Thursday, August 22, 2013

Lying Parts

Dear Readers,

If you’re looking for inspiration today then don’t read this.

Read the scriptures instead.

In them we’re taught many great truths. “If ye have not the spirit ye shall not teach,” is one of those. Well, I used to think that meant that when I was giving a lesson in Sunday School or Relief Society I’d better have said my prayers and tried to live right beforehand or the lesson was going to be a bust. True, but I’ve since learned that it applies to all sorts of situations, not just classes for sure. Lately I’ve especially noticed that when I’m trying to teach my husband to change his ways and I’m filled with contention, or impatience, or crankiness or the like, he never does learn a darn thing. 

Well, I think I had not the spirit when I wrote this. In fact I distinctly remember being annoyed about someone. 

Just want to be up front with my friends.

Lying Parts

My oldest daughter, who is cynical, says that men have lying parts. She says they’re born with actual, physical, body parts that keep them from telling the truth in certain situations. She says she knows where the parts are located too. 

I don’t understand her attitude at all, because she’s been married some twenty years to a fine upstanding priesthood holder. A wonderful, honest man, a leader in his ward even.
I’ve counseled her and pointed out the error and unfairness of this kind of thinking but she remains unconvinced. All she says is, “Think about it, Ma.”

So I thought about it.

The man I know best in all the world is a truthful man. Well......... truthful mostly. However, I do know that there are some particular areas where betting your life on the veracity of his responses would not be wise. One involves food. 

Any question that begins with....

“I’m trying to make............  (fill in the blank) for company tonight. Have you seen the......half bag of chocolate chips....last of the shredded coconut...the rest of the Oreos I was saving to use for pie crust...marshmallows...graham crackers..."     

...will involve him gazing off into space, pretending to think hard, trying to formulate an answer that isn’t exactly a lie because he knows lying is technically wrong, and then saying, “Well Hon, I saw them a long time ago, way back in the tall cupboard, but I haven’t seen them lately.” Meaning, “I ate them when I found them, so you can stop looking.” Also meaning that I need to find a new hiding place.

I’d like to explain that I don’t keep many sweets around the house as a rule. This is due to the fact that the man who lives in it is a diabetic with a sweet tooth so fierce that it could start a cattle stampede like in that old western movie. Remember the cowboy who tried to sneak into the chuck wagon to steal sugar and knocked all the pots and pans off the hooks? It made a racket that started the herd galloping off in a hundred directions. Well, I’m married to him. But for Pete’s sake, sometimes people are coming over and expect a dessert that’s not artificially sweetened! You know, grandkids, missionaries, friends etc. It would be nice to be able to keep a few basic ingredients handy!

Another area where falsehoods fly involves doctors. My husband’s physicians have given him wise counsel about his diet, including carbs, sugar, salt, fats, sodium, and cholesterol. They’ve told him not to eat any of that stuff, but instead fill up on vegetables. They’ve told him to exercise regularly. After one recent appointment with his kidney specialist, he came out to the car to report that his doctor wasn’t that happy with his lab results. She’d asked a lot of pointed questions about what he’d been eating lately. I asked what he’d said. “I told her!” he snapped. “What’d she say? I asked sweetly. “She says she doesn’t believe me and she wants to talk to you.” 

Uhuh.....a married doctor who’s familiar with the male lying parts.  I assured him that I’d vouch for him and tell her that he didn’t put salt on the last bag of pork rinds that he ate.
In addition, at least once that I know of, he lied to me about what the doctor told him. It was back when we both had the same general practitioner, a fine man, dedicated and compassionate. Larry came home from a visit and informed me that the good doctor had advised him that sex every day would make his blood sugar go down. A few months later when I had an appointment of my own I mentioned this to our dear physician, saying that I really didn’t appreciate that last bit of advice which he’d given my husband. After listening carefully he stood thinking for a bit, took off his glasses, rubbed his nose wearily, took a deep breath, and said a bit reluctantly, “I never told him that.”
Later I realized that the good doctor was stalling for time trying to decide whether to back up one of his own kind or to tell the truth. When confronted, my late husband just said, without a hint of shame, “Well, it made sense to me.”

