Best Reads in 2016

30 December 2016

These year I read - or at least remember reading – 29 books.  Which averages over half a book a week.  Pretty good!!  Considering Andy Andrews, my Best New Mentor from 2 years ago, said that a person should read a least one book a week. 

Although I don't read with that level of consistency on a day-to-day basis, unless it's an intellectual book where I'm learning self-discovery, then I can dabble here and there.  But if it's a novel, I binge.  Once I start, my life ceases to exist as is, and I become consumed in the plot, rushing through all my responsibilities of the day, so I can get back to that book!  So I read through entire books in mere days, and then I swing back to another hobby for awhile.

Anyway, below are my author awards and top reads for the year!

Best Discovered Novelist:  Francine Rivers.  I read everything of hers this year!

Best New Mentor: Christiane Northrup

Best Writing:  Morgan McCarthy.   She puts together the most descriptive, and almost lyrical, sentences.

Below is my bookshelf of best reads in 2016:

(I also made a Best Reads for 2015 and Best Reads for 2014!)

Upward and onward,

2016 in the Rearview

28 December 2016

Well, we are now in the rearview of 2016!  It has been a great year for us, full of so many adventures and blessings!  Here we begin the year as two.  This picture was taken before we each left for work one morning, right at the beginning of 2016.

We moved into our house just before Christmas one year ago, and we spent the first part of the year remodeling, sanding, painting, and decorating.  We also vamped up our basement to use entirely as a rental.  Later, Ryan built a full kitchen down there in 2 weeks! 

And then tax season starts!  And, we find out we are.... pregnant!  And later, we discover she's a Baby Girl!

Just after tax season, we fly to Cabo with some friends!

Not yet through with our travel bug, we go on many more trips! 
Flaming Gorge
Lake Powell
Lake Hebgen
Oregon Coast

We go on many other adventures near home!  Our adventure closest to home was a neighborhood crawfish boil!  We made some new friends in the neighborhood, while peeling and eating tons of these crustaceans.

We are invited to a really important exclusive business launch.  Tons of people are flown in from some country in Asia to participate.  Ryan and I could not take this business seriously; it all seemed like such a huge joke.
Then we celebrated our one-year anniversary with massages and dinner at Tiburon!  Such a happy day to celebrate an incredible year!  A little later, we go wake-surfing with friends!  I even got out there at 8 months pregnant!

Ryan wins our ward chili cook-off!  He won 1st place in his category of chili, and then he won the overall contest.  Ryan also goes hunting and shoots a huge bull!  He showcases just one of the butt cheeks below, haha!

Meanwhile for me,
Baby Girl continues to grow straight out.

And just when I'm about to POP...
Our angel, Charlotte Rae, is born!

 We just adore this baby girl!

  Our first night out as parents!  We go to a Carrie Underwood concert!

In just one month, Charlotte develops and matures so much!  Wide eyes and big grins! 

And now we end the year as three.  :)  Family selfies become a bit tricky with such vast height differences.  I love my little family so much!

Upward and onward to 2017!  Love to all of you too.  Thanks for being here with us!

Oh my heart.

20 December 2016

Baby Girl is still asleep and it's almost noon.

I am definitely mothering Ryan's daughter, and I LOVE it! My baby and my husband love to sleep, and I could not be more grateful for that.  Because I LOVE morning hours!  I love the rising sun; I love time to workout; I love time to stretch; I love time to study; I love time to vox some of my friends while I eat breakfast.  And today, following these activities, I went back to the bedroom, and Charlotte is still squish-faced, deep sleeping on the mattress.  So, I turn back around and now I'm here to blog.  What a Christmas miracle!!  Not to mention that after a really busy few weeks, work is slow these next couple of weeks, so I feel ease towards taking time to write.  Self-indulgence is an art form, and I am too keen to shouldering all responsibilities before I allow myself to partake. 

I am really grateful for my life right now.  It is a very happy time.  Just the other night, Ryan and I were huddled over Charlotte as she was tucked into our bed, and I thought my heart was going to explode.  Charlotte has begun focusing her eyes on Ryan and I, and just really recently, within the last couple of days, she has begun really smiling back at us.  Having our tiny little gal smile at us is... well, it's indescribable.  And the other night, as we were all in our bedroom together, Ryan was talking with Little Buddy, and for the first time, she locked eyes with him and gave him a huge grin.  I could hear the happiness in his voice and could practically feel his joy radiating out of his body.  So there's little Charlotte grinning at Ryan, Ryan is on cloud nine smiling back at her, and I'm filming it all on camera watching both of them and thinking I'm about to have a heart attack from joy.  (This is the recent video on social media).  I just pulled Ryan close and we held each other while staring at Charlotte, feeling like this is all that exists in the world.

