around the care center to do her visiting teaching; eyes that are starting to no longer see, but still shine brightly when she sees her family; a head of white hair that is so thick and wavy, I could only dream of having hair like that; a sense of humor and wit so keen and quick you would scarcely believe she is 90.  Does she primp and fuss?  No way.  She doesn't have time.  She's clean and well groomed, smart in her classic style of dressing with a necklace or two about her neck.  She has more important things to do than worship herself and worry about her looks.  She knows her time is running out and she has things to do.  Testimony to bear.  Souls to lift.  Hearts to gladden.  Wisdom to share.  People to love. 

So I think of the words in that song.  "I am titanium."  And I feel like that.  Some people don't like my views on things.  That's okay.  I probably don't like their views on things.  It doesn't mean we can't be kind to one another.  I wonder how people younger than me will treat people of my generation when we are older, like the sweet ladies in the pool; however, I'm not optimistic.  So many younger women seem to already have lost respect for people older than them.  And I'm not that much older.  Not too long ago, a younger woman criticized my dress at church.  Really.  And there was no reason.  It's modest, it's a classic; it is a beautiful dress that I've had forever.  If she doesn't like it, she doesn't need to say anything.  There are things she does that I might not approve of, but I don't judge her and I certainly don't say anything to her.  What is missing? 

I think the problem is the self-centered culture we live in now and numerous people have purchased it with their souls, but so many younger people, who don't really remember what the world was like when it was better without so much technology, have jumped head first into a very shallow pool.  Shallow is the operative word here.  Shallow values and priorities.  Missing respect and propriety.  Absent of class and maturity.  Too self-absorbed.  Too concerned with keeping up with their friends, even if doing it dishonestly.  All for their Instagram feed and 'friends' they have never met and will never really know.  My husband said to me the other day, "be glad you're not in your 30s."  And I really am.  Would I go back?  No way.  No way!  And to the younger people, all I can say is, enjoy things now, because this is all coming down the pike for you, too. 

My 4-year-old niece spent the day with me today.  It was really wonderful day.  We played dolls and Lego.  We painted pictures and created fresh works of art.  We took a ride for lunch and a treat and went to the art store.  We bought candy necklaces.  While we were painting, she asked me, "Gina, how old are you?"  I asked her how old she thought I was, reminding her that on my birthday last year she helped me open all the presents and it was a lot, so that should help her remember, since it was a joke to see if I could really open 50 presents.  She thought about it and said, "hmmm, 20?" 
"No, honey, I'm 50."  She replied in excitement, "you are?!  That's so great!"  I told her, "yes, darling, I am 50 and it was my very favorite birthday." 

It's true.  I'm 50 and I'll be 51 before Christmas, which is tremendous because now I'll be IN my fifties.  I am looking forward with great optimism to the future of what will unfold for my children, for my husband and me, and even for this body of mine.  It can do so much!  And my brain, it still works!  I can still do everything I enjoy most and the physical things will improve as my hips get stronger.  I'm sure of it.  However, the most important things are my spirit and my heart.  No matter how tattered and worn out this body gets, and it's bound to, nothing can kill my spirit.   "I Am Titanium!" 

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Paddle Up!

Labor Day weekend 2015.  Bear Lake, Utah is the place.  Paddle boarding is the reason.  It's the only vacation we're taking this summer and we've waited all summer to go.  Why?  Everyone else is having so much fun, going to Disneyland and on Alaskan cruises or to the Oregon Coast.  Well, it sounds peculiar, living in Utah as we do, but we have never gone camping at Bear Lake.  We've been to Disneyland, the Oregon Coast a few times, and even on an Alaskan cruise.  Not to mention our other wild adventures to distant places we can talk about later.  The kids wanted to do something we haven't done and we only had the weekend.  They're all grown up now, with jobs and responsibilities of their own.  It's hard to find time to get away.  Their dad is the bishop so it's hard for him to get away, too.  But we rented some paddle boards, loaded up everything that could possibly fit into the Subaru and even brought along Frank, the little rescue dog. 

