Thursday, October 8, 2015

What's Your Favorite Ride?

*It's Larry's birthday. This is a rewrite for him. 
Happy birthday to my old and honored friend and enemy.
We've been together since we were kids and both of us bear the scars from many a remembered battle. Those old wounds still caution us sometimes, should it come on to rain. 
Still, isn't it strange that there are billions of nice people on this planet, but if you were missing, just you alone, the whole world would be empty for me. 
I'd be lonely every day. No matter who else was there.
I couldn't be happy until I saw your face again. Until I sat beside you and held your hand.
Thank you so much, Heavenly Father, for the gift of the Holy Temples and Eternal Marriage.
They make happiness possible.

Last Sunday one of the speakers at Sacrament meeting was our Stake President.
Among other things, he said a few words about how the purpose of life wasn’t intended to be centered around the accumulation of wealth.  
He said that it’s okay to work for the things money can buy, but chasing riches isn’t the same as providing well for yourself and your family. 
It seems that there’s a delicate balance involved here. It turns out that a life built on wealth alone won’t bring happiness.
I thought the President's choice of subject for his talk was kind of odd because I had recently been thinking about this very subject.

Wealth is indeed a funny thing.  
Scriptures are full of teachings about it.
It means different things to different cultures around the world, and to different people in the same culture or society. For some it’s having a 10 cow wife, while for others it’s about having really big numbers on a lot of little pieces of paper. 
Whatever it is, it’s hard to think of anything that’s caused more mischief for human beings since the beginning of time. 
Think about the betrayals, hatred, murders, and wars brothers and sisters have visited on each other just to get a bigger sparkly rock, shiny piece of metal, pile of bricks and boards, or patch of dirt than their neighbor. 
It all seems to be a big deal about “stuff,” even though it all really belongs to Heavenly Father anyway. “He who dies with the most toys wins,” seems to be the world’s motto. 
It may be more important to remember that “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.”

Anyway, Larry and I were talking about this when the subject of cars came up. A great car would be right up there with a 10 cow wife as far as wealth is concerned for him. 

He’s always loved cars. When we met it was because he was in a car club as a matter of fact. My Girl Scout group just happened to meet those car guys at Slide Rock near Sedona when I was 15. 

Well, he’s a geezer now and over his lifetime he’s had lots of different cars. A few were even new and nice. Among them have been sedans, pickups (some running), SUV’s, a couple of really great sports cars, and a 4 wheel drive Jeep named “Honey” that only went backwards when he finally sold it. Under protest, I might add.
(It has occurred to me once or twice that he would have been able to afford a much better selection of vehicles if he hadn’t brought every single paycheck home since he was 20 years old. They all went to buy food, diapers, and shelter for his family. But that’s another “wealth” issue we won’t discuss here.)

Anyway, we started talking about his favorites, the ones most memorable, the finest “Ride” he’d ever owned. 

Out of all those vehicles, including two Mustangs (a 1965 convertible and a 1966 fastback), and one really hot, red 1987 Firebird, there was one he kept coming back to…..his first car. 

He was 16, had just gotten a license and paid 100 dollars for a 1946 Ford that was painted primer black, lowered, with an Oldsmobile grille. 
He’d worked the entire summer before his sixteenth birthday in the sweltering watermelon sheds in Glendale, loading melons into semi-trucks for 25 cents a ton. He earned enough to pay for that car, a year’s insurance and gas money. Gas was about 23 cents a gallon at the time. 
The front bench seat of that car was just springs with no upholstery. So he threw an old Indian blanket over it so people could sit without getting pinched. 
Something was wrong with the starter or battery, he can’t remember which.  In order to get it going he and his buddies would have to jump out and run alongside it, pushing until they built up enough speed for him to hop back in, pop the clutch and get her going. 
Tires were a real problem too. He didn’t have enough money to buy 4 at a time so at one point he had 4 different sizes on that car. He kept a kind of “tire shop” in the trunk, including a hand pump, tire tools, rims and lug wrenches. That way when the guys spotted a junk tire on the side of the road they could pick it up for later use. He says they could mount an old find in about 10 minutes.
( This tire thing puzzles me because I know Larry’s dad would never stand for us to let his grandkids drive around on bald tires… matter what it cost. I’m going to talk with him about this someday when I get to the other side of the veil.)
Once the husband of a friend of Larry’s mom saw this amazing vehicle, and when he was buying new tires for himself gave Larry his old ones.  Imagine 4 matching tires!!!  That was a big day I can assure you. 

Well, that heap went to the high school every day, the Dairy Crème after school, football practice and games, Lily’s Taco Shop on Saturday nights after dates, Thunderbird Park on weekends, everywhere the guys went until Larry was able to trade up a couple of years later. 
He'd found a 1950 Ford convertible, green with a white top. 125 dollars for that one. It had a black rag top and Larry wanted white, so he painted it with white shoe polish on advice from a friend. "There could be a problem with the color running," his friend said, "but it doesn’t rain much here anyway."

Out of all the cars he’s owned this first one seems to hold a special place in his heart. The second car comes close. 

I don’t have any idea where they would land on the wealth scale. I know they cost far less than any of the other vehicles he’s owned…even the junkers. 
All this made me think of a recent statistic I read about somewhere. 
Apparently, it seems that after a certain level of income, people report no increase in personal happiness with the addition of more money. 

So what makes a “fine ride” anyway? 

What makes people wealthy?  Is it just the “stuff?”
What was your finest ride?

Money….. wealth….. time spent gathering stones so to speak. It's something to consider.

Where do you stand?  Are you happy about it? 
Does Father think your attitude will bring you true joy?

Big questions with important answers. 

Think about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Missionary Farewell

The resurrection of Jesus Christ changed everything about death.
For those of us who know that miracle to be true,  or who maybe just think that it’s probably true,  or who even only hope desperately that it is true…. it changed everything about life too.

Some of us know that the short time we spend on this earth is not all there is.
Because we know, we don’t live with the philosophy of eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die.
Yes, death comes to all, but because Christ broke the bands of death, life goes on ever after.
Not life as forever spirits either, or as angels with wings and halos, but as immortal beings with our own recognizable bodies.
Not even one hair will be lost.  That's a promise from Father.
Never to grow old, be filled with pain, or experience disease, infirmity, or death again.
Everyone we’ve ever loved will live again too. With every broken part mended.
We’ll be able to take them in our arms and hold them tight once more.

Indeed, no matter where you are on that path of knowing...... whether it’s for sure or just hoping it’s true..... it makes all the difference in how you spend your life.
An eternity is at stake after all.

I’d like to share a personal experience that shows this happening.
There are two men in my story and I’d like to ask that you pay special attention to them.
They both are examples of the kinds of things people do who are somewhere on that path of understanding the truth about what Christ did.

First of all I’d like to explain that my husband and I are what I like to call raggedy old converts. We didn’t grow up in the light. We didn’t grow up knowing. And becoming a Mormon turned out to be a process rather than an event for us. That line upon line, precept upon precept thing was surely no lie. Some things were easier to learn than others. Years after baptism we were still learning. We still are.

One thing we learned is that one of the most unique experiences of Latter Day Saints is that of sending a young missionary off on a mission.
The rest of the world really has no idea of all this means. And frankly, raggedy old converts may have some trouble of their own getting a grasp on this process.

I once heard a popular radio show host talking about Mormons on her nationwide broadcast about this very subject.
She was complimentary about the high standards that Latter Day saints live by, but she couldn’t understand how the Church could possibly get tens of thousands of young people to give up 18-24 months of their lives. These young people went off to traipse all over the world, living by the strictest rules, at their own expense, to preach the gospel in sometimes the most difficult circumstances. This happened right at the time of their lives when everyone else their age was having an endless party.
“Why would anyone do this?”she asked.

Well, a convert may have a few questions of their own.
Converts have no family history or experience with this sort of thing.
No one sang “I Hope They Call Me On A Mission” around their houses when they were little. And believe me, letting a beloved child go off to live with complete strangers, thousands of miles from home, communicating only through the mail for weeks at a time seems pretty much insane.
What happened to responsible parenting?
What’s about all the usual warnings? ‘‘Call as soon as you get there,” “Let us know when you’ll be home at night,” “Keep your phone on at all times so we can reach you."  Those kind of things?

Well, our middle daughter was the homebody in our family. She was the shy one who never liked to talk to strangers. Our only quiet kid…that one.  The one voted least likely to go off by herself to far places and to speak to others in only a foreign language.
As it turned out, sending that child on a mission was one of the most heartwrenchingly intense privileges and blessings of our lives.
Who knew?

