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Scissor Sisters

Scissor Sisters

I received a call from an old friend yesterday. I met her when I moved into a new school in southern California in 1973. The two things we had in common then were our pixie haircuts and our love of Donny Osmond. She was the youngest of 5 with 4 older brothers, and I had one older brother so as the “only” girls, we did everything together that her over protective mother would allow. We were so close that we could have been twins. Twins will often say they have “twin speak” or have two bodies and one mind. I’m here to attest that “twin speak” can occur when your “sister” is born to another mother.  Little did we know way back then that would end up having something life changing in common.We both eventually discovered that we were bi-polar.

In Jr. High my parents dragged me off to Oregon for a new business venture of theirs, and Briana remained behind. Her 4 older brothers kept tabs on her and when I was able to beg my mom to let me call long distance, we would catch up on what we were missing. I once flew down to see her, and when I got off the airplane stairs and crossed the tarmac to where she was waiting, we busted up laughing so hard that we caused a scene. While we were separated we had each grown enormous boobs and neither of us had a “decent” bra! Being able to borrow a DD “Brooklyn bridge bra” from your BFF in a pinch is not something every girlfriend can do.

Over the next 20 years I was in and out of California and we met up regularly before, during and after having our kids. Every now and then no matter where I was living I would wake up in the middle of the night with a start, knowing I should call her. Every single time that happened she would be in crisis and need to talk. Incredulous she would ask “how” I always knew. Call it what you like, intuition, twin-speak or a gut feeling, but the details I knew before I called her would spook you if you didn’t understand the Holy Ghost.

On one of these occasions, I discovered that she had just been admitted to a private, “secret” mental hospital in San Diego. I had zero understanding of the bi-polar diagnosis then but I well understood her wild highs – barreling down PCH at 90 miles and hour in her VW Bug with her head hanging out of the drivers window, screaming “WOOHOO LIFE IS AWESOME!!” during a “natural high”. I also saw the days she could not get out of bed, even if I had concert tickets to Tom Petty. She could beat herself up over the most trivial things and that would send her spiraling into the chasm of darkness. It could be months before she could be considered “healthy” enough to return to work.  I asked her what I could do to help, and all that she could say was please just send her the readers digest. So I did. I gathered up a 100 pound box full and sent them with her mom. I felt helpless and bereft. She could barely stop crying long enough to talk.

Why is this relevant today? Once again, I had that “feeling” I should call. After having been “up” for almost a month (a near record for her) she had crashed hard. Her 22 year old daughter, Kyra, had moved out of the house 4 weeks prior but had stopped calling or texting. To her daughters credit, I told her, she was moving on with her adult life. I did not tell her that I was the one that gave her Kyra the shove to get out and into her own place. She had been care taking her mother since her birth, and I felt very strongly that she needed to grow up and get “gone”. “Gone” in this case was just about 8 blocks away, but still a giant step out into the world.

In the next hour I encouraged her to start being the sunshine in her daughters life, and not the rain and clouds, even if she had to “act”. Briana plead that there was no way she could do that when the depression took over. I told her if she could fake it until she makes it, she would hear more from Kyra than she could imagine. Drawing on some of my own mom experiences I asked her to take out a picture of Kyra when she was in grade school and to take a really good photo to frame after Kyra’s upcoming graduation. Her daily task was to look at those photos and say out loud “I did a good job, I raised an independent woman” and “ I am so happy that my daughter is strong enough to take on the world on her own”. I also asked her to get a picture or painting of the sun, so that when Kyra called she could always be reminded to be her cheerleader, supporter, listening ear, and her “sunshine”. What I could not tell her is that depression had robbed her daughter of a well and balanced mom, and a happy childhood and that it would be really hard for Kyra to keep reconnecting with her if all she ever met on the phone or in person was Briana as a total wreck. Briana would have to begin learning to meet her when she was up. Only. I also told her about one of my own coping skills, texting. If you just can’t fake it, you tell your kid that you aren’t in a good place to talk, and you’d be able to chat instead.

