Thursday, August 21, 2014

All creatures.....some really small.

I've never been a "dog person" really.  I've always thought cats were less trouble for the most part.
Until recently I never met a dog that didn't cause me more work, less money or grief of some kind. I know a lot about that work, poverty, and grief thing too. How? Because all my married life we've had dogs. Always more than one at a time too. Why, you say?
Because, you see, even though I'm not,  Larry definitely is a dog person.  He's always had dogs and they've always had him.
As we all know marriage is often about compromise.  So, to be fair, Larry reluctantly said we could have cats to go along with the dogs and the children.
I was responsible for the care and feeding of all of them. Including Larry.

Now something's happened concerning a dog that I'm reluctant to write about. I'm afraid that people will think that I've become delusional along with whatever else. But I'm not delusional yet, and I was so touched that I must tell you about it.

You see, last night an aging, nondescript, sometimes annoying little brown dog went out of her way to show compassion towards a being not even of her same species. The species being human. The human being me. And compassion it was, there was no mistaking it for anything else. Which leads to a whole lot of other animal questions to think about later.

Let me tell you about the dog. She was rescued as a tiny pup by my son-in-law who found her while he was working in an empty house. He heard pitiful cries and went to help. She fit in the palm of his hand and was barely old enough to have been weaned. He checked with neighbors with no luck. Being a smart man he didn't take it home, but instead took it to his sisters-in-law. They immediately rushed it to the vet, paid the bill, and then stopped off at the nearest pet mart to buy hundreds of dollars of dog stuff.  All in pink. This was years ago. She grew into the smallest chihuahua-mutt-mix princess the vets had ever seen every six months for regular check-ups. The girls named her "Daisy." Daisy and her border collie sibling, (another rescue), spent weekdays with us while the girls were teaching. Larry, however, refused to have a dog in the house with such a "wuusie" name as Daisy.  So he renamed her "Moose."

Well, Moose is now older. She stays with us full-time while our dog Murphy, who is still an adolescent in dog years, and therefore trouble, stays with our daughters, who can handle trouble better than we can now.
Daisy has a little pillow kept right between Larry and I on our bed where she sleeps. She has her own favorite blankets. She hates being cold so several times a night I reach in to her little nest to make sure she's warm and covered.
Well, sad to say, I have issues which cause pain when I move. Last night I was trying to get more comfortable in bed and was attempting a turn which caused some moans of distress. I finally got settled. As soon as I did, a sleepy little dog emerged from her warm nest, came over to me, licked my arm exactly twice, turned around and went back inside the blankets to her bed. There was no mistaking the message. I knew instantly what those licks meant.  She was saying, "There, there, now. You're okay. Go back to sleep."

Tender mercies.

I guess Father sends them in lots of ways.

Today I'm thankful for all his creatures great and small. One dark night a very small one brought comfort to me.
















Saturday, August 9, 2014

Many Sheep Cross the Sky

*Note
      Two of the Lord's finest souls were called home this week. This post is                   dedicated to them.  
      Frank Greer, my boss and principal of the school where I taught for 12 years, known fondly as "Sarge" to me.  I can't think of him and not smile.
      And Chester Crandell, who taught my own children, and who's dear wife Alice       worked alongside me in my classroom. He later became a state senator and flags fly at half mast in his honor this week.
      
      May Father bless you both and keep those you love in his tender care.




“To gladden the eye and delight the heart of man.” That’s what the scriptures say. That’s why Heavenly Father’s creations are so beautiful. He made them that way on purpose just for us. How grateful I am for that love. The love that created beauty.

 Well, may we never pass by God’s creations without noticing how lovely they are.  And I hope He’s pleased to see the joy in our eyes.

Years ago, when our family first moved to the mountains from the city, we were suddenly surrounded by awesome natural scenery every day and night. It was impossible to ignore and often stopped us in our tracks. 

One day at lunch recess I remember standing on the grassy school playground where I was supposed to be watching kids. Instead I was turning in circles as I looked up into that impossibly bluest of blue skies.  Enormous, puffy, white clouds raced on the high winds. Clouds never looked like that or moved that fast in the city. I was fascinated by them.  
One of my students was standing nearby, a Navajo boy. He looked up intently at my face with a puzzled expression and said kindly,  “Many sheep cross the sky. It will rain soon.” I guess he thought I was looking for an explanation. 

Truly, living on the mountain, each day, each season, brought beauties….some that took your breath away.

Well, all good things must end, they say, and that dreaded day came after more than 12 years. Our nest emptied and our selfish children refused to give us any of the grandkids to keep in our little house in the big woods. They were all down in the nasty old city, our posterity were. We couldn’t talk them into letting us keep even one sticky little grandbaby or annoying teenager even though they had plenty. They were all lowlanders again, as the mountain folks called them. If we wanted to be near kids and grandkids we had to move.  A wrench in so many ways, it wasn't only the beauty around us but the mountain people we'd miss. Some of the finest folks on earth lived in this high country. 


Sadly we both found jobs and moved back.

We had grown so close to nature up here that I was sure that trading Ponderosa forests and mountain lakes for traffic jams and dust storms would be really hard. It was, but I was surprised at a lesson I learned.

We bought a tiny little “spec” house right at first. It was just a place for temporary shelter while we settled back after years of mountain life. School had already started and we'd look for something permanent later. The house was built for someone else who decided against it, but was ready for move-in right away. Both of us were adjusting to new jobs and the house had its good points…..the kids and grandkids were nearby, stores were right around the corner, (Not a 50 mile drive over sometimes snow covered, winding, mountain roads), and best of all every kind of restaurant my husband could think of could be found somewhere in the city. (That didn’t stop him from driving us 400 miles to another state for a burrito as big as your head because Sunset magazine had an article about one though.) Despite its good points there was a downside. The house was one of those “ticky, tacky boxes all in a row,” with the red tile roofs that sprawl all over the southwest. You have to count your way down the block to find where you live because every one’s the same, sort of thing. In this suburban neighborhood I certainly didn’t see any hope of finding any connection with the land or animals that had become such a big part of our lives in the woods. This was the city…… albeit the outskirts….. there’s no nature here, I thought.

Well, I was wrong. There is nature here….though a different, smaller kind. Sometimes you have to be very still to experience it, but it calms the soul, nevertheless.

For instance, a small yellow bird with green feathers shading its head comes every day to the palo verde tree just off the back patio. It hops among the green branches, lime colored leaves, and yellow flowers. A vine hangs down from the arbor that I had Guillermo build for me, dangling a purple flower right in the open doorway to the little library we made from the spare bedroom. We knocked out the windows and put a French door that opens onto a tiny courtyard we built there between the house and block wall. Hummingbirds never fail to stop to drink nectar from the blossoms while I sit next to the little fountain that Larry hung on the wall for me. The honeysuckle we planted just months ago now almost covers the whole thing. The tiny courtyard’s only 10 feet wide but is filled with old pots of bright fuscia bouganvillia and hearts and flowers spilling onto the brick pavers. The doors to the little library are usually wide open if the AC's not running.  One hummer even ventured inside once, standing still in mid-air…… pausing….. I think, to listen to the music we had playing while we sat on the loveseat next to the shelves filled with my books. Bees and butterflies flit to the potted Mexican lime tree that always has some blossoms no matter the season. Its little limes are the most flavorful I’ve ever tasted……the fresh, limey smell fills the kitchen whenever you slice one to put in your ice water. Two lizards visit daily, doing pushups on the wall…their blue bellies showing bright under their tan scales. I see them so often I’ve named them Lucky and Lucy though I’ve no idea of their gender. 


