Sunday, August 29, 2021

Jesus loves Blythe

 We're entering week 3 of school cancellation due to covid. I've been especially struggling with this cancellation because the school district made no effort to have any type of digital learning. I have no desire to ever homeschool but I knew I couldn't have my kids go 3 weeks without learning, especially after only 8 days of in school instruction this year. I refuse to have dumb kids! I ordered several workbooks and I have attempted to put together a curriculum to help my kids not fall any further behind. I'm very alarmed at the current state wide test scores and how much kids have already lost to this pandemic. Miracles of education are not happening in our dining room classroom, but a few good things are happening. The one thing I feel that I can't provide through my homeschool curriculum is friendshipping and socialization. Our church services have been reduced again to an hour a week, swim team has been cancelled and several families we know have been in quarantine because of covid infections. I've been particularly worried about Athena Blythe as she seems to have lost a step due to lack of interaction with her peers. I was praying about it and really letting the Lord know my concerns about my kids but especially her. 

Today we had stake conference via Zoom and one of the speakers was a little girl, Amiyah, from our ward who is Athena Blythe's age. I made sure that the computer was right in front of Athena Blythe while she did her conference coloring. Amiyah's topic was, "How I know Jesus Christ loves me". Athena Blythe got excited to see her friend on the screen and happily went back to her artwork. What happened next was the answer to my prayers. In discussion the ways that she know Jesus loves her,  Amiyah, she listed all her friend's names in her talk. When she said Athena Blythe's name, I felt the Spirit confirm so strongly that Jesus Christ was aware of her and her needs and that this was an answer to my pleading prayers. 

Stake Conference is often one of the harder Sundays with family. Zoom Stake Conference is only marginally easier because you get to watch from home. But there are many more distractions at home and it can be just as hard to listen at home as it is to wrangle children at a chapel. The Lord is always willing to bless those who make the effort to listen to Stake Conference. 

Friday, August 06, 2021

Fatherhood: an Eternal Partnership

         "When does a joke become a Dad joke? When it becomes apparent!"

    Best Father's Day wishes to all the men and I hope you enjoy your Father's Day gifts whether they be new ties, #1 Dad mugs, cargo shorts, nose hair trimmers, or bulky white foam reebok sneakers. You deserve it all!

    Because we have a Father in Heaven and we are His children, Satan has made it his number 1 goal to destroy the family in any way possible. That has been his goal from the beginning. We read in Moses 5:18 about how Satan influenced Cain into making an improper offering to the Lord. Cain chose to offer the fruit of the earth to the Lord rather than the requisite sacrificial lamb. Satan convinced Cain that he could choose whatever he wanted to be the sacrifice. This improper offering resulted in Cain being more angry at the Lord and further disconnected from his family. Verse 27 we learn that Adam and Eve mourned greatly because of Cain and his brethern. We know from that verse that Cain's decisions are not only affecting himself but also the brethren he was influencing. Later in verses 29 and 30 we read exactly how Satan lays his traps:

    "And Satan said unto Cain: Swear unto me by thy throat, and if thou tell it thou shalt die; and swear thy brethren by their heads, and by this that thy father may not know it; and this day will deliver thy brother Abel into thine hands.

    And Satan sware unto Cain that he would do according to his commands. And all these things were done in secret."

    Satan makes them swear to secrecy(and we know that friends don't make secrets and secrets don't make friends) and the brethren that followed Cain are also sworn to secrecy, even unto death and then Satan makes the most important caveat, "and this that thy father may not know it". In other words, DON'T TELL YOUR DAD. Why was it so important that Cain not talk to his father? Because Adam would have talked Cain out of it. Adam loved his sons, even when his sons were making poor choices. But therein lies the rub, Adam, like a good father, would have stopped Cain and helped him work out his problem. There is no such thing as too late but Satan knows if we believe enough of his lies, we will isolate ourselves from the people who love us the most. Satan loves to flatter and then make you feel isolated, as we see here in verse 31:

    And Cain said: Truly I am Mahan, the master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain. Wherefore Cain was called Master Mahan, and he gloried in his wickedness.

    We know the end of this story. Cain is trapped by Satan's lies. Cain and his followers were cast out and continued to live in wickedness. 

    We can contrast this story with Genesis 22, the story of Abraham and his much longed for and much prayed for son, Isaac. The son that he and Sarah had hoped and prayed for until they were both very old. In verse 2 we read, 

    "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land or Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of."

    So God is asking Abraham to sacrifice the most important thing, the long awaited son, Isaac. And what does Abraham do? The most dad-like thing ever, they get up early the next morning for the road trip with plans to carry out this sacrifice. How great is the faith of Abraham, he just packs up his travel gear and does this. There is no verse describing any anguish in this decision but I'm sure there was. They do travel for 3 days to the place of sacrifice so he certainly has a lot of time to think and anguish this decision over too. 3 days to think of any way out. Verse 6 states, 

    "And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together."

