Monday, December 14, 2015

A Word to the Wise

*This is an old holiday post from several years ago. I wish you all a very blessed Christmas.

The desert summer's blistering heat is over!  Yeah!
That muffled noise the mountain folks can hear coming from Arizona's Valley of the Dadburned Sun is the cheering of the summer survivors. 
Now the days are glorious and the nights cool, just as fall is in the rest of the country.
The difference is that we lowlanders are now looking forward to planting season.
In the dead of winter.

Soon the petunias and johnny-jump-ups will roll into the big box stores and we can get to planting. 
Seven months of wonderful are on the way! 
Just yesterday the landscaping crews were seeding the neighborhood parks with winter rye. In a few weeks our parched desert eyes will feast on green pastures. (In December and January by the way.) 
When Christmas comes around we'll hear lawn mowers whirring and smell that fresh, new mown, green grass smell. 

Some people say they just can't get in the mood for the holidays with flowers all around instead of snow. 
Well that's ridiculous! The climate in the Holy Land is more like ours after all. There's no need to be singing about white Christmases and feeling left out and spiritless! 
I've often felt the words to that old song should be changed anyway. What about this?
            Bright Christmas

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

            I'm dreaming of a bright Christmas
            With every barbeque I light.
            May your days be merry and right,
            And may all your Christmases be bright.

Same tune with more appropriate words don't you think?

Anyway, the coming holidays bring thoughts of gifts, those to be given and those received. 
During this season one of the gifts I'm most grateful for is a particular counsel Heavenly Father gave to his children in the scriptures. 
The 89th section of the Doctrine and Covenants gives lots of helpful info on health. Included is the warning that alcohol and tobacco are not good for man. 
A word to the wise so to speak. And years and years ahead of common knowledge, too.

You see, I'm especially grateful because I grew up in a household with an alcoholic. That's easy to say, but only those of you who have had that experience will know what it means. I've heard it said that there's no hell like the hell of living with alcoholism. Somebody who lived with it probably said it. 

During my youth, Christmas was usually filled with extra-special alcohol induced pain. 
How grateful I am for the loving counsel Father gave us that has spared my children and grandchildren from the same thing. Because of His advice my holiday season has overflowed with family, friends and love for forty years now. 
Even so, it's strange how those dark times sometimes still haunt.

Then too, once or twice I recall being reminded that so many others still haven't gotten the message of that great gift.  Once was back when I was teaching high school. 

I remember sitting at my computer ready to take roll before the second bell. 
Kids were coming in, saying cheerfully, "Hey Mz Dub," as they passed. There was lots of the usual jabber as they made their way to their seats.
I recall that we'd been having some interesting discussions in our "Lifeskills" classes about underage drinking, a common recreational activity among my students.
But despite my best efforts they remained unconvinced of my point of view.

My kids all knew my story and my religion and were not shy about expressing their opinion that I didn't know how to have a good time and that I was too "churchy" etc.
I told them that I did too know how to have a good time, and I didn't need alcohol to do it either.
And "churchy" was beside the point because not only was drinking illegal for them, what might start out as just a little fun often ended up in a thousand different versions of disaster.
I had expounded on many of those versions to no avail.

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

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

They all got quiet and just looked at me. 
No arguments. Just silent stares and contemplation.

Best teaching moment all week.
Who says TV can't be educational?

Another was a few years ago on Christmas Eve. 
We had traveled to my brother Matt and sister-in-law Beth's house for their traditional annual party. 

Everyone looks forward to this night. It's always so lovely. The house is gorgeous, the food's superb, and best of all we get to see family we haven't seen in months. My brother Mark from California had been able to make the trip this year which made it even more special. 
We arrived loaded down with packages and food and went in through the crowd hugging all the way. 
I didn't see Mark anywhere but heard his booming voice call for me to come out to the patio where someone told me he was grilling the most enormous prime rib roast anyone had ever seen. I finally spotted him over in a dark corner by a huge grill, surrounded by people gawking at that stupendous roast. Mark takes great pride in his grilling and produces some astounding results. 
I was heading toward him with a smile, he opened up his arms to give me a hug, and just as I reached him I tripped over an ice chest full of his secret ingredients hidden in the shadows. I landed face first on a large saucepot which cracked me hard across the bridge of my nose, causing blood to start trickling down my face. It created quite a ruckus considering that it didn't hurt much. 

Anyway, I was escorted to safety, plied with ice packs and generally made a fuss over. 
Even so, after a remarkably short while my eyes began to swell. People remarked that both were turning black. When they were practically swollen shut I was made to go to the emergency room, as "Kath! You look just terrible!" was pronounced for the hundredth time. 
Larry and I reluctantly left the party to head to the nearest ER. We hoped to make it quick and be back in time for the guitar playing and last chorus of "Feliz Navidad". 

