The Sabbath in a Time of COVID-19

For the last 6 months my church congregation has not met traditionally because of the lockdowns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming weeks and months we are anticipating starting to hold more regular meetings – even if it still looks different than it had been. Before we go back to these more normal settings I wanted to record some of my thoughts and feelings on what I’ve learned about the Sabbath and church over the last six months.

I will start with a description of what our Sundays looked like pre-lockdown and post-lockdown. I have a feeling that even after all of these lockdowns finish church might never go back to being the same as it was before. I’m hoping that there are things that we’ve learned from this experience that will help us to make our church attendance even more meaningful in the future, so I want to record now what it has been so I can remember in the future.

Pre-Lockdown Sabbath

Ok, so this picture is from my brother’s wedding and outside the temple rather than outside a church building, but you get the idea ūüėõ

This year our ward met at 10:30am (which is my favorite time for church, I’m really ticked that COVID has robbed us of so many months of that meeting time). Each Sunday morning I would need to get all 6 of us showered, dressed, hair done, fed, diaper bag packed, lessons prepared, shoes on and everyone in the car by about 10:20am.

Since my husband rarely gets up before 9am (and I try to avoid traipsing the kids in and out of our bathroom while he sleeps) the whole rigamorole had to happen in less than an hour and a half. I would try frequently to get as much organized on Saturday night to avoid the scramble, but most Sundays still found us sliding in a little late and a lot frazzled just before the sacrament if we were lucky… just after it if we weren’t.

Sacrament meeting was frequently spent trying to keep our 2 year old reasonably reverent and the kids quietly occupied with coloring or snacks in the hope that my husband or I could glean a little bit from the 3+ talks in the meeting. I have the rule that no distractions come out until after the sacrament, and that if I have to take a child into the hall they don’t get any freedom to move around. I try to be careful not to reward misbehaving in sacrament meeting with the freedom to play in the halls. Although a lot of what I’ve written about deals more with discipline, I really did enjoy those sacrament meetings. Even when I couldn’t pay full attention to every second of the talks I pretty much always walked away with a few moments that touched my heart and had a message for me personally. Attending sacrament meeting always was a boost for my week and well worth the hassle of bringing my circus to it.

For second hour my husband would head off to Sunday School (he’s our ward’s Sunday School president), my older 3 would head off to primary, and I would go to nursery with our youngest (my current calling is as a nursery leader). I have the younger class of nursery kids so our main goal was to minimize crying for the full hour ūüėõ We would squeeze in a super brief lesson and have some fun with singing time, but primarily the kids played with toys and I would chat with my partner and the other parents that were trying to acclimate their kids to nursery.

I love little kids so I don’t totally mind being in the nursery but I really miss attending Relief Society. I like Sunday School well enough, but I miss Relief Society. Having the opportunity to connect with the other women in my ward is something my soul needs more than the discussions in Sunday School. It has helped at least to have another teacher that I enjoy visiting with and that we have lots of parents that end up staying around to help their kids acclimate to nursery – but it’s not the same. When I was growing up I probably would have thought that was crazy but I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for the organization of the Relief Society. Not just for the Sunday meetings but just for the unity of sisters and the support system we have. I love being a member of the Relief Society.

Having been in nursery since my oldest was in nursery (my youngest is the only one who has been good at going to nursery on his own… so of course he’s the one that I was called to be a nursery leader for :P) I have to say that I super appreciated the change from the 3 hour block to the 2 hour block for nursery kids. It’s SO much easier to keep nursery kids happy for 1 hour than 2 – not just half as easy, like 100x easier. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to serve and I’m really grateful for the friends that I’ve made connections with as a nursery leader.

After church we would gather everyone back up, drive home, and eat lunch. By the time lunch was over I was typically EXHAUSTED and as much as I would try to stay awake I almost always would fall asleep for most of the afternoon while my husband took care of the kids. Then it was time to make dinner and feed everyone. In the evenings we would sometimes do games as a family, or go outside, or just leave everyone to their own devices. Then bedtime as usual and that’s our Sabbath.

Lockdown Sabbath

When the lockdowns started we began doing virtual “church” with my family. We would meet for about an hour on Zoom with my parents, grandparents, some of my siblings, and a rotating selection of friends from my parents’ ward that could use a group to meet with. For the first couple of months we assigned out talks and tried to make it like a sacrament meeting. About halfway through we switched to making it more of a Sunday School lesson and had a less structured Come Follow Me discussion with a song and a prayer on either side. The Come Follow Me style was much more successful and we wish we had done that from the beginning, but you live and learn ūüôā

My bunch all dressed up for church at home, with the 2yo holding our speaker phone ūüėõ

Our virtual “church” meetings have had different start times but mostly between 11am and 1pm. I have still insisted that my kids get dressed nicely for church – however shoes have not been required. It was actually funny the first time we were able to attend a sacrament meeting with our ward again because I hadn’t realized that my kids had all grown out of their church shoes – oops! It has been much more leisurely getting ready for these meetings – particularly knowing that if someone still has wet hair, no shoes, is still eating some toast etc. they can still participate in church. With the extra time/reduced stress I’ve found that I’ve been better able to do some personal Come Follow Me study before church. I’ve gotten SO much more out of our meetings and my scripture study in general with just that little bit of study time before church. After our services ended our family would hang out on Zoom for a little while showing off whatever we were working on – gardening projects, my brother’s chickens & puppy, my dad’s woodworking, my nephews’ new squishamellows etc. It’s been fun to have a few minutes to just connect with family since we all live far apart.

We’ve had permission from our church leaders to administer the sacrament in our home. So after we finished socializing with family we would gather the kids back up on the couches and my husband would bless the bread and water and distribute it to each of us. It’s my 2yo’s favorite thing, he’s always asking us to do “prayers on bread? prayers on water?”. Even though he refuses to eat the bread, he gets SO excited to drink the water.

We found that our little multicolored Ikea cups fit nicely in our little muffin tins and so we’ve had the sacrament cups in muffin tins and the bread on a plate. I will say that I will have a hard time getting used to tiny pieces of bread and tiny cups for the sacrament again after having a 1/6th of a slice of bread and a decent drink of water each week! Distributing the sacrament to just 6 people doesn’t take very long so I instituted that after the sacrament we would do 2 minutes of meditation. That sounds fancier than it is, I just required my kids to sit quietly and take deep breaths for 2 minutes. I just wanted to still maintain a sense of reverence and pondering with our sacrament even though we didn’t have to wait for anyone else.

I found that without the anchor of church my kids had made Sunday just a play day so I instituted a new rule for our family. No friends or electronics (besides Veggie Tales/Animated Scripture videos) until 3pm. Yes, it was a super arbitrary rule but my kids needed a line of demarcation to make Sunday feel different from any other day besides the Sunday dress and the <1 hour of Zoom church. To be honest it was more of a limitation on quantity of electronics time than anything else – my kids could easily play on electronics ALL DAY and I wanted them to stop and find other things that were positive that they could do.

I’ve actually really liked this rule for our family. I like that I’m not saying NO electronics or friends, just that they need to first focus on church things. We’ve also for a long time had the rule that they can play with friends if those friends are already outside on Sunday but they cannot knock on doors and lure friends out. I didn’t want my kids interfering with other families’ sabbath day observation. I’d always felt like this was a really dumb rule until I was sitting with a group of moms in my neighborhood and discovered that most of them had a similar rule in place- great mom minds think alike!

I still will frequently nap after church but I don’t have the same level of exhaustion that I would come home from church with. I don’t know how much of that was just a Pavlovian response to coming home from church. However, my Sunday naps are really just a tool for me to catch up on sleep from the week so you wouldn’t think that attending church would affect it either way. I like going to bed at the same time as my husband even though he stays up later than I should and gets to sleep in at least an extra hour every morning than I do and I’m the one who is up with the 2yo in the middle of the night. The cumulative sleep deficit between us by Sunday is at least 7 hours – so that nap is a good way to reset to be ready for the week. However my favorite thing to do is to institute “Early Bedtime Sunday” where in lieu of taking a nap I go to bed at like 9pm (instead of 12am-2am) and consider that my “nap”… and let it roll into a full night’s sleep. For awhile I’d convinced my kids that Early Bedtime Sunday was an exciting thing but they don’t buy it anymore ūüėõ

Sunday evenings and dinners haven’t really changed that much. However we have more frequently done virtual family activities like JackBox games with our extended family.

