Friday, January 29, 2016

Worth a look ~ 4 sets of twins, why ostriches stick their heads in the sand, and sinking ships


Do I ever feel guilty about not "using" my college education?  This article was EXCELLENT on the topic of motherhood and careers, especially for those who have yet to choose a major or a college.  Planning ahead for more family-friendly professions and considering your debt load is definitely important.  I especially appreciated the many, many good comments that weigh in on different careers and experiences.

Why we might actually WANT to keep our heads in the sand

A 90-year-old mom talks about her nine kids, including four sets of twins and how parenting has changed (via Clover Lane)

Super fun:

So Funny:  7 Quick Takes about Trashy Obsessions

I love this mash-up of classical classics:

(via Like Mother, Like Daughter)


This week's sacrament:
"From the outside, it's just a piece of bread and tiny cup of water. In the hospital, of course, it's also a short visit from kind strangers, but a swallow of bread and a sip of water seem like odd gifts to bring a cancer patient.
For those who know, though, this is what my visitors will bring:
It's Jesus, who--after wearing himself thin walking the length of Galilee and Judea teaching, healing, warning, and loving--now lies flat on his face in Gethsemane suffering with me. It's his promise that whenever two or three gather,  remembering, he'll be.

My friend recently toured the Vasa Museum in Sweden and reminded me of this devotional address by Elder Renlund from 2014 (read, watch, or listen at that link).  The story of the Vasa ship is fascinating:

In the early seventeenth century, Sweden was a world power. Sweden’s king, Gustav II Adolf, commissioned a warship that would be christened the Vasa. The ship represented a substantial outlay of resources, particularly the oak from which the vessel would be built. Oak was so valuable that cutting down an oak tree without authorization was a capital offense. Gustav Adolf closely oversaw the construction process, attempting to ensure that the Vasa would fully realize his expectations.
After construction had begun, Gustav Adolf ordered theVasa to be made longer. Because the width supports had already been built from precious oak, the king directed the builders to increase the ship’s length without increasing its width. Although the shipwrights knew that doing so would compromise the Vasa’s seaworthiness, they were hesitant to tell the king something they knew he did not want to hear. They complied. Gustav Adolf also insisted that this ship have not simply the customary single deck of guns but cannons on three decks, with the heaviest cannons on the upper deck. Again, against their better judgment, the shipwrights complied.
Over the course of several years, shipwrights, carpenters, rope makers, and others worked diligently to build theVasa. Over one thousand oak trees were used to complete the ship. It had sixty-four cannons and masts taller than 150 feet. To give the ship the opulence befitting a king’s flagship, several hundred gilded and painted sculptures were added.
On August 10, 1628, the Vasa began its maiden voyage. In view of countless spectators, the ship left its mooring directly below the royal castle in Stockholm. After being pulled along by anchors for the first several hundred feet, the Vasa left the shelter of the harbor. A stronger wind entered its sails, and the ship began to tip. The Vasa righted itself slightly, but only temporarily. Before long, as recorded by an observer, “she heeled right over and water gushed in through the gun ports until she slowly went to the bottom under sail, pennants and all.”1 The Vasa’s maiden voyage was about 4,200 feet.
The Vasa rested at the bottom of the Baltic Sea until it was recovered three centuries later in 1961. It was successfully raised from the seabed and towed back to Stockholm. Today the Vasa rests in a temperature- and humidity-controlled museum in Djurg√•rden, an island in central Stockholm. I have a model of the ship in my office at Church headquarters as a reminder of several lessons that underlie its short, tragic history.
Despite the Vasa’s magnificent appearance, the ship was not seaworthy. The alterations in its construction resulted in it not having sufficient lateral stability to enable safe seafaring. Gustav Adolf’s desire for an extravagant status symbol ruined the design of what would have been a magnificent sailing vessel, the mightiest warship of its time. The shipbuilders’ reluctance to speak up—their fear of the king’s displeasure—deprived the king of their knowledge and insight. All involved lost sight of the goals of the enterprise: to protect Sweden and to promote its interests abroad. A ship that attempts to defy the laws of physics is simply a boat that won’t float.


Some of my favorite landscapes from last week's trip to California:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

One a Day 2016, Weeks 1-3

I decided to go for another year of one-a-days, and since I was already mostly in the habit, it's been fun to continue it.  I keep wanting to take some time to write more for this blog (I think I still have a few readers), but it's just not happening right now.  Benji's gotten into the rotten habit of waking up every two or three hours at night and though we've persuaded him to take a pacifier instead of eating except at 2 and 5 a.m., it's still exhausting for me.  We spent a week enjoying the warmer weather in California this month and now that we're back, perhaps we can influence him into better sleep habits.
New Year's Day party included decorating cookies

Organizing our puzzles and games.  Do you think we have enough?

One library basket just isn't enough for us anymore.

I'm loving my macro lens.

Packing for our trip!

Rockhounding in the desert.  This picture represents a lot about the relationship between these two.  :)

The younger girls love doing crafts on our trips; these necklaces were fun to make.

