08 September 2013

I ♥ Nursery

I am serving in a new calling at church as the nursery leader. This means that I get to spend a couple of hours each week with a group of 18-month to 3 year old children (lately there have been 10-14 of them attending each week). It's so exciting!

It's been fun to think about how to help them learn and to prepare for going to Primary. Nursery is a little piece of heaven with all those sweet little spirits. I get to play with them, teach them, and love them. Big blessings come in small packages and I think each one of those dear nursery children is a blessing to me. I hope to return the favor as we play together, sing together and learn together. I can't believe how lucky I am to get to share my love of the gospel with these little ones!

16 March 2013


If you're very quiet, you can almost hear it... woooosh.... almost an entire year just went by.
The Currant Bush
By Elder Hugh B. Brown

You sometimes wonder whether the Lord really knows what he ought to do with you. You sometimes wonder if you know better than he does about what you ought to do and ought to become. I am wondering if I may tell you a story that I have told quite often in the Church. It is a story that is older than you are. It’s a piece out of my own life, and I’ve told it in many stakes and missions. It has to do with an incident in my life when God showed me that he knew best.

I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and I cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps. It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How could you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I am the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.’”

Time passed. Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I had made rather rapid progress as far as promotions are concerned, and I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. And I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. There was just one man between me and that which for ten years I had hoped to get, the office of general in the British Army. I swelled up with pride. And this one man became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner in charge of all Canadian forces. I called in my valet, my personal servant. I told him to polish my buttons, to brush my hat and my boots, and to make me look like a general because that is what I was going to be. He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the General, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives—a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer. Someone else will be made a general.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for ten years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.

Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and I took a soldier’s privilege of looking on his desk. I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written, “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why I had not been appointed. I already held the highest rank of any Mormon in the British Army. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.” I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly. I saluted out of duty and went out. I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say, “You are a failure. You will be called a coward when you get home. You raised all those Mormon boys to join the army, then you sneak off home.” I knew what I was going to get, and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done—that I should have done—that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.

And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have a Mutual Improvement Association. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their voices singing:

“It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea;
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me;
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”
(Hymns, no. 75.)

I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost fifty years later, I look up to him and say, “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time, because if I had I would have been senior officer of all western Canada, with a lifelong, handsome salary, a place to live, and a pension when I’m no good any longer, but I would have raised my six daughters and two sons in army barracks. They would no doubt have married out of the Church, and I think I would not have amounted to anything. I haven’t amounted to very much as it is, but I have done better than I would have done if the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.

I wanted to tell you that oft-repeated story because there are many of you who are going to have some very difficult experiences: disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement, defeat. You are going to be tested and tried to prove what you are made of. I just want you to know that if you don’t get what you think you ought to get, remember, “God is the gardener here. He knows what he wants you to be.” Submit yourselves to his will. Be worthy of his blessings, and you will get his blessings.

24 March 2012

A Lightbulb Moment

Last night when we came home from date night, I noticed the lightbulb in the lamp on the endtable had burned out. This is not normally a blogworthy event, but I was amazed when we discovered how long it had been since we last changed it. I remember dating the bulbs when we first made the investment in these energy efficient bulbs. This one lasted from August 15, 2007 - March 23, 2012. Not too shabby. Thank you, GE.

21 February 2012

Date Night: Finding Your Bliss

A friend of mine recently asked me to teach a class about date nights at a Relief Society meeting. I've posted a few times about the date nights Chad and I go on each week (My Good Knight ~ Salon Date ~ Tickled Pink!). But what kinds of tips should I share with this group of women?

I Wish You Were Here

Perhaps some ground rules would be a good place to start.

