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Canvas Art: You are Loved, No Matter What

You are loved,  no matter what. This is a phrase I want my children to have cemented in their minds as they go throughout the hussle and bustle of their childhood days.  They will be challenged, hurt, worried, make mistakes, and have a whole slew of other emotions, but I hope and pray that they will always know of our love for them, and that there is a Higher Being who loves them, too.
canvas art

If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you are aware of my passion to decorate my home with pictures of our family, because I believe it sends a message of love to them. It also reminds them that they are a part of a family, we are a team. Shawni, one of my very favorite mothering blogs, has a similar sentiment about really thinking about what we put on our walls. She says, “I think we underestimate the influence of what we put on our walls. I better make what I have up there count.” Full post HERE.

I decided in addition to pictures splattered on my walls, I wanted to have more phrases and quotes for them to read to re-affirm what I want them to know. I’ve made small scripture prints in the kitchen, my next goal is the wall right in front of each toilet–when sitting, what else is there to do besides stare at it?!?

I made this HUGE canvas, and put it in a prominent spot–on the wall as the kids come down the stairs.  Do you remember when I repurposed giant frame tutorial? Inside it was a canvas, and I transformed that canvas into wall art.  My friend Chelon over at Chatty Walls made me a vinyl stencil, which I adhered onto the canvas, and painted inside.



I hung it up on the stairwell wall, so my kids would be sure to see it each time they came down the stairs.


The shot above is taken from the stairwell as I watched my little one practice her dance “show.”

Below is the view from upstairs…


Our family portraits taken last summer in California in the vintage window frames.


After it was up, I was surprised how much I noticed it from all over the house. Good. It’s what I wanted;)

I’d love to hear some great quotes you have up on your walls, or something for me to think about putting in my bathrooms!


My Love Story Chapter 7: Christmas Break

{If you are new, or need a refresher of the previous chapters, click here to read them.}

After an emotional departure from my college friends, being home was kindof a bummer. For some reason, I didn’t want to talk about what had happened back at school, I just wanted to keep it to myself, which in a way was good, because I relied on prayer, which strengthened me a lot. I remember very specifically being in church, and singing Christmas hymns. As I sang the song: Away in a Manger, as I always had, the third verse struck me so deep to my core that still as I sing it to this day, I can’t help but feel the love of the Savior, and a reminder of the difficult times I experienced that break:

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay

Close by me forever And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children In Thy tender care

 And fit us for heaven To live with Thee there

I needed the Saviors love near me.  My friend needed to feel it, too. I  had sent an email to Matthew telling him about my experience with the song, in hopes that he could be strengthened as well. I figured he’d write me back, but I was surprised that he, too, poured out his feelings to me of sadness and concern for our friend. I still  have our email exchange (printed, in a binder). He says, “I’ve been feeling very weighed down and need someone to talk to, I don’t feel like I can talk to my family about this, but the silence is killing me.”

In the next few days before Christmas, we found good news coming from our friend in the accident, that all was looking well. We’d also been keeping in contact with them, and I think that brought peace to mine and Matthew’s hearts. I had begun reading the book, Jesus the Christ, which is a really big book (and I have a hard time concentrating on books) but I enjoyed the extra source of spiritual strength I got from reading it, and sharing my insights with Matthew.

I felt better, and was able to enjoy time spent at home. My 16 year old brother, Russell, was my constant companion throughout the break, and with my older brother spending time with  his wife’s family, it was just me and my two little brothers home on Christmas Day.

My emails to Matthew turned from talking about our sadness, to talking about our families and Christmas shopping.  I decided to be bold, and ask him the question that had been on my mind for nearly 2 months. A while back, Sam told me that he thought Matthew and I would be good together, and that he was going to suggest that Matthew ask me out. Well, that hadn’t exactly happened, so I thought I’d nudge Matthew a little…you know, since we were having this daily email exchange. I said something along the lines of,

“I’ve got a question for you, and I want your honest opinion…what do you think about what Sam says about you and I, about why we have never gone out.”