It all started when this daughter, who had just graduated from college, came to us one day and quite out of the blue said, “I want to go on a mission.”
We were surprised to say the least.
Remember, this young lady was that quiet introvert who spent most of her free time hanging out with her sister, and to whom home and family was where she was most comfortable in the world.
We were living in the mountains at the time, in the little house in the big woods as a friend once nicknamed it for us. We had come to rely on each other in a special way very different from the way we did when we lived in the big city. Our oldest kids were grown, neighbors were few, and up here the four of us were all we had.
We assumed that after college this daughter would soon marry and start her own family. We just hoped and prayed that it would be to someone who lived nearby.
Now a mission? Away from home? Maybe far away?
She was determined.
We were proud but anxious.
So preparations began.

One day, just a week or so before we were to take Beth to Utah, I was sitting in the teacher’s lunchroom at school.  Our principal, who was also LDS, walked in and sat next to me. He and his wife had returned not long before from taking their only son to the MTC.
I asked him what to expect.
He thought carefully and said; “Well, you’re in for the longest walk of your life.”
Getting really concerned I said to him, “Walk? Sarge, I have bad knees! I can’t walk that far! Can’t I park close?”
He said, “It’ll be alright. Don’t worry,” and refused to say more.
This didn’t help a bit.

So when the day approached, the four of us…. the missionary, her younger sister, Larry and I headed off for Provo to leave her at the MTC.

Oddly, my big, burly, college educated, 18 wheel truck driver husband was having the hardest time of all of us with the impending separation.
We stopped at Kanab to spend the night.
He bought a souvenir at the hotel gift shop, a piece of red rock with a hole in the middle.
“Look, he said, "that’s our family now,” turning away so we couldn’t see the tears welling in his eyes. Then he said a cuss word.
*( My husband has a strange habit. If anyone happens to see him crying about anything he immediately cusses them. It’s disconcerting to the person who gets cursed because they’re an innocent bystander after all. But we all understand that it allows him to save face, so we don’t take offense. We figure that he thinks it’s more manly.)
Anyway, the next day we made it to Provo and stopped for lunch at an Olive Garden before the time to drop her off approached. That was a somber meal for sure. After that, for 18 long months, every time we were in the city and drove by an Olive Garden restaurant there were tears and one of us got cussed.

We didn’t have a clue what to expect when we arrived at the MTC.
I was still concerned about the long walk Sarge had mentioned, but so far so good as we entered the building.
We were directed to a large meeting room.  While my memories are a bit foggy, I recall long rows of folding chairs and a big screen up front on the stand. Families of all kinds and sizes were entering with their missionary sons and daughters to fill up the chairs.
We went to the middle of one row, first me, then Beth our missionary, her sister, and then her Dad. Her older brother and sister had said their goodbyes at her farewell back in our home ward the week before.
We talked quietly and looked intently at our surroundings. Church videos began to play on the screen up front…the ones you sometimes see on TV about the importance of families. I tried not to watch.

I began to notice the people around me.
In the chair next to me was a man, obviously the father of a missionary. He was tall, rangy looking, sunburned and very clean. His hands were rough and scarred and he looked as if he could wrestle a steer to the ground or throw a bale of hay to the horses without any trouble. I knew that, like my husband, all you’d need to do would be to shake his hand and you'd know that here was someone who didn’t make his living in a office. Next to him was a young man, his spitting image, in a dark suit and tie, hair cut short. A deep tan line testified of a life outdoors and neatly framed his slicked back hair. Next to him, all along the row were various children, boys and girls, all younger, clean and suntanned and sitting next to a woman on the last seat that I could only glimpse. They took up the entire remainder of the row.
The young man in the suit was probably the eldest son, “the first missionary,” I thought.
There was another large family directly in front of me who looked like Pacific Islanders in their bright, beautiful colors and shining dark hair.
A single woman and her son were also on the same row next to them.

The program began. There were several speakers and hymns, most of which I barely heard.
I remember standing to sing “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” at some point.
Then I heard someone say something like, “Families, it’s time to say goodbye to your sons and daughters. Please come to the front door while your missionary goes to the back door.”
I'd been doing fairly well up to that point, but just then I felt my heart lurch.
A year and a half before I see this child again! I can’t even call her tomorrow to see how she’s doing! I can’t even call her at all!
It was just then that I noticed the man next to me began to tremble.

There we were, all still standing, looking at the podium, listening to the directions to leave our children.
The stranger next to me was staring straight ahead, but his legs and knees were now starting to shake violently. I grew increasingly worried about him, which was a blessing because it distracted me from my own situation. I quickly glanced up at his face and saw it too begin to crumble, a look of anguish spreading over it.
Beth was busy saying goodbye to her sister and dad so I stood there wondering desperately, “What should I do now?” Is there some sort of Mormon procedure for this situation?”
The man stood trembling while his family swarmed over his son. By this time he looked ready to collapse, so I leaned closer to provide support should he begin to topple. I braced myself.

Just at that moment I heard the voice of our youngest daughter, the one who’s 19th birthday was tomorrow, the one whose best friend and sister, the one she did everything with, was leaving for a year and a half…I heard her say sternly…"Now Dad, let’s not make a scene…Just turn around now and let’s go out the door.” By the tone of her voice, I could tell she had her own hands full at the other end of the row.

Feelings rushed in at that moment.
I remember thinking….... Two big, strong, burly, brave, men stand here in this row of folding chairs.
If terrorists broke into this room and tried to kidnap these young people at gunpoint they’d have to fight both of them to the death to do it.
Yet, with proud but aching hearts, these men walked to that front door while their children walked to the back.
That's when I heard something I’ll never forget.
It was the sound of faith.
Not a perfect knowledge but a hope for things not yet seen.
The sound was footsteps. It was the testimony of faith bourne by hundreds of feet. Footsteps.
Some were heading out into the unknown for years to serve a mission. Some were leaving them so they could.
All spoke the same words. It’s true…all of it’s true....and I know it to be true.

Well, we went out the front door, just the three of us now. So strange that number.
We started up that long hallway to the outside of the building, our arms locked but not speaking. Each of us lost in our own thoughts.
As we made our way down that hall I suddenly remembered what my school principal had said about the longest walk of our lives.
So this is what he meant!

So you see, national radio host, the question is not only how do Mormons get tens of thousands of young people to give up years of their lives to serve missions, but also how do they get tens of thousands of their families to sit in those chairs?

There’s only one answer.
People don’t do that kind of thing for money or from a sense of obligation.
People only do that if they know the truth or maybe even in some cases, just hope the truth.
They believe deep in their hearts that Heavenly Father is real. They know Him. They’ve had dealings with Him.
They believe that he sent his son, Jesus Christ to show us how to get back home.
They believe that Christ made it possible for our Heavenly Father, who must always be perfectly just, to also be perfectly merciful. They believe that he paid the price for our wrongs and conquered spiritual death so that we need never be separated from our Father.
They believe that Christ died on the cross and was buried in a tomb. They believe that after three days that tomb was found to be empty because he had broken the bands of physical death for all of us.
They believe that many people talked to him and touched him after the resurrection. He was alive!
They believe that many years later He and our Father appeared to Joseph Smith and directed him to restore Christ’s church.
They believe that we’re all brothers and sisters…that bringing even one of us back home to Heavenly Father will bring unspeakable joy.
They believe that all human beings are precious to Father…that all of them are worth great sacrifices. That He loves us, every one.
They believe that we can be instruments in his hands.
They have faith that all of it is true and they testify of that truth with their lives. With their footsteps.

Later I received a letter from Beth as she was serving her Spanish speaking mission in Tampa. Florida.
That letter became very special to all of us. It was hastily written on a bunch of post-it notes accompanying a photograph. I have her permission to share it with you.

This is a picture of Florence and Sister Sanchez with the turtle. We were tracting one Sunday before church- in an area we felt we needed to go to. We knocked on about twenty doors until we got to Florence’s house. She opened the door and we did our memorized bit- and she turned us down, just like all the previous neighbors.

Just before she closed the door, my companion asked if we could help her with anything. With tears in her eyes, the old lady said, “with what? They just took my husband out on a stretcher this morning! He’s dying. I’m dying. With what?” My wonderfully inspired companion told her we could do the dishes, clean her house, whatever she needed.
Florence let us in and then sat next to the medical bed and sobbed. She said that she was praying to Jesus for help- she didn’t think she could make it without her husband- and before she could finish her prayer we knocked on her door.
What a wonderful thing to know that you are an answer to someone’s prayers! What a beautiful experience. We cleaned her house. I made plates of food for her. We hugged her. Talked with her. And cried with her.

