Thursday, August 15, 2013

Cherry Macaroon Cookie Recipe

Cherry Macaroons
Recipe from Catherine Nance, Leander, Texas

1 1/3 cup shortening or butter. (I do a mix of half butter half butter flavored Crisco. what every you prefer.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. almond extract
3 1/2 cups Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 cup coconut
1 cup chopped maraschino cherries drained and dried on paper towels.

Mix everything. Put coconut and cherries in last. Drop rounded balls onto a cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or till light brown.

Friday, May 17, 2013

“Choose your love. Love your choice.”

I think it was about 7 years ago I heard President Thomas S. Monson speak at a stake conference at Utah State University when we were visiting my in-laws.  In part of his talk he was talking with a very reverent admiration about his wife.  He related a story about onetime when she was away, or sick (I can't remember the details) and he had to go to the grocery store to go shopping because she wasn't able to.  He never had been required to do that in all of their many, many years together because it was something she always did to take care of him.  He talked with some humor about how he wandered around the store with a basket with just some potatoes in it.....and didn't know what to do, or what to buy. Finally a kind stranger asked him if he needed help because he looked lost.  That sweet person took him around the rest of the store to help him with the grocery shopping.  He went on to say how blessed he was to have a wife who had always taken such good care of him and looked out for his physical needs.

As I heard of sweet Sister Monson's passing this was all I could think of - our beloved President Monson needing someone to do his grocery shopping for him now that his sweetheart has passed away....I know she's been ill for some time, and probably has many who help them with the shopping now, but I couldn't help want to make up some casseroles and meals to take over.....

I'm so grateful for his example of loving service, and HER past example of supporting her husband through all of these years of serving in the church.  How many Sunday's she must have wanted her family sitting all together, or longed for him to be home at a reasonable hour for dinner. (Or is that just me when Cory's not home....?)

Times like this make me extra grateful for our knowledge of the Plan of Salvation and all of the blessings we can claim if we life righteously in this life.  Families WILL be together forever!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother Heart

Mother’s day has always been an emotional day for me.  Each year I feel conflicted emotions and most of the day seems to involve tears. 

As many of you know there were years where Cory and I longed for children and weren’t able to have any.  Each of those Mother’s Days were crushing.  I remember sitting in church looking around at the moms my age with their new babies, the older mothers with their teenagers and just feeling like, “What about ME? I want to be a mom more than anything in the whole world and now there is an actual holiday devoted to pointing out to the world that I can’t have this one righteous desire.” I hated it.

One particularly hard year we had gone to church (something we didn’t always do on Mother’s Day Sunday because I would get too emotional). The young men in the ward were passing out the ceremonial mother’s day flowers.  Some years they had asked all of the mothers (and women) to stand up to receive their flower.  Well this year they asked us to remain seated and one of the youth would bring us our flower.  I waited.  And waited.  A couple of young men walked pass and one looked like, “Do I give her one….she doesn’t have any kids!” His friend nudged him and he handed me one.  I didn’t want it, but I wanted to feel like I had earned it.  That year we slipped out the back and headed home before the rest of the meetings. I remember crying and my poor husband feeling so helpless that the trial of infertility was crushing me.

(Since my incident I have heard of several other dear friends or family members with similar situations happening to them! Maybe they should discontinue these ceremonious flowers that bring so much hurt…)

Then there was my first mother’s day when I was pregnant with Gabe.  Cory had poured out gifts and I felt like I deserved them.  I was finally going to be a mom and I assumed that every Mother’s Day from there on out would be flowers, breakfasts in bed and I’d be able to hold my head high during those church meetings and accept my flowers without a shred of wondering if I had earned the silly little plant. Cory gave me a beautiful figurine that I had longed for with a mother, father and baby.  I felt like I had overcome the particular emotion I had long associated with the holiday.

