Friday, February 10, 2017

The Sharps


30 Day Writing Challenge:

Write about a lesson you learned from a mistake you made.


I suppose every marriage has “a Sharps” or sore spot in it at one time or another. The Sharps in our marriage was caused by a rifle, namely a Shiloh Sharp Rifle.

L-R
Grace, Abe, Calvin, me, Ty, Ande, Cali, Ray
Calvin has made all of the guns in this picture

For thirty years Calvin has made beautiful guns. He takes a chunk of wood and carves and sands it until it is a handsome gun stock. He buys a barrel, but molds the other pieces by hand, even carving the tiny springs in the trigger. Making a gun takes him well over two hundred and fifty hours. Calvin is very talented with his hands and eyes and he loves making guns, and even though I often get his guns confused with each other, I really admire and appreciate his abilities. He has made several guns so why one gun caused such grief I’m still not sure, but it did.

The Sharps was a special order gun, one that Calvin wouldn’t be making, and he had wanted it for a very long time. He ordered a Shiloh Sharp rifle knowing there was a several year waiting period, except in this instance it was not several years, but only a few months. Suddenly the company called and said the gun was ready to ship and they were waiting for the final payment. Calvin didn’t have enough money saved for it and that is when I learned about The Sharps. We had to dip into some saved funds to pay for the gun and I’d tagged them for something else. Calvin still swears he told me when he ordered the gun; I swear he thought he had several years to prepare me so he hadn’t mentioned it yet. Regardless of who swears most accurately, the gun arrived.

The Sharps was a source of contention. I felt betrayed. I felt second rate. I felt a thousand things that I wanted to feel whenever I wanted to feel them because of The Sharps. Calvin called the gun an investment, but I didn't see it that way.  I saw it as his toy that went on every father-son outing, scout over-nighter, and hunting trip. The gun had a little flip-up site that really was cool and every man loved to shoot it.  After a few years, I warmed up to it a bit (it’s hard not to like something that everybody else likes), but then I would remember The Sharps stood for perfidy and I'd get mad all over again.

Several years went by and then we needed money for a trip. Out came The Sharps and Calvin sold it as quickly as he'd bought it.  He said it was an investment.

Surprisingly, I mourned its loss.

Calvin was right, it had become an investment.  Not only was it a nest egg of memories for him and the boys, but it had become a place to stash my grievances. It was proof for whatever I wanted it to prove.

Calvin has been talking about ordering another Shiloh Sharp rifle.  I learned a lesson from the last Sharp's: a stash of grievances never pays.

I'm even considering offering to help him raise the money for the new rifle just to prove I learned my lesson.



Wednesday, February 8, 2017

"As White As Snow"


30 Day Writing Challenge

Tomorrow will be better because today I learned . . . 

Today my seminary students worked on a self-guided project studying the arrest, trial, and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. The room was quiet. The students kept their fingers in between Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and flipped back and forth between the 4 books writing things they didn’t want to forget in their scripture margins and journals. There was a peaceful reverence in the room as they studied individually what the Savior had endured alone. It was still and so sweet watching them focus. I stood and soaked in the calm and watched them learn. Occasionally I walked (as quietly as my squeaky shoes allow) around the classroom and whispered to the students to teach me what they’d discovered. Several times I stopped at the window in the back of the classroom and watched the snow fall. It never quit. It was a beautiful insulation – soft, white, and silent. It covered the litter and smashed the weeds in the vacant lot by us. It silenced the kids’ yelling and the revving motors that come from the busy high school campus across the street. It dulled the lights from the emergency vehicles at the assisted living center next door.

Before it was time for the students to go back to the school, several shared what they’d learned and what they planned to do with it. One said the irony and hypocrisy was what most impressed her. The chief priests, Sadducees, and Pharisees prided themselves on their strict observance of law and yet they broke several laws when it suited their goal to have Christ crucified. She said she saw it in herself. She knows to be kind and to love and look for the good in everyone, and does for the most part, but she doesn’t hesitate to set that aside and yell defeat and hurl sarcasm when she’s on the soccer field or in the bleachers because they’re “opponents.” Another student said that she had never really been able to fathom His pain, but having just dislocated her knee cap and reading how the guards had come to break Christ’s legs as He hung on the cross (but didn’t because He was already dead) put a new perspective on the price He’d paid so she could have eternal life. She said she wouldn’t take His pain for granted so easily in the future. Another student said he was so grateful for the control over anger and revenge that the Savior showed in the middle of suffering. He said he could better control his frustration watching the Savior’s example. Another student said that it was obvious to feel Christ’s love and unselfish care for those who followed Him because He never worried about His own needs as He hung on the cross until after He had taken care of everyone else. First he asked the Father to forgive the guards and then asked John to care for his mother, and only after they were cared and prayed for did he say, “I thirst.” The student vowed to be less selfish.

