Happy New Year!

"Count no day lost in which you waited your turn, took only your share and sought advantage over no one." ~Robert Brault

I'm not a great resolution-maker, but I think I'm going to take the above quote and use it as my mantra for the new year. No one could have put it better: to wait my turn, to take only my share and seek advantage over no one describes perfectly the kind of person I want to be.

So, we are excited for 2012! This past year wasn't our best year, I don't think: {some hard things, some expensive things, some unexplainable things etc. etc.} although there were definitely some happy things, some fun things and much love and joy as well. I am excited to see what 2012 brings. And if I turn Robert Brault's criteria for a productive day into my own goals for the year, it will be a good one for me growth-wise.

Welcome, 2012!


It's Christmas!

"You can never truly enjoy Christmas until you can look up into the Father's face and tell him you have received His Christmas gift." ~John R. Rice

Here it is almost Christmas eve {already!} and I wanted to take a minute to reflect and be grateful, once again, for the most precious Christmas gift ever given. And it was given to each of us: to all of us!

Jesus was not only the baby born under miraculous circumstances, nor was He only a master teacher. He was an exemplar, a friend, a guide, and probably most important, He is the one who willingly carried the burden of our sins, our pains, our fears, our frustrations: He is the one who understands our every fear, our heartbreak, and every feeling that we have had or will have. And because He carried those burdens for us, our yokes are easy and our burdens are light.

I am so grateful for His miraculous birth that we celebrate at Christmas but more, I am grateful for His life, His death, and His atoning sacrifice which is His all-encompassing gift to each of us: the prospect of eternal life.

Let earth receive her king! Let each of us receive our king!

Merry Christmas!

beautiful picture by Liz Lemon Swindle


Happy Anniversary!

"Sometimes two people stay together for the sake of the kids -- two kids who sat under a full moon and pledged to be forever true." ~Robert Brault

I am a real fan of Robert Brault. He has a gift of words that I wish I had. Since I don't, I enjoy his gift and the above quote has been on my mind ever since I read it. I suspect it's because we (Mark and I) are nearly ready (on Dec. 21) to celebrate our (gulp!) 37th anniversary.

I was just telling our Natalie that back when we were dating (when we were those kids!), I wasn't particularly careful, cautious or prayerful about who I chose. I just got lucky and fell in love with the right man. And I was equally lucky that he fell in love with me, too.

We have had a huge variety of experiences together as we have zig-zagged back and forth across the country. Life has been full of learning together -- through all kinds of experiences, some wonderful and some not so great. I am so grateful for him in my life. He has been and continues to be the constant that I lean on in every circumstance. There are things we have been through together that I could not have handled without him.

Mark is smart, funny, spiritually in tune, a hard worker, devoted to his family, a great dad and a super wonderful Grandpa. (Who else would not only go along with regular phone calls to his office line during working hours so that a precious 3 year old can hear him say "Hi, Simey!" but be thrilled with the opportunity?!) He works so hard for us and would do anything for anyone who needed his help.

I am grateful that when we met, I was behaving well enough that he wanted to be with me as much as I wanted to be with him. And that now, knowing what he knows about me (37 years worth, and it's not all good!), I feel blessed that he's willing to go on - -as far as we can go -- together.

And I get to keep him. I am blessed, for sure.


Running Against the Wind

As I did my (nearly) 4 mile run (seriously felt more like I was trudging!) yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany. It's fall here (on the calendar, anyhow - not necessarily temperature wise) and we have cooled down slightly. We also have had a bit of wind. Not much, mind you, and not anything that someone raised in Southern Alberta should even dare to call a wind -- but enough to notice when you're running against it.

So yesterday, as I did my 4 mile run (remember? the trudge!), I was acutely aware of the wind. But I only really noticed it when I was running against it. It pushed me back and I had to work extra hard to get myself up the Austin hills (we do live in the 'Hill Country' here). I can tell you that I resented that wind. It made me cranky and (obviously) it made my tired legs more tired and there was some serious gasping going on as well.