Universal Studios!

Four Generations at Great-Grandma Cain's house

Driving home past Edwards Air Force Base

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What I Read and Why, Plus Favorites from 2015

I read 42 books in 2015, which is quite a few more than I read the year before -- I blame pregnancy and nursing for the increase.  Goodreads sent me an email to tell me about my reading last year, complete with graphics that showed which book was the most popular of what I'd read (The Graveyard Book) and which was the least (Barefoot to Billionaire).  

The 42

Looking over the books was interesting.  Last year, I read a lot more fiction than I usually do, some of it on audiobook while I ran or tackled projects around the house, others on my kindle while I endured the last few months of pregnancy.  The Emporer's Soul, Elantris and Still Alice were my highest rated fiction books.

But nonfiction is my true love and has been ever since I was a young mom and realized my book addiction was interfering with my parenting.  I loved to read and while that was mostly good, the fact that I would get so engrossed in a story that I would stay up until the wee hours to finish "just one more chapter" was not so good.  I was tired enough getting up with babies at night; I didn't need to deal with fiction-induced sleep deprivation as well.  So I switched to reading nonfiction, which fed my insatiable desire to read without the late night binge-reading.  No matter how interesting a nonfiction book or engaging a memoir, I just don't get the same "I have to see how this ends!" feeling from them, and thus I can close the book and turn off the light at a reasonable hour.

When I first switched to reading nonfiction, I felt a bit like a sugar addict switching to a whole foods diet:  a bit deprived, but also virtuous.  And back then, pre-blogs, Facebook, and Goodreads, it was actually hard sometimes to find interesting nonfiction books.  I read a lot of parenting books, a lot of history (David McCullough), and a ton of biography.

Today, it's a lot easier to find good books.  I have dozens of friends on Goodreads who post about wonderful books and many of the blogs I read post about the best books they've read.  I have so many books on my to-read list, but like my life, it's a bit scattered.  I have some listed on a "To Read" memo in my phone, some on Goodreads, and some on my wishlist on Amazon.  I really need to get a better system for deciding what to read next, particularly as I'm finding it more and more difficult to get through all the books I check out from the library.

It would help if my library didn't make it easy to check out more than I have time for.  I have a little addiction to the "New Nonfiction" table they keep stocked with all sorts of interesting reads.  Even as I pick up my holds and track down the books I really intended to read, I always stop at that table and end up sidetracked in my reading. As I scan the titles, I'm always finding something that just sounds amazing.  Unlike my earlier reading days, I find I really have little interest in history (with the exception of memoir or super interesting biography) and I'm pretty much done with parenting books.  My loves now are culture, science (especially social science, psychology, and medicine), and memoir.  Especially memoir, and especially if it's a story of someone who grew up in a culture much different or challenging than mine.  I love to get a peak into someone's life story and why they are who they are.

This past year, I learned about Parkinsons Disease, the latest research on aging, congruences between MesoAmerican culture and the Book of Mormon, ancient Jewish temple worship, the Chilean mine disaster, how well-intentioned efforts to end poverty can go terribly wrong, civil war and terrorism in Sri Lanka, obsessive-compulsive disorder, how North Korea is crazier than a dystopian young adult fiction book (though this book is a better one for understanding North Korea), how the northwest coast of America should brace themselves for a tsunami, and what marshmallows and preschoolers teach us about self-control, among other things.  It was a good reading year (notwithstanding the time I wasted reading Austenland, my only one-star book of the year).

If you're like me, you're already looking up these books, finding them fascinating, and putting them on a to-read list that you'll then forget about in favor of that alluring "New Non-fiction table" at the library.

Of all the books that I read this past year, here are five that stand out in my mind:

1.  Temple Theology - An Introduction by Margaret Barker.  Barker is a scholar, studied at Cambridge, and is a Methodist preacher.  The way she had of describing and opening up the symbolism and meaning of Old Testament temple worship really opened my understanding of how temple worship was designed, then and now, to bring us to Christ.  It was a short book, but very dense.  I gained so much insight from reading this.  The author has written several other books that I want to read soon.

2.  The Marshmallow Test:  Mastering the Art of Self-Control.  Members of my Church might remember this talk about patience given a few years ago by Elder Uchtdorf that cited a study of preschoolers and marshmallows.  This book was written by the original creator of that study, who has spent his career studying the long-term effects of being able to delay gratification.  In short, kids who can resist temptation later on go on to have higher SAT scores, and more successful lives.  The book was wonderful.  The author talked about his own struggles to quit smoking and one interesting part, was about how people react when finding out they carry the breast cancer gene.  From my review:

 "Essentially, the author says that each of us are ruled by a "hot brain," which is inclined to be tempted by immediate rewards, and a "cold brain," that calculates and measures choices and consequences. Building self-control involves accessing the cold brain when the hot brain is more likely to be in control. 
There were a lot of interesting studies in the book. One that fascinated me involved how poorly people judge what effect bad news might have on them. Specifically, they found that women tested for the breast cancer gene sometimes fell apart when they found out they had it. So they eventually developed role playing to help women decide whether or not to get tested. Actually coming face to face with what could happen if they did have it was a lot more realistic for those to make a choice as opposed to just a bland recitation of the possible risks and benefits. 
Another section of the book talked about how to access the cold brain to step back and re-evaluate difficult and painful life experiences (such as getting hung up on a betrayal by an ex-boyfriend), and how that can help a person move forward."