This rather ordinary day was a rather extraordinary object lesson for Isaiah 1:18

Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord,
though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow, 
though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool.

But it wasn’t an object lesson for the students because they didn’t see it, they were part of it. It was an object lesson for me. The Savior's object lessons are the best because He uses real things – fish, loaves, coins, sheep, snow – and people. He never forgets His people and today it was His students.

Each day the kids walk across the high school parking lot and the street to get to the seminary building. Most days I glance out the window and watch them. Sometimes they walk in groups and sometimes they walk alone; sometimes they laugh (like today when two boys hit a patch of ice and both went down) and sometimes they don’t (like today when they pulled their hoods up, put their heads down, and walked neck forward into the blowing snow); sometimes they want to come to seminary, sometimes they don’t. They walk in perfect weather and they walk in storms. They come to reason together with the Savior and learn about repentance and forgiveness. He teaches them He can remove the litter and sin from their lives and He has the power to blanket them with forgiveness. Today as it snowed and my students studied so diligently to learn about the Savior's last hours on earth, they taught me more permanently of His power and purpose.  Tomorrow will be better because of it.  

Thursday, February 2, 2017

“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie.” -Jim Davis


30 Day Writing Challenge

Write about something to think about.




Tonight Michelle and I were talking on the phone about healthy eating -- mostly vegetables.  I was reminded of this fascinating article* that I read eight or ten years ago.  I think of it quite often, especially when I'm out in the garden.  I have no idea if it is scientifically correct, but it's worth thinking about:

We’ve all heard we are what we eat, but did you know that studies show that every whole food we eat has a pattern that resembles a body organ or physiological function and gives us a heads up on what benefits that food might provide us? Here are a few examples:

· “A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye...and science shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

· “A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. All of the research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

· “Grapes hang in a cluster that has the shape of the heart. Each grape looks like a blood cell and all of the research today shows that grapes are also profound heart and blood vitalizing food.

· “A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. Even the wrinkles or folds are on the nut just like the neo-cortex. We now know that walnuts help develop over 3 dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

· “Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

· “Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb and more look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. If you don't have enough sodium in your diet the body pulls it from the bones, making them weak. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

· “Eggplant, Avocados and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female - they look just like these organs. Today's research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and prevents cervical cancers. And how profound is this? ... It takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods (modern science has only studied and named about 141 of them).

· “Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

· “Onions look like body cells. Today's research shows that onions help clear waste materials from all of the body cells. They even produce tears which wash the epithelial layers of the eyes.”


If this is correct, my heart and bones are in great shape, but my brain is suffering.  I wish I could think of another food that looked like the brain so I could substitute.

According to this article, what should be healthy on you?


(Source attributed to David Bjerklie, of TIME Magazine)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

"Forgotten Wedge"


30 Day Writing Challenge

Something you like to share.


One friend always carries tootsie rolls in his pocket.  Whether I see him at church, a funeral, or the post office, he has a tootsie roll to share.

Another friend, who recently passed away, always carried a joke in his pocket so he'd have something to start a conversation with.  It was not uncommon to sit with him at a church potluck and have him pull out his joke and read it as we began our dinner.  

They were both quick to share.

I like to share stories.  I read the following story thirty years ago and mentally tucked it away.  Time and time again I have pulled it out and thought of it.  Like my friends who share things from their pockets, I want to share this story with you:

Ice Art on the kitchen window


“The ice storm wasn’t generally destructive. True, a few wires came down, and there was a sudden jump in accidents along the highway. … Normally, the big walnut tree could easily have borne the weight that formed on its spreading limbs. It was the iron wedge in its heart that caused the damage.

“The story of the iron wedge began years ago when the white-haired farmer was a lad on his father’s homestead. The sawmill had then only recently been moved from the valley, and the settlers were still finding tools and odd pieces of equipment scattered about.

“On this particular day, it was a faller’s wedge — wide, flat and heavy, a foot or more long and splayed from mighty poundings — which the lad found in the south pasture. Because he was already late for dinner, the lad laid the wedge between the limbs of the young walnut tree his father had planted near the front gate. He would take the wedge to the shed right after dinner, or sometime when he was going that way.

“He truly meant to, but he never did. [The wedge] was there between the limbs, a little tight, when he attained his manhood. It was there, now firmly gripped, when he married and took over his father’s farm. It was half grown over on the day the threshing crew ate dinner under the tree. Grown in and healed over, the wedge was still in the tree the winter the ice storm came.

