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the er

“I’m going to go check myself into the ER” are never the words you expect to hear your husband say hours after you’ve given birth.  I chuckled when I heard them until I realized he actually wasn’t kidding – he really was going to leave me to go to the ER downstairs. 

Hours earlier we’d been joking with Paula, our angel labor and delivery nurse, that our deductible had well been met this year between all our sickness and doctor visits, Krys’s tonsillectomy and the birth of Vienna, so we were trying to figure out what other procedures we could have done this year for cheap, hah!

That sure jinxed it because off Krys went to the ER while I sat helpless in my hospital bed with a two-hours-old Vienna Maeve in my arms. 

The week leading up to Vienna’s birthday, Krys had a terrible stomach flu and missed work Friday because of it.  We had wanted Vienna to come early but I felt so relieved when she didn’t because of how sick Krys was.  Saturday rolled around and he wasn’t feeling 100%, but he had enough strength and energy to take me to the hospital in the evening and stay awake with me all night as we worked on getting our little one here! #tendermercy

It was an easy and relatively painless labor, thanks to modern medicine.  We checked in the hospital at 8:30 and by 1:30 I was ready to start pushing.  My doctor, who came in when he wasn’t on call (Hallelujah!), was dead asleep in the other room and totally surprised that I was progressing so fast with an epidural, no Pitocin, and with my first baby.  He told me that we would “rest and descend” for an hour and start pushing at 2:30. 

At that blessed 1:30 hour though, Krys got a bloody nose.  He gets them a lot.  He always has.  So we didn’t think much of it.  But when 2:45 came around and it was time to start pushing, the bloody nose hadn’t gone away.  All the usual tactics just weren’t working to get it to stop.  In between pushes he was lying on the couch shoving all kinds of tissues and tampons up there to get it to stop, but to no avail.  My right leg was totally dead from the epidural, so Paula and I laughed and laughed as we attempted to hold my legs up alone every few pushes when the blood was gushing too much for Krys to even stand up.  The poor guy.  In some ways it nicely took my mind off the increasing intensity of pushing, but I felt awful that I couldn’t be more help to him.  And he felt the same about helping me.   

Around 4:00 the bloody nose suddenly stopped.  Krys was able to be with me for the last 30 minutes of pushing and witness the birth of our beautiful little girl.  We enjoyed an hour or so of bonding time as a family and just as Krys was handing Vienna back to me, the blood faucet turned on again.   It bled and bled and bled. The first time I used my bed phone to page for help it was for Krys… “Um…. Can you come check my husband?”  Jody, our new nurse, laughed but when she came in and saw the blood bath in the restroom, realized I was serious and suggested he go to the ER. 

Hours later Krys returned with a “balloon tampon” up his nose – an ultra glamorous medical device that is exactly what it sounds like.  He was instructed to keep it in his nose for 3 days!!  This was a 3rd attempt to get the bleeding to stop after having him sniff cocaine (yes, cocaine) and cauterize it.  When neither of those proved effective, balloon tampon it was.  We didn’t take too many good first family pictures because of it… ;) 

The best part of this story is how infamous Krys became among the staff at the women’s center at Mountain Point Medical Center.  Even the nurse who came in the next day walked in and said, “So you’re the one with the bloody nose…” I think he secretly enjoyed all the attention and I secretly resented it… Hello… I’m the one that just birthed an 8 pound human over here!  In all seriousness though, the hand of the Lord is in our lives every single day.  Next time we have a baby though, I’m hoping Krys will leave the blood bath to me ;)  


kindness counts!

I love being a teacher.  When people ask me what I do, I beam when I answer "I teach second grade!"  I'm living my dream job everyday.  It's hard and exhausting and emotionally draining, but if I went back and did it all again, I would never pick another career.

But sadly the face of education is changing, and quickly.  Children are changing.  Parenting styles are changing. I've only been teaching my own class for 4 years, yet even in that short time I have seen the change in a real and scary way.  My Facebook feed is flooded with stories of my colleagues leaving this profession I know and love for many different reasons - underpaid, over-worked, under-appreciated, or just plain worn out.  The demands on teachers are insane and I find that most the time it's better not to think about them at all, just keep plowing through.

These articles bring a certain sadness and almost resentment to the education world - like how could a thing that is so amazing and necessary and good be driving away so many amazing, qualified teachers.  The recent passing of law that allows basically anyone to be hired as a teacher - teaching degree or not - kinda stung a little too.  Add that to the myriad of budget issues, parents that never quite understand your intentions, increasing requirements from the state and nation, unacceptable student behaviors, dropping test scores, new programs to learn each year, never enough time in the day, conflicts with coworkers, on and on and on..... a day in the life can be a little overwhelming.

