Thursday, August 9, 2012

What Have I Done for Someone Today?

I like so many have been blessed with amazing family and friends! They put up with all my big projects and come running to my aide each time I bite off more than I can chew. I wonder many times why they even want to be my friends at all, it’s so much work! They live the Gospel of Jesus Christ each and every day as they serve others. My life has been greatly blessed because of their goodness, sacrifice of time, talent, and resources. When I think of these good people I’m reminded of the ultimate example of love, charity, and compassion - President Thomas S. Monson. 

It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. As I look back on all the service we received during our daughter’s wedding, it is a humble reminder for me to take a look at my own life. Am I immersed in the “thick of thin things”? Do I spend too much time on things that don’t really matter in the eternal scheme of things, or am I focusing on more important causes and seeking opportunities each day to give back and “pay it forward”.

We are surrounded by those in need of our love, attention, encouragement, support, comfort, and kindness. These beloved children of God are family members, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here on earth, with the calling to serve and lift others.

Helping Hands at my Daughter's Wedding
It took many hands to pull off the fairy tale wedding. Countless men and women jumped in and helped so much, making fabric roses, hemming endless yards of tablecloths, cutting and tying yards and yards of ribbon, hanging hundreds of European crystals from very high branches, taking the entire burden of the food off my shoulders, running more errands than I can count, doing yard work in the pouring rain, offering the use, set up, and services of the perfect sound system, setting up tables and chairs, spending a sleepless night with our daughter to help calm her nerves, cleaning up after it was all over as I was in a comatose state of exhaustion, taking me home and putting me to bed, delivering the wedding dress to be cleaned and preserved, dropping the flowers off to be freeze dried, delivering left over food and flowers to neighbors in need, I could literally go on for pages with the service rendered in our behalf. . .

The photo here isn’t complete, but the best we could get as so many others were scurrying about to relieve my stress and make it the perfect evening. I will never be able to re-pay them for their selfless service in my behalf, but I can pay it forward by returning the favor and seeking for opportunities to serve at least one person each day. One of my favorite scriptures in the Book of Mormon comes from King Benjamin, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings yea are only in the service of your God.”

At the end of each day, may we ask ourselves this question, “What have I done for someone today?”

Until next time,

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Final Product

Photo Courtesy of BP Designer Portraits

Today's post compares the original picture with the final outcome. This is all I had to work with, no side views, no close up details . . . just the view from the front - and fuzzy at that. The fuzziness could just be my tired old eyes! : )

As you can see, there is a considerable height difference between the model and my daughter . . . I'm guessing at least a foot or more!

The bodice is totally different, at her request, but I think the skirt is pretty close.

It still amazes me how much time, effort, sacrifice, work, and money we spend on this one day in our lives, and the lives of our children when they get married! However, when looking at it with an Eternal perspective, it is one of the most important decisions we will ever make. With that in mind, it deserves the grand celebrations we dream up to celebrate this blessed sacred day. 

Weddings can be a stressful time for all involved. It's important to keep an eye single to the true purpose behind this one, temporal event, entwined with so much spiritual meaning.

President Gordon B. Hinckley came up with some amazing quotes in his lifetime. Some of my favorites are about marriage. I really miss him! I'm grateful we have so much to remember him by. I've chosen to share a few of them here, as no one can say it better than he did!

"True love is not so much a matter of romance as it is a matter of anxious concern for the well being of ones companion." 

"In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."

"Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he's been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey ... delays...sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

"It isn't as bad as you sometimes think it is. It all works out. Don't worry. I say that to myself every morning. It all works out in the end. Put your trust in God, and move forward with faith and confidence in the future. The Lord will not forsake us. He will not forsake us. If we will put our trust in Him, if we will pray to Him, if we will live worthy of His blessings, He will hear our prayers." (This was printed on Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley's funeral program)

~Gordon B. Hinckley

Until next time,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Wedding Story Part IV

Photos courtesy of BP Designer Portraits 
Today’s post is not only the unveiling of the dress, but also a showcase of Brad Peterson’s amazing photography from BP Designer Portraits! Brad’s home studio is in Millville, Utah. Brad will travel anywhere you want him to, but we chose to go to him because of the beautiful surroundings in Cache Valley Utah. We really liked how Brad has the talented gift of mixing the beauties of nature into his work. We also loved the fact that he does a lot of candid shots. His photography is more natural, and not so stiff and posed. We’ll be calling Brad to take our next family photos for sure!

The only complaint I had, if you can even call it a complaint, is that Brad took literally hundreds of photos . . . and they were ALL stunning! It was extremely difficult to choose which ones to display and put in the book, and even harder to choose just one for the bridal portrait! In fact it was downright painful, I wanted all of them! 

Last week’s post was long, as I wanted to describe each detail of the dress and veil. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so this week’s blog will speak for itself . . . I would have loved to post the entire photo shoot of her bridals, but these are a few of my favorites. They also show the details I described in last week’s blog.

Next week, you’ll see the picture my daughter found on Pinterest, of the pink Vera Wang dress she brought to me in the beginning, to compare with what I came up with in the end. The bodice is totally different, at her request, but the skirt is pretty close . . . my only regret? Wish she would have gone with the pink, a small birdcage veil, and different shoes! But then again I wasn’t the one wearing the dress, and that’s what really matters. I’ve never seen her so happy, or more beautiful. Now that it’s all done and the stress is gone, I want to thank her for the honor it was to make her dress. She had more faith in me than I did. I’m so glad she liked it.

