Monday, April 6, 2015

A Power-Packed, Fun-Filled Weekend

I had a wonderful Easter weekend. For starters, I attended (via a television cable broadcast) my church's twice yearly world-wide conference. I watched four two-hour sessions power packed with amazing inspiration and guidance from church leaders. Over the next six months, I plan to revisit the three dozen talks given in those conference sessions (including those given in two additional sessions - Priesthood and Relief Society). But, this week, I plan on super-focusing on two talks that stood out in particular - the talk on the prodigal son given by Brent H. Neilson, and the talk about strengthening our faith in Jesus Christ by Rosemary M. Wixom (watch or listen to those Sunday morning talks here). I have much to learn from both talks. I am so grateful for spiritual feasts like the one my family participated in this weekend.

I am also grateful for the other memories I made with my family over the last few days - hosting our favorite Danish exchange student for the weekend (she stays with us when her host family is out of town), celebrating my daughter's 16th birthday, watching my 12-year-old son play soccer, and having the missionaries over for dinner and an Easter devotional (the elders and the sisters). The weekend was busy, that's for sure, but it was also refreshing and fun. I am truly grateful for weekends that allow me to really focus on the things that matter most - Family and Faith. Have a great week!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2015: Year of the Lush Mango!

Happy New Year!

2014 was a great year! It was also a very challenging year at times. Even so, I have much to be grateful for in the past year. Here is a partial list:

A husband who is there for me, no matter what (and this past year, that included my terrible health scare and 4-day hospital stay); my first daughter's finding her call to be the most amazing massage therapist you can imagine; my second daughter's opportunity serve a church mission in Finland during all of 2014, sharing her faith in Jesus Christ and the blessings that come from living His Gospel; my third daughter's call to serve a mission in Africa, starting next week?????!!!!! (she goes to Ghana for missionary training and then head to Madagascar); my fourth daughter's growing leadership skills and talents at school and in the larger community; my first and only son's love of learning about everything from Einstein's Theory of Relativity to how to make the best smoothie. Yes, I am very thankful for my family!  

So while 2014 was an amazing year, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what 2015 brings. And I'm ready to do my part to make it the best year yet, which in my case, involves the creation of a new blog, born just today. It is called and I created it as a gathering place for women (and men) who want to eat to nourish, energize, thrive and lose weight if desired. I hope you'll stop by for a visit. Together, we can make this the best year yet! Here's to a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Happy 2015!

Love and Blessings,


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Stories Matter, Yours Especially

I have a passion for writing and believe that everyone has a story to tell. Multiple stories, actually. Rather than telling mine in 500-page tomes, I find it easiest to tell them in shorter books (Mothering with Spiritual Power: Book of Mormon Inspirations for Raising a Righteous Family and It's Okay to Take a Nap), and numerous newspaper and magazine articles online and in print.

I took some time off from writing freelance and nonfiction books over the last few years in favor of writing a novel that has yet to find a publishing house (I am still hopeful), but I am back to writing nonfiction more regularly and loving it. Here's a couple of newspaper guest columns I wrote recently: 

The first is a guest column I wrote about how books and libraries can dramatically impact our families' lives for the better. They sure have made a positive difference for my family, leading, I believe, to college scholarships for my children. Click HERE to see the article. Once you've read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the subject of books and libraries. What stories did you enjoy as a child? What picture or chapter books do you love sharing with your children? What novels are your favorites? 

The second is an article I wrote about how my husband and I spent our fall break dressed in pioneer-style clothing and trekked with our church's youth as the Mormon pioneers did in the 1800s. What a powerful, meaningful and fun experience that was despite the dirt and grime and fatigue. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. My husband would as well, albeit with a better pair of shoes. He was such a sport when his shoes came apart, and they taped them back together with lime green duct tape. Click HERE to read the article. If you're interested, I'd love to hear your stories of similar treks.

