Monday, March 30, 2009

Warm Weather Memories

When I was very young, I lived in Provo, Utah. My dad was attending law school at BYU, and my mom was at home with little ones, practicing her specialty-in-life: Momming. We lived there until I was just barely 6, and then we drove across the country and settled in New Jersey.

California is already spring-like. The sunshine, the buds, the bees, the flowers, the longer daylight--it all beckons to be enjoyed. Conor and I spent a morning at the park, and several afternoons sitting on a blanket in the yard counting ladybugs (he names all of the ladybugs "Eva" from Wall-E) and eating frozen strawberry lemonade. My freckles are waking from their winter hibernation. Conor eats sour grass like there was no tomorrow. He watches the bees drinking juice so they can make us honey. I lay on the blanket and read Plato and he lays next to me and reads How Many Bugs in the Box? And then Aiden comes walking down the street, home from school, and he joins us. I just love warm weather that isn't hot. You know what I mean.

I have very vivid, though sporadic, memories of my childhood days in Provo. I remember fruit bats hanging from the eaves. I remember our garden where my little friends and I, and my "Little Buddy", Ethan, would catch grasshoppers. There were pink grasshoppers, if you could catch them. They were a prize, to be sure.

I remember our neighbors across the way (we lived in duplexes that faced one common driveway/carport) caught, jarred with funny smelling stuff, and then pinned to styrofoam, pretty little butterflies. At the time I remember being equally intrigued with the close-up view of them, but also being sufficiently horrified that they were hurting God's creatures.

I remember that we used to make mud pots. Like tea pots. Step by step with a flat base, a rounded pitcher, a spout, and a handle. Over and over we made mud pots. My mom never told me to get out of the mud, or even to wash my hands.

I remember the walk to school, kindergarten at Timpanogas Elementary, with Mrs. Hatfield. I remember walking to the corner, turning left, and running my hand along the black wrought-iron fence that enclosed the yard of a white house. The yard had white iron circular benches that went around the trunks of the trees. I thought they looked so fancy.

I remember playing at my little friend's house down the street a bit. Her mom was a ballet teacher and they had a coffee table in their livingroom with a groove that was carved all the way around the perimeter of it. We would play her "It's a Small World" and "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" records and walk around and around that coffee table, tracing our little index fingers in the groove as we walked and sang.

Life was so innocent then. Filled with promise. Happy-go-lucky. I didn't know anything about broken hearts, bills, deadlines, or worry. I had some big-girl thoughts, but I mostly just enjoyed the freedom of my imagination, and the warm sunshine. My freckles never hibernated in those days, I think.

When I count ladybugs in the grass with Conor, calling each one by name, I long for those days when that was all I really had to do that day. Just watch bugs. Name them Eva. Eat frozen lemonade. I hope my children have similar happy memories. Their lives have had considerably more stress and upheaval than mine did. They were robbed of some of their innocence, I'm sure. But, I also must tell myself that it will serve them well, was necessary in the molding of their character, will only broaden their hearts and make them more accessible to suffering people the world over.

Now they are growing and busy. They have many demands on their time, and they are setting and achieving the goals that they want for their lives. But when the sun comes out, and the daylight lingers, I hope they still remember how to play. No cares. And I hope the springtime reminds them of happiness. Always.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

In the Kitchen

Despite the increasing busyness of my family, I remain a firm believer in the family sitting around the table for dinner as often as possible. It's the way it's always been for my children, and so I sometimes take it for granted that the family dinner time is becoming extinct in many busy households. There have even been television ads promoting its benefits, which are many. Who knew? Well, maybe God, when he instituted families in the first place.

The problem was, I was growing bored with dinner. Not with eating, but with that age-old question, what to make? I think I got stuck in the rut of the same old thing, what I could recall from memory, with that list growing shorter and shorter. And so, without great ideas, I'd put off making dinner, and when dinner hour came around, I found myself irritated that everyone wanted to eat. (I think my irritation stemmed from hunger. And self-betrayal, but that's a whole other post.)