But the next year my mind filled with friends and loved ones who were still struggling with infertility, miscarriage, possible death of a child, etc.  I sat through those meetings remembering my own feelings from past years and I struggled to enjoy the day myself.  I ached for those sweet friends because I had been there.  I knew that sometimes people’s well-meaning comments were hurtful without meaning to be.  I knew that some days I wanted someone to reach out and hug me and tell me that they knew how I felt, and other days I just wanted to be treated as anyone else.  I didn’t want to be someone that others felt sorry for or treated differently, even though my heart was broken and might have felt different. 

I think that having empathy for people struggling with Mother’s Day made it almost harder for me.  Knowing what they were going through made it harder for me to feel like I could offer comfort….because I knew that peoples words never really fixed the problem….I still didn’t have a baby. My arms were still empty. 

I still feel this way on Mother’s Day.  I know that the day is designed to honor our own mothers.  And heaven knows they deserve it.  I know my own mom has been a true life-saver to me in turbulent times.  I have found that her friendship, listening ear, faith and prayers are more important to me as an adult with my own family than the physical care she gave me growing up.  The emotional and spiritual support I receive daily from her is worth so much more than one little day of celebration.

But my heart is also turned to those with “Mother’s Hearts” all around me.  The act of mothering to me is synonymous with care, compassion, love, kindness.  Mothering to me is a gift; one that touches lives and truly heals broken hearts and ultimately changes the world.

For instance - the teacher at school that I watch as she hugs each and every kid in her class as they walk out the door and says, “I love you_________”, calling each by name, and letting them know whatever else is going on in their life – they are loved.

The aunt with no children of her own that gives words of advice and lives with love in such a way that I want to be a better person.  As she loves her nieces and nephews and their children and is authentic she leads by example of how to change and love many who come into our lives.  Her love and concern echo loudly.

Or the friend who lovingly takes care of others children as if they are her own when another friend needs a helping hand.  Taking over support and care for others when life circumstances make it impossible for her to do so herself. Not stopping for a moment to complain, but serving with all of her heart.

The church youth leader who spends countless hours working on lessons to teach the youth that she has responsibility over – changing their lives and helping them understand the gospel, and even more – their own personal self-worth.  Maybe another past leader reaching out to one of the  “grown up” youth that she once had responsibility and lending a few words of comfort and love – letting them know that her love extended further than just her church assignment.

How about a teacher I recently watched as she spent time first thing in the morning with a few of the sweet girls in her class who didn’t have mother’s and she did their hair for them in the mornings before school.  Her “Mother Heart” was working in full force as she stepped in and loved those children in a simple, yet life-changing way.

Or an acquaintance who reaches out and brings over a care-package when she’s heard that someone from church’s heart is breaking.  A simple meal, and a note which makes one more moment possible to move forward. Not because she had to, not because she even knew the person well, but because her “Mother Heart” was in action and her gift of compassion could make a difference.

So this Mother’s Day I salute each of the women in my life who touch my life, the lives of my children and husband.  I wish my words could tell you that you are enough, that you are amazing, and that you are loved. This is not dependent on you having your own children, but is because you are a woman! Women have a gift; whether they are mothers, grandmothers, single women, aunts, sisters or friends – that gift is noticed, appreciated and felt.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I wanted to share some goodness and light in relationship to the sad news that has come out of West, Texas in the past weeks.  The tragedy and loss of life and homes has been felt through the nation, and right here in our hometown. The following are some emails that my son's kindergarten teacher sent home to all of the parents about a project their class was involved in bringing about.  I loved the simple answer of giving children ice cream, and I love that his teacher went above and beyond and and that Blue Bell stepped up to help too!

Dear Parents, 

I am writing to tell you how proud I am of your child.  Students were stirred in our discussion this week on our Ib attitude, empathy, and today they moved to action in a powerful way.  Today we discussed how we could help families who lost homes in West.  In our discussion students came up with the idea that will, in their minds "make everything better", ice cream!  Students agreed that ice cream would put a smile on a friends face even when they might be sad that all their toys were gone.  I was brought to tears and moved to see them so excited about helping put a smile on a child's face that very well could have lost a home or a family member in Wednesday's tragic events.  So your children got to work making cards and I agreed for each card they created I would put a dollar bill inside for a child to buy an ice cream when they return to school.  This simple act has touched my heart and I know will touch the hearts of many. Your children are world changers.  

