Friday, November 21, 2014

Worth a look (Friday Favorites)

Several links I've enjoyed lately:

Human Interest Stories:

A Still-Divided Germany (very interesting look at various differences between East and West illustrated with maps)

The Surprising Science behind Supremely Happy People 

The Dutch Village Where Everyone Has Dementia (super cool, and thought-provoking!)

On Current Events:

The Tragedy of Physician-Assisted Suicide
""I first became involved with assisted-suicide in 1982, shortly before my 39-year old wife died of cancer in the brain. We had just made what would be her last visit with her doctor. As we were leaving the office, he said that he could provide her with an extra-large dose of pain medication. She said she did not need it because her pain was under control. As I helped her to the car, she said “Ken, he wants me to kill myself.” She had suffered a lot over the prior 18 months, but her doctor’s statement caused the most suffering to her. It devastated her that her doctor, her trusted doctor, would suggest that she kill herself. "

My friend shared this on Facebook in regards to the above link:  "As the mother of a child who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and told he wouldn't survive, I think I can weigh in a bit and say that #1) even when life isn't perfect, it is beautiful and sacred and #2) doctors don't know how long a person will live. 

My son has lived for 8 years past his devastating diagnoses and he has packed a lot of life and joy into those years. Every doctor we see is surprised to see him doing so well. 

Doctors are not omnipotent. Assisted suicide treats them as if they are. 

Terminal illness will take my son at some point. I know this. But I'm so glad we didn't stop living (literally or figuratively) just because of his illness."

Why Brittany Maynard Should Inspire us to Oppose Assisted Suicide

Are Mothers "Full and Equal Participants in the Economy?"

Photography Links:

Creating a Photography Studio on a Budget (love the flooring idea!)

Post-Mortem Photography evidently used to be a thing

Cool Podcast:

Writing Excuses  I have no interest in writing fiction, but I'm still fascinated by these short ("Fifteen minutes long because you're in a hurry and we're not that smart") podcasts about the writing process.  I'd start with Season 1 if I were you.

A pretty photo, in case you missed it when I posted it the other day:

And a Public Service Announcement in Honor of Thanksgiving:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Best Friends (Wordless Wednesday)

Eliza and her best friend Grace were born within a week of each other.  Eight years later, they were baptized on the same day.

They've grown up together and are just delightful -- sweet, spunky, and fun.



The neighbor's cat followed us around the forest and even photo-bombed a few pictures.  The girls thought that was the funniest thing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

7 Quick Takes

#1  "Being Real" or Oversharing?

I've been thinking about social media and how open some people are or aren't online.  There's been a lot said bout how most people only show their best faces online and aren't really showing you the real story.  I get that, because I've visited some cringe-worth blogs full of perfect children, perfect homes, and perfect lives.  So I do appreciate authenticity, people who share about their failures as well as their successes.

But I wonder if there isn't sometimes too much sharing of every emotion in some places.  I'm thinking of several examples which I won't go into detail about, but I've come across several people in my life over the past couple of years who seem to deal with tragedy by writing online about it constantly, going over their innermost thoughts and feelings, sharing things that might be better left unsaid.  Frankly, it's exhausting to read, and I wonder if I'm being un-compassionate by not wanting to hear or read about every thought and emotion a friend is experiencing during their tough time.

But then I wonder how much of that might be personality.  I personally like to process things, think them through, and really gain some perspective before I write.  I hold back, not to hide my problems, but because I want to be sure how I really feel about them before I start sharing with others.  Emotions are such fickle things.  When you're exhausted, for example, it's easy to be irritated and overemphasize the negative in a situation.  Late at night, you might stew over the unfairness of something that seems so silly after a good night's rest.  I don't like to give voice to emotions that might be temporary or complain about a situation when I might view it completely differently a month or a year later.

So I wonder about these friends that want to write about every emotion.  Is this just a different way of processing life?  Is their online presence via blogs or social media just a substitute for a personal journal that they'd be writing these thoughts in anyway?  Is this just a different way of approaching things -- more intense perhaps, but perhaps also more connnected with themselves?  I don't have an answer, but I'd love your thoughts.

#2 Birthday

I had a good birthday last week.  Even knowing that a lot of people are remembering my birthday only because Facebook told them too, it's kind of a thrill to have so many people wish me well.  I decided to celebrate by taking my kids up to a children's museum after getting my blog post written last week.  I texted a few friends to see if they wanted to come, but no one could, so I went alone.

