Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Warm Toes Legacy

Larry's been on my mind almost always lately.
I find him there even though he crossed to the other side of the veil some 17 months ago now.
I have a sense that he's very busy with important work and I know that I need to get busy with important work of my own. I'm going to try to do better with "improving the shining hour" as the old hymm says.

Even so, memories of little things during our 51 years together drift into my thoughts and bring a smile as I remember them.
One is covered toes.

You see for the last few years of our working life Larry had a job that required him to leave the house very early in the mornings. Long before dawn.
I was teaching high school and had the luxury of a couple more hours of sleep before the other alarm went off.

Each day after Larry showered and dressed for work he gathered his things quietly in the darkened room so I could sleep. Then as he headed out the door he never failed to stop to cover my sleeping toes with blankets. They had slipped out into the cold during the night.
I thought this was such a sweet thing to do.  I always pretended to sleep waiting for him. Those covered toes were a treasure then and they mean even more to me now.

I never told him that I like my feet uncovered, cold or not, and I was always careful not to pull the blanket off again until he was safely gone.

I hope there was some little thing that I did for him that he remembers with a smile.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

All Things Bear Record of Me: The Basement

I substituted as the teacher in the Gospel Doctrine Sunday school class a few weeks ago.
It was in our new ward and I was a bit nervous. It's been several years now since I've been blessed to teach in one of the Lord's classes. And one thing became immediately apparent.
Things have changed.

This time I rolled into the room on my trusty electric cart and one of my lovely daughters had to write the lesson essentials on the board in her very neat, teacher-writing style.
Then she turned the chalk sideways and surrounded everything she had written in MY usual chalky-cloud border.
I didn't even have to ask for the clouds. She just drew them.
It was very touching.

I taught the lesson.
Afterwards, my other lovely teacher daughter volunteered gently that I had done everything wrong.
She pointed out that this class is designed to include discussion. The instructor serves as the moderator who skillfully leads comments to touch on all doctrinal points outlined in the lesson.
Goofy stories about rocks were not discussion.

I agreed that class involvement is indeed a much better way to foster learning. I also have a feeling that both of my lovely teacher daughters are far more skilled than I in the logistics of this sometimes unwieldy teaching technique.

This brought to mind how wonderful it is to see your own children grow up to become mighty instruments in the hands of the Lord. Even when their skills far surpass your own in every way. Maybe especially when they do.

I would like to point out though that a major influence for one of those skilled daughters was the exceptional fifth grade teacher she was blessed to have in elementary school. We all know how important a favorite teacher can be. It was this one's influence that started her on the path of excellence that lasted a lifetime.
I was happy to have been that teacher and gratified to see the results.

Also, even though telling the goofy rock story was wrong, a person from the class did kindly ask for a "copy" of one of the other goofy stories I told.
Unfortunately I don't have copies of my stories. I keep them in unkempt, disorganized files in my head. And now I've noticed in alarm that pages are getting lost on a daily basis.

This particular story I heard decades ago. I've no idea where. It's not mine, of that I'm sure. But as soon as I heard it I began sharing it with my students. I've been telling it for years with unspoken gratitude to the author.

I'll attempt to remember it now for the nice lady who asked.

The Basement
Michael, a renowned professor of mathematics, lived with his family in a lovely home very near the university where he taught. His closest friend James, was a physicist who also taught at the university and lived with his family just two doors down the block. These two learned men had been associates for decades and their wives and children had also become close friends.

Yet, while the two men had a great deal in common, one major difference between them had caused much discussion over the years. The renowned professor of mathematics was a Christian and his friend was an atheist.
Many talks well into the night had not convinced either one of the other's viewpoint. But they were still friends in any case and over the years had become almost like brothers.

Well, one evening the two families were to have a barbeque at Mike the mathematician's home. The guests arrived. Children greeted each other noisily and ran out back to the festivities. Wives said hello and were off to the kitchen. Mike greeted his friend and headed out to the grill where he was creating his renowned hamburger masterpieces.
As he hurried out back to prevent burning he hollered over his shoulder, "Hey Jim, will you go down to the basement pantry and bring up a bottle of my famous barbeque sauce? I'm running low out here."
"Sure, but don't ruin dinner until I get there," was James's reply, as he opened the downstairs door.

As James turned on the light and descended the stairs he was stopped in his tracks by an amazing sight.
There on a large table, almost filling the entire room, was the most intricate, astounding model of the solar system he'd ever seen!
There were no words to describe it's marvels and beauty.
All of the planets appeared in correct relative size and color. The detail was unbelieveable. Jupiter's stormy eye swirled! Saturn's individual rings seemed suspended and glowing. Every planet had the correct number of moons, all revolving in precise mathematical orbits. He could see craters on the earth's moons in their proper place and size. There was even a ring of asteroids that whirled between the inner and outer planets!
All this revolved around a center light representing the sun which was incredibly bright and seemed suspended from nowhere!

Jim stood, mouth agape in astonishment until he heard Mike hollering for
sauce from above.
He bounded up the stairs, without the sauce, to pummel his friend with questions.
He started even before he reached his friend and the grill.
"Mike, where in the world did you get such an astounding model!!! I've never in my entire life seen anything so incredible!! It should be in the Smithsonian after a world tour!!! Does the university president know about this? Come on, tell me everything!!!

He waited as he looked at his friend who was still turning hamburgers and hot dogs.

"Oh, you mean in the basement?" Mike asked casually.
"Well, it was the strangest thing. Mary and I had just gone to bed last night when suddenly we heard this terrific explosion coming from the basement. We both rushed down in a panic to see if we needed to evacuate the kids. When we got to the bottom of the stairs, there it was! We stood there watching it for the longest time before we could tear ourselves away and get back to bed. Beautiful isn't it?"

Jim looked at his friend as if he had lost his mind.
"Oh, come on, Mike! Do you think I'm an idiot! Nothing that intricate, detailed, and mathematically precise could come out of an explosion! Someone of astouding intelligence had to think this up and make it!!!

Mike locked gazes with his good friend and said, "Jim, that's what I've been telling you for years."

Lovely youngest daughter read this post and pointed out that I was in error once again.
I wasn't her favorite teacher. I was mean to her. Plus I didn't teach properly.
Mr. Honsigner, Mr. Tenney and Mr Cheney were never mean to her. And they knew cool stuff.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Tender Mercy

It's been quite a while since I've scribbled any new thoughts.
I have an excuse though.
My mind always did wander, but lately it's been off meandering around in some strange and foreign lands.
It keeps getting lost in unfamiliar landscapes.
You see this old retired teacher now finds herself in the first months of being a widow. After 51 years of being married I've been left behind.

Here I am, sent back to school to master a difficult life lesson, and being forced to pay attention to boot!

Whatever I'm supposed to learn from this experience must be critically important too, considering the sheer number of Father's children who are faced with a similar lesson plan.

So, even though I often find myself gazing wistfully out the window, daydreaming about past picnics on the beach, I'll pray to be a good student.

When my mind wanders off I'll send it back to the classroom where I must have said a thousand times to some teenaged kid meandering on paths of their own....

 "Hector! (Or Lucinda, or whomever) Will you please pay attention! You're smart, you can get this, but you need to focus or you won't pass Algebra! This is your last chance, Hector! If you don't pass Algebra this time you won't graduate! Focus please!"

Well you know what they say about paybacks.

In any case I'm surely not alone in deep water.
Virtually all of Father's beloved children are faced with these really hard life lessons at one time or another. The ones that knock the breath right out of you.
I can understand that too, because as a parent I know what a disaster it would be for my children to grow up in complete ease, without any difficult challenges.
What a mess they'd be, right? Weaklings for sure.
And heaven knows that the mightiest warriors are needed for today's battles.

Still, these past months, something that's been especially hard for me to see is my beloved children struggling under the burden of their own sorrow.

But now I have a new appreciation for Heavenly Father's perfect grit.

That he allowed his innocent Son to suffer so much was an amazing act of love for all the rest of us.
Mercy cannot rob justice and the Atonement was a perfect act of mercy and justice.
I can only imagine how much it cost Father to allow.

