Sunday, July 31, 2011

Small Miracles

(Beware, this post may be TMI for the average reader.  If you're feeling the slightest bit unsure about what you really want to know about me, you may want to back out now.  I won't know.  And I won't hold it against you later even if I find out.  I promise.)

I have never been great in the self control area.  Until recently, controlling my thoughts and actions and, at times, my words hasn't been a huge success.  And I have even less control over my physical weaknesses.  

Last May, when I was on the verge of the worst cold of my life, I went to the Temple.  (And I'd like to apologize right now to everyone who was contaminated with those germs that day because of that visit.  I really had no idea.)  I had already made the commitment to go with two friends, and I have made it a point in the last few months to be where I've said I'm going to be.  I hadn't slept much the night before and there was excessive sneezing that morning along with a miserable headache.  But having very little experience with this sort of thing, I just assumed it was really, really bad allergies.  Another little note: around November, as part of my quest for a clearer head, I made a decision to eliminate all OTC drugs from my life...ALL of them!  So, armed with just a box of Kleenex, I got into my car, picked up my two friends, and drove us all to the Temple.  20 minutes later, when we arrived, I had gone through that entire box of tissues and was completely and totally miserable.  So, while I stood in the dressing room, stuffing a million more tissues into the pockets of my dress, I said a sincere, heartfelt prayer asking Heavenly Father to please let me get through the next 2 hours without sneezing on everyone or being a distraction.  Guess cold symptoms subsided from exactly 10:00a - 12:00p.  The women I drove down with really wanted to sneak in lunch after we were finished and I was feeling so much better that I agreed.  My small window of clarity only lasted to the end of the parking lot.  I endured lunch (barely), dropped everyone off, drove home, and got into bed for the rest of the day.

Last week, I had a similar experience.  On Wednesday morning, I felt a STRONG impression to go to the Temple.  It was that relentless tugging that happens occasionally for me and I couldn't quiet it.  So instead of getting ready for the day I had planned, I got ready to go to the Temple.  Unfortunately, by the time I agreed to the change of plans, I had already been on my morning walk, which means I had already had about 60 oz of water to drink.  Bladder control is another one of those areas where I don't have a lot of success.  (I warned you that this might be too much for you weaker readers.)  I left for the Temple at 10:15am and by the time I got there at 10:35am, I was approaching an emergency state.  It's a good thing there wasn't a long line of people waiting at the front desk.  I tried to prepare by going to the bathroom a couple of times before I committed to the 2 hour session, but I was definitely worried about the length of time I would be in there.  So, once again, I sat in the dressing room and said a prayer to be able to get through the next 2 hours.  And once again, I made it through the entire session without the distraction of having to go to the bathroom.  I even had time to linger in the Celestial Room, which, I found out, was the whole reason I needed to go to the Temple in the first place.  

And then last weekend, there was a third little miracle.  I'm typically pretty active during the day.  I think that's because whenever I stop moving, I fall asleep.  I can't sit in the passenger seat of a car for even 15 minutes without taking a nap.  I fall asleep watching TV, reading books, pretty much whenever I'm not in motion.  So, I was a little nervous about the upcoming Book of Mormon Read a Thon where we would be SITTING quietly and LISTENING to the scriptures on CD for 12 hours straight!...2 DAYS in a ROW!  So, once again, because I knew that this was a worthwhile thing that I wanted to do, and because I had felt those impressions calling me to be there, I prayed for help.  I asked to be alert and awake for the entire 24 hours that we would be reading, and to get as much out of the experience as I possibly could.  And it worked again.  I sat in a comfy leather recliner with a blanket.  I laid in the middle of the floor with a pillow.  I did all the things that would normally invite sleep, but I didn't fall asleep.  And not only did I not fall asleep;  I didn't even FEEL sleepy.  I read every word of that book happily and with excitement and interest.  I underlined stuff.  I wrote notes in the margins.  I wrote notes in my journal.  I was engaged, intrigued and inspired.  I had a conversation about relevant things during the breaks.  (And not a single caffeinated beverage was involved!)

I know those are really silly examples of small miracles, but they have huge personal significance for me.  They testify to me that Heavenly Father hears me, that when He asks me to do something, and I'm willing to do it, He will clear the way of obstacles.  It also testifies that Heavenly Father is a God of miracles both large and small.  He has been before and He is currently.  And if those little miracles are possible; if He hears and answers even my most insignificant requests; how much more capable is He to work the mighty miracles, too?  There are upcoming events for me, for my husband, for my kids, which will require the moving of mountains.  But these three little experiences remind me that if He's the one who wants those things to happen for us, then surely He can move the mountains for us.  And probably those things that look like mountains to me are insignificant little specks of dust to Him. 