My heart hurts the most when a parent misunderstands my intentions.  How I send a well-meaning e-mail in the most positive and caring of tones only to have it shoved back in my face, or the administrator called in.  How they don't believe what I say or become defensive rather than taking a side on my team for a positive solution.  How I can never seem to do enough to please them or take care of their child.  Or how "you just don't understand".  Etc. Etc.

But this week I was reminded of a powerful lesson.

At the beginning of the school year, I always send out a positive e-mail to each parent individually simply to tell them how much I enjoy having their child in my class and a few strengths I've noticed in the short time I've known their child.  I love writing these e-mails because I know every parents wants to hear the amazing things their child is doing at school and these kinds of e-mails are rare.  It also gives me an opportunity to reflect on each of my new kiddies and appreciate them for who they are and what they add to my new classroom.

Every time without fail, when I sent one of these e-mails, I get back the most glowing, appreciative, kind note in return.  I've been moved to tears a few times just this past week in reading some of the responses parents send me.

It got me thinking about all the times I complain to Krys about the terrible e-mails I sometimes get back from parents.  But then I thought how can I expect to receive warm and glowing e-mails from parents when all the e-mail did was report bad behavior, no matter how pleasantly and tactfully I worded it?

Kindness never goes out of style, my friends.  I dare say the world needs a lot more of it, too.  Believe in love <3 nbsp="" p="">


joanie daily: a woman of influence

nestled inside the old walls of skyline high school, you'll find a room.  a room that looks like any other high school room.  but in this room, lives are changed.  in this room, some of the most important lessons of a high school career are taught.  in this room, i learned to be a leader.

i still remember the day well when i sat across from mrs. joanie daily for my community of caring board interview.  i only applied to be on the board because my brother parker had done it and raved about his experience.  i was convinced joanie accepted my application as a junior only because i was related to parker.  but now i understand that she accepted my application because she saw greatness in me.  a greatness i soon came to believe in myself.

i served that year as a care team director, working with elementary schools across the salt lake valley to implement service teams.  at the end of the year we provided an opportunity for teachers to nominate students to receive the head, heart, hands award.

joanie taught me how to be a leader that year.  not always in the things she said, but in the way she treated me and the example she taught.  she gave just enough guidelines that i was confident in what i was doing, then stepped back and let me do my thing.  she was there when i made terrible mistakes and she was there when the triumphs were great.

senior year came and i applied to be the service scholar director.  again, joanie saw the greatness in me and accepted my application.  she handed me the service scholar packet, a list of those wanting to get the award, and said "good luck!"

again, i had the chance to develop as a leader.  this year i needed her more, as the service scholar program seemed more comprehensive and all-inclusive.  among my millions of questions and concerns, joanie stayed a constant beacon of hope and light, a happy smile among the faces of frustrated teens i was trying to lead on their way to the victory of the service scholar award.  she would always ask me how i wanted to solve the problem, give her sage advice then say, "you'll figure it out."

one day, i decided to slough community of caring because i didn't want to visit one of the service sites i was assigned to.  the whole time i was at the park and at wendy's (living the dream, right?) during that class, i just felt awful.  and not because i was missing class, but because i felt like i was letting mrs. daily down.  we got back to school and it only took 5 minutes before i marched into her classroom to apologize.  as any good mother would, she expressed her disappointment, then courageously told me all the qualities she admired about me, and that she knew i was a good girl.  i walked away feeling so amazing about myself.

shortly after that, in fact, joanie pulled me aside and asked me to represent all the high schools in utah at a utah board of educator's conference.  my task was to speak about how service had influenced my high school experience - in an attempt to rally for the right for arts to stay in schools.  i gladly and humbly accepted the challenge, and worked with joanie to perfect a speech to present to educators from all over the state of utah.

the day of the speech came and my mom and i drove to the little america hotel for the big debut.  first, an elementary school student got up and talked about how much he loved art.  then, a junior high group came in and played music for us while the trembling band president spoke about the power of music.  then it was my turn.  i proudly stood and spoke about service and how it had changed my life for the better in high school, and the amazing teacher we had that gave us many wonderful opportunities to reach outside the self-centered teen ego and truly love.  when rulon gardner, the keynote speaker, got up, he too praised good teachers all over the world inspiring kids to be good citizens.

adorning those old walls of joanie's classroom were quotes from world leaders that inspired her.  each of her lessons were tailored to character building and helping us see others in a light of hope and success.  the day we pulled off the service scholar banquet, joanie told me it was the best one she'd ever seen.  i'm sure she said that to her service scholar director every year, but to me, it was the million dollar words i needed to hear.  i wanted more than anything to be a champion in her eyes.

and that wasn't hard to do, because everyone is a champion in her eyes.

