Saturday, January 24, 2015

Larry the Babe Magnet

Dear Readers,
My husband Larry is in the hospital. He's very sick and in need of your prayers. Thank you so much.
This post is for him.


Men and women interact with children in very different ways.  Larry's "childish ways" are a case in point.

Daddy Daycare
I remember when our middle daughter was a baby. I was teaching when she was born in February and had to finish the last few weeks of school after my month's maternity leave. Larry changed to the swing shift so he could be at home with her when I was at school.
He used the time wisely, including working on our cars to keep them on the road. One day I came home to find him on his back under the car talking softly to himself while he worked. After saying "Hey Hon, I'm home," I went in to the crib to check on what I was sure was a sleeping baby. It was empty!  Rushing back outside I frantically asked about the whereabouts of our child!
"Don't worry.  She's right here with me." He said.  I scrunched down to find her on a blanket, looking up wide eyed, at the underside of a car next to her father. He wasn't talking to himself when I first walked up. He was  explaining auto repair to a baby while he worked.
When I think back on it I'm reminded how mechanically handy she still is after all these years.

Another time, same baby, and I should have known.
I came in from work. Elizabeth was sleeping peacefully in her crib. When she woke up I fed her and then got a terrible shock when I went to change her diaper. Black and blue marks went up and down both sides of her little body from armpit to waist!!  I screamed!
Larry came rushing in. "What the heck's the matter!? he said.
"The baby's all black and blue!" I told him frantically.  "Hurry! We've got to get her to the doctor!"
He looked, sighed, and then said as he went back out through the door, "Geez, don't get all excited Hon. That's just axle grease."

The Baby Whisperer
Have you ever met an infant or toddler having a meltdown? Something has gone terribly wrong in their little lives. Too much of something for sure. Routine upset by travel maybe, or too many strange relatives holding them. Too much commotion or too few naps.  Whatever.  In any case they are off on a crying, screaming jag of epic proportions and no amount of Mommy comforting will help. Often this is done in the most public or embarrassing places, like your mother-in-law's.
At our house Larry was always the cure.
He has a really deep "man voice." I'd hand him the screamer. He'd hold said child in his big man arms and start talking really softly right in their ear. Right throught the noise he'd keep whispering using those really low tones. After a bit, the kicking and screaming would start to quiet.  Then after a few more minutes of baritone whispering he'd hand back a sleeping but exhausted child. I've even seen him do this with babies that weren't ours. Their mothers were always grateful and amazed.
It never failed. What a lifesaver.

Babe Magnet
When he was a younger man and more spry, Larry's preferred place of relaxation after work was lying on the rug in front of the TV.  I guess this was a childhood habit. He would lie on his side with a soda in front of him close enough to reach the controls. No remotes back then you know.
At first there he'd be, all alone. In a few minutes a dog would come to lie down for petting. Then a small child to climb up on his hip to sit on top. Then another dog and another child. More children until any that were in the house showed up. All jockeying for a prime spot. He'd just lie there watching television, becoming a human monkey bars. It never failed.

I once saw this same method used to teach a lesson in Primary to a class of 8 year olds. Our Primary at the time was so huge his class was relegated to the church kitchen. It was my job to check on all the classes so I walked by and looked through the little glass window in the door.  Larry was sitting at the table, manual in front of him. The snack he always insisted on bringing was at the ready on the counter nearby. "Grasshoppers and blood" he called them.  Green, cream filled mint sandwich cookies and a jug of red fruit punch it was. After Sacrament you could count on kids in the hall asking excitedly if there would be grasshoppers and blood in class today.  Anyway, I looked in and he was reading the lesson out loud straight from the book. We'd just had a teacher meeting that talked about no snacks and not reading from the manual. Children were climbing all over him. One kid who was draped on his head reached over it to point at the lesson. "No way, Brother Wagher. See, it says so right here."  Everybody looked to see if that was right and Brother Wagher had it wrong again.
It was strange how all of them seemed to be focusing on the lesson though. Every kid was hanging on a shoulder or climbing up his back and looking at the lesson in the manual at the same time. I decided they must be getting the idea somehow and walked away shaking my head.

Sacrament meeting was always the same in that ward. We would sit down as the chapel was filling up.  A boy in Larry's class would come and stand facing him, toes to toes and almost nose to nose since Larry was sitting. He'd just stand there, inches away, staring right into Larry's face until the prelude music started. No talking or facial expression whatsoever. Then he'd go sit with his own family. It was a greeting of some sort that I never understood.
That boy grew up and served a mission though. So reading from the manual didn't mess him up too much I guess.

Another time and another kid in his class. We were in the church foyer. Larry had an eight year old slung over his hip like a sack of coal. He was feeling the wall with one hand and holding on to the kid with the other. "What are you doing?" I asked him. "Looking for a soft place in this wall to put Scotty's head through." he replied.
I guess Scotty had misbehaved in class.
Not to worry. Scotty turned out alright too.

Men sure interact with children differently than women do.
A whole lot of kids today are missing that in their lives.
That man thing.
I'm thinking it might be something important.


Friday, January 23, 2015

A Burp Can Be Forever

This is another old post I'm trying to remove the most glaring errors from. See...there's a sentence ending in a preposition again.

A Burp Can Be Forever

Even though it pains me, I have to admit that television can sometimes be a blessing. 
I usually think it’s a waste of time, at best.  But Conference is coming up, with its eternal truths.  And yesterday I watched that wonderful old musical “Fiddler On the Roof.” 
You know the film……..about Tevye…….. the Jewish milkman in Russia, during the cruel days of czarist persecution. He explains how he and his people survive all their hardships through an inspiring song called “Tradition.” It reminded me of a Relief Society lesson I once taught on that same subject. The lesson urged us to develop traditions in our families so they could become ties that bind us to each other for eternity. 
I agree. I remember using a spool of thread to wind, over and over again, around the clasped hands of a sister. This was to show how something as small as a thread, if wound enough times, is as strong as any rope in holding things together.

Nowadays though, holding things together isn’t as easy as it used to be. Our lives are very different from that of a milkman living in a small village centuries ago. Not simple for sure. In fact complicated and stressed might be more accurate. Everybody in the family is on a demanding schedule, even the kids. 
What with work, school, church, sports, scouts, etc. who has time for tradition?
Well, the relief society lesson said we should make time if we want to be linked to each other forever. And with a little pondering, as the Good Book says, we can see opportunities all around us.