Until next time, 

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Wedding Story Part III

On my last post, I mentioned I didn’t have any photos of the dress in earlier construction. The day after I finished Wedding Blog Post #2, my daughter emailed me these photos. I had forgotten that she had taken them, but glad that she did. The first photo was the beginning construction of the skirt. I’m a "pinner" - “Pinning makes for perfection.”If you’re wondering what the yellow sheet of paper is pinned on the front of the dress form, it read: “Please don’t come near this dress until I can move it to a different room! Thanks, the Village Seamstress.” It had been a late night and I hadn’t thought to keep it in our bedroom yet, so the dress was set up in the TV room. Even though food is not allowed on the carpet, sometimes my children take food and drink in there when I’m not home. You would think after 20 years, they would know and obey that rule! The last thing I needed was to have a stray chocolate chip, or red Gatorade spilled on the dress! The other two photos show the development of the front and back of the skirt which was the most difficult and detailed skirt I’ve ever made . . . well I did make a beaded pageant dress once that took more time than this one, but that was only because it was heavily hand beaded. This dress was much more complex. 

So I’m back tracking a little in this post. On the next post you will see the completed dress, which took two months to complete – mostly late into the night after working full time at my regular day job. Weekends became a blur as I began sewing when I got home from work on Fridays and got up for work on Mondays -after little cat naps. Normally I don’t sew on Sunday; however, in order to get this dress completed in time for the bridal photos, I had no choice.“The ox was in the mire!” In fact, at the time, it felt as though an entire herd of oxen were in the mire! Have you ever been so tired that when you lay down to go to sleep, you’re too exhausted to fall asleep? That’s how I felt from the time I started the dress, until about two weeks after the wedding! 

Just to give you an idea of the immensity of this project.It took 25 yards of Dupioni silk from India. 27 yards of sheer stretch mesh cut into 908 individual petals. I had hoped to cut the petals with a rotary cutter, but the mesh was just too “slimy”. They had to be hand cut with scissors. Normally it takes me a year or two to wear out a pair of scissors, and I’m careful with the! I wore out a new pair of Gingher scissors on this dress, not to mention my hand! The stretch mesh became almost “gritty” as it was cut. I’m sure that’s what took a toll on the scissors. The petals were then gathered together at the top of each one, and sewn to the skirt in rows. I believe there were a total of eleven rows of petals. Just when I thought I had cut my last set of petals, I would gather them and realize there were still bare spots! It took 18 yards of Habotai lining for the skirt and the bodice. The under-lining in the bodice took a yard and a half. I like to finish the hems on this type of dress with horsehair braid. You can buy it by the yard at most fabric stores. I used the one inch width since the skirt was so heavy. It comes in narrower widths as well. It’s not made of real horsehair anymore, but it used to be back in the day. It took nine yards of horsehair braid to go around the bottom of the hem. Horsehair braid not only provides stability to the hem, but also gives body to the hem and holds it in place. 

Each bodice seam was covered with self-made bias strips of the Dupioni silk.This gives a corset type look, and defines the princess seams. It’s also easier to hide the boning underneath the seams in the lining. After sewing the bias strips to the seams, I used a fine, white pearl cotton to embroider a chicken stitch vine along each seam on the bodice. On the tip of each stitch, I attached a tiny white glass Japanese seed bead. To give the dress balance, and counter the effect of the self-made flowers on the left side of the skirt, I embroidered a bouquet of vines on the right side of the lower bodice. Each vine was a different type of embroidery stitch and various beads were used on each vine to help differentiate the vines as they were all sewn with various thicknesses of white pearl cotton.

 I have to admit, I love to do beadwork! There’s something about it that’s calming to me, it’s therapy to my soul! My dad asked me once how I can stand to sit and sew one little bead on at a time, he said “that would drive me crazy!” Hundreds of beads were used on the bodice, but they were tiny - just enough to give it depth and dimension. Most were tiny white glass Japanese seed beads, but I also used different shapes, sizes and color variations of clear, white and opaque white Swarovski Austrian crystals on the vine embellishment. I love sewing each bead on one at a time. Bees wax is the secret to successful beading, or hand sewing of any kind. Not only does it strengthen the thread, but it also keeps the thread from getting tangled and in knots.

The last thing that was applied was the Dupioni silk over drape on the skirt with pick-ups. Then the skirt was attached to the bodice and the lining hand sewn in place to finish and complete the dress. I didn’t measure how long the tie was that laced up the back of the dress, but it was really long! That took awhile to sew, turn and press. 

The veil was a waist length, double layer of white bridal illusion, gathered onto a metal comb with a double row of clear crystals on the top edge of the comb. The edges were finished with the same self-bias strips of Dupioni silk to tie it nicely into the dress. These were also embroidered and beaded to match the dress. I cut the veil out the morning of the bridal photos and hand sewed the crystal comb to the veil in the car on the way to the bridal shoot. What a relief it was to sew that final stitch! I have to tell you, even if you choose not to make a wedding dress; it is worth it to make your own veil.They are extremely easy to make and very inexpensive. The veil including the comb was less than $20! We found the crystal comb at a beauty supply store. It was nice quality and only $5.00. A comparable veil at a bridal store would have been at least $200 - $300 or more.

I’ve taken the time to explain all of the things that went into the dress before showing you the finished project. It’s fun to imagine what it all looked like before the pieces were cut, fit, sewn together, and finally completed. 