Things I’ve Learned

Obviously in a lot of ways our Sundays haven’t been all that different either before or after the lockdowns. Our desire to avoid commercial activity has remained the same, trying to make it a family day has been the same and our focus on the Savior has been the same. However the ways it has been different has been enlightening to me and I thought I would share some of the things that have stuck in my mind.

Sabbath Attire

The most interesting thing to me has been to see how I personally have treated getting dressed for Sunday services. Since I was a little girl General Conference has been my FAVORITE because we could wear our pajamas to church! I’m not one for loving to get dressed up all the time so you would think that home church during lockdown would have been the perfect opportunity to just stay happy in my PJs while feasting on the word of God. However, I have put on a dress for church every single Sunday of the lockdown. Before lockdown I would probably have told you that I dress up for church mostly because of societal expectations, wanting to conform etc. However I recognized that just that small shift of what I was wearing changed my mindset towards feelings of reverence and respect. My attire may just be an outward symbol but it means something to me about the respect with which I approach the day.

My kids watching conference together, aren’t they the cutest?

However I also realized that this won’t change how I approach General Conference. Even though by all accounts General Conference should inspire even greater reverence, I approach General Conference the way that I would approach a movie marathon. Ten hours of soaking up the words of the apostles and prophets calls for stretchy pants and snacks! I know it sounds backwards, but attending those meetings in my pajamas is part of how I show respect for them. The pajamas are part of the feeling of conference for me – cozy, at home, wrapped in the word of God – when I get dressed up it feels like any other Sunday. Obviously for the times I’ve been able to attend conference in person I’ve done everything to be dressed appropriately for the venue. However, at home I need to be in pajamas, with my laptop, a blanket and something yummy to munch on so that I can be fully engrossed in the learning at hand.

Reverence

It’s also been interesting to see that my focus during church time for my kids shifted from reverence via silence to reverence via participation. In sacrament meeting with so many people meeting together it was most important that my kids weren’t distracting others. Bring on the fruit snacks and coloring books! In a virtual meeting I can mute our family easily so that I’m less concerned about their volume and more concerned that they’re getting something out of the meeting. It’s caused me to reflect on what things I bring to church for my kids – are they meant to help them focus or keep them distracted? And how can I balance the two needs? Obviously my kids need to not disrupt the quiet of the meetings, but how can I instill in them a desire to be attentive and not just tuned out?

The Individual Nature of the Sacrament & Atonement

In a typical sacrament meeting the ordinance is performed for the masses – a whole congregation with probably 200+ people in attendance. While I still take the sacrament individually the prayers are said just once and the distribution happens on a large scale. However one week while we were in lockdown my husband and I were on a getaway by ourselves in a hotel room. We partook of the sacrament and when he said the blessing on the bread and on the water it was just for the two of us. It really felt like the sacrament was being done just for me. The sacrifice of our Savior felt so intimate and personal. Yes, He died for everyone, but He also died for ME. He took upon Himself the pains and sins and struggles of ME. He cares about our whole ward, but He also cares about my little 6 person family. The production value of our at home sacrament service with muffin tins and Ikea cups might not be the highest, but the personal connection between the Atonement and me has never been stronger.

Gratitude for the Priesthood

On the topic of partaking the sacrament at home – I have never been more grateful to be married to a faithful priesthood holder. As the lockdowns started I watched several of my friends of other Christian faiths lament the loss of the opportunity to receive communion. I don’t think there has been a single week since the beginning of the lockdown that I haven’t been able to renew my baptismal covenants with my Heavenly Father. In fact, I have probably missed the sacrament LESS during lockdown than before because it was impossible to be late for the sacrament when my family would wait for me to start. I am so grateful to be a member of the Church where priesthood power is not reserved only for a few but is shared freely with every worthy man who is willing to live righteously and serve others.

It has also made me very grateful for a church with no paid clergy. Certainly ministers in other churches do not go into the profession for the money, but I’ve been especially grateful that my church leaders weren’t motivated to push boundaries and pressure people to come to meetings because their livelihood was jeopardized otherwise. This has given me great confidence as things have slowly been restarted that the decisions are being made solely for the interest of the congregants and not influenced by the amount of money in the collection tray. That’s not meant as a jab at ministers and priests in other churches – goodness knows I’ve watched so much of the pro bono service in my own congregations and thought “so-and-so deserves a salary!” It’s just been interesting to see other churches scramble to find ways to get back together while watching members of my own church take a step back and a deep breath, then redirect their efforts towards personal ministries rather than pushing to get back to the church building.

Church as a Social Activity

Filipino women participating in ministering.

The final thing that has been an interesting discovery for me is how much attending church – with the exception of the actual ordinance of the sacrament – for me is really a social activity more than anything else. A few months into the lockdowns our ward began sacrament meetings again that are shorter, physically spaced out within the chapel and require masks. We were permitted to attend every other week based on which half of the alphabet our last name was in. Our family attended the first week we were able to go but after that decided that we were better fulfilled by partaking of the sacrament in our home. The value for us of being IN church is the other people! It’s the opportunity to talk with other people about their struggles and share our burdens and work together. It’s the chance to smile at someone, give them a hug, and see how they’re doing. The talks in sacrament meeting are great, but I have every general conference talk for 40+ years that I can listen to online in addition to podcasts, scriptures, books… I don’t need to attend sacrament meeting to enhance my gospel study. But I need church for the support and structure that it gives to me and my family.

I think before this experience I would have been totally affronted by someone suggesting that church was a social experience rather than a spiritual one. However now I understand it differently. The social aspect IS the spiritual aspect. We attend church to renew our covenants, but that can happen in 10 minutes. We could administer the sacrament through a drive-thru and it would have the same effect. But church gives us the opportunity to LIVE those covenants. We can mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Church is where we are given the chance to lift the hands that hang down and strengthen the feeble knees. Church lets us not only hear the word of God but help teach it to one another in our classes. Plus, it gives other people the opportunity to do the same for us. I read a quote once that said that the people around us are the portion of humanity God has given us to love. While certainly we ought to reach our circle of love beyond those who share our faith, I do believe that God gives us these church organizations to assign us some particular people who are especially in need of the love we have to offer.

Conclusion

In the end I’m grateful for the opportunity that I’ve had these last few months to reexamine how I approach the Sabbath. I will really miss our lockdown church services and avoiding the Sunday scramble. I hope that there’s some way to preserve some of what we’ve had while church hasn’t been in session. I will definitely miss this special experience that we’ve had in the midst of all of the turmoil in the world right now. It’s neat to see the blessings and the ways the Lord reaches out to us, even in the darkest of times.

COVID-19: Tips for Homeschooling Under Duress Part 1 – Schedule

I’ve been intending for some time to write a post to share some of the things that I’ve learned in my 4 years of homeschooling.  Today school was cancelled for the state that I live in for the rest of the month due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Knowing that I have many friends who will now be homeschooling under duress I figured now was the time to share some of my experiences!

For starters let me tell you the most important secret of homeschooling – HOMESCHOOL DOES NOT LOOK LIKE PUBLIC SCHOOL!  If you’re dreading spending 6 hours instructing your kids – you’re in luck! If my kids are moving along through their schoolwork like they’re supposed to then we can easily be finished before noon and then they have the rest of the day to themselves. That sounds crazy to most public schoolers, but the truth is that if you don’t have to account for all the time lost with lining up to go places, settling down other kids, waiting for others to finish their schoolwork, travel time, unpacking belongings etc – you make up a lot of time. Plus, all of the instruction can go at the child’s individual pace so they’re never left behind because the concepts were too difficult or bored because they understood the material faster. Being done by noon is one of my kids’ favorite parts of homeschooling. Especially since they know that they have all the power to do it and it’s their choice if they’re finished by then or not. They just know that there’s no electronics time and mom will keep nagging them until all of their tasks are finished. They each have a checklist that they fill out and review with me in order to know if they’re “free” or not each day.

