Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anniversary! And A GiveAWAY!

Three years ago, November 3, 2008, I began blogging.  I had no idea where this adventure would take me.

Up and down.
Back and forth.
Here and There (And Back Again.Name that book!)

So many friends, from all over the world.  So many comments (and not a single negative one.  How could I be that lucky?).  Linky posts and featured projects.  And a giveaway or two, just for fun.

So, today--another giveaway.  It's been a while, hasn't it?  I was kind of hoping to do something Oprah-style--may favorite things, but only Oprah has that kind of money, right?  Here are the prizes:
  • A (slightly used) Fitbit personal data tracker.  I have been using one faithfully for almost three months, and I love having a place online to record my calories, sleep, cardio, etc.  It has been my nearly constant companion.  Slightly used, I say?  Well, I bought Brad one, too, and he used it maybe three days before giving up.  Not really his thing.  It comes with the personal computer, belt clip, and computer docking station/charger.  Data tracking is free on the fitbit website. If you win this, I promise you'll love it, too. It's $100 new, and it's hasn't even been broken in yet.
  • A copy of one of my all-time favorite books, The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.  Dracula, history, art, mystery--this book has it all, written with beautifully orchestrated prose.  
  • Last but not least, I wish I could give someone a trip to one of my auctions, just for fun.  Dinner, a diet Pepsi as we bid and laugh at the crazy stuff people buy.  Alas, that can't happen.  But I can give you a gift card to one of my favorite stores--your choice of $25 to Target or Pottery Barn (it may go a little bit farther at Target, but whatever).  And I require an update on what you used it for!
Make sure you follow my blog (not that I really care a ton, but there is a little twinge of excitement every time I see that number rise just a little bit), then leave a comment--What has been your favorite post here at the Sanatorium? If I get a record number of comments, maybe I'll up the gift card to $40.  Yeah. No maybe.  I will. Winners will be announced on Monday, November 7th.

I was going to survey you all before today to disclose your favorite post from the Sanatorium so I could publish the all-time favorite, but instead I decided to post my favorite.  I'll never forget the day this post sprang from my head like Athena--it had never happened before and the phenomenon has never been repeated. Here it is, My First Masterpiece, dated April 11, 2010--two days before Heidi's wedding.  It still brings me to tears. 

As long as I can remember, I’ve loved art, and Michelangelo was my first favorite. I remember looking through the pages of my family Bible, studying the images from the Sistine Chapel and admiring his sculptures. My favorite was and still is his sculpture of the Pieta. The intricacy of Mary’s folded robes and Christ’s curly hair always captured my interest, and I would ponder Michelangelo's gift and abilities.
I wanted to be an artist, but I was not so endowed. When I realized in college that you could major in art history, I knew I’d discovered my path. I may not be able to create these works of art, but I could acquire a level of knowledge and expertise and appreciation far beyond my abilities to create. And I did.
Because I love art so much, I’ve always struggled with purchasing art of any kind to hang in my home. Mere reproductions or mass-produced posters always rang a little hollow for me. I always watch for something unusual, unique.  I saw the quote above in a boutique five years ago. The moment I saw it, I knew I needed it, and its price tag only deterred me for a moment. It has hung in our family room ever since.