Until now, I’ve never really thought about how many different types of tears there are, but must admit; there were many tears shed during the construction of this dress. Tears of inadequacy, tears of stress, tears of exhaustion, tears of fear that I wouldn’t get it done, tears of relief when it was finished, and finally tears of joy when I helped her put it on and lace it up the back for her bridal photos! The huge smile and little girl squeal when she looked in the mirror were priceless. I will share some of the pictures from the bridal photos in next week’s blog.

Until next time,

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Wedding Story Part II

As you can see from the attached photos, many steps on the construction of the dress went undocumented . . . in too much of a hurry and too little time. Thanks to my supportive husband, he took these with his iPhone as things progressed. You can really begin to see the dress coming together in these photos.

I believe in tender mercies. I also believe that we are blessed with abilities beyond our capabilities in more instances than we are aware of. The more I looked at the photo she gave me to start with, the more I doubted I would be able to replicate it. There were many times, I literally went to my closet and got down on my knees to plead with Heavenly Father to bless me with the knowledge to know what to do next. Each time, I would come back out with renewed strength and determination and was able to figure out how to proceed. On the entire dress, I only had to un-pick about 20 inches. That in and of itself is a miracle!

Thank goodness for high school dances, because of all those dance dresses, and the fact that she hasn’t changed in size, I already had a good base pattern to start with for the bodice. I knew it fit, as I was able to have her try her dance dresses on for me. I did construct another muslin shell for the bodice however, as I needed to make some minor adjustments in the design of the dress. After making the muslin shell, I took it apart and used it as my pattern. The muslin shell also helped me to draft the pattern for the under-skirt. I highly recommend taking the time to make a muslin shell on any important project. It relieves a lot of headaches later on in the process. I did have to start from scratch on the skirt pattern and that was major! I didn’t make that out of muslin; instead I made that out of 4 mil plastic sheeting from the paint department at WalMart. Once you make a pattern with it, you won’t want to go back to tissue paper ever again! It drapes similar to fabric, is see through, and doesn’t tear. I also use a brand new Sharpie marker to trace and draw the lines. If you make a mistake, alcohol wipes, will take off the marker and you can start over again. If you need to add more plastic onto the pattern, Scotch Invisible Tape is perfect. You can reposition it and it stays stuck.Thank goodness it all came together without too much difficulty. Just a lot of patterns and fabric to work with by the time I was to the end of the dress.

When fitting a garment, many people think that if you just cut the pattern out to the size you think you are, then you alter it to fit as you go. This is why so many junior high school sewing projects end up in the garbage can. The majority of the fitting is done before the project is even cut out, during the pattern drafting stage. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Take your measurements and then compare them to the pattern you wish to make. Please ignore the size on the pattern, it does not correspond to ready-made clothing, and yes, most have a heart attack when they discover they need a size 14 pattern and they only wear a size 8 in ready to wear clothing! Trust the measurements on the pattern envelope and ignore the number, it’s only a number! Besides, normal is only a setting on the washing machine. Choose the size that best fits your measurements, paying particular attention to the chest and shoulder area, as these are the hardest places to make alterations. Generally you can make adjustments in the side seams by dividing the difference by four, and then adding or taking away the difference from the measurements for the size on the pattern envelope in comparison to what your actual measurements are. The reason you divide it by four is because there are four pieces of fabric to spread the difference out to – two fronts and two backs. 

The bodice of this dress is made of Dupioni silk for the fashion fabric. It is underlined with a substantial piece of pre-shrunk cotton broadcloth. This is the layer that I attached the boning to, and there was a lot of boning! She wanted it to fit tight and close. The last layer of the bodice was made from 100% Polyester Habotai lining. I would have loved to line the whole dress with 100% Silk Habotai, however, the cost was already a little staggering, and since I was the only that knew it wasn’t silk, I went with the less expensive option. This last layer was seamed at the waist so that I could attach the skirt up underneath the lower edge of the free floating bodice – giving the dress a two piece look, with the stability of a one piece dress. My dress form is much bigger than my tiny daughter, but it worked just fine as the base to store the dress on when I wasn’t working on it. It was also nice to pin the Dupioni silk over-skirt on, as this was done using the “draping process”. By keeping it on the dress form it also helped to keep it less wrinkled. Ironing as you sew, makes the final press a piece of cake, and is also the secret to having your garment look “hand-made” instead of “home-made”. 

As you can see from the photos, this is an extremely complex dress as there are numerous layers on the skirt. The base of the skirt is out of Dupioni Silk, and I have to tell you there is nothing like the fresh, clean, crisp smell of high quality silk! In fact, the smell was so yummy that I kept the dress in our bedroom the entire time I wasn’t actually working on it. If it’s possible to be addicted to the smell of fabric, I think I am. As I mentioned before, New York Fashion Center is my new all time favorite fabric store. I’ve never worked with nicer silk, from the first cut to the last stitch, it was an enjoyable experience.

If you’ve never attempted to sew, start today! If you’re not under a time deadline to get the project done, sewing can actually be a very fun experience! Who knows, you may just uncover a new hidden talent! More on the dress in next week’s post.

Until next time,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Wedding Story Part I

The Fabric Has Arrived
Five months ago, our last daughter became engaged to her sweetheart of 2 ½ years.  Because we’ve done this once before, I already knew what I was in for . . .  She had been looking at wedding dress pictures from the time she was old enough to talk and look at books.  Our DVD’s of  The Wedding Planner, Father of the Bride #1 and Father of the Bride #2 were worn out long ago as she has dreamed of this day forever!