I'm grateful that I finally know how important it is to ask Him for help.  I'm grateful that He hears me when I ask.  And I'm grateful that with His help, absolutely anything is possible. 

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Book of Mormon Read a Thon

This is a copy of an email I got last week:
Book of Mormon Read-a-Thon
Overview:  This summer our youth will gather together for a two-day Book of Mormon Read-a-Thon.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to increase testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and to strengthen the camaraderie of our youth.  Make no mistake, this is a marathon.  It will be difficult.  However, the benefits will certainly be worth any sacrifice we make in reading this sacred book of scripture. 
When:  July 29-30
Where:  Bailey Home.  1004 Pecos Court.
Youth Ages:  14 and up are expected to participate.  Beehives and Deacons are invited to attend.  
What Youth Should/Should Not Bring:  Please bring scriptures, marking pencils, sleeping bags, pillows, snack food to share.  Please do not bring cell phones and/or other electronics.
Schedule:  Since it takes approximately 24 hours to listen to the Book of Mormon, our schedule will be as follows:
            July 29             8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
            July 30             8:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Food:  Parents of the youth will volunteer to provide all of the meals for the Read-a-Thon.  Food should be brought in “ready-to-eat”, so that our meal stops only take 15-20 minutes.  Snacks and water bottles will be available continually throughout the event. 
How it Works:  We will listen to the Book of Mormon on CD at 1.5 times the normal speed, while the youth read and mark along.  Occasionally, we will pause to talk about certain sections and what insights they have gained.  Since this is truly a test of endurance, the youth are free to lounge on the floor, grab a snack, use the restroom, etc. as needed. 
My Son or Daughter Cannot Attend the Entire Event:  Of course, we encourage the youth to attend the Read-a-Thon even if they cannot attend the entire event.  That said, we sincerely hope that parents and youth will make this event a priority and strive to attend the entire event.
Sharing Testimony:  We will break as often as possible for the sharing of testimonies.  Scheduled testimony breaks will occur at the end of Mosiah, the end of 3 Nephi and at the conclusion of the Read-a-Thon.  When the Read-a-Thon is completed, we will gather in a circle and take turns discussing the best parts of the experience and how our testimonies have increased.  We will conclude with a kneeling prayer and will encourage the youth to take Moroni’s challenge.
After reading this out loud to everyone within 100 feet of me on the day that I got it, and barely getting through it without crying, I realized there was NO WAY I was missing this incredible opportunity.  I'm not in the youth program, but I LOVE the Book of Mormon.  I read the part where they sincerely hoped "that PARENTS and youth will make this event a priority and strive TO ATTEND THE ENTIRE EVENT" and that was pretty much all I needed to feel perfectly comfortable inviting myself to attend the entire event with my daughters.  (It's a good thing those girls like me because I'm everywhere with them lately.)    

There is no experience that equals the feeling of reading the Book of Mormon straight through in 24 hours (12 hours yesterday/12 hours today) surrounded by 20 kids who have the same goal in mind.  I have much to say about this activity, but I'm completely exhausted, so it's going to have to wait until tomorrow.  

...just wanted you to know where I've been for the last 2 days.   

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New (School) Year's Resolutions

I think I LOVE the beginning of a new school year as much as I LOVE the beginning of a new calendar year.  I'm a planner and a detail girl, so resolutions and goals motivate me.  I know it's a few weeks away, but over the last few days, I've thought of a few things I want to do during those 6 hours a day when my kids are at school.

Here are a few...

1.  Go through boxes from my parents' house.  My parents were savers. (I'm refraining from using the word hoarders here, but it was borderline hoarding, in my opinion...not bad enough to be on the TV show, but bad enough to make my head spin when we had to sift through all of it.)  We got rid of a lot of things, and shredded more paper than I thought humanly possible, but I didn't have time to go through some of the things in as much detail as they deserved.  I kept everything that was handwritten by either of my parents (letters, cards, recipes, song lyrics.)  I kept all the pictures.  And I kept everything that was handmade.  My mom was a quilter and a crafter, but not always a finisher, so there are a lot of unfinished pieces.  I now have four boxes of things and plenty of time to look through them.  So this fall, I'm going to see what's in there.  Hopefully, I'll be able to scan some things, throw some things away, forward things onto better homes, and weed out a few unnecessary items.  My goal is to get it down to no more than one box and to know exactly what's in that one box.

