Saturday, November 22, 2014

for running

Mike and I still run together three or four times a week. I know I've said it before, but I never in a million years thought that I'd become a runner. I like that it gets me outside and gets my blood pumping. Pushing myself physically is rewarding (both for my physical and mental state). I am a happier and more balanced person because I run. But my favorite part about it is that Mike and I can do it together. It is easily one of the best things we've ever done for our relationship. I am thankful for these short legs of mine that have carried me many many miles over the past few years, and for the time I get to spend with Mike while I am doing it. And besides, I realized during this morning's run along the canal that the canals in our town look their best (and should probably only be viewed) in the half light of an early dawn. It was a beautiful morning.

Friday, November 21, 2014

for good schools and even better bus drivers

This morning I drove Mabel and Oliver to their bus stop (which is exactly two blocks from our house) because they were too cold to ride their scooters (it was a frigid 58 degrees outside). As we waited in the car for the bus to come, I thought about how lucky we are to send them to a public school that is so well suited to their abilities and interests. And then the bus pulled up and I realized that what I am most grateful for today is Mr. B, their stalwart bus driver, who sings to them each Friday (sometimes in costume, almost always in his strong operatic voice), who loves them and takes such sincere interest in them.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

for Christmas music

Two radio stations here in Arizona have already started playing Christmas music 24 hours a day. I wish you could have seen the look on my kids' faces when we happened upon that happy news last week. We can't get enough of it! At home, I've been listening to the Lower Lights Sing Noel on repeat. Their version of The First Noel and A Cradle in Bethlehem are so beautiful. I have found that listening to Christmas music (particularly the religious kind) only enhances my feeling of gratitude this Thanksgiving season. And so I am grateful for it, for the joy it brings to my children, and for the Spirit it brings to my home.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

for the youth program at church

Now that Mabel is 12, she is eligible to participate in the youth program at church. That makes me so happy for her. More than anything else, the program is designed to help young people gain a testimony of Jesus Christ. I know that if their faith in the Savior is secure, then they will be better able to handle the temptations and struggles that come to us all, but particularly to young people. Every Wednesday night they have an activity (I snapped this photo on Mabel's way out the door tonight), and then they meet together again on Sunday during our regular meeting hours. I am thankful for this inspired program, and for the good leaders who so freely give of their time to help and teach Mabel and other kids like her all over the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

for a morning alone

When I was little, my favorite book to check out from the library was Bear By Himself. It starts, "There are times when a bear has to be alone with himself, to think his own thoughts and sing his own songs. He must pause and enjoy: listening to the quiet, smelling the rain or talking to a river. . . As the evening deepens to darkness, there is his own friendly house to come home to with his books and his toys and his own soft bed. He feels the dark and sleeps -- and dreams."

Well, Elliot went off to preschool this morning. And my parents left for California with my nephew, David. I am alone. It feels good to think my own thoughts and sing my own songs for a little bit. I am thankful for this quiet morning by myself at home.

Monday, November 17, 2014

for a visit from my parents

My parents are in town for a quick visit, just long enough to give some hugs and to view some videos of silly baby Ben. In the morning they will take my nephew, David, home to California. I am thankful for a visit, even if it is a short one. The love I have always felt from them, and the love that I see them give to my children, feels like the most precious gift.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

for temples

This morning, we attended the dedication of the Phoenix Arizona Temple, the fifth temple to be dedicated in our state. I am thankful for temples because through the covenants I have made there with Heavenly Father, my family can be sealed together forever. When I attend the temple, I feel peace. I feel light. It gives me the direction I need to face my life with the correct perspective.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

for our Stella

Stella turns 7 tomorrow. We celebrated today with a little party with her cousins and a few friends. They played hide and go seek, ate corn dogs, and jumped on the trampoline. It was easy and fun. Stella is a list maker, a cuddler, a good reader, and a soft spoken but somehow still chatty little girl. She is a slow mover, an excellent dancer, and she has the kindest heart of anyone I know. I am so thankful to have sweet Stella in our family.

Friday, November 14, 2014

for family nearby

We went to the park behind our house yesterday afternoon and ran into some cousins. In matching shirts, no less! These three girls attend the same elementary school and it's like they have their own special little club. I love it! Next year, Elliot will start kindergarten with two of his favorite cousins. I love having family so close. It makes me sad that I will never live near my own sisters, but my sisters-in-law here in Arizona have become my best friends. We see each other often, and our kids all get along so well. I am so thankful to live near our family.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

for the opportunity to serve

I've been thinking lately about my load. What am I choosing to place in my load? I am referring to Elder Bednar's talk, Bear Up Their Burdens with Ease, where he tells the story of a friend who drove his pickup truck into the mountains to find firewood. The man went a little too far off the road and his truck became stuck in the deep snow. Rather than sit and wait, the man proceeded to cut down firewood and fill the back of his truck. It was only after he had loaded his truck with the heavy wood that he had the traction he needed to get back on the road and safely home.

Elder Bednar says, "It was the load. It was the load of wood that provided the traction necessary for him to get out of the snow, to get back on the road, and to move forward. It was the load that enabled him to return to his family and his home. Each of us also carries a load. Our individual load is comprised of demands and opportunities, obligations and privileges, afflictions and blessings, and options and constraints. . . Sometimes we mistakenly may believe that happiness is the absence of a load. But bearing a load is a necessary and essential part of the plan of happiness."