  • Be courteous and cheerful. Fake if you have to and remember that your spouse invested their time in planning the date and you should be considerate of that effort.
  • Invite your spouse to the date... even if you go every week.
  • Only postpone your date for a true emergency. (Let's face it, with a house full of boys this has happened to us on more than one occasion.)
  • Choose dates that will be fun for both of you.
  • Share your plans (or at least appropriate attire guidelines) with your spouse in advance.
  • Grooming counts. You don't have to dress up fancy if you don't want to, or if the destination is not appropriate for such attire, but make an effort to look your best just like you did for the dates you had before you were married.
  • Take turns planning your date nights.
  • Identify any "taboo topics" that should not be discussed during date night. This is to help keep your evening focused on fun and romance, rather than life's challenges. Common taboo topics for us have been children, finances, schedules and appointments.
  • Electronics etiquette ... only answer your cell phone if the kids are calling, otherwise you can survive an evening without texting, calling, or being otherwise "plugged in" if it isn't related to the date you're sharing with your spouse.
  • No children allowed. (Exceptions: infant less than 3 months old, double dating with your teenagers)
  • Make it memorable as often as possible. (Don't worry. I'll share some resources for creative and memorable date nights that you can customize for your relationship.)

Now, what exactly constitutes a date night to you? Spend some time talking with your spouse to figure this out. I remember when a brief period of time outside of the house, without kids, and he held the doors open for me constituted a date... even if it was just running an errand to the hardware store. What are your expectations? I know for us, the types of dates have kind of morphed over time, based on the ages and stages of our children.

"Date frequently. You and your spouse need time together to renew your relationship. New perspectives come with time away from the mundane. That means dating is essential. If you have children but few resources, look for creative ways to go on dates. For example, you might ask in-laws or neighbors to watch your children while you two get away for a mini vacation. You might exchange childcare with other couples for different date nights. Above all, recognize that a babysitter is cheaper than a divorce" (from What Happily Married Couples Do, Ensign, January 2012).

Dating and Children
Dating gets a little more complicated when there are children involved. With some careful planning, you can still make dating a regular part of your week.

"In the beginning it was easy for us to spend an evening together because we had no children to worry about. However, when our children began to come one after another, we had to devise new ways to date each other. Because finding a night-time baby-sitter is difficult, we have had many dates at home after the children are in bed. These home dates are in no way inferior to those we occasionally have outside the home. We have found a number of activities we enjoy doing together. Sometimes we watch a videocassette while munching snacks and sipping soft drinks, just as we would at the movies. Other nights we play computer or board games. Our evenings spent in these activities always end with laughter. One regular activity is to put together our family photographs on a large poster. Later we send the finished poster for framing and hang it on our stairway wall. We now have quite a few posters, so we rotate them from time to time. Evenings spent making posters are not only fruitful but also bring warm and sentimental feelings to our hearts. One Valentine’s Day I prepared a candlelit dinner for two. With soft music in the background, the atmosphere was truly romantic. Our list of activities for home dates continues to grow. We have found that dating each other is about finding ways to spend time together and about taking time to build and nourish each other. When days are difficult and challenging, I look forward to our home dates when we can just spend time together talking. Dating each other regularly puts romance back into our marriage" (from Dating at Home by Geok Lee Thong, 1998).

I've mentioned Grandates before. This is when your parents or in-laws have planned to spend time with your children when you're not around. They get to work on the grandparent-grandchild relationship during their date while you strengthen your marriage relationship by going out on a date with your spouse. It's a total win-win situation in my mind. This could also work with extended family like your own siblings if they happen to live nearby. We've also had Family Dates when our gentlemen got to plan a date with their brothers in the living room (generally involving games or a movie and some special treats), while we had our date in the den with the door shut. We were close enough to hear any rising ruckus that might need our attention, but removed enough that we could enjoy our time together and there was no babysitter required. Eventually our guys grew old enough to be the babysitters and are now old enough to take care of themselves. Even now they continue to enjoy brother bonding nights together, with the mix of brothers changing depending on their schedules and other time commitments. Sitter Swaps can also allow you a little more dating freedom. Ask your friends who also have little ones at home to trade babysitting time with you. Perhaps you can date on Friday night and they date on Saturday or you trade off weeks, but the idea is that they watch your kids while you date and then you watch their children while they date.

