Sunday, September 27, 2015


Dear Loved Ones,   
I was surprised that nearly a month has flown by since I wrote a family letter. Every Sunday night we have had something going on, and then it was time to jump into a busy week again on Monday and I never did catch up. It has been a wonderful, beautiful month, my very favorite time of year. We have thoroughly enjoyed a true Indian Summer. Here are some highlights from September.

We began the month marking five years since we lost Papa Bill. Our hearts just naturally turn toward him and our good memories on September 2nd, so we just talked about him lots and enjoyed sharing memories. Lots of relatives shared memories and pictures on Facebook. It’s nice to be connected that way. That first week of September we had a short little cold snap and we really enjoyed breaking out our sweaters for a few days, but the sun was back for Labor Day.

 Friday September 4th we celebrated James’ 9th birthday a day early with a little after school bowling party with his scout friends. They bowled and played arcade games, then we came back to the house for pizza, birthday cake, and trampoline, all packed into 2 hours. It was fun. We celebrated a day early because on the 5th, we traveled to Helena to attend Cousin Rachel Kinkie’s wedding. It was a crazy trip, but the wedding was beautiful. Rachel and her husband Mike Meredith are a great looking couple and they seem so happy. We enjoyed the festivities so much.

Niles started Pre- Kindergarten on September 8th. He goes to school from 8am til 2:30pm, Monday - Thursday and we were worried it would be too long a day for him. Turns out he loves it and he’s learning lots and playing lots and sleeping better at night. As long as he’s happy we’ll stick with this program.

 September 10-11th I went with Rich to an Insurance conference in Great Falls, MT, while Grandma Melin stayed with the kids. I only attended one meeting with Rich (and awards ceremony and breakfast). The rest of the time I explored GF, shopped, and caught up on some writing. We enjoyed some wonderful meals and a great night’s sleep. I also watched the replay of the Today Show from 9/11/01 on msnbc. It’s always nice to watch that again because it is what we were watching on that day. I like to refresh my memory and emotions of that day so I truly never forget what we’ve been fighting the past 14 years. We returned home rested and refreshed for a fun weekend with our kids.

 On September 12th Addie and I attended a cool Interfaith Service activity planned by one of our YW as a project. We made customizable (with fabric markers) muslin dolls with hospital gowns and blankets for the new hospital to give its pediatric patients. It was such a fun activity, I wish I could have stayed all day, but we had to head home at 2:30 so Rich could go over to Bozeman for the Leadership session of Stake Conference. The general session of stake conference on Sunday was broadcast to our ward building which is always nice. We loved hearing from Elder Pino in Spanish. I was able to understand more than I thought I would, which sparked an interest in actually brushing up on my Spanish so maybe I could speak it someday.

 That following week seemed to be all about harvesting, canning, and baking. I made a double batch of an amazing carrot cake recipe I got from Mom Melin. I made peach salsa and regular mild salsa (I mostly use it in the crock pot to flavor meat for tacos). We still have lots of tomatoes ripening in the garden, and if they survive, I will make spaghetti sauce out of them. I also made dilly beans with an especially strong head of garlic, so they are potent. I used a recipe for spicy dillies (with cayenne) and they definitely are spicy. Not for the casual snacker. But I love them. I ate a whole jar with my brother Matt this weekend. They taste like pepperoncinis. So yay for canning!

 Rich was gone to the Fall Camporee on September 18-19.  We had a movie night on Friday, then chores and canning on Saturday. He came home in the afternoon and cleaned up and rested a bit, then Grandpa and Grandma Melin came over with Uncle Mike and brought us pizza for dinner and gave us the news that they’d received another mission call. Grandpa Melin will be serving as the second counselor in the Billings Temple Presidency and Grandma will be a matron. They will move to Billings and serve three years starting November 1st. Grandpa will be made a sealer, which is such a great blessing for our children. I hope each of them has the opportunity to be sealed in the temple by their Grandpa. I know it was so special for all us grandkids to receive our Patriarchal blessings from Papa Bill. We are very excited for Mom and Dad and we know blessings will flow to our family from their service.