Also, you do NOT have to be the instructor.  Most of my kids’ schoolwork is completed online which means that I am not actually the one teaching them. I know lots of parents have different feelings on using technology with kids, but for me, this is a critical element of any curriculum that we use is that my kids can largely go through the work with little intervention on my part. I will look over my kids’ schoolwork but the only actual teaching I do in a typical day is to do a 15 minute reading lesson with my kindergartner and once a week I will facilitate science and social studies activities. I might work out problems on the whiteboard with my 3rd grader, or help my 5th grader through his grammar lesson – but I don’t actually prepare lessons or teach. While my older kids are working on school work I can mostly work on other household tasks, or entertain the 2 year old.  I will share some of my favorite resources for curriculum in another post, but just know – it’s not all on you.  I think the biggest thing to keep you from going crazy during these couple weeks is to try to set up a reasonable routine.  Do what you can but don’t feel like you have to hit every single subject every day.  So without further ado, here’s what we try to hit each day – 

  • Morning Chores
  • Exercise & Meditation
  • Math
  • Language Arts
  • Music Practice
  • Daily Special Subject (Science, Social Studies, Technology, Art or Music)
  • Daily Chore

KISS – Keep It Simple Smartie! You don’t need to do any more than this in a day, and if you do less – YOU’RE DOING FINE! I’ll break down below what each of these might look like in a typical day –

Morning Chores – These are super basic things that your kids probably have to do before they go to school anyways – get dressed, brush their teeth, brush their hair, clean up their rooms, make their beds. Easy enough? K, next!

Exercise/Meditation – You can skip this if you want but I think it helps to get some physical activity in before we get started for the day. It gets the blood flowing and their brains working better. All we do is use the free app 7 Minute Workout which runs us through a little routine of jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups etc. Our 2 year old thinks it’s the best thing ever and he wants to “Ex-er-cise with us?” all day long – he’s a nut. Our meditation is nothing fancy, I have my kids sit still for two minutes and focus on taking deep breaths with their eyes closed. When we finish we usually try to have our family prayers before jumping into school work.

Math – I use exclusively online curriculum for Math because I think that’s easiest – the lectures are done for me and computers are unsurprisingly good at grading math problems ūüėČ My kids’ math usually takes them less than 30 minutes to get through. You can use Khan Academy for free and set your kids up with an account. Just set them a timer for 30 minutes and let them get through as much as they can. I have other curriculum that I like better but for a few weeks of homeschooling I think Khan Academy is probably a great solution. Another great option would be to let your kids play Prodigy – it’s a free math adventure game that my kids love. It’s not a full curriculum but it will keep their math skills up for a few weeks ūüôā

Language Arts – I have a few different things that I try to focus on with my kids – grammar exercises, reading and handwriting. I would probably not worry about grammar for these few weeks – there are great curriculum out there but you probably won’t get far enough into one to make it worth the effort. I would just encourage your kids to maybe write a journal entry and spend some time reading whatever they would like to be reading – or listening to books. My 3rd grader’s journaling requirements each day are supposed to have the date written out, a simple weather report, each of his spelling words written out and 3 sentences (with at least 30 words in those sentences) about whatever is in his brain that day. (I had to give him very prescriptive requirements or else he tries to talk his way out of doing anything at all ūüėõ )

Music Practice – Unless you already have your kids doing a musical instrument or something just go ahead and skip this. This is just when my kids have to do their regular music practice.

Daily Special Subject – We try to hit each of these subjects just one time each week. We do Science on Mondays, Social Studies on Tuesdays, Music lessons on Wednesdays, Technology on Thursdays, Art on Fridays. I probably wouldn’t go that complicated, I’d just do some Science and maybe Social Studies for this limited amount of time. If you want to do something for Social Studies I can’t recommend the Tuttle Twins books enough – read one with your kids and discuss it or do the workbook pages that come with the books. I have learned so much from these books and they are my favorites by far and away. For Science, there are some AWESOME science videos out there that will keep your kids engaged – pick one or more and let your kids watch them and call it a day ūüôā Here’s some of my favorite YouTube Channels and other resources –

  • Mark Rober – I can’t say enough good things about Mark Rober’s channel. He is by far and away my favorite YouTuber, everything he publishes is high quality and teaches complicated concepts in ways that make them seem simple.
  • Wow In The World – This podcast is SO much fun for kids! My almost 9 year old (he won’t accept being called 8 anymore) LOVES this show so much – he insists on listening to it almost every night and talks to me about what he learns all the time.
  • DIY Sci – Steve Spangler has long been a staple in the children’s science world. If you have Amazon Prime I highly recommend this series as well. My kids have learned so much from this and I’m always interested to hear what’s in their brains after watching these episodes!
  • Magic School Bus – If you didn’t watch Magic School Bus growing up I’m sad for you. These shows are fun, engaging and they teach kids a lot! The series is available on Netflix – along with a new remade series which I find every bit as enjoyable as the originals!
  • Smarter Every Day – Another great YouTube channel with lots of interesting things for kids – and adults too!

Daily Chore –  Each day I have a household chore that my kids are responsible to accomplish.  If they’re going to be home have them make your life a little easier!  The chores I give my kids are – cleaning laundry, folding laundry, cleaning a bathroom, vacuuming bedroom, & cleaning up the playroom.  Just one of those each day and in theory our household runs smoothly ;P

That’s it! In a nutshell you can do a fairly full school day with a quick workout, an online math lesson, some form of reading, a journal entry, a science video and then put your kids to work keeping the house! Then let them have the rest of the day to do legos or board games or building forts. I refuse to entertain my kids and they find plenty of good things to do with their days. I made a simple printable that you can print and laminate and then let your kids check it off each day to keep them accountable.

Download PDF version here

Good luck friends! Stay healthy and enjoy this time with your kids!

Joining the Lord’s Battalion of Women

Joining the Lord's Battalion of Women - My experiences from following a prophet of the Lord

In October 2018 General Conference President Russell M. Nelson, the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints spoke to the women of the church and gave us some specific invitations to become more direct participants in the gathering of Israel. His invitations were –

  1. Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.
  2. Read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018.
  3. Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance.
  4. Participate fully in Relief Society.

I have been working on participating in those invitations and last night I completed reading the Book of Mormon just in time to be done before the end of 2018! I felt like I ought to take some time to reflect on that experience in particular and then today President Nelson posted on Facebook and invited the sisters to leave him a comment sharing our experience with him. So I thought I might as well make it a blog post since we know that I won’t be able to keep my thoughts that short anyways, and so that I have it preserved for posterity. I’ll take each point in turn.

Participate in a 10-day fast from social media and any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to your mind.¬†¬†Anyone¬†who¬†knows¬†me¬†well¬†will¬†not¬†be¬†surprised¬†to¬†know¬†that this was not the easiest challenge for me to accept. I don’t think I consume much negative media – most of the music and videos that I watch and listen to are kids YouTube videos with nursery rhymes and such to keep baby David happy. The only “negative” aspect of those videos are just that they might start to make me crazy from repetitiveness but they’re not going to inspire any sort of impure thoughts. However, I’m a huge fan of social media. I’ve moved many times during my life and I don’t live particularly close to my family. Social media gives me a great way to share life experiences with people who I love who I might not be able to see in person very frequently. I can keep up with friends who live half way around the world. I love having a place where I can document things that are happening in my life and my children’s lives in little bite sized snippets. It’s how I keep up with my local community and get ideas and support for homeschooling, cub scouts and many other things that I’m involved in. The people and groups that I follow aren’t ones that I feel have a negative influence on my life – quite the contrary. So, it would be easy for me to have said, eh, this invitation isn’t really for me.

However, I do have one problem with social media. It is definitely a place that is easy for me to get sucked into and I can easily spend countless hours scrolling through my newsfeed instead of focusing on the tasks and people immediately around me. The media itself is fine but as far as a “good, better, best” determination is concerned – it sometimes is “good” and gets in the way of my doing what is “best”. It helped me a lot when my mom pointed out to me that what President Nelson asked of us wasn’t to give up social media forever, nor did he declare that it was evil and bad and we should never use it again. Clearly that was not his intention if he is now reaching out to the sisters on that same platform to get feedback! However he asked for us to “fast” from social media. Just like we would fast from food – it doesn’t mean that food is bad, but sometimes we need to step away from it and allow other things to fill in that space.