I needed some fresh ideas. And my sister, Hannah, introduced me to a blog she'd discovered called Real Mom Kitchen. In a word, salvation. Dinner has been saved, and everyone is loving it. Including me. I am so, so good at healthy, filling breakfasts, and substantial, nourishing lunches. Dinnertime found me burned out. Lately, even my cookbooks were boring to me.

Real Mom Kitchen is a delightful blog written by Laura, a Real Mom, who simply loves to cook, and most of what she cooks is just up my ally. I don't want fancy gourmet meals with hard-to-find and expensive-to-buy ingredients. She doesn't either. And I don't have time for long, involved dishes. Each day she tries a recipe that she's gathered and collected, or invented herself, and she posts it. With a lovely picture, and with an honest critique of the outcome and how her family responded. Very helpful. From what I can tell, Laura has received many awards and even makes television appearances from time to time sharing her recipes and love of cooking for her family.

I find myself scouring her website at the end of each week and picking 4 to 6 new recipes to try for the upcoming week. The ingredients I need to purchase are few and easy, and often coordinate nicely with my couponing and stockpiling.

So far, I've tried (some of these more than once) the Slow Cooker Italian Beef for Sandwiches, Tuna Noodle Casserole, Crock pot Orange Chicken, Creamy Italian Chicken, Crock Pot Chicken Tortilla Soup, Clam Chowder in homemade Italian Bread Bowls, Zucchini Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting, Key Lime Smoothie (and the same idea made in Lemon), BBQ Chicken Quesadillas, Chipped Beef Gravy, Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Potato Slabs, and Fruit Pancake Roll-Ups.

Coming up this week I'm trying Mandarin Chicken, Skillet Enchiladas, Cheesy Lasagna Rolls, Ranch House Crock Pot Pork Chops with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes, and Apple Pudding Cake.

It sounds like I've moved into my kitchen, doesn't it? But no! None of the recipes takes much time, and many of them I can throw into the crock pot early in the morning and smell their goodness all day long. (It does much to boost my morale as a mom to smell dinner cooking at 11am. . .and you should really smell that Slow Cooker Italian Beef cooking. Oh. My.)

It's been so fun to feel excited about dinner again, and to serve my family new dishes, or variations on old dishes long forgotten. Almost everything has been well-received by the kids and husband. And we have leftovers to serve at lunchtime, or on a busy piano/school night, so we don't have to make a quick run for fast food.

Once someone asked my stepchildren what they liked about having me for a stepmom. I was pleasantly surprised to hear them say that they loved that I had sit-down dinners almost every night. That reconfirmed to me how important and noticeable it is when the family comes together over a meal. I want to make sure I utilize that opportunity to grow close to our children and nourish them the best that I can. And I hope to make it a tradition that is carried over into their families as well.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Preparing a Missionary

My cousin Mark is on a mission in Paraguay. (Yep, in case you didn't know by now, I'm one of those Mormons. And young men in our church serve 2 year missions at age 19.) I am immensely proud of him, and because of the wonders of the internet, I get to read his letters home every single Monday. He has good weeks and bad weeks. Even some out-of-this-world terrific weeks, but more importantly, I can read between the lines and see that this experience is changing him. He is sobered, matured, humbled, and spiritually sensitive. He already was an incredible kid, and now? Well, now, I can only imagine how proud his mother is of her boy.

And of course I want the same thing for my own boys.

My sons are growing up knowing that a mission is what is expected of them, but that it is their individual responsibility to get ready and to want to go. Most Latter-day Saint boys grow up saying that they'll serve a mission when they're 19, but to actually be prepared when the time comes, and to actually put an active life on hold to dedicate two years to the Lord is no small sacrifice. It's not a decision that can be made spontaneously, and mission readiness requires careful planning years before the actual call to serve comes.

Missionaries and their families pay for their own missions. A delightful concept, really, as we value that which we have had to sweat and toil for. Currently, a mission costs approximately $12,000, which includes the monthly cost and some extra for clothing and supplies before leaving. In order to prepare several boys for missions and even more children for college, careful planning has to happen. (It's called the penny here and penny there approach, multiplied by faith.) Even if I were wealthy, I would want my boys to earn at least half of their mission money themselves. Last year, each of the boys set up a savings account and a savings goal for the year which will bring them to their target savings goal by the time he is 19 years of age.