To a certain extent, I believe, we can choose what goes into our load. Yes there are things like illness or the actions of others, or other trials that are out of our control. But there are many things that we choose to load ourselves with everyday. Elder Bednar teaches us that we need to ask these questions: "Is the load I am carrying producing the spiritual traction that will enable me to press forward with faith in Christ on the straight and narrow path and avoid getting stuck? Is the load I am carrying creating sufficient spiritual traction so I ultimately can return home to Heavenly Father?"

He says, "Because our individual load needs to generate spiritual traction, we should be careful to not haul around in our lives so many nice but unnecessary things that we are distracted and diverted from the things that truly matter most."

I feel like I'm sort of at a crossroads. All of my children will soon be in school all day long. I no longer have babies or toddlers to tend. My time is starting to become more of my own. And so I must choose how to spend that time. I must choose what load I am willing to carry. Am I choosing the things that will give me the traction I need to return to my Heavenly Father? Or am I choosing "nice but unnecessary things" that are serving only to distract me from what is most important. Things like blogging and home decor, or fretting about my wardrobe and my waistline come to mind. They are nice, but they shouldn't be monopolizing my load.

These thoughts have weighed heavily on my mind. I don't think I know all of the answers, but I have felt strongly that service for others needs to be more of a priority in my life. And I'm not talking about anything major. Things like watching a neighbor's children when her husband has been away for a week and she needs an hour to get her house back in order before his return. Bringing a friend dinner when she has recently undergone surgery. Getting to know a new neighbor at the park and helping her feel more at home here. Fulfilling my church calling. Basically, getting out of my own little life and being available to help those around me. Beyond that, even, seeking opportunities to serve those around me.

As I have sought these opportunities, they have come. This is what I know: service brings joy. It brings blessings. It brings me closer to Jesus Christ. I have seen this again and again. I am thankful for the opportunity to serve.

*photo of Elliot and my nephew, David, who is staying with us for the week while his mother endures the early stages of a very difficult pregnancy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

for the ability to create

I believe that the desire to create comes from our divine nature. We all have it within us, in some form or another. Some days I feel like baking, or maybe I want to sew. Other days I might want to write, or create order in a chaotic closet. For you, it might be something completely different! I believe that my life's work is to create a family and a home.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf once said, "Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment. We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into our hands and mold it into something of beauty. The more you trust and rely upon the Spirit, the greater your capacity to create. That is your opportunity in this life and your destiny in the life to come."

Today I was sewing a skirt for my sister. It felt good to take the blank stretch of fabric and with precision and care, shape it into something she can wear. I am thankful for the opportunity, the desire, and the ability to create.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

for being an American

Veteran's Day is one of those days that makes me really thankful to be an American. I believe that this country is great in large part because of the sacrifice of so many men and women in our armed forces. Look, I guess I can't say it any better than this:

"I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the man who died and gave that right to me. Cause there ain't no doubt, I love this land. God bless the USA!"

I hope you sang those lines and that they stick in your head for the rest of the day. :)

*photo of my Grampy Napa, when he was a pilot in the Navy at the tail end of WWII

Monday, November 10, 2014

for a cleaning schedule

That sounds so lame, I know, but I really am grateful for my housecleaning schedule. I think it is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I break my cleaning routine into a few days (bathrooms one day, dusting and vacuuming another, etc.), which makes it more bearable and much less stressful for me. I have a tendency to want to do either all of the cleaning or none of it. This helps me to manage it, and spreads it out through the week, keeping my house fairly clean all the time. I have learned that no matter how I feel that day, or how busy I am, if I stick to the schedule (even if that means just doing a quick job of it), life at home is better.

Monday in New York

Because walking for 10 hours a day wasn't enough, we decided to go running in Central Park on Monday morning. We ran the big loop, all around the perimeter of the park. It was really pretty (and a little hilly, and completely exhausting, too). If running isn't your thing, I would suggest renting bikes and taking a ride around the park. It is an experience you don't want to miss.

Our hotel was right above the Shake Shack in Times Square, so after our run we went back for lunch. It was just as good the second time. We tried their seasonal pear cobbler custard and it was delicious.

Next up was Washington Square Park, where Mike obviously perfected his blogger pose. This is a spot I'd never been to before, and I was looking forward to seeing that pretty arch in person. We walked through nearby Greenwich Village, window shopping, and enjoying the atmosphere.

That night, our last in the city, we decided to take ourselves on a little food tour. We started with pizza (the best of our trip), then noodles, then cheesecake, and ice cream, too.

Some final NYC notes:

We bought 7-day subway passes for $30. The subway is easy to navigate, and so convenient and safe. Before our trip, I read the helpful MTA website, and used their trip planner (and tips from my sister) to get from the airport to our hotel. Because we never had to be at a certain place at a certain time, it was no biggie if we accidentally hopped on the wrong train, or went in the wrong direction (which definitely happened a time or two). We did lots of walking, but lots and lots of subway riding, too.

New York City is unlike anywhere else! It is fast paced and exciting, and full of interesting people (and smells). We mostly felt very safe, and the New Yorkers we encountered were always so helpful and kind. We had a really great time.

Our biggest resources for this trip: my sister, Julianne, who lived there a few years ago, Naomi's NYC guides, my friend Ellen's recommendations, and Yelp. We definitely couldn't have done it without Yelp.

Thanks for indulging me with this epic recap. It was fun to relive it for a little bit.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

for safety

This afternoon I met my brother halfway between his house in California and mine in Arizona (meaning: in the middle of the desert). Road trips always make me a little nervous, but this one was quick and easy and I returned home tonight in one piece. I am thankful for that (and for cruise control, too!).