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My husband and I got married when I was 18. He is quite a bit older than I am, but we work, really well together. When we first got married he wanted to have kids right away because of his age, and I thought I did too. So at my age of 19 we started trying. I am so grateful the Lord knows what is best for us, because I wasn’t ready then. I was 24 when I had my first child, and then 3 more followed in the next 5 years. I learned some things those first few years. I don’t really care for the newborn stage of life. Now, my own kids, I loved, because they were the cutest, best babies ever, but I don’t look back on that stage and wish we were there again. I also don’t swoon over new babies of friends and family that are around me. Other women fight over the chance to hold the new baby, and I can observe from a distance and be just fine.

I loved it when we kids developed. Each new skill allowed them more freedom. Some people hate it when their kids start to crawl. I loved it! They could move themselves and I didn’t have to carry them everywhere, at least some of the time, and they were happier and more content. Walking, what a blessing! They could move themselves, they were experiencing more freedom, and they were happier because they were in more control of themselves and what they wanted to do. I loved watching them learn, everyday and explore their world around them. I did not like the temper tantrums, the “I can do it myself!”, and things of that nature, but who does? But still, this is not my favorite age, in fact, this only ranks one step higher than infant.

Childhood is fun, starting school, learning new things, coming home with a new vocabulary is always a great learning process. I loved watching my kids learn in school, being able to be there almost everyday for over 10 years to see what they were doing, help out in their classrooms and in other capacities throughout the school. We had many lively discussions about what they were learning, how to filter through truth and error, etc. This was a great time of life, what I thought was super busy, but still not my favorite.

Teenagers. Of all the age groups I love the most, it’s teenagers. I love my own, I have 4 teenagers right now, one just starting (13 almost 14), 2 in the middle (15 and 17), and one at the end (19). They come with their own challenges, but it is such a period of growth, from being almost completely dependent, to being completely independent and on their own. There is such a learning curve, and some kids seem to sail right through it all, while others can’t seem to catch a break. I am so grateful for my teenagers. Some of them have gone through really hard years at school, as well as with friends. Some are not always respectful, but are willing to admit when they were wrong. I am definitely not a perfect parent, but I am so grateful for the gospel and the values it has instilled in me, that I am able to strive to instill in my kids. They are not perfect either, but they are growing up into awesome people, who care about others, who strive to take care of themselves, who make mistakes and fix them. They are awesome kids.

I am also grateful for the youth that I get to work with from my Church. I teach an early morning seminary class for high school age youth. We start at 6:30 am, which means these kids are getting up between 5 and 5:30 every morning to get there on time. We have 14 students that attend almost every morning. My son plays basketball, as well as several of the other, and most of them play some kind of sport throughout the school year, or participate in other extracurricular activities, which means they aren’t getting home several nights of the week until 8 or 9 at night. But they never make excuses for seminary. They show up, most of the time they don’t sleep, and they participate in the discussion. I watch these youth, and a lot of teenagers in my area. They are figuring things out. As I watched my oldest get ready to leave home for college, there was the excitement, but also a little bit of worry. Worry that she could do it on her own, worry that she might not find a job, worry about scholarships and college. But she stepped out and did it anyway. So many teenagers right now feel the same things as graduations and adulthood loom closer, but they take courage, they step out, and they do it anyway.

The other thing I love about teenagers is that you can talk to them. Especially when they are really seeking answer. But to get to that point you really have to listen. I love driving with my kids places, especially one on one. The drive usually starts out pretty quiet. Sometimes the radio gets turned on, but when they really need to talk, the radio gets turned off, there are long pauses for them to think, and there are great discussions. My husband was worried initially as our kids started high school because of the driving times to some of their schools and activities. He wanted to car pool with others, or send them on the bus to save me time and save us gas money. I said that wasn’t an option. He couldn’t understand at first, but he now enjoys the rides home (as much as I do) with just one kid from a basketball game or to a school event or activity, the discussions about everything under the sun from dirt bikes to basketball games, and everything in between.

I am so grateful for all the stages of life, each one has it’s pros and cons. But, I really do enjoy teenagers the most. I would love to hear from you. What is your favorite age group of kids and why?

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Today is Mother’s Day, so to start off, I want to wish you all a happy Mother’s Day! It’s a wonderful day to celebrate those Mom’s that have had an impact on our lives, whether they be family or those who have impacted our lives positively anywhere along the road. Thank you for shaping each of us in a positive way.

