Sunday, October 30, 2011

Trick or Tweet!

The Little Blue Bird of Happiness & Excessive JOY!

All Set to Fly in Her Beautiful Little Nest.
You know you are a basket case grandmother when
a Halloween costume created by
your awesome daughter makes you weep.

Trusting Enough To Forgive


A few years ago when I was serving in another calling in the church, I was asked how to forgive the unforgivable, by someone that was suffering greatly with this. I surely did feel the weight of that question and the responsibility of it as well. These are some of the things that I understood better as I pondered and prayed. I shared some of these thoughts with this person, my friend. Some I have learned since that time.

Anger and being hurt deeply are like being frozen. Not only does your heart grow cold but it can create a type of paralysis where you just feel stuck, without control in your own life and helpless. Just like this snow isn't going to melt over night neither is the pain. We have to act to move through it.

Forgiveness and reestablishing trust in a person that has hurt us deeply is a process. We forgive for many reasons: 1. It is a commandment. 2. It is the only thing we can do if we want to learn to love unconditionally. 3. It is the only way to remove the guile from our damaged heart. 4. How else can we find the peace we seek when we have no control over others, their agency or their actions?

Our making an attempt at forgiveness is the first step and demonstrates to the Lord, the other person and ourselves our willingness and desire to have things restored to the way they were again. It demonstrates that we want to carry on the process of loving someone that is not perfect.

We are seeking charity and that precious pure love of Christ that helps us overcome the damaged relationship through the actions of another. This demonstrates our acknowledgment that we are not perfect either and our desire and need to be forgiven by the Lord, others, and ourselves for all of our own transgressions. It literally opens the doors to our progression through the forgiveness we are seeking to accomplish.

One step at a time

If we want the restoration, forgiveness is not an option, it is a necessity. Even if at first we think we do not even want it, when the pain is fresh and stinging, we still need it. It requires great courage to go forward at that point but we must.

That does not mean that it is easy, or that it happens immediately, or that wishing will make it so. Forgiving is hard work. It requires us to put aside our pride. It requires us to pray sincerely and often and sometimes it requires pleading with the Lord for charity towards that person with all the earnestness of heart we can muster.

It requires that we go to the scriptures often. I feel that one of the things this accomplishes is that it demonstrates over and over and over again, in a thousand different scenarios, how keeping the commandments of God is the only way to find real happiness in this life. We begin to understand that the ill feelings we are harboring are not in keeping with the commandments of God.

Gradually we can apply this belief to ourselves and stop blaming the other person for our pain so much. We can take action as to whom we will become, not them. It transports us to a place of being proactive rather than reactionary. Our desire to begin the process of forgiving gives us a handle on that feeling of helplessness and of being a victim. We then feel we can use our own agency to move forward. We begin to realize this process has less to do with the offender and more to do with changing our own heart. This is freeing in and of itself.

If we do not have immediate trust in the offender or even worse if we feel we can't trust anyone now, it does not mean we cannot or have not forgiven them. Although it could indeed mean that, it may also mean that we are still working on the process of how the atonement actually heals. It takes lots of time and effort for the big things.

To move forward in our ability to trust we have to return to the first principle of the Gospel. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This requires us to think more deeply about the atonement and to increase our faith in its power to change us. Perhaps the other person will come along the same path also and maybe not. Our focus has to be on the Savior and on ourselves as we try to come to a point of forgiving. We do not focus on ourselves in a selfish way, but in a desire to make the changes that will bring peace to us through Him.

Google Images

We cannot trust again without effort on our part to want to move forward and to place our full trust in the Savior. 

To be restored both parties must come to this place in their spiritual journey separately. The beauty and the complexity in this lies in the fact that we can only change ourselves.  The offended person may come to the place of peace long before the offender realizes that their own ability to become trustworthy again depends on the atonement, as well. These changes in the individuals happen independent of each other. The irony is that both must travel the same path to achieve the change within themselves. That change is the restoration that only comes through Jesus Christ and His atonement.

His is the only name under heaven whereby men can be saved in this life and the next. In some instances it will happen for one and not the other. The one who makes the effort to truly repent can have perfect healing whether or not the other ever seeks to achieve it or not. Our comfort and peace depends on our faith in the Savior, but we often focus solely on the apologies, restitution, or repentance of the other. The very fact that it doesn't work that way, is evidence of His perfect love for us as individuals and the total equity in the Gospel Plan.

Ideally it would be great if both were working on repairing the relationship at the same time, with the same degree of effort, understanding, spirituality, desire, etc. Realistically this is often rare, or nearly impossible. The individuals may come to the realization of their own culpability and or responsibility in the situation at very different times and ways. But of course it does and can happen.

