My Grown-Up Christmas

Driving home just now, Michael Bublé’s Grown-Up Christmas List came on, and I burst into tears. That song has always gotten to me. A few years ago, I discovered it while making a slideshow for my parents, and I came across this photo:

Jen Christmas 1980

Something about pairing the two, even just in my head, now, makes the tears start flowing. It’s something in that first line: Do you remember me? I sat upon your knee. I spoke to you of childhood fantasies. That little girl? She loves her parents completely. She depends on them for everything she has and needs in the world. She knows they love her and that all is right in the world, and that Christmas is wonderful.

She didn’t know that her parents scrimped and saved, and felt badly, sometimes, because there were (in their opinion) meager offerings under the tree. She had no idea how to compare with what others might have been getting, or even any thought in her head to do so. Instead, she was simply thrilled that Santa came, and that he, and her family, loved her enough to give her anything to unwrap.

Last year, our boys turned ten, and while one of them was clearly only hanging on to the idea of Santa because he wasn’t quite sure it was OK to let go, the other was still completely sold. As little as I wanted to take anything so sweet from my child, I worried that kids at school would do it for me, and less kindly. Justin and I decided that we’d write a sweet letter explaining Santa, and put it in our boys’ stockings. I agonized for days over the words—how to explain to our sons the reasons we had perpetuated, in essence, a lie, but express the beauty and magic of it? How to help them understand that so many other things we taught them, which were wrapped up in similar hope and belief, were still true? It was small, but one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to write, and I poured my heart into it. We printed it on parchment paper, and wrapped it with a velvet-strung bell, so they’d remember the message of belief they’d learned from the book The Polar Express.

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I found myself in tears as my boys read those letters. The face of my son who still believed, in particular, was a mass of deep emotions as he came to terms with the truth. This week, as we were cleaning out their bedroom, I noticed that he still had my letter posted on his bulletin board. Those words I had agonized over are on his wall, where he can see them daily.

As I listen to this song, I can’t help but think of my son, his precious faith, and that other carefree little girl in her sweet innocence. There is a tenderness about her that I miss more and more, as I age, and sometimes I feel I’m missing a bit of that magic of Christmastime that only children really capture. But today, I think I realize what the beauty of Christmas is as an adult: it’s parenthood.

It’s loving a child so much that you’ll sacrifice to try and provide whatever you can from their list.
It’s spending time wrapping books so you unwrap one a night and read them together.
It’s rolling out cookie/cinnamon/clay dough to make ornaments or treats as a family.
It’s making special meals or those traditional foods you always have, even when you’re tired after a long day.
It’s combing Pinterest for weird crafts to make together, because they grow up too fast.
It’s watching your husband make snowmen with the kids, and having it turn into a huge snowball fight.
It’s having your Christmas tree undecorated for five days, because the kids really want to help decorate it, and school and activities have kept them too busy all week. Even though you know you’ll just have to move half the ornaments anyway, because they always put them all in one big clump.
It’s singing hymns around the piano together.
It’s driving around and looking at Christmas lights, just to see the wonder in their eyes.
It’s staying up until 2 a.m. to put that playhouse/kitchen/bicycle together, and then getting up again to open everything at 6.
It’s the beauty of knowing that your children, someday, will have photos just like the one at the top of this page. And they’ll be able to look back and remember that you, like my parents, loved them more than they ever could have known.

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Merry Christmas, everyone. Enjoy the season, and your families. May you feel the love and influence of the Savior in your homes at this time of year, and always. <3

Fefferbooks: you know, for book reviews!

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As a lot of you know, I love to read. I usually burn through 60-70 books a year, and I’m a longtime member over at Goodreads.com, where I like to post ratings and reviews of everything I read. I also recently joined BookLikes.com (which still confuses the crap out of me, but I’m there!), but I’ve been thinking for a while now that it might be nice to have a little more freedom of expression for my reviews. Goodreads is an awesome tool for sharing book ideas, and I use it constantly to decide what to read next, but I don’t usually want to express everything I’m thinking or feeling about a book over there. So I started my own book blog. :) Come see me at fefferbooks.com!