So, as I try to understand all that's in this "widow" lesson plan, I'll pray that each one in our family will move through their own grief, growing and figuring out important eternal principles as they do.

One thing I've learned is that Father doesn't leave us alone out here. I know that we're surrounded by his helpers, day and night, seen and unseen. I live with two of them.

And Larry himself came to help me a few months ago when I needed help most.

It was right after a beautiful Thanksgiving at our son's home. The first without Larry.

All of our kids, most of the grands, nieces, and many various other posterity were there. Everything was lovely and everyone was doing their best to be of good cheer.

We "West-sider" family had also used this day to bring baby gifts to shower our sweet Meg who was about to deliver our first great-grandbaby.

In addition, some of my wonderful family had given me a very precious gift.
It was a once in a lifetime labor of love that I will cherish always.

It was one of those "diamond days." This time filled with love and sadness at the same time.

Yet in the midst of all these bIessings I felt myself beginning to sink into a deep, paralyzing sadness. It was as if I were slowly falling into a dark hole.

It was the start of the holiday season and Larry wasn't here physically.

He always loved the holidays. For the first time in 51 years we wouldn't be together for all the happiness.
I was learning that the incomparable blessing of eternal marriage and knowlege of truth doesn't stop the aching of missing someone who's away.

After we left our son's home that afternoon I managed to tell the girls that I thought it would be best for me to skip Christmas this year.
I didn't think I'd be able to bear it without their father.
I hoped they would understand if I stayed at home by myself through all the rest of the festivities.
I didn't want to ruin everyone's happiness with my selfish tears.
They responded with quiet. Maybe they were praying.

Late that night something happened that changed everything for me.

Heavenly Father sent Larry with a message.
I feel it's okay to share it with you in hopes it may help someone else.

Most likely in a situation such as this you would expect a message from the other side to be filled with words of great comfort, gentle love, and encouragement.

But this is an exact quote of what Larry said to me. I recognized his irritated tone immediately.

"Knock it off, Babe! You're gonna ruin Christmas for a bunch of people on both sides of the veil if everybody has to worry about you! All I did was die! You know I like Christmas. And you know I love you and I'm waiting for you.
And, another thing. You have to quit wanting to come here all the time. You can't come here until you finish your mission."
Then he was gone. He didn't even say goodbye. He seemed to be in some kind of a big hurry.

Everything began to change then.

The dense, paralyzing fog started to lift. I found myself back in the realm of regular widow sadness. I'd already learned that giving service to others, no matter how small, helps with that.

I'm so grateful for the Lord's tender mercies.
It's amazing to me that He cares for each one of His children personally, knowing the exact nature of their needs.
I'm also grateful to know that Larry is so busy while waiting for me. I know he's growing in knowlege every day and has many opportunities to serve.

I have a message of my own for him. From this side. I send it with my love.

"Thanks Babe. It is Babe isn't it?"

He'll understand.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

That Famous Old Snake Story

There's a famous story that's been around a long, long, time. It's about a snake.
You may have heard it. 

Most likely, hundreds of teachers, including myself, have told it to the young people in their charge. 
I don't know who the original author might have been, but they have my gratitude. I'm grateful because one or two of the young people who heard the tale in my class said that it made them think. 

Thinking is a wonderful thing in a teenager.

So, just in case you haven't heard about snakes, or know a kid who's fooling around with one, here it is. 

There once was an Indian people who made their home on the vast plains of a beautiful land. Majestic mountains stood guard in the distance. 
This tribe had many honored traditions handed down from generation to generation. Among those traditions was a right of passage that all the young braves and maidens undertook as they left childhood and became adults. 
It involved a sacred journey.  
This is the story of one.

A lovely young maid stood at the edge of her village at dawn on a summer's day. It was her fifteenth birthday and now it was time to make her way into adulthood. Her family and friends surrounded her to wish her well. 
The sun rose as she walked across the golden fields, until finally at midday she reached the sacred mountains. This was where she was to make the difficult climb to a lofty overlook. She began to make her way over the jagged rocks and after several hours at last she could see the secluded ledge. It was large, sheltered from the wind, and faced beautiful vistas of the valley below.

When she reached the ledge the maiden sat to rest, and then to contemplate her future and her place in it. She watched as the sun set and the stars began to appear. She prepared a place to sleep and built a fire for warmth and to prepare her food.  The night passed with the young woman deep in thought, surounded by the beauty of the stars and sky.  
Dawn broke and the maiden prepared to return home. As she did, there came a rustle fom some brush and nearby rocks. Turning toward the sound, she saw a large rattlesnake beginning to coil and raise it's deadly head. 

In fear she began to slowly back away. She was grateful to see that she was just out of reach of the deadly serpent. 
But then an amazing thing happened. Something she could scarcely believe. As the snake raised it's ugly head from its coils it began to speak to her! 
"Lovely maiden," he hissed, "There's no need to be afraid. I mean you no harm. In fact, I need your help." 

In astonishment she listened as the snake continued.

"You see, I find myself unable to get down from this ledge and back to my home on the plains below. The sharp rocks make it impassible. But, if you will carry me down with you I will repay the favor with great gifts."
The snake hissed on, "Wondrous gifts await you, I promise! You'll see colors you've never imagined, hear sounds never before heard, and feel amazing sensations that defy description!" 

The young girl stepped back and said in disgust, "No, never! You're a deadly snake! You'll surely kill me."

"You can trust me, young maiden," he went on. "I'd never hurt you! Believe me. To prove it, I'll even give you a special treasure. I'll bestow great confidence and beauty upon you! Everyone will find you irresistable! I promise."

So, enticed by his silky words, the maiden lowered her hand to the ground. 

The snake slowly slithered up her arm and draped himself around her shoulders, his huge head poised to whisper in her ear. 
She shuddered, but then began working her way around the sharp rocks. All the while the snake repeated his golden promises. 

At last she reached the base of the mountain. She lowered her arm so the snake could slither off, glad to be rid of him forever.
Just as his tail slipped off her fingertips, the great snake turned its head, as if to say goodbye. 

Instead he lunged, sinking his venom filled fangs deep into her neck.

She screamed. 

As the maiden writhed in agony and fell to the ground, she called out in disbelief, "You lied! You promised! You said you wouldn't hurt me!"
The snake was already slithering away. But he paused just long enough to turn,

"Really, you foolish girl." he smirked, 
"You can't possibly be suprised."

As he slithered off he hissed with an evil grin, 
"You knew I was a snake when you picked me up."

Think about it. 
Thinking is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Christmas Envelope

Dear Readers,
This is a story that I read somewhere many years ago. I share it now so that my wonderful family will understand their Christmas presents.
May they, and all of you, be blessed with the peace and love brought to us by that tiny babe born under a shining star, and then laid in a manger.

The Christmas Envelope

It was getting on in the month of November.
A long married, well to do couple were heading out to a wrestling tournament where their youngest son, a high school senior, was to compete. This couple, Walter and Emily, had two older children... a daughter, now out of college and married, and another son in his last year of law school.

Walter and Emily had spent many a Saturday afternoon sitting on cold, hard benches watching one sporting event or another as their children grew up. As this day unfolded it crossed both their minds that "bleacher bum" was to end with their last child's graduation.
Strangely, it made them both a little bit melancholy.

They entered the gym and sat with old friends. As usual the men began talking of weighty matters like sports and the women of home and family.
The topic of Christmas shopping came up with the women.
Emily mentioned to her friend that this year she really wanted to give her husband something truly special. She didn't know why, but she wanted Walt to know how much he meant to her, and for once to get him something he truly loved.
"That man is so frustrating!" she complained, "He has everything he wants and I've looked all over town to find just the right thing. Nothing's right!"

Just then their sons' team began jogging into the gym accompanied by loud cheers and whistles, so conversation stopped.
The boys looked great in its bright school colors and insignias. Each athlete wore warm-up jackets with a fierce "Panther" embroidered on the back, long pants covering their wrestling singlets, and special wrestling shoes in team colors. The coaches all had shirts, ties and jackets tastefully embroidered with the team logo. The team manager came in pushing a huge cart full of equipment including all kinds of safety gear. As the "Panthers" got settled on their side of the gym the other team came in.

