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One of my 2 daughters came home this evening. She has been gone working all summer at a remote hunting lodge in the Talkeetna Mountains, called Stephan Lake Lodge. The opportunity came in June, and less than 24 hours after finding out about the job, she was gone. There isn’t any cell service out there, but they did have some internet capabilities, so we were able to stay in contact through Instagram messenger throughout the summer, I love technology!

Throughout this experience, it’s been interesting to see the growth. She was hired along with a friend, who was the daughter of the lady hired to clean and cook the lodge and outbuildings. The job was way too big for one person, so she was able to get permission to hire her daughter and mine to come help. I am grateful that she was the one out there, as she is a friend and I knew that I could trust her to take care of my daughter while she was out there. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have been able to say ok when my daughter expressed an interest in going, nor do I think she would have considered going under different circumstances.

Through her messages though, I found a new confidence that she hasn’t necessarily always had. We have always had our kids work, and when they were old enough, they worked for their dad. But being on a job where it’s not family changes the dynamic a little. She has always been a good worker if she enjoyed the job, but she has learned to just buckle down and get it done, no matter what it is, or how much she would rather not.

She has never been a fan of physical touch. If her brother’s touched her, whether to give her a high five, give her a hug, or poke her to annoy her, she had a problem with it. Not that she doesn’t still have a problem with it, but she tolerates the hugs without too much objection. She was excited to be home, at our house, in her own room, in her own bed, around family (though she gained a sister is the friend she went out there with). She also told us she was excited to have a bathroom fan, it’s funny what we appreciate when we don’t have it.

But, the boys haven’t really noticed the changes, and I hope that at some point they can see the changes and the differences in who she is becoming. It’s hard to maintain change when we are around people who don’t ever recognize the changes we are trying to make or, because of the other person’s lack of change, they try to keep us the way we were, because they don’t want to change or see things differently. It is amazing how many people in this world don’t believe that people can change, that people can become better. I think it is fascinating to listen to people who have led rough lives, been to prison, and have realized that wasn’t what they wanted, and ultimately changed who they were. We see those stories and are super inspired by them, but how often do we let someone in our own lives, who maybe have hurt us, or caused us problems, how often do we let them change into a better person. Or do we try to hold them back, never being willing to forgive and let them move on? Normally the problems are never that big, but the consequences are just as devastating when we don’t let people grow. I am grateful for the people in my life that have allowed me the opportunity to grow and change. I am grateful for the opportunity to fully forgive others so that I don’t have that burden in my life. Is there someone in your life that you can allow to grow? Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Take that opportunity this week. You and they will then be able to progress forward.

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Today in Church there was an interesting talk about the Dr. Seuss book, “The Sneetches.” I love Dr. Seuss, even though some think he should be banned, I do not think so, and actually think the opposite. His books have a way of teaching a lesson or principle in a fun way, that’s easy to understand, even to a child. I couldn’t remember this book, and I didn’t have it on my shelves, so I looked it up online, and there was a short movie made out of the book. Here is the book cover, and you can click on the book to watch the movie. It’s a little over 12 minutes long.

Having watched the movie I have had a number of different thoughts. I think this book could apply to so many different situations that are currently happening all over the world at this time. But my thoughts as I watched this movie centered around following the crowd, for the sake of following the crowd, of fitting in and being accepted. We all want to fit somewhere. There is nothing wrong with that, and there are so many different places and opportunities to do so. But how often do we see someone else doing one thing, that doesn’t fit with our groups paradigm, and we suddenly think poorly of that person. We judge, and sometimes ridicule or condemn someone for thinking or believing differently than we do.

It’s interesting to me, I worked in the school system for a while, and there is so much talk and teaching about how to stop bullying, how to be kind, how to include and not be a bully. Time invested on the part of the teachers, the support staff, the principal. But yet we grow up, and now there is no teacher standing over our shoulder, and we forget that we should be kind, that we should include people in our groups. Or if nothing else, we should at least not judge. Let people be who they are. But that isn’t what has or is happening, especially recently. Children should be able to look at the adults to see how to act properly, and yet, the good examples are diminishing.

