Friday, May 29, 2009

If I Could Have My Dream Job . . .

I would be a party/event planner. I love to plan parties! I love planning the decorations, the food, the entertainment. Everything. The last big neighborhood party I had was during the Olympics last fall and we had a mini Olympics at my house. We had a javelin throw with swimming pool noodles, a discus throw with paper plates, bowling with pineapples and Nerf gun shooting plus several other activities. And then there was the Christmas party . . .

More recently I have helped plan two other parties. The first was a semi-formal garden party held last month in my friend Suzy's backyard. Suzy is a ton of fun and a hard worker, so the perfect person to plan a party with. She is also the very best at making very cute place cards. She made the clever and beautiful place cards below. Each of the little tangerines had a name written on a miniature piece of paper glued to a toothpick and stuck in the fruit.

Since purple is my favorite color, I wanted to use it for the table cloths. We also tied purple bows to the chairs and decorated the table with orange and yellow flowers. On each plate we had chocolate truffles wrapped in purple cellophane and tied with a yellow bow. My good friend Jenny also planned the party with us. Jenny is another great person to work with. She has great ideas, and she keeps track of everyone's assignments.

For dinner we served chicken breasts stuffed with spinach, sun dried tomatoes and three different cheeses, fresh green beans with butter and lemon, seasoned rice, a green salad and homemade rolls.

Today was another party. I have been working on this one for over a month now and loved how it came together--thanks to many people who helped out. It was for my friend Sonia's 40th birthday. Her favorite color is red so we wanted to use that without making it look like Valentines, so we added black in polka dots and gingham.

We gathered pictures from Sonia's past and another friend, Amy, put them together in this very cute display. The blank one in the center was signed by everyone at the party (28 people) and the red paper will be replaced with a group picture.

Around the room, on the walls we placed enlarged news articles covering the top ten stories of 1969. That was the year Sesame Street made its debut, Woodstock was held, the Internet began, the draft was reinstated, Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, and of course, Sonia was born! My daughter Kristen--who did all the news research--made up a fake edition of the Los Angeles Times--special evening edition--and wrote several articles about Sonia's birth, which included things like a message from then President Nixon, congratulations from recently elected Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, and astronaut Neil Armstrong.

For entertainment we played Family Feud Sonia Style--where everyone had to guess her top answers to categories like "Favorite Musical Group of the 80's" and "Top Vacation Spots". We filled up on Mexican food, brownie bites, miniature cheese cakes and cherry bars, (her favorite foods) and watched her open some very thoughtful gifts. No gag gifts were given but one card came close. It said, "Well, wasn't it fun being young and skinny? But now that is all over . . . " Ouch.
And now I am ready to take a break from partying and start focusing on other areas of my life. Like next Thursday night I am speaking at our stake youth conference. I only have to speak for 15 minutes, so it shouldn't be too hard to prepare, but so far I have not given it a thought. Any suggestions???

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Prayers and Blogger Friends--A Fun Story

I love to travel, but I do not like having to stay in a hotel on Sunday where our only option for food is to eat out. We always attend church and each time I silently pray a family in the ward we are visiting will invite us to their home for dinner, as my husband’s family often did for tourists while they were living in Mexico City. So far, however, no one has answered my prayer.

But, for some reason that thought was on my mind last Wednesday when it occurred to me that we live near a new resort and it is possible families on vacation there might attend our sacrament meeting services. I decided that if I learned of any who were visiting I would be sure to invite them over for Sunday dinner.

As I thought about it however, I decided it would be helpful if I could get a prompting in advance so I could be sure to have enough food on hand to feed extra people. And so I said a prayer and explained my desire to feed those who might be traveling and asked for a prompting when they might come so I could prepare.

A few hours later I received a comment on my blog from a blog friend, Lisa, asking if I had received her email. I hadn’t, as I never check the email address (before now :-) listed with my blog. So I got on to read her email and discovered another one sent May 5 from a blog friend, Christina. In Christina’s email she asked a question and while responding, I randomly told her what town I lived in. I didn’t know why I included that at the time, I just did it.