Well, we walked into a jammed packed ER, full of the injured remnants of too much Christmas cheer, certain now, considering the crowd, that this wasn't going to be a quick trip.

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

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

I replied, "I don't drink."

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

He sighed wearily and bandaged my nose.

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

I really don't have to tell you the rest, do I? 
It's just too obvious.

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

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

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

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

But more than anything I was grateful. 
As we walked together to the car on this Christmas Eve.......  Larry scolding,  me laughing.......  I was so grateful for the guidance given in the scriptures by a loving Father. 
That word to the wise.

Grateful that for forty years no hateful, piercing, wounding words have been spoken in our home due to drinking. And alcohol hasn't been the cause of shame, embarrassment, lost jobs, arguments, fistfights, DUI citations, liver damage, broken promises, hearts or homes.  None of us has killed anyone on the highway. Nobody's been arrested, spent thousands on bail, fines and lawyers or contracted an STD while drunk. No one's had one too many and become a parent before a home was ready for a new life either.

None of that has happened at our house simply because we all truly believe that Father said alcohol wasn't good for man. 
Check it out in the scriptures. 
Essentially Father said, "Hey Kids, I love you. It isn't wise to use alcohol and tobacco."  
And He told his beloved children about this long before science finally agreed with Him.

Think of the broken lives that could be avoided if all of us heeded just that one, small bit of Father's counsel. That "Word of Widom" thing concerning alcohol and tobacco.

You're still thinking aren't you? 
That's because that much sorrow is simply too great to be measured. 

So, thank you Father, for the Word of Wisdom. 
From the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much.
I will always be grateful.
It's one of the best gifts ever.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thanksgiving "How To" for Kids

I'd like to dedicate this post to those in my very favorite category of human being.
The ones who aren't finished growing yet.
After teaching for 27 years, what I miss most are the beautiful faces, hundreds of them, looking up at me, so full of possibility that it often brought tears to my eyes.
May God bless and keep them always.

Thanksgiving is just around the bend.
And with the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie come thoughts of some of the other blessings in life.
But just thinking about being thankful isn't enough, and that's a really important thing to know.
Being grateful requires action.

There's a story in the scriptures that illustrates this principle.
It's the account of the Savior's healing of the ten lepers. You know the one.
It's where Jesus healed ten men who were dying of leprosy. Back then leprosy was a terrible, disfiguring disease, and sadly there was no cure or effective treatment.
With mercy and love Christ blessed each of the suffering men. They were spared a long, lingering death and given a new lease on life.
But even so, after this mighty miracle, only one of the ten returned to say, "Thank you."

It was then that the Savior taught a profound lesson about how to live a happy life.
If you like blessings you'll need to remember it.
This was the lesson.


I was puzzled a bit when I first read this.  Why did Jesus care that the nine were ungrateful?   Were his feelings hurt?  Did He want a reward?
After some pondering I decided that those couldn't be the reasons. Christ was never concerned about his own welfare. He was all about doing good things for others.
Finally I understood.

With just two questions Jesus taught us all one of the most important things in life.
The importance of gratitude.

You see, He knew that people never find happiness without it.
And even though He had healed the nine of their terrible affliction, now He was really worried about them.
Now He was worried because they didn't express gratitude or maybe even feel it.
The Savior knew that unless we recognize our blessings and give thanks we won't feel joy.
And aren't we taught, "Man is that he might have joy."
Those nine men were in danger of missing the whole point.

Like the Savior, President Monson understands gratitude.
He said;
"My brothers and sisters, do we remember to give thanks for the blessings we receive?
Sincerely giving thanks not only helps us to recognize our blessings, but it also unlocks the doors of heaven and helps us feel God's love.
A grateful heart, then, comes through expressing gratitude to our Heavenly Father for his blessings and to those around us for all that they bring into our lives. This requires conscious effort."

So, I guess all this makes saying "Thank you so much," a pretty big deal, huh?
"Unlocks the doors of heaven," I think the Prophet said.

Well, as it turns out, I happen to know some wonderful young people who might benefit from direct instruction on this very subject. They sometimes forget to say thank you properly.
These particular young folks I know are much loved by many. Those who love them hope they'll have a life filled with choice blessings. They hope heaven's doors will always be open for them.
And for that to happen they need to understand gratitude.

So, here are some simple tips on making that conscious effort the Prophet was talking about.
But first, it may help to imagine the feelings involved in a little story.

Suppose your best friend is having a birthday and you want to surprise them with a really special gift.
You go out of your way to get just the right thing. It's a jacket you know they've been wanting for ages. You save to buy it and just before your friend's big day you head out to shop for it. It takes three stores to find the right size!
You wrap it carefully with a big red ribbbon, take it over to your friend's house, and present it proudly.
You watch with excitement as the box is opened.
Your gift is put on with a smile and everybody in the family admires it.
But then your friend says not a single word of thanks. Not one.
The jacket is worn to school everyday.
But you never hear anything about it except when people say, "Cool jacket!" to your friend.