The key here is to think small and to remember the thread. 

It’s just not true that meaningful family traditions have to be elaborate or expensive rituals reserved for holidays or vacations. Sometimes the most everyday occasions become the most remembered.

One sister told me about a simple tradition that’s become the favorite of her whole family. 
It came about quite by accident.
It seems that one day while shopping she ran across some bright lime green plastic plates and tumblers. They were on clearance for 50 cents each. She bought a bunch of them thinking they’d be good for barbeques and picnics. Instead, it turned out that in a moment of divine inspiration, those neon green dishes were brought out one night when someone in the family did something worth a little celebration. She happened to have some root beer on hand and served it in the tumblers along with a toast to the honoree.
Well, after that, if anybody in the family won a race or earned an “A,” or got a first job or a long awaited promotion, or learned to tie their shoes, whatever……. those lime green plastic plates came out. When the family came home and saw the “green” table they knew somebody had a little victory of some kind to celebrate. This smart mom also made it a habit to keep a few bottles of root beer hidden away for just these occasions. After the family gathered and prayed, someone was chosen to lead the toast.  Well, one time, the eight year old son was to do the toasting.  He had sneaked a couple of swallows of root beer before the prayer.

So,  he made his little congratulatory speech,  stood and raised his green plastic tumbler. Just as he proudly declared, “To Sally….for finally getting an “A” in science"…..a long, loud, root beer burp came rolling out. "BRaaaaaaaaaaaack!" 

Everybody laughed of course.
But sadly for our dear sister a family tradition had been born.
Now, at every celebration, the one giving the toast says…… “To blank……..for doing a wonderful thing ........BRaaaaaaaaaaaaack!"!

The whole family always roars with laughter. The first child who went away to college said this was the thing she missed most about her family.  
Her younger brother said that whenever he hears someone burp, no matter where he is, he thinks about home and feels honored.

Traditions……ties that bind…….threads in the tapestry of family.
Sometimes the simplest things can mean the most.
Pancakes on Saturday mornings. 
Watching the college game with Dad and giving that special, goofy cheer at every touchdown. 
Notes of encouragement in a shirt pocket or backpack. 
Popcorn and a Disney flick on Friday nights. 
A special song for cheering up, reading books aloud in the car on long trips, a wife’s secret code of a handful of Starburst candies placed in a husband’s briefcase, a hundred other small, everyday traditions. 

The trick is to repeat them, like the thread, until they have the power to bind.

Traditions. A single, simple thread, wound over and over again. Strong stuff.

Who knew that a burp could be forever?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Messy Diapers

Dear Readers,
I'm revising some old posts to correct some of the many errors and typos. This is one of them.

Our oldest daughter lived for a time in the Pacific Northwest, far from her family in the desert. She had graduated from college and was starting to build a career with a large company near Seattle. Then she met her eternal companion at a singles ward volleyball game and they married, somewhat late in life by Mormon standards.  Both were anxious to have children. Our family was very grateful when they found each other. Because before they did Larry and I vividly remember frequent phone wailings from this child about ticking biological clocks and how age 29 was the end of all possibility for marriage and a posterity. Whenever the phone rang at our house in the evening Larry would say “Is it whining in Seattle?”

Well, she got her heart’s desire, and then some, concerning that posterity thing. Twins came close on the heels of a son and a daughter.
Life was quite a challenge for her in those early days of motherhood to say the least. While she was carrying the twins we did what we could to help at truly desperate times. We were 1,800 miles away but we flew in an eighteen year old sister for example, when "Whining" was too baby-big even to bend over to clean the bathrooms.
People actually pointed and stared at her when she went out in public according to her visiting sibling.
“Look at that lady’s stomach!” someone cried out before they could remember their manners.
Once, a kind woman came up to her to say knowingly, “Twins, Dear? Hang in there.”

Well, they were blessed with healthy girls. We all went to give aid and comfort right after they were born, but soon had to leave them on their own to care for themselves and four little ones under the age of five.

The dream that came true turned out to be a challenge to say the least.
One day she was feeling particularly overwhelmed. Life seemed an endless round of dirty diapers and preschooler tantrums. She began to question the choices she’d made. Whatever happened to the career she had been educated for? What happened to her body in such a short time? What about her hair? Where were her real clothes like high heels and designer suits? Who were all these little people and why didn’t they speak English? You get the picture.
It so happened that right in the midst of all this angst she began to think of the Relief Society lesson she had heard on the previous Sunday, at least what she could remember hearing of it while juggling babies on both knees. It was about the second coming of Christ. The questions asked were about personal readiness for that great future event. The teacher wanted the sisters to think about their lives and how they spent their time. “If the Savior came back today what would He find you doing?” she asked. “If He walked in on you today, unannounced, would you be okay with that?”

As she was thinking about this she gazed around the house at the mess of kids’ toys everywhere, at the graham cracker crumbs scattered from the front door to the back, and at two babies sitting in their rockers who suddenly began to smell suspicious. She went to them to check the situation and found that both of them had apparently had too much apple juice, resulting in a diaper mess of such gigantic proportions that it spilled out onto the rockers, up their backs and into their hair!

Both of these babies needed an entire bath right now, even though she’d just bathed them that morning. Diaper wipes would not be anywhere near adequate for this situation. So she carted the rockers into the bathroom, knelt down by the tub and began to bathe the babies. Her three year old followed hot on her heels to watch the show.

Tears of frustration began to well up in her eyes as she knelt there. The three year old began hopping back and forth over her legs and singing. She thought……“My house is a mess! My kids are a mess! I’m a mess! I was supposed to be doing great things with my life by now! If the Savior came back today He’d find me and my college degree in a messy house on my knees next to a bathtub washing two poopy babies with a three year old hopping back and forth over my legs singing “Mommy’s gross…Mommy’s gross!”

As she soaped the squirming twins the truth came to her, of course, and she began to cry in earnest. (I didn’t raise stupid kids you know.)
She realized that what she was doing with her life at that exact moment would be acceptable to the Savior. She even decided that He might possibly say something to her that was distinctly positive….like… “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” She felt much better about many things and said a silent thank you prayer for the Relief Society lesson.