If you are reticent to write your own stories, whether about your life or the life of your imagination, I would encourage you to go for it. Your stories matter. And the rest of us would benefit from the telling. Looking forward to hearing what you have to say. 


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Greatest Blessing

I have long taken the scriptural counsel to live in thanksgiving daily, so I am thankful for many things, but most of all, I am thankful for my family. It is hard for me to imagine a time when I wasn't married to my husband and didn't have these five children, three who are now adults. I'm still trying to absorb that reality.

When I was a young mother, mothers who were further along the path of raising children told me to make the most of the years I have with my children because the years would pass quickly. I had a hard time believing that because sometimes, honestly, the days felt pretty long as I tried to meet everyone's needs, changing diapers, preparing meals, cleaning and providing comfort. Even so, the years have flown.

As I write this, my second daughter is more than a year into her 18-month mission trip for our church (we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as Mormons). She is in the Finland Helsinki Mission and has served in Kuopio, Helsinki, Lappeenranta (along the Russian border) and now a town less than 100 miles from the Arctic Circle. I smiled when I received a photo of her this past week covered in snow after a long bicycle ride across the city where she serves. After all, she could barely stand the cold before she left and now she embraces life in the wintry north with a smile on her face as she shares her deep and abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His Great Plan of Happiness.

And now, as hard as it is to believe, my third daughter (who loves cold weather!) leaves in a little over a month for six weeks in Ghana and then on to her mission trip in Madagascar. We are so excited for her.

Friends have asked me how I'll stand having two daughters gone at the same time, incommunicado except for weekly emails and bi-annual Skype sessions (at Christmas and on Mother's Day), and the answer is how can I not? After all, while our lives have not been perfect, as a family we have experienced such enormous joy overall as we have sought to keep Christ at the center of our lives, that I want for my daughters to be able to share with others what they have learned about finding happiness.

I miss my daughter in Finland and will soon miss my other daughter when she goes to Africa, but I am so thankful for all the years I've had with them, for the opportunities they have now, and for the many years of being a family ahead, whether my children are near or far. I am thankful for the knowledge that families really can be together forever. On the good days and the more challenging days, this is the family for me. I am blessed.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Let the Four Month Mid-Life Revolution Begin!

With my 17 year old daughter's strong encouragement, I am going to pick up blogging again, mostly to focus on healthy eating and fitness over the next four months. I will throw in some other subjects like my favorite books or a movie I've enjoyed or just life themes like happiness, etc. but the primary impetus at this point is to connect with others who want to take exceptional care of themselves, but sometimes fall short.

Why am I picking four months as my time-frame? Well, in four months exactly from today, I turn 48. And I want to do it with pizazz. I remember celebrating my 40th birthday with a sunset swim with about 20 or so of my friends. Many things were going very well for me at that time. I was a long-distance runner. I was fit. I was publishing articles as a freelance writer and, more importantly, having a great time as a mother to my children. I thought I had the world by the tail. A friend and I vowed to make our forties the fabulous forties...well, they have been fabulous in many regards, but they have also been challenging.

On the bright side, I went from being a freelance writer to a published book author at the age of 42. On the crazy side, the month my first book came out (September 2007) was the same month I was in the hospital after major surgery for ovarian cancer. I came out of that surgery very weak and injured myself badly shortly after which resulted in back surgery only months later and years of struggling with nerve damage that went from my back down through my left leg and foot. I wasn't able to run during that time and ended up putting on a lot of weight. Not helping matters any were other very stressful events like the serious illness and death of both of my husband's parents and my father and a very dear friend in rapid succession. I never thought that I would write and deliver two eulogies in a matter of weeks for two people I love as much as I love my dad and my dear friend Mary. We struggled through it all with lots of prayer and, in my case, lots of food.

A little over a year after I was declared cancer-free, I had weighed almost 40 pounds more than I weighed when I was in the hospital. A big breakthrough came when I was able to start running again in June of 2011. It was not easy and I still deal with residual nerve damage that is worse sometimes than others, but I felt soooooo free being able to run again (jog, I should say). I have even run some road races again in the last year or so. Not as fast as I used to be...some of that because of age and some because of my nerve damage, but I may be the happiest slow runner out there.