On restless nights when sleep doesn’t come easily I go and sit on the bench outside our bedroom, a soft breeze moving the leaves on the trees now as tall as the house after only a few months. In March that breeze brings the heady scent of orange and lemon blossoms which perfumes the air across the entire desert Valley. I look up to see a few familiar stars visible above. Even in the light of the city I can find the dippers and the North star. Orion is often there, too, guarding those below with his sword at the ready. Certainly not the clouds of stars we could see in the white swath of the Milky Way on moonless nights on the mountain, but somehow comforting, nevertheless. It turns out that we made a trade of sorts when we moved back to the desert……stars for sunsets it was. Sunsets are often spectacular here, of course. Reds, oranges, and purples paint the darkening western sky almost every night. We had to drive to the Rim overlook to see sunsets on the mountain. Too many huge ponderosa pines blocked the view. But whenever we returned home after being out after dark it was always someone’s job to run and turn off the porch light. Then we could all stand and stare up at the millions of stars so dense that they made a dusty white path across the black night sky. The Milky Way for sunsets…that was the trade.

There are other small pleasures here, too…….soft night breezes and the sounds and smells of freshly cut grass even in winter ….that sort of thing. 


So we stayed in the little “spec” house…… longer than we intended.....husband now saying, “It’s big enough for just us two and I don’t want to move furniture.” Now years have passed in this temporary, just until we get settled again place.

Even though we miss the spectacular beauties of the mountains I now believe it’s true what the old hymn says….“there is beauty all around.”

Wherever you are, look for it and be gladdened and delighted. I think it will make Heavenly Father happy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Alarm Clock of Youth

Why, oh why, must children remember the very things about their childhood that you wish them to forget? And why, oh why, don't they recall the many wonderful things, (I'm sure there must have been many), that are worth remembering?

My kids are all grown. One day, I was feeling uncharacteristically wistful about those long, lost days when they were newer.  I asked one who turned out well to tell me about a childhood memory.  I was looking for validation that I'd been a good mother, that I'd been a light in little childish lives.

Take my advice.  Don't do this. You may be sorry.

Dear daughter cheerfully replied that one of her most vivid memories as a young girl was being awakened every morning by the ringing sounds of pots and pans clanging together. This was coming from the kitchen. Then every so often,  after a particularly loud crash,  the shrill voice of her lovely mother would cry out in exasperation,  "Damnation!"

She doesn't recall that I was all alone out there, in the dawn's early light,  making breakfast and packing lunches for the rest of the still sleeping members of the family.  No, of course not.   All this before I had to get ready for work too.  Never mind that I wasn't cussing AT anybody for Pete's sake!  Plus, I didn't think anyone was listening, but that doesn't matter either.  She just remembers what she calls, "The alarm clock of my youth."  5:00 AM she said.  It never failed.  For years she awoke to the sound of pots and pans crashing loudly and "Damnation!" ringing out from the kitchen of our "little house in the big woods."  Now whenever she hears "Damnation!" she thinks of me.  Great.  Happy mother's day.

After this distressing little tale I asked her to tell about something nice.  A beautiful memory.  Something precious that we'd shared as mother and daughter.

She thought hard and said with a bright smile, "Nothing comes to mind off the top of my head."

If you still have kids at home think about this.  Let it be a lesson to you.  Children have very selective memories and good hearing.  And regret has a bitter taste in old age.

Watch yourself.

Monday, July 7, 2014

What Goes Around Keeps Coming Around


Since I retired from teaching three years ago I've given up on keeping up.
With local and national news broadcasts that is.
I used to watch every night.  You know....mindless, habitual viewing.....6:00 news with dinner, 10:00 news before bed.  But now that I've had time to think about it, I decided that as far as knowing what's going on, ignorance can indeed be bliss.

This began when I really paid attention to what was being put out there. It was negative, biased, incorrect, and usually depressing.  Almost always.  What's more, nearly all of it was outside my area of influence. There was never a thing I could do to help those poor souls involved in the latest shooting or drug bust, but still my stomach churned and my heart ached for the victims.  The despair never made my life any better. And "knowing the news" never helped me to be a more effective person either.  In fact, I began to look suspiciously on more of my neighbors than deserved it.  And to make unkind judgments on whole categories of people like media folks.  I'm sure some of them must mean well.

So now I pray hard and help whomever I can around me. And then I donate to organizations who may be able to make a difference to the rest. When being informed in order to be a good citizen seems important, I find other sources.
It was truly amazing how much peace came into my life with this one simple, "No news is good news" change. The sun rose a little brighter.  A positive viewpoint was easier to find.  It actually reduced the number of little pills I had to swallow for stomach and blood pressure problems!

In any case it seems like there's nothing ever really new anyway. The same old issues just keep coming around again and again. It makes me feel like we're not learning from our mistakes, which is depressing in itself, and one of the biggest mistakes of all.

Now my daughters tell me that an old issue is making headlines again involving the church.  It's about women and the priesthood.  I remember when this was part of the news cycle decades ago, back when I was a young woman new to the gospel. It concerned me then because, as a Mormon, I was being taught that God is perfectly just. I learned that we may not be able to see it now, but one day we'll all say,  "Father was fair with me."  It was distressing to hear that some felt the church to be discriminatory.  I needed to know.  So I read church teachings about this very thing.  I studied scriptures. What's more I tried to live the life of a Latter Day Saint woman. Somebody said that was the real test of the truth.

One day when I was trying to live that life something happened. I was asked to substitute in a Sunday school class. It was for kids around 9 years old and called "Valiants" I think. Ordinarily I'd try to get out of this kind of thing but as I said I was trying to walk the LDS walk to "see for myself" as suggested. So I said yes. Some frantic sister with sick kids dropped off a manual and gave me the lesson number. Late Saturday night I finally opened it to see what I was supposed to try to teach a bunch of rowdy 9 year olds in the morning.  I've remembered that lesson for decades now.
It was about what you can know for sure when you see any human being on earth. No matter what the circumstances you can know this is true. I remember three main points.

First, everybody you see is a child of God. The literal offspring of deity. (Think about that for a long time before going on to the next thing. It's deep.)

Second, since they're here on earth, everybody you see chose the Lord's plan once. In the pre-existence they voted with Father. So, no matter what they're doing now they chose right then. Too, since these are the last days and many valiant spirits have been saved for this time because of the great need, it's possible that they may be one of them.

Last, we know what Father said in the scriptures,   "Thou shall not esteem one flesh above another."
Not "All men are created equal." No mention of male/female, rich/poor, black/ white, broken/whole or any other categories.  Just flesh.  And esteem.

So.
This is what Mormons are teaching their children. All the little LDS kids around the world were being taught this same lesson. Not just word of mouth either, but published right there in all the manuals printed in every language.  Many of them would go home to families and be asked, "What did you learn in church today? Then a bunch of nine year olds would share eternal truths all over the world. Millions of people being taught these things in every country and culture.
So.

But what about those sisters in the news, the ones upset because only men were given the priesthood in the church? If Father loves all flesh equally can this be fair?

Then something else happened to me personally that I believe was a heaven sent blessing and message.  It was a sacred experience and I share it only in the hope that it may help someone else. It's not part of church teachings.