I actually ended up taking the social media fast challenge twice – once over the summer when he gave the challenge to the youth, and again in October when he issued the challenge to the women. I decided that for me it meant deleting Facebook off of my phone as well as Pokemon Go for the 10 days requested. I set some specific guidelines for myself I was allowed to look at my Facebook memories, or post to Facebook if there was something memorable that my kids did or an insight I had. Those particular functions of social media have sort of taken the place of keeping a journal for me and I don’t think the intention was for me to stop journaling. But I didn’t allow myself to check through my notifications, scroll through my newsfeed, or participate in any of the groups that I normally participate in.

The first time I took the challenge I sort of cheated and selected a week when our family was out of town and happened to be where there was poor internet anyways. There was plenty going on to keep me distracted from needing or desiring social media so it was pretty easy and I can’t say I missed it much. However, in October I took the challenge again and it was during just a normal week in my life. I was surprised to realize how many times in a day I would pick up my phone for no apparent reason. I realized that those were all times that I would normally fill in the gaps with Facebook, even if I didn’t have any particular reason to be on Facebook at that time. I always feel like I am so busy and can’t get everything done that I would like to in a day, but somehow I had all of this time where I was just biding my time on Facebook. To be fair, a lot of that time is while I’m sitting around nursing a baby, or motivating kids to clean their rooms, or waiting in preschool pick up lines – but it was still a lot of time.

I tried to channel some of that time into opening up my scriptures app instead, although I found that frequently I was still doing something that required too much of my attention for scripture study. I did find that I could use that time to message people individually that I might not have reached out to otherwise, or complete other tasks that could be accomplished with my phone. I heard some people say that they spent a lot less money while on their social media fast because they didn’t see advertisements for things that they wanted but didn’t need… I had the opposite experience. While I was sitting there I would think of the Sunday shoes that I needed to order for Danny or some blankets that I wanted for our newly completed basement… Amazon greatly benefitted from my ability to focus on the tasks I had at hand ūüėõ That might seem like a negative thing, but it actually really was a blessing because I got those things done during time that was otherwise wasted and was able to make better use of my other time.

From this experience I was able to go in and adjust what groups I follow and actually unfollowed some groups that – while very positive – were taking up too much of my time. I’ve also been more aware of how frequently I pick up my phone just to kill time. I’m thinking I will make social media fasts a regular part of things I do – just to take a few days or a week off every so often to clear my mind a bit and allow other things to fill in some of that space. Just to help me keep it as a more balanced part of my life rather than allowing it to take over.

Read the Book of Mormon by the end of 2018. As I mentioned earlier in my post, I finished the Book of Mormon last night. One of the things that stuck out to me with President Nelson’s challenge was his invitation to “mark each verse that speaks of or refers to the Savior.” I have been a member of the church for my entire life. I cannot even tell you how many dozens of times I have read the Book of Mormon, studied it in church/seminary/institute, watched the Hill Cumorah pageant, watched the Living Scriptures videos, read the simplified versions, taken BYU courses on it… this wasn’t my first exposure to the Book of Mormon by any means. But I started reading with that challenge in mind and marked any verse that referred to the Savior. I made it about 3 chapters. It was seriously just about every. single. verse.

Friends, I knew that the Book of Mormon was another testament of Jesus Christ. I’ve seen the cover, it says it right there. I know that the climax of the book is when He appears to the Nephites in 3 Nephi and there’s a lot of talk about missionary work and visions and stuff. But did you know that the WHOLE book is ALL about Jesus Christ? Yes, even those chapters in Alma where it seems like all they talk about is war strategies. The WHOLE book. I kind of knew that, but reading through the book and looking for all the mentions of Christ it blew me away that He truly is the center of all of it. The book isn’t about slaying Laban, or building a boat, or burning prophets, or cutting off arms, or stripling warriors, or wars upon wars upon wars. It is about Christ. It is about how He talks to and leads His people. It’s about the love that He has for them. It’s about the changes that people can make when they turn their lives over to Him. I don’t know how I had never seen it that clearly before, I think I’m so familiar with the book that it’s a case of not being able to see the forest for the trees. If you haven’t had a chance to read the Book of Mormon, or if you have read it and think it’s a story about the Nephites and the Lamanites, I urge you to take President Nelson’s challenge. Read the book. Look for Christ. He is everywhere in it.

I know this post is already too long, but I wanted to share some of the other more tangential thoughts that I had in some of the stories of the Book of Mormon. Feel free to skip the next little bit if you only want to read about the challenge itself (I’ve bolded the next part of the challenge so you can skim to there or click here), I just wanted to record these other thoughts while I was thinking of them.

One thing that struck me as I was reading in Helaman about the Nephites that were awaiting the sign of Christ’s birth was just the timing of everything. If you haven’t read the Book of Mormon here’s a quick recap – a prophet comes and tells the people that in 5 years there will be a sign of a day, a night and a day where the sun will not go down which will indicate that Christ was born in Jerusalem. The time goes by and when about 5 years is up some of the people still believe and are waiting for that sign but the people in power have decided the time is up and that they’re going to kill all of the believers the next day unless the sign appears. The leader of the believers prays and is told that the sign will come the next day and that Christ will be born – and so it happens. This got me thinking about what was happening at the same time in Jerusalem – Joseph is taking his wife Mary to Bethlehem even though she is great with child and they don’t have a place to stay. This is 100% speculation, but I thought – what if it really wasn’t time for Mary to be having the baby yet? Would Joseph have really taken her on a long journey if he thought she was likely to have the baby during that time or would she have more likely been left at home in the care of her mother or whoever else? Perhaps Mary was only 36 weeks along in her pregnancy and they thought they still had time. What if the whole reason we have the nativity story we have – with a baby in a manger, no room in the inn, and Mary laboring on the back of a donkey while travelling long miles – is because Jesus knew that he needed to make an early entrance into the world to save those who believed in Him, even though they were a world away from where He would be born. Perhaps not only was his death an act of salvation, but the very event of his birth was timed just so to save the lives of those who believed? Again, I really don’t know if that was the case or not, but knowing the mercies of God and how he cares for his people, I could believe that it might be.

I also thought a lot this time through about Mormon abridging these records after everything that he had seen with the Nephites right down to their destruction. When I was reading Helaman 2:13-14 I thought about how Mormon must have felt writing about the Gadianton robbers who would prove to be the overthrow of the whole Nephite civilization. The very destruction of the Nephites that he was witnessing he attributed to the secret combinations and evil doings of these Gadianton robbers. I could just imagine him abridging these records and wanting to reach back through time and wring Gadianton’s stupid neck. To know that the actions of someone who had lived nearly 400 years earlier was the cause of so much wickedness and suffering among your own people must have been just maddening.

I thought of it again as I read through Moroni’s abridgment of the records of Ether and how secret combinations had overthrown that civilization. One of the things that stuck out to me was that the book covers a time span of around 2000 years but only takes up about 30 pages of the book – as opposed to the rest of the Book of Mormon which spans about half that time and takes nearly 500 pages. I know Moroni says he didn’t have ore, but as I read it this was sort of what I imagined him thinking, “This guy takes power, these guys were ok, these guys were pretty good… and then they sucked again, and then got a little better, and then worse. Then we killed all the people and everyone was in prison, and then we broke out, then back in prison… bad guys, good guys… yaknow what, I just don’t care anymore! People just don’t seem to learn.¬† The more things change the more they just stay the same. AAAAHHHRGGGGHHHH!!!¬† We just did that whole stupid game over again!¬† My people are idiots!¬† We even had their history and we could see it didn’t turn out well, but did we change things?¬† Noooooo, we just did the whole stupid play over again!” I can only imagine his sheer frustration that all of the good things that his people had done and all the miracles, had once again come to naught because the people refused to learn from history. They say those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. It struck me that this is a very important part of why we study the scriptures – so we can see the same patterns setting up in our own societies and try to stop it. It has made me more conscientious of seeing similar patterns in our own governments and societies. Are we propping up Gadianton’s robbers or are we rooting them out? Are we seeking out leaders who have the Spirit of the Lord to guide them? Do we value our liberty and peace above all else, to the point where we are willing to fight for it?