Budget Constraints
How can you have a wonderful date without breaking the bank? You have plenty of options! There are always things you can do for free, such as giving service, visiting the library or a book store, hiking/biking/walking at a park, attending school concerts and sporting events, window shopping, travel planning/wishing, designing your dream home, etc. Low cost options include visiting an art gallery or museum, teach each other something new, take a class together to learn a new skill (cooking, dancing, painting, drawing, cake decorating, motorcycle riding), target practice, feeding the ducks, picnic in the park, etc. You can turn regular tasks into date nights like when Chad took me to the salon to get my hair cut and colored. We've also gotten massages or pedicures together as part of our date night. If you like to eat out but don't want to spend a lot of money, consider going out just for appetizers or only for dessert rather than an entire meal. You also might trade dinner service with another couple where you act as the chef and servers for their meal at your house and another night they treat you to dinner at their house... or find a couple of teenagers you trust to make you dinner in your own home.


Idea List: Great Group Dates
Group Dating
Tin Can Date
Make a Great Date
Creative Dating Ideas for Married Couples
50 Dating Ideas for Married Couples
Great Date Ideas
My personal favorite place to look for ideas is the Dating Divas website!

As you date your spouse and really invest in your relationship, you will find your bliss in those moments you spend together… supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment; wedded bliss. Happy dating!

01 January 2012

Beginning with a Bug

It seems my dear gentlemen have shared a bug with me... not the first or worst critter I've encountered over the years, but one that has me confined to the house nonetheless. Happy New Year! I do believe this little gift actually started with my eldest who doesn't even live here anymore but kindly shared with a brother during a brief visit to retrieve some of Frankie's things after Michael was good enough to dogsit while we spent a few days in Minneapolis. In spite of my frequent and thorough hand scrubbings, I managed to pick up this new little friend from his brother (whose name shall not be named since he informed me yesterday that it was terribly rude and embarrassing to tell other people that he is sick).

As I sit here in the lovely silence, my perfectly prepared Young Women lesson wasting in the corner, I have a few hours to reflect while the rest of the gang is off to church. I realize that I am blessed to get to spend so much time with my family during this winter break. We've shared many great experiences together these last couple of weeks (the bug not included). There was a rousing game of Apples to Apples Sour Edition with Grammy, fun with Mario on the Wii, sharing different musical favorites across many genres, and finding loads of laughter along the way, which is one of the best gifts of family life from my perspective. We baked cookies for Santa, had our annual Christmas Club fun, and got to be all together both Christmas Eve and Christmas morning...all seven of us. We shared an electrifying adventure at the Bakken Museum, including joining hands to form a complete circuit while we got shocked all together. Then we spent a few days looking for the perfect new puppy and are currently fostering an adorable potential candidate named Charlie. We've once again navigated the Mall of America (this time with a handy new phone app to keep us moving in the right direction), watched a few great movies, and created a new family chore plan. Tomorrow we will take advantage of a great deal for new gym memberships and hopefully spend some more time playing together. When they get home from church, I will get to hear what they learned today and maybe I can salvage part of my lesson for Family Home Evening tomorrow night.

In spite of the bug, I feel so blessed today. That's a wonderful way to begin the new year. I can't wait to see what else 2012 has in store!

07 December 2011

In a Blink ... 21

Wow. This day is so much harder than I expected it to be. Today, my very first baby is 21 years old, a full fledged adult in the world's view. Admittedly, I was warned that this day was coming. I was told that in a blink of an eye, his childhood would end. It went even faster than that. He gave me a taste of what was to come just last week when he officially moved out of the house. Yet, I still feel so utterly unprepared for this moment. And even now I somehow know that I will feel just as ill prepared in two years when Kodi is 21... and four years when William gets to make this transition ... or six years when it will be Jonathan ... and even nine years from now when it's Andrew's turn. Sigh.

