Our traditional Thanksgiving gratitude tree was looking a little measly on the leaf deal up until all the kids got home, and now it’s starting to rock:)

(Lots more about our traditional “Thankful Tree” back HERE and HERE.)

Let’s take a look at all those thankful people:

(Ok and Dave too…but he wanted to be the photographer on this one 🙂

Oh gosh, I’m so GRATEFUL to have them all here. We have a huge hole left by Grace, but she sure is doing well, so that makes the hole not quite so hollow (see some pictures from Texas at the end of THIS post if you missed it). We sent her her own thankful tree so somehow it makes her feel closer that she’s filling that puppy up with her companions.

Anyway, I wanted to share something we did in our area as part of this new Relief Society calling (I talked about back HERE) just in case anyone out there is interested. We were trying to figure out a way to knit the neighborhoods that make up our church congregation, those who are members of our church and those who are not, in gratitude at this time of year. And this is what we came up with:

Hello sisters,

Here are the sheets for the “Leaves of Gratitude” neighborhood activity Shawni mentioned on our Zoom lesson today. In case you missed it, the idea behind this activity is that it’s a way to gather our community together in a spirit of gratitude during the Thanksgiving season. It’s a simple activity, and we hope you and your families will participate!

All the instructions are on the attached sheets. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or problems accessing the files.

We love you!

I think there’s still time if anyone wants to share that with their own neighbors out there. I’ve seen a few leaves pasted up in windows around the neighborhood, but whether there are leaves displayed or not, I hope people who got that little message passed on from neighbor to neighbor might feel a little more united in gratitude this Thanksgiving season.

Sending out love and GRATITUDE this Monday morning!

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  1. I’m grateful for my friends, family, strangers, and neighbors who are maintaining social distance this Thanksgiving. It’s painful to not fly around the country and be together as we usually are; it’s a little lonely to celebrate with just our households. It also saves lives. Judaism teaches that when we save one life it is as if we save the entire world. I give thanks that people everywhere are making this sacrifice. It’s a really hard thing but we know that social distancing is the best way to honor the sanctity of life this season.

    1. Yes, Jenny Also. I’m thankful that my family is staying put … those in my house and those a drive or flight away. I’m thankful that we DON”T have a family photo to share this year because we are all — thankfully! — healthy and at home. Being apart this year = love.

      1. Wow – a Thanksgiving gathering with people from from Utah, Florida and Arizona. I have been watching the conversations blog readers have been trying to have with Shawni about the need to dial down these multi-state family occasions to no avail for months. They do.not.care. This year, I’m so grateful to be part of a family that is willing to see past their own preferences for the greater good.#givethanks

        1. I feel sad to sound negative but wanted add my voice to those who will be spending the holidays without their families. I’m in the UK so no Thanksgiving but I will be celebrating Christmas apart from four of my children who are no longer at home, there are rules here about the number of people who can gather in one house but we don’t need rules to know it is safer for everyone this way. Travelling to anyone’s house even those relatively close is a distant memory, surely all of us know people who are at risk and want them to be safe. Our mothers are both in their eighties and we have only met wearing masks and sitting apart, if possible outside. I haven’t hugged four of my children since this all began so it’s hard to see families who can only be thinking of themselves as they meet as if there is no virus. Arizona has a lot of cases with the R rate above 1, Florida and Utah are also above 1, it is irresponsible to be travelling and mixing in this way. Shawni, you gave your lesson on zoom and sent out a lovely idea for your congregation to share thankfulness in a safe way and then you meet up with two families out of state, I don’t understand why any of you think this is anyway ok.

    2. Oh wow, I apologize for putting something out there that arouses so much worry, I really do. Just know that from reading a blog you don’t have the full scoop on the reasons we are together nor the precautions we have taken. And I wish you all the best!

        1. Maria, I wanted to kindly let you know that the state of Arizona currently does not have any travel rules or restrictions for those visiting out of state. This is on the official state website. They are not breaking any laws. Each state has their own “rules” (ex: my state is asking travelers to get tested a few days before entering the state).