I remember typing it, erasing it, typing it again, and just pushing SEND.  All day I felt nervous until I heard back from him.  In his email reply (after shooting the breeze about other things) he replied,

“Sam hasn’t ever asked me that question before, and we never have really talked about it. If he did ask me why we haven’t ever gone out I would probably have been a little surprised too. I would probably say that the main reason was just because you two had dated and I didn’t want to cause problems between him and me. I never have asked him about it and that makes me curious what else he did say. Maybe I should ask him.”

I was incredulous.  WHAT?!? Brothers, roommates, they had never talked about it? Sam had mentioned it to me in late November/early December, but he never said it to his own brother that he shared a room with? Ironically, the answer Matthew said was to not cause problems with his brother, while his brother was urging me along.

The conversation definitely lightened up our emails, and they became less heavy and concerned as we  found out our friend was doing well. He’d found out that I had sent our friend a package and said, “I admire how you are always doing things for others.”

Looking back at my journal writing, I was very conflicted.  I had felt since I was a teenager that I wanted to serve as a missionary for our church. I could go when I was 21, and at this point, that was 6 months away. It was constantly at the forefront of my mind. They are a year and a half in length, and being assigned often in another country, I went back and forth with the idea of pursuing a relationship or focusing on serving a mission. I knew, and wrote over and over that the next year would be life changing. I wasn’t sure yet what was going to happen, but I knew it was big things. I wrote, “1998 has been a crazy year. I started BYU in January, my brother got married, my best friend got married, I went to Boston, South Padre, New Orleans. I just don’t know what 1999 will bring. The u nknown is a mystery and for once, the unknown excites me…because I know an adventure is in store for me.

My family took a drive to New Orleans over the Christmas break.  I spent my childhood years (age 6-14) living there, and we visited all of our old stomping grounds, and ate my favorite beignets at the Cafe du Monde.  I emailed Matthew and told him all about it.

 As our Christmas break was drawing to a close, I asked if he’d be able to pick me up at the airport once we all arrived back in Utah.  His flight was getting in around the same time as mine, so it worked out perfectly. I planned to wear my favorite new  outfit, with a little scarf tied around my neck.

He flew back with his brother, Sam, so once again, it was me and the Duke brothers. I wrote, “After all my nervousness to exit the plane, I was so delighted to see those 2 cute Duke boys waiting for me with a smile. I set my stuff down, and gave them each a huge hug. They took my stuff and the 3 of us walked through the airport to the car. I was nervous to speak and found I stumbled over some of my words to Matthew and it was funny because I could tell he did too. It was fun to be with Matthew, after having kept in touch so well over the break.

Once back at his apartment, our gang was all back together again. Matthew had checked his school email, and found that I had sent my first email to him.  I thought he had emailed in response to that, but he had initiated an email to me.  So we both thought that we were each initiating the email exchange, only to find that we both did and didn’t know it.  That was actually a big deal to me. To realize that he was reaching out to me, not knowing that I had already reached out to him.  I was thinking that 1999, indeed was going to be a great year.

My Love Story: Chapter 4~The Brother

Oh my, I’ve intended to post this earlier, but it takes SO much out of me to write and scan pics for these posts…plus this one is a most sensitive post because it involves others excluding my husband and I.  But I couldn’t leave it out, as it is such an integral part of the story. Not only are names with held, but some faces to protect the innocent;)

{If you missed chapters 1-3, you can read them here}

I spent the summer apart from the boy of my dreams, emailing a handful of times, with high hopes for fireworks to fly upon our reunion. I had to try to suppress my excitement, and be sorta casual with my enfatuation-so as not to scare the boy off. We lived in the same apartments as we had the previous semester–I was in #39 on the third floor, and he was in #20 on the second floor. I could see into his kitchen from my kitchen window.  Naturally, when I saw he was home that first day I was unpacking things, I grabbed my roommate to go with me for a visit. I remember seeing a roomful of boys in his apartment and trying to pretend like I cared to see all of them before scanning the room and seeing him in the kitchen near the fridge. We smiled and walked to each other, and reached for a big warm bear hug. I wanted to linger there forever, but remember…I had to be casual. I just recall that being the most wonderful embrace, and he seemed genuinely happy to greet me as well.

I had forgotten that he told me his little brother, Sam,  was going to be his roommate that semester. He had just returned home from his missionary service for our church in Italy. We were briefly introduced, and the other boys in the apartment I already knew, and they all knew my roommates. This was going to be a fun year, indeed.