    In our modern day perspective, Abraham has laid out all the evidence for a murder crime scene. Isaac even asks at this point, "Dad, you've got all your tools, where's the lamb?" Do you think Isaac is starting to sweat it at this point or does he trust his father's faith in the Lord? Abraham responds, "God will provide himself a lamb for the offering" and they continue toward the altar that Abraham had built. Things even progress to the point that Isaac is now tied up and laying on the altar and Abraham has his knife in hand. Only then, at the pinnacle of Abraham's faithfulness does an angel appear and the ram in the thicket is revealed. What do we learn about the Father's love at here? This feels like a very tricky math problem. How do we show the utmost love for our children? We show the utmost love for our children by following the commandments of the Lord. As we read this account, how many of us were devising getaway plans so that Abraham wouldn't have to sacrifice his son? Of course! Absolutely! But, the Lord asks for the most personal sacrifices. We will all have at least one Abrahamic test in our lives. However, if we are faithful there is always a ram in the thicket. We can contrast this with Cain's improper sacrifice of giving what he wanted to give rather than what he was asked to give. Because of this Cain spent the rest of his days in wickedness and misery. Abraham and his posterity were promised great things because Abraham loved the Lord the most. Genesis 26 verses 3,4,5:

     "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all the countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;

    And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto they seed all these countries; and in they seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;

    Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statues, and my laws."

    Satan is even busier in our modern times, trying to destroy families and turn children away from their fathers. While the Lord has fulfilled his promise to Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, Satan has devised new tricks to diminish and make obsolete the paternal and patriarchal role. Oftentimes we hear the phrase, "smash the patriarchy" in an effort to call out injustices that have been perpetuated against women. Consider this, if we smash the patriarchy, we are also smashing the matriarchy, as the patriarchy and matriarchy are an eternal partnership. We have a Heavenly Father so there is no doubt there is a Heavenly Mother. 1 Corinthians 11:11 reads, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord." When we remove the phrase, "in the Lord," therein lies the destruction of the family. Should we work to put an end to unfairness against women and children in this world? Absolutely. The reality is is that's it's not the patriarchy that is the problem. It's the removal of the Spirit that leads to unrighteous dominion. The Father of all Lies would have us believe we are better off without mothers and fathers rather than repairing and improving the roles and inviting the Spirit into the relationship of fathers and mothers. Consider a pair of scissors. Are both blades exactly the same? No! But each blade compliments the other. Each blade is sharp, each blade has a handle, each blade is cut to fit tightly with the other in order to pull the paper evenly and create a precise cut. If we took the two blades apart and tried to cut paper with each blade independently, there would be no joint mechanism to the pull the paper forward and you would have a big mess of paper and a jagged mess of a finished project. This is in direct conflict with the ways of the Lord. Our attempts at righteousness often feel muddled and messy, but as we strive to become like our Savior Jesus Christ, "He will fill every valley, He can make crooked things straight, He can make rough ways smooth." (Luke 3:5)

    I'll close with an anecdote from my personal life. Herschel has been playing on a T ball team this spring. It's started out on the wrong foot and has been pretty close to a disaster a few times. It wasn't well organized and none of the coaches had any baseball experience or coaching experience and we were struggling to have proper equipment or even get most of the parents to show up. There was no leadership and everyone felt overwhelmed by the task. It was mostly a few moms and a bunch of unruly kids. I'm the first person to say a mom is as equally qualified to coach a baseball team as a dad, so do not misinterpret my meaning. What changed is several of the dads started showing up to games to assist the moms. We went from the Bad News Bears, to one of the better teams in the league simply because our kids were getting plenty of support. We had a parent at every base. We had a huge cheering section of moms and dads who were cheering for each child by name. We had a dad who took over the role of batting coach. We had a dad who took over the role of pitching coach. We had a mom in charge of the batting lineup. We had a mom making sure every kid was running at the right time. Our most recent game was borderline magical because our team was significantly more confident. Our team almost looked like they were playing baseball! I know it was because our kids felt like they were a priority. 

    Heavenly Father's plan has always told us we are His priority. He gave each one of us the sacred role of the Mother and the Father, whether we bare children or not. Elder Jeffery R. Holland said, "Dads, is it too bold to hope that our children might have some portion of the feeling for the that the Divine Son felt for His Father? Might we earn more of that love by trying to be more of what God was to His child? In any case, we do know that a young person's developing concept of God centers on characteristics observed in that child's earthly parents."

    I close thinking of my own father and so grateful to his dedication to the gospel and my husband who is a father and the partnership we have together in raising our children. Nothing brings us closer together and more dependent on the Savior Jesus Christ, who did His Father's will, than our roles as mother and and father of our home. 


Friday, March 26, 2021

spring emergence

   last night I spoke at my ward's annual relief society birthday celebration. It was our first official Relief Society face to face gathering since the lockdown 1 year ago.  I had intended to speak on the origin and importance of the Relief Society, but on Tuesday morning when I got up for the gym, the ideas for this talk flowed into outline form on the notes apps of my phone. It's fun when the Spirit intervenes and says, "let's just do it the easy way this time instead of belaboring everything like you normally do." Later I was able to follow my notes and I wrote this short talk about renewal:

This past year we experienced an overwhelm of all things. We had an incredibly divisive presidential election, murder hornets, uncontrollable wildfires, heartbreaking civil unrest among our fellow Americans due to increasing racial tensions, and a worldwide pandemic which brought about fear, death, loneliness, food shortages, job loss and high levels of uncertainty. Also, few of our personal, private trials took the year off. Despite our different walks of life, there was one thing to unite us and that was our grief. 