Now, here's a question.
How would you feel?
And here's another question to go with your answer to that one.

What will you be getting your best friend for their birthday next year?

You see, gratitude is a funny thing.
It has special powers. Superpowers even.
It's like a magnet.
It brings more good things into your life.
It attracts them.
Christ knew this.

So, next time you're grateful, do this.

**** Thank Heavenly Father first.
Every blessing, Every time. Don't forget.

***Then do this for the people who've been kind to you. (Which includes your annoying brothers and sisters.)
      ANY small service, such as loaning a pencil, opening a door, or saving a seat should receive an immediate;
"Smile" and "Thank you."

*** A larger kindness such as sharing lunch when you forgot yours, or taking care of your dog for the weekend, should receive;
Immediate "Sincere Smile" and "Thank You."
PLUS a Text, E-mail, or Phone call later the same day. (Hey, thanks again for the lunch!)

*** Large kindnesses such as the special birthday present, including you on a trip or vacation, anything that required significant planning, effort, or funds, should receive;

Immediate "Sincere Smile" and "Thank You."
PLUS the Text or E-mail (I had so much fun! Thanks!)
A Phone Call, or Thank You Note or Small Gift (Like a favorite candy bar) a couple of days later.
(Relax. All this is really easy. It'll only takes a few minutes. Seconds even.)

To sum up, it's the one, two, three of thank you.

* Pray to Father in gratitude first.
* Then one "thank you" for every small thing.
* Two for mediums.
* And three for the biggees.

This will bring amazing blessings into your life.
Heaven's doors will unlock.
And the superpowers of gratitude will kick in.
Like a magnet.

Try it right now.

(By the way, I've just fetched my "thank you" notes from the shelf where they were gathering dust. I remembered some gratitude of my own that needed showing.)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Man Is That He Might Have Joy

I just watched an on-line video that inspired me.
It made me want to be a better person, to look for incredible opportunities, and to stop whining.
It was about surfing and skateboarding of all things.
And when you consider my age and physical condition this is amazing on several levels.
One amazement is that with my cyber-skills, I was able to come across this video in the first place. Second, since I can no longer walk, the subject matter is also a puzzle.

So, to explain, I happened to be looking for new inventions that would help broken, old people get into a car. That's when I cyber-stumbled into this amazing young man.

Seems there's this fella who was an avid surfer in California when he was a teenager. His name is Jesse. In fact he was ranked in the top 100 surfers in the world and had decided to become a professional. He was that good.

   *Just a note here. I know absolutely nothing about this sport but my entire desert family loves the beach. Vacations almost always include at least some time spent on them. And watching those crazy, dumb, brave kids, way, scary way, out there has always been a treat for everybody. Most of us usually watch while frolicking closer in on the sand and among the tide-pools. But now some of our younger, still dumber family members go way, scary way, out there too. Despite my objections. I've told them all that huge, hungry, animals and fish with big teeth live out there in the deep water but they don't listen.

Anyway, the surfers never fail to provide everybody with an exciting show.

Well, tragically, this talented young man I was telling you about suffered a terrible injury when surfing one day. A devastating injury that left him paralyzed. While still a teenager.

It's hard to even fathom the heartbreak and anguish that must have followed for him. Words just can't be found to describe the depth of those kinds of human feelings.
And perhaps somewhere in the middle of all that pain he may have wondered what sort of future lay ahead for him. He may have even questioned if life would ever be worthwhile again.
Everyone who loved him must have suffered terribly too.

But I doubt that anybody could even have imagined what actually happened.

You see, it turns out that this was one determined kid.

He loved surfing and wasn't about to give it up just because one wave sent him to a wheelchair.
You see, out there in the sun and sea he found joy. And he didn't plan on living a life without joy.
So, he figured out how to surf again.  Despite the difficulties. (You know, those difficulties that most people would say were insurmountable. Those ones.)
Then, after he began surfing again, he figured that there may be others like him, who are disabled physically, who'd like to surf too.
And maybe skateboard.

So now, year's later, you can be inspired by "Life Rolls On."  Check it out.  (If you happen to be a retired special ed teacher be prepared for tears.)
Watch some videos of hundreds of crazy surfers helping other crazy disabled kids and adults get from their wheelchairs onto surfboards. Watch the volunteers carefully paddle alongside them to catch a wave and ride in to shore.
Look at the expressions on all of their faces.
Then watch others in the adjacent skateboard park.
There a bunch of crazy skateboarder guys are teachers and spotters for other crazy kids who decided to do gravity defying, scary, impossible tricks while still sitting in their chairs. (Skateboards and wheelchairs both have wheels don't they?  So why not go sideways and sail off embankments in them?)
There's that same expression on everybody's faces again.

