Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Multiply Goodness

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 Rainy morning run up into the clouds.

School starts. The leaves turn. Pumpkins dress doorsteps. The sun shifts to a southern exposure and glides across the living room at new angles. And just like that we are nearing the end of October. Ahhh, why does Autumn go so fast?

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First snow in the mountains and a sunset smoking orange fire across the sky.

We've been out of town for Fall Break, celebrating birthdays, choosing Halloween costumes, living out of unpacked suitcases with stacks of clutter on every countertop. 

And then a day like today comes along. My boys are at playgroup and preschool. I have several hours of quiet to clean, put away, and start laundry. Time to organize not just my life but my head. So I read, ponder, then consider the needs of those I love. 

It takes openness, days like this, to see where I am and where I ought to be. It takes days like this to multiply goodness. To know needs. To ask God to direct my paths. 

Too much rushing and I just bulldoze through the weeks. With little direction or focus. And I'm working on that focus thing. On trying to do less with more of it. 

Which is why I want to tell you more about Multiply Goodness. I mentioned it a few posts back. 

It's a way to fill your bucket. Something we all need. But the idea doesn't stop there. Once we are filled, we want to do good, share good. And the beauty of being opened to that place in that way, is that it doing good doesn't feel like one more thing on our list. It feels possible and important. 

The goodness I am led to will be different than the goodness you are led to. Often it will be in our own families. We can be tools. Meant for different needs. And God knows what those needs are. Today I am praying for and thinking about my Ali. She is angry too often. She needs something more. And as I remember her throwing her shoes across the room this morning, then reluctantly putting her arms around my waist before she left, I hear in my heart what I can do for her. I know what she needs.

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Months ago I was asked by Emily Freeman to join a team of writers interested in uniting like-minded people in an effort to do good. I love Emily. We have yet to meet in person, but that's the crazy joy of online writing. You can still know a person's heart. 

I've read several of her books, and once I heard who she had on board, I was listening. When she explained the idea of the website and mentioned the team would include writers of different faiths, boom, I was in. Heart and soul. And feeling a surprising amount of light and energy about the project.

I have known for years, since our time in Washington DC, the power of rubbing shoulders with people of different faiths. Once a conversation begins, you realize you have much in common. You are more the same than different. And that kind of dialogue, of learning from each other, is invaluable.

So you need to head over to the website and explore for a few minutes. It is not LDS. There are LDS writers. And it has an emphasis on Christ-like principles. But it is for anyone who loves good and wants more of it in their life. See what it has to offer. Scan the list of books we're reading. 

My first post went up a couple weeks ago, during that rush-around-bulldoze time. But you can read it now if you'd like. I wrote about my sister, Rachel, her new husband, Eric, and the opportunity for perfect love. (Working on pics of the wedding for my next post here.) 

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All the posts going up are worth pondering. 

I am thrilled to get to know this group of dedicated people better. I have so much to learn from them.

Now, back to Emily. She and David Butler just launched a new book. It's called The Peter Potential. I bought my copy on Amazon.

Watch this short video and see if it resonates. Knowing these two writers, I have no doubt it will inspire. They are gifted. With the ability to speak real words so we can relate. Then lift you to places you hadn't considered before.

Wishing you a quiet moment. Even a short one. To consider your path, your days, and the lives of those you love. 

In the quiet, we can always know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Conference Weekend

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Friday afternoon I took the kids downtown to meet Doug at Temple Square. 

Salt Lake City was built around Temple Square. It is the heart of the city. A busy gathering place for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints year round, but particularly the first weekends of October and April. Because during this time, the church meets for a General Conference in which all church members participate. No matter where they live in the world. And currently, church membership is over 15 million. 

Local leaders from countries everywhere come to Salt Lake City the week before general conference for instruction with respect to their local communities. Then, on Saturday and Sunday, men and women who lead the church give talks to the general membership. Their talks are broadcast across the globe via internet and satellite. This weekend, live broadcasts were translated into 102 languages, with transmission to 170 countries.

I think that's incredible. 

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When I hear the church statistics, I marvel. I really do. That I, or anyone for that matter, has the opportunity to be part of something so grand.

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I was hoping we could take a tour of the Conference Center - where conference sessions are held. But I didn't call ahead and to our disappointment, the Conference Center was closed. In preparation for the large crowds that would enter Saturday morning. 

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So we took a few photos. Despite the thrown-together outfits and uncombed hair from hurrying out the door. Wild children. With the boys striking dramatic poses. Nice.

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We stopped at our favorite place on Temple Square. The Christus statue. 

Two Korean sister missionaries were taking a small group on a tour. So they played the Christus message (Jesus' words from scripture) in Korean. Sweet for Doug to hear, since he served an LDS mission in Pusan, South Korea.