In any case, I still think my oldest daughter is cynical about men. Although when I mentioned the theory of  “male lying parts” to my “ladies” doctor when I last had a visit, she said, a bit cynically too, I thought,  “Mmm-Mmm, and I know right where they are too.”

Included here is a sort of recipe for a strawberry cake type dessert which my husband likes and which doesn’t raise his blood sugar.

*One sugar free store bought angel cake. (In the bakery aisle at Fry’s or Wal-Mart)
* 1 package fresh strawberries
* 1  small sugar free red jello (raspberry’s good)
* 1 small sugar free french vanilla pudding mix (Plus milk)
* 1 Large carton sugar free or reduced calorie Cool Whip

Slice the berries into the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Make the jello with only 1 ½ cups water. Pour over the berries. Refrigerate until set. (I put it in the freezer while I do the rest because I don’t have time to mess around.)

Tear or cut up the cake into pieces the size of regular marshmallows. Make the pudding. Fold the cake pieces into the pudding. Spread it evenly over the firm jello and berries. Pile on the Cool Whip covering completely. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving.

Other fruit works too, like sliced peaches. But don’t put bananas unless you’re going to use the whole cake the day you make it.

*Not to worry, my husband's not really "late." But he may be my first husband which is how I always introduce him to strangers 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Food Fight

Have you ever noticed how controversial some foods can be? 
Mention that you just tasted the “best whatever” in the whole world and somebody’s ready for an argument. 
It’s not all foods that cause trouble though.  Just a select few. 
Here’s a short list of those that come to mind.

Potato Salad
I’m the only one I know who can make decent potato salad.  
My traitor daughter says my sister’s is better because she puts more hard boiled eggs. But what does she know?

(Any meat. It’s the sauce and the method that stir up trouble.)
I have eaten “World Famous BBQ” all over this country that tasted like turpentine. What are those misguided people thinking? 
And one time when we were driving across Texas for what seemed like forever, we passed a little gas station with a smoker going full blast in the parking lot. A hand lettered sign said “Pulled Pork and Brisket.” Of course that stopped my husband on a dime. 
The meat was delicious but we couldn’t understand the two pieces of white Wonder bread that came with each order. 
I asked the friendly BBQ guy about it, saying “Hey, I’m from Arizona. We’ve been driving across Texas for nearly a week now, trying to get to Florida. Every time we stop and somebody orders barbeque they get two pieces of Wonder bread. What’s the deal? I mean cornbread or biscuits or even garlic bread I can see.....but two pieces of Wonder bread?”

He looked at me like I’d lost my mind or never had one in the first place, and said with a slow Texas drawl, a steely glint in his eye, and all friendliness evaporated;

“Lady........... in Texas, that’s the way the good people do.”

“Sure thing, Mister,” was all I felt it safe to say.

Cole Slaw
I make the best coleslaw I’ve ever eaten, too. Just ask anybody. There’s no mustard in coleslaw.

Deviled Eggs
Deviled eggs are simple. Don’t be messing around with capers and pimento.

Sorry purists from Missouri or wherever.....cornbread has to have sugar in it.

Baked Beans
I can’t make ‘em but I know beans.

Fried Chicken
Once a kid told me, “It’s not like my mom makes but it’s still kinda good.”  High praise in my opinion.

Stuffing for Turkey
Cornbread’s just wrong.

Brownies (Nuts or not, fudgy or cake)
A good brownie is just a vehicle to hold nuts together. Who doesn’t know that? Fudgy or cake is beside the point.

And don't forget foreign countries and their fighting foods. Many of them have found their way across the border and are now Americans.

Get away with the lemon juice. Bring on the fresh garlic, not powder. 

My daughters made some really good guacamole once for a faculty dinner when I was teaching in the mountains. We were 17 miles from home and the dinner was in half an hour so they made it in some science beakers in my classroom. They ran to the only little store in town and all they brought back were avocados, garlic, sour cream, and a can of El Pato. I found some salt packets in my desk. 
It was the hit of the dinner and people still ask for the recipe.