      1. Of course we don’t know everything but I can’t imagine many reasons for the ‘why’ you are together. I volunteer with families worldwide whose children have terminal brain cancer, little kids who are very unlikely to see another Christmas or Thanksgiving. They are doing it, staying home to try and stop this virus spreading. If they can do it, we all can. You may have all taken Covid tests that were negative but it doesn’t mean you haven’t been near anyone with the virus, how would you feel if your lovely mother and father caught Covid because another person, maybe someone you don’t know, has not worn a mask or socially distanced. I won’t say any more but please do some thinking before you all continue to travel, you have influence and a public presence and with that should come the willingness to do the right thing.

    3. When people are hurting, sometimes their tendency is to lash out at others around them to drag everyone down to their current level of pain. I think that reading this comment section is just a good reminder that many are hurting right now. The isolation and fear associated with this pandemic has affected all of us and our mental health. Please don’t take out your frustrations on Shawni and her family. It will not make you feel better to “put her in her place”. Life doesn’t work that way. There is nothing mean or rude that you can say to Shawni about being with her family that will make you feel better about not being with yours. As Jeffrey R. Holland would say, “Coveting, pouting, or tearing others down does not elevate your standing, nor does demeaning someone else improve your self image. So be kind and be grateful that God is kind. It is a happy way to live.”

  2. Love this!! I always love seeing your thankful trees. And the joy on your face being with those that you love! Thank you for continuing to be a light in the world! ❤️

  3. I’ve been doing the gratitude tree for a few years now after seeing it on your blog. I love it!
    I’m grateful for families, agency, and the ability for us all to make decisions that are best for our own families.

  4. We started the thankful tree tradition after seeing it on your blog! Thank you for sharing your good ideas. 😊 Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Agency to make the best choice for their own families? So if I use my “agency” to drive drunk endangering your family, because I want to get home to my family, are you grateful for that agency?

    We ALL need to do our part for the greater good. Choosing what’s “best” for an individual family’s social life over what we know is best for the larger community is a false sense of entitlement and a lack of consideration for others.

    1. this exactly. My husband is in school, every day, and under strictest quarantine because of it because Americans won’t prioritize the health of their communities over what they want to do.

  6. I agree with Jenny Also and with Hayley. I am not sure why this family insists on doing the travelling and gathering from all over, and then has the unabashed gall to brag about them all being together. They are finally doing something “deliberate” – deliberately endangering lives. How very entitled. And also, interesting to see that marriage has not made Elle decide to cover up her shoulders. Socially distancing rules, church rules, doesn’t matter, none seem to apply to this family!

    1. Maria, it’s unbelievable to me that you’re commenting on Elle’s shoulders in this context! Scientifically proven public health standards to avoid more people dying, or being hospitalized, by a global pandemic have NOTHING in common with “rules” about sleeves.

      1. They have everything to do with the fact that this family doesn’t follow rules of any kind, either the ones from their own church or the ones to save lives. Besides who asked for your opinion on my comment??

        1. Maria,

          In the same way no one asked for your opinion on this blog post, you have chosen to participate in a discussion. If you do not feel comfortable with it, it is probably best not to post a comment at all.

      2. Besides, hasn’t it been said that those who are not faithful in the little things will also not be faithful in the big things? Boom.

    2. Elle is an adult and has not made covenants in the temple to wear her garments day & night at all times. I do wonder about kids getting married in general if they do not understand the covenant and are ready for it. If they are choosing not to cover as asked , but the next day they’ll go to the temple and take out their endowment and get sealed, it makes me think they really are not prepared. Just my thoughts.

      1. I’m not going to comment on Elle.
        I am a RS president and I do feel this concern too. I don’t know if we are teaching out youth the importance of these small and simple things. We quickly got to ‘ agency’ but it’s clearly, very clearly laid out for us. It’s worrying to see couples take pictures outside of the temple in immodest temple dresses and then enter the temple the next week, as parents where are we going wrong ?