I was there less than five minutes when in walked my best friend with her kids.  I hadn't texted her because she has just one child at home and is often busy with kids in several different schools.  But one of the schools was out for the day and she decided to head to the museum with three of her kids.  It was a delight to visit with her.  After the museum, we took the kids up to IKEA for "kids eat free Tuesday" and she bought me lunch.  It was really fun.

My husband brought me a lily, a friend brought me roses, and I got to attend the Provo Temple with my husband and this same friend plus her husband (that part was planned in advance).  We went out afterwards to The Chocolate, which is as yummy as it sounds.

On Thursday, my husband and I went out to Restaurant Forte for my birthday dinner.  It's our favorite place to go.  Run by the UVU culinary school, it is a five course meal designed to give the students real-world experience with a variety of dishes.  They typically have a theme, then three to five choices for each course.  Each table is encouraged to have each person order something different from their neighbor to give the students the best experience, and that's part of the fun.  Everything is always delicious and plated beautifully.

#3  Family Games

We're not a huge game-playing family, but we do play occasionally, and I think we'd play more with more interesting games at our fingertips.  So I've been looking into buying us a few more games for Christmas.  I asked my Facebook friends what they recommended, and here is what they recommended, along with how many times it was suggested (I told them we already had and love Dominion and Apples to Apples, so they aren't on the list):

Ticket to Ride 5 (Get Europe version)
Bananagrams 3
Quirkle 3 (fun for all ages)
Settlers of Catan 3
Sequence 3
Forbidden Island 3 (Desert version is more challenging)
7 Wonders 3
Carcassone 3
Flash Point: Fire Rescue 2
Wits and Wagers 2
Pandemic 2
Zoolaretto 2
Telestrations 2

So now I just need to get ordering.  Think there will be better deals later, or should I just stick a few in my Amazon cart now?  Any suggestions on which of these are your favorites?

#4 Studio Project

I've been slowly but surely setting up my indoor studio.  I have an amazingly talented friend who has crocheted me some beautiful newborn things (thanks, Katie), plus I have headbands, some other work from two other friends, and some scarves.  I've been keeping them in baskets but it wasn't my favorite way to have to dig through to find them during a shoot.  So last week, I ordered a couple of drapery rods and hung up all my props.  

Just a couple of phone pictures:

#5 The Last of Fall

It's been very cold here for the past week, and I'm sad that October couldn't have lasted a little longer -- wasn't it Anne of Green Gables who said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers"?

We still have some color in our backyard, however, and I took a short walk in the cold to capture a few images.

Reds are harder to find naturally in Utah (yellows are everywhere), so I love these two reflections in the water.

#6  Tragedy

We had a very heart-breaking week in our stake last week.  On Sunday, we had the amazing privilege of hosting Elder David Bednar at a unique stake conference.  It was just our eight wards (regular-sized congregations, which in our case include a Japanese and Spanish ward) gathered together to hear from an apostle.  My son was so excited for the opportunity, he chose to go over at 6:30 a.m. to save us seats in the third row.  It was a very good meeting.  

One thing that our young stake president said was that he didn't know why we were chosen to host Elder Bednar, but he did know Who chose us.  And perhaps we were chosen partly because of what happened on Monday, when a fifteen-year-old girl, Jenna Ivins, in one of the wards disappeared. They searched all night for her, but it wasn't until Tuesday that they found her, lying in a dry ditch, curled up as if she was asleep, but gone.  They weren't sure if it was the cold that killed her or something else, but it sounds as though she had Aspergers and didn't quite process things the way others might.  My heart goes out to her family and they have been in my prayers.  My daughter went to camp with Jenna and knew who she was, but didn't know her well.  Jenna's older sister was one of the young people called on to share their testimony at stake conference on Sunday, and Jenna had taken copious notes.  She'd also given her dad her Christmas list Sunday night.  

#7  Tragedy, Again

Last Thursday, my friend Wendy lost her husband unexpectedly.  He'd been hospitalized for pneumonia but had been released earlier in the week.  He was having some trouble that evening and they took him to the hospital where he died of what they thought was likely a blood clot.  My heart is broken for my friend and her six children, ages 15 down to 3.  She is also in my prayers.  The news was a shock to all of us.  The family was just about to move out of their cramped pioneer-era home to a newer home, but those plans are now cancelled and the family will stay put.