It is super easy to get caught up in the excitement of a situation, or the negativity, especially when we want to be included in the group, or want to appear a certain way to the world around us. There is a thrill in the hype and excitement around any event, good or bad, that can be contagious. Good hype, around good organizations and situations is exhilarating and propels us forward to do more good. Good situations fill us, and we seek out ways to not only continue to be filled, but with good situations, we begin seeking out ways to help others feel full as well. Hype around a bad organization or situation can be just as exhilarating in the moment. But it never propels us to good, to wholesome, filling activities. It can never fill us, but usually leaves us feeling empty when it’s over, looking for that next situation that is exhilarating again, but looking for it in all the wrong places.

How do we tell if the situation we are getting into is a good one, one that will be inclusive and uplifting? We have to do the research. If you look up any organization on the internet you will find exactly what they want you to see, and it’s always going to have a positive spin on it. But to truly see what kind of situation it is, look at the fruits, the outcomes of other similar situations, especially concerning that organization. Look at the community building things done, or in some cases, the destruction left behind. Talk to real people who have seen either outcome. Go into any situation with your eyes wide open and your mind clear so that you can see things as they really are. Pay attention to your conscience, to what you know to be right, and stay true to who you are. And if you can’t find anyone, start by inviting and including others into your life. Do good and it will draw others to you. Be kind, and people will want to be around you, whether you have a star on your belly or not.

What did you learn from watching/reading this book by Dr. Seuss? How are you applying it to your life and your mind? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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My art gives me an opportunity to meet many people, sometimes those people come from different countries. I enjoy talking to these people, just to get a better idea of their lives, culture, and what they think and believe in. My goal is not to judge those people, but to learn about them and their countries. I had that chance a couple of years ago at a Christmas bazaar I was working at. The booth next to me was selling massage items, one for your eyes, and one fairly portable one, but not hand held, that worked for you shoulders and back. There were 2 men working in this booth, and as the day progressed we talked quite a bit as it was not a super busy bazaar. I found out one was from Israel and one from Ireland. I enjoyed working next to them, they were nice people.

As we talked, we started to talk about freedoms and what it meant for regular people like us. We talked about the bazaar that we were at that very day, and several like it that they had participated in, and that I had participated in. Their comments were very interesting to me, and I have thought a lot about them since. The one from Israel made most of the comments and had the most questions. He asked me what my thoughts were on the capitalist system, and I told him I thought it was the best system for the general population, as it gives everyone the right to earn in a way that they desire, if they are motivated enough to work hard, and to keep the majority of what they earned. When I asked them their thoughts, he share his experiences with me.

In Israel at the time, he would never have been allowed to sell anything that wasn’t government sanctioned. There would be no vendors like me, selling art or products that I made, without me jumping through a bunch of regulatory hoops. He said, even if I made it through those hoops, then the government would take the profits and give me back what they felt like I needed or had earned. He said it wasn’t much. These men worked for a larger company, but they were well paid, they enjoyed meeting people, and they enjoyed the freedom to move around and do as they wished. I am grateful to have met these men, to see from their eyes what it was like for them, where they came from, and for the appreciation it gave me for the freedoms that I enjoy.

So, what does the word “Stand” have to do with any of that? We need to stand up for our freedoms. Whether it be in our blogs, or in our social media, or wherever, stand up and be counted. I think there is a huge amount of people out there, working hard, and “keeping their heads down” so to speak, hoping everything will level out sooner or later. But I don’t see that happening. So, today I will tell you, and I hope you can pass my experience along to other that you know, and that you will share your experiences with me, and with the world.

I stand for the Constitution of the United States. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s more perfect than any other government document that has been written in history. I have studied it. The founding father’s weren’t perfect men, but they knew that. The Constitution is written as a living document. But the basics, the bones of the Constitution should not be messed with. I stand for the Bill of Rights. I have read and studied them. I believe that if we all had read and studied them, we wouldn’t have nearly so many disagreements in our country. I do not believe that the rights set forth in the Bill of Rights should be infringed upon.

I stand for the Human family, and believe that every human being should be treated with the same respect as any other. That’s not to say there aren’t bad people in this world, but I think that most people are good. Most people are just trying to make it through this life, just like I am. Most people, when given an opportunity, will help rather than hinder a fellow human being. There are so many examples of this if you’re willing to look, and your skin color, your ethnicity, your yearly income, doesn’t matter. It’s what’s in your heart, and most people have a good heart. That doesn’t make any of us perfect, but I think there’s a lot of people trying.