        1. Tabya, speaking as a non-LDS person, and only from information seen on this blog, I will tell you my opinion on where things are “going wrong”. Shawni has made several posts over the years showing Elle wearing clothes that show her shoulders. A prom dress, a top for the first day of school… and when asked about the choice of clothing – by LDS and non LDS people – the answer was something like “it’s such a small thing, just a suggestion not a rule, doesn’t matter as long as we love our fellow man, we have agency… so since it was not something Elle was expected to follow as a teen in the home, it is certainly not something she will follow as an adult on her own.

          Contrast this to what we see Grace wearing as a missionary…. little capped sleeves under her jumper, long ruffled skirts – OVERLY modest clothes that she never wore before the “calling”. It’s almost like it’s a show being put on….

          Anyway, just my opinion. This “agency” is being used to do whatever LDS members want – show shoulders, travel during a pandemic… why have rules if you have the choice not to even follow them?

          1. Maria… this is not in criticism, but to maybe help clarify or understand. In the LDS church there isn’t any rule about young girls or teenagers covering their shoulders. It’s a personal preference. In my family, we don’t wear sleeveless, but that is something we decided as a family.
            That being said, once a person goes to the temple and makes certain commitments, they do wear an undergarment that has a cap small cap sleeve. That would explain the recent pictures you’ve seen of Grace.
            When Elle was married, the temples were completely closed and so Elle has not made that commitment yet. (the temples are partially open now, but very limited) Anyway, hope that helps understand that a bit better.

          2. From For Strength of Youth under Standards of Dress:

            “Young women should avoid short shorts and short skirts, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and clothing that does not cover the shoulders or is low-cut in the front or the back.” and “Do not use a special occasion as an excuse to be immodest.” (PROM?) Doesn’t sound like families can decide. Sounds like standards set forth by your church leaders.

            I also noticed this in there as well: “Young women, if you desire to have your ears pierced, wear only one pair of earrings.” Elle posted pictures of herself on her instagram with two earrings in one ear…

            I think the “commitment” is when you decide you want to be a member in good standing of this church, and whether or not you’ve been through the temple or not should not dictate whether you abide by the rules.

          3. I am LDS and I agree with a lot of what Maria says. I have 5 kids close in age to Shawni’s, and my daughter is a returned missionary. I have taught them to always strictly follow the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, and it has greatly simplified everything. When my daughter made temple covenants, she added to her wardrobe but didn’t need to stop wearing anything. I do believe in the importance of being obedient in the so-called little things.

    3. For those worried about shoulders being covered, I’m curious about your thoughts of what religion actually is. To me, religion is a place to learn and to grow. To try to develop a relationship with God. To use our agency to make decisions, some good, some bad, some in between, and to learn from all of them. To use the gift of repentance and strive to be more Christ-like each day. I am so grateful for my religion because it has helped me learn all of the above, and helps remind me I sure have a lot to learn every day. It also teaches me to seek to understand my fellow man as we are all just trying our best to make good choices in a world filled with so many voices to follow…hopefully we can hear and follow the One that is most important.

      1. But you know the rules. You know what the dress standards are. The FSOY was printed and written by The first presidency, it’s not a ‘ do what want ‘ it says cover your shoulders. Isn’t that the end of it? You are blatantly choosing or not choosing to follow that rule if you choose over and over and over again to wear sleeveless or shirt shorts etc. So yes, we are all learning and creating a relationship with God and Jesus we also can’t turn a blind eye because it doesn’t suit us.

      2. The judgement Shawni’s adult children receive in her comments sections about their appearance and clothing choices astounds me. The LDS community talks about love, gratitude, and good cheer; this seems the opposite of what is being found here. Why a “religion” would make rules about women’s shoulders is beyond me. But it’s the policing and enforcing of those rules in these comments that is so disturbing. Why do women even care what other women

        1. No one cares what women wear. We care about why this family has no regard for rules. Church dress code, life saving social distancing – doesn’t matter. They don’t think any of them apply to them. Not policing or trying to enforce. Just wondering why?

      3. Since you asked….

        Religion, as defined in Webster’s online dictionary: …”a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden — beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church all those who adhere to them.”

        So, yes, the touchy feely learn, grow, get close to God, blah blah blah. But it is a set of beliefs in a community called a Church made up of members WHO TRY TO ADHERE TO THEM.

