Monday, August 26, 2013


I always hate it when people say, "Oh, I'm getting so old."  I refuse to be old!  I refuse to feel old!  Which is why, against the law of physics, Scott and I went down several slides at 7 Peaks in a double tube, flipped over twice, and are both now covered in bruises.

We have no picture or video of this hilarious water park experience...but you can imagine my head under Scott's knee with the tube on top of both of us.  We flailed around corners and down 10-foot drops, trying to turn around before we were ejected from the slide to the pool.  Our entrance was so horrible the lifeguard offered to help us find an EMT.

For some reason, we went down another slide.  Same outcome.

I am now saying, "Wow, I'm old."  Old enough to be okay with hanging out in the kiddie pool with the girls.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Genius of John Adams (and David McCullough)

Everyday for the past six months, I've stepped on the treadmill, turned on my iPod, and hammered out several miles while listening to John Adams.

In my past life, I taught history.  I loved parts of it...other parts I endured.  Sorry to those that love Chinese history, but it was incredibly difficult to get tenth graders and myself to distinguish between the Ming, Qin, and Xin dynasties.  On the other hand, I love American History, specifically the era of the Revolutionary War.

It was quite a shock to realize how little I knew about John Adams.  What wasn't a shock was to read an amazing book by David McCullough.  His ability to weave history into something real, present, and captivating is a gift.  One of my favorite talks by McCullough, The Glorious Cause of America, focuses in on 1776.  I listened to it several times, then finally jumped into John Adams, anxious for more.

I learned so much from the example of John Adams, realizing how ignorant I have been of his life. My favorite lesson came early in the book:  both John and Abigail would repeatedly quote, "Be Good and Do Good".  Living this motto, they repeatedly sacrificed their own desires and wishes to serve America.  I think of myself as patriotic, but I realize that I have much to BE and to DO if I am to live up to the patriotic standard that John Adams and others like him set.

One depressing part about reading the book came on the last page.  I felt like I was losing a tutor and inspiring friend.  I want to read it again-now-and learn everything I missed on the first reading.  I heard it said once that a book that didn't require a second reading probably wasn't worth reading at all.  I agree with that:  if I can learn everything in a first reading, it probably isn't that great of a book.  On the other hand, a book like John Adams can't possibly be understood in one reading, and therefore has much to offer.  So, when I read it again, I'll be on the watch for all the stories and strength of example I missed on the first reading.  One thing will be the same:  David McCullough will draw me into another time and place, helping me live in my time and place as a better and stronger person.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Check these out---awesome blogs

I have a list of blogs I love--most of them are family blogs and incredibly funny, entertaining, and keep me smiling at my friends.  Then--there are two blogs written by people I've never met, but wish I could.  I come back to these again and again, because their thoughts are always fresh and genuine, inspiring and unique.  Check these out:  

This Too is written by Melissa Sarno, an amazing writer that lives in New York City.  Her posts are about books, the city, her life, and writing.  The writing is simultaneously simple and elegant; every time I read her words, I'm inspired to write more and write better.  

 Study Hacks is by Cal Newport, my current favorite author.  (I wrote a post recently about his most current book So Good They Can't Ignore You).  I've read all his books, check in with his blog often, and am always enlightened by his theories.  Even better--I like how his theories improve the quality of life and work.  What's not to like about that?

Hope you'll enjoy these blogs as much as I do.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Saying Goodbye

I am standing in the middle of a room, feeling raw emotions that leave me empty of thoughts.  Finally, I begin to think again.

Where is my Grandpa?  Where is the giant I have known all my life, anxious to discuss life, ask questions, and mentor me at every juncture of life?  

I haven't seen my grandpa for several months, even though family members told me his health was declining.  My mom flew down to visit him, a sister's family took a weekend trip, and cousins flew across country.  I stayed home.  I deliberated.  I thought about him as I had known him, and prolonged the goodbye until now.  Even now, goodbye is elusive.  He doesn't recognize me, looking beyond me with blank and pain-filled eyes.  Goodbye wasn't possible before:  I wasn't ready, and he was fighting to stay.  Goodbye isn't possible now:  I am here, but he is fighting to leave this life.  I just hold his hand, thin and long, and allow the memories to rush over my mind.