Sweet for me too. I cannot visit the Christus without thinking of my own mission. And the countless times I shared my testimony of Jesus in front of a statue similar to this one. 

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Nauvoo Illinois Visitors' Center. Summer 1997.

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While we weren't able to see the inside of the Conference Center, I hoped some of the energy and feeling of that dedicated place would soak into the hearts of my children. I want them to learn the gospel, be committed to it, and remain open to the message God shares through his servants, the prophets.

We watched all four sessions. Two on Saturday. Two on Sunday. It might seem like overload. But in truth, we long for this weekend. Most members are thirsty for the words of our leaders, whom we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators. We believe them to be men and women who are not only qualified, but inspired, to share words from a loving Heavenly Father. A God who wants his children to have wisdom and knowledge as to how they should navigate this world, just as it is. Right now.

The kids played lots of legos and the girls took a few notes.

Some of Sami's notes while listening to President Monson:

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I believe this truth. That the Lord's path will take us safely home. Underlined and exclamation point.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the weekend:

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This is how Elder Holland (one of the twelve apostles) described our prophet, President Monson, when talking about kindness and the need to care for the poor.

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This Brasilian man gave his talk in portugese. A landmark change for general conference this year, which allowed non-native english speakers to give their remarks in their own language. With english subtitles on the screen.

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And this beautiful mantra on how to live. From President Monson.

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Following the last session we drove up Little Cottonwood canyon for a hike. The kids were like rubber bands that had been pulled taut, ready to fly. They ran up the trail with not so much as a glance backwards. Conference was a long time to sit.

But it was important for us to make these words, these messages, the focus of our weekend.

This morning I read in Genesis about Abraham. A man who was relentlessly tested. A man who made covenants, pleaded with God to spare others, and who held not only the title of prophet, but of friend. He was known as the friend of God (Isaiah 41:8). 

Listen to how God describes Abraham in Genesis 18:19,

"For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord."

What a tribute of trust. God knew him. God knew Abraham would teach his children the ways of the Lord. What if God could say that of us? 

Everyone (member or not) is welcome to listen to General Conference. You can watch video of all the talks here. Or you can download audio versions/read written transcripts at the same link. 

I believe truth, not matter where we find it, is for all. And if you are not a Latter-day Saint, you've got to listen to this darling story told during conference by David A. Bednar, about why Mormons are so eager to share. 

If you have any desire to learn more about the church, you can contact missionaries in your area by visiting Or you can contact me. Just send me an email. I'd love to answer your questions, tell you more.

Onward and Upward! Wherever you are!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Holy Cow!

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Prepare to be amazed people. I'm about to take you on a tour. Of a dairy farm. Run by a wonderful family in Idaho. The wife's brother is married to my sister. (Did I lose you there? I'll explain more in a minute.)

We traveled north for a short visit right before school started. And now, when I pour a glass of milk, boy-howdy, do I have a new level of appreciation! 

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End of August we decided to take a sisters' trip. It wasn't official because three of the six couldn't make it. But by definition - still a sisters' trip. Me, Deb, and Sarah.

Sarah's husband, Lance, has a sister that lives in Declo, Idaho. Outside of Burley. Her husband is a dairy farmer. They've been running this farm for 9 years. 

Half a mile down the last dirt road we saw their farmhouse, white slat board, perched on a hill. In front of it stretched fields and fields of alfalfa.

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Isn't it darling? I fell in love. 

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Meet Robbie and Ben. They (with their 6 children and 13 employees) keep the place running like clockwork.

They love what they do. They are good, good people. Generous and kind. And their kids are equally good. I was so impressed. They are well-behaved and hard workers. Their two oldest sons were Grand Champion and Reserve Champion (basically 1st and 2nd place) in the Holstein show at the Cassia County Fair. Pretty big deal. 

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Here we are sneaking a back-door peek at the Cassia County Rodeo the night before.

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Robbie had a delicious lunch prepared for us when we arrived. Ham and cheese sliders, watermelon, veggies from her garden, and a bottomless jar of lemonade.

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I was pretty smitten by their darling home. The kitchen with six red stools, their busy family, the feeling. I loved it all. My Mom used to get a magazine when we were young called Country Magazine. The tag line read, "For those who live in or long for the country." That would be me. Long for. 

I love Robbie's style: colorful country that is welcoming and practical. 

Robbie put two dishwashers in their new kitchen (which they DO fill), an enormous fridge/freezer. Definitely functional. And she has filled the home with furniture and decor she made herself.

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Not only is Robbie a great cook, she's also a gifted photographer and talented woodworker. All the cute chalkboards in the house? Robbie made them.

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The gorgeous white hutch behind the dining table? (Wish you could see it better.) She made that too.

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And all her photographs, which hang in most rooms of the house, tell of real life. Very few are posed. Most are life in action. A baby with marker all over her face, kids laughing, eating, or taking care of chores.