God gives mothers the privilege of becoming artists--sculptors co-creating with Him bodies for these spirits. Our bodies instinctively mold their physical bodies until birth. Then, it becomes our job to help mold their souls.
We teach them to eat, to sleep through the night, to hold toys and to smile. These skills lead to sitting, crawling, walking, speaking. We struggle through potty training and sharing. We teach them to pray and to love. This step of the sculpting process removes chunks of marble--big strokes that require mostly maternal energy and time. Now the shape inside the block begins to emerge.
They start school, and our hits with the chisel become smaller, more purposeful—learning to tell the truth, to face failure and rejection, to be grateful. We drive to lessons, concerts, games, friends’ houses, and church. We teach by example. We mold with actions and words. And the original block is no longer recognizable. There’s definitely a figure in there.
As they grow, our strokes become even finer, even more subtle. We are the sounding board, the needed shoulder, the confidante. We brush away tears and bask in triumphs. We step back and evaluate the sculpture with an ever-critical eye. What else do I need to remove? Where are the weak spots? Have I done enough in this area? It’s almost finished.
When the chisel work is complete, out comes the polishing cloth. The sculpture is almost complete. We listen and advise now, moving into the background. But how long will I have to polish it, to refine it, to shine it? Will I ever feel like it’s finished? Will I ever be able to part with my master work? And who will be the one to fall in love with my work of art—and then take it away from the sculptor forever? Will they be good enough? Will they treat my work with respect and awe and love it, even more than I do?
My first masterpiece is complete. My hammer and chisel and brush have rested for a time, and now it’s time to retire the polishing cloth. The angel has emerged, even more beautiful than I imagined.
She’s free at last.
I've been reading over my three years of blogging--and I can't believe how incredibly lucky I've been to count you all as my friends, to peer into your worlds and share your joys and sorrows.  I'm so glad 696 of my best/worst moments have been left here in this little corner of cyberspace.  Thanks for riding along with me.

Linking up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday.  Good luck on the giveaway!
Jenny Matlock


  1. I am already a follower!! And I share your blog with my girl friends and sisters because I love how much sense you make in your nonsense world of 7 kids. (I have 6, I kind of understand). I love every post! I love the posts with pictures of you with your family. I love your kids silly faces (and yours too). The thing I gain most from you......wanting to have MORE FUN with my kids. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU. You'll never know the tad bits of inspiration you give me in the raising of my home and family.

  2. By the way....that wasn't John. It's John's wife......Tawnie.

  3. Congratulations on that wonderful milestone! I love your "masterpiece."

  4. Thanks for the recap on how motherhood is such an awesome job and how we have to give them their wings. This journey of mine over the last few months has been the hardest when I have had to relinquish my grip on motherhood for a bit and let others take over when I haven't been up to it. It has also focussed me on what is important and the fact that I continue to face this journey with only positive thoughts is largely in part to the example I want to show to my family - that we will always have challenges in our lives, again it's not in our hands but in God's, and so we need to accept his will and do it with good grace for it is His plan for us. Love your posts as you know. Catherine

  5. I'm a follower. I really don't know how I hadn't officially clicked that button before since I've been reading you for a while now! I LOVE that post! That's such a fantastic way to describe motherhood. I'm still in those beginning phases with big chunks being chiseled away as the youngest learns to sleep through the night and the oldest is in first grade, but I'm looking forward to seeing my angels emerge. I can only hope they'll be as beautiful as yours! Your children are beautiful!

  6. I'm so glad you reposted this. I hadn't read it yet. It is beautiful. You honestly should send it to Blogher. It would definitely be accepted. I've been right about this before : ) So glad you decided to do this three years ago.

  7. Yeah, that is a great post. I love your blog. I know that when I come to your blog, I will go away amazed, and understood.
    Thanks for blogging!

  8. The Hobbit. (Seven posts in and no one responded to your name-that-book challenge.)

  9. I already follow your blog! I don't even have to look back to remember my favorite post of yours. It was a link up post a ling while back called "What's Your Number?" I never did link up but posted a couple of months after what my current number was. Someday, when I am finished with my family, I know my number will have a much bigger story than before, since we are now starting fertility to try and have our third child. I hope there are many more to come and I loved reading your post. It made me realize that children come in the right time, not always when we want them.
    Thanks for that!

  10. Well, you stole my favorite post. I remember calling and talking to my friend about that one. Loved it. And if I win I may actual trade my gift card for a date to the auction! :)

  11. Happy Bloggy Anniversary, Jen! I always find blog anniversaries to be big deals because it takes a lot of time and commitment to write and keep a blog updated on a regular basis. It's so easy start a blog but once you take a long break, it's always so hard to get back into that rhythm. So congratulations on making it for 3 years!

    I really love that re-posted post. It definitely made me tear up. Your blog has been quite an inspiration for me, especially since you love your family so much. You're views on being a mother to each of your children makes me want to have more so that I can love them as fiercely as you do with your kids. I've also learned so much more about the Mormon religion (which is one of my favorite series you wrote) I'm really glad that I began following your blog this past year and a half :) Thanks for all the inspiration and for sharing so much about your life and your family :)

  12. I love that post too. ..but I have lots of favs!

    You make motherhood real, Jen. Really hard, really beautiful, really funny! and I can relate to your "hard" kids. Because, I am blessed to have "harder" kids too!

