Tuesday, November 25, 2014

24 Days of Giving

I am SO excited to share with you a project we're working on at Multiply Goodness this December. It's called 24 days of Giving. One act of service a day. 

I'd love for you to join us.

We'll be writing about our experiences @ multiplygoodness.com throughout the month. Visit Emily's post to read more about how her family came up with the idea. In her post, you will find a list of the 24 days of service, as well as free printables. So you can plan ahead with your family, purchase supplies, print reminders for a count-down garland if you'd like.

You can also follow us on Instagram @multiplygoodness for daily reminders and ideas. #24DaysofGiving

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I gathered the kids into the living room today to show them all the services we will do next month. Things like... give chocolate, encourage a young person, pay it forward, hand-write a letter, give a gift certificate, gladden someone's heart, list what you love about someone. 

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Immediately, they came up with names of people we could serve. And love. 

Will you join us?

Imagine the reach. The impact. Of so many small acts. 

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I wanted to get this up today so you could plan to participate. But I don't want to skip over Thanksgiving. And the grand opportunity it has been this month to concentrate more deliberately on gratitude.

I will write about that tomorrow.

Until then, think how beautiful it is that this season of thankfulness prepares us for the next...

A season to give.

Monday, November 17, 2014

There is Always Hope

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I'm at Multiply Goodness today. Talking about a story I heard on NPR a month ago. About a policeman who has been working LA's Skid Row for 17 years. Unheard of in his profession. His take on the homeless, drug addicts, and parolees that pitch their tents there opened my eyes. You can find a link to the full story in my post. Worth listening to.

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Last week we were without heat in our home for over 48 hours. Temps plummeted that first day our furnace wasn't working into the 30s. It was cold. 58 degrees inside when we woke the following morning. Which doesn't seem too bad. But it was nippy. We huddled around space heaters trying to stay warm. Again and again I thought about those individuals down at Pioneer Park pacing the block, huddling together with backpacks and shopping carts. I cannot imagine having nowhere warm to go.

Then yesterday, we walked our neighborhood, handing out fliers for our upcoming Food Drive. Did you know 17% of Utah's population is unsure where their next meal will come from? Also something I cannot imagine. 

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In these coming months, our hearts and pockets will open a little wider to populations different form ours. People with real needs. Like food, shelter, and a warm place to sleep. It is our responsibility to give. To share. And in this time of increased giving, I find it renewing to think the way this policeman thinks. (More in my post.) He believes no one is without hope. No one is beyond help. No one is past the point of being able to change.

Head on over to Multiply Goodness and read more. If you want to receive our daily emails called "daily good," sign up on the right side of my post. We will send you the new content each day. Short reads that will lift and broaden you. Small bits of courage, laughter, hope, or love. They are meant to be shared. So when you read them, maybe a name will come into your mind. 

We are also doing a "Goodness for your Weekend" post each Friday. This was last weekend's. They are always fun. Clean and uplifting. I like to share them with my kids. I'm embedding one of the videos here. An ABC news story, you have to watch. It's the most compassionate thing I've seen in a long time. 

There is always hope. 

Maybe we can be that hope. That heart split wide. That gift someone is needing. 

Welcome November. You've crept in slowly. Crisp and shining with frosted light. Already, I am full of gratitude.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tricked and Treated

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Let's start with the cute. 

Here's our crew. Decked out and ready to trick-or-treat on Halloween Evening. Sami as Little Bo Peep, Ali as Indian Girl, Eliza as a French Painter, Gordon as Captain America, and Spencer as Batman.

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Here's the not cute. In fact, it's flat out unbecoming. 

This is Friday, Halloween morning, about 3 AM in the ER. After waking with excruciating pain in my stomach and back. Followed by nausea. A repeat from Thursday morning when I experienced similar symptoms after taking the kids to school. 

I was literally writhing on the floor while Gordon knelt by my head and said, "I'm going to say a prayer for you Mommy." His prayer worked. Because I lost my breakfast in the toilet and the pain subsided. Weirdest episode ever. But since I felt better, I just went about the normal day. Didn't even tell Doug about it.

By midnight however, I knew something was wrong. Considering the pain in my back, I wondered if it might be a kidney stone. I've never had one before so I got online, did some reading while I squirmed in my chair, then phoned my Dad. Bless his heart. He had just come off a midnight shift. But he was totally coherent when he answered the phone. "Hi dear," he said. "What's going on?" I told him I could hardly breathe I was in so much pain. We discussed details and he said, "Yep. Sounds like a kidney stone. I'm coming over. Wake Doug and tell him you need to go to the Emergency Room."