“In the chill silence of that wintry night one of the three major limbs split away from the trunk and crashed to the ground. This so unbalanced the remainder of the top that it, too, split apart and went down. When the storm was over, not a twig of the once-proud tree remained.

“Early the next morning, the farmer went out to mourn his loss.

“Then, his eyes caught sight of something in the splintered ruin. ‘The wedge,’ he muttered reproachfully. ‘The wedge I found in the south pasture.’ A glance told him why the tree had fallen. Growing, edge-up in the trunk, the wedge had prevented the limb fibers from knitting together as they should.” (Samuel T. Whitman, “Forgotten Wedge”)

One reason I haven't forgotten the story is we have ice storms and trees.  Just last week the town shut down because of an ice storm.  Kids literally skated and played hockey in the streets.  

Another reason is the previous owner of our home left a metal grate in the fork of one of the willow trees in the front yard.  That tree has grown around the metal and claimed it as its own.  At one time or another, we've all tried to pull that grate out and it won't move.  Is a grate as lethal as a wedge? 

The main reason I have never forgotten the story is because of its message: “Don’t store things in your heart that will weaken you."  Bad habits and grudges act as infected slivers that fester and ooze until they're removed or cause us to fall.

The homemaker and teacher in me, who spends a good deal of time each day putting things away that others leave behind (paper, pencils, bowls, shoes, socks, coats, gloves, lunches), recognizes the rather obvious message of “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

Either message, it’s a good little story with a good moral.  And irony, too.  Who’d have ever guessed a tree could die from a sliver.  I suppose that is the final moral to the story:  none of us are immune from storing a wedge in our heart that could cause us to fall.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

"Surprise. Surprise. Surprise." - Gomer Pyle


30 Day Writing Challenge

Write about the best type of surprise.





I don't really like surprises.  I mean I really don’t like surprises.  Surprises are predictably unpredictable.  They can be good, but they can also be really bad.  Surprises are not for the faint-hearted and sometimes I am faint of heart.

Our daughter Cali doesn’t like surprises either, but for a different reason.  

One day, shortly before she turned eight years old, we were discussing her birthday.  I explained that she would receive a really special birthday present from Grandpa and Grandma Payne (which was true, they always give the grandchildren a set of scriptures on their eighth birthday and in the big scheme of things scriptures are very, very, very special.  Just ask Moses or Peter or William Tyndale).
As Cali’s birthday approached she was excited to not only be getting presents, but a special one.  Her birthday came and went and I forgot about our conversation until years later when I told her I had a surprise for her.

She said, “No surprises, mom.  Just tell me what it is; my imagination is always better than your surprises. Remember when I turned eight and you told me I was going to get a special surprise from Grandpa and Grandma.  I was so excited.  I thought and thought of what could be really special.  I finally figured out that they were getting me a swimming pool (Olympic-size of course, because she doesn’t dream small).  I knew a swimming pool would be a really special surprise.  Can you imagine my disappointment when I opened a box with scriptures in it instead?  Very.  No surprises for me mom, your surprises just can’t match my imagination.”

I fear surprises because a surprise can mean something bad as easily as something good, Cali dislikes surprises because they never match her expectation.

I can think of two exceptions.  One was when the kids planned a surprise 50th birthday party for me and all the kids and my sister, Rachel, came home (except Abe who was deployed).  That was a wonderful surprise and I could relive it again and again and again.

The other was six snow days in the last two weeks.  Six snow days means six days I didn’t go to the office to work.  Six days I didn’t wear tights or skirts or dresses.  Six days I slept in until 6:00.  Six days I read books.  Six days I was on social media too much.  Six days I worked on projects in the fort. Six days of simple meals.

The Craft Fort
Ty and Michelle turned our water heater closet into a perfect place for sewing,
writing blogs, scrapbooking, wrapping gifts.  They made shelves and a desk.
It is a happy place.


Since there was no going anywhere, there was no exercising and fruit and toast
and peanut butter sandwiches were enough.

I'm still not a fan of surprises, but it doesn't hurt to be wrong once in awhile either.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Seventeen or So Pictures for the 17th of January 2017


Our first 17 pictures for the 17 of January 2017.  

Our theme this month is "Happiness is . . ."


Ray
Happiness is shaved ice when you get to the best part - the juicy ice cream.
And, swimming and body surfing and finding a snorkel at the bottom of the ocean for
Levin to use in the bathtub.

Cali, Levin, and Atlas
Happiness is watching Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
with Levin and Atlas while Ray is in Hawaii on business.
 During the barn raising scene, the boys reenacted the fighting
 instead of the dancing scene like I did as a girl.
 If someone is ever out to kill them, they won’t “apologize for living.”
 They’ll dance fight. Levin says he is Gideon. I was always Dorcas.