I did confide with her that my own experience recently had been just as hard. A few years ago we sent our youngest son on an LDS mission. Missionaries are encouraged to email home once a week, and then twice a year we would get a skype or phone call. I lived for those skypes because my son hardly ever wrote. He was a happy missionary but not a real talker. Briana was incredulous that such a thing even took place (even military men can call, text, skype and come back home for visits). I told her that for the first 6 months it felt like my son was gone forever. I was down, discouraged and sad even during the times that I was so proud of him that I could pop. He had gone out of our home and into a 16 hour a day job, managing other men and women’s schedules, meeting total strangers and experiencing near death experiences on a bike in metro Dallas.  I explained that it took all of my efforts to not write him needy letters and emails. Instead I just smothered that boy with care packages. I’m pretty sure I kept Frito Lay and Pepsico in business single handedly for those two years, and it is my firm hope that one day when he grabs an Oberto bag, he will remember his sappy, happy mother. Being positive when it feels like the very last thing you can do is a gift we give to our children that they may not fully understand until after we are gone. Doing so is a sacrifice, and in my experience, sacrifice has always brought forth blessings. Maybe not obvious ones, or when I thought they should happen, but exactly what I needed at just the right time.

There are days in life when I find it difficult to carry the burden of bi-polar disease, but I’ve been incredibly lucky to have good mental health service providers and excellent medicine (which I take without fail). Even more importantly I have had God. He has had my back though all of the chaos that I created long before my diagnosis, and during the fallout and healing that came after those storms. The gift of the Holy Ghost kept me from swallowing a bottle of pills, driving off a bridge in the cold darkness of January, and helped me find light in a darkness so thick that not even the flame of a candle could be seen.

As I continue to be Briana’s missing sister and confidant, I hope to be able to help her straighten her crown, not point out that her crown is a little crooked.

True friends are our loves and I like to think of this lyric :

The river is wide, I cannot see
Nor do I have light wings to fly
There’ll be a boat that can carry two
And both shall row, my love and I

My love is like the lofty tree
It shudders fears and then sways free
If it should fade when the summer’s through
She’ll bloom again when the spring shines through

For Briana, I hope that one day,  it will always be Spring.

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Spanaway Fantasy Lights

Be Useful For Good

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Among the many events and activities in the south Puget Sound area which are conducive to building the Christmas spirit is a wonderful drive-through light display at Spanaway Park. Now in its 24th year, this beautiful exhibit includes over 300 displays and thousands of lights.

We have lived in this area many years and had heard of a light display, but only last night actually went to the park to see it; it was delightful, well worth the $14 per car entrance fee (we accidentally arrived on the last night of half price admission).

For more information, call 253-798-3330 or visit www.piercecountywa.org/parks. Hours are 5:30 pm to 9:00 pm and will continue through January 1st.

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Fool in the Kitchen’s Sees Fudge Recipe.

To say I am not a chef is a vast understatement. Though I am well past learning how to boil water, I still have not advanced greatly in my ability to cook. Its not for lack of trying, as my family will attest. I have plated many a meal that they can palate, however, there are scores of folks with mad talent that I admire and want to be like someday. One of those people is our son-in-law, James. He is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, and a master in the kitchen. His imagination is endless as is his creativity with anything and everything in the refrigerator.

He and our daughter are headed our way for Thanksgiving, and its our first Thanksgiving cooking together. I wanted to prepare a few goodies for us all to snack on while he is chugging away at our stove in a few days,  and one of things I thought I could prepare was See’s Fudge. I’ve been making this recipe for many years off and on, and most of the time it has turned out well. Many would say the recipe is FOOL PROOF, however, they have not met ME – the Ultimate Kitchen Fool! I don’t know what exactly happens to me in the kitchen but I suddenly become anxious and distracted and as is the norm, chaos ensues.

In the hope of letting you benefit from my recent disaster, I thought I would post the recipe I found on the internet (since I lost mine in a move), and then break it down into what you should know that is not in print. Hopefully some search engine will find this for you BEFORE you spend your money, time and effort into the waste bin.

My search engine brought this recipe up first from the Food Network. It looked familiar, and I read the “posts” from Mary See’s family members (debating the finer points of marshmallow fluff vs. marshmallows and such) and thought that this must be the legit recipe (wait for it and do not cut and paste yet!).

PROBLEM NUMBER ONE!!!

