Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Um...yesterday's post made me sound like I went into complete withdrawals because I gave up Diet DP and Instagram for five days.  

I didn't.

But...after reflecting A LOT on those five days and the 24 hours since, here's what I've realized.  There was a HUGE void in my life that my spirit felt sooner than my head could define it.  Not from social media or caffeine withdrawals, but from lack of creativity.  I didn't miss checking and re-checking every 7 minutes to see what people had posted.  I didn't miss the LIKES or even the nice comments people always leave.  What I missed was the routine I've established since last summer of taking pictures, finding uplifting and inspiring quotes and then matching the two to create something inspiring and uplifting either on IG or on my blog.  I missed writing.  Even though this blog isn't lofty or meaningful to most people, it is the way I remember things that happen in a day.  It's the way I record these days for future generations.  And it's the way I recognize and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in my life.  

it turns out, without the blog or IG, I didn't really have a reason to take pictures.  I passed flowering purple tree after flowering purple tree and I thought about taking pictures of them, but then realized there was nowhere to save them or share them, so I didn't bother.   I didn't have uplifting quotes and Conference talks running through my head all day.  And I didn't start the day looking for things to be grateful for.  I just checked things off of To Do lists.  

On Thursday and Friday, I spent hours rehearsing and singing in those DMCO concerts, so I didn't feel the void as much.   But by Saturday afternoon, the creative black hole was taking its toll on my disposition.  I was so irritable and unreasonable.  And every little thing made me burst into tears.  By Sunday night, my head had twisted everything I love about my life into drudgery, frustration, and hopelessness.  I don't think I've ever been so grateful to see a Monday morning in my whole life.

I love this talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf from the General Relief Society Broadcast in October 2008...
"The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul.  No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.  Everyone can create.  You don't need money, position, or influence in order to create something of substance or beauty.  Creation brings deep satisfaction and fulfillment.  We develop ourselves and others when we take unorganized matter into out hands and mold it into something beautiful.  You may think you don't have talents, but that is a false assumption, for we all have talents and gifts, every one of us.  The bounds of creativity extend far beyond the limits of a canvas or a sheet of paper and do not require a brush, a pen, or the keys of a piano.  Creation means bringing into existence something that did not exist before - colorful gardens, harmonious homes, family memories, flowing laughter."
I have a few talents that are the visible and apparent kind.  I absolutely LOVE to sing.  I don't know that my ability will ever match my desire, but I don't even care.  I just LOVE to sing.  Anywhere, all the time.  I also love to take pictures.  I'm not technically correct about it.  Most days, I grow weary of all the settings and just leave my camera on MANUAL.  I'm not knowledgable about photography.  But I see things that I think are beautiful and I want to keep them.  I'm also a hoarder of words.  I have journals and notebooks and sticky notes with thoughts and lists scribbled on them everywhere in this house.  I have multiple bulletin boards covered with quotes and stories from magazines and the internet.  And I also have a bowl filled with fortunes from every cookie that has been opened by a Thunell since 2010.  

Those seem like a random collection of talents.  But...if I put those random things I love together with a desire to share and connect and create, then all of a sudden it becomes purposeful.  And when you add a blazing testimony of the Savior and His gospel, it also becomes light.  
"You carry a circle of influence with you wherever you go.  It is felt by the people around you - from your family to the contacts in your cell phone and from your friends on social media to those seated next to you." - Neill F. Marriott
"You are vibrant and enthusiastic beacons in an ever-darkening world as you show, through the way you live your lives, that the gospel is a joyful message. - Harriet Uchtdorf
The talents I have are common ones that I share with a lot of people in the world, and compared to others I would fall into the "extremely mediocre" category.  My blog is never going to go viral.  I will never sing for crowds of people (at least not where any of them know my name.)  My scribbles aren't going to become the next best selling novel.  But I can bring a little light into my circle of influence.  I can make tiny differences for one or two people in a day.  I can be generous with my compliments and gratitude.  And if that makes someone feel better than they did before they found me and want to illuminate some other dark place, then that's a pretty meaningful thing.  

That's the part I missed when I was fasting from IG and my blog.  Creating.  Uplifting.  Inspiring and being inspired.  Technology is an amazing thing.  And when used well, it makes a huge difference.   I'm grateful to be occasionally useful in Heavenly Father's kingdom.  And I'm grateful to know more today than I did last week.       


Monday, March 30, 2015

A Little Break

Last week I took an inspired break from social media, Spotify, and Diet DP.  I know, what an odd handful of things to give up, huh?  But those things are extremely meaningful for me, and since only Heavenly Father would know the magnitude of the sacrifice in asking me to give them up, I was pretty certain it was His idea and not mine.  So I did it.  