There was just a smattering of clapping and whistles for the opponents.
The other school was quite a distance away, in fact located in the inner city. Not many fans had made the long trip.
The wrestlers weren't dressed as a team, instead wearing t-shirts, sweats and jeans to cover their wrestling singlets. The coaches were in street clothes. The ref was talking to them while pointing at one of their boys shoes.
The match began and ended quickly. It was a rout.
The inner city kids fought a good fight but were hopelessly outmatched. Once a match was stopped while the opponents stopped to borrow a small sized headgear for one of their players, the one he was wearing was slipping. All the boys were good sports, each making sure to shake the hand of the winner.

As the crowd exited the gym Emily happened to overhear her husband say to his friend, "What a shame those kids don't have the gear they need. They've got heart that's for sure."
Emily was suddenly inspired!

Weeks passed and Christmas came. All the kids were coming home for their traditional Christmas Eve dinner and opening of gifts. The dinner was lovely as usual and then the family settled around the tree. Gifts were passed around and opened, everyone getting something on their wish list.
Emily opened a big box from her husband to find a gorgeous painting. She had admired it months before when the two of them were out together. She couldn't believe he remembered it! She was thrilled.
The kids began to clear away the wrapping debris when the youngest son said, "Mom, what'd you get for Dad?"

Emily went to the back of the tree and brought out an envelope hidden in the branches.
She handed it to Walter with a kiss and a "Merry Christmas darling, I hope it fits."

He opened it and found a card which said,
"In your honor the inner city wrestling team has been outfitted with jackets, warm-ups, shoes, and safety gear. The coaches have tastefully monogramed team blazers. All are in the school colors with a fierce mascot embroidered on the back."
Emily looked at Walter's face as he read the note. She could see by his expression and then by the big hug that she had finally found something he really wanted!

That's not the end of the story though. You see, soon the wonderful holiday season was over and then late in the fall of the next year, Walter died in a car accident.

The entire family was devastated but relying on faith and love to make it through each sad day.
Christmas was coming once again.
Emily had no heart for it but the children were coming home and she knew Walter wouldn't want them to be sad. He loved Christmas.
So the lovely dinner was prepared and afterwards they all gathered around the tree. Everyone was trying to be cheerful.
Presents were opened and the wrappings cleared away. As the family settled around the lights of the tree, all got quiet. Then the youngest son said, "Mom, I have a gift for Dad. Would you open it?"

Emily looked up in surprise as he went to the back of the tree and brought out an envelope. She opened it and read, "To Dad, in your honor this winter I've been clearing the snow from the walks of an elderly couple that live by the school. Merry Christmas! Love from your son.
Emily's eyes filled as she hugged their son.
Then, she could scarcely believe it when their daughter and oldest son got up and reached behind the tree too. They brought their envelopes to their mom. "These are for Dad." Acts of love and service were described inside.
Tears began to fall and she asked if someone would look on the top branch at the back. There was another envelope. It said, "To my darling Walter, Merry Christmas, From Emily."

So Walter may have moved on. But his legacy continues in his family. It's a legacy of love and service and exactly what Christ would want for Christmas.

"Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
                                                                                                    Matthew 25: 40

"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."
                                                                                                      Luke 2:11

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Mystery That Is Man

I've updated this post for our grandson Malachi.
He was over again today on one of his countless rescue missions in this now all-female household.
This time it was to fell an errant tree in the backyard that was in danger of doing damage.

As he headed his Eagle Scout self out back, he was armed.
Carrying a huge ladder and many sharp objects, including a fierce ax, he strode past me muttering enthusiastically about different ways to start a fire to burn the mountain of tree debris. Apparently green wood may need encouragement.

I listened in increasing alarm.

He mentioned that reinforcements had been called in to assist. His cousin and my nephew, Ivan, another male, is thankfully always willing to help us too. Mal thought that maybe he'd have some good ideas about that burning thing.

I was suddenly struck down by a wave of deja-vu.  "There it is," I thought.  "All over again, as they say."

Then from inside my head came a shout, "This kid reminds me of his grandfather!"

So, here's to you, Malachi.
And thank you so very much for taking such good care of us.
We never would have made it through the last year without you.


I may have shared this with you before but my memory is like a sieve now. Anyway, this subject's been on my mind lately.
The subject of men that is.
Or more precisely the mystery of the male animal.
You'd think that since I've been married for half a century, and all that time to a man, and because I’m not a stupid woman, some kind of insight concerning male thinking would naturally develop.
Sadly you’d be wrong.

This "man pondering" was brought on by our gorgeous desert fall weather, by the way.
Let me explain.

It’s planting time down here in our sunny valley.
Other folks in the northern hemisphere may be putting up storm windows and shoveling flakes but I’ve been keeping a sharp lookout at the big box stores for the first six packs of flowering annuals.
I nearly shouted with glee the other day when I scored some Johnny-jump ups.
I swear they looked like little purple and yellow giggles bobbing in the breeze….you couldn’t help but smile.

I even managed to get them planted in the back patio pots all by myself.
Grandkids had previously lugged the heavy bags of potting soil and filled them for me.
I snuck them in among the petunias, geraniums and dianthus already getting started.

Then as I surveyed my work my eyes cast over our entire backyard.
When we moved here years ago there wasn’t a green growing thing anywhere.
A few dried tumbleweeds had blown into the corners of the block fence, the only sign of life to be found.
So we planted trees and shrubs galore, hoping for shade from the relentless desert sun among other things.

As I looked around I realized how wildly successful we’d been.
In addition to what we’d planted on purpose there’d been a couple of volunteers now grown to huge trees. One mesquite will soon reach above the house.

In fact, it’s kind of a jungle out here now.
Something will need to be done, I worried.
Then my eyes fell on a bare spot along the fence. Once I’d planted a beautiful “String of Pearls” bouganvillia there but it didn’t make it.
I remembered the day I found out why.
It was one of those “the mystery that is man” days.

It was the first February we’d lived here. All our plantings were still new and tentative looking.
All except the weeds that were coming up in a solid carpet of green where nothing but dirt had been when we moved in.
Somehow the winter rains had magically found weed seeds waiting for moisture.
Nature’s miracle had happened in our own backyard. Front yard too, actually.

Well, the miracle must be stopped.
And it must be stopped right away because the homeowners association would send us an ugly letter if weeds were spotted from the street.
Don’t get me wrong. We’re actually grateful for our HO. It protects the neighborhood property values from people like us.

So Larry was put in charge of getting rid of the weeds.
I didn’t even have to nag him because he’s afraid of the Homeowners Ass. (As he fondly calls it.)
I was thinking some kind of herbicide spray would do the trick. And maybe some pulling.
But then I was not Larry, who is a man.

The first thought that came to his mind when given the task of weed removal was to build a contraption out of a two wheeled dolly (that thing you move heavy appliances with), a long sprayer device, and a propane tank from the barbeque filled with explosives.
This wouldn’t have occurred to me.
His invention shot fire out the end of the sprayer and made a terrifying blasting, whoosing noise like a hot air balloon being filled before liftoff. A neighbor actually called.
He drug it along behind him as he went from weed to weed incinerating it. It left awful black burn marks all over the yard and caused dogs to bark from blocks away.
It was horrible.

One day our daughter and son-in-law came over when Larry was “weeding,” as he now loved to do.
Scott, who is also a man, thought this remarkable invention was a stroke of genius and asked to borrow it for their yard.
I joyfully convinced Larry that he needed to share. It made him sad but he agreed.

A couple of days later I got a frantic call from Kim.
“Ma, tell Dad to come get his fire blower. Scott is burning up the whole yard and black splotches are everywhere. Today I caught the boys looking at it and I know they were trying to figure out how it works. That thing is dangerous! Get him over here quick before someone gets hurt!”

I did notice that none of their five daughters were reported to have tried to figure out how it worked.
Only the males who would one day become men.
Apparently this thing starts early.