And wow, it doesn't seem fair to end this newsy, random thoughts post with those two stories, but there it is.  Life is fragile.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Provo Temple at Sunset

A friend of mine asked me to get a good photo of the Provo Temple for her, since that is where her parents were married.  So I watched for the perfect night.

I think I found it.

Some people are critical of the Provo Temple's design, preferring the more classical lines and styles of other temples.

But I've been attending this temple regularly for two decades, and I love it.  I love the peace, serenity, and nearness to God I feel there.  I love the direction I receive there.

I love the answers to prayers and the whispered promptings of the Spirit I've received in this temple.

I've come to this temple for comfort in my hardest times.  And I've found it. 

I've come with my heart drawn out in sorrow, and prayed for friends and family who are experiencing their hardest times.  And I've felt that God would answer me and them in His own time.

I've come to this temple seeking wisdom, to know what to do in complex and heart-wrenching situations.  And I've found answers.

I've come full of thanksgiving and joy, and have basked in the loving Spirit of my Father in Heaven.

I've come upset and worried and have left with peace. 

I've come tired and in need of renewal, and I've felt helped and healed.

In ancient times, God called a prophet named Moses to lead his people through the wilderness.  They carried their temple with them and called it the tabernacle.  Inside it, God spoke to Moses face to face.  When Moses went in to speak to the Lord, "the cloudy pillar descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses"

The scriptures tell us of Moses and his people, "And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night."

The Provo Temple was designed to refer to this symbolism, to represent both the cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night.

Isaiah promises that in the last days "The Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence.  And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain."

That's what the Provo Temple represents to me -- my own personal protective cloud, a place to commune with God, and a pillar of fire to light up the darkness.

If you want to understand more about temples in my faith, this link is wonderful, as is this video:

p.s. I've gotten a lot of requests lately for prints of my landscapes or temple photos.  If you are interested in one of my photos, please contact me.  I'm happy to share my work and can provide you with high-quality prints or canvases at cost.  If you'd like to donate additionally to the LDS Humanitarian or Missionary Fund, that would make me especially happy.  Someday, I might set up a website or shop, but this is what works for me for now.    

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thirty-Seven Years Young

Thirty-seven years ago, on 11/11/77, I made my grand entrance into this world.  

I've had my shares of ups and downs.  Two years ago, when I turned 35, I cried on that day for what my health challenges had taken from me.  It was the toughest year of my life, and I wondered when I'd ever feel content and happy again.  My body had physically been through so much that even though I'd run a half marathon in the spring, it hurt to even run a few miles.  I set out for a lot of runs that month and ended up mostly walking them.

I'd like to say that it's been all uphill since then, but it hasn't been.  My health certainly got better and by the spring of 2013, I was functioning pretty well physically.  But emotionally, I was spent.  It took a long time to build back my confidence, and even though I went through the motions of doing everything right -- taking care of my home and family, training for and running another half marathon, trying to serve and feel joy -- I felt pretty empty for a long time.

Part of that is that living with Hashimoto's Disease isn't easy.  I think even getting as balanced as you can on artificial hormones is never the same as when your own body produces the hormones.  I tend to fluctuate.  I'll have several months where I'm feeling great and thinking I've finally got the dosage right, followed by a month of getting daily headaches and feeling exhausted all day, no matter how much sleep I get.  I imagine this will be the case for the rest of my life.

But it is a wonderful life.  And I really can't complain.  Though I have to pace myself and safeguard my health (exercise, eat right, nap),  I am able to do all that is needed for my family, and even more. Emotionally, I'm doing wonderfully.  I've felt such joy and happiness this year.  Physically, I'm as good as I've ever been (more on that in a bit).  Spiritually, I have felt God's love and grace in my life daily, helping me to prioritize and helping me to see the good that has come from my challenges.  I went through a really tough challenge this summer that I'll probably write about another day, but I went through it feeling carried by the Lord, given strength, perspective, and even cheerfulness even in the midst of it.

So, today, on my 37th birthday, I thought I'd catalog a few of the things that have brought me joy the last few months:

*  I'm physically active and very fit.

