One of my former Young Women, Ceara, was married this Saturday in a beautiful ceremony on a beautiful day in the most beautiful place in the city.
Ceara is a very special girl--probably the most loving, most accepting, most generous person I have ever met. She has a way of making you feel like you're the most important person in the world. Ceara took a special liking to Mary when we first moved in and they have been friends ever since. Ceara even invited Mary to be one of her flower girls in her wedding party.
I think it was wonderful for Mary to see Ceara looking so beautiful and happy, worthy of being sealed to her new husband Kirk for time and all eternity.
After we left the temple, Mary and I were invited to the family luncheon. We introduced ourselves and told how we were related to the bride or groom. Mary said, "My name is Mary. I am Ceara's friend, and I like to eat."
Later we attended the reception, where everyone danced and had a great time. I was Mary's first partner, then Bryce, and finally Harrison. That girl loves to dance!
Mare made the newlyweds a card that said, "I hope you enjoyed your wedding day as much as I did!"
As you can see, she loved being a flower girl. It was a pleasure for our whole family to share in Ceara and Kirk's special day!
If I listen to "Early Morning Rain" on repeat I can make myself bawl.
In the early morning rain
With a dollar in my hand
With an achin' in my heart
And my pockets full of sand
I'm a long way from home
And I miss my loved ones so
In the early morning rain
With no place to go
(Dang, Gordon, you get me every time.)
Bryce and I thought we'd missed our chance to see him perform in this life since he'd been at death's door more than once, including being in a six-week coma at one point.
But there he was!
He is old. He doesn't have much range. He's lost the dexterity in one of his hands. But he still rocked.
We had a good time singing along (quietly). It was a very reserved crowd. We had the best seats though, fourth row, dead center. I really enjoyed hearing some of my favorite songs.
I was way jealous of the jacket hanging on the chair in front of us. That lady is a true fan. Bryce totally embarrassed me by actually telling the lady that I took a picture of her jacket and that I'd pay her $5 for it.
After the concert we talked about which songs we liked and didn't, whether we thought he might keel over on stage, and how glad we were to see him in concert.
(And then we said that we really need to find some singers who are closer to our own age.)
Remember when I told you that my parents and my brother's family came to visit in September? And that it was awesome? It was.
Tyce and his newest cousin Xochi.
The star of the show was 6-month old Evangeline Xochitl Cook, aka Xochi (So-chee). She may be small, but this little niece of mine draws in the crowd. Attending her baby blessing were her own family (Dave, Brooklyn, and sisters Cambria and Maya), grandparents (my mom and dad), my family, the Roberts family (Chris, Ellie, and their kids Sam, Sophie, Maggie, and baby Charlotte), and Betsy Fowler, whom I claim as a relative.
Xochi is lucky to have tons of fans, including her other grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who couldn't be here but they sure do love her.
1. My dad (Grandpa Jim) with Maya and Harrison.
2. Bryce with Cameron!
3. Tyce loves Maya!
4. My mom, aka Mopsie. She is the best. I took some really nice pictures of her and my dad together on her camera.
5. Brooklyn and her third beautiful daughter, Xochi.
6. The beautiful and talented Cambria.
7. Tyce playing Prince Charming for the night for Princess Cambria.
8. Happy mom and baby!
9. Since Betsy was here, it was a MUST from the kids that we play the toilet paper game! Dave and Brooklyn were fierce competitors.
10. Ellie and Chris were evenly matched.
11. But no one was more determined than Mary! Betsy had her work cut out for her!
12. Clean up was almost as fun as the game itself.
13. No party would be complete without a delicious spread--Brooklyn provided great snacks and drinks for all. I love this pretty cake!
It was wonderful to spend time with my whole family! I am happy to have another little niece to love.
Do you ever look at the state of the world and get depressed? I felt that way last week. Everywhere I looked--the newspaper, television, news magazine--it seemed people were glorifying hedonism and mocking religion, all the while bemoaning the state of the economy, the school system, and the family.
I was most upset about my children's futures. There are so many pretty traps and shiny lures that lead them to believe that there are no negative consequences, that everything is relative, and that fun leads to freedom. Really, it looks like everbody IS doing it, no one will know, one time won't hurt, and you can stop anytime you want to. What used to be whispered encouragement on the brink of indecision in a dark alley is now a bright, bold advertising campaign in the light of day.