If you’d like to follow, I’d love to have you! I’m already in contact with a couple of authors about doing new book reviews/ARCs, and I’m really excited about doing what I love on the web. I’ll still post here–this is my “me” blog, and I’ll be around to share recipes and knitting and everything else I’m up to. But if you like to read, come check me out!

A Birthday of Olympic Proportions!

Because I married The Most Creative Man in the World, when the whispering and weirdness starts around my birthday-time, I always know I’m in for a treat. This morning, they finished up their preparations (“Uh…Dad needs this box, Mom. Um, for work!”) while I was sequestered to my bedroom for a couple of hours. They were at least nice enough to allow me my laptop, so I got some prime Pinterest time in.

I was finally freed around 10:00, and handed a white sheet, a gold laurel crown, and a “torch,” while the Olympic theme blasted from downstairs.

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This picture is so flattering! Hahaha.

So, clearly, I was in for something spectacular.

The backyard was all decked out for Olympic events!

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Archery (with Nerf dart guns)

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Discus throw (with little Frisbees)

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Relays and a long-distance run, in slow-motion, complete with Chariots of Fire soundtrack.

Oh, and check out my official team number:

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Not pictured: beanbag shotput, paper airplane javelin throw (my only gold medal!), equestrian races, cycling, and basketball. My mom, one of the foreign dignitaries, was even able to make it before things wrapped up, and she lasted quite a while in the basketball event. I think my kids were impressed!

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The closing ceremonies involved gifts and Olympic-decorated cupcakes! Yum. My family were good to me, as usual. I got all kinds of running gear I asked for. It was a fun morning!

Watermelon Jam

A thing of beauty is a joy for my tummy

A thing of beauty is a joy for my tummy!

I first heard about watermelon jam last summer, via Pinterest. The picture looked fantastically summery and wonderful, and though I didn’t have the energy to get around to it just then, I filed it away mentally for later.

Last month, I got my chance. I pulled that pin back out, and read up on everything watermelon jam-y. The recipe in that post is based on one from another blog, and after reading them both, I was ready.

Let me just say that that experience was horrific. The recipe calls for boiling until the mixture reaches 220 degrees. At my house, that took at least 30 minutes, and by that point, the whole mess smelled strange and tasted worse. The point of the boiling was ostensibly to ensure that the jam would set, but when I poured it into my jars, it was SO thick that it could have been used to apply wallpaper. Once it had cooled, it tore through toast. We won’t even talk about the flavor. It was just terrible. (I should add that I used 4 cups sugar and 1/2 cup lemon juice, like Blondie suggests. Don’t.)

This week, I picked up a sweet and fabulous watermelon, and I decided it was time to give it one more shot. I have a strawberry jam recipe I love to pieces, and I figured just following that might do the trick. Turns out I was right! Thank you, BHG. Here’s the winner, kids:

Watermelon Jam
Based on recipes from Food in Jars and Better Homes and Gardens You Can Can

Ingredients

6 cups watermelon puree (about 1/2 large seedless watermelon)
1/3 cup lemon juice (bottled is fine here)
1/2 tsp butter
1 1.75-oz box pectin
5 cups sugar

5 pint or 10 half-pint jars

Instructions:

  1. Place jars, rings, and lids in dishwasher on sterilize or rinse/dry cycle.
  2. Fill a big, flat-bottomed pot with water, full enough to cover jars, and set it over high heat. You’ll want it boiling and ready fairly soon.
  3. While jars are sterilizing, cut watermelon into chunks and puree using food processor or smash with a potato masher or food mill. You can strain the puree if desired, to get rid of any little seeds, but I didn’t bother. Continue adding puree to make 6 cups.
  4. Check on your jars. They should be about finished in the dishwasher. When they are, leave them in the hot dishwasher, but remove the flat lids. Place them in a small saucepan with just a little very hot water. Place that pan over high heat to simmer.
  5. In a large pot (it can even be the one you plan to process your jars in, if it has to be, but then obviously remove the water), mix puree, lemon juice, pectin, and butter and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
  6. Add sugar all at once. Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.
  7. Ladle immediately into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ empty space at the top. Wipe any drips from the rims so that they’re absolutely spotless. Using tongs or a magnetic wand, remove a lid from the hot water in the small pan and place it on top of each jar, and then add a ring, screwing on loosely. The rings don’t need to be tight yet.
  8. Place as many jars as desired in the big, flat pot filled with water (it should be boiling softly by now–if it’s at a rolling boil, turn it down. You just barely want water movement). Once you’re finished adding jars, your water level should be at least an inch higher than the top of your jars.
  9. Allow the water to boil very softly for 10 minutes. Then remove jars from water and let them cool on a wire rack.
  10. The lids will pop if they’ve sealed correctly. Sometimes they pop while they’re in the water bath, sometimes right after being removed, and sometimes not for up to a few hours later. If it’s been 24 hours and one hasn’t popped, something bad happened–stick it in the fridge and eat it right away.
  11. After the jars have cooled, tighten up the rings and store at room temperature for up to 1 year.

Note: there was some discussion in the original recipe about how this could take up to a week to set. Obviously, that wasn’t the case with my first attempt. We’ll see how it goes this time. I’ll update you when I find out!

Advice for the New Runner

I have been running seriously for, what? Six weeks, now? So, clearly, I am an expert. No, but really–I have learned some things in those six weeks about what works and what doesn’t, and this is DEFINITELY coming from the perspective of a new runner. I’m hoping I’ll be able to help anyone who’s thinking they might like to get going, but just doesn’t know where to start.

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Hi, post-run! Is my face red enough, do you think?

First: The Shoes. 

If there’s one thing you have to do for yourself, it’s get a decent pair of running shoes. They don’t have to be insanely expensive (I paid $60 for mine), but they do have to be real running shoes–not just whatever you wear to shlep around the mall, and not just something that looks athletic. Even if you’re just barely starting to run, you can still really injure yourself if your body’s not supported properly, and if your feet aren’t supported, then the rest of your body isn’t, either.

My best advice, here, is to find a running shoe store in your area. A good store will, for free, analyze your running gait and recommend a good shoe for you, depending on how badly you pronate and how much support you need. They should also have a good return policy, if the shoe you buy just isn’t feeling right. You can buy your shoes online if you want, after that, but it’s kind of a daunting thing to do if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

I have these ASICS Women’s GEL-Cumulus 13, by the way, and I love them!

Second: The Program

Obviously, you could step outside and start running around your block or neighborhood or the school track or whatever. I say go for it! Personally, I was way too out of shape for that. I seriously could not have run around the block, even once–no joke. That’s why I chose the Couch to 5k program, an interval training program that’s intended to literally get you off your potato-chip-encrusted couch and to a 5k in 9 weeks(-ish). The first day of C25K asks you to run for 60 seconds at a time. I was pretty sure I could do that. And I did! Now I’m running 1.5 miles without a problem. AND I LIKE IT. Who would have guessed?

If you have a smartphone, there are a BAZILLION apps that will help train you through the C25K program. I ended up choosing the one put out by RunDouble. I felt like it had the most options–GPS ability, integration with my phone’s music with a bunch of options, upload of each run’s stats to your profile on the website, and several other trainers that came with, for when I was through the 5k program. Also, the first two weeks are a full program free trial, so you can test all the bells and whistles. It costs a whopping $1.59 if you do buy it. Anyway. That’s just my preferred program.

Next: WATER. 