I had a baby.
And while giving birth I had a special experience. Though I've had several children, this only happened one time.
Right in the middle of the last stages of labor my thought processes turned to eternal things.  I seemed to be an observer of what was going on around me. I remember thinking and feeling,   "There's another person, not just a baby, but a person with a sacred past and a future,  who is coming THROUGH  ME,  right at this moment.  Someone is using my body to come to earth."  I began to think of how special the physical connections of childbirth were.  A bond between mother, child and God.  A special blessing reserved only for women.  A sacred experience that men cannot share. Suddenly I was sorry for my husband who could never feel what I was feeling!   Yes, while in labor I felt sorry for men!  They were missing out on one of life's greatest gifts. Then the pain came back and my attention was directed elsewhere.
That was all. That was the experience. Strange for sure.
I didn't know it then but that was only half of it.

Sometime later I was witness to a priesthood blessing, certainly not unusual and something I'd done before. I believe a little child was sick and was receiving a blessing of healing. As the men with the Holy Priesthood placed their hands on the girl's head I glanced up.
Then the oddest thing happened. Thoughts came rushing back to me from the delivery room!
There it is! I thought. Those men are putting their hands on a child's head and physically blessing her to be healed. Surely one of life's greatest gifts! Something reserved only for men. The laying on of hands. A sacred bond between them, the girl, and God. Blessings of comfort, courage, healing, and sometimes miracles given by Father's faithful sons.

So I needn't have felt sorry for my brothers. I knew then in my heart and soul that Father is indeed perfectly fair to his children.

Just a note about a related subject.
Once I heard somebody say that LDS women are discriminated against by LDS men generally and not allowed to reach their full potential.
After I quit laughing I'll give them some input.
I advise them to walk the walk of a Mormon woman and see.
I have three daughters and eight granddaughters, all walking the walk.  I asked some of them about this very thing and this is what I found.
Never,  never,  never,  have any of them, ever, been encouraged to be anything less than their best selves. In fact, most often we are admonished to be better than we think we can possibly be. We are vigorously taught to develop all of our God given talents. We are exhorted to become as highly educated as our circumstances will allow. If formal education isn't possible then we're urged to study on our own, by candlelight if that's all there is!  We are counseled that we must read and learn "from the best books," in every subject. We are to be knowledgeable, accomplished, and to use our talents in every way to help make our homes and the world a better place.
I even remember one Relief Society lesson where the point was made that some of our talents may be hidden. We were advised to be diligent, discover them, magnify them along with the ones we knew about already, and then get busy using them to bless the lives of others!  In addition, all the while we're doing this we're to seek after everything that is beautiful, lovely and of good report.
Victims of discrimination? Not allowed to become all we wish to become? Truth be told, some of the females in my family suggested that they could use a little rest from trying to reach their full potentials. Many times, I too have longed for a nap, but instead have been out there trying to develop something.

All the women in my family can testify of the truth of what I say. I know they can because they're all tired.  Indeed all Mormons are taught from the cradle to reach for everything that they may become. And when that reach pulls a hamstring they're instructed in first aid so they'll soon be well and back at it!












Thursday, June 19, 2014

Sex, sex, and more sex

Sex seems to be everywhere these days. Sometimes in the strangest
places too.
I'm old now so I've finally figured out some important things about this popular topic.  I thought I'd share because one thing I know for sure is that there's a whole lot of people out there who are doing it wrong.  Another thing is that sooner or later they'll figure this out too and then they'll be sorry.
How do I know they'll be sorry?
Because you can't sin against truth and be happy that's why.  Every person on earth is born with the light of Christ and knows deep in their hearts when something is wrong. You simply can't do sex wrong and not know it. No matter what people may say, they know. No matter how much money they make or how popular they are, if they're doing sex wrong they know it.
I noticed this among my high school students. (You can read more about this knowing thing in an earlier post called, "Pornography is a Lie." It's about a test I once gave to a bunch of teens who regularly viewed porn.)
Anyway, generally my students who were messing around with unwise substances like drugs or alcohol were often troubled and unhappy. But I noticed that those who got involved with casual sex were more than just that. Sometimes they ended up feeling so deep down worthless that life seemed to them not even worth living. Why? What made being wrong about sex so much more damaging? Well, maybe it's because of the sacred nature of sexual relations itself. Of all the aspects of being human, the truth about this one really needs to be lived if a person wants a chance at true happiness.

So what are some truths about sex that we know.

First of all,  men and women are not the same. This might seem obvious but a lot of folks out there don't get this very basic concept. Turns out the sexes are different not only physically but in their very natures. I'm okay with this since Heavenly Father has said, "Thou shall not esteem one flesh above another." He loves both his male and female children. They're different but equally valued. Simple as this sounds, believe it or not, these are radical ideas in many cultures.
I understand these truths about sex and yet I'm still surprised at how often I'm surprised. It makes no sense, I know, but my husband's view of the world is very often SO not mine. I used to think he was just plain wrong. "How could he possibly think that? What in the world is wrong with him," I often wondered, sometimes loudly. But now I know that he's not wrong so much as he's just "Male," with a capital "M."  He sees things as blue.   I see them as yellow.  But sometimes something happens when we see things together. By some strange and mysterious power the world becomes green! Then we have a case of the sum of the two becoming more than the sum of the parts.  Somehow one and one makes three! That's part of why a marriage needs to be between a male and a female I think. Perhaps it has less to do with sex and more to do with gender and its accompanying nature and point of view. You can only get green by mixing blue and yellow. Two blues just make more blue, two yellows and there's still only yellow. Without both sexes involved in the process, instead of one and one makes three, you have one and one makes one.
It takes a male and a female to equal more than the math would seem possible.

Now about the sex itself. What are some truths about that?
Well, sex is a gift from God to his children who are married.  It's a great gift too. One that should be used as often as possible and appropriate for maximum happiness. Some of life's greatest blessings come to people through it's use. Becoming "one" with another human being isn't possible in any other way. This doesn't mean only physically either. When husbands and wives feel safe and brave enough to share what's most tender and vulnerable about themselves, their very souls can touch. That doesn't happen with meaningless physical encounters. And when Heavenly Father gets involved, children and grandchildren come into your life. Sex becomes a sacred light with power to light other lights. One of life's greatest blessings for sure.
There's another aspect of sex that doesn't seem to be common knowledge.  It's a critical element missing from every kind of casual sex.  What so many don't know is that to be done properly every single act of sex must be accompanied by a "tie that binds."   A small, silver thread that goes around a man and a woman and holds them together afterwards.  The sex itself might involve tenderness or hilarity, grand passion or therapy, recreation or routine. It doesn't really matter. That thread must be there.  Even those, "You better make it quick, Mister, the kids will be home soon," count. Those threads, combined with all the others that come with sharing a life with someone, hold a man and woman together more surely than a single rope ever could.
All those people out there ignoring that little silver thread that binds do so at great peril to their happiness. Father intended sex to be a source of joy to his beloved children. When the bond is missing it can become the opposite. Instead of joy, those who steal the gift from Father find shame and bitter regret. I believe the scriptures say something about, "Will a man rob God?"  Well, money's not all that can be stolen. Universal truth applies here, perhaps more than in any other area of life.

I remember one of my daughters telling me of a teaching moment she had with one of her troubled high school students. He was really struggling with these issues and had asked her advice. She thought a long time about it and then told him simply, "You can't do wrong and feel right." She could tell by the look on his face that his conscience had just convicted him. He knew the truth.

For sure no place in life does truth apply more surely than it does with sex. You simply can't do sex wrong and feel right.

So.  Many sincere and heartfelt thanks for that most wonderful wedding gift from Father. May we understand it's truth and always live it. May we be blessed with great joy when we do.