As she finished with the last baby she turned her attention to the three year old. “Honey, why are you singing Mommy’s gross? That’s not very nice.” “Because you are gross, Mommy, he replied. “Look at your feet!” She looked. Both feet, clad in white tennis shoes were resting right in the middle of a dirty diaper.
Now she needed a bath.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Special Place in Heaven

One of my favorite high school teachers once told me about a treasured  "teaching moment."
It seems that Hector, a senior gangbanger in her 7th period class was lying on the floor one day looking up at the ceiling waiting for the bell to ring. She went over to investigate.
"What's up, Hector?" she asked as she looked down at him.
"Well, Miss, I've been thinking about all the stuff you've been saying about life and s#*@.  And I don't think it'll work for me. Because sometimes I just like to do bad things."
"I understand," she replied, nodding sympathetically.  "But Hector, don't forget about the rule.  And remember that I had nothing to do with making it either. It just IS.  It always has been."
"What rule?" Hector asked.
"You can't do bad things and feel good." she told him.
Hector paused for a minute and let out a long sigh.
Then he replied thoughtfully, "Damn."

That being said, I would like to express gratitude for two extraordinary women. One of them just mentioned.

They are both young teachers in their 30's, who have already given well over a decade each in service to young people. They've taught in barrio elementary schools, special education classes, and most recently as big city high school teachers. They labor tirelessly, year after year, for the welfare of hundreds, if not thousands of the rising generation. They use their amazing talents, endless love, not endless means, and every ounce of their energy to bless the lives of the young people who walk into their classrooms each day.

Beside their jobs in public school, both teach early morning seminary. They get out of bed in the wee hours before dawn to seek the truth.  They study, pray, and fast for light. They know this is a sacred call from the Lord.  They do everything in their power to help arm those most valiant spirits, the ones saved for the last days.

Their contribution to the sum total of good in this world simply cannot be measured.

I'd like to share just a bit of what I mean.

Once I ran across a little note on one of these teacher's desks and asked about it's cryptic message. In childish writing it said.
"Thank you very much for the chews." It was signed Fernando.
I asked about it and was told that the class was working on sounding out words for spelling and that's how it sounded to him.
"Okay," I said, "but what does it mean."
She reluctantly explained. "Well, you know that Track and Field Day is a big deal for the kids each spring.  The day before ours Nando was obviously sad.  I asked why. He said that when the coach was signing kids up for events he told them everybody had to wear real shoes to be in the meet. No flip flops or sandals. District insurance or something.  Nando was all excited to sign up for the 100 yard dash and the relay which he was sure he could win.  But he only had sandals. He didn't own any other shoes.  He was so disappointed.  So, that night I bought him some athletic shoes and socks. I had to guess on the size. I came to work a little early, parked on the side of the street I knew he would take to school, called him over when I spotted him, and gave him the shoes and socks. I did it on the down low so he wouldn't be embarassed. He wrote me a note. Isn't it sweet?"

I recall another time one of them was teaching a Special Ed high school class.  The kids were trying to meet the requirements for graduation.  One student needed credit for PE. The PE coach had made accomodations but a mile run was still required. This girl was often made fun of for her physical awkwardness. She'd given up the idea of being able to pass PE and graduate because she felt running a mile in the time allowed was impossible. She'd tried and there was no way it was going to happen.
Well, this teacher took the student in question and the rest of the class out to the track.
"You can do this," she told her.  "It's not impossible! You just need to work hard.  We'll all help."
At first the class sat grumbling on the bleachers and cheered halfheartedly at the teacher's insistance.
"She's a hopeless nerd," someone said.
But finally, after days of sweaty effort, the teacher, this girl, and all the other students were found back out on the track one last time. All of them were running beside and backwards in front of this young lady as she painfully plodded along.
Along the way they shouted, "You can do this! Don't you dare give up! Think about graduation! Just take one more step! One more step!  JUST ONE MORE!
And when that student finally crossed the finish line her classmates didn't need to be told to cheer. She might still be a nerd but now she was "their" nerd. And maybe even, just a little, a friend.
She did something she thought was impossible.
And everybody learned lessons that will last a lifetime.

The nightly news is full of reports of tragedies involving lost teenagers.
But I know a whole bunch of "found" teens who've accomplished some extraordinary things. Big things.
They've been taught.
For instance, some can singlehandedly organize and run a successful Red Cross blood drive. They can accomodate large organizations of  1000 people or more. I'm not kidding!  I know where to find several seventeen-year-olds who can do this. Just imagine the skill set needed to pull this off.
A lot of them can direct every detail of a large and complicated talent show, from music cues to ticket sales. They can put on homecoming rallies and events that get televised on the nightly news. Scores of them know how to organize and execute parades, proms, dances, assemblies, ceremonies of all kinds, banquets, luncheons and charitable fund raisers.
Need to raise money fast? I know of teenagers who can round up a $1000 or so for charity in a couple of weeks. Legally too. Need a nice luncheon for the emergency faculty meeting day after tomorrow? 98 people? No problem. Call the kids in Student Council. Need popcorn to sell? Hot dogs, bottled water, or nachos for hundreds?  Call the StuCo kids. The food will be there and the themed decorations will be color co-ordinated. They'll serve and clean up too if you ask them.
Do you suppose an employer might have a use for people who can do things like this?

Hundreds of these same Title I school kids also have been introduced to the possibilities that open up in their lives if they attend college. They might be the first generation in their family born in this country, but somehow they now believe that if they work hard, even they have a shot at the American dream.
You see, someone lit a spark in their lives.
They were taught that poverty isn't inevitable.
And they've also been taught how to fill out and send in college applications and scholarship forms. Sometimes the first step is the hardest, you know. Many have sent them in and been accepted. Sometimes the only ones in their families ever to have done so.

This is just a hint at the good accomplished at the hands and hearts of these remarkable young women.

Both of these extraordinary people are leaving teaching at the end of this year.
At least as a profession. And at least for a time.
The loss to their schools and to the education of children in their district isn't possible to calculate.

They are leaving for a good reason though.
They plan to seek renewal and growth. To explore, recharge, and sharpen the saw. They're leaving to see what other wonderful things Heavenly Father has in mind for them. And what other contributions they might make.