Anyway, a few weeks later Larry and I were again out in the yard working when I noticed my lovely “String of Pearls” bouganvillia over along the fence. This variety was a hard to find delicate pinkish white. I was anxious to see it in color.
To my great dismay it looked sick. In fact it looked dead.
I said to my dear husband, “Oh no…..look at my bouganvillia! And it was doing so well!

Larry stopped what he was doing and gazed across the yard to my poor plant.
“That’s too bad, Hon.” he said in a sympathetic tone.
He stopped to stare quietly for a minute and then remarked, “I think it must get too hot over there by the fence.”

“Too hot!” I cried. No, that can’t be it. Bouganvillia love the heat.”
I walked sadly over to investigate.
There among the black scorch marks on the ground were poking the charred roots of my once promising plant.

I turned and sent an accusing look over at my husband.

He actually said without shame, “Look….there’re no weeds around it.”

This whole thing got me to thinking about the scriptures.
Specifically about Adam in the garden of Eden. As I recall it tells about a time when Adam was left alone there.
Father looked down on him and said something like…….
“Will you look at that. There’s Adam all alone in the garden. Well, that certainly is NOT good!"

I think He may have added, "Good grief he needs help! Quick, hurry and get a woman or there’s no telling what will happen.”
Perhaps there wasn't room to include everything.

And so woman was put on the earth.
If you think about this even a little you’ll realize that one of the divine purposes of woman’s existence is to stop men from doing all the crazy stuff they want to do.
You can read all about it in the Old Testament.
You’ll notice that there’s no mention of Adam making a fire blowing weed killer.
Thank you Eve.

It’s amazing to me how the scriptures, most of them written long ago, still apply to our lives today.
I guess some things never change, do they?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A Wise Word to Room Parents

Winter melts into spring as the old song says. 
Sunrise after sunset, again and again, bringing each new season in its time.
And so, as the days shorten, we now embark into the season of,  "Mom (Or Dad), I have to bring..... (Fill in Here),  to the school, team, den, church..... (Choose one),  party tomorrow." 

Usually this news is presented late in the evening by an offspring of yours as he or she heads off for bed. 

I have some observations on this topic based on nearly three decades in the classroom. I'd like to share them with you because they turned out to be extremely valuable to me personally. 
As a parent myself I often heard a child of my own utter those same chilling words.

I remember it well. 
I was teaching 5th grade at the time and it was the day of our first class party. The whole school was celebrating. Naturally my students were excited and unable to concentrate. 
Moms were stopping by to drop off goodies for our fun and games. As they did so my kids would gaze longingly at the treats and make comments. 

After lunch the classroom door opened and a sweet mother who had many children came in with a tray of the most elaborately decorated cookies I'd ever seen. Each one was a color co-ordinated work of art! Every adorable cookie face had movable googly eyes and perfectly placed icing hair! 
They must have taken hours to create.
As she brought them in the whole class gathered around and exclaimed in excitement, 
"Wow, Robert! Will you look at that! Your mom is so cool!"

A few minutes later another mom came in to drop off more treats. She brought in a big vat of vanilla ice cream, 4 jugs of root beer, plastic cups and straws. 
It probably took her minutes to run into the store.
As she brought them in the whole class gathered around to exclaim in excitement, 
"Wow, Susie! Will you look at that! Your mom is so cool!"

Think about this. 

I did think about it and was prompted to have a meeting with my own children. 

I advised them that we want to willingly contribute to every good cause. We never want to shirk. We're always anxious to put our shoulders to our part of the wheel.
So, I told them they should be the first to wave their hands excitedly and volunteer to bring something to the class party, team picnic, Scout dinner, Mutual event etc. 
I encouraged them to volunteer for the following items. 
"Memorize this list," I said. "There will be a test."

                       Ice cream
                       Root Beer or Fudge Sauce
                       Hot Dogs and Buns 
                       Graham Crackers
                       Hershey Bars 
                       Ketchup, Mustard, Pickle Relish
                       Oreos and Milk
                       Store Bought Onion Dip
                       Napkins, Paper Plates, or Bowls
                       Cups, Plastic Spoons, Straws
                       (NEVER potato salad)

Just thought I'd share.

* Note
Now if this first sweet mom loved to bake artistic cookies and found expression for her creativity through baking them, then my observation is null and void. 
To each her own.
My creative impulses often are best expressed after first replenishing them with a nap.

**Note Again
Now that I'm old I've noticed that a version of this valuable concept may extend into later life.  

You see, for some strange reason, it turns out that grandchildren seem to appreciate"Grandma food." Especially teenagers who are always hungry and have the metabolism of wolverines. 

Now I want to be just as good a grandma as the next lady. But this particular one has been blessed with some mobility obstacles that involve a wheelchair.  
I assure you that I'm truly trying to be grateful for these obstacles, because of the opportunity dealing with them provides to learn patience and perseverence. Nevertheless, the meal and treat production, for which grandmas are often famous, can become problematic because of them.

I did hear about a conversation between someone's grandchildren that gave me hope though. 
I was told it went something like this.
One brother said to the other. 

"Hey, I'm hungry again."
"So. What else is new?" replied his sibling.

First brother then remarks, 
"Well, it's half-price wing Wednesday at the pizza place. If we go over to Grandma's and look hungry she'll call in and order us some. And if we take out the garbage and water her patio pots she'll get a pizza too."

"Let's go, Bro, I love Grandma's cooking!" was the enthusiastic reply.

*** Last Note

I once forgot about my son's Freshman Football potluck dinner. Every family was to bring a favorite dish to share.
Life was crowding in close at the time, so in desperation, I put on my dark sunglasses and stopped at a drive-thru chicken place to pick up my contribution.
At the team dinner it was the first favorite dish gone.

So remember this:
"For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 
                                             Matthew 11:30

"There are ways and then there are ways."
                                               Mz Dub  (Mrs. W.)

I understand that we've been asked by Father to accomplish many good things. We should always be anxiously engaged in a good cause. 
But, I have noticed a lot of yoke tightening and "nice but unnecessary" burden adding to various good causes among some normally intelligent and lovely people. 
You don't suppose that means that WE added extra weight to the task at hand, not Him?

Remember too:
"It is not requisite for a man to run faster than he has strength."
                                              Mosiah 4: 27

I happen to be privileged to know some of the most faithful and compassionate children of God. They study the scriptures regularly but oddly simply won't believe this one.

You don't suppose that scripture from Mosiah could mean that running yourself into exhaustion doesn't earn extra points in heaven? Even for a good cause? That it's ignoring counsel from the Lord?

I don't pretend to know the answer but I plan to think about it.


Sunday, September 4, 2016

Lifted by an Apple and a Post-it-Note

Kindness is very powerful.
That's what I heard an Apostle of the Lord say recently. 
And since he said it in a conference talk I believe that makes it official.

Heavenly Father wants us to know that an act of kindness is an act of power.

I'd never really thought of kindness in that particular way before, being an act of power I mean, so I decided to ponder it. 
This pondering brought back a memory of a single act of kindness that has lifted me for over 25 years.

It happened when I was teaching in a small school in our beautiful, beloved mountains.

I remembered  that it was late on a Friday afternoon after a particularly trying week. 
I vaguely recalled days of mind numbing state testing for my poor students, and grades due and two days of parent-teacher conferences that lasted until 9:30 at night for me. There were endless faculty meetings where a dear colleague looked over at me in exasperation and wryly commented, "You know the scary thing about these things is that everybody in the room has a college degree." 
In addition, students, parents and teachers were embroiled in a variety of disagreements for which I had somehow been designated as the referee. 
By late Friday afternoon I was questioning my life's choices and generally feeling exhausted, unappreciated, and unloved. 

Humming, "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen," I headed across the dark hallway to pick up my mail before finally heading for the weekend and home.
I flipped on the light in the breakroom and looked at the little cubbies usually filled only with additional demands sent by mail. 
In each one, on top of the demands, there was a bright red apple and a little Post-it-Note. 
I reached in for mine. 
The note said, "Teaching is not always easy but it matters forever. Thank you so much for all that you do for kids. It was signed, "A grateful parent".