His place is at the kitchen table, drinking carrot juice and eating sprouted wheat toast, asking me about my work and what I am reading.  When I was a child, he asked me about school and ballet class, focusing on the one-on-one conversations that I would expect with every visit.  As a teenager, I was dragged to a health food store as a first stop on a grandpa-granddaughter outing.  We stayed there for 3 hours while he became best friends with the owner, and had his cooperation with signing a health bill for congress at the end of a conversation.  In college, he wanted to hear about every class, every thought I had.  I called him from my apartment throughout the years, giving him updates and waiting for counsel.  I didn't always look forward to it, and sometimes complained about it afterwards, but now I wish I had one more chance to listen to his wisdom.  He understood then what I value now--he was my grandfather.  He understood that I had enough "friends", he took the greater role of a teacher, leader, and mentor.  In a family that was spread coast-to-coast, he filled the role of Grandfather and Patriarch to each of us.  That is what I realize I need to tell him in my goodbye--that I'm grateful I had a Grandpa, and that I really did listen and tried to follow the counsel he shared.

Unlike me, he had always been listening and learning.  If I read a book that I enjoyed, he would read it too and want to discuss it, ranging from The Secret Garden to Fahrenheit 451.  His appetite for learning never stopped, insisting on being read to during road trips.  We worked our way through Mere Christianity while driving to Zion National Park, stopping at least once a page to discuss the ideas and how these applied to our lives.  Is it any wonder that I listen to audiobooks and want to discuss everything I read?  Learning kept him young and alive, even at 91 years of age, and I find myself wanting to learn as much as possible in all different subjects.  This is what I need to tell him in my goodbye--that I am just realizing how little I know, and how much I want to keep learning.

I think of this now, while I sit next to him, trying to formulate thoughts that follow a sequence or pattern.  I jump from memory to memory, smiling at scattered images from my life.  These images are what I want to write about, but my grandpa gave specific instructions for me:  I am to write his obituary.  My mom suggests I begin now, since these are the final days of his life.  We are staying with my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Dave, where my grandpa has been staying the past several months.  The writing is difficult and a day of work yields one paragraph about his birth and childhood.  It is too little, too chopped for the man I know as Grandpa Great.  How do you synopsize life in a sentence, a paragraph, an obituary?  Can I write anything about a man that was both grandfather, tutor, mentor, and teacher?  And I know he was that and so much more to others.  I can't write all of that in an obituary, but I do need to tell him in my goodbye.

I'm realizing more and more that the goodbye may not be for him at this point...maybe it is for me.  Maybe it is good for me to realize just how much I've inherited and learned from my grandpa.  I think I took it for granted that he was amazing--and I feel like my children are getting shortchanged by not knowing him, or having his influence.  And it is here that I finally realize that I am more like my Grandpa than I ever knew, and that my kids will know him because they know me.  They will listen to audiobooks with me, or if I am really like him, we will read books out loud in the car and discuss the theories and ideas.  I'll talk to people about The Book of Mormon the same way he did--as something he wanted to share because it was the best and most important message he could share.  His memory will be with me when I go running, or work on an important goal, or make fun family time a priority.  At some point, I'll explain to my children that I do all these things because it is a legacy passed down from Grandpa Miller.  And instead of saying goodbye, my girls will say hello to their Grandpa Great when they see him in the life beyond this one.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

So Good They Can't Ignore You

In the past week, I finished reading So Good They Can't Ignore You by Cal Newport.  (Blog:  Study Hacks)  I've read his other books, which I love and want to blog about, but this one book is remarkable and I had to start here.  In the past five days, I've told 15 people about the book, insisting on writing down the title and author for them because I can't imagine their lives without this book!  I ran into a  friend whom I haven't seen for a year, and within two minutes of our saying hello, I was recommending this book as a must read.  Did I find out about the wedding or the new home of my friend?  Sadly, no.  But I made sure that he knew the merits of this absolutely amazing book.  (I'm hoping this story shows just how awesome this book is, rather than pointing towards my sad abilities to re-unite with old friends)