Christina quickly wrote back telling me she and her family would be in my town that very weekend staying at the resort near our home. And so I invited her, and her family to dinner. I was so amazed and thrilled how my prayer was answered so quickly and in such a fun way. If Lisa hadn’t asked about her email I would never have checked that email address and found Christina’s note. If I hadn’t randomly included the name of the town we live in, she would not have told me they were visiting near us this weekend. And they would have come to our ward, and left, and since I was attending another ward during our SS and RS, I would have never met them and been able to have them over for dinner at our house. And I would have missed out on meeting a very sweet blog friend.

I love it when prayers are answered like that! It is always such a comfort to me to know our prayers are both heard and answered. Here are some pictures from our time together.


Everyone helped get dinner ready. Wes mashed the potatoes, Kristen made the gravy, Kathryn cut the meat, I made the fruit salad and cooked the vegetables and Michelle took care of the rolls and water.

After reading each others blogs for several months it was fun to meet Christina, her husband and their seven children in person.

I got so caught up in dinner, I forgot to take pictures, but afterwards while the adults visited and my older daughters did the dishes, Michelle helped entertain the kids. Here she is with the twins watching a movie.

And of course we had to take a group photo! Unfortunately Wes had already left for meetings and I was the photographer, but here is everyone else--a few hours after meeting and now good friends.

I was so glad we could meet them. Although we were friends in cyber space, it is even better to meet and be friends in real life.
So to Christina and your dear, sweet family . . . thanks for coming to dinner and for bringing so much . . . joy to our journey!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Congratulations Kathryn! You did it!!

Who became an official high school graduate today.

For our other children the ceremonies were held in the evening on their high school football field. Being outdoors in May in Arizona can be rather stifling, so we were happy that this year the ceremony was held indoors, at the Cardinal football stadium. We were glad to be inside, but I did find the selling of pretzels and hot dogs during the ceremony a bit unusual. And we missed being able to storm the field afterwards for pictures and hugs.
But even so, the ceremony was great. The speakers all did a good job and it was fun to watch over 600 students, many of them we know personally, receive their diplomas.

We met outside for the customary picture taking. Here is Kathryn with two of her sisters, Michelle on the left and Kristen on the right. Next year Michelle will be our only child at home!
Kathryn was recognized for being in the top 5 percent of her class, an Arizona Scholar and for exceeding the requirements in all three areas of the AIMS test.
Great Job Kat!!

After the ceremony we headed to Texas Roadhouse with Ryan and Kali for a celebration dinner and then Kathryn left to join her friends at a big graduation party.
In August, she will leave for school at BYU Provo.
I think it is fun to watch your children grow up, become adults and head off for new and exciting adventures. I enjoyed high school but felt my life really began when I left it and ventured out on my own, so I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds in store for her.

However . . . This past semester Kathryn has gotten out of school at 12:10 and been able to spend time with me at home before heading off to work. I am going to miss that next year. I will also miss hearing her play the piano, keeping me up to date on high school happenings, going to lunch with me, running my errands and just being a good friend.
But we are so thankful she is ours, and that we have had her at home for the past 18 years.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Time Passages

I have not been very good about writing lately and I feel bad about that. I thought with seminary over my life would be simpler, but at least so far, it has not. We have been busy with some very good things though. On Friday afternoon my husband and I traveled with my son and his wife to the little town of Snowflake, Arizona to attend the wedding of my son's best friend. It was fun to get away for the night and to visit with Ryan and Kali. And of course, it was great to be at Aaron's wedding. We have watched Aaron grow up, go on his mission and now be married in the temple to his sweet wife. It is fun to see those we have known so long move forward in their lives, marking off different passages of time--HS graduation, mission, marriage . . .

Snowflake Temple

I had never been to Snowflake before and I was a bit surprised at how small the town was. When you stand at the front door of the temple and look out, all you see is desert. Still, it was a nice, quiet little town and the temple was gorgeous. Inside, behind the front desk were some of the most beautiful stained glass windows I have ever seen.

Following the wedding and a luncheon in Pinetop, we drove [quickly] back to Phoenix to attend the baptism of a lady my husband works with and her two children. About two years ago Wes and his business partner gave the woman a Book of Mormon. Over the course of time she and her family have come to know for themselves that the Book of Mormon is true and were eager to enter into the covenant of baptism. It was such a wonderful experience to be there and witness the event. Attending both a sealing in the temple for all eternity and a baptism made for a very memorable day.

On Sunday we had seminary graduation. My daughter, Kathryn was one of the speakers and spoke on teacher appreciation. I guess they felt she was qualified to speak on the topic since she not only attended seminary, but also has lived most of her life with a seminary teacher. She did a great job and I was very proud of her.