2.  Learn to play the ukulele.  My mom had two ukuleles that we found in my dad's house when he passed away.  I sent one to my brother in California and we have the other one here.  This summer, Mack found a toy guitar at his cousin's house and handed it to me and said, "Here, this is a Hawaiian thing, isn't it?  Will you show me how to play it?"  (ugh...)  I am a serious disgrace to my culture.  I know nothing about Hawaiian anythings...especially playing the ukulele.  (I didn't even know how to pronounce the word correctly until JANUARY.)  But, when Mack handed it to me, and I held it, I remembered some experience years ago from my childhood when one of my uncles taught me a couple of chords.  I remember being able to play some little song at some point in my life.  At that moment, I thought that I really should try and relearn that skill.  I'm not sure I'll be able to entertain at parties, but hopefully by the end of the school year, I'll at least be able to play that song from my childhood.  

3.  READ!  I LOVE to read!!  I have a stack of books on my nightstand that has been beckoning me for months...some of them YEARS!  And every time I find another one, I add it to the stack.  I have guilt about all the books I've missed.  So, I'm committing right now to read for at least 30 minutes everyday during the school year.  That's a reasonable goal.  And my hope is that I'll be so intrigued and uplifted by some of those books, that 30 minutes will turn into an hour or more!  And hopefully by next May, I'll be a better person with a smaller stack of books.

4.  Read the Ensign every month.  I don't know why it is that after 17 years I still cannot manage to pick up this magazine and read it on a regular basis.  There have been times in my life when I've been compelled to pick it up and it has seemed as though it was written just for me.  Every article had some relevance to something in my life.  There has never been a time when I haven't enjoyed reading it.  And what if EVERY month, that magazine has actually been written just for me and I've missed it??  Yikes!  I know I can't go back and read all the past issues that I've missed, but from here forward, I'm not going to let that Ensign gather dust anymore.  I'm going to become as familiar with it as I am with O Magazine.  

5.  Learn the lyrics to Walk This Way The other day, I was driving home and this song came on my MP3.  I have listened to it for years, but it's so fast that I've never bothered to learn more than just the chorus.  So, I thought, I should figure out what Steven Tyler is actually singing.  That way, if I ever find myself at an Aerosmith concert or if I have the opportunity to participate in a karaoke contest, I'll be ready!

There are a few other things I want to do with my time.  I'm so looking forward to being back at Institute on Monday mornings again, and regularly attending the Temple.  And I have a punch pass to the Aquatic Center in town so I can add a few Water Aerobics classes to my week.  Daily walks, scriptures, prayer, visiting with friends are all things I want to continue from last year.  And I'm sure there will be things that I'm not expecting that I'll want to fit in, too.   Mostly what I want is to be quiet enough to hear the voice of the Spirit often, and to act quickly on what I hear.  I know there are great opportunities for me to learn and to serve and I definitely don't want to miss any of those!   Hopefully there will be as much learning and growing happening for me at home as there will be for my children at school. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Family Pictures

Wanna see the incredible pictures my friend, Shalon, took of our family?  I LOVE all of them! 


Tuesday, July 26, 2011


1200 miles, 48 hours, 1 hotel room, way too many rest stops, and we are finally back in Texas!  We had such a great time on our trip, but we are SO HAPPY TO BE HOME!  I don't think I've ever been so grateful to go to the grocery store or to do laundry or to make dinner in my own kitchen.  

This morning I slept until 8:00am and then went for a perfect walk all by myself.  As much as I have loved walking with my father-in-law and exercising with my friends, there is nothing better than being alone on a walk with my Droid.  It's been a month since I've listened to my playlist, and I was starting to feel a little bit like that MCC song...

I have a need
For solitude
I'll never be
Safe in crowded rooms
I like the sound
Of silence coming on
I come around
When everyone has gone

I have a need
For cool, verdant spaces
Beneath the trees
Secret empty places
Nobody knows
So no one will intrude
I have a need
For solitude

I loved the hour of solitude that I had this morning.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with family and friends over the last month, but by the end of the trip, I was really looking forward to coming home and just being quiet.  I'm better at that lately.  I like social events and crowds, but I like peace and quiet so much more.  

"Collaboration and connecting with others is a beautiful thing, but in the end, creation is done in solitude. All great art is done in isolation. All creative work must be done by shutting out the outside world, sitting down, and creating."
I'm not creating anything at the moment, certainly not great art, but I have definitely learned the value of clearing my head of the outside world for awhile and just being still.  If you're never quiet, you'll never hear anything worth listening to.