Abe
Happiness is reading bedtime stories to Henry.
  
Grace
Happiness is being a mom and wife.

Henry
Happiness is playing chase with Dad.

Hazel
Happiness is playing with my brother and eating cheeseburgers.

Ty
Happiness is taking your shoes off while you're away from home on business and remembering
the prank your 4 year old daughter played on you when  you were home taking a nap.

Michelle
Happiness is using the "vegetti" that Ty gave me for Christmas.

Afton
Happiness is one-on-one time with Mom and making Eliza a heart to make her happy.
Then Eliza wanted to make me one too!  I love my sister. 

Eliza
Happiness is hearing Kathryn say her new word, poot (poop).

Kathryn
Happiness is making my sisters laugh with my new word.

Joe
Happiness is riding the golf cart to see the alligators.

Ande
Happiness is a friend painting your nails at girls' night.

Zeph
Happiness is trucks and dirt.

Ezra
Happiness is popcorn.

Winnie
Winnie is . . . happiness.

Jane
Happiness is having not one but SIX snow days in a relatively short period of time
and getting to work in your craft fort (a converted water heater closet) on an "I Spy" quilt for your grandkids.

Calvin
Happiness is trying a new recipe.

Happiness is a family that will send in a picture each month to stay connected to each other.

Next month's theme:  Love is . . .

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

"Do You Hear What I Hear?"


30 Day Writing Challenge

Write about a goal.


This year my goal is to be a better listener.

When I think about listening, I remember three things.

1.  A story told by  Boyd K. Packer told in his October 1979 General Conference talk:

"Many years ago John Burroughs, a naturalist, one summer evening was walking through a crowded park. Above the sounds of city life he heard the song of a bird.

"He stopped and listened! Those with him had not heard it. He looked around. No one else had noticed it.

"It bothered him that everyone should miss something so beautiful.

"He took a coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air. It struck the pavement with a ring, no louder than the song of the bird. Everyone turned; they could hear that!

"It is difficult to separate from all the sounds of city traffic the song of a bird. But you can hear it. You can hear it plainly if you train yourself to listen for it . . . It is difficult to separate from the confusion of life that quiet voice of inspiration. Unless you attune yourself, you will miss it."

That I heard the prompting to choose this as a goal this year gives me hope.  It also let me know I need to improve. (D&C 19:23  Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.)



2.  The Chinese symbol for attentive listening:


I use this symbol to teach youth to become better listeners.  It really does take more than ears to hear and I need to focus better on the speaker.


3.  The anonymous quote:  "There is a good reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth."  This reminds me I need to listen without trying to formulate a reply as I do.


Each month I will focus on better listening to different people, or to better listen in different situations.  For example, in January I am focusing on listening to Calvin better.  Oh. my.  I did not know what I had not been hearing.  This may actually take 2 months to gain some proficiency. 

Other months will include listening to:

my heart
students
coworkers
friends
my body
grandchildren
children
Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost
nature 


I can't wait to hear what I've been missing.




Saturday, January 14, 2017

"Save the Bathwater"


30 Day Challenge:

Write about a random childhood memory.


my sister, Chris, made me this nightgown for a 4-H project


One of my mother's most memorable sayings was, “Save the bathwater.” She especially said it on Saturday nights. A family of twelve church-goers meant a lot of hot water and bodies bathing Saturday night.

We always put Palmolive dish soap in our bathwater to keep a ring from forming around the tub. If you were bathing in used water and the bubbles were gone, you could add a little more water and soap.

After our bath, we "little kids" sat on the couch and watched Lawrence Welk (my favorite was the singing trio of Sandy, Mary Lou and Gail). If my hair was long-ish that year, mom or one of the "big girls" rolled it in pink curlers; if not, it air-dried straight and fly-away like.

Supper on Saturday nights was often bread, milk, and honey, the bread being baked earlier in the day. Saturday was a get-the-work-done-day and a day to prepare for Sunday.  A bath, especially in used water, meant the end of our work day.


What was one of your mother's most memorable sayings?



Friday, January 13, 2017

". . . with all thy getting, get understanding." Proverbs 4:7


30 Day Writing Challenge:

Write about something you don't understand.


Funny how we try to hide some things about ourselves even though there is nothing wrong with them.

Like junk drawers. I cringe when someone opens that draw in our kitchen.  I'm embarrassed and want to hide it as if no one else has one.

But where would I be without our junk drawer? Trying to fix a vacuum without a screwdriver, that’s where!