Here are the ingredients that are listed in the “original” recipe:

  • 4 1cups sugar
  • 3(12 ounce) packages chocolate chips
  • 1lb margarine
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (12 ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 7 ounces marshmallow cream
  • 2 cups nuts

DO NOT copy this! Instead copy what is to follow!! 

INGREDIENTS:

These do not “look” like major changes but cooking is chemistry, and if you screw up the chemistry, you have to start over. Possible outcomes of bad chemistry: Granulated or greasy fudge, bad texture (stiff or airy), really ugly fudge (and a total failure to meet the objective which is to spoil your family and friends). My fails include using the sweetened condensed milk (grainy sugary mess “candy”), using margarine (HELLO!! YUCK), Boiling over (DISASTER -nearly lit the kitchen on fire), and stirring too long (super stiff nearly impossible to pour).Yes this is the time to copy!

  • 4 1cups C and H CANE sugar — if you ever look at cheaper sugar you will notice it can be derived from BEETS. Big difference.
  • 3 (12 ounce) packages SEMI-SWEET chocolate chips  (I used Guittard today but I’m switching back to Nestle. There is a definite difference in the texture. I thought better chocolate would make better fudge, but for the  “purity of the turf”, you want Nestle.)
  • 1lb BUTTER
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 (12 ounce) can CARNATION evaporated milk
  • 7 ounces marshmallow cream  NOTE: I saw real marshmallow Fluff in Vermont Country Store Magazine and wondered why on earth they were selling it when Kraft was so handy. Here’s the reason: Marshmallow Cream is made of sugar, corn syrup and flavoring. Fuff is made from REAL Marshmallow extract and therefore has a different texture and flavor. I may dip into my saving account someday and buy a couple of jars to try just for fun. If you are a purist, this is what you want.
  • 2 cups nuts – optional (Walnuts are best, chopped into crumbles, not chunks or slivers)

PROBLEM NUMBER TWO!!! Here is what they give for directions (do not copy):

  1. Mix 4 1/2 cups sugar with one (1) can evaporated milk.
  2. Boil 7 to 8 minutes, stirring often (rolling boil).
  3. Mix together in a large bowl; 3 packages chocolate chips, 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream, 1/2 lb. melted margarine.
  4. Cream margarine and marshmallow together and add chocolate chips.
  5. Pour hot mixture over chocolate mixture.
  6. After chocolate has melted, add 2 cups of nuts and 1 teaspoons of vanilla, blend well, pour into buttered pans and chill in refrigerator.
  7. Cut into squares before firm.

Here are the directions you need (COPY!):

I suggest reading and planning ahead. If you hurry, you may have a boil over (like I did).

UTENSILS NEEDED:

A LARGE SOUP POT (I like non-stick)

LG Bowl (Ceramic is best, but anything big will do) – I do mean LARGE

2 WOODEN spoons

1 Spatula

1 teaspoon measure

both a 1 cup Dry measuring cup and a 1/4 Dry measuring cup. (DRY measuring cups are exact measures, do not use a PYREX measuring cup that you measure liquids with)

5-6 small tin foil baby-loaf pans, or a 9×12 glass pan to pour your fudge into. You decide whats best for you – if you are giving this as a gift, I recommend the tin loaf pans. For company, use the glass pan.  LIGHTLY BUTTER your pan (s) so they are ready to go. I tried PAM, its not the same!

