Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tuesday Tried It - Less Than < > More Than




Less Than <. More Than >. Did those symbols confuse you as much as they did me when they were first introduced to you? It took me several weeks to get the hang of them. I recognized =, but could not get the hang of  < and > to save my soul.  Is 5 + 17 < or > 28 – 5? Those equations took me forever to compute.

Most computations determining "less than" and "more than" are absolute; but to add to the confusion, there are some exceptions. Sometimes less than is more and more than is less. Calvin calls it the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” He first explained it to me the summer I got the Strawberry Pretzel Salad recipe. I was just getting good at making it, and didn’t have to look at the recipe anymore, when he said, “This salad was really good the first twenty times you made it, but I’m kind of tired of it now. It’s called the ‘Law of Diminishing Returns’ . . . the more you eat, the less it satisfies.” It didn’t matter that I still had so many plans and variations for that recipe.  It has been thirty years since I got that recipe, and now when I make it (once a year at best) Calvin still says, "Please tell me you only made enough for one day.”

I've discovered the “Law of Diminishing Returns” applies in every facet of life, not just the kitchen. Living in a producing and affluent society makes attaining “more” easier. Often times “less” wisdom is practiced when we have more.  I saw it as a young parent:  The more monetary things we gave our children the less parent and child interaction we had — more lessons, more activities, more clothing, more treats, more video/computer programs equaled less parent and child interaction, less parental supervision, and less parental teaching and influence. H. David Burton pegged it when he said, “The struggle to set limits, make do with less, and avoid the pitfalls of ‘more, more, more’ has never been more difficult. It is hard to say no to more when you can afford to say yes.” (Ensign, Nov. 2004, 98) Qualities such as sharing, working hard, making do, inventing, and building patience are not developed when a constant menu of “more” is served.  

I see it in my life today:  get a little more done, fill all the empty spaces = ponder on important things  little less.

Then again, sometimes more is better. More virtues = better lives. Who can argue that an increase of patience, integrity, kindness, gratitude, service, humility, courage, and faith also increases our happiness? Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Taking us right back to where we started. Sometimes less is more and sometimes more is less.  Life and math are confusing sometimes.

But, there is one thing that is the greatest -- more than -- anything else.  Jesus taught exactly what that was just a few days before He was crucified.  He said the Greatest Commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  He said nothing is greater.  Everything else is less than.

He then said that the second greatest commandment was to love our neighbors as ourselves.  He said there was no greater commandment than these.  (Mark 12:30-31)

Seeing more than and less than through the Savior's eyes makes everything clearer.  Heaven help me to remember it and live that unchanging truth.






(And just in case you have never tasted The Law of Diminishing Returns Strawberry Pretzel Salad here is the recipe.  It's a great Easter salad because of the fresh strawberries.

3 Tbsp sugar
¾ cup melted butter
2 cups broken pretzels
1 large package strawberry Jell-O
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 lb fresh strawberries, sliced
1 8 oz. container of whipped topping
1 8 oz. package of creamed cheese
1 cup sugar

Mix 3 Tbsp sugar, melted butter, and pretzels. Press into 9” x 13” pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Cool.

Mix Jell-O and boiling water until Jell-O is dissolved. Refrigerate until partially set and then add strawberries.  

While Jell-O is setting, whip creamed cheese and 1 cup of sugar until well blended. Fold in cool whip. Spread on cooled pretzel crust (spreading the mixture to the edges and sealing it so the jello won't seep down into the pretzels) and then top with partially set Jell-O.

Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Substitutions:

raspberry Jell-O with raspberries
cranberry Jell-O with whole cranberry sauce
blackberry Jell-0 with blackberries)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Monday Memories - Bad Agency, Bad Consequences.


Several years ago I tended children. One cute, three-year-old boy, Austin, had fine blonde hair, wore Wrangler jeans with a belt and buckle, a western button-up shirt, and often boots.  He had a stocky build and wanted to be included in everything.

One day Austin would not stay out of trouble.  He was uncharacteristically irritable.  He jumped in the mud puddles in his nice clothes right after he promised he wouldn't.  He teased whoever came near him.  All morning he did one naughty thing after another, until finally he chucked rocks at the kids. I brought him inside, sat him down on the bench under the open dining room window, and told him he'd have to sit there away from the other kids until he figured out how to be nice.