I stand for God. I believe in God, I believe that He is our Heavenly Father, and that He truly loves us. I believe He has given us guidance and instruction to assist us in becoming better than we could be by ourselves, and that if we strive to follow that guidance and instruction, we can improve every day. I also believe that we need to allow each other to improve. Sometimes people make huge improvements, and the people around them won’t let go of the person they were, and it makes it hard to stay the new, better person. Allow people opportunity to change and become better.

I stand for the family unit. There are some saying that it’s not important to have a family unit anymore. That the government, or agencies could raise our children better. There are others who think parents aren’t important, one or both. I believe that every child has the right to a family, with parents who are working hard to help that child succeed in life. It’s a commitment of time and energy, a lot of both, but it’s a commitment that no one else can do as well as that parent, for that child. No parent is perfect. We are learning as we go, just as the kids are learning as they go. But working together as a family changes lives in ways no agency or government could ever accomplish. The love and concern that a parent has can never be duplicated.

I stand for personal responsibility. I don’t think it’s the government’s job to tell us what to do, when to do it, or what to think about it. We need to do our own research. We need to examine both sides. We have a responsibility to be well informed in anything we stand for. But, as stated earlier, I stand for the human family. No matter my opinion, or your opinion, we need to be respectful to one another and find ways to work together for the greater good of our society as a whole. Something to remember when working together for the common good though, is that just because you or I believe something, doesn’t mean that our way is the best way, or the only way. It’s when we can see each other, when we can open our minds to new possibilities and solutions, different than either side has previously thought of, that we will come to the best solutions to the problems facing the human family. I know there are solutions out there for every problem that will benefit both sides of any situation, but when we get entrenched in our side and aren’t willing to look at anything else, that’s when solution aren’t forth coming.

Whether you agree or disagree with me on any point, is not really the point here. We each need to determine where we stand, because if we don’t, we will fall for anything that comes along. We need to be firm in what we believe so that the shifting tides of every new idea don’t keep shifting us around. And we need to be willing to look for those alternative ideas that benefit everyone. There is a lot happening in the world today that wants us to be constantly stirred up about every little thing going on. We can choose to be stirred, or we can choose to stand. I would love to hear your ideas on any of these subjects, or hear what you stand for as well.

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This week I have been thinking about Unity. Actually I started thinking about division, and how our country, and the world, seem to be divided more and more. It doesn’t seem to matter the issue, but there is always one, and it doesn’t seem to matter the opinion, there’s always someone willing to fight about it and contradict it. But none of that fighting and anger leads anywhere except to division. So today I thought I would talk instead, about Unity.

We are all unique individuals. We have our own thoughts, formed from our own experiences, with our own perspectives on things. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t be united on things, even if it is on a basic level. I think most people can agree that they feel like they are important enough to be treated with respect. If we all can agree on that, we should all then be able to agree on the fact that each other person we come in contact with should also be treated with respect. We are all human beings, no one person is better than the other in the whole grand scheme of things.

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This week I was looking at, and discussing with several people, how things like masks, vaccinations, religion, natural disaster, politics, race, and wages have divided our country. We can all have differing opinions on each one of these subjects, that’s ok. What’s not ok is when we start judging, belittling, or humiliating people based upon these disagreements. It is my opinion, that most of these things are superficial, at best, anyway. When we start to look at those around us as real people, we start to see needs, places we can help, ways we can strengthen, then we start to see people. And when we start to understand and really listen to someone else, and why they think the way they do, we can really see what they see and who they really are. That doesn’t mean that we will agree with everything they think, we don’t have to change our opinions just because we see why someone thinks the way they do, but we can respect people when we know where they’re coming from.

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I am grateful for the many people I get to meet through my Church, my business, and my community. There is diversity in all places. That diversity is beautiful. Each person comes from a different background, each person has had wonderful, hard, heartbreaking, exciting, unique experiences that have influenced the way they view the world. So if everyone is so different, how do we become united? We have a purpose, a shared reason to be united. Again, a basic reason is that every person is a human being. That is a point of unity. We see people unite in the face of adversity. A natural disaster, a catastrophic event in an area, or simply in an individual’s life all bring people together. Happy things can bring people together, a common goal or interest will bring many diverse people together united in a common purpose. Freedom has, in the past unified our nation. Love of country and it’s potential can unite us if we all look to the same goal. We don’t have to be the same to desire the same thing, and often, the answer to how to achieve the goal will not come from one side or the other, often the best solutions come when both sides work together, and when that happens, usually the answer is neither sides opinion, but rather a third option that works better than either, but would never have been possible without a willingness to set aside our differences and work together toward that common goal.