  1. In LARGE BOWL add two cubes of real butter (your half pound) and put into micro and melt. Be sure you melt and stir and melt and stir again so you don’t COOK your butter. It works best if your butter begins at room temperature, not straight out of the fridge.  LEAVE IT THERE – you will be zapping this in a few minutes in order to have warm butter at the same time that your liquid is hot. It helps at this point to imagine yourself with 4 arms, or to enlist a helper for the speedy ending.
  2. Put your 3 bags of chips (Open and ready to pour) and your Marshmallow Fluff on the counter right next to your micro. I can’t tell you how important timing is in this process, but if your stuff is in 5 places, you will be scrambling.
  3. This one is CRUCIAL: COMBINE 4 1/2 Cups of sugar and one well shaken can of EVAPORATED (not sweetened condensed) milk into a LARGE pot. Notice that in the previous instructions no one tells you that your liquid is going to QUADRUPLE in size once it begins to boil.  I just spent 45 minutes cleaning up boiled over, burnt sugar mess. I ended up ruining a gas burner cover, burning my fingers and smashing my elbow on the counter AND putting out a sugar fire! MIX WELL ON MEDIUM HEAT WHILE STIRRING GENTLY UNTIL THE LIQUID REACHES a “ROLLING BOIL”. WARNING!!! The very second it starts to reach “rolling boil” stage, its going to rapidly rise and expand. Be ready to “blow” your liquid down and/or reduce your burner temp a bit so it doesn’t boil over. DO NOT get distracted, this is where the rubber meets the road!!
  4. BOIL AND STIR FOR exactly 7 minutes. I stir constantly during this process to make sure the butter and sugar melt evenly. When you reach 2 minutes remaining on your timer, give the sugar and milk boiling liquid a really good stir THEN:
  5. Zap your butter in the micro for 15 seconds (keep your bowl and wooden spoon handy once you do this).
  6. STIR THE LIQUID on the stove AGAIN. THEN –  reach over and add your chips and marshmallow into the bowl with the butter and stir vigorously! (If you are lucky your helper will do this for you while you keep stirring the boiling liquid).
  7.  Get back to your liquid on the stove. Keep stirring until your timer ends then: POUR your HOT liquid over your Butter, Chips, Marshmallow mix in your BIG BOWL. ADD your 1 teaspoon Vanilla and/or your walnuts!
  8. STIR QUICKLY and Vigorously until all ingredients are one even color (no white streaks) and then GRAB your spatula and get all of the fudge mixture poured into your baby-loaf pans or your glass pan. THE bowl will be really heavy. If you cannot lift 5 pounds with one hand, and ‘spatula’ with the other, now is the time to get your helper into the kitchen so they can hold the bowl while you “pour”.
  9. USE a spatula to smooth the top of your fudge. If you used loaf pans, you can . IF you used nuts, put one whole walnut on the top of each baby loaf to indicate “fudge with nuts”.
  10. Put fudge in fridge 30 minutes, then REMOVE from fridge and cut into squares if in glass pan. If you used loaf pans for gift giving, suggest to your friend that they refrigerate well, then remove  pan entirely from around the fudge before cutting.  YIELD = 5 pounds. 

I hope this makes your Holiday baking easier, and if you are FOOL in the Kitchen like I am, plan ahead, put on some relaxing music, IGNORE your phone and enjoy making this delicious recipe without the mad dash, swearing, and kitchen fire! 

 

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A Mothers Laundry (swan) song

Sometimes Monday, is actually a Tuesday.

Monday brought oral surgery for one of my kids, and as some know,  we are still unpacking from our recent move. It has been a long haul as we have been ’round the Northwest in what seems just days, but has actually been 15 years. We have been in 7 cities in that time, so we are pretty good at packing and unpacking and in finding the really important things that make a household functional.

One thing remains constant in my life no matter where we live, is the ever present, looming, LAUNDRY pile, usually tackled on Monday. Today it is occurring on Tuesday instead. No matter how many adults live in the home, laundry seems to procreate in the closets, on bathroom floors, and in dark crevices I’d much rather never explore. I’m sure you have had this same experience: all of the laundry has been washed, dried, folded AND put away — yet oddly enough, you’ve gotten out of the shower only to find there are NO towels!!  How does this happen? Perhaps the following will explain.

(Sing to the tune “where have all the flowers gone?”)

Where have all the Towels gone,

I’ve been a long time asking –

Where have all the towels gone,

Seems like a long time ago.

Where Have all the TOWELS gone

It’s just been a week or so everyone,

When will I ever learn?

When will I ever learn!

Where have all the towels gone,

I can’t find them anywhere

Where have all the towels gone,

Seems like a long time ago!

Where have all the towels gone,

Into the closets, dirty, EVERY ONE

When will they ever learn

When will they EVER learn!

Dislcaimer: No parties were named to protect the seemingly innocent, and all parties in the above subject matter have no idea that I have written about them.

Wishing everyone a happy Monday Tuesday! May your laundry efforts not be in vain, may your heroic efforts be appreciated, and may you always FIND THE TOWELS.