Saturday, May 3, 2014

Sins of the Mother



I don't trust technology.  Many of you know that about me already.
In fact, when I was still teaching, I actually had the reputation of being the woman most likely to have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Especially where computers are concerned.  I still maintain that my No. 2 pencil never once got sick with a virus or crashed and burned, rendering everyone around it helpless and stupid!  However, some technology has turned out to soften even a reluctant geezer like me. Resist as I may I must admit that the DVR has made it possible for some amazing things.  For one I actually OWN copies of Disney animated films!  Imagine, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty right there on my bookshelf next to Mark Twain's masterpieces!  And now I can study the talks of the prophet and the apostles in a way not possible before. Those good old record, pause, and "Play it again Sam" features mean that I don't miss a word or musical note of General Conference. I can even go over and over those messages that I'm sure were meant just for me. You know the ones. The ones where Heavenly Father is trying to tell "just you" something. Sadly, in my case they always seem to be a call to repentance.
    Well, conference was held recently.   It was amazing as usual.  And by this time I've lived in the light long enough to know that without a doubt conference topics are what's been on Father's mind. I no longer question whether the things being asked are too simple to really make a difference. This is what Father wants His children to work on. And our lives and even the world can change for the better if we do. Even if He just asks us to be kind, especially in our own homes, or to have hope.
Just think for a minute what it would mean if every soul on earth were kind and had learned it at home.  What could that do?
Well, all sorts of wars, big and little, in houses and countries, would stop I think. And what if everyone alive knew that an apostle of Christ had said that the challenges they face were the very things that were making it possible for them to grow and move forward?  What if those who struggle with heavy burdens knew that it was the "load" that would make the difference?  Would life change for them if they understood that they'd been blessed by adversity and not cursed by it?
Hope lifts. Would that help them bear up under what was theirs to carry?

So, after numerous replays, I've learned, among other things, that I'm supposed to work on being kind to the people in my own home. This was one of the messages meant just for me. No cross words to be spoken to anyone living in my house. (How about mildly impatient and annoyed? Is that unkind? Exasperated and at wit's end?  I'm thinking about that. Give me a minute.) Sounds easy enough, right? You wouldn't think it would be that hard. Being kind. I mean after all I do love them more than life itself. It's just that they can be so difficult! Unreasonable even. And they relentlessly persist in doing the stuff that they do.

My oldest daughter Kimberly, parent of 7, four of them currently teenagers, came over the day after this last conference in despair over her own mothering skills and the kindness issue. Apparently she'd been called to repentance over this very same thing.  I told her not to worry, that those messages were meant for me, but she was convinced they were for her. She's so often unreasonable. It's a trait left over from her childhood which I remember vividly. Anyway, it seems she had wanted to strike her 15 year old daughter after a particularly difficult Sacrament meeting which ended with said teenager, certainly old enough to know better, punching her little sister hard in the stomach for no apparent reason. Kim knew it wasn't right to want to smack someone you love, but nevertheless, there you are. Smacking was in her heart and what she wanted to do most at the time. Helpfully I told her how wrong that was and that she really needed to work on kindness and patience because smacking is never the answer. All the while my mind was drifting back to the time when I was still trying to be kind and patient with my own kids.
I remembered the usual enlightened disciplinary technique I used with our son. It involved chasing him around with a wooden spoon in my raised hand, ready to beat him with it should I ever be quick enough to catch him. Because occasionally I did, (this was a long time ago remember) when he grew a bit older and wiser, he would stop running abruptly, turn around, grab the spoon, break it in half, hand it back to me and continue running. I realized I needed a better way when one day while I was trying to make spaghetti sauce there wasn't a wooden spoon in sight. Next time he needed correcting I reached for the broom instead, which afforded a longer reach anyway. As usual he turned around in the middle of our little race, grabbed the broom to break it until I yelled frantically, "Don't!! That's a new one!" He handed it back politely and kept running. This worked well for years. With Kimberly I believe throwing a shoe was the usual loving disciplinary method of choice. But she was quick and my aim poor. So I don't know where Kim gets her impulse to smack a wayward child.
Strange that I don't remember wanting to chase and beat our two youngest. They came along later. Perhaps they were better children.  Or perhaps I'd learned something by then.  Or perhaps I was just tired.   It's something to think about.
I don't recall ever throwing shoes at them either. And I have noticed that they both are unusually peaceful people. I'd better think about that too, I suppose.

So.  I'm supposed to be kinder.  No harsh words.  Especially to my own family who so often seem to deserve some. Even when they're who they are, doing what they always do. I'm required to be kind to them even then. Somehow this will help make the universe a better place.
Okay.
So, what if everyone on this planet walked out their door after experiencing only kindness in their own homes? Kindness from every single person under that roof. What if they learned it from the cradle? How far would that go?  Would it change the world?
I'm thinking about it. You think about it too.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Don't ever say, "It's not my fault" to Mz Dub!



As a retired teacher I have hundreds of young faces in my creaky, old memory banks. Even so, all of my students were special to me, at every age, every school and classroom.  But some I remember more vividly than others. Many of my high school kids were from middle class homes, some even affluent, but our attendance area also pulled from one of the oldest barrios in the southwest. Some of these students came from circumstances that presented them with extraordinary challenges. Many lived in the projects, had gang backgrounds, and parents or siblings in prison. I was often struck by how ignorant these particular young people were of the basic principles involved in how to live a happy life. They just could not connect the dots to some really basic pictures.  Simple stuff like drug use will cause trouble of some kind sooner or later.  Or stealing isn't a good idea even if you really need something and think you can get away with it. Or alcohol and gasoline don't mix.  Alcohol and sex don't either. Or hard work and income are related.  Or prison probably isn't a place you'd like to spend your 20's and breaking even the laws you think are stupid can result in prison time. Also carrying a gun for whatever reason is asking for trouble. That sort of thing.

Since my class was called "Lifeskills" we touched on all these and many more similar subjects. I remember struggling to find some way of teaching basic "happiness" concepts. Once I made a poster and hung it up in a prominent place after one of my kids spent his entireThanksgiving vacation in jail where he was miserable and scared every minute. Nevertheless he came back swearing it wasn't his fault, the other dude made him mad, and he was going to "get that **** who was really to blame!" Scary thinking, huh? The poster was titled,

                         A HUNDRED THINGS YOU WON'T FIND IN JAIL

The list included  "Your dog,  girlfriend,  and car.  Your kind of loud music, fishing,  Christmas trees,  the remote,  taking a bath,  Big Mac's, weekends,  your Nana's birthday cake, your cell phone,  walking over to your best friend's house at midnight,  raiding the refrigerator,  cool shoes, etc. etc.
When the incarcerated student returned to class he looked at the poster thoughtfully and commented, "Mz Dub, the first day I went to Durango I called the guard to ask for mustard for my sandwich. Everybody in the cells all up and down the hall started laughing. Put mustard on the list Mz Dub."  I did.

I couldn't post or teach the ten commandments but I do remember a unit of study I devised based on the Boy Scout laws. I'm serious. We talked about the "old fashioned virtues" versus modern ideas of right and wrong.  At first my kids rolled their eyes and made comments about how I couldn't really be serious and how unbelievable, even for me, this whole idea was, and "You are really, really OLD, Mz Dub!" etc.
They started to quiet down a little bit though when we made side by side comparisons on one of my trusty little charts.

                                  THE OLD FASHIONED VIRTUES

What Kind of Life Does a Person Have Who Is.........