We stopped by every other day and helped her in some way. We went to see her husband, George in the hospice. Sometimes when death is so close I think the veil is very thin. He just said over and over again with all of his energy “God bless you, God bless you.” We could barely understand him because he spoke with a whisper. But we did understand the tears in his eyes and his hand motions towards heaven and then point of each of us individually. He knew who we were. He knew who we represented.
We sang him a song and then prayed with him. Maybe when he goes home to Heavenly Father he will tell grandpa what I am up to. Wouldn’t that be wonderful!
Hermana Wagher

Millions of testimonies have been borne of the truths of the Gospel and the resurrection of Christ. I’d like to add mine to them.
None, though, are more eloquent than the stone, marble, glass and steel testimonies of the temples of the church. I know of no other faith that has anything like them.
These beautiful buildings dot the entire earth from Africa to Asia, from Europe to the Americas and the Isles of the sea.
Everything that happens inside each one is about what goes on when our life on this earth is finished.
Ties that bind generations of families long passed are put into place in those buildings. Vows are spoken between people who never have to say the most awful words ever imagined by people who love each other…"Till death do us part." Now, thanks to Christ, instead we can say, “For time and all eternity.”
Yes, everything that goes on in the Holy Temples is possible because of the atonement and resurrection of Christ.
Because He conquered death we will all live too.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ did indeed change everything about death.
For those of us who know that miracle to be true, or who maybe just think that it’s probably true, or who even only hope desperately that it is true….it changed everything about life too.
We live differently because we know the truth.

Our Father and his Son have given us gifts so great we can scarcely fathom their significance. They love us so much. We are all precious to them.
They ask just a few things in return.

What do they ask of us?

Well, they ask us to love. This above all.  Love one another.
And they ask those of us who know to tell the others. Tell the others the truth.

Please, tell the others.          

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Wild Pig Nation Visits

President Spencer W. Kimball is one of my favorite prophets.
He has some remarkable counsel for us concerning animals in a talk called, "Fundamental Principles to Ponder and Live." Among his many wise words he urges kindness and appreciation for all of our Father's creations.
He says that one reason that the Lord placed animals on the earth is not only for our use but for our encouragement.
I never thought of it quite that way, but it's certainly true isn't it? Animals have encouraged me many times in my life. Sometimes just the sight of them lifts and cheers.
You can hear the Prophet himself give this talk on the internet. A modern miracle for sure. (Yes, even I can appreciate the blessings of technology every now and then.)

Henry Beston was an American naturalist and author that I admire. In the 1920's he spent a year living in a small cottage isolated along the shore of Cape Cod. I think I feel a bit of a connection with him because of my own family's time in the "little house in the big woods," as our girls called it.
During his year, Mr. Beston was blessed to observe closely some of Father's creations. The passing seasons, changing weather, calm and stormy seas, countless stars, and native animals became part of his every day experience. Afterwards he wrote his famous book, "The Outermost House."
It contains a quote that I love.
"For the animal shall not be measured by man. They are not brethren, they are not underlings, they are other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners in the splendor and travail of the earth."

I agree with the Prophet and Mr. Beston and am grateful for the times in my life when I've been blessed to glimpse some of these "other nations."

Living here in a desert city, and now with physical challenges, my own travels to visit animals have become limited, but still very rewarding. And thankfully, some nations continue to visit me.

Birds of many kinds drop in, including some hummers that I swear are tame. Every time I go out to water they come to dance around the silver stream from my hose. I try to give them a drink but they always reverse their engines and fly out of range.
A small green bird hops around the branches and yellow flowers in the little tree that grows just outside my kitchen window. I can see it from the sink as I work there.
And every now and then a parade of quail appears, sometimes with babies. I watch them as they walk, elegantly dressed in their little feathered hats, across the front yard.
Butterflies stop by to flit around my flower pots on their way to California or Mexico or wherever they're headed.
Little lizards still climb the block fences just as they did when we first moved here. Often they stop to show off their pushups and sometimes blue bellies under the bouganvillia. They must be the grandlizards of those we first knew.
Big black June bugs buzz around the patio from time to time and once we even had an entire swarm of bees stay for a day in one of the big trees.
Thankfully, those sorts of nations still drop into my life.
I'm even putting out a welcome mat this season. I've looked on-line for plants to put in my pots that will attract them. I've sent for "milkweed." An unfortunate name but apparently butterflies love it.
Then, the other day, something started me off on a memory trip, I think it must have been something Larry said, to days when we were often caught with larger critters in this web of life and time.

Back when we lived on the mountain one ordinary morning suddenly became special with a surprise visit.

I had come to the front porch to sweep. Larry was working in the garage, which was a separate building a little ways off. The garage door was open, our big, old Suburban parked in front.
I glanced out to the dirt road and strolling down our long gravel driveway came a group of four javelinas. Wild pigs. A couple of them were quite large and had long, curved teeth sticking out of their bristley snouts. They ambled along as if coming for a friendly visit. But I knew enough about javelina to know they could be extremely dangerous and even if I didn't know, those teeth gave me a clue.

I hollered over to Larry. "Larry! Don't come out of the garage! Get in the car and shut the door!"
He came out looking in my direction, headed straight into the path of the pigs coming up behind him, and yelled, "What did you say?"
This startled the pigs, who snorted and squealed, which startled Larry into a hasty retreat and some unprintable exclamations.

Well, it turned out that this particular delegation from another nation became our guests for quite some time.

Larry made it to the house safely, and the pigs found shady spots in the yard to dig holes into and lay down.

Then we called Pete, our local sheriff and "go to" guy for both human and animal law and order, to make the pigs go away.
Pete came over pronto.  He was an avid outdoorsman, and was thrilled to see our visitors. He explained that it was very unusual to see javalina this high up the mountain. We were at around 7500 ft, you see, and these types of pigs usually stayed in lower elevations like around Roosevelt lake. He explained all this patiently and went on to tell us that they were protected.
I explained that we would like to be protected too and that the pigs were hanging around close to the car and now we were afraid to get in it.
He said yes, we must be careful, as wild pigs could be very agressive and he'd seen some terrlble injuries caused by javelina. He promised that they'd move on in a bit, just be patient and don't hurt them. Then he rushed back home for his camera and returned to take pictures.

Of course we had no intention of hurting them, but life had to go on which included all of us getting out to work and school in the morning. When we went to bed that night a flashlight showed bright, beady eyes shining from the beds they'd made earlier that afternoon. I suppose they were tired after that long walk from lower elevations. We hoped they'd be rested and gone by morning. They weren't.

The next morning found us, dressed and ready, looking out at four wild animals with long teeth resting in holes they'd dug too close to the car to enable us to make a safe getaway.
Larry went out to the porch to make some noise to scare them away. Nothing. That's when I noticed that javalina are not only unattractive but they also have attitude. No amount of noise scared them.

Larry then said, "Give me something to throw at them."
I looked around the kitchen and brought him a potato. He shot it out there at the biggest pig. The potato went over its head but he, (the pig), got up to go see what it was. When he found out he started eating it, which brought the others out to investigate and ask for a bite. Not politely either.

"Good! Good! Good! Larry shouted, "Bring more potatoes and run to the car while I pelt 'em!"
This became our exit strategy for about a week.
Which helped the pigs to decide that they had found a new home. They were staying. It was comfortable after all, and people came out of their house periodically to throw food at them.

I bought more bags of potatoes in town and since Larry often had to leave before we did, Beth and Kelley both developed a good arm and could shoot spuds out there quite a ways, giving us time to get ourselves, books and lunches safely in the car. We kept a bag  of spuds in each car for use when we needed to get back in the house.
But after a while we got tired of this and called Pete for more help.
He called the Game and Fish guys.
The Game and Fish guys came out.
They told us not to hurt the pigs and wasn't it unusual to see this species so high up the mountain.
But they had a plan.
They decided to tranquilize the pigs so they could be rendered unconscious and safely taken down the mountain and let loose near Roosevelt Lake where they would be happy.
We were happy for their plan.
So the Game and Fish guys put tranquilizer in canned dog food and placed dishes of this treat strategically around the yard. The dishes led to a big trap that looked like a giant beer can on its side. There was more spiked dog food inside, and a trap door that would shut when the pig, or pigs, went inside.
From the looks of all this we assumed this might be an ongoing project of some duration.

(*Special Note Here)
We had cats. Two were ours and they lived mostly in the house with us. Then there were the friends of our house cats who came by to share the dry cat food that we left on the porch for our own should we be late getting home and cause them distress about dinner. Our cats had many friends.

When we came home from work and school that day we found the porch littered with sleeping cats and the pigs still alert, in their beds, waiting for more potatoes.
We picked up our own cats and took them inside. They slept for two days with only an occasional twitch but recovered fully. Apparently cats like tranquilizers with dog food but wild pigs don't care for it. They prefer potatoes.

The Game and Fish guys came back to see if the pigs were asleep, found them wide awake, and so decided to go with plan B.
By now the pigs were so at home that they wandered around our entire little acre, settling in holes they'd built all around the front and back. And four wild pigs can dig a lot of holes, let me tell you. But in the mornings they always moved to the front in time for our exit and their breakfast.