What I found interesting, though, is that when I was running with the wind at my back, it didn't feel like much of a wind. Just a little push in the right direction.

And that's when I had the epiphany. It's just like life. When we are running against the wind, and things are hard, we are totally aware of the opposition. We are frustrated by it, we are tired by it, and it makes us want to give up.

But when that wind is at our back, gently pushing us along our chosen path? We rarely notice it. And that's my point. I want to be aware of that wind at my back, gently moving me along the path of my life. I want to be aware and I want to be grateful.

I have so much to appreciate and to be grateful for, and this Thanksgiving month is a great time to reflect on that wind that is at my back so much of the time.


Feeling Grateful

I have had the privilege recently to be an accompanist for a "Time Out for Women" presenter. She has a great message to share and she tells her story both with words and with music. I have traveled with her to Nashville {which I loved because we still have sweet ties to that place}, to Pocatello {which I loved because a wonderful former seminary student from Reno lives there now and I got to spend the 2 days with her}, and recently to Reno. We have loved and enjoyed all the places we've lived, but Reno has a special place in my heart because it's there that I taught not just 1 seminary class a day, but 2 -- and I was the Primary chorister as well, in a really wonderful, loving ward that took great care of me while I was seriously ill. So we have so many sweet memories of Reno, as well as some ties that will never be cut.

It was such a gift to be back there, and to catch up with so many people that I love. I think the sweetest thing has been to realize that while I remember and love many Reno friends - -the reality is that they remember and love me too. That's not something I consider very often. I have always felt that when we leave an area, we probably don't cross the minds of those we have left behind very often. I cherish all the friends we have made but haven't ever assumed that they remember me.

My Reno visit proved me wrong. I was humbled to find so many people there that still remember me (???) and love me and it touched my heart in a way that I will never forget.

What a sweet blessing to know that these people, who mean so much to me and who I will always remember and love -- remember me too. It was a lovely weekend.

**Me with a former seminary student and friend, Amber. She's not only beautiful, but wonderful too.


I Can Do It!

I am so proud of myself. I just finished week 9, day 1 of Couch to 5K - -and I flew today. Really felt like I had wings on my feet. The weather has cooled down slightly {by that I mean we are in the 90's instead of the 100's - but I do feel the difference!}and I am feeling like I could run and run and run.

I didn't do that because I am convinced that this couch to 5K program really works, so I am continuing to follow it exactly. But this week is my last one {the program ends - -and I will have finished it!} and I will be on my own after that. What I have learned over this nearly 9 weeks that I've been back running is that I can do it. And in conjunction with that, I have also realized that I can do anything I put my mind to do. Right now, that means I can run for 30 minutes without a break and that feels good.

My body might be old{er} but I am happy to announce that it will do whatever I ask it to do, as long as I take good care of it.

Great news, right?!!


I'm Still a Runner! (Who knew?)

Anyone who knows me at all knows a couple of things about me - -that I was an avid runner {think 6 - 7 miles a day, pretty much 6 days a week} for many years. Like probably 15 or so. Maybe more. I loved running. I started out walking and eventually, just to make things more interesting, would challenge myself to 'run to that tree' or 'run to the corner'. After that, I got competitive with myself and would see how much faster I could do my regular route than the day before. And I got hooked. I loved running.

Fast-forward to our move here in 2004: heredity + years of running = foot problems. I had a couple of surgeries and decided I could not keep running as my feet hurt 100% of the time. So I switched my allegiance to the elliptical machine which is great exercise, and is weight-bearing without impact. I learned {after quite some time} to love the elliptical too. I pretty much spend an hour a day 5x a week on our elliptical machine.

But recently, my Natalie decided she wanted to be a runner, so she got herself the Couch to 5K app for her phone and took off. It was hard for her at first, but she persisted - - and now {you can see it coming, right?} she is hooked on running and loves it. She's training for a half-marathon in December. I am so proud of her.

So then, she encouraged her dad to try that same program. Not to be left out, I got it on my phone, and we decided to do it together. Mostly, I was doing it to encourage Mark and to spend a little more time with him. We did great for the first 4 weeks, but at that point, Mark's knee pretty much gave out on him and he is seeing an orthopedic doc on Monday. So he's out.