I. hate. water. I don’t know what my deal is, but with the exception of when I was pregnant and wanted all the ice water that could be found in all the land, I refuse to drink plain water. I’ve found a solution with those liquid water flavors made by Mio and Dasani and whomever. That’s the only way I’ll drink it. I go through about 24 oz of water when I run, and more when I’m done. Please, please, have water on-hand when you run, or you’ll have a headache. Or worse.  UPDATE: Mio now has an electrolyte version called MioFit, which I’m really liking. It doesn’t have that weird salty flavor like Gatorade, and it’s helping me drink less and hydrate more. I was starting to get headaches after my long runs, even with lots of water. This is working better.

Speed

Who cares??

Hahaha. I could just stop there. But let me just say that I run slowly, and that’s ok. I run on a treadmill (for a lot of reasons: toddlers at home, prior injuries, cracked pavement makes my ankles scared, no impact cushion outside…. Also, my parents bought it for me about 8 years ago, so, you know. It’s THERE. :) …Ahem–what was I saying? Oh, treadmill. Because of that, I know I started out running at 4.3 mph. Which is a FOURTEEN minute mile. I’m pretty sure my dad, who has run almost daily my whole life, runs about a 7:00 mile. But is this about comparison? Is this about speed? NO. It’s about being healthy. So none of that really matters. The RunDouble people say they’ve seen some people clock in with runs at a 20:00 mile pace. The point is to do it. Go, you.

Music

The one thing I find really helps me with speed is good music. I love, love, love jog.fm. You can plug in your pace over there and it’ll bring up HUGE lists of songs that match your running pace. You’re guaranteed to have some of them in your music library already, but I found about 30 I wanted to download. Want to go faster? Bump up the BPM over on the left-hand side of the window by about 10. That’s enough to give you just a little gentle encouragement, and not make things crazy.

I’m also finding that the key to good running music is to pick songs that make you smile. For me, that means totally ridiculous songs from the 1990s. How can you not crack up when “Pump Up the Jam” or “I’m Too Sexy” come on? Hello? And because of the cross-dressing video from YouTube, “Call Me Maybe” is my current favorite. I totally forget I’m even running. Awesome! Anyway, Jog.fm can help you find some goodies that are right for you.

The Girls

This won’t be a problem for everyone, but it is for me. I’m extraordinarily busty. I don’t mean DDs. I mean much, much bigger. May I just take a moment to recommend this bra? It’s very comfortable both before and during my run, and that’s about all the endorsement I think it needs!

The Benefits

So, duh. Exercise is good for you. I don’t want to be one of those crazy exercise proselytizers. I don’t love to work out. OK, let me amend that: I enjoy it at the end. I do get a little bit of runner’s high. But it’s not like I wake up and feel like “YAYY! It’s morning and I get to GO RUNNING!!”

Here’s what I do like:

  • My resting heart rate has gone from the high 80s to the mid 50s.
  • My heart rate while working out has dropped from 200 to around 165.
  • I lost 7 pounds in one month. More to come!
  • I’ve dropped an inch from all my torso measurements, 1.5 from my hips (or, more accurately, that horrid bread-dough low tummy my children gave me), and a half-inch from my Relief-Society arms. DUDE. Imagine six months from now. I’ve never seen my stupid post-baby tummy be so flat, in proportion to my body. It’s kind of weirding me out. In an awesome way.
  • I feel like a rock star when I’m done. Seriously. And that’s what makes it really worth it, for me.

So, you know, if you think running might be for you, go for it! I’ve got your back. You have questions? I’ll try to answer. Good luck!

Canning Strawberry Jam

I was just posting on my FB wall that I’d canned some strawberry jam.

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Usually, I just make freezer jam, but lately my kids have decided to rebel against any jam that has chunks, so I decided to make a smooth version, and freezer jam doesn’t work that way. Also, our upright freezer likes to throw things at me–jam containers in particular. So canning just makes more sense, safety-wise.