- - -

attending joanie daily's funeral last weekend helped me get an even better glimpse into the kind of woman she is.  i was so inspired by the words of her dear "sue" friends, her darling granddaughter maggie, her three daughters-in-law, and of course her four strong boys.

there was a consistency in the things said about joanie that day.  i felt completely inspired to be a better person after hearing things said and feeling the spirit of our dear friend who has passed on to a new adventure.

some things that stood out to me in the service:
- "love your neighbor and do something about it!"
- "accomplish, love, do, give!"
- when we serve, we see the good in people.  SERVE!
- the best things we can give our children are roots and wings
- "joanie believed in everybody"
- "maybe that's why our tennis team was the biggest in the state, because joanie didn't have the heart to cut any of the girls"

funerals have an interesting way of putting life back into perspective.  when all is said and done in this life, we don't spend time talking about worldly accomplishments or the accolades of men more than perhaps a brief mention.  we more often than not honor and praise characteristics - christlike characteristics that are molded, grown, then shared over a lifetime.

the last time i saw joanie daily was last may when she came to canyon rim academy, where i was teaching, for the head heart hands assembly.  it was a flash of memory, as i thought of myself up in front of elementary schools as that care team director so many years before - and in joanie's eyes, i saw the same pride for those teens as i saw when she looked at me up in front of the kids.

i went up to say hello afterwards, and you would've thought we were best friends being reunited after 2 decades.  joanie asked all about my teaching and my life and how my family was.  she told me how excited she was to have my little sister in her class the following year, then thanked me for going into one of the most influential professions in the world. she told me my students were the luckiest students to have me, and i believed her.  i always have.

in the past week since joanie's funeral, i've found myself thinking about her a lot.  i passed a lady at walmart who needed help getting into her car and thought to myself, "if joanie were here, she would totally help that lady."  and that's pretty cool.

i've been blessed to learn from many amazing teachers in my life.  but some have had a more profound influence than others.  joanie is one of those teachers to me - a "favorite" that has taught me so much, both in her living, and in her passing.

i know she's not resting on the other side, but that her service-oriented spirit continues to bless and inspire the many people she's coming in contact with everyday.  i'm grateful to have been one of those people she's touched, and will forever love and remember her influence.


plastic plants.

It was one of those afternoons we would lay in the hall on that ocean blue carpet for hours.  The swamp cooler just wasn’t cool enough.  After too many games of Uno, we decided to brave the elements and take a trip to the local convenience store.  Our hopes rested in being able to devour our ice cream cones before the sun stole them. 
Silently traipsing up a hill we took a miserable break that wasn’t much of a break at all but rather a realization of how much water we were losing by the second. I was surprised to look to my right and see a middle-aged woman gardening, believing at once she was a little too enthusiastically dedicated to the state of her plants.  “No one in their right mind should be gardening in this heat,” I muttered to myself.   But alas, she was there in her gardening knee pads and sun hat, happily pouring drop after drop of water onto each plant from her lime green watering can.  A can like I’d remembered from reading Peter Rabbit.  The kind he hid behind when he was trying to escape from Mr. McGregor. 
 From where we were standing, the garden was flawless: rich brown dirt, zero weeds, perfectly green plants with beautifully bloomed flowers in every color imaginable, all in ideally straight lines.  Thoughts of how much work she must spend flooded my mind, followed shortly after with thoughts about how much I hated weeding. 
Then, at the end of one row of petunias something grabbed my attention.  A large plant lay uprooted and turned on its side, but still in its flawless form.  It was supported with the tip of a stiff leaf.  The plant did not touch the ground anywhere but this tip and the very bottom of the root.  Odd.  We casually inched closer to take a better look.  Plastic plant.  It was a plastic plant.  I muffled my laughter so the gardener extraordinaire wouldn’t hear.  My eyes darted down each row.  It couldn’t be, no, but it is!  A whole garden of plastic plants!  My friend didn’t even notice what was going on, too caught up in the heat of the day to care about an old lady’s garden.  So I smile to myself, chuckle a little bit, and continue my way to the convenience store. 
Don’t worry, lady, your secret is safe with me. . .  


to the mother of the screaming child at the scholastic book fair...

to the mother of the screaming child at the scholastic book fair,

i see you in the library of the elementary school i teach at.  and... your 4-year-old child is screaming at you.  he is blood-curdling screaming right in your face.  that's why i'm looking at you.  that's why everyone is looking at you.  he's so mad that you won't buy him that brand new $39.99 lego star wars book with the included lego guys that he "need need neeeeeeds" to have.  he's putting up a really big scene.  i heard him all the way down the hall.  he's yelling and punching your legs as he writhes in emotional pain on the floor.  he's crying and crying, screaming how mean you are and how rude that you won't give him what he wants.  his world is caving in.  he just told you you're the worst mom ever.  more people are looking at you now.  the lady at the register is frozen, not sure how to react.  everyone is watching.  just waiting and wondering how you're going to handle him.  he's making a scene, and that scene is getting louder and more uncomfortable to watch.