The Game and Fish guys came out with tranquilizer guns this time. They were determined to make those critters happy around Roosevelt lake.
I wasn't home but Larry was. When the Game guys arrived the pigs were nowhere in sight. It was pig naptime. We knew the pig's schedule well by this time. They looked and looked but didn't spot them.
Finally Larry came out on the porch and pointed. "They're over there," he said.
"How do you know?" the Game guy asked.
"Look at the cats," Larry replied.
There were our cats and some of their friends. All sitting upright in a row on the front porch, silently staring off intently in the same direction.
Apparently the cat nation had had some dealings with the pigs too.
They felt it best to keep a watchful eye.

That's good advice too.
Watch out. Keep a sharp eye.
You never know.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Animals and Fear

This is another re-post. I'd like to explain.
I'm preparing to take an on-line class in writing from BYU.  Before I sign up I'm trying to correct some of the many mistakes in earlier posts. You see, my stories have always been "told."  Writing them on two dimensional paper has been very difficult for me. What words indicate "eye rolling" or a disgusted look for example? Is there punctuation for a pause longer than a comma's worth? No? Well, making some up has been my solution.
Anyway, I'm afraid that a real writer/teacher might see my scribblings and then I'll be embarrassed, perhaps even mortified. 
Please pray that even an old dog can still learn. 
And thank you so much for your many kind comments. They've kept me from giving up on this "old dog's new trick."


When we moved from the big city to the woods several years ago it was for an, “I promise, we’ll just try it and see,” time. Our family business had just closed and we were at a crossroads. 

Our two oldest children were all grown and living productive lives of their own in the desert city where we lived, but we still had two young daughters to raise. 
Larry and I were both ready for a big change so I had sought and been offered a job teaching in a small rural district in the Arizona mountains. His family had a summer cabin there so that’s where we were headed. He would look for work when we were settled. There was no rent to pay and we didn't have to sell our city house. No risk. Just try it and see.

None of us was at all sure this move would work out well, but some in the family, namely our young daughters, were more than just reluctant, they were downright terrified. 
We were leaving a comfortable urban home near every convenience to move to a tiny fishing cabin in the wilderness. No joking here….. lots of snow, heated by wood stove, 17 miles to work and school.  Had we lost our minds?
It wasn't just our girls who wondered either. Most people we knew thought we were certifiably insane. 
So we made a deal with our kids. Our daughters were promised that they could make the decision to move back to the city at semester’s end if that’s what they wanted.

As it turned out, I taught for well over a decade at that small rural school in the mountains of east central Arizona. Larry worked for the sawmill, schools, and Forest Service until he began driving his beloved big trucks, building highways all over those now also beloved, big mountains. 
We added on to the cabin and stayed until the girls grew up and left for college and a mission. 

After that first terrifying semester which included many tears and fears, our daughters said we could go back to the city if we wanted. They were staying. The bishop's family would take them. They'd already asked.
You see, while we lived there all of us had made dear friends, and countless mountain lives “touched ours for good” as the hymn says.

Now, back in the city, one Sunday as I was singing those exact words about lives that touched for good, my thoughts drifted back to our “mountain years” and all those many lives that made ours so much richer. 
I realized as I considered this that some of those we remember so well weren’t even human. 

Animals, especially wild ones, were a vital part of daily life on the mountain. This was something very new for city folks, I can tell you. Our encounters with critters of all kinds made a lasting impression on us which is actually kind of surprising considering that contact with wild animals tends to be pretty brief. 
I know it’s not just me either, because often, so many years later, someone in my family will say wistfully, “Remember the time we saw ……..” 
Anyway, in addition to the wonderful people, I’m grateful for all the critters, large and small that have crossed my path. 
In so doing they have enriched my human experience.

Elk, deer, skunks, raccoons, javalina, bear and even mountain lions were native to our area. Their presence was a blessing in many ways.

I remember fellow teachers heading out before school started in the morning when deer and elk season began. They'd be off to hunt wearing their ties and dress shoes, trekking out behind the Circle K on the hill just outside town, hoping to get a deer or an elk to fill their freezers and feed their families for the winter. This was easy hunting, not much glory, because everybody knew where the animals crossed as the sun came up each day. But elk tacos, chile, or tamales made fine meals on a snowy night, glory or not, and a teacher’s pay needed to stretch as far as it could. The animals provided and were taken with gratitude.

Every now and then animals could be a problem though, as with skunks. Our bishop’s dog captured one once and drug it through their house to show off his prize.
And on one occasion folks in town kept up a cougar watch as a big cat was spotted sunning itself on a high rocky ledge above the main road into the school. 
He never came in close enough to bother anyone though and so was left in peace.

The school playground was lushly green, the sky above it always filled with huge banks of snowy cumulus clouds moving fast on the high winds aloft. We could often spot hawks circling effortlessly under them, their wings outstretched but never seeming to move. 
Ravens would sometimes fly so low, we could hear the swish of their great black wings as they passed. 
These were not city skies for sure, no pale blue and wispy white here. Someone once told me it was the high altitude, but I don’t know if that’s true. 
Outdoor lunch duty actually became a pleasure instead of a chore as teachers sat together talking while kids gathered around or played ball on the grassy fields. These were not just students either, but young friends, the children of friends, and children of our own. 
In fact, one of our daughters was a student in my class one year. I always say her success in life can be attributed to her fine 5th grade teacher….she just laughs when I say that.

At days end, as we drove home, the girls and I sometimes could spot bald eagles roosting in tall snags jutting through the pines along Highway 260. Their white heads seemed to shine above dark bodies on the bare branches left from some long ago forest fire.

We learned after a while where we needed to slow down on the 17 mile trip home. 
Elk and deer cross in herds and in the same place and time usually. No speed limit signs needed for locals.
Bear were common too, but usually only a single cinnamon or black body ambled across our path when we spotted them. Though once we saw a mother with her cubs. 
Back at our cabin, bears were common visitors too. Larry once mistakenly took off after one with a rake, thinking it was the sheriff’s big hound, Blue, rooting through the garbage. He hurried back to the porch when he discovered it wasn’t.

The years we spent in the mountains, living in our tiny cabin in the woods, working in the little community nearby, are filled with happy memories of the people, land, and animals that lived there. What a blessing it was to raise our two youngest children among them! How thankful we all are to have been blessed with that time in the woods.

I sometimes think about how much we would have missed if even one of us had given in to the fear and anxiety we all felt at leaving the city and all that was comfortable and familiar to live a completely different kind of life. 
Along with the wonderful mountain people we never would have met the deer, elk, javalina, bears, mountain lions and all those other non-human lives that touched ours for good. 

That move away from our desert city was a big risk for our family. 
There was a lot to worry about……..icy mountain driving, chopping wood to heat the cabin , deep snow, no friends, miles and miles to the nearest small store, no cable TV, malls, doctors, or restaurants nearby.
We prayed about it beforehand, of course, and Heavenly Father didn’t say “No."  We were sure of that.
That didn’t keep the fear and self-doubts from us, though. This was a huge risk, an enormous change for all of us. 
Maybe we were crazy to even think about it.

I have since learned that Heavenly Father doesn’t send fear and self-doubt as an answer to prayers about what course to take in life. 
Those feelings don’t come from Him. He sends His answers in other ways. 
That’s a good thing to know for future reference isn’t it?    Never let fear make the decision.
Do your homework about what’s on your mind. Check it carefully out. If it feels like the right thing to you, then take it to Heavenly Father for his approval. If you get it, then move ahead with confidence.

Fear of the unknown, or doubts that you can do it, or panic because you might fail are feelings that don’t come from Him.  
You might miss some of life’s greatest blessings if you let fear make the decision. 
That’s a good thing to know, isn’t it? 
Fear shouldn’t decide.

"And because of Him, our hearts need not be troubled or afraid, and we will be blessed to hush our fears."
 David Bednar

Monday, August 31, 2015

Back to School Lesson No. 2: Body Language Basics for Kids With Learning Disabilities: Personal Space

I vividly recall one 7th period when I was teaching high school.
My students had all been identified as having special learning needs of one kind or another. And while a few of them were very popular and at ease in social situations, many had special needs extendeding far beyond the academic. Social skills like, "reading people," were often poor for these kids.

Well, on that particular day, two of my senior boys got into a huge fist fight over a 25 cent pencil.
Now, both of these young men were very intelligent. Both knew that this wasn't an issue worth violence and/or unpleasant consequences.  And both had other pencils.
(Also, both were teenaged athletes over 6 feet tall who could have flattened me if they'd chosen to. I'm grateful they didn't.)

However, one of the boys had a history of misunderstanding the importance of "Personal Space" and by extension, personal property.
"It's just a freakin pencil!" he yelled. (Not the actual adjective he used.)
But the other kid had had enough.
It wasn't about the pencil.