With a return to running, I lost about 15 pounds in a matter of months and I felt so much better. During the same time period, I made stabs at eating healthier, but I didn't go all out (though I intended to). The next big breakthrough came about a year later in May of 2012 when I was visiting the local YMCA for my regular weight workout. My friend Debbie Wog who is an amazing fitness trainer, teacher and expert invited me to attend her Body Pump class. I have never been a fan of exercise classes (I feel a bit uncoordinated trying to stay in sync with other participants), but I thought I'd give it a try and the first time out I was hooked. It is basically a very, very challenging free weight class where you exercise everything in 55 strenuous minutes - biceps, back, thighs, abs, everything. With that class, I have gained more strength than I have had in years. I didn't lose weight, but I am pretty sure I lost some inches and just felt better about myself overall.

Part III of my get fit and lose weight program came into being when I finally got motivated to rework my diet. I have always loved healthy food but not exclusively. I am also a really big fan of combos that include sugar,flour and butter in yummy homemade things. But between my husband's heart attack a year ago and my own terrible LDL Cholesterol level(categorized as severely elevated in my lab work), I was finally motivated to work on the diet. Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn's book, "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease," was a life changer. It argues for an extreme diet, focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans, but he says that even if you do it about 85% you will have dramatic results in weight loss and cholesterol. And I have definitely had positive results in weight loss with another 12 pounds lost which brings me to a 27 pound total weight loss since June of 2011. And I want to lose 5 to 10 pounds more between now and my birthday as well as have my LDL cholesterol test in the normal range.

Another motivator for finishing the weight loss strong by June 20th is that two years ago, my oldest daughter Amanda told me that she wanted to take me shopping and buy me a new outfit for my birthday. I told her how touched I was by her offer and that I really wanted to take her up on it, but needed to lose weight desperately before I would feel good about getting a new she's been waiting patiently overall and I think that this year is the year! I even told my husband that I would like him and the rest of the kids to help pick out another outfit or two for me for my birthday!

So, yes, I am motivated. I have worked hard the last 20 months to take better care of myself and I want to be especially focused on driving the weight loss to the finish line in the next 4 months. When I celebrate my birthday, I want to feel strong and energetic so I can make the most of all the years yet to come.

What about you? What's your story as far as nutrition and fitness? What are your goals for the next week? The next month? And the next four months? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

As I close this letter to you, just let me say that I have learned for myself that we don't have to be perfect in our efforts to have measurable progress. Heaven knows, I haven't been perfect since June 2011, but I've lost 27 pounds and feel better than I have in years, including feeling better about myself.

If you'd like to feel better and do better when it comes to your health and well-being, join me. We can do it together. Here's a no-fat salad dressing to get you started. It's scrumptious. Jane's 3,2,1 Salad Dressing (from Preventing and Reversing Heart Disease):

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons mustard of your choice (I use plain yellow)
1 tablespoon real maple syrup

Mix and pour over salad. Delicious!

That's it for now. Happy, healthy eating ahead!


Friday, June 3, 2011

Let the Summertime Fun Begin!

School has been out for one week now, and so far, we are having a terrific summer. My 15 year old has said a couple of times, "Wow, we've done so much already" and she's right.

Here's a partial list: a trip to East Texas to visit my mom and aunt; swimming at our neighborhood pool which we love because the pool is quite large and is in a beautiful setting with the wooded greenbelt behind it; eating sweet and savory crepes (thanks to my 17 year old who is a complete Francophile); watching some good movies and shows(which include the 1993 version of Secret Garden and a BBC documentary, The Great Rift); watching the NBA playoffs (especially my husband and 15 year old; we're disappointed the Oklahoma City Thunder didn't make it to the finals, but we're rooting for the Dallas Mavericks now); and volunteering at the library (my 15 and 17-year-old daughters).