        I don’t see any trying from you or your (now extended) family. You have NEVER had much use for rules: no swimming, rough tide? You watch your kids swim anyway and have to be rescued by lifeguards. Only 5 allowed in a tour of the museum? Oh, please we only have 7…. Limit unnecessary travel? Not sure what your excuse is for this one.

        So, no, I am not surprised that you and Elle pull the agency card on the shoulders or the travelling/gathering.

        1. Christ teaches us not to judge. He taught radical revolutionary love. I think too often we spend time policing outward rules when the time would be better spent seeking to understand and achieve unity in diversity. I would hope that any one who showed up at a church activity or a church wood be welcomed with open arms no matter what they were wearing, member or not. I personally hope my children take each rukeb they are given and seek to understand it, using their own authority and relationship with God to direct their lives. And it’s high time we so judging all women on what they do our do not wear and how they wear it. Or hearts matter so much more.
          The only rules that truly matter are to love God, your neighbor, and yourself. All the other ones are shadows that are an attempt to point is to those three.
          My husband left there lds church for years ago. He would happily still come if he felt there was a place for him there. But so far the outward letting if times at the expense of looking at his great have made him feel unwelcome and unwanted.
          This family is doing their very best to do good, just like the rest of us.

  7. Shawni, thank you for your kindness in sharing this idea to knit together as a community through the thankful tree. I would love to share this with all of my neighbors on my street today. Is there a file you have that we could print?
    I love your family! Blessings to you all during this joyful time of showing extra gratitude.

  8. I imagine that one day, when my children are grown, my smile will match yours when they come home to visit. Thanks for sharing!

      1. Can we all accept that what we see on this blog is a tiny part of one family’s life? We really know so little about them and the other circumstances in their lives as well as what goes on in their decision making. As far as the college aged kids coming home, many universities are advising their students to leave before Thanksgiving and then remain home until classes resume in the new year. My daughters at school in Utah have been advised to do that. Maybe their adult, college age children are doing the same?

        As far as following For The Strength of Youth, again there is so much readers can’t possibly know. I can only speak from my own experience (it’s all any of us can do) and say that I have taught my daughters from FTSOY and they have chosen not to follow its recommendations on clothing and ear piercings. They are now adults and it is their choice. It has nothing to do with not teaching them or not discussing it with them or believing the rules don’t apply to them. Am I going to stop loving my children because of this? Of course not. Am I going to stop sharing family pictures because they choose not to dress a certain way? Of course not. Can I see past the dress and earrings and see that they are still wonderful, kind and loving daughters that I am so proud of? Of course I can as I imagine all of you would do with your own children.

        I have no idea if this is the case with Shawni’s daughters, none of us do. But as I imagine most commentators are long time readers of this blog, let’s give this family we have all come to admire and care about the benefit of the doubt and recognize that we never know the whole story.

  9. Shawni, you are brave and resilient. I don’t know how you do it. Keep up the mighty work you’re doing. I’m grateful for your patience and understanding.

    1. So MOM, do you think all this travel from states that are rampant with COVID is OK? Shawni is brave? How about oblivious? How is this OK? Please explain.

  10. Your family has been such a light to us as we raise our little ones. It really has been such a support to come to this corner of the internet and feel lifted and inspired. Covid is a hard time no easy decisions but know that we are so grateful for everything you share!

  11. I absolutely love your blog! You have inspired me in so many ways.
    It is so sad that we live in a world where everyone is so quick to judge. Who is to say that her kids didn’t take a Covid test before traveling and were fine?
    I have a child at a university in another state. The school is encouraging the kids to go home at Thanksgiving and then stay home for the remainder of the semester as the classes will be strictly online after Thanksgiving. She won’t go back to school until mid January. So it makes complete sense for her to come home. This could be the case for Max and Elle. We shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

    1. This! My jaw honestly dropped reading all of the judgmental comments. I’m so grateful Shawni shares her family through her blog, but goodness, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to have every move scrutinized.