Now, it seems, there are many annual surfing and skateboarding events sponsored by the organization this young man started. All over the place.
Hundreds of disabled children and adults have been blessed by what they experienced at them.
They were blessed with joy.
A special kind of joy found in the freedom and excitement of movement. Joy found in being part of the sun, wind and sea. Joy found in pushing personal envelopes. Joy found in sports.
Some for the first and only time in their lives.

Now hundreds of the family and friends of those surfers and skaters have called down blessings on the heads of those who make these precious hours possible for the ones they love.
Thousands perhaps, have called down blessings on the young man who decided that being paralyzed was only an inconvenience to someone who finds joy in surfing.
Many more have been lifted just by the hearing of what he's done with his life.
I was.

Finding out about Jesse's story set me to wondering about some things.
First, I wondered if in the dark hours after his terrible injury he ever questioned whether his life would be worth living again.
If he did, I'm sure he doesn't question it anymore.
His accomplishments are incredible. He's made awesome contributions to humanity. He's lifted the spirits of hundreds and hundreds of Father's children.
All while paralyzed.

And then too, I couldn't help wondering about just one more thing.
I wondered if he would have been able to bring all these things to pass if he hadn't been injured in the first place.
That's something I plan to think about from my own chair.

I have no idea what religion this surfer dude is or what he believes. But I believe he'd make a good Mormon.
He already understands some really great gospel principles.
One is that service to others leads to happiness.
Father sent word about this in the scriptures.
   "Succor the weak, lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees." (DC 81:5)
   "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17)

Another thing Jesse understands is joy.
It seems that joy is really important to Heavenly Father. He told us about that in the scriptures too.
And there's no asterisks with that joy thing either. There's nothing about being exempt due to extenuating circumstances.
It just says in Second Nephi,
     "Adam fell that man might be, and man is that he might have joy."

An apostle recently reminded us of this same kind of idea with his own inspired counsel, "Come what may and love it."
Not just endure it. Love it. Whatever happens, find the joy there.

I think Jesse also gets the message in the Book of Mormon about how Father wants us to treat each other.
"Thou shalt not esteem one flesh above another," it says.
I mean, "All Men Are Created Equal"  is a good start, but the Lord's thinking really says it all, doesn't it. Male/female, broken/whole, on two feet or on two wheels, pretty/plain, educated/unschooled, old/young, rich/poor, powerful/oppressed......... it makes no difference to our Father.
He loves us all.
And we, his children, are taught to esteem everyone equally. One man should not think himself above another it goes on to say.
Everyone is equally valued by Father.
Listen up, kids.

This young man's life story reminds me too of some other really important scriptural advice.
For those dark, tragic hours that sometimes come.
In the midst of the very darkest part of the darkest hours we experience in this life it may be good to remember it.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Because you see, you never know about tomorrow.

Joy may still be ahead.
Remember Father loves us all.
And He's a big fan of joy.

*And by the way, that young man is a world champion again. This time in adaptive surfboarding.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What's Your Favorite Ride?

*It's Larry's birthday. This is a rewrite for him. But first a note.

Dear Larry,
Happy birthday to my old and honored friend and enemy.
We've been together since we were kids. 
Both of us bear the scars from many a remembered battle and some of those old wounds still caution us sometimes, should it come on to rain. 
Still, isn't it strange that there are billions of nice people on this planet, but if you were missing, just you alone, the whole world would be empty for me. 
I'd be lonely every day. No matter who else was there.

I couldn't be happy until I saw your face again. Until I sat beside you and held your hand.
Attila (Your Hun)

Thank you so much, Heavenly Father, for the gift of the Holy Temples and Eternal Marriage.
They make happiness possible.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what makes a “fine ride” anyway? 

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

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

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

Big questions with important answers. 

Think about it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Missionary Farewell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do they ask of us?

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

Please, tell the others.          

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Wild Pig Nation Visits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 4, 2015

Animals and Fear

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's worth it.
Trust me.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Powerful Images

*A summer re-write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’d be wise to choose carefully.

Monday, August 24, 2015

All Grown Up

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

“Ma” she says “I cut my finger.”

“Is it bad?” I ask.

“It’s pretty bad,” she says.

“Does it need stitches? I ask.


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

“Urgent care costs 40 dollars.” she says.

“Well, it IS your finger.” I explain.

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

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


“Have him look at it.”

She calls for Scott. Scott comes to look.

“What does he say?” I ask.

“He says it’s pretty bad.”

“Does he think it needs stiches?”

“He says maybe.”

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

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

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

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

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

“How many stitches,” I ask.

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


Again the phone rings. It's a weekday afternoon. I answer and it’s our son.

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

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

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

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

Lisa takes the phone.

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

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

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

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