I've been thinking today about giving -- you know, the kind acts you do for other people, the things you give to them, the time you share with them, and the way you dispense those gifts, whether literal physical gifts or kind actions. I'm a pretty selfish person and have often found it hard to follow the old axiom 'give till it hurts'. Giving till it hurts isn't a fun image -- (OK, hurting is not a fun image for any reason, giving or otherwise) -- and we are part of a world that teaches us to take care of #1, reminds us that if we don't 'treat' ourselves, no one else will, and that what we have is ours -- after all, we earned it, right?

Once again, C.S. Lewis had a great comment to make on that subject:

"I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare." (C.S. Lewis)

WHAT?? More than we can spare? Is he kidding? But with time and thought, I begin to see. That's why we are never given a dollar amount for fast offerings in our church. I've always wanted to be told exactly what to give and it just doesn't happen. That's because the only safe rule is to give more than I can really afford. Why? Because it stretches me, it makes me better, and it teaches me how blessed I really am. And if, in the process of my growth, someone else is blessed too, so much the better.


Moving On

I love C.S. Lewis! He puts things in such a way that I understand his message completely and I am taught by the spirit as I read his writings.

"No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be very muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, and the clean clothes in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present in us; it is the very sign of His presence." (Letters of C.S. Lewis)

To me, he is speaking to the importance of repentance and pushing on. No one ever said life would be easy and some days it isn't fun -- but endure we must. I remember reading a story Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith told of a woman who had repented of immorality and was struggling to find her way. She asked him what she should do now. In turn, he asked her to read from the Old Testament the account of Sodom and Gomorrah, of Lot, and of Lot's wife who was turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). He asked her what lesson that story held for her and she didn't understand. He told the repentant woman "The lesson for you is don't look back!"

So, as long as we continue to 'notice the dirt' in ourselves and keep wiping it off, it we are repenting. I believe we will be tattered and dirty by the time we are through with this life, but forgiving ourselves and continuing on without looking back propels us towards home, where all good things await.

Fast Money

It's interesting that once in a while it's actually possible to get something fixed quickly (rarely happens that way, but it did today) . The hard part is after, when you have to see the price tag! We called the AC people this morning, they had a diagnostician out almost immediately who told us what needed to be done. Then there was the actual repair person who showed up, fixed the problem and received his $550 -- all within a 90 minute period that I was out. Mark was home for lunch so he got to handle it all. I was thrilled to get home and feel the coolness again -- but there was a pang as I figuratively watched that $550 fly away. Wish we could make it that fast!

On the bright side, living in a place where AC is far from a luxury, really a must -- I'm grateful to have found a company that got us taken care of so quickly. That's hard to complain about.

I am Sure it is a Blessing Too

Saturday we noticed that our trusty thermostat was stuck on 80 instead of on 77 which is where it stays during the summer. So I kept an eye on it and it never changed, except to go up which is clearly weird as (like I said!) the AC is supposed to be keeping it at 77 -- just like it always has! We have 2 units, one for the upstairs and one for the downstairs so I went up to check on the upstairs temp and it was just as it should be. Not so with the downstairs one. Mark fooled around with it some and eventually decided he had no idea what was up. It kept running and running but not blowing cooler air so we finally switched it off, so as to not burn out the motor. (like we know anything, but it made sense to us!)

So for the past 2 nights, we have had no downstairs AC. However, with all the rain and clouds we've had, along with keeping the blinds closed, it hasn't been bad. We have ceiling fans in every room which makes a big difference but we know we will need the AC once we get our normal Austin summer weather back (maybe we won't -- we're beginning to wonder!). Today Mark is calling someone to come check out the AC unit -- and I realized this morning that this is something that in all the years of home ownership, we have never had to deal with. So it will be an interesting and probably expensive lesson. Can't say I'm looking forward to that part of it -- but I will enjoy my cool air again.

So Natalie's reminder about the comment made in the prayer yesterday about the rain being a blessing certainly struck a chord with Mark and I. We figured we wouldn't sleep with it being hot, but it hasn't been a big problem. I guess I too am sure the rain and clouds have been a blessing.


Love Works Miracles

There was a young newlywed couple that had their first quarrel fairly early in the marriage. They decided that to avoid unhappiness like this in the future, they would each write down all the faults of the other in the next month, and then would quietly discuss the lists together. At the end of the month, the wife presented her list to her husband. It was two or three pages long and he listened as she went through it point by point. After she finished, she asked him for his list. He said nothing, just quietly handed her a single piece of paper. To her surprise and embarrassment, she found only one line on that paper, which simply read: "I have decided that I love you too much to ever look for any faults you might have."

There was silence, tears, and a tender embrace. The simple statement he had written went a long way in setting the tone for their life together from that point forward.

I heard this story some years ago, and used it in a lesson in our ward in Las Vegas. A friend in that ward just happened to know this couple well. She says they are a remarkable example of love, patience, kindness and have the happiest marriage she has ever seen. The wife was humbled by the lesson she learned early in the marriage and clearly took the lesson to heart.

This is something I need to work a little harder on -- loving instead of judging and criticizing, patience instead of crankiness, a soft answer instead of snapping back a harsh retort. This could be a good lesson for all of us, whether in a marriage or simply in friendships and in life. My mom had a saying that I used to hate hearing, but it makes good sense here -- "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." Kind of like "I love you too much to look at your faults."
Love works miracles.