One last thing that I read that I’d never noticed before was in Ether 4:5-6 it says that the records of the Jaredites will not come forth in the latter days until the Gentiles (us) become clean before the Lord. I always knew those records existed and were sealed. I don’t know how I’d missed before that we will get those records but that we haven’t yet proved ourselves worthy of them. I’m not sure exactly what we need to be doing to prove ourselves ready for those records, but I think it’s a goal that we should probably be putting some effort towards figuring out how we do that. I wonder if we have gotten too complacent as a people and we are as guilty as those who ignore the Book of Mormon because they say “A¬†Bible! A Bible! We have¬†got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” The Lord has been pretty clear with us that there are records of his people from all around the world. Shouldn’t we be doing more to seek out those records that they might become one in our hands? I love the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price – but wouldn’t it be great if we were able to have the perspective of even more societies and their dealings with God throughout time?

Alright, enough tangents… let’s get back to the invitations from President Nelson –

Establish a pattern of regular temple attendance. I will admit that I have not yet done as well with this as I would like. I have made it to the temple twice since this challenge was made with the help of my mom (thanks Mom! You’re the best!), which is more than I had been making it. But those were both more of one off attendances rather than a “pattern”. I know that what I need to do is set a recurring temple date and stick to it. I’ve been meaning to ask my in-laws if there might be a particular day/time that would work for them to watch our kiddos so that we can have it set on our calendar as a preset time that we go. I know once something is on the calendar it’s harder to take it off than it is to shoehorn something in during the month when things already feel so busy. I love going to the temple. I’m always touched by the love that our Savior has for us and the feeling of connectedness to all the people who have come before me and put me exactly where I am today. I want to do more to pay back all of their sacrifices. I just need to get out of my own way and do it.

Participate fully in Relief Society. President Nelson gave us two specific tasks for this invitation, to read the current Relief Society purpose statement as well as the Relief Society declaration. I will admit that before President Nelson’s talk I didn’t really know that those two things existed, let alone had read them before. Also, I’ve been caught up in the other tasks that we were given and hadn’t taken the time to read these two documents before now. So I did so this afternoon (no time like the present, right?).

I can’t say that I learned anything new as I read through those two documents, however I was given a very strong confirmation of the things I already knew about Relief Society. I am so proud to be part of such an amazing organization. I think that too often we have dismissed the work of Relief Society as being “just making casseroles and centerpieces”. If that’s what Relief Society is then we are shortchanging ourselves! We as women have a vital role within the church and not only is there a place for women in the church but the church cannot be whole without us!

I think too often we look to the priesthood as being the power of the Lord on the earth. However, it’s really only half of the way the power of the Lord is manifest on the earth. Our unique womanhood is not only the power to create and care for babies – that is an important but very small part of what we do as women. We must not let anyone make the work of women seem small because it is not. We have been called to become learned in the scriptures, and have a personal relationship with the Spirit. We build homes and are to celebrate the unique joys of womanhood – not just motherhood, but those things that make us different than men. We are different from men and it is that difference that makes us so crucial to this work. It’s not that one is better than the other but the very play between our differences allows both of us to see things through varied lenses and offer altered perspectives. We sustain the priesthood – but they also sustain us. We need BOTH men and women in this church! We are called to do good works and love life & learning. We are critical in standing for truth and righteousness. Women build communities that are strong and it is our duty to build those communities on righteous principles to lift where we stand. Everything we do as women is to strive for exaltation – not only for ourselves but for those around us. How blessed I am to be a part of Relief Society.

Unsurprisingly, my thoughts on President Nelson’s challenge are long. I just want to say how grateful I am for the invitation to raise myself to a higher standard and put myself out as a part of the Lord’s army. I embrace the opportunity to volunteer myself as one who is willing to be a part of His great work. I want to share my testimony that I know that President Nelson is a true prophet of the Lord. It is clear that it is a calling that he has given himself to fully and I am so grateful for his willingness to guide us in our day and listen to the Spirit and challenge us to be better. I am so grateful for the gospel of Jesus Christ and I know that He loves each of us beyond measure. If you haven’t felt of that love or know this for yourself, I would invite you to “come and see”. His promises are there for you every bit as much as they are there for me. He loves you and wants for you to come closer to Him. Thank you President Nelson for inviting us to be a part of this work.

#LightTheWorld Challenge Planning

It’s Christmas time!  My 3 year old has been trying to convince me every morning that *today* is in fact Christmas and she should be able to open her presents now but so far I’ve been able to hold her at bay (I’m not sure if that will be true once the snow actually comes).  However, I really want my kids to get into the meaning of this time of year and to focus more on giving than getting.  We decided that we wanted to do the challenge that our church had set out to #LightTheWorld.  They have 25 ways for 25 days to celebrate Christ’s life and follow his example.

I decided that I really needed a good way to organize what it was we wanted to do.  I knew that some of these challenges would take a little bit of planning to work them into our schedule or to come up with what I wanted to do.  So I went through the website and compiled each of the days challenges, with their ideas for possible into an Excel spreadsheet.  Now I can easily go through and pick what we want to do for each day and make sure that we have it scheduled in so it’s not too overwhelming.  I’m also thinking that I might move around some of the days in ways that will better fit my schedule.  Additionally, knowing that I live in Utah where lots of other people are going to be doing this challenge I want to put some of the challenges to work on different days than other people will be.  I don’t want to be showing up to the blood bank on the same day as everyone else (although, to be fair, since I’m nursing and have a terrific phobia of needles I wasn’t going to the blood bank personally anyways… but you get the idea).

Here is a link to that spreadsheet – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1sJrakuh2-CfHsiiibjHfWrJ97cR-BwZK, and here’s a link to a printable PDF version – https://drive.google.com/open?id=1wOEfvSgTyhxMHV5W0bPMEMrvzsw76l4O.  Hopefully this helps you in making your Christmas a little more Christ centered ♥

Just Say NO! to Christmas Pyramid Schemes

Ok friends I’ve been seeing these going around on Facebook recently and felt like it needed to be addressed.  Let’s start by explaining what this is – a friend posts that they’re looking for people to participate in a gift exchange.  The idea is that you just buy 1 gift (in this case valued at $10+) and send it to a particular person, get 6 friends to participate and in return you’ll get 36 gifts from other people!  Totally reminiscent of those postcard chain letters that we’d do back in the 80’s & 90’s, and it sounds harmless and fun right?

It sounds great, but let’s think about how this works.  You send your gift to your friend’s friend (whoever included them in the gift exchange) and you’re now out the $10 for the gift.  You now have to find 6 friends who want to send a gift to your friend, and they’ll find 6 people to send a gift to you.  Easy peasy.

So, I did some maths (ok, so Microsoft Excel did some maths… I just entered in a formula) – for the first person there obviously just needs to be 1 person to decide to start the chain.  For the second level there are that person’s 6 friends.  They need to come up with 36 people.  Those 36 people then come up with 216 people, and so on and so forth. I put this in a visual format.  We’re going to pretend that you did not initiate this “gift exchange” and that you aren’t friends with the kind of person who would initiate this – remember: the first person didn’t give *anyone* a gift… they’ve just decided that they ought to receive a gift from 36 of their friends friends just for sheer awesomeness.  So I’ve put hypothetical “you” at the second tier.  I’m not sure whether that makes you really lucky to be so high up in the pyramid (and more likely to have a non-exhausted list of people who would participate, or really unlucky to be so closely connected to the kind of person who thinks scamming their friends for their gain is fun.  You can decide.  I put in the number of people who would have to be participating at each level to sustain the exchange, and some interesting comparisons for what that number of people means to the right.

Sorry, I’m no graphic designer, but the numbers are staggering.  For there to still be 36 participants at the level that would send gifts to you there would have to be more people participating than were killed in the sinking of the Titanic.  For those people to receive the promised gifts would take more participants than would fill Yankee Stadium.  It only takes 11 tiers to exhaust the total US Facebook user population, and another couple tiers beyond that and it would take more than double the world’s population to fulfill the promises of 36 gifts being sent – and neither of those lower two tiers would receive any gifts.