It was about personal space, which extends to property, which extends to intangibles like one's usual desk in the classroom or spot in the parking lot.
When people "get in your space" without being invited it can be annoying.
If it happens over and over again it can feel like a violation.

In addition, people who don't understand this concept often aren't well liked.
This simple little issue can cause negative feelings in the family, at school and on the job.

Unfortunately kids with dyslexia or other learning challenges often have trouble with the "personal space" thing.
They stand too close, speak too loud, touch or borrow people's stuff when touching or borrowing isn't welcome.
They don't think it's a big deal.
Well, it turns out that it is a big deal.  Sometimes a really big deal.

Once again, direct instruction helps.
Come to think of it, we had some direct instruction on this subject in the class I mentioned the very next day.

First, read this post to a "space challenged" dyslexic you love.  Discuss it.  Then proceed to the activities.

---Working with a family member, stand facing each other but separated by 6 feet.
Move closer and closer until one says stop. That distance is the "comfort" space needed by that person. Notice the distance.
Now, do this again to find what's comfortable for the other person.  Repeat with several family members.
Notice that not all people are okay with the same space.
Notice that some people need lots more space than others.
Learn how big your own space is.
Remember that others may need a bigger space than yours to be comfortable.

---Stand facing someone at their "comfort space."
One person recites "Mary Had a Little Lamb" varying the volume.
Listener provides feedback on volume.
Repeat with others.

Personal possessions, even insignificant ones like a pencil, become part of people's personal space. It has nothing to do with monetary value. Touching someone's property can make them feel uncomfortable.

A simple, "Can I use your eraser a minute?" is all that's needed.

A polite, "May I come into your room?" can ease the tension between you and a sibling. "Is this your usual seat? can help to begin a friendship.

While saying to your friend or brother, "Wow, that's a great new backpack,"  CLASP YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR BACK AS YOU LOOK.
If you want to examine it, ASK BEFORE touching it.  "Can I see the inside? I'm looking for a red one with a zippered pocket."
WAIT WITH HANDS BEHIND BACK until they hand it to you.

---When looking at someone's large possessions, like a car, LEAN OR STEP BACK.
Do one of these; hold your hands behind you, cross your arms or clasp your hands in front of you.

Be mindful of furniture. Never sit on low tables, arms or backs of sofas etc. Never engage in horseplay or rowdy behavior unless you're sure it's okay.
At first, behave as if you would when you walk into church. Ask before touching anything.

Now practice "asking before touching" with several items in your own home.
Practice entering a sibling's room with permission.
Practice the "lean back, hands clasped" car looking thing.
Pretend you are entering someone else's home. Practice how you would behave respectfully. This kind of behavior may be new to you, so...

These suggestions may seem excessively fussy to you. But remember that everyone's personal space is different. You may not care if people handle your stuff. But others do. And some care a lot.

Remember that this excessive fussiness may keep you from offending people.
People like your boss who has the power to fire you.
Or your girlfriend's mom, who has other powers.  Like making you get your girlfriend home by 9:00 because you were a jerk when you visited their home for the first time. (This happened to one of my students)

It's worth it.
Trust me.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Powerful Images

*A summer re-write.

I’m old enough to remember my family’s first television set.
My childhood family that is. I was about 6 years old when Dad bought our first TV. Before that, like everybody else, we had only radio. This was, of course, back in the day. Way back.

We were one of the first families on our block to have a TV.
I remember the excitement of my little brothers and our young friends as we all waited outside our house, sitting on the grass on the front lawn. We watched carefully for my dad’s blue Ford to turn the corner onto our street.
Finally we spotted him. He had a huge box containing the console TV crammed into the trunk. It was tied down with ropes to secure it.
Neighbors came to help install the antenna and then carry our prize into the family room where it took the place of honor right up front next to the fireplace.
My mom placed her loveliest lace doily and plant on top of the dark mahogany box with the green screen. Dad turned the set on, and our lives were changed forever.

Then, of course, as everyone’s house began to have a place of honor for the big box with the green screen, all of our lives were changed forever.

Television, movies, videos, DVD’s, record and replay. What mixed thoughts come to mind when I consider the part they now play in our lives.
I’ve seen the surface of the moon thanks to TV. From my own home I've been to the Antarctic and the Amazon, seen the inner workings of a beating heart, and observed life at the bottom of the oceans. I've met presidents and prophets, heard symphonies and hoedowns, climbed to the top of Mount Everest and hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. All vicariously of course.
I've even heard the Savior's apostles teach eternal truths. Live, in real time, during Conference. When in actuality they stood in the Tabernacle hundreds of miles away.
All these things were good…. some were incredible…. some were eternally important, and they enriched my life.
On the other hand, even though I try not to watch an excessive amount of TV, I’ve wasted more hours than I’d care to count on senseless, mindless, sometimes even soulless drivel.
TV sitcoms, game shows, reruns of reruns, commercials, questionable comedy, and late night talk shows have been a part of my life. And even violence, cruelty, and immorality disguised as funny, modern, and desirable.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve seen them all.
I think I may have to account for the time I spent watching this kind of thing someday, and I’m not looking forward to having to explain it, I can tell you.

This is one of the great moral challenges of the last days I think…. choosing carefully how we spend our time. In days long gone there wasn’t much choice, people spent their time surviving.

One thing may help us and that’s to understand the great power of visual media.

I remember clearly a Saturday when I was a 12 year old girl, going to the movies with my best friend on a sunny afternoon.
Back then we took the bus downtown to the big ornate theater with floating clouds on the ceiling and red velvet curtains that folded up over the screen just as the movie started.
There were only three theaters in town back then. Neighborhood multi-plexes wouldn't come along for years.
On this Saturday the place was filled with kids our age. It was a double feature. Two movies for the price of one. Both were scary, horror type movies, not ones my best friend and I usually would choose. But all our school classmates were there.
By today’s standards both of these films could be shown, uncut, on the Saturday morning cartoon shows. Both would probably be rated PG.
One was called “Black Sunday," I think, and was set in medieval times. Its opening credits featured an execution. An iron mask with spikes on the inside was hammered into a man’s face, killing him instantly. I don't remember anything else about that film.
The other film was called something like, “The Man Who Couldn’t Die.” The star was a character who was unable to experience any disease or injury throughout his entire life, due to some magic spell cast on him.
The last scenes show the spell breaking and the pains of a lifetime happening all at once as he ascended a staircase in a vain attempt to run away.

Well, it’s been well over 50 years since I saw those images.
They have no use or value to me whatsoever.
In fact, I would give a great deal of money if I could get them out of my head right now.
Yet, despite my heartfelt wishes, I have those pictures in my brain….. taking up space……disturbing, useless, unimportant, very powerful….waiting to steal my peace of mind at the most inopportune times and places.
For all those years.
Nothing I can do will erase them.
I put them inside my brain when I was a young girl and here they are in the head of an old lady.
Very powerful…. the visual media.

We’d be wise to choose carefully.

Monday, August 24, 2015

All Grown Up

*** Today is our only son's birthday. I send this old post out in his honor.

My husband and I have four children….all of them grown. Each now has a full life entirely separate from us, with college degrees, businesses, careers, homes and families of their own to tend.
Life has changed dramatically for Larry and I since our nest emptied. And when you've invested so many years in raising kids that can be a bit unsettling. At times I’ve been known to look wistfully around our now quiet home and get a little melancholy. But then, every now and again, almost with uncanny timing the phone rings and I suddenly feel much better.


Sitting in the special ed resource room at my desk during my afternoon prep period I begin working on the endless pile of paperwork that is the worst part of the job that I love.
In the same room at their desks are two of my colleagues doing the same. We’re mostly quiet, trying to get as much work crammed into 50 minutes as is humanly possible. That bell will ring soon and kids will pour in to end our misery, but before that happens the phone on my desk rings. I pick up and listen carefully for a few seconds, then prop the receiver between ear and shoulder and go back to typing while listening a lot less carefully. After a minute I say with detached menace, “Let me talk to your sister.” ( Pause to get sister ) “You are not going to wear that sweater. Give it back to her this minute or there will be trouble. I mean it.” (Another pause while phone goes back to original sister) In same stern tone, “No you may not punch your sister in her eye.” I hang up and go back to work.

The three of us continue typing quietly for a few minutes and then Bill, my esteemed colleague, says…

“Kathy, I know you have four kids…I was just wondering……how old are they now?”

“Oh, you mean the ones that just called….well, let me think..…they don't live with us anymore.....they're both teachers now......I stopped to tally up the years….. 24 and 28,” I reply.

I look over at him as his head drops into his hands. He’s a single dad raising 3 young daughters of his own.

He mutters softly, “Heaven help me…it’s never going to end, is it?”

“Doesn’t look like it so far,” I say as the bell rings.