i see a tear welling up in your eye.  but i also see the face of courage and strength you're forcing to stick on your face.  you are calm and collected, seemingly unfazed by his tantrum.  you continue your business at the register, then place the books in your bag, quietly take your daughter by the hand, scoop up the screaming toddler, and walk out of the library.  he continues to squirm and punch you.  he just clawed your face, leaving a large scratch down your cheek.  yet you calmly walk on.  

as you walk to your car (and i can't help but follow and watch in awe at your magical parenting techniques), i hear him scream, "YOU PROMISED I COULD GET A BOOK TODAY!"  in between sobs and trying helplessly to catch his breath. to which you calmly reply, "i gave you $5 to spend on a book today.  you picked a book that was more than $5.  then you chose to spend your time in the book fair crying and screaming instead of looking for another book that was $5.  i'm sorry you made that choice, that must be very sad for you to leave the book fair with no book today."  

he of course didn't like this reply.  in fact, he's screaming louder now.  he's squirming so much that he practically falls from your arms.  you set him calmly on the ground and firmly, but lovingly grab his wrist so he doesn't run away.  in your calmest, most patient motherly tone, you say, "(name), i love you.  i love you so much.  i can see that you're sad right now and i feel sad that you are so sad.  let's get in the car and find your special blankie, that always makes you feel better."  he replies, "but, but, but... you didn't get me my book..." you again repeat what you said earlier that you were sad he made the choice to waste his time crying instead of finding another book that was $5.  then, without another word, you give him a big hug (which he resists), scoop him up (only to be again scratched in the face), and put him into his carseat.  you close his door and lean up against the car for a brief moment.  you breath out a sigh of frustration before you climb in the car and drive away.

you didn't give in today.  you never gave in.  
and for that, i want to say thank you.  

thank you for being a mother that sets boundaries for your child.  thank you for being a mother that doesn't give in to social embarrassment to appease the wants of your crying 4-year-old.  thank you for choosing to not give him everything he wants.  thank you for having the maturity to scoop him up in your arms as he flails and screams, and calmly explain to him the reasons why you wouldn't be purchasing the lego book for him today.  thank you for having the maturity to talk to your child like an adult and allow him to see the consequences for his actions.  thank you for taking the time to explain to him that this wasn't your problem; it was a mess he created for himself based on a choice he made.  thank you for setting an example to all the other mothers there that being a firm parent that sticks to her word is much more important than giving in to sooth the screams.  thank you for being a mother that your children can rely on because you are consistent and firm.  thank you for being a mother that your children feel safe with, because they know their boundaries and expectations.  thank you for loving your children enough to step away from being their friend, and assume the role of being their parent.
as a teacher, i experience everyday a wide variety of parents and see the full spectrum of parenting styles and approaches.  and as a teacher, i can see the dire need the world has for more mothers like you.  the scholastic book fair was 3 months ago, and i'm still thinking about you and the way you handled your child's tantrum that day.  you left an impression in my mind, and the minds of everyone that watched you like i did in february.

thank you for being the kind of mother that raises respectful, humble children.  your influence is far greater than you will ever realize.

a grateful first grade teacher


here is hope

My heart is full this morning as I reflect on the true beauty of the gospel: our opportunity to be healed. 

It's been a unique weekend full of gratitude and hope. It began on Friday night as I attended the Lamb of God production. It continued as I attended the temple last night with the man I love most. And today's church meeting has been full of testimony and lovely stories of the effects of the atonement in profound and real ways. I love weekends like this: weekends where my heart could explode with the peace, gratitude, love, and adoration I feel. 

I'm reading in 3 Nephi 9 this morning and it's caused me to think about the healing power that the Savior offers us. In verse 13, Christ speaks about the conditions of being healed: RETURN to the Savior, REPENT of sins, and BE CONVERTED. 

In this verse, Christ pleads, "Will ye not (do those things) that I may heal you?" He is waiting. 

Receiving Christ into our lives is an active pursuit. To come means to move toward or near. I show my willingness to come unto Christ by my small, daily actions. Through consistent, correct choices, as Elder Richard G Scott teaches. 

In verse 21, Christ tells us His purpose for being in this world: "I have come unto the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin."  

To me, to be saved means to be healed. When we seek relief, we seek healing from something--> a physical ailment, an emotional pain, a weakness, an answer to a question. I'm convinced all the commandments are really exactly the same.. Just different ways to say the same thing.. "Come unto Christ!" He came to save us from sin. To save us from heartache. To save us from hurt. To save us from evil and wickedness. From the natural man. From ourselves. 

"If ye will come unto me, ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive, and blessed are those who come unto me." (Vs. 14)

Did you catch that promise? "Whosoever will come, him will I receive."  He says it again in verse 22: "Whoso repent with and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive... For such I have laid down my life and taken it up again." He invites everyone. And will accept anyone who makes the effort. 