But me? About that same time {4 weeks in} my body made it clear to me that it remembered that I am a runner. And I am. I am still a runner. I have now nearly completed week 5 and plan to continue and will do a 5K in October. Natalie is encouraging me to train for that same half-marathon in December.

Not sure if I will get there or not. But what I am sure of is that I have missed running and my body knows it. It makes me happy. And my feet? Well, they hurt all the time anyhow and it's no worse when I"m running.

So I am running again, and loving it.


It's my Birthday!

I guess that last post about aging leads right into this one - it's my birthday today!

I can't say that I'm 'happy' to be another year older but I do appreciate being another year smarter, despite the wrinkles that seem to accompany anything I do anymore. I have so much to appreciate and to be grateful for and it just seems to get better.

I have a wonderful family: parents, siblings, in-laws (I pretty much just count them all as siblings, I think!), husband, children, more in-laws (again, just family in my mind) and now grandchildren. The older I get the more I appreciate the great family I came from, the great family Mark came from, and the fact that we have been able to create a great family of our own. I love them all dearly.

I have so many dear friends. I kind of consider myself a bit of a hermit -- but over time, I have made so many wonderful friends -- again, people I pretty much consider family. Another thing that I have learned is that people are what really matter in life. Things are fine, but people are what make our lives fuller and richer in every way.

I'm grateful for pretty good health at this point. I've definitely had my share of ups and downs in the health area, but I am so thankful that right now, I can do whatever I choose to do, as long as I put my mind to it. I am running again and that makes me more happy than I would have thought. I'm so grateful to Natalie for encouraging both Mark and I to try it (for me, again -- for him, the first time) and that my body knew all along that I was a runner -- I've just been on hiatus!

So happy birthday to me! And I'm hoping for a zillion more!



"Aging seems to be the only available way to live a longer life." ~D.F.E. Auber

I found this quote on one of my calendar pages recently and while it made me laugh at first, it kind of struck a chord with me. My dad will be 88 on August 3 and my mom is 86 and they are not enjoying aging because of all the things that go along with it. They both use walkers now, Dad is in pretty much constant pain and has a hard time getting around. Mom is on oxygen 100% of the time and has a pacemaker along with other physical limitations. Neither of them is loving this season of their life, as it's frustrating to them to not be able to do everything they'd like to do.

I really hate seeing them be this restricted at this point. After all, they were (and are) wonderful parents, active, responsible members of the Church and always made a great contribution to whatever they were involved in (and it was a lot!). I wish for them that they could do more of the things they'd like to do.

But on the other hand, I suspect (just from my own personal experience in this area!) that what they are experiencing is exactly what comes of living a long, full life. And the alternative is not a great one.

It makes the reminders my mom gives us very real: "Make sure you do everything you want to do and see everything you want to see before you can't do it anymore." She is grateful that they did go and do a lot of things while they still could.

I intend to do that, and for now, I'm grateful that I have both of them still here on the earth with us.

*picture by Mary Engelbreit



I'm consistently amazed at how much I hate fixing dinner. Really, though, the actual fixing isn't my biggest problem {although it definitely is a problem!} -- mostly it's deciding what to fix that is my biggest problem.

To be fair to Mark, it's not his responsibility to fix dinner {he does go to work all day, every day!} -- but this little cartoon is a great illustration of how we both seem at dinner time. Mostly we'd rather eat nothing than have to fix something {anything!}.

Lame. We are lame.


Home is Where the Heart Is

I just returned from a week up in Alberta {or as Natalie calls it, being called back to the mothership!} with my family. I had a wonderful time visiting with my mom and dad, my sister, brother-in-law, nephews and niece-in-laws and even got to help celebrate baby Oliver's 1st birthday.

I know I've said it before but there is truly something that draws me back to that area and it's not just family although that is without a doubt the most important thing. As I drove around Lethbridge with my parents and saw the change and growth there, I realized that that area is my heritage. There is a part of me there and always will be, even though I know I will never live there again.