I'll never forget the almost miraculous change in my outlook after reading those few words. 
I still remember the lift it gave my spirit decades later. 

An act of kindness. An act of service. Not such a simple one either when you consider that every faculty member was a recipient. 

Now, many years later, I'm here to testify that there is indeed great power involved in kindness. I was once lifted by an apple and a post-it-note. Others were too. I'm lifted still when I remember it.

Yes, an Apostle of the Lord spoke about kindness in a conference talk recently.  
He did so because Heavenly Father wants us to know that an act of kindness is an act of great power. 
Maybe even eternal power.

Think about it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

One Woman.....Very Little Brain

I remember hearing this story a long time ago. I don't know where. 
I assume that it's true.

It's a story about the power of one. 
It's also about anonymous service. 
And how what we may think is just a small thing can turn out to be a very big thing. 
And how sometimes those same small things can bring joy to people we may not even have met. 

It's also about the eternal nature of goodwill. And beauty. 
And that we've been told to love one another. 
And that work is love made visable. 
And that man is that he might have joy.
And many other things. 

Here's the story.

A couple were heading out on a beautiful summer Saturday morning for a day of "putzing" aroung together. 
The week had been a busy one for both and they were looking forward to some down time and then a great lunch at one of their favorite restaurants.
They were headed nowhere in particular but the husband had heard someone at work talking about a "sight not to be missed" that was out in the country not far from where they lived. So they started off in that general direction.

All morning long they had meandered down country roads. They drove alongside creeks where sunlight dappled in bright patches through the trees. Once they took a turn down a gravel path just because the sign said,"Apple Lane." 
They stopped at a farmstand for peaches to take home to the kids. At a yardsale they bought a funny old lamp for her and a box of rusty bolts for him. 
It had been a great morning. 

Before lunch they decided to look for that "sight not to be missed" they'd been told about, and so headed off to find it. 
The drive took them through more charming country. They passed alongside graceful trees and sparkling streams again. Beauty was everywhere they looked. 
Then they topped a hill and saw it. 
That sight not to be missed.

Below, in a little valley, was a modest white house. 
The surrounding yard contained a big bed of bright yellow daffodils punctuated every now and then by purple patches of elegant irises. 

But the amazing thing was that the flowers seemed to have escaped from the yard. 
The little fence couldn't contain them. They spread out under it in a bright swath of blooms that covered the fields and hills next to the house.  
Now there were acres and acres of flowers as far as you could see! It was an ocean of yellow, purple and green that took your breath away!

The couple drove slowly down the gravel road through thousands and thousands and thousands of blooms. They spotted a carved wooden sign posted in the yard of the little white house and stopped to read what it said.
                       "To answer your questions...
                        One woman with very little brain.
                        One bulb at a time.
                        Season after season after season."

Think about it.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Tiny Sparkles of Romance

This summer brings our 51st wedding anniversary.
And so I find my thoughts turning to romance.
Not the grand gestures you sometimes see depicted on the big and little screens either.
You know those.
Airplanes gracefully skywriting, "Marry me please my one true love, Stephanie!" in cloudlike script.
Or a candlelight and crystal picnic set up at the very edge of the Grand Canyon, with a portable CD playing "How Deep Is My Love."
I don't mean that sort of thing.

No, my thoughts have turned instead to some of the little romantic sparkles which actually lit my life.
The first I remember is when Larry and I were very young.

He was a sophomore in college living with roomates in an apartment close to the university.
I was still in high school.
We'd been dating for a while when he learned that I loved flowers.

Of course as a college student he had no money to spare for flowers.
Even so, oftentimes he came to pick me up for a date with bouquets of garden roses, or gladiolas, or other sometimes spetacular blossoms.
They were always presented wrapped in layers and layers of wet newspaper and once or twice came with aphids.
I asked him one time where he got them and he said that he was always on the lookout.
So whenever he saw flowers growing along highway medians, or parks, or at ASU outside the Dean's office, he would hop whatever barrier was guarding them and pull out his trusty pocket knife.
I still think the most beautiful flowers come wrapped in wet newspaper.
And I try not to remember "Thou shall not steal," when I do.

Another early twinkle came about when I had a date with an Eagle Scout I'd met several months previously. He'd asked me to go to a fancy Blue and Gold Scout Ball to be held in the spring. It was to be a formal affair held at a big hotel in downtown Phoenix.
I explained all this to Larry. He said he understood about honoring committments.

But lo and behold, when the night came and my date and I came out of the festivities, there was Larry standing across Central Avenue under a streetlight.
He was leaning against his car, arms crossed, glaring at the ballroom exit.
Even way back then that glare reminded me of a sparkle. It still does.

After we married, a particular small bit of romance became an ongoing joke.
Early one morning as I opened my newlywed eyes I found Larry looking at me.
I pulled the covers over my head and said with distress, "Don't look at me when I'm ugly!"
He pulled the covers off my head and just stared.
Long and hard too.
This became a standard and very annoying morning ritual.

Then there were gifts.
A lot of traditional romantics prefer jewelry stores for diamonds and the like.
Supermarkets became Larry's go-to source for romance all the rest of our lives.

He'd be sent off to buy bread or milk. When he came home there at the bottom of the bag I'd find a new potato peeler.
When I asked about it he'd say, "Last week you said you hated the kind of peeler we had."
Or there'd be an extension cord because I'd cussed a lamp that was out of reach. Or a gadget to open jars when I'd remarked offhandly last month that it hurt to open pesky lids. Or a pepper shaker with big holes, or whatever.
That he'd remembered brought the sparkle.

And then there was asparagus.
I love it though it can be on the expensive side. Every now and then I'd find a bunch or a can serving as a note from my husband when I unpacked the groceries.

Then too, grocery store flowers were often gifts.
I love their bouquets of mixed varieties and colors.
And anyway, by then Larry had grown too old for hopping over highway medians.
Of course my standard comment when receiving a bunch was, "What did you do?"

Once I remember a very special  "day after"  Valentine's Day.
I don't usually like this holiday's "coerced" show of affection.
But this year, our daughter Kim had been sent two dozen long stemmed roses from her current beau. I went to her room to admire them and show motherly support. I commented that as old as I was I'd never been given long stemmed roses. "That young man must think you're really special!" I gushed.
I didn't know that my husband was standing out in the hall. (In truth I actually preferred the grocery store mixed bouquets of daisies and carnations that I was usually given.)

The next day, February 15th, Larry and I went to the grocery store for our weekly purchases. He was loading the car with the toilet paper, dog food, and laundry detergent when he reached into one of the the shopping carts and brought out two bouquets of the most gorgeous pink and yellow roses I'd ever seen! Those flowers were as big as teacups!
He'd snuck them by me when I wasn't looking.

As he handed them in through the car window he said, "They were half price. But it still counts!"
His voice sounded slightly annoyed.
Apparently he was miffed that I had never told him that I wished for roses.
Actually I hadn't wished, but those beautiful flowers did indeed count.

Then there were little romantic occasions.
Like the shared ice cream treats of our "geezer" years.  ( Larry liked to call us "fogarts." I'll let you figure out what words he shortened and combined.)

Anyway, neither of us was supposed to eat sweets, but Larry especially was afflicted with a terrible sweet tooth. Mine is more of a french fry tooth.
In any case, we devised a system of moderation that worked for the rare sundae. We would order a small size with 2 spoons.
This worked well except for the cherry on top.
Larry always managed to whisk it away and eat it before I could even make a grab for it. This became a joke until I complained about unrighteous dominion. Then Larry would still whisk the cherry away, eat half of it, and put the remains on top!
Now whenever I see a mangled, half eaten cherry I get all romantic.
By the way we ended up using this system with french fries too. One order, split in two. No issues with the cherry.

Another time Larry received the "little sparkle."
I sent him to Sears to buy new shoes and not long after he left, our son called.
Dane said that he'd just been given tickets to the ASU / UofA football game which started in less than two hours. This was an historic game, a longstanding rivalry between the two universities. ASU was Larry's alma mater and our son wanted to take his dad.
I explained that he wasn't home but then said that I was sure I could find him.