Fresh pico is best. 
But once a kid in a sixth grade class I was teaching made salsa for a demonstration speech that I’d assigned. He made it out of all canned ingredients except for the chopped onion. It had vinegar in it too, and dried chile flakes like you shake on pizza, neither of which I’d ever heard of before in salsa. But it was quite good.

Fish Tacos
Fish tacos are the food of the angels. 
They should never have shredded lettuce anywhere near them. Where were those lettuce people born anyway? Not Mexico, that’s for sure. Always finely shredded cabbage, cilantro and fresh lime wedges, for Pete’s sake. I eat these for breakfast so I know.

This brings to mind regional peculiarities with Mexican food, a food which no red blooded American can live without, by the way. 
In my experience the only place you can get “real” Mexican food is in Arizona. 
Texas, California and New Mexico make stuff that they call Mexican food but, trust me, it’s not. 
(Exception to this rule...there’s a little taco stand on the Pacific Coast Highway just north of San Diego that has the best fish tacos on the planet.)
To get the real Mexican food otherwise you have to go to the bario in Glendale. 
My husband is still searching for enchiladas as good as the ones made by the cafeteria ladies at Glendale Unit One when he was a kid. None of them spoke English so that’s where he learned to say, “Mas, por favor.” 
No enchilada has measured up in fifty years.

Then there’s the whole spaghetti, lasagna, pizza controversy which is too much to deal with right now.

There are other fighting foods that aren’t strictly foods, too. 
Sometimes it’s a duel like the mayonaise vs Miracle Whip thing. (Mayo for sure!)
Is it ketchup or mustard on hot dogs? (Mustard of course.)
Crunchy or smooth? (Crunchy)
Big fat french fries or little skinny ones? (Fat)
Jam or Jelly on a peanut butter sandwich?
Whole berry or jellied cranberry sauce?
Chocolate, strawberry or vanilla?

The list goes on and on.

People have strong feelings about this, too. 
Once when my husband and I were newlyweds I asked him if he’d like a bologna sandwich. We had a discussion about how he likes his bologna sandwiches and he said to put ketchup. Of course I was shocked and pointed out how wrong this was. 
I told him that a proper bologna sandwich had mayo, lettuce and tomato. Everybody knows that.
He insisted that he likes ketchup. 
So I went to make his sandwich. 
Knowing that he would like it better, I made him a proper one with mayo, lettuce and tomato, the standard BLT2, and proudly gave it to him.
He thanked me, absentmindedly took a bite, then took the top slice of bread off, studied the contents, and threw the sandwich on the floor at his feet! I couldn’t believe it.
I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

Just to humor him I put ketchup on his bologna sandwiches now. That still doesn’t make it right.

I was thinking about this food fight thing one day, and the strong feelings that people have about it, and I decided to expand the idea and incorporate it into my high school classes. 

So I gave my students a test, which I explained was weighted heavily toward their semester grade. They were to circle one of the two choices in each question that was the best response. Some of the questions were:
Summer or Winter?
Baseball or Football?
Movie or Bowling?
Pizza or Tacos?
Dog or Cat?
Motorcycle or Car?
Mountains or Beach?
Creek or River?
Black or Brown?
Ice Cream Cone or Fudgesicle?
Jack in the Box or McDonald’s?
Friday or Saturday?
Burgers or Hot dogs?
Sunrise or Sunset?
Rain or Sunshine?
There were around a hundred choices. After the kids took the test I told them we were grading it in class. 
I began to give them the correct answers. 
It wasn’t long before someone asked why mayo was right when they always had Miracle Whip at their house.
I said it was because we always had mayo at mine. 
We went on grading until another kid finally said, “Mz Dub, this is stupid. You can’t give us a bad grade just because we don’t like the same stuff you like.”

“Why not? I see people do it all the time. Keep checking your papers.”