She had already informed me that she wanted “a big poufy dress, with lots and lots of tulle in the skirt and a silk Dupioni bodice with lots of beads”.  Being 4’ 10” and 90 pounds I wondered how she would pull that off, but also knew there would be no talking her out of it.  Having sewn professionally from the time I was in the 7th grade, when I made my first wedding dress, I’ve made more wedding dresses than I can count including one with genuine fresh water pearls.  I was not too concerned with the dress she had been dreaming of for the past 10 years.  Then thanks to Pinterest and Vera Wang, everything changed . . . the “big, poufy dress” turned into my worst nightmare.

Let the fun begin!

She brought me a blurry photo of a dress that was part of the Vera Wang 2012 Spring Wedding Couture Collection – it was a beautiful pale pink, with what appeared to be millions of pink mesh petals on a long flowing train with a Dupioni silk drape and bodice.  I looked at her and said, “You hate me don’t you?  If you really loved me, you would NOT ask me to make THIS dress!”  She was insistent and unbending as she begged me to “please make the dress because I love her so much.”  I held off for a month and a half, hoping and praying that I could talk her out of it and go back to the big, poufy dress.  It became obvious that she would not be changing her mind, and I decided I better get to work. 

Great Fabric Store
The days of having wonderful fabric stores brimming with many choices of beautiful fabric are long gone here in the Salt Lake Valley and surrounding areas.  I so miss The Yardstick with Mr. Frankle and Lace & Company with Alison.  Thank goodness for the internet!  I soon discovered my new favorite fabric store, NY Fashion Center, and Yolanda Dunderdale is my new favorite sales person.  She was so helpful, knowledgeable and kind!  Someday, I want to go to New York and visit this store in person and meet Yolanda as well!

One of MANY sleepless nights

The attached photos are the day that I received the 27 pound package of fabric, the contents of which would become my constant companion for the next two months.  With my children grown, and the poor economy, I was working full time during the engagement and wedding.  During the wedding I had three full time jobs, my day job here at Symbols of Zion, my night job of sewing until 2:00 AM, 3:00 AM, 4:00 AM, 5:00 AM and the night before the wedding until 6:00 AM, and my other jobs as wife, mother, Grandma Les, daughter, neighbor, friend and Visiting Teaching Coordinator.

The next few blog posts will chronicle the last five months of my life which were a blur until now.  The wedding was a month ago, and I’m just now feeling like I will survive.

So if you’re looking for the ultimate fabric store, check out NY Fashion Center and be sure to ask for Yolanda Dunderdale!
Until next time,

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

No One is Perfect

Brigham City Temple
 Last weekend, in Sunday School, we had an amazing lesson out of Alma 14.  I have always been intrigued by this chapter as this is where Alma and Amulek were forced to watch righteous women and children, along with their scriptures be destroyed by fire.

Amulek asks Alma why they can’t stretch forth their hands and save them from the flames?  Alma responds by saying this is the only way the fate of the wicked can be sealed.

This scripture has given me peace and comfort in today’s world where women and children are allowed to be defiled and abused, along with a better understanding of why bad things happen to good people.

Our Gospel Doctrine instructor recounted an experience from his mission.  He and four other missionaries were given the privilege of meeting with the president of the temple located within their mission.  The temple president gave each of them the opportunity to ask him anything they wanted.  One Elder, who was scheduled to return home the following week asked, “What advice would you give me as I return home from serving my mission?”

The temple president thought for a minute and then replied, “Remember you are a Child of God.  You were saved for thousands of years to be sent to the most wicked place, at the most wicked time, to even things out.”

Our instructor went on to say, how surprised he was at this answer.  He was expecting the usual, “Go home, get in school, and get married in the temple as soon as possible.    As members of the Church, it’s in our character to be good; this is what makes us a peculiar people.  When we have truly repented of our sins, we look upon the sin we previously committed, with abhorrence.

When people feel guilty, they do one of two things.  They either change who they are, or they try to get rid of those who made them feel that way.  They try to be lifted up by destroying those around them making others look bad.

I love Alma 14!  Particularly verse 11.  May we all remember that we are children of God and have been sent here at this specific time to even things out.  None of us are perfect, but it’s not a bad thing to be peculiar.

Until next time,

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Tribute

I Love My Dad! That pretty much says it all. Growing up, I was the boy he never had, and that didn’t bother me at all.  Dad raised and bred Arabian Horses, and so we had a big barn.  I loved helping him paint it every year.  My mom would be all worried and say “JACK!  DON’T YOU LET HER FALL OFF THAT ROOF!”  And dad would say, “OK, I got her, she’s fine.”  I think I had more paint in my hair than I put on the barn, but those were the best of times.  I built huts and forts in the orchard, and decorated them with anything I could drag up there. They had curtains and everything. 

I loved getting sports equipment for my birthday and Christmas, the football was one of the highlights and I could throw a spiral pass better than most boys.  I still have that ball today.  When I close my eyes, and smell the leather, I’m that little girl again with pig tails playing catch with dad.  Dad was my sports pal and I was his.  We lived for Saturdays.  We would wake up early, be the first ones on the lake for water skiing on nothing but glass, or the last ones off the mountain at Alta, Snowbird, Snow Basin, Park City, or Deer Valley. No one does hot chocolate like Deer Valley, and a Watson Burger at Alta is on the all time best burger list! If we weren’t skiing, we were off looking at boats or guns, right after we went to visit Grandma. We would leave with a bag of her frozen chocolate chip cookies, that were so nasty, we would pick the chocolate chips out of them and throw the cookie part away . . . sorry Grandma.