Sunday thought

Today was a lovely Sunday. Sac. Mtg. was wonderful (loved the talks!), Primary went well (after all the prep and planning it really did -- and it doesn't always happen that way), and we had a great dinner and family time later, even had Math home today for a change (he usually works Sundays). It has just been nice. I have this deep feeling of security and happiness and as I sift through the layers to understand why that is, I find that it's because I know who I am and I know who is in charge. I am a child of God, He is my Father, and He is in charge. What a great, happy way to feel. This little poem reiterates these feelings I'm having today:

God is the Ruler Yet

This is my Father's world --
Oh, let me ne'er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the Ruler yet. (Babcock)

Sometimes the wrong in the world seems overwhelmingly strong -- but I know that as long as I can keep the feelings I have now, of knowing who I am and who is in charge, all will be well and I can be peaceful.


Another Great Treat

Tomorrow in Primary, we're going to give treats. We rarely do this because the handbook tells us not to, unless it's part of a lesson or Sharing Time. The counsel is quite clear -- as much as you want to bribe the kids or give them a treat, don't. And we don't. Usually. But tomorrow our Sharing time is focused on helping the kids put together a FHE for their family and we will rotate them through stations where they work on a song, hear a story they can use for FHE (or at least get an idea for one) color a poster for their home, and then (of course -- you have to have this station!) make a treat for FHE. The treat we chose is delicious -- Chewy Party Mix. The recipe came from our friend Michelle (to give credit where credit is due -- and it is due because these are really good!) and each child will take home a small zip-loc bag with the recipe on it as well as some treats inside. My counselor came up with this idea and I love being in the middle of things so I am helping too -- fun times tomorrow, I think.

Anyhow -- here's the recipe -- easy and so good! Give them a try.

Chewy Party Mix

Combine the following in a large bowl:
7 c. golden grahams cereal
7 c. rice chex cereal
1 1/2 c. shredded coconut
1 c. slivered toasted almonds (optional -- and we left these out as we have kids with peanut allergies and didn't want to complicate anything)

In a small pan, combine:
3/4 c. melted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. light Karo syrup

Boil for 2 minutes, then pour over cereal mixture and stir to evenly coat. Pour out on the counter (I use foil sprayed with Pam) to cool. Totally yummy!

Something Lighter (and yummy!)

We have discovered a new treat: the delicious Reese's Dessert Bar Mix, made by General Mills/Betty Crocker. AWESOME stuff! We found it at Sam's Club, in a larger-than-grocery-store-size that contains enough for 2 small pans of this tasty dessert. It's really easy -- no bake, and the kit even provides little pans that are exactly the right size for the goodies. You definitely need to try these -- yummy!! I'm adding them to my food storage!


More Thoughts

As I mused about gratitude today, my thoughts have circled around all thatI have to be grateful for. But for me, today, the thoughts have focused on the Atonement of Jesus. Clearly this is something for which I am always grateful, but my thoughts don't center on it as often as they should. Today, that's where my heart has been.

I think of the Atonement as very personal and individual. If you go to 3 Nephi 17:21, you read that He blessed the little children "one by one", we know He listens to our prayers one by one, and I suspect He suffered for us, one by one.

Heber J. Grant taught that "He came as an individual offering with a personal message to each one of us. For each one of us, He died on Calvary and His blood will conditionally save us. Not as nations, communities, or groups, but as individuals." That's powerful. He did it for me. He did it for you. He did it for each of us, as separate, individual people.

C.S. Lewis agreed: "He (Christ) has infinite attention to spare for each one of us. He does not have to deal with us in the mass. You are as much alone with Him as if you were the only being He had ever created. When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you had been the only man in the world." Again, powerful and deeply meaningful.

Life is hard. We all have burdens to bear. The only way to pass through it is to do as Christ taught: "Come unto me. . . " (Matt. 11:28) This is how the burden is lightened. This is why we try to take His identity on ourselves. We study Him, we try to follow His example, and every Sunday, when we take the sacrament, we take upon us His name. We are His family. We have been bought with a price. We are His children and He loves us. And as we study, follow His example, and learn to know Him, our love for Him grows.

As I ponder this miraculous gift, I try to take in the reality that He did it for each of us separately. It's not something I can understand and probably never will, but it's a gift that no one else could have given me and it's priceless . I am so grateful.

Cultivating a Thankful Heart

I was flipping through the Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley and saw something that caught my eye. He talked about being surprised at something Pres. Kimball said on one occasion and quoted: "I find myself hungering and thirsting for just a word of appreciation or of honest evaluation from my superiors and my peers. I want no praise; I want no flattery. I am seeking only to know if what I gave was acceptable." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 489)

Pres. Hinckley went on: "If Pres. Kimball needed a little of that, how much do all of us need it? On one occasion I received a great shock from my mission president. I was his assistant at the time. Some of the Saints in the district had with tremendous effort put on a great program. I suggested to my mission president that we write a letter of thanks to these people for what they had done. His response was, 'We do not thank the people in the Church for doing their duty.'

That was the only thing I ever disagreed with him about. I believe we should thank people. I think that thanks should be genuine and sincere, as well it can be when there is honest effort and dedicated service." (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, pg. 247-48).