The phone rings on a quiet Saturday at our home in the mountains. It’s our oldest daughter who lives in the city 100 or so miles away. She currently has a husband and 5 and a half children.

“Ma” she says “I cut my finger.”

“Is it bad?” I ask.

“It’s pretty bad,” she says.

“Does it need stitches? I ask.


“Well, you better go to urgent care and see if it needs stitches.” I reply.

“Urgent care costs 40 dollars.” she says.

“Well, it IS your finger.” I explain.

“It might just need a butterfly bandage,” she says.

“Is Scott there?” I ask. Scott is her husband.


“Have him look at it.”

She calls for Scott. Scott comes to look.

“What does he say?” I ask.

“He says it’s pretty bad.”

“Does he think it needs stiches?”

“He says maybe.”

“Well, you better go to urgent care then. If you need to borrow 40 dollars we can arrange that.”

“Don’t be silly,” she replies in an irritated tone.

“Alright then, let us know what happens at urgent care.”

“Okay,” she says. “I’ll call in the morning.”

She doesn’t call in the morning so I do.

“How many stitches,” I ask.

“None,” she says. “I didn’t go to urgent care. It costs 40 dollars.  I just put a bandage.”


Phone rings on a weekday afternoon. I answer and it’s our son.

“Mom…. Jacob and I are sick and Lisa won’t take care of us.”

(Lisa is his wife. Jacob is their son.) He sounds near death so I ask what’s wrong with them.
He says they both have head colds and can’t breathe and are coughing too. He thinks he has a fever but is too weak to get the thermometer.
“I told Jacob," he whines, "that if MY mom were here she’d make chicken soup and bring us grape Hi C with 7up in it.  Lisa won’t take care of us. Will you talk to her?”

“Let me speak to Lisa,” I say sternly.

“Lisa,” he bellows, “my mom wants to talk to you.”

Lisa takes the phone.

She says, “Kathy, they’re driving me crazy. We’ve all had colds this week and I have a huge Mutual meeting tonight. I’ve given them Gatorade and chicken noodle soup but Dane says it has to be Hi C with 7up and the soup isn’t homemade. I don’t have time to make soup or to go to the store for Hi C.”

I realize that this is a tricky situation and I want to be diplomatic and sensitive. So I reply in my most earnest mother-in-law tone of voice.

“Lisa, dear, its important for you to understand something really basic about this situation. You’re Dane's wife and priorities are at stake here. Eternal priorities. So please listen carefully to this counsel.
You must always remember, that no matter what happens…..this is critical now…. that you CAN’T GIVE HIM BACK!  You married him for all time and so I’m afraid you’re stuck.

And please tell Jacob that if his dad’s mom really were there she would tell the both of them to man up, get their own drinks and soup, and stop bothering you.
Goodbye dear and good luck.”
 Yes, sometimes a phone call is all that you need to bring comfort for a melancholy mood.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Back to School Lesson No. 1: Body Language Basics For Kids With Learning Disabilities: Greeting People

School's starting soon!
Opportunity awaits. All kinds of it.
For one thing, this is a great time for parents to work with their special needs kids in areas where they could use a bit of a boost. Or for a big brother or sister to make a real difference in the life of that pesky someone they have as their own for eternity.
If you love a kid with learning difficulties try these simple but potentially life-changing activities. It could mean better personal relationships for them and the prospect of increased success in school.
How can you pass up an opportunity like that?

Somebody once wrote a book about how difficult it is to become friends with someone who has a learning disability such as dyslexia. I wish I could remember the title and author so I could give credit where it's due.
I do remember the point though.
The idea was that kids with dyslexia often have trouble reading more than just the written word. Reading people is often just as difficult for them.

We know that messages sent by facial expression, tone of voice, and body language are often more important than the words people say.  And that's where the "reading" difficulty starts for these kids. They often miss the point here. And it can cause huge problems.
Making friends being one. Making enemies instead being another.
I found this to be true with many of my special ed high school students.

Think about how detrimental it would be to your social life if you couldn't tell if someone was bored, telling a lie, nervous, nauseous, in love or in a hurry, by understanding the messages sent in their faces or body language.
Imagine the mistaken everyday communications if you didn't account for sarcasm or joking in people's tone of voice.
What if you took every word literally?
When a parent, boss, brother, or girlfriend says, "Thanks a lot," "Sure, I believe you," or "No, why should I be upset with you!" it can mean very different things, depending on tone of voice or facial expression, can't it?
What if you didn't get that?
What if YOU sent out body language that was rude, stand-off-ish, or unfriendly when you actually meant just the opposite?
What if this happened with every person you interacted with throughout the day? Throughout the week? Lifetime?
How would that affect your personal or professional relationships?

There is hope though. Just as there is in most things.
Education helps. Just as it does in most things.

Direct instruction works here because these kids aren't stupid. In fact many of them are brilliant. They know something's wrong and they would fix it if they knew what or how.
So here's the first in a series of "Basic Communication Skills for Kids With Learning Disabilities."
I'll keep each lesson short. Dyslexics don't like to read anything too long.


As you go about your day keep your head up and a pleasant but non-smiling expression on your face.
When you encounter someone do the following:

Look at the person. Do not smile yet.
As you walk along, look directly at the bridge of their nose, between both eyes. (Looking directly into their eyes may be too intense for some people.)
WAIT,  just a half second.
Now SMILE and say "Hey, (Name of person)," as you walk along.

Practice this carefully with members of your family until it becomes easy to do.

---Head up, pleasant expression, no smile. Someone comes along.
---Look between their eyes as you walk.
--- Say,  "Hey, (Name of person)."
---Keep walking.

The short wait to smile after looking is important.
If you go around smiling all the time you may look weird.
Smiling AFTER you see someone seems like you were especially happy to see them.
Have a friend practice this smile procedure on you and you'll see what a difference that little wait makes.

Do this with everybody you meet until it becomes automatic.

But it can change your life. I promise.

Next time: Personal Space

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Swamp’s Full of Gators

*Someone asked me about this the other day. Here's "The Swamp."

Part of the difficulty with our modern lives has to do with alligators.

I was reminded of this once when our oldest daughter called from her home in Seattle to tell me what a frustrating day she’d had with her oldest daughter, then around the terrible two years old.

“Ma,” she whined, "This morning I had six bags of groceries hanging from both arms, about to drop them trying to get into the car while watching the baby and Kenzie at the same time. Kenzie’s shoe came off and she had a screaming fit when I stopped to put it back on her foot.  She wanted to do it herself! She wants to do everything herself but she’s too little. She sat down right in the middle of the parking lot and wouldn’t let me help! Finally I had to pick her up to haul her off to her car seat while she was kicking and screaming like she was being kidnapped.  All the ruckus started the baby crying and then screaming. People all around me stopped to stare as if they were trying to decide if I was a kidnapper or just an incompetent mother. One lady looked like she was ready to call the cops. I finally got everything loaded and sped off like we were in a getaway car.  I can’t stand days like this!” she wailed.

I thought about this for a minute and then told her I knew what her problem was.

“What's my problem, Ma?" she asked wearily.

“Alligators, I replied.”

“Alligators? Ma, what are you talking about.”

“Well, you’re trying to drain the swamp and alligators are snapping all around you,” I replied calmly. “And by the way, your alligators’ names have changed.”

“Alligators? Ma, are you crazy?”

“Not yet.  Let me explain.
It’s the old, "You’re having trouble remembering that the main objective was to drain the swamp because you’re up to your knees in alligators" thing,” I replied.
You have alligators snapping all around you and it makes it harder to think.”

“Ma, are you crazy?”

“Not yet.  Let me explain.
What you do everyday is of great importance. You’re trying to build an eternal family and help get them and yourself back to Heavenly Father and the Celestial Kingdom. That’s a big, important job with lots of endless hard work. Screaming kids who sit down in parking lots while you struggle with groceries and a new baby make you forget what you’re really doing. Those are alligators. Cranky husbands, messy houses, too little money, too much to do…..all alligators. You spend so much time fighting off gators each day that it’s hard to remember why you got in the swamp in the first place.
Well, you got in there for the most important reason there is. It helps a lot if you remember why.  For example, you’re not being patient with an hysterical two year old……’re nurturing a child of God and building an eternal family.
Scott has gators too, you know. Tell him he’s not dealing with an overtime work week, frustrating co-workers, mindless paperwork, and rush hour traffic. No, he’s providing for an eternal family’s temporal needs. Tell him you appreciate that. Everybody has to deal with their own gators no matter who they are or what their situation in life. See?"

“I guess. But Ma, I can hardly wait for the day when I get this swamp all cleared out. What a relief that’ll be!”

“Kim, bad news. You never will.
The alligators names just change,” I told her.
Everybody’s swamp is crawling with gators and there's a new fight every day.”

“What? Are you crazy, Ma?”