Well, I for one, pray that he has joy and happiness beyond their wildest dreams in mind.
I hope they get to see the world on a magic carpet. I hope they have the "Big Year" of a lifetime!
No one I've ever met deserves it more.

And may there be a special place in heaven reserved for them later.
A long, long, time later.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Many Hearts Died, Pierced Through With Deep Wounds

I must speak boldly.
Hard words are all I have because I'm angry.
There will be nothing lighthearted in this post. So if you need a lift today don't look for it here.
Please understand.

I'm angry because of a conversation I had with a woman about pornography. She actually laughed and made light of this horrendous problem with the offhand remark, "Boys will be boys."

Well, what are boys supposed to be anyway?

For one thing I believe that boys and men are supposed to be protectors and defenders of all that have been entrusted to them.

I remember seeing an old western movie once. In it there was a scene about a never to be broken Indian creed,
"No warrior ever eats until he is certain that the pots of all the widows and orphans are full of meat."
I think of ranchers and farmers coming home after a long day,  tired and hungry. They would never dream of food and rest for themselves until the animals in their care were safe and fed.
My mind goes to the shout of a crew on a sinking ship, "To the lifeboats! Women and children first!"

Yes, men are supposed to use their strength to protect what Heavenly Father has
entrusted to them.
And men are supposed to teach their sons that this is one of the hallmarks of true manhood.

As a high school teacher I saw so many of my students, full of promise and possibility, fall victim to the lies Satan tells about pornography.
One boy actually said to me one day, "Aw, Mz Dub, lighten up. Nobody gets hurt."

Let me assure you, young man, everybody involved gets hurt.

Here's just a few TRUE things about porn.

Many of the women in this awful business were sexually abused and even raped as young girls. This was done by men who were supposed to defend and protect them from harm. Sometimes even by those who should have given their lives for them if necessary. They suffered almost indescribable pain in body and spirit. Their childhood was stolen. What should have been a time of joy and growth became a hell of fear and betrayal.
Often these men, the ones who were supposed to protect them, were involved with pornography.

When these girls became young women they sometimes tried to deal with their pain by using drugs and alcohol. I saw some of them. This led to more sexual abuse at the hands of their peers. Then they had to deal with the health issues that come with this life.  Herpes, genital warts, and syphillus, are just some of them. Seeking treatment for genital warts is something a 15 year old girl finds humiliating I can assure you. And some of them even turned to abortion.

"Aw, Mz Dub, nobody gets hurt."

Sure.  Look into the eyes and broken heart of a 15 year old who's had an abortion and tell me nobody's hurt.

The porn industry recruits from young women like this. They're an easy target because they feel worthless. They believe themselves to be objects,  "things,"  barely human, put on earth only to be used by selfish men.
Those same men who were put on earth to act as their protectors.

And make no mistake about it.

Anyone who consumes pornography in any of it's slick, disguised ugliness is one of those young girls' abusers.
He is there, standing by,  watching,  while a life is destroyed.
He makes no move to protect or defend.
He makes no move to act like a man.

If you or someone you love is involved in pornography, please know there is hope. There is forgiveness.
Christ paid the price.

But you must want to change. You must want to be free.

I leave you with this thought from one of the apostles of the Lord.

Russell Ballard said in a recent conference.

"I testify to you, that your body, mind, and spirit can be transformed, cleansed, and made whole, and you will be freed."

Also from the scriptures.
Isaiah 1:18
Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord.  Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red as crimson, they shall be as wool.

I would like to recommend the Addiction Recovery website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints.

Truth is found there. It tells of the forgiveness made possible by Christ's Atonement.
Help is found there. Step by step, one day at a time help.
Please seek it if you or someone you care about suffers because of this terrible plague.

Monday, December 29, 2014

A Gift From Josh

Two of my Christmas weary daughters came by early Friday morning to collapse on the couch. They were heading out into the, "it's a jungle out there," store return lines. They said they needed to rest up beforehand.

Last Friday, the evening before school vacation, they had taken the whole gang of nieces and nephews on their annual trip to the Dollar store.
"The aunts" do this after they each teach early morning seminary and seven periods of high school classes. After lunch one directs the winter pep assembly and the other one the blood drive. Then they finish up 150 report cards before last bell, and on their way home pick up a carload of kids for an evening of fun.

"The aunts" are the go-to for this yearly sibling and parent gift purchase.  It was their idea, even.  Apparently everybody looks forward to this special holiday event.  I think there's even a wrapping party held at the aunt's house afterwards.

First everyone is provided with enough money to buy a gift for everyone else in the family. Then all of them, from age six to seventeen, are turned loose in the store to buy 7 gifts each. (One sister's on a mission this Christmas so she's not on the list.) Still, that's close to 50 gifts and in many cases considerable guidance is needed.

It must be great fun and I'm very glad I'm not invited.  Glad too that I'm not shopping at the Dollar Tree when they're all in there.

Anyway, we got to talking about the just passed holiday, reliving highlights and counting many blessings. We came to the subject of gifts and one daughter said brightly, "Oh look Ma. See what we got from Josh." I could tell from her tone and expression that the gift was special to them, whatever it was. The aunts aren't usually included in the dollar store gift extravaganza since they provide the funds for it.  So Josh's gift was unexpected.
But before I can tell you about why his gift was special, I have to tell you a little about Josh.
You see, Joshua is in Jr. High.  That means he's in the 12 to 14 year old age bracket.  Boys in that group are also in a special and separate category of human being. Sometimes really special.

To give you an example, just recently these same daughters stopped by on their way home from school.  We were talking about how their days went. Sometimes I get wistful and miss it. They kindly remind me of the hard parts.

Suddenly their father emerged from his man cave to excitedly interupt us with an amazing news story he thought we just couldn't miss and wouldn't believe.
Seems there was a 13 year old boy somewhere who was locked out of his house accidentally. This boy thought it would be a good idea to climb on the roof and go down the chimney to get inside. After all, it makes sense. He got stuck, naturally, but thank goodness was able to reach the cell phone in his pocket and manage a call to the fire department. The nice firemen couldn't pull him out either from above or below so had to demolish the entire chimney to extricate him. (Try to explain that to the homeowners insurance people.)
This whole episode made a big splash on the nightly news.