On Sunday the 20th, Grandpa and Grandma graciously came over again to watch the kids for us while Richard, Addie, and I went over to Bozeman for Stake Standards Night. Addie and four of her best friends performed the opening song, “We’ll Bring the World His Truth.” Eden Jones played the piano beautifully while her sisters Jeanette and Clara sang soprano and Addie and Izzi Petry sang the alto. They did a beautiful job, their voices blended perfectly, and we were so very proud of them. They brought the Spirit and set the mood for a wonderful, inspiring night for the youth of our stake. I’m so glad I could be there.

 All last week we worked on our Fall cleaning goals and got ready to have house guests.  Tuesday, September 22 was Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, the Day of Atonement. I love that holiday and even though we don’t observe it properly, it reminds me to ponder and apply principles of the atonement more earnestly. That afternoon Elder Richard G. Scott of the quorum of twelve apostles passed away. That makes three vacancies in the quorum to fill next week at General Conference. It’s both sad and exciting. I will miss Elder Scott so much. He gave some talks that really changed my life. I will include links on a post script.

 On Wednesday, September 23, Grandma Lyn and my Aunt Marti and Uncle Ralph and flew up to visit us from Sierra Vista, AZ. They got here just in time for dinner. We had a big salad made of greens and tomatoes from our garden, pasta, and garlic bread. Richard and Addie left for a combined youth activity at 6:30. Rich’s deacons were in charge and planned Frisbee golf and dutch oven cobblers at Sacajawea Park. At 7pm Uncle Ralph drove James over to the park to join in the fun, then I took Grandma, Marti and the little boys and Heidi over at 7:45 to have some cobbler and enjoy the warm evening by the river.

Thursday was my 44th birthday and Marti’s 61st. Our family woke up early for scriptures then the kids and Rich gave me some gifts and we had breakfast together. I got a fancy new trash can—I know it sounds crazy, but thats’ what I wanted—and some other nice kitchen stuff.  I saw the kids off then left Ammon with Aunt Marti and went to get my birthday haircut. Afterward Auntie wanted to take me grocery shopping, so Uncle Ralph volunteered to stay with Ammon during his nap and we ladies went to the store. We picked up the kids from school and got ready for a fun birthday dinner at Rib & Chop House. It was an excellent dinner, followed by a drive out to the ranch with Marti and Ralph, where we had a little tour and watched the moonrise over the Yellowstone River. Pretty much a PERFECT DAY.

We enjoyed visits from my brother Matt and family on Friday and Michael and family on Saturday. Friday night was a ward barbecue. Rich took the kids while I stayed home with Gram. Duringthe barbecue we found out my brother Sam and Kristen are expecting a baby girl February 1st—HOORAY!  Saturday morning at 4:30am Richard and Addie went on a youth temple trip to Billings. They got home at 1pm and Rich changed and went to the MSU football game with Aaron Roberts. I asked him to bring home dinner since he was going to be gone all day and he obliged and we tag-teamed. Gram, the girls, and I went downstairs and watched the Women’s Broadcast at 6pm while Rich bathed the boys and got them to bed. Soon we were joined by Michael’s wife Amber and The Jones girls. We enjoyed the meeting, especially Elder Uchtdorf’s story about Great Aunt Rose. There is so much to be happy about in life even in our trials. I was inspired by that meeting and the strength I got from watching it with strong women I love.

Today we enjoyed the best sacrament meeting I have been to in a long time. The speakers were amazing—like conference-level inspiring. Our ward is sending off two more missionaries and they both spoke today. I was so blessed to be able to participate in the program. I sang the intermediate song, “In Quiet Grove,” with Davina Ryszka on the piano and Haylee Speas on the violin. Haylee plays so beautifully, it’s like BUTTAH! She is leaving Wednesday for the MTC getting ready to serve in the Nicaragua Managua mission. I adore her.  Curtis Jeffrey is leaving in three weeks to an undisclosed mission, and he spoke with Haylee today. The closing speaker was my beloved friend Robyn Jones and she knocked an already-good meeting out of the park with her talk on personal revelation. She noted Nephi's consistent pattern of “Seek, Receive, Act” as an example of how we should ask for and use personal revelation. I was thinking after the meeting, if I were the bishop, this Sabbath would be a banner day in my book. Totally edifying meeting, sending off TWO missionaries, good, clean worthy Aaronic priesthood holders performing the ordinance of the sacrament---Livingston Ward is doing pretty  good. We love our ward family.