And when Val, Keith and I spent a day and a half in Waterton I realized even more {despite the fact that Billy the Goat and his family, the mountain sheep as well as their deer friends had invaded the townsite} that there is something of me there as well.

So today, on Canada Day {Happy Canada Day!}, I am grateful for the heritage that I have, the family I was raised in, the love that I feel for them all and from them all, and the fact that I have now two wonderful countries to call home.

Here's Billy!! The sheep were everywhere -- places I'd never seen them and they were pretty aggressive. Made me quite nervous!

Looking down on Waterton from above -- as we drove back down from Cameron Lake.

Gorgeous blue water.

Val and Keith - my cute sister and her husband at the still {surprisingly} frozen Cameron Lake.

See Old Chief Mountain? Lovely!

Clearly I can love both the US and Canada.

Again, just lovely.

Prince of Wales Hotel in the distance, where I worked, more years ago than I can believe.

Val and I. Isn't she gorgeous?

More of us. I love her!

Me, standing by Cameron Falls in the Waterton townsite.

Keith and I, with the mountains in the background. He's the best.

**all pictures taken by my sister, Val Walker


Changing Hearts

"We discover he is more than the babe in Bethlehem, more than the carpenter’s son, more than the greatest teacher ever to live. We come to know him as the Son of God. He never fashioned a statue, painted a picture, wrote a poem, or led an army. He never wore a crown or held a scepter or threw around his shoulder a purple robe. His forgiveness was unbounded, his patience inexhaustible, his courage without limit. Jesus changed men. He changed their habits, their opinions, their ambitions. He changed their tempers, their dispositions, their natures. He changed men’s hearts."~Thomas S. Monson

I'm such a slacker -- no posts in such a long time! I guess I feel like I don't live a terribly exciting life although I do love the life I am living, for the most part.

I also love the above quote and it spoke so clearly to me today. Our Savior Jesus Christ always focused on what really matters: what happens in our hearts. He is the only way a heart can change.

I continue to strive to be more like Him: more forgiving, more patient, more kind, more courageous and more loving.

And I need those changes.

picture by Greg Olsen


We are the Easter People

"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people, and hallelujah is our song."~Pope John Paul II

I can't begin to say how much I love this quote. We are the Easter people! We really are, and hallelujah really is our song.

It's Easter week {finally - -seems like it's very late this year!} and I have had my Easter thoughts bubbling up for the past few weeks. I had a sort of epiphany recently as I was saying my morning prayers, expressing my gratitude for all that I have. But it hit me that I need to be grateful more for what I know, rather than what I have. I have many blessings, and I am grateful for all that I do have, but more, I am grateful for what I know.

I am so thankful at this time of year that I know that the story we read in the scriptures is more than just a story. The fact is that Jesus was born on earth {in a miraculous way}, He was raised by a mortal mother and father, He taught, served and loved the people on the earth at that time, and eventually, as His mission neared the end, He was taken by unbelievers and crucified.

But the glorious fact {here comes the hallelujah part!} is that after 3 days in the tomb, He rose again. And because He did, we will too. And not only that, before he was put to death, he atoned for our sins. Every one of us. Every one of our sins.

I am one of the Easter people and hallelujah really is my song. I am SO grateful.

At this beautiful time of year and always, I hope everyone will take a minute to reflect and be grateful for a truly magnificent gift. Happy Easter week to all!


The Love of a Good Book

"I would be the most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." ~Anna Quindlen

I love reading. I love books. I love the library. And now, I love seeing our grandkiddoes all curled up with their noses buried in good books or chuckling over something that tickled them or hearing their excitement over a book they love. There really isn't much that makes me happier than that. I love reading to them, I love reading with them, and I love hearing them read to me.

Books opened a whole new world to me when I was a child, and they still do. And it makes me so happy to see the children I love loving books like I do.


A New Career -- Clowns! (?!)