I continued to peel potatoes for supper at the kitchen sink while the rest of the kids played outside. Balls bounced and they shouted as they made baskets.  The girls laughed as they chased each other and built forts in the trees.  And there Austin sat on the bench all. by. himself. listening to them - sheer hell for a little boy that begged to be included in everything.  

Soon Austin mumbled to himself as he kicked his feet back and forth against the bench and looked at the floor, "Bad agency; bad consequences. Good agency; good consequences.” 

Knowing that his mother had been trying to teach him about making good choices and using "agency" (ability to choose and act) positively, I listened closer to him.  I was more than a little surprised, for not only did he use the word "agency," he was using it correctly.  He said, “Bad agency: got in the mud, fought with Sarah, threw rocks at Abe. Bad Agency.  Bad agency; bad consequences. Now I’ve got to sit on the bench: bad consequence. Bad agency, bad consequence.”

Austin pretty much summed up a mystery of life with his quote, "Good agency, good consequence.  Bad agency, bad consequence."  Knowing we're accountable is a game changer.  Without it we have little - we make excuses for poor behavior or performance, rationalize wrongdoing, and believe that truth is relative and we're an exception to the rule.  But, when we're accountable and we know it and are held to it, behaviors, beliefs, and ideas change for the good. 

Christendom celebrates this week as Holy Week.  On Palm Sunday Christ entered Jerusalem for the last time.  The next day He went to the temple and cleared it of the moneychangers - those who were desecrating His Father's house.  It was as if He was saying, "You can spite me, scourge me, spit on me, but don't you dare mock my Father."  He held them accountable for their behavior. 

I've wondered what I would do each day of my last week on earth.  Little wonder what Christ did.  It makes perfect sense that He spent His last week correcting and teaching the people so that they could change their behaviors, beliefs and ideas - their lives - so that they could inherit eternal life.  He came to save each one of us from ourselves and a fallen world.  He came to make sure that we understood that bad agency equals bad consequences and good agency equals good consequences.



  


Sunday, March 29, 2015

52 Blessings - Green Beans and Easter



“If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label

You will like it, like it, like it on your table, table, table.

If it says Libby’s, Libby’s, Libby’s on the label, label, label.”


We sang that ditty over and over while eating our sandwiches and chips. Excitement. That’s what makes children babble and repeatedly chant. We were wound up that day because it was The Tour and everyone in our 4-H club had their animals washed, blow-dried and combed waiting for our leaders and club members to come to our homes and see them. The day was especially looked forward to because the tour ended at the hot springs with a pot-luck supper afterwards. I was giddy because I had a brand new, scooped neck, orange shirt—a birthday gift from my sisters—to wear.

Since Dad was our 4-H leader, the tour started at our house. After everyone had seen our animals, we loaded up for the next stop. I climbed in a car with a neighbor girl a few years older than me and we hurried to her house so she could get her animal brushed off before everyone arrived. We pulled onto the cement pad in front of their family garage and I climbed out of the station wagon. The family’s big German shepherd dog greeted me. Being freshly ten years old, I didn’t have to stoop far to pet him. He barked, put his paws on my chest and pushed me back a little and then bit my face. He left teeth marks on the bridge of my nose and then as his teeth slid down my face they tore the skin between my upper lip and nose into two pieces. A thin layer of skin inside my mouth held the two pieces together, but the outer layers were torn apart. Blood dripped down my orange shirt.

The girl’s mother quickly came around from her side of the car and yelled, “Lock up the dog!” She led me into the kitchen and put a cold washrag on the gape. She also gave me a different shirt and began rinsing and ringing mine in the sink. When Dad arrived he took me to the doctor. The tour went on without us.

The doctor took one look at my lip, laid me down on the table and put a paper towel with a little hole over my face. Then he deadened the flesh and began stitching the pieces back together. He apologized for taking so long and putting in so many stitches, but said he didn’t want it to pucker and scar. The room spun as he worked, it felt like a ride at the fair. When he and the nurse finished sewing, they gave me a tetanus shot and told Dad to check the dog for rabies. We got in the car and drove to the swimming pool where the 4-H club was. I sat with my bandaged lip and watched the other kids swim and eat. It hurt to smile.