We got to the campground late.  It was dark and putting the tent up was challenging, but with the help of flashlights and car headlights, and four sets of arms and hands, we got the job done and were soon roasting marshmallows over the campfire.  I settled down into my chair and inhaled the delicious smell of campfire and slowly enjoyed the perfectly golden brown marshmallow that was completely liquefied sugar in the middle.  What could be better than this,  I wondered.  Not much, I answered to myself.  My biggest and most beautiful blessings were nestled around the fire beside me:  my husband of 30 years, my handsome son and beautiful daughter, and even our little rug-rat dog.  My testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was burning like a bonfire in my heart and my feelings of love and gratitude were just barely under the skin.  I had so much to be happy about.  I had a temple marriage to my best friend and two miracles for children and a knowledge and belief in God and His Son Jesus Christ.  I had a living prophet to look to for counsel and I thought of my temple covenants and the Priesthood power that binds our family together through eternity, if we are worthy. 

We brushed our teeth, had family prayer, and nestled into sleeping bags for a good sleep outside under God's stars.  It took me a long while to get sleepy.  I really wasn't uncomfortable and it was nice and cozy in the tent, until the dog started running around, trying to get to the kids who wanted to sleep out under the stars.  My heart was so full of gratitude.  I did a lot of wondering that night.  Wondering about what it will be like next summer, when our son has moved away to graduate school.  Will our daughter move away too, when she starts her first teaching job?  How far away will they be?  How often will we get to see them?  How much money will that all cost?  After next summer, whenever we want to see our son, for sure, it will cost money, for someone to fly to see the others.   I wondered, when will the kids get married?  Who will they marry?  Is there anyone good enough for them?  Are they good enough for someone else?  Have we taught them everything they need to know?  Will they stay true to who they are?  Most importantly, will they continue to listen to the prophet?  Will they stay true to Jesus Christ?  Will their spouses stay true to Christ?  Will they raise a righteous posterity?  What will be the opposition against them as they try to do this?  How hard will it be?  Am I ready to support them in the difficult things that will still come their way?  Am I strong enough to be a worthy grandmother?  And on and on and on until I started to get a little weary. 

Then in a silent prayer of gratitude and awe at how blessed I truly am, a sweetly complete peace enveloped me from head to toe.   I knew all would be well.  I knew that although we are not perfect parents, we have been steady, consistent, supportive, and loving parents.  Our children have strong testimonies.  They have already shown bravery in standing up to peers about their beliefs.  They have a sure foundation, not built upon us, but upon their Redeemer, Jesus Christ and they love Him.  They make good choices and I know they will continue to do so.   I didn't need to worry about them, but about me.  My only job is to work on myself.  I have to make sure that I'm strong, that I stay true to them, to my husband and to Jesus Christ.  I have to keep my covenants.  I have to follow the prophet.  I have to be worthy of the Holy Ghost to guide me in everything I do and testify to me of what is true and warn me of what is not. 

I started repeating to myself the words of The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  It seems like yesterday that it was read in church aloud, as we studied it and pondered the significance of it in all of our meetings and at home as a couple.  At the time, I was a young and na├»ve Primary president and my children were 4 and 1.  Our little girl hated the nursery and begged John to go with her each week for "a couple minutes" until she settled in.  John will tell you how he felt on the day that was read in Priesthood meeting.  He recognized the significance of it.  It is the word of God, spoken to us by prophets and apostles.  We both knew it and knew what it meant for our future and the future of our then little children:  the family is under attack. 