I need to cultivate a thankful heart. I do know that when I am full of gratitude, it's impossible to be unhappy. The trick is to find the joy now instead of waiting for some far-off day when all my needs (wants!) are finally filled. My personal happiness depends on my ability to feel gratitude for the things I already have -- and when I stop to reflect, I recognize that I have a lot. My life is rich with things that I take for granted. I need to "Hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them. (J. Reuben Clark Jr.) I love that word cherish -- it goes with a thankful heart.


One More Thing

I ran across a wonderful artist and her blog (posted as a "Cool Blog") on my blog -- Paula Becker and have enjoyed browsing her blog and website. Her stuff is fun but what I really loved was discovering that she lives in (where else?) Canada! As I looked through her sketches, this is the one I loved the most. Check her out. Lots of smiles and fun in her artwork.

I'm not old, I'm new!

We were driving today and Miss Maya had requested my presence next to her between the car seats in the back of Natalie's car (that has been where she has generally wanted me -- although recently she seems to prefer me being in the front -- I think she needs her space!) and she snuggled up close to me. She put her head in my lap (fairly flexible, she is -- you have to be to be buckled into your booster and still be able to put your head in the lap beside you), looked up at me, smiled and rubbed my arm. I, (slightly embarrassed at my flabby arms) said "Grandma has saggy skin." Maya: "Why do you have saggy skin?" Grandma: "That's what happens when you get old." Maya: "Oh, no, Grandma, you're not old. You're new!"

Made my day, I can tell you. I'm not old. I'm new. Maya says so.


As I drove home from Natalie's house today, I passed one of those little VW bugs that are used by the MoreHands Maid Service. It cracks me up every time because I always look to see if the hand on the roof of the bug is doing something other than the five finger wave -- you know, like the hang loose thing, or the thumbs-up thing, or maybe even the middle finger salute. I know, I know. But it caught my eye and made me laugh today and I must have needed it -- it's still raining. And it must have interested me a little because I checked out their website. I was delighted to find that you can get an estimate online and actually 'order' your house cleaning services that way, putting all your information and 'order' in a shopping cart. For me, not having to call someone is a real plus. Someday when I feel less guilty about it, I may even take them up on their convenience! For now I'll continue to smile and check out their rooftop greeting.

More Rain!

I'm with Kristen -- I'm sick of rain! Today we are supposed to go check out Rock'N River, somewhere I've never visited but have heard lots about. They call it a 'family aquatic center' -- but in Maya's words: "You know, it's a kids' waterslide place, Gram!" At this point, it doesn't look hopeful. It was pouring when I looked out not long ago -- it's not pouring now but the sky looks like it will again soon.

I have a hard time being positive when everything is gray and gloomy-- I don' t think I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) but I sure do better when there's a little sun from time to time! I think attitude plays a big role in dealing with gloom and clouds though -- reminds me of a story I heard once about Mark Twain.

He and William Dean Howells (an author, editor and critic) were coming out of church one morning and it started to rain heavily. "Do you think it will stop?" asked Howells. "It always has," answered Twain.

That's the attitude I need! And as the illustration above (by Paula Becker) points out, you only get the rainbow after you get the rain. Good to remember when it's pouring (again), right?


I Want my Canadian Candy!

So now that I've talked about my dentist, I'm going to address the issue that makes me so popular with him. Candy. I love candy. The up-side is that I was raised in Canada, where the candy (believe it or not) is quite different than here in the US. Not really sure what it is -- I think the chocolate is milkier, creamier, sweeter -- whatever. Anyhow, most of what I can get here doesn't tempt me all that much (of course, there are some things -- and honestly, sometimes I'll eat anything if it's sweet!) so unless I'm on a tear, I just can't get what I really want.

You can imagine then that when I get into Alberta, what I load up on is all candy. My favorite Canadian candy! YUM! I brought back quite a bit when I was there in May, but I"m out of all of it now and I miss my favorites: Scotch mints, Caramilk, Oh Henry (not the same as what you get here), Aero Mint, Glossette Peanuts, Smarties (again, not what we have here -- more like M & M's only much better), Big Turk, Cherry Blossom, -- the list goes on and on.

My son Chris discovered KinderEggs (aka Kinder Surprise) when he was in Germany and we were all elated to find them (where else?) in Alberta! So that's another addition to the shopping list. And now I"m really craving some of that candy. I'm going back in September for a wedding and my list is already made. That's too long to wait. Sigh.

I Love my Dentist (and other oxymorons!)

I have really crummy teeth, always have, and it's been a battle I've fought in every place we've lived. So knowing how many places we've lived, you can imagine how many dentists I've known -- many!! Some were good, some were bad, some were sort of indifferent -- but I have found me a winner this time.

I just got back from a visit with Dr. Jeff Brunson and again (I've been going there for the past year and a half or so) I had a really positive experience. He listens to what I have to say, he does not make cutting comments about how poor my teeth are (that has happened in the past, I assure you), and he is kind and gentle in his treatments. I rarely wait more than 5 minutes in the waiting room, his staff is friendly, competent and generally wonderful, and I can't say enough about how much I recommend he and his office to anyone looking for a dentist.

Can't believe I'm rhapsodizing about my dentist -- but there you go. He has to be special if he's the topic of my blog entry!! He's great. Check him out.