Dad never missed a swim meet, and I swam competitively for 12 years.  He would take me to practice every morning at 5:00 AM – sit and watch in the balcony until 7:00, then drop me off back home to hurry and get ready for the bus to take me to school.  My aunt or my mom would pick me up from school at 3:00 drop me off at the pool and I would swim from 4:00 to 6:00.  If dad was off work soon enough, he would pick me up and take me home.  We spent many weekends at swim meets and dad was the only one I could hear cheering me on above the crowd. I swam to the beat of his cheering – and quite often that was pretty fast.

Some of my most favorite memories are of our Lake Powell trips. If there is a Heaven on Earth, it’s up the San Juan River Arm, or Escalante on Lake Powell.  We lived on the boat and dad put extra gas tanks on, so that we could get farther than most other boats for the most pristine camping spots you can imagine.  The boat didn’t move on Sunday.  We found our camping spot Saturday afternoon and it didn’t move until Monday.  Sunday was spent reading your scriptures on any one of the blow up flotation devices we had acquired.

Even in High School I preferred spending my Saturday’s with dad.  In college I helped him train for an Iron Man Triathlon. He was amazing. He ran the St. George Marathon numerous times, the Deseret News Marathon and many 50 milers.  Just as he was there for me, I stood at the finish line for him or rode my bike along the way. 

I always felt safe when I was with my dad, and that included when he traveled with me to Romania to adopt our middle child. My husband stayed home to hold the fort down and dad went with me.  I wouldn’t have made it without him.  Every good childhood memory I have has my dad in it.

So Dad I want you to know how much I Love You, and am grateful for all the life lessons you taught me, many while on the slopes or in the water. 

Happy Father’s Day Dad, I Love You,
Your Pal Les 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Home Dedication

Symbols of Zion Home Dedication Plaque
It’s funny how quickly life can change. It seems like just yesterday that I was a young mom with three small children. Now I’m a grandma with three adult children and two grandchildren! My husband and I don’t look as young as we did 29 years ago, but we’ve earned every gray/white hair on our heads! 

Our youngest daughter got married on May 30th. In the 35 years that I’ve been doing weddings, I made my first wedding dress for pay when I was 14, this is the first wedding that came off without a glitch.

Watching the last four months of work all come together in one magical day for her was the best pay off I could have asked for. The weather was perfect, the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner were great, the ceremony was wonderful and it’s nice to know that you are loved by so many people as they file through the reception line. The line finally ended at 9:30, and the food came out almost down to the plate. There were enough leftovers for a few chicken salad croissants the next couple of days, along with a few veggies and dip.  We did have quite a few chocolate éclairs left over, but they made the perfect treats for our Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching families.  We were glad to get rid of them and they were glad to receive them. 

I am so grateful for wonderful family, friends and neighbors.  May we all dedicate our homes as a place where the Spirit of the Lord may dwell, where we can learn to love God and serve others, and where family and friends may feel welcome.

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Reflections on a Daughter of God

Today’s blog is one of reflection. Have you ever heard the quote, “If you want to hear the Lord laugh, tell Him what your plans are?” My daughter is getting married next week, and I’ve had a lot of time to reflect during my four months worth of late night sewing sessions. 21 years ago on May 28th we received a phone call telling us there was a blonde, blue-eyed, baby girl available for adoption in Romania.  They asked how soon we could get there. We were on a plane the next day at noon for one of the two weekly flights into Romania.  Our paperwork had to be submitted to the Romanian courts by June 1st as adoptions were shutting down permanently after that.

I had discovered two weeks before, that I was miraculously pregnant. We had been working for the previous nine months on our paperwork to adopt two children from Romania. Our oldest daughter was five at the time, and we had been trying to have more children with no hope of success. Interesting how so often when you focus on something else and choose to adopt, suddenly you discover you are pregnant! The next three weeks were full of miracle after miracle as we worked our way through and around the corrupt Romanian government adoption rules and regulations. I understand more fully why people kiss the ground of American soil when they return from foreign countries.  I knew what I was doing would be dangerous, but really had no idea how much danger it would truly be.  This was a time where the only thing I had to rely on was my Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and his will for me, my unborn child, my new adopted child and my entire family.  I literally placed my life in His hands and prayed that I would be able to return home to be with my husband and daughter again in this life.  We were welcomed by a tank with the gun pointed at our plane and escorted off the plane by Romanian soldiers with machine guns in our backs.  That was just the beginning of a very interesting three week adventure, I am grateful to know I will never have to do again.  Each day we ran into major glitches that if not solved, would prevent the adoption.  As I think back, I believe there were legions of very busy angels softening hearts, and preparing the way for this tiny little strong spirited girl to have a chance to live.

We were there for a week before I was able to see her.  She was six weeks old and was the tiniest baby I’d held since being a candy stripe at Primary Children’s Medical Center in Jr. High.  I remember the skin just hanging off her bottom, as there was no fat on her little body at all.  She had the biggest blue eyes, with the longest dark eyelashes I’ve ever seen.  We call them “cow eyelashes” – that’s how long and beautiful they are.  When we got her home, the Dr.’s figured that she only weighed about two pounds at birth.  The past 21 years have been filled with the hardest challenges, as well as some of the greatest joys I’ve ever experienced.