So Mike and Amber made us a delicious dinner before they headed back to Rexburg. We had a nice time at Haylee’s farewell open house. We kept trying to watch the super blood moon eclipse but all we could see were clouds and then some rain. The girls watched the premier of “Once Upon a Time” and I watched the premier of “Indian Summers” on Masterpiece and I just tucked in Grandma and the girls. Phew! It’s been a great month, a fabulous birthday/birthweek, and we feel so very blessed.

Hope you all have a wonderful week—enjoy conference! Hope Aunt Abby’s Sweet Sixteen Party was awesome. Happy 9th Birthday to Matthew Melin—we will think of you while we watch conference and eat treats! J


Love, Rich and Jamie and Family

Here are three talks by Elder Scott that rocked my young adult world:
Wonderful marriage advice:
Guidance on making big life decisions:
Jesus and the Book of Mormon are our best friends:


Tuesday, September 22, 2015


Just now, tonight, in the hullabaloo of a week night with dinner and homework and scout stuff and preparing for house guests, I felt the most powerful, encompassing sense of bittersweetness I have ever felt in my life. Sometimes I get that happy-sad feeling but it's always imbalanced. Like when tragedy strikes and I'm grieving but there's underlying joy because the Spirit brings peace, and I'm alive and I'm, like, experiencing it all and enduring, but the sad outweighs the happy by tons.

But not tonight. Tonight was 50-50.

The kids were quietly doing homework at the bar and I was rolling out cinnamon rolls and feeling heavy hearted at the loss of Elder Richard G. Scott. I already missed him so much from April conference, and now he's gone. I turned on the kitchen cd player and lucky me, it was loaded with Innocence Mission's "Glow" album. The happy strums and sweet lyrics of "Keeping Awake" felt like a hug. I thought about how I'm actually really happy deep down right now because today it's fall and it's Yom Kippur and tomorrow my Gram and auntie come. The lyrics felt autobiographical:

"Under those trees
 we will all be setting blankets down
It's tomorrow, yes it is!
Oh, I am near to sleeping
But I am keeping awake..."
{"I'm too excited to sleep :)"}

But then I felt emotion well up for loved ones who won't be getting together tomorrow, or any day, until this life is complete. A sweet PTO acquaintance lost her husband this week. The Scotts lost their patriarch. My baby brother is doing his best to keep afloat on the hurricane waves of a cruel divorce, not of his choosing. Many others I love are hurting because of the poor choices of others and the general disrespect for life and creation and honesty, kindness, integrity,'s a lot. It gets heavy. My phrase for this heaviness is "Too much sad." I can't take too much sad.

Then the song switched to "Brave." To me, "Brave" is about FAITH. I'm going to post the whole song because it always calls me out. It's like the message of "Because I Have Been Given Much," in folk-rock lyrics especially for people who have anxiety and are super-sensitive:

You paint a tulip red with joy
You say the psalm, I will not fear
Somehow, knowing what you do know
Still you tremble out and in

You cry up in your room
Aunt Ruthie comes, you cannot still your limbs
Somehow, knowing what you do know
Still you tremble out and in

You see how I go to pieces
That I'm laying on the ground
Like the sky is so heavy
When I could be brave...
You go outside, you see the Holy Spirit
Burning in your trees
And you walk on, glowing with the same glow
Still you tremble out and in...