"Can you believe that crazy kid?" Larry exclaimed with a shake of his head.

The three of us, all veteran Jr. High teachers with many years in combat, just looked at each other.
Finally Kelley said what we were all thinking,  "Sure Dad. We get it. What's so hard to believe?"

This made me remember a story about Christ when he was a young boy. I intended to think hard about that story someday, to search for the lesson, but I was always in the middle of dealing with some 14 year old kid when I was remembered it.  So I always put it off.  I decided to think some now.

First let me testify of a truth of which I am absolutely sure.
Christ never committed a sin.
He was blameless every day of his life.

Second, the scriptures don't say much about Christ's childhood. We do know that he waxed strong. That he grew in stature and wisdom.
We know too that as a young boy he was found in the temple, teaching those who taught.
It's this story I meant to think hard about.
I meant to think about Jesus but ended up thinking mostly about Mary and Joseph and their parenting skills.
Jesus went to the temple.  Seems his mother and earthly father didn't know this. They had been looking all over for him, sorrowing. Read Luke to get the whole story.

Well, we've been counseled to "liken the scriptures to our own lives." And I've looked for a few children myself, worried sick. After I finally found them safe and my heart settled down and my blood pressure returned to normal, boy did they get in big trouble too!  I recall shouting stuff like, "What in the world were you thinking!!??  What have you got to say for yourself, mister!!? You're not allowed outside the door for the rest of your life!!!"
Was this Mary and Joseph's response? Did Mary ever shout? It doesn't say much in the scriptures about that. But the scripture makes it seem like Mary may have been perplexed a bit about what her response should be.  I'm not sure.  Read Luke for the whole story. See what you think.
Anyway, I know that Christ never sinned. But it sounds like he might have done a kid thing.  I'm not sure again.  His explanation was that he was about his father's business and they shouldn't have worried. Read Luke for the whole story.  Does this mean something about the stuff 14 year old boys do not being sins?  Are they about their father's business?  Is growing up part of waxing strong?  Are they growing in stature and wisdom?  Should we take these things into consideration?
There's a lot to think about here. I plan to ponder.

Anyway, back to Josh's gift to his aunts. Kelley pulled 2 rumpled dollar bills from her wallet. "They're for 44 oz diet limeades at Sonic during "Happy Hour." Drinks are 89 cents then.  Josh says he knows how we count on them when things get tough.  He wanted to be sure we had the money for the next one when we needed it."

I could tell his gift truly meant a great deal to both of them. They were touched that he understood their lives and wanted to help.
Josh knew. It was one of the gifts they'll remember most this Christmas.

Do you think that boy might be gaining in wisdom as he grows in stature? Is he starting to show signs of waxing strong?  I plan to ponder.

Merry Christmas, Josh.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

One Great Big Challenge

I was in a little spell of annoyance at my eternal companion a while ago.
It was one of those days when eternity seems like a really, really, long time.
You may know the ones.

Anyway, just by accident I ran across something Dr. Gerald Lund said.
He once commented very wisely,
"Chances are you either married your biggest challenge or gave birth to it."

That made me chuckle. So I went to share with Larry who by this time needed a smile.
Well, instead of smiling, he laughed out loud. Then he quipped, "I'll bet that guy's got a wife!"
He was dead serious. And for the life of me I can't understand why.

That got me to thinking of one of my favorite books written decades ago by Robert Fulghum. At around that same time there was a popular show called "The Loveboat" on network television.
Back in the day there were only four network channels and we called that TV.  Can you imagine?

Well, this show was about a luxury oceanliner whose nickname came about because of all the perfect hair, always sunset, dozen roses romance that floated along with the ship. On every cruise.

Well, Mr. Fulghum had some wise counsel himself.
He said,  "Don't forget. The love boat always leaks."

So here's to everybody out there rowing along life's way in a leaky boat.
Keep bailing.
After 50 years of being married there's at least one thing I know.
Tomorrow is a different day and I might like him better then.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sending One Off

My oldest daughter Kim asked me the other day if having a missionary gone far away from home will get easier as the months go by.  Will that heart wrenching worry for their safety and happiness ease up some?

She says she knows people in her ward who've sent sons and daughters off around the world. When she sees them in church on Sunday she asks how everyone's doing. A lot of them still start sniffling even after months have gone by. One friend's son was returning soon from Chile. Kim asked her when it got easier. The sister wiped a tear away and replied bravely, "Not yet."

I only had that experience once. Sending a missionary off to serve.
It was our shy, quiet, child. The one who always had trouble being comfortable around strangers. The one who got a stomach ache if she was ever too long gone from home. She went clear across the country to live with strangers, speak only Spanish, and try to find people looking for the truth. She didn't speak Spanish before she left.

Now, our son Dane and his wife Lisa have sent our granddaughter, born and raised in the desert, off to serve in the land of blizzards and twenty-below zero wind chills.

And, just this morning, Kim and Scott put their oldest on a plane for Salt Lake and then to Brazil.

They speak Portuguese in Brazil.

They won't see her again for a year and a half.

Kim wants to know if it will get easier.

First, before I answer, I want to thank some people I've never thanked before.

Thank you to the mothers and fathers of all those young missionaries who came to our house so many long years ago. We knew nothing of the truth until a bunch of goofy teenagers brought it to us. You see, we went through about eight sets of missionaries before we were finally baptized. Most of them were teenagers. One mom and dad sent their son all the way from Samoa to talk to us. He could eat 17 tacos for supper I recall. This kid was huge, well over six feet tall, who'd helped his dad on the family pig farm in Samoa before his mission. That boy could eat. And he liked my tacos.

He left his family by the ocean and came halfway around the world to live in a desert for two years just to talk to us about the most important thing there is. Well, and to talk to a few others too. And along the way he learned that he liked tacos. He and his mom and dad had been saving for years for his mission. Now he was flipping a chart over, explaining eternal truths and wiping hot sauce off his fingers.

Well, that young man changed our lives.
For eternity.

I'm reminded about eternity when my daughter, a child of  raggedy old converts, tells me that she's had some of our ancestor's work done in the temple.  Seems that eternity goes back in time as well as forward. Missionary work goes backwards too, I guess.

So, I'd like to thank that young man from Samoa's mom and dad.
In fact, I'd like to thank all the mom's and dads of missionaries.