The entire success of this “exchange” is built on the fact that the majority of people who participate will get nothing.  There’s no way for you to get 36 gifts for just sending 1 gift without 35 people sending gifts and not getting any gifts.  Hopefully that helps you understand why these are a bad idea.  Beyond which, they’re actually illegal.  So please friends, just say NO! to these gift exchanges!  If you want to get into the holiday spirit how about spending that $10 on buying supplies for refugees, or if you really want to send someone a gift you can always check my Amazon wish list ūüėČ  

Sources:

Book Recommendations (especially for Audible books)

On Facebook I frequently see people looking for book recommendations.  My response is always – well what do you like to read?  My personal reading range is all over the map, so I need something to zone in on before making recommendations – or else my Facebook comments become crazy long.  However, most of the time people say “oh I like reading whatever”… which doesn’t help.  Finally, someone was looking for Audible book suggestions in a homeschoolers group that I’m a part of. For whatever reason that time I spent spent a lot longer than I should have putting together this (non-exhaustive) list of some of the books that I’ve really enjoyed listening to on Audible  in every genre.  We’ve had an Audible membership for about 7 years now and we have around 400 books in our library. I went through and picked out some of the ones I’ve really enjoyed to compile this list – there are more but here are the ones that stuck out to me for recommending.  After posting that as a crazy long comment I copied it and reposted it to my own Facebook page as a status message.  I found that I was going back to find that status super frequently still so I finally decided to put it together as a blog post so that I didn’t have to copy and paste it anymore ūüėČ   I’ll probably update this from time to time or post additions as new posts, but this is a good start!  But here are my recommendations for books to read, based on my Audible library – I tried to group them vaguely by category, but it’s not the most organized.

Disclaimer: The links in this post are affiliate links.  This means that I get a very small commission if you purchase anything from those links.  It doesn’t cost you anything but it does help me cover the costs to maintain this site and give me some motivation to continue to post content (beyond just that I enjoy writing it ūüėČ ) 

I’ll start with the obvious – Harry Potter. SO worth an Audible credit, the narration is amazing, the books are awesome – I don’t think I need to explain why these should be in everyone’s Audible library 

My most recent favorite has been the Alcatraz vs The Evil Librarians series by Brandon Sanderson.  They were totally off the wall and SO much fun!  My 8 year old has read through them on his Kindle and enjoyed them a lot.  My 6 year old has just discovered them and has been listening to them as he goes to bed at night and thinks they’re amazing – which is really saying something as he’s not much of a reader.  They were definitely a series that I was sad to get to the end of!

I used to read a lot of historical fiction but for some reason I haven’t really read a lot in the last several years until my friend and I started a book club in our neighborhood this year.  We read These is My Words – which was totally different from what I was expecting for some reason, but awesome.  It made me feel ALL the feels and it was a great glimpse into a different time period.  A lot of people don’t know that it’s actually the first book in a series, but there are two more books – Sarah’s Quilt and The Star Garden both of which I highly recommend.  We also read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which had been on my “To Read” list for a LONG time but I’d never gotten around to it.  It takes a little bit to get past the letters back and forth format, but a few chapters in you get into the rhythm of it and it’s AMAZING.  I can’t believe it took me that long to get to reading it.  

Another book club pick that I really enjoyed was The Orphan Keeper.  It’s an incredible story and based on real events.  I was a little annoyed afterwards to find out how much they had changed the story to fit a nice narrative arc when the true story is already pretty incredible.  But it was still a great read and I would highly recommend it.

For younger kids in the learning to read process I would recommend getting kindle books with whisper sync and let them listen and read along on a kindle. Most of these books though are cheaper if you buy the kindle version first and then add on narration – and cheaper to buy both than just the audible book, so definitely check those out. Recommendations for those – Stuart Little, Winnie the Pooh, Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know, Just So Stories… there are lots of good ones out there, but I’ve mostly been limiting myself to the ones I could get for free with Prime shipping credits 

I’ve listened to Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz with my kids and they enjoyed them. Peter Pan was a little more intense than I was expecting though, and The Wizard of Oz was good, but I felt like Ann Hathaway’s voices were a touch overdone and little distracting – but it did make it easy to tell characters apart so there’s definitely give and take there.

For some good humorous books I highly recommend Jim Gaffigan’s Dad is Fat and Food: A Love Story – both had me laughing so hard I cried. They’re especially great for long road trips if you need to stay awake  Also if you like Garrison Keillor his books are awesome, especially because he narrates them!

Last year I read A Series of Unfortunate Events and it was fantastic! It might be a little dark for younger kids, and I don’t know that they would enjoy all of the dry irony of many of the situations, but I absolutely loved them. 

Anne of Green Gables is awesome as well, but know that you’re going to have a couple holes if you purchase them through Audible (maybe it was just one) as there are some of the books that aren’t in public domain yet. I ended up just purchasing that book and reading it on a kindle but I’m sad to not have the whole set in the same format. But be picky on the narrators! I returned a couple that were VERY poorly narrated.

We’re huge Orson Scott Card fans in our household so a lot of our books are done by him. Anything narrated by Stephan Rudnicki is amazing – seriously you can listen to his voice all day long and be very content  But if you’re looking for Fantasy I’d recommend Enchantment for sure (but not for the kids). And all of his other books are great too – I won’t bore you with a play-by-play but he writes some great things, you should check them out.

If you like YA literature I’d highly recommend The Selection series, also the Matched series by Ally Condie. Oh! And the Defy series by Sara B. Larson. Obviously The Hunger Games if you haven’t read those yet are also fantastic.

I’m really into popular neuroscience (for lack of a better word) – I really love understanding how our brains work. In that vein I really loved – The Female Brain (and the follow up book The Male Brain) by Louann Brizendine, as well as The Compass of Pleasure, and The Willpower Instinct. Oh! And The Paradox of Choice.

I also have really loved these books for the way they’ve helped shape the way I look at the world and my own abilities, my interactions with others etc – Freakonomics, Super Freakonomics & Think Like a Freak by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner, Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson.  (Free: The Future of a Radical Price is in fact… free, so that’s an easy one to pick up ūüôā )

Somewhere between those two categories – popular psychology? – is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman and also The Color Code. Both of those I feel like have helped me so much with my relationships with different people – particularly my husband and kids!

As far as more modern day popular books that I’ve loved, I’d recommend The Help, Life of Pi and Eat, Pray, Love. Not unique picks but I did enjoy all of them.

I have more classics than this in my library, but the two I’ve made it through recently were Jane Eyre & Great Expectations and I thoroughly enjoyed both of them.

If you want something a little bit light and fun in a British humor sort of way I’d recommend Good Omens or Stardust (the movie version of Stardust is also fantastic – but doesn’t follow the book exactly for better or worse). Good Omens is perhaps a bit irreverent – I think to appreciate it you need to have liked both C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters and Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – a random conglomeration to be sure but if you liked both of those I think you’d enjoy Good Omens. (Oh and I’d recommend Screwtape Letters & Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy too  )

These other books don’t really fit into any other category, but these were some other books that I enjoyed. Honolulu by Alan Brennert was fantastic, and his book Moloka‚Äôi is supposed to be even better. I listened to that one on our trip to Hawaii earlier this year and it really made the trip so much more fun because I felt like I better understood the history and tensions of the area. I also really enjoyed I’m Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 – as a tech nerd/enterprenuer. Another cool one was The Auschwitz Escape by Joel C. Rosenberg – it was interesting to see another side of WWII even from a fictional (though based on some real events) perspective. Finally, if you like science fiction you should definitely listen to Redshirts by John Scalzi – it was a really fun, not too serious view on the genre.

If you stuck with me for all of that kudos to you! Hopefully you find something you like in all of that!

Introduction to CSS

intro-to-css

This morning I’m giving a guest lecture at LDS Business College introducing CSS. ¬†I wanted to post my slides here so the students could have easy access to them for their own review – Intro to CSS Slides.

