Wednesday, October 31, 2012

submitting to a challenge.

I'm going to be taking a sort of hiatus here on the blog for the next month. I've been slowly chipping away at a book I've been writing for a couple of years now and recently it's been weighing on my mind more and more. With November being NaNoWriMo I've decided to focus my writing attention solely on my book and nothing else for those 30 days. I'm not sure how much I'll get done but even if it's just a few chapters it will hopefully be enough to get me out of the slump and on towards actually finishing it.

November is also the gateway to the holidays and as we begin to celebrate the gluttony and excesses of our society by shopping until we drop let us use November to remember all that we have and give thanks for the many blessings that enrich our lives. So, while I'll be verbally silent here for the next few weeks I'm still hoping to post a daily image following (sort of) this photo challenge. One image of gratitude daily throughout the month leading up to and ushering in the holiday season. Hopefully it will help get my heart and my priorities in the right place.

Wish me luck and I'll 'talk' to you all again in December!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

a gratefulness checklist.

  • Power still on? Check.
  • Nothing flooded? Check.
  • A two day break from work? Check.
  • Closets cleaned? Check.
  • Downton Abby season 3 watched? Check.
  • Halloween costume ready? Check.
  • Winter clothes out? Check.
  • Possible end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it cookies consumed? Check.
  • A celebratory mug of Postum drunk? Check!

Frankenstorm left us relatively unscathed here in the DC metro area. There are some without power, some flooding near the Potomac, a bit of clean-up that will have to take place, but in the scheme of it all we came out mostly untouched.

During the storm

The aftermath
No mocking the uber fashionable green sweats tucked in the rain boots, please!

Prayers are being sent double-time to NYC and NJ where they were hit much, much harder. It will be awhile before they're back to normal but I'm grateful the mass destruction wasn't as widespread as had been predicted. Hope everyone reading this is safe and sound!

Monday, October 29, 2012

a taste of fall.

This past week since running my race I've fallen off the wagon as far as my healthy eating/diet is concerned.  I had been convinced that it hadn't made a huge difference. I felt a bit better but I wasn't necessarily getting more sleep or noticing any vast improvements and the emotional turmoil of avoiding so many things I enjoyed (including baking, social invitations and just plain old eating!) didn't seem to outweigh the slim benefits. So, I'd determined to add a few things back in but still eat primarily fruits and vegetables and avoid the processed foods and sugars in particular. Well, the best laid plans as they say...

I think I ate vegetables 3 or 4 times the entire week and let me tell you, it really did make a difference.  I feel super sluggish, I have much less energy and mental clarity and just feel overall bleh (yep, I just made "bleh" an adjective.)

This week will be a little crazy as we'll probably lose power so we've had to go the non-perishable grocery route but as soon as things are back to normal I vow to return to a cleaner way of eating. But, until then I've been enjoying some fall treats and they've definitely pleased my pallet, if not so much the rest of me.

Here are a few of my favorites: *

Roasted Brussels Sprouts I left out the barley 'cuz I didn't have any, but otherwise a winner!
Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas tonight's dinner, delish
Pumpkin Pie French Toast pumpkin? french toast? what's not to love?! I poured a bit of buttermilk syrup over mine (thanks M, for the recipe!) and it was divine!!
Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies Oh, my, word! There are no words for how delicious these were. Eat them fresh out of the oven when the caramel is gooey or top them with some pumpkin ice cream or dip them in dark hot tasty!

Now I just need to get me a salted caramel hot chocolate and a hazelnut steamer from Starbucks and I'll be ready to purge my system again!

What are some of your favorite fall foods and flavors? Anything I should squeeze in before I launch back into reality living?

*All of the recipes were found on Pinterest originally.  How did I survive before without it? I shudder to think!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

a peaceful reassurance.

As we on the East Coast gear up for what could possibly be the storm of the century I've had some time to do a bit of reflecting as well as preparing for the worst case scenario and the unknown.  Our Bishop (congregational ecclesiastical leader) reminded us all today at the end of our worship service to watch over one another, pray for those who will be in harm's way and to remember to 'fear not.' 