As spring is here and Easter is approaching, I want to focus on renewal. Our dormant plants are coming back to life, and our dormant country is reopening and our dormant social lives are re-emerging. Easter is the celebration of renewal, that Jesus Christ lived again and so can we. Our world has new rules, new language and sadly new divisions. But the Lord’s commandments are the same. Despite and because of our differences, love one another.

 While the world was dormant, what were the things you discovered were essential? Did you learn the importance of food storage? Did you realize how much you enjoyed personal scripture study? Did your spirituality drop off because of the inability to congregate for church at a chapel? Did you learn how much more you needed and how much more you can live without? Did the prophecies from the prophet Russell M Nelson strengthen your testimony? Did you witness miracles? Did the Spirit prompt you to change your life? This time a year ago, I had a completely different life. I lived far away in a big city with everything that I thought I needed in my life. I had prayed for many years for the blessings that I very much enjoyed at that time. Then my husband got terribly sick with Covid 19 and we made a sharp re-evaulation of our life.  How much of our lifestyle was keeping us from progressing to the type of familial relationships we were missing out on? I had a very powerful spiritual experience that led us to take a leap of faith and pack up our house, move a month later and walk into the unknown. Are we ready to walk into the unknown of this new and re-emerging world?

The poet Dino Christianopolis wrote, “what didn’t you do to bury me, but you forgot I was a seed”

In the past year we have been buried and rained upon and left alone in what feels like impenetrable darkness. How did we respond to it? Did we choose to enjoy the nutrients in the soil that we thought so confining? Will we allow the rain to cleanse our impurities and strengthen our testimonies? Will embrace the smelly fertilizer of adversity to make us into the strong, fruitful bloom that we know that we are? Will we push through the dense soil and bask in the light of the Son of God?

In 4th Nephi, we read that the Nephites and Lamanites, bitter sworn enemies are all converted unto the Lord. In verse 2, “all people were converted unto the Lord…and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.” Verse 15 states that “there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.” Verse 17, “nor any manner of Ites; but they were in one, the culture of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.”

In our most recent General Conference, we heard from Elder William K Jackson of the Seventy. “Many of our world’s problems are a direct result of clashes between those of differing ideas and customs arising from their culture. But virtually all conflict and chaos would quickly fade if the world would only accept its original culture, the one we all possessed not so very long ago. This culture dates back to our premortal existence. It was the culture of Adam and Enoch. It was the culture founded on the Savior’s teachings in the meridian of time, and it is available to all women and men once again in our day. It is unique. It is the greatest of all cultures and comes from the great plan of happiness, authored by God and championed by Christ. It unites rather than divides. It heals rather than harms.”


          Now that we emerging from the past year, what is your maintenance plan for the important lessons that have been thrust upon us? Will you call your ministering sisters and just check on them? It doesn’t have to be a hard-hitting gospel question and answer session. What questions would you ask a friend? Will you reach out to family members who are difficult to love? Will you look at your friendship circle and enlarge it into a shape you don’t recognize so that all sorts and kinds fit in it? Will you be kinder to yourself as you are still blooming and growing? Will you stop criticizing the type and shape and size and color of flower that you are and stop the cycle of negative self-talk for the next generation of flowers that are watching you?

          Sisters, I’m grateful for spring, for the opportunity for daily renewal through repentance, for the beauty of new growth, for an all knowing Gardner that keeps being patient and continually tends to me. 

Thursday, March 18, 2021

broken things to mend

  I spoke in our church congregation a couple of months ago and I wanted to share my talk here for my kids to read down the road. My topic was the healing power of Christ's atonement. Listed at the top are the General Conference talks I referenced.  

The Healing Power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ Christine Franco

Broken Things to Mend Jeffery R Holland

Strengthened by the Atonement Dallin H Oaks


I love speaking in church and not just because I enjoy speaking into a microphone, I enjoy speaking because it is an opportunity to share the culmination of numerous seemingly minor spiritual thoughts and promptings. Many of the thoughts I’m sharing today are things I have been pondering for as long as 25 years and as recent as this week. The joy in writing and talk is seeing how the Lord is truly guiding us at all times, if we are simply listening.

Things I’m going to talk about today include:

The difference between the Atonement healing us from our sins and healing us from our infirmities and weaknesses and struggles

Kintsugi or making broken things gold

The definition of the word succor

My college boyfriend



When we think of using the Atonement of Jesus Christ in our lives, we almost always consider how we need to repent from our sins. The blood of the atonement washes away our sins. That is a predominant use of it because we cannot enter back in the presence of the Father with sins. We should be using the Atonement of Jesus Christ to repent every day to repair damage from our frailties and weaknesses. What do we feel when we hear the word repentance?  Personally, I’ve had times in my life when I’ve thought of repenting and it has sounded like this REPENTANCE! Complete with tarnation and damnation and pulpit pounding. However, when we understand the nature of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father, we realize that we should be referencing repentance like this Repentance! Complete with angels and harp trills and birds singing. Sadly, too many of us have been conditioned to think that repentance is solely a painful and arduous task. Certainly there are times when our souls require a reckoning and coming to terms with the work to be done can be embarrassing and a struggle, but it is Satan, not Jesus Christ who want you to believe it is an impossible task.

