My 3 Monsters: May 2011

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What is "Real", Really?

I taught another class for another ward's Relief Society meeting last week about writing personal histories, hence the quotes in the last post.  Keeping a personal history is something I feel pretty strongly about.  It's one of the reasons this-here blog even exists.  When I teach that personal history class I always encourage people to be honest about what is going on their life.  No one wants to read a sugar-coated version of our life story.  At least I don't.  When I read other people's blogs {or whatever} and it's all candy and sunshine I KNOW that they aren't telling the whole truth.  No one has only good days.  On the other hand , I also hate to read blogs in which the whole story is fish-guts and storm clouds.  That's not entirely real either.  There IS beauty in the most common of days.  And you simply HAVE to recognize the Lord's hand in your life, even on your darkest days.  You MUST look for the lessons and the opportunities for growth in the midst of any experience.  And you're ever-so ungrateful if you don't write about those things, too.  What good is your life story for future generations if you make it seem like it was an uninterrupted stream of excitement and success with never a dull moment or struggle?  If you don't teach your children and your children's children how to survive under the crushing weight of mortal disappointments and trials?  If you leave nothing by way of advice or encouragement?

The trick is to find the balance.  To live life, and write about it, with the right perspective.  I wish I had that gift.  I have written several posts in the past few weeks and saved them as drafts instead of publishing them.  I'm just having a hard time expressing the "real" version of life right now. I think I'm a pretty positive person, but things have been pretty gritty around here lately.  We're struggling to make ends meet, as so many people are now days.   We're cutting back and making changes which are at once liberating and painful.  My emotions are a constant jumble of joy and sorrow and frustration and gratitude and peace and worry and regret and hope. Most of the time I feel like I am either going to laugh hysterically or burst into tears, and even I don't know which.  Heaven help my family . . .   I WILL publish those posts {maybe after Girls Camp this weekend - it's impossible to have perspective about ANYTHING the week before Girls Camp}, I just wanted to warn y'all.  You think you know what real is, but you have no idea . . .


All By Myself

I am home all alone.  The boys are camping.  Sydney is at a sleep-over birthday party.  Watched TWO movies that no one ever wanted to watch with me -- English period dramas both.  Painted banners for Girls Camp. Ate WHAT I wanted WHEN I was hungry.  Took a bath. No one has asked me for anything.  Haven't had to speak to anyone about anything for hours.  Bliss. . .


REPOST Personal History Quotes

 Click the image above to link to John H. Groberg's talk,"Writing Your Personal and Family History" (Ensign, May 1980):

"I wonder if, as in so many things, we don't deny ourselves this deeper spiritual insight by simply neglecting to write our histories. Some people say,'I don't have anything to write. Nothing spiritual happens to me'. I say, 'Start recording and spiritual things will happen. They are there all the time, but we become more sensitive to them as we write."

(Clicking the titles of the talks below will link you to the full version of the talk on )

From Gawain and Gayle J.Wells, "Hidden Benefits of Keeping a History" (Ensign, July, 1986):

"Our Journals should become our own books of personal revelation.  If we are careful and diligent in recording the promptings and insights we receive, we will begin to see a pattern of how the Spirit works in our lives.  We will become more aware of the fact that we are indeed being guided in ways that we may not have recognized, and we will become more responsive to these thoughts, ideas and influences as they come to us.  We can be blessed as we write about our prayers, our scriptural understandings, and our struggles to draw closer to the Lord." 

"Likewise, it is important to record our feelings as we witness important periods of world and Church history -- periods long prophesied which come to pass in our lifetime.  Just as we may be grateful for ancestors' reactions to the historical events they lived through, our descendants will cherish our impressions of momentous times in our own lives."

"We are and must continue to be a history-keeping people.  As we are blessed in reading records kept by ancient prophets as well as our own ancestors, we also have been asked to keep a similar record that we may touch the lives of those who follow us.  And, in keeping this great commandment, we will experience greater joy and meaning in our lives."

From Jimmy B. Parker, "A Record of Our Kingdoms" (Ensign, August, 1976):

"Imagine the impact it would have on the lives of our family members if we taught them the great gospel principles of revelation, tithing, fasting, prayer, etc., from personal family experiences, using them as a second witness to the same truths found in the standard works.  Imagine also the many times these sacred family records could be used in family home evenings and other teaching situations to personalize the gospel truths."

From Don Norton, personal history instructor and Professor of English at Brigham Young University:

"The important thing is that you leave some kind of record of your own life -- as detailed and complete as you can make it.  Some is better than none, and it need not take only one form."