The lip healed, but not without a lump. The pieces didn’t fit the same after they’d been torn apart and the lip thickened as scar tissue formed. When I smiled, the lump hung; when I frowned, the lump hung. It didn’t interfere much, but it didn’t bend. The doctor suggested plastic surgery to remove the lump, so the next year my mother drove me to a large hospital several hours away and a surgeon removed the excess scar tissue. Again, after some time, my lip healed and today, other than having one extra deep laugh-line from my nose to my lip, the scar is not noticeable.

One time my heart felt like my lip - torn.  It was ripped into two pieces, an emotional tear, but it felt physical. It ached. It throbbed. It hurt to smile. But like my lip, with the right attention, my heart healed. Like my lip, when it healed it didn’t fit back together the same as it had before. Though mended and healthy, some scar tissue formed from doubt, injustice and fear and my heart felt a little thick in a spot or two. Although my heart beat the same as before it was torn, I wanted the scar tissue removed. I didn’t need something extra hanging on to a perfectly good heart. And like my lip, an expert physician was needed—a Master Physician. Carefully, with perfect tools, He cut away the thickness and my heart once again felt soft and impressionable.

Life is full of bumps, bruises, tears and scars, stitches and healing. And yet, as painful as things may be, because of the real celebration of Easter we know we don’t suffer alone or needlessly. We know that the Son of God sacrificed so that our pains could be temporary and death impermanent. I am humbly and eternally indebted for His ability to heal my heart as well as forgive my sins.

Today begins the celebration of Holy Week. Palm Sunday reminds us of the final time that Christ entered Jerusalem. On that “triumphal entry” he rode a donkey which signaled He came in peace and humility, yet royally. His followers strew palm fronds, flowering tree branches and some of their own garments on the road to show their honor and love.  They shouted, "Hosanna.”   Hosanna means "Please save me" in Hebrew.

His followers were people just like you and me -- people who enjoyed comfort, help and sorrow. I welcome this Palm Sunday as a reminder to show privately and publicly the love and reverence that I have for the Savior like His followers of old did.  And surely, if I could sing about Libby’s green beans with such fervor in anticipation of a 4-H tour, the least I can do is celebrate the life and resurrection of the Savior with enthusiasm and appreciation.






P.S.

Some have supposed that palm leaves* were used on “Palm Sunday” simply because they were plentiful, but like many things Biblical, there is deep symbolism.   Palms symbolized:

  • Great value and luxury. The palm branch was the emblem of Judea and was found on her coins, signifying that palms were one of the country’s and people’s greatest riches. 
  • A gift from God. The palm had many uses in the people’s lives, so much so in fact that when countries went to war they attacked the enemy’s palms to expedite their victory because:

a. the date palm supplied dates.

b. the coconut palm supplied coconut and coconut milk and the shells were made into bowls, utensils and tools.

c. the sugar palm sap was dried and ground into sugar and it’s leaves were cooked and eaten like a vegetable.

d. the trunk of the sago palm was ground into flour.

e. the heavy fiber was used to make ropes, the coarse fiber was used to make brooms, mats and baskets, the fine fiber was made into sewing thread.

f. the palm oils were made into butter and soap.

g. palm wood does not easily rot and was used for making boats.

h. the palm seeds were boiled and made into medicinal drinks or were dried and eaten like nuts or used as beads.

i. the yellowish-white palm flowers were made into perfume or worn as d├ęcor by the women.

In essence, through the symbolism of the palms, the people showed they were willing to offer their daily pursuits and time as well as their riches to honor Jesus. 


(*Information gathered from Dorothy D. Warner, “Palms for the Lord,” Liahona, Apr 1999, 10)



Monday, March 16, 2015

52 Blessings - Almost 15 pictures of Family for the 15th of March


Ty: Eliza and I trying to recover from a few busy days of traveling.


Michelle: I was a speaker in church today. My topic was this verse of scripture


Afton:  We talked about exercise in nursery today.  Afton and three other kids decided to be
selfless and sacrifice their own physical fitness in order to help Jermaine.


Eliza:  Got a little too excited to get in the bath and forgot something.
Or maybe she was too groggy.