Sometimes when I am hungry or not feeling well, Thomas, being a very brave man, will tell me I need to eat something or take medicine so that I’ll feel better but I’m always resistant to it. I’m FINE, I insist. Everyone else is the problem! Not me! But eventually when I do remedy the situation through a healthy solution, I FEEL BETTER. So much better that I wish I had done something about it sooner. Repentance is a joyful medicine and nourishment to our souls. Often, we just need to get the ball rolling to start feeling better.


 We often use the Atonement to repair the same sins over and over again. But we know that the power of the atonement fixes all things and Hebrews 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more”. Truly. We know this. However, because of the nature of mortality, there are things in this life that will not be fully repaired until the resurrection. These things can feel broken because of our choices or the way God created us. Some things have consequences that are with us even after we’ve fully repented. The healing power of healing of Jesus Christ isn’t a magic wand or a time machine. A key aspect of repentance is the beauty of healing.

One of my favorite things is collecting artwork and I’m especially partial to Asian artwork. One of my favorite types of art is pottery. I collect plates and I display them on the walls of my home. As is the nature of happy families, sometimes my plates fall off the wall and get broken. Normally, because I favor decorative plates from goodwill and secondhand stores, I toss the broken plate. However, I have a few plates that I’m holding onto in case I ever get a kintsugi repair kit.  Kintsugi is the Japanese art of putting broken pieces back together with gold, built upon the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger more beautiful piece of art. The value of the item then goes up because of the gold kintsugi repair. Go ahead and google it. It’s beautiful and I feel a very apt representation of our lives. We are mortals and we will be broken, but because of our divine heritage and the price paid by our Savior Jesus Christ, we can be put back together with gold. I’ve never bought a kintsugi kit because it is very expensive, however, the healing of the Atonement has already been paid for and it is a priceless experience.

So my question to you, how do I my repair my challenges with the Savior and make them gold? How can we look at past sin and struggle and heartbreak and recognize that they can become some of our most beautiful parts?


“The first words Jesus spoke in His majestic Sermon on the Mount were to the troubled, the discouraged and downhearted. “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” He said, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” JRH

He later declares, ““Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”2


For example, the Apostle Paul declared that because the Savior “hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Similarly, President James E. Faust taught, “Since the Savior has suffered anything and everything that we could ever feel or experience, He can help the weak to become stronger.” DHO

There are several definitions for the word succor, including to give relief or to give aid but my favorite translation for the word succor is “to run to”. It is very powerful to envision the Savior Jesus Christ running to you when you cry out to him, But that is exactly how it works.

As the Psalmist declared, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all” (Psalm 34:19).

Other things that we may need to heal from include things in our lives that don’t feel broken because they are exactly how God made us, but may not be in harmony with God’s plan. Other things may be exactly how God made us but are still really hard. Many of us have actually been blessed with this type of trial, though it may not always feel like a blessing.


When I was 15 years old, I felt very strongly that there was something wrong with me that could only be fixed by achieving the world’s view of “perfect body”  and by trying to be very thin. I was always thinking about ways to be thin. Comments from society and even family members gave me incredible anxiety and a preoccupation with food and I continued to greatly struggled with disordered eating for the next 25 years. However, at age 15 I also recall feeling a morsel of light in my struggle that I feasted on when I was hurting. I was studying my scriptures and the thought crossed my mind that Jesus Christ didn’t know how it felt to be a 15 year old girl like me. Then I had a prompting that was quite the opposite. The Spirit confirmed to me that I was wrong. Alma 7:11 reads, “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” I was in pain and He understood completely and loved me infinitely. How is the gold to me? The experience of making this realization is gold to me.


The healing power of the Atonement applies to big things and little things. All things that matter to us matter to the Lord.


When I was 21 I had a boyfriend in college who I thought was THE ONE. . Y’all, he had a south African accent. That’s number 3 on the scale of world’s best accents with midwestern being number 1 and closely followed by southern in 2nd place. One night he unexpectedly broke up with ME and I was devasted. At church that weekend I was still obnoxiously inconsolable and I was crying my face off during relief society. The poor girl next to me was awkwardly patting my back while probably praying for someone to pull a fire alarm so that she could get away. In my grief, I had prayed to simply feel some peace. My grief was probably rather inconsequential to some of the real problems people were experiencing in the world but what happened next was a clear message to me that the Lord cared and that he was able to help me feel better. The closing song was “Where can I turn for peace?” I knew that was the Lord’s message to me to feel peace and also pull myself together. Heartbreak is often preparation for us to make room for the Lord to do His work and provide us with something better. Kynan breaking up with me was exactly what I needed to happen to I could meet the true love of my life and eternity, Thomas. He’s the best thing to happen to me since elasticized denim. No one wants to be told in the moment of a truly trying experience that this is for the better. That’s probably the quickest way to get a punch in face. 0-60 in one comment. Heartbreak is a tool that can prepare us for something better, even if it takes a long time or the next life. But if we live in a way where we let the Atonement comfort and heal us, we will be blessed until we are able to fully realize our blessings.


As I’ve grown older, my understanding of this concept has only multiplied.