It is an uphill battle to counteract the message that immediate gratification is normal and fun. (And who doesn't want to be normal and have fun?)
So I was feeling depressed.
While the kids were in preschool I decided to go on a walk at the park.
And that made it worse.
If you had seen what I had seen, you'd know why a professor I had coined the term "underbelly of society."
After a while I sat down on a bench to meditate. A scripture from the Book of Mormon came to my mind, Ether 12:4.
Wherefore, whose believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh and anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.
And I thought, I believe in God. And I should hope for a better world.
I also thought about Jesus himself, who walked this imperfect earth and saw vice and wickedness, poverty and pain, ignorance and corruption; more than I have seen, or ever will see. He said:
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
He has overcome the world. For me. For my children.
And I began to feel hope again. I began to feel light again. I began to feel peace again.
And that led to gratitude.
I am so grateful for Jesus Christ, my Redeemer. He took upon himself the pains and sins of the whole world, so that we can be repent and be made perfect, and attain eternal life. I know that he is the literal Son of God, who came to earth to fulfill the divine Plan to save us from sin and from death. He knows our challenges. He knows how to help us. If we have faith in Him and obey His commandments, we will have peace and joy--even in a blemished, tarnished world.
I am not the only voice my children will hear, but I need to be the clearest one they hear.
And I know that that doesn't mean that they won't have temptations, make mistakes, or even fall away.
We live in an imperfect state filled with imperfect people. (Myself included. Obviously.)
But through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we can change and be better. I can change and be better.
And starting with myself, I can--with surety--hope for a better world.
I sorted through the mail, handing Bryce the bills and tossing the junk. I started to ditch a certain flyer with a $10 off coupon inside, when Bryce stopped me.
"You should take advantage of that," Bryce said, helpfully. "I mean, since you have a coupon and everything."
"Really? It might take a while," I cautioned him. "That's why I haven't gone before."
"I'll take the twins with me to JCPenney while you shop," he offered.
And so we drove to the mall the very next day.
As I entered the store I tried to adjust to the amount of pink.
"Hi, can I help you look for anything in particular?" a saleslady named Kiki chirped.
"Thanks, no, I'm just looking," I said, clutching my coupon.
"Let me show you our new line over here." Kiki took my hand and I followed. "Now we have these and these. Or you might like this one. What size are you? This one looks about right. Here's one for you to try on."
Kiki left and another saleslady descended.
"Hi, can I help you find something? I see you already have one of our new products. Can I show you some other good choices over here? My name is Chloe."
"Uhhh, I'm just looking, thanks," I pleaded. I doubled back and stuffed the item back into the drawer when Chloe wasn't looking. I took a few steps around a corner, when I was ambushed again, this time by a huge black woman named Jane.
"Oooh, girl, I know just what you need," Jane nodded. "Umm hmmm. Same as me. Take a look." She showed me her bra strap. "Like the leopard? Looks good with everything. Here you go. Rhonda, take her to a fitting room with that one, and the new Bio-Fit, and this one . . . "
Somehow I found myself marching off to the fitting room with a stack of leopard-print unmentionables. And I thought to myself, there is no way Jane is the same size as me.
"Knock knock!" I heard two dressing rooms down. "How are those working for you?"
"Great," replied the half-dressed customer.
"Mind if I see?" the fitting specialist asked, opening the door.
Oh pickles, do not open my door! I silently scream.
"So how did that work for you?" the fitting specialist asked as I exited the dressing room, fully clothed. I was too fast for her to take a look for herself.
"Yes to this one, no to these," I said as I handed her the rejects.
When no one was looking I exchanged the leopard-print for something more conservative. I took my one item and ran to the cash register. On my way I heard, "Can I help you find something today, Ma'am?"
I handed over my coupon and the sales associate rang up my purchase. "Did you find everything you needed okay?" she asked with a friendly smile.
Please, stop harrassing me. Take your commission! I can't handle the pressure! I wanted to whine.
"Yes, I did, thank you," I answered instead.
Decorum is the hallmark of refinement, I tell myself.
And then I booked it out of the store, almost knocking over a mostly-nude mannequin and two tank top-wearing 12-year-olds who, frankly, should not be in this store unsupervised.
