Monday, April 25, 2011

FREE photography session

I am offering one free photography session in Utah during the month of May!  Session will take place between May 9th and 28th.  If you like my work, are a Utah resident and/or will be in the Salt Lake area during that time, feel free to enter my drawing!  This is all you need to do:

1) Hop over to my facebook page HERE.

2) "Like" me, if you don't already.

3) Leave me a comment expressing your interest in the drawing.

AND... a bonus...

4) Promote my page AND this drawing on YOUR facebook page, and your name will be entered into the drawing TWICE!

Drawing will take place Wednesday, April 27th at 10:00pm PST.  Winner will be announced immediately following.  Good luck!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


I love this! Simple, yet profound!  A perfect message for this very special day.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

17 years

17 years ago today I was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  It was a tender day, and one I will remember for the rest of my life.  I am still touched, all these years later, by the magnitude of friends and family who offered me support, service and love during my journey to becoming a Mormon.  They have no idea the impact they continue to have on my life today.
I'm not sure where I'd be without the gospel.  There is nothing in this world which could possibly replace the peace, happiness or hope it provides.  The greatest blessings I enjoy today stem from the decision I made 17 years ago, and I am eternally grateful.

Popsicles and sunshine

What more could a boy want?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Time Out For Women recap: Friday

Wow, what an incredible weekend - last weekend, that is!  I knew Time Out For Women was going to be good, but I didn't have a clue what treasures truly awaited me.  It was, in a word, perfect.  All of it.  Perfect.  The program is without question an inspired one.  Just when I felt as though one presenter was my favorite, the next would get up and blow me away.  I kept thinking, "How did s/he know I needed to hear that?"  It was as if God was speaking directly to me.

This year's TOFW theme is "Choose to Become", and while each presentation possessed its own individual topic and charm, they all came back to the same idea of choosing to become what our Heavenly Father would have us be.  Beautiful messages were shared, and I only wish my mom and mom-in-law (and all of the other amazing women in my life) could have been there with me to partake.  In the midst of a healthy combination of laughter and tears (trust me, there was plenty of both), I took about 7 pages worth of notes.  There was so much more I wanted to document and remember, but I'm not a very fast scribe.  :)  I wish I had a recording of the entire program so I could listen to it again and again.  And I wish I could somehow capture that spiritual energy I felt and keep it in a bottle to open up and inhale on the days ahead when I might need a boost.   

Friday evening's speakers included John Bytheway and Kris Belcher, and music was provided by Michael McLean.  Here are some thoughts and quotes that stuck with me from Friday's portion of the program.

"Nothing is particularly difficult if you divide it into small jobs." -Henry Ford

Being the somewhat uptight-with-perfectionist-tendencies kinda gal that I am, I get overwhelmed pretty easily.  Most of the time the problem stems from the fact that I view my tasks as a whole and not in portions.  I'm impatient, wanting results NOW.  And because I'm so focused on crossing the finish line, I fail to endure the journey reasonably - one step at a time.  This quote by Henry Ford is so basic yet so dead on.  It gave me comfort to realize that even some of the big tasks with which I am faced really aren't impossible if I just have the right perspective and game plan.

Bytheway also referenced the common saying, "An apple a day keeps the the doctor away", and in speaking of the power of a simple apple, he likened the concept to our spiritual health, presenting this question, which he challenged us to ask ourselves: "What is the one thing that if I could stop doing today would make the biggest difference?"  He then asked the same question but this time replacing "stop doing" with "start doing."  And finally, in keeping with the TOFW's theme, presented this question, "What could I become if I did this each day?"  What a hopeful message this conveys, and what countless possibilities await us all if we ask ourselves these questions and then act on them.

John Bytheway has been around for a long time.  I've heard a talk or two of his in the past and read bits and pieces of his various books.  One of them, which I have, is entitled, 'How to Be Totally Miserable'.  The guy is just plain funny, and while I've always known this, I didn't really appreciate his humor, knowledge or spirit until I sat in the same auditorium as he.  He is truly inspiring.

Kris Belcher was pretty dang awesome too.  She was also hilarious, and I think I laughed during more of her talk than anyone else's.  She is legally blind as a result of a recent battle with cancer, and has experienced much in her life.  Yet she herself said, "It's okay to laugh, even when it's serious, heartbreaking and horrible."  The topic of Kris' talk was 'Living Vertically'.  She said, "The winds that are blowing, if we allow them to, will blow us to the Savior."  In other words, our trials and tribulations, though excruciating at times, will take us to our sanctuary if we allow them.  The title of one of her books, 'Hard Times and Holy Places' really sums up the theme of her message.  And while I'm sure I experienced this long before last summer, it was during Neil's time away that I for the first time recognized this happening in my life.  It was awful having him gone, and while thousands of women do it every day and I know my situation didn't even hold a candle to theirs, I still struggled.  I also found, however, that it was in those moments of loneliness, uneasiness and confusion that I fell to my knees - mostly because I didn't know what else to do.  And it was through falling to my knees that I found my "holy places", with God.  It really is a beautiful concept.