From Elder Theodore M. Burton, "The Inspiration of a Family Record" (Ensign, January, 1977):

"When we [put in] writing those things that have strengthened our own faith and courage, we strengthen faith and courage in our children and grandchildren. . . . When we share our faith, our testimony, and our own experiences with them we are in very fact writing a sacred guide for our family.  Reading that sacred record in times of stress will strengthen them . . . "

"Much of what we now regard as scripture was not anything more or less than men writing of their own personal experiences for the benefit of their posterity.  These scriptures are family records.  Therefore, as a people we ought to write of our own lives and our own experiences to form a sacred record for our descendants.  We must provide for them the same uplifting, faith-promoting strength that the ancient scriptures now give us."

From President Spencer W. Kimball, "The True Way of Life and Salvation" (Ensign, May, 1978):

"I urge all of the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity.  This is a duty and a responsibility, and I urge every person to start the children out writing a personal history and journal."

From President Kimball, "The Angels May Quote from It" (New Era, October, 1975):

"Get a notebook, my young folks, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  Begin today and write in it your goings and comings, your deepest thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies.  Remember, the Savior chastised those who failed to record important events."

From George D. Durrant, then Director of the Church Priesthood genealogy Division, at the World Conference on Records, 1980:

"How do we preserve our heritage? We begin at home, in the family. We talk to each other. We keep records. We write our personal history, however brief. We take pictures. The activity may be self-serving, in part. So be it. An individual needs some egocentric activity to maintain his emotional health. But it goes beyond that. If this World Conference on Records produces no other effect than to encourage families to build and extend their traditions, it will do much to preserve our heritage."

"The most exceptional stories are those written about ordinary people. Simple folks have the most interesting histories of all. . . . Now is the time to write the history of the heart."


Leave it to D

Earlier this afternoon:

D:  I wonder what it's like to ride a bike with your shirt off.
Me:  I really have no idea, son.  {Questions like these are kind of par for the course with this kid - I didn't even raise an eyebrow.}
D: {removing his shirt and heading outside} Well, I guess it's my day to find out.

 . . . and the wallowing is finished.  Life is pretty dang good. 


Forgive me if I don't answer my phone for the rest of the day.  The phone calls I have received so far this morning have been such that I am not willing to risk answering another one.  Because, really, what are the chances of it being someone with good news or kind words?  Slim today.  {Plus I have caller ID, so if you're friendly I'll call you back. . . . tomorrow. You wouldn't want to talk to me now anyway.}  It's just one of those days.  I'm completely overwhelmed with the circumstances of my life and I don't want to see or talk to anyone.  I know it's ridiculous -- my life is pretty simple compared to most -- but sometimes I just really wish I lived by myself in a cave where no one wanted or expected anything from me.  So I could wallow without feeling guilty.  I'll be back tomorrow with a bright new outlook.  Promise.


Decorating on a Budget

My friend, Alina, asked me to teach a class about decorating on a budget for her ward's Relief Society meeting last night.  I agreed because I'm kind of passionate about that topic, but I'm no expert.  OK, maybe I have a degree in interior design and I've certainly had to decorate on a budget, but I'm really just a big ole' copy cat.  So, here's the information I shared last night -- a collection of inspiration from talented ladies on the web with a few of my own ideas mixed in.  I've linked to all the sources {I hope}. 

{inspired by The Nester}
1.     Quiet the Room
a.      Remove everything smaller than a football and anything that is easy to move.  Remove art from the walls.  Leave yourself with a blank canvas for a few hours or a few days.
2.      Furniture Placement
a.      Switch it up!  You can always move it back if you hate it, but you’ll never know unless you try.  (Click the link above and watch the videos -- they're great!)
b.      Graph it out to save time and energy.  
{I'd be lost without my handy graphs!}
3.      Lighting
b.      Natural light improves mood.  Lamps soften a room and add warmth.
c.       Don’t rely on overhead lighting alone.  Layer the light.
4.      Fix Broken Things.
a.      Replace light bulbs, tighten loose doorknobs, fix leaky faucets, patch holes in walls, touch up paint.  Little things can wear on you and create negative feelings for your home.
b.      Be a good steward of what the Lord has given you.
5.       Create a Focal Point.  What's the first thing you see when you enter the room?  Is it the first thing you want to see when you enter the room?
a.      EVERY room has one whether it’s intentional or not. Don’t let yours be a pile of laundry!
b.      If you don’t have a natural focal point {window, fireplace, etc.} CREATE ONE with art, a grouping of eye-catching items or architectural detail.
{Source unknown -- it's lovely though, isn't it?  If anyone knows where this came from, please let me know so I can give credit.}
6.      Shop Your House for Accessories.
a.      See if you can use what you already have in a new room or in a new way.
b.      Be Creative!  Just try it - most of us have more time than money so we can afford to experiment.
c.       Group things together for bigger impact.
{the Nesting Place}
d.      Layer!!  Put pretty stuff in front of other pretty stuff to enhance it and make your home cozy.
e.      Pay attention to Scale and Proportion.  A bunch of tiny pretty things will look like clutter. 
f.       Introduce your favorite color with cheap accessories or paint something you already own a trendy color.
{My lived-in living room -- I painted my coffee table turquoise knowing that I could/can easily change it when/if I get tired of that color.}
g.      Incorporate fabric.  Lamp shades, window treatments, rugs, towels, blankets, pillows, table runners - all soften the room.
{designed by Sarah Richardson}
h.     Fill in the blanks.  Use overlooked spaces for little things you love.
7.       Get Advice.
a.      Sometimes living with stuff can blind us to the possibilities.  Find a pair of fresh eyes.
8.      Use Plants.
a.      Live greenery or flowers make a room feel finished.
9.       Rescue and Repurpose.
a.      Goodwill/Savers/DI:  daily and weekly specials
b.      Craigslist
c.       Free-Cycle or Roadkill.
d.      Trade with your friends.