Another great moment of the evening for me was when I was visiting with a friend afterwards and noticed five of my seminary boys gathered together and standing a few feet away, waiting to tell me goodbye. My heart just swelled with love for them and their goodness.

Since then life has been a series of hectic errands trying to get ready for upcoming events. And of course I am still on my diet. So far I have eaten a lot of this:

And this:

But what I would like to eat is this:

But I am holding strong! And I only have three more pounds to go to weigh what I weighed before teaching seminary this year. (That will be a good starting place for additional weight loss during the summer)
Thanks mostly to my good friend Susan who is my walking partner and a great motivator,
My daughter Kristen who has taken over cooking dinner so I don't have to make my family one meal and eat another,
And all my kids who, when I say, "That looks good" to a food item they are eating that is not on my diet, respond with , "It isn't. It is really terrible. You would hate it."
It is always nice to have support in hard things! That helps so much to bring . . . joy to my journey!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Joy Comes in the Morning--And for me that is 5:45 a.m.

One of the greatest, all encompassing, overwhelming and totally thrilling joys in my life this past year came at 5:45 in the morning----in the form of 22 14/15 year olds.

My seminary class.
This picture was taken in the beginning of the year and so they look much more grown up and mature now. :-)

This is my fourth year to teach and my eleventh year to be involved in the seminary program, and it just keeps getting better and better.

My class this year is perfect. Okay, so their attendance isn’t always perfect, and they don’t always come on time, and their singing is actually pretty awful most of the time, but you could travel the world from sea to sea, and not find a better, more fun, smarter group of teenagers than I am blessed to spend my mornings with. And I don’t say that just because my daughter is one of them and all her friends are in the class. I say it because it is true.

Sometimes they make me laugh. Like the morning we talked about the resurrection and one student asked if we would be able to eat in the next life. Haylee quickly added, “If I can’t have chocolate and crab, it won’t be Heaven.” I then said, “Let’s think about that for a moment. We know Christ ate with his apostles after his resurrection, so we know we will be able to eat. But will there be death in the next life?” Haylee immediately got a horrified look on her face and gasped, “You mean I will have to eat the crabs live?” Yes, Haylee. And they will stay alive all through your digestive system. :-) Yummmm.

And sometimes they make me cry like the day they shared experiences with receiving answers to prayers.

They came from 11 different elementary schools, three states and four different wards. Some are cheerleaders, others are in band or orchestra and some play basketball, soccer or swim. Some are too shy to say a word in class, and others are hard to keep quiet.

But they are all mine, and I have loved them. And every school day, despite their differences, for 45 minutes we have been united as we study, search and apply the teachings of the New Testament and the Life of Jesus Christ.

Here are pictures from a couple of our activities over the year. In this first one the kids were making oil lamps. Later in the year we went outside and lit the lamps and then had a testimony meeting. It was a very sweet experience and one I will always remember.

We also had a lot of fun playing scripture mastery games --although we didn't play as many of them as I am sure my class would have liked. This was a camel race relay where they were racing to match key words with their references. They are supposed to be riding the camels, but as you can see most of them just ran with them.

And this was the very fun fly swatter game. In this game we posted key words around the gym and then gave a scripture reference. The kids raced to be the first to swat the correct key word. This game got pretty crazy!!

Today was our last day of seminary for the year. That has made me feel so sad! I am going to miss them all terribly. But what a blessing each student has been in my life.
And what great . . . joy they have brought to my journey!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I hate diets

I hate dieting. I really do. I realize if I could eliminate the extremes in my life and just learn to be moderate all the time, I wouldn’t have to be starving myself right now. But I went to the doctor the other day for my annual check up—(which I haven’t had in two years). For the past year I have mostly managed to avoid bathroom scales, but of course, try as I might, they wouldn’t let me get away without being weighed for my physical. So, I stood on the scales and watched as they moved the weight measure up and up and up.


This past year has been a hard one. Going back to teaching seminary meant an increase in stress, and a decrease in sleep and energy. Neither contributed to a healthy lifestyle and now at the end of the year I am paying the price for it. And then of course, my birthday is coming up. And no one wants to face a birthday feeling frumpy.