In the past seven years it seems that life has turned into hyper-speed! Trials, tribulations and struggles seem to be coming faster than we can handle at times. No one is immune.  I read an article the other day on how some people view Mormon moms.  It stereotyped us as “Happy women, with handsome husbands, kids that look like they came from GAP commercials; women who are stay-at-home moms to cook, clean, scrapbook, blog and appear to have the perfect life.”  Isn’t it funny how things appear on the surface, and people as a group are perceived?  Little do they know we struggle with everyday life just like everyone else.  Our marriages aren’t perfect, but we work on them daily and make it work.  It is sometimes difficult to LIKE the person that we LOVE, and vice versa.  Our kids don’t always grow up to fit the typical LDS mold of serving a full-time mission or even marrying in the temple.  Sometimes our stay-at-home world is rocked by an unstable economy and in order to keep things afloat, we have no choice but to go back to work in order to assist our husband in keeping a roof over the heads of our children. Just when you think you can’t do one more thing, you find out you have skin cancer . . . again (darn those baby oil, sizzling in the sun like bacon days of the 70’s), or need surgery to fix a medical issue you’ve been mysteriously plagued with for the past 19 years.  The medical bills have been part of the family budget for the past 21 years.  Your parents are getting older and you worry that you will be able to be there for them when the time comes.  You yearn to do all the things your heart desires.  Serve others daily, lighten someone’s heavy load, work and serve in the temple, do genealogy work, teach and enjoy your grand children, care and serve the ladies you Visit Teach, do the best job you can in your church calling, learn to do something new, finish old projects, go back to school and get your masters degree, the list goes on and on . . .

Mormon women are so hard on themselves. The quest to be perfect can be crippling at times. A wise friend once told me, “You can’t do all those things at the same time, it’s just not possible. You will have different seasons in your life to accomplish all that the Lord has in mind for you.  Just do the best you can with what you have today and the rest will all work out.”  The wonderful thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is that you are NEVER alone.  He is with you ALWAYS.  Each trial that comes along has a way of refining us and making us stronger, if we are willing to accept the gift of the atonement of Jesus Christ to get us through these hard times.  When we come to the realization that WE are not the ones in charge of our lives, that our loving Father in Heaven is carefully guiding us along the narrow pathway back to Him, because he loves us and wants us to live with Him once again as we did before we came to this earth to be tried and tested.  When we accept and act upon these things, those lights at the end of the tunnel that turn out to be just another train are easier to handle. He knows we are not perfect and are not capable of achieving perfection on our own.  Through the sacrifice and atonement of our elder brother Jesus Christ, He made it possible for us to return to live with our Heavenly Father again someday.

As members of the Church, we have high expectations of ourselves. It is important to realize that we can only do so much, and as long as we’re doing the best we can do, the atonement will make up the difference in the end. By putting on the Armor of God every day we will be armed and ready for the hidden battles that will come our way each and every day.

Until next time,


Monday, May 21, 2012

Missionary Treats

Do you ever see the missionaries walking along the street or buying macaroni and cheese at the grocery store? Each time I see them I wonder about their mother’s, and how they are doing with their sons or daughters so far away from home with only weekly letters, if they’re lucky. A few years ago I wanted to teach my children to serve others, and so each time we saw the missionaries, I would pull over and have my kids give them each a $5 bill to buy a little treat. If we were at the store, sometimes I would buy their groceries if they were in line behind me, or just give them a little cash to buy a treat. I always hoped that some day when my own son was serving a mission that someone would do the same for him. 

LDS Mission Coins
Since I started working here at Symbols of Zion, I’ve started carrying some coins in my purse to hand out to any missionaries I see, especially since cash is not something that I carry a lot of anymore.  I love giving the missionaries one of our Armor of God coins, a Captain Moroni – Title of Liberty coin, or the missionary specific “Called to Serve” coin.  I encourage them to carry it with them, and that each time they look at it to be encouraged in the work they are doing and to remember to LDS Mission Gifts write home weekly.  I talk to so many wonderful Christian people on the phone each week as they order Armor of God coins, sometimes by the 100’s!  I have come to the realization that there are some incredibly amazing people in this world, and they are all out there doing good things to lift and brighten someone’s day.  So take the challenge each day to do something nice for someone – and if it happens to be a missionary, tell them to write home and thank their family for all the love and support they are giving them!

Until next time,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Stop It!

Out of all the talks from General Conference, President Uchtdorf’s definitely stands out as one of my favorites.  I know that as he asked the questions in his talk, I found myself guilty of at least a couple of them.  As a daily reminder for us to just be nice, be sure to get one of our new “STOP IT” key chains.  The quote from the bumper sticker is a classic, “Don’t judge me because I sin different than you.” 

About a year ago, we had a high councilor speak in Sacrament Meeting.  I know what you’re thinking . . . boring!  Actually it was one of the best talks I’ve ever heard.  He’s since been called as a Bishop.  He talked about how he had given himself a challenge to go one week without saying anything negative about anyone.  He said it had taken him six months to accomplish his goal.  Each time he caught himself being negative in any way, he told himself he would just “start over” and try again, until he actually accomplished his goal.  This included self-criticizing as well . . . wow, that’s a hard one! 

So here’s today’s challenge - just “STOP IT”!  Feel free to start over as many times as needed.  See if you can do this for a week.  I’d love to hear back from you on how you did.  I’m still starting over . . . maybe before six months is up I’ll be able to accomplish my goal too.

Take the challenge today and just “STOP IT”. 

Until next time,

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Trek Preparation

Trek Keepsakes are an important part of trek. And it’s not too late to order yours today! Whether it’s a key chain, scripture pull, dog tag, pendant or coin, trek participants will treasure and cherish it each time they look at it and “Remember” the life changing experiences they felt on trek. I traveled with the Mormon Trail Wagon Train as a licensed vendor back in 1997. At a planning meeting, I remember President Hinckley talking to the licensed vendors regarding things for participants and visitors to purchase. He said, “Let them buy a little trinket to remind them of the things they experienced. It will be something they will always cherish.”