He wraps it up by saying, "Therefore, repent, and come unto me, and be saved." Simple as that. 

Choose to be saved.  Choose to make the Savior an integral part of your life.  Choose to be healed.

There are countless examples in the scriptures where the Savior's call to come unto Him has been heeded and people have experienced the joy and healing He promised. 

In chapter 10 of 3 Nephi, the Savior's voice comes to the people. The earth is mourning on the death of Christ, then goes still. Christ's voice comes to remind them that He has gathered them, that He's nourished them. As the days went on and the darkness wore off, the earth ceased to tremble, "the tumultuous noises did pass away". Verse 10: "Their mourning was turned into joy, and their Lamentations into the praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer." 

I myself have experienced the process of mourning turning to joy, lamentations turned to praise. It is real, it is beautiful, and it is necessary for our journey in this life to experience these things. The principles of the gospel have the unique characteristic of applying to everyone as a whole, yet being so specific and unique to each of us.  I love this. I love that I have a Father in Heaven that loves me enough to give me relief and healing through the process of coming unto Him in the very individual way that makes sense to me. 

My favorite song in The Lamb of God is called "Here is Hope". "Hope did not die here, but here was given. Here is hope!" 

Particularly at this time of the year, when we celebrate the resurrection of the Savior, I feel an extreme amount of gratitude for the hope that comes because of the resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is real. He is love. His love is eternal. His healing is a gift to us. We can and will be saved because of Him, through Him. 

He is hope. 


love is...

with valentines day coming up in a few days, i thought I would illicit the help of my 6-year-old friends in defining love. here's what they say... 

so there ya have it. happy love day!!


we taught each other

one of my favorite things about belonging to the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the first Sunday of the month when i have the chance to sit and listen to pure testimony and feelings from my peers. 

gems this day: 

- "the Lord sustains me in everything i do." 

- "this problem will be solved through trusting God and the grace of Jesus Christ." 

- "always think 'what can i learn from this?'" 

- "whenever you decide to act on promptings, things fall into place."
- "i know it not only up here (points to head), but also in here (taps heart)"

- "it brings me comfort to know that God will manage the decisions i make in a loving way, with confirmation that i am on the right path." 

- "heaven is not for perfect people, it's for people willing to be perfected through the gospel of Jesus Christ."

- "we can go to our God and tell Him how big our problem is, or we can go o our problem and tell it how big our God is." 

- "the Lord takes care of us. He always takes care of us." 

the gospel of Jesus Christ is real and it is true. 


"this is My house"

"i think there is no place in the world where i feel closer to the Lord than in one of His holy temples."  - president thomas s. monson

i agree!  i love the temple.  i always have and i always will.  there is an unmatched peace that floods into my heart when i walk through those doors.  i love light.  i love thinking about and studying about light.  whenever i am in the temple, i read the same chapter of scripture every time: doctrine and covenants section 93.  it teaches me a lot about light.  a lot about the Savior and His expectations for us.  it begins, "every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that i am. and that i am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world."

it goes on to speak about the fulness of the Father that is distilled on us as we seek Him.  in verse 28, it says, "he that keepeth his commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things."  there are so many gems in this chapter.  which is why i read it and re-read it every time i'm in the temple.

that verse, in its simplest form, is why i go to the temple.  to be instructed and receive his truth and light.  to feel of His peace and love.  i believe that the fulness of the gospel and the fulness the Father has to offer will be revealed to us as we spend time serving in the temple with an open and questioning heart.  being focused on the temple so much this past year has been the greatest blessing to my life.  in a real way, i've experienced a focus in intentions, a greater increase of light and truth, and the resurrection of my once pondering heart.  i've received many peaceful answers to prayers as i've listened to the beautiful words spoken there and felt the spirit of the place.

when i go with a prepared heart, it is filled.  

i've often thought about how wonderful it would be to take a utah temple tour and visit all the operating temples in this great state of ut-hah.  so, in 2014, i made it a goal for real and made it happen.  "14 in '14" i called it.

i learned a lot from my excursions.  it was cool to compare and contrast the architecture of the different temples, as well as the cities where they are housed.  but probably my favorite part about the experience besides the learning aforementioned was the friendships i strengthened and built as i went adventuring around utah with some great friends.

jen johnson is the most faithful visiting teacher i've ever had.  during one of our visits last year, we were chatting about temples and i told her about my goal.  she instantly became my temple buddy.  it was a blast getting to know her better during the longer excursions we went on.  my "rule" was i had to do an endowment session and get a picture in front of every temple in order for it to "count", and that's exactly what i did.  sadly, i lost the logan temple picture with melissa k. condie, but here are the rest (in no particular order).  

st. george with deb ireland 
took a day trip to the old st. geezy.  drove down, did a temple session, met up with a friend for lunch, then visited our dear president and sister archibald before making the journey home in the same day.  