I feel peace because I feel that everything is so right in our lives right now.  I really value the health of my body, both in growing and delivering this healthy baby, and my insanely rapid bounceback.  I really love my body and the power it holds.  I see my nutrition and my fitness as my highest responsibility because my body is the vessel to bear and feed children, and I like placing my health at the top of my priorities every day.  Ryan and I are also just in such a settled place in life.  We've secured our home, our food storage, our healthy homegrown food sources (more on this later), our finances, our future, and our careers.  And though my career has vastly scaled back, it still feels good knowing I've scrimped and sacrificed so much along the way to produce a career that can be picked up and quickly monetized if need be.  All this alignment makes the time for parenthood full-focused. 

And I also feel such spirituality in motherhood.  I've settled into this role like it's been my calling all along.  Other roles I've needed study and guidance and training, but this role pairs with my intuition more than I've ever experienced, and I feel a true match here.  I also feel a palpable closeness with Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, really seeing how their guidance through Gospel principles is so important for the growth of a person's soul.  And because I really, really want to provide that for Charlotte, I can feel how much my Heavenly Parents (and biological parents) wanted that for me, and I feel close to Them.  I feel honored that I get to instill a little being with God's principles, sharing all my enthusiasm for the Gospel with Charlotte's little heart and mind.

I value this Gospel so much.  I really believe the principles, and I find so much strength and peace within them.  I am grateful to have Higher Knowledge that lifts me.  And I know that the accounts of men and women who have spent their lives representing this Gospel are true.  I read the first 2.5 books of The Work and The Glory just before Charlotte was born, and I really grasped Joseph Smith's gentle and loving character.  And now I am reading a Christian novel that personifies Mary's life, as the mother of Jesus, and I am really appreciating Christ's loving and wise nature.  I know these men were real and as valiant, if not more, than these talented authors portray them to be.  I'm so grateful for their examples to inspire me upward, including Ryan's example that aligns just with theirs, right in my own home.

More than ever... Upward and onward,

image source

Charlotte SMILES at me!

15 December 2016

Charlotte has become infinitely more aware and engaged in her 40 day life span.  

While her eyes have de-puffed, opened wider and wider, expanded their general gaze, and slightly begun focusing on items of close distance, I have not even removed my eyes from Charlotte once in these last 5.5 weeks.  Literally, I've looked at nothing else.

And today, OH MAN!  Guys, today, I had just completed a mediocre diaper change.  I say mediocre because excitement metrics change in motherhood.  I get super stoked about a well-filled, plump little diaper.  Yeah! Go baby go!  Juice that thing up!  So a lightweight diaper is like, meh.  

Anyway, her diaper is wrapped securely to the side, Little Buddy has her ruffly pink pants taut around her waist, protruding her incredible belly bulge, and I am peering down over her face saying all the innane things that people say to babies on repeat.  "Hello!  Hellooooo.  Hiiiiii.  Hi Little Buddy!  Helllooo.  Look at yooouuu.  You are so cute!  Hiiiiiii."  And her little bobble head steadies itself in my direction.  Then she locks eyes with me and stares at me with wide-open wonder.  

And then,

She smiles!!  

Open mouth, HUGE smile!  

I nearly fell over. 

So I swooped her into my arms, and while texting Ryan, I ran to the bedroom to repeat the scenario.  I didn't take my sights off Charlotte while I wobbled my camera around, and I still gratefully captured the below snaps of her in a matter of seconds.  Here's our moment:

What's that? You have a story, mom?     //     Ooo sounds interesting!     //     Okay, I'm listening.

 Hmm, okay, I'm hearing ya.       //       That's actually pretty funny!       //        Actually, it's hilarious!!

Mom, YOU'RE TOO MUCH!!       //       I'M DYING OVER THIS!!       //        MOM! SERIOUSLY, I CAN'T EVEN!!

Okay, stop.  Out of my face now, mom. 

Ryan came home shortly thereafter, and we have yet for a 3rd instance of seeing her gummy grin.  I hope Charlotte has not decided today in ultimatum that her parents are a bore.

Upward and onward,

Mothers Climbing Towards Godhood

02 December 2016


Nora just texted me a thought regarding Mary and the birth of her baby, Baby Jesus.  And she related Mary to myself and my birth of Charlotte.

I read her text in passing because Charlotte had just fallen asleep - little window of *GOLDEN HOURS* - and I had just zoomed through a shower and was lapsing through my bedroom to get dressed and ready, and I glanced at my phone and inhaled Nora's words.  While standing in my closet, her thoughts lulled through my mind, tapping so many thoughts in me about women and their journeys.  First really thinking about Mary and her own  thoughts and emotions regarding motherhood.