So this week, I would encourage you to get to know someone else. Talk to them about their life and really try to understand. Look for an opportunity to help or serve someone in some way. It doesn’t have to be big, but it can be if need arises. Share what you have with someone else, let a car out in front of you when they are trying to get into traffic, instead of instantly getting defensive, ask questions to understand, without judgement. I will be striving to do this as well this week. I would love to hear what you learn!

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I am so grateful for friends who share ideas with me. This past Monday I had a Seminary meeting with my team teacher. We got everything scheduled out for this semester, which is a huge relief. But, as we were visiting at the end, she was sharing with me some of the things that she did to help her son on his mission feel like he was remembered by the family, and share a little bit of extra love, not only with him, but his companion as well. I will share with you what I decided to do for my daughter who is on her mission, that will hopefully brighten her day when she gets it, along with her companions, hopefully.

But first, a couple of stories from today. My boys enjoy adventures, but not always the same kind I do. Today I decided to drive down to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. I haven’t been in the summer in years, and I wanted to see the animals and get some inspiration for paintings. But, they didn’t think that sounded like much fun if that was all we were going to do. So I bribed them. If they would go with me, we would stop at the rock climbing gym in Anchorage (which they had never been too, but looked really cool), and I would give them an hour or two to climb on our way back through. I think it took less than five minutes for them to get ready to go. But regardless of why they came, they didn’t complain, and they ended up having a lot of fun looking at the animals, as well as climbing.

On our way home we decided to stop at McDonald’s for some ice cream. As we were sitting in the drive thru I noticed that the lady beside us had an almost flat tire. I told my younger son to go knock on her window and let her know. He was hesitant, but I was going to need to move, so I hurried him out the door. He knocked and let her know, got back in the car, and said she didn’t really seem to be bothered by it, but she had briefly said thank you. I was glad we let her know regardless. We pulled up and ordered, and ended up just in front of that car. My younger son said to me, “that lady looks really tired, we should pay for her order.” I try to help people, but I am always more concerned about money than I should be. I asked how many kids were in the car. He said 3. I told him it could be upwards of $40 if they all got meals. He said he’d pay for it. I debated, and then was chastened by Heavenly Father for even questioning. I paid for her meal, we got our food and left. I am always so grateful for the willingness of my son to share. He is all the time giving people cash when they look like they need it, buying a sandwich or extra burger when he sees someone panhandling on the way in to a store, so he can give it to them on the way out. He cares for people. He is such a great example to me. Sometimes I tell him that we don’t really know the person’s circumstances, they might not really need it. But he tells me it’s not about them. I am learning it’s more about our, especially my, heart. I am grateful tonight for the quiet chastening from the Spirit, and for my sons big heart.

There are so many ways to care for people. I tend to look at the physical ways, like taking cookies, or helping with firewood or meals. I also tend to look more within my circle of comfort than without. But everyone around us needs something. I am going to work on being in better tune with the Spirit, so that I can set as great an example for my kids as they are always setting for me. What do you to do care for others, family, friends, or neighbors you meet along the way?

Lastly, here’s the box I made up for my daughter on the mission. This is obviously a little more work and money, but you don’t have to spend any money to show someone else you care. A simple text, phone call, email, or better yet, a lunch, smile, and/or hug! But, if you feel like mailing something, which is super fun to do as well (and who doesn’t love mail!), here’s one idea, and it was fun to put together. My daughter is super happy most of the time, but she has found her mission to be more difficult than she originally thought it might be, so I chose a theme of yellow because she loves it, and she has always been a sunshine to me. It’s amazing how much color packaging has when you start shopping based upon color! There are so many ideas like this on the internet now. And, there are companies that put things like this together for you, so there are a lot of options. The things I put in the box cost around $15, and it’s a flat rate box, so another $15 to mail. The cards I printed out at home, hopefully she can display them somewhere to read when she gets down, even when the box and goodies inside are gone. Decorating the tabs on the inside was a fun idea I found online as well, and it sends a nice bold message that can be discarded with the box, or taped to the wall as a reminder as well. I hope you have some great ideas of how to show someone else you care. I would love to hear some, especially for missionaries!