Today at Church I heard a story from John in the New Testament that I had never heard related this way, and it made me think, made me see things differently, and I am grateful for the added perspective to this story and to my life. So I would like to relate the story and what I learned. This story comes from John chapter 8, in which a woman was taken in adultery and was brought before the Savior by the Pharisees to see what He would do about it. This woman was at a very low point in her life. She, in fact, had reached what we would call “rock bottom.” She was caught in a sin, she was brought publicly through the streets, she was probably humiliated because of what she had done as well as the judgements cast by everyone who saw her and those who knew her story. To make matters worse, because of the law, she could possibly be sentenced to death by stoning. She was brought before Jesus, whom she may or may not have known of, to have her fate determined. What was His response?

“He who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

What happened? The crowd dispersed. Yet one remained. The only one without sin never left her side. Jesus stayed when everyone left. He didn’t stay to condemn her, He didn’t stay to humiliate her, He didn’t stay to accuse her. He stayed because He loved her and because she needed Him. And when they were all gone, what did He do? No condemnation, no ridicule, no humiliation. Love is what He extended, forgiveness was what He gave. But He never left her, just like He will never leave us, especially in our time of need, especially when we feel like we are not worth saving, when we are not worth anything. We matter to the most important people in the whole grand scheme of thing, and He, our Savior, and our Heavenly Father will never leave us, they love us so very much!

As I was pondering on this story it reminded me of a story I heard in one of my Church’s General Conference addresses. I think it applies here as well. I will relate the story here, and you can read the whole talk here, it is called “Where Justice, Love, and Mercy Meet by Jeffrey R. Holland.

“Without safety ropes, harnesses, or climbing gear of any kind, two brothers – Jimmy, age 14, and John, age 19 (though those aren’t their real names) – attempted to scale a sheer canyon wall in Snow Canyon State Park in my native Southern Utah. Near the top of their laborious climb, they discovered that a protruding ledge denied them their final few feet of ascent. They could not get over it, but neither could they now retreat from it. They were stranded. After careful maneuvering, John found enough footing to boost his younger brother to safety on top of the ledge. But there was no way to lift himself. The more he strained to find finger or foot leverage, the more his muscles began to cramp. Panic started to sweep over him, and he began to fear for his life.

“Unable to hold on much longer, John decided his only option was to try to jump vertically in an effort to grab the top of the overhanging ledge. If successful, he might, by his considerable arm strength, pull himself to safety.

“In his own words, he said:

“Prior to my jump I told Jimmy to go search for a tree branch strong enough to extend down to me, although I knew there was nothing of the kind on this rocky summit. It was only a desperate ruse. If my jump failed, the least I could do was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.

“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer – that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own – then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to – no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.

“But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited – silently, almost breathlessly – knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.””

Elder Holland goes on to say, “we should always remember … brotherly hands and determined arms that reached into the abyss of death to save us from our fallings and our failings, from our sorrows and our sins. Against the background of this story reported by John and Jimmy’s family, I express my gratitude for the Atonement and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and acknowledge events in the divine plan of God that led up to and give meaning to ‘the love Jesus offers [us]'”

I have never reached the rock bottom, life or death situations like these stories relate, but I have had times of darkness, times of trial, times when I couldn’t figure out how to move forward. And what has cut through that darkness? My Heavenly Father through my Savior. No matter the trial, no matter how seemingly unimportant the question to my God, who knows all and sees all. I have never been condemned by Him, never ridiculed or made to feel worthless. I have received love, a never-ending stream of love, caring, comfort, kindness, compassion. I have received correction, I am not perfect. But not correction from an all powerful, unfeeling being. From a Father who loves His daughter, through His Son who loves me so much that He was willing to feel what I feel, to hurt what I hurt, to sorrow like I sorrow, so that He could comfort like I need it, heal what’s been broken, and light my way when I don’t know how to move forward. He never leaves me, especially in my times of greatest struggles. I know He never will.

The best part about my Savior Jesus Christ, is that He is your Savior too. He did all this for you too. He never leaves your side, He guides and directs, comforts and cares for not just me, but everyone. And He is never unavailable, He speaks each of our languages perfectly, and no matter how far away from Him we feel, we only have to turn around, because He is right there, always. If you don’t know Him, you should get to know Him, and if you do know Him, get to know Him better, because He wants to know you too.

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This post might be a bit more political than normal. My intent is not to make people feel bad on either side of the line, but more to remind us all to come together. I have been watching and listening, as have we all, to the thoughts on the Covid19 vaccine. I find it interesting how divisive this has been to our country. Neighbors against neighbors, states against states, human beings fighting over everything, but particularly the vaccine.