For example:

Dylan set his goal when he was 12. So he had 7 years to put aside at least $6000 towards his mission. His plan is as follows:

age 12 $200
age 13 $400
age 14 $600
age 15 $750
age 16 $1000
age 17 $2000
age 18 $2400

He plans to go on his mission in the year 2015, and if he can meet his savings goal, he will have personally saved $7350, plus interest. (This will cover any increase in the cost of a mission by the time he serves.) He is currently ahead of schedule, and I love that he has made saving for his mission a priority. Every time he chooses to deposit money instead of spend it, he is reaffirming his commitment to serve.

Obviously, at age 13 his earning potential is not as great as it will be when he is 16 or 17. But even now, there are opportunities for the taking, if he looks.

For instance, he secured lawn care work with our neighbor. He cleans cars for a family friend, he even washes windows to earn money, and gets hired to babysit! (He's very popular with kids.) Also, I pay the kids $5 for each A on their report card, and $5 for each book they finish. They pay tithing on all money that they earn first, then they might keep a few dollars for spending, and they put the rest in the bank. It all adds up, little by little, as they work toward their goal.

Money isn't the only concern in preparing for a mission. Spiritual preparation is of the utmost importance, of course, and the boys have set goals in that area too, like reading The Book of Mormon and Bible many times, attending Church, praying daily, and being worthy to receive the priesthood when the time comes.

I have my own list of things to teach the boys too, for mission, college, and life success. This list includes things like ironing, basic hand sewing, cooking, and how to properly clean a bathroom. (Their wives will thank me, their missionary companions will just be relieved.) Obviously, there is much to do.

I have watched other families of sons send out and receive home their missionaries. I have tried to watch carefully how they prepared their boys, and what factors helped make the difference in mission success. Mostly, I get all choked up every time a boy leaves, or returns. No matter whose son it is, I'm just so darn proud of him! I see the spiritual strength and confidence that is earned through service to the Lord. I see a boy leave and a man return. Recently I was in an airport waiting for a friend's flight to arrive and a crowd was gathered at one of the gates with signs and balloons. I could tell it was a missionary welcoming party. I had to eavesdrop on their happy day. I stood off to the side filled with excitement and goosebumps, and just started to cry when that missionary walked down the ramp and through the gate to his family. It was so joyous! I sometimes can't bear the thought of saying farewell to my boys and not seeing their faces for two whole years, but then again, I know there is nothing else I'd rather see them do. Helping them to prepare and sending them off is my offering to the Lord.

From Elder Rebilas' letter home this week:

There is no greater thing that a young man can do between 19 and 21 years of age then serve a mission, none. It brings the most benefits spiritually and also temporally. To all those that are still thinking, stop, and prepare. Trust me, I have felt things that I've never felt before in my life. I now KNOW that the Holy Spirit exists, I feel it every day, and sometimes I feel it leave. I KNOW that Jesus Christ lives, for I have received a witness that I cannot deny. Follow Him, preach his gospel. The rest of your lives will be blessed. I now have a plan for my life, and I have a guide that will never fail me. So, PREPARE, read your scriptures daily, learn to rely on prayer, take advantage of the sacrament, learn of it and what it means, and REMEMBER WHO YOU ARE! My mother would never let me leave without me hearing that, and she doesn't even know how much that made an effect in my life, I'm here because of her. If I hadn't had her voice echoing in my head every time I had to make a decision, I don't know where I'd be. Remember who you are, and be the example. Make our Father in Heaven proud. I love this work, I love my Savior, I love my family. I bear my testimony that I know this church is true, in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ , Amen.

Sounds like an investment that is paying huge dividends! We've all been blessed by his service. And I thank him for his example for my own sons. Someday I hope they will pay it forward as their cousin is now. In the meantime, there is much to do!

Mind Boggled

I sit around my house in the afternoons with a textbook open, pen in hand, and I try to focus, I really do.