Zeph: Went to Joe's Mom's house this afternoon.
He was fed a popsicle, Nutter Butters, gummy worms, chips,
a piece of ice cream cake, and sent home with a guitar in
the shape of a dog that has a "howl" setting. So. He's ecstatic. 


Ezra: This is how Ezra spent the evening. 
Conked out in his car seat with a soft blanket rubbing his cheek. 


Joe was gone from church today.
Ezra's pacifier kept everyone happy regardless.


Calvin: Put manure on the strawberries yesterday and they got rained
on today.  Perfect timing.


Jane:  One of the great things about Sunday is empty-ish streets in town.


Henry: It's 2230, and I'm still awake.
I'm a little punch drunk but having fun.
 


Abe and Grace: We enjoyed playing Cover Your Assets
with our friends, the Simmons, today.


Levin:  It's my dad's birthday and I'm in charge.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Life in Our World - A Picture a Day


Monday 3-2-15
Back to one shower head and empty fridge reality - a very good reality,
nevertheless real and not quite as colorful as Hawaii.

Tuesday 3-3-15
Calvin is in his happy place tonight stoking the fire,
working on a gun . . . and wearing his red vest.

Wednesday 3-4-15
I read Dr. Ben Katz's obituary today in my hometown newspaper.
He was 93 years old and still involved with medical projects.
He was our kids' pediatrician and carefully guided me as a mother through a hard situation.
He was no-nonsense.  He was smart.  He was firm.  He expected me to be, too.
I loved and respected him.  I hope he gives a little check-up to all of our unborn grandchildren
 before they come to earth and reminds Clara to get enough Vitamin D.

Thursday 3-5-15
Weekly Stake Relief Society Presidency meeting.
These women are inspiring, fun, and talented.
Kathy (center) made us darling matching aprons for future kitchen duty,
and delivered them today.
#ilovereliefsociety
Friday 3-6-15
Such a great date tonight.  We loved the movie . . . and the popcorn.
I appreciate Calvin for continuing to take me out often through the yeaers.
I love to be with him.

Saturday 3-7-15
Some meals just need to be documented, so at Calvin's request this one is.
In Calvin's words, "Nothing better than a Saturday morning breakfast like this.
With the help of God we produced everything on the table - the eggs came from the chickens;
we made the sausage and bacon from our pigs we butchered last Fall;
the hashbrowns, applesauce, and bread are homemade;
and the raspberry jam comes from our patch in the garden."
(To be fair, we didn't grow or grind the wheat, nor did we make the dishes from our soil
or carve the utensils from the trees, BUT, that doesn't diminish the fact that we are
very blessed and we know it.)

Sunday 3-8-15
Just in case you wondered where you would sleep at our house if you came to visit.

Monday 3-9-15
Just in case you wondered what kind of ice cream is in our freezer.

Tuesday 3-10-15
Calvin and I had an interview in our home tonight.
Ever since I read that which chair you choose in a therapist's office says a lot about you,
I find seat selection rather interesting.
The two men interviewing us sat on the couch.
Can you guess which chair I sat in and which chair Calvin sat in?
(Hint: the softest chair did not produce the chattiest person.)

Wednesday 3-11-15
For Young Women's tonight, we took the girls to Mariah's Salon.
She was so gracious.  She found something beautiful about each girl,
taught them about affordable hair products, did a unique hair style on each girl,
and gave them their product.  Some of these girls can't even afford a blow dryer
so this was a big deal.

Thursday 3-12-15
Brandee (left) and I went visiting teaching tonight.
The lesson was on "Attributes of Jesus: Long-suffering and Patient."
Catalina (right) is 82, has lost two husbands and a daughter,
still grows a garden and cans food from it.
We just let her teach us the lesson
since she's about got that attribute perfected.

Friday 3-13-15
Judging from the pile of the manure, we're going to have a good garden this year.

Saturday 3-14-15
Saturday is a get-the-work-done-day.
Calvin worked outside spreading manure and starting seeds in cups;
I worked inside baking bread and cookies and making fruit leather.


