Monday, April 28, 2014


Dina, Me and Claudia
WOW!  We have been REALLY busy!!!!  But it has been a really productive and fun-filled kind of busy.  This weekend was Time Out For Women - Cincinnati (TOFW).  My dear friend, Dina Smith, took me to the event.  And I was spoiled rotten!  I got to be spiritually uplifted by great speakers, and wonderful music for two days.  I took notes.  I strengthened my friendship.  Made a new friend.  And increased my testimony.  All from one marvelous event - TOFW!
The theme for this year's TOFW is Inevitable Light.  I was blessed to see Jenny Oaks Baker and Hillary Weeks.  And some of my favorite presenters were Elaine Dalton, Laurel C. Day and Emily Watts.
Elaine Dalton spoke about our spiritual gifts and how they create light for the world.  She talked about when she was set apart to be the general Young Women's President, she was blessed with the gift to see young women (and women) the way the Lord sees them.  Wow!  What an amazing gift!
Laurel C. Day said, "God gives us a customized curriculum!"  That is a great way to look at our trials, tribulations and even happy moments in this life.  (Did you know that Laurel lived in Crestwood, KY when she was 10 years old to 16 years old?)
Emily Watts shared "little bits of light" for our lamps.  Some of her thoughts were:
     It won't always be this way.
     Embrace the manna plan.
     Remember why you are doing what you are doing.
It was a great experience.  Thank you, Dina!!!!!
My daughters went to a wedding this weekend with the Bettenhausens.  Amy's sister got married in the Nashville Temple!  Yeah, Jenny!  They said everything was beautiful!  And they LOVED spending time with Amy's family, the Topps.  Grandma and Grandpa Topp spoiled them rotten....  The only sad thing was that Kotten Kandy sprang her ankle or twisted it or something.  She's still in pain 4 days later.  Grandpa Topp got her a wrap for her ankle.  She's iced it, kept it elevated and taken lots of Ibuprofen.  Poor girl.
Scott and I had to give talks in the Lagrange Ward.  Our topics?  We spoke about Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching.  It went well.  And I really enjoyed the Lagrange Ward.  They are very friendly.  I'll include a copy of my talk at the end of this post....
Scott had surgery this morning.  He has been struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome.  They did the surgery on his left hand, because it is worse than the right.  He won't be able to use his left hand for about 2 weeks.  Poor guy!  He's a trooper, though.  He hasn't complained at all....
I finally finished the Prydain Chronicles series (5 books in all) by Lloyd Alexander.  They are GREAT books!!!!  Alexander based Prydain and his tales loosely on Wales and the legends surrounding the Welsh people.  It kinda reminds me of the Chronicles of Narnia... kinda.  I LOVED these books.
The main characters are delightfully original.  Taran is the hero.  He starts out as an orphan and Assistant Pig-keeper.  As the books continue the story, he matures into a great leader.  Throughout the books he acquires the marks of a true hero: wisdom, humility, persistence, patience, leadership, respect for his fellow human beings, and strength of character.
Taran is accompanied along much of his journey by a series of companions, each with their own strengths and weaknesses - and their identifying characteristics.  Princess Eilonwy is a tomboy, who refuses to sit around the castle but insists on taking part in every adventure - often saving the day. Fflewddur Fflam is a bard and is constantly snapping harp strings with exaggerated tales.  And there is fiercely loyal Gurgi, who loves "crunchings and munchings."
If you somehow managed to miss the Prydain books when you were growing up (like I did), read them now!  You won't be sorry.  The books have adventure, humor, satire, philosophy, friendship, love, valor, etc.  I LOVE them!  They are on my "classics" list!