It's just that I love this space that I've created so much, that my brain is bouncing up and down inside with all the fun and interesting things I can do here at home, and to just pick one, especially the one I'm sort of obligated to pick (homework's due, test is coming up), is so. . .confining.

I am surrounded by books. In every room I either have piles of books, shelves of books, or stacks of opened books in progress tucked under here and there. I want to read Gottman's marriage studies, and I also want to study the knitting books. I need to refine my peacemaking skills, and I'd also really like to plan out a space-efficient garden design, and reading the novels that my friends are writing calls out to me, and then, oh, yeah. . . back to Plato. Focus, Jenna, focus.

I would like to try that new recipe for Thin Mint Cupcakes I saw on Real Mom Kitchen yesterday. And I would like to plant my traditional red geraniums in the bright blue ceramic pot on the front porch. I would like to do some yoga practice (well, I'd like to be done doing my yoga practice), and I'd like to make Gratitude Kits for my family and the families of each of my siblings. Just for fun. I would like to work on the key change (on the piano) in Josh Groban's You Raise Me Up, and figure out how Billy Joel's hands can possibly stretch far enough to play the chords in Piano Man, and still play them at the tempo necessary to properly rock out. I would like to write a chapter in my book.

And then there's the list of things I should do, like clean the bathrooms, wash the blinds, clean the oven, write in all the kids' journals, organize the digital photos. But I'll let you in on a little secret about me. I have a very hard time doing things that I should do, when there are so many other more interesting things that I want to do. So, if given the chance, I'll usually pull a book off the shelf or try a new recipe long before I scrub a toilet. Guilty.

I must discipline my mind! I am not surrounded by good examples of this, so it's extra easy to let things go. I am motivated by the way that I feel when I am successful at self-discipline, and I have to recall that feeling and let it nudge me onward, forward, back into the books. The ones I am supposed to be reading.

By the way, Plato's Republic is nothing like I thought it would be. It's actually quite interesting, and not as difficult to digest as I'd feared, coming off of Aeschylus. In fact, I think Plato was a visionary.

Now, back to figuring out moles. (And not the little brown ones, either!)

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Weekend Hike

(well, I had pictures to go with this, but can't get them off the camera, so. . .)

I got to go hiking in Malibu with Lyndsay and about one hundred other teen girls and boys and the other leaders on Saturday. I haven't been hiking in a long time, but Lyns wanted me to come, and I thought it sounded like fun (except the getting up early part), and I wondered how many steps I could get. (sick, I know.)

Let me first say for the record, that while all those mansions perched on the hills in Malibu and Bel Air are lovely, I never want to live there. Driving up those twisting, narrow, never-ending hills to get to my house every single time you run out to drop kids off or pick something up from the store? No thank you. And those driveways! The ones that either go straight up, or straight down? Not for me. I like straight and flat. That would drive me crazy and I would never leave. Although we did walk right by Dan Aykroyd, who was standing in the street talking on the phone as we made our way past him to the trail head and he seemed happy. But he probably has other people driving up and down those infernal streets.

The hike itself was fun. And hard. Great company, though, and lots of laughs. My stepdaughter, Caitlin was there too and I got to hang out with her a little. She's so involved in life at school and with friends that I don't get to see her much. She's such a cutie. We stopped and took breaks. Lots of them. We heaved and we hoed. I stopped in a meadow for just a second, overcome with inspiration from The Sound of Music and had to sing a little about the hills being alive. And then we hiked some more. But we made it, and it was worth it.

Isn't it always? That's the thing about life. You gotta push through. It can't be all uphill. And after all that climbing, there's always the view.

Now I am so sore, I can't even tell you. My hips. Oh, my hips! My shins. Funny how the whole way up we delighted in any little 6 feet of downhill trail just for relief. And on the way back, we would stand at the top of the downhill slopes and think, "I just am so sick of downhill!" Hiking is so metaphorical that way.

After our hike, we drove a few miles down the road and had tacos on the beach. Really, really good tacos from some local place with great reviews. I can see why! The water was really too cold, and it was still foggy with the early hour, but it was nice. Peaceful.