So I called Sears and knowing that he'd been sent to buy shoes I asked for the tool department.
A salesgirl answered and I explained the "football emergency." She understood.
I described my husband. "Find a big, handsome man who looks like a cross between Sean Connery and Santa Clause."
She put down the phone to go look. She came back and apologized that she didn't see him.
I added, "I almost forgot. He's a really good kisser."
Immediately she cried out, "Oh, there he is now! Hang on."
When Larry got home after the game I explained how I found him.
He smiled slyly and then presented me with one of his best kisses.
I noticed a little romantic sparkle in his eye.
But I still wonder about that salesgirl.

Beaches at sunset provide memories too.
One I especially remember. It was our anniversary and we had come by ourselves this trip.

Comfortable camping chairs were loaded in the trunk since we could no longer get up and down from the sand without paramedics to assist.
The sun was sitting low on the horizon and an increasingly cool sea breeze came briskly onto shore.
As we set up our chairs and turned to enjoy the setting sun an amazing thing happened.
A beautiful young couple dressed in their wedding finery made their way to the edge of the sea!
They were holding hands and kissing tenderly.
I said to Larry, "Look at that sweet young couple! They're just starting out and here just a few feet away from them sits an old married couple together for decades. Isn't that wonderful! How does that make you feel?"
He looked into my eyes, wrapped his jacket closer around him, paused dramatically and said,
"I feel cold. Let's get in the car, and turn the heat on, Babe."
I'm still trying to figure out exactly what he meant by that. But I did notice a definite twinkle in his eye when he said it.

One of our most romantic moments ever came at Disneyland.
We were sitting by ourselves outside Toontown on a secluded bench. The fireworks program was ready to begin.
It had been a wonderful day.
We looked to the dark sky, our view framed by the bare, sculptural branches of a mid-winter tree.
Then sweet music began to play and skyrockets exploded in beautiful patterns in the night.
"When You Wish Upon A Star" was the last song accompanied by the huge finale of skyrockets.

We sat on the bench, huddled together for warmth, watching exploding rainbows of sparkling light.
It was magic. There's no other way to describe it. A magic moment in our lives.

I looked at Larry and said. "What can you say after that?"
Then he looked into my eyes for a long time. "I've seen fireworks before," he said.

Naturally I melted.

And then I forgave him for a great many of the especially dumb things he'd done over the years.
He'd covered a multitude of sins with that one.

Dear Readers, these next words are the hardest I've ever had to write.

I won't be able to hold Larry's hand or feel the tickle of his mustache through a kiss on our anniversary this summer. That will have to wait for a while.
You see Larry passed away early this month. He finished up and was called home.
I had always hoped we could go together but that seldom happens, does it?
There must be a great lesson many of us need to learn in that brief space of time without our better half.

To say that I miss him doesn't begin to convey what my heart is feeling.
Sadness sits on my shoulder now. But I don't feel despair. Because hope sits softly on the other so there is no room for despair.
You see, that we've been married for eternity in a Holy Temple of the Lord makes all the difference.
Our children have been sealed to us for all time. We truly are a forever family and my heart fills with gratitude for that blessing.

And words will never be able to tell the comfort I feel because I absolutely know that Larry is well and happy. Many who love him were waiting there to welcome him to the next step of progression.
He's busy learning, growing, helping and teaching. I know too that his friendly personality and goofy sense of humor will open hearts that no one else could reach.
And then, so very thankfully, I feel his presence near me often. Especially when I miss him most.

Lately I've been writing thank you notes to wonderful family and friends. And so I'd like to send a note to Heavenly Father.

Dear Father,
My heart overflows with gratitude for my countless blessings. Among the most precious, our amazing children and grandchildren.
Thank you for sending your son, Christ the Savior, to conquer death for all of us.
Thank you for Larry and the blessings of our marriage and family.
Thank you for the Holy Temples where husbands, wives, and families are sealed forever.
Thank you that in one of them I didn't have to say "Til death we do part."
Thank you that Larry and I will be together again. Not one whisker of his mustache lost, he will wrap me in a great hug once more.
And thank you more than words can say that I absolutely know the truth of these things.

Love Forever,
Your Daughter

Friday, May 6, 2016

A Father's Day Tribute to Mother

Sunday is Father's Day.
And today my thoughts have turned to a particular father. The father of my own children in fact.
This is dedicated to him with love for all eternity.

Tis the season when thoughts turn to fathers.
Our thoughts don't turn to them often enough, actually. Those men of all shapes and sizes who work hard all their lives, buying diapers and braces when they really want fast cars.
Unsung heroes, those men who are "there" for their families.  Who show up, with all that means, on the stone days and the diamond days, no matter what.

So I turned my thoughts to them.
And when the thoughts turned, one thing I recognized is that there would be no great fathers without the women they turned into mothers.
So, in honor of Father's Day, I remembered the first time that I knew I was a great mother to our teenagers.

It was late on one of many Friday or Saturday nights.

Larry and I, being worn out from working all week and being the parents of four kids, two of them currently in their early teens, (as exhausting as toddlers, by the way), went to bed and were snoring by 10:00.
At 11:30 the alarm went off.
I rolled over to shake Larry.
He sat up on the side of the bed and began to pull on his pants. The belt was still in them. It saved time.
As he zipped and sleepily buttoned his shirt he asked me the Friday/Saturday night question.
"Bowling alley, church dance, pizza parlor, or movie theater?"
I, who am responsible for knowing things, replied, "Movie theater."
Then I patted his shoulder as he tied his shoes, said, "You're a good father," and rolled over to go back to sleep. (Notice the support and encouragement here.)

This happened too many times to count until those teens were able to drive.

After they could drive the scenario changed.

Exhausted, overworked parents in bed by 10:00 again.
Phone rings at 12:00. They stay out later now.
The phone is on Larry's side of the bed.  He answers, hands it to me, and says, "It's for you."

Teenager on the line says,  "Ma, make dad come to:  (Choose one) movie theater, church, Stake Center, gas station on the corner, side of the road down from the Circle K, Jake's house, etc., etc.  Tell him to bring: (Choose one) battery charger, jack, spare tire, money for gas, gas, fuel filter etc. Tell him a bunch of people need a ride home too. My car's full."

I thought it strange that this little scenario never changed.
The call was always for me. (Notice how important the mother is.)
Larry always answered and said nothing except "Hello."  Then he handed the phone to me saying, "It's for you."
Before I could speak he began to put his pants on. The belt was still in them to save time.
I was always told by the teenager on the line to "make dad" do something.

And always, when he returned and climbed back in bed, he smelled of:  (Choose one) pizza, hamburger with onions, chile dogs, french fries, chocolate from a sundae etc.

Seems word got around that this dad would come to rescue kids at any hour if they fed him afterwards.
Sometimes not even his own kids. Sometimes he had to spring for the pizza too.

It's been many years since we've had teenagers.
But if the phone ever rings in the dead of night the same thing always happens.
There Larry will be, sitting on the side of the bed, pulling on his pants, waiting to see where he's supposed to go.

Old habits die hard.
It always reminds me of what a good mother I've been.

"I do nothing of myself; but as my father hath taught me."
                                                                    John 8:28

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Visit That Taught Me the Most

I hesitate to tell this story.
I hesitate because I believe that Relief Society and Visiting Teaching are divinely inspired programs.
I don't want to create a misunderstanding about that.

For those of you who aren't church members and may not know about home and visiting teaching, let me give you a very brief Raggedy Old Convert's thumbnail sketch.

Every family in the church is assigned two home teachers. These home teachers are men. They are assigned to visit families.
Plus, every woman is also assigned two female visiting teachers.
Both of these sets of teachers are to visit members once a month to check on their physical and spiritual welfare, health, and happiness.
If there is a need then someone is close at hand to help.

As you can imagine, the logistics of this large an undertaking mean that almost everyone in the church is assigned to be a teacher to someone else. Assigned to love and look out for them.

Since the beginning, I think it's safe to say that millions of acts of service have taken place at the hands of teachers. Sometimes precious lifelong friendships have been born.
Countless meals have been brought to familes. Millions of houses have been cleaned. Cars have been fixed, children tended, jobs found, fences mended, furniture moved, lawnmowers loaned, rides to hospitals given, yards raked, hands held, tears dried, spirits lifted, hearts strengthened and courage bolstered.