We bought our home, in all its 1980's glory, 8 years ago as a fixer-upper.  Believe me, there was plenty to fix up!!  In fact we had more to be fixed than we had money to fix so we had to get really creative.  Here are some of the challenges we were up against and our solutions -- maybe you have some of the same dilemmas. 

1.        Mirrored Closet Doors: 
a.      Spray with glass frosting spray or use glass etching cream.  You can go for a solid frosted look or use contact paper and exacto knife to create a stenciled design.  
b.      Antique mirror.  {I haven't tried this technique, but it looks really cool and not too difficult.}

2.      Dated Brass Chandelier:
a.       Remove the glass “circus tent” - instantly more modern.
b.       Spray paint and embellish.  
{Nikki's Nacs}
3.      No Architectural Detail:
a.      Paintable Wallpaper   (brick OR beadboard -- lots of other styles available.)
b.      Create an interesting collage of empty frames on a wall.
c.    Faux Paneling -- easy and affordable!
{House of Smiths}
4.      Ugly Old Carpet:
a.      Rip out yucky carpet and paint the plywood sub-floor.   Go with a solid color or stencil a cool pattern!
{My boys' room.}
5.       Bare Walls:
a.      Photoshop it!  (Click on “favorite projects” tab at the top of the page to see lots of examples of things I've done in my house.)
b.      Make it! Lots of fun ideas online.
c.       Cheap 8x10 photo canvases 
{Have an image you create or a favorite photo printed on a canvas.}
d.      Children’s art gallery wall.
e.      Print vintage images on old book pages.
{Create cool artwork right from your home printer!}
f.       Hang pretty plates, old keys, or other unusual items.

6.      Need Curtains or Slipcovers:
a.      Use painting drop cloths.   Bleach them to use plain or stencil them to match your room.  
b.  Flat bed sheets  -- lots of fabric for a little money!

And there you have it.  I hope this helps to inspire someone to create a home they love without breaking the bank.  Many, many thanks to all my mentors on the web who have done the same for me!


The Project of a Lifetime

Lately I've been posting a lot about the things I am making and the the busy little things I am doing.  And that's probably what many of you come here to see {thanks!} But that's not why I've gathered you all today.  Today I would like to brag a little about the most important, most exciting project on which I have ever worked.  It has been labor-intensive, requiring almost constant thought and effort.  In fact, it's kind of amazing I have been able to do any of those other things.  Every day there is progress, though sometimes it doesn't seem so.  I have a plan and a vision for this project, but I'm finding the material has a mind of it's own.  Sometimes it is easily molded and quickly becomes exactly what I want.  Other times it is tough and wants to bend in a different way than I have planned.  I've decided that the raw material is so inherently good and beautiful in its own way that I just have to forget MY plan and let it show me a better way to get the perfect end result.  Because it's a medium I have never worked with, really, and I'm still just learning how mold and polish it. I'm nowhere near finished with this project, but I'd really like to share what I have so far:

Phase 1:  Sydney

Early on I realized that everything I thought I knew about mothering was wrong.  Sometimes I feel bad because my  technique was rough and clumsy.  I often did more harm than good, but she was resilient and beautiful in spite of my mistakes.  I over-worked the project in these early stages, thinking that I had to rigidly follow "the plan" and not realizing I could let the material be what it was.  The raw material was beautiful -- I knew that -- but I mistakenly thought I had to change it.  Wrong.  This girl is one tough cookie.  She knows what she wants and figures out {on her own usually} how to get it.  That's my favorite feature now.  This spring she decided she wanted to attend a conference for teen age girls this summer.  It cost $425 and we couldn't afford to pay it for her.  She came to me with a list of ideas to earn the money on her own and asked for my help.  We decided to sell gourmet cupcakes.  I found six delicious recipes.  She made a brochure and started calling everyone we knew.  She did all the sales and took orders.  She helped me bake.  She went on deliveries.  Three weekends of being in the cupcake business and she had earned all the money she needed for the conference plus $100 to pay me back for ingredients.  Amazing.