manti with jen johnson and christiana pinborough
the manti temple is full of beautiful murals.  the architecture is so unique.  i was blown away by the beauty and authenticity of the paintings from floor to ceiling.  

salt lake with myself (thus no pic)
i've always loved the salt lake temple.  the live session allows me to hear different things in different ways every time i attend.  the salt lake temple will always be close to my heart.  and honestly, it was nice to come "home" after many months of visiting other temples.  

newly dedicated ogden with jen johnson 
ben croshaw took me to walk around the outside of the ogden temple during the open house, but i didn't get the chance to go through it, so it was wonderful to finally see this inside of this beautifully 
re-done temple.  it was impressed with the grounds and just how extra clean and new it felt. 

jordan river with coleman ence 
my parents were there too, but they weren't in our picture for some reason.  no one i'd rather be in the temple with than my dearly beloved family.  the sweetest feelings of my heart are felt when surrounded by those i love the most in the place that seals us together for eternity.  

bountiful with madelyn ence
my sweet cousin hermana madelyn ence currently serves in the new york, new york 
south mission speaking spanish like a boss.  i totally miss her!  but it was a great experience to 
attend the temple with her shortly after she was endowed and before she left. 
 she's killin' it out there but i can't wait till she's back...

mount timpanogos with camille smith 
the first time i went to this temple for the open house, i was more concerned with the little cloth booties on my shoes than anything else.  this time, decades later, i was totally blown away by the beauty of this place.  it literally took my breath away.  camille smith has the greatest insights; it was so cool to be in the temple with her and hear a piece of what she was thinking about it all. 

provo with deb ireland 
my final stop in the tour.

vernal with jen johnson 
vernal is one of those temples that i'll be satisfied having gone just once in my life... haa.  it felt more like a church building and was hard to see because of a stone wall all the way around.  
highlight of the trip was people watching at the diner we went to for lunch. 

monticello with jen johnson, deb ireland, and lacy smith 
after the session, a man came up to me and said he didn't recognize us and where were we from, etc.  turns out monticello is a small enough town that they don't get visitors too often, and they know everyone.  i was impressed with his desire to know the people serving in the temple he presided over.    this overnight trip was a blast, experiencing all the small town experiences and a few short sight-seeing stops on the way home (including a speeding ticket in moab.. boo...)

draper with whitney england, whitney ward, and jen jones 
i love the way draper temple is situated on the hill.  there is no better view than walking out of draper temple on a gorgeous summer sunset.  mmm.  

oquirrh mountain with jen johnson 
ever since my first experience here during the open house a few years ago, oquirrh mountain takes the cake as my favorite utah temple.  i will be married here; a fact that was solidified when i witnessed the sealing of my beautiful penny sue wallace to her sweetheart this past summer.  

brigham city with jen johnson
brigham city was our first stop on the utah temple tour 2014.  for future reference, you need an appointment to go there ;)  always been impressed with the art in this temple.. it's different than you usually see, and i love that.  peaches for days.  

i can' t decide if a new goal of visiting every temple in the US is too ambitious or not... anyone care to join?  :) 