From Wednesday to Sunday, I deleted Instagram from my phone.  I didn't update my blog.  I only listened to DMCO music.  And I still have not had a Diet DP.   There were a handful of great reasons to take a break from all those things, and a few obvious outcomes that I expected.  I sing better when I drink more water, and since we had a big DMCO weekend (which I promise to write about later) I knew that less Diet DP would be a very good thing.  I expected a little more balance in my life.  And I hoped for some divine help with things that have been weighing heavily on my heart.  

There were some things I was unsure about, too.  I wasn't sure if the desired outcome was for me to abandon social media forever.  I wasn't sure if there was some other really important purpose in my days that I was missing because I'm always thinking about Instagram and blog posts.  And I definitely wasn't sure I was going to be able to last for 5 whole days without music and Diet DP!  But, I was hopeful.  And after a pretty desperate few weeks of floundering around, I was grateful for a potential resolution to my distress.  

What an amazing, surprising, exhausting, introspective, and totally overwhelming 5 days it has been!

First, I did it.  That alone is unbelievable, and I'm as alarmed by that little feat as you probably are.  

Second, I'm still here.  No abandoning was necessary, and I am so grateful and happy about that.  All blogs and IG accounts remain intact, although they may receive a little updating, and hopefully a little more purposeful and regular posting.  

Third, there were side effects over the last five days that I could never have foreseen...which I'm sure is no accident, because if I had foreseen them, I never would have willingly eliminated all that stuff.  Wednesday and Thursday were not all that challenging, but by mid-Saturday, I started to tank...shockingly fast and to depths that I have not experienced in years.  I was irritable, frustrated, exhausted, discouraged, hopeless, unreasonable, and overwhelmingly sad.  

And fourth, the answers I hoped for and the resolution I needed did not come until Monday morning...the designated end of my social media fast.  They didn't gradually descend over the five days.  Tender mercies didn't float down early because I was in utter despair on Sunday night.  I wasn't rescued from my grief at 8:30pm when I finally decided to just give up and go to sleep...or at 1:00am when I woke up restless and still sad...or at 4:00am when I woke up grumpy and exhausted.   It wasn't until 10:58am, after a monumental prayer this morning and almost an entire Institute lesson, that the floods of inspiration I had been looking for, finally, finally came, and that I really understood what the five days had been for.  

I could write volumes about all the things I've learned in the last five days, but I will save some of the details for future posts.  Really, there's a lot.  Mostly what I learned is that Heavenly Father is totally and completely aware of us individually and knows exactly what we need to get us where we're supposed to be.  I learned that there is wisdom and beauty in having to endure for a little while.  I learned that there is power and confidence in keeping commitments and staying the course.  I learned that what I could see on Wednesday was such a small part of what Heavenly Father had planned.  And I learned that it is possible to be cheerful and filled with joy even while still carrying the same load I was carrying five days ago. He didn't take away the burdens...just the weight of them.  And for all of those things, I am extremely grateful.  

Saturday, March 21, 2015


I've been so reclusive this week.  Not on purpose...mostly.  The week looked pretty packed when I looked at my calendar on Sunday night, and I despise packed weeks...especially after spending all of Spring Break out of town.  I think I must have subconsciously decided that I needed a week at home more than I needed Institute and Book Club and Enrichment and all the other things I conveniently skipped this week.  

And even though I didn't do half the stuff on the list I made Sunday night, I did do a lot of things around the house that I didn't even know I wanted to do. 
A LONG time ago, I bought this paint sample off of the Lowe's reject rack.  Because I loved the color.  And because it was only .50!  Remember the dining room paint experiments from way back here?  
Well, I tried this color on the wall, too, and even though I loved it, no one else really did.  I have since found other uses for this perfectly perfect dark delicious turquoise paint.  I painted a pair of cupcake holders a few months ago.  And this week, I painted this cute H.
...which then meant that I needed a place to hang that H.  Which led to reorganizing my whole desk space upstairs.  Which led to repainting that lamp on my desk to match the H on the wall.  (It was previously a yucky mint green color.)



I may have painted a few other things, and cleaned out some clutter, and made a few trips to donate those things that I decluttered, too.  Nesting this week, and being a recluse, turned out to be pretty great ideas, I think.  And now I have a tidy and beautiful office space that makes me want to come upstairs more often and do things like update my blog, dig through family history boxes, and write thank you notes.  