If anyone is interested in learning CSS here are a couple of websites that I think are invaluable –

  • CSS Zen Garden – This site really shows the power and capabilities of CSS in designing websites
  • W3 Schools: CSS – This site is the most complete CSS resource. ¬†It has a complete reference of CSS properties and values, tutorials, sandboxes and so much more. ¬†This is where I go whenever I can’t remember exactly how to do what I need to with CSS – which despite over a decade of experience is often ūüôā
  • CSS Box Model – This is specifically the page in W3 Schools that teaches about the CSS Box Model.
  • CSS Reset¬†– This page discusses the need for and development of Eric Meyer’s CSS reset

Happy CSS learning!

Personal Highlights of General Conference October 2015

I just wanted to post about some of my favorite things from General Conference this last weekend. ¬†I love Conference weekend, there’s not much that’s better than getting to snuggle up on the couch and listen to the prophet and apostles and church leaders. ¬†I always come away reinvigorated, recommitted and excited to live the gospel. ¬†I usually spend conference with my laptop on and tweeting the quotes that touch me at the time. ¬†I feel like I process the talks differently as I’m searching for those little 140 character nuggets and it’s good to type them out and read them because it adds another sensory method. ¬†But I wanted to write down some of the thoughts that I’d had that couldn’t fit in that 140 character limit. ¬†So, here they are¬†–

I especially loved¬†the Saturday morning session. ¬†I felt like the whole session focused on self-awareness and improvement. ¬†I loved the talk by Elder Lawrence, “What lack I yet?”. ¬†I thought it was a good reminder that regardless of who we are or how far we’ve come there are more things that we can be doing to improve ourselves. ¬†The thought I tweeted¬†during his talk was, “Are you brave enough to ask ‘What lack I yet?’.” ¬†I think it’s a profound question and one that we should be asking often. ¬†The Lord is aware of our shortcomings and is willing and anxious to help us overcome them. ¬†I usually feel like I’m pretty aware of my shortcomings and have plenty to work on without needing the Lord to take me down a notch.¬†¬†But perhaps it’s still better to ask the Lord so that He can direct me to the most important shortcoming for me to work on, or ways I should be tackling those shortcomings. ¬†I also really liked Elder Cook’s talk about being “Shipshape and Bristol fashion”.¬† That analogy really stuck with me, that we might often think that we’ve got things under control, but we need to be ready to still be under control even when the conditions are less than ideal. ¬†I thought that went with, what I felt was, the whole theme of that session.

I was mostly looking at¬†my computer screen while President Monson was talking (listening to the talk of course, just taking notes)¬†and I didn’t notice at first when he started to slump. ¬†My first hint that something was going on was my mom saying something like, “oh man, President Monson looks like he’s going to fall over.” ¬†I of course then looked up and watched in horror as he slowly sunk lower and lower on the podium. ¬†Everyone of course was concerned but I thought there was a really powerful object lesson there. ¬†I was impressed with how quickly at the end of his talk there were people at his side to help him back to his seat. ¬†What I didn’t realize at the time was that the people who were helping him were his bodyguard, and President Uchtdorf. ¬†It really has touched me to read the accounts of President Uchtdorf sitting at the edge of his seat and swooping in as quickly as possible to help President Monson. ¬†To me it shows just what his attitude is towards our prophet. ¬†Surely he would have known that there are ushers, bodyguards and other able bodied people who would rush to our prophet’s aid. ¬†But I think it speaks to the close personal connection between those men that President Uchtdorf wouldn’t just sit back and let someone else take care of it, but that he was right there. ¬†I think it’s a reminder that these men aren’t just some executives who are detached from each other and will let others do the work, but that they’re servants to the Lord, and are willing to serve one another too. ¬†I also thought it was a great example of what it means to be a counselor – whether in the First presidency or the Beehive presidency it shows that you do whatever you can to support your president and be there for them. ¬†I was really touched by that whole vignette that played out.

I latched on to the Ponderize concept that Elder Durrant introduced. ¬†Judging from my Facebook newsfeed I’m not alone. ¬†I think that was an easy one for many people to latch onto because it’s something that is a simple, measurable goal. ¬†The basic concept was to pick a scripture each week and ponder on it and try to memorize it during the week. ¬†For me, it ties into something I was told in my patriarchal blessing about memorizing important scriptures and studying them – this¬†gave me a really solid way to do that. ¬†It might not have been the most important takeaway, but it’s one that I¬†can easily say “yes I’m doing this” and I think we all like that feeling of accomplishment from being able to check a box ūüôā ¬†I will admit though that I cringed a lot at his made up word on behalf of the translators that were trying to put this into another language and thinking “what on earth do I do with this word!?!?” ¬†Especially as he went on to use that word 12 times, and turned it into a noun (ponderizer) and used the past tense (ponderized). ¬†Seriously, there was probably a way to convey the concept without throwing the translators under the bus. ¬† But that’s what you think about when you’ve worked as a technician and have a degree in Linguistics ūüėõ ¬†Eric and I are working on this challenge together. ¬†We decided to start our list by using the scripture masteries that have been added to the seminary curriculum since we graduated 12 years ago. ¬†This week our scripture is¬†¬†2 Nephi 25:23,26. ¬†I found a great poster from The Mormon Home¬†and have put copies of the scripture in our shower, on our mirror, above Eric’s desk and on the bulletin board in our kitchen. ¬†I really need to make it the wallpaper on my phone though or something like that though too.

As a mother I of course bawled through Elder Holland’s talk, “Behold Thy Mother”. ¬†I feel like nothing has made me feel closer to the Savior than being a mother. ¬†To think of the Savior loving me like I love my children – except perfectly, unlike my love for my children – is so overwhelming I can’t begin to describe it. ¬†Especially knowing that Christ knows perfectly all of my faults and weaknesses, and *still* loves me as He does is beyond my comprehension. ¬†It of course also made me think of my own mother and other mothers I’ve seen in their struggles with their children. ¬†The whole talk was just such a beautiful tribute to the power of the Atonement and motherhood – it was beautiful. ¬†I can’t say what he said any better, or really add to it in any way. ¬†If you haven’t read/listened/watched that talk yet – you should do that right now. ¬†I always look forward to Elder Holland’s talks, but I always start thinking that I’ve gotten myself too pumped up – that I need to simmer down, it can’t *always* be as good as I’ve built up his talks in my mind. ¬†But, I was wrong – I can’t seem to get myself so pumped up for Elder Holland’s talks that the actual talk is a let down. ¬†There’s something about the way he speaks that’s so direct, and simple yet expounds things that are so complex with such feeling – every time I feel like I leave with a well overflowing with¬†revelation. ¬†I love that each of the apostles has their own style of speaking and different ways of making their points, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say that Elder Holland’s talks weren’t generally favorites.

When the new apostles were called I will admit that I’d been hoping to add some ethnic diversity to the quorum. ¬†Obviously I knew whoever was called was who was supposed to be called, but it would be nice if the leadership of our global church reflected a little more the diversity of that church. ¬†However as I’ve watched these men in just the few short days, I can say that I know that their calling is of God. ¬†As I’ve read about their backgrounds I can see that even though they look like 3 old white men from Utah, there is a diversity in their backgrounds and experiences which the Lord needed at this time. ¬†I think there’s also something good about them being of a similar culture to the men they’ll be serving with as I think it will make it easier for them to communicate the needs that they observe in their different capacities without having to fight cultural barriers. ¬†Obviously the spirit can break through all those things so I don’t think that’s a necessary thing, I just can see that it is probably easier to serve in that capacity if your English is already excellent etc. ¬†Hopefully that doesn’t sound racist, I do still hope to see more and more of the church leadership coming from diverse backgrounds in the future, but I am also seeing how these men were the ones needed right now. ¬†In particular I was interested to see that Elder Renlund’s wife was a working mom. ¬†I think that there are a lot of moms within the church who work outside the home and I can understand how they might feel alienated. ¬†I think that having an apostle whose wife chose a professional career will help those women to feel more represented and understood.