Love is Spoken Here

This month in Primary the kids have been working on learning "Love is Spoken Here". It's beautiful and has an equally beautiful message. I love hearing the kids sing it -- it's one of those partner songs, where you sing one verse, sing another and then sing the verses together. It's wonderful to hear children literally singing in harmony about love being the language spoken in their homes.

This has led me to consider the way I act, talk and treat other people. Do I speak the language of love? Do I act like I know the language of love? I remember a quote by Martin Luther King that has always stuck with me: "The time is always right to do what is right." Acting with love is always doing what is right. I also remember trying to define integrity for a group of young women some years ago and came up with this: Some people do things right. Others do the right thing. That is integrity. I think acting with integrity is using the language of love as well.

Speaking the language of love, acting with integrity and living in harmony with others are all ways for us to become more like the perfect example, our Savior Jesus Christ. As the last line of the song says, "I can often feel the Savior near when love is spoken here".

If we all speak the language of love, not only to those we are supposed to love, but to all who cross our paths, we can feel the Savior near. I know that's what I want.

Can't Browse at Target (to the tune of "Can't Smile Without You")

So today Natalie and I went to Target to 'browse' (who are we kidding? we can't go to Target and browse! When will we learn???) and of course, found many wonderful things we both 'needed'. I have been looking for new bedding for the double bed in my guest room, and Natalie took me back to see the set she had posted on her blog a couple of days ago. I liked it a lot and decided that it would look good in that room -- so I picked it up, and then was convinced that i needed a new set of sheets too that would sort of tie in with the comforter. I've been looking for new guest room bedding online and it would have cost a lot more than what I paid -- but it's interesting that for us, Target just isn't a spectator sport. We have to get in and participate. Sigh. But I can't wait to get that bedding on the bed upstairs! Way cute.


Flower Power

As I re-read the musings of the past few days, the feelings I've had are clear. I mentioned in one post that I was feeling kind of empty and know now that I need to shore up my spirituality. And I'm working on it. It's really a gift to be able to go back, re-read, and understand something more about myself and what I need to do. A blogging epiphany!

On to more trivial things: check this out. There are a couple of little girls in our ward (my neighbors, actually) who have the cutest scripture covers ever. Natalie did a little research and pointed me towards Deseret Boook, where you can find them. (I could have done it myself -- I am not helpless -- but she beat me to it!) Cute, right? If you look down the list, you will see that there are several really fun choices for little girls. I think Maya needs one -- but I guess first she'd need her own scriptures, right? OK, Grandma, time to get busy! Gotta love online ordering.

More Food for Thought

Shortly before the death of Henry David Thoreau, a pious aunt visited him and asked, "Have you made your peace with God, Henry?"
"I don't know that we ever quarreled," he replied

I haven't quarreled with Him either -- but I need to make sure I have spent enough time with Him that when I arrive back in His presence, He will smile because He knows me. I think this little 4 line poem by John Richard Moreland (a Christian poet writing in the first half of the 20th century) says it very well:

Prayer is not artful monolague
Of voice uplifted from the sod;
It is love's tender dialogue
Between the soul and God.

That's how we get to know Him. We spend time with Him, we talk with Him, we share our victories and our losses, our joys and our pains with Him - -and it is a loving conversation. It is protection as well -- William Cowper winds up my train of thought with this:

Satan trembles when he sees
The least of saints upon his knees.
I have to say I like that image -- I like the thought of Satan trembling because of me. And if I can do it by becoming closer to God, I call that a win-win situation.

Sheep or Goat?

I was doing some reading and ran across something John Taylor said. First it cracked me up and then it hit home. He said this: "Jesus said, my sheep hear my voice and they know me, and a stranger they will not follow, because they know not the voice of a stranger. And why do not the millions of the inhabitants of the earth embrace the Gospel? Because they are not sheep; that is all. And if the goats kick up and cut a few antics, you need not be astonished. It is the nature of goats, is it not?" (Journal of Discourses 22:305)

For me, that means that we need to love and accept everyone. They may not be doing what we think they should or what we wish they would -- but we need not be surprised or judgmental. What we do need to do is to make sure they know they are important, valued and loved. Sometimes that's hard to do -- especially when you're more a goat than a sheep yourself.

I'm thankful for a Savior who, despite my goat-like tendencies, is willing to wait, watch, call and lead me back to Him and He will do it as quickly and as lovingly as I will allow.


Behaving like a Child of God

So for some unknown reason, today (when there are so many other things here for me to read -- see previous post!) I have been drawn to "Glimpses into the Life and Heart of Marjorie Pay Hinckley." I've read it often in the past and continue to return to it from time to time. I'm not sure why I am prompted to do that, especially today. But in this book is where I've spent the past hour and this is what I've learned.

As she addressed young adult women, she spoke of spirituality. She said "Sitting in church will not necessarily make you into a Christian anymore than sitting in a garage will make you into a car. I am talking about the kind of spirituality that makes you behave like a child of God. I am talking about the kind of spirituality that breathes reverence into every act and deed. I am talking about the spirituality that makes you loving and grateful and forgiving and patient and gentle and long-suffering . . . . I am talking about the kind of spirituality that compels you to get in touch with your Heavenly Father every single day of your life."

I am feeling empty today for no reason I can find. So I decided to try tonight to prepare to have a wonderful Sunday -- maybe that explains this spiritual pull I'm feeling. Sis. Hinckley always uplifts me and I love her clear explanation of this spirituality I need and want. This is spirituality that changes behavior. I think that's what I am seeking.