    Happy Anniversary!

  13. Hey, haven't been here for bad... but here I am. Just peeked a little backwards and love that you love the North East. I've been that way twice and, like you, would live there in a heartbeat....with a sugar daddy in tow:) But my fav was Boston. If you haven't been, you need to! That was also one of my favs of your blog posts:) And the quote from Michaelangelo(spelling?)

    Ok, congrats on all your blog years and I'll try harder to come visit more...

    btw, I know someone in MD with an awesomely big older house for sale...just sayin.

  14. That was my favorite post as well...and it also makes me cry. You definitely have a way with words Jen. :o)

  15. Happy Blog Anniversary Jen! One post that comes to my mind...can't say it was my favorite, but it always sticks with the one where you took your younger kids to a cabin in the woods ( I think it was a cabin!) and you wrote about their memories from that trip. Will they remember fusssing about the letters they wrote home...or will they remember laughing all the way to the post office on their bikes. (Something like that!) I really liked that post....because mothering is hard, especially when traveling, (Sometimes our expectations are high) and you chose to remember the good stuff.

  16. Love your blog--it has been one of my favorites since I found it and you were showing us your birthday boots! I am an Idaho girl and I still find myself looking for you at Walmart or Broulims here in Rexburg as if you were visiting Heidi (but I know you're not--because I read your blog). I can't just pick one post because there are several that have influenced me. Thank you!

  17. I can't say which is my favorite, because it is probably the one I am reading at the moment. Unlike some of your readers, I know and have a personal interest in most of the people you write about, so each post is dear to me. ....and oh, our Heidi. Yes, she is definitely a work of art. (I just commented to bring the number up. Isn't that a mother's job?) LOVE

  18. Ok.. I am not quite sure what button to push to follow your blog. BUT I love it! I read it almost every day!
    You seem to speak straight to me as though we are having a conversation. I love how you parent your children, and how you and your husband make your relationshio work.
    Thank you for writing your blog. I LOVE IT!!

  19. Happy blogiversary! I'm a fan of your before and after makeovers- always a favorite...please do more!

  20. As long as you're putting a blog out there, I'll be following it. And I'd be lying if I picked a favorite because I love each and every post.

    But I guess I love the ones with family photos the most of all...because they make me feel a little more connected to the "inmates" of that wonderful Denton sanatorium that is yours.

    Happy anniversary, Jen!


  21. My favorite blog was the weeklong We believe... blogs about the LDS faith. We grew up in the same house and were taught the same things however, it was still very refreshing to hear your take on the trinity, missionaries, families etc.

  22. I am not blog-savvy enough to know how to follow - and a little leery of clicking on buttons, but I did want to comment on my favorite (or one of my many favorites). One that particularly comes to mind is the post where you talked about being a thermostat vs. a thermometer. I 'got' that post & thought it was such a clever way of describing a certain personality trait - I could easily see myself & realized, through that post, that it's okay to be 'me'. Love reading your insights!

  23. On my! Favourite posts!!!

    I love Heidi's wedding posts. I waited in anticipation for the big day and then enjoyed seeing the results. I loved the red shoes and decorations and food. Re read them several times!!

    I love the recent post you had about sisters - I have two 6 years apart and see the same things.

    I loved the post about Lily's determination in diving this summer - an amazing young lady she is!!

    I loved you mother's day posts.

    I cherish the posts on Ella as being a BLM has a special place in my heart.

    Hyrum reminds me a my darling son - needs a little extra love sometimes :)

    I never did email you as you asked - not quite sure what to say (blushing shyly)

  24. I follow you, of course. I don't know if I could pinpoint 1 single post. I LOVE when you share your feelings of being a mom, and your thoughts on religion, and your photography is refreshing. I love that you keep it real. It has been a several years since I really chatted with you, but reading your posts reminds me of why I adored you so much! I've always seen you as someone who REALLY has it together. I still do! But I love that you share the challenges you are facing! SO many times, I feel like I'm the only that is facing challenges and it's nice to know that those that you look up to (YOU , in my case) have made it through challenges and are STILL facing trials in some way. I realize that it is only through those good and bad times that you have become the wonderful person I love and admire so much. It gives me hope that SOMEDAY I will become such an inspiration to those around me, and a wonderful mother and example to my children as you are! Thanks for being that kind of person!