I will remember that wonderful day as I hobble around in this one.

p.s.- By the end of the hike? 13,162 steps and it wasn't even 11am!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

To Mexico!

I got some interesting news yesterday. I guess I won a cruise for 2 to Mexico for 4 days and 3 nights.

That's what I said.

Several months ago, Dylan brought home raffle tickets as a fundraiser for his Students Run Los Angeles club. They were each supposed to sell 50 tickets, with the money going to pay for all the drinks, snacks, and buses for the races throughout the year. I'm kind of cheap, but I like to help the kids at least a little, so I figured, 'what the hey, give me 5.'

5 bucks. I'm not sure if he actually sold any more tickets beside those 5 to me. The Grand Prize was the cruise to Mexico for 2. 2nd prize was 2 roundtrip tickets on Southwest Airlines (2 of those) and 3rd prize was $50 (3 of those).

I tucked my tickets away and forgot about them.

After piano lessons, Dylan said, "Hey Mom, remember those raffle tickets for SRLA?"

And I replied, "Yeah, did I win?"

And he said, "Actually, yes you did. You won the cruise, Mom."


I thought he was joking. He's a pretty good jokester. I kept my shock and delight in serious check just in case he was about to pull the rug out from under me and leave me feeling foolish and depressed. For about 30 minutes it went back and forth like this:

"Dylan, if this is some kind of joke, it's not funny."

"Not a joke, Mom."

"Okay, seriously, are you kidding?"

"I'm not kidding, Mom. Mr. Moss drew the names at our meeting today, and he called out 'Jenna Consolo'."

"Dylan, please tell me the truth. Don't play with me. Are you serious?"

And he was.

Holy cow. I won a cruise to Mexico!

Yes, I know it will be the tiniest cabin without a view, and we'll probably have to go in off-season, but so far the only trip Adam and I have ever taken together was to court in Arizona last month. And we had a good time at that, so maybe a cruise would be even better! And we don't have to pay for it!

To celebrate, we had leftover Mexican food and opened up that last bottle of sparkling grape juice left over from Christmas. (I just knew there would be a proper occasion coming up!) Cheers all around!

To Mexico!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Accentuate the Positive

I got a little chuckle the other night when I opened a package of bacon to cook up for a potato topping, and I saw the label:

"0 grams carbs!"

I thought to myself, "Bacon, really, now. Carbs are the least of your problems!" But then again, I thought to myself, "But good for you, bacon, focusing on the positive. So you're loaded with fat and basically zero nutritional value. At least you don't have carbs, right? So work it, bacon, work it."

I will never be taller than 5'4. I'll probably never be a size 2 again. I'll always have freckles, and never be satisfied with my nose. I'll wish I was better at this, or better at that. I'll wish I could have the beauty of so-and-so, or the brains of so-and-so. I'll wish I could cook like her, or dance like her, or sew like her, or understand everything like her.

But, you don't see bacon shouting out that it's loaded with the worst kind of fat ever, do you? Or sodium nitrite? Or that it comes from an animal that eats what no one else wants, and rolls in mud, now do you?

No, it proudly boasts that it has zero grams net carbs. You go, piggy.

And so, I will resolve to be more like bacon. I will proudly declare that I can bake a great cake. I make great soft pretzels, and my red sauce is to die for. I have eyes that dazzle turquoise when the sun hits them just right, and I have a decent alto voice. I can express myself fairly well and am confident speaking in front of others. I like my skin, and I like the way I see the world. I think I'm a great mother, and I'm determined, forgiving, and kind. I like that about me.

And you dared to argue that bacon was a blessing to the world? I told you so.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Congratulations to Amber from Tucson who wanted the Kleo dress in a 4T-5T! You win! I don't have your email address, so if you could send that to me, I'll let Ale know where she should ship your dress. (You're also free to change your mind--you have up to $40 to spend!)