3.  Still Alice.  This is fiction that felt like a memoir, exploring the life of a woman who discovers she has early-onset Alzheimer's.

4.  The Idealist:  Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty.  This book took a look at the programs set up by a man determined to end poverty essentially by throwing a lot of money at it.  Unfortunately, life, economic incentives, corruption, and even weather intervenes to keep lofty goals from  being realized.  Ending poverty is just not as simple as some people want it to be.  (As a side note, I've read dozens and dozens of glowing articles about micro-credit and and how it works so well at bringing people out of poverty, but recently solid research has shown it doesn't really do what we thought it would.)

5.  Elantris.  My kids got me into reading Brandon Sanderson this year and he is a master of storytelling and world-building.  This was one of my favorites (and just may have kept me up until the wee hours to finish).

What were your favorite reads in 2015?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

My Ten Favorite Landscape Photos from 2015

With the help of my Facebook friends, I narrowed down this year's favorite landscapes from 30 to 10, then I arranged them in order of which ones I like best. For Christmas, my husband paid for me to get a dozen large canvases of my work, and many of these now grace my walls.

#1  Haven, Provo City Center Temple
(Available for purchase)

#2  Shorebreak, Maui (this one hangs above my bed now)

#3  Aspens, Nebo Loop (This one is hanging in my great room)

#4 Sunset on top of the world, Maui

#5  Frozen Shoreline, Utah Lake

#6  Stone Cathedral, Arches National Park

#7 Moving Water, Maui

#8  Leaning In, Maui

#9  Burst of Yellow, Nebo Loop

#10  Night Falls, Utah Lake

I'd love to know which ones are your favorites!

Friday, January 08, 2016

Worth a Look ~ Provo City Center Temple Photo, Ann Romney, Waffle Love, and More

*  With a lot of trepidation, I have waded into the realm of selling my landscape photography.  Up until this point, I have felt like I lacked the time, and I have simply given away my work.  I will probably continue to do a lot of that, but since I've gotten about a dozen requests for my landscapes from friends, family, and strangers in the past year and I decided it was time.

As I'm still short on time, I've decided that rather than sell prints and canvases, I will offer my landscapes for sale in digital form. I have only a few ready for now, which can be found at this link.

Every few weeks, when I add more, I will post a link here along with a discount for my family and friends, and those who are kind enough to read my blog.

I have started with some of my favorite temple images, and in honor of the Provo City Center Open House, I am offering this photo, entitled Haven, for 75% off (with a social media share) until March 30th

Haven, Provo City Center Temple
Buy now

*  This TED talk is seriously amazing!

*  Ann Romney:  Being a Mom was my Job

I was the last person scheduled to speak. As the five people who spoke before me explained how and why they had chosen their high-paying occupations, I didn’t move. When Mitt finished, the audience applauded politely. Then it was my turn.
“I could have done a lot of different things,” I began. “But I didn’t. Instead I became a wife and a mother.” I turned and pointed at Mitt. “And, by the way, my job’s more important than his, because what I’m doing lasts a lot longer than what he’s doing.” I channeled all my energy into that speech. I hadn’t realized just how long I’d been waiting to say these things, and they flowed out of me. 
Being a wife and a mother is a complex and physically challenging job, I said. Not only that, it’s a lot more difficult than an office job, because it consumes twenty-four hours of every day with no time off. Once I got rolling I didn’t hold back. Every child is unique, I continued. Every child is his or her own person, with needs and wants, and no handbook could possibly provide all the information and advice I needed to be a doctor and a nurse, a psychologist, a teacher and a speech therapist, a consultant, a coach, a caregiver, sometimes a boss, and always a friend.
Beautiful version of Amazing Grace!

*  We are absolutely addicted to Waffle Love copycat waffles using this recipe.  And yes, the Belgian sugar pearls are a must.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

2015's One-a-Day project All-in-One

I ended up the year with 331 photos in my Lightroom One-a-Day folder.  That's about 90% of the year.  Not bad for a busy mom of ten.  I have so enjoyed this challenge.  There were many days when I just grabbed a safe or ugly shot just to do it, some days I had to pull a photo from my phone, and some days I just plain forgot to take a photo.  Yet there were many other days where I saw sweet moments around me that I would otherwise not have captured on camera.  It's given me a reason to persuade some of my most camera-wary children to let me take their photo ("but I need it for my one-a-day!").  It has helped me watch for and appreciate the joy and blessings in my life.

It's also been a good exercise for me, as I searched through each day's photos to decide which one was that day's best, to discover what I really like most in photos.  Three themes emerged for me:  Expression, Humor, and Interaction.  My favorite photos from the year had at least two of the three.  




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