1. Harrison thought he was hot stuff when wore this get-up to the store (Indiana Jones hat, clock tattoos from Fresh and Easy, his church tie, and one glove ala Michael Jackson).
2. For the boys' 5th birthdays, we ordered a Speed Racer cake. The decorator was nice enough to put two cars on the cake!
3. Cameron and Emily shared cinnamon rolls on a playdate at our house.
4. And so did Harrison and Camille.
5. I don't get many good posed pictures of Cameron but I think this shot shows that he's definitely a cutie.
6. One afternoon Mary and her friend Niki made a whole spooky set complete with graveyard, witch and cauldron, mummy in a coffin (Altoid tin), troll bridge, and giant spider.
7. A few mornings ago the boys were too quiet and I discovered they'd dumped a 2-liter bottle of water (from my food storage) into their blocks bin. I had to dump the water out and dry the blocks in the tub. No damage was done but the bathroom smelled like a petting zoo for a day or two. (This picture only shows half of the blocks--the other half are on the bathroom counter and sink.)
8. As payment for teaching Harrison to ride, Tyce took his Spiderman bike for a spin. (Remember Tyce's Spiderman backpack? The zipper didn't even make it to the month of October.) Ah, good times.
And that's about all for now.
Life is has its ups and downs but we are making it.
General Conference is a semi-annual two-day spiritual feast. Inspiring speakers from church leadership, as well as music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir always strengthen my resolve to do better, to be better.
Bryce took Tyce and Mary to Utah, which I mentioned earlier. They had a great time on Friday night at the BYU vs. Utah State football game with Grandpa Al. Mary got two skeins of cotton candy--that's what I got from her report on the game.
As they were walking from the stadium to the car, Bryce asked Mary if she was doing okay. She said, yes, but that she was a little tired and wheezy. So Tyce asked if she wanted a piggy-back ride . . . and he carried her on his back the entire way to the vehicle.
The whole way!
Sheesh, it makes me start to cry when I think about his kindness, and her willingness to accept it. I am glad they went on this trip if for no other reason than to put that friendship back into their brother-sister relationship.
Per Bryce's report, Tyce and Mary got along that well the whole weekend. They all enjoyed spending time with Grandpa Al and Grandma Judy, as well as the Prices, watching General Conference on TV, playing board games, picking raspberries (Mary) and looking at pictures from Judy's trip to England.
So even though I missed them, I am really glad they went. (And let's face it, if we'd all gone the twins would have run around like semi-domesticated raccoons and I probably would have ended up crying.)
Cameron and Harrison and I stayed home but we did not have a boring time. I put on my FUN MOM hat and took them to Chuck E. Cheese. After that we went to the store to spend their birthday money (on swords, ink stamps, pirate necklaces, and candy) and I got craft supplies for the next day.
On Sunday we painted masks, made sugar cookies, had a picnic at the park, and made craft-foam jack-o-lanterns. It was a blast.
And can you believe that I fit all 8 hours of General Conference in there? Thank goodness for the DVR.
The boys really enjoyed the talk by L. Tom Perry on Sunday morning about the building of the Manti temple. The faithful members over 130 years ago didn't know how to build a roof, but they they knew that God wanted them to build a temple. Using what they knew about shipbuilding, their architectual plans illustrated an inverted boat as a roof. Cameron and Harrison found that fascinating. They asked me to rewind it several times, so they could see how the plans turned upside down from boat to roof. That may be the only thing they really listened to the entire weekend, but I think it made an impression. To me it really shows the confidence the early saints had, to act as Nephi:
I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.
1 Nephi 3:7
I thought General Conference was particularly wonderful this time. The Mormon Tabernacle was, to me, unbelievable. I tried to sing along a few times and realized I was ruining it for myself. (And you know how I like to sing along.)
One speaker I loved is Elder Holland on Sunday afternoon--his words were so, so powerful. I have found myself thinking about them over and over. I felt my heart soaring as I cried out YES! to his testimony of the Book of Mormon. You can listen to his talk yourself here, if you like.
Other standouts were Elder Scott (Saturday morning) and President Monson (Sunday morning). There were others but these were a few of my favorites.
So like I said, a great weekend. And I am thinking of donning a lilac choir robe for this next Sunday in an attempt to improve my singing voice.