Oh, I know it, I know it, here is God beside
I meant it, I meant that I'm sure of that
But the sky is tall and heavy
When I could be brave, brave, brave
So I'm not going to pieces. The sky FEELS tall and heavy today, but I can be brave. I really do have faith. It's all going to be okay. There really is rest, just beyond the veil. I know the ways to get a taste of it here and now, but to be honest, tonight I'm just a little bit tired of the fight. To be honest, I'm kind of just jealous of Elder Scott. He's done! Well done, good and faithful servant. But there's more for me to do and become and experience; I'm certainly not fit for the place I'd like to end up, but if I'm brave, I'll get there.
Then "Happy, The End." came on. And that's the point. Sometimes the sky is tall and heavy, and no matter how much my trees glow, no matter the abundance laid out before me, I only feel the vast space between me, here, and My God and my home, there, where I belong. Too much sad. But so much joy. It's a small moment. And I like to think I will look back on my mortal experience like I look back on my mission or child birth. There was SO MUCH PAIN, so much growing and changing and heartbreak of exhaustion, but the happiness and the miracles of it all over shadowed everything that ever hurt. Everything negative is swallowed up in the exquisite joy. Opposition in all things. Bitter and sweet, all in the same quiet moment of my beautiful life in my humble kitchen doing my daily work, saying the psalm I will not fear.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Byron, Aaron, and Andy
(and a photo bomb from my little brother Matt- age 6)
This week marks the 30th anniversary of my friendship with Byron (and Andy, Aaron, the other Aaron, Danny, etc.) and the beginning of the connection of us East End girls with the West End boys. I wanted to mark the occasion by sharing a few memories that often come back to me about that time.

I was about two weeks from turning 14 and I had just stared high school. I attended a Back-to-School sock hop that was the combined mid-week youth activity for several wards that week. I remember carefully curating an outfit of rolled up 501 jeans, keds, and a short- sleeved plaid shirt of my dad’s from which I had removed the collar and capped the sleeves. I was in the process of growing out my she-mullet and still wore braces for two more months, but I did my best to be adorable like an extra on “Happy Days,” and went to the sock hop.

There at the dance I spotted a cute boy in a Bones skate T-shirt.  His name was Byron. His also-cute friend was named Andy. We started talking about skating and Powell and Peralta videos and music. Then we danced. Then I learned he wasn’t from the adjoining ward, he was crashing the dance with some friends. He lived and went to school, like, 12 miles from me, which may as well have been China via the city bus, so I thought that might be a dealbreaker since neither of us could drive. I was wrong. When it was time to go home he asked me for my phone number and gave me some m-n-ms and Andy made a joke about the green ones that went over my head and we left. It was kind of like a movie.

The next morning I woke up to the song “Be Near Me” by ABC. I got all fluttery when I head the chorus, “all my dreams came true last night…Be near me…” Later Byron told me he also heard a song the next day that reminded him of me, but he was embarrassed because it was a lame song:  “High on You” by Survivor (“Let me tell ya about the girl I met last night…”).  hahahaha

So Byron called. We made arrangements to meet up at the upcoming stake dance, which was at my stake building. I was still about a week from turning 14 but managed to get a dance card and go to the dance. I don’t remember much about the dance, but I never missed another dance that year, so it must have been awesome. Our little romance consisted of phone calls, youth activities, dances, and meet ups at various skate spots (concrete banks of washes we just called banks, the fountain at the Uof A, various school campuses, etc) usually by riding the city bus or bumming rides off the parents or Andy ( Andy's awesome squareback, and later The Tempo!).

We were done by Christmas, but we stayed good friends. Byron dated my friend Sooz. I dated his friend Aaron. In fact, the next year when I was with Aaron, we all met up to skate at the Uof A on a half day. We went to Mama’s Pizza for a slice and “My Best Friend’s Girlfriend” came on the juke box. Byron and Aaron started to laugh and said, “This is our song!”—“She’s my best friend’s girl, and she used to be mine!” The memory of them singing that song seared into my mind because it really was very cute.

Our paths crossed and intertwined occasionally after we all went our separate ways for college. We did have a little lonely hearts club reunion around Christmas time in 1999 when I had a broken engagement, there were some divorces and other life changes, and there we all were in Tucson again. We met up at Aaron Smith’s house to catch up and it was pretty sweet. I don’t have tons to brag about in life, but I have great taste in friends. I love that the people I loved at 14 turn out to be even more loveable and awesome at 30, and probably at 50, which is coming right up. So thanks for so many great memories, guys. You made growing up so much fun.

