Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Here's Your Change

After missing for the past few months, I finally attended our community writing group again last night. I don't know why I've stayed away. It's a really fantastic group of people who are very encouraging and funny and kind.

Last night, the assigned topic was change. I had a busy evening so I knew I'd be quite late to the meeting and I thought about missing again, but as I pondered the topic, my paper pretty much wrote itself so I went and shared it with the group. Here it is.

Here’s Your Change

I was selling tickets last week on opening night of my daughter’s school play. Ticket prices were four and seven dollars which meant I repeated the line “Here’s your change” dozens of times as I handed back various assortments of bills.
As I thought about the topic of change, that phrase “Here’s your change,” kept running through my mind. If only it were that easy, I thought.  But as I reflected more and more, I realized that maybe it is. Maybe change isn’t as elusive as it sometimes feels.
Recently I was listening to a podcast when the speaker said something that was so inspiring that she may as well have reached through the internet to say, “Here’s your change.”
She pointed out, in short, that circumstances are neutral. It’s our thoughts and the meaning we give them that determine our feelings which determine our actions. So if we can change the way we think about something, we can change the way we feel and ultimately act.
This goes along with my belief that we have been put here on earth as agents to act, not objects to be acted upon.
Let me share a simple example.
Let’s say my preschooler spills her milk during dinner. I immediately get mad, thinking (and saying) that she is so irresponsible and if she would pay more attention to what she’s doing, I wouldn’t have so much work to do. I get up in a huff to clean it up, fuming the whole time.
Is she irresponsible? No. That’s only what I think about her, but it doesn’t make it true. The only fact here is that there is milk spilled on the table. What is she then? Well, she’s a preschooler. Sometimes preschoolers spill their milk and that’s okay. If I can slow down enough to change my thinking, I may even find some compassion and reassurance for my daughter to let her know that she’s normal and that spilled milk is no big deal. Do you see the difference?
So if, for example, you don’t think your husband is doing a very good job making you happy, stop and change your thinking. That’s not his job. It’s yours. No one can make you happy because you are not an object to be acted upon. It’s what you think about the things your husband does and what meaning you give to those thoughts that determine your feelings of happiness…or not. It’s also important to realize that it’s not your job to make your husband happy. It’s his. Because we’re agents to act, we have the option to choose happiness. No one can force it upon us. Release other people to feel how they feel. You can’t control their feelings. And know that you are free to feel how you feel and that you can change your thinking and the meaning you give those thoughts to arrive at the feelings and, ultimately, the actions that best serve you.
This is potentially life-changing stuff. I know it has changed my perspective. I have realized that when I react negatively based on other people’s actions, I am giving them control over me. I have learned that I can change my thinking and it will, in turn, change everything.
One other thought.
As I pictured my podcast friend reaching through the internet with my “change,” my mind’s eye focused in on another picture. It was one of the outstretched arms of the Savior. I could see the marks of the nails in his hands as he said, “Here’s your change.”  I had to catch my breath because that is exactly what the Savior offers to each one of us. “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, and he saith: Repent, and I will receive you,” (Alma 5:33).
Repentance means change. It’s not always easy, but change is what will allow us to return to our Heavenly Father and feel comfortable in His presence. We will never achieve perfection on our own, but through the Savior’s Atoning sacrifice, we can become perfect through Him. He can change our very hearts. This is available to each one of us, but He always honors our agency and will never force us to choose Him. But if and when we do, we will see Him waiting there with outstretched arms.
“Here’s your change.”

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Maximum Forte sings "The Greatest Show"

Sterling is a member of his high school a cappella group, Maximum Forte. Last weekend they competed in the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) Midwest Quarterfinals in St. Louis. They competed against ten other teams from high schools in Kansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Here is a video of the third and last song in their set, "The Greatest Show," from The Greatest Showman. This is my favorite of the three songs they performed.

The top two teams advance to the semifinals next month. Sterling's group got third place and they were really happy about that. They have a commitment that would have prevented them from competing in the next round of competition anyway so third was perfect for them. They were also awarded "Outstanding Choreography" for "The Greatest Show."

This is a great bunch of kids and I'm excited to see where they go from here!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Saying Goodbye...Again

We said goodbye to our beautiful Savannah this morning. She's on her way to the Missionary Training Center for a few weeks before heading to the Nevada Las Vegas West Mission for 18 months.

Savannah has been home from BYU for a month just waiting for this day. As hard as it was to say goodbye, I know she's ready which made it a lot easier to let her go. There is so much about Savannah that will contribute to her being an amazing missionary. She's funny and smart. She doesn't hold grudges. People feel safe with Savannah; she just loves everyone. She has an amazing testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and isn't shy about sharing it. We miss her already, but I know she's going to be just fine.

Over the last few weeks, Savannah and Sterling have been working together to record an A Cappella cover of "This Is Me" from The Greatest Showman. Sterling wrote the arrangement and the two of them laid down all 8 tracks. They finished it up just in time. It is admittedly amateur, but I think they did a great job!! It was fun and very satisfying as a mom to see them working so enthusiastically together to complete this fun project. :) Here you go:

Sunday, December 24, 2017

High School Christmas Concert

The other day, I said I'd share a couple of videos from the High School Choir Christmas concert. I realized today that it's now or never if I want to get this done before Christmas!