Thankfully, the ER was quiet. We got right in and after a significant dose of morphine and tordal, followed by a CT scan to confirm the stone, we left with scripts for percocet and zofran, and instructions to moderate the pain, strain all my urine, and wait 48 hrs for it to pass.

Worst timing. I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday. The kids had their Halloween parade that morning, I was supposed to help with class parties. I had 25 mason jars in the car, plus supplies, all ready to go for a class craft. And now? I was going to lie in bed miserable, trying to get a handle on the incredible pain this miniscule stone was causing me.

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I'm sorry if this grosses you out. But really, I've got to document it for posterity. My family likes this kind of stuff. (My grandmother kept all my Dad's baby teeth until his 50th birthday. We're weird like that.)

Look at that stone. Geesh. I passed it about 48 hrs later, Saturday evening. My Dad said, "Well, after such a hard delivery, are you going to give it a name?" I took one look at that sharp prong protruding out of it and said, "Yes. Barb."

So Barb is the newest member of our family.

I suffered through Halloween, and finally, after doubling my dose of percocet, was able to step outside and take a few pictures.

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Eliza was dying to strike this javelin pose with her paintbrush.

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She put her costume together herself. I thought she did a great job.

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Beautiful Ali. She wrote me this letter at school on Friday. She was especially disappointed that I couldn't be there to help with her class party so this note meant a lot to me.

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Sami loved carrying her lamby around with her. This was the perfect costume for her.

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Batman pulled out his best moves. My favorite line? When he put on his costume and mask, then walked into Doug, who was working on his laptop, and said, "Deal with me, Dad."

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Doug couldn't look at Captain A without chuckling. I think it was the mask. He though it looked like Gordon was wearing underwear on his head. 

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I thought it was endearing. How much he loved his costume. Especially when he made his tough face.

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The kids were first to start popping Miss Marion's bubble-wrapped stairs. Best place to begin their rounds.

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We love Marion. She's the kind of backyard neighbor everyone needs.

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Our other favorite neighbors? The Greenwoods? Getting their scary on.

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And I've got to jump back to Deb and Will's famous Halloween shindig. This year Doug and I went as... can you guess it?

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The Obamas. 

Doug has had a surprising amount of comments over the last few years that he looks like Barack. Can you see it? Maybe in the hair? Well, we thought we'd run with that and give it a go. My wig looked more Elvis than First Lady, and the bronzer we used on our skin didn't quite cut it. (You just can't fake skin color.) But we did our best. And funny enough, we won best couples costume. I especially love Deb's presidential photobomb.

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Here's the amazing piñata Will and his buddy Silas made. The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Every year they amaze us. And it seems such a shame when we hack it to pieces with a bat. 

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Sarah and Lance came as Mario and Luigi. And of course... little mushroom. (Note the voodoo doll Deb made for party invitations in Sarah's pocket. Hilariously enough, it's become Hana's favorite toy!)

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Hana is a darling. She has an unusually calm spirit. Joy wherever she goes.

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Bec and Neil pulled off the 90s look. That's our era, sis!

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My cousin Liz, who almost always wins best costume, came as Marilyn Monroe. Pretty incredible wig. She had every detail just right.

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And another favorite costume. Edgar Allan Poe and the Raven. Very clever.

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Last but not least, our German host and hostess. Deb and Will always throw the best party. So grateful to them.

Halloween definitely had its great moments. And... it's not so great. A kidney stone was quite the trick. I hadn't planned on being treated with pain meds. Would have preferred milky ways and kit kats. But so it went. Tricked and Treated. And I am SOOOO glad it's over. I have a whole new, magnified empathy for anyone who has passed a kidney stone before. No small victory.

Hope your tricks and treats were sweet ones. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rachel and Eric

Some days are simply golden. Not just for the light, or the dreamy weather, or the turning of the cottonwood trees. Some days are framed with so much joy they feel like a treasure. A wondrous, golden gift. 

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This was one of those joy-drenched days. 

Meet the new Mr. & Mrs. Greene. Rachel is my baby sister. She turns thirty next week (ten years between us), and funny enough, in Mormondom (at least here in Salt Lake), drifting unmarried into your late twenties can feel lonely, hard, and out of place.

Rachel brought her share of boys home for family dinners. They were nice and pleasant to talk to. But it wasn't until Eric came for dinner that we noticed a genuine spark about her. And him. It was obvious he loved her. And that's what we were waiting for. For someone to truly love Rachel. For her beauty, goodness, opinions, and brains.

And... when Eric met me at the kitchen sink to dry dishes, after helping my five kiddos load their plates, I knew he was a keeper.