If the serious situation happens within a family, there is one thing that moves us toward that forgiving like no other.   It is having the same foundation or operating system to work within in the relationship. This is why we are encouraged to pray and study together, attend meetings together, go to the temple together, have Family Home Evening, to give service to others, etc. Everything we are asked to do within the Gospel of Jesus Christ creates unity. It helps us have a better understanding of the atonement and the central role of Jesus in our lives.

Forgiveness and trust come in no other way. The natural man is an enemy to God and that is where we harbor anger, resentment, thoughts of despair and retaliation, even hatred. Our personal relationship with the Savior is the only thing that can turn us around and help us reach our ultimate goals of perfect love, a desire to be righteous, and the ability to be resilient in a world that is often baffling, cruel, heartbreaking, and unfair. 

In our common foundation of Faith in Jesus Christ we can lay claim to both Hope in our future and Charity towards those who offend us. Our own personal restoration and happiness depend on all three.

The perfect relationship involves three; you, the other person and Jesus Christ. If one decides to end the relationship we always know it will not be the Savior. He will stay with us no matter what the other person decides. In real life the outcome is not always happy between the two people but it is always a happy ending if we stay close to the Lord. We need to wait on the Lord, and it takes time to forgive and be healed.

Forgiveness allows us the freedom to see beauty in our lives again.

The best news is that it is possible to forgive and to completely forget, if not the incident, at least the devastating pain of it, with the help of the Savior of all mankind. My question is always, who would not want this in their lives? The way is strait, the path narrow, but it can be done. As we hear His call to come unto Him, we will see the way.

The key is to want it with all of our heart, might, mind and strength and then to move forward in humility with complete faith in Him. And knowing that being encircled in that embrace of His perfect love we will always be safe. In that safe haven we will be free to forgive and trust and love as we desire and move on our lives. It is The Son of God that melts our freezing, cold and lonely heart with warmth and new life. It is a miracle and it is enough.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Family Recipes~And Forever Friends

A small section of the murals at The Beach Chalet Restaurant
in San Francisco that I photographed this
week when we went over for dinner.

Don't you just love having your old family recipes? You know what I mean, the ones your mother use to make for you as a child, the ones that were always a part of your traditions, the ones that brought you comfort and still do. Sometimes when I make a recipe of my mom's it is almost like she is right here with me again. And in many ways she is.

Several years ago I set about to create a family cookbook. Well, it never did quite come to fruition but I did manage to collect some of our favorites from older family members that are now gone. Then one time while transferring information from an old computer to a new one the recipes disappeared. I was devastated! Well, fortunately for me, it was a PICNIC problem. This is an acronym for what my friend calls Problem in Chair Not In Computer. PICNIC problems of this nature arise for me a lot so I am use to them. But losing the recipes was not easy to swallow.

So a few weeks ago I was working on organizing my genealogy files and quite appropriately my recipes reappeared. Because aren't family recipes a part of our family history? Definitely. They were filed under one of the obscure titles that one chooses so they won't forget where the files are and then promptly forgets what the chosen name is. Mamma Mia!

One thing I adore about old recipes from the 50s and 60s is their simplicity. The ingredients are simple and straight forward. Basically they are just down home cooking with no fancy frills attached. You never look at a recipe from that era and ask, "What is that ingredient and where on earth can I find it?" Hate that when I am trying to make something.

So this past week we had a dinner party and we decided to make one of our tried and true recipes from my mom. The menu consisted of baby back ribs, macaroni salad, a green salad with lots of veggies and some fruit in it and my Mom's Famous Baked Beans and garlic bread. These beans are delicious with all kind of picnic faire and yummy with autumn comfort foods too.

The recipe for the baked beans is simple and delicious!

Here Jim is has cut up a pound
of bacon and is browning it.

We cook this in this old pan that doesn't even have handles anymore. We use it so it can just go directly into the oven when we are finished assembling the baked beans. He then removed the crispy bacon from the pan.

Next he is chopping one large onion
after this he will do one large bell pepper.

He then sauteed the onion and the pepper
in a tiny bit of the bacon grease
after removing 95% of it.And added the bacon back in.

Taking cooking photos is fun if you can catch some
of the action/movement of what you are doing
like pouring the Ketchup!

Then we put in 2 (29 to 31 oz) cans of pork and beans.

Use as much as you need for your crowd
and then just adjust the other ingredients accordingly.
Pour in a small bottle of ketchup.

Add 2 Tablespoons of Worcestershire Sauce

Add a cup and a half of firmly packed brown sugar
Then we baked it for 3.5 to 4 hours in the oven at 250*
We then put the baked beans
in our crockpot for reheating the
night for our dinner party.