Symbols of Zion is the LDS retail division of SymbolArts. We have produced many things for Church Distribution for years. Symbols of Zion can help you with custom made keepsakes, or you can receive quantity discounts on stock items. We can help you design a logo that can be used on your custom trek keepsake as well as all your trek handouts, flags, posters, etc. Give me a call and I’d be happy to meet with you if you’d like to talk about custom or stock keepsakes, they are more affordable than you think.

Make sure you’re walking every day, getting plenty of rest, and are beginning to increase your daily intake of water!

Good luck with your trek preparations!

Until next time,
Les J

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day Gratitude

This is so true . . . I’m grateful for the relationship I have with my mom.  She wasn’t perfect, but no one is, we are all human.  As my mother, I know she did the best job she could.  I know she has done, and would do anything within her power to help me be the best person I can be.  She loved me, believed in me, supported me, and taught me so many things!  She taught me how to sew, how to cook (wish I would have paid more attention to that one), how to clean (you could eat off her toilet seat at any given time), I owe her so much.  She was my biggest cheerleader!  I will never be able to repay her, but I will always honor her and be grateful for the many sacrifices she made in my behalf.  I hope to live my life so that when she is gone, I won’t have any regrets.

Thanks mom, I love you,

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mother's Day Blessings

I read an article in Meridian Magazine today and it said, “The kitchen table in our home is a special place. Although the table is but a physical object, it is the Spirit in my mother's heart that makes it sacred.”  This article reminded me of the kitchen tables in my own life. 

Our first kitchen table was given to us as a gift from my husband’s parents.  It was sturdy and withstood the daily pounding of three children and their friends for nearly 25 years.  That was the time when honey colored oak was the preferable wood in home décor, along with country blue, mauve, ducks on your wallpaper and matching ceramic kitchen canisters – yes it was the height of home décor in the 80’s.  I crawled under it one day, just before we moved, to discover the entire bottom of it was covered with children’s artwork . . . all done in permanent magic marker!  The kids held their breath and thought they were going to be in trouble, but I loved what I saw.  The names of their cousins and signatures were there as well. We still have that first table, and it will soon be covered with a beautiful pink woven ribbon tablecloth, to hold our last daughter’s wedding cake at her reception.  I will never be able to part with it or the memories it holds.   

When we moved to our new home 5 years ago, our family had grown and we needed more space so that everyone could sit at the same table.  It became my quest to find the perfect square table for the kitchen nook.  None of the new tables had the feeling and spirit I was looking for.  One day I drove past an antique store in Salt Lake City and it seemed my car just turned into the small parking lot on its own.  I wasn’t even shopping for a table that day.  I walked into a very large warehouse filled to the brim with the most amazing antiques I had ever seen.  There were so many rooms and floors I worried I might get lost!  As I walked into a new room, there it was, the table of my dreams – and yes it was oak.  Not the oak of the 80’s, but rather quarter-sawn oak from the old country that had the patina to show its beauty and age.  I asked the price and swallowed my tongue, but there was so question, I HAD to have that table. 

I put it on layaway, and made monthly payments on it for a year, thank goodness the economy hadn’t quite hit us yet.  I made the last payment just about the time the bottom fell out of the economy and my husband’s commission checks stopped abruptly.  When I confessed that I had been paying on a table for over a year, he was a little upset with me, however, when the table was delivered, all was forgiven.  Even through the hard times of the past four years, he has said to me many times, “I Love That Table!  I’m so glad you got it!”  It truly is the heart of our home.   It’s as if it were built specifically for the place where it sits. 

We have enjoyed many meals with family and friends at this table.  The thick turned legs are strong and sturdy, the top is magic as it folds out at both ends to accommodate all of our family members, and then folds back to the perfect size for daily use.  My husband sits there each morning for his daily scripture study; we play games there together – sometimes just the two of us.  I can’t help but wonder the stories that old table could tell if it could talk.  I have even imagined that quite possibly, the owners could have been some of our ancestors from England who sold it to make their way here to the Salt Lake Valley.  I imagine a faithful wife and mother wiping it down for the last time as it was taken away, the broom set in the corner, and she walks with her family boarding the ship “Horizon” to make the long voyage, and begin a new life here in America.

I have learned through the years that temporal things can also be spiritual things, and I believe that kitchen tables fit this category.  With Mother’s Day on Sunday, my hope and wish is that you take the time to sit at your mother’s kitchen table, or your own kitchen table, and reflect on the blessings of mothers, family, friends and a place to renew lifelong relationships – the kitchen table.

Until next time,
~ Les

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Daily Devotional

In January, my Relief Society President announced that she would be coming to visit each woman in the ward with a short message, and asked that we sign up for a day and time in the Relief Society Binder that is passed around each week.

When she came to my home, she expressed her love for me, and I could tell she really meant it.  She then proceeded to tell me that she had been praying to find a way to help the sisters in the ward on a daily basis.  She then presented me with a laminated card to post somewhere in my home, and encouraged me to read it every day.  As Relief Society sisters, we receive handouts and cute little crafty things quite often.  This particular handout was very plain and simple – the beauty came with what was written on it.  On the front it read:


 Go to a quiet place in your home.

 Kneel & call upon Heavenly Father.  Talk with Him in prayer.

 Wait for His inspiration while pondering the scriptures or a recent conference address & thinking about problems you face.

On the back it read:


To feel the love of God more powerfully in your life.

To feel more in tune with His Spirit.

To have the heavens open to you daily.