This past Friday, the Cottam kids and their neighbors threw an awesome carnival for charity. The kids came up with the idea and with the (awesome) help of several mamas, they ran with it. It was amazing. Booths with games, fortune-telling, food, fun -- and (wait for it!): a fabulous clown show.

Yes, we were the carnival clowns. Maya came to us the week before the carnival and requested that we put together a 'clown show'. We looked at each other dubiously and then agreed because seriously, when a 7 year old and her cohorts think you can be funny, you suck it up and do your best.

I was a bit nervous -- I have been sick for the past couple of weeks and while I was feeling better, I wasn't sure I was going to be very energetic or very funny. But we pulled out the old Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes, found some jokes, got a helium tank for regular balloons, got Mark trained to make a few balloon animals with the skinny balloons (yay for the internet!), and figured if we danced the chicken dance and threw out some necklaces, all would be well.

But the chicken dance wouldn't play on the CD I burned and when we tried to do the helium balloons, that didn't work either. Sigh. But the (very corny) jokes were pretty well received, the necklaces were popular, and Grandpa was a hit with his twisty balloon animals. (actually, only wiener dogs -- he's going to up his skills for the next time around.)

Because you can be sure there will be a next time. And if we get asked, we will try harder to be funny. As it was, I heard from a neighborhood mom that 'the clowns were our favorite part of the carnival, mom!'

I love seeing kids put their minds to something and really do it.



Life gets busy -- there is always something going on, that's for sure. We've had some beautiful weather here lately, almost too hot for March (complaining already?!) but it's cooled off a bit the past few days. That makes it perfect for this time of year. I've had a round of sickness -- cold that turned into pneumonia and bronchitis so I'm on antibiotics and steroids for that. (maybe I'l lbulk up! ha!) Starting to feel like I can see the light at the end of that tunnel, thank goodness. It is certainly true that you need to lose your good health for a bit to be grateful for it - I will be so happy to feel good again.

Natalie took this picture of me with Lucy and I love her little face -- but I hate my wrinkly eyes. ("Grandma said the 'h' word!" Sorry kiddoes!) I know I've earned every wrinkle I have -- lots of smiles and laughing as well as too much sun and too little sun protection. The things we learn, right?!

Anyhow, it took me to this little cartoon which put a happy spin on it -- I can wear wrinkly clothes too because I coordinate!!

Have a happy week - I plan to, cold, wrinkles and all.


Love and Compassion

"Whatever the intellectual quality of the education given our children, it is vital that it include elements of love and compassion, for nothing guarantees that knowledge alone will be truly useful to human beings. Among the major troublemakers society has known, many were well-educated and had great knowledge, but they lacked a moral education in qualities such as compassion, wisdom and clarity of vision." ~Dalai Lama

I read this quote this morning and it has been food for thought. I have always hated hearing people say that we live in a terrible world because truly, I believe we live in a wonderful world in many ways. My grandkiddoes would never believe the world I grew up in -- no computers, no cell phones, even cordless phones arrived after I got married, I think. {And I know I am old, but I'm not that old!} Just the difference in the two time periods I was a college student was amazing. On Round 2, it was so easy to do research and write papers because of the computer and the internet. But I do agree that we live in a complicated, difficult world as well. Which means it's ever more important that the children in our lives are taught well, raised well and loved well.

The concept of the moral education is something that I love, and I love to see it happening in the lives of my grandkiddoes and their friends. When you can see 7 year olds, 5 year olds and even 2 year olds with more compassion, insight and love than many adults, you know their parents are doing something right.

And us grandparents? We watch, we hug them and we cheer them on.



The Gift of Loving

"There is an instinct in a woman to love most her own child -- and an instinct to make any child who needs her love, her own."~Robert Brault

I have lots of 'children'. We've lived in many places, and I have had countless opportunities to be a part of so many different lives: at this point in my life, I count that as one of my sweetest blessings. Loving all the Primary children, seminary students, elementary school students, Young Women (and the list goes on) that have passed through life and been in my care has become something very precious to me. I am so thankful for the opportunities I have had to love all of them and pray that there will be just as many (or more) in my future.