There are some obvious parallels between preparations for a real, physical storm and those preparations made against the emotional, spiritual and temporal storms that we face in this life. But we've been counseled time and again in our church that 'if ye are prepared ye shall not fear.' And while so many around us have shifted into panic mode we can take comfort in those words, no matter what kind of storm is headed our way.

I've got a ton of batteries and flashlights perched in various places throughout the house, my candles and matches are also strategically poised in case of power outages. There are stacks of bottled water and closets full of canned food. The storm windows are on, the car is full of gas (and parked as far away from a tree as possible, in this neighborhood that equals about 4 feet!) and I have plenty of books and goodies to sustain me through at least the guaranteed day off tomorrow.  But how does one prepare for storms of non-Biblical proportions? Interestingly enough, the Bible has the answers to that! 

A strong character is a good starting point; honest, hard-working, full of faith, selfless. These qualities can go a long way to providing you with a foundation of preparation. In my own life I've found that trying to imitate Jesus Christ and trusting in His teachings and promises can make up any deficiencies in my own life, human character and preparation. 

A couple of my favorite scripture verses echo these sentiments.

Helaman 5:12
And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that e must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

Matthew 7:24-27
Therefore whosoever hearth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock:
And the rain descended and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

And finally, along the same lines and offering some great counsel and reassurance, one of my favorite hymns:

How firm is your foundation? Are you prepared? Have you reason to fear?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

a fall hike.

I'd been planning for months to take a trip out to Sky Meadows state park in western Virginia and there was always something that got in my way; an increase in the number of Saturdays I have to work, various social commitments, hurricanes, the usual. This weekend I'd planned once more to try and make it when we got word of the monster storm headed our way and I was afraid I was going to have to cancel yet again.  But the odds were in my favor this time and I dragged a few friends with me to do some hiking. 

About an hour west of DC, the park sits on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by horse country and vineyards. Translation: It's beautiful! The drive was unexpectedly smooth (I-66 is notoriously yucky at all days and times) and quick and we were able to spend about 3 1/2 hours hiking through fallen leaves and enjoying views like this:

The weather held, slightly overcast and cool, a perfect fall day. It's nice to know there are little bits of heaven not too far away and places to go to recoup and recover from the grind and perpetual push of day-to-day living.

After we'd exhausted ourselves we decided it was time to venture on to part 2 of the day's outing, a late lunch! We followed some winding, tree-lined roads through the countryside and into a little town called Middleburg where we ate lunch at a fabulous little cafe. (Thanks, M, for the suggestion!)

The Upper Crust bakery served us up some fantastic sandwiches on fluffy homemade bread, a delicious slice of chocolate cream pie, a to-die-for chocolate croissant, and a few cookies for the ride home.  We all left feeling delightfully sated and ready for an afternoon nap!

I now feel perfectly rejuvenated and ready to handle anything Mr. Frankenstorm may decide to throw my way!  Happy weekend to you all!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

starting a countdown.

Two months from today it will be....


I know I've posted about Christmas music many times before but another post or two won't hurt, right?

I had a dream the other day that Christmas Eve came and I realized I hadn't even started listening to my Christmas music yet. And panic ensued! Hardly a true tragedy but sad nonetheless. I do love my Christmas music!

So, we here on the East Coast are also gearing up for Hurricane Sandy and the affectionately named Frankenstorm. While our temps have been warmer than usual so the event of snow is unlikely, meteorologists are unsure just what this storm (or conglomeration of storms) could bring so it's completely possible that the area could be blanketed in snow within the next few days.  All the more reason to break out the holiday tunes!

While I could use a mental snow day or two I don't look forward to the possible power outages and craziness that any storm in the area brings.  Here's hoping we get a manageable amount of weather to keep things exciting and maybe give us a day off of work but no actual reason to sing...

Hope your weekend is fabulous and snow free!

Monday, October 22, 2012

reaching a goal.

This weekend I ran my first race since Jr. High.

I'd done some haphazard training on my own for the past few months, running around my neighborhood and trying to work my way up to the 3 miles I would need to finish. And as of last Monday I still hadn't made it.  Between the various health issues, bad weather, knee pains, bad attitudes and every other excuse I could come up with I just couldn't seem to get past 2 miles. And that came with heavy legs, knee and hip pain, exercise induced asthma type breathing, headaches and overall discouragement.  I was pretty sure I was going to come in last and have to walk at least part of it (particularly the hills, my neighborhood is relatively flat and I hadn't trained for hills.)

But I learned something important as I took off running bright and early Saturday morning in beautiful Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with 1500 of my closest friends; I'm very competitive!

As the people streamed past me I found a few to keep pace with and when I started to fall behind (or others started to pass) I would talk myself in to going just a bit faster or to keep pushing forward (usually along the lines of 'you can't let that little old lady pass you...keep going!') It's amazing what a pushy inner dialogue can accomplish that weeks and weeks of trudging along solo couldn't begin to touch.

As I kicked it into overdrive to sprint the last couple of hundred yards to the finish line I felt better than I have in months. I came in at 32:24, much quicker than I had anticipated and I didn't have to walk at all! Yep, I'm pretty proud of myself. I don't know that I'll keep it up (my knees honestly can't take much more, the doctors warned me off of running way back in Jr High) but it's nice to know I can accomplish something if I put my mind to it...and have 1500 people pushing me along!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

a weekend in pictures.

hilarious Halloween yard decor

gorgeous sky #1

gorgeous sky #2
Bethlehem, PA steel mill

old signs

old buildings

the oldest continuous bookshop in the country


gorgeous sky #3

the perfect haunted house

rickety fence

electric art
It was a pretty great weekend if I do say so myself.  How was yours?

Friday, October 19, 2012

a good book!

It's been awhile since I've done an honest-to-goodness book review. Partly because I've not had as much time to read lately and partly because the things I've read haven't been particularly noteworthy. I've enjoyed most of what I've read but nothing has been so great I've wanted to tell you all about it. But I have pulled a couple of fun ones in the last week or so that I thought I'd share.

Mole Had Everything
Author and Illustrator: Jamison Odone
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Published: 2012
Genre: Picture Book
Cover Score:***
Overall Score:****
Rating: G

Mole doesn't have much, just a small home, one bed, one pillow, one shelf for books and one cup for tea. He's content with his simple life and his few possessions. He spends his days taking walks and counting the stars and all is well until he invites his friend Emerson Beaver over for tea and he realizes that one cup isn't going to work for both of them. Emerson convinces him that he needs more stuff. In fact, he should have everything! So Mole leaves on a quest to find everything and comes back with a pretty big haul. But now he doesn't have room for his friends or time to do the things he enjoyed so much before. Instead he dusts and straightens and is overwhelmed in caring for all of his things. He decides to give it all away again. Well, most of it. He does keep an extra cup for tea!

It's a plea for simplicity that would make Thoreau proud and is a non-preachy lesson for anyone in this consumer driven, keeping with the Joneses (or Kardashians) society; everyone is different and having more 'stuff' doesn't necessarily make you happy. The pleasantly muted illustrations are appropriately sparse or crammed with visuals and the characters are highly appealing. I'll be watching for more to come from this fairly new author. Definitely recommended.

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses
Author and Illustrator: Ian Falconer
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-8
Published: 2012
Genre: Picture Book
Cover Score:****
Overall Score:*****
Rating: G

The pig is back and she's better than ever. Olivia is struggling with an identity crises, determined to avoid falling into the sparkly, pink princess abyss that everyone else (even some boys) seems to have fallen into. But what should she be?

She flirts with the idea of nurse and reporter, spends a Halloween dressed as a warthog, and even gives alternate princesses (from Africa, Thailand, and China) a try. At bedtime she turns up her snout at damsel in distress stories but realizing that she doesn't want to be the Little Match Girl either, she promptly declares that she shall be queen!

The illustrations are Falconer's signature black and white with shots of color scattered throughout. And as always there's a nod to some actual piece of art or location. This time she channels Martha Graham when she eschews the tutu in favor of a stretchy gray tube of fabric and proceeds to strike a series of "stark, modern" poses. (A framed photograph of Graham shows up on her bedroom wall in a later spread.)
The first book will always be my favorite but this runs a close second and is a welcome alternative to the glut of uber-girly books on the shelves these days.

Dear Blue Sky
Author: Mary Sullivan
Pages: 228
Age Range: 9-14
Published: 2012
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG-13

Cassie feels like her world is falling apart. Her best friend is no longer speaking to her, her older brother has left to fight in Iraq, her older sister has started drinking, her parents are fighting about the war, and her little brother with Down Syndrome has stopped speaking. And then she gets a school assignment that changes everything. Challenged to find a blog written by someone in another country she's lead to Blue Sky, a girl in Iraq whose world truly is falling apart. Forced to realize that there are two sides to every story Cassie sees that those in other parts of the world aren't much different than herself and not everything is black and white. She takes courage from Blue Sky's attitude and choices and works to change the world a little, right where she is.

This is story is both realistic and brave. The two girls have vastly different lives and you only get a taste of what Blue Sky goes through as the focus is primarily on Cassie, but you get caught up in both nonetheless. There is violence, some mild language, and discussions of alcohol and drug use but none of it is glorified, just be aware of your audience.

Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Author: Victoria Finlay
Pages: 448
Age Range: Adult
Published: 2003
Genre: Non-fiction
Cover Score: ****
Overall Score: ****
Rating: PG

Confession: I haven't quite finished reading this one yet. But I'm slowly working my way through the spectrum a bit at a time and thoroughly enjoying my journey.

Part travelogue, part history Finlay traces the origins of various colors, dyes and pigments and their uses through time. Each chapter walks the reader through the rainbow and around the world. Ochres from rocks in aboriginal Australia. Reds from Chilean insects. The still mysterious orange varnish used on Stradivarius' famous violins. Purple from sea snails. The rocks, plants and materials that are used to make the dyes have been the causes of war, lead to the birth and downfalls of nations, influenced economies and fashions and have, for the most part, become lost through time.

It's not overly scientific (perfect for me!) and the history is haphazard jumping from year to place as she discovers things but it's an interesting read all the same. There are discussions about various artists such as Michelangelo and Turner, many of whose works have faded with time due to using less expensive or tainted paints as well as images thousands of years old that are still vibrant due to their purity or 'perfect' recipes. She gives credit to the many people she meets along her journey and fills the pages with tidbits of intriguing facts. Curiously, for example, many dyes are often poisonous to those who create and use them. And many are distinctly cultural due not only to geological  reasons but weather conditions.

I'm amazed at the processes and ingredients that go into the creation of many of the dyes. Who thinks to pee on rocks, let them stew for days, heat them and then put your cloth into the concoction to see what will come of it? Fascinating.

There are maps and sketches throughout the text and a short inset in the middle with full-color photos, I only wish there had been more of them. Highly recommended though for anyone interested in art, history, science, travel, color, name it!

What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

good news.

You may remember my waxing poetic about Postum in this post  earlier this year. And bemoaning the fact that it was no longer available and how I was squandering the dregs at the bottom of my final jar and saving them for just the most special of occasions. Well, yesterday I got this news * and would have celebrated with a final mug except that I'm still not allowed to have carbs.  But I celebrated in my mind, ordered a (ridiculously over-priced but I paid for it anyway) jar, and wrote in my calendar--in bright red ink-- a mini-celebration for next Monday evening.

Sometimes it's the little things in life that can make all the difference.

How was your Wednesday?

*Thanks to my sis for passing on the info!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

coming clean.

Do you ever fall prey to any of the uber-cheesy music that's on the radio? The kind that is loved primarily by 8-year-olds? The kind you're embarrassed to admit you listen to much less know all the words to and possibly (ok, totally) have on your iPod and may have been playing sort of on repeat recently?

Yeah, me neither!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

discovering polar wonders.

Over the past week or so I have immersed myself in a polar paradise watching the BBC mini-series documentary Frozen Planet. You may have noticed that I'm a bit obsessed with penguins and even took a dream vacation to Antarctica earlier this year.  I'm not sure what it is about these frigid regions that fascinates me so but there's just something about them that grabs my soul.

When I was younger I had a soft spot for dolphins and whales and that's carried over into my adulthood and fed the fire that now includes the penguins, polar bears, seals, walrus and narwhals! As much as I hate being cold (and I do, and I always am) visions of blue glacial ice or Northern lights make my heart race and my soul sing. It kills me that these places are melting and the animals are losing their homes. Who knows how long it will take and how it will eventually affect our planet but it breaks my heart to think that my children could grow up in a world that is polar-less and never know the wonder and majesty of these areas for themselves.

I also confess to being a typical first world inhabitant, going about my daily life with just the rarest thought of how my actions will affect future generations.  I've tried to cut down on things like bottled water. I recycle. I'm attached to my car but also try to carpool or walk when it's not too inconvenient.  But I feel like I should be doing more, setting habits that will be examples to the children I hope to have someday, proving that I really did wnat to save the world for them. Any thoughts? I know that awareness is a huge part of the battle though, so for now I'll shower the world with beautiful images as inspiration for us all to step up and do a bit more to save our amazing planet.

Need to fill your own icy void? This is a fantastic little true story of a group that gathered to save whales trapped in Alaska in the 80s.  Or there's the ever-heart-breaking  March of the Penguins.

What cause tugs at your heart strings? How do you appease your conscience?

Friday, October 12, 2012

discovering a new taste sensation.

Those of you who have been regular followers of the blog (are there really any of you? oh well, let's assume shall we?) will know of my struggles earlier this year with some health issues involving my sleep. I had a serious bout of insomnia for a couple of months on top of some exhaustion and things were not pretty. I've always had trouble sleeping and even when I do sleep I rarely wake up feeling rested. Anyhow, this has been an ongoing battle for most of my life but particularly the last few months as I've not fully recovered from the hoopla earlier. What this amounts to is some desperation on my part to try just about anything to get a good night's sleep. I've tried melatonin and various and sundry herbal concoctions. I've used chamomile and other teas. I've taken hot baths and sniffed lavender and even tried my hand at visualization. Everything works a tiny bit for a tiny while but nothing has proven to be a saving grace.

The latest venture is a diet plan that is designed to target your hormones in helping you to lose weight. I'm not too concerned about the weight thing (though who doesn't have a couple of pounds or inches they wouldn't cry to part with) but the hormone thing caught my attention.

Supposedly whichever hormone is out of whack affects where you carry your weight and/or what symptoms you have.  For the first two weeks you focus on healing your liver which regulates all the other hormones in your body. If you can get your liver functioning properly it should improve the other things (for me it would be sleep, skin, energy, breathing) as well as helping to boost your metabolism and lose weight. Basically you eat just veggies and most fruits-no grains, no sugar, very limited protein.  Sugar is the great evil and the body doesn't recognize the difference between a sugar cookie and a bowl of pasta, it all turns into insta carbs and elevates the blood sugar and this strains the liver which then messes up the hormones. Too much protein is hard on the liver as well and so many of them are treated with hormones (meat, dairy, eggs) that they cause their own issues. The goal is to be super strict for 2 weeks and then depending on which hormone type you are you can add a few other things in sparingly but mostly you just stick to the vegetables.

I'm running a 5K later this month and figured that was a good goal line to work towards and a little beyond the inital two weeks. After the run I can gauge how I'm feeling and if I think it's made enough of a difference for me to stick with it or throw in the towel. I'm about halfway through and so far no great changes to report. I'm still tired, still not sleeping well, my skin, digestion and other things are about what they were before as well (and my pants aren't any looser!) but I'm hanging in there. Hoping for the miracle while simultaneously craving bread and chocolate!

But on the upside, I've discovered some foods I would never have given much thought to. Like beets.  Who knew beets could be delicious? I've come across some fantastic (and super healthy) veggie recipes that I thought I'd pass on so you can share in the joy of eating some tasty, healthy foods as well.

I'll revisit this after I've run my race and let you know what the final verdict is. But at the very least I'm practicing some self-control which I don't do often enough in my life. (I've even voluntarily eaten cauliflower three times in the past two weeks. That's huge!) Do you have any favorite veggie recipes you'd like to share?  I'd love to try them!!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

communing with nature.

Don't tell my family but sometimes the thing I miss most about not living in Utah is the mountains. Or the red rocks. It's a toss-up. And yes, some days my family tops that list. It's sort of a revolving top three depending on my mood, the weather, or what I've eaten for breakfast. I never can tell which will win out. But last week after my bout of missing my fam I recovered and quickly moved on to missing the mountains. Out here in Virginia there are at least a bazillion trees and its super green and the nearby Shenandoahs masquerade as mountains but it's just not the same thing. With the weather turning cool and the leaves beginning to turn I was aching for the smell of pine, grand vistas and the golden whispers of aspen leaves rustling in the breeze. Alas, it was not to be had. But we are lucky enough to have a ton of nature trails and preserves and state parks in the vicinity and Saturday morning I got up nice and early and drove about 15 minutes from my house to Huntley Meadows Park.

It's a marshy area beloved by birders with wooden boardwalks spanning the boggiest of land and dirt trails surrounding it. I spent a little over an hour wandering under lacy green canopies and clear blue skies seeing the first hints of autumn. I watched a family of turtles sunning themselves on a log, a family of white tailed deer bounding through the underbrush and a gaggle of birders watching some nesting hawks and herons (I was too far away to see the birds myself but the birders were a rather entertaining bunch on their own.) It was the perfect way to start a weekend.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

listening to a prophet.

Sorry for the slackerness. I keep thinking I'm going to catch up on life but it seems the more I try the more life catches up with me. But it's been a good week and I have lots to share so you'll get a deluge of mini-posts the next little while.

First up, a re-cap of General Conference which was Ah.Maz.Ing! It's always a good experience but some times I just get more out of it than other times. This year someone suggested I write down a list of questions and concerns I had going into it and begin with a personal prayer beforehand that I might get guidance or answers to those things I was worried about. What a fantastic idea. (Sorry I can't remember who my brilliant suggester was or I'd give you credit!) It helped me to focus my thoughts and attention better and I definitely felt as if several of the talks were geared specifically to what I needed to hear.

I've made a nice long list of uplifting and inspiring quotes to keep me going as well as some suggestions of things to implement (or remove from!) my life. You can read, watch, or listen to all of the talks here in their entirety if you'd like. But here are a few of my favorite thoughts of the moment:

Dieter F. Uchtdorf-
Discipleship is the pursuit of holiness and happiness. It is the path to our best and happiest self.

Sometimes in life we become so focused on the finish line that we fail to find joy in the journey...Doesn’t it seem foolish to spoil sweet and joyful experiences because we are constantly anticipating the moment when they will end?

(N)o matter our circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in each day to embrace and cherish. There is something in each day that can bring gratitude and joy if only we will see and appreciate it.

 Neil L Andersen-
These fiery trials are designed to make you stronger, but they have the potential to diminish or even destroy your trust in the Son of God and to weaken your resolve to keep your promises to Him. These trials are often camouflaged, making them difficult to identify. They take root in our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, our sensitivities, or in those things that matter most to us. A real but manageable test for one can be a fiery trial for another.

How do you remain “steadfast and immovable” during a trial of faith? You immerse yourself in the very things that helped build your core of faith: you exercise faith in Christ, you pray, you ponder the scriptures, you repent, you keep the commandments, and you serve others.

Henry B. Eyering-
The Lord’s delays often seem long; some last a lifetime. But they are always calculated to bless. They need never be times of loneliness or sorrow or impatience.

Thomas S. Monson-
Heavenly Father is aware of our needs and will help us as we call upon Him for assistance. I believe that no concern of ours is too small or insignificant. The Lord is in the details of our lives.

Linda K. Burton-
First observe, then serve.

Sometimes we are tempted to serve in a way that we want to serve and not necessarily in the way that is needed at the moment. ...[If we] question...ourselves as we serve and ask, “Am I doing this for the Savior, or am I doing this for me?” our service will more likely resemble the ministry of the Savior.

So, how 'bout you? How did you spend your weekend? I hope it was a great one!

Friday, October 5, 2012

the sounds of home.

You might think a 30-something who'd lived away from home for the majority of her adult life (and in a different state for more than 6 years no less!) would not struggle with homesickness, but it's just not true.

I've spent much of this week struggling with not sleeping, craving sugar and bread (I'm doing a diet cleanse in an effort to help me sleep better, so far it's not working!) and trying to recover from last weekend's craziness. The result? I want nothing more than to drop everything and hang out with my family. It's not quite as bad as when you're sick and nothing can make you feel better except being pampered by mommy, but it's close!

I've tried talking to many of them on the phone but it's not the same. I bought plane tickets home for Christmas which worked for a bit til the reality of the dent in the bank account set in. But what has worked the best, what always seems to have magical powers to soothe and speak to my I've found unexpected solace in listening to the sounds of home. It's not a cure-all but it's helped.

This week's prescription? Take a listen:

(I thought the starry background rather appropriate)

What's been playing on your personal soundtrack this week?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

a timely message.

In anticipation of General Conference  this weekend (a worldwide gathering of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints aka Mormons where we are taught by and hear messages from our leaders) a friend has been posting a talk each day on her Facebook page. I re-read this one and loved it so I'm sharing it with all of you.

Take a minute to read it and then come back.
But If Not...

Man, am I guilty of having that 8th grade kind of faith. There are things I want and expect and hope for my life that continually fail to come to pass and it's hard on my faith. Sometimes I can suck it up and smile and realize that someone who knows infinitely more than I do is in charge of it all but sometimes I falter and doubt, cry and demand and want to give up and give in. Obviously I haven't learned to take my faith to that next level, to truly trust and believe in my Savior the way He wants and has commanded.

I particularly love the closing thought...

Our God will see that we receive justice and fairness, but if not. … He will make sure that we are loved and recognized, but if not. … We will receive a perfect companion and righteous and obedient children, but if not, … we will have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that if we do all we can do, we will, in His time and in His way, be delivered and receive all that He has. 

Life is hard but we can still find faith and hope in whatever higher power guides our lives and trust that things will all be made right eventually if we just hold on.

I look forward to learning and being taught even more this weekend and will be sure to share some of the highlights and faves later on.

Monday, October 1, 2012

a good book!

or more specifically...a banned book!

As a librarian and former teacher and a reader in general I have some rather strong opinions about censorship and book banning. While I don't think that every person should read every book (quite the opposite!) I do believe in the freedom to choose and to express ideas.

There is such a thing as an appropriate audience and particularly when it comes to something that is assigned there should be care taken to respect the beliefs and values of the community. But that doesn't mean that the books shouldn't be written or available. In fact, there is great value in expanding the views and understandings of our individual worlds and one of the best ways to do this is by reading. What might be seen as offensive and harmful to some might just be someone else's daily reality.

Over the course of history pretty much every book has been at least challenged if not banned out-right but it's always interesting to me to see which ones have and why.

There are a few somewhat obvious incidents like In the Night Kitchen, the various coming of age Judy Blume novels, and 'risque' adult works like The Color Purple or Satanic Verses. But then there are the obscure and head-scratching cases like Goodnight MoonLittle Women, and my beloved Elephant and Piggie books. (A quick google search will give you some interesting lists of books that have been banned or challenged or you can go to the American Library Association website for some more info.)

But I wanted to spotlight just a few of my favorite reads of all time, all of which have been challenged and/or banned on various occasions:

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
-for sexuality, mentions of suicidal thoughts and gritty teen situations


The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
-for promoting witchcraft, Satanism, violence and being too dark


 To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
-for using racial slurs, advocating white supremacy, violence

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L'Engle
-for supporting occultist religions and acts

*this year marks the 50th anniversary of publication!

The Giver series by Lois Lowry
-for supporting sexuality and scenes of violence, belittling motherhood, disrespecting the elderly

*the 4th and final installment, Son, is out this month!

Then there's The Hunger Games, just about anything by Roald Dahl, Bridge to Terabithia, The Diary of Anne Frank, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Harriet the Spy, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble...the list goes on and on. Chances are if you've read more than a handful of books in your life you've read a banned or challenged book.

In my mind it's just a tiny step from banning to burning, from censorship to mind control. (You've all read Fahrenheit 451, right? or 1984?) So, take a stand against The Man and read a banned book this week!

And you don't have to take my word for it!

"Without freedom of speech, there is no freedom." 
--Bette Greene

"The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame."
--Oscar Wilde

"Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear."
-- Harry S. Truman, message to Congress, August 8, 1950

"Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings."
-- Heinrich Heine

"Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance."

-- Lyndon Baines Johnson, February 11, 1964