*  I challenged my husband ten weeks ago today to a 10-week fitness challenge.  We both set a "realistic" and a "super hard" goal, with the idea that if we met our realistic goals, we'd plan an anniversary trip to somewhere close by, but if we both met our super hard goals, we'd go to Hawaii again.  My realistic goal was 10 pounds, my shoot for the moon one was 15.  His goals were 15 and 25.  And to my surprise, the challenge motivated him and me a lot more than I expected.  As of this morning, I've lost 10.5 lbs during these last ten weeks.  My husband?  That overachiever has exercised six days a week for about an hour, built up the endurance to run his first race since high school, and lost . . . (drumroll please) . . . 32 lbs!  I'm trying to convince him that I can just borrow some of his extra pounds to call our goal met.

In any case, I'm thinner than I've been since before #2 was born.  I'm just six pounds away from the right BMI weight for my height, and I'm feeling good.  I've done a good mix of cardio and strength training this year and I feel great.

*  Speaking of fitness, last Saturday, my husband and I ran the funnest race I've ever participated in. The Moab Adventure 5K, it was a trail run like no other race out there -- we not only ran three miles over beautiful red rock, we also climbed a few ladders, ran through a culvert and a cave, rock-climbed about 50 feet using ropes, rapelled down a short section, and had a blast.  I'm totally sold on trails now, even without the rock climbing.  I was worried that the race might be too intense, but it wasn't.  It certainly wasn't an easy run, with all those obstacles, portions going over thick sand, and plenty of up and down, but it wasn't especially crazy either.  I finished #11 out of 28 in my 30-39 age group.  And it was fun to run beside my husband.

*  My husband and I have a happy marriage.  We've bonded even more these last few months as he's gotten into fitness and running.  We're planning on doing a four-miler on Thanksgiving together, and trying to decide what races to do next year.  I'm pretty sure that he'll very soon leave me in the dust on our races -- he can walk half of a 5K and still beat me because his running speed is so much faster than mine -- but it's fun to think about weekend getaways to races.

*  I have wonderful, rich relationships with nine amazing people.  I'm so amazed at how my children are turning out despite how imperfect I am.  I've got nine good kids who are kind, thoughtful, smart, and most important to me, committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

*  I love this stage of my life.  My older kids are helpful and independent and not so much of the physical, exhausting burden of taking care of our family falls on my shoulders anymore.  I've got five great babysitters, good read-aloud performers, dish-doing, bathroom-scrubbing, and dinner-making children, and the best part is that there are plenty of them to share the load, so no one is doing a ton.  Plus, as much as I love my toddlers and babies, it's just SO FUN to have kids ages 8 and up.  And our teenagers so far have been pretty awesome.

*  Our family certainly isn't perfect, but we've developed good habits that bring us closer.  We start the day with family prayer and scripture study.  We have weekly Family Home Evenings.  This year, we've tried to take time most weeks to learn about our ancestors as part of our family home evening.  It's been fascinating to read of lives full of challenge and tragedy -- the ones who didn't lose some of their kids to death are the exception.

*  I love our family trips this year.  San Diego a few weeks ago was just the right mix of running through the hills near our resort, reading quietly while my husband took the kids swimming (good man), playing at the beach, taking photos, and enjoying life at a slower pace.

*  I love that I've developed a fun, satisfying pursuit that bring my life joy.  It's a trend for every photographer to say on their website that they are "passionate" about photography.  For me, that's just not true.  I'm not passionate about photography.  I enjoy it and it's fun.  What I am passionate about are people and the beauties around me.  Photography just gives me the tools to engage in those things in a meaningful way.  I love bringing joy to people by capturing their family's personalities.  I love serving others with my talents and capturing my own children's exuberance.

Eliza and her best friend Grace in their baptism dresses

I adore these girls!

*  I LOVE landscape photography.  I love that it gives me a reason to seek out the prettiest settings, the loveliest sunsets, and to really notice the world around me.  I entered two contest this year and won both of them (1st place in one, honorable mention in the other), so I guess I could sort of call myself an "award-winning photographer."

*  I've been able to be involved in significant service these past few months.  In September, I did the photos for Katie's preschool and ended up able to donate $600 to an orphanage in Kenya where a friend's parents are serving as missionaries.

The kids saying "thank you" for the new mattresses we were able to pay for

And the old mattresses they slept in, often two or three to a bed.  Now, each child will have their own.  
Would that all children in the world had as much as mine.  :(

Happy Birthday to me!  I feel blessed to have done so much with my 37 years of life.  I look forward to at least 37 more.

What things have brought you joy lately?


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