Here are three of my favorite numbers.

Sterling had a solo in The First Noel, performed by the school a cappella group, Maximum Forte.

White Winter Hymnal is a song they got from Pentatonix. Maximum Forte learned the hand motions and it's so cool! I wish they were sitting farther back on the stage so we could see the whole group at once. They were sitting on stools really close to the audience so the camera was only able to get so much, but the sound alone makes this worth posting.

This last one is all the choirs combined, singing Variations on Jingle Bells. It's super fun. Soren is tucked behind someone near the front. Sterling is easily seen.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Choose Happiness

Spencer has been doing so well on his mission. He's had 2 great companions so far and he's really been embracing his experiences and learning all he can. But last week was hard and some discouragement and even a little depression started to set in. During a routine interview with his mission president later in the week, Spencer was given some very wise counsel. President Nelson told him that when he's faced with a decision of how to feel, he will always choose happiness. Spencer said, "I really like that, so I wrote on a sticky note and put on my desk: 'I will choose happiness. -President Nelson' so I can always remember that."

The video for Day 19 of the Light the World campaign really touched me. It's the journey of an autistic young man named Aaron Jepson. At the end of the video are the words, "In the face of adversity, Aaron chooses happiness." It's a needed message and one that I've been hearing from many different sources lately.

"Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think." I don't know who said it -- it's been attributed to several people including Buddha, Dale Carnegie and Zig Ziglar, but I believe it. It's our thoughts, not our circumstances, that determine our feelings.

Just taking a minute to reframe things may be all it takes to see the blessings and happiness right where we are. Choose happiness. :)

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Opus 23 Concerto in G Major for Violin and Piano by J B Viotti

It's that time of year! Last week was filled with recitals, concerts and parties. It was a great week! I'll post a few of my favorite songs from the high school choir concert in a day or two. For now, here is Sterling's Violin Recital piece. He played it so well! Enjoy. :)

Friday, December 1, 2017

Light the World - Day 1

Today is the start of the Light the World campaign by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are challenges each day leading up to Christmas - different ways to Light the World through service. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to join in. Just think of what a difference we can make!

Today's challenge is found in Matthew 10:8 - "Freely ye have received, freely give." 

I love today's video. I wish there were vending machines like this in my little corner of the world!

What am I doing today? I'm going to make a donation to my favorite charity, Educate the Kids. It's run by a friend of mine from Scotland. 100% of donations go to help the children in a small village in Kenya. Educate the Kids has built an orphanage and two schools for these kids. They also provide lunch (and sometimes breakfast) each day for the school children. For some, this is the only food these kids get. I've been feeling so, so grateful for all my blessings and know that a little bit will go a long way to help those in extreme poverty. Educate the Kids is working miracles for these children through education.

Go to to find out more about the campaign and to see all the challenges. Are you in?

Let's do this! We can #LighttheWorld. :)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

A Shrimp Bug Contraption

You've probably never heard of a shrimp bug. That's because we made up the name. Years ago at certain times of the year, we would find these large bugs in our basement that sort of looked like a cricket, but they were brown with super long antennae and really long legs that could jump like 3 feet or more. They were terrifying. Their bodies sort of resembled a shrimp so we named them shrimp bugs and we all hated them. 

We later learned that they are actually called Camel Crickets, but we still call them shrimp bugs. We still get them. We still hate them. Unfortunately, we've had more than usual this year.

Sadie found one on the stairs last week after everyone had gone to bed. It was pretty late, but she was determined to make sure it wouldn't crawl (or jump!) into her room during the night. Here's the contraption she came up with:

You can see a few purple and pink ponytail holders on the stair behind the black folder. Sadie initially fired those at the bug to see if she could just annihilate it outright. It never moved so she thought maybe it was dead. See the markers and highlighters under the tub against the wall? She tried those next, throwing them at the shrimp bug which annoyed it enough that it crawled up the wall. She trapped it against the wall with the plastic tub, but then she was stuck. She couldn't let go or the tub would fall. She reached as far as she could and was barely able to grab Sterling's music folder which she propped against the bucket while she ran for tape. Once she secured the bucket to the wall, she kept the folder there for extra support then put her trash can next to that for added peace of mind. 

When I went downstairs the next morning, this note was on top of the bucket:

"Caution Massive Shrimp Bug!!! (caught by me so give me a medal of bravery)... or a blizzard  -Sadie Stowell
What a funny girl. :)

Fortunately for us all, camel crickets aren't invasive. They don't bite or get into food or otherwise cause trouble. They are just really big and ugly and terrifying. Sadie is the only one who sleeps in the basement and that's the only place we've found them, but I'm not worried about her. She's obviously got it under control.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Too Many Ducks

I know, I know. It's been forever. Life is good, it really is. I just haven't taken time to document the good stuff. But tonight I realized that there have been several things lately that have made me laugh or smile and I need to share! This one is definitely good for a laugh. I've watched it four times so far and I crack up every time!

Gotta love it! :)