Here's my talk:
When I found out today that I had to speak about visiting teaching, I made special arrangements that no one who has ever had me as a visiting teacher would be allowed to attend this meeting today, so they can’t tell stories on me…
 I read an amazing quote this week by Sister Julie B. Beck.  In 2009, she said, “A sister in this Church has no other responsibility, outside of her family, that has the potential to do as much good as visiting teaching.” 
In other words:  Many of the best, most spiritual, happyfying, and tender experiences that we have happen when we visit someone in their home.
 Now, since this is the last week of April, we have all done our visiting for this month.  Right?  Of course, we have.  OK, maybe I haven’t finished… but I did make phone calls. 
But is that enough?  The Lord expects us to increase our offerings.  He expects us to fulfill the purpose of Relief Society as never before.
How shall we do that? How shall we increase our offering? I think each of us must search our soul and make a personal commitment as to what we wish to do.
 I love the invitation as recorded in the Book of Mormon: “Come unto Christ . . . and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26). How different our lives can be when there are others watching out for us, caring for us, wanting to know and understand us. This feels like an offering that is beyond statistics.
 Do those we visit know that we love them? That we care? What do they sense from our interaction with them?
 Have you ever done this?  [On the phone]
“Umm, hi, Joanne, can we come over and visit in half an hour?
Yeah, yeah, we do need to come today. I know, it’s the 31st
Oh, 30 days hath September—we missed it?
Well, how about if we come over and spend about 20 minutes and we’ll make it good for October too? How’s that grab you?”
When I find myself resorting to this type of interaction with the sisters I am called to visit, I realize that I really need to change my attitude and my heart. 
I have an awesome Visiting Teacher.  Mary Nelson doesn’t just count me as a number every month.  She loves me.  She has brought me flowers (knowing that I LOVE flowers) from her garden.  She has cried with me when I miscarried last year.   Every fall, she shares her garden produce and fruit trees with me so I can share in her harvest.  I have canned her green beans, made applesauce from her apples and dried her pairs for my family.  She has sent cards for all the special holidays and visited as well.  And 2 months ago when we moved into our home, she came without being asked with the priesthood to help clean my rental home.  She has been like a grandmother to me.  And since my family is far away in the west, she has been there to love and comfort me.  This wonderful woman has become my friend, as well as one of my heroes.  She is an incredible example to me.
So yesterday as I was preparing this talk, I imagined an interview with the Savior at the end of our lives.
 “I heard you were a visiting teacher.”
“Oh yes. Wasn’t everyone??”
“Well, maybe not the men.”
“Oh. Yeah. That’s right.”
“Did you enjoy the calling?”
(Oh my word, He knows what I’m thinking. I can’t lie!) “Well . . . I had some times that I pretty much did come close to almost nearly enjoying it . . .”
“But not all the time?”
“Not all the time. Sorry.”
“Why not?”
“Well, sometimes I wasn’t in the mood.”
“Oh, but you had to go?”
“Well, yeah . . . they keep records . . . they’re trying to get 100%.”
“And how did you reach 100%?”
“Well, everyone got visited or contacted or something like that.”
 Well, you can see the whole imagined interview kind of went downhill.  What if this interview really happens someday?  I hope it goes better than it did in my imagination.
 I don’t think Heavenly Father would ever ask us to do anything stupid—anything that doesn’t really matter. And visiting teaching really does  matters—we just maybe don’t understand how much it does. We are not called to serve each other in the Church to annoy us, to keep us overly busy or stressed or something.   There must be a reason. There must be a good reason, and there is!
 We are asked to minister, like Christ did, to our fellow men (and women.)  We are asked to care for each other and watch over each other.  He asks us to minister to each other because: 
“The errand of angels is given to women,
And this is a gift that as sisters we claim:
To do whatsoever is gentle and human,
To cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.”
We are called to the work of lifting and comforting, of teaching and encouraging, of loving and serving in Christ’s name.
Remember in Matthew:  “I was an hungered, and you fed me.  I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink.  I was naked, and you clothed me.”
What was Jesus teaching us? I contend that he was teaching us that inasmuch  as ye visit the least of these, of your ward members or neighbors, and have responded to their hunger, to their thirst, to their nakedness, it’s as if you have done it unto him! 
What are some things that would make a difference for you as a visiting teacher? Would it make a difference if we would pray for those whom we are assigned to visit, by name, and ask Heavenly Father what they need and ways in which we could serve them better?   Would it make a difference if we remembered a birthday, followed someone to see how they did after a crisis, sent a card at Christmastime or any other time, sent an e-mail, dropped by with something somebody might enjoy—soap, flowers, a book, a hug, dinner. . . .
As I’ve pondered all of this, I’ve asked myself some questions: “What am I willing to do to be a more effective representative of the Savior as I visit my sisters?” “What might Heavenly Father have in store for me that I’m resisting by not responding more completely to His promptings as I go to visit?” 
Several years ago, I was serving in the Relief Society Presidency in Las Vegas.  We were making ministering visits to inactive members in our ward.  As we visited one young woman, I instantly knew I wanted and need to be friends with her.  She had a daughter my daughter’s age.  They were 3 at the time.  She also had Chrones disease.  I had studied the disease for a project in college and knew an awful lot about it and knew I could help her with her illness and make a friend at the same time.  Being a member of the presidency, I pulled some strings and became this woman’s Visiting Teacher. 
This relationship has blessed my life and hers.  She had to have surgery shortly after I was assigned as her Visiting Teacher.  I got to watch her beautiful daughter for the day and thus begun a WONDERFUL friendship.  Our daughters are turning 16 this year and Joanne is one of my best friends still!  Although I have since moved away, we talk on the phone weekly.  She is serving in her ward as the Young Women’s President.  Our daughters still consider each other best friends. – And all because of Visiting Teaching!!!!
Another good friend of mine was made because of Visiting Teaching.  20 years ago, I was assigned to be Lori Haskin’s V.Ter.  We have stayed great friends through 4 moves.  And when she was blessed to adopt her little girl I found it exciting that the women who were in the sealing room with her at the temple were 4 of her past and present visiting teachers.
Was being a Visiting Teacher worth it to these beautiful women?  Was Visiting Teaching worth it to me?  I think so!  “The errand of angels is truly given to women!”