So, I decided to go on a very strict, starvation diet for a few weeks to jump start my “Summer of Physical Fitness”. And yes, I know this isn't the best way to do things, and basically, life has been just a little bit miserable.

My good friend Lisa sent me some information she thought would help though. It said:

We can’t eat pork—swine flu
Can’t eat chicken—bird flu
Can’t eat beef—mad cow disease
Can’t eat eggs—salmonella
Can’t eat fish—heavy metal poisons in their water
Can’t eat fruits and veggies—insecticides and herbicides

That leaves . . .


Apparently the leaders in our ward already knew that, because we had a lot of chocolate in church on Sunday. After sacrament meeting they gave out Symphony Bars to all the mothers. In Sunday School they had chocolate cookies and chocolate kisses and in Relief Society we had two kinds of chocolate kisses.

And I didn’t eat any of it. I also didn’t eat any of the mashed potatoes my family made for my Mother’s day dinner, or any of the very yummy green bean casserole. Nor did I have any of the chocolate mint cookies they made for dessert. (What were they thinking tempting me like that???)

Six days down and counting. But my, that Symphony bar sounds so very good right now. So does a hamburger. And maybe some fries. . .

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What happens when I add my voice to 18,000 others?

I do not sing well. I have confessed that before, but for those who haven't yet heard me whine about my lack of vocal ability . . . I really do not have a good singing voice. It is something I covet, dream about, wish for, and hope that someday, in some post-mortal realm, God will be merciful and I will qualify to sing in the Heavenly Choir. But for now, my singing is mostly limited to my seminary class (who is very forgiving) and the shower.

Perhaps that is why the song we were invited to sing at the conclusion of the opening session of Women's Conference made such a deep impression on me. Or perhaps there were just lessons I needed to learn; but my head has been spinning with thoughts since that morning.

Sandra Rogers, International Vice President of BYU, was the speaker. At the conclusion of her talk she asked Merrilee Webb to lead everyone in singing "Now Let Us Rejoice". She explained that the song, by W. W. Phelps, was written at a time of great trial and tribulation, and yet he still found cause to praise God.

But it wasn't the words of the song necessarily that impressed me as much as what happened when we all sang together. After practicing the song a few times, we sang it all the way through, concluding with the words, "And Christ and His people will ever be one."

That last sentence resonated with me. For as we all sang loudly in unison, my individual voice could not be heard either by me or those standing near me. Instead, all 18,000 sisters voices united together to form one voice--one powerful, beautiful, melodic voice, that seemed to rise from the earthly confines of the Marriott Center and ascend to Heaven.

I wondered how many women there did not feel they had great singing voices. How many, like me, avoided singing opportunities due to feelings of inadequacy, or lack of talent? Yet, what if all of us, who felt we can't sing, didn't? The volume would have been greatly reduced, and it was the volume that stirred my soul that morning. My not very good, sometimes squeaky voice, contributed. In a small way, my voice made a difference and that difference was for the better.

There are several lessons I learned that morning. First is that even in my weakness I have something to give that can help others. My talent might not be the same, or as great, but it can still benefit. Even if all I have to add is volume, that can be important.

I think that principle applies in all areas of our lives. We were all born with different gifts, talents and abilities. But just because we may not be the best, or even good in some area, doesn't mean we don't have something to offer--even if our role is just to give support. We can benefit those around us just as they benefit us.

The second lesson I learned is that there is strength in unity. Unity doesn't mean we have to be doing exactly the same thing, in exactly the same way with the same level of ability. Some people sang alto, some soprano; some had strong voices, and some had weak. But what was important is we were all singing the same song.

And it was that unity in song, coupled with our differences in voice that created the beauty. And the power.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we ---as righteous women, covenant keepers, and defenders of the family--- could always unite our voices? No matter how weak our individual voice might be, no matter how inadequate we may feel, or how limited our resources, our voices---united in one strong message---could transcend the confines of our homes, and our communities and cause even hell's foundations to shake--and all the world to know that . . . "Christ and His people will ever be one."

I think that is what they call Zion.

And that thought brings great. . . joy to my journey.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Women's Conference--Memorable Moments

Later in the week I am going to post about my most favorite moment at WC, but today I want to show some of the memorable moments held timeless by my camera.

High on the list was seeing all the fruit blossoms. Beautiful trees in bloom were everywhere on campus and lining many of the streets. We loved walking under them, enjoying their beauty and breathing in their sweet scent.