So Good They Can't Ignore You is about learning to work the right way, rather than finding the "right job" or even the "perfect job".  It debunks the theory that you should "follow your passion", thereby creating a job that is blissful and tailor-made.  Instead of constantly seeking for this elusive perfect job, Newport outlines steps to become proficient and well-sought in any field.  It explains the concept "career capital", and how you must build up rare and valuable skills in order to gain control over your work.  The book teaches the importance of enduring strain (something we don't naturally love, but need to experience if we are to gain mastery in any subject/skill).  I could write pages about each of the facets that I loved, thereby writing the book again.  Instead, I'll simply give it this recommendation:  if you have a desire to enjoy your job, and have a purpose in your day-to-day work, you must read this book!

One note:  this book is not written about being a stay-at-home mom.  However, I couldn't help but apply the theories and lessons to my job as a Scholarship Advisory AND my greater work of being a mom.  And in the past week, I've become more excited about my role as a mother, a benefit I didn't foresee.  So, if you are working in a standard "job" or a stay-at-home mom, this book is helpful on both fronts.

Just in case I see you soon, you may want to prepare yourself for this question:  "Have you read So Good They Can't Ignore You?"  Until then, happy reading.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Temple Square #2

Here are more pics of our day at Temple Square.  We met up with my cousin Star, and her kiddos:  Darian and Alani.  Alani is 2 1/2--right in between my girls!  They loved having a cousin their own size to run and play with.

Whenever we go to Temple Square, we get at least one picture of the girls attempting to dive into the fountain.  They are always disappointed that I stop them.  

We have never lived close to our cousins, and we all wish it was otherwise. 

                                        Summer, Star, (Noel in background:-), Me, My Mom

Darian and Star

We love our cousins!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Temple Square

The girls love Temple Square, and I especially love it during May when the tulips are in bloom.  We made a day out of it, and the girls were pretty good sports about having their pictures taken multiple times.  I borrowed my sister's camera (again!), because it is so much better than my own and I love being able to capture their expressions that get blurred with a simple point-and-shoot.

The girls love, love, LOVE the temple!  They call it "Jesus' house".  Noel even walked up the giant stairs on the east side of the temple and knocked on the big doors.  When nothing happened, she said, "Mom--why isn't Jesus opening the door?"  I love her faith and understanding that the temple truly is the 
House of the Lord.  

Every once in awhile, Noel slows down enough to give me sweet hugs, a kiss on the cheek, and says, "You are my mommy...I love my mommy!"  She is very adamant about the "my" part, it must be part of the 3-year old stage claiming your territory and possessions!

The smile that steals my heart!  Juliet is our tenderheart and imp all wrapped into one.  She gives giant hugs, wet kisses, and teases her big sister all day long.  

                                              No child has ever loved rocks more than Juliet.

Grandma Joy helped us all through the afternoon, which is probably why the girls were such good sports about taking so many pictures.  They love her and are always asking for the next adventure with their dear Grandma Joy. 

Finally, Jules just laid down and called the day.  And even then, I had to snap one more picture.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Swiss Miss

Noel doesn't comply with sitting still and smiling serenely whenever her picture is taken, but she does a great job of showing the many sides to her funny personality.  She is constantly posing!  Hands on her hips, striking a pose, making funny expressions.  And I love how her hair looks like she is hiking above the town of Zermatt!  She is my little Swiss Miss!  (Thanks to Aunt Summer for snapping these fun pictures on Mother's Day)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

My Mind's Eye

Sometimes, we think big about a family outing.  We pack the diaper bag, load up the kiddos, and head out for an adventure.  More times than not, we arrive back home exhausted, frustrated, and wondering what we were thinking.  I don't know if it's because our kids are still in the toddler--"I can't do anything by myself" phase, or if we are really bad planners.  But once in awhile, we get things right.  We plan and organize an activity that both girls like, and we love it as well!  The one we loved this past month was Easter.  For the past three years, I've bought egg-coloring kits.  And each Easter, something happened where we couldn't actually dye the eggs.  But this year, things happened so that we were home Saturday night as a family, and we just had a great time.  It turned out exactly as I had seen it in my mind's eye.