Just the other day I was referred to as "the singing lady who sings Head Shoulders Knees and Toes BACKWARDS'' and got a big hug as an extra bonus, and later, was the recipient of a sweet visit from a former Primary (now moved on into YW) child, and also was handed the nicest note and cookies too (!) to go along with the visit.

I will always take the chance on loving. It is an opportunity to open my heart, my life, and my arms and it is gratifying to see those I love blossom under my care.


God is Awake

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily tasks, go to sleep in peace. God is awake." ~ Victor Hugo

A lovely thought, no? It takes courage to get through those great sorrows (and we all have them - if we haven't, we know that we will) and it takes patience to endure the small ones. And when we have slogged our way through the day, sorrowing and worrying and praying, we can go to sleep in peace because we know that God is awake.

He is involved in each of our lives. He knows us, He loves us, and He is in control. I need to remember this, especially when I am feeling most stressed, least peaceful and entirely out of control.

He is awake.


You Never Know

I looked at this little cartoon today and laughed because it's so true. You truly have no idea what your influence is going to be on anyone, especially children.

That's something I have totally enjoyed about Facebook: getting back in touch with people I knew and loved at some point in my life, but (sadly) may never ever see in person again. They may be old friends, former students or even family members who are now spread out across the world.

It's such a gift to hear that maybe, something you did some time ago made a difference to someone. It lifts up my heart and helps me to move on in the day-to-day grind to know that something I did may have made a difference. Reminded me of a little poem I read long ago:

You Never Know
Author Unknown

You never know when someone
May catch a dream from you.
You never know when a little word,
Or something you may do
May open up a window
Of the mind that seeks the light
The way you live may not matter at all...
But you never know - it might.

And just in case it could be
That another's life through you.
Might possibly change for the better
With a broader brighter view.
It seems it might be worth a try
At pointing the way to the right.
Of course, it may not matter at all,
But then again it might.

Which in turn inspires me to be more vocal and verbal about the gratitude I feel for those who have been and continue to be life-changers for me. There are many and I am so grateful.


I Can Do Hard Things

If I am to be totally honest, I will say that 2011 has not started out to be such a great year. There have been some hard things going on, including not feeling all that well, which seems to affect everything in life. Mark and I have both had colds/allergies/complications - he has been sicker than I have (he went to see the doc and came back with steroids, antibiotics and asthma meds) and I haven't (thank goodness) had the cough that he has had. I've just had the congestion, the difficulty catching my breath (yay for already having asthma meds! ha!) and the headaches.

Add to that just the everyday frustrations and tough issues that we all deal with and well, I am feeling like I'm probably not doing as well as I could. As I pondered this, (and prayed too, - doing a lot of that lately) I remembered what Julie B. Beck, the General Relief Society President said once - -"We can do hard things".

Yes, we can. And I am. Not very gracefully yet, but I am trying. And I know I can do it, with the help of dear loving family, good friends, and a loving Heavenly Father who will guide every one of us.

I'm so thankful for that knowledge, and I will keep on trying.


New Year's Resolution #2

I want to spend time every day this year enjoying small {but important} things. Like today. First I spent a few minutes with Maya, as I dropped her off at school. Pure pleasure to chat with her first thing in the morning, and I am 100% committed to sending her off with a happy start to her day. {It's sure a happy start to mine.}

After that I spent an hour in her classroom, reading with some not-so-proficient readers. Again, low-key but fun. Then after a few minutes hanging out with the first-graders in the school cafeteria, I left to have lunch with a dear, wonderful friend. We didn't eat anywhere fancy {Galaxy -- good but not fancy, and we both had their mushroom-swiss burger. Far from fancy food, just plain yummy.} We chatted about this and that and just generally enjoyed each other's company.

From there, I got to go spend time with my little Mason - while his mama ran an errand, we read 10 books together I think. And while we read, we visited and snuggled. Another little thing that really was a treasured part of my day.

I have so many wonderful people in my life, and as I enjoy each one of them, this year I also intend to let them know how important they are to me and how much they are loved.

This is when the small things really turn out to be the big things. And they make me happy.