Here are a few things the pictures didn't tell --

  • Two sweet little girls sold me a rock they'd colored with chalk for 38 cents.
  • Calvin and I attended two different funerals of great people who helped to build Moses Lake into what it is.  
  • I am teaching some pretty incredible classes of kids this year. This week one class made a special effort to do their very best to learn which made for a very positive outside observation. 
  • The look of grief when I realized that the new construction on a busy intersection in Moses Lake (where once lived a huge, beautiful lilac bush) is a pot greenhouse (as in marijuana).
  • Meeting up with friends to watch a college softball game of a new friend who is the daughter of old friends and the granddaughter of an even older friend.
  •  Fun mail received.  I got a pipe cleaner butterfly and Olaf jelly beans; Calvin got a pipe cleaner snail and a licorice snake.  Afton is pretty crafty. 
  • Speaking of gifts.  Our cats are mousers.  Good mousers.  They have brought us several dead ones as presents.  Try as I might, dead mice do not pose for pretty pictures.

Life is good.  Very good.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Life in Our World - The Aloha State


Last week Calvin and I went to Hawaii with the Folletts. . . . 

Atlas



Atlas is sitting on Calvin and eating a taro roll in the top picture.  Initially he was not a fan of the water or the sand, but happily enduring that backpack for hours on end redeemed his standing in the Follett family.  I love Atlas and appreciate him because he's a fun little buddy and says the cutest little "Yup."  One of our best conversations was when we were out in the ocean.  I asked, "Atlas, do you see all the people?"  

"Yup."

"Do you see the water?"

"Yup."

"Do you see Levin?"

"Yup."

Atlas, are you having fun?"

"Nope."

I love him.  


Bubbles




Levin was determined to learn how to snorkel since he can't scuba dive until he can snorkel and his dad scuba dives. He worked and worked at snorkeling -- for hours.  It didn't matter that his mask filled with water and his eyes and nose smarted with salt.  When his swim trunks rubbed sores on his legs he left them in the sand and practiced in spiderman underwear.  It was pretty cute seeing him crawl along with his bottom poking up in the air. Next up: swimming.
       

Cali




Cali lived in and loved Hawaii for three years while she attended college.  It is one of her happy places that she has wanted to share with their boys.  I loved watching her teach them about the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of Hawaii.  One of the things I appreciate about Cali is her thirst for knowledge, order, and beauty.  I also enjoy her friendship and was glad we got to visit for long periods of time. Her dad and I are proud of her and the little family she and Ray are building.

I love Cali.


Duke's



Duke Paoa Kahinu Mokoe Hulikohola Kahanamoku was a famous Hawaiian swimmer who is credited with spreading the sport of surfing.  Duke (1890 - 1968) was a 5 time Olympic medalist in swimming.  Even if you don't know Duke for his surfing or swimming, you soon know him for the Hula pie served at Duke restaurants.  I wouldn't be the neighbor if I didn't offer to share the recipe:

Hula Pie
1 ½ cups of ground Oreo cookies
¼ cup melted butter
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 half gallon of good quality vanilla ice cream (softened with ½ cups chopped macadamia nuts incorporated) 
6 ounces hot fudge topping
½ cup chopped macadamia nuts (additional to nuts added to the ice cream)
Whipped cream

1. Mix together cookie crumbs, melted butter, and sugar. Press mixture into pie pan.
2. Warm fudge topping to room temperature and drizzle two ounces over cookie crumb crust.
3. Scoop ice cream into prepared pie shell, doming it high.
4. Spread remaining hot fudge sauce over the ice cream.
5. Freeze until ready to serve.
6. Before serving, cover pie with whipped cream and chopped macadamia nuts.
7. Serve with a fork.
8. Feeds a lot of people.


Eat




Calvin, Tracy, and Cali were the food committee and, as you can see above, they planned incredible meals.  Maybe as impressive as the menu was that they planned the right amounts - they didn't over-buy or under-buy. We went shopping at Costco and Safeway the first morning, using their prepared meal plans, and ate well the rest of the week.  Food can make or break a trip and the food certainly helped make this one.

Follet, Raymond L.




Ray spearheaded the trip.  He negotiated the house deal, planned conference calls to gather input, reserved cars, organized us into committees (Calvin was on the food committee; I was on the meaningful activities committee), gathered receipts and kept expenses on a spreadsheet. It should also be noted that a wave took Ray out; it slammed him hard and not only did he sit in a chair the rest of the evening, he couldn't move his arm for a couple of days. First time I've ever seen him take Advil; however, it didn't keep him from scuba diving or snorkeling.  One of the things I appreciate about Ray is his ability to cut through all of the peripheral things and get to the heart of a matter . . . and the way he loves Calvin and me.