I somehow mustered up the courage to snap these two shots of him the first week back:


I don’t clearly remember exactly what happened that first week of school (and for some reason, that is my ONE missing journal) but I got the strong impression that Matthew was not interested in me the way I was in him. I chalked it up to another “nice guy” that was being friendly towards me, another to add to the “good friend” list. I played a little of “the game” to see if he’d come up to visit me, but he didn’t. He didn’t ask me out on a date as I had hoped, and just didn’t give me the attention that I expected from our “connection” over the summer. It was a bummer. I felt insecure all over again.

One night, I was down at his apartment with my roommates—there was a group of us hanging out, and around 10:30pm Matthew said good night and ducked into the back of the apartment to go to bed. Clearly…if he were at all interested in me, he would have stayed until that midnight clock struck when the girls would have been kicked out. But, no.

That night, when the girls DID get kicked out, a few of the boys came outside on the porch to finish chatting with my roommates and I. Soon, I found that everyone had retired to bed except Sam and I. Sam, the brother of the boy who didn’t seem to care for me like I did for him. Sam just kept telling all sorts of random stories; about his third grade teacher, his mission to Italy, and his freshman year at BYU and all the crazy pranks he pulled. For the first time in a very long time, I didn’t have to lead the conversation with a boy. It was so easy, so relaxed, so enjoyable. It was a breath of fresh air to hear story after story, because I love the little details of life.

The next evening, Sam came upto my apartment to see if I wanted to walk to 7-11 for a slurpee, then the next night he asked if I wanted to join him and a few of his guy friends for a mountain drive. We stayed up all night laughing and telling stories. They asked me all sorts of questions about girls, and I delighted in clueing them in. I did after all educate my 3 brothers on the complexity of a girls mind, and I was happy to oblige these boys as well. It didn’t take long before I started to get butterflies in my stomach for Sam. When I told my roommates, they were beside themselves, “What about Matthew?!?, it would ruin everything.” To which I responded, “Matthew is simply not interested in me that way.”   I always knew it, it was just recently confirmed to me. Sam was someone I could relate to, and I didn’t have to try too hard when talking to him, it felt so natural, and just what I needed.  Pretty soon, he fit in just right with my roommates.

 That first week, we talked for hours and hours and hours about nothing in particular, to the complexities of the world. Just one week after our first late night chat, I went against all of my personal time frame rules, and we kissed. It was the fastest moving relationship I had ever had, but when you calculate the hours spent talking, it was like a month in real life time. I was never keen on the public display of affection bit, so our friends never really knew what was going on at first. My roommates knew how much I was originally pining for Matthew, and though they liked Sam, they were sad that I closed that chapter in the book. It really wasn’t a worry for me. As far as I was concerned, that “connection” was all built up in my mind.

The second week with Sam was filled with more stories, more laughter, and often hanging out with friends. If we weren’t in my apartment with all of my roommates, we were on outings with his best friend, Chris. The 3 of us became a little trio, and often times I’d have chats with Chris about his desire to settle down and find the girl of his dreams.

One night, Sam nervously told me he had to tell me about something, he wouldn’t feel right if he didn’t.  Uh oh…what’s up, I said. He pulled out his wallet and inside was a film negative. One cut negative from off of a film strip.

He held it up to the sun outside and said, “This is Jessica. She and I dated my freshman year. She’s on a mission, and we said that we would date other people while we were apart, and if we were supposed to be together, it would work outwhen we both get back.”

I jokingly tried to snatch the negative away, and when I finally grabbed it, I couldn’t really see anything.  It didn’t bother me, though, that was a typical thing in the Mormon dating world, but it did make me wonder what she really looked like, and curious about her.

I often fed both Sam and Chris dinner, and the days that Sam was at a late class, Chris would walk into my apartment, and say just one word, “FOOD!”  I’d get a good laugh, and he’d get a twinkle in his eye, and I happily whipped him up something to eat.  We became pretty close, he is a very deep individual, and I talked to him a lot about my personally struggles, and he often reminded me of the importance of daily prayer and scripture study.  He was crazy fun, and uber serious & spiritual, and it was great to have him in my life.