Here are a few other thoughts Kris shared:

"Turn your frustrations heavenward, into prayers.  Focus your feelings upward."  She spoke of Nephi, who encouraged us, before doing anything, to pray and promised that God would consecrate our efforts for our benefit. 

And finally, she said this:

"Try living vertically.  See if your rough edges are not smoothed out."  I especially loved this because I, as most women probably do, feel I have many rough edges.  Too many to name, in fact.  But to know He has the power to smooth those rough edges, to make our weaknesses our strengths, is a very encouraging and real truth.

Micheal McLean provided music between Bytheway's and Belcher's messages, and while it took some time, by the end of the evening he had grown on me. It wasn't so much his music, style or personality, but the spirit he carried that really got me. I wish I'd jotted down more of what he said, but his overall message was that of encouragement and hope, reminding us how truly exquisite we are in the sight of God.  He reminded us that God knows us each so well, and takes more interest in our day to day things, thoughts, feelings, challenges, experiences, etc. than we can even imagine.  He played a song about adoption entitled, 'From God's Arms, To My Arms, To Yours'. Even though I have not had a personal experience with adoption I have been touched by others' stories, including a good friend of mine who has adopted two boys. And, well, I think as a mother it's impossible to not be moved by the lyrics of this inspired piece. I'm sure it's more fitting for a woman to sing, but I found this on YouTube, and since this is how the song was first presented to me, I'd like to share it with you.

I left Friday's program already feeling edified and renewed.  And I could hardly wait to see what Saturday had in store for me.  More on that soon...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How quickly time passes...

Each day I am reminded of how quickly time passes.  Today I was reminded, not once, but twice. 

This evening I attended Kindergarten Orientation.  Enough said, right?  As I sat in the very classroom where Chloe may spend her first year as an elementary school student, it hit me the many changes that were coming, and that I'm about to see a lot less of Chloe.  This naturally presented the question, "Have I made the best of my time with her?" Well, only I know the answer to that, and while I've had plenty of shortcomings, I'd like to think the good has outweighed the bad. 

A little later this evening, just after we got Ryan down for the night, we remaining three plopped on the couch together for our nightly reading.  Now before I go on, let me rewind back about three weeks when I was in the kitchen one afternoon and Chloe quietly approached me. Upon doing so, she held up a book which she'd grabbed from the bookshelf in the play area upstairs and simply asked, "Mom, can we read this?" 

As random as it was that my five-year-old was requesting a book with no pictures which was broken down into chapters and well exceeded 150 pages, I wasn't too surprised, nor was I about to say no.  And so, that very night, Neil, Chloe and I sat together on the couch and read chapter 1 aloud.  The next night, chapter 2.  And over the next two and a half weeks, well, life happened and we missed some nights, but the important thing is that we kept at it.  Some nights we'd even whiz through a chapter without a single pause, almost forgetting that we were reading to a small child who probably didn't understand everything, only to hear, in her own words a recap of that chapter.  It was pretty amazing, the whole thing.

Tonight we finished our book.

How quickly time passes.  One minute I'm holding my precious, tiny newborn baby, and the next I'm enrolling her in kindergarten and reading with her one of C.S. Lewis' greatest classics. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Going to time out, literally

In exactly 2 hours I will be headed to Fresno for 24 hours of spiritual bliss.  My sweet friends, Tina and Brittany invited me to go with them to Time Out For Women, a program our church offers across the country as well as New Zealand and Australia throughout each year.  Click on the link above to read all about it.

I am grateful Neil is supportive of me leaving him and the kids for a day and a half to go enjoy some "me" time.  And at this very moment I am especially grateful to my friend Shelly, who is taking my kids for the afternoon on very little notice thanks to Neil getting called to a case in Roseville last minute.  Don't these things always happen?  I am really looking forward to this chance to be spiritually fed, recharge my batteries and be reminded of my divinity, worth and purpose. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Front yard progress

Wow, crazy last couple of weeks! My computer was having issues week before last and ended up in the shop up until last Wednesday. While I missed the convenience of having photoshop and blogger at my finger tips, I'll have to say the break was nice, and somewhat needed. And really, what a great week to be without a computer with sunny, upper 70 degree temps! Last Thursday and Friday even crept into the 80s and was actually hot! We ate dinner on our front porch and opened windows that night when the cool breeze kicked in. It is so bizarre to me that it's already beginning to feel like summer and yet we're barely into April. I love it though.

Neil and I spent quite a bit of last week working in the yard. We moved a few bushes around, replaced some dead plants with new ones, planted 2 trees, installed countless drip lines and potted some flowers for the front porch.  Neil did most of the work while I kept the kids out of his way, but I would like to think I was fairly helpful too.  I took a lot of pictures, mostly for my family - Neil's mom in particular, who is the greenest of all green thumbs out there and will appreciate the assortment of pictures below probably more than anyone else who bothers to read this post!