the pursuit of happiness

I spoke in church today, and a few people asked for the transcript of my talk.  So, I wrote it out and thought I'd share it here too.  Enjoy :)  
The Pursuit of Happiness - November 30
Sara Ence, Westminster YSA Ward
I know Jesus Christ lives.  He is my personal Savior.  Of all the things I could share from this pulpit today, that is the most important.  Christ has provided a path for us, a path that is well-lit and full of support.  We are promised that if we follow that path, we will be blessed with happiness in this life, and eternal life in the world to come.  Today, I’ve chosen to speak about the pursuit of that happiness in our lives. 
There’s a man named Benjamin Wallace that lives in Manhattan.  He is an author, and wrote a book called “The Billionaire’s Vinegar” which addressed a mystery about the world’s most expensive bottle of wine.  In this process of writing this book, he went on a quest to answer this question:  “Why do people spend crazy amounts of money on things, and are they living a better life than me be because of it?”  Basically “Can you purchase happiness?” 
With the backing of a magazine he was then writing for, he went out and tried the most expensive item in about a dozen categories.  Things like test driving a Bugatti, staying at a $40,000 a night hotel, purchasing an $800 pair of jeans, and eating a $180 piece of Kobe beef steak.  He also did some research about an experiment that Stanford and Cal Tech students performed where they brought in a bunch of people and hooked them up to brain imaging, then asked them to taste test different bottles of wine.  All the wine was the same, but they were labeled with different price tags. 
In the end, all the people in the study not only claimed to enjoy the more expensively labeled wine more than the others, but the brain imaging results proved that they did indeed feel more pleasure from the “more expensive” wine.  Benjamin’s conclusion was that you actually can buy happiness, but our happiness is reflected through the way that we perceive things, and our value system. 
There’s another man named Dan Gilbert who is a Harvard psychologist and authored a book called “Stumbling on Happiness”.  In this book, he challenges an idea that we are naturally miserable when we don’t get what we want.
He performed one experiment where he put 7 Monet prints in front of different people and asked them to rank the prints in order of the one they liked the most to the one they liked the least.  When they were done ordering them, he told them they could take either choice 3 or 4 home.  Everyone chose the painting they had ranked in 3rd place.  A week later, he invited the same people back to rank the same Monet prints again.  Without fail, every person ranked the previous 3rd choice (the one they had taken home and spent all week with) as their new #1 choice, and their original 4th choice as their last choice.  This result was consistent for even the amnesia patients, who didn’t even know they had a Monet print in their hospital room, and didn’t remember anything about ranking them previously. 
Dan Gilbert goes on to speak about the difference between natural happiness – what we get when we get what we want - and Synthetic happiness – what we make when we don’t get what we want. 
He came to the conclusion that in the long run, people are actually much happier when they have synthesized or constructed their own happiness, rather than given what they thought they wanted.  
I find it interesting that the research of the world will often parallel principles of the gospel, just in more secular terms.  Elder Wirthlin said, “Come what may and love it!”  President Monson instructs, “Let us relish life as we live it, and find joy in the journey”.  2 Nephi 2:25 says, “Men are that they might have joy” – a conditional statement which the Lord has placed responsibility on us to FIND joy in whatever season of life we are in. 
I believe all humans desire happiness in their lives.  But the way they define happiness, or what makes them happy, is different.  Recently I’ve been thinking about when in my life have I been the happiest?  What was I doing in my life at that time?  What kind of happiness am I synthesizing in my life, and how does that tie into the things I know about the doctrines of eternity? 
I started conducting some field research of my own - asking people of all ages the top three things that make them the happiest.  The most entertaining of answers came from my first grade students: minecraft, pokemon, indoor recess… But even these answers were consistent with the general public, in that all the answers I received fell into 4 categories.  As a general rule, these 4 categories are what make people the happiest:
1.   Taking time to be grateful. 
2.   Doing things that we love.  
3.   Serving others. 
4.   Living the gospel and keeping our covenants.
I will briefly touch on each of these. 
1.   Being grateful.  In Nov. 2012, I heard a talk that changed my life.  It was at a time in my life when I was just existing, surviving… going through some interesting health challenges, and having a hard time finding happiness.  The man speaking told of a challenge he had given himself to write down 3 things each night that he was grateful for, and every week, he wrote a thank you note.  He challenged us to do the same, and promised us that if we did, we would find greater happiness.  It was a simple challenge and a simple promise.  In 2013, I took the challenge, and it’s the most consistent I’ve ever been with any new years resolution.  Every week in 2013, I wrote a thank you note to someone.  Every night, I wrote down 3 things I was grateful for.  And the promise was fulfilled… I was happier.  I was able to find joy in my circumstances.  I believe that we find what we’re looking for, and when I was looking for things to be grateful for, I was a more grateful person and a happier person. 

President Uchtdorf recently gave a talk where he talked about gratitude as a disposition in our lives… a way of life that stands independent from our current situation.  He’s agreeing with Dan Gilbert, just in holier terms.  We can and should choose to be grateful IN our circumstances, rather than being grateful FOR things.  This time of year, we tend to focus on gratitude a little more, which is great, but I testify that having that disposition of gratitude all the time is a refreshing thing because my gratitude challenge of 2013, which I appropriately named “The Pursuit of Happiness”.   
2.   Doing the things that we love.  This includes spending time with family and friends, hobbies, taking time to relax, vacations, cultivating different talents, finding joy in our successes in employment or school.
3.   Serving Others.  When I had just got back from my mission, I was having a hard time adjusting back to the singles ward.  I was called to be a ward missionary and assigned to help a man named Ferny.  Ferny was trying to become active again to stand as a proxy for his dad and seal his parents together.  Ferny was a sponge, and it was exciting to teach him because he was so attentive and ready to learn.  I soon realized that I was coming to church and activities not for myself, but for Ferny – to help him meet people and answer questions he had, to help him make connections.  This experience changed the way I viewed service in the church, and the purpose of church.  Besides partaking the sacrament, I realized that nothing about church was for me, but to give me opportunities to serve other people and bring them closer to Christ.  I am grateful to belong to a church where we are given ample opportunities to serve in capacities that we might not otherwise choose. 

I also recently read an article called “6 Subtle Things Highly Productive People Do Everyday”.  In this article it talked about time management being more about managing feelings than anything else.  It said that highly productive people take time in their week to serve  because it makes them happier, and when they are happier, they accomplish more.