You loved them. You taught them the truth. You saved and sacrificed for missions. Once, many years ago, one couple sent their boy off halfway around the world. You knew you wouldn't see him for two long years. You worried about his safety and happiness. You wondered how he could possibly survive in a desert. You missed him every single day.

I want you to know that he changed our lives forever. A whole lot of lives changed it seems. Forward and back.
He brought our family the truth while eating tacos. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And now, in part because of that young man and his parents from Samoa, we have two granddaughters off on missions. One to blizzards and one to Brazil.

And Kim wants to know if it gets any easier, having one gone on a mission. Will that wrench and worry ease up?

All I can say is that I'm eternally grateful to the parents of the ones that were sent to knock on our door, so many years ago. And I'm grateful to those goofy teenagers who came. They changed everything for our family.  Changed it for us, our ancestors and our posterity. Forever.
I hope that makes it a little easier.

I think it was Jeffrey Holland who once said something like, "The gospel of Jesus Christ is rolling forth to fill the entire earth on the shoulders of an army of teenagers." And some just barely older than that, I might add.

May Heavenly Father bless and keep that beautiful army safe and well. May he inspire them to work hard and lead them to those seeking truth. May he bless them all the rest of their lives for their missions.

And may he bless and comfort their parents too.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick or treat. Smell my feet.


No matter where you live it's one of the most glorious months of the year, isn't it? Here in the Sonoran desert October not only brings relief from scorching summer heat, it begins the promise of seven months of lovely and good report.  Weather reports that is.  We don't have to go off to the beach seeking after them either.  Just open the door.
(All that's a reference to a Mormon thing which I'll explain later.)

October once brought me gold aspen leaves shimmering against a blue sky.  It's one of my most treasured mountain memories. Then too, the smell of fall in the high country woods is something I'm so grateful not to have missed in my lifetime. That mixture of cool wet earth, leaves underfoot and far off wood smoke is one of the best smells in life. Like a mountain creek in summer or the ocean any time.

That line of thinking brought my wandering mind to other good smells.  Life's full of them if you notice.   Like pine branches or any freshly cut wood.  At Christmas I always go to my local tree lot to buy or beg the trimmings from their trees to put in vases and decorate around the punch bowl. Our house is so little that the cuttings send fresh pine smell to fill even the back bedroom.

And one of the most comforting smells has to be supper cooking in the oven when you walk in the door hungry after a long day.   Especially pot roast, barbequed chicken, or baked ham.  Or loaves of bread baking. Or pans of rolls. Does anything on earth smell better than that?        Well, brownies maybe.        Or cupcakes.
No, bread wins.
Isn't it amazing how just a pot roast smell can make life seem so much better?  I remember a crockpot being a big help creating that "Welcome home, dinner's ready," smell when I was teaching.

And what about a clean baby?  My oldest daughter once took her children to a pediatrician she'll always remember fondly. She said whenever she brought a newborn in for a checkup he would never fail to sneak a sniff of the baby's head during the exam. She saw him.  Grandma's do that too.

They say that smell is one of the most powerful triggers of memories.  I think that might be true. I'm going to admit something crazy about one of my favorite smell memories. Even weird.  Don't tell anybody.

When I was 17 and dating my now husband of fifty years, I stole one of his shirts and slept with it because it smelled like him.  It was glorious.  Remember I was very young.  For some reason though, now that I'm sleeping with the actual man-- the smells have changed.  It's just not the same, I can tell you.

But other great smells come to mind.

Campfires when you're sitting around them with a stick and a burning marshmallow on the end.
Or laundry, dryer sheet fresh, warm from the dryer.  Even better, as I recall from back in the day, fresh and sun warm from a clothesline.

Soap smell on a clean fifth grader when he comes to your desk to get help with math is great. This happens only before recess. Then the clean kid smell changes to sweaty kid. Then too there's the hopeful, heady, aroma of too much aftershave on a gangly teenager.

Larry says, "A new car,"  but I think cars just smell like machines and oil.
He likes bacon frying too. Especially early in the morning if he's still in bed and someone else is cooking.  Usually he's the only early riser now.
And, I remember that he's always loved the smell of perfume on a beautiful woman. Never fails to notice and make a comment. And, if asked, he swears the smell he's looking so wistful about is me. The man may be a liar but he's not stupid.
He also recalls fondly the morning smell of coffee. That was before his Mormon days. He says he's grateful it never tasted as good as it smelled since he had to give it up when he was baptized.

Rain just as it starts to fall is glorious. And the smell of desert mesquite after one of our summer gully washers. That one's best in the cool of dawn, but it'll make you roll the car windows down no matter what the time or temperature.

Or a salty, sea-weedy ocean breeze.  Or grass being cut.

Or Larry's barbecue chicken when he's out on the patio grilling. That one can drive the whole block crazy.

Then there's popcorn popping, which always makes me want to put a Disney movie on the TV.

And come December slicing a lemon or lime fresh from our trees will fill the whole kitchen with one of my favorite smells.
If it's winter and there's snow outside you'll still think of lemonade. Cucumbers will do that too. Only then it's summer salads you'll remember.

Flowers like petunias or alyssum are winter smells down here in the lowland. Up in the mountains at that time of year I would hear people say "Smells like snow."   I never did get that.  But mint, basil, and tomatoes on the vine fill my patio pots in January if you happen to crush some leaves while watering.  And come March, orange blossoms send their sweet scent into the night on every breeze.

What are some of your favorite smells?

The Articles of Faith were written when the Prophet was asked what Mormons believe.   The last one is my favorite.   It ends with, "If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things."  At the very least I think that means we should notice and appreciate them.

Well, the wonderful smells of life are lovely and of good report.  Praiseworthy too.  They make me grateful for beauty, home, comfort and family.  I think I should seek after some.

So I'm going to try to create some good smells today. Give Heavenly Father a hand so to speak. First I'll plant a patio pot with allysum and then I'll put a pot roast in the oven.

And I won't forget to thank God for blessing me with both of them.

* PS
A daughter called to say that I forgot a very important smell.

She remembers telling me once when she was young that she was embarrassed to go to church with her father because he smelled like cigarette smoke. I shared with her that a bishop once told me that tobacco smell in a Mormon church was the most beautiful scent of all. It was the smell of someone trying to repent, trying to live the truths Father taught.