HONEST                                              A LIAR AND A CHEAT

KIND                                                     CRUEL

THRIFTY                                              DEEP IN DEPT

CLEAN                                                  FILTHY

SOBER                                                  WASTED OR STONED

REVERENT                                           DISRESPECTFUL

LOYAL                                                  BACK STABBING

HARDWORKING                                 LAZY

HELPFUL                                              WON'T LIFT A FINGER

ETC.                                                       ETC.  


"Well. Let's start with just a couple of these I said.  What kind of life does someone have who cheats on their spouse and lies to their kids?  What does the home of a person who's filthy and lazy look like? How long does somebody keep a job if they're wasted or stoned half the time?  What kind of car or house does somebody own if they spend every dime they make and never save? How many friends does a person make if they're cruel, disrespectful, and won't lift a finger to help anybody?   How happy can somebody be who's a lying, mean, broke, selfish, lazy, back stabbing drunk?

They were thinking now. I could see it.  Yippee!
I knew it was the "Light of Christ" born in each of them, helping them to know truth from error, that was making them pause. I was so very grateful for it with these kids. I couldn't tell them what it was but I counted heavily on it and was blessed often.
I made the point that the closer someone lives to those "old fashioned, geeky virtues," the better chance they have of living a happy life.  They groaned.  But thoughtfully.

Sometimes, though, my attempts to make them see the light came back to bite me. One day we were focusing on "Helpful".  I made the bold statement that this one was so important that it was impossible to be happy if you didn't lend a hand regularly somewhere in this world. We had a great lesson on it and I assigned each student to do meaningful service for someone they knew and then give an oral report to the class. It was to count as the unit's final test. I was hopeful that my kids would get a glimpse of the joy of service.
We were in the process of hearing the reports when I called on a freshman girl who was obviously excited to tell us about her project. Her file listed her as FAS, which was sadly common in Special Ed.  FAS being fetal alcohol syndrome, a lifelong challenge she would face due to her mother's alcohol use during pregnancy.
She stood to give her report. She began by saying that she remembered our recent study of drinking and driving. We were NEVER, EVER! to drink and drive and there was no excuse for ever letting someone else we knew do it either.
Well, over the weekend her mom got wasted again and was going to drive over to her aunt's apartment. She tried to talk her out of it but she couldn't. "Finally," she said proudly,  "I  just grabbed the keys and drove her over there myself! So my service was to keep a drunk driver off the road." She beamed proudly at the class.
I stood with my mouth open for a while, not knowing what to say. This girl was barely 14, without a license of course, and probably had never been behind the wheel before! Horrible images of what could have happened flashed before my eyes and a prayer of thanks that they didn't went straight to Father. I sat down and we began a long discussion that included praise for the intent but cautions about breaking the law and options for other solutions to her problem.

Then one day I had an epiphany of sorts. (We call these "apostrophes" at our house in honor of Mr. Smee's comment to Captain Hook in the movie Peter Pan)  It started when a student gave that same old excuse that I heard from so many of my kids,

                                        "MZ Dub, it wasn't my fault!"

It hit me then. This was one of the things at the core of the whole "happiness rules" problem! How many times had I heard students whine this same tune?  "It wasn't my fault!" "I couldn't help it," "It was the boy I was with!" "They talked me into it!" "They made me mad!"
Once a girl actually told me that it wasn't her fault that she got pregnant because she was drunk at the time! A boy sporting an electronic ankle bracelet courtesy of the Department of Corrections told me that it was his friend who was to blame because he was only holding the knife for him.
This was at the heart of it, I was sure. This believing that you're a victim of outside forces, that you're not in control of you're own destiny thing. This was one of the most common threads in the lives of those kids who didn't have a clue of what it takes to live a happy life.
So I began a campaign. A "Personal Responsibility, You Are the Captain of Your Own Soul" crusade.
It began that very day when my 7th period class (all boys) got into a discussion about how deceitful and horrid women can be. This was led by a young man who had just been dumped by his new girlfriend. "Explain that! Mz Dub! How's that my fault? Women just stink that's all!  (Apparently I was not considered a  real woman. Too old I guess)  "My mom was the first and worst, he went on bitterly. She's a drunk who left me and my dad and ran off to Vegas with our neighbor when I was only 2 weeks old! How's that my fault..... or my dad's?"
I looked up quickly and saw pain in his eyes.
"I'm truly sorry that happened to you, Jeff. That's really hard to deal with. And I agree that it certainly wasn't your fault. How do you feel about the situation?"
" Women are rotten. They can't be trusted," he replied.
"That attitude's going to make it hard for you to build a happy marriage don't you think?"
"I'll just be like my dad, I guess. He's been divorced 3 times."
"I see. Is he happy then?"
"No. He's a drunk."
"Jeff, I said that your mom's leaving wasn't your fault. But I didn't say that about your dad."
" What? How could that be his fault? He's not the one who ran off!"
"Well, I don't know. How did your mom and dad meet"
"They met in a bar that my dad and his buddies liked to hang out in I think. They played pool there. She was my dad's friend's girlfriend."
I couldn't believe it was going to be this easy. "So," I said thoughtfully,  "She left the guy she was with in the bar and ran off with your dad?"
"Yeah. So What?  They were both 21."
"Jeff, think.  Your father met a girl in a bar where she hung out with her boyfriend.  He knew what kind of person she was when he married her. He knew she hung out in bars and that she wasn't loyal to the guy she was with. It seems to me that the real trouble started with him. He made a poor choice."
The other guys chimed in that it's hard to know much that's really important about people before you get involved and then it's too late.
I said, "Okay, can you know ANYTHING at all about a person just by where you meet them?"
"Not really,"  was the general consensus.
"You may be right but maybe you have at least a little information,"  I said. "For instance, if you meet somebody at work what do you know? You know they work.
If you meet somebody at school you know they go to school.
If you meet them at church you know they go to church.
What if you meet them on a bar stool? or at a wild party? or smoking pot with friends behind the bleachers? What do you know? Anything important?  Does she know anything important about you?
Think hard about this guys. And Jeff, think hard about when the trouble first started with your mom leaving your family. Did your dad have any responsibility because he chose to marry her?"
It was about this time that I posted one of my all-time favorite door quotes permanently on the wall. I'd run across it in a Steven Covey book. I don't know who wrote it.
                                   
                            "Between stimulus and response there is a space.
                                In that space lies our opportunity to choose.
                                     In the choice lies our destiny."
                                     
My position was that there is almost always a choice. We are not helpless victims but masters of our fates. I also pointed out that the right choice wouldn't always be the easiest one. In fact it might even be the hardest.

After a while the, "Never Say It's Not My Fault In Mrs. Wagher's Class" got to be a "thing."
Nobody could say it without getting the business from all the other kids.
I loved it.
And I'll never forget the senior who came to say goodbye after graduation. He hollered over his shoulder, "I know, I know,  Mz Dub.  I probably won't find Miss Right if I only look on bar stools!"
















Monday, February 24, 2014

Gifted





As a special ed teacher I served a great many students identified as "Learning Disabled or LD."
Most of the time my biggest job with these high school kids was convincing them of the truth.  Years of school had them believing a lie.
The truth is that every single student I ever taught was gifted.
Another truth is that LD should stand for "Learns Differently." There's no disability about it. Just challenges.
For some people sitting and listening to lectures works, others need a different approach to learning. Personally I can read anything. But I can't learn to do a thing on the computer unless someone stands behind me and tells me every key to push and then watches while I do it myself a few times. Even then I sometimes need directions taped to the wall. My students used to get so exasperated with me that I'd have to pay them to show me one more time. Cheat sheets cost me $3!  I wouldn't pay unless I could do it perfectly from their directions though. They had to watch and wait, usually with foot tapping and eyes rolling.  They all knew "computer" from infancy it seemed. Turns out that its a very important life skill nowadays by the way. But 10 or 12 years in classrooms where reading and math were most important, and usually taught with heavy emphasis on good auditory skills, convinced these ''learns differently" students that somehow they weren't as smart as the other kids.  That's just not true!