Awhile ago, I read an article about introverts and extroverts.  
The real difference between introverts and extroverts is in what energizes them. Ask yourself this question, “Where do you get your energy: by being alone or by being with others?” Or conversely, “What drains you: being alone or being with others?”
Introverts are energized by being alone. People drain us. Extroverts are energized by others. Being alone drains them.
When I read that article, I thought for sure that I was an extrovert, and probably at the time, I actually was.  But things change.  People change.  Experiences and circumstances change us.  And oddly, one of the things that has changed the most about me is my comfort level when I'm alone.  I totally and completely enjoy just being by myself.  A perfect day for me is when everyone is at school or work and I am left alone to rattle around my house all by myself.  Six hours of that energizes me enough to be ready to greet my family in the afternoon.  It's been a challenge to find ways to carve out solitude in the middle of the summer, especially on vacation.  But the best thing about having older kids is that they need me a little less than they used to.  They sleep late.  They hang out with friends.  They read books.  So, every now and then when there's even a small window of opportunity for solitude,  I ALWAYS take it!

I'm so happy to be at home...sleeping in my own bed, cooking in my own kitchen, and immensely enjoying some much needed solitude.
"There is no clock, no matter how good it may be, that doesn't need resetting and rewinding twice a day--once in the morning and once in the evening. In addition, at least once a year it must be taken apart to remove the dirt clogging it, straighten out bent parts, and repair those worn out. In like manner, every morning and evening a man who really takes care of his heart must rewind it for God's service.... At least once a year, he must take it apart and examine every piece in detail--that is, every affection and passion--in order to repair whatever defects there may be." - An Introduction to the Devout Life


Sunday, July 24, 2011


In the past, I have looked forward to things like vacations and parties and date nights with unrealistic expectations.  I used to hop from one event to another like they were the things sustaining life for me.  I thought if I could make it through the tedium and monotony of the weekly chores and schedule, and just get to the date night at the end, my tank would instantly be refilled, my life would have new meaning and I would be able to endure until the next event.  I realize now that it's not the big events that sustain life, it's all the little things we do in between...attending church, making dinner, driving kids from one place to another.  I missed a lot of the meaningful little pieces of life always looking for those big, potentially life-changing events.   

When we planned this extended Utah vacation, I decided I wasn't going to have grand expectations.  I was cautiously optimistic about coming back to this place we've been away from for almost a year.  I didn't want to expect anyone to be overjoyed to see us.  I didn't want to assume that people would drop everything to hang out with us.  What I mostly wanted out of this trip was a chance to take advantage of every possible opportunity to connect with people, and catch the things I missed the first time around.  At the end of three weeks, I think I've done that.  I walked every morning with my father-in-law and had some of the best conversations I've ever had with him.  I said YES to exercise classes and lunches.  I dropped in on a few people who weren't expecting me and we had a great time catching up.  I was available to cheer for soccer games, ride on rope swings, go for walks with my kids, and help people when they asked.  I made a conscious effort to connect with the people who are most important to me and to leave room to fit in unexpected things, too. 

There were some things on the invisible list in my head that I didn't get to do.  I didn't hike Mendon Peak or the trail to Old Ephraim's Grave.  I didn't get to go out on my brother-in-law's boat.  (I was totally going to try the wakeboard this time!)  I didn't take my kids to Lagoon.  I didn't connect with any of those many families from Texas who are also out here for the summer.  But I did do a LOT of great things that weren't on that list.   

And it turns out that I did actually have pretty high expectations for this trip, even though I fought really hard against that.  But I also realized this month that sometimes expectations are a good thing.  "High expectations are the only way to arrive at that place we yearn to be someday in life."  (I borrowed that quote from one of my favorite blogs.)  There is a difference between the expectations that I had for this trip and the ones I've had in the past.  This time, I didn't expect things to be perfect.  I didn't expect a party or a date night to change my life.  I didn't expect the whole world to love absolutely everything I did.  I didn't expect my children to be perfectly behaved or to be excited about everything I suggested.  Instead, I expected more from myself and less from everyone else.  I expected to keep commitments, to be where I was supposed to be, and to do what I was supposed to do.  And when I did those things, I expected to hear the voice of the Spirit regularly and often.   And by acting on those things that I heard, I was fulfilled in a different way than I have ever been before.    

There are very specific things that I yearn for, not just for myself, but also for my family.  And I know that the only way those things will be possible is if I have high expectations.  There are wildly improbable goals out there waiting to become realities and it is my ridiculously high expectation that that is entirely possible.  