From the Women’s Session I loved President Uchtdorf’s talk “A Summer with Great Aunt Rose”.¬† I think one of the great things about it was that he really just told us a parable and left it to us to pull the message out for ourselves. ¬†I think it was a story that we could all picture so clearly. ¬†I liked the honesty of Great Aunt Rose in telling about the depression and the hard times, I think it showed that anyone could choose their attitude towards life regardless of their personal circumstances. ¬†I liked the quote, “God didn‚Äôt design us to be sad. He created us to have joy!” ¬†I think sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the negative parts of life, but remembering that the Lord wants us to be happy helps me to think on the positive side of life.

Ok, one last thing. ¬†I really liked Sister Stephens’ talk and the story she told about the car seat battle she’d had with her granddaughter. ¬†Oh how I can relate to trying to reason with strong willed children! ¬†When she told of her granddaughter’s response of¬†‚ÄúGrandma, you want me to wear my seat belt because you love me!‚ÄĚ I started to cry immediately. ¬†I understand exactly that. ¬†I remember the first time I realized that the commandments were given to us not just as some arbitrary test to prove our love to God, but that they were a manifestation of God’s love for us! ¬†Just like I tell my kids to wear seat belts because I love them and don’t want them to get hurt – the Lord gives us commandments because he loves us and wants us to be safe from the dangers of bad choices we might make. ¬†Just like the barriers in Elder Keetch’s talk¬†kept the surfers from being eaten by sharks, the commandments are there to help us be happy and enjoy life – not to ruin it.

Alright, I’ve gone on long enough. ¬†Those were a few of my favorite moments from General Conference. ¬†I’m excited to study the talks more in depth over the coming months. ¬†What were your favorite parts of General Conference?

A Tribute to My Great Granddad ‚Äď Thomas Lusitania Smith, 1918-2015

Thomas Lusitania Smith, 1918-2015

My Great Granddad – Thomas Lusitania Smith, 1918-2015

On Friday I received word that my great granddad had passed away. ¬†At the age of 97 with his health failing his passing was met more with¬†relief than shock. ¬†He will be truly missed in this life, but we are glad to know that he’s no longer suffering the ills of old age and is being reunited with family on the other side of the veil. ¬†Sadly, because my great grandparents live in Australia I will be unable to attend any sort of funeral services so I wanted to write a brief tribute here.

As you can imagine, my relationship with my great granddad was limited by the distances between our¬†different continents. ¬†However I was able to see him on our family’s three trips to Australia¬†and he also made several trips to the states with my great grandmother and stayed with our family on a number of occasions. ¬†It was always amazing to me to see that despite huge distances, you always have a special connection to your family that you can’t have with anyone else. ¬†I always knew that my great grandparents loved me and were interested in what was going on with my life even though on a day-to-day basis our lives weren’t very connected.

My parents shared on Facebook some thoughts on my granddad’s passing and talked particularly about something that has always fascinated me about him. ¬†In the 1950s Granddad¬†listened to the missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was baptized a member of the church. ¬†Because of that decision my grandma was raised in the church, and she in turn raised my mother in the church, and my mother raised me in the church. ¬†The greatest blessings in my life have come from the church and in large part stem from a decision that was made about three decades¬†before I was born. ¬†I am reminded of the ripple effects of our choices – nothing we do is truly done in a vacuum. ¬†Our choices affect not only ourselves, but those around us and generations after us. ¬†I will be forever grateful for that one decision that he made all those years ago.

Later my granddad fell away from the church. ¬†On one of his trips to the US he was sitting next to my dad during a sacrament meeting. ¬†After singing “Hark All Ye Nations” granddad leaned over to my dad and told him, “We use to sing that song all the time back in England in the pubs…but, the words were all different…¬†come to think of it, none of those words would ever be said in a church.” ¬†It’s now a family joke whenever we sing that song in church that we’re all singing a drinking song. ¬†My granddad left the church for 40 years. ¬†That’s amazing to me, 40 years is more than my entire life span so far. ¬†What’s amazing about it though, is that after 40 years – he came back. ¬†You would think that after all that time his choices and attitudes towards the church must have been totally solidified and there was no way he’d come back. ¬†Yet, when he was in his 80s he chose to return to the church and died after almost two decades of faithful membership. ¬†One special memory I have is that he and my great grandmother were able to attend Eric’s and my wedding. ¬†Traditionally the father of the bride and the father of the groom act as witnesses to the sealing. ¬†However, as Eric’s dad is a sealer and was able to seal us we had an extra witness seat. ¬†At the last minute my mom thought we should ask if granddad would like to be that witness. ¬†I felt bad that we asked Eric’s brother at the last minute to concede that role (sorry!), but it was a really special thing that after all that time of being away from the church, here was my great granddad – all the way from Australia – assisting in one of the most sacred ordinances. ¬†It was a very special thing to me that he could come and be such an integral part of that very special day.

As I reflect on this part of my granddad’s life one thing sticks out to me – it is never too late too change. ¬†You are never too old. ¬†You are never too stuck in your ways. ¬†It is never too hard. ¬†You may be 2 or 102 but¬†you still have your agency to choose that tomorrow you will be different than you are today. ¬†I think this is both thrilling and terrifying. ¬†Tomorrow you could choose to eschew poor habits, create a new life, start on a better path. ¬†Or tomorrow you could choose to leave behind all that is good and glorious in your life and make choices that will lead to misery. ¬†No one is immune. ¬†We should never look at someone and think, “oh, they’re too far gone, they’ll never turn their life around.” ¬†Nor should we think, “well they’ve clearly got it all figured out and they don’t need any help from me.” ¬†We all need each other, every day. ¬†Let us choose each day to be a little better than the day before. ¬†Let us look at others with more compassion for where they might be. ¬†Let us¬†never give up on anybody, ever. ¬†You never know who that person might be tomorrow.

Thank you Granddad to the example you were to me, for the love you have showed to my family and for the foundation you gave for my life.  I will be eternally grateful for all the good things that you made possible for my family.  God be with you until we meet again <3

Miracle Headache Cure!

If you’d seen this trick posted before and wondered if it would work, let me tell you – it does! Yesterday¬†morning I woke up with auras in my vision. ¬†At first I thought it was just my contacts readjusting and tried to give it awhile and just get ready. ¬†As we were about to head out the door I realized that they’d gotten a LOT worse, and not better like I would have expected. ¬†I finally recognized that I had the beginnings of a migraine. I’ve never actually had a migraine before but my mom has had them for years and so I knew the warning signs. ¬†I took some headache medicine¬†and hoped I could ward it off as I was supposed to be helping teach¬†Sunday School for my 4 year old’s class in about an hour (not an ideal environment for a headache).

I got to church and the light was hurting my eyes, my head was pounding and my stomach hurt.  The auras were worse and I just felt terrible. I ducked into a dark classroom during sacrament meeting hoping the medicine would kick in.  I sat there alone in the quiet in the dark as it slowly got worse РI was wearing my sunglasses in a room that was almost completely dark with the exception of a small window in the door, and the glare from my cell phone screen.  It was pretty bad.  After a half hour I gave up and finally texted my husband to take me home.

I remembered seeing this trick for headaches and looked up the picture to make sure I did it right. ¬†The text I’d seen with the picture recommends frozen peas at the base of your skull with your hands sumberged in warm water. ¬†I did exactly what it shows in the picture and started to have some relief, but I wasn’t comfortable in that position. ¬†Really I wanted to try and sleep but obviously balancing on my bathroom counter wasn’t a great place to fall asleep. I decided since the principle was making your neck cold and feet warm I had¬†Eric heat up our rice bag¬†for my toes. ¬†Then I laid¬†on our bed with the peas under my neck and rice bag on my feet. ¬†Thanks to our blackout curtains I was able to take a nap in the darkness with my extremities at different temperatures very comfortably. ¬†Two hours later I woke up feeling almost completely better. I’m guessing the medicine helped too, but it hadn’t done anything for me¬†until I had the ice pack and rice bag, and there was relief within minutes once I tried it. ¬†That simple solution was¬†nothing short of a miracle cure for me.

Anyways, I’ve tried a lot of different things from Pinterest¬†and I’m always skeptical about how well they will work so I wanted to give this one my personal stamp of approval. ¬†I highly recommend it for anyone who struggles with headaches. ¬†Three cheers for Pinterest!