Even better was seeing all the gardens splashed with color! Tulips are my favorite flower so I couldn't resist taking this picture.

I learned that whenever you travel to unfamiliar territory you should always take a wise and experienced guide. This is Christy and she is amazing! Years of WC experience has taught her how to strategize your class schedule, where to sit so you can escape the most quickly to make your next class on time, and secret passageways to aid in getting there. Christy not only was the impetus behind us all going, but she also was a huge help once we arrived.

One of the highlights of our trip was meeting Sandra Rast, the artist of this beautiful painting entitled, "My Presence Shall Be There". It brought tears to all our eyes as she explained the symbolism in the picture. Every detail of the painting had been well thought out, from the reflection of the temple, the contrast of the dark clouds and the light, the girl in the white dress, the blossoms on the trees and the red umbrella. She did such a wonderful job telling us about the painting that Lisa even bought one!

So you think texting is only a teenage problem? Guess again! Every woman I came to conference with is texting in this picture. I am not a fan of it personally, but I am sure peer pressure will win and one of these days I will succumb to the trend.

This was the line behind us, waiting to get in to hear David Christensen (one of my most favorite speakers). Thankfully-- due to Christy's sage strategies, the majority of the lines were always behind us, rather than in front.

Ahhh! Mint Chocolate Brownies! A perennial BYU favorite! What? This doesn't look very appetizing??

Well, my friend Jenny bought it for herself and knowing I love them, saved me half. Unfortunately she saved it in her very cute bag where it got very squished. Still, it was a kind thought, and although not very pretty, it was very good! Luckily I also have the recipe to this delicious delight so I can make more at home!

Being at WC gave us many opportunities to meet a variety of people. We got a kick out of these women wearing matching shirts that said, "Chuck Norris goes to Women's Conference." Being as Jenny's husband is a huge CN fan, taking a picture was a must! (Although Cory may have lost a little respect for his hero had he really had been at WC! :-)

And last of all, it was very fun to see people we knew from home. Friday, after the conference ended we went to dinner at Carabas in Orem and ran into a group of women from another ward in our stake. Everyone had a good time visiting .

So there you have it. A couple days of great classes, spiritual enlightenment, and friendship. I had only been to conference one time before and not knowing all the strategies, left feeling frustrated by the crowds. This was a much better experience for me and one I will always remember. Thank you-- Amy, Christy, Jenny, Lisa and Mauriann!!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Super Cute Bags with "Purse"onality!

Meet two wonderfully, sweet and talented women--Amy (L) and Lisa (R)!
Out of the kindness of her heart, and with an abundance of generosity, Lisa decided to make cute bags for all the women in my ward who were going to Women's conference.
She enlisted the help of Amy and together they chose fabric to match each person's "purse"onality.

Lisa lovingly stitched each bag, while Amy carefully cut, pinned and ironed.
Not only are they cute on the outside, but inside they wisely contain four large pockets!
When they were finished, they were filled with notepads and pens, nuts, mints, gum and Dove Chocolates!

We LOVED them!
Lisa was a bit embarrassed by all the attention they attracted at conference, but we were more than happy to brag about her.
It was so much fun to put all our things in our "purse"onalized bags and walk around campus together.

What unity! What love! What fun!!
And what great friends!
We didn't even mind being called the "Bag Ladies Of WC"!

We had such a great time I am sure it will take several posts to include all the details. We stayed at Amy's in laws home in Edgemont, and together we ate, shopped, walked, sat, learned, prayed, laughed and cried.

Tuesday I will post pictures of some of my "favorite things"!

Yummy Mexican Rice for your Cinco de Mayo Celebration!

This recipe comes from my good friend Jenny. It is fabulous and a great addition to any Mexican Meal. I usually double it.
(Sorry I don't have a picture yet)
Mexican Rice

1 small onion, finely chopped
3 TBSP butter or margarine
1 cup long-grain white rice
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
2 medium-size tomatoes, seeded, and chopped
1 ½ cups chicken broth
1 or 2 cans chopped green chiles
Salt and pepper
2 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro

In a 2-quart pan over medium heat, cook onion in butter until soft. Add rice and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until rice is golden (about 5 minutes). Add tomatoes, broth, chiles, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until all liquid is absorbed (about 20 minutes). Turn off heat and stir in cilantro. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings.