the world feels quieter when the snow falls

Today it snowed. I woke early for a Pilates class and was surprised to see the world draped in white. As I slipped along the path to the door, I was excited for what was to come. The class is always a challenge, yet for some reason, against my nature, I enjoy the challenge. After the hour of strain and movement, I stepped back out into the world of white again. There was a brightness from the snow and a clarity from the work that I had just done, that gave me a fresh perspective.
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I felt ready. The lenses of self doubt, needing approval & insecurity fell away. I am ready to shift from looking to outsiders for help, answers & learning. I am ready to quiet the world & move forward in confidence with what I know today.
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The world feels quieter when snow falls, which is just what I needed.

what FUN has to do with it

I was in a conversation recently where having FUN was considered frivolous…and business and productivity were almost only valued. I have reflected on it a lot, not because I agree intellectually, but because my nature tends to lean that way. If I could go back in time and change anything about my life as a mom…or really just a human, it would be to have more FUN. Work, learning, service, and relationship building are ALL IMPROVED WITH FUN.

One great example of this is Kate’s third grade teacher. Kate did well in kindergarten and first grade. She began reading so early (at three) and has always been so smart. She has a summer birthday, but I never considered holding her back because she was already ahead of kindergarten curriculum well before she entered school. What I didn’t realize was that she wasn’t ready for a traditional school schedule or work day. Her creative and fast moving mind was really struggling with the tasks and sitting required at school. It caught up with her in 2nd grade. Her teacher was really contentious and wanted to help. She even got the principal involved at one point. Kate remembers really liking that teacher-but the teacher, knowing how smart she was, remained frustrated.

The following year was completely different. Kate had a younger, energetic and extremely positive teacher. Mrs. Curtis kept the kids working and expected a lot, but implemented CREATIVITY, THEIR INTERESTS and FUN amazingly well. I still get teary thinking about it. This teacher knew a few of the girls loved THE SISTERS GRIMM series, Ellie and Kate being two of those girls. (Ellie wasn’t even in her class!) Mrs. Curtis spent many lunch periods hosting a SISTERS GRIMM bookclub, when I am sure she could have used some peace and quiet during recess. They would come home from school, their faces lit up, telling me all about it. It increased both of their love of school and reading. It was amazing. SHE is amazing.

The FUN and POSITIVE ENERGY Mrs. Curtis brought to her day and teaching is what I am striving to improve on. How can I make a task more FUN? How can we have more FUN as a family? In what ways am I taking myself too seriously? How can I make my career FUN?

A few strategies that have helped me-

I write in my dream journal everyday“I cherish Danny and our marriage that is filled with love, enthusiasm, growth and FUN” It reminds me that having FUN together is a value that I cherish…and my heart lightens a bit just writing that.

Schedule FUN. When ever Danny and I have reflected on our favorite memories as a family- they have almost ALL been attached to a vacation…having fun. We relax and allow ourselves more FUN when we are on vacation, but scheduling it at home more regularly will bind our family memories more tightly together, which is important to us.

Follow the kids. I have played UNO almost every night this week before bed, because Sophie asked me to. Then I call everyone in to join us. UNO is not my favorite game- but I have been so grateful for the smiles and togetherness to end the day. I am trying to remember to always take up a child’s invitation to play with them. Play is so good for our emotional state and strengthens learning and relationships.

That is a fairly short list that I would love to grow. How do you add more FUN to your life? I know my sister in law would say, drive a convertible! I might add that to my dream journal today!

There was a last-minute opening in a sold-out workshop. I had only recently become aware of @lizzyography and her work. When she announced that someone couldn’t make her workshop, I decided to jump at the chance. I am so glad that I did. There was an assignment given via email pre-workshop to bring my favorite photo that I have taken that represents me and my brand. I have required something similar in all of the workshops I have taught. It was great to be on the other side of the assignment. The process required me to examine my work and the reasons I do this work. I chose this image. This is my eldest daughter Ellie. She decided to put her hair up mid-session. I love that she is not looking at me and is uniquely her. She is not guarded or trying-just her. That is my goal when I pick up my camera. I LOVE my portrait clients, I am SO grateful for them and love the relationship I have as their photographer. Having said that, THERE IS SOMETHING SO MAGICAL ABOUT BEING ABLE TO DOCUMENT YOUR OWN LIFE! (am I yelling? no, just really excited about this) I am so passionate about teaching others to document their own life, knowing that the process of documenting your LIFE, your SELF and whatever moves you… adds so much richness to it. That is also a reason I am so grateful to artists like @lizzyography that choose to teach and to help others grow.

THANK YOU if you have ever attended a class or mentoring session with me. It’s been an honor to be on your journey with you.

angels helping angels

Ellie was asked by our bishop to share her experiences with HEFY this summer. I was so glad he did, and that she was willing, because it gave her the opportunity to reflect on all of it’s goodness…

Her words…

This summer I went on a humanitarian trip with HEFY to Tonga, that stands for Humanitarian Experience for Youth. They go to 19 different countries and build homes, schools, orphanages and other much-needed facilities in impoverished countries. The expeditions are 2.5 weeks long. There are typically 24 people per trip. On my trip we had 19 builders (I was one of them) 7 boys and 12 girls. We also had 2 parent leaders, a mom and dad and two trip leaders from HEFY.

In Tonga, our project was to build a house from start to finish for a family in our Tongan ward that needed one.  We had 8 days on the worksite.  The first day we showed up to work, all we had was a piece of land, shovels, a bathtub, a pile of rocks, bags of cement, cinder blocks and 4 Tongan men to help and teach us.  

The first day was really hard. When we showed up it was pouring rain. We were all so excited to get to work but under the conditions, it was hard to believe that we were going to make it work. Usually when it rains, the groups aren’t able to work, but our trip coordinator in Tonga found tarps for us to dig and work under. Even with the miracle of tarps, we still got drenched and completely covered in mud from head to toe. At the end of the day, we were all so exhausted, we had trench foot, and I was the most sore I have ever been. Even though it was such a hard day, it felt so amazing to be working and serving.

Everyday we showed up to the worksite so excited and happy to make more progress on our house. We were building it for a woman named Kafy and her five kids in our ward. It was so cool to see how excited they were to finally have a home. Whenever it would get hard on the worksite, thinking about these kids finally having somewhere to go home to, made it so easy. Kafy and her family have never had a house. They just hop around in other families home to stay, with her 5 children. Kafy’s husband works in New Zealand to support them. He stays there for a few months at a time to work.

One aspect of HEFY I didn’t anticipate was how much love we felt from the people. They immediately took us in, and we became a part of their family. We spent almost every night in ward members homes or at ward activities. These families didn’t have much at all. The homes were about the size of my living room and they have cement floors with mats and little furniture. Every time we went into a family’s home, it was a highlight of my day. We would play games and sing and we would be laughing and joking the whole time. We had so much fun with everyone in our ward. After two weeks I felt like I had known them my whole life. They were so selfless and caring towards us. I thought I was coming to Tonga to build a house, but we left with so much more than we gave. It sounds stupid to say that the gospel is so strong in Tonga, because it’s the same wherever to go, but it really was so much stronger when we were serving and applying the gospel principals to our life. It was so amazing to see Christ’s gospel in action.

One day on the worksite, I was mixing cement with shovels in a broken bathtub (which wasn’t easy) with a few other kids and a Tongan worker named Sam.  One of the girls said, we are definitely going to have muscles when we go home.  Sam said, “no you won’t have muscles, you will go home with a testimony.”  

Our Bishop told me a story about his son. His son was going to school and he saw a Palangi on the street. Palangi is the Tongan word for caucasian people. Our Bishops son said, Dad, I love when the palangi’s come, it makes me feel so safe. I feel like its so cool that the Tongan people have so much respect for us and seriously just love everyone like their family. I realized that even though these people thought we were the angels, they were showing us an example of what angels are really like.

President Russell M Nelson said, “Do we believe in angels? Yes! We believe in angels! Heavenly messengers- seen and unseen; and earthly angels who know whom to Servehelp and how to help.”

The theme for HEFY this year was What were you born to do. One morning we woke up before going to work to watch the sunrise. We went out to the ocean and sat on the rocks and our whole group bore our testimony about why we came on this trip. Everyone had found an answer for the question “what were you born to do”. It was cool because none of us knew each other before coming to Tonga. We were all from different places and had different lives, but we all came together on the same trip. We realized that we were all sent to Tonga to change each others lives and even with different backgrounds, we all needed the same thing. It wasn’t just a coincidence that we came together.

Pres Nelson “The Lord has more in mind for you than you have in mind for yourself! As you love him and keep his commandments, great rewards even unimaginable achievements may be yours.”

I know that heavenly father has a plan for us. I am so grateful that I could serve his people in Tonga and learn so much from them. I know that the gospel is true and that serving the lord brings so much happiness.

all I want for Christmas

All I wanted for Christmas for seven straight years was them. I wanted to be a mom. We tried with help from my regular OB and then two different fertility specialists. Danny and I each had surgery (laparoscopy for me and a varicocele repair for him). We attempted a few artificial inseminations. The last specialist we hoped would perform in-vitro for us. They deemed us “not good candidates” They suggested we try specialists in CO or CA.

In the meantime, I was studying Communication Disoders (Speech and Hearing Science) at the University of Utah. I was approaching graduation and had not considered getting my Master’s degree. I was 30 years old and really wanting to spend my time rocking babies, changing diapers and walking the neighborhood pushing a stroller. I had felt drawn to this major. It felt like what I should be doing. Unfortunately, it was useless without a Master’s degree.

After graduation I did find a job at Salt Lake Regional Hospital as an infant hearing screener. It was under the umbrella of my major. If there were to be no children in our future, I should decide if I wanted to be an audiologist or speech pathologist. The bachelor’s degree I held was preparation for both of those options.

But could I be an infant hearing screener? Could I show up on the maternity ward 5 days a week? Could I enter the rooms of brand new moms and greet them everyday with a smile, compassion and the attitude I needed to do a good job. Could my heart take that reminder over and over again of my unfulfilled wish? I decided to try.

My first week on the job, I remember being in training and feeling really sick. I was worried about being around babies while feeling nauseous. I didn’t have a choice. The screener that I was replacing was moving to TX and I needed to be trained. I showed up. The good news is that that nausea was not an illness-I was pregnant. After over 7 years of trying, it finally happened. Without any medical intervention or attention, we were expecting.

I believe now that the daily work of entering into that maternity ward was exactly what I needed. I saw everyday reminders that women have babies EVERYDAY. Because I was in a professional setting, I saw this over and over in a way that allowed me to serve those families without begrudging my situation. I saw abundance instead of lack. It prepared my heart for what was to come.

Often our minds focus on the lack- money, love, relationships and fertility. In actuality, focusing on the abundance in all of those things brings them into the forefront and in clearer focus. I realized this weekend (almost 20 years later) that I now know exactly why I chose a degree in Communication Disorders. It wasn’t to be a speech pathologist or audiologist. It was to be an infant hearing screener, making $8 an hour with a bachelor’s degree and preparing my heart to know that life and love are abundant…and in 9 months, my 7 years of Christmas wishes would come true. I would soon have my own baby to love and spoil on Christmas. Incredibly enough, it wasn’t just one baby-I got to have three. They are our miracles.

their first Christmas as a trio: December 2006