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Mustache Missive – Cookies and Love.

To date I have purchased MAYBE four boxes of Girl Scout Cookies. It’s not that I begrudge the Girl Scouts, rather, Im usually broke when I pass by their stand, or in such a hurry that I can’t see stopping for what have become the smallest boxes of cookies on earth (for a good cause of course). On my harried way into the great Wal of Mart for shoe laces and insoles (the only store in town for such things) I happend to notice two devotees of all things cookie standing out in what turned into a rare, cold day in Sunny Sequim. As I made a beeline for the cookie table, I was literally jerked back to reality by my son, who grabbed the back of my hoodie and dragged me to the “IN” door. I couldn’t help but crack up; he is 6’3 and I’m 4’11 and a half, and for what seems like ages, I’d been able to keep him “focused”by a quick grab of the hoodie. Well, finally turn about was very fair play. So we set on our journey (by journey I mean we divide, run and conquer through most every store in town at light speed), laughing hysterically between us at the irony of his “move”. The goal — quickly find said laces and insoles and one “5-hour Energy” shot for his upcoming shift at work then get the heck out. In the back of mind though, I was pre-planning my quick escape to the exit, with 20 dollars in hand to possibly sweeten up my husbands day with a box of Samoa’s.

My favorites are the more sour powdered lemony goodness called “Savannah Smiles”. After having been a sour-puss for at least 24 hours previous, I was determined to make an effort of appreciation to my ever loving better half that God blessed me with over 14 years ago, who loves chocloate and coconut (which I loathe). In our 14 years, we have sped forward like Buzz Lightyear, into infinity and beyond with three of his kids and three of mine — (mine which he graciously and gratefully adopted) on some sort of weird time-warp that only we can appreciate. Everything has happend in fast forward; moving, changing jobs, moving again, losing parents, then grandparents and loved ones. Even aging has happened fast, which I’m sure I did to both of us with our frenetic schedule. I’m certain I added a new shade of grey to my hubby when I wigged out unexpectedly Friday at sight of his newly shaved mustache, which I must admit I have always adored– so much so that I have reminded him “don’t ever shave that, ok?”. By wigging out I don’t mean I got mad, no, part of me was CRUSHED. Really. CRUSHED. Yes, I am THAT girl.

So as quickly as a Girl Scout can count (with some help), I snatched up some sweet, coconutty goodness, as my son trotted off to the car with the “mom, I’m gonna be late make it fast” glance over his shoulder. These Samoas had a job to do, and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to let them work.

After dropping off super-charged, 5 hour shift son, I made it home to where our 3 furkids greeted me with a din worthy of the dog pound. Time to love, love on them and then it was time to head into the best place to show love — the bedroom. What says “I love you more than air” than cookies on a pillow? I’m a practical girl, and I know my beloved pretty well. Cookies on the pillow say “Love” almost as loudly as any other form of affection that might happen on or near a pillow. And as luck would have it, I married the sort of man that can live through and forgive the dramatics of 50 year old, mid-life crisis, lemon loving, moody, sourpuss of a wife, and live to (not) tell about it the next day. The cookies won’t get stuck on his upper lip as usual, but then I think he too will miss that just a little bit.

The preceeding 24 hours had been no picnic and in truth the last 54 days really haven’t been either. In fact, I’ve been super proud of myself for keeping it “all together” most of the time under considerable pressures of a new home, a new job for him, new friends for both of us and the loss of old friends some distance away, along with a new house that we are completely squeezed into. Meeting up with midlife has wreaked not very pretty havoc on this retired Fortune 500 gal with an empty nest (almost) and has been draining for both of us.

In less than one year, my youngest will leave home for two years with no trips back for a hello until his mission is complete. I’ve already had a preview of things to come with his older siblings and for better or worse we have raised some strong headed, strong willed kids who launch quickly, and for the most part stay launched. This has caused me more than a little pause.

Additionally, the grand-children in our big family live two states away. With the entanglements of being a “sandwich” of the Sandwich Generation, I don’t get to see them very often. Though I am happy to be a daughter and a mother, lately I’ve started to get bogged down in this part of my life, with complications of one child’s health, a wedding for another child, and concerns over my mom who has been in and out of “trials”– real medical trials — for a new-fangled thing that will live in her back and hopefully kill chronic disc degeneration pain.