Just last month, John and I celebrated our 30th anniversary.  We had thought about doing something elaborate, but decided on going back to our humble beginning of a short honeymoon in Salt Lake City and Heber, Utah.  We spent the morning together at the Salt Lake Temple, where our new little family began that miraculous and gorgeous day.  I was so overcome by the tender feelings I had while I sat there that morning, waiting for the worship to begin.  So much had transpired in our lives.  There had been so many struggles and so many glorious blessings.  We had come so far and still had so far to go.  I sat and looked at the picture of the Savior and could not contain my emotions.  Everything I had that mattered to me was because of Him and His restored gospel and Priesthood.  I wondered in magical awe, because of Him, my family is sealed together for eternity and if we all try our best to repent and be clean, we can all live together, forever!  As a young 20-year-old getting sealed to John that day, I knew that, but not like I know it now.  It's different, 30 years on the other side of the wedding day.   
In The Family: A Proclamation to the World, in the very first paragraph, it says: 
"We, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles
of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,
solemnly proclaim that marriage between a man and a woman
is ordained of God
and that the family is central to the Creator's plan
for the eternal destiny of His children." 
So I'd like to focus on the words "solemnly proclaim," "ordained of God, " and "central to the Creator's plan." 
It doesn't say, "we're excited to announce" or "we think it's a good idea" or "we kinda think."  SOLEMNLY PROCLAIM.  Solemn because this is serious business, people.  And proclaim because this is not a recommendation but a declaration!  Why?  Because people, even in the church, don't get it.  Sadly, twenty years later, even more do not get it.  And now the pressure is on from the people in the tall and spacious building and more and more people fall into the misty water and lose their way every day. 
"Ordained of God," to me means, treat it differently because it is different.  It is not of the world, at least it's not supposed to be.  Ordained of God means marriage between a man and a woman is important, sacred, necessary, and should be our goal.  How should we treat something that is ordained of God?  Think about that for a minute.  How should we regard our families and our marriages if they are ordained of God? 
"Central to the Creator's plan" is enormous in its scope.  This is not a suggestion, brothers and sisters.  It is everything! 
I started thinking about how much Heavenly Father must love me and John because He has trusted us with two exceptional children.  He has trusted us to love them, take care of them, and to TEACH them about Him and His Son.  He knew we would need help so he gave us the scriptures and living prophets.  He gave us priesthood leaders and wards and stakes full of others that would help us and love us and help and love our children.  He gave us His Son and we promised we would follow Him.  He promised us everything He has, IF we will be obedient.  If we will be true.  If we will do our part.  That means making our marriages and our families central in our own lives.  Ordained in our own eyes.  Important and first on the list of everything else in this world.  It should be our number one goal every day to make sure we're doing what we can to get ourselves back to God and set and example so our children and spouses will do the same.  The ultimate blessing will be if our families get there, safe and sound, with no one missing.  So this means we have to treat things differently, here, in this life.  We can't expect to live out eternity together if we aren't getting along here on this earth, right? 

Bear Lake was a blast!  We had such a good time.  Paddle boarding is fun and relatively easy, if you don't mind falling off a few times while learning.  John got into it and did really well.  I did great as long as stayed on my seat; I wasn't willing to risk falling and hurt my recently operated-on hips.  The kids loved it and took to it like they'd always done it.  I think it's their youth and athleticism.  There are some keys to it though.  You need to be safe and wear a life jacket.  Our daughter got into a bit of trouble when the waves came up and she got separated from her board.  Luckily, she was able to flag down a man on a jet-ski who came to her rescue--tender mercies!  You also need to balance your body on the board.  If you know how to stand, or sit, and you know how to balance the paddling to go the direction you intend, you'll be fine.  If you get separated from your board, you better hope you have a life jacket and can stand the cold water long enough for help to come, otherwise you're in trouble.  Like anything else, if you do things safely, following advice from those with more experience, you'll be safe.  Even if you fall off, you've got your life jacket to keep you afloat until help comes.  I think the life jacket represents our covenants with God.  If we're humble enough to put it on, to enter into a partnership with Him, we will stay safe, even if we get separated from our boards or our families or even our own lives.  If we are clean, if we are obedient, we are safe. 

General Conference is coming up.  What will be said those two days is inspired and it is from the Lord.  Jesus Christ is at the head of this church.  He will direct and influence the apostles, prophets, and other leaders who speak to us in what they should teach us.  It will be as if He were speaking to us Himself.  Will we be present?  Will we listen?  Will we do?   Will we take the truth to be hard, like Laman and Lemuel?  Will we be happy and excited about the gospel and the humbly receive the counsel we are given?  I came across this passage today as I was reading the Book of Mormon.  I had always focused on verse 2, but today, with conference on my mind, I paid particular attention to verse 3.  Could we not apply this to how we receive prophetic counsel?  Could we not also apply it to how seriously we take The Family: A Proclamation to the World? 

Nephi said he knew what he was teaching was hard--he never said it was going to be easy.  It's also true for us.  No one ever promised in conference that what we were asked to do would be easy, but we are promised we'll be blessed.  Look at Nephi's words: 

"IF ye were righteous and were WILLING to hearken to the truth, and give HEED unto it, that ye might walk uprightly before God, then ye would NOT murmur because of the truth, and say: Thou speakest hard things against us." 

So, if we are trying our best to do what is right and be obedient, if we are repenting daily and striving to have the Holy Ghost for our constant companion, we will not think the things the prophets and apostles ask of us are hard.  We will happily do them, without question.