After a while somebody else would pipe up. “Mz Dub, just because we don’t like the same things you like or have the same opinions as you do doesn’t make us wrong!”

“Really? Bring your test up here."
Lupe brought her test up to me with a wary expression on her young face.  
"You get an A,” I said as I marked her paper with a red pencil.

“Now, everybody else turn your test over and write a short paragraph that explains why Lupe got an A. 
If you get that right you get an A too. 
And not just in this class either."

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Hardest Test

Wildfire season comes like clockwork out West, just a few weeks after the snows melt in the high country. With it come the “Hotshot” crews, those specially trained young people who spend their summers struggling to save wild lands and animals, people and their homes. They once stopped a fire just a few miles from our place on the Rim. Early this summer in Arizona a terrible wildfire ended the earthly lives of nineteen of these brave young firefighters. Dozens, even hundreds, of those they left behind now mourn. These young men were beloved husbands, sons, fathers, grandsons, brothers, and dear friends. They were called away in the very prime of life, finishing their mission here on earth decades before anyone expected them to move on. The prayers of millions go out to Father on behalf of their loved ones who must suffer terrible grief at this time.

I’d like to share some thoughts with the hope that it may help someone.

It’s said that life is full of tests. In fact one of the purposes of coming to earth, besides to obtain a physical body, and build an eternal family, is to prove that we can come up with the right answer when life gives us a test. Some tests challege us, or disappoint us, or cause us to grapple with hard decisions. But none, I think, is as difficult as when you’re asked for a response when you must stand over the open grave of someone you love more than life itself. Hearts then are so broken and grief weighs so heavy that it’s hard even to breathe. Even so, generations to come may feel the effects of the answers that must be given at that time.

During my life I’ve watched people take that test and it’s taught me some great lessons. One was my mother. She was just in her thirties when her test came. She and my dad were the parents of four children....ages two to eleven. I was the oldest but even at my young age I knew that they were deeply in love. We had just moved into a brand new home. Our loving family was full of promise. Then, one night, on his way home from work, our dad was killed in a car accident. A young man still in his thirties, husband and father of four young children, gone in an instant, our lives never to be the same.

At the time all I could do was to think of my own childish grief and pain. Later I realized that the burden my mother carried was far greater. She’d lost the love and center of her life, her husband and the father of her children. Life seldom deals a crueler blow.

So there she stood, over that open grave, and life asked her to respond.

What she said affected all of our lives forever.

She said “I can’t bear this pain. I can’t live without him. I can’t go on. I’m in complete despair. There’s no hope. The pain has to stop!”

So she tried to stop the pain with alcohol.

It began the week my father died. I never saw the mother that I had known before again, and it ended her life many years before she actually died. I realized later that both of our parents were taken in that terrible car crash.

After I grew up and married, my husband and I learned some important truths and became Mormons. After years in the city we took our family to live in a small community in the Arizona mountains. There was a large LDS population there. It was the kind of place where everybody knew each other so well that people joked, “You don’t need to put on your turn signal, we know where you’re going.” In that small town, where neighbors often became dear friends, that’s where I saw others take this same kind of test.

One was a sister that I worked with in Young Women’s. She was a happy wife and mother of five and a joy to be around. Her family was her life. Her oldest daughter was the first to go off to college, an incredibly lovely, amazing and valiant young woman not yet twenty. She was killed in a highway accident in her first year at University of Arizona.

Another test was taken by the family of one of my gradeschool students. A beautiful little brother...a smiling toddler full of life... drowned one sunny summer day. Their family was heartbroken.

And so there they stood. Over that open grave. Laying young people to rest before they had a chance to fulfill the dreams that all had for them.

I looked hard at their faces. There with hearts broken and tears streaming they took that hardest of tests. The one that will affect generations to come. This is the answer I saw through their grief.

I saw hope.  

I could barely believe it, but incredibly, through those tears I saw hope instead of despair.
I saw something more too. Later as they went on living I saw them give other answers to that hardest of tests.  They said with the way they lived their lives.........