I keep this in my bathroom and read it each morning as I get ready for work.  I use the half hour drive each morning to pray to my Heavenly Father.  I know I’m not able to kneel, however I had a Stake President who once told us that’s what he did each morning on his way to work.  I began doing the same thing when I started working as I found it was the only time I had totally to myself each day.  I turn the radio off and have my morning conversation with the Lord.  I find when I do this, my day goes much better.  When I don’t there is a stark difference.  He knows who we are, He knows us by name, we are His children, He loves us and wants us to be happy.

Try it, and see if it makes a difference in your life.

Take care,


Thursday, April 26, 2012

When You Think No One Cares

"At times some may think that no one cares - but someone always cares! Your Heavenly Father will not leave you to struggle alone, but stands ever ready to help."
- President Thomas S. Monson 

 I love this quote from President Monson. 

As I talked to my good friend a few weeks ago, she mentioned how she has gotten together once a month with a group of ladies to quilt.  They’ve done this for years now.  She said they were all talking last month about how their conversations have changed throughout the years.  She remembered how their quilting sessions used to be filled with laughter and a happy, care free atmosphere.  As life’s trials, struggles and challenges become more difficult and complex, she said there hasn’t been a month in the last couple of years that at least one person hasn’t shed some tears amongst the laughter and good times.   

As sisters in Zion, members and non-members alike, it is our responsibility to build, uplift and help carry one another’s burdens.  We are never alone.   

This quote from President Monson reminds us that Heavenly Father is mindful of us, is keenly aware of each one of us, and knows us by name individually

Until next time!

~ Leslie

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Preparing for Pioneer Trek

Kaysville West Stake - "Lift Where You Stand"

Pioneer Trek is one of those experiences you wouldn’t trade for the world, but that you can hardly wait to never do again, unless you are a die hard “Rut-Mutt” living for each and every trek opportunity to come along.  One way to discover if you are a true “Rut-Mutt” is if you actually miss the taste of sand in the bottom of your water bottle after returning home.  The only rational explanation for this is that you must have dirt running through your veins!

If you have been called as a trek leader of any kind, you will find that you are living, eating and breathing trek!  Not a minute of the day will go by without your thoughts turning to the monumental task of planning and preparing for trek, no matter what your calling may be.  From the Trek Director to the bag check-in people searching for "contraband", trek is a lot of hard work!

The most important thing to remember is to pace yourself.  Make sure that you take the proper time to prepare physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

  1. Start walking now, no matter how far away your trek date is.  And if you’re addicted to Diet Coke, you may want to start weaning yourself off now.  Water is the drink of choice while on Pioneer Trek.  Trust me, the headaches are just not worth it, and your trek family will know if you try to smuggle two cases of the stuff onto the handcart.  I’m sure it probably weighs much more than the 17 pounds allotted to the original handcart pioneers anyway.
  1. Prepare yourself for the fact that you will be outside in the elements and that things may not go according to YOUR plan, however they will go according to the plan of the Trek Committee called in Heaven.  You and your group WILL be blessed with the experience you need to promote growth and appreciation for those who have gone before.

  1. Start reading everything you can about the Martin/Willie Handcart Companies.  Your appreciation for what they endured will grow and you will never be the same.  I heard a great definition of “Endure” the other day.  It said – “Endure: To withstand with courage.”  That is what the pioneers did to the very center of their core.  Here are a few of my favorite books. 

Fire of the Covenant by Gerald Lund.  I have to admit, I’m a bit of a Gerald Lund junkie!  I read everything he writes, and love every word.  I finished this book in two days!  I would tell myself, OK at the end of this chapter I am going to put this book down and get something else done.  Then I would rationalize and say, OK, I’m just going to read the first paragraph of the next chapter . . . and before I knew it, I had read the last page of the book and felt sad that it was done!  Fire of the Covenant is fiction based on fact and no one tells a story like Gerald Lund, he brings his characters to life!  I’ve found myself thinking of the characters in his books as I have visited the historical sites along the Mormon Trail – knowing full well they were not real people, but in the back of my mind saying, wishing they really were . . .  

My next favorite book is Tell My Story Too by my friend Jolene Allphin.  Jolene is a true “Rutt-Mutt”.  She was called to put some stories together for the participants in her stake many years ago.  Each time she thinks the book is complete, she feels the importance of those whose stories have not yet been told and pushes to find more to add to the collection in her book.  Story after story in this book shows the many miracles that took place because of the great faith, perseverance and endurance of these heroic people.  Visiting with Jolene at her home, you can feel the presence of those beloved pioneers as she shares her love of their joy and sacrifice as they made their way to Zion. 

Andrew Olsen did his homework in his book The Price We Paid.  I love how the first half of the book tells the story of the Willie Company and the second half of the book tells the story of the Martin Company.  What I love most is that Andrew begins in England, and explains the events that led up to the tragedies both companies endured.  You will learn more about specific people and families along the way.  It’s fun to see what happened to these Saints after they reached the Salt Lake Valley as well.  

The photos and artwork in Sweetwater Rescue:  The Willie and Martin Handcart Story by Lee Groberg and Heidi Swinton are breathtaking – especially the cover.  There is also a video as well. 

Speaking of videos, the crowing achievement is 17 Miracles by T.C. Christensen.  T.C. has a gift for historical Church movies like none other.  T.C.’s father was a dentist as well as my stake president in Layton for many years.  His brothers are all dentists as well.  Glad T.C. didn’t go into the family business, the stories he brings to life build testimony, appreciation, and gratitude.  This is a must have for every home library.

More to come next week . . .  Happy Trekking!  

~ Leslie