Miss S.

Ps. This afternoon I shared this story with my mom (who is an elementary librarian in Hewitt, TX) and she shared with her campus.  Currently, their entire campus is also working on cards with a dollar inside for ice cream for students in West.  The ripple effect of your children's thoughts and hearts is moving all the way to Waco and has motivated other students to action! 


April 25th, 2013:

Dear Parents!
I am so excited to inform you that Blue Bell Ice Cream is donating an ice cream to each and every West ISD student and staff (and Connally ISD campuses that are hosting students on their campuses) this Friday! Blue Bell will not only be serving the students of West a special treat, but they will also be making a dream into reality for our 21 kindergarteners who just wanted to "make it better" for the kids in West.  This should bring a smile to many faces that have had a very difficult week. Please join me by posting a message and thanking Blue Bell for making this happen.  

Miss S.


Dear Parents, 
Friday I traveled to West Elementary to meet Mr. Hengst from Blue Bell Ice Cream.  While at West Elementary we passed out over 850 Blue Bell ice cream treats to students and staff.   The smiles that came from the students faces when we handed them ice cream treats were priceless.  The staff told us that it had been very solemn the past week and this was the first time they had seen smiles from students.  I even had one student tell me that this was the best day everlots of hugs were given.  While there we were able to talk to many members of the staff who had been greatly affected by this tragedy.   Even though they were dealing with damage to their homes and even loss of friends and family members, they were there for their students to provide stability during this time.  I was able to tell your children's story to the teachers of West Elementary and they agreed that ice cream would make it better even if just for a little while for students and teachers.  They asked me to send their thanks and to give a special hug to students in my class who brought such a wonderful idea to life.  
The ice cream did not stop there.  Blue Bell delivered 910 ice cream treats to West Junior High school students and 550 ice cream treats to West High School students.  They also generously gave students at Connally High School and Intermediate School ice cream for hosting West students at their campus due to West's schools damage.  

After handing out ice cream treats at the school we profusely thanked Mr. Hengst from Blue Bell and went on to volunteer with my hometown church that is in charge of volunteer efforts at the West Community Center.  When we arrived there Friday afternoon we were told that Blue Bell had delivered a large ice freezer (the size of the coolers at school) with hundreds of ice cream treats in them for residence and volunteers in West.  They also were told that Blue Bell would be refilling the freezer every three to four days.  Friday through Monday I worked with individuals who had lost their homes and were in the community center to get a broom, mask, or work gloves.  Even if these hurting people were hesitant about taking supplies (I heard over and over that they wanted to leave items for other people who might need them), they would all take me up on a visit to the Blue Bell ice cream freezer for a treat.  A seven year old came in on Saturday who had  just been released from the hospital.  His face was full of scratches and stitcheshe was very hesitant to move more than a few inches away from his family member.  He did not want a teddy bear or even to pet the service dog, but when offered an ice cream, he gave me a little smile and picked out an ice cream.  

This idea that your little ones had in class that day has touched thousands of lives and has spread a little bit of joy to so many places of hurting.  I cannot express how proud I am of your children and the magnitude that just one little idea had on a community.  Thank you so much for allowing me to share this story with you and for understanding my absence from your children on Friday as I served and gave to the students and staff of West.  

Miss S.

Monday, August 27, 2012


The most common feeling I’ve had in regards to my kids going back to school have been of relief, excitement, and hopefully a time for me to finally get my act together.  This summer has been frazzled and so loud. I haven’t had any time to sit, think, and ponder – much less been able to go to the grocery store without fighting kids.  I’ve felt like a referee instead of a mom most of the summer.  And forget feeling like a wife, or even just good old Joanna.  So I’ve been looking forward to August 27th @ 7:45 am for a significant amount of time.