I have been thinking a lot about vaccinations. We have had great success with vaccines to prevent measles, mumps, polio, small pox, chicken pox, and on and on. We now have a new vaccine for Covid. In the past, we were asked to vaccinate our kids against all of these diseases, because they have never been totally eradicated from the planet, so there is always a possibility of them resurfacing over time. There was always a choice to be made, however, on the part of each individual. I do not recall ever having anyone look at me and ask if I had had my vaccinations or not. I have never had anyone tell me that I couldn’t participate in something, or be around others because I may or may not have been vaccinated against any particular disease. I also have never had to carry around a card telling everyone that my vaccinations are current. We all have been blessed with the freedom of choice, and not being judged for either one, or at least mostly not being judged for having vaccinated or not.

What has happened to our country? We are more concerned with the business of our neighbor than we are with our own health and safety. To wear a mast of not, if not, to be judged by everyone else wearing a mask, and in some instances ridiculed for not doing so. To believe the things the media is telling us or not, and then, either way, to be told you’re wrong, your sources are wrong, you are being misled. To vaccinate or not, and then, again, on either side to be told you’re being misled, or that you don’t care about anyone else if you choose not to. I think one thing this pandemic has shown us, is how much bad information there is out there. It doesn’t matter your opinion on anything, you can find an expert to back you up. It’s hard to weed through it all.

I still believe in the ability to choose for ourselves what we think is best for our own bodies. Let me make it perfectly clear here, I am not talking about abortion, that involves more than one body and I believe you gave up your rights to choose when you chose to have sex. Every action has a consequence. But, knowing that every action has a consequence, if someone decides to get vaccinated, then they get the consequences of that action, hopefully it results in less risk for infection, hopefully there are no side effects to the vaccine 5 years down the road. But it’s your choice, and it’s a private one. If you choose not to get vaccinated, then you get the consequences of that action too. You may contract Covid, you may not. You may end up in the hospital on life support, or die. You may not. But again, you have that opportunity to choose.

I guess what I think is, that we need to stop being so worried about what our neighbor is doing and not doing, and do what we feel like is best for us personally. Let our neighbors do what is best for them personally. And then, in the end, be kind to them. Don’t judge them, remembering that you don’t want to be judged either. I love the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That has been forgotten in many instances in our world today. We don’t want to be judged, so we cannot pass judgement on others. We want our thoughts and opinions to be considered, so we need to likewise consider EVERYONE else’s thoughts and opinions, not just the ones we agree with or like. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree, or change what we believe, but we can learn and be compassionate towards our fellowmen, towards our neighbor, whoever they may be. So today, be kind, have compassion, don’t judge, and learn something new about someone else.

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Friday was a super exciting day, as I searched for my book online and found it on the Barnes and Noble website! It is a little bit surreal to see it actually being published, not only as an eBook, but also in actual print, hardcover, real life. My kids prefer books to Nooks and electronic reading in a lot of instances. I am not as picky, however, I am suddenly really excited for the actual book to land on my doorstep, hopefully soon!

My book is about setting goals. I tend to set goals, rarely tell people about them, strive to accomplish them, and then move on to the next thing. Sometimes I forget how important it is to include people in my goals, or at least let people close to me know what I am doing. Case in point: My husband is very supportive of whatever I decide to do. He knows I am ultra conscientious of our money, more so than he is, so he knows I am not going to frivolously spend money on things of little value, at least most of the time. I know that when he comes to me with larger purchase, which we always discuss, that he has done his research, and most often the purchase will assist him in his business, or repairing cars, etc. and will be an asset. But we discuss big things of that nature. What I didn’t talk to him about was that I was writing a book. Not because I didn’t want him to know, but because I just did it, that’s what I tend to do. I learned to paint late at night, I sew when he is at work, much of what I do he is unaware, or only slightly aware of because he either doesn’t see me doing it, or he is busy getting his stuff done. When we work together on his jobs, most of the conversations revolve around building houses (that’s what he does for a living), fixing cars (that’s his biggest hobby), or our kids.

So when I found my book online, I was super excited. He happened to call me just minutes after I found it, and I was so excited that I told him my book was online and available for purchase! There was silence, and then he said, “You wrote a book?” I thought, “Wow, did I not tell him that?” It is super exciting to accomplish goals, and some people really need those words of affirmation from people, which is an awesome boost to help us keep going. I think in some ways I really do like those words, but if I don’t get them it doesn’t slow me down, I just keep going with the next goal. But after he found out, he was happy for me, and wanted to know what it was about. It made me feel good to know he was interested. I thought about how often I see people doing great things, think to myself, “that’s really cool that they are doing that,” and then move on with life. How much benefit would it be if I just said to them, “That’s really cool, great job!” I think as we go through life, we, or probably mostly me, get wrapped up in what we are doing, we see things, think it’s great, and then just keep going with what we’re doing. I was grateful that day for his kind words. I hope I can see others better, and help motivate through my kind words as well.