I remember one night Chris and I went to the grocery story just the two of us, and he had a heart to heart with me, “Man, you and Sam are pretty serious…” he said.

“Are we?” I thought…and eventually said aloud, “But it’s only been a bit over a week, why do you say that?”

Chris replied, “Because you just spend a lot of time together…you both are so relaxed around each other”

It was then that I had to ask about Jessica.  “She’s pretty awesome,”  he said.  He continued, “most of our freshman year, it was Jessica, Sam, and me…kinda like the 3 of us now.”

“Excellent, so I’m just a filler? No, I can tell you two really like each other. I can see you and Sam getting married.” Chris finished

“WHAT?!?! But we’ve only known each other 2 weeks, only dated for 1…how can you say that?” I blurted out

It left me perplexed. I went home that night with what should have been an elated feeling after hearing those words from the best friend of the boy I was liking, but all of a sudden, hearing those words shook me, and left me feeling uneasy. It didn’t make sense. All of a sudden…nothing made sense.

I went home and cried. I laid my face in my pillow and sobbed for what seemed like all night. It was waaay too early to be thinking anything long term, but Chris brought it all to the surface, and all of a sudden, I realized, I just couldn’t see Sam and I long term. For the next week, I pushed away all the thoughts and confusion, and tried to carry on as normal, but it was no longer normal. I still really really liked Sam, but things started to change inside of me. At some point, Sam and I discussed Chris’proclamation, and he just laughed it off. I knew he could tell it was bothering me.

My best friend Natalie got married in all of this haze going on. As much as I was happy for her, I was in turmoil, and I couldn’t really talk to her about it because she clearly had so much going on.

I had planned to bring Sam with me to the wedding, but he suggested I go alone. Maybe he thought it was too big of a deal to bring a date to your best friends wedding, maybe he thought I’d enjoy it more without him, but I was sad to be there alone…with all of that looming over my head.

After a few days, I was pretty sure Sam was starting to feel the same way I was. So when I approached him to break things off, he seemed to be right in line….or just being agreeable…not sure.  Not something that I wanted to do, but it just felt right. A 3 week whirlwind that changed me. I told him that our frienship meant too much for us to not be friends anymore. He told me that he’d never seen it happen where people dated, then stayed friends, but seemed willing to give it a try. I was bound and determined to make it happen. His friendship meant too much to me.

It was mid-week–the breakup, and we had already had plans to attend BYU’s homecoming dance that weekend. I was really excited to go–it was at the State Capital, and we were double dating with my brother and his wife–no less.  We’d talked about not going…but then decided to just go ahead and go since we’d already paid for the tickets….and that we weren’t going to let a silly break up affect our friendship. Friends go to dances all the time…

We had a really fun night of dancing and chatting, despite the potentially awkward circumstances.  I was so glad that SO FAR (after just a few days) it looked like things were going to be ok with us. I remember having so much fun that night…that I started to second guess myself…and wishing for more than the kiss on the cheek I got at the end of the dance. But I was again reminded of the feeling…something with us, just wasn’t quite right. We were meant to be just friends.

It didn’t make sense, and looking back I can see…that it was all part of a delicately crafted master plan…unbeknownst to me.

The love story of an urban Texas girl and a California coastal boy

{Special thanks to Lindsay for helping me create the map above}


I always thought I’d marry someone who saw me from across a crowded room, and after dashing over to me, would grab my hand, and before even speaking would get down on one knee and propose . . . just because my aura told him that we were meant to be together. The courtship of my husband and myself wasn’t anywhere close to that, and I think it’s a fun story to tell, so here I share. He’s given me his full permission, and I delight in sharing what is most important, that we love each other and were meant to be together. I’ve poured through the many, many journals I kept while growing up, and as I tell “our story” I will weave flashbacks of my life throughout. Though I’ve written a condensed version previously, I plan to blog this one chapter at a time, as I write it. Some of the names of the innocent have been protected, and are changed.