I don’t know what’s in your junk drawer, but ours has:

a half dozen wedding invitations
6 origami paper kits to do with grandkids
an inflatable solar light
pens
mini-flashlight
a tube of chapstick
2 rolls of packaging tape
gorilla glue
a farm bureau membership card
cleaner and cloth for eye-glasses
an assortment of paper clips
a letter from Ty's flight commander
a scratch paper with family history names I need to check on
a bumper sticker from the Army
electrical tape
a dvd
2 screwdrivers
bottle cap
book mark
battery
highlighter
loose addresses torn from Christmas card envelopes
eraser
pencils
paint brush
business card from paint company
eletrical tape
felt bumpers for the inside of cupboards
notepads
concealed carry permit
a couple of recipes
cinnamon lifesavors
fingernail clippers
a coupon that expired in 2015
illustration sketches for a book
an old toothbrush for scrubbing
screws, lots of screws
2 insurance cards
a babysitting coupon from a Relief Society activity
chalk
and some crumbs


These items in and of themselves aren't embarrassing.  In fact, they're useful to the smooth-running of our household; but the combination of them all in one spot makes me self-conscious.

Another thing I want to hide is weight, as if no one else in the world owns any mass. I read that women usually lie and say they weigh less than they do.  Men on the other hand, if they lie, say they weigh more than they do.

Creams, potions, surgeries, hair dye, and clothing are all designed to veil our age as if the years we’ve lived are something to be ashamed of.  Wrinkles suggest we've been in the game of life a long time, yet we want to hide them.

I don’t understand why we hide junk drawers, weight and age. It seems silly that intelligent beings that can figure complex math, read a written language, and communicate across the world try to hide the obvious. While I may not know why we hide these things, I just know most of us do, with the exception of the mother of my Tongan friend, Seine.

I met Seine in college and because my roommate and I were the only ones to have bathroom scales, Seine came to our room to weigh. One night she nervously slid the scales out of the closet and stepped on them. When the dial settled, she cried, “Oh no! My mother will be so angry with me because I have lost two of them. I only have 167 of them left.” 

So let that be a lesson to me.  I shouldn't worry about hiding things, I should worry about losing them.

Long live the junk drawer.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

" . . . ponder the path of life . . ." Proverbs 5:6


30 Day Writing Challenge:

Write about something you always think "What if . . . ."


"What if that were me?  What if I were in those circumstances?  What would I do?"  When I read of heroic efforts or difficult situations, I often wonder what I would have done in those circumstances, and then quake and tremble a bit and worry I would have been found lacking.




Miep Gies (pronounced Meep Khees) was a secretary to Otto Frank, Anne Frank’s father.  She smuggled food, books, paper, and news to the Frank family while they were hiding from the Nazis. It was also Ms. Gies who gathered Anne’s scattered journal pages after the family was discovered, arrested, and carried to concentration camps. Ms. Gies locked the papers in her desk and gave them to Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, after the liberation.  Ms. Gies never read those pages while they were in her possession. She said a teenager’s privacy was sacred.

Many applauded Ms. Gies for the help she rendered to the Frank family, but she didn't want it.  She said, "This is very unfair. So many others have done the same or even far more dangerous work.” 

Once she told a group of school children, "I don’t want to be considered a hero. Imagine young people (growing) up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.”

“Do your human duty.”  Miep Gies may have felt like an ordinary woman, but her kindness to the Franks at such a terrible risk to herself was courageously beautiful and extraordinary.  What if I had had her choices to make?



I once observed a woman caring for her severely handicapped daughter.  The daughter was strapped to a wheelchair because her arms, neck, and head flailed about with no control.  The girl, who looked to be in her late teens or early twenties, often cried out for no apparent reason.  It was her only form of communication.  

I first noticed the mother and daughter on the back bench during a church sacrament meeting.  The daughter cried and groaned very loudly.  I was a visitor to that meeting and everyone else seemed well acquainted with her outbursts.  I carefully watched as the mother quietly pressed her daughter’s head against her own and then rubbed her cheek until the girl was calm.  Throughout the rest of the meetings, there were more outbursts.  It was as if the daughter would sleep and then awake from a terrible nightmare, each time flailing and crying loudly.  Time after time the mother gently covered the daughter’s mouth with a handkerchief to muffle the sound as she comforted her scared girl. I was purely amazed at the mother’s care and patience.  Not only was her daughter in need of intense physical care, she was also in severe emotional pain as well.  The mother had been caring for this daughter for many, many long years with little relief.   

What if I was a mother to a child with such intense and taxing needs.  Would I have taken them to church week after week after week?  Would I have remained her primary caretaker? 

While "why me" is a question which destroy's faith, the question "what if that were me" helps me strengthen my faith as I ponder what my response to a difficult situation might be.  "What if that were me" helps me identify weak spots in my character.  