My kids have been (mostly) excited about it, and Hunter has acted only a little bit nervous.  He’s asked a few times if I’ll come with him to lunch today, and stay for recess (to which I’ve told him no, because I want his first day to be something HE does, instead of relying on me), but other than that he’s mostly been excited.

So I honestly didn’t anticipate a lot of tears from me.  I was focusing on the excitement of being able to spend a few hours by myself today, and thought the excitement would override my anxiety for the boys.  What I didn’t anticipate was what came next.

As I walked up the walkway of the school this morning and heard the tune of this song playing over the loudspeaker:

HOME – Phillip Phillips

Hold on, to me as we go
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Sweet – right?  The idea that these teachers and administrators have the goal to make our elementary school our children’s home, a place of comfort, love, a home!  They were reassuring both the parents and the kids I think. You’re not alone CC Mason is your HOME!

Something that was meant to be reassuring suddenly took on a very sad, very real meaning to me.  I’m incredibly grateful for the teachers and leaders at our elementary school, but as I walked my “baby” into Kindergarten today we started something new, we opened a new chapter where this new “home” was going to be such a LARGE influence on his life.  He now has teachers, peers, others who are going to help shape who he is.  No longer will he ever rely solely on Mom and Dad as his examples – he has a whole new world that will be teaching him along the way. He has new voices that will influence him and shape him.

Now I know that doesn’t mean that my job as a mom is over.  And I know that my role as a parent is just as important now (if not more so!), but this shift is significant and as I made that connection walking up the school walkway my eyes started filling with tears. Bittersweet tears.

I am so grateful if I do need to send my babies off into the big world that I have a place like we do for them to go.  I have felt so much love from the teachers at our school, and they genuinely want the kids to have the best experience possible.  They love our kids, and it’s not just a job for them - I know that. I am also grateful to know that with the gospel on our side, and the knowledge of so many gospel principles that we are teaching them in OUR home, that they will be fortified and strengthened for anything their school “home” might throw their way.

I bet in so many ways our Heavenly Father feels the same way as he sent us down to our earthly home.  How he must ache for the time when we return to our Heavenly Home someday. He surely has similar conflicting feelings as He wants us to have a body, to learn from our earthly experiences – but longs for us to make the right decisions and remember our heavenly influences.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Things Always Work Out! (Gordon B. Hinckley)

I sure love this man - Gordon B. Hinckley....His council was always so accurate for what I would be going through. I miss getting to hear from him on a regular basis. So grateful to have had his influence in my life. He helped me to want to stand a little taller.

"You just have to do your very best with all the capability you have. You have to do your very best. And somehow, if you do that, God will open the way before you and the sun will shine, and your lives will be fruitful and you will accomplish great good in the world in which you take a part. I couldn't wish for you anything better as I look into your faces this day."  (Gordon B. Hinckley - Dedication of the Gordon B. Hinckley Building @ BYU-Idaho)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

YW Camp is coming!!!

Here I am sitting down for one of the first times today.  Super tired, but feeling excited about YW camp coming up. 

For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about - our church holds a week-long camp for the Young Women in our church every summer.  It is a time for the girls to bond with each other, learn camping and survival skills, be spiritually uplifted and edified and have a lot of fun.  It's a highlight for the summer and a life changing experience.

This year I get to attend not only as the Young Woman president in my ward, but also as a member of the "Crafty Queens".  Myself and a few other leaders will be in charge of providing crafts for the approximately 200 young women.  There is so much preparation involved but these girls are worth it!

Our camp theme this year stems from President Deiter Uchtdorf's talk "Your Happily Ever After" that I mentioned in my last post.  I saw a couple of these quotes online tonight on this website and thought they were pretty, and applied to what we're teaching these awesome girls this next week.