How do you let your children grow up? My gentlemen have been the center of my universe for such a long time ... 21 years and counting. I've spent that time loving them, teaching them, trying to steer them clear of the heartaches I experienced when I was their age. The role of mother is surely not for the faint of heart.

I was a young mother when Michael was born.When I gazed at Michael for the very first time, I saw that he was beautiful and good and perfect. I know that I am very blessed to have him in my life.

As a new mother, I felt like I had a lot to prove and I wanted to get everything right. I worked hard to show the world that I was worthy to be Michael's mother. But, as far as getting everything right... I failed. All mothers fail. As much as I would like to say that I was the perfect mother, I know that no such creature exists on this planet. We all mess up sometimes. Still, I hope that Michael knows that I gave it the best that is within me and that even if I'm not the perfect mother, I have and will always love him with my whole heart.

For today, I am trying to convince myself that it's okay to step back. I'm trying to wrap my head around the fact that it's his life and it's time to let him make decisions for himself. Not that he hasn't made his own choices before now. In fact, the day he was born didn't exactly turn out the way we had planned. He arrived via an emergency c-section after a full day of labor. I should have known then that he would spend the rest of his life doing things on his own terms, not the way I had planned them.

As his mother I just can't stand the thought of him hurting or failing, so I've tried to prevent that from happening. I want him to succeed in life. I want him to live up to his potential, to fulfill every ounce of greatness that I glimpsed in him from the very first moment I saw him. But I also recognize it's all up to him. They are his choices. It is his life. I just hope he'll let me continue to be a part of it now that he's all grown up and that he will forgive me as I continue to worry about him and pray for him.

More than anything, I pray that he knows he's loved and supported ... that my door and my arms are always open. I still want all the best for him. I want his heart to be full, his spirit strong, his body healthy, and his mind balanced. I wish him a life of happiness and joy, even while recognizing that those gifts come at a price. Still, I want him to have it all. It's the mother in me ... yearning for perfection for my dear, sweet Michael.

I will love you for always.

15 November 2011


I have often encountered blank stares when I tell people what I studied in grad school (Philanthropy & Nonprofit Development). Sometimes the stare is followed by the question, "What is that?"

phi·lan·thro·py [fi-lan-thruh-pee]
noun, plural -pies.
1. altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.
2. the activity of donating to such persons or purposes in this way: to devote one's later years to philanthropy.
3. a particular act, form, or instance of this activity: The art museum was their favorite philanthropy.
4. a philanthropic organization.
Origin: from Late Latin philanthrōpia, from Greek: love of mankind, from philos loving + anthrōpos man
(Definition courtesy of dictionary.com)

What is philanthropy? For me, it's just a natural part of who I am and I can thank my parents for that. They created a culture of philanthropy in our home ... whether they realized it or not. For them, it was about serving others and recognizing those needs that we had the capacity to meet. In my profession, people often consider philanthropists to be those individuals with significant monetary resources who share their finances in support of specific causes and nonprofit organizations. From the definition above, you can see that philanthropy encompasses more than money.

National Philanthropy Day is November 15, which is why I chose to post this today. I was honored to be able to help plan a National Philanthropy Day awards celebration, hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Northeast Iowa Chapter. We focused on the "gifts of the heart" and many people were honored for their investment in our community. Awards were bestowed in four categories: Philanthropy, Governance, Legacy, and Youth. (You can read more about that at www.afpneia.org.)

Today, I'd like to recognize my parents for their giving hearts. As a child I didn't always appreciate their acts of service, their philanthropic projects. But, I know that because of them, compassion is one of my core values. Their influence and example made me want to become a philanthropist. It also led me to a career in the nonprofit sector. I believe that my own children are learning the importance of philanthropy and its significant impact on the people whose lives they touch, as well as on the fabric of society. 

Thank you, Mom and Dad. Your influence continues in my philanthropic efforts and continues to grow through the actions of your grandchildren. Because of you...

If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!

If you think my hands are full, you should see my heart!