Monday, August 31, 2015


This is the canyon heading toward Bozeman on Thursday afternoon (8.20) as we headed to Mack's Inn for the reunion. There was a huge fire burning near Three Forks, plus all the smoke from Idaho and Washington fires. YIKES!

Niles, Max Craft, Max Mullins, and James chillin' at our camp site.
They were insta-buds!

Rich working hard to get set up

Heidi drawing and journaling Friday morning

Max M and James Friday morning

Niles on Friday

Johnny Sacks' cabin at Big Springs
This is the little water wheel below the cabin--such beautiful wood work, I want my own cabin now!

Heidi checking out the springs

It was mesmerizing to watch the plants move beneath the perfectly clear spring water.

Hiking around the cabin with cousins

Addie, Heidi, James with hands on Max and Niles, Aubrey, Kate, and Ellie Mullins.

Addie, Heidi, James with hands on Max and Niles, Aubrey, Kate, and Ellie Mullins

Upstairs at Johnny's
Addie, Niles, Heidi, and James

Heading out to float Henry's Fork

Addie in the river

Heidi and James

Owen, Kristen, Gavin, and Sam Layton with Heidi

Laytons Ahoy!

Audrey and Spencer heading out

Rich, James, Maeby, and Willy

Maebs and Will heading out

Liam and Melanie bringing up the caboose

Such a serene scene...
probably because the river wasn't moving. Like, at all.

Four beautiful boys at the playground Saturday morning.

I was struck by all their beautiful EYES!
Gavin Layton, James Melin, Max Mullins, and Owen Layton

Sam in West Yellowstone.
He sometimes answers to "Bullwinkle"

Mob-o-Laytons in West Yellowstone

Heidi and James are crazy

Addie Melin, Kennedy Craft, Brenna Layton, Aubrey Mullins, Owen Layton in front of Hailey Layton and Heidi, James Melin, and Ellie Mullins
 front row L-R:Niles Melin, Zecklin Oslin, Kate, Nathan, and Max Mullins, James Layton, Max Craft, Lexi Mullins, and Gavin Layton.

Owen, James, and Aubrey watching the taffy puller.


The crowd of candy fans grows...

Mullins family picking out their fudge treats.

Look at those faces just eyeballing that candy

Niles and Lexi sharing treats

Silly cuties

Niles getting a bear hug

Owen, James, Niles, and Little James with a bison in West


Our cute niece, Piper Craft

Back at camp--Lexi, Niles, Zecklin

Addie and Zecklin

Niles and Lexi--wondertwins

Ammon, Kate, and Lexi

Love these sweet girls!!!

Chef Richard and his pizzas and cheesecake


Another dynamic duo: Heidi and Kennedy

Addie with Rhonda's sweet baby Reese

Shelby helping with portraits, bless her heart.

Blurry but hilarious pic of Addie.
Typical reaction to Heidi.

Ammy eating in his little chair under the tree, happy as a clam and safe from danger or disaster.

It was like Thanksgiving in summer at the Saturday potluck. Every dish was delicious!
It was a lovely final gathering for everybody.

These Two!

Ammon said, "HAPPY TRAILS, y'all. I'm out."
Here are all the portraits we took after dinner on Saturday (8.22).

Two Jameses

Three Jameses

Jamie's Family

Willy's Family

Laura's Family
Dad and Laura

Dad and Becky with Lisa's Family
Dad and Becky with Laura's Family

Lisa's Family

Rhonda's Family

Sam's Family
Ryan's Family (missing Gavin)

Ryan's Family with Dad and Becky

Dad and Becky with Sam's Family
Erin's Family

All 8 kids with Dad and Becky
Erin, Rhonda, Jamie, Sam, Willy, Ryan, Laura
Becky, Dad, Lisa

Thanks for the memories, everybody!!!