Also, congratulations to EVERYONE ELSE because Ale wanted you all to get something, so anyone who goes to the online site and shops the new line, just enter the coupon code JENNA and you'll receive 20% off your entire order! Tell your friends! This is good for anyone who shops at The Baby Chic Boutique and uses the coupon code JENNA through April 30th. And Easter is coming up! Do yourself a favor and buy one of Ale's sweet creations. You'll love how your little girl looks!

And thanks for entering, everyone!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Goings On

Random updates:

Conor has begun his Speech therapy! Twice a week he gets to work with a therapist and he loves it. Someone that comes over just to play with him! He is talking more and more every day it seems, and we hear a lot less of the 'uh-uh-uh' that we were growing so tired of. Though he usually only puts 2 or 3 words together, he does have one really catchy phrase that he will say whenever prompted with, "Conor, you need to obey." He'll say, "We obey right away!" and it's so cute! He sounds like he has some sort of accent when he says it. I'll try to record it.

One of his favorite activities at home with me, or with his therapist, is the Mr. Potato Head. He got one for Christmas, complete with 40 accessories. He knows right where they all go. Sometimes he builds really good Mr. Potato Heads,

And sometimes he is the Potato Head, but that's got to be considered 'higher-order thinking', right, and not something to worry about? (When I found him, he had the little ears sticking into his ears too, but I made him take those out for safety's sake.)

I am loving my classes, though I have tons of reading to do today. Must finish The Eumenides
and get started in The Republic. What a great feeling it is to go to class and be on top of things. I would be in huge trouble otherwise.

I have felt strong promptings to get our "Preparedness House" in order, so to speak. No matter where you live in the country, these are uncertain times. Our prophets have been counseling us for decades for such a time as this, and even more fervently now. I am doing all I can at this point, and am anxious for the ability to do more. My focus this year has been on our 72 hour kits, both personal and family, and our water and food storage. I want to post more about that another time. Everyone would do well to take care of their family's needs in this manner.

We finished the Psalms the Bible over the weekend. It's a lot of fun to read the psalms out loud, as my dad once suggested I do years ago. Especially as I prepared for and worried over the court hearing last month, what strength it brought me to praise the Lord in the words of those poetic hymns. Now we are working our way through the Proverbs. A perfect way to start the day.

Don't forget you still have the rest of today to enter the Baby Chic giveaway! Go tell your friends that have little girls to enter! And good luck!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Baby Chic Boutique Giveaway!

Do you remember last year when I hosted a giveaway from my friend Alejandra Kearl's children's clothing line? My sister, Hannah, won that giveaway and her daughter, Bella, looks darling wearing her cupcake dress! Well, Ale is so generous, and so excited, that she asked me if I would do it again! Are you kidding me? You are incredibly lucky.

Ale's new line for Spring/Summer 2009 is perfect. Light, airy, sweet and stylish, with simple lines. Very feminine without being froo-froo. (I don't care much for froo-froo.) She designs the entire line herself. I often see her busy with her sketch pad while I teach her son Nico piano lessons. Her dresses are all handmade and though celebrities buy her pieces, she still keeps the prices very affordable. (I told you she's generous!)

Here's how you enter:

First, watch this video.

Now, go to The Baby Chic Boutique and browse the 2009 Spring/Summer line. Notice that all of the pieces go from about 6 months up to about 6 years. Leave a comment as to which dress or outfit (pants and top) is your favorite, and in what size. (And I'm warning you, it will be hard to narrow it down to just one!) The winner will get $40 to spend on anything from this line (only the Spring/Summer 2009 apparel). The contest will run through Monday at midnight, and I'll announce the winner on Tuesday. Go tell your friends who have little girls! Good luck to everyone!

I wish I had a little girl!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Elemental Understanding

I was terrified as I sat in my Biology class last Thursday night.

"I'm not going to lie," the professor said. "This is a very, very, very hard class. But, you have to pass it or you can't move on, so, we'll just do the best we can to make it fun."

Turns out, it isn't really Biology, per se. It's a combination of Inorganic Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry. Ah, there's that 'Bio' part. What a con job. But, like he said, this class is required of all Nursing students. And there we all sat, trembling.