I'll never forget a conference I was having with Hector, a senior boy, and a wonderful kid. We were going over his schedule, credits, grades etc., getting ready for a meeting with teachers and parents. This young man was bright and talented in so many ways but as we looked at the computer screen together he kept saying, "I've never been any good in English." " Mz Dub, I've never been any good in math." Again and again. Subject after subject.  After a while I knew that what he really meant was,  "I've never been any good." It broke my heart.
This is what he believed after years in classrooms.
Well, it made me furious! Finally I shouted, "Hector! Dagnabbit! What in tarnation are you talking about! Just this week at least three kids have come by this classroom looking for you after school because they couldn't get their cars started!  "Mz Dub," they whined, "I need Hector, have you seen him? My car won't run and he's the only one who knows how to fix it." 
"Mz Dub, I need Hector to fix my motorcycle."
"Mz Dub, my dad wants to see Hector about his fuel injectors. Have you seen him?"
Hector's also a star tackle on the varsity football team and has so many friends of every kind and color you could never count them.
I went on.
"And let me tell you about just a few of the other things that I've noticed that you're really, really, GOOD at.  For one thing you're open, friendly and comfortable with all kinds of people. Girls, boys, teachers, black, white, brown, it doesn't matter. Everybody likes you. I once asked you, a big-deal senior, to escort one of our new and scared little freshman to class on his first day. Some of the other football players caught up with you like they always do and Mr. Davis later told me that you stuck your head in his classroom and said, "Hey, Mr. D., this is my friend Raul. He's new. Thanks for taking care of him." Mr. Davis said that new and very scared boy immediately had a roomful of kids who wanted to eat lunch with him!  
Hector!!! Do you know what that kind of people skill is worth? Don't you know how far you could go in life with it? Do you know where it could take you professionally as well as personally? That kind of people instinct is priceless!
And about that car thing. A lot of people think you're a genius with an engine, Hector.  Do you know how many engines there are in this world? Do you know where your skill with them can lead? It can take you to a place where you can hire a secretary to do all your writing and an accountant to do your math for one thing!
So, Hector, this is what we're going to do. We're going to get through the English and math requirements using every backdoor we can find so you can graduate from high school. Then you're going to take every class you can that addresses your considerable talents.  Auto mechanics,  business and free enterprise, (for when you open your own), and marriage and parenting, (the most important job in your future).  Then you're going over to see the auto program sponsored by General Motors and Ford at the local community college and see what it takes to get in there.   An LD student I once had just called to tell me he's a factory certified Ford mechanic now, working at a dealership for just a short time, and making over $ 90,000.00 a year!
Hector, I'm really good at reading and taking tests,  I've worked hard and paid for a college education and beyond, I have well over 25 years experience teaching and I don't even come close to making that much, and never will! Now money isn't everything to be sure, but don't tell me that young man has a disability, please!
Hector and I finished our conference, he went back to his seat and I called Lettie up to work on her file.
"Leticia, what are you really good at?" I started.
"Mz Dub, I'm not really good at anything," she said.
"Yes you are, Lettie.  Please don't make me angry,"  I replied, "Think harder."
Finally she said, "Well I bake stuff for my family's birthdays and things. They all come to me for my special cakes. I can't think of anything else."
"That's a wonderful start!   Ever hear of Mrs. Fields or Famous Amos, Lettie?"

What is it that the scriptures say?
To each is given a talent.  To some one and to others another. That all may profit thereby, I think it goes.
Notice that "a few" are not given a talent.  It says EACH.  That must mean that every single person has something of value to offer. Something unique. Given by Father. So we all can benefit from each others gifts.

There is this thing about "talents" though.
The truth is that talents don't usually come fully developed. Most are like seeds. They may take years of digging, watering, and weeding before the fruit's ready to eat. Sometimes it gets mighty uncomfortable while you're out there digging too. You can't quit before the harvest. Or believe that just because your talent needs work means it's not valuable. I know that Hector had been fixing engines with his grandpa and dad since he was a little boy of 5, and naming and handing tools under the car before that.
Make no mistake.  God has spoken.  You have something valuable to give.  It can bless your life and the lives of many others.
Don't ever believe that you're no good. You're good in such a way that all of the rest of us need what you have to offer. Find out what it is and get digging.






















Sunday, January 26, 2014

MY BULB LIT!

The other day I wanted to give up.
I was trying to do something and it was too hard.
I'm not usually a quitter but lately throwing in the towel seems more and more like the only sensible thing to do. Then I remembered a student I once had,  many years ago,  whose "bulb lit."

I was teaching in a middle school classroom. We were working on some science concepts that one boy found really challenging. He raised his hand and said in frustration,  "Mrs. Wagher, I've read the pages in our book,  I've listened to you explain it,  I even asked my dad for help and I still don't get it and I never will!

I took a long breath and looked at him menacingly.

"Now you've done it!  I said in a loud and dramatic voice.   Now you've really gone and done it!"  Now the whole class has to get out of their study groups and get in their seats to listen to my high school chemistry story and the Kelley driving story."

Groans all around.  Muttered threats of retaliation directed to the boy.  I ignored them and proceeded.

"Back in the day, I was the smartest kid in my high school chemistry class," I began.  "Everybody knew it too.  I always had the answer.  But one week we were working on something that I just couldn't figure out for the life of me. I'd read the chapter, listened to the lecture,  and carefully studied the drawings on the board. Nothing. Everybody else understood it but me!  The kids who got "F"s were trying to help me.  The teacher left the critical diagrams on the board so he could see if I could explain them at the end of each class. Nothing worked.  Finally he said that I was to re-read the chapter, thinking hard all the while, every single night until I got it. Great.
Well, I did re-read and think hard, three times as a matter of fact. And that chapter was long and complicated too. I still didn't get it. Chemistry was like a millstone around my neck!
On the morning of the third try I walked into class ready for failure and humiliation again. I looked at the board, my teacher caught my eye and said, "Okay, Kathy, think and go for it."
I looked at the dreaded drawings.
But, Amazing Grace, I didn't have to think at all!
Some sort of magic switch flipped in my head, the light came on, and I understood!!!  I stopped every kid as they came in the door to explain it in detail before they got to their seat. One girl pinched me hard as she passed by.
In any case, class, my point being that you just have to think, and think, read and re-read until the light comes on. You can't give up just because it's hard."

Then there's the Kelley learning to drive story.