I love Ray and I love that his family calls him Raymond.


"Good morning.  It's time to get up.  We're in Hawaii," said Levin.


Every morning a little before 7:00, Calvin and I would hear Levin's feet pitter-patter across the bamboo floors downstairs.  Then we'd hear him climb the stairs and quietly turn the door knob into our room.  We'd play like we were still asleep and he'd climb on top of us and say, "Good morning! It's time to get up.  We're in Hawaii!" 


Home sweet home.



Ever since I went to college in Hawaii 35 years ago, I have wanted to come back as a real tourist - complete with a non-student budget and real accommodations. That wish has been granted. Neither Calvin nor I had ever stayed in a place as luxurious as this home. It was the last home on Anini Beach so a cliff was our neighbor on one side, and with little to no phone reception and spotty internet connection, it was very private.  And beautiful.  The house was one room deep with big windows facing the ocean, so nearly each room had a beautiful view.  There was also a guest house next to the big house. The grass was golf course quality and the kitchen was fitted with not only a big refrigerator, but three counter-top refrigerator drawers.  Even if we had never left the property we still would have had a wonderful vacation.    


Ice Cream


Salted Caramel.  Toasted Coconut.  Chocolate Coconut Macadamia Nut.  Blueberry Cheesecake. Tropical Dreams Ice Cream makes them all really good. 


Johnny


Johnny is Ray's older brother, good, good friend, and fellow hunter.  Johnny looks out for people and serves them.  He works hard, sees what needs to be done, and does it.  One thing I appreciate about him is he is sincere and offers security to others.  

I love Johnny.


Kaua'i




We stayed on the island of Kaua'i.  The land of Hanalei where Puff the Magic Dragon lives.  The land that has only 13 letters in the alphabet.  The land of lush.  The land of earth and sky.


Levin


Levin loved everything about the ocean.  It didn't matter if it was playing in little pools of water or in big waves, he laughed and begged for more. Sometimes the tide was really strong and we were afraid if we lost our grip on him he'd be swept out to sea, but he had very little fear as the waves pelted us. One wave sent Levin and me tumbling and all I could think was, "Don't lose your grip!"  We came up (my death grip on his wrist still in tact) and he wanted to do it again.     

I appreciate that Levin is curious and active.  He has a large capacity of energy and a strong desire to be a part of and experience everything.  I enjoy him very much.

I love Levin.  I had no idea experiencing Hawaii through a little boy's eyes could be so invigorating or fun.


Monk seal


Monk seals can lie very still for a very long time.  I saw him jiggle a flipper once in an hour.


Not good, not good at all.


Ray, Cali, Levin, Atlas, Tracy, Johnny, Calvin, and I were on the same flight.  After we'd heard the air bag instructions from the stewardess and the attendants had taken their seats, we began to taxi down the runway.  The airbags above Ray, Cali, and Levin spontaneously dropped before we'd left the ground. Ten-fifteen minutes later as the stewardess pushed the drink cart down the aisle she saw the dangling masks and bags and became very distressed.  She went to get the pilot. And, even though the bags had dropped on their own accord and Levin had been threatened strictly warned not to pull on them, in the commotion of upset stewardesses and a visit from the pilot asking Ray and Cali when the drop happened, the "what if" temptation became too strong and Levin pulled on one of the airbags.  Oxygen began to flow just like the stewardesses say it will in pre-flight instruction. 

Luckily there were three empty seats elsewhere on the plane so their row was evacuated and we didn't have to return to the airport (the other option).  The other good thing was Levin didn't yell, "We're all going to die!" like he did on the last flight when they hit turbulence.

    
Ocean 


"The cure for anything is saltwater - sweat, tears, or the sea."  ~Isak Dinesen


Payne, Calvin & Jane







Calvin was bound and determined we were not going to get burned in Hawaii.  Knowing of my propensity to burn, a month ago he said, "I'm your coach.  You may be the quarterback, but I'm the coach and I'm telling you that you have to go tanning before you can play."  He went to the athletic club, paid for a month of tanning, and then took us there one night for Family Home Evening.  