  25. happy anniversary... just now starting to read your blog but hoping to come back lots.

  26. I loved your makeover blog posts about the guest bedroom!

  27. Which is my favorite post? That's like saying which part of your personality makes me love you the most-impossible! I loved the ones leading up to and after Heidi got married, such good insight. And getting T ready to go-such a good look into the future for me. I'm just glad you are a much better blogger than I am, makes me feel close to home. Congrats on your anniversary! Hope there's lots more to come! Oh, and I loved the April Fools when you were expecting Eve, such fun! You had us all fooled for sure with that counter, lots of fun!

  28. Listen to Dana - she knows how to pick those BlogHer posts! So glad to follow you anywhere in a totally non-stalker kind of way. xoxo

  29. I've been a follower for awhile myself.

    I love your posts often, they make me think, smile, lol and remember why I'm a member when I get distracted by life.

    My favorite post, the week on why you are a Mormon. I liked them all and couldn't have said it better myself.

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  30. I swear that even if you hadn't mentioned the masterpiece post, that was the one I would have said was my favorite. It was one of the first I read of yours and clinched my following.

    That and the one on being popular.

    Woot Woot!

  31. Happy Anniversary Jen!!
    I am pretty lucky at winning your give-aways so I'm hopeful I'll be shopping at target again on you!:)
    I love seeing posts about the kids, your daily lives and how you juggle it all. I love the masterpiece post and the linky party you did where every one shared their birth stories. I also recall a very funny post with a mtn bike!! I love them all!
    Thanks for writing them down for us.
    have a happy day jen

  32. I figured it out. How to follow your blog. :)

  33. Happy anniversary!

    I remember when I first popped over to your blog, I read a post about you being in Chicago (I think), what stood out was you said something like, "I'm not a foodie". And I thought WHAT THE HECK? How can ANYONE not be a foodie?!?!? I was VERY impressed!

  34. I just love your blog - it would be hard to pick just one favorite. I love your linky parties - they always inspire me to really think about the subject at hand, and I love to read everyone else's too. Then there was Heidi's wedding, and I loved all of those. And then your missionary... You see my difficulty. Thank you for all of your wonderful posts, and most of all for being kind to a very overwhelmed girl who was newly arrived in Mesa - fresh from Puerto Rico - with not a stick of furniture to her name. I will never forget your kindness to Katie. Never.

  35. I hate your blog and think that your kids are ugly!!

    Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to be original!!

    kisses and hugs,

  36. Hey Jenny! I love your blog. You're an amazing photographer and I may be gleaning a few mom antics off of you :) My favorite posts have to be when you post a ton of pictures; you really have a talent!

  37. Happy blogiversary!!! My favorite post of you ever did was the post about when you said you were afraid to post your followers on your sidebar:) my favorite pictures were of your daughter learning to do a special dive in your pool.

  38. P.S. I'm already a follower:)

  39. Girl, I was like follower number two, right behind your mother. I've read every single post, and pretty much loved them all. I couldn't possibly pick a favorite. Mostly because that'd require me to go looking back through the archives, and well, I'm in a rush this morning. Just know, I love you, love your blog and am so glad you do blog and keep ME (yes, it's alll about me) updated on the Sanitorium.

  40. My friend loves her fitbit.
    Been contemplating one.

    I have been blogging for about that long too. It's sorta been fun.

  41. I love your blog. I don't think I can pick a favorite post! I love the variety of posts from your redos to your gospel insights. I especially love your family updates!

  42. This is a wonderful post! Congratulations on three years of blogging! ♥

  43. Congratulations on three years of blogging! You sound like so much fun to go to an Auction with! I can see you cracking up now in my mind!

    I always enjoy your post!

    Cheers to you and another three years of wonderful Denton Sanatorium posts!

    Thanks for linking.