Thursday, April 24, 2014


I've always wanted a BIG family!  I LOVE my two beautiful daughters... but I wouldn't mind having more children.  So kidnapping other people's kids has been an ideal way to have more kids - at least for a day!  Today we kidnapped Lollipop.  She is one of our newest, bestest buddies.  She and her family moved into our ward about a month ago.  And my daughters LOVE her.  She is sweet, kind and lots of fun to be around!  She's also homeschooled (which makes kidnapping on a weekday possible.)
We decided to get a picnic together and go to Salado Wildlife Preserve and go hiking.  Besides walking the trails, we got to see a bald eagle, black bear, bison, elk, deer, snakes, turtles, bobcats, etc.  We had a great time!  And I really like these three beautiful, young women!
My cute, little chicks!  :-)
Kotten Kandy, Lollipop and Key Lime Pie
at Dragonfly Pond
Key Lime Pie is the oldest... but the shortest.
She wanted to be the tallest, but Lollipop still looks taller in this pic....
Finally - Key Lime Pie is taller than the other two girls....
The girls made sure we didn't get lost on our hike....
It's good that they didn't leave the map skills to me!
Aren't they gorgeous?
I really like these girls!
They are very photogenic.
"Oooooh  look!"  I have no clue what they saw.
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm!  Lunch!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


My cute girls...
Lately we have been having fun "kidnapping" my friends children for a day.  We love having fun, one on one, with her cute kids.  Friday was Apple Pie's turn.  We made cookies and delivered them to friends.  We watched a movie of his choice.  And we ate DQ blizzards.  Mmmmmm!  When we asked him if he had fun, he said, "It was quiet and peaceful.  Can you kidnap me again on another Friday?"  I guess that means he had a good time!
Key Lime Pie, Apple Pie and Kotten Kandy
enjoying DQ
A week ago I was having a day where I felt a little down.  (Yes, I am human and have days where I feel a bit discouraged.)  My sweet, wonderful husband brought me flowers.  Aren't they gorgeous?  I felt sooooooo loved!
Saturday we celebrated Easter with the Bettenhausens and Dasguptas.  It was TONS of fun.  My daughters had fun hiding eggs and helping the younger ones hunt them.  Then Scott BBQed hot-dogs and hamburgers.  We had a great time!
Sisters!  Sisters!  There were never such devoted sisters!
The Easter Bunny brought these matching shirts.
Looking for eggs...
Kotten Kandy keeping an egg for herself!
Helping Jelly Bean find eggs...
Helping Dad BBQ...
"Look!  Alot!"
Amy likes hunting for eggs as much as the kids!
The "I Found One" dance! - This is one reason I love Amy!
Jelly Bean loved his hot-dog...
Crawling Race
Key Lime Pie
Kotten Kandy
Sunday was Easter.  Kotten Kandy made us matching skirts.  (Thanks, daughter!)  I love matching with my two GORGEOUS daughters.  They are pretty inside and out!  :-)
Easter Sunday
I love celebrating the resurrection of Christ.  I KNOW He lives!  I love the Atonement!  I'm grateful for His sacrifice!  At Church we sang "I Know That My Redeemer Lives."  That song perfectly expresses how I feel about my Savior:

  1. I know that my Redeemer lives.
    What comfort this sweet sentence gives!
    He lives, he lives, who once was dead.
    He lives, my ever-living Head.
    He lives to bless me with his love.
    He lives to plead for me above.
    He lives my hungry soul to feed.
    He lives to bless in time of need.
  2. He lives to grant me rich supply.
    He lives to guide me with his eye.
    He lives to comfort me when faint.
    He lives to hear my soul's complaint.
    He lives to silence all my fears.
    He lives to wipe away my tears.
    He lives to calm my troubled heart.
    He lives all blessings to impart.
  3. He lives, my kind, wise heav'nly Friend.
    He lives and loves me to the end.
    He lives, and while he lives, I'll sing.
    He lives, my Prophet, Priest, and King.
    He lives and grants me daily breath.
    He lives, and I shall conquer death.
    He lives my mansion to prepare.
    He lives to bring me safely there.
  4. He lives! All glory to his name!
    He lives, my Savior, still the same.
    Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
    "I know that my Redeemer lives!"
    He lives! All glory to his name!
    He lives, my Savior, still the same.
    Oh, sweet the joy this sentence gives:
    "I know that my Redeemer lives!"

Friday, April 11, 2014


We had a fun photo shoot today.  These three beautiful girls were fun to photograph!  And I claim all three of them:  Key Lime Pie, Marmalade and Kotten Kandy!  Check it out.