I know canning seems daunting and like it takes a bunch of foreign equipment and pioneer know-how, but the fact is, it’s actually pretty easy once you’ve done it a time or two. Basically, the steps to canning jam are:

1) Sterilize/heat your jars in the dishwasher
2) Boil your jam ingredients on the stove
3) Fill your jam jars and boil them in water

See? Easy, right? But I’ll walk you through it.

For this strawberry jam recipe, you need about 9 half-pint jars. It doesn’t matter whether you use the taller, narrow-mouthed half-pints or squatty, wide-mouthed half-pints. In fact, you don’t strictly have to use half-pints. If you look at my picture, I used two pint jars and five half-pints.

Jars come with rings and lids. Jar manufacturers will tell you that you need to buy new lids *every time* you use your jars. That’s just silliness. I’ve used my jars at least three times without buying new lids, and they’re still sealing strong. Once the gummy sealing rubber on the back stops feeling pliable, or looks dry or cracked, though, it’s definitely not going to seal. I can’t say, for sure, how many times that will take–just use your best judgment. But if you’re nervous about them, you can always buy more.

The other thing you’ll need is a large pot with a flat bottom that’s a couple of inches taller than your jars, and wide enough to hold several at a time. It’s not necessary to process all of your jars at once, so it’s OK if you can only get five or so in your pot at once. You just want to make sure they’re not shoved in there so closely together that they’ll knock into each other when the water is making things vibrate.

Other canners buy pot racks, magnetic wands, and special funnels and tongs. I’ve tried them all, and now they stay in my closet. I just don’t think they’re worth the fuss.

OK: so you have your jars and your pot. Now, assemble your recipe ingredients:

Strawberry Jam
Recipe from Better Homes and Gardens You Can Can: A Guide to Canning, Preserving, and Pickling (a book I can’t recommend enough)

4 pounds fresh strawberries
1 1.75-oz box Sure Jell Pectin
1/2 tsp butter
7 cups sugar

Instructions:

  1. Place jars, rings, and lids in dishwasher on sterilize or rinse/dry cycle.
  2. Fill your big, flat pot with water, about 3/4 full and set it over high heat. You’ll want it boiling and ready fairly soon.
  3. While jars are sterilizing, hull and halve strawberries. Cut away any mushy spots. Be sure to use any that seem under-ripe; the less ripe berries aid in the gelling process of the jam. Using a potato masher, food mill, or some other kitchen tool that’ll smash things, crush the berries. Unless you want a puree, a food processor isn’t ideal–some smaller crushed pieces are good. Continue adding berries and crushing until you have 5 cups crushed berries.
  4. Check on your jars. They should be about finished in the dishwasher. When they are, leave them in the hot dishwasher, but remove the flat lids. Place them in a small pot or pan with just a little very hot water. Place that pan over high heat to simmer.
  5. In a large pot (it can even be the one you plan to process your jars in, if it has to be), mix crushed berries, pectin, and butter and bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly.
  6. Add sugar all at once. Return to a full rolling boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon.
  7. Ladle immediately into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4″ empty space at the top. Wipe any drips from the rims so that they’re absolutely spotless. Using tongs, remove a lid from the hot water in the small pan and place it on top of each jar, and then add a ring, screwing on loosely. The rings don’t need to be tight yet.
  8. Place as many jars as desired in the big, flat pot filled with water (it should be boiling softly by now–if it’s at a rolling boil, turn it down. You just barely want water movement. Remember–you don’t want your jars banging into each other. The last thing you want is a broken jar!). Once you’re finished adding jars, your water level should be about an inch higher than the top of your jars. (I have to say, I often can with my water level below my jars, because I can’t ever remember where it needs to be and I can’t be bothered to look it up, and everything turns out fine. It’s not that finicky. So…no great tragedy if your pot is too short or whatever.)
  9. Allow the water to boil very softly for 5 minutes. Then remove jars from water (I use tongs and my silicone heating pad. They do make jar tongs, and those might be worth the investment. I think they’re cheap.) and let them cool on a wire rack. Or the stovetop. Whatever.
  10. The lids will pop if they’ve sealed correctly. Sometimes they pop while they’re in the water bath, sometimes right after being removed, and sometimes not for up to a few hours later. If it’s been 24 hours and one hasn’t popped, something bad happened–stick it in the fridge and eat it right away. But that’s never happened to me before, and I’m over here canning with a stock pot and a pair of OXO tongs, so I promise, you’ll be fine!
  11. After the jars have cooled, tighten up the rings and store at room temperature for up to 1 year.