Next week, I'll go back to my usual "socializing, spirit seeking, leaving the house" self.  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Savannah Update

Savannah's adorable roommate received her mission call to the Missouri Independence Mission last week.  She reports to the MTC on June 10th.  We're SO super excited for her and so happy that she and Savannah will be roommates for a few more weeks before she moves back to Idaho to prepare for her mission.  They are such great influences on each other, and we could not be more grateful for this amazing girl.  

So there's this cute boy at BYU who has been heavily pursuing Savannah for the past few weeks.  She's been out on a few dates with him, but from what she's told us it sounds like the interest level is a lot greater on his end.  He's persistent, though.  And he keeps conveniently showing up everywhere that Savannah is.  And in my experience, repeated exposure to a thing helps you learn to like it.  

You know, like broccoli.  When my kids were little, I figured out that if I was persistent in putting green things on their plates, over time, what was initially a new and undesirable green vegetable became a familiar and much loved favorite.  Really.  All of my kids love broccoli to this day. 

Alex is a little bit like that initial experience with a new vegetable for Savannah right now, I think.  She's not sure what to make of him.  She might not have picked him if given the choice.  But his persistence is paying off.  A few weeks ago she was mostly irritated every time she texted me about him.  But here's the text she sent me last night...

I happen to be a huge fan of persistent people and find that to be a very endearing quality, so I'm giving Alex 1,000 points for his efforts.  (Too bad my points are completely random and count for nothing in Savannah's mind.)  

I'm grateful for spring that is springing up everywhere, especially in Provo.  And I'm grateful for a very happy college girl.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Kitt Peak National Observatory

Have I mentioned that Craig really likes surprises?  And adventures?  And taking us to see and do things that we would never choose on our own.  I think that must be some kind of spiritual gift, to be blessed with the ability to see beyond what you've already done and have the desire to try it anyway.  I did not come with that gift.  But in the 20+ years that I have lived with this man, I have come to admire and respect it in him.  

This was the first of our surprises on our most recent Spring Break adventure to Arizona last week...

...and what a spectacular adventure it was!   

It took us 40 minutes to drive from our hotel in Tucson to the Tahono O'odham Indian Reservation.  From there we drove up a 7 mile winding road to the top of a mountain overlooking half of Arizona.  (6750 ft in elevation...eep!)  Megan and I made Craig stop every 100 yards or so to let us take pictures of the view, so it took us awhile to get to the top.  Our group of 50 people was scheduled for a 5:00pm nighttime observation, and we arrived at 4:59.  Why be early, when you can take a million pictures along the way and still get there right on time?

It was considerably colder at the top of the peak than it had been in Tucson, so after some instructions from the three astronomy students/presenters, we layered on some additional clothing (thankfully a Scoutmaster planned this trip) and ventured onto the patio of the observatory where they fed us a cute little dinner (sandwiches, granola bars, dried fruit, apples, you know...scientist food.)  With a little bit of daylight remaining, we toured around the telescope buildings and listened to some very technical explanations of the functions of each of the 25 operating telescopes on site.  Pretty amazing, actually.  But shortly after the walking presentation started, I got a little distracted by the sunset happening in the distance, and I stopped listening to the science-y stuff.  

After it got completely dark, we split into two smaller groups and a few of us went outside to identify constellations and planets.  I happen to love stars and constellations.  And as I looked up into that gorgeous, clear sky, all of my (limited) 8th grade astronomy knowledge came flooding back into my mind, and I loved it all over again.  It's truly remarkable how much you can see on a clear night from a 7000 ft peak in the middle of the desert.  We went back inside for a brief lesson on stargazing with binoculars, and 20 minutes later we walked back outside, only to see TWICE as many stars!   Absolutely amazing!  

I'm sorry I have no pictures of the stars.  Even if I had had the capability to take any that night, I'm sure I could not have focused my attention on anything other than just looking up at the sky.  But, if you close your eyes and picture the clearest, most star-filled sky you've ever seen and then triple it...it might be close to what we saw.  

I was overwhelmed by a few things on this adventure:

1.  That people all over the world were seeing the very same stars we were seeing (well, you know, not all at the same time. but eventually...as we all make our way through the seasons and that rotation thing that the earth does...) and that they have for hundreds and hundreds of years.  

2.  That the earth and all of us on it are so VERY VERY small in relation to the entire universe. 

3.  And light years...I still don't really get that whole distance measured in time thing.  

We ended our night at the giant telescope. And I was amazed once again at all that we had missed when we used just our eyes or just the binoculars.  There is SO much beyond what we can see on our own.