My youngest son came to me the other day and wanted to know how I focus my mind. I told him it’s not always focused, but that setting goals, and going about your day doing good is a great way to maintain focus. When we set goals we have a purpose, we have something for our mind to work on, to think about. Setting goals also sends us in a direction, we are no longer floating along wherever the wind takes us. I am grateful for the goals I have set in my life, and now see how they have and are changing me for the better. There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 year ago. The second best time is now.” I often look back at my life and wish I had started doing the things I am doing now, long ago. How much further ahead would I be? But at the same time, I can’t live in the past, so now is the best time to start for the future. I don’t think 20 years ago I had a desire to write a book, or at least not a huge one, but I’m glad I didn’t wait for another 20 to accomplish the goal now. Now, on to the next goal, what will it be? Learning how to market books possibly! I hope you take opportunity to set a (or some) goal(s) today, so in 20 years you can look back and see how far you’ve come. If you need help figuring out what to do, you can check out my book on Barnes and Noble here.

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Chapter 2

My book is at the printers and hopefully will be shipped shortly! It’s fun getting new products from my art, but this is a little different feeling. It almost seems like a bigger part of my heart, because it is so much more personal than art in a lot of ways. I am super excited to get the proof copy in the mail and to actually be able to look through it in real life! At any rate, until then, I will be posting the last of the chapters I will post here on my blog today, then you’ll have to purchase the hard copy of the book or purchase the eBook to read the rest. The eBook however will be available in 2 days! I will post a link to that here as well when it’s available.

As you may remember, or if you haven’t read the first chapter, it was titled: Where Am I Going, and you can read that one in a previous blog post here. This chapter is called:

How Do I Get There.

Often when we start noticing things in our lives that we aren’t particularly proud of, or things we want to change, we wonder where to begin.  We set goals, we look to the future, maybe we even write a few things down.  As time passes, we lose interest in what we wanted to become.  Sometimes it’s because we think it’s too hard, or we fall off the wagon and decide we’ll never be able to get back on.  Maybe the goal we set was too big for us, or maybe the steps getting there were so tall we couldn’t even reach the next step on our tippy toes.  Whatever the case may be, we need to stop.  Our mind is the first thing we need to learn to control.  Maybe there is some validity in some of those excuses, but they aren’t a reason to quit, just a reason to reevaluate.

I love to exercise, and I like to be fit.  There was a time in my life when I was exercising hard, at least 60 minutes a day, 6 days a week.  I was a young mom, so I was chasing kids around all day, I was physically active all day long besides my workouts.  I could tell that something was off, as I was not gaining energy any more from my workouts, but I felt like I was slowly deteriorating, becoming more and more exhausted.  But I wasn’t losing weight, which was my goal.  I was at the point of wanting to quit, because who wants to keep beating up their body for no results.  But instead of quitting, I stopped; I reevaluated what I was doing.  I prayed, because I do that a lot.  I started to pay attention to what the fitness experts were saying.  Eating healthy was a priority, but quantity of food was not something I had thought of.  I set a goal to maintain a certain calorie count.  I started to see results, measurable results.  I didn’t quit exercising; I adjusted the other part of my life that needed attention.  I was able to reduce my exercise, and do it smarter when I ate more correctly.  Then I got my energy back.  So often different parts of our lives are interconnected, and when we work on one, we may have to visit a different area and work on 2 simultaneously.  Sometimes getting one area of our lives in order will propel another area forward without even trying.  Sometimes we realize we were focused on the wrong thing all along.

I hope that as you work through this book, you can identify areas of your life that need work, different areas that can maybe be together, and which ones are the most important.  After all, we only have so much time in a day.  Making sure we start with what’s most important and then working our way down the line will help us manage a smaller list, but get things in the correct order to begin with.  That way we aren’t working on the pennies all the time when we should be focusing on the dollars.  Remember also, we are all a work in progress, once one goal becomes a habit, we can move on to the next.  We don’t have to do everything all at once, because we have a lifetime to get better.

We all have reasons we stop working toward goals and change.  You rationalize quitting.  These really only equate to rational lies that we use to convince ourselves we don’t need to go on.  But seeing them for what they are will help us avoid using them in the first place.  Write them down here so you can avoid them.