One way I can fortify those weak spots is to do as Helen Keller said she did, "I long to accomplish a great and noble task (not shrink from a difficult challenge), but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble." 

What if that were me?  What small tasks could I do as if they were great and noble? Scripture study? Prayer?  Acts of service?  Showing gratitude?  Following promptings promptly?  Developing patience? Wouldn't all of these tasks prepare me to not shrink from a difficult challenge?

"What if that were me . . . "


Monday, January 9, 2017

"If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking." George S. Patton


30 Day Writing Challenge:

Write about an experience with a stranger.




Several years ago I had a delightful eight hour conversation with a 70+ year old woman. We were seat mates at a wrestling tournament that lasted forever. Her husband sat next to her quietly watching the matches, and mine sat quietly next to me.  This woman gaily chatted and told me several stories. After an hour or two she apologized, “I’m sorry I’ve been talking so much. My husband says I talk too much.” 

I told her I thought she was a wonderful conversationalist and that I appreciated her thoughts very much. She said, “Well, he’s kind of quiet and sometimes he doesn’t talk much.” 

I laughed and told her my story:

I have a little radio that constantly plays in my head. Usually one station comes in clear, but at other times two or three stations compete for the brainwaves and interfere with each other. The ideas, conversations, and opinions present a constant line-up of programming. The volume is stuck; it isn’t drive-me-crazy loud, but it isn’t background quality either. I assumed everyone has a little radio playing in their head.

Once I asked Calvin what he was thinking (or in other words what his radio was playing). He simply said, “Nothing.” Since we were only dating at the time I figured he was private and I was too forward. But after we were married and not near so private, I asked him again. Again he said, “Nothing.” I told him that couldn’t be and asked again. His answer was, “Really. Nothing.” I explained to him that the brain has to be thinking of something. It’s never blank, it’s always thinking.” Then I asked him again what he was thinking and he replied, “Well . . . I guess I’m thinking about driving and the road, if my brain has to be thinking of something.”

That didn’t make sense. My head radio NEVER thinks about just driving unless I’m in heavy traffic and even then other thoughts like, “I wonder where that woman is going?” and “He appears to think he is very important,” still have time to play their tunes. But, peace loving soul that I am, I dropped it.  
For years, our silence was interrupted with, “What are you thinking?”

“Nothing.  (After a sideways glance from me) Uhhh, I guess I was thinking about how good this pop tastes” or some other simple thought.

Several years later I was on a walk with Ty (the son we were watching at the wrestling tournament). As we walked we talked.  After a little while it got quiet.  I causally asked Ty what he was thinking. 

“Nothing.”

I couldn’t believe it. I wondered when Calvin taught him to say that. I was fairly certain it wasn’t a formal lesson, but I didn’t think it was stamped in the genetic code either. Sure that my future daughter-in-law would someday thank me, I said, “Oh no. That’s not possible, Ty. You see the brain is always thinking something. You might not recognize it as a thought, but it is always thinking. Let’s try it again. What are you thinking?”

“Mom, I’m really not thinking anything.”

Undaunted, I kept going, “Well, maybe you’re thinking about the rocks on the road, or maybe you’re wondering how long we’ll walk, but you’re thinking something and do you know what? It’s really important you learn to tell people what you’re thinking so that someday when your wife asks you what you’re thinking you can make conversation with her so that she doesn’t feel left out.”

He didn’t argue so I assumed the lesson was taught successfully and filled the lull with conversation of my own. Occasionally, whenever we went on walks together I would ask him what he was thinking and each time he’d say, “Nothing really, but I know it’s important I learn to make conversation with my wife, so I’ll say something when I have a wife.” I supposed that would have to do until he had more finely tuned in to his radio.

But the joke was on me. Later I read a book by Dr. Laura. To prove her point that men can perfectly enjoy silence with no thoughts she quoted, John, one of her listeners:

“I dated a woman for a few months, and whenever we drove anywhere, if there was a lull in the conversation, she would demand, ‘What are you thinking?’

‘I’m not thinking anything, dear’ was never good enough, and she would spend the rest of the date sulking and planning her retribution against male domination—or something or other.

"I told her that men aren’t bright enough to drive and think at the same time, and that just added more fuel to the fire.

"We look at the birds, we look at the trees, we look far enough down the road to make sure someone doesn’t plow through a red light and kill us all; but driving and plotting and manipulating at the same time takes far more hard drive than we were ever issued.

"If a man tells you he isn’t thinking anything, he probably isn’t. Can’t see how that is so hard to understand.” (The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, pg. 94-95)

When I finished my story and Dr. Laura's observation, my friend at the wrestling match heaved a heavy sigh, “Oh, thank you.”  