“Not yet.  Let me explain,” I calmly replied.
“Do you remember when you used to call your father and me every week from Seattle to cry about how you were getting old and had no husband and your biological clock was ticking and you still had no kids….woe is me… hoo boo hoo? (When your father came home from work he used to ask if “Whining in Seattle” had called today). Remember that? Well, those were alligators in your swamp.  Different names….same alligators. Now instead of “29 and no kids” your gators are named “two kids in two years.” Instead of “No husband,” the gator’s now called “Husband-always-leaves-a-mess-in-the-bathroom.”
I, myself, have had many a fight with gators of my own, I can tell you.  In fact I used to have some of the same ones you’re dealing with. Now my alligators’ names have changed to “Bad Back,” “Wrinkles and Sags,” and “Too-Little-Time-Left-to-Get-Perfect-Here.” See how it works?”

“Oh no, I think I’m starting to understand you,” Kim replied in a dejected tone.

“Good. Don’t forget that it’s got a lot to do with farming too,” I reminded.

“Farming? Ma, what are you talking about?”

“Plowing straight rows, of course.”

“Ma, are you crazy?”

“Not yet.  Let me explain.
Some General Authority once told a story I’ll never forget. He said that in the old days before GPS tractors and such when a farmer wanted to plow straight furrows in his fields at planting time he’d always be sure to pick a spot far across the field, clear on the other side, like a tree or a big rock. Then he'd look right at it and head his plow straight for it. If he didn’t take his eyes off the spot…didn’t look around at the ground or rows in front or next to him…just kept heading right to that exact spot….the furrows would be straight as an arrow. If he got distracted, looked down and tried to plow straight by what was happening all around him, the rows would be all curvy and crooked. Good story. Head straight for the mark. Don’t get distracted by all the stuff happening right around you. Keep your eye on the Celestial Kingdom up ahead and just plow straight toward it. Work steadily, every day, line upon line, precept upon precept, every chance you get.
Or something like that.”

“Right. I see it now,” Kim remarked even more wearily.

“If you remember that it’s all about alligators and plowing straight rows you’ll be alright.” I reminded. “Of course you can’t forget to hold the doors. Holding doors is a very important part of it too.”

“Doors, Ma?” Kim said in the strangest tone.

“Yes, a wife of one of the prophets, I think it might have been Sister Hinckley, or maybe it was sombody else, said an important thing.
She said…..“Hold the door for everyone you meet. All carry a heavy load whether you can see it or not."

"She knew that we’re all fighting off alligators while trying to plow a straight row and that we should try to help each other out when we can. A very wise woman that Sister Hinckley.  She was somebody’s mother.
People should always listen to their mothers, you know.”

“Ma, you really are crazy.”

“Not yet.” I said.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Glue Called "Good Times"

Some years back the Prophet and the apostles issued the Family Proclamation.
It's an inspired document filled with eternal truths about many things. But in the end it's really about what most of the rest of the gospel is about.
How to live a happy life.

I have a copy framed on the wall of my living room.
The entire document is full of inspiration, but one of the things I love most about "The Proclamation" is that it makes official something I've always believed.
For, lo and behold, it turns out that "Have a good time!" is now an eternal principle that's printed right there in black and white!
You see, if you hearken, you'll find the words "wholesome recreational activities" right there in the same sentence as faith, prayer, forgiveness and love.

So, I pondered, and I figured out that this means having fun together as a family is really important.
And Heavenly Father wanted us to remember it so much that he inspired his Prophet and apostles to remind us.
Yes, good times are one of the things that lead to happiness.
And, yeah and hurray! I think I can do that one!

Remember, though, that since that counsel was issued in the "Family" proclamation, I think it's safe to assume that the fun should be had WITH other family members.
Golf or hunting with the guys, shopping or movie trips with girlfriends, long, solitary hours with a hobby may not count here.
Don't get me wrong, those things may have a place in a balanced life, but I think having good times with your eternal family is what the proclamation is talking about.

You see, it turns out that wholesome recreation with those you love is like a special brand of superglue. It's the glue called "Good times."
And I can testify that it's one of the things that's kept our family bound together over the years.

Traveling, camping on the beach, theme parks, and all things Disney became great favorites of our family, but the proclamation doesn't specify what kind of good times to have. That's entirely up to you.
It can be horses, hikes, boats, baseball, kites, cars, picnics, panning for gold, stamp collecting, skiing, sports, or anything else the whole family enjoys doing together.
The only rule, I think, is that everybody has to enjoy it. And since everybody means toddlers to grown-ups, that can sometimes be a challenge.
That's why Disney and beach camping worked so well for us. Everyone, no matter what age, always had a good time.
But whatever works for your bunch is great.
And the good times can change as your family grows and changes too.

Be advised that teenagers can sometimes be a special challenge.
So be creative.
My brother Matt once told me about a summer roller coaster quest his family went on when their youngest boys were in their teens. They searched the country and found great coasters all over the place, even in unlikely spots like Ohio.
Now, I personally, hardly ever have a good time when nauseated, but the reports were that all of them had tons of fun.
And may God bless my dear sister-in-law for being such a good sport.
Then there was one summer when our 15 year old son and 17 year old daughter didn't want to leave their friends for our planned San Diego Zoo and beach trip. So we took the friends along and watched all of them body surfing in Malibu.

Be warned to expect other obstacles when trying to follow this inspired counsel though.
Sacrifices may have to be made and priorities straighteded up in some cases.
Doubts and fears may try to dissuade you. Thoughts may come creeping in like, "It's too much money," "The kids are too little," "Somebody might get sick," "We'll get lost on the freeways," "The car might break down, the plane might crash, the train might derail, the ship might sink."
Yes, the dredded, "blah, blah blah, blah, blah,"  might sneak into your thinking.

Well, guess who doesn't want you to build eternal happy memories with the people you love?
Guess who's sending that blah, blah, blah?
I shudder to think of what we'd have missed if we let fear win these little skirmishes.

Since money was usually an issue for us we did without some things in order to make "Glue" possible.
For example, growing up, our daughters never owned a "designer' anything. The latest electronic gadget was not to be found at our house. Larry never golfed or had other expensive hobbies, and I never shopped and lunched with the ladies.

Currently, I am proud to know, and in fact be related to, a young married couple who buy clothes at discount stores and outlets but who run off together several times a year. They just returned from a wonderful trip to Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.
Twenty years from now do you think they'd look back on the designer clothes they used to wear, or the good times and adventures they had together?
These wonderful young people are recent converts and I'm so happy that they already understand this principle and apply it in their lives.
A baby is now on the way to join their family. Everyone who knows them is thrilled.
I'm making them a gift.
It's a travel pillow that fits around the safety belt of a car seat.  It lets a small child sleep peacefully while heading for Disneyland.

There are tricks to traveling with babies and toddlers you see.
First you must understand that they are the people who make the rules on trips. If everybody wants to have a great time, the big people have to figure out and follow the baby rules.
When we had tykes in our family we used to make the longest drives at night so the kids would sleep. Then Larry took a nap after we arrived while I got the family dressed for fun and frolic.  We included stopping often, lots of breaks, reading a book out loud on the long stretches, swim or beach time in the afternoon, familiar food in a fanny pack, etc.
I remember Kim telling me that in their family it was Scott's job to chase the little kids around and around at rest stops while she made sandwiches.
Some people say to wait until the kids get older.
Well, we never waited for kids to get older "so they can really appreciate it."
They did appreciate it. And they are older.

And now a grown woman and I have a memory of a Saturday morning long ago.
I recall that it had been an especially hard week. Our seven year old daughter came running into our room at 6 am, jumped on the bed, and said wistfully, "Gee, it's been a long time since we went to the beach."
We all looked at each other's tired, desert dry faces, jumped up, hollered for the others, and began to hastily pack our "no-name" tennies and Walmart t-shirts for what we called a "Bun burner."
We figured we could make it to the beach in time for a sunset picnic.
"Bun burners" are among our most cherished memories.

And, every so often fun together can be even more than superglue.
It can be a healing balm.
I remember one time when our two youngest girls and I were laboriously pushing Larry in a wheelchair along the gravel paths of the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
Larry had been released not too long before from a month's hospital stay. He'd had major surgery after a horrible car accident. There had even been days when it was life or death. Months of rehab lay ahead. He still couldn't walk.
We'd all been worried, scared out of our minds and off balance for a long, long while.
But, despite everything, Larry insisted on going on a trip.  Crazy as it was, no amount of reasoning could dissuade him.
Well, that particular good time together saved our collective sanities.
Those few days of wholesome recreation made us all feel like everything would really be all right again for the first time in a long while.
We came back filled with hope.
Yes, now and then more than glue. Sometimes good times can be the best medicine.