These programs exist because Father officially wants us to love. He even gave us written instructions so we wouldn't forget. When we do anything in that spirit, miracles can happen. That includes visiting teaching.
I tell about one of those "love miracles" in an old post I wrote a long time ago called "Angels."

Sometimes though, for one reason or another, we can forget how vital love is to our teaching and instead visit with a spirit of something else.
Like obligation.
Or turning in a complete report.
But if we forget that love part, things may happen that were never intended.
I remember once when it did.

We were relatively new in the church. My husband and I were doing the line upon line thing, trying hard to adjust to the truth and a culture very different from what we'd both known growing up.
And, not only that, since it was back in the 70's, we were adjusting to a culture very different from the one almost everyone else we knew was living in at that time.
Indeed, to a convert in the 70's, that non-drinking, non-smoking, dedicated to spouse, family, and service lifestyle made Mormons a peculiar people indeed.

Anyway, I was teaching 6th grade in a big city school. It was my my first full year. A recent graduate, everything was new and a challenge.
I was also pregnant. Again. And on purpose too.
As a matter of fact I was pregnant as a direct result of the truths we were learning about eternal families and children.
And even though he understood those truths about eternal families and had cooperated in this pregnancy endeavor, Larry was scared.

You see, up until recently he had been putting me through college while supporting our family all by himself.
He did this even though with our young kids, it was almost impossibly hard to come up with the additional money needed for my tuition and books. But Larry loved me, and in addition he and I had made this deal about school.
I had a dream you see. I wanted to finish college and become a teacher.
The bargain was that he would pay for my dream and support us all. After graduating I would teach and help with an extra income.

Now we were pregnant again because of learning about eternal truths. He was afraid that when we had another baby I would want to quit teaching to stay home. Then he'd have all of us plus one more mouth to feed. All by himself again. This wasn't part of our deal.
I assured him that I'd keep teaching for years to come.
(As it turned out that was a lie. Those teaching years came after a sizeable gap of staying home with babies and working part-time from home.)

You see, (Insert Heavenly Father/ World culture clash here), we already had two kids. A girl and a boy.
And since it was the '70's, this was the "perfect" family according to all the experts.

The experts were "population explosion" scientists who were yelling their heads off every night on the news. This was the "Cause," with a capital C, of the day.
Those in the know agreed that the world was heading for certain disaster in the next decade because there were just too many people!
There was no room, no food, no water, no medicine! Famine would engulf every continent causing wars that would end all life as we knew it.
There would be no dawn of the millenium!
And it had nothing to do with computers crashing around the world either.

The scientists were sure. People had to stop having babies! Or certainly at least more than two per couple. "Replacement offspring" I think they were called by someone.

In this climate even some of our own family members expressed dismay upon learning of the coming of our third baby.
When I think about that it still stings.
Casual acquaintances felt the need to remark on our growing family.
"No responsible person would consider more than two offspring," was the comment a colleague made to me upon hearing of our coming baby.
With our next pregnancy I began to say, "The world needs all the kids like mine it can possibly get."

But we were beginning to learn to listen to a higher authority.
It seems Heavenly Father thinks babies are a joy and a blessing. He thinks enough room was made on earth for all of his children who need to live here.
He's blessed those who are able to become parents with a wonderful gift.
And spirits waiting to come to earth are given a most precious gift of their own when born into loving homes where the truths of the gospel are being taught.
And the truth is that there are those who are waiting.

So, here I am, wife, mother of two, new teacher, eight months pregnant. Trying to live truth. And finding out that living truth isn't always easy.
It's Thursday afternoon after a hard week at work and I'm dead on my feet.

I walk into our unbelieveably messy living room at 4 0'clock, hot on the heels of my unbelievably messy kids, rushing to get dinner started while connecting with them and their day.
Larry was no help at all because he worked until 11 on Thursdays.
I'd need to keep some supper ready for him. He'll be dead tired too.

The phone rings as I'm making something that involves macaroni and cheese and hamburger.
It's my visiting teacher. She also happens to be the bishop's wife. The dinners she cooks involve fresh asparagus and homemade bread.

I need to include a bit of explanation here.
The bishop's family lived on the "other side" of the ward. Across a certain avenue. I called it the "OS." Our home teacher lived over there too.
Our home teacher was a bio-medical engineer. His next door neighbor was also in our ward. He was a lawyer.
That part of our ward had big, beautiful, never messy houses or kids.
They also had beautiful, never messy moms who didn't work outside the home.

Our side of the ward had little houses.
In addition, my little house was also usually messy.
"Other side" had huge families who took up whole rows in church where everyone matched and nobody ever had a hair out of place.
My little family of four sometimes attended church with unmatched socks.

I just knew that every single one of those living on the "OS" had been Mormons all their lives and their ancestors pulled handcarts across the desert to get them here. They were born knowing how to be LDS.
I always felt inadequate when compared with them.
Even though it was only me doing the comparing.

So, new in the gospel me says a cheery hello to the bishop's perfectly competent wife who's on the phone.
She wants to schedule a time for her visiting teaching.

Crestfallen but thinking fast I suggest Monday after school.
That will give me the weekend to get this mess cleaned up.
Our little house had that awful, modern, "open" architecture concept where you could see practically into every room from the front door, including any dirty dishes in the kitchen sink. There was no easy way to hide dirty secrets. Clean-up was a major undertaking.

Back to the phone call.
"How about tomorrow after school?" she suggested brightly instead.
"No, no, no.  Friday afternoon won't work for me." I replied, panic building.  "What about Tuesday?"
"Tuesday's not good," she chirped.
"Sunday after church? I suggested. I looked down over my baby big belly to see that the floor needed to be mopped.
At least I could manage the floor on Saturday.

"No, Sunday won't work." she said.  "We have a missionary farewell to go to."
"Oh, I know what!" she went on without taking a breath,  "I'll stop by for just a quick visit before you leave for work tomorrow morning!"
Then it came.
She continued brightly, "I'll have to get up early but it can't be helped. Tomorrow's the last day of the month and I have to "get you" so I can turn in my visiting teaching report."

"Sister, tomorrow before work's really not a good time," I stammered.

"You'll be doing me a big favor," she said, "I'd really appreciate it."  "And since I know how busy mornings can be getting kids off to school, I'll only stay just a minute. Thanks so much. See you at 6:30." She hung up before I could say another word.

I hung up the phone.
Later at 11:00 that night I was mopping.
I was also thinking about visiting teaching.
Tears were streaming down my tired cheeks and dropping onto the dry part of the floor. I leaned over my big belly to wipe them off.
Larry would be home soon, thank goodness. I'd better go heat up some now congealed mac and cheese.
I hoped he wouldn't be too tired to lift some hanging hands and strengthen some weak knees.

Upon reflection I decided that a lot of things were not right on that Thursday night so long ago.
To start with, Christlike attitudes were missing at both ends of that phone call.

I, for one, assumed that I couldn't be honest with someone the Lord had sent to help me.
I didn't even really know the Bishop's wife, had never taken the time to get to know her, but I assumed that she felt herself above me and would judge me.
Now I wonder what she might have said if I had explained my situation that night. Is it possible that she would have understood completely?
I wonder if I missed making a lifelong friend.

But then maybe she too needed to think a bit about the importance of truly knowing and loving the women she was to teach.
And about the monthly reports and where they should fit in as a priority.

Perhaps there's something that we all should keep in our hearts as we fulfill our sacred callings.
Perhaps we should never forget that the programs of the church are put in place to strengthen the members. Not the other way around.

Yes, the spirit was missing in two hearts that evening.
So the purpose of the divinely inspired Visiting Teaching program wasn't realized.

It seems it can't be done witthout love.

I pray that heavenly Father will help me so that it won't happen again.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Messy Fish Was a Big Help

Sometimes a simple story can prove to be a help throughout a lifetime.
Once I was blessed with one quite by accident.