Then she glanced at her husband and turned back to me and whispered, “Sometimes I thought he didn’t like me. I feel so much better knowing that he isn’t thinking anything.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

“Some people have a way with words, and other people...oh, uh, not have way.” ― Steve Martin


30 Day Writing Challenge

Write about the power of words.




Mom slapped my face when I said it. “So.” She was slicking my hair into a ponytail when my sister walked in and said something taunting like “I don’t have to have my hair done today,” and I replied, “So.” Mom quickly slapped my face saying, “We don’t say, ‘so’.” She didn’t say why and I didn’t ask. I just put that word in my mental bin with other words we didn’t say like “ain’t” and “shut-up.”

While my mother slapped to correct our speech, Grandma Erma bribed. When she came to visit, she’d listen to our speech for a few days and then with a shake of her head cry a high-pitched, “Help!” then gather baby food jars and coins. Each member of the family received five to ten nickels in a jar with his name written on it. The jars were lined up in a neat row on the cupboard and if Grandma heard you say something inappropriate like “dang,” “wash (with an ‘r’), or “so,” she took a nickel from your jar and put it in her pocket.

Though the slang words have changed today, the need for compassionate words has not, and I’m thankful to both women for teaching me to mind my words. Kind words lift and build, unkind words tear and destroy.

I love this story of Elizabeth Byrd, an American writer. Several years ago she traveled to Scotland and recalled a “big rawboned farm woman” traveling beside her on the bus. The farm woman asked Elizabeth why an American should be traveling north in the middle of winter, because “it’s rooky weather in the Highlands.”

“Elizabeth said, ‘I explained that I liked wild weather and that I was gathering material for a historical novel, talking to country people, soaking up sheeplore and folkways that have changed little in four centuries.’

“The Scottish woman invited me to visit her overnight. ‘We’ve a wee croft, but warm, and I’d welcome your company, for my husband’s off to market.’

“It was raining hard when we reached her home, a dumpy stone cottage on a bleak slope. Collies welcomed us and Mrs. McIntosh led me into a spotless, shabby parlor.

“Suddenly the lights flickered and died. She sighed, ‘The power’s oot,’ and lit candles. While she was making a fire there was a knock on the door.

“She opened it and a boy came in. She took his dripping coat and cap, and as he moved into the firelight I saw that he was about 12 years old—and pitifully crippled.

“After he caught his breath, he said, ‘My father tried to ring you, but your phone is dead. I came to see that you’re all right.’

“’Thank you, John,’ she said, and introduced us. The wind rose, raving and screaming, battering the shutters. I told them how much I loved the drama of the storm.

“’You’re not scared?’ John asked. I started to say no, but Mrs. McIntosh, though obviously afraid of nothing, quickly said what any boy longs to hear, ‘Of course she was scared, and so was I. But now we’ve got a mon aboot.’

“There was a moment’s silence.

“Then he rose. ‘I’ll see that everything’s snug,’ he said. And he hobbled out with a little swagger.

“Weeks later the incident still haunted me. Why hadn’t I answered his question as Mrs. McIntosh had—tenderly, imaginatively?

“By what magic had Mrs. McIntosh transformed a crippled boy into a confident man?” (Behold Your Little Ones, edited by Barbara B. Smith and Shirley W. Thomas, pg. 52-53)


The challenge to improve society’s language is daunting, but doable, one home at a time. I remember the story of a conquering country that swallowed a smaller neighboring country. The new ruler demanded that only his native language be spoken and anyone caught speaking the mother language of the little country would be put to death. As time passed, the ruler was very pleased for only his native tongue was spoken in the schools and marketplaces. Years later, when yet another country conquered the little country; the people reverted back to their original language. The conqueror’s wondered how. They discovered the mothers had continued to teach their native tongue to their children in their homes and the influence of those mothers was irreversible.

Whether through a quick slap or taking nickels, a mother can make it known that she expects her children to say something nice or nothing at all. A woman’s influence can shape the words of a home, community and ultimately, nation.

Jude 1:22  "And some have compassion, making a difference."

Thursday, January 5, 2017

"The Grand and the Simple, They Are Equally Wonderful." Marjorie Hinckley


30 Day Writing Challenge:

Write about someone who inspires you.


Marjorie Pay Hinckley inspires me still.  She's been gone for nearly 13 years, but I still think of her demeanor, words, gentleness, quiet self-confidence, and wisdom.




Sister Hinckley was practical:

"Happy ironing! The most enjoyable of all household duties," was the tag on her granddaughter's shower gift of an iron.  When her granddaughter had gone away to college, Sister Hinckley told her to study interesting subjects so that when she was at home doing the ironing she'd have something exciting to think about.  