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The night of Rachel and Eric's wedding dinner, we five siblings sat with our spouses at one big, round table. I looked at every face, took in the laughter, the comfort. And all at once, a handful of memories kindled inside me - of how we used to be. Few people on earth know me better than these five. It was the happiest feeling being with them that night.

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The next morning we gathered at the Salt Lake Temple for Rachel and Eric's sealing. Members of the LDS church who want to be married in temples do so because of the nature of the marriage. It is not just for this life. It is for this life and beyond. Marriages performed in holy temples are sealed with a sealing power that binds them to each other through death and into the afterlife. This kind of marriage is for time and all eternity. 

Sealings also include children that will be born to those parents (or adopted), binding the whole family unit together forever.

This means we don't take marriage lightly. It is the most important decision we make in this life. We believe the impact to be eternal. This decision brings us great comfort, especially through death. And in the end, it is the thing that brings us the most joy.

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Three of my mom's sisters.

Twenty years ago, the First Presidency of the LDS church issued a proclamation on the family. A statement that explains why we believe family, marriage, and children to be so important. As Doug and I have navigated some of the challenges in raising children and preserving a good marriage, we have come to really value these words:

"The family is ordained of God. Marriage between a man and woman is essential to God's plan. Children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother who honor marital vows with complete fidelity. Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities."

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So the beginning of a new family, based on these principles, is for us, great cause to celebrate.

(You can read the whole proclamation here).

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Ah, these two. Rachel and my Mom. They've had lots of years together, lots of conversations in the kitchen, lots of tears, and lots of laughs.

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This photo probably sums up their feelings best. Wahoo!

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Rachel with my Dad.

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Eric. Ever the Ute fan.

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The reception that night was at my parents' home. All of us wanted to have a backyard reception like this, but Rachel was the only one to pull it off.

She did all the planning, organizing, and brain-storming. Her ability to create large-scale beauty like this, and not get stressed about it, amazes me.

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Ali tagged along as we took photos of the set-up.

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Doug helped the boys with their belts and bow ties.

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The girls were happy in their matching chiffon dresses.

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Everyone but Spencer smiled for pictures.

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Sisters and Bridesmaids.

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The Keddington clan.
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And my favorite little spot. Two white couches and wooden table tucked beneath the peach tree.

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Sami holding cousin Hana.

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The menfolk.

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My parents.

They have given us so much. Man. How will it feel when that last child gets married? 

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Eliza under the apple tree.

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Finally. A half-smile from Spencer. 

He makes my heart flutter.

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Ali love.

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My sister Becca.

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Sweet Sami.

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And this favorite moment. Spencer mirroring my Dad in a fast-paced progression of silly faces. They were squarely matched.

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The Groom's cake. A fun idea I'd never seen before. Rachel's surprise for Eric.

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The wedding cake.

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My brother Dave and his daughter Maya. 

The brothers shuttled all the guests up and down the hill in golf carts. Which worked quite well until someone told me my girls were jumping onto the back of the moving carts to catch a ride. Ahem. So glad we didn't end up with road rash and someone getting run over!

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Eric's beautiful Mom, and his niece.

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Eric's parents. 

We were even more sure about Eric once we met his wonderful family.

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My Mother's garden. Pumpkins ripening on the vine.

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The happy couple. I love this photo. For the tree with the lights in it. A neglected plate of food behind them, and Rachel's shoes kicked off.

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Rachel greeting two family favorites, Jer and Cristie.

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This chef, flipping crepes, never missed a catch. At least while I was watching. I had a go at crepe-flipping a few weeks ago. And... it's obvious I need more practice. 

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More of my Mom's family. I love these people. Wish we saw them much more often.

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Sarah and her darling sidekick Hana.

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The eating of the groom's cake. Spence and Gordy hovered around this table for quite a while until given the "go" sign.

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Some of Eric's family, gathering round the fire as the sun went down.

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The girls. Zig-zagging through the lights.

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And carrying presents.

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After lots of dancing, food, and seeing old friends, we lit sparklers and made a tunnel for the bride and groom.

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And off they went. To pull saran wrap and oreos off their car!

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I enjoyed this gorgeous bouquet of orchids and roses for another week. 

Looking through these photos today, I can't help but think about the joint-life they started and the reasons we still revere marriage, encourage it, and work every day at strengthening our own.

Here's one more line from the Family Proclamation. It is about each of us. Our potential. And our worth.

"ALL HUMAN BEINGS — male and female — are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny."

It is good to step back and see each other as God sees us. As his own. As his most important work. With divinity already placed in our souls. Marriage requires divine eyes. Eyes that see the best in each other.

Congrats Rachel and Eric. You have a wonderful synergy about you. Golden days, like this, are worth waiting for.

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