Four hours later, we made our way down the mountain in the dark, tired and cold, but completely uplifted and exhilarated by the whole experience.  The kids said this was 2nd only to the cruise on their list of memorable trips.  

I am so grateful for opportunities to travel, for a husband who insists on taking us with him to explore the world, and for such awesome things to experience in mortality.  

I love the earth.  And I love space.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Blossoms

Spring happened overnight here.  Apparently it rained all week while we were out of town, and today was the first sunny day Allen has seen in awhile.  Megan and I noticed all the pear tree blossoms this morning on the way to school, and as I drove into the high school parking lot, I made a mental note that I needed to find a tree and take a picture of it today before those blossoms disappear.  They always seem to go away as inconspicuously as they came.  

My day was mostly futile.  I had a list of about 200 things that I needed to do and only got through two of them...and it's a stretch to say that those two are actually finished.  I also added about 7 more things that I had forgotten to write down on Sunday night when I made the original list, and 5 others crept in after I picked up the mail that's been on hold for us for the past week.  So, after 24 hours, my list has gone from 200 to 210.  Not exactly a stellar productivity rate.  

While I spent the day running around, I noticed a few more beautiful trees that would have been excellent candidates for that spring blossoms shot I was looking for, but I either didn't have the time to take it, or I was driving.  It's always difficult to take a picture when you're holding onto a steering wheel (although, I have done it before.)  

At 6:30, after many hours of spinning my wheels, I pulled into my driveway and remembered I hadn't yet gotten that picture I wanted.  And then, I looked out of my car window and noticed this gorgeous blossoming tree next to me.  

All that hunting, when all I really needed to do was walk outside my back door.   

So I added "take a picture of a spring tree" to my list and then promptly crossed it off.  Still 210 left for tomorrow, but at least there's one more gratifying orange line on my sheet.  

Hooray for orange lines, for spring blossoms and sunny days, for unexpected beauty in my backyard, and for 24 more hours...

Friday, March 6, 2015

Snow Days

One of the best things about living in Dallas, I think, is the variety of spontaneous weather we enjoy.  We've had such a mild winter and then all of a sudden the last few days of February and the first week of March have been FREEZING and snowy.  Yesterday the kids had SNOW DAY #3, which we'll have to make up for at the end of the year sometime, but really...it's kind of nice to have an unexpected break in the week...especially when everyone has already done all their homework.  

This is what we woke up to his morning...after rainy weather ALL day Wednesday and then a temperature drop to 23 degrees that night, the whole neighborhood was covered in SNOW!  

I love the way snow converts things from their typical function into something entirely different...this is the golf course down the street that has been quite fun for the kids to use as a sledding hill.  Amazing isn't it?

And the best thing about the kind of snow we see in Dallas is that it doesn't last very long.  That hill up there is back to its usual grassy green and as soon as it dries out I'm sure all the sledders will be replaced with golfers again.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Easter Music

DMCO rehearsals have been well underway since January, and our next concert is rapidly approaching.  As usual, I am woefully unprepared and nothing is memorized yet.  But, Craig added all the music to my phone so I can listen to it in the car, and I can't even tell you how amazing that has been.  I've abandoned all other music for the entire week and have listened exclusively to concert music everywhere I've gone...which has also trickled into everywhere I am...in the house, in the carpool line, on walks (which have been few this week because of winter weather,) dropping kids off here and there.  Everyone around me has also been listening to concert music.  And that is a great thing.  I caught McKay whistling one of the songs the other day.  

I haven't been at my best this week.  The weather has been gloomy for way too many days and I've been dragging a dismal countenance around for almost a week now.  But something about listening to lyrics like this over and over again has brought tiny rays of sunshine to and otherwise dreary existence.  

  1. 1. Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
    Thy sweet message now impart.
    May thy Spirit, pure and fervid,
    Enter ev'ry timid heart;
    Carry there the swift conviction,
    Turning back the sinful tide.
    Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
    May each soul in thee abide.
  2. 2. Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
    We are weak but thou art strong;
    In thy infinite compassion,
    Stay the tide of sin and wrong.
    Keep thy loving arms around us;
    Keep us in the narrow way.
    Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
    Let us never from thee stray.
  3. 3. Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
    Thou wilt bind the broken heart.
    Let not sorrow overwhelm us;
    Dry the bitter tears that start.
    Curb the winds and calm the billows;
    Bid the angry tempest cease.
    Precious Savior, dear Redeemer,
    Grant us everlasting peace.
  4. Text and music: H. R. Palmer, 1834-1907
I am so grateful, this week especially, for good music and the opportunity for purposeful listening.  Exceptional music invites the spirit and brings peace to the dark places.  
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