I'm grateful for a wonderful trip to Utah, for the time and the ability to make it happen, and for all the new memories I have of Mendon that I can add to my existing ones.  


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pioneer Day in Mendon

The 24th of Jully is an official holiday in Utah.  It commemorates the entry of the first group of Mormon pioneers into the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847.  It's a pretty big deal in Mendon.  We have LOVED the 24th Celebration there for the last 8 years and since we moved last year, we have counted the days to our 9th Pioneer Day on the Square.

I started the day with a 5K WALK at 6:30am.  It's technically a RUN, but since I would rather stick pokey things in my eyes than run anywhere, I opted to just walk it.  

At 12:00, we gathered in the driveway of our former neighbor's home to watch the parade down Main Street.  

Here they are having their lovely brunch outside as the parade goes by.  Aren't they so cute?  Only in Mendon is this possible.

After the parade, we met the rest of our family at the park to watch the Great Race.  That's like a giant relay race between the five wards in the area.  250 people gather on the softball field to eat watermelons, chug root beer, ride tricycles, and saw logs until they get to the last leg where the Bishopric of each ward competes in a pie eating contest.  It's a pretty fun thing to watch.  In 9 years, I've never personally participated, but our family has definitely been represented on the field.  The Scout Master has sawed logs and eaten watermelons.  Savannah and Emma have been taffy eaters.  McKay has been a tricycle rider.  And each time, I have cheered happily from the sidelines for the 3rd Ward.  This year, Savannah was on the brick race team.  

 The cousins all gathered in the gazebo to watch.

After the Great Race, the Mendon Fire Trucks drove onto the middle of the soccer fields for the Hose Down.   It's like a giant foamy bubble bath in the middle of the park. 

 Uncle Dan captured Megan and dragged her into the foamy fun!

  um...then, two little boys decided to play in the giant mud puddle left AFTER the Hose Down...if only I had gotten there sooner to take pictures while they were IN it...they looked like two small hippos rolling around in the mud!

Savannah and her friend, Elise, had a Mani/Pedi booth set up from 11am until 8pm.  They were busy throughout the day.  And at the end, they each made $72!!  

Aunt Nance couldn't resist adding a little bling to her already gorgeous toes!

There were inflatable jumpy toys and more fun in the afternoon.  (Since my kids are now old enough to play by themselves and not require any assistance, I went back to the Gr's house and snuck in a 30 minute power nap!)  

For dinner, we met the rest of the family and had Navajo Tacos!   This is a borrowed picture and it doesn't come close to looking as delicious as the actual one I had, but I was way too busy eating to stop and take pictures.  I have been waiting an entire YEAR to eat one of these, which is probably silly because I bet I could make them myself.  But there's something about eating them at the park in Mendon on the 24th of July that makes them even more delicious.  Even without meat, they're super yummy!!

After dinner, the Scout Master and I wandered around visiting with people we had somehow missed over the last 20 days.  And then we met the rest of the family again for fireworks.  We brought glow sticks and sparklers to entertain the younger kids until it was dark enough to start the fireworks show, and they were a HUGE hit.  The Scout Master found super huge sparklers that were 4 feet long!  And I think this was the best fireworks show I've seen in Mendon in 9 years!

We had a great day especially because all of our family got to participate with us this year.  I'm not sure we'll make it back to Mendon for the 10th Celebration in a row for our family, but this year was amazing.  It was the perfect end to a great month!  

Happy Pioneer Day!!

Friday, July 22, 2011


This is the view from the deck of my in-laws' house where I'm sitting this morning having my spinach smoothie.  It is breathtakingly beautiful here. 
All of my kids had their "one last sleep over" with their friends last night, so the house is quiet this morning (which isn't unusual for this time of day.)  But in a little while, I'll round them all up and we'll get ready for the next event...

At this very moment, 15 more Thunells are preparing to drive north to celebrate my father-in-law's 75th birthday, and to spend one last weekend with us before we make the long drive back to Texas.  I can't wait for the joyous chaos that will bring...really...I LOVE this family.  Family pictures, dinners, games, hilarious conversation, family prayers.  There is a bond between all of us that is undeniable.  And the support and love between parents, brothers, and cousins is an amazing thing to be a part of.  I LOVE being with them.   It will be the perfect way to end an amazing trip.  I am so grateful for the time that we've had to spend with grandparents and for the upcoming 48 hours to be immersed in Thunells.         

It's been awhile since we've all been together, so we asked my friend, Shalon, to take some family pictures.  These are the ones I "snuck" with my camera when I could.  I can't wait to see the really good ones.