We love cooking ahead so we can have a
more relaxed evening with our guests.

2 cans 31 oz. Pork and Beans
1 lb browned, lean Bacon (oxymoron I know)
1 large Onion~chopped
1 large Bell Pepper~chopped
1 small bottle of Ketchup

Combine ingredients and slow bake
at 250* for 3 to 4 hours. Enjoy!

Here are the baby back ribs.

I got them at Sam's Club, I'm not ashamed to admit.
You can find them in the same case
as the hot roasted chickens.

They were wonderful and all you do is cut apart,
for easier handling and eating
and add a little extra BBQ sauce and cover and
heat for one hour or so before serving
at 250* with a tight foil

cover over your dish.

If you don't have a Sam's Club. Sorry
you will have to make them yourself!
Or serve them with just about any other meat.

The table cloth is a little wild but great for the Fall.

Everything but the guests now complete the tablescape,
and it is time to invite them in from the family room.
I removed my big centerpiece and added
this great candle
holder that keeps the ambiance
just perfectly candle lit and you can

actually see everyone without an obstructed view.

And here they are! The best part of the evening!
Our wonderful Family Home Evening Group
minus one couple that could not make it.

To see the recipe for the dessert I made for this dinner go here

When you host the dinner for the group for the month you do everything including the Gospel related lesson. That makes it so nice for everyone because then for three months you just get to go and not worry about anything for that one evening. Jim and I shared some thoughts on genealogy and family history with them. It was a fun evening for us and we hope they felt the same. Wish you could join us for such an occasion one day!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Endless Pumpkin Possibilities

Beautiful Sunflowers are a treat aren't they?
But it is about the pumpkins at this time of year!

This photo just made me feel so happy
~Pumpkins can be Beautiful!~

The truth is I'd rather decorate with pumpkins than eat them. Some pumpkin recipes I do enjoy but I adore they way they look, almost always. Give me some pumpkins and gourdes and I am happy when Autumn rolls around. I am enchanted with most colors but these, these are my favorites and have been for way too long. New England probably sealed my fate on that forever.

Even though this is exactly like our silver van,
I promise this is not ours!
When I saw this I really had a good laugh.
Who needs this many pumpkins from the pumpkin farm?

Oh, I want this in our front yard!

Pumpkins are so much fun and versatile.
Here are a few of the things I think are great about them...

Topping my list is decorating with them as I mentioned!

Look what Cindy did and check
out her others by clicking
I like this one too. I think one year
I will bedazzle some fake

pumpkins by painting them black
and embellishing with jewels!

This one is my favorite~Be Still my beating

My favorite pumpkin in my collection
so far,
this year it is in our kitchen.
This is my year around art work
above my desk in my office.
Love....Love it.
Dining Room Centerpiece

Halloween Night Dinner

One pumpkin hallowed out and cleaned, remove seeds, string etc.
One cup instant rice plus needed water
1 lb hamburger, garlic, bell pepper, onions, salt and pepper to taste
(this is kind of a do your own thing mixture depending on what your kids like.)
1 can of cream of chicken or mushroom soup plus a little H2O
Add veggies if desired

Poke hole in lid of pumpkin. Grease outside of pumpkin and place in a roasting pan. Cover stem with foil. Fill pumpkin and bake at 350 degrees for 1-2 hours until pumpkin scoops out easily like potatoes. Good for the little goblins before they go out Trick or Treating on a cold dark night.

Gramma Jo's Pumpkin Bread Recipe
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 2/3 cups flour
1/4 Teasoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs well beaten
1/2 vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
1 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin non-spiced OK
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add in wet ingredients and blend well. Pour batter into greased and floured pans. Either 2- 7 inch pans or 3 or 4 mini loaf pans or muffin tins. Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. (Adjust baking time according to size of pans.) Cool 5 minutes in pans and then remove to a cooling rack. Recipe can be doubled or tripled and freezes nicely wrapped in foil.

Follow your favorite recipe ( I go to Costco!)

And my all time personal favorite
~get away coach with a handsome prince!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Marie's Pumpkin Crunch Cake

This is the dessert I made for our Family Home Evening Group on Monday night. Yummy! I rarely make any desserts so I was glad I found this one and gave it a try. Thanks, Marie! One interesting thing was I saw this recipe in another place and thought I'll save this. When I went to tag it as a pumpkin dessert in my recipe files I realized that I had the exact same recipe from two sources, Marie being my favorite of course!