Since we are only one week into summer, we have some fun things planned ahead, including going to a Redhawks baseball game, visiting the Oklahoma City Zoo which is absolutely beautiful as well as the OKC Museum of Art, and some more travel.

One of our favorite things to do in the summertime is to read more than we are able to during the school year. Some of the books I've read recently (mostly before school got out) include Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (I can definitely see why this book has been controversial in terms of parenting styles, and while I didn't agree with everything the author had to say, I realized that she wrote the book somewhat tongue-in-cheek, and found it engaging and thought-provoking), A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley (this is book #3 in a series; I liked it better than book two but not as much as book one--The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie); Miles to Go by Richard Paul Evans (this is book #2 in a series about a widower who, in his grief over the loss of his wife, decides to walk across the U.S.; I'll Walk Alone by Mary Higgins Clark and The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen. Looking forward to reading more this summer. I definitely plan to add one or more of Jane Austen's books in, probably Persuasion or Sense and Sensibility. I read Emma last summer.

My top reading goal this summer is to reread The Book of Mormon. I have read it many times before but never in a matter of a few weeks or even a couple of months because I always get caught up in it and really focus on an individual story or set of verses or theme, but this summer, I am bound and determined to read it faster to get a better overall feel for the scope of the book, a book that has positively shaped my life and outlook for as long as I can remember.

I would love to hear your suggestions for a good read this summer, whether it's a book that is just for fun or one that can change or enhance one's life. Thanks always for your thoughtful letters and notes. Happy Reading and Happy Summer ahead!

Love and Blessings,


Monday, May 23, 2011

A Long Overdue Update

Hello Everyone,

I have missed talking with you through my blog posts, but I'm back now. A lot has happened since I last wrote and I confess it is a little overwhelming to try to figure out the best way to catch up without overwhelming readers or myself...but after some thought, I have decided that the best way to catch up is to just share with you directly but briefly what has been going on.

The last 18 months have honestly felt like one emotional tsunami after another. My mother-in-law died of leukemia in November of 2009, and then my father-in-law passed away in July of 2010 (a broken heart from missing his wife), and then my father's melanoma cancer took a turn for the worse last fall and he passed away in early February of this year. Weeks after he passed on, one of my very best friends, Mary, died after a short and fierce battle with esophageal cancer.

Each of these loved ones has played a significant and important part of my life, and to see each of them suffer so much and then to pass on in rapid succession has been hard. I have great faith that I will see them again but for now I miss them terribly.

Out of a deep desire to honor their lives, I helped to write the eulogy for three of them, doing my best, to capture the texture of their lives and how precious they were to me and so many others. I delivered the eulogy for my father and dear friend Mary at their funerals. It meant a lot to me to be able to remember them in such a way.

I am not yet one of those people who can say, "I am so very thankful for all of my challenges," but I can say that I am thankful for the tender mercies I have experienced during the tough times and I am thankful for the lessons I have learned during them.

I confess I miss my dad the most, but I am so thankful for the incredibly precious moments I experienced with him during the last days of his life. My father was an attorney who was an advocate for those in need. He helped, on a daily basis, individuals who could not afford an attorney. And he helped many. He was still fighting cases in the courtroom in November but things went quickly downhill from there.

During the last weeks of his life, he was barely able to speak because of the tumor in his brain. Even so, he taught me some extraordinary lessons on gratitude and service during that time. If my Dad could be so grateful for the good in his life in the midst of such suffering and could still somehow seek to serve others, I can ask no less of myself. He has left quite a legacy and so I will go forward in my life, striving to honor his legacy of service, gratitude, hard work, attending church faithfully, among other things. I am truly blessed to call William Anderson Sansing my Dad--past, present and forever.

Okay, so I thought I would keep it short and simple, but that turned out to be too great a challenge. I am just glad to be back in touch with you. Thanks always for your thoughtful notes and feedback. I am most appreciative.

Love and Blessings,