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It was obvious to me. She sees the beauty in a messy kitchen, dirty kids, and a house full of children.

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This living room looks west across the alfalfa fields. A better picture of the view in a minute.

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Cute Kendall gave me a smile before snuggling with her blanket and bottle for nap time.

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Sami had so much fun with the toy barn and wooden animals. 

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Here's a better view from the living room window. 

Oh! And the porch swings? She made those too. Along with the flower boxes. Seriously. She is amazing.

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Highlight of the home for the kids was the gym they built below the house. Robbie and Ben's boys love basketball and during the winter they wanted a place to play. So they dug out the gym. 

Also perfect for pogo sticks, wiggle cars, and scooters.

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Plenty of space for outdoor play too.

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Spencer and Gordon were fascinated by this old typewriter. I learned to type on one of those things. Ha! And now it's an antique.

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Loved this view. Total quiet. 

There was such a restful feeling here. Robbie was embarrassed about the unfinished yard, but I liked the weeds. They were growing large by the house and starting to look flowery. What's not to love about cheap, easy landscaping?

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Here's our crew of travelers. Except you can't see Michael. One of these days I'm going to get him to smile for my camera.

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And the whole bunch of us. Minus baby Kendall who went down for her nap. 

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Next, we trekked out to the big red barn. To start our dairy farm tour. 

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Baby Hana was her usual happy self. 

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These two girls headed straight for the mud puddles. And later, the manure piles. (Did you know manure doesn't wash off like mud? Yup. Some of our boots are still sitting on the back porch, waiting for a good scrub!)

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Then the learning began.

Their farm has over 1600 milking cows and 1100 heifers. 

I don't know why this never occurred to me before, but let's state the obvious. Only cows that are lactating (who have birthed babies) can give milk. So a huge part of dairy farming is fertilizing cows and knowing exactly where they are in their fertility cycle. 

Some cows need to be lactating and giving milk, other cows (like these ones) are in heat and ready for insemination. Cows who are no longer lactating are considered "dry" cows and are put out to pasture for a period of rest. And the unlucky cows who get sick or develop mastitis, hang out in the "cow hospital."

Now get this: They do IVF for cows here. It's pretty incredible. Ben believes in a cross-breeding through artificial insemination. A method that has increased productivity. He uses Holstein, Montbeliarde, and Viking Red breeds. 

A veterinarian collects the unfertilized eggs from their heifers, does in vitro-fertilization, then puts the fresh, fertilized eggs back in the heifers. It's a newer, successful method, that is getting attention. Ben has traveled across the globe to teach other dairy farmers about it.

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This cow right here, numbered in red, is ready for insemination. Once a week, the cows that have been inseminated are given a manual pregnancy test. Usually this is done by a vet, but Ben does it himself because he received special training in this area. Can you imagine? Being vet, farmer, and fertility doc, all in one day?

As he was explaining this, I felt a sudden kinship to these bovine ladies. Truly! We have more in common than I thought! Fertility or the lack thereof, IVF, lactation, mastitis, babies. We could all hang out in the nursery and talk shoppe.

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This is the new barn. Posh living quarters for the soon-to-be mamma cows.

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Here we are walking past the "dry" cows.

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Mooooooo.... (We all did it. At least once. Couldn't resist.)

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Sami, running to catch up. She could have stayed all day in that barn, petting and feeding the cows. I can see her growing up to be a vet. Or a wildlife biologist.

And finally, the part we were waiting for...

The milking parlor.

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Check out this system. The milking parlor runs 24 hrs a day. Every minute of every day there are cows in here, pumping out gallons and gallons of milk.

The men who do the milking are fast. As new cows mosy in, they clean the udders with iodine, put on the milking pumps (I had a scary flash-back to all those hours breast pumping), and within 5-7 minutes, they're done. Each lactating cow is milked three times a day.

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The milk is then pumped into a glycol cooling system. Milk comes out of the cows at 108 degrees, and in a matter of seconds, is cooled to 38 degrees. We felt the incoming pipe  (warm), and the outgoing pipe (cold). Amazing.

At the end of the day, Ben and Robbie's cows fill two big tanker trucks, and generate a total of 13,000 gallons of milk!

Yep. Holy. Cow.
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Spencer wanted so much to pet a cow on the nose.

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Gordon too.

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Then everyone joined in.

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It was an experience I still think about every time I bring in the milk on Monday mornings. So good for our kids to realize milk isn't made at the store. So valuable for them to see the journey of it, from cow to Cheerios.

Driving home, I thought of a favorite line from Mary Oliver's poem, Song of the Builders. 

"Let us hope, it will always be like this. Each of us going on, in our own inexplicable ways, building the universe."

Thanks Robbie and Ben. For sharing your part of the universe, with us.

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