      1. It’s only hard to have every move scrutinized when you are being selfish, thoughtless and reckless. If you avoid those sorts of things, then it’s not to be scrutinized. Shawni shows us, again and again, that “WE DO HARD THINGS” are four words that they frame and hang on their wall and give no further thought. They do not live by these words. So, ya, they open themselves up for readers who state the obvious. No “woke” books are ever going to awaken this crowd. Pandemics are for other people.

  12. What a wonderful sight to see all those smiling faces! I love your “Leaves of Gratitude” tradition. It is something that we have incorporated into our family over the years. Hope you have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  13. Shawni,
    I just want to thank you for sharing this beautiful post and your beautiful family. I am grateful for the thoughts you shared and for sharing with us the gratitude leaves! I am going to use this idea and your leaves. 🙂
    I am sorry so many people twisted this completely negative. I hope you have a beautiful Thanksgiving with your family. I am happy to hear that Grace is doing well in the mission field. So happy for her.

  14. Aww I love that you are still doing this 10+ years on. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving week with your people !

  15. Thanks for sharing all you do! Your testimony shows in all you do. Happy you can have your children home for Thanksgiving! Excited for Grace and her mission experiences and growth.

  16. Shawni, I am so sorry you have been targeted in this way. I was stunned reading some of these comments. I don’t know you personally, but I have read your blog for several years and I belong to the same Church you do, so I understand a lot of the “why’s” behind your decisions. Even though I don’t know you personally I know you, and I have no doubt that before you and your family made a decision about the holidays, that you did so carefully, looked at each State and all the restrictions recommended and weighed the pros and cons and made a decision that was best for you. For others to “judge” you for that decision is unbelievable to me, especially if they are long time blog followers, they should know you don’t make these decisions lightly. Don’t let them get you down, I’m sure it’s hard not to take the criticism personally, but they are few and far between thank goodness, keep up the blogging, I love reading about you and your family. I have been trying to talk by daughter (who has 3 year old twins) into Joy School, no luck yet, but I’ll keep trying, wish I would have known about it when I was raising her. Thanks for your excellent example, have a great Thanksgiving!!!

  17. I love your thoughts on the purpose of religion. Thanks for being so gracious in your posts and in your comments.

    I was also surprised to see so much gathering, but I’m aware many people are doing it, just more discreetly. It’s a personal choice, and for all any outsider knows it could be a safe choice for your family depending on the circumstances. I guess all the backlash is based in frustration because a lot of people wish they could be with their families right now. But I don’t think we can know anyone else’s full story, nor are any of us in a position to condemn each other. I don’t see that the spirit of those comments would encourage different choices, just that it would possibly shame people into secrecy, which is unfortunate.

  18. Thank you for the idea! It is hard to come up with ways to connect in our neighborhoods through this crazy time. It almost feels eerie and deserted even when out for a walk with the dog! And obviously the isolation is not always conducive to optimism and love.
    I look forward to your posts each day. It is one of the two internet checks I do each day and one of the things that has kept my daily routine feeling normal. 🙂

  19. Elle loving the shoulders and Shawni keep up with your honest and loving posts! I appreciate you and wish you Happy Thanksgiving

    1. Geez- so many people here making members of our church look bad. A giant thread about shoulders? Really? It’s embarrassing and sad, especially coming from so many women. Thanks for sharing your family and wonderful ideas with us all.

      1. Shulamith – who is making your church members look bad? Those who flagrantly disregard the rules, and say they aren’t really rules after all? Or those on the outside looking in who ask why this is the case? It actually is sad and if I were a member who actually believed the no-shoulder rule and actually wore clothes that covered them, I’d not only be embarrassed, I’d be a little mad also.

  20. I never leave comments but I am appalled at so many of these comments on this post.

    Every person’s situation is different. We do not know the background or specifics for their family coming together. And frankly, it’s none of our business.

    And Elle’s tank dress? It’s beautiful. It shows very little. Please stop judging. These comments are hurtful and unnecessary. I am baffled anyone felt it necessary to comment with such rudeness.

    I am thankful for this blog of inspiration and ideas. I wish for all to have a safe and healthy Thanksgiving and Holiday Season. Blessings to all.