I always hoped to be a very big part of the grandkids lives and also wished to be available to help their own very hands on mother and busy, successful father. Coping with three stair-step kids (with one on the way) is hard, and has been complicated by thier own uprooting from a beloved place to live and raise kids in a new state with a new job and a new home. It’s supposed to be made easier by having all available hands on deck ala grandparent style. It just doesn’t seem right or fair to not be part of this process when so much is needed there.

Also, as a hands on, home-schooling mom and a bit of a workaholic, I really never put time aside to learn a hobby to fill the hours when I need to be home alone, waiting at a Dr.’s office, or on-call with said kids and parents. My kids were my full-time “hobby” the second I stepped out of Corporate America (an answer to years of fervent prayer) and a contigency plan never entered my mind, though it should have through my previous planning to “always have a back-up plan”.

Our familial raising, showing and breeding of healthy Havanese dogs and pups has been enjoyable and great for the kids in many ways, but this has never defined me. I have never been a “big-time” breeder though we were successful, and have over 60 healthy pups places in the greater Seattle area. I never had it in me to have “breeding stock” on hand and rather favored having our beloved pooches in our home in mininimal numbers, seeing them advance as Champions and have their little families.

With living creatures who can only speak dog (well, Fergie swears in “human” but she is the exception), you give more of yourself than you’d like to admit. The hours are long, the work is never ending and the stress of picking out just the right home for babies is overwhelming. Our Furkids, though talented and sweet, haven’t been able to help me learn to knit, crochet, oil paint, revive my love of watercolors, re-start scrapbooking, or take on any host of talents I might have learned while the kids were still young.

I’d heard about mid-life crisis, and in truth, I thought only men had them as evidenced by the many red sports-cars around town with male “white-hairs” at the wheel. Only after looking a lot harder have I found mid-life females, “hair coloring in place”, in their sportscars with their wee-doggie pals, tooling around town and along the highways that have become my second home.

My selelction of a “retired grandma wagon” (my Ford Flex) a few years back was pretty rosy, when I envisioned road trips with car seats and grandchildren aplenty. I appreciate that my granny-car is loaded with fun features and growls like a bear in chase when you press it up a mountain, but even in Ford Racing Blue, it lacks that little thrill you get when you slide behind the wheel of a well healed two-seater. Cars alone don’t help you through the rigors of a full on mid-life, but I hear they help. I may still seek after Richard Petty’s Driving School (as planned for 40), once I cure the tennis elbow acquired driving my behemoth.

So how does the Samoa and the Savvanah Smile cover all this ground and fix the damage of my mid-life meltdown? The sweetness of my dear husband and the sourness of myself have learned how to get through many storms – much bigger than a missing mustache. I am not going to forgive him for shaving off his mustache unannounced until it grows back by Friday (then he is 100% forever off the hook). In only five short days my still charming Prince (now away for classes in the big city) will bring back the face I loved at first sight and hopefully my hormones will be back under control. Now that his Samoa’s are safely packed into his luggage, I know my better half will remember that I still love him every time he bites into a sticky chocolate-coconut morsal. They will remind him too, that I am a bit of a nut, and we’ll both know he is right, even if he is sweet enough not to say so.

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Imitating Christ

THis is the season of rebirth and a celebration of the resurection of Christ, Jesus. Though my blog has suffered attention due to a family emergency, my good friend and wonderful husband has shared many good and uplifting thoughts during this time that I would love to share. Enjoy. It’s All About Liberty.

Be Useful For Good

We will soon commemorate the Atonement and Resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ, by celebrating Easter. As Christians, we recognize Him not only as “God the Son”, but also as “The Perfect Man” and are committed to trying to be more like Him. Because we did not live with Him in mortality, our view of what it means to be like Him is limited by the accounts we have. My favorite summary of His life is the scripture that says, “He went about doing good.” And that is what we aim to do, as best we can. Often our best efforts at becoming more like Christ are when we try to imitate others we know who exemplify Christ-like traits.

It has been a great blessing to serve in the Church with many who have exemplified righteous leadership, men such as President Almond and President McCoy in the Graham Stake, Bishop…

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