With all the excitement about the new Harry Potter book (just purchased my own at Costco this morning), it seems like this weekend could be quiet, with everyone hunkered down, reading the final wrap-up of the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione. However -- I have a dilemma. I am a huge reader, and I have a massive (literally) stack of books I have checked out from the library. Most of them are new books that I put on reserve, and they are books I really want to read -- and they all have due dates that can't be extended. Harry doesn't -- I can take as long as I need. But I want to read Harry Potter right now! ARGHHH!! I am struggling very hard not to flip to the back few pages and check out the ending! Sigh. So I"m reading nothing which is clearly not the right answer.


Flat Tire, Helpless Female

I just went out, got into my car, backed it out of the garage and started down my street. The car was acting weird though -- I kept thinking I had the emergency brake on (I didn't) so I finally stopped a few doors down from my house and sure enough, I have a flat tire. Sigh. It's really not that big a deal -- I don't have anywhere specific to go although I was on my way to have some playtime with the kiddoes. I called Mark (who, to give him credit, is usually available when I try to reach him) to ask if he though I should just leave it on the street and walk back home or to just bring it home slowly and carefully -- and he isn't reachable right now for whatever reason. So -- using my fine female judgment, I backed it very slowly down my street, back to my house and into my driveway where it sits, looking like a woman with 3 shoes on and 1 shoe off -- unbalanced, as it were!

Mark will call me back whenever he can and he will take care of it for me -- but I'm housebound -- and it's raining. And I just showered so I do NOT want to get on the elliptical right now -- so I'm blogging. Boring, I know. But that's what's happening here. Nothing much.


We Love Willie's

Tonight we all 'needed' a trip to the Texas Roadhouse so that's what we did. We converged on the S. Austin location, which is owned in part by Willie Nelson. So -- of course, we call it Willie's place. Natalie's favorite things are the rolls and the ribs. I am a fan of those myself, the kiddoes like the peanuts and the fact that you throw the shells on the floor (where else do you get invited to throw trash on the floor?!) and Mark, Math and Chris are all steak fans (or at least they were tonight.) Natie loves their stuffed sweet potato (stuffed with marshmallows -- what's not to love, right?) and I am partial to their baked potatoes that have everything you can imagine shoved into them. When the server asks if I want it loaded, my response is "Duh!". Their ribs fall off the bone, their meats are tender and juicy (I had a grilled pork chop tonight and it was awesome), and they even have great side salads, which I generally don't bother with because why would you when you can have meat?!

Which all explains why I just spent 40 minutes on the elliptical machine, burning off a total of 530 calories. I needed that!

Calling China

So today Natalie and I took the little guys on a short field trip to Chuck E. Cheese's as Maya really wanted to swim and it's not great swim weather here today so we figured Chuck E. could fill that void. And he did. We had a great time. What is funny is that on the way, Mason got a little testy about being strapped into his car seat for such a long period of time (we boycott the near location of Chuck E's because there is a new, nice, clean one up in the north area of town and since Chris works in that general vicinity, he can join us on his lunch hour) so he started to fuss. The right answer is to give him a cell phone -- which we did. First he had Natalie's phone, then that wasn't good enough so I gave him mine. When we got there, I went to get him out of the car and discovered he had somehow managed to dial Mark's desk and the line was still open. So I solved it by closing up the phone and that was the last I thought about it.

When I got back home, I found an email message from Mark with an attachment which I opened -- and I was privileged to hear a nearly 3 minute message that Mason had left on Grandpa's work phone, complete with comments from all of us. And clever Gramma, as I went to get Mason out, apparently I even said "Calling China, huh?".

Can I make a side comment and say that I hate my voice when I hear it? I also thought it was pretty funny that Mark saved the message and emailed it to me -- I'm sure it was inspirational to him when he listened to it! Made me smile today.


I was feeling a bit cranky recently and was considering my mood, as there was no real reason for it. Eventually I was reminded of a story I'd heard Billy Graham tell long ago . He told of a friend who, during the Depression lost his job, his fortune, his wife and his home. But he held onto his faith, which was all he had left. One day he stopped to watch some men doing some stonework on a huge church. One of them was chiseling at a triangular piece of stone. The man asked what the worker was going to do with it and the workman replied "See that little opening way up there near the spire? Well, I'm shaping this down here so it will fit in up there." The man's eyes filled with tears as he walked away for he heard God's voice in the voice of the workman, explaining the ordeal through which he was passing. "I'm shaping you down here, so you'll fit in up there."

I can't say I am dealing with anything comparable to losing a job, a fortune (never had one!), a spouse and a home. I'm very blessed -- so it was good for me to recall this story and this outlook when all I'm feeling is a bit cranky! I am blessed and I know it and I"m thankful.


My Sister

Reading Kristi's account of her visit with her mom and sisters brought back (once again) the reality of how much I miss my sister Val. She is one of my favorite people in the world, someone who has known me and loved me from way back (even when she probably shouldn't have loved me -- I wasn't the nicest older sister a lot of the time) and we have a friendship that I cherish. She's smart, funny, cute , creative and great fun to be with. She lives in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada (too dang far away from here!) with her husband Keith. They have 2 sons, Eric and Ian. Eric is being married to Jacquie Tagg on Sept. 7 of this year (see pics below) and Ian just returned from his LDS mission to Croatia. Both are wonderful young men who have made their parents (and their aunt) really proud of them.