The scriptures are so so so dear to my heart.  Though, they are not chalked full of female journey's and the feelings therein.  Just the other day, I was reading during my morning feeding with Charlotte.  I'm dead center in the war chapters of Alma, and I had to pause and laugh to myself.  Pride, Aggression, Fighting, Appeals for Prisoner Swaps, etc.  And there I was nursing my perfect, delicate baby in the gentle morning light, listening to her soft coos and swallows.  What could be more polar?  And the thought came to me, albeit with a little intrusion of bitterness - "what in the world am I supposed to connect with here?"  And then I quickly turned my heart back to Heavenly Father, as though we just arrived at a trailhead together and the realization that there is a spiritual knowledge climb here for me.  I absolutely believe that we can find anything through the scriptures.  Perhaps not in them, so to speak.  But through our studies of them, Heavenly Father will brighten our minds with His direct knowledge.  Maybe that's where most people stop.  "Breastfeeding isn't in the scriptures, so therefore, the book is irrelevant, and I am done."  But we keep reading, and God will bring knowledge to our mind.  So I've been praying.  I want to know the women, and I want to know their journey's; I want to know their emotions.  I'd like this unwritten knowledge to be revealed to me, and I believe it can be.

When I was pregnant with Charlotte, I came across a study on Heavenly Mother.  Two researchers at BYU had scoured for every LDS Church resource they could find that made mention of Heavenly Mother.  Any discourses, talks, essays, as far back as they could go.  And they assembled the information into one report (I have it if you want me to email it to you).  I drank up that article like a parched desert wanderer.  And to my dismay, my read ended abruptly just halfway through, because half of the pdf pages were citations.  I did not learn near as much as I wanted to about Her.  Not even close.  But there was one little piece that filled me with peace and made Her feel so near and connected to me.  Heavenly Mother went through her own journey just like us.  Starting from mortality, all the way to Godhood.  She went through the "2 steps forward, 1 step back" process that I go through all the time - in my weaknesses, in my talents and confidences, and in my heartaches:

Some statements by Church authorities have led to the understanding that before Heavenly Mother became exalted and helped beget us, she was once mortal and dwelt on an earth. Elder Orson F. Whitney (bishop, July 14, 1878–April 1906) explained that “there was a time when that being whom we now worship—that our eternal Father and Mother were once man and woman in mortality.” The soul-making trials of her earthly experience, coupled with continuing growth after a celestial resurrection, helped her hone the qualities of divinity to move her from “womanhood to Godhood.”

I love that thought! 

Then I thought about my sweet little Charlotte, and her journey, starting three days after she was "due."  I have already decided that for my next child, I will announce the due week.  Because the process of deriving at a "due date" is comically subjective to me, and then I swear people carve that date into their stone calendars and freak out when it comes and goes with no baby.

Physician: "What is your estimated first day of your last period before you got pregnant?"

Me: Well....  Here's my best guess on the range of days that it possibly could have been.

Physician:  Okay.  Here is your singular due date.

--Meanwhile, the entire pregnancy, the due date estimate shifts around due to technician ultrasound assumptions, the midwife measurements of my belly, and historical data that first-time moms generally go at least a week over term.  So Ryan and I just sail with whatever wave.  Baby Charlotte will come when she is ripe.

--Due Date Arrives:  no baby.  *Cue people's reactions*

"You better eat this food."  "You better jump on a tramp, go for a run, fly a kite, ride on a polar bear!!"  "You need to get her out!"  "Your baby must be so stubborn."

But really, whaaaat?  My precious child has not even stepped foot  (or for accuracy, "head plummeted") into earth yet, and already she is being judged and pushed along other people's timelines.  According to the world, she already needs to be somewhere and be someone on day -3.  Haha, okay people, all in good fun.  But really, a baby's journey starts when it needs to, and they come to earth in the exact starting place of his or her character and soul that is necessary.    

And I guess what this all comes down to is that I'm not just climbing on a journey for myself anymore.  I'm now holding a little hand and pushing sticks and thorns out of her way, so she may have her journey too.  And I'm craving, more than ever, the feelings of women in the Gospel who walked this same path.

Part of my journey with Charlotte includes deflection, like the story above.  Swatting away anything low and harmful, untrue and toxic.  Though the more important part of our journey is keeping our eyes on the glory and essence of Heavenly Mother all the way up ahead.  Little Charlotte really only knows me (and Ryan) as her sights.  We are her points of exemplification for heaven.  And my sight is absolutely set on Heavenly Mother and what I crave to have confirmed about her in my heart.  With examples of other women along the path, in the scriptures and in real life, heading upwards to Her as well.  I want their companionship.  I want their stories.  I want their peace.  Because I want Charlotte and I to keep our intentions and hearts high, continually pushing in that direction.

Thank you Nora and my other friends here for being some of those faithful women in my sights.

Upward and onward,

Elder Glenn L. Pace (First Quorum of the Seventy, October 3, 1992–October 2, 2010) at a 2010 BYU devotional: “Sisters, I testify that when you stand in front of your heavenly parents in those royal courts on high and you look into Her eyes and behold Her countenance, any question you ever had about the role of women in the kingdom will evaporate into the rich celestial air, because at that moment you will see standing directly in front of you, your divine nature and destiny.”

image source
quote source:  “A Mother There” A Survey of Historical Teachings about Mother in Heaven