  21. I’m LDS and I could not care less about what someone wears and what is or is not showing. Elle is a grown woman and can wear whatever she wants. I know plenty of people that are endowed that wear bikinis at the beach or tank tops and sports bras while they are working out at the gym. I don’t mainly because no one wants to see that of me 🙂 Do some of them want to show off – sure, but that doesn’t mean they are terrible people. How are they different from people who are endowed and fully covered up swearing (which I sometimes do when I am upset); or someone who loves Starbucks and gets one from time to time; or someone who blares on their horn and flips someone off while driving; or someone that participates in gossip….. the list is endless. Bottom line is when we get baptized we promise to always remember Jesus Christ and take his name upon us – period. We don’t promise to be perfect and never once mess up and keep every stated rule and implied rule known in the history of the church. FTSY is a pamphlet that provides standards for the youth that will help them make future decisions and points the way to the temple. It is not the book of Leviticus and we are not the Israelites. What irritates me the most about this is people have legit concerns about the amount of traveling this family does, but the focus ends up being on something so stupid. I think at this point it is obvious Shawnie, Dave, their family and extended family most likely belong in the group of people that think this has been overhyped and not as serious as others may think. They are entitled to their own opinions. There are many people that think like they do. It is hard to see them continually gather together when you may not do so. I haven’t seen my parents (in Arizona) in almost a year and they have asked us to stay away until it is safe to do so. My family believes while most of the people that get Covid recover completely and are fine, there are others that do not. Sadly, we have known a few that have not been lucky and once someone close to you suffers so severely and loses their life, it gives you pause. I’m guessing Shawnie’s family hasn’t experienced that which I’m glad for because it sucks. I hope they are all safe and don’t get it and don’t spread it to others. I just wish they were more careful and less outspoken about all the hard things they do and how the rest of the world can learn from them about how to be less entitled…..

    1. “How are they different from people who are endowed and fully covered up swearing (which I sometimes do when I am upset); or someone who loves Starbucks and gets one from time to time; or someone who blares on their horn and flips someone off while driving; or someone that participates in gossip….. the list is endless.”

      There is no difference. All of these situations you describe are people who disregard the guidance of their church leaders, and I assume that when they are standing in front of whoever they think they will answer to at “judgement day” (or the LDS equivalent) they can explain why they thought they didn’t have to adhere to these things. Maybe it will fly… maybe not.

      1. I can’t speak for others but I screw up every day. When I lose my temper I’m not really thinking about specific guidance from my church leaders and consciously disregarding it. I’m feeling overwhelmed and thinking that no one is listening to me or seeing me and the frustration builds and sometimes I walk away and take a deep breath, sometimes I cry and sometimes I lose it. Its why I repent every day – sometimes multiple times. My goal every morning is to be better than I was the day before. Some days I am more successful then others. I hope that when I meet God and my Savior and they ask questions about my life I will say that I tried my best. I don’t know what will happen but I keep trying and its why the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the single most important event in history to me as it gives me a chance to keep trying and keep getting better. It sounds like you have everything figured out though and have reached the level of perfection where you are able to discern the failings of others. Good for you – I’m not there yet.

        1. Not at all. I screw up too. I just admit it, as do you, and that’s what I think people are dismayed that Shawni is not doing. Having a knee jerk reaction and losing your temper, or cursing, etc. is a mistake, one that you can say you didn’t mean to do, it just happened. Choosing to wear clothes, over and over again, that you know are frowned on by your church.. or wearing multiple earrings… these are not “oops…”. These are conscious decisions. Then acting like it’s not a big deal, saying that religion shouldn’t dictate what you wear… well HELLO – your religion DOES dictate it…! And in my reading of that FSOY booklet – with all the details about what you should “avoid” – if it was something families could decide for themselves, would they not have mentioned that? A paragraph at the bottom saying “these are merely suggestions, make your own choices…” I didn’t see that.

  22. Shawni,

    I just want to say I’m very cognizant of the fact that you do not HAVE to share your life with all of us strangers. I’ve loved following your blog (for over 8 years now!!!) Sending lots of love to you and your family this Thanksgiving!

    1. she sure doesn’t! I bet those checks from her ad revenue and shilling various things her family does help her “do hard things” though…

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