I admit.  He is a fine coach.  Thanks to four weeks of prep, I didn't burn.  We were able to play in the waves day after day without blistering.    

I appreciate that his motto is Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance and he drags me along.  We had such a good time.

I love Calvin.   


sQuamate


It was great watching Levin track and catch a lizard. I'm not sure who was more surprised when he finally caught it: Levin, the lizard or me. Levin picked grass and force fed the lizard and called it his buddy. Finally, when the lizard played nearly dead, Cali convinced him to let it go back to his friends so they could help him get better.


Rob


Rob is Ray's youngest brother.  He is jovial, talented, and witty.  One of the things I appreciate about Rob is he is quick to join in and make a situation even better.  He is also a spiritual man.

I love Rob.


Shower



Not often does a shower get a letter of the alphabet all on its own, but this one was not your ordinary shower.  It was i.n.c.r.e.d.i.b.l.e. - six heads, tropical spa products, an ocean view.  It was set far enough back in an upstairs room so no window coverings were necessary.  A warm breeze blew through the slatted windows and the sight was so beautiful and so was the smell.  It was an experience.

  .    
Tracy



Tracy is a children's therapist, a caring sister, fun aunt, and good friend. One of the things I appreciate about her is how quickly people feel comfortable with her.  She is genuine.  She is also generous and supportive and accepting.  She is beautiful.

I love Tracy.


 Underwater synchronized swimming


Rob and Tracy spent a couple of hours sitting on the edge of the water visiting about life. Every now and then they'd get in the water to cool off and practice synchronized swimming moves. Kind of. 


Visiting


One of the highlights of the trip was our conversations.  As part of the meaningful activities committee, it was my job to see that we had ample opportunities for important interaction.  Each night at the dinner table, or gathered in a sitting room, we discussed topics we had come prepared to share:
  • Bring a list of what beliefs/values/goals guide you in life and a quote that defines them and that you aspire to live by.
This was a most fascinating topic for me.  While we all hold the same religious beliefs and God, Family, and Freedom/Country top each list, it was interesting to see the individuality thereafter. Because it was a safe environment, we could share deep-held values recognizing that even though our behavior hadn't necessarily attained the level we were striving for, the belief nonetheless guided and prodded us. I'd never done this before and was a little surprised at my own list and how everything stacked up.  Now that I've done it, I  plan to refer to the list often and refine it as life continues.

I read the quotes aloud anonymously before values were shared and everyone tried to match the quote to the person. Here are a few of the quotes:

"You have to create the life you love."

"Although we recognize we are not perfect, we do not use that as an excuse to live below our expected privileges."

"What we do in life echoes in the eternities."


Other topics included:
  • Share 1-2 things you are trying to improve in 2015.
  • Share your high-light and low-light from the last year.
  • Come prepared to share one thing that you appreciate about each person.
All of the conversations were good.  I wish you could have heard Levin's list of things that he wants to improve in 2015.  He was so pleased to be a part.  One thing he wants to improve on this year is painting.  



Wow, what a view and whales



I have always hoped to see a whale in the wild.  Who knew it would happen on this trip?  They were distant. They were hard to see. They were numerous.  And, they were real.  It was exciting.

Often as I looked out over the ocean I would think, "And God saw every thing that He had made, and, behold, it was very good."  

Very good indeed.  

Several times I felt grateful that He created families and an incredibly beautiful earth for families to experience and enjoy.  No accommodations even come close to the one He prepared for us.  Not even six headed showers with a view. 


Xerophilous plants





Of all the plants, Calvin was most excited when he saw a cactus.  And then there were two.  And then there was a bouquet of them. (What are groups of cacti called?)  He even posted them on Instagram and he doesn't post very often.

Cali's response: "Where Cal goes, the cactus follow."

Ande's response:  "It's a sign you should live in Hawaii."

While he was capturing cacti, I was taking my own vegetation pictures.  The colors.  I just couldn't get over how well they complimented each other.  It was good.  Very good.


 Zoned


Calvin often says, "I'm livin' the life of Rylie." And truly we did.

Thanks to the Follett family for a wonderful trip.

We love you.


(*Thanks to Tracy and Ray for some of the pictures and to Cali for some of the dialogue.)