Even more interesting was that I am not that crazy about any pumpkin desserts including the pies (I love it but the combination of the pumpkin and the spices tends to give me an indigestion problem and always has) so the fact that I even kept one was kind of odd. But I am so glad we tried it. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it at our dinner, especially Jim which is even more unusual than all the rest of it.

This is the only dessert I can think of that he wasn't packing up to send home with someone, to be kind, yes...but also so we don't consume the extra calories for the rest of the week. I suggested we take it to work yesterday but for some mysterious reason it is still sitting in our refrigerator. Hmmm. I guess my point is, it is a keeper. So this may be The Perfect Autumn Recipe for me as Jim loves it, it is so easy to make, I cannot really eat too much of it, so it will help me stay on my WW program better. So win/win/win! Try it you'll love it.

*Pumpkin Crunch*
Serves 6 to 8
Printable Recipe

Move over pumpkin pie! This is fabulous!

1 package of double layer yellow cake mix, dry and unprepared
1 29 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 can of evaporated milk
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg)
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped toasted pecans
1 cup melted butter
To Serve:
Add Whipped Cream.

Preheat the oven to 350*F. Lightly grease a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Set aside.

Combine the pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar, spice and salt. Whisk together well and then pour this mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the dry cake mix evenly over top of all. Sprinkle the chopped pecans over top and then drizzle the melted butter evenly over top.

Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 55 to 60 minutes until golden brown, set in the center and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

Spoon out into serving dishes and pass the whipped cream! Marie has the most delightful recipe blog you can find, my friends, right here! Her English Cottage Kitchen produces some amazing delights.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

I Stand All Amazed

Sometimes when I look around me and face the trials of the daily experiences of life, I am overwhelmed with the burdens of earth life. I look around and I see suffering on so many levels in so many people's lives and I cannot comprehend the state of this fallen world. While reading the end of the Book of Mormon a few weeks ago, I was overcome with this feeling of sorrow for the world around us. My eyes were brimming with tears so that I could barely speak the words I was trying to read aloud in our morning scripture study. I have read those passages many times before but it hit me with such power this time.

I don't know if it is me, but it seems that everyone has something huge they are dealing with most of the time. There are the illnesses...some so devastating and life-taking, the heart breaks of every variety, the challenges and crushing power of poverty, the crimes and wars, and injustices, the wickedness. It is getting worse all the time and it is frightening and overwhelming in ways that can just suck you into despair on so many levels.

What has me amazed is that the Savior of the world could even breathe under this weight, so huge and incomprehensible to us as we try to imagine it from our tiny personal perspectives. When I hear of the pains and sufferings of people I love and care for my heart breaks sometimes for their pain. What amazes me is my heart full of compassion is but a minuscule speck compared to the love and compassion our Savior knows intimately and feels so deeply for each and every one of us. There just aren't words to describe how I feel about that.

What amazes me further is that in spite of our smallness, I see human beings every day that struggle and rise above so much pain. I marvel that we can still find all the good in life, the reasons to smile and be grateful, the desire to survive and rise above, to press forward having faith in God, ourselves and others. We are so resilient and I know that is the spark of the divine within each of us. As we cling to the light of Christ, we gain some of the power that faith offers and we move forward, onward and upward. When I look at some of my family and friends I am so humbled by their examples, I am lifted up and taught constantly.

The amazing thing about it all is that good will overcome evil and the Lord's plan for our happiness will prevail. Knowing that we can each get out of bed each day, face the unknown, with confidence that we are not alone, He is with us, we have each other, and there is hope. We can know that we have a Heavenly Father that truly loves us, an Elder brother who would and has done everything for us, and that we can feel complete comfort in that, is what I build my life and expectations and future hopes on every single day.

Without it what would be the point of any of this? And that is the message I have for some beautiful people that I know are suffering today because they have shared it with me and reached out for some answers. The answers to every problem, every trial, every concern is the same.

Liz Lemon Swindle

It is Jesus Christ, his mission, his love, his example, his promise. He has done it all for us...why try to reinvent the wheel? There is no need if we will just avail ourselves of what already is. I have lived long enough to know that if we just reach out, reach up, reach around another, His hand is always there. Believing truly is seeing~and then seeing is believing! It goes both ways and truly is amazing! Hold on to the Light!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Mirror, Mirror On The Wall...Mom?

"Mirror, mirror on the wall...
I am my mother after all!"

I saw a pillow that had that embroidered on it once and had to giggle, just a little. Don't you remember when your mom use to drive you a little nuts? Come on...admit it! I do. I use to think she was kinda out of it and didn't get the way the modern world worked very much at all. I was pretty sure I knew a better way. Of course I was a teenager then. It is amazing how much smarter our parents get as we get older. So many times lately I think..."Oh, that is what mom meant...I get it now." So many times I wish she was still alive so I could compliment her on her great wisdom in so many areas of everyday life.