 Chapter One: Little fish

Small. I felt like a very small fish in the vast ocean of Brigham Young University, nervous about my new surroundings. I was in an awkward stage in my young adult life . . . unsure and less confident than I’d felt in years. I had just chopped off my long locks, ready for a fresh start, but I didn’t quite feel “me.” I’d gained that hefty “freshman 15” without even realizing it, so I was slightly uncomfortable in my own skin. Yet, I was exactly where I wanted to be, excited for the new adventure that awaited me.

{See, I felt passionately about Decorating with Portraits even back then. Small shot in the corner to show my long locks previously chopped off…}

 Two weeks before this frigid January day in Utah, my Uncle Mean picked me up from the bustling town of Rexburg for the last time. With everything that was precious to me crammed in the back of his truck, I looked longingly at the life I was leaving behind. A blue tarp covered everything that was precious to me in that truck bed: all of my bedding, clothes crammed into crates, my scrapbooking supplies, you name it . . . everything that I had collected my first 2 years of college.

I stared wistfully out the window at the frozen tundra I was leaving behind, and began to cry hysterically. As my eyes blurred with tears, I awaited a snarky comment from my uncle. Gratefully, for the first time ever, he knew it wasn’t the time to try me with one of his sarcastic comments. My Uncle Mean just let me cry.

When I was around 7, I dubbed my Uncle as “mean” because a) It rhymed with his name, Dean and b) he was a rough-and-tumble country cowboy (see that belt buckle creepin out?), and I thought he yelled too much. I was the spitfire city-girl niece that wouldn’t put up with his shenanigans, and he kinda liked that attitude in me. We have had an unspoken bond of teasing each other throughout my life. But this day, I didn’t need it. I needed to cry it out, and he knew it. I was leaving behind comfortable, and headed into the unknown.

After graduating from high school, I took the fast track at the junior college I had attended in Idaho. Though I was denied acceptance at the university of my choice initially, I now had my Associates Degree and was accepted as a transfer student in a year and a half’s time. Not only with the degree in hand, but with honors to boot. That honors meant a lot to me. It was a first. Never in high school did I achieve such a title. Let’s just say . . . I struggled grade-wise. I wasn’t a straight “A” student, nor did I fail—I was average—but secretly, I always felt dumb. Not as smart as the majority of my friends in the honors classes. Only much later in life did I find out that my parents think I had undiagnosed ADHD. I never could seem to sit still. There was always something swirling around in my head that prohibited my concentration.

As I relaxed over the Christmas break, I had time to think about this awkward phase in my life. Like I said, I had acquired the standard “freshman 15” extra pounds, which left me a bit more unsure of myself. That baggage was no doubt attributed to the fact that my freshman year, I challenged my 6 foot tall friend Scott to enchilada eating contests—over and over.

{Enchilada eating contest–what was I thinking?}

 As I crossed the border between Idaho & Utah in Uncle Mean’s truck, I hoped that entering a new school, finding new friends, and moving several hours away would help me get over the semester-long crush I had on the boy from the potato farm, Bennett. After being infatuated with this blond-haired, blue-eyed, quiet but oh-so-cute boy for several months, I worked up the nerve to ask him to the Christmas dance. It wasn’t necessarily a girl’s choice dance, but I did it anyway and figured . . . what the heck! I’m leaving town after this, so I might as well give it a try. I couldn’t quite tell if he was super shy, or just uninterested in me. I was determined to find out. The dance was fun. We let loose and boogied to “I just want to fly” by Sugar Ray, and slow danced to “Truly, Madly, Deeply” by Savage Garden. At the end of the chilly December Idaho night, as we sat side-by-side, arm in arm, I rested my head on his shoulder and he laid his head on mine. My heart skipped a few beats. Knowing I was nearly packed, ready to head out of town the next week, didn’t stop me from wanting him to get down on his knee and beg me to stay. My friends had watched our interaction that night, and they were totally on board with my unspoken inner thoughts—they thought for sure he’d be asking me to start a potato farm with him. I had schemed about what I would do if he did, but he didn’t. The head rest on the shoulders was as far as it would go.

Besides being admitted to my dream school, BYU, I was very excited to be near my big brother Ryan. A semester previously, Ryan came home from his 2-year church mission to Brazil. We were pretty close when he left, I wrote him lots of letters while he was gone, and we were going to party every night now that we were at the same school.