Anyhow -- reading Kristi's account of the fun she had with her sisters, I have had this ongoing pang of loneliness for mine. We don't see each other nearly often enough and though I was there in May for Ian's homecoming, obviously that was a busy time for her. So I will be up there again for Eric and Jacquie's wedding in Sept, but once again, I know Val will be busy. Some day we need a trip with the girls -- Val, Natalie, me -- good idea, right?


Just Gramma

Some of my friends have such cute 'Grandma' names but I ended up just being 'regular Gramma'. Nothin' wrong with that!

I want this!

I ran across this stuff in a magazine the other day and decided I wanted some. How convenient would it be to have magnet tape with peel-off sticky back on a tape dispenser? Dowling Magnets has it! They have a whole long list of interesting stuff, too, including ceramic shape magnets, colored and plain adhesive sheets of magnets, business card magnets, you name it and I bet they have it. Check it out!

John Rutter

I was listening to a CD in the car today when it occurred to me how thankful I am for my all-time favorite composer, John Rutter. He's actually someone who is still alive (unlike Mozart, Bach and Beethoven!) and currently composing. He is an amazingly talented man -- not only does he compose and arrange, he writes his own lyrics, he directs an elite choir (Cambridge Singers) and orchestras, and also does a lot of guest-conducting and lecturing all over Europe, Scandanavia and North America.

He is overflowing with musical talent and has spiritual gifts as well. I am convinced that he writes under the direction of the spirit -- when you hear his music and words together, you can't doubt it. I have always dreamed of accompanying a choir (which I love to do more than anything -- accompany) under his direction and of course, didn't figure it would ever happen. And it hasn't -- but right after we left Nashville, I got word from a good friend who is deeply involved in school music there that John Rutter was coming to Nashville and would be rehearsing with a choir and would need an accompanist!! ARGHHH!! There was no way I could make the trip back but she probably could have arranged for me to work with him. Sigh. I had dreams about that for months after!

He writes glorious Christmas music, and you may recognize his "Angel's Carol" or "Candlelight Carol" but there are many more that I can't get enough of at Christmas time. Anyhow -- one of my favorite pieces of his music is called "Look at the World". It was written in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Council for the Protection of Rural England and is part of his "Mass of the Children." It's a piece for for children's choir and mixed choir (of course having the children's choir really speaks to me) and has a truly wonderful message about gratutide for all the things we have been given.

My favorite verse is this one:
"Ev'ry good gift, all that we need and cherish
Comes from the Lord, in token of His love;
We are His hands, stewards of all His bounty;
His is the earth and His the heav'ns above.

Praise to Thee, O Lord, for all creation,
Give us thankful hearts, that we may see;
All the gifts we share and ev'ry blessing,
All things come of Thee."

When I hear these words presented with a beautiful melody and harmony, the spirit comes and I (once again) am grateful for music, for it's power and the way it can take me as close to celestial happiness as I think I will get in this life. I'm grateful for the many gifted composers and musicians who share their talents and allow me to be blessed by the beauty they create.


We Will Not Flinch

Some time ago I read a book by Sheri Dew called "No One Can Take Your Place", and thought it was great. I especially liked the chapter entitled "We Will Not Flinch". This is what she teaches:

"Premortally, in the most difficult of circumstances, we stood loyally by our Father and His Son, and we did not flinch. The question for us today is: How will we do it again?"

". . . . Do we have an impenetrable testimony of Jesus Christ? Do we know where and how to turn for help? Do we know how to draw upon the power of God? Do we understand how magnificent and how encompassing the doctrines of the gospel really are?"

". . . . The more we know and understand, the more useful we are to the Lord. For "the glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth," and "light and truth forsake that evil one" (D&C 93:36-37)."

I want to be useful to the Lord. I want be someone who does not flinch. It's reassuring to me to know that I did stand firm once -- against some pretty strong persuasion and opposition. I did it then and I can do it now. But to do so, I need that testimony, I need to know how and where to turn for help, I need to know how to draw on the power of God and I need to understand how wonderful the doctrines of the gospel really are. So I need to work. I need to read, to study and to pray and to treat people in the way I'd treat the Savior if He were here. As I reach up for the help I need, I will become strong. And I too will not flinch.


Someone with Skin On

I have always read the Readers' Digest, particularly enjoying the short, true, humorous stories they include. There's one that I remember that came from "Life in these United States" that told of a little girl who was afraid of the dark. Every night, on cue, and despite what her parents did to prevent it, she would come toddling into her parents’ room and climb in bed with them. Patiently and persistently the mother would pick up this little girl and carry her back to her room, usually saying something like, “Honey, there’s nothing to be afraid of. God will watch over you.” Night after night after night this happened.

Then, one night, the little girl came in and climbed in bed with her parents yet again, saying, “I’m scared, I want to be with you.” The mother picked her up and took her back into her own room, saying what she always said, “Honey, there’s nothing to be afraid of. God will take care of you.”
This time the little girl responded, “Mom, sometimes we just need somebody with skin on.”

I loved this. Don't you think that sometimes we really just need someone who is just like us, who will touch us, reassure us, hug us, helping us to develop the faith we need to understand that God is there and certainly will take care of us?