I didn't do so hot in Chemistry during high school. Maybe it was the teacher, who forgot what it was like to not understand things on a molecular level. Maybe it was his distracting comb-over or monotone voice. Maybe it was his cowboy boots. Maybe it was me, immature, distracted, and lacking scientific confidence. Whatever it was, I still harbor my fear of Chemistry. One characteristic of me is that I do not like to not understand something. But my fear has been real, and persistent, all these years.

And now I must face it.

I've been studying. A lot. Seriously. A lot. The professor said that A students have read the chapters and worked out all the problems before they come to class. Good to know. So, I've gotten right down to it.

And I pray about it often. I really believe in the power of the Holy Ghost to bring enlightenment to one's mind. I believe that my understanding can be quickened and my capacity increased. I also believe, as I teach my children, that if I do not study on the Sabbath, but save that day for worship, then my sacrifice will be accepted, and my efforts magnified the other days of the week. I'm counting on it.

Well, I crawl along at a snail's pace. I read each section of the chapter; I read every caption; I study each diagram and picture; I take copious notes; I work out each problem.

Last week, the conversion factors, dimensional analysis, and scientific notation with significant numbers about kicked my butt. Have you ever seen that little skit on Sesame Street with the long-haired musician sitting at his grand piano, trying over and over to play his piece, and then in frustration he exclaims in despair, "Oh, I'll never get it! Never! Never!" and then he slams his face down on the keys? That's kind of how I felt.

And then, yesterday, the Periodic Table made me cry. But not like you think. I mean, it literally took my breath away, and I sat there in awe as I read from my book. "No way," I whispered out loud. "You've got to be kidding me. This is unbelievable!" (like I was the one discovering it all!) I felt my heart skip. No one had ever told me. Or, I never wanted to know before, so I didn't hear.

I first learned how electrons are organized within the atoms. In shells, then subshells, then orbitals. But all with such precision and reason. Then, I learned (with ease!) how to write electron configurations for any element, based on its atomic number. And then, when I learned how the electron configurations repeat themselves in a regular manner among the elements and how beautifully brilliant the periodic table is, I was stunned. Stopped dead in my tracks. I won't even try to explain it all here, because, well, it's all so fresh in my mind that I would just bumble it all up, but seriously? God is amazing.

I felt as though I learned to understand a small piece of the language with which He created the universe. There is so much order, so much beauty in it, that I can't comprehend how anyone could think for a moment that it all happened spontaneously. No way.

I sat there, staring at the periodic table with new, misty eyes. I wanted to rejoice out loud. I wanted to start sobbing. I wanted to jump around the room! I wanted to sing! It all filled me to overflowing. All I could do was write "WOW" in big capital letters in my notebook. And laugh out loud.

Because not only do I marvel at the intricacy and perfect symmetry in the patterns of God, realizing that really, I'm just some electron in some orbital, in some subshell, in some shell, spinning around some nucleus of an atom of an element in this vast Universe of His creating, but yesterday?

It all made sense. No fear.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Win, Win!

Well, this was fun. I love to give stuff away. And on this day that I get to reveal who won the See's Candies $25 gift certificate, I also get to accept a very nice award that was given to me.

First, the randomly drawn name from all entries received was JENNIFER! Now, based on her entry, I believe this is my buddy Jenn Fung? But there is no blog or profile attached (which is a bigger clue than her comment, actually. Get a blog, Jenn!) Jenn used to be a Spanish teacher, and is enjoying her first year as a stay-at-home mom with her cute baby, Alden. If you think you needed chocolate before, Jenn, motherhood requires it. Regular doses. Let See's be the first to help you out. Congratulations!

And also, from Wonder Woman, I have been awarded this:

Thank you so much! I am always so grateful when someone bestows a blogging award to me. Really. Thank you.

And I will happily participate in the accompanying tag, because I'm so overwhelmed with Biology homework that a little meme will do me good, and require little mental energy.

1) What is your favorite day of the week? well, I like Mondays, for a fresh start, Fridays because there's no Seminary on Saturday, and Sundays when they're peaceful. (I'm terrible at picking favorites.)