Larry taught our other kids, but somehow I was the one teaching the youngest to drive. Not exactly one of the most sought after parenting jobs, I can tell you.
Kelley was weird about it anyway. She was well over the age to have a driver's license but refused to learn.  She said she was way too busy to mess with it. Granted she was involved in a lot of activities at school and now even had a job at the bank in town. (All of which were 17 miles away from home up Highway 260, sometimes in snow and ice by the way.) Nevertheless to being busy, we were sick of dragging her wherever she needed to go at all hours of the day and night. So we put our feet down.
She was made to take the wheel whenever she and I drove anywhere, mostly on said highway, to and from town and school.
I carefully explained all the basics of driver's ed and off we went.
It was terrifying! The child was white knuckled all the way and you could tell she was barely in control of the car at all. Since the speed limit was 65 miles an hour I was white knuckled too. This went on for weeks.
I could not believe this! Here was an unusually bright kid who had never failed at anything she tried! She just couldn't get it! Why? What was wrong with her?  Could it possibly be her teacher?
I was going to be the parent of the only child living in the American southwest, land of multi-lane freeways and at least one automobile for every adult, who couldn't drive a car! There was no reliable public transportation in the desert. Or the mountains! For Pete's sake, this wasn't New York! She'll be handicapped all her life! People will blame her mother! Why?! Why?! Why?!
I looked up at her face in despair. I noticed her eyes looking over at the side of the road. All the time. Going 65. Eyes at the side.
"What are you looking at?" I almost yelled.
"I'm looking at the white line at the side,"  she said. "You told me to keep the car on this side of that line."
"What!   Yeah, keep the car on this side of the line but LOOK up the road!    Far up the road!   Don't look at the side!   Look at the top of that hill coming up!"
She did.
She drove a few hundred feet.
The white knuckles relaxed. The car came under control. She glanced over at me and said, "Why didn't you tell me this before!?"

A simple thing. She was looking at it wrong. A minor change and the light came on.

So students, let this be a lesson to you. Don't give up! Sometimes, after a lot of work and frustration the light will come on and you'll get it."

A few days later something happened that I'll always treasure as a teacher.
The class was quietly working on science.  Suddenly a chair toppled over loudly as my "challenged" student jumped up excitedly from his work.
"Mrs. Wagher!  Mrs. Wagher!  he shouted excitedly,  My bulb lit!!!"

Indeed.
What is it that the scriptures say?  Something about not being weary in well doing I think. That's good advice.  You never know how hard you may have to try before you get it.
Remember. Be not weary. Don't give up. Your bulb will light too.

   










Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What If?

This is for lovely Sarah who's out there trying to change the world.


Young people are full of it.

The sure sense that they can change the world, that is.
I was the same.  As a teenager, like so many other young people,  I too dreamed of changing the world. I even sent away for information on the Peace Corps with plans of joining someday.  Mankind would be better off because I was part of it, I just knew!  I was going to trudge off to Africa to build water treatment plants to help my brothers and sisters living in remote villages, or to bring medicine to sick babies living in places where there were no doctors.

Well, life got in the way of the plans, as it so often does.  Africa would have to be a better place because of somebody else. I'd have to do the best I could from where I was.

( Isn't it strange that your own family or your next door neighbor doesn't seem to count as your "fellow man?" I could have helped them all I wanted but somehow it just wasn't the same. I wonder why?)


Coincidentally, just out of my teens, married and with two children, missionaries knocked on our door and brought us eternal truths.


Flash forward.


The latest General Conference was amazing, as usual.
Isn't it wonderful that Heavenly Father inspires those who speak at Conference?  As a "raggedy old convert" I've sometimes had trouble figuring that out. Usually it's because I just can't believe that God keeps reminding his children to do things that are so simple. After all, the world's in such a terrible mess and getting worse by the day! Turmoil, much of it caused by our own hands, afflicts nations and individuals alike. Not even the innocent can escape from the fallout. It's painful even to watch the nightly news! With this much suffering can simple things really make a difference?

Could they even save the world? It doesn't seem possible.

We really need some advice from our Father right about now, don't you think? We're hanging on by a thread down here! What should we do? Tell us please!


Conference began. I listened intently.

I  expected any message from Father to be earthshaking at the very least.  Lightening and thunder or a burning bush should accompany it.
With this on my mind I recall several of those inspired speakers this conference asking members of the Lord's church to renew their missionary efforts.

That's one of Father's messages?  Be a better missionary?

With all the trouble the world's in we're supposed to reach out to friends, neighbors and co-workers and share the gospel?

In this gigantic mess that's what God wants us to do?
How's that going to help, I wondered? Where's the thunder and lightening?

Then I remembered. When my still "raggedy" brain doesn't get it,  if I just sit down and ponder a while, it sometimes comes to me.

Okay. What if?

What if all 15 million of us who knew the truth really made an effort to live it and share it with someone who doesn't. What if they recognized it and began to live it too. What if they shared it and so on. What if lots and lots and lots of people on earth were living the truth? What could happen?

Well, think about it.

Just for starters, alcohol pain, including the car crashes, deaths and ruined lives that go with it would decrease because people in the church know that drinking isn't wise. Same for drug addiction and tobacco. What would happen to crime rates if fewer people were addicts? How much cancer could be avoided if millions and millions more just didn't use tobacco?

What would happen to STD deaths if people were living chaste lives before marriage and keeping their sacred vows after?  How many children would be born to fatherless homes then? How many abortions would there be? How many men would make the sacrifices necessary to build stable homes if they were living the truths Heavenly Father taught? How many women would make home and family the most important thing in their lives if they knew? What would happen to divorce rates if billions were married for eternity and worked hard to make their marriages successful?

What would happen to children who grew up in such homes?

What would happen to gangs if the young people now in them went to Mutual and Scouting each week, and then went home to a mom and dad who loved them afterwards? What would the dropout rate be when children are taught from the earliest ages the importance of learning and who are encouraged by parents and Prophets to "get all the education possible." What would happen in developing countries if people had access to a "Perpetual Education" fund ?

What would happen to poverty and hunger if millions, even billions, of people were skipping two meals a month and sending the food or money to their bishop? What if everybody had home and visiting teachers who were checking on their welfare. What if they all had a bishop who cared about them personally and had access to these sacred donations given to help in an emergency.


What would happen after natural disasters if millions and millions more volunteers joined those already working to help all over the world when there's a need?

What if everyone, everywhere, were taught in their homes and from the pulpit to obey the "law of the land" wherever they lived,  to vote, and to be good citizens? What would happen to the crime rate and to prisons then?

What if everyone followed the advice in the revealed scriptures about eating fruits and vegetables in season, to eat meat sparingly, and that grain is good for man?

What would happen to welfare rolls if people learned from childhood the blessings that come to those who work hard and are self reliant?

What would happen in politics and government if every elected official had an interview with his or her bishop every two years and was asked to answer before God, "Are you honest?" What if stockbrokers and bankers had to answer the same question?

What would happen to racism if millions of people knew that every person they see is a child of God and literally their brother or sister?

What if they'd all read, "Thou shall not esteem one flesh above another." Would knowing this change the lives of women in places where they're now abused?

What if lots and lots of us believed in religious tolerance as taught in the Articles of Faith? What if everyone allowed all to worship God according to their own conscience? What would happen to "holy wars" then?

What would happen to billions of people's personal lives if they knew the plan of happiness? What if they knew that success, wealth, fame and power, while perhaps nice, won't bring it. What if they knew that only love will bring it.

It all reminds me of the miraculous promise of the apple seed. You know the one.
You can count the seeds in an apple, but not the apples in a seed.


Plant just one of the many seeds in a single apple, from the many apples on a single tree. Care for it and watch it bear fruit when it becomes a tree. Each apple it produces will have seeds, each seed the potential to become another tree,  each tree the promise of more apples and seeds......and on and on and on into eternity.
If you planted every seed from every apple that came from a single seed, it would never end. After a while it would take a galaxy to hold all those trees. Eventually, perhaps even a universe.


Could it change the world?  Could it change more than that?

Think about it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Word to the Wise

It's October. Yeah!