As I’ve tried to raise children, including two with special needs, the only way to figure that out is to turn to the Lord. I’ve messed up a ton as a parent and there is SO MUCH crying involved. Sometimes even by the kids. For a good part of my parenting career I felt like every aspect of it was in the L column. Hardly any Ws. There was a really long time that I prayed that this perceived trial would be taken away from me, as if the most desirable solution was to avoid pain and growth. The Lord had other plans. As I slowly repaired my broken perspective, I have been able to see more clearly, what is truly gold in my life. While it has been a rather slow and frustrating process of self discovery, some of the cracks started to become fused with gratitude. I have a greater knowledge of the love of our Heavenly Father. I’ve been able to be more patient in ways I could never be without this perceived trial. I have learned what it means to give something to the Lord. Sometimes I’ll even take my hands and wrap up a package in the air and toss is heavenward and say, “here you go. I’ll do this if you show up too”. If I give it Him, it doesn’t mean it’s a success by a worldly standard, more often than not it simply means I’ll survive the experience and be undaunted to try again even if it’s messy. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying, “Lord, give me another trial and this time put some stank on it!” But, the atonement of Jesus Christ has healed me of some unrighteous desires and healed me from my lack of faith.

I’ll close with some of the lyrics to Reagan’s favorite hymn, How firm a foundation

. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume, thy dross to consume,

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine


Monday, March 01, 2021

the most reluctant convert

  On October 31, Athena Blythe became the newest member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

A few years ago when I was in our stake's Relief Society presidency, we did training with each unit on how to meet the needs of the individual sisters. Time was at a premium but I found an experience on a church social media account that I felt led by the Spirit to share in each ward. The quote was by a woman who was sharing her experience of not feeling like her family fit in to the regular church cookie cutter. She outlined her situation and pleaded that what she needed was for people to not be afraid or put off by their situation but to move in closer and as a sign of support. In her experience, the sister mentions that one situation in which we should move in closer is when a family has a child that does not want to be baptized. At the time I thought it was a strange and surely rare phenomenon to have a child not want to get baptized. Most kids just want to get baptized! As per usual, this spiritual message was more for me than for the sisters. In this case, my quote was a spiritual foreshadowing of Athena Blythe's baptism. Athena Blythe was not interested in getting baptized and nothing could persuade her. She was vocal and adamantly against the idea for well over a year before she turned 8! We tried everything; extra baptism lessons, attending as many baptisms as we could, NOT talking about it and seeing if the desire would happen anyway. Various (un)helpful people took it upon themselves(even after we repeatedly asked them not to) to try and convince her by mentioning all the pomp and circumstance aspects of a baptism ceremony, but to my actual relief she rebuffed these people too. I certainly didn't want Athena Blythe to want to get baptized because there was going to be a party for her. Parties and cake have their place but the message of the baptism can easily get lost in the cultural pageantry surrounding baptisms. Athena Blythe will not do anything that is not 100% her idea, which thrills me that she will not easily cave to peer pressure but her obstinate and persistent nature makes her nearly impossible to live with when she is perseverating on a concept. When she finally decided to get baptized 6 months after her 8th birthday, I knew it was because she was ready and had a bit of an understanding of what she was doing.

my sister in law, shayla, is an incredibly gifted gift giver. she just knows how to make things thoughtful and lovely. she sent athena blythe these delightful cookies. 

we did plan for a post-baptism outdoor gathering with friends here in town. FYI, october is a great time for visiting. it's still summer but not sweltering summer. grandma sandy flew in and we had pizza, chik fil a and a cake. Athena Blythe drew a blueprint for the cake and you can see her inspecting the final product in this photo.

"Why isn't the frosting RED!" exclaimed the always grateful daughter.

She was also not pleased that I added the ghosts for an attempt at a humorous holy ghost halloween baptism joke. When I picked up the cake she had originally written in frosting, "Happy Baptist", which makes no sense(especially since Athena Blythe is anything but) but the decorator was able to fix it before I brought it home.

our pre-ordinance family photos:

one of my favorite photos of 2020.

I pride myself on a swift baptism service and this one clocked in at a sweet 27 minutes. Musical numbers were not allowed due to covid restrictions(and my relief). You will never seen a baptism guest of honor video montage set to music at one of my baptisms. If that's your jam, I salute you. I choose less and so that I am actively choosing my own sanity. Both Grandmas were able to speak on baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost and we given strict instructions to keep it at 3-5 minutes. One was compliant, the other was oblivious.

Because we live under the ever present specter of sensory overload, we took extra steps to ensure sensory compliance:
Athena Blythe insisted on dressing as Cinderella instead of purchasing a white dress so I ordered a long sleeved skin-toned leotard to wear under the itchy, lacy bodice of the dress. Athena Blythe was able to tolerate the headband for the duration of the second half of the baptism but it is now lost to that same mysterious dimension that all discarded hair accoutrements occupy. It is somewhere, but certainly not here. The black choker ribbon lasted about as long  as the headband but was quickly requisitioned for use as a stuffed animal leash. The dress didn't make it through the post baptism party and I wish I had gotten a photo of her jumping on the trampoline in her skin-colored leotard. This was a celebration of baptism not soon to be forgotten or duplicated.