Of course the ultimate example of living a life of service is the life of the Savior, Jesus Christ.  He lived for other people, and lived a happy life.  I am grateful for His example in my life of how to more perfectly serve those that He has placed in my life.  
4.     Living the gospel / keeping covenants.  Elder Corbridge of the 70 once said, “There is only one way to happiness and fulfillment.  Jesus Christ is the way.  Every other way, any other way, whatever other way, is foolishness.”  Of all the things in my life that make me happy, living the principles of the gospel trumps them all.  Because it’s eternal happiness.  Lasting happiness.  Happiness rooted in constant things that never waver or change.

In the Bible Dictionary, we learn that we are given the spirit in this life as a foretaste of the joy that will be ours in the eternities.  I’m so grateful for that spirit and for the joy and peace I feel because of His influence in my life.  I’ve thought before what that kind of eternal joy might feel like.  I don’t think we can comprehend it.  But it makes me excited that those kinds of feelings are in store for us. 

The scriptures are FULL of stories and great verses about finding happiness.  2 Nephi 5:27 - “And it came to pass that we lived after the manner of happiness.”  Background: Nephites have just separated themselves from the Lamanites.  They are building a temple, living righteously, doing what the Lord wants them to do, learning how to build, working hard to support themselves.  Result: They are blessed with happiness.  Same patterns apply in my life.  Everything about the gospel makes me happy.  I testify that when we are actively pursuing the things of eternity, we are enabled to feel a portion of the eternal joy that will be available to us if we stay faithful and continue to keep our covenants.  This is made possible only through the Atonement and the doctrine of Christ – exercising faith, repenting and changing, being baptized, receiving and using the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide us, and enduring to the end, which is really just repeating those steps over and over again.
Elder Scott said, “Your joy in life depends upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His holy Son, your conviction that their plan of happiness truly can bring you joy.”  We have to believe that promise.  We have to choose joy. 
And that is the challenge I’m giving myself, and invite each of you to take as well: to choose joy.  To do the things in your life that make you the happiest.  To take time to be grateful, to serve others, to do the things that you love, and to live the gospel and faithfully keep your covenants.  To construct happiness in your life no matter the situation or circumstance you are in.  I promise that as you do, you will feel a greater measure of the Lord’s love in your life, especially as you turn to Him for the source of your happiness. 
I love this gospel.  I love the Lord.  And say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.   



inspired by laci's post about birthday parties, here's a do's and don'ts list when running a ragnar: 

DO score the easiest leg by becoming buddy-buddy with your team captain.  

DO NOT complain about how hard your legs are going to be, when you have the easiest of all. 

DO train.  train hard.  and train consistently. 

DO NOT worry about no sleep.  adrenaline will kick in.  

DO decorate your van.  

DO NOT hashtag your name on other people's vans.  #lloyd 

DO dress up if you want but DO NOT dress up so bad you can't run well.  

DO bring enough food to keep you well fed and DO eat it.  

DO NOT eat half an hour before you run. 

DO eat the gummy energy shot block chews.  they'll save your energy.  

DO talk to other people on your runs... it makes the time go faster.  aka DO NOT be worried about your "kills".  

DO take time to stretch before and after each run.  especially after each run.  

DO turn up your music and jam while you're driving around!  the more fun, the better!  

DO take the time to meet up with the other van and party it up at the exchanges!  

DO NOT make fun of people you pass because they just might beat you soon.  

DO NOT breathe or look down in the porta potties. 

DO bring your own hand sanitizer.  

DO show appreciation for the people that sponsor each exchange.  they work hard. 

DO NOT forget sunscreen or a sweatshirt.  

DO bring comfy clothes to wear when you're not running - especially comfy shoes.  

DO run with a sweet group of people, but DO NOT be worried if you don't know all of them yet... you will soon enough!  

DO NOT shower and get a hotel in between runs... that takes away the full experience!  

DO come home and sleep for 12+ hours 2 nights in a row.  your body needs the rejuvination.  

DO NOT sign up for another race within 36 hours of you finishing.  ha ha.  

DO celebrate your victories as a team!  

DO have the most supportive people with you in the van.  

DO NOT complain about the little stuff... everyone already knows about the little stuff... 

DO  have the time of your life with your new best friends celebrating an adventure you've all conquered together :) 

coleman and i before our first runs.  that mountain in the background is where my first run was! 

van #2!  my crew!  

 the ladies (minus rylee)

 coleman and i at the finish line, victorious!  feeling SO good right now. 

me slapping that bracelet onto ally morgan and finishing my last leg!!  woo!! 

coleman and nick at the exchange.  these boys kept us laughing :) 

rag swag tat. 

coleman and ally with phyllis..the ragnar virgin van. 

just hangin' on the grass before my third and final run. 

this interesting man saved my life on the third leg.  
 THE TEAM.  wii not fit.  logan + provo + salt lake + sugarhouse. 
until next time, ragnar.  until next time.