If any of you are struggling to live those truths you now know, come to Sacrament meeting.  Sit by me and Larry.  It took him a while but he finally conquered a 4 pack a day habit. He hasn't smoked in nearly 40 years. But it's only been 20 years since he quit reaching up to his empty shirt pocket for a cigarette. Seems habit is a very powerful force.

After winning that valiant fight he took his family to the temple. All of his now grown children go there regularly. Two of his granddaughters are now on missions.

Hang in there. Father loves you. He'll help.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kim's Hyacinth

My oldest daughter lifted my spirits today.  It made up for a lot of the trouble she caused us when she was a child.

Her family recently returned from a long awaited and much anticipated trip to Disneyland. Their oldest of seven, Mackenzie, leaves for her mission to Brazil in just a couple of weeks. While she's away serving, the next oldest, Malachi, will graduate high school and turn 18. He plans a mission also.  It's the last time their entire family will be together for several years.

Disneyland holds a special place in all their hearts. But a trip for such a big group requires clever budgeting. There's not much money for being frivolous when you have to multiply frivolity by 9. One Dole Whip or Mickey ice cream may not be much, but the expense looms large if the whole family wants one.

Anyway, knowing this, Larry and I made up a bag with a poem and a little card with $10 in it for each of them.  The poem is one of my favorite great thoughts. A misquote goes something like this...

If of all the world's goods thou art bereft,
And to thee alone but two loaves of bread are left,
Sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

Each was instructed to buy a hyacinth on the trip.  It was explained that hyacinths are flowers but theirs might look like a churro or Minnie Mouse key chain. Kim said it was great for each kid to have a little to spend without having to ask. Yea!
Mission accomplished.

Then today she told me about her "chrysanthemum" as she called it.  It took me a while to figure out what she was talking about.

It seems they had stopped at the beach on the day before they were to go to the parks. The kids all ran out to the ocean while she stayed at the van to make sandwiches. Hard at work she looked up to see a bedraggled woman pass by on the sidewalk. She looked worn down and possibly homeless. Kim thought of her $10 and ran with it to give to the woman. She actually had to chase her. The lady was so grateful it broke Kim's heart. So she touched the woman gently and asked her if she was hungry. Kim explained that she was making sandwiches and she had turkey and cheese or peanut butter and jelly. Would she like one? The lady said she'd like peanut butter and jelly.

Kim went back to make it.

While she was spreading peanut butter and jelly she said something very special happened.  It was almost like a voice actually spoke to her.

She heard, "You're making that sandwich for me."

She started to cry.

She didn't know what else to do.

So, still crying, she put more peanut butter.

Then she made up a little bag of "kid treats" to go with it.  Raisins, Vienna sausages, and the like. She took it and the sandwich to the lady.

I'm so grateful for my children.
They're all trying to live the truths of the gospel.
Larry and I may be raggedy old converts but our kids are covering up a multitude of our sins.

Sometimes with peanut butter and jelly.

May Heavenly Father always bless and protect them while they do what they can.
May He always bless and protect you and your efforts too.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ma's Crackpot Ideas

Sometimes I get ideas.

This has been going on for years.

I remember a conversation/argument I had one time with my husband and a nearly grown child. Another, almost done offspring walked in and said, "What are you guys talking about?" The first one said, "Just another one of Ma's crackpot ideas." "Oh those," was his bored reply as the refrigerator door opened for closer inspection. 
Well, I get these ideas about all kinds of things. Things like how to run the government, education reform, municipal landscaping, better bottle caps, where to put benches at Disneyland or tags on sheets etc.  Some of these just might be good ideas too. Some might be so good that they're already out there and I just haven't heard about it. I don't get around as much as I used to.

Didn't Father teach us that we should always be anxiously engaged in a good cause. That we should do many good things of our own free will and bring to pass much righteousness?  Historically some crackpot ideas have brought about a whole bunch of righteousness, so that's great advice. 

Well, now that I'm old I'm afraid that I might die and any of my gems that may be new will die with me.  So I've decided to send a few out there into cyberspace every now and then. You all are welcome to them. If someone happens to take one and make a zillion dollars with it, more power to you. 
On second thought, do the right thing and send me a little. I promise to use it for a wise purpose. 

Idea #1
Computer Site or Softwhatever for Volunteer Projects

When I was teaching high school I would regularly get calls from probation officers or others asking for help finding community service projects for kids who needed to serve hours as part of their sentence. Most of the time these kids ended up picking up trash from the schoolyard or something similar. While this is helpful I knew these kids had the power to make a bigger contribution, which would help them as well as the community. They had energy to burn, new knees, and bright minds that could really make a difference.  I also knew of school clubs and Eagle scout candidates looking for ideas for their service projects too. They only needed some direction to unleash their youthful talents.

Couldn't there be a computer clearing house where people who needed help could list a project and kids of all kinds who wanted to help could find one? For instance, could the "lookees" say their club had 15 teens with 4 Saturdays and they liked animals, the outdoors, music or old people? Could the "lookers" say they needed a crew of 20 for outdoor digging or indoor painting and post sign up sheets for projects that were genuinely needed but lacked funds for manpower.  

Those scouts, Key Clubs, or the new kid in school who wants to make friends could go there and find real work. Suppose that their city had potholes on a street but no money to pay workers to fill them. The city could send out a foreman and materials to supervise. A mini class in pothole filling would then make it possible for a bunch of teenagers to point with pride at a real civic accomplishment.

I'm here to tell you that kids can plant trees in parks, paint anything, build benches, teach guitar, push or fix wheelchairs and/or cars, and help the Game and Fish people. We always hear that there's no money to pay for things. Well I'm here to tell you that there's an army of kids, including the ones on probation, who can help out more than a little. They need good stuff to do. We need to quit underestimating them and provide a place where they can easily find important work. 

You can't fool kids though. They know the difference between busywork and a real contribution. If we're willing to teach and trust them they can do real work.

Idea #2 Little Forgotten Spaces

Don't forget the oft forgotten. 

When we moved back to the desert from the mountains we bought a tiny "spec" house. It was supposed to be just a roof, mainly to get us out of Grandma's house and hair. We both had new jobs and no time. We'd settle permanently later. 