What an opportunity, then for us to be that person, to be aware of the needs of others, to be somebody with skin on.



Tonight for dinner, Mark, Math and I went to a place here in Austin called P. Terry's . It's a hamburger place that we had heard was very much like one of our other favorites, In-n-Out Burger (which we miss a lot - our proximity to In-N-Out in Vegas was great!) and our friends had said good things about P. Terry's.

The consensus was that it is great. Their fries are made from fresh potatoes in both places, burgers fresh cooked, great shakes -- what's not to like, right?
So now when we get the urge for an In-N-Out burger and it isn't possible, we know where to go -- P. Terry's has some good food!


Both of these quotes come from previous Harry Potter movies/books and they struck me as being so significant that I wrote them down and saved them.

“It is not our abilities that show who we really are – it is our choices.”

“Dark and difficult times lay ahead. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right – and what is easy.”

And we all know that much of the time what is right is not easy. Joan of Arc understood that. At age 19, as she was preparing to be burned at the stake, she was given the opportunity to gain her freedom by denying her beliefs. In choosing the fire over freedom, she said this: “I know this now. Every man gives his life for what he believes. Every woman gives her life for what she believes. Sometimes people believe in little or nothing and so they give their lives for little or nothing. To surrender what you are and live without belief is more terrible than dying, even more terrible than dying young.”

President Benson said something I consider very significant and that (for me, anyhow) ties into the above insights. “God loves us. He’s watching us, he wants us to succeed, and we’ll know someday that he has not left one thing undone for the eternal welfare of each of us. If we only knew it, there are heavenly hosts pulling for us – friends in heaven that we can’t remember now, who yearn for our victory. This is our day to show what we can do – what life and sacrifice we can daily, hourly, instantly, bring to God. If we give our all, we will get His all from the greatest of all.”

So we must make the hard choices, and understand that it is not going to be easy. But it will be right.


Harry Potter

Tonight Math, Mark and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie. We had already heard it was great and it was. We loved it and I heard a quote (spoken by Sirius Black, Harry's godfather) that really stood out to me. This is what he said:

"I want you to listen to me very carefully Harry. You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to. You understand? Besides, the world isn't split into good people and death eaters. We have all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we chose to act on. That’s who we really are."

This is something I think we all know - we each have a good person and a bad person inside us but what really matters is which one of them we allow to win. Loved going to see this movie and hearing a quote like that.

One Nation, Under God

Heard on Jay Leno:
"With hurricanes, tornados, fires out of control, mud slides, flooding, severe thunderstorms tearing up the country from one end ot another, and wish the threat of bird flu and terrorist attcks, are we sure this is a good time to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance?"

Thought for Today

A few years back, a girl teaching the RS Homemaking lesson (pre-Enrichment!) started her lesson with this thought and I liked it so much that I saved it.

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." (Buddha)

So today I'm going to be thankful for lots of things, and certainly for the fact that I didn't die!! Good old Buddha!

White Chocolate Key Lime Calypso Bars

Yesterday as I was browsing around on the Pillsbury website, I happened upon a recipe whose title (above) really intrigued me. Now you have to know that I'm so not a cook -- I can cook because I can read, but I have never really enjoyed it and it's certainly never been my thing. I do like food, however (way too much!) so my eyes dropped to the ingredients list for this recipe -- and YUMMM!! It sounded good -- so good, that when I paid my visit to the grocery store, I went with the recipe in my hand so I could buy the ingredients I needed and I baked it up last night. I thought it was wonderful -- Mark not so much because he is anti anything that contains white chocolate. He thinks it has to be brown chocolate for it to count for anything and doesn't wish to waste his calories on white chocolate. Which is fine with me -- then I can have more! Here's the recipe:

White Chocolate Key Lime Calypso Bars
1 roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1 c. chopped pistachios
1 c. coconut
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chunks or chips
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/2 c. key lime juice, fresh lime juice or thawed frozen limeade concentrate
3 egg yolks
1 tsp. oil

Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9x13 pan. In a large bowl, break up cookie dough. Knead in pistachios and coconut till well blended. With floured fingers, press the dough mixture evenly in the bottom of the pan to form a crust. Sprinkle 1 c. of the white chocolate chips/chunks over the dough and press lightly into the dough. Bake 14-16 minutes or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat the sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and egg yolks till well blended. When the crust is done, remove from oven and pour the milk mixture evenly over the hot crust. Return it to the oven and bake 20 - 25 minutes longer or until filling is set.

In a small microwaveable bowl, place the remaining 1/2 c. white chocolate and the oil. Microwave on high for 45 seconds. Stir until smooth; if necessary, microwave 15 seconds longer. Drizzle over warm bars. Cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 more hour. Cut into bars and serve. Store in refrigerator.

I like these a lot and this recipe (for me anyway) is a keeper.


More Holiness Give Me

I went VTing this morning and I can say that this month, I loved the lesson. The official title is "Become an instrument in the hands of God by practicing holiness." Well, as I studied the lesson, I had a flood of thoughts,but what came to my mind immediately was the hymn, "More Holiness Give Me."

The lesson first defines exactly what 'holiness' means (according to Pres. Faust it's the "strength of the soul" which can be safeguarded by being in holy places. He includes the temple as well as our homes as holy places) and then it goes on to the 'how'. That's good for me - -I always want to know HOW I'm supposed to do something. I"m perfectly willing to do it, but I want to be told how to accomplish it.