Ironing would be total drudgery to me today without her insight.  I usually listen to a book on tape or podcast when I iron because of her advice to her granddaughter.


Sister Hinckley was wise:

“We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.”

Her ability to love and trust who she was becoming radiated in her countenance.  She reminds me to be at peace with the rather horrifying experience of aging and falling apart.


Sister Hinckley was content with who she was:

Her daughter wrote:  "Mother was getting ready for an occasion when I dropped by the apartment late one afternoon.  When she told me where she was going -- as she reached for a pleated skirt and white cotton blouse -- I gasped, "Mother, this is a huge thing . . . The reception is in honor of Dad and you.  He's probably going to wear a tux.  Every woman there will have on sequins and diamonds.

"Continuing to dress, completely unruffled, she said, 'Well, I don't have any sequins in my closet.  But this skirt is black, and the blouse does have a lace collar.  And besides that, if we're the guests of honor, whatever I wear will have to be right!"  

When I put on a clean, pressed, simple, comfortable dress, and get a sideways glance from Calvin, I think of Sister Hinckley and wear it anyway.  I remember this when I have to wear sensible shoes instead of fashionable ones, too.


Sister Hinckley was real:

"How did a nice girl like me get in a mess like this?"  She repeated this over and over (with tears running down her face as she vacuumed the living room floor) after learning that her husband, Gordon, would become the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This is my go-to phrase when I'm caught in a bind not of my making.


Sister Hinckley was a smart mother:

" . . . you have to trust your children.  I tried hard never to say 'no' if I could possibly say 'yes.'" 

"Save the relationship" was the response she gave to her granddaughter when she asked for advice on how to deal with her child that was throwing fits.

I often think of this when I hear myself saying, "No.  No.  No."  Yes is such a pleasant sound.


Sister Hinckley was an exemplary wife:

“I know it is hard for you young mothers to believe that almost before you can turn around the children will be gone and you will be alone with your husband. You had better be sure you are developing the kind of love and friendship that will be delightful and enduring. Let the children learn from your attitude that he is important. Encourage him. Be kind. It is a rough world, and he, like everyone else, is fighting to survive. Be cheerful. Don't be a whiner.”

"It's a rough world, and he, like everyone else, is fighting to survive," has curbed complaints I wanted to make.  Sister Hinckley's example gently reminds me that life is easy for no one, and that men need to be appreciated and supported.  A provider and protector's role is not a path of roses.


Sister Hinckley was right.

“We are all in this together. We need each other. Oh, how we need each other. Those of us who are old need you who are young. And, hopefully, you who are young need some of us who are old. It is a sociological fact that women need women. We need deep and satisfying and loyal friendships with each other.”

Marjorie Hinckley never knew of her influence on my life even though it has been significant. Perhaps that is her parting lesson -- you may never know of your impact on another so be gentle and pure, and live so that your quiet example is a blessing to others, because we need each other.  Oh, how we need each other.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"A Man Wrapped Up in Himself Makes a Very Small Bundle"


30 Day Writing Challenge:

Write something that someone told you about yourself that you've never forgotten.


When I was in high school one of my sisters yelled, "You're selfish!" to me.

I was indignant.  I was mad. I was certain she was wrong.  She was the selfish one.

Our mom didn't function much while I was in high school so I carried a lot of the responsibilities for our home and younger siblings.  How dare my sister call me selfish.  Who did the dishes?  Who did most of the cooking?  Who cleaned the bathrooms?  Who read books to our littlest sister?  Who did . . . blah, blah, blah.

I still remember where I was when I came to realize my sister was absolutely right, I was selfish.  I was going through the motions of helping and serving, but I was mostly thinking of myself.  
 
I was braking to a stop at the highway three miles from home, still fuming over her comment, when the Book of Mormon scripture, "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard, for it cutteth them to the very center" came into my mind.  It didn't matter if my sister called me selfish in frustration, anger, or selfishness, I was taking it far too hard to not be guilty of it.

I decided then and there I would be more thoughtful and giving without a motive.  It's 40 years later and I'm still working at thinking of others more and myself less.  I so hope my last act on earth is a kind one.

I'm grateful my sister gave me that very unwanted feedback.  Not only did it help me to see my selfishness then, but realizing that "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard" has helped me to discern other weaknesses I have.  If I get overly upset or defensive at someone's comments or correction, I know a true chord has been struck and changes need to be made.

And my sister?  She's a gem.  She is one of the most generous people I know.  She's been a great example.  


How about you?  What is something someone told you that you've never forgotten?