Being Mormon.

Ha.

I’ve been sitting here for more than 30 minutes, trying to figure out how to begin this entry. It’s not so much that I don’t know what to write about–it’s more that I simply have so much to say. :)

Let’s start here: I love being a Mormon.

I think a lot of people hear “Mormon” and really have no idea what that means, on a day-to-day basis. They know it’s different, somehow, and with as much as the LDS church has been in the news in the past few years, I know there are lots of random tidbits of information (and misinformation!) out there. I thought maybe I’d just start with a little list of things I do, and believe. It won’t cover everything, but it’s a start!

* I believe in God. I believe He is my Heavenly Father, and that He loves me. I know He knows me by name, and that He hears and answers my prayers. I believe He wants us to be happy, and that this world was made beautiful just for us.

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* I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe He is the literal Son of God, and that He lived on the earth. I believe He atoned and died for me, and that He was then resurrected. I know He lives.

* I believe we were all created, in spirit form, by God before we were born. I believe we lived with Him, and that He knew and loved us as His children, just like our own fathers do now. I believe Christ was one of those children, and that makes Him my brother. It also makes all of you my brothers and sisters, in an even more literal way than a love-your-neighbor kind of sense.

* I believe in service. Because we’re all brothers and sisters, you’re my family, and family sticks together. I have a tendency to be really horrible about noticing when other people might need something, but if I’m asked, I am there. That makes me just about the lamest person I know in my church, because I’m surrounded by people who are amazing at seeing other people’s needs and just…being there. We believe in serving others as Christ did: no matter who they are or what they believe. I love that.

* I believe in going to church for three hours every Sunday. Really! :)

At church with my boys.

At church with my boys.

It sounds like a long time, but it goes by quickly. It’s three separate meetings, actually–the first is Sacrament meeting, which is similar in nature to most people’s church services. We take the sacrament: bread and water, like Christ and his disciples did at the Last Supper. We have speakers from the congregation and clergy. It’s pretty normal. The second hour is Sunday School. I love it, because it lets me actually engage my brain (hey, I’m surrounded by children at home!) and discuss the scriptures and theology with other adults. Third hour, though, may be my favorite. The women all meet together third hour for Relief Society, an organization founded in the 1840s, whose mission is to build up the women of the church. I love that so much. RS is similar to Sunday School, in that we discuss the scriptures and the gospel, but I find that having only women in the room changes the nature of the discussion. That hour is usually full and rich and wonderful. I love it.

While we’re there, the men go to Priesthood meeting. In the LDS church, we believe that the same priesthood that existed on the earth while Christ lived has been restored to it now. The men in the church hold that priesthood, as was the case in Christ’s day, and with that gift comes great responsibility. Exceptional service to the church, its members, their families, and the world at large are required of priesthood holders; they are expected to take those responsibilities seriously, and perform them with humility. In their priesthood meetings, they discuss the gospel, and how they can better serve in the priesthood.

Meanwhile, the kids are at Primary and Nursery. :) Yay, a break from the kids! Seriously, though, I’m so grateful for Primary teachers and the work that they do. Each week, they prepare lessons to help teach my children about Heavenly Father and Jesus, reinforcing the lessons they’re learning at home. And usually, they have a class of at least 6 wiggly little kids to try and corral while they’re teaching. It’s a busy job!