Phase 2:  Riley

When I began this phase of this project I thought I had figured out what I was doing, but again ran into complications.  This material was a little softer than what I was used to working with, but that didn't necessarily make it easier.  The techniques I had begun to perfect in Phase1 didn't work here at all.  Then there was the added difficulty of working with the two together, incorporating them without losing their unique qualities.  I often felt I was in over my head and failing miserably.  My favorite thing about this one is his long-suffering and patience.  Since being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes six years ago he has had more than his share of difficult, sick days.  His blood sugar is only perfect {like yours or mine}about half the time.  The rest of the time he either feels shaky and weak, or tired and headache-y.  And yet he plows through it all, usually with a smile on his face.  He was in his school's production of Beauty and the Beast this spring playing La Fou -- the funny little guy.  He worked so hard. I saw him in rehearsals really come out of his shell and do a great job.  And then the week of the show he got sick.  On the day of the show, with two performances to do, he had an infection in both ears, a sore throat, and a pretty high fever.  He made it through the afternoon performance alright and I took him home to rest.  By the evening he could hardly move.  He couldn't see any way of making it through that last performance {and neither could I} but there was no one else to take his place.  So he went and he did it.  And if you didn't know better, you would never have known how sick he was.  He was perfect and glorious and didn't even get to enjoy that moment.  Some days my heart breaks for all that he has to endure, but I am so proud of the way he endures with patience and dignity.

Phase 3:  Dylan

When we embarked on this phase of the project {unexpectedly soon after phase 2} I had finally learned to plan on nothing.  I was figuring out that the material was pretty much good just as it was and that my job was to keep it in the right place, not change it's structure.  This piece of the project fit perfectly in and around the other two, evening out the balance of things.  He was sturdy and solid, but easy going when others weren't. Content to wait for my attention.  Soft and pliable, but with a bit of a crust that kept it from being completely crushed by the weight of the other two.  This material has been a little trick to figure out over the years because it behaves unexpectedly at times.  It's a little bit reluctant to stay put, but its randomness adds a bright, colorful quality that livens up the project.  When he was in first grade he cut class {?!} and was caught playing in the bathroom.  When he arrived home that afternoon, note from principal in hand, I asked "What were you thinking?!"  He looked at me very calmly and said, "It's hard to explain."  See? Unpredictable.  This particular material, solid as it seems, melts easily in my hands.  He is unbelievably loving and tender.  Our friends have a baby boy and a three year old daughter and he LOVES them. I can't wait to see him as a father.  We always say he'll be the one to take care of us in our old age.   

So, that's it.  My big project.  I'm sure many of you have similar projects in the works.  I'd love to hear about them -- maybe I'll start a linky party for us all to share our "lifetime projects"!      


Along the Anglophile Tangent

In keeping with the current celebration of all thing British, we will now turn our attention to Harry Potter.  We are all pretty excited about the last movie in the series coming out this summer.  Yes, of course we know the movies don't do the books justice, but still . . .  When I stumbled across a recipe for Frozen Butterbeer on Prudence Pennywise {the cutest food blog -- click over and check it out!}, I knew we had to give it a try.  It was TO DIE FOR yummy and creamy and sweet and frothy and rich and delicious.  Try it, and in advance I say, "You're welcome."

Frozen Butterbeer
(adapted from Fox News Recipe) Makes four generous servings

1 cup light or dark brown sugar 
2 tablespoons water 
6 tablespoon butter 
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar 
3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Four 12-ounce bottles cream soda {I just bought a 2 liter bottle and it was plenty to make 5 big glasses)
8 scoops vanilla ice cream 
Place your cream sodas in the freezer about 30 minutes before you plan to have butterbeer. You want it to be very cold and slushy. (This recipe takes about one hour because of cooling time, unless you cheat like me.) In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar and water. Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240 F on a candy thermometer. Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 heavy cream. Set aside to cool to room temperature (about 30 minutes). {I stuck the bottom of my pot in a sink full of ice water and stirred it until it was cool -- about 5 minutes -- because we just couldn't wait!} Once the mixture has cooled, stir in the vanilla extract. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar mixture and the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2 to 3 minutes. To serve, in the bowl of a blender, combine about 1/4 cup brown sugar mixture, 1/2 cup cream soda and two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Blend until smooth. Pour into glass and add additional cream soda to fill to the top. Stir with a spoon to blend. Top with whipped cream mixture. Repeat.

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