 The final result:

Be very impressed.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


                                              These are moments I treasure...

...not just because they are in a contained space...

...but because Noel reads to Juliet...

                                             ...and they both end up laughing.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Finding the Helpers

We turned on the computer last night after dinner to find a job posting; two hours later, we still sat there, stunned. Not knowing the answer, or even the question to ask.  As we watched video after video, I wanted to see something of hope.  I've never been to the Boston Marathon, and I didn't know anyone running it this year--but I don't think you have to know someone to still feel the pain others are feeling.

Today, I continued to think and pray and feel empty inside.  I called my best friend Mary, and we talked about it.  She had heard a quote by Mr. Rogers on a news program that went like this:

"When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping." 

It doesn't erase all the pain for the families, but it is a light in the middle of pain.  In the midst of people running away from the bomb blasts, others went to help.  They stayed.  They comforted.  They were the helpers.

I can't help but ask--if I was there, would I be one of the helpers?  And since I am here--will I be a helper where I can?

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Support the Good

For the past few months, I've mulled over what role I play in society.  How active should I be in the community?  And--where can I find the time to actually be more active in the community?  In my job, I see many needs--students need tutoring in subjects, mentoring with service projects, and someone to point them in the right direction.  But what is my role?  Is it enough to help an individual student, or should I be doing something more?  Should I be part of a group that fights all the moral decay--or do I do something individually?

One day--I had an eye-opener.  I don't necessary have to fight evil to be doing good; I can actively support good.  I thought this when I was helping students raise funds to go to Girls State and Boys State.  Baking chocolate chip cookies by the dozen doesn't necessarily seem like a ground-shaking movement, but the reality is that one student wouldn't be able to attend without financial help.  A great kid that really loves history, wants to study law, but never had a chance before this year.   Somewhere between putting the chocolate chips in the KitchenAid and standing at a table asking people to buy the cookies--I realized that I need to do more to actively support good.  To help give kids great opportunities that will help them--rather than telling them all about the things they shouldn't do that will get them in trouble.

That's all.  Just a thought about supporting the good.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Goodbye, Snow!

Noel is sad that we finally have grass in our front yard, instead of the 2-feet snow cover we had for several months.  She was happy making snowballs all day long.

On the other hand, Juliet is elated.  Anytime we went outside, she insisted on sitting in a chair, where she couldn't fall into the "wet stuff".  

Scott is in denial--he keeps hoping for one last big snowstorm.  He loves winter more than anyone else I know.  And me?  I'm just excited that I don't have to bundle up the kids in polar snowsuits every time we go to the store.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bob the Builder

It's funny how 90% of what I say to the girls gets lost in translation and 95% of what I do never gets noticed.  But once in awhile they pay attention, and that is why I'm still hearing "Bob the Builder" referred to as "Jesus".  The full story:

We had planned to go to Salt Lake for Christmas Eve, but a blizzard hit early afternoon.  Suddenly, I was in the middle of making Fettucine Alfredo and planning a nativity scene.  I had been counting on my sister for costumes, my mother as the director and job was only to enjoy the production.  But here we were, and not wanting the night to end without reading the Christmas story, I snagged some toys from the girls' rooms and set up a kid-friendly version of Luke 2.  We had some farm animals and a little manger--but no baby, so we used the little "Bob the Builder" figure holding a shovel.  And that is the 5% they noticed.

It's March, and several times a week, they still set up a nativity, and make sure that "Bob the Builder-Jesus" is center stage.  I think I'll start planning for December now.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The "Half-Monte"

I waffled back and forth for the past month--should I sign up for this half-marathon?  Should I wait?  Am I going to regret it?  Am I going to have time to train?  And most importantly:  am I going to be able to eat chocolate while I'm training?  During all this questioning and wondering, Scott was ever-supportive.  He only said, "If you want to enter--go for it."  He's very smart with things like that--he knows to be supportive, without specific directions on what I should do.  On the other hand, if he is not excited a little bit, I'll wonder if I can really do it.  What can I say?  I have a tendency to over-analyze.  Just a bit.