“Thank you! Thank you! Thank you, Heavenly Father that this amazing person is a part of my family! Thank you that we loved each other so very much and always will.”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, Heavenly Father that you sent your son Jesus Christ to come to earth. Thank you that he completed his mission and conquered death so that we may all live again!”

“Thank you, thank you, thank you, that because of Christ’s mission I know in my very soul that I’ll hold my dear one in my arms again someday! Not one hair the flesh. Thank you for this promise.”

“Thank you, thank you, for the sealing ordinances of the temples....that temples dot the entire earth and that even at this very moment husbands and wives are being sealed together forever.....that they never have to say those most awful words...... “til death do we part,” but instead..... “For time and eternity.”

“Thank you, thank you, that children can be sealed to their parents in forever families. I know that my loved ones and I will be together forever.”

“Thank you, thank you, that you’ve promised to ease our grief many times in the scriptures. “Blessed are they that mourn,” you said, “for they shall be comforted.” You know that true comfort will only come on the day I hold them in my arms again. You’ve promised that it will.”
“Thank you, thank you, Father that I know these things are true. Thank you for my faith. Please stay with me through the darkest days of my life and help me to live the rest of it in a way that will make my loved one proud. Let the love we feel for each other continue to bring joy. Do not leave my side, Father, I need thee every hour in order to make it through these days.”

What a difference to the future those answers made! Those whose answers were hope and gratitude instead of despair and bitterness changed lives forever. Those who knew that love is stronger than death were able to go on with their own missions and live beautiful, useful lives.

As I progressed in the gospel I learned some other things about life and death that also helped me.
I learned that our lives did not begin here. We were spirit children of our Father in Heaven and lived with Him before this earthly life. We learned eternal truths while there. We kept promises and have a glorious past. We were valiant and faithful. We each chose to come to earth to continue learning and growing. One of the reasons for this was to see if we could live by eternal truths. That’s the testing part. It’s like so many of the things we learn, I think, like driving a car, or swimming, or baking a cake even. You can read about it or listen to someone explain it, they can even show you how it’s done, but you’ll never know if you can do it yourself until you get behind the wheel, or in the water, or start mixing batter. We needed to see if we could apply the truths we’d learned from Father. We needed to know if we could live what we said we believed.
Sorrow, pain and death were not a surprise either. We knew they’d be a part of every single life and yet, even knowing that, we shouted for joy at the prospect of coming to earth.

I learned too that human life has been compared to a three act play. Our life here is the most challenging second act. This is the part where problems and challenges enter and where we prove and define our character. Do we live lives of truth or deceit, faith or disbelief, service or selfishness, laziness or hard work, or a hundred other qualities? We said we believed in Father’s plan before we came here, but now we have the chance to prove that we can indeed live it, sometimes in the midst of great difficulty.

I learned too that those we love and who have died are not floating around with wings on some cloud. They’re recognizable in the spirit and are not far from us here on earth. They’re with many beloved family members and friends busy working, helping and learning. Some may be allowed to assist those they loved who are still here finishing their own missions. They’ve gained important knowledge that will serve them throughout eternity. Heavenly Father loves them dearly as he loves each of those they left behind for a short time. They’ll be waiting for us when we finish up.
I know too that those we love wouldn’t want our deep feelings for them to cause us unbearable sorrow for long. I know they want us to be happy and successful in completing our own missions, whatever they might be.

So, life’s hardest test.

Most of us will take it someday.

It’s important to remember though, that there’s another day that will surely come after that. One of the happiest we’ll ever know.

When it comes for me I’ll see my dad again. I know he’ll  give me one of his big hugs. I hope he’ll say “Hey, brown eyes, you did a pretty good job. There were some really tough times mixed in with the great ones but you made me proud through it all.”

My sincere prayers go to Father on behalf of those who are at this moment in the midst of the hardest test.

I pray that each of them will remember hope. Remember faith. Remember that love is stronger than death. Remember that families are forever. It makes all the difference.

One day you will hold him in your arms again, alive and well. That’s a promise from our Father who loves us more than we can even imagine.