So, perhaps now tis the season for you to pack up your gang and head for the hills.
Have a picnic, go kite flying, set up a tent at a favorite campground or even the backyard.
Shake hands with Mickey Mouse or hike up some scenic wonders.
Marvel at a Renoir at a city museum or a herd of elk in wilderness mountains. Gaze at glaciers, geysers, or volcanoes at a national park. Listen to seals barking off the Oregon coast or a world famous choir in Salt Lake City. Ride a train through a desert canyon or drive your car through an immense live tree in an ancient redwood forest. Maybe you can watch fish jump in the Mississippi or a storm break over the Grand Canyon.
Maybe your entire family can get "Disney knees" together. That's the familiar affliction that strikes young and old alike after having had too much of a good thing.
And then when you're too tired from being too happy, you can sit on a bench with someone who loves you and watch the night sky fill up with fireworks.

Over the years I've known some families who didn't heed this counsel found in the Proclamation.
Everybody in them had their own kind of fun separately.
Sadly, some of them aren't together anymore.

Don't neglect this principle of the gospel.
It turns out that glue can be really important.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

True Service

*A summer re-run.

Once when I was relatively new in the church I learned a great lesson. I learned it in Relief Society.
Relief Society was a unique experience for me back then.  There I found lots of women gathering together without coffee, cake, and canasta!
After a time I figured out that service to others was a big part of what they did there.
In fact, I was told by a sister who later became a close friend, that it was customary to hold a "baby shower" for new Relief Society members.
This was to provide them with plenty of serving dishes to replace the ones they would lose from dragging dinner around the ward all the time.
It wasn’t until sometime later that I figured out that she was kidding.

Another friendly sister did give me some helpful hints though.
She wisely said to buy disposable foil pans whenever they’re on sale. And always check the dishes aisle at Deseret when you’re in there dropping stuff off, because you can pick up casseroles really cheap.
I still do that to this day even though now if I’m asked to provide a meal for someone in the ward it’s most likely going to be take-out chicken.
These things are important to know because becoming a Mormon is more than just doctrine and scriptures, believe me.
For some people it's a whole new way of life.

Well, anyway, one Sunday someone in the Relief Society presidency asked me to help with a new project.
An elderly blind lady, a new convert, had just moved into the ward boundaries. She lived in a little trailer park just across the canal. The sisters were taking dinner to her each night and I was asked to pick one day of the week to be my assignment.
I was assured that this was “easy."  All I had to do was make a plate of food, whatever I was fixing for my family, and take it over to her by 5:30 on my day.

I figured I could handle that so I signed up for Tuesdays.
It did turn out to be really easy and we got into a routine.
On my designated day each week I wrapped up whatever we were having, made a little pitcher of lemonade or Koolaid, took it over to this sister who was always so grateful, and put the food down on her table.  I explained that the meatloaf or whatever was at 12 on the clock,  potatoes were at 3,  green beans at 6,  and roll at 9. Then I left the lemonade on the side at 2 on the clock. Then I asked her if there was anything at all that I could help her with.
She always said the same thing…”No, no, no…you ladies do way too much for me already! Thank you so much!”
Then each week I left and drove home feeling good about myself and my “service.”

Well, one Tuesday in the summer, I was home from teaching, and really busy painting kid’s bedrooms or something, and I was way behind schedule.
I had made dinner in the crockpot and put a salad in the fridge earlier in the day. So now I packed it up as usual but had no time to shower or clean up. I thought I could get away with this because this sweet sister was blind after all.
But on the way out to the car I realized that I didn’t smell exactly flower fresh.

As I was loading up I had an idea.
I stood outside the car and began to holler for my oldest kids.
This was back in the day when parents could let their kids run all around the neighborhood and in and out of friends’ houses without a worry. It was an evening ritual to hear moms and dads hollering from their driveways….. SUUUUUSIE… LOOOORIE…  ALLLLLLLEX…DAAAAAVID……FERNAAAAAANDO… DIIIIIIIINNNER!
Kids would pop out from backyards and houses all down the block and return to their original owners until the next day. Usually there were bunches of kids at our house but I had shooed them all away so I could paint in peace.

Well, my 9 year old son popped out first. ”What do you want, Mom?” he yelled.
“Come home…I need you,” I yelled back.
When he got there I told him to get in the car because I needed him to take dinner in to this sister because I was smelly. He nodded.
I explained how he was to tell her where the food was on the plate…like a clock. Then put the lemonade on the side at 2 o'clock and ask if there was anything he could do for her.  "It’ll only take a minute," I assured him.
“Okay,” he said.
When we arrived he went up the steps to her trailer with the food and lemonade.

Well, he was gone a long time!
I began to fret and just as I was about to go inside despite my lack of recent bathing, he came out the door.
“What took you? I asked him. “Did you break something?”
“No, Mom.  I just did what you told me. I gave her the plate and told her where everything was, like on a clock. Then I asked her if I could do anything for her, like you told me, and she said she lost a slipper under the bed somewhere and could I find it, and she needed a jar of pickles opened, and she couldn’t find the mustard. Then there was a tape from her son stuck in the player. After I got it out we listened to the last part of it. Did you know he used to play in Little League too? He used to play outfield just like me. We use the same kind of glove. He lives in Texas now. I think she misses him. You know, just stuff she needed.”

“Oh, okay son. Thanks.” I replied.

On the drive home I remember thinking that it was strange that I always asked her if she needed help and never once had she asked me to do anything for her.

Well, Tuesday came around again and I thought I’d try a little experiment.
After I packed up the food and the lemonade I stood outside the car and called out the mother song..…."KIIIIIIIIIIM…COOOOOME HOOOOME."
She eventually popped out and came running. “What do you want, Ma?”
I explained that I needed her to take dinner in to a sister in our ward because I had a headache and on the way over I told her about the clock and the drink and told her to be sure to ask her if there was anything she could do for her before she left.
Kim said okay and up the steps she went. Well she was gone even longer than her brother. 10minutes…15minutes….20minutes.

No problem. I had brought a book this time.
When she finally came out I asked, “What took you?”
She said, “Ma, I only did what you told me. I put her plate down and told her the chicken was at 12, the potatoes at 3 and everything. Then I asked her if she needed anything and she said that her robe had fallen behind the dresser and could I get it. She needed to pick a sweater to go with the dress she was going to wear tomorrow and she couldn’t see the colors. The aspirin bottle was too hard for her to open and her jewelry box was all tangled up and she couldn’t find the necklace she’d been looking for. We straightened it all out. Did you know that she has a necklace shaped like a heart that opens up and she keeps a lock of hair in it!  It was her husband’s. I think she misses him.”

“Oh, okay", I said.  "Thanks for your help.”

The next Tuesday I made sure that I was all clean and fresh and I took dinner in myself.
After I explained about the food I asked her if there was anything at all I could do for her.
She replied, “Oh no, no, no. You ladies do way too much for me already. I don’t want to be a bother. Thank you so much!”

Later I checked with some of the other sisters who brought dinner.  They were always told that same thing.


After that when I made dinner on Tuesdays, I packed it up with the meat at 12 on the clock, the potatoes at 3, vegetable at 6 and roll at 9. And I made a little pitcher of lemonade.

Then on my way out the door, I called a 9 year old boy or an 11 year old girl to come with me so that they could do the real service.

*Author’s Note
This reminds me of another “Mormon” thing.  Part of the culture, so to speak.
The thing is this.
Bake two cakes.
It's a Relief Society lesson that I learned too late.

That boy I just told you about, well, that same boy came home from school one day to the smell of chocolate cake filling the house. Not an everyday occurrence at our house.
He went straight to the kitchen and there on the counter was a freshly baked cake with gooey chocolate icing and chopped nuts sprinkled on top…..His favorite!!!
I was standing at the sink, very busy, and I glanced over at him.
His eyes looked at me longingly and then he said what every Mormon kid says at a time like that.
You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

”Who’s that for?”  he asked.

Today I would give practically anything if I’d said the right thing that afternoon so long ago.
Which was, of course, “Why it’s for you, honey. I love you so much and I missed you while you were at school and I wanted to surprise you.”

But I didn’t say that.
I told him it was for the family who just had a baby and I was taking them dinner.
The light went out of his eyes as he went off to do the usual after school things.
And now, so many years later, I still feel the sting of regret.

Regret because that boy is gone now. I’ll never get him back.
In fact he has a boy of his own, growing up fast. I hope he and his dear wife are wiser than I was.

When Kim, his older sister, heard this story recently, she said she knew just what I meant.
She said the exact same thing happened to her when she was baking homemade rolls one day.
Only the boy that came into her kitchen with a light in his eyes was 40 and she was married to him.
She said the right thing though….”Why honey, these rolls are for you. I know they're your favorite and I missed you so much today.”
Then she hurried to make a pan of cornbread for the family that just had a baby in the ward.

I didn’t raise stupid kids you know.