Later that night, after a rather torrential downpour, we attempted pandemic-style trick or treating. We all dressed up as bad guys, since that is always who Reagan wants to prevail in movies.
Wreck It Ralph, the Joker, Johnny Lawrence, Bane, Queen Chrysalis from My Little Pony, and a T-rex. 

 I looked so good in this wig that a few weeks later I colored my hair nearly this shade of blonde and I started picking fights with local new kids.

the end

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

this could become a habit

Movin' right along in search of good times and good news,
With good friends you can't lose,
This could become a habit!
Opportunity knocks once let's reach out and grab it (yeah!),
Together we'll nab it,
We'll hitchhike, bus or yellow cab it

straight to the point, i'm great at packing and moving. i could definitely share my expertise with others who have not made 8 large scale moves and several more small moves in 18 years. i'm pretty good at pulling together a timeline of tasks and weeding out the junk and collecting boxes. i don't think my expectations are too high concerning what should be happening at certain junctures of the moving day. however, this was going to prove to be the worst move of all the moves we've done. 

in order to avoid a play by play of the moving day atrocities, i'll do some quick bullet points:

*we interviewed and booked movers who came highly recommended by neighborhood people and they had done a few hauling projects for us previously so we felt good about that. we booked moving and packing and cleaning services. we discussed the moving day timeline and the movers agreed that our plan of attack was not going to be a problem.

*i felt anxious about the time frame so i went ahead and packed 90% of our stuff beforehand to make the day of festivities go smoothly. we had several dear, sweet friends help along the way. we moved the majority of the basement stuff and bedroom stuff to the main floor and garage.

*my worries were not unfounded as the movers showed up 2 and a half hours late with a single uhaul truck, the crew foreman plus only 3 scrawny, first time movers. we had planned on being almost completely loaded by noon. it was 11:30. (how i know i'm not being unreasonable: when we moved from lawrenceville to dacula, we had the first truck loaded, driven across town and unloaded in 2 hours. that's the kind of efficiency i'd come to expect from professional movers.)

*they brought 10 boxes total for packing. TOTAL. 

*the crew foreman announced upon arrival that the movers should take all the breaks they needed throughout the day.

*they(all 4) took 1 hour to dismantle a bunk bed that took thomas 1 hour to put together himself. 

*thomas went to get another uhaul because he knew the one they brought would not be enough. he was concerned that the truck retrieval process took too long and the movers would be waiting on him. nope, after 3 hours, the truck was not even 1/3 of the way filled and they were taking a lunch bunch. it was preceded by a long water break and followed up with a smoke break.

*i went to home depot and bought a boatload full of boxes for the last 10% of stuff that needed to be packed. THEY DID NOT PACK A SINGLE THING, despite our agreement for moving AND packing. i packed like a woman possessed. packing is the only thing that kept me out of jail that day. my wonderful friend lindsay and her girls surprised us to say goodbye, saw our predicament and pitched in without being asked and did more packing and organizing than the movers. 

*by 5 o'clock, they were finishing up the first truck and needed to go to dinner. 

*our whole family went to our favorite mexican restaurant because we knew we weren't going to get out of town in any sort of reasonable time. we were an embarrassing level of disgusting and sweaty and a messy from all our hard work. i fought back tears the entire meal. 

*our dear friends, paula and logan, took our kids for the evening since we STILL weren't on the road at 7.

*one of the movers asked me if i wanted the box with the TV in it taped shut. read that again. 

*thomas had to help the professional movers attach the car dolly to the back of the moving truck in the dark.

*they were finally "done" at 10pm that night. not really, because there was so much stuff still left in the house so thomas and i made the decision to make the 5 hour trek again at a later date and come back and finish up by ourselves. 

*we headed to a hotel, both of us so mad at the whole situation we could chew fire. we had planned on being in waycross by evening and have the moving trucks arrive sometime later that night.

*we got on the road early the next morning and made it to waycross around noon.

*the people who lived in our house previously were renters and they left the house a mess and had allowed the AC unit to flood the ceiling. my mother in law was there cleaning like the dickens so that we didn't have to put our stuff on top of other people's filth. 

*the movers were unloading when we got there but instead of putting things in the assigned rooms they were just dumping everything in the garage or dining room. 

*the movers refused to move the bonus room couch upstairs because said they could not get the couch through the door. they claimed that they "measured it with a shoe" and knew it would not fit. we just wanted them out of our lives at this point so we had them leave it in the garage.

*later that week, thomas and a friend moved the couch up the stair and through the door with ZERO PROBLEMS.

*at the end of move in day, i was hiding in our closet because i could not ever bear to make eye contact with these movers anymore. they were also avoiding thomas because he was about to spit nails and he's quite physically intimidating. we paid them and they left and i burned sage to cleanse the house of their presence. 

*instead of doing a fun overnight trip to the beach for our 18th anniversary, just thomas and me, we drove up to atlanta to get the rest of the stuff out of our house and returned the SAME DAY. 5 hours one way, 5 hours back. 

*we stopped at a peach farm on the way.

*we unavoidably sat in this typical atlanta traffic:

*dear sweet paula came at a moment's notice with her girls to help up clean up the house really quick so we could get it under contract, since the aforementioned cleaning team NEVER SHOWED UP. they did have the gall to text me three weeks later to see if we still needed that cleaning service. the movers also left behind their uhaul dolly and a fancy tape measure, which they clearly didn't even need since they measured my couch in SHOE LENGTHS. the movers texted me about both the dolly and the tape measure but they are now mine forever.