{me and my big bro}

He found me a spot at his same apartment complex, rooming with 3 girls he said “seemed nice” and had lost their roommate mid-semester to marriage. That was a fairly common occurrence on campus. This complex, Canyon Terrace, was a “U” shaped building with a pool down in the middle of the apartments. The pool was only used in the summer when I wasn’t there, so it didn’t really hold much of an interest to me. I landed myself in the corner apartment on the third floor—apartment #39. What was fun about this “U” shaped building is that the boys were on one side with the girls on another, and being on the third floor, we could see down into the kitchens of the boys’ apartments on the first and second floor. This little fact came to be very handy, as you will see later.

My brother Ryan was in apartment #22, so I could see into his window at a diagonal. I soon found out that the anticipated sibling bonding time was few and far between, as Ryan found himself with a full-fledged girlfriend by the time school started back up. Those Christmas break phone conversations with a small town Utah girl won him over. I was no longer the girl in his life, and that was a bit of a bummer of timing for me. I felt cheated a bit.

When I finally met the girls in apartment #39, I was very relieved, and knew from our first encounter that we would be good friends. I shared a room with Abbi, who was a year younger than me from a small town in Illinois. In high school she was home taught, and was a sophomore by credit in college (I was technically sophomore age, but entered mid-year as a junior by credit). Since we were about the same age, height, and fortunately the same size, we quickly started swapping clothes with each other. Her brown Doc Martin shoes were my most borrowed item of hers, and she introduced me to the zig-zag hair part that she mastered so well (but I never felt it worked on me).

Also sharing our living space was her older sister Hali, who bunked with Amy, and those two had been roommates for several years. They were 2 years older than me, and close to graduating. . . we became one in our bonding experiences. Hali was also from Illinois (remember, sisters) and was several inches shorter than myself. All the boys love to flirt with the cute and little short girls, she was no exception. She was an Economics major which fascinated me, as it was the furthest from my mind (not good with numbers). Hali had short, dark hair and brown eyes. Amy had lovely auburn red hair, and was from a farm in Iowa. She and I had the same degree course, and ended up selecting a lot of the same classes in the future. Through those classes and study time, we became pretty close. It was just the 4 of us, and it didn’t take long to get into our groove and do just about everything together. That happenstance roommate bliss lasted for the next year and a half, and they were my support through my roller coaster of emotions in that time.

{Left to right: Amy, Hali, Abbi, Me}

 Since I came in mid-year, my roommates got me all caught up on the boys, girls, & relationships from our complex. Because it is such a small number of apartments, everyone knew each other pretty well, and there was a good amount of cross-dating. We also attended the same church congregation, as they are aligned by where you live. I got the scoop on who each of my roommates had their eyes on, before I even met the boys themselves. Abbi was interested in a boy who lived next door to my brother, Daryl-with-braces in Apartment #21. Amy had noticed the new boy (who moved in when I did) named T.J., also in #21, and Hali had a little crush on a boy named Matthew in #20. Conveniently, all of these boys we could clearly spy on (and see what girls were stopping by) from the comfort of our kitchen window view.

After about a week of living there, I found myself with a crush on about 10 different boys. I was experiencing an overload of cuteness! I still felt a bit insecure at my new surroundings, wondering how I made it to the “smart” school. Would anybody think differently of me because I didn’t start at that school, along with having not actually been in a relationship in a good 8 months? Thankfully, my insecurities soon became a thing of the past as I jumped right into the new dating pool. I specifically remember my crush on the red-head, Mike, in #23 who took me to play racquetball a few times; Jeremy, from my hometown of Houston who I ended up asking to a girls’ choice dance; and Justin, in #21 who was a good 5 years older than me and had an on-again, off-again girlfriend. I’m not the flirty type, so it wasn’t obvious, but I will admit that each of the boys my roommates had expressed interest in . . . was a hidden interest for me, too. Not only were they cute, but they were good, solid, fun guys. But, it would be kept under wraps, because they were spoken for, and I abided by that unspoken girl code. I would only be “friendly” towards them for the sake of my girls, to help them get closer to their crush. Little did I know then, but in 2 years time, I would marry one of those boys I mentioned.

{Sunday night pretzel making activity…there I am in the bottom right corner}