Well, we've been here 12 years now. You see, Larry got comfortable, says it's big enough for just us two and he doesn't want to move furniture. And I think living in that tiny fishing cabin in the woods for so long did strange things to the both of us. Somehow bigger's just bigger now and little seems right. 

Anyway, two of this teeny house's teeny bedrooms had windows looking out over 10 feet of side yard right to a 7 foot block fence. My idea was to knock out the window in one of them and put french doors, which I love. My family thought I was nuts of course. "French doors to where, for Pete's sake?" was the many times repeated reaction. 

Well, my doors created the sweetest little courtyard, visible from the living room, because I knocked out the wall on the other side to put an archway. It made one of those unused bedrooms into a lovely library that looks out to a little fountain on the now honeysuckle covered wall. Bougainvillea filled pots spill flowers onto the brick pavers and butterflies and hummingbirds regularly visit.
"What a great idea!" is the usual response.


Forgotten spaces are all around. Just look. Potential may be hidden away in surprising places. Maybe even in ourselves. Maybe there's a little, tiny, unused skill hidden away somewhere there. Maybe with some bold action it could be developed into a full blown talent. 

So sing, paint, play, invent, dance, design, create, think, study, sign-up, write, reupolster or even knock out a wall.  You never know.

One of the greatest compliments of my life was about this very thing. I was tiptoeing down the hall outside a room where some of my children were talking. I accidentally heard one say to the others, "Oh, just let her do it. Once in a while Ma's crackpot ideas work out."

I was so touched I cried.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Woman’s Got To Do What A Woman’s Got To Do Too

*Something reminded me of this old story just the other day. I think it was my husband. Again.

I've been married a long time.
I don’t know why but for some reason this makes people think I know certain things. Let me assure you, they are mistaken.
I know nothing.

Still, just the other day a young woman asked me about the secret of a long marriage.
I thought hard and replied, “Just don’t get a divorce.”  
One of the Prophets said something like that I think. Maybe President Kimball. Anyway, even if he didn't, it’s true.
Tomorrow is often a different day.

I thought again and then remembered that I did know one thing. “Oh yes, I almost forgot. You’ll be needing a strong defense if you marry a man.”

She said, “A defense? Why?” 

“For use when a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.” I replied.
To give you just one example, the man I’m currently married to tries to injure himself just so that I’ll get upset and worry about him.  I’m not joking.  I think it’s one of those guy things.  I've noticed that women seldom do this because it’s dumb and just doesn't make sense.

I especially remember a little scenario that happened regularly in the winter when we were living in the mountains. 

Husband’s age at the time was 50ish. He’d been diabetic for years, with high blood pressure and cholesterol to boot.

Heavy snowfall was a regular occurrence in our area from October through March.

Now I admit that big piles of snow created issues around our place.  Some kind of action was required in order for us to get out of the house and to the highway so we could get to work. Something did have to be done with all that snow.

So, husband thought about it hard. He considered all factors carefully.

Being a man he finally decided the most sensible solution was to buy a used 500 lb snow-blower, costing several hundreds of dollars, from the school district in town. This way he could go out in frigid weather and wrestle with it and tons of cold, wet, snow every time we had a storm.

This machine was a behemoth. I tried to move it once and it nearly gave me a hernia. It took four men to load it in the truck when he bought it. 

I mentioned to Larry that I thought it was way too much exertion for a man his age and with his medical history to mess around with that heavy machine in freezing weather. Especially since we lived 40 miles from the nearest hospital. With icy roads it might take a long time to get there.  
“We have young men with snow blades on their trucks who’ll come out and move our snow for just 20 dollars,” I explained in my most reasonable tone. “It’s not worth the risk dear.”

Well, this comment triggered the passionate,  “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do!” lecture. This same dusty old speech was repeated every time he wanted to do something dangerous, expensive, and unnecessary.  Right away I knew that talking sense was useless. So I did what a woman has to do when a man has to do what a man does.  Defense. Here's just an example.

One early morning right after the next 2 foot snowfall, husband stood in front of the living room window looking out with a glint in his eye. He was holding a cup of hot chocolate. I was making the bed in the other room but I could see that he was all ready for a big fight with tons of cold, wet precipitation. He was wearing full combat gear. Snow-boots to the knees, wool hat pulled down, ears muffed, gloved to the elbows. He stood looking out the window and sipping. 

After a bit he called out loudly, “Okay, I’m going out there. Don’t you worry, I’m not going to give myself a heart attack. Don’t try to stop me. A man has responsibilities. A man’s got to do….. bla, bla, bla.”

There was a rather lengthy pause and then I heard growling followed by a string of not so nice words.
“What the bleep!  What’s that kid doing?  Bleepity!! Look at that Clint! Bleep him! He’s out there moving my snow! 

I came to stand quietly at his side. 

“Well, isn’t that the nicest thing,” I chirped. “Young Clint’s come out to be a good neighbor with his truck and snowblade. You better go out to thank him. Now you be especially friendly. We want him to feel that his kindness is appreciated.”

Husband heads out with a forced smile and a reluctant wave at Clint.  I could hear snippets of “Don’t trouble yourself next storm young man.  I've got a machine right here that’ll take care of a 5 foot snowfall. Want to take a look?” 

Clint got out of his truck.  They both stood hovering over that thing. They crowed about how it was the deluxe, super duper model. Big enough to throw a mountain of snow.  Bigger than all the other guys blowers for sure.
I was a little worried about young Clint at this point, but he had a busy morning lined up with his truck and plow so he left.

But, lo and behold, and so sad to say, that “Dang, bleepedy, do-gooder kid!” showed up after every storm with his truck and blade. He moved all Larry’s snow before he could even get his combat gear on. What a shame, huh?

And I always made sure the $25 I’d promised him was in Clint’s mailbox as soon as the roads were cleared to the post office. 
The extra $5 was for coming to our place first, and for keeping his mouth shut.

Yep.  Just one case of, “If a woman’s going to be married for a long time she’ll need good defense.”

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 grief.  Usually involving more work and less money.  I know a lot about that grief, work, and poverty thing too. How? Because all my married life we've had dogs. And 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.

And 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 elected to be 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. You're okay now. 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. Once in the middle of a dark night a very small one brought comfort to me.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Many Sheep Cross the Sky

      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.