The funny part is so many times you get those same feelings on the other side of the fence. I know my kids sometimes roll their eyes and think.."Oh, Mother!" They would probably say... I'm clueless! It is just part of the cycle of life and the way things work.

We learn many things after the fact. I can remember thinking as a kid, I will never do that when I grow up and become a mom...but, ironically you do. That is when you smile to yourself and wish you had that pillow! But you don't really need the pillow because you just know!

That thing that drove you crazy then is now mysteriously a part of who you have become! From my vantage point on this side of 50...I think it is poetic justice. I feel myself smiling when I think of how comical it really is. I think of the things people say to their kids when they are upset..."I hope you get a kid just like you!" Another funny one might be, "I hope you turn out just like me!" Of course you'd want to add "but better" but you don't tell them that then!

The truth is we just don't get certain things until we have experienced them ourselves. That is the pearl of great price in getting older! No amount of telling can replace being there yourself. As a mother, once in awhile you have to just bite your tongue and not say I told you so! But eventually we come to a certain meeting of the minds as mothers and daughters that just creates a friendship like no other, in the best of all worlds.

What got me thinking about this one morning was a series of posts on a sweet young woman's blog who had had a fun mommy/daughter time with her mom, my friend, Caroline. Nicki was a nanny and Caroline got to spend a week with her in NY. It was just so wonderful to read of her thoughts on her mom and how they have changed as she had become a young adult. Nicki's account of the visit can be found on her blog and here is just an excerpt that I thought was so precious.

Caroline & Nicki

Nicki said. "On our very last day together Mom taught me how to make homemade bread. A few months ago I tried to teach myself and it was nothing short of disaster, so this time around I was happy to have her expertise! It came out beautifully! We shared hot bread together before it was time to drive to the airport. A great way to end a wonderful visit.

I drove her to the airport that afternoon and to say that we were both a tad melancholy is acutely accurate. When it was time to say goodbye we hugged extra long and cried a little bit. Ariana had fallen asleep in the car and as I drove home I cried a little more.

It's funny to think of the progression of our relationship. Over the past few years it's morphed into a stronger friendship, I am so grateful for that. As a kid she was the Mommy who snuggled me and wrote notes on the napkins she put in my brown bag lunches. As a teenager she was the Mom who had to know "when, what, where & who?" and told me, "You could argue with a fence post!" {sorry about that one, Mom}. And now, as whatever I am, she's become my best friend, my shoulder to cry on, my outlet, my confidant, my go-to, my foundation and my example. I love it. There's nothing like a week of having your Mama all to yourself... can't wait until next time!"

This just touched me so much and made me think of my own mom and my daughters all at the same time. I am glad to be sandwiched in between such amazing women; mom and Jen and Laura who equal 100% happiness for me. I also I felt a lot of joy for my friend, Caroline, and for her job that has obviously been very well done!" Since then, Nicki has married the love of her life. I am happy to report they are together again this very week with Kent and Mc Kay and having a wonderful time enjoying the beautiful fall colors in New England no doubt!

Nicki's post also made me feel sad for those wonderful women who have been such great moms. They have given their all but never have this experience with their daughters because their daughters have been given their agency to choose how they will treat their mothers. Sadly, in some cases it is quite different than this example of a mom and daughter who are best friends.

I just love it when I read something that really makes me feel something deep inside, that speaks truth to my soul in the way this blog post did. Thank you, Nicki and Caroline!

I am happy to say I am more like my mom than I could have ever dreamed possible. How can that not be when no one influences you more than your mom in your formative years and even after they are gone? I can still hear my mom's words in my head and heart often.

Here is a slide show of the moms and daughters (and a few dads and sons) in our family that I made long ago.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sensory Overload ~ 2009

Some of the reasons I want us to be in Utah!

The Tranquility

The Solitude

The colors that feed my soul!

I could stare at this for hours all by
myself but it would be infinitely
better with you!

This makes me want to be an artist,
a singer, a poet, even a tree!
Something just purely and simply beautiful,
No flaws...that exists only to
please all the senses and bring joy.

Looking straight up!
Where is the chaise lounge?

This is Heaven on Earth!

I'm in love with this canyon
and there are many very close in Utah.

I am in Love with this Gorgeous
Grand Girl!

Piper and her Gramma
having a moment that will remain with us.

The best reason of all to come closer..our people.
This may be one of the most inspiring
places and moments I have ever experienced!
God is Good!