For years I used to play audio tapes in the car on the way to and from school. These were usually church talks and scriptures which made the commute more productive and traffic jams better than just a waste of time.

I remember particularly a church tape made by Brother John Bytheway, a talented and very popular youth speaker.
At least I'm pretty sure that it was Brother Bytheway. I know that I've listened to many of his wonderful talks.
However, with my now sieve-like memory it's hard to be sure of much anymore. It could have been another talented and popular church speaker I suppose.
All I know for certain is that the helpful idea wasn't mine.

In any case, I thank Brother Bytheway, or whomever, for this one thought that's been such a comfort and a caution over the years.
It's prodded me to have patience in my marriage and indeed in all dealings with the opposite sex.
It's the "messy fish" concept.
Here's the main idea as I recall it. With lots of added embellishment probably.
I can't remember.

Suppose that a young woman was having some friends over for a small dinner party.
Included among the guests was her "one true love" with whom she had fond hopes of an eternal relationship. Also invited was her BFF girlfriend and her date for the evening.
This young woman had prepared her most delicious dinner which included a baked fish dish that was "to die for" as they say. She was hoping to show off her domestic skills.
Everything was going well. The table looked beautiful.
She called her guests to sit in the candlelight and began to put the entree on the plates to bring from the kitchen.
Then as she served the last delicate piece of fish, it broke into several pieces on the way from spatula to plate!
Thankfully though, there was no actual harm done. Just appearance. Same delicious taste, same size portion, only broken.
She plated it, covered it artfully with parsley, and brought it to the table with the other beautiful plates. She put it at her own place at the lovely table.
All was delicious and everything went well.

Fast forward to next weekend.
Now "one true love" was showing off his considerable skills at the barbeque grill.
The same people were invited but this time the fish was his renowned marinated and mesquite grilled creation for which he was becoming famous among family and friends.
The rustic outdoor picnic table was perfect for the occasion and a fire pit cast a romantic glow over all.
When the mesquite masterpiece was done, the chef called for the plates to be brought to the grill.
He placed a beautiful piece of fish on each plate. But as he picked up the last one it broke into several small pieces.
Isn't that just the way with fish?
But again, no harm done. Same delicious taste, same size portion, just broken.
He scooped them up.
Then he proudly carried the last two plates to the table where he put the messy fish in front of his intended.
He sat down waiting for the rave reviews.
Everything was delicious and the reviews were indeed raves.

But this time all did not go quite so well.
Now there seemed to be a problem.

The problem was that the young woman's feelings were hurt.
Plus, an additional problem was that he had no idea why her feelings were hurt, and she had no idea that he had no idea.

You see, it never occurred to him that "messy fish" shouldn't be served to a person's true love when there was an unbroken piece to be had.
Or served to any guest for that matter.
It also certainly never crossed his mind that somehow an unbroken fish serving was some sort of love sign.
In his male brain, "messy fish" never had anything to do with love. How could it?
(Perhaps it's the testosterone.)

Then again it never occurred to her that he didn't even notice that one serving was messy. He only noticed same size, same taste.
It also never crossed her mind that it didn't even register with him last week, when he was at her table, that messy fish was not served to a guest, especially him!

To her, serving an imperfect portion when a perfect one was to be had was a sign of disregard and lack of affection.
She certainly would never do such a thing! Especially to her "one true love."
(Estrogen increases brain waves, I believe.)

Well, it turns out that this messy fish thing causes major misunderstanding between the sexes.
"Messy fish" is just a catchphrase, so to speak, for real life situations that occur all the time.
It's too bad too.
Because life would go much more smoothly in the relationship department if men and women would remember a few basic "messy fish" principles.

Like, men and women are different.
They're basically, fundamentally, not identical.
They see life from a different place.
Not a "wrong" place either.  Just another one.

For instance, some things are really important to a woman's very identity which men barely recognize.
Things like the skill and grace with which she treats guests.
Or the appearance of her home.
For instance, comfortable chairs are good but do they co-ordinate tastefully?
Has she used intelligence and care to create a lovely sanctuary for those who live with her?
Is the paint color just right?
Then too, is the appearance of her children up to accepted local standards?
Strangely, even the appearance of a husband who is usually a grown-up can often affect her personally.

Yes, I am aware of what century this is.
And I do know that women do much of the world's most important work and have many weighty matters on their minds.
I can only call it like I see it.
And I'll bet that lady judge you had dealings with last week made her 6 year old son change his shirt before he left for school just because it didn't match his pants. He didn't understand because he'd already put on a clean one like she'd told him. This stuff starts young.

In fact I was reminded of this strange phenomenon just the other day when one of my daughters asked yet again, "Ma, how come you let Dad go around needing a haircut?"
In my defense I had tried to talk him into getting one the day before, to no avail by the way.
And yet no one has ever asked Larry in his entire lifetime, "Hey Buddy, why haven't you done something about your wife's hairdo?"

This subject also brings to mind one of the first dates I ever had with husband Larry.
Which coincidentally included my first "messy fish" experience with him.

He was a big deal college student and I was still in high school. So I was thrilled when he invited me to attend something called, "Winter Nationals."
This turned out to be some sort of gosh-awful drag racing event held at a horrible, dusty, windblown track out in the scorpion infested Arizona desert boondocks.
I had never heard of it.
Larry and his buddies loved it.

It was a daylong affair so I had graciously offerred to pack a picnic lunch.
Then, despite my youth, I carefully prepared potato salad, fried chicken, and chocolate cupcakes. Our lovely picnic was packed with color co-ordinated paper goods in an attractive wicker picnic basket.

Lunchtime came and Larry said he was indeed hungry.
Yet he remained on the crowded bleachers, eyes and ears glued to those crazy, ear splitting "dragster" races.
I was puzzled.
What about our picnic?
He asked me to just bring it to him.
So I did.

I handed a beautiful plate up.
There, artfully arranged and garnished, was the potato salad, fried chicken, sweet pickles and two kinds of olives, (one with pimento), along with two color coordinated napkins. I was saving the cupcakes for dessert. Chocolate, because I had learned it was his favorite.  I prefer vanilla.

He stopped race watching long enough to look at his lunch.
An expression spread over his face which said, "Is this something from another planet?"
Then he gazed in embarrassment around the crowded bleachers filled with his buddies.
He hurried down the bleachers, trying to hide the food. Then he said in a frantic whisper, "I thought you were bringing bologna sandwiches and a bag of chips!"

After all these years, when that memory comes to mind, it still stings.
And afterward I begin to question the wisdom of certain choices I've made in my life.

But then I remember it's just the "messy fish" thing.

You see, sometimes it's odd what's tied to a woman's deepest feelings.
Sometimes not appreciating them can mean the same as not appreciating her.
Men would be wise to take note. They'd be even wiser to figure out what some of those "oddities" are.

And women may be wise to understand that just because men don't get it doesn't mean they don't love them.

Issues like whether or not his "Surprise!" visiting mother had the good towels or the camp towels to use in the guest bathroom is a case in point.

Imagine a phone call advising an unplanned in-law visit on a lazy Saturday.
The family frantically runs around trying to clean up before the doorbell rings. Husband is advised to put clean towels in the guest bathroom while wife does skilled housekeeping. So he does what he's told.
He gets clean towels
Towels are for drying off.

He didn't understand that they are also a sign to his mother of whether or not his wife is a competent human being.
He didn't get it that putting ratty, unmatched, camp towels from the dryer for his mother to use in the guest bath when the good towels are right there in the cupboard, was showing lack of support for all the things that his wife does to make a good life for him and his children.
Children for which she risked her life to bear for him by the way.

He didn't understand that putting ratty camp towels in the guest bath was stabbing his wife in the back when she was counting on him to cover it instead.

He put clean towels in the guest bathroom, he explained after he figured out that he'd done something really bad, which took a while.
"They were clean!" he yelled.
He really thought it was just about drying off.
What an idiot!

Yes, "Messy fish" is a big idea.
A sincere thanks to Brother Bytheway or whomever for it.
It certainly deserves some careful consideration by both sexes.

Figuring it out, or at least factoring it in, may turn out to be a tremendous help in life.