Sis. Kathleen Hughes, former member of the General RS Presidency says that all of us want to be 'cherished, watched over, comforted and instructed in the things of God.' And we do. But we need to look at it slightly differently than you might expect -- not being the receiver of those acts, but to learn to be someone who can actually practice that holiness every day and be someone in tune enough to 'cherish, watch over, comfort and instruct' those who cross our path each day. She finishes by saying "To become like Jesus Christ, the Prophet Joseph taught, 'you must enlarge your souls toward others'. "

I loved that and it reminded me of several emails that certain sweet, thoughtful people have sent me this week, letting me know that they think I'm doing OK in my calling. I am so grateful for the time they took to do that, and I consider that a 'holiness' on their parts. Because of their thoughtfulness and awareness of me, I thought to let someone else know how much I appreciated their contributions to our ward. I know how much my messages meant to me, and maybe mine did the same for someone else. It really does spread, this feeling of holiness.

As I continued to consider holiness, I went back to the hymn (pg. 131 in the LDS Hymnbook) which is really a prayer, a plea for more holiness. I think the third verse expresses the deepest longings of my heart, speaking very clearly my desire to be more holy.

"More purity give me, more strength to o'ercome,
More freedom from earth-stains, more longing for home.
More fit for the kingdom, more used would I be,
More blessed and holy -- more, Savior, like thee."

(Text & music by Philip Paul Bliss)

That's what I want -- to be more fit for the kingdom, more used in His work, more blessed, more holy, and more like the Savior. And I will keep trying.


Fun Music

OK, this is going to crack some of you up, knowing as you do that I am not a young Mama (a young anything, actually!) -- I'm a Grandma! However -- I just got a CD in the mail that I am feeling extremely nostalgic about and enjoying every song on it. Have you heard of Janeen Brady and Brite Music? If you haven't, you need to check it out. I have known and loved her children's music for years. My kids grew up listening to it and I still have the song books we bought years ago when I was a Brite distributor (in Boise, no less!). Her songs teach positive moral values, LDS church values, seasons, holidays, animals, families and more. She writes catchy, up-beat melodies that are easy to sing and move with. Her "Standin' Tall" series teaches values in a really fun way and is one of the best I've seen with that focus. We love her music. Anyhow -- I had LP records and a few cassettes back in the day (dating myself, I know! sigh!) and have recently replaced most of the things I had with CD's. There has been one I couldn't find but recently happened upon it on Ebay and was so excited to have it arrive this afternoon. It's a compilation of 2 albums I had - "I'm a Mormon" and "Young Mormons Sing" and is full of great stuff. I love the songs and can still sing every word. I know my kids loved them too.

With my favorite things being children and music, this arrival has really made my day! There's still another CD like this one up on Ebay if you're interested (you should be -- it's great!) Yay for a fun surprise like this one.

Bargains Galore

Yay for WalMart! I visited their school supply department today and was amazed at the prices. I picked up basic notebooks like this one for ten cents each (yes, you read right!). Also got a 2 pack of Elmer's glue sticks for twenty cents (yup, that's a dime a stick!).

And the best deal I think I found was this box of 24 Roseart crayons for twelve cents apiece. (If you prefer Crayola, they were a whopping twenty cents!) Amazing! I'm sure WalMart made nothing on these products and I for one appreciate the gesture. I know there are people out there who will struggle to get their kids prepared for back-to-school and this will be a huge help. As for me, I was able to stock up for our Primary closet -- now we have tons of new crayons and I spent under two dollars buying them. Love it!


I Believe in Joy

This afternoon I ran across a quote by an unknown author who said this: "Jumping for joy is good exercise". I loved it! We are taught in the scriptures that we are supposed to be happy, to have joy in our lives. Sometimes I have to force myself to remember that (like when I am wallowing in crankiness or self-pity) and try to find ways to feel that joy. So how do we feel joy when we don't feel joyful?

Well, I believe it is to focus on things that have eternal value. There are so many things in our lives that really are of no consequence, but that cause us to be unhappy. We need to consider what we have that will last forever. For me, that's family. That's the gospel. That's the talents and gifts I have been given. And I believe that giving of ourselves is another way to be happy. So take today and love your family, love and live the gospel, and share the gifts and talents you have. " . . . men (*and women!) are that they might have joy" (2 Nephi 2:25). Look hard at what you have, rather than what you don't have and remember the eternal blessings in your life. Make the most of them, share them, and be joyful.

Hello Kitty!

Maya was thrilled today to discover that McDonalds is now giving Hello Kitty stuff out in their Happy Meals as prizes for girls. I did a little research and discovered that they will be doing Hello Kitty till August 2 -- so there is plenty of time to make sure we do enough trips to Mickey D's so that she can get all the treasures. Today she got a Hello Kitty style kit, which included a comb and several hair clippies. There's also going to be a school kit, a sticker kit, a Hello Kitty zip-up purse (they call it an 'accessory' but I know a little coin purse when I see one!), a Hello Kitty diary, Hello Kitty lip gloss, a Hello Kitty glamour kit, and a Hello Kitty artist kit. This looks like a lot of trips to McD's but that's OK with me as long as they keep selling me my Diet Coke and my grilled honey mustard snack wraps!