That muffled noise the mountain folks can hear coming from the desert valleys is the cheering of the summer survivors. Now the days are glorious and the nights cool, just as fall is in the rest of the country. The difference is that we're now looking forward to planting season. Soon the petunias and johnny-jump-ups will roll into the big box stores and we can get to planting. Seven months of wonderful are on the way. Just yesterday the landscaping crews were seeding the neighborhood parks with winter rye. Soon our parched desert eyes will feast on green pastures. (In December and January by the way.) When Christmas comes around we'll hear lawn mowers whirring and smell that fresh, new mown, green grass smell. 
Some people say they can't get in the mood for the holidays with flowers all around instead of snow. Well that's just ridiculous! The climate in the Holy Land is more like ours anyway after all. There's no need to be singing about white Christmases and feeling left out and spiritless! I've often felt the words to that old song should be changed anyway. What about this?

            I'm dreaming of a bright Christmas
            With every flower pot I pass
            Where swimming pools glisten,
                  And children listen
            To Dad who's outside mowing grass.

            I'm dreaming of a bright Christmas
            With every barbeque I light.
            May your days be merry and right,
            And may all your Christmases be bright.
Same tune with more appropriate words don't you think?

Anyway, the coming holidays bring thoughts of gifts, those to be given and those received. During this season one of the gifts I'm most grateful for is one particular counsel Heavenly Father gave to his children in the scriptures. The 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants gives lots of helpful info on health. Included is the warning that alcohol and tobacco are not good for man. A word to the wise so to speak. And years and years ahead of common knowledge, too.
You see, I'm especially grateful because I grew up in a household with an alcoholic. That's easy to say, but only those of you who have had that experience will know what it means. I've heard it said that there's no hell like the hell of living with alcoholism. Somebody who lived with it probably said it. Anyway, during my youth, Christmas was usually filled with extra-special alcohol induced pain. How grateful I am for the loving counsel Father gave us that has spared my children and grandchildren from the same thing. Holidays have been filled with family, friends and love for forty years now. Even so, it's strange how those dark times sometimes still haunt.
Anyway, once or twice I recall being reminded that so many others haven't gotten the message of that great gift of wisdom. 
One was when I was back teaching high school. In my classroom at my computer I sat ready to take roll before the second bell. Kids were coming in, saying cheerfully, "Hey Mz Dub," as they passed and then talking to each other on the way to their seats. 

We'd been having some lively discussions just lately about underage drinking, a common recreational activity among my students. Despite my best efforts they remained unconvinced of my point of view. They all knew my story and my religion and were not shy about expressing their opinion that I didn't know how to have a good time and that I was too "churchy" etc. I told them that I did too know how to have a good time, and I didn't need alcohol to do it either. And "churchy" was beside the point because not only was drinking illegal for them, but what might start out as just a little fun often ended up in a thousand different versions of disaster. I had expounded on many of those to no avail.

Anyway, this day as the kids came in I heard snippets of conversation about the latest episode of somebody's favorite TV show, "Cops." A student was telling about the usual drunken brawls, beating up of wives and girlfriends and subsequent arrests when another kid walked by and remarked, "I've seen that show. All those fools on it are either drunk or high." The first kid thought a bit and then said, "Yeah, you know you're right." Then from across the room a girl chimed, "And those idiot girlfriends with the black eyes and broken arms don't press charges because they always say "I still love you baby!" 

Well, not being stupid, I stood up, turned slowly, and called out dramatically, "And let their lives be a lesson to you!" 

They all got quiet and just looked at me. No arguments, just contemplation.

Best teaching moment all week. Who says TV can't be educational?
Another was a few years ago on Christmas Eve. We had traveled to my brother Matt and sister-in-law's house for their traditional annual party. Everyone looks forward to this night. It's always so lovely. The house is gorgeous, the food's superb, and best of all we get to see family we haven't seen in months. My brother Mark from California had been able to make the trip which made it even more special. 
We arrived loaded down with packages and food and went in through the crowd hugging all the way. I didn't see Mark anywhere but heard his booming voice call for me to come out to the patio where someone told me he was grilling the most enormous prime rib roast anyone had ever seen. He was over in a dark corner by a huge grill surrounded by people gawking at that stupendous roast. Mark takes great pride in his grilling and produces some astounding results. I was heading toward him with a smile, he opened up his arms to give me a hug, and just as I reached him I tripped over an ice chest full of his secret ingredients hidden in the shadows. I landed face first on a large saucepot which cracked me hard across the bridge of my nose, causing blood to start trickling down my face. It caused quite a ruckus considering that it didn't hurt much. I was escorted to safety, plied with ice packs and generally made a fuss over. Even so, after a remarkably short while my eyes began to swell. People remarked that both were turning black. When they were practically swollen shut I was made to go to the emergency room. As "Kath! You look just terrible!" was pronounced for the hundredth time, Larry and I left the party to head to the nearest ER. We hoped to make it quick and be back in time for the guitar playing and last chorus of "Feliz Navidad". 
We walked into a jammed packed ER, full of the injured remnants of too much Christmas cheer, certain now, considering the crowd, that this wasn't going to be a quick trip.

After a long wait my name was called and I went up to a weary looking receptionist. She took a look at my face and asked how much I'd had to drink. I told her I didn't drink at all. She said, "Oh, your husband's the drinker." I said, "No, he doesn't drink either. It was a prime rib roast that my brother brought from California." She gave me a strange look. "You had to be there," I replied.
I was sent in to a treatment room where a nurse came in to take my blood pressure. She looked tired. After one glance she said, "Been drinking have we?" I explained that I didn't drink, neither did my husband and it was my brother's prime rib roast. She shook her head and left.

The doctor came in and from across the room said accusingly, "You're nose is broken."

I replied, "I don't drink."

He said, "Tell your husband not to drink either. Do you want to press charges?"
I said, "No, he was in the house, I was out on the patio. It was my brother's prime rib roast from California. I swear." 

He sighed wearily and bandaged my nose.

When they let me go they made me ride in a wheelchair to the still packed waiting room. As I rolled in I could hear people gasp as they looked at my black and swollen eyes. I looked for Larry and finally spotted him clear across the crowded room.

I really don't have to tell you the rest, do I? 

It's just too obvious.

Of course I stood up shakily and called out loudly,   "It's okay baby!   I still love you!" 

As I was checking out I heard a kind of scuffle and recognized Larry's distressed voice earnestly explaining to the people around him.  "I swear!   I wasn't even in the same room!   It was her brother's prime rib roast from California!"

As we made our way to the car I could tell he was not amused.

I was amused though. In fact I thought it was downright funny. 

But more than anything I was grateful. As we walked together to the car on this Christmas Eve.......  Larry scolding,  me laughing.......  I was so grateful for the guidance given in the scriptures by a loving Father. Grateful that for forty years no hateful words have been spoken in our home due to drinking. No shame, embarrassments, lost jobs, arguments, fistfights, DUI citations, liver damage, or broken promises. None of us has killed anyone on the highway, been arrested, spent thousands on fines, contracted an STD while drunk or become a parent before a home was ready for a new life. None of that and more has not happened at our house simply because we all truly believe that Father said alcohol wasn't good for man. He told his beloved children about this, and much more, long before science finally agreed with him. The pain, sorrow, death, destruction and broken lives that could be avoided if all of his children heeded just that one, small bit of wise counsel concerning alcohol and tobacco simply can't be measured. It's incalculable.

Thank you, Father, for the Word of Wisdom.