*late night in butts county, georgia with all the stuff the movers left behind in our uhaul. 

*how the TV in our living room looks after the move:

*my back patio for the past two months, including the piles of junk the previous tenants left behind:

*but we're here and everything is fine and everything will be fine because everything has always been fine because of the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Wednesday, August 26, 2020

where in the world is heidi san diego?

Now, this is story all about how

My life got flipped-turned upside down

And I'd like to take a minute

Pull out my floss

I'll tell you how i became the Queen of a town called


when i last posted in may, we had only decided the day before that we would be moving to waycross. but even just a few days before that we would have been incredulous if you said that in 5 weeks we would have sold our house, packed up everything and moved 5 hours south to thomas's hometown. i still can't believe it today except for the fact that i packed up most everything myself and i'm sitting at a new table, in a new kitchen, in a new house looking out the window at my new crepe myrtle trees. 

after thomas recovered from his covid ordeal we were able to take stock of what a blessing of sorts quarantine had been for us. sure, having everything shut down and the constant fear of illness and a free-falling economy have been less than ideal, but for the first time in our marriage, we were all together. since thomas's office was closed, he didn't have to suffer through an 1 1/2 hour commute each way through horrific traffic. we ate lunch together. we had moe's mondays! we ate dinner together. every day! we worked out in the garage in our makeshift, ramshackle gym. we really enjoyed each other's company. can home really be a heaven on earth? especially during these trying times? indeed it can! i liken it to the scripture in alma 50 during the war chapters when Moroni and the people are in almost constant preparation and fortification against an inevitable attack from the Lamanites. in verse 19, "and thus we see how merciful and just are the dealings of the Lord, to the fulfilling of all his words unto the children of men" and verse 22, "And those who were faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord were delivered at all times" and finally, verse 23, "but behold there never was a happier time among the people of Nephi, since the days of Nephi, than in the days of Moroni". how was it possible that through all this work and trial that they were so happy? i concur, after the march and april that i had, how was it possible that i felt such peace and happiness in such uncertain times? there were many times during thomas' illness that i went to my basement guest room where i was sleeping and cried from exhaustion and fear. there were many times that put my face into a pillow and railed at the unfairness of it all. you know those people who have hard times thrust upon them but they don't complain? i am certainly not one of them. WHY ME??? nevertheless, each and every time i read my scriptures and prayed, there was peace. i spent a lot of time reading Saints volume 2 and there were several key passages that buoyed me up in time of trial, particularly when the saints are trying to settle the salt lake valley and they were starving to death. i was especially touched when i read of the cricket infestation and Stake President John Smith wrote, "The Lord led us here and He has not led us here to starve." the Lord led us through quarantine and we would not starve temporally or spiritually. 

"but heidi, that's lovely and all but how does all this get you to waycross?"

oh dear reader, i'll tell you. as soon as georgia state laws allowed thomas' office to reopen, thomas' boss had the building sanitized and everyone was expected back in the office. that was the catalyst for change in our family. after a few weeks resuming working and commuting after having known how wonderful family time can be, thomas said enough was enough. but what was the solution? we had everything we ever prayed for in gwinnett county. we loved our house, we had a great ward, we had an incredible school district that had served all of our children so well. but we also had a very hectic life and we only saw thomas on weekends and even that was limited because of callings and activities. 

thomas has a friend in waycross who had a small, thriving law practice. they bounced ideas off of each other from time to time and even referred business to each other. brandon had offered thomas a partnership many times but it was never something he was interested in. thomas would tell me about it but i never thought anything about it. we have moved enough in our family to know that we were certainly not seeking out opportunities to move. however, brandon was serious enough to keep bringing it up and it was an idea thomas was becoming amenable to because of our covid experience. i said flat out no! for so many reasons, but really because moving is the worst. i'm a level 1000 moving expert now and i'd rather have my house burn down than move again. but i did say i'd pray about it. that was on a friday night. saturday morning i said another prayer for good measure before i went on my morning run. the first portion of every run i listen to a conference talk. that day's particular talk was "Called of God" by Elder L. Tom Perry from the october 2002 general conference. it was simply the next talk in the queue of conference talks. as the talk progressed i started punching the air in front of me because of how perfectly it answered my prayer, but it was also not the answer i wanted. but i listened and i tried to be humble and accept the answer. most of the time i don't receive lightning bolts of personal revelation, but i did that morning. at one point of his talk, elder perry tells a story of his family moving for his new job and trying to decide which house to buy. they found a house that they all really liked but elder perry discovered that the commute was 1 1/2 hours each way, the same as thomas' commute. i'm sure people who saw me running that day thought i was having a seizure as i ran and shook my head back and forth and shouted "NO! NO! NO!" 

Nooooooooooooooooooooooo! - Michael Scott NO | Meme Generator

as the story continued, elder perry gave the decision of which house to buy up to his children. 