But tonight, I only had 2 hours left before registration went up $10.00.  I'm too cheap to spend ten more dollars because I was slow to commit, so I finally did it.  I'm going to run the Huntsville Half-Marathon, known as the "Half-Monte" in September.  (The full marathon is the "Full Monte"...named for the beginning of the race:  Monte Cristo, not the film).  It's been YEARS since my last major race, and I feel like a beginner all over again.  Well, run or jog, I'm going to cross that finish line.  And that's the big news of my day.  :-)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Day in the Life..

Once a month, I substitute for a teacher.  It's a win-win situation.  She doesn't have to plan lessons, I get to teach the students about college and scholarship preparation, and the students win more scholarships.  Everyone is happy.  But today, it's Juliet's birthday, and I wish I was with her.  She's turning 2 today, and I just want to snuggle with her and delight in her little laugh.  I want to read books to her and chase her around the house.  I do not want to tell another student to focus on the scholarship application that needs to be completed by next week; I want to sit with my little girls and sing songs.

Sometimes, I think that the work I do at home doesn't matter.  I think that a babysitter could watch my kids all day long, that the girls would actually listen to someone else.  I think about this when Noel yells at me that it is her turn, and it's difficult to see anything beyond the five seconds when I want to yell, too.  But today, I'm subbing, and I see the importance of all those moments with my children.

I have a lot of students that come from broken families.  Families with one parent or missing-in-action parents.  Sometimes the parents are there, but just don't take time to help their children.  One girl said to me today, "My parents told me I'm not college material, that I won't be able to do it."  And I realized that the work I am doing at home is important--because 100 times a day, I tell my kids "I love you.  I'm so glad you are part in our family.  You can do anything."  I say it out loud and I say it when I take time to read them a book.  I say it when I'm starting the laundry and let Noel push the button.  I say it when Juliet runs away from me and I need to change her diaper, and I make it a game of tag instead of a contest of wills.  I don't have 100 perfect moments as a mom, but I have 100 perfect opportunities to tell my kids, "I'm your fan.  I'm your cheerleader.  I think you are the greatest."  And you know something?  I really do.  I really think my kids are the greatest, funniest, smartest kids in the whole world.  And it's okay that I have a limited view in this respect, because my kids need to know that I think the world of them.

So even though I'm subbing on Juliet's birthday, I'll see her tonight and give her dozens of hugs.  I'll play with her tonight and tomorrow and everyday until I have to come in again next month.  And instead of making my job the priority in the family, I'll remember that it's a blessing to help our family pay the bills and gain a reality check of my real job:  being a mother. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Potty Training Saga

I envisioned cleaning up puddles on the kitchen floor and washing out poopy clothes by the hour...but it wasn't so bad.  I'm sorry to say that we didn't potty-train Noel because we were motivated, on-the-ball parents--we started because one night, I needed to get out of the house.  We had no plans, not a lot of money, and the girls' bedtime was in an hour.  Our solution?  We went to Wal-Mart and let Noel pick out "big-girl underwear".  And just like that, I was committed to potty-training the little munchkin.

We were stuck in the house because of a 3-day blizzard, so I made myself like the idea of having Noel sit on the potty every ten minutes.  I bribed her with chocolate chips and Hershey's kisses.  I put a sticker chart on the fridge and let her cover it in stars and rabbits.  We read books about Elmo using the potty, pretended the doll was using the potty, and watched Daniel the Tiger sing his "When you have to go...stop...and go right away!"  song.  We have immersed ourselves in the potty-training experience.  Just in time, too.  Noel turns 3 today, and I didn't want to have to face a lecture from the pediatrician about potty-training.  If only all trips to Wal-Mart could result in such life-changing decisions.

(This picture was taken February 12, 2012...just to show that we had good intentions for almost a year)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Easing back in...

I'm coming back to my blog, slowly, and not having enough connected thoughts to write a post.  So, for tonight, here's a beautiful video.  It made me smile, laugh, and realize all that Heavenly Father has blessed me with and placed within my reach, for my benefit.