So let's rewind back to March 19th when we had a massive rain storm, complete with I don't even know how many mile an hour winds but definitely not an appealing number!  Earlier that day I participated in a photo shoot that my friend Tami had arranged for some photographers in the area.  It was cold, wet and windy then, and unfortunately only got worse as the evening progressed.  I ended up having to run out at 10pm to get some things for a church program the following evening.  As I was exiting the freeway to come home a huge branch fell from a tree just ten or so feet ahead of me, which was pretty scary.  Luckily I dodged it.  Then all night we heard the wind and the tree branches in our front yard hitting the windows.  Needless to say by morning when the winds had calmed, we were relieved.  I glanced out the window at some point that morning and discovered a couple things that were out of place. 

Notice anything odd?  Like, oh, I don't know.  A trampoline sitting on its side and crunching into the fence?

What about here?  Yep, you got it.  A basketball hoop that once stood.

And as if that wasn't crazy enough, here's what we discovered backing out of our driveway to head to church!

Our poor tree on the side of our house got knocked down.  When we got home from church and gave the tree a closer look, Neil quickly discovered that the largest roots had snapped in half, and that the tree had no chance of survival.  We were both really sad because it was a beautiful tree and a decent size!  How ironic, too, that of the 2 trees in our yard (not counting the ugly palm tree in our backyard which we are considering replacing down the road), one of them would get destroyed during a storm!  Neil said the roots were very shallow in the ground to begin with, which could have contributed to the fall.

So there's that story!  What's also ironic is that less than a week prior, we planted an orange tree just 20 feet from where this tree stood.  Right now it's 21 inches tall, and luckily the storm didn't have any effect on it.  It's just ironic that the very week we planted a new tree, we lost an old tree.  I'll post pictures of the orange tree planting extravaganza soon.  It was a lot of fun.  Okay, now onto the fun part of the post!

So the front walk way had quite a few weeds and dead plants which we ripped out, and then Neil and I headed to Lowe's to find some new stuff to fill in the gaps.  It was so fun picking out flowers and plants.  I don't know what it is about Spring but it just makes me feel so happy!  The process of filling my cart with greenery and other vibrant colors, all the while inhaling the various fragrances; then coming home and planting the goods in the warm sunshine, followed by watering, and finally, admiring!  Ahh!  The whole process from start to finish just makes me happy! 

Thursday was the hottest day of the week, and at one point we turned on the sprinklers so the kids could cool off.  They only lasted 15 minutes before they were finished, but it was 15 minutes of giggles and squeals.  It was great watching them.  And as I sat there on the sidewalk doing just that, I realized I was living a moment which years before I envisioned in my head and hoped to someday live.  Who wouldn't love watching their children have the time of their lives running through sprinklers on a warm Spring day?

I probably ought to start thinking about buying Ryan a swimsuit. 

Friday and Saturday I potted some plants.  I think our porch still needs some touches, but it's off to a great start.  Neil is planning to build a wooden bench and possibly a matching planter box.  I also want to get a large shrub (one of those twirly looking tree shrubs - you follow me?) to sit in a large pot directly left of the front door.  In time.  In time.  Anyway, here are pictures.

You really can't even see the walkway very well.  All the plants are still so tiny, but give them a year or two and they'll fill up the space and look gorgeous!

Here's the side of our house.  That door on the far left leads into the kitchen.  That alone is probably my favorite feature of the house.  The sun light that creeps in through that big window around dinner time is just amazing, and the convenience of unloading groceries, checking on the kids while they play on the driveway and I cook dinner, etc. is just more than I could have asked for.  I love my kitchen door, and I hope those hydrangeas Chloe and I planted next to the door grow and flourish so I have just one more thing to admire!

Another view from the side.  Just to give you an idea of how large Chloe's bedroom is, the 2 top windows on the side of the house are hers, as are the 3 around the corner from it AND the 2 next to it.  7 windows!!  The other 2 windows on the far right (covered by the trees) look into the play room.

We aren't crazy about the shrubs lining the side of the house, and would rather have something that has a little more character and that flowers.  We had to rip out a plant that was overtaking some of these shrubs and are now waiting to see how it all fills in.  They certainly don't look bad.  Just not our first choice.

Neil's Grandma Jean painted the pots below (chili peppers and strawberries).  Love them.
The left center picture is of a magnolia tree we planted on the far right side of our yard.  I fell in love with it at a Nursery by our house.  It's beginning to bud now and produces the most beautiful pink flowers!  The right center picture is of the tree we planted in place of the one we lost during the storm.  Right now it's about 2 feet high, but it supposedly grows 4 inches a month, so in no time it'll be a decent size.  I can't remember what it's called.  Bottom right picture is the view from our front door.

Bench will go to the far left of the porch (not seen in the picture below), and the potted shrub will go right smack against the blank wall to the left of the door.

I am so grateful for an established front yard that we can simply add to here and there, for a good sized tree that I can admire out my windows, for a huge porch where I can sit and watch the kids play, and for the overall warm and cozy feel that exists here.  There are still things we aren't crazy about like the placement of some of the bushes and the lack of variety, however we made great progress last week and will continue to as time passes.  Eventually it will feel like it's ours.  I am really growing to love this house, and I think the more we can do to improve it, the more it will feel like "home."