2) What is your biggest fear? Losing one of my children.

3) What was your worst subject in school? Chemistry. Or was it Physics?

4) Who did you hug last? Conor

5) What websites do you visit when you go online? Email, blogs, Facebook

6) What was the last item that you bought? 4 packs of Dentyne Gum for $.45 each with my coupon. (for the House Fairy to give away)

7) If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go? I want to visit everywhere. Europe, Africa, Asia.

8) What is your favorite book? Yeah, right. Well, To Kill a Mockingbird, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Peacegiver, and The Bonds that Make Us Free are on the list, but the list is long.

9) What was the longest car ride you ever took? Utah to New Jersey, but I was only 6.

10) What was the last movie you watched? Nights in Rodanthe. And then I cried for an hour.

11) If you had a whole day to yourself with no work, commitments, or interruptions, what would you do? Read. Take a nap.

12) If you were to win the Powerball, what would you do with the money (besides invest it)? Buy a house, get all of our food storage/supplies, hire a maid, take all the kids on a great trip somewhere out of the country.

14) In your opinion, who is the most significant person in history and why? Jesus Christ. Well, he is the way!

15) If you had a choice of places to live, where would it be? I can be happy anywhere if I could have land and lots of stuff growing on it. And the neighbors couldn't see me without binoculars.

Thank you so much, Wonder Woman!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Question of the Week: What if I feel Hatred?

This is my own question. One that I am personally struggling with for the first time in my life. I have never felt that I had enemies before in my life, but now I am dealing with difficult people and the resulting emotions that surge up within me are sometimes overpowering, and always disturbing. They bring me to tears, sobbing tears, and they bring me to my knees. I do not want to hate anyone. I really want to feel love, and to enjoy a peaceful heart.

In my searching for answers, of course I first contemplate on what the Savior would do. He, of all people, had reason to hate. And yet he didn't. Instead, he counseled,

"But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." (Matt. 5:44)

That is so easy to read, and so hard to live. When someone really does curse you, when someone really does despitefully use you, when someone really does persecute you, well, it's painful. It hurts. The resulting anger and hatred is a secondary, defensive emotion based on that hurt.

What if you have to have dealings with this person? What if this person continues to hurt you and act with total disregard for you as a person, over and over again? How can one have a truly peaceful heart?

How does one love?

Well, my own impression after examination of this scripture is that the Savior wasn't telling us to just "feel" love for our enemies, but to "do" love. Love is an action, a choice that is made day by day and sometimes even minute by minute. The feeling we call love, comes after doing what really is love.

My dad once told me that I was lucky that I was getting to experience these trials. "Wow," he said, "You get to learn how to live one of the hardest commandments, 'love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that despitefully use you and persecute you.'"

Bless. Pray for. Do good to. All acts of service. I must find a way to serve in some way, those that I have difficult feelings for. We love those we serve, we serve those we love. It's all mixed up in there, and for good reason. It takes one to feel the other.

I have to find a way.

I love a book by the Arbinger Institute called, The Anatomy of Peace, that talks about hearts at war, whether in countries or in marriages or other interpersonal relationships. The war is the same. We can either see others as people, with feelings like our own, or we can see them as objects, used to justify our own choices to self-betray. We choose to be 'in the box', to have hearts that are hard, instead of soft, looking at the world as though we are victims of it and everything supports that belief. I think I fall into that trap too often.

I want a soft heart.

I will not vocalize the specifics of the hatred I am feeling. I will not give power to it in that way. I will try to return kindness for cruelty, sweetness for blame. I will try to not fan the flames. I will find a way to serve and love by action. And, of course, I will pray.

The thing is, this person (or at least the actions of this person) deserves to be hated, but I don't deserve to hate, if that makes any sense. When I have these feelings, they consume and poison me. They punish me, not the other person. As someone else said, 'it's like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.' Or something like that. I don't like what these feelings do to me, and that's why I want them purged from my heart.

So, you tell me. What do I do? How do you learn to love someone that you hate? Is it possible, as I believe that it is? How can I have a heart at peace?