* I believe in “keeping it clean.” That’s my own term, but it covers a lot of how we roll as Mormons. We don’t drink alcohol, or coffee or tea. We don’t smoke or take illegal drugs. We don’t watch “R” rated movies. We stay away from porn. We dress modestly–nothing low-cut or too short or too tight. No tattoos or body piercings. We don’t gamble or play the lottery. It sounds like a lot of restrictive “don’ts,” right? Here’s the kicker–it’s the opposite. For me, that list of things is a list of freedoms. Every one of those things is about unhappiness and addiction, in my mind. I’ll just say right now that I have not always been perfect about this list, so I’m speaking from my own experience, here. I had years when I decided that a whole lot of these things weren’t important to me anymore. During that period, I discovered that when I had any of these things as a part of my life, some part of me felt clouded, unlike myself. In each of those instances, there was either an anxiety or an unhappiness in me, either because of the choice I was making, or else I was making that choice because I was unhappy. Either way, that issue didn’t exist when I was free from those influences. I find that keeping my life clean helps me have clarity, and it helps me to be able to feel the influence of my Heavenly Father in my life. And honestly? I don’t miss any of those things one single bit.

* I believe in family. I can’t type that word without smiling. I have the most wonderful family ever, and don’t try to tell me yours is better, because it’s not. ;)

Best family picture ever.

Best family picture ever.

My father is compassionate, clever, funny, and patient. My mother is brave, wise, perceptive, and a generous friend. My brother, my only sibling, is hard for me to describe without getting teary. I don’t even know where to begin. Suffice it to say that I would do anything for him. Anything. And I believe he’d say the same.

As for my husband? Well–this morning, I woke up at 5:40, for no reason. Wide awake. Decided to come down to the living room and read a bit, and I started this post. I heard the shower turn on around 6:00, and Justin’s shoes on the stairs around 6:20. Then I heard his iPod, and some weird fumbling noises, while he continued to lurk in the stairwell. …? He finally appeared, dressed in a suit and tie, smelling faintly of aftershave, with Louis Armstrong playing, “Let’s Fall in Love” in his jacket pocket. He presented himself in front of me with a huge smile, and stretched out his hand. “May I have this dance?”

Yeah. Top that, ladies. :)

I believe my husband and I will be together forever, because we were married in the LDS temple.

Grand exit

We believe our marriages there are different from other marriages, because they’re performed by men who hold the priesthood Christ held. We believe that power and authority make them binding both here, and in heaven.  Far and away from thinking that makes us super special and better than you, we would like nothing more than for everyone to share those same blessings. (In fact, if you want to know more about that, please click here.) Knowing my husband, and by extension, my children, belong to me forever is one of the things that makes me happiest in the whole wide world.

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* I believe in being happy. That sounds…simple-minded, maybe? I mean, who doesn’t want to be happy, right? But I think happiness is more a choice than most people realize. I believe in being grateful for what I have, and that makes me happy. I believe in being optimistic. I believe in having faith. I believe in praying for direction for my life, and I know that when I follow that direction, I’m in the right place. I know things will work out. That makes me happy. Does it mean every day is perfect? Heck, no! Things go wrong. I get grumpy with my kids. Life gets messy. But I do know where to go to fix things. And, ultimately, that brings me peace.

* I believe in me. I believe I’m important; I know I’m a daughter of my Father in Heaven, and I know He put us here on earth for a reason.

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I know I’m here to do important things. I know that even if my profession is not influential, my life will be, simply because it will touch the lives of other people. I know that influence will be strongest on my children. I believe in being smart, educated, well-read, strong, loyal, honest, open, and authentic. I believe those are the gifts I was given, in this life. I believe they are the qualities that make me someone who can change the world, one tiny ripple at a time.

If you’d like to know more about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you can click here or here. Or please feel free to comment below if you have questions!

<3 Jen