You can have either this house or a father,” I said. Much to my surprise they responded, “We will take the house. You are never around much anyway.”

that is how i knew we were supposed to move to waycross. the Lord laid it out for me in simple terms. it was a lightning bolt of revelation. i could not deny that i prayed and asked for an answer and received an answer. i knew that even though this talk was given in october 2002, the Lord knew it was the answer i would need on may 16th 2020. His timing is perfect. had i not been pleading for years for a way for us to spend more time with thomas? did i finally receive it? and now that i had tasted that wonderful time with thomas, did i only want more? was the answer to move to a tiny, rural town and have thomas open up his own practice, complete with 10 minute commute? i knew it, i knew God knew it and i could not deny it. so i finished my run and walked in the door and i said to thomas, "we can do this". we went down the waycross the following weekend and picked out our house. 

not the house we bought but i loved it so much. someday it will be mine!

the house we actually bought:

there are many details that i'm leaving out that i'm sure i'll cover in future posts but once i received and accepted the answer, there was no going back and everything worked out. it was such a busy, hard 5 weeks but the Lord keeps his promises. i felt carried by Him many, many times.

having been here 2 months now, atlanta feels like a lifetime ago. it is certainly my old life. as hard as it has been on all of us to move, there is no looking back. i choose to be grateful and i try to laugh when i feel like crying(which is often) but the Lord has not brought us here to starve. i still miss aldi very much though. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

stop the pandemic i want to get off

real life is stranger than fiction for the past two months. Georgia is starting to ease it's quarantine restrictions but it's not quite the free for all that the media seems determined to portray. the few times i actually do venture out, people are playing it safe, staying far apart and being considerate and kind. pandemics have their benefits. 

after 9 weeks all together, no one seems to mind a far drive anymore. everyone begs to go anywhere they can in the car. today thomas had his temple recommend renewed out in a our new stake center(for our BRAND NEWLY formed stake) in winder. normally everyone would have balked at the thought of riding together for no reason but today everyone jumped at the chance to go together and look out the window at anything besides the walls of our house. 

we've spent hours upon hours on the trampoline. we started a club called the "butt bounce club". Athena Blythe even wrote about it for one of her online school assignements.
only picture that loaded:

thomas got horrifically ill with covid-19. he actually believes he contracted it in march while getting lunch at the whole foods by his office. our pollen season was especially bad this year so we weren't immediately aware of how sick thomas was. he started out thinking it was simply seasonal allergies to within a few days not being able to walk a few steps at a time. his fever spiked up to 105 and he couldn't sleep more than a few minutes at a time because of how bad the coughing got. it was hard to get a doctor to see him until we were eventually able to get an appointment at an urgent care. from there they did the exam while thomas was in the car. they didn't have any covid tests on hand but they did a barrage of other tests to rule everything out. our doctor was pretty positive that thomas had covid on top pneumonia. she contacted the county to get him an official test done. we went to the county the next day it was like a movie scene. police were blocking the road, they triple checked to make sure we had an appointment. medical personnel were wandering about completely covered in PPE gear. they stuck the text wayyyyyy up thomas nose until he sang soprano and then we were on our way. for the next two weeks thomas sucked down his prescribed medications and a bunch of nyquil on top of that. he languished like that for a few more days until our urgent care called back and i told them he wasn't improving and i was still really worried each night that thomas wasn't going to wake up in the morning. we had many scary conversations about what if he didn't recover because my giant, healthy husband was in very dire straits and it was hard enough to get thomas tested in the first place and getting him admitted to a hospital felt impossible. once he finally got a cheritussin prescription, he was finally able to sleep and he started making baby steps towards recovery. cheritussin thomas was loads of fun. he even did some work conference calls while he was drugged up. our bishop braved our house while wearing a full hazmat suit and gave both thomas and me a blessing. it was a pretty powerful experience. he pronounced many blessings and that was truly the time when thomas started making bigger strides toward recovery. finally, we got a call from the county saying that thomas had officially tested positive for covid-19. no duh, gwinnett county. 

the first thing we did when thomas was able to stand for longer periods of time was to do a photo recreation of american gothic. i'm not sure why, but thomas was still pretty hopped up on drugs. 

our district did a really good job of transitioning to digital learning but it was still really hard to get 4 kids doing 4 different assignments on 4 different computers. i've never aspired to homeschooling but i respect anyone's choice to do it. both reagan and athena blythe each have 5 support staff so i was really feeling out of my element. scarlett was a champ homeschooler who got up early every day and was done by 930 every day. weirdo. she also never missed a zoom or google meetup. i cannot say the same for myself. herschel was a pretty good student if athena blythe was a pretty good student that day. 

outdoor chalk math:

photos i'm not buying because i'm so cheap.

we've done a million miles of walks and hikes. we've tried to hit up new parks that are farther away from the house because the aforementioned interest in long car rides. 
the kids got pretty good at biking. i got pretty good at loading up bikes and scooters and children efficiently. 

one of our favorite hikes is just around the corner from our house. this picture was taken right after herschel went to pee in the woods and then peed on MY BACK for fun. 

finally, when i get a better, newer computer i'll write more on titanic day. i'll upload the video of thomas and i reenacting, "i'm the king of the world" on the back deck for herschel's amusement. i have loads of pictures of titanic day handwriting tasks and art projects. but for now, here's a picture of our titanic loving little boy watching titanic. 

the end